Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wikipedia - To cite or not to cite? That is the question.

So - Wikipedia -

A handful of articles on the use of wikipedia bobbed up in the #edtech twitter stream this morning. Some food for thought on the use of wikipedia in education.
"Warning: Wikipedia is generally not an acceptable information source for academic papers and you may be penalized when using it as a reference. However, if for lack of time you do use Wikipedia as a source, do cite it as it is better to be marked down for using non-authoritative sources than to be accused of plagiarism."

Do you use Wikipedia?

Have you ever edited Wikipedia?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Open Source Options

I was invited to give a guest lecture for Nick Reynolds "ICT & 21st Century Learning Communities" unit at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education.

He gave me a pretty open brief on what to cover - so I started with the presentation I prepared for this year's CEGSA conference. 20 Open Source apps your school could use. You can see the list and grab the slides from

But the slides were really just background to a more relaxed Q&A on open source software in general, hearing examples from those in the room on whether or not they'd already encountered that particular application, some of the barriers to adopting Free Software, busting misconceptions and wondering why more people aren't just using it already.

The one thing I wanted to impress upon the group is that Free and Open Source Software is not cheap software. It's not about price, it's about freedom. I hope they got that as I explained the four freedoms to use, study, change and share software is what it's really about. It's not about scrimping on your IT budget.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Google Code-in

Check out Google Code-in

And... if you can, please spread the word.

This is a fantastic opportunity to get kids involved in real open source projects - using ICT, creating ICT - not just as busy work for assessment but making a real contribution to real projects.

There are tasks for everyone and every talent...

     1. Code: Tasks related to writing or refactoring code
     2. Documentation: Tasks related to creating/editing documents
     3. Outreach: Tasks related to community management and
     4. Quality Assurance: Tasks related to testing and ensuring code is
        of high quality
     5. Research: Tasks related to studying a problem and recommending
     6. Training: Tasks related to helping others learn more
     7. Translation: Tasks related to localization
     8. User Interface: Tasks related to user experience research or
        user interface design and interaction

Monday, October 4, 2010

Interactive whiteboards

Melanie Hughes asked if I knew of any open source software for interactive whiteboards. I didn't, so thought I'd dig around a little bit to see what was out there.  The answer would be appear to be something between not much and nothing.

There are some tools you don't have to pay for, but nothing available that gives you access to the source code.  The exercise has also reminded me how many people still seem to correlate open source software as software you don't have to pay for, as opposed to software you can get involved with improving.

Roland Gesthuizen suggested we should respond by asking what teachers are trying to achieve with the software, and that perhaps there are other means to the end.

Luke outlined his frustration with proprietary IWB software locked to a particular type of screen.

Australian IWB vendor 2Touch claims to provide software that works with a range of software, but it's not open source, and only free of charge if you buy one of their boards. Promethean has recently changed it's software license to allow their applications to be used on any brand of board.

The European Union have asked the industry to come up with a standard format for the documents created by their various software applications, so that's a start. However it seems there is a gap in the education market for a truly "Free as in Freedom" Libre open source application that allows people to harness the interactivity of these devices.

So, I'm sorry Melanie, but I've not been able to find anything, but I'll keep a look out and let you know if I hear of anything promising.

In the meantime - it would be really useful to get a list of the 'must have' features of interactive whiteboard software - then it might be possible to build a solution based on those features.  eg.
  • Handwriting recognition.
  • On screen keyboard
  • Annotations
  • What else?
Some of those features are available for open source platforms - but if the drivers for the boards aren't open, developers have no way of modifying that software for specific hardware features of the board.

Open Source Schools has a long thread about the IWB software issues. If you haven't perused that yet, it's a good place to catch a glimpse of the challenges we're facing.

Dunno how up to date this list is, but it's a list of Linux applications and drivers useful for TabletPCs which might be worth exploring as tools for using with IWBs

The Wiimote-whiteboard project certainly got close to disrupting the closed source IWB party, but I don't really know how much impact it had.

It did inspire smoothboard, which unfortunately isn't free or open source.

and Uwe Schmidt implemented a cross-platform version in Java.

And I have to include Rusty's Pong Hero hack with open source software just to show what can be knocked together when the code is free and the hardware can be made from rubber bands and chewing gum. Well, maybe not quite.

... and Interactive Projectors have hit the market...

Becta commissioned a project to create a common file format so educators could share the work they create for IWBS 

A teacher in the UK outlined his frustration with the range of software and drivers for IWBS, none of which were remotely compatible - which prompted this interesting thread in the moodle forums

Do you have some resources I could add here? Leave a comment.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

FUSE - Playing For Real

Over the next 12 months, I'll be working with ICT in Education Victoria on their FUSE project called Playing for Real.  We've already set up a twitter account and a website

We'll be developing the project in the open, and welcome contributions from interested colleagues as we build this serious social network alternate reality game.

So what's the big idea?
We learn when we play, and we're playing for real.

Playing for Real is a game for teachers to expand their learning about learning with technology. P4R will encourage them to share their knowledge and reward them for doing so. We aim to build confidence in online social networking, and provide opportunities to use the tools at our fingertips. Blogging, podcasting, vlogs. Video how tos, chatrooms, and twitter. It all becomes part of the social fabric of a professional learning network.

Our context is a scenario that will be familiar for most...
... an old school with a brand new building, brand new computers and a new whizz bang web based interface for everything. The school has to shift gear and make the most of the new resources, making sure everyone is along for the ride. The Principal, the ICT co-ordinator, School Technician, Teachers and Students all have a key role to play. But conflict arises when new government policies are introduced, vendors offer new products and parents expectations are thrown into the mix.

We'll be looking for ways of dealing with the challenges raised by technology in schools. Creating that important sense of urgency and possibility to really deal with cyberbullying, or how to shift reluctant staff members to embrace a 1:1 learning model, or how to quickly manage power and bandwidth, on how to constructively address issues around equity and access to technology. We'll be asking you to participate and contribute too.
We'll be preparing a series of episodes or levels, each with a different tech challenge focus. The game will provoke you to address those challenges and share your learning, discoveries and ideas. You'll earn points for your contributions, and for your level of participation. We'll have rewards and prizes along the way to motivate you and recognise your high achievement and quality collaboration.
It's experimental. It's risky. The department has indicated it is actively seeking new ways of creating and sharing content, and new ways of developing that content. We think that's an exciting challenge.
We also believe we can't do it without you.

Do you want to get involved?
Follow us on or email

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.
Literally and figuratively.

Tomorrow I'll meet others working on FUSE projects as we hear Delia Browne speak about "Free for Education Resources; how to find, use and produce them".
She's the National Copyright Director, from the MCEECDYA National Copyright Unit responsible for creating the smartcopying website.

Figuratively?  Playing For Real is something new for me and I'm wearing that on my sleeve.  We don't know all the answers and we're openly looking for help, ideas and people to collaborate with.

Friday, June 4, 2010

illustrating open education  has a great collection of articles on Education - and an equally great collection of images they've made available under a Creative Commons license.  Check out the flickr slideshow below. :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

#aisman10 - behind the scenes of learning technology

Huge thanks and acknowledgement due to Ian Ralph for inviting me to share the stage with him and Peter Ruwoldt to talk about Open Source and Open Education at the NSW Association of Independent Schools IT Managers conference.

The venue was heavenly. The Crowne Plaza in the Hunter Valley - useful conference spaces, a strangely huge pool, a golf course. Good food, comfy accommodation.

This conference has been going for some years now, and is organised directly by the community it serves. It's my favourite kind of event.

It was very well supported by vendors who keenly recognise the power of the network this community of IT managers represent. Decision makers and influencers in schools free to make their own decisions. Ranging from classroom pracititioners managing IT infrastructure to network architects and managers supporting the learning and administration needs of their organisations, and a full spectrum of variety between and beyond those roles.

All grappling with budgets, policy, curriculum and the shifting reality of learning by learners with very different expectations of what's ahead of them and unknown pathways into the future than those experienced a generation ago.

When I was in high school, there was no World Wide Web. It's now my business. So is the global platform for change more commonly known as the open source community.  When Linus announced his little hobby project I was at Uni too.  Now, Linux is everywhere.

So, I'll admit to being a bit surprised and disheartened by the silence when I asked if anyone contemplating 1:1 learning projects was looking at Linux laptops.  No one? Why?  No support, too geeky. Too hard.

What a shame. We really do still have a lot of work to do.

To counter this perception we need to offer unparalleled services and support. We need to be accountable. We know the products are good, and the freedom is intoxicating, but that's not cutting through the uncomfortable truth that Open Source Software is all too easily dismissed inside institutes of learning.  Yes, it's also true that too often Education technology lags the real world. Yes. That's wrong. So whilst the world's largest software company, Oracle, is also the world's largest user of Linux, we still have to counter fear, uncertainty and doubt, and a lack of support from the medium sized IT integration firms making a business out of servicing schools.

Left reeling like I'd been punched I turned to the community and asked them to tell me why we bother with FOSS in schools.  Here's some of the responses:

"open source and foss help lower the cost entry barrier for schools to get tools to assist their education." @aimee_maree

"Because technology should enhance and enable learning, not control and constrict. Because I want my children to learn that sharing and collaboration are a force for good. What my mum taught me..."@normnz

"Schools are about authentic learning experiences, not just another monolithic enterprise to cable and network." @rgesthuizen

Again the New Zealanders are showing us up. Check out this report on a survey of IT vendor support for FOSS solutions.  We need this in Australia. OSIA? Where are you? The New Zealand open source society organised a vendor capability survey. Here are the results:

And we need a school like Albany Senior High School in Auckland to step up and showcase the reality of what an opensource school looks like.

Mark Osborne - Deputy Principal prepared this presentation on the school.

This is his blog:

When I asked four IT managers sitting nearby if they had Linux servers, they all said yes. When I asked the audience in my session who had open source in their schools, with one exception they all put up their hands.

Are you using Open Source in an Australian school? How? Where? Please tell your story.

Peter Ruwoldt's presentation:

Ian Ralph's presentation:

My Slides:

Friday, May 7, 2010

So... Moodle 2.0 - What does it mean?

The Moodle 2.0 Beta preview is out, and there is a growing buzz about what this will mean for educators, their students and the communities of practice around this great open source learning management tool.  I have to admit to being an ignorant fan of Moodle. I've long championed it, without really having any experience using it. But I've listened to many teachers speak very highly of its merits in the process of teaching and learning.

Here's a quick list of links and articles I've seen in my peripheral vision in recent days, that I plan to follow up with over coffee sometime this weekend.
But the question I have... for those of you using Moodle - Has it changed your pedagogy? Is Moodle technology, just a different kind of chalk board? I invite your thoughts, reflections and comments below.

What does a new Moodle on the immediate horizon mean for you?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ACEC2010 6-9 April Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

As I ponder the reality that the Australian Computers in Education Conference starts next week, I find myself reflecting on the nature of conferences, and more generally on the role of computers in education.  It's not a little picture I see in my mental mirror, but a virtual galaxy of interconnected notions.

This post is a bit of a ramble in the countryside of my mind.

In recent years I've been involved in organising many different kinds of events. Meetups, user group meetings, business networking functions and a couple of bigger conferences. Namely, and the annual VITTA conference.

I'm a big believer that these kinds of events are important. Important opportunities for learning, for networking and for sharing knowledge.

Biella Coleman recently published a beautiful article about Hacker conferences.  She writes as an anthropologist who has studied the Debian hacker community, but the article refers to behaviours enacted at other similar events.  These occasions are important, but it's often hard to explain why. Biella has given us evidence to back up this intangible truth.

I think teacher tech conferences like those run by professional associations like ICTEV, VITTA, CEGSA, ECAWA, QSITE, and international events like ISTE, Becta and Ulearn share something with Hacker conferences.  These teachers often work in isolation from each other, but in intense proximity with their students. Some teachers interact with each other in virtual networks of mailing lists, online forums, blogs, wikis, 3D worlds and microblogs.  Which means these real world events become critical spaces for face to face interaction to build shared experience.  I applaud teachers who champion the use of computing in education, and am honoured to work with them, and help organise these events for them.

In the past it's sometimes seemed as though we need to justify the use of computers in education. In ways we've never needed to justify their use in business, finance, research or other fields of human endeavour.  Computing has unquestionably enhanced human productivity.  I just think of trying to organise a large event without the web and a mobile phone. Imagine back to registration forms filled in by hand, and posted via snailmail to the organisers. Imagine all correspondence in writing by post, and waiting days or weeks for the reply.

So why the reluctance to embrace computing for learning? Of course every expense must be justified. But surely the results are in that computing is here to stay, and an important aspect of human development.

I believe very much we need to ignore the luddites and move beyond arguments of merely using computers as tools. We need to champion students as creators and makers of new tools and new platforms. Teaching students about computers, with computers to create new computers.

Computers? What the hell is a computer these days anyway? Some have said the universe itself is a computer.

The mobile phones in our pockets are also calculators, cameras, diaries and encyclopedias. The laptops in our bags are multimedia editing studios. The two combined empower any of us with both to broadcast media moguls. Or record scientific data in the field and beam it back to supercomputers for analysis. Even conduct sales transactions door to door whilst tracking global product shipments for broken parts.

Where's the revolution in learning?

Do we still learn the same way?  What have we learnt about the way our minds work? About how we acquire, share, understand and manipulate knowledge?

Most would agree that knowledge is bout more than reciting facts. But it's also more than knowing how to access them with a few clicks. What will we need to know should we find ourselves without electricity? How to create electricity? How to plant seeds? How to create order from chaos? Oops - gone off on a tangent there... but there's something important I'm missing here. Something about the deep nature of learning, and the strange reality of What We Are Taught.

The Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge ( website says
"knowledge about technology cannot be treated as context-free, and that good teaching requires an understanding of how technology relates to the pedagogy and content"

These tech teacher conferences sit right at the heart of that Venn diagram. These conferences are where teachers come together to share their pedagogical and content knowledge about using and teaching with technology, practice new skills, and build their own learning networks.

Teach - Learn - Share - Build - Make - Dream 

See you at ACEC2010 next week

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Education miniconf at LCA2010

I've recently returned from - one of the world's truly great geekfests. It's a fun filled week of freedom focussed technopeople sharing what they know and what they want to know, solving issues and uncovering new ones. The first two days are filled with miniconfs. I spent most of day 2 at the Education miniconf run by Tabitha Roder

I was running a little late due to the magnetic lure of the hallway track, but did manage to sit down and be totally inspired by Mark Osborne, Deputy Principal of Albany Senior High School. They've chosen to use Free and Open Source Software throughout the school because it matches the learning philosophy and ethos they're trying to develop. This is a new school, doing things differently, and whilst many are saying Mark's mission is a brave one, from my perspective it just seems natural. I'm very much looking forward to staying tuned to their new frequency.

Maksim Lim spoke about the Art Education program at the National Gallery of Victoria and their choice to use Open Standards and Open Tools to create and deliver online resources, and the impact of working directly with students and teachers. I found this very interesting, and hope to catch up with Maksim in Melbourne to learn more.

Next up was Walter Bender, skyping it in, but continuing to inspire and provoke. The sugarlabs project simply blows my mind. Walter demonstrated a matching game where he showed the power of demonstrating concepts through comparison. But then he took it a step further and showed us how to modify that game, and add in Mayan mathematics. I'm newly inspired to dig out my OLPC, fire up Sugar on a Stick, and get into it again. See Walter's slides on slideshare
The New Zealand volunteers then followed up by providing handouts to help us start hacking on the code ourselves.

I came back after lunch to hear from Chris Cormack about the Koha Integrated Library System . This project has been around for a while now, and has survived some governance ups and downs to prove the resilience of making source code available under an open license. Community development, and management is important, but the freedom to use and modify the code is the ultimate insurance. Koha has made some impressive strides. I'm surprised it's not more widely used in Australian schools. I'll be spreading the word to try and change that.''

I was really keen to hear more about IBMs kidsmart project from Carl Klitscher and hear about how they're using open source apps on a windows platform, and the training and pedagogy discoveries they've made over the past six years.
Next up was a real change of pace with Ashley Maher speaking of his experiences teaching Software Engineering using FOSS tools and community. Much of what Ashley covered was later mirrord by Dr Tridgell and Bob Edwards in the main conference. This is an important area for the future of software development, and FOSS community development.

I think I hit brain meltdown shortly after the start of the moodle features workshop and didn't get much out of it or the rest of the afternoon. Which is a shame. Whilst the Mahara session probably would have gone over my head anyway, as it was squarely aimed at developers, I am very sorry to have missed Jacinta Richardson's session on Structuring a multi-day training course, so perhaps I'll have to convince her to re-present it at one of the many Melbourne geek gatherings we frequent. The final session of the day by John Graves was on voice and vision interaction for educational applications.

Tabitha - you did an amazing job. What a great day.

The education miniconf is a perennial favourite at - which heads to Brisbane in 2011 - so if you're a passionate educator doing great stuff with Free and Open Source Software you might want to think about putting this in your diary. It's an unparalleled opportunity to meet with and share with your peers, and with the developers of your favourite tools.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I'm working on the 2010 Australian computers in education conference, and it's got me thinking again about education and technology. Following #edtech on twitter has been a great prompt to dive back in and explore the field further.

Here's a few of the topics that have piqued my interest...

Learning: the brain's part.

Consume / Create - The vendor's role at tech conferences. Balancing the needs of real commerce, whose support we can't do without, with the 'non-profit' motive of education.

Tech tools, toys and teddybears

On Learning, Teaching and Professional Development
I've started this blog to explore these themes, and others... I'm calling it edtechagogy. It seems I may have just made up that word. So what do I mean?

But wiktionary tells me that the -agogy suffix means leading... and so this blog will show what leads my thinking around education and technology.

I am not a teacher, so I will apologise for having no practical experience of the real challenges teachers face in the classroom, in their schools, and within the bureaucracies that seek to marshall their efforts. This blog will explore those challenges.

I am a learner... and I love technology. These are the keys to my interest here. I hope that helps you, the reader, understand the purpose. Expect few answers here. I prefer questions. :)

This blog will have a strong open source bias - and I make no apology for that.