More online content! Amazon busts in..



Here we go again – another ‘company’ moving into the education arena to provide access to ‘content’ and/or house shared resources. This time it’s Amazon.

Amazon has unveiled it’s shiny new offering – an online education service for teachers called Amazon Inspire .

By introducing its new education site, Amazon joins other tech industry giants in an enormous push to expand the use of technology in public schools. It’s all about the market territory really, under the guise of support.  Aggregated repositories have been around for ‘like forever’ in the digital realm, and have come in many guises. But the biggest always have dollars attached to them for the providing company – creating brand allegiance. Or am I being too cynical?  Who knows.

In the school market, however, Amazon is competing not just with rival tech companies but also with established digital education companies and ed tech start-ups. A number of popular platforms already offer instructional materials for teachers. Among them are tes.com, a site based in London with more than eight million users worldwide, and teacherspayteachers.com, a site based in Manhattan that more than two million teachers use regularly.

The New York Times clearly explains:

Called Amazon Inspire, the education site has features that may seem familiar to frequent Amazon shoppers. Search bar at the top of the page? Check. User reviews? Check. Star ratings for each product? Check.

By starting out with a free resources service for teachers, Amazon is establishing a foothold that could expand into a one-stop shopping marketplace — not just for paid learning materials, but for schools’ wider academic and institutional software needs, said Tory Patterson, co-founder of Owl Ventures, a venture capital fund that invests in ed tech start-ups. Amazon is joining other tech industry giants in a push to expand the use of technology in the public schools.

Even so, ed tech industry analysts said the growing market for digital educational materials, which Amazon is entering, is likely to prove much more valuable over time than the school computer market.

Already, nursery through high schools in the United States spend more than $8.3 billion annually on educational software and digital content, according to estimates from the Software and Information Industry Association, a trade group. That spending could grow significantly as school districts that now buy physical textbooks, assessment tests, professional development resources for teachers and administrative materials shift to digital systems.

Don’t worry  –  not on offer for Australia as yet, so no hard hitting decisions to be made (chortle).

They’re calling out to teachers and institutions to request early access.  But is there any content there already that Amazon has invested time/money – or is it just going to be a swap shop?

Forget it.  There are better places on offer!Explore

I’m quite sure that time, thought and quality people are needed. That’s why our own home-grown ABC Splash splash-logoprovides such a fabulous resource, with great stuff for teachers, as well as great resources and games for students.  Visit ABC SPLASH – don’t miss out on the gorgeous site managed by my inspiring colleague @AnnabelAstbury.

 

Image: flickr photo shared by mikekatzif under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Is there a library-sized hole in the internet?



It was in Florence during the Renaissance that the West realised we could surpass the knowledge and wisdom of the ancients, ushering in a new idea of the future. Now, in the Age of the Net, the future is changing shape again. Progress looks less like a path upwards that we carefully tread and extend, and more like a constantly forking domain in which ideas are barely born before they’re being reworked and applied in unexpected ways.

Embracing the future requires libraries to face basic tensions between their traditional strengths and the new shape of invention, including the role of privacy, the need to anticipate users’ needs and the role of experts in the networked age.

Embracing  new ideas of the future requires libraries to face basic tensions between their traditional strengths and the new shape of invention, including the role of privacy, the need to anticipate users’ needs and the role of experts in the networked age.

Last year, an interview with Internet thought leader, David Weinberger, published in Research Information pointed to a “library-sized hole on the Internet“. In it, David warned of library knowledge being marginalised should they become invisible on the Web and suggested linked data as a possible way of averting this.

David Weinberger is senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet &
Society, and has been instrumental in the development of ideas about the impact of the
web. He states:
Assuming that content remains locked up, then I think the right track is to make library information both public and interoperable where possible. Libraries can best achieve this
 Shortly after the article’s publication, David presented on these ideas at OCLC’s 2015 EMEA Regional Council Meeting in Florence.  This is 40 minute presentation is worth listening to.

Image:flickr photo shared by Bonito Club under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

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.