If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist!

I admit, I’m a little late to the party, and my recipes  are simple to say the least. But you know, one of the very best things about learning and working with students and fellow educators is always being fortunate enough to find more to learn! There is no shortage of ideas that can be done.

My main work is with professionals – teachers in schools and post school settings.  So we are not talking new learners!  Now I don’t buy the digital native argument for a minute, but I do wring my hands in despair at educators who don’t keep their minds and hearts open to exploration, innovation, and learning in whatever way is needed to ensure that the role we play as an educator is guaranteed to be useful – even if only in a very small way.

Yet I understand things not always coming easily. If you can’t ‘find the URL’ to a item, I’ll help you learn (yes, I still get asked that question). But I’d much rather you asked me a complex question about professional practice, information curation, or ways or managing information flow. Why?  Because these are some of the key challenges for educators.

So back to that basic recipe I mentioned – yes, I finally faced up to the fact that I NEED to be using IFTTT for more effective information gathering as part of my subject delivery processes. I have my colleague Dean Groom to thank for the final push. We’re playing in INF541 Game Based Learning, a subject which Dean is teaching after heading the writing team of Groom and O’Connell again. Wow, the years have flown since we got into online environments and virtual worlds with our small books back in 2010.

But nothing has changed since then. Still learning. Dean showed me how to set up IFTT to gather a running record of what’s happening in our subjects, and how to push that information back out as part of our participatory learning experience.

What is IFTTT?

IFTTT empowers you with creative control over the products and apps you love. Recipes are simple connections between products and apps.  I knew this, and until now the only recipe I had running was an email of a new recipe to me each week. But I never did anything else.  Dreadful.

The amazing thing is that IF Recipes run automatically in the background. Create powerful connections with one simple statement — if this then that.

For example:

So now I am using three recipes, taken from shared recipes available at the site, and also one customized by Dean.

Now we are both doing the following:

  • Collecting all the tweets with the subject #hastag in a Google spreadsheet.
  • Collecting all the blog posts that relate to the subject from my Feedly category to a Google spreadsheet
  • Sending back to twitter the new posts that turn up in the Google spreadsheet.

This is all automatic.  What does this allow?

Participatory sharing ||| Data collection ||| Subject tracking |||

Now we have the opportunity to quickly confirm (or otherwise) the extent of a students actual participation in the back-channel as part of the course experience – a vital part of monitoring student engagement and program effectiveness. There are many other formal channels, of course, but the social media aspect was one that I was never quite happy about.

I’m embarrassed I didn’t do this sooner! But of course, that’s why I am still learning from my peers. :-)
Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-ND ) flickr photo shared by venspired

Enhancing the student digital experience

The challenges of learning and teaching in online environments are ones that all educators face today – or at least should! So in this context, I was pleased to see the latest @JISC report for the university context:- Enhancing the Student Digital Experience: a strategic report.

The report seeks to provide answers to key questions:

  • How are you responding to the changing digital needs and expectations of your students and staff?
  • Do the experiences and the digital environment you offer to your students adequately prepare them to flourish in a society that relies heavily on digital technologies?
  • What are you doing to engage students in dialogue about digital issues and to work collaboratively with them to enhance their digital learning experience?
  • How well is the digital vision for your establishment embedded in institutional policies and strategies?

A must read and addition to your professional collection.

However, from my experience in  Higher Education what we do is probably far more complex and less likely to come to a happy resolution than in schools. This is not because we are any less competent, but rather that many in tertiary see ‘teaching’ as of secondary importance to everything else, whether that is research, writing or administration – because of the pressures put on them.

This ‘dilemma’ leaves me somewhat unhappy with the trajectory and resolution of competing interests in my own small ‘realm’, particularly when as Courses/Program Director part of my brief is to nurture good quality learning opportunities for students.  It puzzles me  when I see a messages come into my mail about  “strategies for assessment design that reduces marking time”, or “designing subject content and/or assessment to increase alignment with your research interests and why this is justifiable.” Both could (in my mind) run counter to overall course design, and/or quality engagement with students if taken in the wrong way. .

So the real problem of course is not commitment of lecturers, but the priorities, that often make teaching the thing that you have to do rather than the thing you want to do. I would love to know how many folks in HE love their teaching, and work tirelessly with students to achieve the best outcome possible.  I’ll leave it to you (from your personal experiences) to think of an answer.

Conversely, of course, students come in many shapes, and dispositions, so the overall learning experience is still a dual experience.  We can’t always meet everyone’s needs in online learning environments – after all, the learners themselves have to take a lead role/responsibility in the process.

I’ve kickstarted another great year in my favourite education degree http://www.csu.edu.au/digital where we encourage students (amongst other things) to share their experiences in the Twitter back-channel.  You have to have fun with learning too!  Two subjects that I am involved with are underway #INF530 Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age, and #INF541 Game Based Learning. I encourage students to joke around about the challenges, as that helps to lighten to pressure on us all.   (Of course, if they are using the back channel already, they are usually doing very well! Good on you Amanda and Simon!)

 Image: creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by giulia.forsythe

For the love of ‘open’ maps

It’s been exactly ten years since the launch of OpenStreetMap, the largest crowd-sourced mapping project on the Internet. It took a few years for the idea of OpenStreetMap to catch on, but today, it’s among the most heavily used sources for mapping data and the project is still going strong, with new and improved data added to it every day by volunteers as well as businesses that see the value in an open project like this.

I’ve used Navfree: Free GPS Navigation on my iPhone, with free maps from over 30 countries, and it’s pretty cool.

I’ve also loved the an animation and music sources related to the first video showing edits to the open source resources that came from the original OpenStreetMap.org project during 2008.  OSM 2008: A Year of Edits on vimeo not only provides a fab background video for your own mixup, but also access to some great sound tracks to support this.

OpenStreetMap started in 2004 and the rate of contributions is accelerating with four times as many people contributing to the project in 2008 compared to 2007. During the year, edits were made by some 20,000 individuals and there were bulk imports of data for many places, including the USA, India, Italy and Belarus which are clearly visible in the animation. (wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Potential_Datasources)

That original animation was produced by itoworld.com. It is licensed CC-BY-SA and can also be downloaded if you are logged-in. Various stills are available from flickr.com/groups/itomedia/pool/. The music is ‘Open Electro’ by Vincent Girès’ jamendo.com/en/artist/silence and can be downloaded from archive.org/details/silence-silence.

Here is the new animation and more information from TechCrunch For the Love of Open Mapping Data,   and OSM Tenth Year Anniversary.

Track those new Horizons!

While it was published a little while ago, I am still pleased to share the NMC Horizon Report 2014 edition, in case you’ve missed it.

Launched in 2009, the NMC Horizon Report > K-12 Edition broadened the reach of the NMC Horizon Report series to include primary, middle, and high schools. The K-12 Edition explores the key trends accelerating educational technology adoption in schools, the significant challenges impeding it, and emerging technologies poised to impact teaching, learning, and creative inquiry.

I’ve been along for the journey in every K-12 edition as a member of the K-12 Expert Panel, which has been amazing! Now we have this amazing collection that tells an extraordinary story of change, development and innovation in education as part of the mapping of new horizons.  It is fantastic to be involved at this level in education – I love it :-)

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2014 K-12 Edition

Check out the trends, challenges and technology forecast in the report. Look for the opportunities where you can contribute to your school’s development, especially in ways that technology can be embedded into the curriculum programs.

Social, digital and mobile worldwide in 2014

The astonishing growth of all things digital continues to gather pace around the world, as We Are Social’s new Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide report on the key social, digital and mobile stats from around the world demonstrates.

It should come as little surprise that much of this growth is being fueled by connected mobile devices, but this year’s data do reveal some interesting trends and anomalies, especially in relation to Japan and Korea.

You’ll find the complete story in the SlideShare deck above, here are some highlights.

Internet
Adding up all the users in individual countries around the world, there appear to be around 2.5 billion global internet users today – roughly 35% of the world’s population – which represents around 150 million more users than this time last year

Users are still not distributed evenly either, with some parts of the world still struggling to reach double-digit internet penetration. In particular, Africa, Central and Southern Asia all report relatively low numbers, although it’s worth highlighting that mobile internet users may contribute a significant – yet uncounted – increase in these areas.


For more information visit Social, digital and mobile worldwide 2014 via We Are Social.

Knowledge in the digital age


The future of learning is such a BIG topic that’s central to our work in higher education and K-12 education. The type of future thinking we need to engage in is NOT the hyperbole around  the demise  of the industrial age (it never was the right way to frame future planning!) but rather a deep analysis of who we are, what we want, and how we can best achieve knowledge developments as a result of engagement with ideas, actions and content.

Now I know that statement sounds prosaic in itself – but stay  with me a moment longer.  January 3 sees me well and truly launched into work preparing for a 2014 year of deep diving into ideas with students, colleagues and friends alike.Yes, back at work!

In a sense the deep dive began with a hilarious afternoon/evening watching University Challenge on the big screen internet enabled TV with my family. We got quite attached to some of the competition teams, and completely fell head-over-heals for the Corpus Christi Colleage Oxford team.

What struck us was the range of knowledge that these young competitors exhibited (we scored very poorly as we kept our own record).  As author Anthony Beevor, presenting the trophy to the winners of the 2011 challenge,  stated that if we believe that there has been a dumbing down of education in the last number of decades, listening to these students deal  promptly with the diverse quiz questions certainly proves the opposite.

The fact that knowledge is relevant and central to the ongoing advancement of the human endeavour is not in question in the digital age – but rather how information is utilised to grow knowledge is. What is happening in social media, popular culture, online, in your connected spaces?  As my colleague Tara Brabazon outlines in Time for Timbits: Fast Food, Slow Food, Class and Culinary Communication:

The internet … entered popular culture and became a powerful channel of ideas – rather than the hobby of a few – as the bandwidth increased, enabling a much more rapid movement of increasingly larger files. Therefore, the speed between diverse sites increased the range and the adaptability of media. Speed transforms minor media into popular culture. Speed is therefore a characteristic of modernity.

Knowing how to ‘think’ and ‘work’ in a digital age is more than just dealing with the information flow and ‘drinking from the firehose’ of global information. Speed is central to a new method of productivity, only when it is utilised in a manner to continue deep thinking and knowledge creation. I’m not a digital immigrant any more than my 16-year-old-niece is a digital native.  I’m a product of the education and professional opportunities that the social and cultural environments of my life allowed.

Knowing about technology does not make you knowledgeable – but knowing how to maximize working with information in and for knowledge development may help to make you more knowledgeable.

According to the recent MacArthur Foundation Report “The Future of the Curriculum: School Knowledge in the Digital Age” new learning in a digital age encompasses a move away from seeing curriculum as a core canon or central body of content to seeing curriculum as hyperlinked with networked digital media, popular cultures, and everyday interactions. The questions, then, are what knowledge is to be included in the curriculum of the future, what are its origins in the past and the cultural legacies it represents, what future does it envision, and what authorizes its inclusion?

The report clearly explains how the knowledge economy has become the dominant political style of thought in education reform worldwide. For my money, the extent we subscribe to the newest wave of reform (forget the hackneyed references to factory schooling) is not so much the issue. Rather it’s about recognising the influences and potential at play in changing the ways we can engage in the knowledge construction processes with our students.  Mind you, the MacArthur Report is a bit prone to hyperbole too:

we are witnessing the rise of a flat learning system as the science of learning and building brain-power is applied right across the full range of formal and informal situated contexts, both in the real and virtual worlds.

Having said that, 2014 and change are synonymous – but probably no less than they were in a 100 years ago in 1914 – it’s just that we are living an exciting transition and perhaps overly excited by it.

Like everyone I very much enjoyed reading my favourite SciFi Isaac Asimov’s predictions of what the world will look like in 2014 from way back in 1964. Try this for an example:

Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books. Synchronous satellites, hovering in space will make it possible for you to direct-dial any spot on earth, including the weather stations in Antarctica.

I was pleased to catch up with the The Downes Prize for 2013. Of course, Stephen Downes choice is insightful, as is his ongoing scanning of the horizon for the shifts and sometimes seismic changes in how we manage education and knowledge outputs. Check out his OLDaily E-Learning News, Opinion, Technology commentary.

I’m excited by the many challenges (and a few too many hurdles) that 2014 will offer me.  I hope for a good year, a productive year, and an opportunity to learn more interesting things with you.

Welcome to 2014 my friend.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Trey Ratcliff

Being web savvy includes Twitter

These days the need for educators to be web savvy is a given.  What’s not so much understood is that being web savvy includes being social media literate!

The digital transformation has produced some extraordinary online tools for flexible education, which enhance students’ learning and promise innovative pedagogy for teachers. However, they can also be daunting and challenging for educators. It is clear that teachers cannot ignore these tools, which go far beyond just Facebook and Twitter. Educators are now dealing with Generation Z – students born after 1995 who have hardly known a world without social media and have always lived a life measured in bits and bytes.

Be web savvy to keep up with Generation Z became a case in point.  Recently I was asked to write this small piece for Times Educational Supplement @TES on this very topic. Nice!  I admit that what I submitted is not exactly as it turned up on screen (the print version looks grand), but that is the way of journalism racing to meet deadlines.

If it wasn’t for Twitter and the wonderful help of @TESAustralia I would still be cringing at the formatting errors – because traditional email was not resulting in a ‘fix’!! It’s true – I’m web savvy, but I had to be social media savvy to be connected with the right person to fix this tiny problem.

Being web savvy has many dimensions – and social media savvy is but one of them. My example is a silly little one of course, but it was important to me! Luckily there are many powerful examples of teachers who understand the full concepts and connections inherent in being web savvy, and I knew that when I included a few key friends and colleagues in my article. Thank you to @kathleen_morris, @BiancaH80, @dbatty1, for being my exemplary representative Australians, including Ivanhoe Grammar’s iCyberSafe.com.

Disclaimer:  I didn’t pick the title of the article!  You have to love a subbie’s take on what teachers might want ;-)

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Neal Fowler