Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Are We There Yet?

Can we begin to define our approaches to 21st century learning from experience? Developing an eLearning Strategy that takes us to the middle of the second decade has involved looking back to see what go us to where we are now.

In the late 90s and early into this new century we valued flexibility, sharing, collaboration, problem solving, future proofing... Looking at these now they appear to be largely reactive. They were our response to rapid change and the hazy emergence of new perspectives and paradigms; new ways of thinking, doing and being.

Now that we have a little experience of this century can we see trends more clearly and be more discerning and confident about how we respond?

I wonder if we are starting to make more sense of our current times and are more comfortable living with change. We are beginning to explore new possibilities and map new journeys. We are beginning to be more proactive and purposeful. We understand a little more about how to not only live more comfortably but to prosper during rapid transformational change.

Being flexible while we adapt to changing environments is shifting to being more agile - taking purposeful steps on journeys through change.

Future proofing solutions against change has become future building as we leaverage the opportunities provided by constant change.

Solving problems of increasing complexity has led to more systemic thinking and problem prevention.

Questioning one-size-fits-all solutions has led us to question our perspectives, underlying assumptions and world views.

Is planning for learning in the second decade of this century about a shift to include more pro-active strategies such as those on the right hand side of the list below?

Flexibility --> Agility
Future Proofing --> Future Building
Problem Solving --> Problem Prevention
Collaboration --> Co-creation
Social Justice --> Social Inclusion
Questioning Solutions --> Questioning Assumptions
World's Best --> Best for the World

In what other ways have we become more proactive and purposeful?
How else has our thinking, doing and being changed?
How do our new understandings impact on the development of elearning?

Or is it too early to tell?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ITs - Back to Basics

We've been listening for several weeks to views about online learning while traveling around the State to discuss the development of a Polytechnic eLearning Strategy for 2012-2014.

For some this is just more of the same e-learning rhetoric they've heard for the last decade or more. For others it's about new opportunities or solving existing problems. Some have stories to share of very successful elearning.

As these and other views were shared at a recent State eLearning Strategy meeting what emerged was a little surprising. Out of the extraordinary diversity of experience and passionately held views about urgent needs and potential solutions came the recognition that it was time to ask much deeper questions about the use of information technologies for learning.
  • What is good learning, teaching and assessment? (online, face-to-face, blended)
  • Where and when can learning take place?
  • Who can support the learner and the teacher?
It became apparent that it's also time to question some long held assumptions about eLearning such as
  • There is one best solution (one LMS, one ePortfolio, one eLearning design method...)
  • In-house IT Services provides for and supports all e-learning needs
  • Most students don't have off-campus access to IT
  • eLearning requires content development
  • Classes need access to a computer lab
  • Students can't learn without a teacher
  • Online learning is a poor alternative to face-to-face learning
Other agenda provide further reasons to question assumptions about how we provide education and training such as
  • High ownership of mobile devices and the new 4G network due before the end of 2011
  • The availability of a wide range of cloud-based managed IT services
  • The current poor financial situation and its impact on resources and support services
  • High-speed broadband through the National Broadband Network currently being rolled out across the state
  • The desire for more flexible and agile learning
Can we get back to the basics of what education and training in the Polytechnic is about and think differently about how we might use all available resources including information technologies to give students access to quality learning?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

eLearning Strategy Opening

Today we launched a 3 month project to develop a 2012-14 eLearning Strategy for the Polytechnic. The Strategy will grow out of a wiki as a living plan for eLearning across the state.

The wiki will be open for edit and stakeholders will be able to watch the eLearning Strategy emerge as they participate in a process of co-construction.

Through this openness we hope to engage more people in an transparent process that acknowledges the complexity of the task, multiple perspectives with their underpinning values and assumptions, and the challenge of strategically planning for on-going change and financial sustainability.

We will use a perspective model developed by Dr Sue Stack for a recent Faculty of Education NBN in Education Project at the University of Tasmania. This project examined the challenges of creating connectivity for Tasmanian education through an openly consultative process involving ICT leaders across different educational sectors.

Tomorrow students and the wider community will be invited through Facebook and Twitter to contribute to the wiki pages and discussion. With analytics running on various online resources we hope to be able to build on the most effective communication strategies during the project.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

eQuestioning eLearning

The Polytechnic is embarking on the development of an 'eLearning Strategy' - but what do we mean by 'e' Learning?

Some point out that eLearning is really about learning - which already has e integrated into learning - as it should.

Is e-learning still conceptually the same as e-mail - electronic-mail from the 70s? What is electronic learning?

Should we be developing a 'Digital Technologies and Services Learning Strategy'? Apart from being a mouthful does the term invite us to envision learning for the 2nd decade of the 21st Century?

Derek Wenmoth in eLearnings: Implementing a National Strategy for ICT in Education, 1998-2010 describes recent moves conceptually from connected eLearning to networked Virtual Learning and the development of the 'networked school'.

The Polytechnic also has a focus on a virtual campus and blended online and face-to-face learning.

Would a 'Networked Learning Strategy' be more appropriate than an 'eLearning Strategy'?
Conceptually networked learning appears to have broader connotations:
  • face-to-face and online networking
  • personal and professional learning networks
  • learning communities and communities of practice
  • national broadband networking of homes, workplaces, community centres with campuses
  • connecting the physical, the virtual and the mobile
  • networked cloud computing
It could also refer to how such a strategy should be developed - collaboratively - even co-constructively. Perhaps it could even be massively openly collaborative (following Jane McGonigal's discussion in Reality is Broken).

Or is that a bridge too far? Everyone has just got used to eLearning :-)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Being Present During Transformational Change

Following my post 'Designing for the 4th Bottom Line' my wife put together a graphic that puts Presence in the centre - and I like it very much. She also used the term 'prosperity' rather than 'profit' and I think that is richer and more inclusive and resonates with Bhutan's 'gross national happiness index'.

4th Bottom Line by Dr Sue Stack

The 4th bottom line has been called 'personal', 'perspective', 'spirituality', 'culture' and 'sustainability' but I prefer 'presence' following Peter Senge et al in the book Presence: Human Purpose and the Field of the Future.

The authors describe the 'U Process' for organisational or systemic change:

Sensing – knowing the whole system as it is
Letting go - of historical processes and perspectives
Presencing - taking time to retreat and reflect
Letting come - allowing new processes to become realised

In re-reading parts of the book today I found the notions of 'presencing', 'letting come' and 'realizing' particularly relevant as we envisage a virtual campus and new online spaces.

From Presence:

"Moving up the U involves bringing something new into reality... but this action comes from a source that's deeper than the rational mind... the magic comes from the capacity to sense something new and act instananeously in accordance with what that felt knowledge dictates."

"Operating from this larger intention brings into play forces one could never tap from just trying to impose our will on a situation."

"At it's essence the U theory poses a question: 'What does it mean to act in the world and not on the world?' "

In facilitating participative change I would also ask in what ways can we co-create what is best for the world rather than (or in addition to) what is best in the world?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

State-wide iPad Management

Click graphic for PowerPoint

Efficient and effective state-wide management of iPads for Health & Wellbeing staff and students has proven to be easier than first thought - with help from a colleague. By using a Gmail account to create an Apple ID it has been possible to provide the required iPad functionality without making management too onerous.

Multiple iPads are set up and updated using the same iTunes account in different regions across the state.

MobileMe provides a service to locate each iPad on Google Maps and to send any iPad a pop-up message, make sound to help in locating it and even lock it from further use if necessary.

DropBox and the DropBox iPad application are used to transfer and share files between the iPads, desktop PCs and with any user on the web with a DropBox account.

Google Reader is used as an RSS aggregator to manage blogs and specialised news feeds which can then be displayed through the Flipboard app on the iPad - along with Twitter lists.

Custom backgrounds are set up on each iPad to assist with identification.

See the iPad Management PowerPoint for more detail.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Designing for the 4th Bottom Line

Designing a virtual meta-campus for change may be more like gardening than building. Applying a Meta-Design Framework will probably be an organic process where the meta-campus is nurtured to grow and evolve - sometimes in surprising ways. It may even be like curating large and diverse gardens with local ecosystems and a range of complex challenges related to inputs/outputs, people and the planet.

Perhaps we need to think of the virtual meta-campus as both an organisation and an organism - and even a self-organising system. Many organisations now report against multiple bottom lines - even to a 4th bottom line. How would consideration of four bottom lines influence the meta-design of the virtual meta-campus?

1st Bottom Line: Profit
Learning outcomes, retention rates, financial sustainability...

2nd Bottom Line: People
Equity, social justice, social capital...

3rd Bottom Line: Planet
Ecological sustainability, ecological footprints...

4th Bottom Line: Presence
Personal meaning, fulfilment, being and becoming, spirituality...

How would the meta-campus meet goals, model processes, enable participation and empower users in each of these areas of accountability?

How would each bottom line shape the following attributes of the virtual meta-campus?

Information, places, spaces, processes, services, worlds, story telling, dialogue, challenge and exploration, growth and transformation, experience and reflection, roles and goals, creativity and innovation, imagination and play, partnerships and collaborations, sharing and generosity, celebration and inspiration, courses and special interest groups, connecting and networking (PLNs), help and guidance, citizenship and advocacy, local and global, open courseware and OERs, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meta-Design of a Virtual Meta-Campus

"In a world that is not predictable, improvisation, evolution, and innovation are more than a luxury: they are a necessity. The challenge of design is not a matter of getting rid of the emergent, but rather of including it and making it an opportunity for more creative and more adequate solutions to problems." (Fischer & Giaccardi, 2006)

Designing a virtual meta-campus is a complex systems wicked problem. There isn't one solution, technologies are changing, goals are shifting, unexpected possibilites emerge and the results are unpredictable. Traditional elearning design principles may not be the most productive in this type of dynamic challenge where 'perpetual-beta' is often the norm.

Fischer & Giaccardi present a conceptual framework for 'Meta-Design' that addresses design-for-change issues and recommend 'co-adaptive' processes that can be used to develop an agile system that evolves with its designers, developers and users.

Meta-design uses social and technical infrastructure that isn't designed completely before use, is flexible and evolves in the hands of users. At the same time users adapt to system functionality and a dialogue is developed in which the user helps design the design process.

The Meta-Design Framework has several elements:
  • Design for change - user participation and empowerment
  • Underdesign - create flexible environments rather than solutions
  • Open systems approaches - that can be modified by users and evolve during use
  • Seeding - working components that can be evolved through small contributions of large numbers of people
  • Unselfconcsious design culture - slow adaption and error reduction

According to Fischer & Giaccardi Meta-Design approaches need to consider:

  • Interactive Art - focus on collaboration and co-creation, often exploring feelings and emotions
  • Collaborative synchnocity - allowing 'power' users to interact with the community, the project and ongoing collaborative processes
  • Social creativity - building a shared user understanding and user voice leading to new insights, new ideas, new artifacts
  • Balancing standardisation and improvisation - avoiding the disfunctional extremes of both
  • Consumers and Designers - Some users (not all, not at all times, not in all contexts) want to be designers: "engage the talent pool"
  • Ease-of-Use Revisited - Over-specialised easy-to-use systems may not be that interesting. Users will learn to operate a system if it has personal value - and is empowering, engaging and fun.
  • Motivation and Rewards - Users will persist in tasks if the 'design culture' includes simple motivational activities - particularly those that build 'social capital'.

The Meta-Design Framework includes three integrated 'Design Spaces':

  1. Designing Design - higher-order design that allows for change and even transformation
  2. Designing Together - facilitating participatory design processes
  3. Designing the 'In-Between' - supporting and creating social networks and their interaction with technology and systems. Relational, reciprocal and recursive interactions that trigger co-creation.

Participatory design requires new paradigms and cultures. Can we create the design spaces and facilitate the deign processes needed to build the virtual campus? Indeed how can we embed these in an evolving virtual campus?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Virtual Campus Framework

Regional meetings have recently been held to progress the Virtual Campus Project discussed in previous posts on this blog: Imagining the Polyverse, Building a Sustainable Polyverse.

While the Polytechnic has an 'official' LMS and public website there are a plethora of other online services, resources and environments independently developed by innovative individuals and teams to meet the needs of learners. So much so that it's valid to ask if we already have a 'virtual campus' in the sense of a rich and diverse online capacity that provides required functionality for remote and local students to engage in learning and training.

What is clearly absent however is any sense from a student perspective of a coherent and connected Polytechnic online service/space. Most online students are isolated from each other and from other classes, campuses and learning communities. There is little sense of a 'virtual campus' and navigation between online spaces is almost non-existent.

Rather than launch into planning and building a 'virtual campus' after hearing (for the first time for many present) about the numerous online services beyond the official LMS all meetings recommended:
  1. Defining the notion of a 'virtual campus' for discussion
  2. Listing some guiding principles that might form a conceptual framework within which further online innovation might take place
  3. Develop a model or models to provide systemic views of virtual campus infrastructure, navigation, standards, data flow...
Several people expressed the desire to ensure that any processes put in place to build a coherent and connected virtual campus continued to support innovation within and outside the project, as well as being agile enough to cope with changing technologies, diverse pedagogies and genuine student choices in learning.

At some meetings there was discussion about the use of designs/technologies to connect existing online spaces such as
  • tagging and meta-tagging
  • visual ecologies such as 360 panorama
  • immersive 3D environments
  • gamification and levels
How does one navigate a complex and rapidly growing virtual campus where anything is possible?

What should we call the virtual campus? The staff intranet is called Phoenix. Any suggestions for the name of an inspiring online meta-campus that blends the physical, the virtual and the possible?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mix'n'Match Learning Environments

Teachers are joining the re-mix culture - in a bold way and at their own pace.

While some are thinking about which LMS the organisation should use from 2012 an increasing number of teachers are customising their own learning environments to suit their personal eLearning journey, learner needs and course requirements.

These teachers no longer feel bound to one system and are exploring different combinations of environments - often challenging themselves to take another step on their journey at a measured pace. In this way they are taking control of their own professional learning and having more say in the provision of ICT services for their learners.

In a surprising number of classes teachers are further customising their mix'n'match learning environments with components or services suggested by their students.
Some mix'n'match examples this year are:

Generally teachers have a learning 'base camp' which is often in a Moodle or Wiki with links from their directly to groups, channels or 'secret urls' in other services. Students are required to manage the different usernames/passwords but this has provided an opportunity to discuss password management systems and Open IDs - something many students are happy to learn about.

More tech-savvy teachers are integrating a range of services back to Moodle - usually through one of the many outside hosting services available which have become easier to use and cheaper.

Many of the above DIY learning environments are used for 'blended learning' and take advantage of student access to mobile computing and home broadband. In fact some components of the mix'n'match combinations are not accessible on campus due to bandwidth or firewall issues. This has not been a significant problem because either these components are optional or students access them through wired, wirelesss or USB broadband at home.

Teachers are also setting up student ICT support models - usually somewhere within the mix'n'match learning environment. For some it's a forum in Mahara, for others discussion pages on a Wiki or a closed group in Facebook. While visiting a class last week I over-heard students designing their own 'help network' independently of the teacher.

One interesting change I've noticed in classes where mix'n'match environments are used is in student attitude and ownership. Students are asking questions about the learning environment and the following discussion is often about learning and learning processes. Students have referred to "our" page/site/group and often come up with suggestions to customise it to make it easier to use.

There is also a new respect for the teacher who is clearly making an effort to construct a useful online learning environment and can be seen at times to be stretching themselves beyond their comfort zones - by choice.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

iPad Knows What You Did Last Summer

I've recently enabled MobileMe on a number of iPads purchased for staff and students - because I can. But should I?

MobileMe has enabled me to pinpoint the current location of the iPads to within a few meters. I can also create friendly reminders to return the device that popup on the screen. A very useful service - depending on your point of view perhaps...

One of the iPads has just gone on summer holidays interstate with a teacher while they learn how to use it. It's possible for me to map the holiday travels of the iPad with dates and times.

As we move towards an Internet of Things I wonder about privacy and ethical implications of being able to monitor and track devices, objects, any-thing, anyone.

The MobileMe Find My iPad service gives the option to play a sound for two minutes, lock the device and even delete files. One can imagine that once iPads and iPhones have screen-side cameras the iPad will be able to take some holiday snapshots of it's users and surroundings. I believe this service is already available for laptops with webcams.

I'll arrange a discussion with the teachers once they have returned from the summer holidays. It will be interesting to see if they decide to use the iPad location service. I've decided to use it for my iPhone and iPad - just in case I lose them while on holiday :-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Knowmadic Existence

2011 will be the first year in 15 that I haven't had an office on campus. I'll have a desk in a shared space at the Campbell St Campus. With much disciplined sorting my previous office has been reduced to 4 garbage bins, 2 recycle bins and 4 boxes that now sit at home. This move has firmly established what has been developing for some time - my 'knowmadic existence' as described in 2008 by John Moravec.

Knowmadic Work

This mobility has been made possible through the advent of powerful handheld computing and fast 3G wireless broadband. It has also been supported through flexible workplace policies that recognise the demise of the 9-5 (8-4) five-day working week and the potential for increased productivity and lifestyle choices that this can bring.

My physical location is now determined by project work, classes, meetings and the need to use specialist resources or spaces - and usually changes every few hours. My 'office' (defined as the place you are likely to find me) has become my online presence.

For my 'knowmadic work' to be effective and efficient I have to net-work across many locations - both physical and online. My physical workplaces include staff rooms, campus libraries, meeting rooms, cafes, home and even the car when travelling around the state.

When I go to a workplace I usually pick one of several bags depending on anticipated tasks:
  • light bag with current papers, iPhone and netbook or tablet computer (eeePC or iPad), and various USB memory sticks with portable apps
  • laptop bag with current papers, HD camera, various USB broadband devices with router/switch (to set up a local internet enabled networks for up to 6 mobile devices)
  • AV bag with various digital recorders and cables

My online work environment includes a Polytechnic staff intranet and global professional learning network (PLN); educational resources, environments and applications; working and archived documents. I was recently able to throw away most of my papers because everything is safely archived online.

An excellent ICT infrastructure across all campuses gives me consistent firewalled access to institutional communications, applications and documents. Much of this is accessible off-campus through a web browser.

An equally excellent :-) home wired and wireless network gives me firewalled access to range of shared resources including several Tbytes of storage. These resources are complemented by a growing range of cloud computing services providing communications, servers, applications and storage - shared and private.

Ubiquitous access to files, resources, people and systems is provided through a range of services that work across devices (iPhone, iPad, EeePC, laptop, desktop) such as:

  • DropBox
  • Google Docs, WikiSpaces
  • Evernote, Delicious, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, AuthorStream, and several more...
  • LogMeIn, LastPass
  • Skype, Google Talk
  • GMail, work email

Informal chat now happens just as much online as face-to-face through:

  • Twitter, Office Communicator (and hopefully iDialog one day), Facebook
  • Google Reader, Blogger
  • Online events in virtual spaces including Second Life/OpenSim

Online communication connects me across learning areas, campuses, educational sectors, state and international boundaries... I'm just as likely to chat and even collaborate with someone from another institution or country as I am with a local colleague.

It also disconnects me from those who are not comfortably online unless I make time for walking and talking. On the other hand I'm finding formal face-to-face meetings with both staff and students tend to be more focused and purposeful.

I wouldn't go as far as to describe myself as a nomad but perhaps it's another role to add to Stephen Downes list of educator roles :-)