Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Game on for Learning

Panorama of AppV Games on

Today 60 students were playing networked games as part of the Enrichment Program on the Elizabeth Campus thanks to dedicated problem solvers in ICT Services. Simon and Rob (pictured far left and centre - they were moving fast...) used MS Application Virtualisation (App-V) to deploy 60 instances of legal games across normal student networked computers.

The beauty of this is that the games don't affect the other software running on the network or network performance. While playing the games students have no access to the internet and play time can be controlled centrally.

The test run today proved it worked brilliantly! Game-based learning environments have been used on various campuses before for

  • developing literacy, numeracy and communication skills
  • digital story telling
  • machinima (movies made 'in-world')
  • modding (building games using commercial game engines)
  • character design, AI and scripting
  • 3D design and terraforming
  • problem solving and system thinking skills

Today's session was just about fun and the doors had to be closed after the first 60 students arrived leaving many disappointed!

Simon and Rob's work will mean that ICT Shared Services can provide similar engaging learning environments across all campuses into the future.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Enabling a Learning Commons

Click graphic for full size

Polytechnic Libraries and Learning Centres have been evolving for many years and now bear little resemblance to the traditional libraries that many might remember from twenty years ago.
This evolution is continuing as we plan to meet the needs of tomorrow's learners, teachers and other clients. The Polytechnic Corporate Plan (2009-2010) outlines a 'learning commons' philosophy that further integrates learning and support services for students and facilitates the flexible-applied-connected-supported learning agenda.

In addition the State Library and UTas Library are changing to meet client needs. The national Re-Imagining Libraries Strategic Plan is indicative of the directions many libraries are taking:

"In collaboration, the National, State and Territory Libraries of Australia and New Zealand will become leaders in empowering people to create, discover, use and transform our collections, content and global information resources."

These directions require more open and connected ICT services than has previously. The Polytechnic Library Online Services Project team has been mapping the ICT functionality needed to meet the above agenda.

The above graphic (click for full size) maps the ICT functionality to enable:

  • Information and resources to come into the organisation including Open Education Resources, Open Courseware, RSS feeds... (LHS of graphic)
  • Information and resources produced or added to by students and staff within the organisation including Open Education Resources, Open Courseware and RSS feeds to be shared with others (RHS of graphic)
  • Online access by students and staff within the Polytechnic via normal logon (LDAP) or Open ID (bottom of graphic)
  • External access by school students, mentors, local communities... via open unauthenticated access or Open ID (top of graphic)

These needs will now determine the kinds of systems that will be required. Current ICT systems may or may not be sufficient.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

E-Portfolios for students and staff

E-Portfolios are now ready for anyone in the Polytechnic who wants to use them - staff, classes, groups, individual students... As described before we are using Mahara to provide this service. We have two hosted services arising from different pilot projects in 2009 - one is just Mahara and the other is an integrated Mahara + Moodle installation.

Teacher and user guides (video and text) are available and a community of practice has been established across all campuses. It will be interesting to see how many staff and students decide to use E-Portfolios who were not part of previous projects.

Problems encountered during the 2009 projects will hopefully be addressed with recent changes such as

  • upgrading Internet Explorer 6 to Internet Explorer 8
  • upgrading Mahara to allow for importing and exporting
  • customised help
Mahara isn't the only solution for E-Portfolios. Some staff and students choose to use

A survey of staff at the end of 2009 revealed that 40% were exploring so-called web 2.0 or social media sites for use with students. The attraction of Mahara is that it provides some social media functionality within a local learning environment while still providing student control of access to work including external access via a 'secret' URL.

Students can connect with and share work with classmates or friends as well as teachers and feedback from students in the 2009 projects indicated that this was highly valued.