Posts in Category "eLearning"

February 10, 2014

Reaching Critical MASS: Promoting and Leveraging a Diverse Learning Ecosystem in Foundation Art and Design

INTRODUCTION:

As part of our Foundation Art and Design program review—initiated in the Fall of 2013—we have been considering the status of each of our course offerings and ensuring compliance with provinical ministry program guidelines and addressing gaps identified in the programming through student feedback questionnaires (SFQs). We are also undergoing a process of rationalization to the provincial government in order to help them identify areas of excellence and/or duplication. It is important that our program stand over and above the other foundation programs offered in and around the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in order to ensure our place in the mix of offerings.

As part of that process of defining just how our foundation programming is different, I have been striving to create a student experience that sets itself apart from offerings at other schools. The vision looks at promoting and developing a set of essential qualities in the teaching and learning experience and the systems that we engage our faculty and students with.

I can’t understate the importance of drawing on timeless and essential soft skills to ensure a positive student experience. There is no technology solution that can even approximate the worth of an enthusiastic, caring and engaged faculty member. One aspect of what we will be promoting in the teaching and learning experience will be engagement with new digital tools and environments that will prepare both faculty and students for the emerging workplace of the 21st Century. In no way do I wish to suggest that the integration of technologies into the teaching and learning mix will supplant the soft skills that were alluded to earlier, rather, they should augment and enhance that experience in some meaningful and substantial way.

The recommendations that are being proposed here are the product of testing and consultation with third year design students in our Knowledge Design-I elective course. These students engaged with a variety of emerging technologies and were asked to envision and weigh in on their potential for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.

In addition to the specific skills developed within each course and the Essential Employability Skills (EES) stated in the course outlines, we are striving to transform this experience in ways that recognize the shifting and emerging competency requirements for the 21st Century workplace.

Collaborative_relations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above: The turbulence caused by rapid advances and declines in technologies are not only posing significant challenges for large institutions like schools, they are rapidly imposing new relationships on us. Being agile enough to bend and sway with these changes will be a significant predicate for success. On much reflection, I am convinced that the only way to effectively deal with this turbulence is to develop much deeper relationships with innovation drivers like software and hardware development companies. We should seek to  deepen relationships with these companies such that the culture and processes that define these agile development communities are inculcated in an institution’s own culture and workflows. This, of course, will require a radical re-configuration of that institution’s conception of its own organizational structure and culture.
Collaborative organizational, methodological and economic models that define the innovation economy are antithetical to the traditional, linear, hierarchal and authoritative models that define most institutions today. Deeper, strategic alignment with innovation companies will help to strengthen an institution’s understanding of the structural and procedural transformations required to inhabit the innovation space. In this way, institutions can move from being relatively slow and unresponsive “reactors” to change to becoming proactive “drivers” of change. Much like a software or hardware company, an educational institution becomes a “lifeware” or “peopleware” commited to providing meaningful, relevant and powerful “upgrade” paths for their client base.

For more on my background views on innovation in the applied learning space you can access my related posts by CLICKING on the blue links below:
Perpetual Beta: 21st Centrury Course Structure Rationale
RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Model of Teaching
Worth vs. Work: Transforming People and Organizations for the Knowledge Economy
On Demand Amnesia at the Self-serve Window of Education
Deck the Halls with Boughs of Knowledge: Exploring the use of Augmented Reality in Education
Goin’ Down the Road: My Teaching Philosophy

I am confident that an emphasis on engaging our students with a blend of solid, traditional pedagogy with a new ecosystem of technologies and their related protocols will help to nurture the following qualities:

Our Learners will be:
Reflexive, collaborative, agile, knowledge producers and knowledge sharers. They will be effective and responsible digital citizens with the skills and knowledge to build and promote a strong personal, digital brand in a global context.

Our faculty will be:
Creative, caring, sharing, professionals who are current, collaborative, reflexive, agile, and committed to life-long learning and  the success of all our students and fellow faculty members.

Our School/Program will:
Offer flexible delivery of information and learning (Blackboard, ON, HARVEST for supporting student online experience)
Offer content that is universally accessible. Provide an opportunity  to experience a variety of digital environments and tools and to develop an agility and facility in their use. Teach the skills necessary for successful student collaboration with their peers.

The “thing” that will set us apart from other similar program hinges on developing AGILITY, ADAPTABILITY, COLLABORATIVE CAPACITY, SHARING, STORYTELLING, PERSONAL DIGITAL BRANDING and DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP in both our students and our faculty.

I am in the process of developing a plan called Critical MASS that is aimed at ensuring that all of our students will have had the benefit of coaching on team-building and collaboration strategies (not only an Essential Employ-ability Skill but also a requirement of being effective in virtual work environments too).
Once students know how to function as a team, this team will serve as an ongoing peer-resource not only explicitly for group projects but as a support and mentoring mechanism aimed at Mutually Assured Student Success (hence, Critical MASS). This will serve to promote a stronger sense of community while ensuring higher levels of engagement and retention. Forming students into effective groups is determined in accordance with a skills and infrastructure readiness survey that I have developed in order to identify  the distribution of competency and access to technology for our students. Data is used to build balanced teams. Other data, from Diana McIntyre at Student Success, shows that the nature of student commuting, hours of work and other life commitments are such that it is exceedingly difficult for student groups to physically meet before or after classes. To that end, with our Dean’s encouragement, We have built prototype infrastructure to support virtual/remote teaching, learning and collaboration capacity here at the school. The infrastructure forms an ecosystem with many overlapping parts some of which have particular strengths and limitations. There are plenty of options available to faculty and students from using a mixed bag of technologies to using a one-top-shopping approach. Each of which offers particular advantages.

Much has been made over the confusion of having so many systems and, on the face of it, I feel that this is a valid consideration; however I also strongly feel that it is necessary to acknowledge the fact that the technology ecosystem outside of our doors is infinitely more complex and confusing. It is ever-changing and expanding at an exponential rate: software titles become more complex and feature rich, more titles are published, we are now into tablet computing and mobile data, the app universe is nearing 1 Million apps and growing, browsers are becoming increasingly modular, programmable and complex, and the list goes on. We are all affected by the consequences of this turbulence and I am sure we have entertained the fantasy of being free of technology altogether but I don’t think that it is going to happen in our lifetime. The point being that we cannot avoid it and we ignore it at our own peril.
It behooves us, then, to help both ourselves AND our students negotiate this chaos in some meaningful and effective manner.

Yes. It is chaotic and complex but I feel that the technology infrastructure that we currently have in place is considerably pared down by comparison. The idea is to get all of the stakeholders to develop a degree of comfort and agility—an understanding  for why and how to inhabit and move through these environments and to do so in a more purposeful fashion. In my estimation, the benefits outweigh the risks, and, if we can make this ecosystem an integral part of of how we do business here at the School of Design, this will provide a value added experience for our graduates that goes beyond the pale of a standard design curriculum. THIS is what will set us apart.

The biggest challenge, of course, will be developing an understanding, fluency and ease of use for faculty. It has been my experience, that my students use these environments very effectively for the most part—so much so that, where faculty have not been using virtual environments, they simply create their own Facebook pages. The issue with this, of course, is that if there is a systemic issue with the students, you remain blissfully unaware until it shows up in your SFQ several weeks after your class is finished! Being able to monitor the pulse of your class at a glance is a very powerful way of ensuring quality and consistency in the student experience and provides invaluable data for informing iterative designs of your course.

Of course it is never quite as simple as throwing a switch. Using this ecosystem, combined with the power of the internet, requires new protocols and new forms of pedagogy that allow us to leverage its full potential. For example, having access to thousands of authoritative resources on a subject via an instant internet search shifts the balance of authoritative power away from the traditional professor in the traditional classroom setting—the roles in the classroom change dramatically. At worst, the instructor’s authority is undermined as students seek alternative sources for their information. At best, professors are valued, knowledgeable guides who can help the student leverage the maximum potential of the resources that they have at their fingertips.

Currently, we are in a situation where it is reasonable to expect students to research and present on a topic that, traditionally, might have been covered by their professor—that they should access knowledge outside of class and come to class for an experience other than information dissemination. The natural outcome of the fact that students have 24/7 instantaneous access to knowledge that we have traditionally dispensed has created a gradual drift towards “flipped” models of teaching where the students are actively encouraged to be researchers, presenters and content creators instead of content consumers. In this scenario, they need to develop a crucial set of ancillary skills in research, writing, documentation, presentation, visualization, storytelling, etc.

Digital storytelling of one’s know-how on a global stage forms the new basis on which students and professionals are starting to build their value. For example, trillions of images are searchable and available on the internet for free. Few people are willing to pay for them—even designers! So, the value proposition does not lie in the production of yet another image, rather, the value inheres in building a following in a social media platform by sharing know-how. It is no longer good enough to simply show one’s work, it is critical that they be able to tell cogent stories about how said work came to fruition—sharing insights into creative processes as well as technical how-to-s. THIS is the new currency that will help to build a person’s brand. This brand building and story-telling is an important dimension of how faculty add worth to the teaching and learning experience and build and promote their own personal brand by sharing their own know-how, not only with their immediate students but with the world at large. Both students and teachers are increasingly becoming active participants in this expanding circle. Some examples of how these stories can be curated and shared are shown below (This very BLOG is one such mechanism whereby a student or faculty member can share their insights):

FACULTY

Faculty Reflections
History of Game Design Student Research Project Summary
Faculty Curated Student Work (by Program—Course—Project, respectively)
Foundation Art and Design Homepage (Generic, program landing page)
ART1029: Digital Art and Design Homepage (Course Specific Landing Page)
Digital Art and Design Gallery (Project Specific Landing Page)

STUDENTS

Student Profile:
Public Profile Page
Student Reflections:
Student Learning Narrative: BLOG
Student Portfolios:
BEHANCE Portfolio

Of course, none of this would be possible without a very powerful, interoperable infrastructure. Some of this infrastructure is a college resource and others lie outside of the college domain. Some of the elements are large enterprise level systems and others are small, niche apps. My personal preference is to cobble together an aggregation of technologies in a way that allows for greater independence, flexibility and agility. The fact that many commercial level tools offer freebie versions makes it very enticing. Also, the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Twitter, etc. as output conduits allows most, if not all of these resources to be interoperable on some level. This allows for an unprecedented level of freedom of choice in configuring a network of enabling technologies.

Let me introduce you some of the tools and spaces that comprise our ecosystem and explain what their core strengths/use case scenarios are (Keep in mind that there is a significant amount of overlap and that not all of these tools are used all of the time but they have all been introduced at one point or another over the past several years in an attempt to gauge their roles and impact for later integration).

ECOSYSTEM:

BLACKBOARD:

http://bb-gbc.blackboard.com

Above: This is the college standard default for online/blended online learning delivery. You can fully expect a greater push to utilize this resource. It is feature dense and the user interface is far from being comprehensible and user-friendly. It is like the COSCO of online. It has everything and you can wear yourself out trying to find it! It is a bit like taking someone up in a Jumbo Jet to teach them how to fly a plane.

STRENGTHS:
Fully supported by Blackboard under contract; We have a small team of experts over in ELTI, Rubrics allow for quick, automated marking; Tests are automated and marked, Grades are calculated automatically; Grades instantly available to students if you want. Mobile compatible.

WEAKNESSES:
We have a small team of experts; Tries to do too much. Non-intuitive—Not a very friendly User Interface. Low adoption rate by faculty. Low function use by faculty if they are using it. Difficult to learn for both faculty and students and requires dedication of scarce time and resources to train for use.
I am fully committed to mentoring each and every one of you through this process of getting to know and acclimatizing to these environments and will gladly make time to assist you with the transition. Perceived as “extra work.” Limited mobile functionality. Online collaborative environments (collaborate) are difficult to use and prone to gltiching (Fall of 2013). Very costly.

HARVEST.GEORGEBROWN.CA

WIKIS (Click BLUE LINK to view page)

http://harvest.georgebrown.ca

Above: This is a WIKI/BLOG/VIDEO server that we have here at the SOD. This VERY simple and stable platform can be used for making course materials available online. Each course is identified with unique branding and icons that are part of a cohesive branding program. Permission levels can allow for private, semi-private or public levels of access.

You can explore some of this infrastructure by clcking on the BLUE LINKS to view additional content such as the Digital Art and Design course. It also allows students to create profiles and to BLOG on their weekly learning. It is also great for curating work and for telling the stories of what you did with your class in any given semester (this reflexive practice is very prevalent in US schools and US educators are establishing clear leadership roles and setting the agenda for online education. Some examples of how we are using the environment are accessible below:
Student BLOG
Art of Wine and Cheese
Hawaiian Shirt Project
Director’s Design Competition (Daniel’s Spectrum, SPRING 2013)

STRENGTHS:
Extremely simple and easy to learn (takes about 10 minutes and works pretty much like a simplified word processor); Faculty can create/post content there; Secure (Only registered faculty and students can author in it). Students and faculty can create profiles and post blogs about what they are learning; Unlike Blackboard, the material posted there is persistent and is always accessible (don’t have to worry about content importing every semester as in an LMS); Great resource for holding and presenting video; No ads or ownership issues as with Facebook and YouTube.

WEAKNESSES:
Limited layout potential (uses basic templates). Does not allow simultaneous co-authoring of pages. People outside of the college system can be allowed to SEE the material but they cannot author with it. Perceived as “extra work.”

ON.GEORGEBROWN.CA

on.georgebrown.ca

Above: This is an Open Source version of Facebook. It has all of the same functionality: Create Special Interest, Group or Course pages and set membership privileges for them. You can create and promote events. You can Poll users, send public or private messages, post video, audio, create threaded discussions, blogs and more.

STRENGTHS:
Leverages student familiarity with Facebook so no training is required. It is a popular social media platform with most students. Very secure environment hosted behind the college firewall. There is no data collection as there is in Facebook and other Social Media Tools. Can monitor and track user engagement data and feature student leaders within the community in order to promote greater participation and development of knowledge sharing, storytelling skills in the service of building a strong personal brand and good digital citizenship. Has potential for introducing “badging” to recognize student accomplishments.

WEAKNESSES:
Lower level of uptake than anticipated. There is a need to promote the benefits of the environment to key faculty and students. Perceived as “extra work.”  The environment is “by invitation only” and requires professors to have students input their email to generate an invite. There are some bugs but they don’t impare usability they are just minor annoyances. We are upgrading this by the end of January, 2014 to address this issue.

ACROBAT.COM/CREATIVE CLOUD

acrobat.com
Adobe provides a wide range of collaborative tools for virtual collaboration that includes application and screen sharing and video conferencing (Connect) as well as document co-authoring, document signing and security and file sharing (acrobat.com, work spaces) that integrate with their universal PDF workflow. This is an important workflow for the 21st century skillset. The creative cloud brings together creative tools and collaborative spaces that duplicates some of the functionality such as file sharing and collaboration that is found in Acrobat.com.

Above: The workspaces interface allows for the creation of teams and the sharing of files with its members.  

Above: The Creative Cloud interface allows for file storage and sharing as well as a mobile workflow and social media capacity. This is an important environment for anyone using 21st Century digital authoring tools and, particularly, for creative industry workers and teaching professionals.

BEHANCE: Professional Creative Community and Portfolio Site

behance.net

Above: This is an online community of professional creatives that allows for portfolio curating, sharing, commenting, collecting, collaborating as well as a job market board. It is useful to follow influential creative types for the industry or field that you may be interested in becoming a part of in the future. 

STRENGTHS:
Industry leading. Global community. Connected to industry professionals and leaders. Costs the college nothing. Powerful curating tools. Can socialize and promote work or follow community professionals. Can create feedback groups. Easy to organize and catalog student work. Helps promote the notion of building a global professional brand and participating in a community of practice. Owned by industry leader Adobe Systems.WEAKNESSES:
Currently follows the two-tiered membership model of most social spaces. Free membership for a limited array of functionality and a pro-level (could revert to entirely subscription based in future). Perceived as “extra work.”

EVERNOTE

www.evernote.com
This cloud-based note-taking software allows for the creation of custom notebooks (for each course, project, etc.) and can record text, images, web pages, audio and video. Notebooks or individual notes can be socialized or shared with individuals via email or via a public URL.
Go to EVERNOTE by CLICKING on the BLUE link and download Evernote, Skitch and Web Clipper.  (Feel free to try others) these are great tools for capturing, representing and organizing information.

Above: In order are icons for Evernote (note-taking), Skitch (annotating web pages or screen captures) and Web Clipper (Capturing web pages). If you are a visual thinker CLICKING on the BLUE MohioMap link to download this visual notes organizer for Evernote.

STRENGTHS:
Promotes a group-based, collective strategy to capturing information. Two students per class are assigned to take notes on an iPad or laptop or workstation (one at the first half and another after the break). The link to the notebook is shared in common so all students can draw on it. It eliminates duplication of effort and spreads the workload out across the entire class. It costs the college nothing (no note-takers required). It is available on any browser on any platform including mobile. Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Notes can be downloaded and printed if desired.

WEAKNESSES:
Not all students are adept at this and the focus, style and veracity may vary considerably. Perceived as “extra work.”

TWITTER

I have my students follow my Twitter handle @prof2go. Not all students use Twitter and even fewer faculty do. This form of instantaneous communication platform is variously used and abused and, for many, it represents the most invasive form of communications tools—commanding a great deal of moment-to-moment attention. It demands brevity and clarity in messaging and allows for deep socialization.

STRENGTHS:
Excellent research tool. Students can “follow” seminal thinkers and industry leaders to gain insight into the things that they are driven by and can, on occasion, establish dialogue and ongoing relationships with those who share their passions. It keeps messages short and to the point. Potentially, you have a global audience. You can create and follow trends using metadata #hashtags. Feeds can be aggregated from multiple sources using tools such as Paper.Li, HootSuite, etc. Fast method for generating alerts or sharing links.
WEAKNESSES:
Limited message length. Not good for detail-oriented communications. Aggressive and demanding media that is constantly “on.” Can be distracting and, some claim, addictive. Large volumes of noise (useless, whimsical data). Perceived as “extra work.”

VISUAL UNDERSTANDING ENVIRONMENTS
(Tufts VUE, SimpleMind MapWebspiration, Inspiration, ):

These tools are for visualizing complex concepts such as processes, workflows, ideas, etc. and making connections between them. Webspiration and Inspiration are cloud-based and desktop mapping software, respectively and come from the same company. These tools were sponsored by the distributor. They aid in making complexity less intractable by visualizing and simplifying. Elements in these maps can be connected to rich media assets such as video, audio, PDF and text documents as well as URLs and other maps. The tool from TUFTS University is a research-based tool that is capable of powerful data modelling and semantic analysis.

STRENGTHS:
Helps to organize thoughts. Simplifies complex scenarios. Great for visual thinkers and different learning styles. Can link to various media. Webspiration and SimpleMind Map have a cloud function that allows for sharing and collaboration. SimpleMind Map offers limited free version and TUFTS VUE is free. SimpleMind and Webspiration have tablet enabled Apps.
WEAKNESSES:
Often proprietary formats with poor translation into HTML5 or PDF structures. Webspiration co-authoring is buggy. Webspiration is subscription based. Perceived as “extra work.”

BIT.LY

This is a handy little tool for shortening incredibly long and difficult to recall URLs. There is no downside to this. You can curate collections of your URLs too.

ZOTERO

This plug-in gives your browsers the ability to access the Zotero collaborative Research cloud to form research teams, collect, catalogue, cite and share every sort of media source imaginable.

STRENGTHS:
Provides a structured approach to research. Allows sharing and socializing. Provides collaborative research infrastructure. Works inside the browser. Accessible on both your computer and in the cloud. Well documented.

WEAKNESSES:
Could use a live social function. Not entirely self-evident use. Potential for browser upgrade issues. Too much horsepower for what a Foundaton program would need. Focused more on academic research at the university. Perceived as “extra work.”

PAPER.LI

paper.li

Above: One of a few publications that Professor Jim Kinney compiles on Augmented Reality.

STRENGTHS:
Socialization capacity. Global reach. Great research tool. Great for personal brand building.

WEAKNESSES:
Everyone can do it It will be difficult to stand out as a truly original piece. Little original content connected to the syndication publisher. Perceived as “extra work.”

HOOTSUITE

www.hootsuite.com

This lets you manage your social media for information blitzes, campaigns and promotions and tracks the recognition of your personal brand in social media circles. You can monitor trending and use analytics to  understand traffic patterns and trends.

STRENGTHS:
Robust and deep functionality. Allows you to aggressively promote your message and monitor its effectiveness. A pretty good free trial version. Great tool for faculty who are active members making contributions to professional discussions and events.WEAKNESSES:
Limited user base for free. More horsepower than is necessary for student needs unless they are focused on advertizing and social media design. Perceived as “extra work.”

DOODLE

doodle.com

This is a very simple, free polling tool that is useful for determining meeting schedules.

STRENGTHS:
Simplicity. Free. Aids group collaboration efforts.

WEAKNESSES:
No additional project management functions. Perceived as “extra work.”

SURVEY MONKEY

www.surveymonkey.com

This survey tool has a free version that allows students and faculty to gather data from a broad range of sources on a broad range of topics.

STRENGTHS:
Simplicity, unlimited global reach potential. Great research tool for gathering user experience data. Great for getting timely student feedback on issues.

WEAKNESSES:
Need to pay to expand sample size and analytics. User should be knowledgeable in asking the right sorts of questions to avoid inherent biases and leading questions. Perceived as “extra work.”

AURASMA/LAYAR

www.aurasma.com
www.layar.com

These environments were explored in the winter term of 2013 for their ability to augment the teaching and learning environment by delivering access to on-demand knowledge in situ. My students and I built a permanent installation in our new game design school on the history of game design. Students can now access short documentaries and interviews by designers that relate to seminal digital video games simply by pointing a smart phone or tablet at trigger images throughout the school. Later experiments were done with select faculty on using AR to deliver tutorials, room greetings and schedule and web site access from one’s smart device. For more on this follow the blue links below:
The Virtual Academy Emerges
Research Synopsis
Faculty Knowledge Transfer

PROTOCOLS:

Here we look at how classroom culture and rolls can be transformed in order to promote a more profound use of the ecosystem and how to prepare the learners of tomorrow with 21st century skill sets.

CRITICAL MASS:
Working collaboratively is an essential skill. Organizing students into groups and arming them with the tools and techniques to work effectively in groups will be the key to ensuring their success not only in project work but throughout their tenure at the school. We will develop a shared sense of responsibility for the success of one another that will build a more cohesive and caring learning community. Peer groups will act like a family support mechanism throughout the year.

INVESTING STUDENTS WITH A DIRECT RESPONSIBILITY FOR LEARNING:
We will promote the notion of the student as a capable researcher, scribe, presenter/storyteller, teacher and allow them to directly participate in unearthing and presenting subject knowledge. They will construct and share knowledge with their groups, their class, the school and the broader global community through participation in professional online communities of practice.

FLIPPING:
We are moving, in some instances, towards a flipped model of learning where students participate in knowledge creation and sharing as above. Faculty, will make content available prior to class and predicate class activity on prior engagement with any posted materials in order to reserve face time for deeper levels of interaction that transcend mere information dispensing.
I recall a time in my undergraduate years at the University of Waterloo where I sat in the Engineering Lecture Hall at 8am alongside 200 other very groggy students only to watch our professor put acetate copies of the textbook on an overhead and read from it verbatim. It was by far the worst experience that I ever had as a student and it stuck with me. In light of unprecedented access to information on the internet, standing in front of a class and dispensing facts is somewhat akin to the professor reading from a textbook. It is incumbent upon us to create more engaging experiences with important content and having the students researching and presenting is one such way that provides the added benefit of learning how to work as a group and present.

NOTE-TAKING
I have been introducing Evenote to classes and rotating the responsibility through the student body. This is just another example of working smarter in a collective and collaborative manner. Each day two students take responsibility for recording audio, video and text and for sharing public URLs that connect everyone to the notes. Each student is responsible for taking notes for only one half of a class all semester (provided there is a class of at least 30 students). This also has the potential of saving the college considerable expense for note-taking.

COMMUNITY/COMMUNICATION
Students are expected to participate directly in the life of their learning community and can do so by reading, liking, commenting, posting in the Open Network community on a regular and ongoing basis. Highly active students who are showing leadership can be promoted and potentially rewarded (praise and recognition from their professors, recommendations for student awards, being featured in the blogs/social platforms, etc.
Faculty, too, will be encouraged to leverage these community forums to ensure direct participation in the development of programming. Like our students, our faculty have diverse interests that make face-to-face contact difficult most of the time and this reduces opportunities for part-time and sessional faculty to add their voices and ideas to the conversation. This underscores the need for leveraging these environments to allow everyone to participate.

REFLEXIVE LEARNING
Students (and faculty too) are encouraged to reflect on their learning in the Harvest network personal blogs (blogs are also available in the Open Network too) This promotes meta-cognition and promotes awareness of what one is learning by incorporating weekly reviews of learning.

HEALTH CHECK
At the midterm break and at the end of the semester indiividuals and the groups to which they belong will be evaluated on the level and quality of their participation. This will be directly reflected by a grade that measures aspects of this participation. They will be evaluated by the professor as well as by their group members.

DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP
Faculty and students will work to build their online presence through direct participation in key online communities of practice. Through sharing their work, know-how, creative insights, commentary and critiques both faculty and students will build personal brand recognition in key online communities like BEHANCE.NET Building a strong brand of leadership will be the cornerstone of what sets us and our students apart from our competitors.

MENTORING
Through the Critical MASS initiative and participation in online communities we will continue to promote mentoring between students and faculty alike and will develop opportunities for sharing best practices with one another through online training, discussion forums and face-to-face meetings where possible.

CONCLUSION

There is a considerable amount  of information put forward here and it may be difficult to understand all or parts of it and how it impacts both the faculty and your students. I have created discussion groups within the Open Network, Foundation Faculty Page where faculty can contribute ideas, voice opinions, etc. Discussion boards are created for each course and are used to share best practices and ideas for course changes with the faculty members who share courses. There are also pages dedicated to the technologies introduced above that allow technology-specific Q and As.
Participants accept their invitations to join the Open Network and create a profile (including head shot) . All future communication regarding our programming will happen inside of that community resource. Ultimately, the success of this venture will hinge on faculty participation and, already, I am starting to see a real community of learning and practice emerge and stakeholders, that were initially overwhelmed, navigate the ecosystem like ducks in water.

9:22 PM Permalink
October 2, 2012

Applying the SAMR model into education

We know when we have achieved successful technology integration: it is when we use technology without even thinking about it.

Adobe tools have sometimes seemed quite exclusive, solely for industry professionals. The need for teachers to up-skill has always seemed quite low on the priority list. The very hurdle of learning how to use the software can stand in the way of using the software to enhance learning. At my school Photoshop is only used in the Advanced IT course. Why is that?

I think Adobe have responded with new tools like Photoshop Elements/Premiere Elements and Muse. I am very pleased at the high uptake from my teaching colleagues and students alike. With minimal training and support I am beginning to see teachers integrating these tools into their daily workflows. As adoption of these tools increases it is evident that Adobe can go beyond enhancing learning.

Borrowed from an expert called Dr Rueben Puentedura the term “Transformation” as a result of technology adoption, is a stage you want to aim for in your journey of successful technology integration.

The SAMR model.

Dr Rueben Puentedura hit on a model which you should be familiar with. The SAMR model is a system which you can use to measure your application of technology, or it’s level of use.

 

 

The first level is the lowest level of use: Substitution.

Technology acts as a direct tool substitute with no functional changes. A common example is a type-writer being exchanged for a word-processor (albeit with a screen) and being used in exactly the same way. No cut and paste, no spell check, just direct substitution.

The second level is: Augmentation

At this level you are using the same tool with some functional improvement. Improvements may include the spell check or instant dictionary definition, cut/paste and placement of images etc. Already at this secondary stage we are seeing a much higher level of productivity from the individual.

The third level is: Modification

This level actually slightly alters (but doesn’t change) the task at hand. For example, beforehand your type-writer was being used to produce a text report. But now we have additional technology tools available, we could create the report in a spreadsheet. This would allow you to automatically calculate sums and create graphs for immediate visualisation of the information. We may choose to email the spreadsheet to colleagues instead of print it. Our report (previously a fixed paper document) has now seen significant task redesign. This results in substantial productivity increase.

The fourth level is known as: Redefinition.

At this level, we look beyond ways of just modifying the process **which still has the fundamental task at its heart**. Is this the best way to perform the task? The Redefinition level will use available technology to completely redesign tasks.

We are no longer producing a simple report. Information that would original have been compiled by an individual could now involve many contributors; collaborating in real time on the same document. An example might be to use a public document on Google Docs allowing for instant global collaboration on the project. The project could include photographs, graphics, even video, added from many different devices. Spreadsheet calculations will cascade through a document and be available for all decision makers in a moment. Immediately the task has seen the removal of multiple steps, and many more users are viewing and editing the document, increasing communication, accuracy, and productivity.

Applying this model into education is having astounding results. It is a fairly simple idea but one which has really helped me to evaluate where I am at, and what I could be achieving.

I would add that task redefinition can also remove constraints that may have existed before but were not addressed. At redefinition the task and its outcomes are clearer, the technology becomes invisible and the learning at hand takes priority.

With tools like Captivate and Adobe Connect it is very clear to see how Adobe are not only enhancing teaching practices but truly transforming tasks.

I encourage you to visit Dr Rueben Puentedura’s blog at www.hippasus.com to discover more.

10:13 AM Permalink
September 15, 2012

Adobe Education Leader Summit 2012 Sydney

 

 

Day 1 (Orientation and Presentations)

iphone 6×6 panorama

The first AEL Summit to be held in Australia took place at the Kirribilli Club in Sydney over the 12th, 13th and 14th of September. It was an extraordinary gathering of new and existing AEL’s from across the country and included identified leaders drawn from the ranks of Teachers, Principals, Deputy Principals, ICT Co-Ordinators, Regional Advisers and Project Officers.

For me this truly became the most significant and valuable Professional Development event of my teaching career.  The opportunity to focus completely on the planning and development of curriculum support material aligned to the emerging standards for the National Curriculum and develop strategies and projects to support professional development for a range of identified stakeholders within the teaching profession with such an incredibly dedicated and talented group of people was a paradigm shifting experience.

Firstly a big vote of thanks to Matt Niemitz, Donna Magauran, Anna Mascarello, Peter McAlpine, Michael Stoddart, Paul Burnett and the ever-effervescent Brian Chau for the quality of support and/or organisation provided over the three days of the Summit.

To the AEL’s (Vincent Albanese, Susan Bell, Daniel Rattigan, Megan Townes, Jason Carthew, Brett Kent and Pipp Cleaves) who presented at the Summit, what more can be said?  Inspiring and accomplished; it was an honour to present alongside you.

Not much spare time in my day. Just wanted to put this up to acknowledge the quality and commitment of the new AEL Australian team. It’s not often that being a part of an organisation or team inspires a sense of pride for me, but it certainly has in this case.

And so……

Some of the impressive new stuff for me that’s not under NDA was Adobe Tutorial Builder for Photoshop. Very impressed with this plugin from Adobe Labs. I’ve downloaded it already and will be adding this to the tutorial work-flow as of now. Also taking a closer look at Edge Preview; some nice developments on the horizon here as well.

Adobe Configurator was another tool that has slipped my attention. Hiding in Adobe labs this little gem will enable me to configure workspaces for Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign with unbelievable ease.

There are some real surprises in store for Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements users on the horizon. Keep your ears to the ground for version eleven releases. Nice work Adobe.

See more here

 

 

 

2:07 AM Permalink
April 3, 2012

Adobe Asia Pacific Education Leadership Forum

Asia Pacific Adobe Education Leadership Forum@ Sheraton on Park, Sydney, Au.

Part 1 of 5

Being the first major Adobe event that I’ve attended I was not quite sure of what to expect. However, the surprises were to be all mine.

Arriving at the Sheraton after walking up from the Quay I found myself a little disconcerted at the number of ‘suits’ in attendance, the place seemed to be well stocked with the high end of town. With not a familiar face to be found, I grabbed a coffee, checked my mail and waited in the palatial surrounds of the Conference area.

I’d barely finished a coffee when Andy Sommer (Communications Manager for Australia and New Zealand) came up and introduced himself. We briefly discussed some of the glitch areas for IT in the public system and then he called across Jon Perara, (Vice President Adobe Education) who was crossing the floor nearby, and I had the pleasure of a brief talk with Jon before they both had to move on to prepare for other things.

Once inside the conference room it was obvious that the numbers were above initial expectations, very squeezy and cozy.

After an initial overview by the Peter McAlpine,MC for the day, Jon Perara spoke at length on a range of developments with technology in education.

Transformation of the Pedagogical Paradigm

The introductory push was provided via a video promoting a new tablet device that the government of India was distributing to schools at around $50 per unit. I found myself a bit dubious about the claims that it could do “everything a computer can do” given that it was contextualized within the confines of being able to connect to the Internet and handle email, and whilst the screenshots clearly indicated that it had quite a few apps on it, none of their functionality was mentioned. Nice….but I’ll stick with my iPad.

Perara is an impressive speaker. Obviously well prepared, knowledgeable, intelligent and articulate, he fluently and often humorously, addressed a range of developments and concerns around IT in education. What came out of it for me was the lack of preparedness there is here in the Australia educational arena to harness the diverse advantages afforded by the obvious onslaught of portable devices into daily usage. Perara pointed to stats demonstrating that over twice as many portable devices had shipped as opposed to personal computers this year and that students no longer saw computers as their primary device.

However the elephant in the room was the obvious lack of uniformity on policy, re- mobile devices in schools and districts in the US and the somewhat archaic approach to their access and use in Australia, particularly here in NSW under DEC policy. (This is my reading based on posts across a range of educational forums)

STEM vs STEAM

Perara went on to discuss the advantages offered to students by integrating mobile technologies in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) schools in the US. Although not an unfamiliar dialogue for me, I found myself musing on a similiar thematic posed by educators in the US, viz,. that there’s no STEAM in the STEM education model. Given that in a recent survey in the US, 80% of students cited creativity as a core competency, why aren’t the Arts included in the STEM model?

As an Art, Photography and Design teacher I find it easy for my students to understand the significance of creative thinking; it’s importance as a key contributor to social wellbeing, technological / scientific innovation and as the foundation for culture (Art, Music, Literature, Education etc.) How is it that the people who wield influence (Politicians, Legislators, Policy makers etc.), don’t get it?

Getting sidetracked? There’s a chance…

Back to the roundup. (I’m trawling 7 pages of unedited notes here) ..Perara went on to discuss a number of key trends including the global nature of work, the use of Social Media, Cloud based technologies and Touch devices. He spoke briefly about the work of “taking it global”, a student based initiative that used geo-technology to track deforestation, and the impact this was having on perception and policy.

Mention was made, that by 2016, 30% of Americans will own tablet devices and by 2015 60% of university data would be ‘Cloud’ driven. In relation to this, it was touted that Tablet and Mobile devices are identified as the ideal means to expose personal, corporate and design based creative activity to a wider audience. I can buy this, personally, as there are a significant number of publications and applications that I would never had looked at, subscribed to, been exposed to or used if I had not owned a tablet and/or mobile device. So for me there’s merit in exploring these avenues as enrichment.

The remaining part of the presentation dipped in and out of notions of ‘self service IT”. Apps such as ’LIveBInders’ , OnLive desktop, Adobe Edge, Acrobat Professional, Ideaopolis, Adobe Kuler, Adobe Collage and web based services such as ‘Edmodo’ (which now incorporates ‘Google Docs integration, and the recently launched Edmodo Platform and API) featured along with ‘FlavoursMe” (an online interface that allows you to organize display content from 35 or so services into one online presence).

A light was shone briefly on the possibilities offered by Cloud based rendering. Cloud based rendering is obviously a hot issue, but one that that still leaves me a little cold. Whilst nice for professionals and small studios, most schools would find themselves struggling with bandwidth issues where rendering video content was concerned. It also begs the question, what do you really need it for? If you are working in Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, InDesign, Soundbooth, LIghtroom, Dreamweaver, Audition, etc. why would you need to step outside the capability of you desktop or laptop to render out work produced in these apps. After Effects and Premiere Pro I can understand, but if you have a huge project wouldn’t you outsource a render farm or set up your school network to act as one? I’m not sure that I buy the idea.

An initiative that did fascinate me was one run by Globaloria……@ http://www.globaloria.org/, a US company working with disadvantaged schools and students who have never touched a computer.  They were training students to use Flash Technology with a view to providing students with a background for using Flash with high-end graphics as demonstrated in recent developments with the “Unreal” gaming engine.

And so ends the first tag of the day. The remaining posts on this will go to a new site. The URL for which I’ll post later if anyone wants to follow the rest of the story.

What I did walk away with after Jon had spoken was the sense of a real need to push the awareness of the Adobe Education Community out to Australian teachers. There is very little content on the site relevant to curriculum here in Australia and no doubt anything posted by Australian teachers would struggle to find relevance in the US or Canada. It would be nice to see Adobe plug this with the DEC. I’ll certainly be working from my end to get the message out there.

 

10:51 PM Permalink
March 6, 2012

Worth vs. Work Transforming People and Organizations for The Knowledge Economy

Labour, as its name would suggest, has shouldered its own burden through the ages. Elevating its noblesse or reducing its worth has pitted politicians, social engineers, economists, Marxist theoreticians and capitalists in a titanic ideological struggle that has resulted in labour being commoditised and reduced to the lowest common denominator. Clearly—the dominant western view enjoys a pan global embrace—putting labour, as we once knew and loved it, squarely at the bottom of the Darwinian food chain.

It stands to reason that value or worth inheres in something other than the proverbial “sweat” of our brows. Value now accretes around our ability to build and leverage connectivity and the accumulated  social capital that is measured not in dollars and cents, rather in clicks and likes. Social platforms provide us the ability to form a vast and persistent wake or  train of links to a constituency of people who maintain an ongoing interest in us and provide us with a basis of worth in the emerging economy. The prudent investor seeking to increase his or her “worth”  in this environment, then, would be wise to invest in being highly social and joining the conversation around the water cooler.

There are many, and I would include myself in the many, who stubbornly cling to a sentimental notion of “work” and who view the “Social Thing” as a waste of both time and money (two very familiar friends from the old paradigm of work). This group sees internet use as a form of play at its best and distraction at its worst. We fail to see “traditional” value in it and many of us in law, finance, markets, advertizing, education struggle to wrestle this round peg into the very square hole we created for ourselves over the years.

Walter Ong asserted that the wired generation would enter into what he termed “Secondary Orality” Where being interconnected to the degree that we are forces us to be highly participatory and involved rather than isolated and detached. If you consider traditional organizational schemas pertaining to work, it was mechanistic and hierarchically and linearly structured with each cog doing a very specific job (valued in years of experience and levels of education) performed in relative isolation. It was the age of specialization.

We must then ask, what are the competencies for thriving in this new economy? Learning the Art of Conversation seems to be a crucial one. Connecting and conversing through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and WIKIs and the like are a good start. Knowledge in this arena seems less proprietary and more of a multi-valent narrative much like going around a campfire circle improvising the lyrics as we move from one camper to the next. For this to work well you need to develop expert listening skills so that you can take what is offered to you, add to it, and pass it on—classic IMPROV theatre techniques that can be gleaned from the works of Sages such as Viola Spolin or Keith Johnstone. A good conversationalist needs to be a generalist so that you can engage with people on their own turf and terms. A good generalist should, naturally, be willing to assume a variety of roles. This ability to switch roles not only confers an adaptive advantage on the individual and the entities that they provide worth to it also helps to build a deep sense of empathy for others in similar situations—especially when you assume new and unfamiliar responsibilities—you understand firsthand what it is like to walk a mile in the novice’s shoes and gain an experience at a grassroots level that older, structured organizational forms cannot  accommodate.

While most organizations recognize the sea changes that are washing over and around us, few have a clear vision of what they need to do in order to engineer a successful transformation that can effectively leverage the emerging paradigms of value. Part of the problem is the inability to wean the organization from traditional rubrics of valuation and organization. Most consider integration as being a scheme aimed at embedding a new technology into an existing structure with the least amount of disruption. The irony is that it is the disruptive aspect of these technologies that should be leveraged NOT mitigated! Often in these circumstances the irritation caused by the “integration” is grudgingly tolerated by decree. The points of contact in the organization are not in alignment with the natural tendencies of the technologies adopted and they often fail or fail to live up to unrealistic expectations.

Few storied organizations are flexible enough in their thinking to consider that a radical restructuring of the org chart is necessary in order to allow these technologies to revolutionize the way they do things. The real innovation, interestingly enough, is in the capacity to consider the sweeping cultural, organizational and economic changes that might be required—the technology simply acts as an accelerant.

I have been working for approximately 8 years on driving cultural change vis-a-vis technology in an applied education context and have encountered the tensions between maintaining the status quo and driving innovation. I can assure you that simply acquiring the latest greatest technology simply does not work without exporing new forms of organization that reflect the inherent tendencies of these technologies and the environments that they help to shape.

I have attached a dossier of illustrated PDFs that detail some aspects of the knowledge and media ecosystem, the competencies and relations between people working in these environments as well as a series of snapshots detailing moves that I have been making away from linear, factory models of organizational efficiency toward models that are more organic, self organizing, agile  and adaptive in order to facilitate RISK-based learning (Rapid Integration of Skills and Knowledge) and effective engagement with emerging technologies and environments.

knowledge_economy_package

3:14 AM Permalink
December 28, 2011

Introduction and ponderings on James’ Tar Pit

Hello James et al.  A very interesting and thought provoking commentary on our ever changing quest for knowledge, albeit Canadian.  I suspect that most teachers in western countries feel much the same. I pondered responding directly to your Tar Pit piece James but thought that an introduction was in order.

Before commenting, I would like to first introduce myself, mainly to contextualise my response.

My name is Deb Whittington and I am a Lecturer in vocational studies in the Printing & Graphic Arts Training Package at Central Institute of Technology in Western Australia.  Training Packages have been created for all core industry groups at a National level in Australia in a partnership between Learning Providers, Industry and the Federal Government, and constitute minimum knowledge and skills required by industry.

They are at once both simpler and harder than traditional curriculum, and contain units of competence, each with their own elements of competence with criteria.  Students are assessed both on-the-job and/or in a simulated workplace, as competent or not yet competent.  There is no pass mark.  Pure and simple – you can either do it, or you can’t.  You either have the knowledge, or you don’t.  The acquisition of knowledge, understanding and competence is overseen by workplace trainers and assessors with significant, high level experience and knowledge.  I occupy that position with tenure.

Training Packages do not replace traditional high school, though many schools are now opting to deliver simulated workplace training and assessment as a vocational alternative to traditional, academic studies.

I must first say that I am by no means a traditional academic!

People talk about life long learning.  I have been blessed with a moderately high intellect, and have been greedily learning all that I could on subjects that have fascinated me since I was 3 years old.  I am now 57 and I still feel that I am in a lolly shop full of knowledge and there is not enough time to explore and learn all that I would like.  But like many young people today, I need a better reason to learn than that it is “what is required”.

I’m fascinated by Jungian type theory and it’s role as a potential tool to understanding and nurturing aptitude and talent, with particular regard to left-brain/right-brain balance skills such as graphic technologies.  In terms of MBTI and Keirsey’s Temperament Theory, my own preferences are towards INTP with balanced I/E, moderate preferences for T over F and P over J, and very strong preferences for N over S.  I have no S preferences on testing.

With your indulgence I will later post some of my observations, hypotheses and discussions over the past 10 years relating to learning, technologies, design and type (as in typology) preferences.  I believe there are some very interesting correlations between the epidemic, modern diagnosis of AD/HD and Dyslexia, and aptitude for learning, technology and creativity.  This has been supported in discussion with a number of learning gurus.

In response to your piece James, there is a plethora of information available as a result of the technologies of today, BUT I believe our role as educators and trainers is to provide guidance through that minefield of often insufficient or inaccurate information, to teach students to question everything, have faith in themselves, to have the joy of curiosity (or as noted Nobel physicist, Richard Feynman’s book suggests – “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”), and to synthesise and provide context for their learning rather than pursue the old rote learning those of my age were often subjected to at school.  We need to teach them to make informed decisions from a sound understanding.

At the beginning of each semester I ask my students who is there for the piece of paper, and who is there for the knowledge and understanding.  Interestingly, to me at least, those who say they want the piece of paper, frequently do not achieve it.  Those, however, who aspire to the knowledge and understanding, are often their own worst taskmasters, and rarely fail at achieving the piece of paper.

We must return I believe to where knowledge and understanding, and provision of sound reason for methodology, are again the prime target of we educators and trainers.  The other will follow.

10:22 AM Permalink
December 9, 2011

Connecting with Teachers

A few weeks ago one of our teachers I had trained came up to me at a science curriculum meeting and asked if there was any training planned for Adobe Connect Pro.  She had been in one of my training courses over a year ago and quickly became one of our most avid users.  Her IB class met for reviews before tests during after school hours and often collaborated with teachers and classes at other schools around the country.  She had colleagues at Suncoast High School (one of the top public high schools in the country) that were interested in learning how to do the great things she did with her classes.

Participants with cams test the system.

Participants with cams test the system.

I told her I would create one and invite other schools and departments that had expressed interest.  Within a couple weeks I had a class of 17 coming from diverse backgrounds and needs.  My class is run online through our Moodle installation, but the actually training is done completely through Adobe Connect Pro.  Participants log into the system and I use the desktop share to immerse them in the program as they learn about it.  It increases their comfort level immediately when they see how easy it is to get started.

Before our third class an IB Economics teacher in the course called me with some questions about Connect.  As we talked, she expressed that she wasn’t sure how she might use it in her class.  I told her about my favorite use, bringing guest speakers into the class via Connect.  We talked about contacts she had and found that a friend of hers works in the Federal Reserve.    Suddenly, the lights went on in her head and the excitement in her voice told me that her class would be doing many field trips through Adobe Connect Pro.  Recording a session like that can make the experience available for other classes and schools any where in the world.

A little over a week ago I was doing a short presentation about Adobe Connect Pro at another local high school.  I mentioned the free app for Connect and within minutes several teachers were raising their IOS and Android phones in the air showing the online meeting.  They were amazed that students that were out of school for extended illness or attending events could still participate in class with nothing more than a smartphone.

While Adobe has so many great products, I really feel that Connect Pro is the best educational tool in their arsenal.  With it you can demonstrate any program as we often do with our AEL meetings.  You can bring in guests to speak from any where in the world and excite students about topics with collaborative projects.  Adobe has also made some very great pricing structures for K-12, making it a bargain in tough economic times.

5:50 PM Permalink
October 28, 2011

Content and the Malcontent: A Reflection On the State of Educational Publishing in Canada

A colleague of mine raised the issue of Cartels in relation to discussions we were having on the state of Educational Publishing in Canada and it caused me to reflect deeper on the issue. I would like to share my thoughts on the subject.

Cartel culture runs deep in corporate Canada. Publishers, Media Consortia, Telcoms and, abominably, Beer Producers being the most culpable. Unfortunately, this has stifled innovation because the bottom line for any Cartel is predicated on maintaining the status quo. Recent announcements on a collaboration between Pearson Publishing and Google may signal a change in the wind, however, I remain cautiously skeptical and I cannot help but feel that it might be nothing more than a savvy co-branding exercise.

Canadian publishers have had an entitlement to the wallets of our students and they have been soundly rebuffed by them over the last 10 years in their flight from the bookstores. From the announcement alluded to earlier, it would seem that publishers would like to enjoy the same level of control over the emerging landscape. Why else would one approach the emperor of the internet (Google)? It is a truism to say that the net ecosystem by its nature is infinitely complex, decentralized and  democratic and it will be curious to see how a Cartel mixed with a virtual monopoly can provide a product or service that resonates with the vox pop of the wired generation.

While educatonal publishers still have an important role to play in the media ecosystem they need to eat  humble pie in my estimation. Something inside me tells me that this meeting between Google and Pearson is like lavalife for publishers. Google is the Yenta who is powerful enough to force an arranged marriage that we scholars and our students didn’t necessarily ask for or want.  Using Google in this manner avoids the messy business of having to engage with the very audience who has rejected your offer of marriage in the first place! The scene reminds me of a titled aristocrat desperately seeking a hasty marriage to a well endowed bride in order to shore up his sagging fortunes.

For the less cynical, perhaps, the threat of extinction has caused them to consider what is at stake and they have listened to a constituency that they have largely ignored in the past. The publishers in Canada need to understand the new ecosystem into which they have been unwittingly mired in—an ecosystem where the “consumer” has a significantly different set of attributes and a demonstrably greater degree of power to shape and even create the very content they consume—it is an exquisite act of self-cannibalism. One might say that we are at the dawn of a renaissance in vanity publishing—my blogging activity, for example. And this is where publishers might actually be able to add value in ensuring that vainglory does not trump quality of content. Other factors in the media ecology are also worthy of consideration and may present opportunities for the hungry publisher. They should avoid the lure of trying to create a leviathan content technopoly (I suspect this is why Google is involved) and work on building value for their audiences. I get the sense that they wish to use these technologies to simply lock down and secure a distribution channel for their content and continue with the status quo. The challenges are much greater and it hinges on technology.

Technology is a thread that is ubiquitous in all disciplines and continues to be an invasive (gaining access into areas traditionally not enabled with technology) and disruptive species that causes social and economic turbulence or “disruption”. There is no “settling” of these turbid waters—no period of calm where we can establish the lay of the land and start utilizing it in some meaningful way. By the time we think we comprehend it, it has morphed into something else. This means that we must come to terms with the fact that there are no “set pieces” in education and that this means a significantly lower ROI on assets generated and a much shorter window in which to capitalize on any generated content and it is at “content” and its authorship/ownership where I think the publishers are, unfortunately, nostalgic.

We no longer live in an age where an artefact or content is the thing valued, rather, value inheres in the ability to connect, stay connected and maintain and explore the dynamics of a relationship (ie. Facebook). Content is a by-product of these relationships but the value to the participants lies not so much in what is produced but in the relationships themselves. At the root of internet content generation on social networks is a fundamental human need to instantiate our being in vis-a-vis the “other”. Nowhere in history is it more true than the internet age. Only pre-literate cultures enjoyed such a degree of radical interconnectedness.

If publishers could grasp the fact that their future lies not in securing and indenturing content rather, as brokers of deep and transformative relationships, they may actually be able to bring significant value to the current ecosystem, otherwise they are doomed to be horse traders in the age of the automobile. As content producers they have failed to deliver in terms of price, usability and timeliness. If every domain of human activity is technologically enabled in some way it stands to reason that the diffusion cycles of these technologies will be fairly aggressive and cause knowledge to obsolesce in 12-28 month cycles. Teaching and Learning and Educational Publishing, like it or not, are inextricably linked to the innovation cycle and demand agility in our adaptation to the new ecological niches they create. This is an incredibly demanding task and I don’t believe that traditional publishing workflows and value chains can support this. We need to explore adaptation strategies that engender collective co-authorship and collaboration even highly fragmented forms of  micro-monetization (App Store comes to mind) that allows everyone to participate in a YouTube style economy. The traditional “customer” has a significant role to play in the generation and shaping of content in this new economy with a larger share in both the benefits and the responsibilities. Facilitating this process, with a view to encouraging and promoting excellence is, to my mind,  the new publishing paradigm.

Facebook has categorically proven the value of relation over content and that the sense of authorship has morphed into a domain of co-creation and collaboration. Our students should actually be participating in building learning domain architecture, experiences and content. Not being considered as the bottom of a vertical food chain!

I have been working for the past 8 years on building a “Knowledge Garden” This project at GBC School of Design (an experimental lab in developing crowd-sourced approaches to educational content creation, curation and distribution) has and will continue to support  experimentation in new paradigms of engagement and I would be very keen to develop a partnership with an interested publisher to share in the co-creation of new learning methods from the ground up. We could certainly benefit from their expertise in content management and distribution and we could show them how this can be transformed into something new and meaningful for the wired generation.

2:42 PM Permalink
March 17, 2011

Easy broadcasting from schools using Connect

Chick Cam Live LogoNormally a school’s connection with the wider world via the internet is primarily a receive model – great volumes of information demanding a faster internet connection with all of the associated filtering issues this brings. Sometimes a school will want to reverse that and start to broadcast - sometimes not to broadcast to the whole world, but to its own students, staff and the wider school community. My first experience of this came via something we called PuppyCam – a primary school teacher had a dog which was due to have a litter of puppies and she wanted the pupils in school to be able to see them in class. All that was required was a laptop near the litter, a webcam to peek over the edge of their box and a connection to our Buckinghamshire Adobe Connect server, and we were in business. A blog post more than three years old (slightly younger than the puppies in question) gives a little more information on PuppyCam…

Incubator

This spring a similar situation occurred in a school that didn’t take the initiative and ask – but on learning about the surprise Spring project for Year 2 pupils (aged 6-7) it seemed to me that our Connect server was again the answer. The Spring project was a delivery of an incubator with eggs in it – eggs which would shortly hatch into chicks, which would remain in the classroom for two weeks in total. The suggestion of broadcasting the incubator via Connect so that the pupils could watch them hatch in case the chicks decided to arrive outside school hours was taken up by the school, but there was a problem: no webcam. A cursory glance around the classroom showed an Avermedia Visualiser (document camera) which turned out to communicate just fine with Flash Player, and could therefore be used as the camera via which any activitiy in the incubator could be broadcast. Continue reading…

10:03 AM Permalink
February 23, 2011

Adobe Forms Central

We all know the implications of illiteracy as students move into the workforce. Too many students cannot write a coherent paragraph or comprehend basic reading passages. Students who have demonstrated grade level literacy skills have recently produced formal essays that consist of texting-gibberish infused with a few multisyllabic words that they got from a quick word search. You know all ofthis because the battle over reading and writing is fought in every classroom, every day.

I pursue literacy with zeal in my graphic design, art, and yearbook classes. Students read and write two times per week about every aspect of art and design that is relevant to their field of study . Years ago, I created reading passages with InDesign and printed them off for students to finish in class. I added photographs, diagrams and illustrations to reading/writing worksheets to make content comprehensible for English learners, but I had to print them out in B&W. Occasionally I would print out worksheets in color and laminate them so that they could be used for following semesters.

I create lessons with Captivate but I wanted an easier solution to create successful reading/writing lessons. In March 2010 I started the move to computer-based literacy activities. I now create interactive .pdfs that make it possible for students to engage with lessons that reach all levels of literacy. But what about the dilemma of collecting, reading, grading and giving feedback on all of those scribbled sheets of paper? I attempted to use Acrobat Forms with my lessons, but had difficulty doing so because of cyber blocks from the IT department. Then, I found GoogleDocs and used Acrobat worksheets with a link to online Google Forms.

As a solid advocate of Adobe products, I kept my use of Google Docs/Forms quiet hoping for an Adobe solution and it is here: Adobe Forms Central. It integrates perfectly with the lessons that I create.

  • More engaging lessons. No more predictable B&W paper worksheets.
  • Less time reading essays. I don’t have to lug home piles of papers with illegible handwriting
  • Better teacher feedback. Students don’t have to try and read my scribbled, hasty “red-ink” corrections and comments

For each lesson, I develop an InDesign document that is loaded with audio, video, images, captions, and diagrams. The finished interactive .pdf file has links to Adobe Forms that (unlike Google Forms) have the same .pdf images to further aid understanding. I make the .pdfs available online for students to download. ELL students can translate the interactive .pdfs and more easily capture the gist of the lesson from the visuals ; I can sort the students’ answers and essays (for easier grade input); and using Acrobat, I can convert the answers to a .pdf file , mark them up, and “stamp” grades on each essay (How to use Acrobat Custom Stamps: http://www.adobe.com/designcenter/acrobat/articles/acr8at_stamptools.html).

But the best news is: students’ are writing more than they were before. Their essays are longer and the writing has improved because the feedback they get is more consistent and thorough than the old “red pen” approach. At first I thought it was the novelty of the new approach, but as this school year progresses, I am finding that 21st century student learning and engagement happens best when students use the tools they’re excited about.

3:08 AM Permalink