You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘freelearning’ category.

Going out of business sale

Going out of business sale CC By: heiwa4126

Last week, our Business School took a day to meet, along with external people like myself, and business and community spokes people, to discuss the future of the School and its services. It was interesting to participate in the process. While it had its boggy patches and sensitive areas, it was good to see by the end of the day there seemed to be a small group turned onto an idea for a new focus in the school.

One thing that came out of it for me was the opportunity to float ideas relating to open education and the business school.

Certificates, Diplomas and Degrees to the back please

Steve Keys

No Microsoft, Please CC By: Steve Keys

The idea I expressed that has attracted some interest was one where we invert the normal thinking of what it means to get a formal education. To take the “certificates, diplomas and degrees” part of what we do and put it in the back, and put the content and the learning activities up front. This is in response to common feedback from students where they want to know what is IN the course, what will they learn, how applied is it? Is it relevant? In my opinion, the package of certificates, diplomas and degrees give no real answer to inquiries to learning, worse – they limit educational development to a particular set of assumptions relating to that framework for learning.

Planning for Sustainable Small Management course

JimReeves

The Bombay Dabawalla CC By: JimReeves

Hillary Jenkins is the program manager for the Diploma in Applied Travel and Tourism – otherwise known as Travel and Tourism (probably to become just Tourism soon). This course (for some strange reason) sits inside the Business School. That aside, Hillary is keen on the idea of “inverting” the package to one that envelops a wide range of interests in learning – starting with one of the courses inside her programme: Planning for Small Business.

Our first step was to find out what else was going on in Dunedin, Otago in terms of courses and support for people planning for small business. We didn’t want to go ahead and set something up that was in competition with others, and I don’t rightly know why something like a short stand alone course in planning for small business didn’t already exist in the Business School. So we called a meeting with the likely candidates of stakeholders in such a course. The Chamber of Commerce, NZ Trade and Enterprise, local business incubator Kick Start, a number of Polytechnic lecturers to assess the level of interest.

Our meeting was first see if us setting up a short stand alone course in planning for small business would be in competition, or could be complimentary to existing courses and services. We found that it would not be in competition and could be highly complimentary to existing services around town. The next part was discuss the aspect of this new course that would be unique, planning for small business with triple bottom line sustainability in mind. We aim to develop a course that will assist people in planning for a sustainable small business.

To do this we are currently in negotiation with NZ Trade and Enterprise to obtain copyrights to make a derivative of their already excellent guide Planning for Success. Planning for Success is a template for a business plan with supporting information attached to it. We want to make a derivative from this that will incorporate triple bottom line accounting as well as sustainability information for use in the business plan marketing and objective statements. We would also record seminars and presentations to compliment the resource. The derivative will of course be developed with the Wikibook that is already in development. We’ll make a printed and bound version for sale – all carrying the Creative Commons Attribution License (meaning NZTE would be free to take a version further if they wanted).

I’m getting to the new model now…

Enveloped learning

Lady Orlando

little max and the wow factor CC By: Lady Orlando

Once we have a text to structure a course around, we then want to set up a calendar of informative events that relate to that text and the courses we have. The events would be things like seminars from the Inland Revenue Department on business registration through to tax and levies; presentations from different insurance brokers; presentations from local business’; workshops from local services; etc etc. A range of short 30 minute to 1 hour events that are open to the public and enrolled students, and that have direct relevance to planning for a sustainable small business according to the text.

These short events link to slightly longer events such as a 3 hour workshop in spreadsheets; a day long tour of existing business; a consultation period with a service; a business plan writing workshop over 5 nights. These slightly more involved events are credited towards the course in Planning for Small Business – at which point the certificates and diplomas start to become relevant to participants, as they align to assessment for such credentials.

Examples: Take the perspective of someone in the community who already has full time job, but is interested in developing a small business idea. This person would have access to the short informative events and content of the formal course This type of access scales without diminishing the experience of formally enrolled participants or costing the Polytechnic anything that marketing or social development funding couldn’t account for – the old open lecture format. From the perspective of an enrolled student (which in Hillary’s course tends to be a young school leaver), they are attending informative events that make up the content of what they need to know to complete the learning activities, such as the Writing a Business Plan workshop, but with the extra perspective of it being of interest to a wider public attending the open lecture. From the perspective of the course coordinator, it is an opportunity to see a wider range of people participating in this level of content and to promote participation in the slightly more involved learning activities in the course. There is no commitment or enrolment to a certificate, diploma or degree at these events and activities. Just short, one off, regularly available, open access workshops to assist people.

Making our way to optional certificates, diplomas and degrees

Hands on LaBrea. CC By Here in Van Nuys

Hands on LaBrea. CC By Here in Van Nuys

Now, if those people became interested in the slightly longer sessions, they would find themselves with a group going through the tasks informed by the short and regular events. At the end of the longer learning activity, we record their attendance and completion. If they attend other activities, we record that too. Cumulatively these amount to a certificate, diploma and perhaps a degree (or they can be used in an recognition process should they decide to be interested in that sort of accreditation); or they are simply available for people to learn from – no expectation of commitment to certificates, diplomas, degrees, full time or part time study, or inflexible timetables.

The point is the certificates, diplomas and degrees are still there, and all the events and activities are coordinated around them, but the general public have access to the content and activities without necessarily committing to the certificate, diploma or degree. Some people will want to commit to that straight off the bat (such as our young school leavers) and nothing is stopping that either. This approach envelops many different levels of interest in the learning and optionally progresses people toward a credential if that has value to them. Hillary’s job is to currate the learning programme (similar to that of a film festival coordinator perhaps), and to facilitate people’s association and progress through that programme, in a fashion of free ranging like being the rain. (Those links help that last sentence make sense).

Who pays?

foundphotoslj

I Believe You Have My Red Swingline Stapler CC By: foundphotoslj

How does it pay? Well, the formally enrolled pay as normal. They enrol in the course up front and commit to all that is required. They receive their study allowance and start accumulating their study debt (or pay up front), we receive our subsidy for their enrolment, and they have access to all the content and learning support and assessment services that are afforded to them normally. As for the people taking advantage of the open access, they have access to the short events with an admission fee to cover costs if any. All sessions (where practical) are recorded and published for free online use. The longer sessions that these events feed into also have admission fees to cover costs and the content to support the activities are similarly available online for free. Obviously the online versions simply support the face to face events and activities.

What we need to be careful to ensure is that the formally and up front enrolled students have assured access to the sessions, and that their fee is less than if someone was to instead pay admission fees to all the available sessions.

Summary

So we are developing an open access course to cater for the requests of people who want more applied, practical, and more immediately relevant learning activities. We are separating the content slightly from the learning process and making it more accessible but still connected to ‘chunked’ learning activities. We are developing a 3 part sequence in learning that works both ways. People can attend events that lead to short learning activities that accumulate for assessment and certification. Or people can commit to the assessment and certification process up front and use the events and activities to achieve that objective. All resources will be freely available online, but also available as packaged resources for sale.

This idea is similar to the Sustainability Curriculum I proposed to Polytechnic leaders some time back, but as yet has not really grown any legs. It also relates to the free learning, fee education that is being considered by lecturers in Midwifery.

Advertisements

Sarah Stewart, a prolific blogging colleague at Otago, takes on the health sector educators and their almost neurotic hesitance to take on an open web presence and open education. Getting our knickers in a twist?

I am still thinking about the whole issue of confidentiality and blogging, especially in the context of health practice. And I am wondering if some people are getting their knickers in too much of a twist?…

…To be honest, I do not know if there has been an analysis of the content of blogs belonging to health professionals. So I do not know how much the concerns about blogging and confidentially are based in fact or general impressions.

Sarah and her colleagues have devised a simple test to assess the content of email by Health practitioners.

Liam and I developed an assessment tool by which we were able to anilyse the risk to security and confidentiality ranging from 1 — breach of patient confidentiality — indicating a high need for security and privacy of the email’s content, to a score of 8 which had no need for either security or privacy.

The results? Well, I don’t want to steel Sarah’s lime light here. I really think Sarah and her colleagues are on to something and I hope they take it further and chip away at the common (mis)conception that is quite frankly holding Otago Polytechnic health educators back in my opinion. The almost reflex reaction up until now has been a persistant blockage for health teachers even considering open education, but I’m sure there will be a debate even before the research…

10 days to the start of the free and open online course: Facilitating Online Communities.

About once a week in the lead up to the start of the course I check the course wiki discussion page to see if anyone new has added their names to the ‘I wanna be involved list‘. Each week I am nicely surprised to see not only new names, but people with experience and genuine interest! Its actually a little intimidating to be honest! There are people joining the course with more experience than I have! but I’m confident that the topic range and resources will be useful for just about anyone, and as many have said – they’re joining to fill in some gaps. I think we’ll be fine 🙂

As yet I haven’t heard from any formal participants. I don’t know if the sponsoring institution who is responsible for the traditional promotions and formal enrollments has been directing people to the course wiki or not (I sure hope they aren’t persisting with their Blackboard process – it will only confuse people). Perhaps for a formal and newbie, the idea of making an introduction to a group of experienced and highly motivated participants so far is intimidating them.. I hope not, I sort of wish I had of included a join by email button (I need to look into that feature on Wikied). Ignoring that factor though, the group we have in there already will be a valuable resource to any newbie to all this. They’d be really letting themselves down if they  opted out on account of feeling intimidated.. I must remember to quiz people to see if this was at all a factor once we get started.

In any case, I am really relieved that we have a good number of interested informal participants. They will help to carry the motivation of the formally enrolled, and will no doubt offer help with the course in general. I’m confident that some of them will turn into fee paying participants if they want assessment and certification, but its certainly not a requirement.

I’m looking forward to getting started on it come the 28th, even though I’ll be facilitating all by my lonesome, I don’t intend to allow my workload to go over 6 hours a week on average. We’ll see, famous last words…

Chat Room - A photo by iBoy Daniel

That course we ran last year is coming up again. I’ve tweaked it quite a bit – free at last from the learning management system it was locked up inside, running in a wiki schedule, backed up by blogs and an email forum.

This course has been developed by staff in the Educational Development Centre of Otago Polytechnic and is designed to help both formal and informal learners access and interpret models, research and professional dialog in the facilitation of online communities. After completing this course people should be confident in facilitating online and/or be able to critique and offer advice to other people in the facilitation of online communities.

The next facilitated course starts 28 July 2008.

Participation in this course is open. You will need to have regular access the Internet and be comfortable with independently completing tasks. To join simply introduce yourself to the discussion page and include an email address that can be use to add you to an email forum for the course.

In formal learning terms this is a level 7 course registered on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. Formal learning participants engage in this course for a period of 10 weeks with an indicative time commitment of at least 6 hours per week. Formal learners will receive concentrated learning support throughout this period, and assessment services and formal recognition at the completion of the course. Some people may prefer to engage in this course informally and to set their own pace through the work using the schedule as a guide. Informal engagement is welcome and arrangements can be made for formal assessment and recognition at any time with the course facilitator.

Contents

It seemed timely that a few of us who have tried the Wiley Wiki model for running online courses came together and talked about our experiences. In this recording, Teemu Leinonen, Bronwyn Hegarty and myself talk about our various thoughts on the method of running online courses with a MediaWiki (pioneered by Dave Wiley) with insight and ideas sprouting along the way. See the following links for the examples we talk about. Sorry that Dave Wiley himself could not be there, but we hope the recording will put him in the picture, as well as offer George Siemens and Stephen Downes some food for thought as they embark on their mega course using something like the model.

Audio

Last night Desire2Learn flew me up to Wellington to meet with a group of “eLearning thought leaders” from Australia and New Zealand. I didn’t know what to expect (and clearly D2L didn’t either!) and was more than a bit surprised to see myself giving a trade mark Leigh Blackall rant to a group of very experienced eLearning managers and directors from some big name Universities! I even saw one of the women who stabbed me in the back at a university I used to work at! That was a brief moment of horror.

I think it went well – I’m waiting on an audio recording to check that. Here’s the question I was asked to address and the notes I prepared on the plane up to Wellington (as a result it is very light on links and references). Thanks to James Neill for some help and feedback in the notes. Here’s the link to the wiki version.

The only thing I regret from the thing is that Desire2Learn perhaps didn’t get what they were looking for and I didn’t get a chance to shake that woman’s hand 🙂

Desire2Learn Roundtable Event 18 June 2008

Question: The use of easily accessible and, in many cases, free social software tools such as MSN, Skype, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Second Life and a wide range of blogs and wikis, has become almost ubiquitous among the so-called ‘Net Generation’. In the context of a growing emphasis on eLearning, most commonly facilitated by enterprise-scale Learning Management System and a range of institutionally managed and supported communication and collaboration software tools, and in an environment of increasing emphasis on intellectual property rights management and quality assurance, how do universities (and other educational institutions) respond to the use of free, open-access tools in common use by their students? What are the potential educational uses of such tools? What are the current practices of use of these tools within educational institutions? What are the issues, risks and hidden costs? What are the advantages and benefits?

Understanding the question

Such a long and complex question needs a little unpacking..

Is the use of “free social software” almost ubiquitous in New Zealand?

Statistics from 2007

Statistics from 2007

Statistics released in November 2007 revealed that 67% of New Zealand homes are not connected to the Internet. Precisely: 33% have no connection what so ever, 34% have connections of 25kbps or less, and 33% have connections of 200kbps or more. Considering that a connection of 25kbps or less can not satisfactorily work with the range of free social media we are talking about, and considering that type of media is increasingly defining the Internet today, and with an expectation that its development will continue to demand more bandwidth into and out of homes – New Zealand households with connections of 25kbps or less should probably be considered as not being connected at all. Therefore a vast majority of New Zealanders are not able to share in the rich social media scape we are considering as ubiquitous.

Non-the-less, what is being documented in more developed regions of the world 9including 1/3 of New Zealand homes), through some research and a seemingly over whelming quantity of cultural output, it is probably fare to say that a certain level of ubiquity is the case in those regions. If New Zealand does address its issues of social equity in terms of connectivity and access, it should follow that we too will share in the experience and social development that is being observed in developed regions.

Is eLearning really growing in New Zealand?

Considering the New Zealand Government believes that digital literacy and basic computing skills are needed by everyone in New Zealand, most people with experience in the field of eLearning would probably prefer that it was by now considered a normal and integrated practice of learning generally, and that a specialist understanding with specialist services be no longer needed to support its development. However, most people in New Zealand would probably agree that eLearning is not an integrated practice, and that the digital literacy and basic computing skills that go with it are far from integrated (surmised from the connection statistics for NZ, and my own personal experience introducing computing and social media to people in Otago).

Most educational institutions still house something like a specialist unit for eLearning related development, and continue to invest in their worker’s developing digital literacy and basic computing skills, and most of the institutions have invested heavily in hardware and software that is believed to facilitate the development of eLearning practice. The fact that these specialist services exist is evidence that eLearning is still considered something beyond ‘normal’ practice in education, and that integration of eLearning and digital literacy and computer skills (like the book, projector, or photocopier) has some way to go yet.

What is an appropriate response from our educational institutions, to a forecasted social media scape?

This question is the focus of our discussion and what follows is an attempt to address the problem through a breakdown of some of the key elements I believe are in play. I propose we start by reviewing the underpinning theories that constitute educational practices – namely the constructivist, behaviorist and cognitivist learning theories; and then follow with a brief critique of educational attempts at adopting social constructivism into behaviorist practices; and then to relate the idea that social media is a product of social constructivism and should be considered in those terms. I will finish with my own view that educational institutions consistently go about their business in predominantly behaviorist modes of practice which is ill suited to any attempt at adopting social constructivist practices, and that we should reconsider education’s relationship to society and learning both historically and in the foreseeable future.

Learning theory

There are 3 pillars to education that can be found in learning theory:

  1. Constructivism
  2. Behaviourism
  3. Cognitivism

These 3 theories are generally believed to be the guiding lights to professional teaching. They are the primary learning objectives in teacher training, and knowing them is proof of your socialisation into the education profession.

In short, the application of these theories might be explained as such:

Social conditions help an individual to construct self awareness and learning through any number of experiences and interactions. Some of those experiences and interactions are designed (such as school) to condition specific behavioral changes that can be measured as learning. An understanding of how minds process information (cognitivism) is what informs the design of those experiences and interactions.

Social constructivism in education – the round shape in the square hole

It might be fare to say that social experiences and interactions are always helping an individual to construct self awareness and learning in just about all aspects of their life. The experience of school, or formalised learning is but one in many social interactions and experiences that form people’s learning. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the political significance we place in formalised learning and education, we focus a majority of our resources there, and do so with seemingly no understanding of informal learning throughout the rest of our lives. Naturally, the educator’s perspective and world view is all about their role in that small part of people’s lives, but in becoming aware of the importance of socially constructed learning they try remodel their behaviorist practices to encompass constructivist approaches.

Typically the approach involves a set number of people we quite rightly call a class. That class is brought into an environment that temporarily separates them from their normal social spheres of family, friends, public, familiar environments, community and society at large. They are expected to attend sessions and are rewarded or punished, either subtly or explicitly for behavior that reflects engagement and ability to express what the teacher has intended them to learn – an inescapable behaviorist reality, and in many cases quite appropriate, perhaps though, not at the scale we currently have it at.

However, along comes a well meaning teacher, perplexed by our understanding of socially constructed learning, who will attempt to design into their behaviorist reality – a sense of social learning! Typically it involves the design of activities such as “group work”, “discussion”, and “role play”. Some go as far as to reward this artificial social behavior with statements of it as learning objectives. This confusing effort to draw out learning within behaviorist realities with artificially social interaction must be causing stress for all involved. It is a crude attempt to develop a sense of social connection inside what is ultimately an anti social environment.

To my mind, the attempts so far – to break down traditional behaviorist approaches with ill conceived social constructivism has so far been crude and confusing. Formal learning is a small part of our socially constructed world, our socially constructed learning can not be squeezed into small, short term behaviorist experiences. It is much like trying to fit a very large round shape into a very small square hole. It is behaviorism over stepping its bounds in an attempt to be everything to everyone.

Web2 is socially constructed media and communications

It is a mistake to adopt the term Web2. It only serves a meaning to those already in the know, and for those who are not, it always needs further explanation. And because its meaning remains a mystery to those not in the know, we rely on inquisitive minds to ask for further explanation. More likely, the term simply turns people away and gives an easy ride for shallow critics, software merchants, and those threatened by what it actually entails. Web2 might more usefully and accurately be termed, socially constructed media and communications or social media for short. Social media as a term captures more meaning than Web2 and is more likely to be relevant to people interested in socially constructed learning.

Now that a connection should be evident between social constructivism and the media scape we have on hand today, it should be interesting to consider how objectionable it may actually be for education to be adopting social media inside its seemingly inescapable behaviorist contexts. If you can accept my argument that social constructivism can not be used in behaviorist methodologies, then with it I would argue that social media cannot be used inside behaviorist media – such as the prescribed media presently used (LMS, system email, content repositories etc).

Social media in education – more of the same

The effort to push large round shapes into small square holes has been a consistent feature in educational adoption of social trends. Most recently in the context of the Internet, Institutions have necessarily de-socialised the experience in an era known as dot com, by setting up its own systems of email, centralised websites, file servers, content management systems, and learning management systems – all reinforced by draconian firewalling, content censorship and ill conceived policy to restrict access and bandwidth. Arguably the initial motivations of this effort were needed, given the deep seeded behaviorist practices of education, and the very costly hardware and software being invested in. That said, the resulting monolithic and parochial services that have been set up at almost every institution were always going to be superseded by utility Internet services – once a suitably large enough market demand was established. That time is now, and many people are finding it more productive and rewarding to be using software and Internet services outside the Institutions.

But with the establishment of a large workforce employed to maintain the local and parochial services, the adoption of so called “Web2” or “Social Tools” – to quote the question, into education is yet more forcing of even larger round shapes into even smaller square holes. The agents who continue this retro-fitting have not spotted the oxymoronic aspect of the idea, nor stopped to consider the wider problem of social constructivism inside institutions of behaviorism. Perhaps even more concerning is that the IT professionals did not factor in the inevitability utility scale provision of services once a market had been established, and did not design exit strategies for their now legacy systems.

Nor has anyone stopped to consider (in these terms) what the result may be in bringing social media into such environments, and how effective it will be or not. Making such a large and chaotic thing fit inside a restricted and limited operation is certain to fail more so than attempts to change the direction of the fitting and to bring education more appropriately out into socially constructed learning contexts and the social change it could entail. What I mean to say is, instead of retro fitting our systems and trying to add features of social media, education should occupy the social media scape. Store videos on Youtube, photos on Flick, and texts on Wikibooks; have teachers and lecturers editing Wikipedia, starting a blog, responding to questions, and generally participating in society’s media. Don’t try to squeeze society and social media into our limited way of going about learning.

That is not to say we should stop offering traditional behaviorist based services, We should! its a good way to learn, but its not the only way, its not even a significant way. If we are truly interested in learning, then we should be looking at ways to engage with the bigger picture.

“…We don’t need no education…”

Obviously a thinking person would not make such a statement without wondering what would become of training doctors, pilots, engineers, trades, researchers, and services; or how to ensure that as many members of society as possible are literate and numerate and have the skills to discover and make the most of learning pathways. Those words are more a challenge to the simple ways in which we in education go about our business – a challenge to behaviorism within industrial scale education systems, that tries to encompass social learning. An appeal to stop and think what is actually happening. Perhaps we don’t need education!

What then might a future look like? A society empowered through social media to more fully develop their own learning along the lines of Ivan Illich’s visions? Workers in tune to informal learning and how to leverage such learning for professional gains? Children permitted to follow their interests and develop at their own pace, under the guidance of trusted and respected adults and peers?

Once again, well meaning teachers will attempt to push these large round shapes into their small square holes because in the absence of a tangible alternative, this is all they can do! Perhaps opportunities should be explored more between the different approaches. How can mainstream schools relate more to homeschooling and the various extra curricula that children do outside of school? Again, this is not to say school should take on those activities – quite the opposite, it is a suggestion that schools (as gate keepers) should look at ways they can recognise and enhance the learning that goes on everywhere else. Perhaps as Jay Cross says, workplaces should invest 80% of its training budgets in supporting informal learning? And what if teachers (of all types) started to occupied space outside their institutions more, and into the social media scape, they would benefit from a fresh perspective of the world – one from within instead of without.

Notes:

This roundtable event will provide an opportunity for eLearning leaders in Australia and New Zealand to discuss these issues. Date: June 18th, the evening before the ACODE conference at Victoria University of Wellington Place: TBD, but will be located centrally to where conference guests are staying Agenda: 5:30 – 6:00pm Welcome 6:00 – 6:45pm Dinner 6:45 – 7:15pm Speaker 7:15 – 8:15pm Facilitated group discussion 8:15 – 8:45pm Large group sharing/Wrap-up Speaker and Facilitators are TBD. Outcomes: A foundational discussion on the current advantages and pitfalls of free social software tools as well as an understanding of how peers are taking advantage of these tools. There will be an opportunity to continue the dialogue through co-authored whitepapers. More details to follow. For questions please contact Kristin Greene

Links

The Dawn of Epimethean Man by Ivan Illich

From the ancient Greeks to a modern New York City child, Illich in 1970 critiques modern society and the drivers of progress as replacing Hope with Expectation. http://www.scribd.com/doc/12437/The-Dawn-of-Epimethean-Man-by-Ivan-Illich

PBS Frontline Special: “Growing Up Online”

A new series from PBS where viewers get an inside look into the worlds kids enter and create online, focusing on the important ways the Internet is transforming childhood and development. The documentary also notes a profound generational disconnect, perhaps the greatest American generation gap since rock ‘n’ roll. Another interesting aspect of the use of technology is the way educators respond to it. The documentary is informative, available for viewing online and provides teaching guides and a discussion forum. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/kidsonline/

The Idea of the University

Australian universities are among the least well-funded in the developed world, and behind the decline in federal funding there can be detected a confusion of purpose – what exactly is the university for in today’s world? Are they primarily about training workers to enter the modern skills economy, or is there another kind of role that the university plays in a democracy?

Downloadable audio from ABC’s Late Night Live with Phillip Adams for the next week or so: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2008/2272988.htm


Leigh Blackall

+64(0)21736539

skype – leigh_blackall

SL – Leroy Goalpost

https://learnonline.wordpress.com


Mike Caulfield alerted me to Edupunk. I notice Google alerts of my name before I can make time to catch up on my news reader – how sad is that! How my brain has come to a grinding hault working on the ‘inside’ 😦 so.. am I an edupunk?

If I was born 10 years earlier I would have most certainly been a punk.

If I was born 20 years earlier I would have been in the Weather Underground

But I was born in 1975 (great year it was too!) and I’m still looking for an identity… I think, I feel, .. maybe… perhaps I’m a neo anarchist with Derek Jenson. Oh dear, I think I just lost my job and popped myself on the CIA, FBI and ASIO lists.

And so, I am in my mid 30’s and increasingly career concious 😦 living in an era that many believe to be a very significant time, but I have this feeling all of a sudden, that it is all passing me by. Is this what they call aging? Is it a bit sad to wanna be an edupunk?

Mike’s older than me and he’s up with the play, and Stephen Downes is older than me and he doesn’t miss a beat! Edupunk!? WTF is that! Is Mike right, am I included without having to do anything like sign up or register?

Stephen summarises it nicely, and I can’t think of anyone more Edupunk than Blamb! Do I wanna hang out with people like this? Hell yes! Even if does mean ignoring oximoronic elephant in the corner, Education and Punk – as one of the commenters to Downes points out:

Oh, please. What’s next, governpunk? Religipunk? I can’t think of anything less punk than education. No matter how you slice it, most of these people are trying to find more creative and cutting-edge ways to help students conform to the needs of the institutions that employ them.

And that’s just it, the institutions that employ us. Sure! We can get away with being anarchic and brute punk – online (only just), but the brakes apply almost immediatly when you swivel around on your corporate office chair, to face the corporate open plan, in search of no one to share your regular ah ha moments with… so you swivel back around and blog it instead, in the vein hope that someone you work with is actually interested in what you think, let alone a boss! and in the weak sense of security in virtual numbers.

Am I sounding pesimistic? Of course I am, and I’m probably being very unfare to those around me again. Of course they care! Of course they’re interested! But boy are we institutionalised!

Edupunk is one of those terms that helps and hinders. Its like Web2.0 – technically incorrect, a term that widens the gap between our IT ‘supports’ and educationalists, but a sound bite that is easier to spread than something more accurate like “social constructivist media and communications”. Like Web2, Edupunk could help to reinvigorate those of us that can relate to what underpins it, and give us a new banner to rewrite papers on socialist principles, models and case studies, it could become a new battle cry in an age old campaign between industrialists and socialists.

But it could hinder us as well. In our neoliberal educational settings, where Reaganomics and Thatcherismis alive and well and deeply embedded, a punk has no place inside such institution. A label like Edupunk could become a sword we fall on when it comes to performance reviews and service feedback… “Leigh’s an Edupunk, very passionate about Web2..” = “Leigh’s a socialist and needs to wake up to reality..”

But I like it! If it gives us something to dance around for a bit, then great. I need a bit of a thrash and lash out. I see David Warlick has cranked the Wikipedia entry already? Someone add the image above! I gotta drop into reality for the day…

New Zealand’s collective student debt is approaching NZ$10 billion!!

Lets take a look at the cost of living for a student in Dunedin per week and get an idea of how crappy this situation is.

Weekly cost of living

Rent = $100 p/w

Energy, Internet and telephone = $75 p/w

Health = $20 p/w

Food = $100 p/w

Car = $80 p/w

Furnishings = $20 p/w

Clothing = $20 p/w

Social = $50 p/w

3 trips home per year = $30 p/w

Savings = $50 p/w

Stationary, computing and text books = $30 p/w

Student fees = $50 p/w + 40 hours p/w

TOTAL COST OF LIVING PER WEEK = $625 per week

Weekly income

Student allowance (if eligible) = $150 p/w

20 hours casual work @ $12 minimum per hour (resulting in a 60 hour week when combined with study time) = $240 p/w

TOTAL INCOME PER WEEK = $390 p/w (Gross!)

Weekly short fall of $235 per week. Totaling $12220 annually!!

So, let’s drop the car and savings… weekly short fall now = $105. Totaling $5460 short fall annually.

I guess we could keep chipping away at some of those weekly expenses.. who needs a social life, or trips home (or away), or health… and I guess they could work harder than 60 hours per week, or sacrifice some of that study time to work more, or find a job during the semester breaks to pay back some of that short fall (provided your landlord, food market, and all the others can stomach giving you credit until then. What about student fees? Let’s take a look at that…

Looking at student fee in relation to cost of course

A 3 year course at $12000.. what is the cost of running a course for 16 people per year? (Class sizes are one of the big reasons you would study at a Polytechnic btw.. imagine 350 people or more in a class, I struggle to see the value in university fees..)

Teacher @ $60 p/hr x 20 hrs p/w x 40 weeks = $48000 per year

Classroom and amenities = $4000 p/y

Internet and 16 computers = $32000 p/y

Other specialist learning resource fittings = $6000 p/y

Administration = $4000 p/y

Library = $6000 p/y

SUBTOTAL ANNUAL COURSE COSTS = $100 000

Less Government subsidy of around 70 – 80% = $30 000

Divided between 16 students = $1875 That’s less than half their fee!
(that subsidy figure needs checking.. it is really had to find)

Now, if we consider that in the breakdown of weekly student living costs – included in that is a computer and Internet. That might suggest that we could scale back our provision of such things (ignoring for now the fact that most students probably choose to forgo that cost in their struggle to survive here) and reduce the cost of the course considerably further (especially if I am out with that subsidy and course cost estimate).

But students would still be being forced into debt.

So what could we do in the way of free learning, fee education to afford more flexibility – save another $40 per week? And what could we do with other Government grant money to provide computers and Internet at affordable prices for students – save another $50 p/w? And what could we do with Open Educational Resources to reduce text books and library costs – save another $20 p/w? And what could we do with distance education so as to offer options for avoiding Dunedin costs of living – save another $100 p/w?

I don’t think we are thinking hard enough on what we can be doing to help address this serious social problem affecting the quality of learning in NZ. We have students who have little choice but to study and work 60 hour weeks, racking up and worrying about debt, and/or reducing their standard of living well below what I would call acceptable. I dare anyone to take a tour of rental properties in Dunedin.

Sarah Stewart has picked up on a conference taking place here in Dunedin that I know very little about. Part of me is offended that I know so little about a conference being organised in my home town without any of the organisers talking to me directly about it. But universities are a bit like that really, and maybe Dunedin is chock full of people living and breathing “computer mediated social networking” that they don’t need to seek out other locals… personally, I have not found many at all.. perhaps they just research it.. whatever the reason, as Sarah points out, we can’t not submit ourselves to their authority something for inclusion in the program if we are to regard ourselves in this field at all.

On looking at the topics for the conference it would seem that our experiences with running the Facilitating Online Learning Communities course would be a good candidate to talk about. I’m a little put off by the tone of the conference though, and a bit at a loss as to how we might go about packaging what we know about that experience up into a presentation of some sort of “research” for this conference. I do know that there are quite a few things about our experiences that the conference attendees would find interesting, starting with the things Sarah points out such as personalised learning through blogs and wikis, and open access to the course and how that resulted in a better learning environment and fee paying enrollments.

I would like to extend the proposal to talk about open content, the difficulty of negotiating the participatory expectations of such a course with the traditional educational models of ‘stand and deliver’, and the discussion around facilitator or teacher. I’d also like to point out to model courses that follow this vein, such as Dave Wiley’s Introduction to Open Education and the work in progress on Wikiversity, Composing free and open educational resources.And then of course we could talk about the bigger picture at Otago Polytechnic.

So, my initial thoughts are that we could talk about:

  1. The set up and maintenance of the Facilitating Online Learning Communties course
  2. Experiences of the participants and examples of how their new learning is being used in their work
  3. Outstanding issues and considerations arising from the course
  4. Further work we will do in developing education generally at Otago Polytechnic using socially networked media and communications.
  5. Frank and honest discussion on the probable and existing issues with this vision and Otago Polytechnic

I think it would be good to beam the likes of Sue Waters and some of the 10 minute lecturers in on the day as well, to get their impressions and reasons for participating on the air… as I think they played a very significant part in the course that we have not really captured yet.

Kevin Kelly over at Cool Tools points to a free PDF version of a pay for text that guides people through an equivalent curriculum to a Masters in Business Admin. In describing the benefits of this guided self learning he points out that an MBA could set you back 10’s even 100’s of thousands of dollars, while purchasing the printed texts might only set you back $500. What the text doesn’t give you, as Kevin acknowledges, is a network of friends or business contacts at the end of your course. Ah! Enter a networked learning model to support this text perhaps. A way for people who are using this text to make contact and communicate about their efforts. Clearly the information doesn’t change all that much, but the packaging (and the fees) change considerably. Is this the niche that traditional education ought to be looking at more closely? I think so. A beautifully packaged and engaging text, that prints on demand through a service like Lulu, and so can be always up to date with the latest information. Supported by an online learning community with value added services on offer. Such as formal recognition of learning if it is needed.

Would it work for many other subjects? I think it might. Right now I’m building a deck. I’d like to know how to do it right, but I don’t intend to enrol in a course to learn how to build it either. So I search the net and talk to friends and industry people. I get little bits of info, but not the hole shebang you know.. Not surprisingly, Internet info specific to NZ requirements is hard to find in the popular servers.. seems you gotta be in the know before you can get to know. Show me a handy, all-I-need-to-know text, supported with online video, all relevant to NZ requirements and materials and available accross any number of popular servers (like they’re starting to do with promotion widgets and distributed promo for movies these days) I couldn’t help but find it! Once found, I would still pay about $100 for the package in my hand too – to save me having to download, print, bind, package it etc.

Now, it just so happens that I have rather enjoyed the landscaping, planning, building and talking with council process. I think I’d like to know more about all this and maybe consider helping a friend or two, or even going into business… what was that web address for that book again? Oh! there it is on the cover… hey! They offer a recognition of prior learning for the formal qualifications they also offer! And short evening classes for anything I might be a bit weak on! That sounds much better than a 3 year full time study plan. I just want to dabble in it for now and maybe build up to something…

Update: Will Richardson went further with Personal MBA (see first comment) to find their website: http://personalmba.com/