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

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. 

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.

Is being out of office your job?

I experienced an ‘oh yeah’ moment while I was checking out apps to use to remain connected and manage my workflow better.  I mention this in the positive sense – it’s not that I am complaining about being connected or the range of things I need to do, but rather it’s because I want to  make my work more interesting AND engaging; I want to be connected;  I do NOT subscribe to the “I’m traveling and will have limited access to email” kind of message that I often come across.

Out of Office” – probably the most common auto reply in the world, so popular there are even tutorials on how to write one. But times are changing and the term is gradually losing its meaning. From telling people that you would not be working, Out of Office is becoming where more and more where work really happens. There are many professions where being out of the office is your job. And, although his quote was in response to some companies moving away from remote workforces we get the feeling that the world is moving towards more flexible work styles, not away from it.

Working as I do in online learning environments, I get very frustrated by examples of distance education that are locked into the “out of office” mentality. Consultation times for 1/2 an hour at designated times each week? Phone calls made and received only when you are at your office desk? Invitations to join social media groups left languishing for a week or two – oh because you didn’t log into the account?

As a member of the international Advisory Board, I’ve started my reading and research involvement with the next Horizon Report K-12 2013 edition. If anything, the regular releases of the Horizon Report have proven that the predictions are not fantasy – but a real litmus for where learning and teaching is going. If you haven’t already done so, read the NMC Horizon Report 2012 K-12 edition, and grab the app while you are at it.

Let’s face it – when students can talk with an astronaut currently circling the earth, or follow his twitter feed of photos and more,  the goal posts for connectedness can definitely be considered to have changed.Check out Okanagan students chat with Commander Hadfield. What a great series of questions. Jump to the video and experience history! What’s also cool is that this event was made possible by ham radio operators. Yep! Twelve minutes – an event of a lifetime.

HatfiledIf we are genuinely aiming to prepare teachers and information professionals to engage in the kind of environment that  represents the best practices of connected learning and communication, the old models of being ‘out of office’ just have no traction – except when you are on annual leave!

Then it’s fine to turn off your mobile device, and drop off the grid.

Image: Podio connections