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Stephan recording the talk in Sydney

Stephan recording the talk in Sydney

Geoff and I gave another talk about EduPOV today, this time at Western Institute of TAFE in Orange. I think today’s talk went better than the one at Sydney Institute. Geoff spent more time explaining and demonstrating EduPOV gear before I launched into my usual rant about the importance of social media to education.

The talk at Sydney Institute was a bit disjointed I thought, because we had 3 distinctly different groups who came for 3 very different reasons. We had trades people who wanted to see the EduPOV gear, we had educational developers keen to talk about the wider implications, and we had first Australians interested in both the application and the implications in terms of the indigenous context.

The talk today in Orange seemed to be much more coherent and presenter lead, and so in this regard I felt satisfied that I played my expected part. After Geoff demoed the gear, it was up to me to put the concept of Point Of View into a historic, educational and social context for consideration. Again a recording was made, but I think I can recall the nub of it.

I basically said that Point Of View (POV) is about more than the cameras and that the modern internet is all about POV. I pointed out that we have actually had this micro camera technology for quite some time, but it took the modern internet to appreciate the value in it. So it is social media with all its evident influences on audience reception in television, radio, cinema and all, that has made the space for Geoff to present a product called EduPOV. Teachers are more ready to consider themselves and their students as the producers of their own educational media.

The modern Internet is all about points of view, and wearable micro cameras like EduPOV gear is simply one tool and medium for presenting a POV in quite a literal way. It is thanks to the success of social media services and people’s willingness to use those services to share their points of view, that we have access to a vast array of primary resources that can be made infinately useful in educational settings. My proposal then was that the educational point of view and contribution to all this available resource, is to identify what is quality in it all, and to make that identification of quality available for all to consider. The educational point of view therefore, is one of quality.

This is not to be confused with material quality such as the image or sound quality, that aesthetic perspective has been altered by social media as well and we are all more capable of accepting a wider range of aesthetic qualities now. The quality I am referring to is that of the content. It is an educational practitioner’s role (I argue) to engage with social media, to look beyond the surface layers of services like Youtube and get beneath it, to create accounts and subscribe to new content feeds, to favorite and comment and connect, and to realise the deeper layers of what is available in social media collections, and to help identify quality information and resources and help it to emerge and rise above other content. Further, if by chance that teacher notices something missing, or something in need of correction, to see that need as an opportunity for them to create the additional or corrective media and add it back into the social media so that it can play its role in that wider collective context. Its “teachable moment”.

So a teacher (or content expert’s) point of view has an important role to play in the folksonomic organisation of the modern internet. But sadly, due to censorship, restrictive copyright, over zealous network security, prejudice, ignorance, connection issues and general inabilities, the educational point of view is the missing element in the social media scape, leaving us all to ‘fend for ourselves’ in the appreciation and organisation of primary content.

There was some heated and challenging discussion around the points in that argument, with the usual split in the room between those who were excited by the thoughts and those who were deeply threatened, or flat out rejected the thought. I fueled that with my controversial ways of putting things of course, but I guess that’s to be expected by now.

I am beginning to let go of the idea that the education sector will ever make an impact on the development of social media for education and that either something else will fill that opportunity, or that darker elements such marketing and shallow entertainment will take advantage of the illiteracy and ignorance that the education sector permitted to exist. This is no reflection on the people at Orange by the way. Its just that after 5 years of doing this, I can’t see anywhere near the level of change in the educational mindset, and the wider society to that measure, that I thought should have taken place by now. Others more senior and more experienced than I assure me that a significant change is happening, but that the education sector can only respond when those changes are prevalent throughout society, rather than be the one to make the change or prepare a society for the change. And that is a fact that I am beginning to see the fairness of.

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Skype still doesn’t record! and conference calling is not reliable because Skype wants to use so much bandwidth. Some institutions block it.. and we’re still waiting for it to get interoperable!

Gizmo Project almost got there, it has all the features we like in Skype but with recording, and conferencing – but I never managed to get the conferencing to work. Again, it wants to use a lot of bandwidth.

Elluminate works on low bandwidth, but has never been very easy to use. Java conflicts, firewalls, strange icons, not free, not web based, not interoperable with phones or other VOIP applications.

Flash Meeting, Dim Dim, Adobe Connect all use the Flash player to web conference, and while that makes it potentially user friendly, it also makes it bandwidth hungry.

Google Talk – with its integration to Gmail has been pretty nice and simple, tends to work well on low bandwidth, but has not offered conferencing or recording.

All this looks like it will be swept away with the new Google Voice being released. As usual, Google is rolling out to the centre of the Universe first, so we hope and pray the rest of us will have access before too long. The clincher will be if Google Voice can handle large numbers in a web conference. Google! if you’re reading, I think this could be achieved by adding a push-to-talk setting like Elluminate use. If bandwidth starts to drop, the webconferencers switch to push to talk and so the data direction is prioritised.

Check out the full selection of demo movies about Google Voice.

Thanks to John for the alert by email.

This is a shout out for one of the best educational youtube channels I have seen: Eat the Weeds. For all those who live in Florida USA – You are very lucky to have Green Deane around.

Hats off to you Mr Green Deane. You’re a champ! And thanks to Youtube for bringing Deane my way.

There is something I enjoy in borderline hostility at baby boomers.. but I keep it in check. Its probably just residue from rebellious youth days when it seemed like nothing could shock my boomer parents. And then there is some sort of truth in the generalisation of generations. I think it is obvious that the housing boom and bust is all just the boomers buying retirement. In fact, it would seem that everything those boomers have touched has boomed. Music, media, drugs, politics, housing, law.. you name it. Its as though you can track their generation’s interests as they grow through life, and see the impact they have had on that interest’s development.

So, now comes this chilling and arogant propaganda that pushes back on the boomers and their neo con retirement. It ignores the hedonistic x’ers who are the cynics in control now, and makes room for collective consciousness of aquariun scale. Ah.. the life time of being fed the American story line leaves me wide open for things like this.

A comment from a friend who watched it with me while we chatted:

peope are people, each generation thinks bigger and better of themselves til realities set in

i just hope its being driven BY gen we and not ageing gen x’ers that cant let go of the fact they aren’t cool anymore

[blip.tv ?posts_id=1327011&dest=7973]

I was reviewing some old work from 2005, and discovered the old Networked Learning presentation had never been made into a video! It had audio, it had slides, but was not a video! What was I thinking? So here it is, 3 years later as a video. Nice to see that these past 3 years I have been pretty consistent in my thinking.

Original slides with image credits on Flickr

Original audio with music credit on Archive

Michael Welsh (of The Machine is Using Us fame) gives us what might seem to be a definitive conclusion, or climax to his powerful anecdotes for the Internet to date. In his video of a presentation he made to the Library of Congress back in June 2008, Michael gives quite a moving account of the phenomenon within Youtube.

A few things trouble me though. Not so much as to want to discredit the video – it is an amazing video and I would love to take Michael’s courses.. but troubling enough for me to want to try and put some form to them here…

Even with Michael giving an account from a “world” view, the Youtube experience is (or has been) a predominantly US or North American experience. Sure, there are several references in the video to an international Youtube experience, and plenty that we can find at anytime, but it is centred around an American experience, company, values, ideas, expressions… I get more than a little uncomfortable when American’s talk about these experiences as though it is a world experience without even a hint of  consciousness about that. I would even say that those of us that do engage in this experience but who are not American, are sympathetic to American ideologies in the first place and so are a kind of diaspora of American values and perspective. As Michael himself would have us think, the technology is shaping our communication, and this one has a strong American accent. I could be wrong, and this no doubt comes across as America bashing (which its not) I’m talking about a sensation I have while watching this video, and a general sense that American intellectuals (and bloggers) do not understand, have little experience of a world outside their own – yet talk in world terms. not a solid idea by any means. More obviously though, is that underneath it all (or over it all) is corporate America. Youtube. The American legal system, and American intellectuals like Michael and most of the people he quotes in the video.Not good or bad, just observable is all.

I would love to see Michael do similar work on other initiatives, like Wikipedia. But it wouldn’t be as profound as Youtube. Part of the emotional impact in Michael’s presentation has to do with the fact that we can easily see the faces and hear the voices of what he is talking about. But what he is talking about is not unique to Youtube. The memes he refers to are present in any other online community, as is the productivity. I would love to see such a study applied to Wikipedia and presented in this way – and not just the English Wikipedia if that was possible. The closest I have seen to date would have to be Jon Udell’s Heavy Metal Umlet

Anyway, this is hardly a well thought out post, sorry about that. The video is great, I was gripped from start to finish, and I think it is an important piece to reflect on in all this social new media scape we have now.

In the past, we had libraries. They could be impressive places (depending on the library manager and her budget). They would house all manor of books, audio, slides, video, and archive materials and collections. Generally, anyone could walk into any library and enjoy largely unrestricted access to any of the collection – for free. So long as they respected the house rules of seriousness, quietness and respect for the items, they were always welcome to browse the collection. Even university libraries would allow anyone to browse their collections too. Some universities would even extend that type of access to empty seats in their lecture. It was a social good – or a way of sustaining a level of society.

But then this thing called eLearning started to happen. eLearning spawned from the Internet about the same time as the dot com investment boom started to take hold. University managers found themsleves caught up in this money fever and the conferences they frequented start talking about ways to leverage this boom. Everywhere people started to think money could be made from information and content, and everywhere people started to invest in the developments of systems that would restrict access to portions of the Internet. The term Intellectual Property started to become popular in unversities! It was a dark time indeed.

The Internet started to split. On one path was the open, distributed, networked (The Web). On the other was the closed, centralised, and delivered (Darknet). Universities went the closed route, on the hunt for more money with the dream of thousands more students, all paying to study from somewhere else and at their own convenience/expense.

Many software developers directed their attention to projects around Content Management Systems (CMS) – largely to serve an inflated dot com market. Developers inside universities modified the CMS to make Learning Management Systems LMS). The universities accessed and spent millions of $ of public money, developing content for their new LMSs. They used this money to create the equivalent of whole new text books, activities, student handbooks, and fancy new media. But instead of housing these shiny new resources in their libraries where traditionally anyone could access and use them, they housed them in their Learning Management Systems, which were designed to restrict access. That access was of course restricted to those who would pay. To access these wonderful new collections, people had to first show they were a paid up and enrolled students – society as a whole would have to miss out. Libraries said nothing because they knew nothing.

The libraries by and large, never saw much of that money that was poured into eLearning. It was swallowed up by new and powerful departments called IT. How these departments could be seen as anything but the core responsibility of a library is just another strange thing in all this story. As a result of this passing over, liraries are what they are today – broken and disconnected, struggling to find relevance. They had a few sporadic and half arsed attempts to scan and digitise the older collections of the library, but they never really had access to the same amounts of money that was made available for eLearning. Digitising library collections was seen as too expensive, especially if the libraries were going to continue to allow anyone to walk in and browse or borrow.

I see MITs Open Courseware as a first step in a return to the traditional social values and responsibilities of the university. It is a first step with a clear head, and now with a few more steps – largely around getting copyright and formats right, we might imagine a university very relevant to its glocal society. Not universities that design technology for restricting access to information and learning, but universities that leverage existing technology to give greater access for many more, at very little extra cost (relative to eLearning), and evidently no loss.

The dot com era has passed, the managers are slowly learning of their mistakes, and a new motivation is taking hold. One of social sustainability through unrestricted access to information and learning. But there’s a new threat on the horizon already. Cloud computing where the centralisation of information could lead to restrictions once again. Cloud computing could be a great thing, used to further that social brief, but we’ll need to keep reminding ourselves of how easy it is to loose our way.

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.

A really nice slide presentation by Matthias Mehldau

jtneil’s Del.icio.us alerted me to this excellent article on the academia vs wikipedia issues. What to do with Wikipedia is an article that truly gets it in every way. I could barely contain myself when reading through it! At last, a concise and easy to access summary and idea on how Wikipedia (et al) can and SHOULD fit into academia.

And for an example to lead the way – see Brian Lamb’s reviews of Professor Jon Beasley-Murray at University of British Columbia doing exactly what William Badke suggests.