Thursday, October 26, 2006

Welcome to the News at Seven!

Quick one today (as I finish off an essay!)...

News at Seven is a neat way to present RSS news feeds audiovisually, which can also link to bloggers comments (in this example at least). This is a project from InfoLab, Northwestern University in the US.

And for learning? How about a student "newspaper" or student project updates, or learning activities in the workplace, as well as local community updates, beamed via internet and pulled down by users to their computers or mobile devices via RSS? Sounds pretty feasible to me! Could you see this audiovisual type of RSS applying to your teaching context?

This from the News at Seven project website:

News At Seven is a system that automatically generates a virtual news show. Totally autonomous, it collects, parses, edits and organizes news stories and then passes the formatted content to an artificial anchor for presentation. Using the resources present on the web, the system goes beyond the straight text of the news stories to also retrieve relevant images and blogs with commentary on the topics to be presented.

More videos can be found here.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Freire Friday: Censorship, community, control and cat fights

One of the characteristics of oppressive cultural action which is almost never perceived by the dedicated but naive professionals who are involved is the emphasis on the focalized view of problems rather than on seeing them as dimensions of a totality.

-- Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972, p.111).

It was reported in the news earlier this week that YouTube contained numerous recordings from mobile phones of school fights. Adolescence psychologist, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, slammed the service for allowing this type of stuff to be made widely available, citing that children should be protected from this type of voilence on YouTube, to avoid "copycat" behaviours, and that the service should be shut down, or at least blocked to young people by their parents.

Hmmm, sounds similar to the not-so-recent turkey-slapping episode on Big Brother (Australia) which saw two male contestants being booted out of the house for their actions towards a female participant, and parliamentarians, including PM John Howard, calling for the axing of the show.

Leigh Blackall raised the phone recording of school fighting phenomenon in his recent talk at the Global Summit 06, with the point that we are so wrapped up in the pervasiveness of the technology that we aren't seeing the fact that our schools are becoming increasingly dangerous places for our children - and it's the children who are capturing this evidence on behalf of their parents, teachers, prinicipals, members of parliament, social workers, counsellors, police officers, and our many other community support and advocacy networks.

So, what are they doing about it? Daming YouTube and side-stepping the real problems alive in our schools! Where's the critical and considered discussion about what is actually being recorded on these services and shows?

We are accepting of what appears on our TV screens of an evening too - this little beauty was captured from the TV show NCIS - some parallel huh?! It's like saying a gun is a 44 Magnum, not a shotgun and then paying no attention to the consequences of a shooting!

As Carmel Egan reports in The Age, these "trends" illustrate similar issues that are apparent in our society - our TV shows, movies, news, documentaries, YouTubes, Google Videos, BlipTVs, Bloggers, WordPresses, Odeos, and so on... are all representations of Self and Society. We reflect in our everyday the everyday actions and beings we are.

So, if we don't like what we're seeing, don't shoot the messenger - seek out the heart of the problem and make a choice to do something about it!

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Exploring the possibilities of weblogs

Gabcast! On the Move #2

This was an example phonecast to demonstrate both the capabilities of using weblogs with mobile devices and to illustrate the powerful sense of immediacy of the tools and the actions taken in using the tools.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Freire Fridays: leadership through dialogue

The correct method for a revolutionary leadership to employ in the task of liberation is, ... not 'libertarian propaganda'. Nor can leadership merely 'implant' in the oppressed a belief in freedom, thus thinking to win their trust. The correct method lies in dialogue.

- Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1971, p.42

Even the tiniest revolution makes a difference. It's communicating them for the benefit of others that's the challenge, as I see it. You may have seen many leadership styles in your time, across a number of institutions. In today's climate of economic 'rationalisation', we have seen some forms of leadership being brought into question by a range of stakeholders, especially in our education systems.

What is a good leader to you? I favour the leader who supports her staff in the background, who practices humility in the face of myriad pressures, and who has a strong sense of self to back not only her team but her own ways of doing and being; all the while sustaining an ongoing conversation with those she meets. How is dialogue a key factor for good leadership then?

Just some loose thoughts on this summery Friday evening...! :o)

Image by chook poo

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

WOW - art on your skin

WOW program
Originally uploaded by margoc.
I joined Lynsey for WOW, a spectacularly festive feast of fabric, faces, frenetic dancing feats and fancy facards! (Fffffhew!)

If you haven't yet travelled to New Zealand, Wellington especially, then this is the best excuse for a trip, if you ever needed one! I can't recommend this cultural event enough! :o)

We were even warmed up to the show by a WOW street parade and 12-foot-tall dancing butterflies!

This is a truly international event and a great cultural arts drawcard for NZ. Hats off to all involved, especially the amazingly talented designers - what vision!

Haiku, mobile learning and the practice of writing

"Mmmm, you could create a form of mobile-audio Haiku though," continued that voice in my head.

Long conversations
beside blooming irises -
joys of life on the road
Matsuo Basho

Seeking - Walking the streets (Sept 26th, 2006)

Marica at Seeking reflects on the use of audioblogging, after my spending time in Wellington with her and her colleagues at the Open Polytechnic of NZ. I was particularly drawn to her thoughts about the Haiku and how a short piece of writing can convey much (in a similar way to an image that speaks a thousand words I suppose).

The haiku is a great metaphor for mobile learning, in that much is captured in a small 'space'. I have set up a Winksite called Mobile Explorations (for access via your mobile device, go to and enter site ID # 17112) to capture these smaller moments that can be viewed and interacted with via a mobile device. Still in 'testing' phase, I have added a couple of haikus to the Zine, titled 'Haiku thinking'. You can add your own haikus via the Guestbook if you wish. Here's how it looks:

How can this be developed as a useful learning venture? Playful jottings and a few meaningful words can capture much of the essence of an experience in the same way images often do. It can enable the writer to develop ways of writing that convey a meaning or sense of an experience, just as we might interpret an image, its meaning, representation and structures, according to our position and frame of mind in time and space. Wu and Bergstraum describe this as the haiku moment:
It seems easiest to liken haiku to a photograph, which captures a moment in time. A pure photograph describes a scene, and this description causes an emotional response in its viewer. There is no caption on the photograph that tells us what emotional response we are to take from it. It is instead a simple moment in time, unencumbered.

Haiku is the same thing. When a butterfly lands upon an open flower, what does the haiku poet take from this? The same thing that his reader will take from it when he describes the moment in verse. But he trusts his reader to sense the same emotion from his accurate description of the scene. He does not need to say "How beautiful!" in reference to the moment, because his words should evoke the correct response in his reader.

I often have jottings and snippets or phrases dotted around my desk on sticky notes, or written messily into notebooks (like my A5 laptop for example!) - even noted quickly in my mobile phone - and these hold meaning for me in ways a well-structured sentence may not.

Thus, from little things big things grow, as they say!

I'll leave you with my try at a haiku:

Live out loud and soft:

Expect a newness within

Greet the world in song.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Blended learning: an RSS metaphor

The only true voyage . . . would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees. ?Marcel Proust

Blended learning -- blended learning -- blended learning?

For so long now we've considered blended learning to be the most useful way to draw together online and face-to-face approaches. We've come to understand (or at least feel comfortable with) blended learning as it draws together people and resources in a range of settings and formats...but, have we really blended learning?

It seems much of our blended learning practices are about modes of delivery and formats of resources (see this example, by Namit Kishore, NIIT). Have we limited our view and potential to be able to really blend or hybridise learning opportunities? Where are the learners?

At the recent eFest conference in New Zealand, Diana Oblinger (Educause) presented a keynote speech about the changing face of learning that included - more than ever - informal learning and increased diversity of learners in increasingly blurred learning settings where work, study and life collide. Oblinger began her presentation with these words:

One student walks across campus listening to an iPod; another is engrossed in text messaging on her cell phone. During class, they're Googling, IMing and playing games?often at the same time. More likely to use the library as a gathering place than a resource, this is the Net Generation. They co-exist beside older students who are juggling work, childcare and eldercare. Do we understand our learners? What do their experiences, attitudes and expectations mean for educational institutions?

Indeed, are we listening to what we are seeing in our learners?

There are recent efforts by some educators to tackle aspects of blended learning, responding with more fluid and open learning designs and spaces for diverse learners' needs, that also value personalised learning approaches. I agree with Oliver and Trigwell (2005) that we need to "radically reconcieve" the phrase, and re-centre the learner as key to a blended learning philosophy, "by exploring change [and patterns of change?] from the perspective of the learner" (p.24).

We need to look at what is being blended and why, and I considered this while listening to Oblinger's keynote at eFest. I think blended learning must involve recognition of

  • multiverses
  • learning spaces (more commentary on learning space design here and here)
  • diverse and differing values of people
  • relinquishing the term 'roles' in favour of a less abstracted notion of being in the world.

Oblinger described a number of learning processes, concepts and settings that speak to a more enlightened view of blended learning. She described projects like the Learning Spaces Project at Denison University, as an illustration of practical aspects of blending learning that move beyond simply delivery considerations. The TLT Group also present some non-traditional ideas about the development of approaches and spaces that enable blended forms of learning. These forms recognise the value of

  • communication and making connections with other people
  • provide basic and necessary infrastructure to allow learning to occur
  • share (increasingly scarce) resources appropriate to the learning taking place
  • encourage learners to interact spontaneously
  • draw on moments of serendipity
  • allow facilitators to pick up on motivations of learners and tailor instruction/guidance as a result
  • space becomes interactive, multi-sited, 'porous' and dynamic.

These days the Internet is our information universe, as Oblinger described it. For many, the Internet has become a personalised learning space; flexible, dynamic, fluid and connected.

(Image by Mobology)

In light of this, I liken a refreshed definition of blended learning to RSS. Stephen Downes (in his eFest keynote) described RSS as a 'mess' of technologies (of which there are a number of variations). We use RSS to 'pull' information and services to us to suit our individual needs and preferences. RSS is a good metaphor (as well as a technical tool) for understanding ways in which learners can pull together threads of learning to create a blended setting in which learning occurs - elements loosely joined. We could very well view learning as a 'pull' activity, dependent on the learner's preferences and needs at the time. A learner can 'RSS' types, formats, contacts (activities, networks, resources), blending their own learning environment.

This recognises the diversity of learning needs, the complexity of opportunities (as well as drawbacks or gaps) faced by learners, and realises the strength of an integrated approach -- all facilitated by the learner (supported by a network of others). What all definitions of blended learning lack, according to Oliver and Trigwell "is an analysis from the perspective of the learner", where the term "'learning' is rightfully returned to the learner" (2005, p.24).

Concluding questions...

As we continue to debate the future(s) of learning, Downes additionally challenges us with the notion of an alternative education system that is publicly funded and open to all, "that could be tapped into by traditional institutions, if they choose". Is it possible it could be something like this?

  • An 'RSS-ed' view where the learner draws together threads/services (metaphorically and technically) to create their own learning space, complete with people, resources and contextualised information?
  • Should we be thinking more about future scenarios that are set to challenge the relevance of our current systems?
  • Do we attempt to eat our current systems from the inside-out OR must we take the party elsewhere?
  • Should our institutions operate more like 'containers' for supporting learning spaces (through provision of infrastructure), motivated more by the learners' needs and less by curriculum?
  • Will there come a day when we can say "ACME Institute works for me?"
  • Will education return to being a (publicly-funded) service supporting people, instead of a business focused on 'user pays' and 'the bottom line'?
  • How do we engage with the tensions of education in a networked society?


Downes, S. (2006) Keynote address, eFest 2006, September 27-29, Wellington, NZ.

Kishore, N. (2002) Blended learning - Fixing the mix, NIIT Technologies.

Oblinger, D. (2006) Keynote address, eFest 2006, September 27-29, Wellington, NZ.

Oliver, M. & Trigwell, K. (2005) Can 'blended learning' be redeemed? E-Learning, 2(1), 17-26.

Images by margoconnell, unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

OLT Conference 2006 : Learning on the Move

Whilst I was in New Zealand last week, my colleague Leonard attended the OLT Conference in Queensland, where he presented our paper, Learner-centric design of digital mobile learning.

We received the Best Paper Award! Thanks to the reviewers and the conference chairs for their support!

Mobile Learning » Learner-Centric Design of Digital Mobile Learning

Other OLT2006 papers can be accessed here. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts about our paper ...

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Brainstorming the interactive podcasting idea

Originally uploaded by mobology.
Alexander Hayes captured a lot of the brainstorming we did about the interactive podcast idea. You can listen to a couple of podcasts we did to simulate how an interactive podcast might work, using Audacity.

At the end of the day I discussed the idea with Marica and Lynsey and lots of questions surfaced, mainly around the idea of rights of the originating 'author' and how some people may or may not be comfortable with the idea of having others 'annotate' their thoughts and writing (or audio) in this way.

These questions appear in the comments of the Flickr photo posted by mobology. The image is of my A5 "laptop" (and was very effective!).

Interactive podcasts - asynchronous audio activities?

Could we design "interactive" podcasts? This was an idea we explored in Wellington, New Zealand as part of the FLNW Open Conference. Check out this recording below.

interactive podcasts - (beta) (thanks to Leigh for this recording).

I envisaged something like this because being a somewhat kinaesthetic learner, I like to 'do' as I listen and read things. So for me, being able to interrupt a conversation (or podcast) and make notes to prompt or clarify my own thinking, would be really useful and very timely. In most cases, I would do this manually anyway.

However, what if, when listening to a podcast, you were able to record your notes or questions or responses so that others could also listen to them along with the original podcast? You would effectively be adding your voice to the conversation! Really it could be called a conver-cast (emphasising the conversational element) and would occur in a 'layering of time'. The conversation occurs asynchronously and potentially combines

  • discussion/chat
  • podcasts
  • commentary
  • multiple voices
  • remixing (perhaps copy and paste?)
  • perhaps a wiki-like feature like rollback to previous versions (see comment by botheredByBees on BlipTV).

How might this be applied to learning situations?

I could imagine the 'lecture' for example, being podcasted, then students having the ability to zero in on a point being made, add a question, seek clarification, offer an opinion, and add to the 'lecture' in some way. This takes a linear 'one-way' resource and makes it inherently shareable, relevant to a learner's position of learning at a certain time. The podcast is recorded at one point in time, the learner's response may not take place until some time after (even after the course of study is finished). And it also allows for people to 'change their minds', as we often do in conversation where we can come around to another's point of view, for example.

Similarly, a facilitator could also present an 'unfinished' cast, where they begin a 'story' for example and invite learners to develop the cast over a period of time (like contributing to a wiki in a sense).

Exploring the possibilities...

What other situations might a conver-cast be effectively applied? What are the implications of such an approach? What other learning scenarios could be supported here?

I'd like to hear more from you - are their ramifications? Limitations? Other possibilities you see?

These are jsut some beginning thoughts...

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