EDUsummIT, NTLS, and SITE Executive

From September 29 to October 7 I was in Washington, DC, where I participated in a series of meetings associated with my involvement in the Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE) and my role as Editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE). EDUsummIT ran from Monday, September 30 until Wednesday, October 2. The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) followed on Thursday, October 3 and Friday, October 4. SITE Executive met on the morning of Saturday, October 5.

EDUsummIT <http://www.edusummit.nl>: EDUSummIT describes itself as a global community of policy-makers, researchers, and educators working together to move education into the digital age. It seeks to engage educational leaders from across the world in conversations framed around issues and challenges facing education today and through that dialog, develop action items that are based on research evidence. The first EDUsummIT meeting in The Hague in 2009 emerged from the group of editors responsible for the International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education. I was involved in preparations for the second EDUsummIT held in Paris in 2011 and, although I was unable to attend due to teaching commitments, contributed to an article which has recently been published in a special issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

The theme of EDUsummIT 2013 was Research-informed Strategies to address Educational Challenges in a Digitally Networked World. I was a member, with colleagues from Belgium and Israel, of a small team that facilitated Thematic Working Group 3 on Teacher Professional Development. We developed a short briefing paper prior to the meeting and will collaborate on development of a paper for a special issue of Education and Information Technology. Our briefing paper and those prepared by other groups are available from the EDUsummIT website <http://edusummit.nl>.

The EDUsummIT activity began with meetings of the theme leaders on Monday afternoon and ran until Thursday morning when there was a joint session with NTLS. The welcome reception on Monday evening was held in Madison Hall at the Library of Congress. Tuesday sessions were to have been held in the same building but were moved to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, because of the shutdown of government facilities including the LoC. Wednesday sessions were held on the campus of George Washington University. Most of the summit time was spent in thematic working groups where the aim was to identify  issues related to the theme and develop plans for future action. Those discussions were punctuated by plenary sessions that shared progress across the working groups. I also participated in an additional working group of editors that was formed to develop plans for dissemination of EDUsummIT outcomes.

NTLS <http://www.ntls.info>: The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) is an annual meeting of representatives from SITE and the major subject area teacher associations in the USA with additional representatives from related organisations and editors of educational technology journals. It was held in the headquarters of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) over Thursday and Friday of the week. I was assigned to a group working on a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education activity. The impulse for that focus was the new USA science standards that include engineering and the perceived challenges for science teachers who typically have little or no engineering background. We worked to develop a working model of an electric motor and explore some implications for inclusion of engineering in the new science standards. I also participated in a meeting of editors and was a member of a panel of editors that led discussion on the final afternoon around strategies for stimulating further discussion of the science and engineering links.

SITE Executive <http://site.aace.org>: On Saturday morning I attended the SITE Executive meeting. Discussion ranged across activities of various sub-groups within SITE, the outcomes from EDUsummIT (for which SITE is a sponsor), outcomes from NTLS (also sponsored by SITE), the Microsoft Teacher Education Initiative (in which SITE is a major contributor), SITE governance, journal activities, and a proposal for a SITE Regional Symposium to be staged in Christchurch (April 28 & 29, 2014) in conjunction with the NZ teacher education federation (TEFANZ) and abutting the Distance Education Association of NZ (DEANZ) conference. The theme of that symposium will be Inspiring with digital technologies in 21st century teacher education. Readers who may be interested in attending should watch the SITE <http://site.aace.org>, TEFANZ <http://www.tefanz.org.nz>, and DEANZ <http://www.deanz.org.nz/> websites for further details.

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ascilite 2012 – Wellington, NZ

The 2012 ascilite conference was held in Wellington, NZ, from 25-28 November. I was able to attend and present a paper co-authored with Romina Jamieson-Proctor, Petrea Redmond, Andrew Maxwell (FoES) and Kevin Larkin (Griffith), in which we reported some results and analysis from the mobile learning project we had funded through DEHub.Attendance at ascilite is dominated by staff from elearning development and support groups at Australasian universities but also includes participants who teach in a variety of discipline areas and some from further afield. The topics are clustered around the use of computers and associated technologies to support learning and teaching. I was able to attend 26 presentations, view about as many posters, and speak with colleagues from across the region. Key areas included in those presentations and conversations included mobile learning, the use of data extracted from the LMS or elsewhere to guide learning and teaching, application of social media to learning for students and staff, and future directions for learning and teaching in universities. The comments that follow record some of my reflections. The proceedings are available online at http://www.ascilite2012.org/ but for a different view of some of the major presentations check the caricatures posted at http://www.monsta.co.nz/ascilite-conference.html

Mobile learning is a rapidly emerging area but it is presenting challenges for universities. In many or most cases the LMS and other systems are not designed to provide smooth interaction with mobile devices and existing learning materials are not formatted for convenient use on mobile devices. Differences among the mobile devices used by students mean that materials may need to be converted to multiple formats. Rapid changes in technology mean that conventional approaches requiring long lead times for planning and implementation across whole systems may be too slow to respond. More agile approaches with rapid cycles of small changes that can be progressively adapted and extended appear to be having more success where they are being tried.

Although the LMS and other university systems contain large amounts of data about student and staff interaction with the systems that can be used to examine relationships between user behaviours and learning outcomes, there are challenges in making effective use of the data to guide learning and teaching. Data are often held in systems operated by sections separate from those charged with learning and teaching quality so access may require special provisions. Patterns that appear in the data at a macro level may mask complexity that exists at the lower levels of courses and students. Interpretation of the data may be best done by those familiar with the circumstances in which it was collected.

Social media outside university provided systems such as the LMS are being used by students to support their learning. Often this appears to be a response to perceived inconveniences or inadequacies in the official systems. In some cases the use is entirely student-driven with no staff involvement but in others staff are using various services to engage students in learning activities that would not be possible otherwise. Some cautionary notes were raised around behaviour in social media spaces and the implications of requiring use for particular purposes. Some universities are establishing policies about social media use.

Sessions related to the future of universities included a debate about MOOCs, presentations about how to better support innovation at the edges, and keynotes about alternative approaches to education (Dale Stephens from Uncollege) and assessment through authentic activities with more obvious links to employability (Beverly Oliver from Deakin – a more wide ranging summary and response to conference themes titled “Changing hearts and minds in the cloud”).

The venue for the conference was Te Papa – http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/ – the national museum of New Zealand and we were treated to Maori cultural displays as well as the hospitality typical of an ascilite conference. The conference also coincided with the week of the world premiere of The Hobbit in Wellington, adding further excitement around the appearance of celebrities.

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ascilite 2010

December 5 – 8, with support from the Faculty, I attended ascilite 2010 in Sydney.

ascilite is the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education. I have been a member since before I attended my first ASCILITE conference at Wollongong in 1998 although I have managed to attend only the 1999, 2000, and 2005 conferences since then. Somewhere along the way ASCILITE has evidently adopted the full e e cummings style and become ascilite but that has not diminished the quality of the conference professional and social programs.

The theme of ascilite 2010 was curriculum, technology & transformation for an unknown future – more e e cummings. I presented a paper based on data collected as part of the LTPF project I shared with Karen Noble and Birgit Loch (Lyn Brodie). It was title, “Preparedness for flexible access to learning materials: How ready are university students and staff?”, and was co-authored with Birgit Loch (now at Swinburne), Joseph Mula (Faculty of Business), and Jerry Maroulis. Those who may be interested can find that paper in the online proceedings. Others from USQ at ascilite 2010 included Petrea Redmond, Shirley Reushle, Michael Sankey, and Helen Farley who were there to present papers to which other USQ staff had also contributed.

The keynotes were interesting and relevant: Jan Herrington (Murdoch) on authentic learning and new technologies, Lev Gonick (Case Western Reserve) on building a smart connected city (with hints of what the NBN might offer), Thomas Reeves (Georgia) on design research and blended learning, Ron Oliver (ECU) on designing for learning, and Martin Oliver (UK) on games and simulations.

Other sessions that I attended addressed a variety of topics, including: TPACK in teacher education, student voice in DE, multimodal learning environments at USQ, tinkering and sustainable innovation, social networking via ebooks, teaching in blended reality (regular classroom and Second Life simultaneously, indicators of engagement (academic analytics), social networking among university students, and teaching in virtual worlds.

Although there was no single stunning revelation among the presentations, the cumulative effect was to reinforce ideas about the importance of learning design (especially for authentic activities and assessment), the potential of social networking for learning, and the increased ease with which the necessary connections will be made if and when the NBN rolls out.

 

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What are we protecting behind our course walls?

Peter Sefton has posted an impassioned plea to Stop saying ‘Protect our IP’ in educational contexts? In essence I think I agree with all, certainly most, of what he wrote but I might press a few points further and saw a few things that provoked comment.

After a brief discussion of the idea of IP, he hones in on copyright as the core IP issue:

There are two main areas where I think copyright might be relevant:

  1. Copyright in our courseware.
  2. Copyright in any materials which we use to support delivery of educational services.

Though given that we not only teach, but teach teachers I guess the lines between those are somewhat blurry.

[Update: As soon as I posted this I realized there is a huge third category – copyright in learner-contributed material. If we wanted to be like FaceBook we could assert copyright over that but I don’t think we would, would we?]

I have argued this week that one way to get benefit from our copyright is to license our materials under a creative commons license and let people use and adapt them, extending our commitment to Open Courseware.

There is no argument from me on the value of opening up access to our materials especially if we apply a CC licence (perhaps BY-NC-SA would be appropriate). That would be consistent with the USQ commitment to OpenCourseWare which was launched a couple of years ago with the required minimum of 10 courses but has not been extended or (in at least some cases) updated since then. It would also be consistent with a long time tendency of at least some USQ courses, open or not, to benefit from links to course materials produced by others. It would also recognise what has been evident since the OpenCourseWare movement began, that content is now widely available on the Internet and the real value offered by educational institutions is no longer in the content, if it ever really was, and is more in the interactions built around the content and the certification that may be offered.

I’ve argued recently against a model for production of course material that devalues the intellectual work entailed and may misrepresent authorship and dates of production. Treating content produced for courses as work of real value with proper attribution seems to be a preferable approach.

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Surprised to be back in the news

I was surprised last night as I was reading the latest edition of Education Review to find myself quoted in a article titled ICT doesn’t have to be a headache:

University of Southern Queensland associate profession (sic) Peter Albion says, “the stuff that works best is the stuff that comes naturally”. He believes that everyday experience is a great motivator of ITC learning.

“My 80-year-old mother is not averse to using e-mail and online chat with her grandchildren, because it’s a good way of staying in touch,” he says.

Albion, who has researched self-efficacy in ICT education, says confidence with the technology will come from practice, and overcoming the problem of getting started is made easier by seeing people you can identify with using ICT.

I don’t recall talking to a journalist recently in a context that could have generated the quotes. I do have a vague recollection of talking with somebody a few months ago. Perhaps that was it and it’s taken that long to make it into print.

The springboard for the piece is a new book, Change: Transformation in Education, by Marg Lloyd and Nicola Yelland. The issue is the continuing challenge to encourage teachers to use ICT in their classrooms, especially in ways that are meaningful for Generation Y students who are so familiar with it. In part, at least, I think it does come down to encouraging teachers to regard ICT as a natural part of their lives and work.

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Learning outside the LMS

George Siemens in his Connectivism Blog has posted about what can happen when learners find that an LMS doesn’t provide what they need and step outside:

Administrators, learning designers, and teachers are facing a new kind of learner – someone who has control over the learning tools and processes. When educators fail to provide for the needs of learners (i.e. design learning in an LMS only), learners are able to ‘go underground’ to have their learning needs met.

This happened in a program I was recently involved in as a learner. An LMS was the main learning tool (which was a good choice for the program – many of the learners valued the centralized nature of communication and content presentation). After a short period of time, however, groups of learners ‘broke off’ from the program and started holding discussions through Skype, IM, wikis, and other tools. Learners selected tools that were more tightly linked to the types of learning tasks occurring. When the learning was content consumption or simple discussion threads, the LMS was fine. As the learning became more social, learners started using tools with additional functionality. The learning required by the instructors – assignments, discussions – still happened in the LMS. But much more meaningful, personal, and relevant learning happened underground – outside of the course.

As George notes, when learners go outside they may loose access to some of the supports offered by the facilitator, or otherwise, inside the course. Everybody looses direct access to what happens in the alternative spaces although some of what happens may filter back.

Coincidentally, Graham Attwell on The Wales-Wide Web has posted some reflections on a presentation by Scott Wilson questioning why, when we expect students to provide their own word processors and other tools, institutions insist upon providing the LMS. He suggests that it is about institutional control and argues that having students provide their own systems might encourage them to take control of their own learning.

These are challenging thoughts for systems that mostly work by channelling learners through a tightly controlled series of learning activities within a series of courses.

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Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation

Learning Circuits has a new piece by George Siemens: Connectivism: Learning as Network-Creation. It is a fairly lengthy piece and, as much as anything, represents some “thinking out loud” about learning and how we do it. There is a good deal about networks, a list of 8 principles and something about the implications for higher education and corporate training:

The connectivist view that learning is a network creation process significantly impacts how we design and develop learning within corporations and educational institutions. When the act of learning is seen as a function under the control of the learner, designers need to shift the focus to fostering the ideal ecology to permit learning to occur. By recognizing learning as a messy, nebulous, informal, chaotic process, we need to rethink how we design our instruction.

Instruction is currently largely housed in courses and other artificial constructs of information organization and presentation. Leaving this theory behind and moving towards a networked model requires that we place less emphasis on our tasks of presenting information, and more emphasis on building the learner’s ability to navigate the information—or connectivism.

Blogs, wikis, and other open, collaborative platforms are reshaping learning as a two-way process. Instead of presenting content/information/knowledge in a linear sequential manner, learners can be provided with a rich array of tools and information sources to use in creating their own learning pathways. The instructor or institution can still ensure that critical learning elements are achieved by focusing instead on the creation of the knowledge ecology. The links and connections are formed by the learners themselves.

Coincidentally, James Farmer has posted a link to a QuickTime movie rant in which he urges Kill your discussion board. The alternative is a mix of email, IM, blogs, VOIP and other communication channels already in wide use among learners.

(Via eLearnspace.)

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mLearning, phones and lifelong learning

eLearn Magazine has published an interesting piece: Lifelong-Learning Support by M-learning: Example Scenarios. Among other things it argues:

Norris & Soloway argue that handhelds should support project-based learning in context, that is, using the handheld as an integral part of a learning activity; most of all: ongoing assessment and possible feedback [19].

Converse to the approach of using handhelds or personal digital assistants (PDAs), we propose in this paper the support of pupils at scondary schools and universities by use of mobile phones: Whereas mobile devices including PDAs, handhelds or small laptops are relatively expensive and consequently lack availability especially amongst pupils—the core advantage of mobile phones is the high availability of such devices. The market penetration of mobile phones in Austria is currently at a level of 81 percent and the numbers are still increasing [28]. It can be emphasized that the majority of the population in general and the younger in particular have a mobile phone available, which they have at hand most of the time.

Considering this fact, m-learning can be an important instrument for lifelong learning, which is for example, a central aim of the European Union [7], thus a challenge for research and development in the area of mobile computing.

The general thrust of the argument about the widespread availability of mobile phones and their consequent value for just in time learning seems to make good sense. I don’t think I would want to read substantial amounts of text on a mobile phone but being able to access information to support other activity need not involve large amounts of text.

(Via elearnspace.)

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Open University chooses Moodle!

In what appears to be a significant endorsement of Open Source systems in education and of Moodle in particular, the Open University has selected Moodle as the basis for its student online environment:

the programme manager of the OU’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), says, ‘We see the development of Moodle applications, along with involvement of the Moodle Open Source community giving our students a great advantage in e-learning. Plus, the innovations added by the OU will be available to the entire Moodle community. It’s a two-way creative street.’

Given the comparative size of the OU and USQ it seems that we needn’t be overly concerned about the scalability of Moodle for institutional use. This move also means that there is likely to be significant development of extensions to Moodle flowing back into the system.

(Via Moodle.)

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Why does PT keep going on about HTML export from word processors?

Peter Sefton at PT’s Outing asks himself and anybody who is listening “Why do I keep going on about HTML export from word processors?” He begins like this:

I spend a lot of time on this site going on about HTML, particularly XHTML export from word processors using styles. Why? Surely in 2005, when the mainstream use of the web is 10 years old, this is a solved problem?

It’s not solved.

If you’re using Microsoft Word or OpenOffice.org, or working with a community that uses both, can  you fire up the word processor, type out a document and export it as XHTML, or click a button to send it to your blog in useful XHTML?

What he describes is something of a technical tour de force that finishes with a plug for ICE but doesn’t directly answer the question. There seems little doubt that ICE is a clever bag of tricks and that, from the perspective of the non-technical user, it may be better than GOOD. Nevertheless, the question I have to ask myself about all that is “Why?”

Unless I’m missing the point, both ICE and GOOD are being developed primarily to enable academics to prepare well presented course materials that can be published equally well on paper or electronically on the web or CD-ROM. I think, though not having prepared a course that way I’m not sure, that each of the electronic formats includes a PDF version of the material to facilitate printing by students. If that is the case, then why bother with all the conversion from Word (or the Open Office equivalent) to XML and thence via XSLT to XHTML and/or PDF? Word, especially if used on a Mac where PDF capability is built into MacOS X, can easily enough generate PDF directly. Start with a good set of templates and you could get near enough to the same outcome for a fraction of the effort. The technology might not be so neat but it does work and would do the job.

So, given the pain that seems to be involved, is the answer to the original question a matter of satisfaction at bending the machine to the will of a “hard master” (Sherry Turkle in The Second Self) or of masochism? It doesn’t seem to be a matter of need. Word produces respectable PDF and, when I need or want (X)HTML, there are adequate tools available for that too.

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