You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2007.

Its been a bit of a video night tonight.

First up: Wikis in plain English

From the same guys that brought you RSS in plain English.

And then there’s Blaise Aguera y Arcas: Photosynth demo

Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (like Notre Dame) scraped from around the Web, Photosynth creates breathtaking multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation. Its architect, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, shows it off…

WOW!

But.. I had a nasty time getting that TED talk video to stream in 😦 it just stopped and started, and stopped again. So I search youtube for a reliable copy. Sadly there was no copy of the TED talk recording, but there were a host of other videos that demo the same stuff – just not as spectacular:

Photo tourism full

and while I’m into my favourites at the moment…

“Kinetic Sculptures” strandbeest Theo Jansen

You can download Youtube movies with the Youtube downloader (make sure you save the download as “filename.flv”)
You can change the flash video (flv) into handy little Quicktime movies with the Videora iPod converter.

There’s something about this presentation about Web 2 that strikes me as different to the predominately North American voices on the topic. Web 2 by Satyaeet. Its a subtle difference, hard to put a finger on..

I guess this is just a hint at the value of maintaining diversity in information and communication.. something that Web2 promises us, but so far doesn’t seem to deliver (to me). Until now… a colleague here, new to blogging, embeded this slideshare in his class blog, which showed it to me. There’s two perspectives I wouldn’t normally encounter in my bloglines staple.

Jeez, I’m burning the midnight oil tonight. Am giving a talk at WiAOC 2007: Webheads in Action Online Convergence and I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew! So if your keen to hear me struggle through a difficult talk.. tune in..

  1. Here’s my slides
  2. Here’s my article (Still a work in progress actually)…

I’ll be talking to these slides at 12 noon NZ time (12 Midnight GMT) via EdTech (I think – though that link is to Webheads.. maybe they’re the same these days?…). As much as I respect Webheads and EdTech for all the great stuff they do, I find their websites quite difficult to get around in. I think if you go by the schedule you should be OK.

A group of Otago Polytechnic teachers who have been exploring wikieducator met today.

  1. Helen
  2. William
  3. Phil
  4. Wendy
  5. Kim
  6. Hillary
  7. James
  8. Tony
  9. Thanasi

and myself… did I miss anyone.

Here’s a central record of work done by this group so far…

Helen initiated the meeting through the email list and was hoping to get more coordination among staff who are exploring the platform. For most it is very early days in their look at wikieducator, and many had not met before. We spent a little while looking at Helen’s start with her Peer Tutoring resource. We wondered if it was tending to more like a Wikibook which would means it would be considered more like an item listed in a resource page… I showed the structure I am proposing we use. There was some talk around this, especially the idea that students will likely only interface with the learning activity sheets, and the content of these sheets might not even be viewed on the wiki! Instead they may be viewed through a blog, an email, a PDF print out or what ever communication context is suitable. The wiki is the development platform in other words… This idea arose out of concerns that the wiki was very text heavy and not all that stimulating. I wrote something along the lines of re-contextualising wiki content in my “wish list” to wikieducator… namely the ability to embed content from the wiki into say, a blog.. The Print to PDF button could be a very handy feature to explore (see the bottom of the left navigation menu on Wikieducator)…

We then talked a bit about the use of blogs in courses and specifically Tony’s use of a blog with embedded media to support his face to face classes. We discussed the possibilities of this and how it could go further.

Phil brought up concerns of creating content in the wiki and then having difficulties within the institution with others that may not yet appreciate the value of open resources. This is a concern, but we do have the endorsement from senior management at least to be exploring this platform. Hopefully this will be enough to ward off any troubles with middle managers reacting to something that is not yet fully understood.

Thanks to Helen for calling the meeting, and to everyone who made it. I hope we can all make good progress and that others will organise little meetings like this so we can ideas and actions flowing together.

I’m in a meeting chaired by consultant Steve Henry who is facilitating our organisation’s plan and efforts towards a sustainability action.

Taking from a model:

A = Awareness of sustainability

B = Baseline Audit

C = Compelling vision

D = Steps to get there

Steve has identified several strands to work on:

Staff Development

Steve is moving around the different departments to gather information to do with the first 2 steps in the model. He is gathering perseptions of firstly “what is good”, then “what we are doing”, then “what we could do”.

So far he has gathered encouraging stories and ideas and plans to write them up. (I hope he will blog as he goes actually 😉 and he says that environmental sustainability is the relatively easy step – compared to achieving better capability among staff to collaborate! Skills to collaborate is a key to achieving sustainable practices.Operations

There is a power management plan being developed by the property and services unit.

Half a dozen bicycles will be purchased and made available for short journeys around town.

A staff wellness programme.. missed the outline for this

Research being conducted by product designers into best automobiles to purchased into the organisation’s fleet.

Curriculum (formal courses)

Barry Law and Sam Mann are heading off a project to research ways of integrating sustainability into curriculum. There is a wiki set up to capture the application for the research project. The Educational Development Centre is being looked at as a possible facilitator of integrating sustainability into curriculum.

Outreach (Sustainable Otago)

Friday the 18th and Wednesday 25th is a wast e management day where a group will pull apart a skip and analyse the waste coming out of that skip. Product design students will participate and others are welcome if you send an email to Steve to indicate you are coming.

By the end of 2008 it is hoped to have built a sustainable design expo at the Polytech. Exhibitions of building, water, energy, land use designs. Criterion for products to exhibit is being developed.

An advisor group is establishing from the different subject areas and consultancy services that will be available to offer advise from better garden designs, to car purchasing…

Students

The student association was initially on board but more needs to be down to maintan their engagement..

Communications

I’m getting tired

Funding

There’s money for it.

I dunno! I’m out of the loop obviously. I thought I was in. Looks like there’s been lots of work going on but not a lot of in progress communication. This meeting was a big update, and there was clearly a lot of desire to contribute ideas. There needs a continuous forum going so that these meetings don’t get sidetracked by numbers of people who are not aware of what has been happening. The update tends to come as a surprise. Here’s an email forum that may achieve that.

Ps:

Design has $250 000 to develop a challenge for the best sustainable home project. The organisers are in the Polytech and will organise a Polytech entry, but it entry is open to public. Challenge should be ready to be launch by the end of 2007 and will have an 18 month running period. They are putting together an organising group.

Personally I was skeptical about the notion that a learning style might be generational. The digital natives, digital learners, net generation and all that has been a mildly useful motivator or reasoning in teacher training, but I never truly believed it was a valid.

That’s because I have not been in a classroom setting with a bunch of teenagers for a while. A bit over a year and a half to be precise. And its also because down here in deep dark Dunedin there is very little broadband and so I surmise that that would mean there would be very little power Internet use amongst the kids. That was until today, when I subbed a class for the Travel and Tourism Department. I was to teach research skills to a bunch of teenagers! To be honest I was sweat’n it.. how the hell was I gunna make this interesting?

But first, a video sent by Gary Sewell through the TALO email list:

So, 20 minutes before class I set up a wikispace starting with the following sentence:

Researching together is more effective than researching alone.

Did you like that? I like that, and they did too! Phew, great start. Now for my mistake. After briefly outlining what a wiki is and how it might be useful for researching together, I told them about the edit button. Boom! faster than I could click edit and save, the wiki was deleted! Surprised but not flustered I showed them the history and it didn’t take long (about 3 minutes) for someone to work out how to revert it. I had to double check at this point. “hands up who has used a wiki before?” no hands…! Just intuition

This little hiccup disrupted the group a little and there was a lot of noise and fiddling going on. I managed to get them collectively focused on the first question: “what might we need to research in tourism?” To try and control the edit conflicts, I had one person take notes from the suggestions. As usual it was hard to get people to speak up, but we got there with some age old teaching tricks. The notes went in and the edit clashes kept happening. Big lesson – don’t point out the edit button too early 🙂

After we got a few examples in there, I referred to the list of search sites and content repositories I and put in there earlier. I asked them to use this list to search for good links and resources related to the research examples we had brainstormed. If they found anything of interest, they were to come back and paste in the wiki with a sentence explaining the link. At this point I became aware of the 3 international students in the group using their translator computers 🙂 LOL I set the rest of the group to task and went to the internationals for further explanation.

It is this task that needs following up. Search techniques, remaining focused, how to drill down and assess the social links, finding the motivation and techniques to look carefully. I didn’t labour on any of this and observed with joy the kids having fun pulling up silly youtube movies, doing flickr image searches, and some making serious attempts. I knew that they knew that anything I set them to do was going to be a one off, so I saw no reason to attempt to keep them on any hypothetical task at the expense of more engaging discovery fun. I just wanted them to be exposed to it all. And I really wanted to see the extent of their digital native-ness. And boy was I amazed!

Within minutes they had worked out how to embed the Youtube movies into the wiki. Somehow GoogleMaps came up and I showed them CommunityWalk. At least 4 in the group started up their own CommunityWalk map. Others started up their own wikispace and I walked around trying to clarify some of the chaos and confusion in the air.

It was amazing to watch! Within 40 minutes this group of 12 or so had experimented with more information and communication technology than I have managed to get any group of 12 teachers to do in 12 months!!

Our librarian Wendy2.0 was there to observe. I bet she was a bit skeptical by the lack of focus on research skills, and maybe a bit concerned that the class was wild and going in all sorts of crazy directions at different times, probably leaving behind maybe 4 of the group. I know I was a little concerned, but what could I expect? But I did get the sense that the group had been exposed to something they hadn’t seen before, and that they understood the possibilities – as a group. That their energy (if nurtured and maintained) will over time find a constructive way to use these tools in their study, and the 4 will pick it up like most people do in such socially active learning environments like this group.

But this will require follow up. The regular teacher will need to be aware of this class activity (they did not come to the class!), the learning support guys need to be at the ready to work on some of the fixable problems that emerged from this session.. such as focus, search techniques, drilling down etc. But those teachers are not ready! It will honestly take them a year to understand what these kids intuitively grasped in minutes!! This is a scary thought!

We need the students to teach the teachers!!

Like I said, I was skeptical to begin with. I’m a believer now! We teachers have got to get happening! Make sure you check out the furious history of that class wiki.

[blip.tv ?posts_id=226578&dest=7973]

A quick demo on how to rename tags in del.icio.us and an idea to organised collaborative tagging projects.

People who know me, know I am loathed to use self hosted services. Apart from myself forgetting to pay the bill for domain names and poor-service hosting servers, and so losing webpages and files that I didn’t backup, I think it is important for education to be as in touch with popular media and platforms as it can be. Setting up your own, at-times-monolithic systems, entrenching work practices around them, and giving teachers a route that leads to disconnection, dependence and non transferable skills is something to avoid as much as possible.

In saying that though, I remain all on my lonesome and am yet to hear of an educational organisation in (Australia or New Zealand at least) taking advantage of the storage and services on offer at OurMedia and Internet Archive, or using socially networked platforms to any formal status, taking advantage of Blip.tv services and saving 10s if not hundreds, maybe even millions of dollars on their own yet to work alternatives.

But here I go, about to describe a semi in house set up that I think we need. This set up will hopefully inter-operate with the social platforms and take advantage of all the best has to offer, but for mainly internal issues and copyright concerns, we need a system that spans the divide. One that will give us a cake and let us eat it as well.. whatever that stupid saying means..?

A MediaWiki

We need a media wiki with all the coolness and functionality you can get into the thing. It has to embed youtube, google and blip movies, it has to hold widgets and iDevices, take many html tags, it has to be able to hold a Google map, it needs survey tools, flickr badges, slide show, embedded audio, RSS and all the other things I haven’t thought of.

Looking at an impressive list of MediaWiki extensions, there is potentially a lot on offer, and the work of Alex Hayes and Chris Harvey on the Learnscope wiki promises to demonstrate a lot of all this functionality. The wiki we need has to allow for quick, easy mashups, 1 hour before class, by the skin of my teeth! and we need to be able to move that mashup onto other publishing platforms and formats quickly and easily. More a more detailed wish list, see ideas for wikieducator.

Distributed upload

We need to be able to load a movie (and every other file) to our own New Zealand based file server, and have the option to load it to YouTube, Blip.tv, Archive.org and the National Library… maybe more. The first file to load in the embed frame on the wiki is the local one. If that goes missing then the next available one needs to load, and so on. If that can’t be done easily, then at least a list of alternative locations should load if the local file doesn’t. This is what I mean by distributed upload, and it was inspired by the awesome services on offer at Blip.tv. Distribution like this is not just about backup, it is also about networking and collaboration. Distributing files out gets better visibility. Better visibility may lead to more reuse. More reuse leads to attribution and recognition, that in turn leads to networks and collaboration. The Brazilian teacher who has been using your movies in her class (sourced from Youtube – not your server) calls you up to talk about a student exchange idea… you point her to wiki and things get started…

Copyrights management

Our platform will hopefully default to CC BY but enable individual resources to have any copyright license needed. MediaWiki already has good handling of multi license content, so we need data recorded on what licenses are used on how much of our own content, and in the case of external content used on the wiki, we need records of what content is used other than our own and what the copyrights are.

On the file server, we need to be able to turn on or grey out functionality depending on what license is selected for a resource. For example, if I am uploading a video to the file server:

  • I need to option to publish or private with the ability to ID users who can see it if private
  • I need to be able to set a copyright from all copyright options (most free first and default right down to restricted). If I choose a less free license I start to lose features, like the ability to distribute, the ability to embed in the wiki, the ability to have it reformatted and backed up on other servers etc.

That’s it for now.

Come on Toto… There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place…

I wonder what sort of attention that title will bring? I’m actually rephrasing other people’s dismissal of my arguments regarding Share Alike… so please read on to get a clearer picture.

I have recently discovered the seemingly incurable headache of copyright ideology within the free content circles. I have a problem with Creative Commons Share Alike – or not so much a problem with the license, but a problem with a user generated content publishing platform that uses that license as its default and practically speaking its only workable option!

I’m talking about Wikieducator in this instance, but I guess my issues will apply to any platform using a copyleft legality. Copyleft as it turns out, seems to be a type of free and open copyright license that aims to grow free content. In otherwords, as the Share Alike plain English statement goes:

  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.

So you should be able to see the intent of this. It is to stop free content becoming closed by third parties. It is a mechanism that some believe will grow free culture. But does it?

What are my issues then?

Share Alike (SA) does not work in education because:

1. Our tertiary and vocational education institution is sometimes in a
training partnership with a business or industry that may require us to mix
learning content with commercially sensitive content (such as blue prints to
machinery, patented product designs, or anything that the partner still
perceives is necessary to remain restricted in access and copy). If we were
to mix any SA content with the partner’s content and redistribute (even on a
small scale) we would be expected by the SA content provider to re-release
the derivative under the SA license, but the partner would understandably
not want to do this because they perceive (rightly or wrongly) that doing so
would result in a loss of income and competative advantage. Result? We will
not mix SA content. To keep things simple, we will use SA content at all
because we will never be able to tell at what point we may find ourselves in
this position.

2. Our tertiary and vocational education institution works with a local
Maori Iwi (clan) named Ngai Tahu. At times we may be working with culturally
sensitive materials that the Ngai Tahu leaders prefer to restrict access and
copyrights to only Ngai Tahu people. We may wish to mix materials in with
that, [such as generic training resources on say – chainsaw maintenance, but with local context] but cannot re-release under SA because of the valid concerns of Ngai Tahu.
Replace the Ngai Tahu example with any culturally sensitive
group or individual and (rightly or wrongly doesn’t matter) we have the same
situation. SA is not usable.

3. We have a large database of materials created long before CC or copyleft
existed. Photographs, video and audio of people demonstrating things. These
people signed release forms for using their image and recording for specific
purposes, and the release did not mention anything about the right for a 3rd
party to remix. We can’t mix SA content with these recordings, because we
don’t have the right to re-release the derivatives under anything but a C or
CC BY No Derivatives – due to the old release contracts.

I want to make a strong reinforcement of what I am trying to say here. SA doesn’t work for educational content. Software is different, encyclopedic articles are different, the needs and purpose of education are very different to the success flags of free software and free reference materials. But I don’t expect that will be clearly understood unfortunately. The problem is compounded by a majority of education and elearning developers who – despite claims otherwise – think of educational content as text books and more or less static content. The 3 examples above are only 3 of many more I can think of, but hopefully it goes some of the way towards articulating where these differences lie.

Now, if you refer to the Wikieducator debate (largely between myself and one or two others, with the odd support for me) my efforts to articulate the issues are largely dismissed as illogical rhetoric. I am at a loss at to how it is rhetoric – or why people would think that I would want to use rhetoric or even want to have this argument! The 3 scenarios above are common, almost daily concerns for me and the people I work for – so how can it be rhetoric?.. I guess I need to get the people I try to represent to speak for themselves on this rather dense issue.. but the frustrating thing is that for anyone who works in my type of environment, these situations are obvious! Why my argument is illogical is of more of a concern however. Either I am missing some very important point in the counter arguments, or I am a very poor communicator when engaged in discussion lists. Which is probably why I am writing here now, in the relative comfort of my blog.

But I feel savaged! Listen to this surprise interview sprung on me by a Wikiversity participant. I joined the audio broadcast to listen to Alex Hayes talk, but when Alex didn’t show, the host turned the recorded mic on me. I knew the host had things to say about me and my arguments against copyleft in education, so I agreed to talk and brought the SA issue up – hoping to be enlightened somehow as to why my argument may be illogical or rhetorical. I didn’t expect the savage and unethical treatment though! I truly do not think these issues are being heard or properly considered. And that is why I think some proponents of copyleft hurt free culture.

Our organisation has a draft intellectual policy that is considering the use of the Creative Commons Attribution license. No link I’m sorry – so you’ll have to take my word for it. It is going through internal consultation at the moment. It is not considering the Non Commercial restriction – nor the Share Alike at this point, as it’s intent is to limit the restrictions on as much as possible, and see that we are contributing to educational development as widely as possible. In saying that though, the draft provides a mechanism for individuals and other stakeholders to place restrictions if they wish. They would have to fill out a one page form or something to indicate restrictions on a particular resource, and so the 3 situations I use above to argue why copyleft is impossible in same instances, can be catered for. CC BY content can be sampled, remixed and the derivative even made restricted if the user wishes (with proper attribution of course) but not the other CC licenses. At this point we are not concerned by possible cases of publishers benefiting from our works without giving back, we might be pleased that someone finds a way to make financial gains from our work, but we are also confident that our work will remain ahead, and more usable than restricted derivatives.

At this point I’d like to insert the personal belief that the legal mechanisms of Copyleft are not what grows free culture. As the All rights reserved sector experiences, there is not much that can be effectively done to prevent pirating and unsanctioned use of content, and so the same might be said for Copyleft. Dave Wiley’s story, and Steve Downes’ comment suggest that in some way too. (Certainly David’s article Why Universities Choose NC and what we can do about it shows an appreciation for the difficulties of winning institutional bye-in to free culture). I believe that free culture is growing from itself regardless of the SA and similar clauses. A quick look at Flickr’s Creative Commons database shows a preference for CC BY over CC BY SA by more than 1 million images. Of course I am guilty as always of over simplifying the issue with this little opinion, but I do think it might be an interesting consideration – that free culture is growing regardless of any legal mechanism. I wonder what other Creative Commons data bases reveal? In this age of information explosion, the competitive advantage goes to the content with less restriction. If the only restriction is the requirement for attribution, then I would bet that such a resource will be reused well before another with a restriction of some sort like share alike… and reuse brings attribution – possibly the only thing of worth with content these days.

Now if we start using the Wikieducator platform to develop resources, we have to accept the Creative Commons Share Alike license. A license that is considerably more restrictive than the Attribution license we are preferencing. For the 3 or more reasons outlines above we can not be comfortable with the Share Alike restriction, so using the Wikieducator Platform compromises the re-usability of the resources we contribute. Now, that would not be a problem for the original works, but some of us are actually thinking to use the wiki as a development platform! No more word documents, no more powerpoints, development straight into a wiki. We don’t have a wiki of our own (problems with IT on that) and one of our own doesn’t benefit from the collaborative potential of the more neutral and internationally reaching Wikieducator, Wikiversity etc. It makes more sense to join forces rather than reinvent wheels.

But the default and effectively only license option is a preventative concern. I believe that Wikieducator should use the CC BY license by default, with the option to turn something into SA if agreement can be struck by the contributors. At the moment SA is the default, with possible consideration of the idea that BY will be supported if the contributors to a particular resource agree. But that’s not workable. We need to start with a BY because BY can be turned into SA more readily – or a quick derivative made and turned into SA. This is much more difficult when going the other way. Which is precisely the intent behind Copyleft generally. To make it difficult to do anything other than share alike. And that finishes the impasse – that is not usable in many educational contexts we find ourselves in.

Unfortunately for the discussion, as evidenced by the discourse and treatment of my contributions linked above, the two perspectives don’t seem to be able to find an agreement let alone an appreciation of each other’s position. Shaggy from the TALO email list linked to some history in the debate and shows that it has been going on for longer than when I inadvertently joined the mosh. Now I want out – and will sadly have to reinvent a wheel so that it roles in a way that gets me and my organisation out of this copyright mud and into Open Educational Resources that are as reusable as WE need them to be. Hopefully the MediaWiki developers will find a way to bring the two wikis (ours and the rest 🙂 together in some way, so the shared vision of open educational resources can build and be reused quickly.