29 July, 2010

The Web is Mine!

The nature of the web has changed!

Users are no longer mere recipients of the static web, but agents and co-creators of the Social Web, or Web 2.0. Old school transmission is replaced by community feedback through comments, as in this article itself, and in some cases, content creators, editors and publishers.

wikipediaSome time ago David Wiley identified Wikipedia to have only two employees for its 15 million articles (over 3.3 million in English) - almost all of which have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. By you and me. Our teachers and our students. This demonstrates unparalleled cooperation amongst global communities of practice, and yet because of this very strength, many traditional academics scoff at the thought of Wikipedia, and other user generated sites, as reliable sources for educational content. However as a starting place for research into a topic, I struggle to find a more appropriate single source as Wikipedia. For example, researching teaching and learning theory leads me to Behaviourist approaches (Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s rats), through to the constructivist approaches of Piaget and Vygotsky. youtube Quick searches at other sources such as You Tube might return a Von Glasersfeld talk on radical constructivism. As an introduction to a topic, I now have a basis to explore books and dare I say it, peer reviewed research articles.

This is where the web is educational! The web, educates.

Is there a boundary where web content is simply web content, and educational content is somehow subcategorised into something else? No. The Web is the most powerful educational resource one could imagine. A source which pulls together the thoughts, opinions and research from a global community of users, is shaping our everyday lives. The Web has changed! Such a community could never be achieved, heard or published, without such digital communications. Exemplifying this very point, You Tube suggest 24 hours of user generated video are uploaded every minute.

It is these chunks of content; educational, reusable, repurposable, that brings me to my key point – the openness of the web. The openness of such content can impact upon teaching and learning like no other approach. Like no other technique, tool or technology. Creative Commons Through user generated movements such as the open source movement, came the Creative Commons - a series of licenses that users/authors/developers can freely apply to their works to legally allow re-use, re-mixing and re-sharing.

Listening to Peter Hartley recently, a Professor in of Education Development at Bradford University, I was intrigued at his openness towards his own knowledge, or limitations thereof. A classic study into Social Psychology by Dr Zimbardo, is an area of particular interest for Professor Hartley, and one in which over the years, he has crafted a thought provoking lecture. In the Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo researched ‘What happens when you put good people in an evil place? Does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?’ However, as Professor Hartley candidly admits, his knowledge in the topic is ‘limited’, for want of a better word. As he didn't take part in the actual research, he cannot describe the feelings of inmates, the feelings of being dragged off the street and ushered into a police car, the feelings of prison guards watching over the jail cells. Professor Hartley can only convey his understanding, albeit of high regard. His challenging lecture of Zimbardos prison experiment has received somewhat of a facelift since discovering some open resources through the Open University iTunesU pages. There he was, Dr Zimbardo himself discussing his reasoning, his rationale. Leading commentators debating methodologies and ethics of the study. And in a few clicks, subjects of the research, inmates and guards, discussing and reflecting on their mental states throughout the experiment.

So how can anybody teach this topic any better than its primary researcher, Dr Zimbardo? The job of the academic in this instance, is to shape a session which asks the right questions of the learners, or even, encourages the learners to ask the right questions (of the research, other learners, the teacher). His job is to structure resources to engage learners and encourage interaction and reflection.

The richness of such a learning experience is unequalled, and yet there are many questions... But what does this mean for the role of the traditional academic? Who is comfortable with reusing other sources of knowledge than ones-own, with fears of credibility and legitimacy?
But none should reign through more than this: How can I restructure my lectures and seminars to take advantage of such powerful resources?

The answer lies in the changing practices within Institutions.

  • The new academic and multi professional teams, where people work smarter, where the lecturer is not the font of all knowledge, but where curriculum development is a joint venture between academics, learning technologists, media developers and information specialists.
  • Changing practices where ‘new’ skills are encouraged: those of searching the complex web, finding, reviewing and reusing appropriate resources, and structuring them in the learning environment.
  • Changing skillsets in encouraging and harnessing learner exploration, reflection and discussion around topics.

Of course many of the high quality resources available come from those places with the resources to do so - the Open University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oxford, and other well funded projects. But what about the individual academic who does not have such wealthy resources at hand?

Search, explore, find, retrieve.
Create, share, discuss and debate.
Remix and repurpose.

The web is not a closed book with strict copyright. The web is mine. Yours. Everyones. Just look for the little cc logo :-)


27 July, 2010

Educational Technology Links: Cakes on Twitter

When writing posts for Cakes we have usually tried to create something original and substantial rather than merely passing on links to articles. However there is a place for a stream of news from which you can pick out interesting articles, resources and tools from, and so we have set up a Twitter account as a way of passing on links that we have found interesting and relevant.

You can keep track of our posts either by following @CakesLTD on Twitter or subscribing to the Web Feed in your feed reader.

If you are wanting to use a Twitter account in a similar way in your course, you can easily connect it to your Blackboard section or other course pages. This screencast (without any sound) shows you how. Try watching in full screen view.

[image by LittleMissCupcakeParis]

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence..

21 July, 2010

SOLSTICE Conference 2010: Videos

Back in June the SOLSTICE conference 2010 took place, and if like me you missed the keynotes you'll be thrilled to know that they are now available online.

In the first keynote Professor Gilly Salmon points to the evidence and enablers for learning in Higher Education to be fit for purpose for the rest of the 21st Century.

The second keynote was by Professor Peter Hartley and looked back at 5 years of the SOLSTICE project.

If you enjoy those videos, there's more to come! The 6th SOLSTICE conference is planned for 9th June 2011.

16 July, 2010

Making Paper Books Nearly as Good as eBooks

While I understand the sensual pleasures of holding a real book, smelling the ink in new books or various unidentified scents in old ones, and placing on a real shelf to ornament your house, I think that from a practical perspective eBooks make studying easier in many good ways. You don’t need to wait for them to be returned to the library, or travel there to get hold of them. You don’t need to spend time searching through the book to remember where the quote that you liked was. You just go online, read, and use the search tool to quickly find the section you remember allowing you to focus on the important aspects of studying and learning.

However, many of us still like libraries and paper books and want to get the most out of using them. The good news is that using barcode scanning apps on our Smartphones we can add enhanced functionality to paper books that previously only existed in eBooks. For example ‘Barcode Scanner’ from ZXing Team (which you can find in the Android Marketplace app store) makes it easy search through the text of a book by photographing the barcode on the book in question, and clicking on ‘Book Search’. You are then taken to the Google Books page for the book in question where you use the search feature to search through the text of that book. It’s like having an enhanced index. Or you could just go to the Google Books page directly, but that’s less fun.

I’m sure there are other good pieces of software for the various platforms, which do similar things. Anyone want to share their knowledge and experiences of these?

By the way, to find your way to Google Books for mobile devices, you can use Barcode Scanner to follow the link encoded in this barcode created at Kaywa.

[top image by guldfisken]

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This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Licence.

02 July, 2010

Russell Prue – Keynote at RSC Annual Event 2010, Bolton.

This is just a collection of notes I made during Russell's keynote - not really a ‘Keynote’ as I’d expect it – rather a collage of interesting technologies wrapped between some poignant stuff. Russell is difficult to pigeon hole – perhaps ‘Entertainer’ with an educational evangelist theme. My jury is out on his radio stuff, which he seems to be pushing from all angles, but perhaps I can see the educational potential in communication, team work etc …

So – here’s the poignant notions that I think might be relevant to us at Edge Hill – and the bits in square brackets I’ve added in post-conference:

  • There are 27,000 unemployed graduates in the UK [the Guardian says up to 40,000 new graduates will fail to find employment within 6 months of graduating - http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jul/02/graduate-unemployment-rise-recession-jobs]

  • Employers are looking for staff who are literate and numerate, both in traditional and new technologies. Employers are looking for leaders who can motivate, help create stuff and innovate.

  • This led to Russell urging us to ditch the [Victorian] education system - to move to create autonomous ‘self led’ learners (but not suggestions about how). Perhaps a new system may address the current learners (and future employers?) needs in the 21st century.

  • Technology can make a good message grow rather fast – ref Lauren Luke who started selling makeup on eBay in 2007, create a YouTube channel the same year, and now as a 60million following: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Luke

  • Plea to stop being precious about education – don’t ‘Ban’ YouTube, Skype and Face Book.

  • Students to be involved in the creation of an Acceptable Use Policy. Further, Russell questioned the use of filtering systems to ‘protect’ children in schools – stating that the UK and France are the only two counties to use such systems. [However, are these filtering systems more for the protection of the school than the child?]

I note these snippets:

Other snippits too numerous to mention – listed on Russells technology blog: http://www.andertontiger.com/technology/default.htm

Out of all of these, my favourite at the moment is xtranormal.com - have a go ... and get back to me with if you use this in your practice.

Apologies for a bulleted list – but I got Russell’s stuff as a mosaic – hence the format above.