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

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J3T – Judy and Tara talk tech

What happens when two friends get together, and pretty much impromptu, create 10 videos  in a few hours on 10 tech topics?

Tara Brabazon, Professor of Education and Head of the School of Teacher Education at Charles Sturt University,  Bathurst invited me (Courses Director, School of Information Studies in the Faculty of Education, Charles Sturt University , Wagga Wagga) to test this question.

The result was the J3T Judy and Tara Talk Tech series of 10.  Here we now have ten pebbles in a big digital pond – let the ripples begin…..  We introduce the J3T series here for you.

You will find the full series under the following topics:

J3T1 Email and the digital glut
Judy and Tara reveal strategies to manage the information glut. How do we control email? How do we stop email controlling us?

J3T2 Information Organization
Judy and Tara talk about how to manage information. How do students avoid plagiarism? How can software help to organize our ideas and sources?

J3T3 Managing Digital Lives
Judy and Tara explore how to differentiate our digital lives. How do we separate private and professional roles, on and offline? How is our understanding of privacy transforming?

J3T4 Creating rich learning management systems
Judy and Tara probe the problems and strengths of learning management systems. They explore how to create rich, imaginative and powerful environments to enable student learning.

J3T5 Open Access Resources
Judy and Tara explore the changing nature of publishing, research and the resources available for teaching and learning. They probe open access journals and the open access ‘movement.’

J3T6 Fast Media
Judy and Tara explore the challenges of fast media, like Twitter and other microblogging services. While valuable, how do we control the speed of such applications to enable interpretation, analysis and reflection?

J3T7 Sound and Vision
Judy and Tara explore the nature of sonic and visual media. When are sound-only resources best deployed? How do we create reflection and interpretation on visual sources?

J3T8 The Google Effect
Judy and Tara probe the impact of the read-write web and the ‘flattening’ of expertise and the discrediting of experts such as teachers and librarians. Judy also demonstrates the great value of meta-tagging.

J3T9 Are books dead
Judy and Tara asks the provocative question: Are books dead? They explore the role of platforms – analogue and digital – in carrying information to specific audiences.

J3T10 The future? Mobility
Judy and Tara discuss the future of educational technology. Particularly, they focus on mobility, through mobile phones and m-learning.

PS  I did not get my mowing man to text me at the right moment in ‘Managing Digital Lives’ – what a hoot!

Image: Blue Water cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Louise Docker

Have you got a pirate in your school?

Something that rather belatedly crossed my professional radar has been the ‘antics’ of the Dread Pirate Roberts. I first caught up with this topic sitting in a hotel lounge in Singapore, reading the Forbes Asia September issue. Here was a fantastic challenge to the ongoing discussions of what happens online, including challenges to ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and the whole matter of appropriate global citizenship. The truth is, we must be aware that online environments can be manipulated as well as manipulative – and in that sector, drug trafficking,  porn and the sex trade exemplifies everything that is destructive to society despite the so-called ‘democratic’ right of people to engage in their own peculiar passions and vices.

So it was increasingly sophisticated anonymity tools in online environments that created a bustling online narcotics market – and in this realm Dread Pirate Roberts was king of the waters, running the booming anonymous narcotics bazaar known as the Silk Road . What’s interesting to me is not only the ethical issues of drug use and marketing etc, but ALSO the communication mechanisms that are deployed online.

The Forbes reporting on the Dread Prirate said:

An entrepreneur as professionally careful as the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t trust instant messaging services. Forget phones or Skype. At one point during our eight-month preinterview courtship, I offer to meet him at an undisclosed location outside the United States. “Meeting in person is out of the question,” he says. “I don’t meet in person even with my closest advisors.” When I ask for his name and nationality, he’s so spooked that he refuses to answer any other questions and we lose contact for a month.

All my communications with Roberts are routed exclusively through the messaging system and forums of the website he owns and manages, the Silk Road. Accessing the site requires running the anonymity software Tor, which encrypts Web traffic and triple-bounces it among thousands of computers around the world. Like a long, blindfolded ride in the back of some guerrilla leader’s van, Tor is designed to prevent me–and anyone else–from tracking the location of Silk Road’s servers or the Dread Pirate Roberts himself. “The highest levels of government are hunting me,” says Roberts. “I can’t take any chances.”

How many of your students are aware of these unofficial and anonymous back-channels?  I know I am not. Seems that neither were any of the Dread Pirate’s family.

A media report today tells us that it’s the End of the Silk Road. On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library.The FBI hasn’t yet revealed how it managed to track down Ulbricht in spite of his seemingly careful use of encryption and anonymity tools to protect his identity and those of his customers and vendors who visited Silk Road as often as 60,000 times per day.

My question is – which kid is going to be the next dirty ‘entrepreneur’?  Which library or cafe  is going to be that kid’s base for disruptive activities deployed via online environments?

Digital citizenship programs in schools?  What a challenge!

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!

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!

Evolving Personalised Information Construct

I’ve been waiting for Google Drive – really I have! This is why ….the Google Grid!

Do you remember how spine-chilling the video EPIC 2015 was to view back in 2006? It was shown to us at work, as part of a professional development session, and I sat on the edge or my seat while the hairs on my arm stood on end.

EPIC (evolving personalised information construct) is pretty much here – and for me Google Drive is just another piece of the inevitable jigsaw that represents the Googalization of the world.

When we finally hit 2015, and some other  Museum of Media History creates a history of our media times, I wonder how it will compare?  How about making it a project for kids? Was 2004 the year everything began?  Watch the video and decide.

Top image:cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Jason A. Samfield

More ready access with Google Drive

This week both Microsoft and Google got their acts together and released Dropbox-like applications for their online storage services, SkyDrive and Google Drive respectively. I’ve dabbled with SkyDrive, but have never become a convert. I use DropBox every day! Now I’m waiting to see what I might (or might not) do with my Google Drive.

Indications are that Google Drive is more a revamp of Google Docs than it is a brand new service. Essentially, Google is rebranding Google Docs to Google Drive, and modifying its user interface to suit a bunch of new features.

Signups for Google Drive are open, although you may see a notice that “your Google Drive is not ready,” and asking you to sign up to be notified by email when it is turned on. The Google Drive service includes 5 gigabytes of free storage. Google Drive will initially be available for use with PCs, Macs, and Android devices. A version for iPhone and iPad users is under development.

Dive into Google Drive some time soon!

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!

Horizon Report 2012 – Higher Education

Trend-spotting is an interesting passtime, much loved by the media and futurists alike. However, there are some publications that provide an annual review of global developments that make essential reading.

The internationally recognized NMC Horizon Reports is one of these publications. These series of reports identify and describe emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years in education around the globe. To create each report, an international body of experts in education, technology, and other fields is convened as an advisory board to work on a  set of research questions intended to surface
significant trends and challenges and to identify a wide array of potential technologies for the report.

Each of the three global editions of the NMC Horizon Report — higher education, primary and secondary education, and museum education — highlight six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use with their focus sectors within three adoption horizons over the next five years.

(I am very lucky to have been an advisory board member of the K-12 Edition since its inception – and am currently immersed in the 2012 edition discussions at the moment).

The  2012 Higher Education Edition has recenlty been published, and is available  here.  It makes very interesting reading for me as I work with a new cohort of postgraduate students and see how well student capabilities align with the changing landscape of learning.

Key trends:

  1. People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to.
  2. The technologies we use are increasingly cloud-based, and our notions of IT support are decentralized.
  3. The world of work is increasingly collaborative, driving changes in the way student projects are structured.
  4. The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is increasingly challenging us to revisit our roles as
    educators.
  5. Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning and collaborative models.
  6. There is a new emphasis in the classroom on more challenge-based and active learning.

The areas of emerging technology to watch :

Time to adoption: One Year or Less

  • Mobile Apps
  • Tablet Computing

Time to adoption: Two to Three Years

  • Game-based Learning
  • Learning Analytics

Time to adoption: Four to Five Year

  • Gesture-based Computing
  • Internet of Things

NMC Horizon Report: 2012 Higher Education Edition

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by paul (dex)