The first day of the PCTHE

We must have been given the worst teaching room in the University (Gibbs 2.15). It was on the edge of a building site with fork lifts reversing all morning. The room was the only unrefurbished one on this floor of the building. The seating was really poor quality: ripped seats, gum on the floor. There was no wireless coverage or 3G in the room (some might consider this a positive feature?). Roy is looking into finding a different room for Wednesday.

But that was not the whole story. The participants were a buzzy group: very little evidence of reluctant participation and a real willingness to talk with each other.

Frances showed Mike Wesch’s excellent video, A vision of students today. This stimulated discussion: what are we preparing learners for? This opened up a discussion of transferable outcomes or “graduate competencies”: team working, communication, academic literacy and so on. Frances also referred to John Biggs, one of the theorists that we draw on. Biggs characterised the “academic” and the “non-academic” learner (deep and surface) and advocated constructive alignment as a means of creating or inducing the behaviours of the more academic student in the less academically inclined. Our challenge is as much how to involve less academic learners as it is to stimulate and challenge the more academically inclined. This reminds me of a discussion I recently had with a participant on a previous cohort whose background was from an ancient university in another country. Her observation was that Brookes students, compared to those she was used to, were less well motivated. I am cautious of such generalisations, but I do expect that we experience much greater diversity in all dimensions of learner difference here than in some other places; but, I also expect there are places where the diversity is even greater. This is a factor of British Higher education policy over the past 15 years or so. The great benefits of widening participation are matched with new challenges for teachers.

The VLE introduction session took place in a brand new pooled computer room. The room was locked when I arrived 15 minutes early to get set up. There was no projector. It appeared as if the computers had never been turned on. All took 15 minutes to boot while building the registry, updating applications and so on. at least five computers would not run at all. At least five others would not launch applications from the desktop – though they did run from the “Start menu”. These are the things sent to try us. But again, the participants this year are a very tolerant group. They coped probably better than me!

I wonder, indeed, if this is the last time we need to run this session in this way? Each year I observe that the participants are more and more computer literate. At least half the problems, if not more, were due to the Brookes LAN and the pooled room: the computers not booting correctly and logging into the Brookes network caused more difficulty than interacting with the applications. Even people who had never used the VLE were able to find their way around and use the forums. Categorically, only the use of the Wiki was problematic, and some of those problems were only down to the fact that not only our group of 30 people were accessing. Greg observed that at the same time across the university over 500 people were engaged in similar  sessions. The load will be balanced by next week. Though the Wiki was a challenge for some to use, we probably picked the worst time and the worst place and the worst way to address the challenges.

The iPad – if only

I am struggling with the iPad. I keep wanting it to be a computer, but it insists that it is a consumer electronic device. What I find sad is that it probably could be a great computer, if only.

There are so many if onlys about it that I am wondering, why bother?

If only it had proper operating system utilities, like a file manager so I could find and delete that ePub file I downloaded but couldn’t open in iBooks.

If only iBooks wasn’t tied to only one store. Vertical integration really galls me. I don’t want to have multiple reader applications to allow me to shop or download from other sites.

If only … No, It is just plain mean that it doesn’t support embedded Flash.

If only Safari allowed tabbed browsing. OK, I can buy another browser (and did) but if only I could set it as my default browser.

If only Safari let me download PDFs for viewing off line. The other browser does. There are good reasons to like the machine. The mail client works nicely with my Gmail accounts. The soft keyboard and spell checker is pretty good. But, why not give it one more row and make a proper qwerty keyboard with shift key access to numbers and punctuation? The form factor is interesting. It is a much better reader than my phone. But my phone in some ways may be a better computer.

From community folksonomy to epistemology in a few clicks via @psychemedia http://bit.ly/a9aETq #altc2010

Possibly the most useful post (ever?), showing how using Twitter can delineate communities of interest and lead from ephemeral and transitory utterances to more stable representations of (still dynamic) useful knowledge http://bit.ly/a9aETqIt does, of course depend on people using conventions (Twitter hashtags) consistently. The rebels at ALT-C who resented the waste of three characters and insisted on tagging #alt10 instead of #altc2010 won’t be picked up in these algorithms. No matter how otherwise influential, their influence in these searches would only be felt through their reflection in the interests of those they connect to.

I think there may be some limitations on the depth of search for new hashtags, or the pipe needs to be rewired. I would have expected the tag #falt10 to have appeared several times.

Lecture capture and participatory media for education: a talk for eL@B

I suppose there comes a tolerance of living with a degree of chaos. Knowledge is quite loosely coupled, I find.The page I showed with the links came originally from a talk I did at the November eLearning at Brookes (eL@B) meeting on Participatory Media for teaching in Higher Education. The link to the slightly updated mindmap, which I showed in the class is here, where everyone should be able to reach it, should they care (click on “outline view” – lower left – to get the page with the links):

http://www.xmind.net/share/_embed/georgeroberts/xmind-198337/

I’ll put the slides up on the VLE for the class. They are already publicly available on SlideShare:

http://www.slideshare.net/georgeroberts

The talk is on the Brookes Wiki, links are on the page (but it is behind an annoying wall):
https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/elab/current+UK+projects+on+lecture+capture

There is a link to a video of the talk, here (still behind a wall):
https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/elab/eLaB+20+November+2009

Maybe we’ll get some of these walls lowered.

A week with an Android – well worth it.

I got an HTC “Hero” on 3 Mobile a week ago (early Christmas pressie from my beloved) and I am very pleased. There have been a few teething glitches and a few things I might do differently, but – well – wow!

I have had Ericssons for more than 10 years so switching to a different platform was a small concern. I wanted a smart phone but not an iPhone (http://bit.ly/6qMlcA and http://bit.ly/5I7uQV )

The biggest problem has been the need to adopt fully the Google contacts and calendar back end. And, these are not straight forward.

Continue reading “A week with an Android – well worth it.”

If the Twitterverse isn’t fed from outside, it is just an echo chamber #pcthe

The question of whether you can rely on Twitter to filter your reading is problematic. Yes following 8,000 people (or however many) will probably serve to satisfy most information needs. I am sure that by some number (10? 100? 1000?) a Twitter follower will be deep into a long tail of duplication. The other 40,000,000 people who tweet just aren’t relevant to them. The number of sources may be large, but it is finite. My reading list is not in any sense unique or even, compared to serious bloggers (@Downes springs to mind) or Twits really wide. My feed reader (BlogBridge http://www.blogbridge.com/ ) is currently consuming 47 feeds, none particularly odd-ball, which together syndicate about 800 articles/day. I scan most of these, probably read the slug from about a quarter and click through to maybe 20 or 30 articles. I am no serious newshound. I am adding about 2 or 3 feeds a week: feeds I find from the ones I follow already, feeds I find from following my Twitterverse and feeds from things I hear about in other conversations, conferences, reading student essays, reviewing articles, subscribing to email lists, etc. Broadly and with some overlap my feeds are Project-related, Ed Tech-related, Tech-related, Ed Policy-related, Policy & Politics-related, Environmental activism-related, Global Justice-related. Most are from sources and people not known personally to me. Some are blogs of my RL friends. Some of my RL friends are blogospheric authorities. Some are just folk who are read by me, their kids and cats. Even within my little list of feeds there is a lot of echo. Maybe the whole world is just an echo chamber. Maybe we do only listen to what we want to listen to and then repeat it. Maybe I am deluded to think that if I find stuff out outside of Twitter (which has probably been brought into Twitter somewhere by someone before me) and bring it in that I have something of more value than if I only followed up items from people I follow on Twitter (a paltry 159 people) and retweet or bookmark my interests. For me the value of Twitter is the community, not just the information. Twitter is an important professional tool, but it is also a social tool. It is an evening stroll, my fag break, a pub, my sounding board. It helps me to get a sense of the relevance of some of my activity outside Twitter. Even if that activity may be pursued by someone else inside Twitter I value it differently. A quick scan of the people I follow suggests that by and large they are people like me. They have a couple of hundred followers and follow about double the number that follow them. They follow a few key professional celebrities. But, and here is the value for me, they all give the impression of thinking for themselves about things that matter to me and they widen my horizons. They show me a world beyond their own Twittersphere. They show me the world is not just the Old Dog and Duck. The best thing about Twitter is that it gets me out of Twitter, not that it makes it possible for me to stay in.

US Government Cloud Computing strategy; where is the UK in this respect? #ssbr

The Federal Government will transform its Information Technology Infrastructure by virtualizing data centers, consolidating data centers and operations, and ultimately adopting a cloud-computing business model.

This article reports a Booz Allen Hamilton report on the cost model being used to drive US Govt data policies towards the adoption of “cloud computing” platforms. They offer three scenarios: Public Cloud, Hybrid Cloud and Private Cloud (as the US military is doing, see http://rworld2.brookesblogs.net/2009/10/07/us-military-cloud-computing-platform-via-rww/). Where is the UK is this respect? More locally, where is the UK HE sector?

Wi-Fi Direct: a step towards the mesh? via Slashdot

Wi-Fi Direct will connect at existing Wi-Fi speeds– up to 250 mbps. Wi-Fi Direct devices will also be able to broadcast their availability and seek out other Wi-Fi Direct devices.

Some of you might have heard me witter on about widely distributed databases (e.g. bit torrent) and mesh networks (e.g. OLPC). I made a few comments here: http://my-world.typepad.com/rworld/2007/10/more-on-the-mes.html

This post suggests that developments facilitating such a network are continuing. Yes, it may be a long way off but eventually there will be no telcos as we know them: no ISPs. We need to be thinking past the centralised data centres to the far edge: you and me and our various devices. Security will be a big problem: identity, access, spam and fraud. Curation will be a problem. But, if we don’t get washed away in a big glacial melt down (http://www.opendemocracy.net/article/the-coming-of-a-new-climate), one day there will be one big network.

Mail lists and more open social software

Chris Rust sent me a link. He said:

An Innocuous list you might want to give to the new staff course? Even better, you might get them to discuss adding their own?! Best wishes Chris

————————— Original Message —————————-
Subject: TP Msg. #961 The Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes
From:    “Rick Reis” [deleted]
Date:    Tue, September 1, 2009 12:56 am
To:      tomorrows-professor@mailman.stanford.edu
————————————————————————–

What might he mean adding their own?

Adding to this list? If it is an innocuous list why bother? Or, adding their own list? That might be more interesting. Could we use a mail list for discussion of our subject matters? In the past we have used the discussion forums on the VLE.

Some groups of tutors and participants have chosen from time to time to minimise their use of the VLE forums. Others have made good use of them and pushed the genre to new limits.

Are maillists the way we want to communicate?

Continue reading “Mail lists and more open social software”

New lecturer’s work blog

There is a tradition of keeping “work blogs”. Scott Wilson’s workblog is a touchstone for this kind of online identity and presence. Scott writes a lot on identity and presence and education (and here and here). This is written in my workblog. I feed stuff into here from my Posterous account. I use Posterous to feed my other work Blog, Developing Themes for the JISC Institutional Innovation Programme support, synthesis and benefits realisation project.

If any new Lecturer at Brookes wants a work blog on our WordPress MU development platform or a wiki space on our in-house Confluence server. Just give me a shout.

groberts@brookes.ac.uk