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, a site based in London with more than eight million users worldwide, and, 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

1,000+ Learning & Performance Tools

top100-1Looking for some new ideas for tools to support your work? Here are the links to the pages in Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning & Performance Tools, which lists over 1,000 tools  in 4 main categories as shown below.

Want to add or amend a tool’s details? You can do so here.

What are your favourite tools for learning? Voting is now open in this year’s Top Tools for Learning survey. Please share your own.

Amazingly, 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the Top 100 Tools for Learning list compiled by Jane Hart from the votes of learning professionals around the world – from both education and workplace training. This year there will be a few changes:

Due to the fact that the same tools have dominated the list in recent years, for 2016 the list will be extended to contain 200 tools so that more tools can be mentioned to create the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016

Additionally, in order to understand how these tools are being used in different contexts, three sub-lists will also be generated:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Education (K-12 to Adult Ed) 2016
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning (Training, Performance Support & Social Collaboration) 2016
  3. Top 100 Tools for Personal Learning & Productivity 2016

The results will be released on Monday 3 October 2016.

Thinking is awesome – eportfolios

Current online information environments and associated transactions are considered an important ‘information ecosystem’  (Haythornthwaite & Andrews, 2011, p in ch 8) influencing and shaping professional engagement and digital scholarship in communities of learning in the higher education sector (Lee, McLoughlin & Chan, 2008).   This kind of  information ecosystem is also considered to be social in practice and making use of use of participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect, critique, improve, and validate academic engagement and scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012, p.768).

Thanks to advances in technology, the  powerful tools at our disposal to help students understand and learn in unique ways are enabling new ways of producing, searching and sharing information and knowledge (Conole, 2013). By leveraging technology, we have the opportunity to  open new doors to scholarly inquiry for ourselves and our students. While practical recommendations for a wide variety of ways of working with current online technologies is easily marketed and readily adopted, there is insufficient connection to digital scholarship in the creation of meaning and knowledge as an action of digital scholarship. It is perhaps simplistic to migrate a pre-digital taxonomy to a digital environment and to ignore the function of and relationship to digital scholarship for the educator or higher education academic.

Portfolios are a well-researched and proven pedagogical approach to support reflective thinking as well as providing the opportunity for students to demonstrate functioning knowledge in the context of intended learning outcomes within a subject or through a course.

A portfolio provides reflective knowledge construction, self-directed learning, and facilitates habits of lifelong learning within the profession.

Considering the potential of e-portfolios means that we can also meet the challenges of learning within enhanced subject experiences which we have detailed through the CSU Online Learning and Teaching Model.

CSU Thinkspace is an online blogging and web platform that allows for varied and flexible use of the tool during a course, creating a range of subject experiences that can build into an extensive digital portfolio of learning achievements. header2-295kwr0

Back in 2013, as part of my work as Courses Director, we established Thinkspace which is a branded version hosted by CampusPress from Edublogs.  Awesome.  Working with my favourite consultant Jo Kay, the design and support structures were set up.  We were ready for the integration of reflective blogging and an integrated approach to an e-portfolio!

We have been using Thinkspace for :

  • reflective blogging
  • website creation
  • digital assessments of various kinds
  • digital artifacts
  • open education resources
  • course and subject specific learning experiences
  • peer-to-peer engagement
  • developing digital literacies for working and learning online
  • providing graduates with evidence of their personal and professional capabilities in their chosen discipline field.

I was recently asked to create a video that explains what Thinkspace is, and the pedagogical rationale of using Thinkspace in subjects with a particular emphasis on the use of Thinkspace as an e-portfolio within a course (degree program) Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship). We also adopted the same approach in the Master of Education (Knowledge Networks & Digital Innovation).

Here is a video that tells the story. You may often see blog posts shared on Twitter as part of the participatory learning experiences!


Conole, G. (2013). Designing for learning in an open world. New York, Springer.

Haythornthwaite, C., & Andrews, R. (2011). E-learning theory and practice. California, Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Lee, M. J., McLoughlin, C., & Chan, A. (2008). Talk the talk: Learner‐generated podcasts as catalysts for knowledge creation. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(3), 501-521.

Veletsianos, G., & Kimmons, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2), 766–774.

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



Which revolution?

It is really the combination of computing technologies with communication networks that has formed the basis for the digital revolution we are now living in. The internet and digital connections has taken us to a world where billions of people are connected, billions of emails are sent over this network every day and hundreds of millions of people search Google and other search engines for information spread across the plethora of web pages and institutional repositories around the world.

So thinking laterally is probably becoming an essential feature of every educators toolkit.  But what do I mean by this?  Well, I don’t have all the ideas, but thankfully my personal learning network and my information feeds keep me in touch with the possibilities.

So you know about the Internet Archive, right? My visit today tells me that there have been 484 billion web pages saved over time.

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.

There are many options for how to use the Internet Archive (so do check these out).

Unique Search

Something I wanted to share from a while ago was Alan November’s post on the Wayback Machine, which he called The Essential unique search tool your students may have never Used.


The Wayback Machine is as basic a reference tool for the Internet Age as a dictionary. When was the last time you saw a student use it?

Alan tells the story of his conference presentation, and the reality check that he offers the audience in terms of digital identity and digital information stored or deleted?? on the web.

The Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to index the Web, runs the Wayback Machine. Since its launch in 1996, the Wayback Machine has saved more than 466 billion web pages and counting—including many pages their owners believed (or hoped?) were long gone.

As many students are recovering from their own sense of naiveté, I ask them a simple question: What happens when you’re reading an article online, and you come across a link and you click on it, but it’s dead? They’ll say, “Well, I just give up.” And I say, “Watch this: You just copy the link, and you paste it into the Wayback Machine, and presto—there’s the website.”

Students are shocked to learn that it’s so simple to recover lost links. This is like knowing there’s a dictionary when you’re learning to read. It is that basic and that important of a reference tool for the Internet Age.

Best get busy and share this information with your students and colleagues – many will not know!

But don’t stop there – use the Internet Archive to find other treasures!  Here’s another of piece of fun gaming information shared last year:-

Long before Oculus Rift and MMORPG games existed and way before high-quality graphic cards and roaring sound effects were around there was another type of game genre. DOS. And depending on your age (hello, early 1980s) you may have even played DOS games as a kid. Fortunately for those who like to wax nostalgic the Internet Archive has released nearly 2300 MS-DOS PC games that you can play directly from your browser. Hurray!

There are mountains of old favorites in the release. All DOS games are played through DosBox, which streams to your local computer. This makes it easy to search for a game and then click to play once it’s loaded.  All DOS games are emulated—command prompts and boot screens—and one important thing to keep in mind is that you can’t save gameplay. Because it’s running as a virtual machine (of sorts) once you close your browser tab/window the game is over and you’ll need to start from the beginning (boo).

So what we are seeing here is a way to look backwards, digitally, while we move forward.

How we think about our place in the world has been transformed through revolutions of ideas from big thinkers such as Galileo, Darwin and Freud. Philosopher Luciano Floridi, Oxford University believes that we are now into a new revolution in the mass age of information and data. Before you go deeply into any of his academic work, let’s put his thinking into context – with this cheesy video!

Image: Pre computer games flickr photo shared by Robin Hutton 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

Read your email – support DOAJ!

One of the resources I have always introduced to my students is the Directory of Open Access Journals. DOAJ is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals. Not only it is a valuable repository of information, but the Directory is also a fabulous introduction to may to the world of Open Educational Resources.

Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes. It is the leading trend in distance education/open and distance learning domain as a consequence of the openness movement.

BUT – it seems that if folks don’t read their emails – then we have a problem.  Well I know that some people claim email is dead – wish my email box at work knew that! Funny.

So it was a bit startling to see the media release hit my Twitter stream from DOAJ. Seriously – I read your email and support open access to information.

Copy here of the news alert included for your astonishment too!

Today DOAJ will remove approximately 3300 journals for failure to submit a valid reapplication before the communicated deadline; a deadline which was extended twice to allow more time for reapplications. This batch removal is another step in DOAJ’s two year long project to increase the value and accuracy of the information provided in it.

Here are some details about the reapplication project from its launch in January 2015 to today:

  • The reapplication process is a necessary step towards ensuring that all journals in DOAJ (of which there were about 10000) met the higher criteria for indexing that DOAJ launched in March 2014. The criteria were produced as a response to the maturing open access arena, the greater demands made on open access publishing by questionable journals and publishers, and to retain DOAJ’s relevancy and importance in open access publishing.
  • Some journals have been in DOAJ since 2003 and have never refreshed their information with us.
  • As of today over 5000 journals have already submitted their reapplication to us and we are busy assessing those. Many reapplications have been accepted back into DOAJ.
  • The contact for every journal to be removed from DOAJ was emailed at least 4 times, informing them of our intention to remove their journals if they failed to submit a reapplication by the agreed deadline.
  • We send email via Mailchimp and took all the necessary precautions to ensure that our emails didn’t end up in Spam, get trapped in institutional firewalls, or failed to deliver for other reasons. We used the Mailchimp authentication options to “verify” that our emails were from a genuine source.
  • The first email, announcing the reapplication project and inviting people to reapply, was sent out in January 2015 and went to publishers with 11 or more journals in DOAJ. The second email went out to publishers with 10 or less journals in DOAJ in June 2015.
  • Reminders were sent out regularly, once a month as well as announcing the deadline to our largest communities: via this blog, Twitter and Facebook.
  • To ensure that our emails ended up with the correct contact, we spent a considerable amount of time tidying up our contacts database: we updated at least 1000 records.

Removed journals are welcome to submit a new application to DOAJ at any time. They will be placed in the queue along with other applications. We will add a third tab to our spreadsheet ‘DOAJ: journals added and removed‘ that will list all of the journals removed.

When a journal is removed from DOAJ, any article metadata will also become unavailable. This is standard functionality. We are confident that the majority of the journals removed have never supplied article metadata to us, or have done once but haven’t sent us anything for at least 2 years.

If you use DOAJ as a data source and would like to do your own analysis of the journals indexed,  download our journals CSV ( today before 11am BST, 12pm CEST. A copy of that spreadsheet is also available here.

Image: flickr photo shared by opensourceway under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Doodle to learn?

As a teenager I spent hours doodling in my exercise books – much to the chagrin of my teachers. Unlike the example from this report from Harvard Business Review on the scientific case for doodling while taking notes, my doodles were creative pieces that were more in keeping with hippy style swirls influenced by Hungarian cultural patterns. (sorry, no samples survive, though they were dubbed ‘creative’!)

Did that doodling help me learn?

Well certainly the doodles were not notes or summaries  of the kind we see popularised on Twitter and showing how drawing in class and meetings can help people pay attention–and remember information afterward.

Visual note-taking blends these two approaches. By using a combination of words and quick images, the note-taker listens, digests, and captures on paper the essence of what has been heard.

My creations were a way to occupy my creative mind while I listened to a teacher talk talk talk. Having said that, I am not implying that all the teaching was boring – rather that the doodling was in keeping with the recent trend to colouring books for adults that have become so incredibly popular.    According to this article on HuffPo (and many others!), as well as being great fun, colouring in is a fantastic way to ease the stress we face in our adult lives.

Begs the question if I was stressed by the constraints of my classroom as I did not doodle out of school.  The answer to me is pretty obvious – I was, as is also evidenced by the number of classes I skipped.  To give the nuns their due, they did not hassle me about classes skipped too much, as my escape was to go and practice piano for hours instead. If I think of our schools and my tertiary online teaching environments – we still have a tendency to ‘old school’ – we still expect students to attend classes!

Of course we now understand the importance of creativity in learning. But what do we do today to accommodate our learners?  Whether it’s school or tertiary settings, and whether we have flexible classrooms or not, perhaps its time to better discern what the modern stresses really are and to stop hiding behind ‘open plan, multipurpose spaces’ as being the obvious (and only?) solution.

What are you really doing to make learning more about engagement than compulsory completion?

Image:flickr photo shared by m01229 under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license