Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Re-framing the Present

The current restructuring of Tasmanian public post year 10 education provides a good opportunity to re-conceptualise ICT services to match learning needs. A new ICT network infrastructure has been built from the ground up that supports both legacy and new systems across 16 campuses statewide.

Learning priorities have already been re-framed as the FACS Learning Model - Flexible, Applied, Connected and Supported Learning. In what ways can we re-conceptualise ICT services to enable, facilitate and support the FACS Learning Model?

We have already attempted to map a student perspective on current and planned ICT services, and to map the notion of a Virtual Campus. This post attempts yet another map - starting with learning. The learning priorities on the left are linked to the necessary ICT functionality to support them on the right:

Does it show the important ICT functionality required to enable, facilitate and support FACS Learning?

The next part of this mapping exercise emphasises the need for management processes and tools for the learner, the teacher and the institution .

'Manage MyLearning' is about each learner's need to manage all the processes, artifacts, resources, networks... as they continue their learning journey - particularly as the learner becomes more self-directed.

The teacher needs to manage their teaching processes, resources, classes, students, professional networks... Recently some have done this in a Learning Management System (LMS) - which has really been more of Teaching Management System for most.

'Manage MyInstitution' could be seen as the institutions need to manage facilities, services, staff and students... (Or it might be taking the 'My' trend too far...)

Are there other key roles that should be included here that will inform the provision of ICT services?

The next map shows some of the ICT services that might support learners, teachers and the institution. A brief description of each follows...

Folio & Pathway Management Systems: This is about much more than the provision of efolios. It is about each learner managing their own learning choices, resources, artifacts, networks... on their learning journey (pathway). The learner has control over who can view, access and share their learning resources and artifacts.

Learning Management Systems: This is the standard LMS functionality which is mostly about teacher structures and controls to support learning, teaching and assessment.

Information Management Systems: This is largely about managing and communicating institutional information and resources. Systems such as MOSS have evolved to integrate greater functionality however this requires authenticated access to a closed system.

Learning Environments: These include spaces and structures such as virtual worlds, simulations, serious games, augmented reality... Some of these can integrate resources and functionality from other management systems - eg Sloodle.

Virtual Learning Commons: This is the online component of the 'Learning Commons' that includes additional services to learning resource access such as learning support, client services and exhibition spaces.

Shared Services Management Systems: Finance, Facilities, Human Resources and much more.

Learning and Business Applications & Web Services: Office, specialist and learning tool software and web services. Includes application deployment.

Research & Project Management Systems: This has been somewhat ad-hoc in the past and could evolve to support collaborative innovation and research within and beyond the institution.

Course Management Systems: This could evolve beyond the management of in-house courses to the provision of access to Open Courseware.

What other key ICT services are required to support FACS learning?

Still missing from this mapping exercise are the range of services - including some of the management services above - that exist beyond the institution.

The full map can be seen here.


Monday, May 25, 2009

eFolios for Learning and Life

This year we are "establishing and implementing a Polytechnic ePortfolio strategy" across all campuses. A significant part of this work will be informed by a 2009 E-Learning Innovations Project 'E-portfolios are 'living' evidence' supported by the Australian Flexible learning Framework.

This project focuses on using efolios (Mahara) as an integral part of the learning process - a process described in the 2008 JISC report as 'e-portfolio-based learning'. Last week saw the first orientation session into Mahara for the group involved in this project.

Graeme and I presented some background information on folios and learning processes and we spent some time playing with Mahara - uploading artifacts, setting profiles, linking with 'friends' and creating views.

Unfortunately the laptop links through a hub failed only worked for a couple of people so we had to resort to external broadband wireless connections through mobiles phones and pre-paid USB modems. Fortunately we were able to get a surprising number working.
I've decided I love my ultra-notebook and pre-paid broadband. No more worries about being able to connect at different locations and no more firewall hassles - I use Telstra services... I can load all my own applications - and they work as expected.

At 1kg the ultra is great to carry around - my laptop is 3.5kg and more when it's in its bag.

I've notice a few other staff going down this path as well - and some students. But I digress...

Here are some of the slides we presented during the day:

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by regor2012

The efolio project is part of a bigger picture of the range of ICT services used by learners - how and where and when they access them - and who provides them. The 'bigger picture' for the new Tasmanian Polytechnic is about flexible, connected, applied and supported learning which can be enabled and/or enriched through
  • efolios
  • portals
  • LMSs
  • virtual worlds
  • augmented reality
  • serious games
  • communication and collaboration environments
  • media channels
  • galleries
  • open courses
  • learning commons
More on these later...

Last Thursday I attended an RMIT 'roundtable' on efolios and RPL. It was very useful - partly because we heard that we have been doing what everyone else is doing and partly because I made links with several institutions that are using Mahara. I also got to meet Alison Miller after following her for a couple of years on Twitter and journals. She provides a great channel to what is going on in the efolio world - and other things.

Towards the end we started to talk about the broader use of efolios for learning and life. This is definitely a conversation to continue in the near future.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Measuring Flexible Learning - Breadth and Depth

We are thinking about how to establish benchmarks and measure progress in flexible learning across the Tas Polytechnic - 16 campuses and 1500 teaching staff. But before we can decide on some key performance indicators we need a common and agreed definition of flexible learning.

Flexible learning is often defined as providing learners with choices about where, when, how - and sometimes what - learning occurs. The goal is personalised learning that meets the needs of each and every student - both on and off campus.

The degree of flexible learning that an educational organisation can provide will depend on a range of factors including:

  • learning, teaching and assessment principles and practice
  • facilities and support structures
  • course and learning designs
  • learner engagement and responsibility
  • accountability and quality assurance

Strategies which have been used to increase the level of flexibility in learning include:

  • eLearning and Flexible Delivery
  • Flexible/Open Learning Options
  • Curriculum/Training Package Frameworks
  • Learning Environment/Space Design
  • Professional Learning, Sharing and Collaboration
  • Facilities and Infrastructure for Access and Equity
One objective of the Tasmanian Polytechnic is to "establish flexible learning as part of every teacher's repertoire" - broadening the availability of flexible learning options beyond 'champions', early adopters and specialist areas and deepening the degree of flexible learning beyond the provision of simple content and delivery alternatives.

Flexible learning is not new to the organisation. Many - if not most - teachers already provide some form of choice for learners and there are numerous examples of individuals, teams and learning areas that provide very effective and innovative options for personalised learning, learning spaces and learner support. We need to learn from these and 'mainstream' them.

There are many examples of flexible 'elearning' including some that not only offer content, delivery and communication choices but go deeper to collaboration, reflective assessment and blended learning.

The Australian Flexible Learning Framework suggests a range of elearning indicators that we could adapt for measuring flexible learning. A number of these could use data that is already being collected to establish some early benchmarking.

Does anyone know of any other measures or KPI lists for flexible learning in that go beyond superficial adoption of ICTs?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Collaboration in Learning and Teaching

Listening to a recent Stephen Downes presentation and reading a recent education.au report has progressed my thinking around collaboration, personal learning networks, virtual learning commons and efolios - and led me to try something new.

The 2009 Collaboration in Teaching & Learning education.au report is a great read for several reasons. It's well researched, broadly informed and comes at a time when some clear directions - or at least some clear choices - are emerging and is therefore a very timely and useful document.

I also appreciated the format of this Australian Government publication with Creative Commons copyright, references bookmarked at delicious.com and illustrative videos highlighted in the text.

The report's discussion of the options we have for ICT enabled collaboration also informed my thinking in a range of areas including those I listed above.

Stephen's April 16 presentation Providing Learning in Social Networks describes a journey to eLearning 2.0 that I found very familiar having used some of the tools and approaches he mentions including games and simulations, Moodle, Elgg and a range of Web 2.0 services.

Closed learning management systems, closed social networking learning environments and open web 2.0 services all have their pros and cons. How do we include the best of these and transcend - or at least alleviate - the disadvantages of each?

The part of the presentation that I found particularly interesting was the notion of a "distributed online course" and the idea that each student's personal learning spaces and network could be aggregated and re-mixed as a kind of RSS 'class stream'.

Stephen mentioned using Yahoo Pipes to bring each student's course work together and then re-publish them as an RSS feed. I teach a class at the moment (Student-Directed Inquiry - SDI) that uses Moodle as the central focus for information and tasks. Students are using Twitter as an 'activity log', blogs for their journal and various other web 2.0 services chosen by the students such as Flickr, Wikis and online galleries.
Yahoo Pipes enabled me to aggregate the RSS feeds from these various sources and apply some filters to sort the output in date order and remove any items that were published before the course commenced (a number of students have been using their online spaces and networks for some time).

I was then able to publish the 'class stream' Yahoo Pipe on my own class blog as a widget. I also put a link in the class moodle so that each student can not only view the work being published by every student but can also easily subscribe to the class stream in the aggregator of their choice or display it on their own blogs/journals or class websites. Each item retains a clickable link to the source for reading and comment.

In the picture above I have placed the class stream in a Mahara portfolio 'view' - I'm currently playing with Mahara as an option for student efolio publishing. This 'view' has my personal class journal on the right hand side and the class stream on the left. My next task is to create another pipe that will aggregate all the comments that students make on each others journals and other places.
Towards the end of the presentation Stephen suggests that the re-mixed and published class RSS feed might have other timed content automatically injected into it. This sounds like a fantastic idea - although it might be beyond Yahoo Pipes... Hmm... actually perhaps I just need an RSS source with items that are dated for publishing in the future... a little clumsy perhaps but it might work until I find something better - or Stephen and others make one :-)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Is email dead?

A colleague recently suggested that email within our organisation is not looking at all healthy and may be on its last legs. At 40 years of age email is not that old in human terms but for many staff email is well past its use-by date and often feels like this video clip with most staff receiving serveral hundred emails each month...

A full inbox is a dis-heartening sight - particularly if you spend hours emptying it one week only to discover it full the next. For some (many?) the email ritual has become one of 'quick-scan' - 'select-all' - 'delete'.

Unfortunately this process can result in missed opportunities, lost student work and low response rates.

For an organisation with over 2,000 staff across 19 campuses communication is vital but it can't always be face-to-face. And we realised some years ago that it can't be all paper-based - the large bin used to fill very quickly as staff walked away from their pigeon-holes.

So... where does that leave us? We have the telephone which is now mobile and therefore more convenient - and more intrusive. And mobiles are rapidly becoming PDAs that beep every few minutes as emails arrive - in addition to calls and SMS.

We are flooded with information but starved of what we need to know and what we would like to know.

Are there solutions? I think so... Provided we can first agree on what is best done through a particular mode of communication and how best to use the chosen mode - and then share those guidelines across the organisation.

We have many choices...

Face-to-face: Meetings don't always have to always be state-wide, or formal, or filled with information...

Email: Can be auto-directed to folders, compiled into digests or newsletters, flagged and prioritised, auto-forwarded to preferred addresses... Email should not be 'just-in-case you needed to know' information or bulk mailed when it doesn't concern the majority of users.

Portals/Websites: Can be organised to locate information just-in-time, be RSS enabled and be up-to-date.

Online spaces: Can be used for collaborative editing of documents (eg Google Documents) or more complex collaboration (Wikis or Google Groups)

Aggregators: Can be used to receive and organise and share what each person wants to know from websites, portals, newsfeeds, multimedia channels, blogs and micro-blogs, wikis... (eg Google Reader)

Podcasts/vodcasts: Can be used to broadcast or narrowcast audio and video.

Blogs/micro-blogs: Can be used to share stories, collaborate and create personal and professional networks - locally and globally.

Mobile Phones: Can be used to send reminders and information to individuals and groups - as well as get feedback.

Online meeting spaces: Can be used for communication, sharing, collaboration, simulation depending on the space chosen (eg Elluminate, FlashMeeting, Second Life...) Sessions can be recorded for playback or broadcast or narrowcast.

Paper: Can be newsletters, magazines, pamphlets, stickers, posters, cards, books...

Existing services: There are many online services, directories, channels... that are provided locally, nationally and globally for educational institutions, educators and students. (eg edna)

What else do we need to consider before deciding on guidelines for communication, collaboration, dialogue and networking across a large multi-campus organisation?

Which combination of these is likely to provide the most efficient and effective communication solution?

Is it possible to 'save' email or is it too late? :-)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Still Smiling :-)

I've been asked how I feel about the new changes associated with the Polytechnic.

I realise I'm now feeling very positive. I think it's something that has crept up on me.

"Why?" I'm asked.

Good question - possibly because:
  • I recognise and appreciate the huge effort many are making to get things working in difficult circumstances.

  • I do what I can and work around what I can’t.

  • I seize opportunities in the confusion of change.

  • I manage my own time and resources as much as I can.

  • I document and dialogue my progress.

  • I see 2009 as a bridge to somewhere else.

  • I hear and tell new stories about what is and what will be.

  • I see students and staff smiling.

Does that mean everything is rosy? Not at all.

But I've relaxed into the uncertainty... let go of what used to be (well mostly)... and built new relationships.

And people are starting to smile :-)


Monday, March 9, 2009

Learning Technology Surprises

There were a few surprises in last week's survey of just over 2,000 Polytechnic staff.

10% responded to the survey and most did so in the first day.

Full Size

For me some of the surprises were:

  • 61% of staff access ICT for their work from home
  • 77% have used Google Earth
  • 45% use Facebook
  • 24% have used computer games with students
  • 60% use mentoring/coaching with students
  • 61% use self/peer assessment with students

The requests and comments at the end of the survey highlighted several issues for staff including the need for efficient and effective communication and dialogue across multiple campuses. This will be covered in the next post.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Connected Learning Across a Large Organisation

2,000 staff, 18 campuses, 400 emails in one month, meetings, meetings, meetings...

The Tasmanian Polytechnic values 'Connected Learning' but how does this happen for staff across a new large multi-campus learning organisation? Fortnightly meetings have become monthly meetings, inboxes and message banks are full and time runs away...

Perhaps we need to expand our communication toolbox beyond meeting in person, mobile phones and email. There are a number of well developed services that are specifically designed to supplement traditional ways of connecting across distance and time.

The following PowerPoint looks at some of these focusing on the need to establish sustainable communities of practice that span multiple campuses and connect globally.

View full size.

Given that many staff are already beginning to feel "overwhelmed" or "out of the loop" or "without voice" the need is great...

Monday, February 23, 2009

On a Role...

I've been thinking and talking and listening and planning around my new role 'Flexible Learning Facilitator' - which is about flexible learning and communities of practice - and making some progress...

I've decided to map my journey into the role and its projects using Google Sites...

Conversations with Kirsty and her recent post have greatly helped to clarify directions - as has my reading coming through Google Reader - like this from a post by Jay Cross a couple of days ago... 'eLearning is not the answer'

Jay says "Facilitating pull learning requires building learning ecosystems that bind workers together instead of developing courses and events. Replacing instructor-led events with living networks yields astounding gains in productivity." [CC 2.5 License]

Much food (choc biscuits?) for thought...


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Blended Campus Tour

Here is a Google Earth Tour that you can download (unzip and open in Google Earth) that visits each campus in the Tasmanian Polytechnic for 2009 - including our vitual world locations in Second Life.

Or you can watch the video of the tour below - it includes scenes from Island Campus and Jokaydia Campus in Second Life. The Jokadia Campus has been cleared of last year's projects in readiness for 2009 - although there is a crocodile by the water... and look out for some some seals and a turtle just off shore.

If you have an avatar come and visit... here is the Jokaydia SLURL.

Second Life has many educational uses and some large international educational communities. A number of flexible learning projects will use Second Life in 2009 that were planned and tested in 2008.

Students over 18 will be using Jokaydia and the Polytechnic Island while those under 18 years of age will use Skoolaborate - a secure virtual world used by schools and colleges in the Asia-Pacific region.

Click to play - and watch the high quality version - link under video.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Signage of the Times

I thought I should record this event - new signage going up today.

No more 'Hobart College'. No more 'TAFE Tasmania'. Is it a sign of the times? Changed students, changed workplaces, changed technology, changed expectations, changed world...

Is it a sign of an appropriate response? Time will tell...