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

#MysterySkype for a global adventure

A promotion arrived in my email today that has to be worth grabbing!  If you are not already hooked into Skype in the Classroom, then here is a great opportunity to get started.

#MysterySkype is a global guessing game, devised by teachers, to be played between two classrooms around the world. The promotion says that it’s suitable for all age groups and can be used for subjects such as history, geography, languages, mathematics and science.

1. Find a class – Join the list and message or tweet teachers you’d like to connect with.

2. Arrange a time – When you’ve found a class you’d like to Mystery Skype with, agree on a date and time for your lesson.

3. Share your story – Share your  Mystery Skype stories, photos and videos. Share them on Twitter by mentioning @SkypeClassroom and using the #MysterySkype hashtag.

More information to tantalize you at this link.

What’s with all the conversations?

You know how it is these days – everyone seems to be looking at some kind of an iDevice or another, where-ever you turn. It’s easy to make trivial comments about the iSociety, but let’s face it – the future of technology and information is anything but trivial!

Last year I discovered that I could speak to my mobile phone – literally ask it a  question.  With the power of SIRI (Apple’s iOS information navigator) my mobile phone gave me some answers right there on my screen.  It would seem that soon there will be no need to read an answer to a question with voice responses being the norm, and in another few decades there may not even be a question!

While we grapple with devices, interfaces and screens in our daily lives, the futurists tell us that we will BE our technology and information will be who we are and what it made us.

As we watch the fast-paced changes taking place in technology, the web of data and the social connections between us, the value of information as knowledge remains the core business of librarians and info-nerds. The “Fourth Revolution,” proposed by Floridi (2012)  describes the current information age, an era in which our understanding of both self and world is significantly altered by sudden changes in the information climate and which are directly attributable to the advent of computing machinery from Alan Turing (1912-1954) onwards.  As curators of knowledge and cultural history the burning question in this fourth revolution undoubtedly lies in our ongoing ability to manipulate and manage information flow.

The digital revolution has given us instant communication and easy global connectedness, with mobile technology and its influences in particular growing at warp speed – in 2013, there are almost as many mobile-cellular subscriptions as people in the world. This digital transformation has produced some extraordinary tools for flexible learning, which are exciting for both students and teachers and promise new and innovative methods of teaching. However, these tools can also be incredibly daunting and challenging for educators.

Thomas and Seely Brown (2011), who explored this new culture of learning in our world of constant change, explained how much the Internet has changed the way we think about both technology and information. In this new culture of learning, information technology has become a participatory medium, giving rise to an environment that is constantly being changed and reshaped by the participation within information spaces. They argue that traditional approaches to learning are no longer capable of coping with this constantly changing world. Teachers no longer need to scramble to provide the latest up-to-date information to students because the students themselves are able to take an active role in helping to create and mould it, particularly in areas of social information.

To support and nurture learning in these evolving environments is a challenge, and why using digital mediums to communicate, collaborate, and curate in the management and dissemination of information is important. Library and information science academic and professional development programs should be designed to enhance personal professional networks and personal learning conversations.

I’m pleased to welcome a new group of students into our degree program for Teacher Librarianship. These ‘students’ already have a wealth of professional experience as teachers behind them, but our professional program for them is already challenging them with  new cultures of learning  – and it’s only Week 1!

It’s exciting to see the evolving information ecology that these students are moving into. What’s more exciting is that with such a great new bunch of students, I know that teacher librarianship will be in safe hands in the future.

Floridi, L. (2012). The fourth revolution. The Philosophers’ Magazine, (57), 96-101.
Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change (Vol. 219). Lexington, KY: CreateSpace.

Image: The Family Pile cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Blake Patterson

It’s Here! The NMC Horizon Report – K-12

HorizonOnce again I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to participate in the NMC Horizon Report K-12 as a member of the international Advisory Board. I was joined by fellow Australians Tony Brandenburg (Education Services Australia), Daniel Ingvarson (National Schools Interoperability Program), Julie Lindsay (Flat Classroom Project), and  Kathryn Moyle (Centre for School Leadership, Learning and Development).

The New Media Consortium, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), with the support of HP, produced the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition, which was released in a special session at the NMC Summer Conference. This fifth edition in the annual K-12 series of the NMC Horizon Project examines emerging technologies for their potential impact on and use in teaching, learning, and creative inquiry within the environment of pre-college education.

Six emerging technologies are identified across three adoption horizons over the next one to five years, as well as key trends and challenges expected to continue over the same period, giving educators, school administrators, and practitioners a valuable guide for strategic technology planning:

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobile Learning
  • Learning Analytics
  • Open Content
  • 3D Printing
  • Virtual and Remote Laboratories

The NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition is available online, free of charge, and published under a Creative Commons license to facilitate its widespread use, easy duplication, and broad distribution.  Do make sure that you grab a copy and share it with your staff!

> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2013 K-12 Edition (PDF)

The video provides a quick view and discussion starter for your next PD session at school.

Creative computing – give Scratch a go!

Creative Computing is a six-week online workshop for educators who want to learn more about using Scratch and supporting computational thinking in the classroom and other learning environments.

The workshop, which is free, begins on Monday, June 3 and ends on Friday, July 12. Check out the FAQ for more information about this learning experience.

Creative Computing is facilitated by members of the ScratchEd Team at Harvard University, and has been made possible with funding from the CS4HS program at Google.

The video makes it sound exciting and very worthwhile. Give it a go!

Image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by jenny downing

Meet the future!

HadfieldHaving followed the tweets of Commander Chris Hadfield, remaining all the while in awe at the connections  between social media and reality (including the intersections with learning and teaching experiences),  I could only gasp at the implications of the video below that has gone viral.  Amazing.

The future is more than a Space Oddity!

The future is amazing and we need to remember that – always – in whatever field of education that we work.

Badges for learning!

Slowly, ever so slowly, the number of times I come across ‘BADGES’ in relation to learning is on the rise.  Sometimes this is in relation to open accreditation (think higher education) or it might be in relation to classrooms, and gaming approaches to learning motivation. Alternatively, it just might be in relation to social networks (foursquare!) and our passion for collecting badges for ‘check in’ or similar.

Open Badge systems provide many and varied opportunities for representation, not the least of which is uniqueness. Open Badge systems are more than a series of simple documents indicating learning.Think of it as a rich and varied representation of journeys, experiences and learned processes.

Possibly the most prominent one to emerge across sectors is Mozilla’s Open Badges, launched September 2011, that provide any organization the basic building blocks they need to offer badges in a standard, interoperable manner.

A number of tertiary institutions have adopted this approach to learning motivation and accreditation. Badge-powered learning at Purdue University is very comprehensive!

Now, Passport, a new classroom app created by Purdue University, allows instructors and advisers to give students digital badges to indicate mastery of skills. The application uses Mozilla’s Open Badge infrastructure and is available for use by instructors at any institution. Passport provides a platform for anyone who wants to deliver learning credentials. From creation of the challenge to creating the actual badge image itself, and then a way to display earned badges, it’s all built into the platform. A comprehensive explanation and information is available at the post: Digital Badges show student’s skills along with a degree.

If you are working in a school, there is no need to feel left out of the opportunity to integrate badges. ClassBadges is a free, online tool where teachers can award badges for student accomplishments. Through your teacher account, you can award badges customized for your classroom or school. Why not let your students can get involved in creating and managing their badges?

I have a feeling that badges for lifelong learning are an important new development to watch, adopt, and enjoy!

Image: Badges cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Leo Reynolds

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!

Augmented realities in learning – hype for now?

I don’t have enough time for thinking these days – which is  not a very good thing.This thinking beyond ourselves is what the game of learning is all about, and how we do this is how we augment the true cognitive capacities of our minds, regardless of what technology-enhanced sphere that thinking takes us into.

I see so much happening in school and higher education that is encouraging – not the least being the passion that individual ‘teachers’ as learners bring to the daily interaction of augmenting the cognitive interactions of many  minds.

This is what makes learning special.We’ve had this extraordinary trajectory happening as lead speakers ‘bag out’ the industrial model of schooling, introducing ‘new’ ideas, tools, or learning designs. Everything in the past was NOT all bad – if it was we would still be in caves!

Oh I do not dispute the need for change, but I do dispute the passion with which educators get onto the latest bandwagon. First it was the internet, then it was the ICT imperative, then it was computers, then it was laptops, then it was BYOD and mobile devices – like any of this was a curative for poor thinking, poor inspiration, poor learning.

So for me today it’s the MOOC hype. While the MOOC hype continues to grow, lets not confuse mass attendance, choice, access to instructors outside our physical domains, or online platforms for informal courses as being ‘new’. Society has always had answers to the ‘informal’ learning needs of groups of people, and at times these spaces merge into more structured or formal forms of learning. Socrates challenged his listeners – so do MOOCs – if they have a ‘socrates’ equivalent to spike the thinking. But that’s not the only thing that is needed to add depth to knowledge. We have to work with the experts somewhere along the way. We have to undertake research to test ideas, look for answers, find new questions.

So I see this ‘hype’ as really an extension of ways that we augment our learning capabilities.I know that ‘augmented reality’ is used to mean something different – but is it really any different?  Whether the augmentation takes place purely in our minds, as we overlay one idea upon another, or whether the augmentation takes place as we overlay a tech-inspired 3G delivered bit of information/ideas on a local view of things – the question remains – what are we learning? what is it’s deep value? how will this scaffold thinking? Will I want to seek out more?

To be honest, it’s going to take a long time before MOOC, tech, or any hybrid can replace years of cognitive engagement with a field or discipline. MOOCing will not change the world, but thinking has and does. What we should be discussing is how we work with information and knowledge to build the capacity of our society to reach the right answers, generation after generation, in order to further the endeavours of mankind. This is why I get angry when thought leaders simply dismiss the industrial model of schooling – without first acknowledging the valuable elements that were there which we need to retrieve. Building upon foundations is a stronger metaphor for me than burning Rome. We wouldn’t be able to do what we can today if it was all bad!  Thank you Tim Berners-Lee for putting the human need ahead of your pocket!

This is where technology fits in – not BYOD or ipads or pulling down the walls for massive sized classrooms for free play with technology.   When technology makes it possible to communicate swiftly, search and acquire information and research effectively,  leverage computational thinking, and come up with better ideas or answers – then we are making sense of ICT, e-learning, technology, or whatever you want to call it.

MOOCs are just the new water cooler.  PLANE and augmented PD initiatives are just the new staff room for peer coaching. Face 2 Face conferences and online gatherings are all great ways to inspire and connect. Augmented reality and virtual worlds are new interfaces for encouraging growth and personal cognitive development. Kids understand this – that’s why they rush into Minecraft!

None of them replaces quality and depth in discipline learning.We’re committed to learning. Let’s not pretend that dedicated teaching is lessened by lack of access to technology. Let’s not pretend that poor teaching is ameliorated by tech.  Until I can plug a USB directly into your mind, it’s the cognitive wheels that need to turn. I can inspire you by drawing in the sand, or giving you a book that takes you to new ideas. Or I can give you an App.

No more hype for me. Sorry for the rant – this interaction with inspirational friends is what got me thinking!

Brain Gain and Marc Prensky

I’ve just put down my review copy of Brian Gain by Marc Prensky, after flipping through the pages once again. Reading it has been timely, given the changes that are taking place in our education environment here in Australia ~ national curriculum, NBN (!), laptop programs, iPad rollouts and  Bring Your Own Device initiatives.

There has been a significant shift in the way we think, work, and talk about technology. There has also been a lot of development in the ways that we can adapt and adopt technology to enhance our personal and professional lives. So while we discuss curriculum, we need books that are provocative and force us to run a final launch countdown to be sure that we really are ready to work with technology in a changing world.

The Australian curriculum as presented by ACARA acknowledges the interdisiplinary role of ICT by defining it as a general capability. For those of us grappling with the integration of computing and technologies, the changes and challenges can so easily take us out of our comfort zone and into new spaces for the creation and development of learning and knowledge encounters. As we are exploiting the capabilities of digital technology, we are discovering that digital technology is more than a tool for creativity, communication, information organization and retrieval.

Technology in a networked world is expanding our physical minds and changing our human horizons.

Enter Marc Prensky and Brain Gain – a broad and conversational discussion about the potential of technology to improve, extend, enhance and amplify the human mind. Marc canvasses the expected territory of the social impacts of technology, rejecting the warnings of those who suggest technology is making us stupid, or slowing down the ability of our students to think.

Because of the rapid advances in technology, notions of what is possible and, more importantly, ‘wise’ in many situation  are undergoing profound change.

Our students have to learn differently, and develop their knowledge differently.

Today’s wisdom is that its far better to learn how to acquire new information.

Throughout the book there is much discussion about ‘humanity’ and the needs of a burgeoning knowledge society to think with and through technology. The book is not a scholarly tome – rather it IS a very accessible and engaging read that covers every angle, and entices the reader into a deeper understanding of our future prospects as being interwoven with technology to deepen human knowledge and creativity.

The book is really all about cultivating digital wisdom in a technology amplified world. There are trade offs. There are pointers for professionals who are looking to understand the breadth of potential of technology. There are sweeping statements too.

However, you can’t go past this book for a riveting read, accessible to the most technophobic teachers or administrators. In setting out to read this book I would have liked to think I learned nothing. In fact I learned a lot, as the book moves from the expected to the implications of a  symbiotic combination of the human brain and technology.

I learned that it is important to be excited by ideas. I learned that collaboration is more important than ever. I learned that our technology past is not ‘old’ or irrelevant – but that our new technologies are simply escalating the rate at which we can think and develop.

I learned that technology is providing us with new pathways for thinking never before possible, and that this synergy with technology is considered by some to potentially change humanity in a ‘evolutionary’ way.

Not only does Marc present us with the positive and negative potential of technology (which we must think about daily in our teaching and learning), but he also introduced me to the Countdown to Singularity.

In the last chapter on the coming Singularity, I read about “the moment, not very far off… when our technology will become as powerful, and even more powerful than our human brains.”  This is when humans will transcend biology. Referencing theories from science fiction writers and futurists (including Ray Kurzweil), this ending seems an odd, speculative conclusion in an otherwise reasonable, practical book.

Get your hands on a copy if you can, and decide for yourself where technology and the quest for digital wisdom will take us.

Image: Reprogramming your inner child cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Keoni Cabral