Building the (Minecraft) lost city of Babylon

Regular reports hit my radar of the amazing work being undertaken by global kids, as they become knowledge-able, as well as knowledgeable in their gaming interactions. Many kids, supported by knowledgeable elders (parents and peers) are engaging in this amazing platform. Many teachers are also supporting their students to do amazing things.

Just look at this gorgeous build in Minecraft – Babylon in a very new world of our kids futures.  By amazing – I don’t just mean building in a gaming environment! I mean engaging in literacy  and communication; in digital citizenship and story telling;  and above all creativity and global cultures. But it takes dedication on the part of the adults to nuture students this way.

Minecraft in education is growing phenomenon – and people are jumping on board to see how they can integrate Minecraft into the learning cultures of their schools. To be honest – Minecraft is also becoming a minefield of its very own in the ‘grown up world’ (consultant warning) – and therefore making it critically important that we connect with quality users with grounded experience in best practices in Minecraft rather than with consultants.

Project Mist

Project Mist, from Donelle Batty, is one of my favourite Australian leaders – doing with her kids daily that we could only wish for all our kids. Donelle has been running Project M.I.S.T (Minecraft In School Transforming education) for what seems like eons now. Her students have very powerful learning experiences. GMods Experience in Minecraft tells it all!

My experience in Minecraft this year was spectacular; the team work, the efforts, the creativity gained and witnessed was truly outstanding. In the class I got to socialize with kids that have the same interests I have, building friendships throughout the year. Cooperation was the biggest highlight; When there was ridiculous amounts of mobs and high death count, we took shelter and shared supplies. When someone needed help building or creating something it always felt good to teach them how to do so. I’ve also learnt more about the importance of my appearance on-line and how I present myself to the people of the world wide web, presentation is key and your first impression is everything. If you are acting like a tool on the internet people will see you once and think: “Wow, that person seems stupid and rude” And that would be the last time they visit your page/ sever/ profile.

Recently, I followed a tweet to see what Donelle wrote about the 2014 launch of #ProjectMIST.

She reminded us all that Minecraft is a collaborative experience, as is the various stages of learning involved in gaining Minecraft experience. Donelle is without a doubt a global leader, and will be away from her hometown in Tasmania on her Hardie Fellow (Info re Hardie Fellowship and recipients for 2013-14).

Donelle also reminded me of the fantastic work done by Jo Kay who is an amazing colleague I have worked with closely over the years on various projects.  Jo currently builds and supports our work in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) degree here at CSU. We don’t use the normal LMS, but have developed our own for the degree for now.

So in much the same way Donelle explains:

We are really lucky at ProjectMIST as we have one person who has been with us from the start and is always there, even at 12:04am. At this time of the day I am in bed asleep and the computer is asleep too, but Jo Kay is wide awake supporting the students where I can’t. Her support is extremely appreciated by the students and they demonstrate this through building replicas of her avatar on their own servers, one young man did this just the other night when she helped him out after he locked himself out of his server. This student has now just been accepted onto Massively @ Jokaydia Minecraft Guild and he is really excited to be able to build, learn and explore with others from all parts of the world.

If you are an educator, a parent, or just someone who wants to give kids a chance at Minecraft I recommend you visit Massively @ Jokaydia.

The Massively @ jokaydia Guild Website –  a community supported by jokaydia.com -  provides kids and parents with games-based spaces to learn, collaborate and play!

The project is designed for kids aged 4-16yrs who are interested in gaining digital media skills, exploring their creativity and developing online social skills. We are currently using the video game Minecraft to support a safe, whitelisted server and a range of activities which encourage kids to choose their own playful learning pathways and adventures.

You can’t do better than that!  Babylon was a build created by just one of those students!

You will find Donelle on Twitter @dbatty1 and Jo at @JoKay. You’ll also find student Nat, from the TedEX video below @natbott42

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Jo Kay

Enhanced by Zemanta

Standing on stilts – and a new degree!

Sometimes we are too immersed in what is around us, and find it hard to look out beyond the crowd to a place that brings not only excitement, but also the the kind of stimulation that any creative mind seeks. That’s what education aims to be about of course, but we can’t always succeed.  In that sense I am really lucky to be working in an environment that does support standing on stilts – if you are willing to take up the balancing-act challenge!

So on that front I have been lucky to have the support of my Faculty to stand on stilts – big time!.  We’ve now officially launched the website about our newest degree offering, the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation). In this degree will be undertaking to meet the challenges of learning in a connected world, and helping our post-graduate students (who will already be outstanding teaching practitioners)  develop the capacity to be responsive to the challenges that this connected world brings.

In examining the concepts and practices for a digital age, we will of course engage with as many of the recent developments which are influencing learning and teaching in an increasingly digitally-connected world. By examining key features and influences of global connectedness, information organization, communication and participatory cultures of learning, I hope that our students will be provided with the opportunity to reflect on their professional practice in a networked learning community, and engage in dialogue to develop an authentic understanding of concepts and practices for learning and teaching in digital environments.

We will be reviewing and reconstructing understanding. We will be standing on stilts and looking for the contexts for innovation and change in day-to-day professional practice. Overall we will be encouraging professional learning through authentic tasks and activities through collaboration with peers; by immersing ourselves in readings that are thought-provoking; by adopting a stance of inquiry, reflection and analysis, and by engaging with new knowledge in the context of the daily transactions of learning and teaching.

The new degree follows a flexible structure, allowing students to craft a program of study that meets their own (and often diverse) professional needs.  The range of subjects on offer are varied, following the foundation subject “Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age“.  I will be teaching this subject myself to kick-start the degree program, because I want to!  I believe that this new degree program is going to be demanding, exciting, challenging, invigorating, and  will allow us to build professional connections between us and a real excitement for future possibilities.

OK, you say – get off your stilts now!  Stop dreaming!

The fact is that I am totally committed.  As a Courses Director, I am not expected to teach.  But in fact, I will be teaching the foundation subject because I want very much  to engage with our first cohort of students to get a measure of what is possible, and to ensure that our degree program can respond together to the challenges that new knowledge networks bring us.  You, the first cohort, will indeed lay the foundations of the purposes and future learning opportunities for anyone entering the program.  Let’s do it!  Come and join me in the challenge.

I will be holding the first round of online information Webinars about this degree program next week. If you are in the least bit curious, do sign up and join me for a chat. You’ll find the link to sign up for the webinar at the degree program website.

If you haven’t quite caught up with the rapid changes in our connected world – consider this.  Yesterday saw the world scrambling to update their iPhones to the new iOS7 operating system.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I played with my device for hours. I exchanged views and opinions with my global online colleagues via Twitter and Facebook. It was a ball!

I also work online all the time – and talk, plan, dream, sigh in these virtually connected environments. What will it be like when iRobot comes into our working environments?

iRobot was founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology roboticists with the vision of making practical robots a reality.  Since then they have produced robots that vacuum and wash floors, clean gutters and pools and patrol war zones.  At InfoComm which was held in Orlando, Florida last month iRobot announced they were partnering with Cisco (videoconference and telepresence solutions company) to bring an enterprise grade iRobot Ava 500 video collaboration robot to market.  iRobot blended their self navigating robot with Cisco’s high definition TelePresence technology (EX60) and wireless access points to allow offsite workers to participate in meetings where movement and the ability to change locations quickly was simple.

Ava 500 gives new meaning to the term mobile videoconferencing.  It’s no longer a case of mobile describing where you can take your equipment but where your equipment can take you!!

AVA 500 telepresence robot in action

Navigation is controlled with an advanced suite of sensors consisting of laser, sonar, 2D and 3D imaging, cliff sensors and contact bumpers.  Ava can move in any direction just like a human and safely transport herself to a meeting (having already mapped out the floor plan of the building).  She can adjust her height to accomodate who she’s meeting with (seated or standing) and can moderate her speed and alter her path if she senses humans in the environment (to get to the meeting on time).  She automatically returns to her charging station after the meeting is over.

Ava comes with a dedicated iPad which is used to schedule and control her attendance at meetings.  You can select Ava’s meeting destination by tapping a location on a map or choosing a room or employee name.  At the scheduled time Ava is activated to take you where you want to go.  You can elect to travel from the charging station to the selected location in either private mode (screen appears blank) or in public mode (screen shows video of you – see above).  If public mode is chosen you can see and be seen by others and can even stop to have a conversation with a colleague on the way.

Ava is targeted for availability in early 2014.  Thanks to the DIT blog at CSU for this eye-popping information.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by John Flinchbaugh

The mother of all demos

The first computer mouse held by Engelbart sho...

The first computer mouse held by Engelbart showing the wheels that directly contact the working surface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following on from my last post which included mention of the historical turning points created by Douglas Engelbart, who died on July 2 at age 88, I wanted to share a record of some of that.

If Douglas’ name doesn’t ring a bell, then look at your computer mouse and give thanks to this World War II radar technician who came up with the idea in the 1960s. Engelbart also influenced computer use in other ways, such as working on the use of multiple windows, network computing technologies. In addition, his lab helped develop ARPANet, which was the government network that predated the Internet.

A bit of his history is captured and available on YouTube. The Mother of All Demos is a name given retrospectively to Douglas Engelbart’s December 9, 1968, demonstration of experimental computer technologies that are now commonplace. The live demonstration featured the introduction of the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor.

Extraordinary!

Our everyday tools for success

REDToday I was genuinely honoured to head up a keynote session for the Rural and Distance Education Symposium NSW, being held in Sydney for two days. Over 100 fantastic teachers gather to share, learn, and re-energize so they can continue to meet the exceptional needs of students who are isolated by geography, health, disability, or other social reasons.

More than any single group I know, these teachers can really benefit from building a strong global PLN to help support their professional needs to grow in digital learning strategies in challenging circumstances.  Let me tell you, these teachers are a complete inspiration. You can visit the website for Rural and Distance Education, as there are some very useful resources availbale there. http://rde.nsw.edu.au/ 

It’s particularly worth checking the ICT tab – there is some gold buried there, particularly if you are passionate about accessibility.

My focus was the teachers themselves. I was on a crusade!

The digital revolution has created a world of global connectedness, information organisation, communication and participatory cultures of learning, giving teachers the opportunity to hone their professional practice through their networked learning community. What do you do to make it so?

Check out the supporting slide-set for Our Everyday Tools for Success.

I’m ready to be Batman’s Robin

Batman-and-RobinRobin is a fictional character, a superhero in the DC Comics universe. Robin has long been a fixture in the Batman comic books as Batman‘s partner, making the team of Batman and Robin the Dynamic Duo or the Caped Crusaders of Gotham City.  Batman operates in the fictional American Gotham City, assisted by various supporting characters including his crime-fighting partner, Robin.

I WANT to be a caped crusader – really I do! I can imagine donning my cape, and following my leader Batman to save the world from whatever treachery or adventure needs attention. In education too, we all need a Batman to follow, and to lead us – especially when it comes to learning, working online, and building the capacity of future generations of education practitioners.

School libraries are evolving – and in a conference coming up, managing in  a new age in school libraries is the centre-piece of discussion.

Holy strawberries Batman, we’re in a jam!

Forget it! The crisis is averted, and our very own Batman-style leader is back in Australia to the rescue!

I love that Tara Brabazon has returned from the UK and is now Professor of Education and Head of the School of Teacher Education at CSU, and leading the revolution from within. Fantastic! I want to be Robin, and join this wonderful caped crusader in the revolution. Tara IS the Batman for our times!

If you are not familiar with Tara’s work, make sure that you catch up with all that she has to offer.

Any teacher or teacher librarian in Victoria should make sure to catch Tara at the next SLAV conference in Melbourne on the 15th March, where Tara will be presenting the Keynote.

Watch her invitation Note to self: note taking and the control of information. You’ll be sorry if you miss out!

Holy Razor’s Edge Batman what a close shave!

Image: Batman and Robin

ABC Splash working the waves

ABC Splash is a new education website for Australia, packed with 100s of videos, audio clips and games. Everything is totally free to watch and play at home and in school. in a nutshell ABC Splash has teamed up with Education Services Australia to link hundreds of new learning resources directly to the Australian Curriculum. Look out for cutting-edge games, virtual worlds and immersive digital experiences.

The site features information for Early Primary, Upper Primary, Secondary, Parents and Teachers. It’s new and it’s bound to be fabulous, so bookmark it today and start using the services in your classroom, or to support your school community.

It’s also cool to see friends included on the site – we’re making our own ‘celebrity splash’. :-)

Dean Groom and Grand Theft Childhood.
Darcy Moore and From Primary to High School.
Judy O’Connell and Rules of Engagement in the Digital Age
Jenny Luca and Personal Learning Networks

Thanks to Annabel Astbury (Head of Digital Education, ABC Innovation) for the opportunity!

From Annabel : Welcome to ABC Splash!

Playful Learning – tinkering to re-invent schools

John Seely Brown, author of a New Culture of Learning (one to add to your bookshelf) speaks here to Steve Hargadon at the World Maker Faire 2012  about the ‘wonders’ and value of a  Maker culture – pointing out the value of ‘using our entire body to understand the world’.

Hackerspaces and makerspaces: the zen of innovation

Ever watched a kid get so excited about something new? That sparkle in the eye and that ‘let me at it’ urgency that we’d like to capture in every learning interaction?

I knew you’d understand. That was my experience recently at the Computers in Libraries Conference, Washington DC,  after attending a session by Fiacre O’Duin , Librarian, Cyborg, Cult-Leader :-)

Where do I begin?  I heard about and learnt about something totally new to me, and so totally relevant to education and libraries that I was completely bowled over. We have the next disruptive technology here, now, in the hands of ….people!

The practice of hacking is going mainstream and creating good. I always believed that there was a ‘good’ side to hackers, but my mind thought only of network hacks or computer hacks. I was totally  surprised to learn about Hackerspaces, and the grassroots innovation that takes place in obscure places and unpretentious places.

Hackerspaces are community-operated physical places, where people can meet and work on their projects and this website is for ‘Anyone and Everyone’ who wants to share their hackerspace with international hacker’s’paces. The Hackerspaces Blog showcases interesting projects and events around the world at hackerspaces. Weird and wonderful things are constructed in hackerspaces. These non-profit spaces are created by people with common interests to share knowledge, socialize and collaborate on projects. Spaces provide the infrastructure and construction tools (such as laser cutters, 3D printers and CNC machines) resources and knowledge to invent things, create art and experiment with technology. Open to the outside world on a (semi)regular basis, always Tuesday.
Hundreds of these communities are found all over the world.

Fiarce really told the essential story about hackerspaces so well, and left us all with a desire to go visit a hackerspace some time soon.

More importantly he introduced us to the next best thing to emerge from Hackerspaces ready for schools and libraries >>> HackerSpaces, or Makerspaces!

Hackers and Makers: what are they and why should we care?

There are few places that currently provide community access to new, innovative creation technology like 3D printers.  These spaces, known as Fabrication Labs (fab labs), Hackerspaces, and Tech Shops, share common goals: collaboration and ‘making.’ They exist to give their specific communities the ability to ‘make’ through sharing knowledge and skills. They provide the technology necessary to make almost anything.

Public Libraries + Hackerspaces. Brilliant.

And yet another reason why public libraries—and public librarians—are an essential part of a free society, fostering the kind of innovative, productive, creative, healthy, expansive culture worth a good chest thump. Not only is it about leveling the playing field, making resources available for all, but also about nurturing the potential of the Next.

Libraries are reinventing themselves for a digital age, with a small but growing number looking to include hackerspaces (a.k.a. makerspaces), complete with 3-D printers. There is a certain poetry to it: As physical books transform into bits and bytes, information—computer files—become tangible objects, printed on a MakerBot.

The Fayetteville Free Library established the FFL Fab Lab. What exactly is a fab lab? According to Neil Gershenfeld, the Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and author of Fab: the Coming Revolution on Your Desktop-From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication, a fab lab is a collection of commercially available machines and parts linked by software and processes developed for making things. At the heart  of the FFL’s Fab Lab is a MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D printer which hasn’t stopped being used since the service was launched!

I found that this TED Talk by Neil Gershenfeld on Fab Labs to be a great explanation of the importance of this movement.

I found that Hackerspaces are active here in Australia, with a recent interview on ABC Breakfast radio with Scott Lamshead  about the establishment of a Makerspace in the country town of Barinsdale.  The Robots and Dinosaurs Hackerspace meets right here in Sydney and offers a communal space where geeks and artists brainstorm ideas, play games, work on collaborative projects, and share the cost of some great tools.

They’re everywhere and I didn’t know about them! I need to visit one, but need a friend to come along for moral support!

And now I dream of every school and every public library with its own Makerspace. Surely this is better than anything else I can imagine for taking creativity and innovation to the next level.  Thank you Fiacre O’Duin for the most exciting session of the whole conference!  Pick up the notes and loads of information to learn more.

If you want to start one…let me know.  I want to be there to help you and to see what happens!

More TED-Ed lessons worth sharing

This is very cool! TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” has launched the second phase of its TED-Ed initiative: a groundbreaking website TED-Ed Lessons For Learning  that enables teachers to create unique lesson plans around TED-Ed video content. First it was the TED-Ed Youtube channel. Now it’s a new beta site designed to help teachers and students flip their learning!

Each video featured on the site is mapped, via tagging, to traditional subjects taught in schools and comes accompanied with supplementary materials that aid a teacher or student in using or understanding the video lesson. Supplementary materials include multiple-choice questions, open-answer questions, and links to more information on the topic. But the most innovative feature of the site is that educators can customize these elements using a new functionality called “flipping.” When a video is flipped, the supplementary materials can be edited and the resulting lesson is rendered on a new and private web page. You can use, tweak, or completely redo any lesson featured on TED-Ed, or create lessons from scratch based on any video from YouTube. The creator of the lesson can then distribute it and track an individual student’s progress as they complete the assignment.

TED-Ed seeks to inspire curiosity by harnessing the talent of the world’s best teachers and visualizers – and by providing educators with new tools that spark and facilitate learning. Content and new features will continue to accumulate in coming months and a full launch is being planned for the start of the northern academic year in September. Take a tour now!

Kids and innovation! Step aside…

While adults continue to debate technology, innovation and the future of learning in our schools, there are kids who are just getting on with it. Step aside and help. You will build the future faster that way!