Monday, December 17, 2012

Undignified Social Media

(apologies for weird formatting)

Alex Hayes wrote:

I'm noting a substantial shift in what I have decided is aggressive
marketing on LinkedIns behalf.

Ignore privately?

Repeatedly send me reminders that someone has friended me?

Despite numerous attempts to quell this unending stream it is the
faceless communication that causes me to imagine deleting the
application out of my life altogether.

Your experiences similar?

I replied:
Yeh I get this rubbish from LinkedIn as well. As well as notifications that person X has verified that I have skills in Y that I didn't even include in my LinkedIn profile. They are doing as Google 
does, as noted by Eli Pariser in The  Filter Bubble - trying to turn us into the person they think 
we want to be.
Of course Facebook does it par excellence. Podomatic does it, YouTube does it, Twitter does
it. It's all so undignified. All these social media sites clamouring over each other trying to get usto divulge more and more of who we are and what we do and believe so they can on-sell the aggregated data to third parties for profit and suck in more advertisers. It used to be so excitingbeing part of social media out there on the cutting edge but it's become well and truly mainstream and is now just an irritating pain. But that's now what we've got. Business models that capitalise on the bits and bytes of our activity.
Interesting to note that some social media sites DO NOT do this - Flickr, Delicious, Blogger to name a few.
What do I do about these annoying pestering exhortations to check out what my network is up to? Ignore them and delete and sigh.

Monday, December 10, 2012

IDEA12 Conference Notes

Keynote Speaker: Erik Duval (Catholic University, Leuven, Belgium)

Erik was clearly invited to provoke and stir things up. His talk had 3 foci:

1) Open Learning
2) the end of the LMS
3) Learning Analytics

Open Learning

He is a member of the Ariadne Foundation, and GLOBEa one-stop-shop for learning resource broker organizations, each of them managing and/or federating one or more learning object repositories.

His Engineering classes are completely open.

- tries to prepare his students to solve problems that don't exist yet with technology that doesn't exist yet.

Q: "what does training for an unknowable future mean? what does it look like?

  • In short they should die! They block innovation and are closed to the rest of the web. Discourage collaboration between organisations and across geographical borders.
  • In Erik's classes the learning platform is the open web.
Learning Analytics: 
  • data that students leave behind that can be tracked to improve their learning
  • can be used to track all manner of web activity: blogs, Twitter, ie including non-LMS activity.
  • uses Engagor: a commercial tool that offers social media analysis, including sentiment analysis - a description of the mood of blogs, Tweets based on language used! (Engagor have free 14 day trial).
  • Recommended Resource: Public Parts by Jeff Jarvis
"A visionary and optimistic thinker examines the tension between privacy and publicness that is transforming how we form communities, create identities, do business, and live our lives."

Panel: Challenges and opportunities for digital learning

Matt Farmer (Dept of Ed and Early Childhood Development - Victoria)
"Challenges can't be solved in the old ways."
" The new challenge is disruptive change."

We need to stop presenting information about the new world operating around the world of education as a cautionary tale about some future time because it is here now. Things are already, chaotic. messy and challenging. In the New Game

  • disruption is normal
  • one needs to harness the wisdom and power of the crowd
  • we need to explore new business models


Ramona Pierson - How predictive decision support is changing the face of schooling OR
Big Data: Powering the Change we need
  • investing in education has pronounced effect on GDP
  • Africa is world's #1 user/developer of 5G wireless
  • "the world is exploding with content"
  • technology is changing children cognitively; re plasticity of brain
  • there's the 'transformative' word again...
  • 70% of US prison population have LL an N problems
  • degrees are a buffer against poverty (of course there are other factors at play here)
  • we continue trying to maintain a book based system..."system change is a necessity" "we have to change our teaching practices" - become guides; facilitators more often
  • govts and corps need people with 21st century skills
What's next? How do we move forward?
  • help teachers become more effective mentors/guides - HOW DO YOU DO THIS???
  • part of it is customizing the delivery
  • use  data to show learning needs of kids/students??? - think she's advocating Learning Analytics and/or via APIs that track/monitor/advocate data; and algorithms - v much a tech solution to better/more effective learning
  • capture interests by taking students to places they cannot easily go - (harder to do the less proficient students are proficient with technology)

[what are 21st c skills?? (again!)] See  below...

PANEL SESSION: Authentic Assessment and Learning Analytics (Duval et al)

why does everyone want to talk about assessment all the time???? my first task is to teach - help students learn!!!! (Duval); assessment comes later (couldn't agree more.)

Group Discussion:
  • what are the drivers for the assessment driven model? are they still appropriate? (Gary Putland) - accountability/risk aversion/efficiency/bang for buck
  • observation from group member: until 21c skills are assessed lecturers will ignore them
  • q from audience: will assessment become something based on observation, against student created criteria? (rather than externally imposed standards)

Patrick Griffin (Executive Director of the Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills project)

More on 21st century skills here. Very expensive book available here.

PANEL SESSION: Engaging learners in a digital world: Identity, Devices and other matters

Ruth Wallace (CDU) - Engaging Learners in a Digital World
  • In indigenous north the new season is thought to have arrived when the weather changes! Not because it's March!
  • technology represents a linear version of knowledge - not true IMO; networked learning is quite rhizomic  


New Models of Content Delivery - VijayKumar (MIT) beamed in via vc link;  describes himself as an educational futurist (!)
  • Opportunities for change
  • educational costs are increasing
  • new forms of knowledge and information
  • increasing numbers of non-trad students
  • we are witnessing the intersection of Technology (networks, software, data, devices, community) and Open (tools, resources, content) 
Open resources does not mean they are of inferior quality. Some examples:
Point: MIT have a great deal quality software that adds depth to their open materials
  • Network and open > new ways of configuring the learning experience (cf Weller)
  • David Wiley's 4 Rs of open: remix, revise, reuse, redistribute
  • Access, cost and quality - this combo has been disrupted by MOOCS (John Daniels)
  • NOTE: what do we keep from the old model of education???
Q: Why is Open Content NOT a threat to traditional education?
A: Because an industry can be built around it???? offers opportunities; not a threat if you can figure how to change! 

Carl Ruppin (in place of Delia Browne) - Copyright Law Reform and OER; Slides

  • are existing copyright laws now irrelevant? blocking use of OER resources? yes, and they are too complex
  • content in digital environment is promiscuous
  • in Australia the compulsory fees to Copyright Ausralia (CAL) means nothing is free in the educational  world (unlike other countries); students can do 'reasonable' things for free; teachers cannot
  • "current copyright laws are broken"; reform needed, and OER plays a part in this
  • Australian law Reform Commission is currently conducting a review of copyright law
  • we need to future proof the copright act for the digital economy

Nigel Ward (Uni of Melbourne)
  • (national eresearch on collab, tools and resources)
  • building several virtual labs
  • this is about big data and big science (Astronomy), but also Humanities Network Project - will allow new forms of research across disciplines {check HUNIdatasets}
  • building a research cloud (which is now live)

NBN Education Trials

Debra Panizzon (Monash), and Nathan Bailey ( - Virtual Science

(the better the connection/video - the closer you feel to the action ie more connected, less peripheral, not just an observer)
  • class connecting kids around Australia but taught from Melbourne - mvp! - uses Webex, and video conferencing
  • they want to produce science creators
  • [occurs to me that science can benefit from NBN more than humanities ? (except see Music below!)]

OHSGame - White Card - Mark O'Rourke (Victoria Uni)
  • suitable for VET learners who are more visual than verbal
  • games are good for education because they present challenges in the 'zone of proximal development' that are achievable; and you get immediate response

Dror Ben-Naim (Smart Sparrow) BEST Network - Biomedical Education Skills and Training Network
  • product is an example of adaptive tech - adapts to needs of ind students
  • allows educators to create highly interactive 'multimedia' content, data rich; uses  national medical image bank

Colin Cornish - Australian Youth Orchestra
  • they run short residential courses where people can play together ie music can be a collaborative process
  • NBN will allow people in regional areas - esp those with large instruments! - to audition locally rather than have to travel to capital city - mostly for teaching purposes
  • access to master classes; could hone into rehearsal of orchestras, with conductor comments, etc

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Inspiring Event

Went to an Adelaide Netsquared event recently to listen to speakers in four separate locations in a Google Hangout hookup between Adelaide, Melbourne, Auckland and Wellington. Tom Hawkins intro'd the session and made reference to co-working spaces.

Will from Melbourne was the next speaker talking about the Global Poverty Project. Aiming to "gangify resistance to global poverty." Referred to an app now available from Global Citizen.

John in Wellington followed talking about Loomio (an open source tool for collaborative decision making), and Enspiral - a platform to increase the numbers of people working on 'big problems'.

Another Will from Melbourne spoke about Squareweave and the quest to redirect more money to charity. He predicted that the next fast growing industry on the Net will be harnessing big data. Quote: "anonymous giving to charity doesn't fly with the young generation!" They want us and their friends to know about it!

Evan in Adelaide then spoke about Our World Today, an alternative media outlet that focuses on positive stories. (In contrast to mainstream media which has conflict as a core value.)

Other site mentioned:

Just inspiring to sit and listen to a bunch of people using the web for good And all of them were under 35.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Given the bleak outlook for the VET sector in Victoria - for the TAFE sector anyway - it was encouraging that ConVerge went ahead this year, and was well attended with about 300 delegates participating.

On the flight home I was reading about blogging in Howard Rheingold's NetSmart . Rheingold says that when people criticise bloggers for writing about things they might consider trivial they are missing the point. The point is that whenever people commit thoughts to writing it is a valuable exercise in clarifying your thinking and disciplining the mind. Writing is of itself, ipso facto, a good thing to do. And so my thoughts on the sessions I attended at ConVerge12.

Tim Longhurst

The opening keynote was from Tim Longhurst, 'futurist', and CEO of consultancy firm, Key  Message An engaging and entertaining speaker he based his talk around three themes:

1.      Wisdom is in the group
2.      Barriers are collapsing
3.      the power of small

Personally it provided a great segue for my own presentation on Global Trends affecting education later in the morning.

He quoted Chris Anderson ( from Wired) saying that the world is getting better in many ways, but then showed a rather trite example of Lil Demon, the break dancer. As good a break dancer as this kid may be it's a stretch to think this has improved the world! Perhaps the point was better made by citing examples of people who have never met f2f collaborating with others across geographical and temporal boundaries - this is  significant progress.

An exercise followed where it was revealed that 80% of the ConVerge audience have used their smart phone for banking - apparently a good indicator of the extent of 'digital-ness' of people. (I haven't!)

Best bits of the future

1 We will all become cyborgs

He cited the example of people who took the Turing test,  and who were unable to tell if they were talking to a person or  robot. In some cases they were wrong. When they thought they were talking with a robot it was a person and vice versa. So machine intelligence is improving.

2. Live on the edge

·         Innovation is really about asking  is there a better way of doing this?
·         Find and foster the edge in your organisation
·         Make a point of listening to an 'edger' for 20 mins a month. (I like this idea - simple to implement.)

3. Abundance

Jamie Oliver gives his recipes away to generate a million dollar business. Copyright is a product of a time of scarcity of resources. This philosophy of abundance ties in nicely with the work of Martin Weller who includes a chapter title The Pedagogy of Abundance in his book, the Digital Scholar.

  • gives power to the small
  • individuals can use services like to crowdsource funds for creative projects. (Similar to for micro-financing of development projects.)
  • Barriers to traditional education are collapsing -  eg the Khan academy

Tim Morrissey - Big Blue Button

An informative session (such a lame word!) detailing the results of a project using Big Blue Button -  the tool that many hope will become the Open Source alternative to proprietary virtual classroom products like Adobe and Blackboard Collaborate.

Alas, while some were  impressed with the audio quality of this tool it is still a long way short of being a viable alternative to the major players.

·         Poor mark up tools? seems better in presenter view.
·         Browser based > easy loading
·         Presenter can enlarge screen; no app share but has webtour
·         Won't work with inbuilt mics

As an aside Tim told us that he didn't think Blackboard were supporting Moodle integration any longer.

The obligatory session on MOODLE 2.3 by the inimitable Julian Ridden revealed:

·       new text editor is much improved; you can now paste from Word and junk code is removed automatically
·         using tables is MUCH easier
·         Cleaner interface
·         Navigation options - eg show one topic per page
·         Plugin resources now standard  (but not sure what this means)
·         Eg a new and better feedback tool replaces the clunky questions and surveys of older versions
·         Book module now core

Gilly Salmon was the keynote speaker late on day 1 but apparently did not have the version of the  presentation she wanted to deliver. Slides were too small to see easily.

Offered just this:
55% of Australians have a Facebook account

Learning Analytics and EPortfolios @ Box Hill (Julieanne Seaman and Pauline Farrell)

While there was an element of the speakers clearly believing their own publicity, Box Hill TAFE are a good example of an organisation that has gone for the long term view of implementing systemic change from the top down. That is, management is behind the change, and a whole of institute approach is employed.

They have done extensive profiling of their student body:

·         78% of students prefer workplace learning; text based is least preferred mode of learning
·         97% have mobile phones ; 63%  have smart phones; 78%  own a laptop


·         have implemented Echo 360 and apparently are struggling to keep up with demand
·         they have developed a script that allows them to track amount of blended, interactive nature of Moodle sites. This data is fed to managers - they call them traffic light reports. These results are published throughout the organisation and encourage section managers to come forward and ask how they can improve their section's standing - wonderful!

ePortfolios (Mahara) are used in conjunction with a Personal Learning Plan unit for students
·         some students like to use epfs collaboratively
·         Blockers: staff and student skills/system usability - limited customisation options

·        Box Hill distinguishes between learnER and learnING analytics; learning analytics is more about whole of organisation

·         more PD needed for staff to include assessment tasks suited to epfs

·         they sit with staff at Training Package stage and redesign content for e-delivery from the start

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

A Humbling Experience

I would contend that the abundance of content and connections is as fundamental shift in education as any we are likely to encounter, and there has, to date, been little attempt to really place this at the centre of a model of teaching.

An event called Designing Learning in the Digital Age took place here in Adelaide a week or so ago. After the initial keynote (which was generally very well received) there were a number of break-out sessions that, according to the majority of the feedback, failed badly.


  • Will certainly not attend any future events where these presenters are involved.
  • The event did not model or address the issue of 'facilitating disruptive and transformative learning experiences' as advertised.
  • no leveraging of the knowledge in the room or attempt to understand where the audience was at or, understanding of the technological capacity in the room for participants
  • the session on disruptive innovation delivered zero. No content, no strategies
  • I was hoping for tangible ideas from other contexts. The flyer made it sound as though it was for people currently working in this space ... The focus on social networking sites as a source of knowledge and content was, for mine, overdone and not reflective of the promotional material.
  • little new knowledge or ways of representing it were offered.
The first of these comments is the most damning:

Will certainly not attend any future events where these presenters are involved.

I was one of the presenters involved. In 30 plus years of working as an educator in schools, adult education, professional development, and as an invited or keynote speaker at conferences feedback on my efforts has been largely positive, so to get such a bad wrap for the first time in my professional life hurts. And so I must look at why it happened.

In 2006 I had the great privilege of participating in the inaugural Future of Learning in a Networked World Unconference in NZ. This was the first time I experienced first hand how a group of connected educators could generate vast amounts of significant content in a relatively short time. And I had hoped that participants in this recent event would be able to replicate something like that NZ experience.

Promotional materials for the day said things like:

  • Intending participants are those who "want to see change in the way education is delivered, and who see the value of networked learning"
  • participants will be actively curating their own learning
  • It is expected that participants will already have skills in the use of educational and mobile technologies, and social media
  • you'll ... ideally be used to creating and sharing content and/or media on the open web.
  • handy...would be an account on one or two (or more) social media sites eg: blog, podcast, wiki, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn or even Facebook  
  • develop that resource you would like to show your key decision-makers
  • locate, generate and tag content to create usable resources

Extracting some key words from the above list we get:

  • networked learning
  • actively curating
  • skills in media
  • used to creating and sharing content and/or media on the open web
  • develop
  • locate, generate, tag

I think it’s clear from the above description that participants would be
doing things.  The intent was that those who attended this event would come ready to share, learn, collaborate, create and curate content. That is, it would not be an event where facilitators would be instructing, but rather an event where emphasis was squarely on the participants, and the knowledge and expertise they brought to the event would make or break the day.

But that it is not what happened. It is clear from the feedback that some came expecting to be taught and talked at. I had no intention of putting myself in that role for such an event. It would be ludicrous to even try. All my co-facilitator and I wanted to do was provide a time and place for connected educators to extend their personal learning networks, and tap into the collective intelligence of those who attended. To practice what is sometimes touted as a methodology for the digital age - paragogy.  The notion of ‘paragogy’ relates to the peer production of learning

I wanted to provide a platform for participants to talk and learn from each other. I assumed that people would quickly self-organise into groups of mutual interest, decide what they were going to do,  and do it. We would collect the resulting resources at the end of the sessions. It was also hoped that participants would be happy to complete tasks in the days after the event and share everything via a public Google Doc created for the event.

I have been part of such events before and that is what happened. It did not happen at this event. Why not?

1. the promotional materials and session descriptions obviously did not make what we trying to do explicit enough.

As I think back to previous events where this approach has been successful I realise that the term unconference had been used to describe the methodology employed. My mistake here was not to describe at least the events I was hosting as akin to unconference sessions. People came to learn from me as the facilitator; I was there to host a situation where people could learn from each other. Cross purposes.

2. people needed more time to get to know each other and explore what areas of mutual interest they might work on.  I badly misjudged this, and more time should have been allocated to allow this to happen.

3. the technology at the venue failed. While this was really disappointing, many had access to their own network connection anyway. Several participants also had fairly basic levels of ICT literacy and were unable to use their devices to quickly produce content.

While I don't think the failure of the venue's technology was the crucial factor in determining the ultimate success or otherwise of the day, it certainly didn't help, and I imagine this would have got several people offside. For the record I feel cheated by the venue. In the lead-up discussions with Rydges Southpark I was very specific about the nature of the event and said that 60 people would be making intensive use of their in-house wireless and they assured me several times that their Internet could cope with such use. They were wrong, and they should never have accepted our booking for this event. And I should not have believed them. A hard lesson learned.

4. There was not enough space for people to work comfortably in groups. I had envisaged people working alone, in pairs or groups as desired. We have to accept responsibility for this - we misjudged the amount of space needed for people to interact in the way we hoped they would.

So - really quite  ironic. We wanted to host an event where people could talk, share, create, and learn from each other to model how designing learning in the digital age needs to take these approaches into account, and we got feedback based on an expectation that we would be running teacher-led sessions that we had no intention of running. 

We tried something new. We took a risk. We were trying to place “the abundance of content and connections the centre of a model of teaching.” We failed. Innovation theory is quite clear that taking risks and failing is a necessary prerequsite for eventual success so I guess on that score we can salvage some hard learned lessons from the event, but ultimately we failed, and I have to accept responsibility for that. I'm really sorry that so many were disappointed. And you're only as good as your last gig...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Australian Moodle Moot 2012

Australian Moodle Moot 2012

The Australian Moodle Moot for 2012  is come and gone. I used to love Moodle. I was excited by the prospect that an Open Source product could challenge the hegemony of the proprietary LMSs like WebCT and Blackboard. So successful has Moodle been that it has flourished with the demise of WebCT, and has Blackboard sufficiently concerned to have them buy out 2 significant Moodle partners in Moodlerooms and NetSpot. Opinions vary as to why Bb has done this, but it seems clear that in part Bb sees Moodle and Open Source as significant players in the LMS space for some time to come.

So there is still much to admire about Moodle's ability to present an alternative path to the proprietary systems, but gee I was sick of the word Moodle by the end of this moot. I may be just a grumpy old man romanticising the past but my memories of WebCT conferences are that they were more about e- and online learning than they were about a product.

Moodle now seems to be enveloped by something akin to religious zeal and has become synonymous with elearning. It is however encouraging to see many new and younger users at Moodle moots, and to see the obvious enthusiasm for the product and the Moodle community that has evolved around it.

Martin Dougiamas began proceedings with his customary keynote.
  • there is now a database of Moodle plugins 
  • drag and drop is now possible in 2.3 
  • he urged everyone to get on board with Moodle 2.0 as 1.9 will only be supported to the end of 2013. 

Snippets from other sessions:

Migrating Offline Pedagogy > Online (the inimitable Julian Ridden)

"the room you're in matters" - so does the online learning space
online often tends to cater to the LCD - lowest common denominator


seem to use the workshop module to upload plans and reports; requires setting phases/timelines - peer assessment (need to follow up on this)


  • Her research: 'Breaking free using real-life tasks' 
  • offers a 4 wk course in PD for staff on designing elearning
  • most content is on open companion website - so that content remains available indefinitely 
  • believes synchronous communication more suited to meet personal needs, and asynch - professional

VET PANEL (Grant Beevers, Jayne Batchelor (Wollongong), David Drinkell (QLD VET); Francis Kneebone (eLearning Consultancy)

  • should Moodle have a competency module? or do the Rubrics and Marking guides in Moodle 2.0 do the job well enough? 
  • maybe double handling by a human is just as efficient and cheaper than a large scale integration with student management system????? (good point!) 
  • Cert 3 in Electrical has made good use of eportfolios (Box Hill TAFE) - individual lecturer I think (check with Pauline Farrell) 
  • Mahara eportfolios can be exported /zipped
(at this point I realise I'm a little bored with the VET sector... would rather spend time dealing exclusively with ideas; notions of competency, RPL, AQTF etc all intellectually tiresome.)

  • Southport School - implemented Moodle and Mahara; use forums in yrs 8-10
  • Do forums cater for boys? It seems she is saying yes - quite a positive experience - built relationships and a level of maturity; AND...they love to compete and see who had posted most!!!

  • guarantees to raise participation rate to 90%!
  • Transactivity: responding to and building on each other's contributions 
This is how he does it:
  • have multiple small groups with no more than 6 in a group
  • initiate with oral/class intro face to face
  • set open ended/challenging questions
  • grade posts - via rubric
  • use active verbs when formulating questions (list, classify, compare, hypothesize, etc) and grade level of difficulty


1. OWLL (Moodle plugin but needs Red Five server); allows listen and repeat exercises
2. Speech Coach - speech analysis tool
3. Text to Speech block

One of the highlights was Stuart Mealor's presentation on Free - Speaks for itself. Hosts free Moodle courses for suitable applicants. And can be a place where you can donate your Moodle courses to the open web

Can mobile transform pedagogy?
  • new hierarchy of needs include net/phone
  • using Airserver you can share/show screen of participants' mobile
  • WIKITUDE - makes it easy for students to create content???
  • mobile learning puts the focus on the learner - how???; this can be done without mobile.....
  •  'reclaim social media for education'; 96% of NZ students polled have not created or uploaded a YouTube vid - find this hard to believe...... 

Technically very impressive but didn't really make a case for how mobile will change pedagogy other than these tools are cool and different so everyone will just have to change. Not very compelling or convincing. Disappointing from this point of view.

My own presentation:

ADDRESSING GLOBAL TRENDS IN EDUCATION: Can it be done in Moodle? Presented in an open Moodle site at

(For another perspective see Kerry Johnson's post.)


  I recently created a book of this blog. I must confess part of my desire to do this was based on the assumption that it might be of intere...