Sunday, November 30, 2008


Links for 2008-11-28 []

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 12:00 AM CST

  • Participatory Media Literacy / Participatory Media Literacy
  • Dr Mashup or Why Educators should learn to stop worrying and love the remix
  • OER Commons
  • Welcome to the Carnegie Commons
    The Teaching and Learning Commons is an intellectual community space provided to enrich and encourage exchange of knowledge about teaching and learning. To participate in this collective effort, you are invited to: * create representations of effective teaching practice * share these representations with the community * read, understand, and comment on others' work * build on the work of other community members * based on what is learned, re-create new representations to contribute to the commons.
  • Tech talks at Google
  • Convert pdf to word - Convert pdf to doc - Convert online pdf to word
  • Poynter Online - Unmuddling Middles
    any reporters write strong leads, back them up, and finish their story with an ending. But the middle "has no recognizable sequence of ideas, no flow of cause and effect, and no narrative, just puddles of information," as Roy Peter Clark and I complained in our latest edition of "Coaching Writers," on page 107. Many editors struggle to bring some structure to their writers' middles, or just give up and publish these sagging arches. How can reporters create strong middles, and how can editors help them by coaching? Reporters fail to write organized middles for two reasons: j-schools and lack of know-how. Many journalism schools still teach the inverted pyramid as "THE form" despite all the evidence showing readers cannot understand them. Few journalism schools teach the most effective form of explaining things in words, the stack of blocks

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stuff I like


Think Google has minimal design licked? Take a look at keyboardr!  I am a bit of a keyboard fan for quick navigation so this is right up my street and this actually seems quicker than using Google direct, not least because results appear as you're typing.

If you fancy  breaking out of the Google environment for a wee while, this could be a good place to start to see... *whisper*... other ways of searching...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Learning Outcomes - again

Recent Reflection: On less being more at Master's level: "... it does risk becoming formulaic, and also implying that there is a correct procedure for doing it. The more specific the directions, the more restricted the outcomes, and the less the scope for the exercise of individual initiative and creativity (if that is desirable in your discipline, of course!) Master's students are experts, or at least nearly there. They need to be given their heads rather than constrained."

Valuable comment on the trouble with learning outcomes in Higher Education by James Atherton. Yes, I agree. Yes, precision in specification does not mean that we can predict or truly direct outcomes. And while I'm at it... I actually think that in some circumstances they can lead to lazy and superficial learning. What do they really mean? Who dreamt them up? And how can it possibly work that (and I'm thinking of Open University courses in particular here) one party dreams up the learning outcomes, another is supposed to teach to them (even though their interpretation is never questioned) and another is supposed to learn to them. So many areas for potential misinterpretation or misplaced meaning. What point do they serve if "those who knew what they meant when they originally wrote them" are outside the learning loop between student and tutor? Bonkers.

Am thinking of getting myself a placard made up... :o)

Reuters Left Second Life... and I still can't get into it at all

On Reuters leaving Second Life...

Exclusive: Why Reuters Left Second Life, And How Linden Lab Can Fix It: "It's hard to say what, if anything, Linden Lab can do to make Second Life appeal to a general audience. The very things that most appeal to Second Life's hardcore enthusiasts are either boring or creepy for most people: Spending hundreds of hours of effort to make insignificant amounts of money selling virtual clothes, experimenting with changing your gender or species, getting into random conversations with strangers from around the world, or having pseudo-nonymous sex (and let's not kid ourselves, sex is a huge draw into Second Life). As part of walking my 'beat,' I'd get invited by sources to virtual nightclubs, where I'd right-click the dancefloor to send my avatar gyrating as I sat at home at my computer. It was about as fun as watching paint dry.

But here's how Linden Lab can make Second Life more fun and a better business:

1. Build good newbie-oriented content. Linden has always taken the position they're in the 3D platform business, and can't be expected to build anything with their own tools or even know what others are doing in Second Life. That argument didn't fly when the gambling scandal broke and it doesn't work now. Second Life has a monster learning curve, and Linden Lab needs to hold new users' hands through every step of their first five or six hours. A big content push isn't even that expensive: the company has proven it can pay Second Lifers $10/hr to do these things and have skilled content creators begging for the job.
2. Acknowledge that Second Life's reputation is now a liability. This isn't the worst thing in the world, but it does mean Second Life can't sit back and hope word-of-mouth brings in hordes of new users like it did back in 2006. Second Life needs to advertise, and the ads need to be hip. New CEO Mark Kingdon has an ad background and should have the right résumé to pull off a makeover.
3. Radically simplify the user interface. The Second Life UI is a mess, and there's been no major changes to it in Second Life's 5+ years. Making the Second Life experience easy-to-use, even graceful, isn't a nice-to-have, it's a business imperative.
4. Abandon the idea that Second Life is a business app. I wasn't in Second Life to play, I was there on assignment for Reuters. The login server would crash. I'd try to reach sources, but Second Life's IM window would hang on 'waiting' all day when trying to figure out who was online. 'Teleports' -- the ability to move from point to point anywhere in Second Life -- would stop working and I'd get locked out of my own office. These weren't one-offs, they were my daily, first-hand, happens-all-the-time experiences. For all its bugs, Second Life is tolerable as a playground, but enterprise users will never and should never use it for business. Re-focus on the core mission: Keeping the hobbyists happy and converting potential recruits into hardcore (read: fees-paying) users."

Have to say, a lot of the above resonates with my experience... or lack of... using Second Life. Okay, so, for point 4 substitute education for business and that's more or less my way of looking at it. I like the idea in principle, but the reality I find difficult to use, it has made previous laptops overheat and shut down, it's confusing, unreliable and generally frustrating. The learning curve to get to grips with it is pretty large - and if we're talking about anything more than wandering around lost and vaguely bumping into stuff, then we're talking about a fairly significant investment of time.

Let's put it this way. I turn on my computer and I want to interact with others. I open my e-mail, create a new message, type away, hit send... that's about it. I 'tweet' by typing a short bit of text and hitting the return key. IM - pretty much the same. Most stuff... the same.  Second Life and you're confronted with a whole host of gubbins that you need to get your head round to use it as an effective tool.  You chose a name for your avatar.  You create an outward appearance.  You appear in a weird 'not quite right' looking landscape and meander around aimlessly... occasionally harrassed by another avatar... unsure what to do or where to go.  I've tried to get my head round it, but it just hasn't intrigued me enough to engage me.  It's ever so slightly unsettling.  Do I 'know' the people I'm talking to?  Do I know their real names rather than the made up ones?  'They' seem to know each other, but I don't know anyone - and I don't even know how to get to know them because I can't seem to control my own feet let alone communicate on any level!  I don't feel comfortable in my avatar's skin.  I feel comfortable in mine.

Second Life seems to be its own barrier to adoption.  The argument that we haven't time for second life because we're too busy dealing with our first one isn't deep enough.  Engaging with something which is frustrating to use, unreliable and resource intensive... coupled with the need to spend hours to engage... well, I can see why although those who have overcome those barriers are loyal... I can also see why it would fail to become truly mainstream.  Not least because so much of effort required to cllimb the hill to real engagement is a personal investment of time spent outside the office.  A quote from a recent report on the use of Second Life in HE -  "Personally, I spent over 1500 hours being in-world understanding social interactions between October 2006 and May 2007, to get to grips with how SL works to hopefully help realise the full potential of what we/I could achieve." (Kirriemuir, 2007 - UK HE and FE Developments in Second Life) - and this describes an investment in time... in his own time!

1500 hours?  An ouch too far!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The times they are a' changin'... again...

BBC NEWS | Education | Let's not get personal: "Professor David Hargreaves, probably the country's leading authority on personalised learning, said he had struggled for the past four years to define it but had now concluded that it was 'a total waste of time trying to find a definition'."


Having a mull about all of this. I wonder why everything has to be so black and white all the time? Now it's in. Now it's not. In. Out. In. Out.

... and so the great Hokey Cokey of education continues... :o)



Links for 2008-11-19 []

Posted: 20 Nov 2008 12:00 AM CST

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Stephen Downes on Online Learning

From Stephen Downes on the future of online learning:

Half an Hour: The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On: "Today, and for the last century, education has been practiced in segregated buildings by carefully regimented and standardized classes of students led and instructed by teachers working essentially alone.

Over the last ten years, this model has been seen in many quarters to be obsolete. We have seen the emergence of a new model, where education is practiced in the community as a whole, by individuals studying personal curricula at their own pace, guided and assisted by community facilitators, online instructors and experts around the world.

Though today we stand at the cusp of this new vision, the future will see institutions and traditional forms of education receding gradually, reluctantly, to a tide of self-directing and self-motivated learners. This will be the last generation in which education is the practice of authority, and the first where it becomes, as has always been intended by educators, an act of liberty."

Perhaps a curiously Westernized perspective? Either way, the whole essay is worth a read and will get you thinking, agreeing, disagreeing, predicting, reflecting... and generally giving your brain a good scratching as you canter through the world of technology and its role in education and look towards an interesting, tangled future.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The ignorance of the intelligent

In this weekend's Guardian:

Oxford students in 'bring a fit Jew' party row | Education | "Students in the under-21 rugby squad are said to have attached pretend sidelocks to their heads at the 'bring a fit Jew party'. Sidelocks are worn by Orthodox Jewish men.

The party, at a curry house on Wednesday, has been condemned by the Jewish community as 'at best insensitive and ignorant: at worst blatantly antisemitic'.

The Oxford University Student Union is said to have convinced the team's captain to change the post-match party's theme to 'bring a fit girl'.

But Aaron Katchen, Oxford University's Jewish chaplain, said the original 'theme' had gone ahead. He was contacted by four students who had witnessed it.

The Community Security Trust, which deals with antisemitic attacks together with the police on behalf of the Jewish community, said the party would make Jewish students feel 'isolated and vulnerable'.

A spokesman for the Union of Jewish Students in the UK said: 'The actions of a few students have caused real offence. We are appalled that in 2008 old myths and antisemitic stereotypes are still appearing among supposedly educated students.'


Stupid to have done it (and personally I think that the suggested improved theme of 'bring a fit girl' is in a revolting category all its own)... but... the bit below from someone studying at one of the world's top universities just makes me cringe...

The captain of the under-21 team, Phil Boon, said he 'didn't see what the problem was'. He said Jewish girls had accepted invites to the party. 'I can understand why it might have offended some people, but it would have been an awesome social."

Yeah. "Awesome".

If that was the sound of the generation gap opening a little wider as I failed to understand his viewpoint... well... I'm glad I'm standing on this side of the gap.

*sighs again*

Thursday, November 6, 2008

HE motivation vs. real benefits?

Some research from the DIUS (Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills) reported in today's Guardian:

Parents want children to get higher education they missed | Education | "Four-fifths of parents who did not go on to higher education wish they had, and three-quarters of mature students regret not going to university straight after school.

The poll, commissioned by the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills (Dius), found that 16% believe they would now have a better career and 13% that they would have a better future if they had gone on to higher education.

The survey coincides with the launch of a national campaign to raise awareness among parents and their children of the benefits of higher education.

Some 86% of parents say they have actively encouraged their children to consider higher education, or plan to do so, because they regret not going themselves."

I wonder what the figures would be for those who had gone to university? I wonder if they all think it was a good thing or if there's any regret associated there? I also wonder if there are similar number of university-educated parents who want their children to go on to Higher Education because of the benefits it brought them?

Seems to have been a big ol' chunk of research missing because the above is fodder for a 'get your child into uni' campaign rather than a real reflection of its benefits to those who have gone. Me, I don't regret going to university straight from school... but equally I know that the degree choice I made then isn't the one I would have made if I'd waited a little longer.

There's a quote at the end of the article by Higher Education minister, David Lammy:

"We recognise the value that higher education brings, which is why by 2011 we will have increased funding by 30% in real terms since 1997 - spending £11bn a year."

... but I don't actually see that this research gives any weight to that other than revealing regret and perceived missed opportunities. This research reveals nothing about value. Motivation for encouraging your children into HE is one thing... but wouldn't it be nice if it were based on either concrete benefits or real reflections from those who had participated?