Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tools, Technology and Transformation.

Technology is a good thing. Right? Right.

Well, I admit, that is the assumption I make on a daily basis. But technology can also be expensive. It can be tempting to deploy the latest toys just to see what they do, and easy to succumb to temptation when the cash is there to splash.  But what about when it isn't? Education has been in the mainstream media a lot lately, when often it isn't, and that's a good thing!  The Federal/State wrangling over funding reform for schools probably seems a bit abstract to some people. It is hugely frustrating to others just wanting to get on with the job of planning what happens next year.  What hasn't really been covered in the media reports I've seen, is how all this impacts on the use of technology in the classroom.  Gonski or the Better Schools reforms package is really about resource allocation, and that impacts technology budgets for gadgets and for teacher training and professional development.

I wonder though, do the devices themselves matter? Or is what we consume, produce and communicate with those devices more important? Is it how we connect those devices to each other? Is it the network? Is it the new universe of the "adjacent possible" they create?

Is digital art inherently better than art created with ink on paper? or a finger in sand? or ochre on a cave wall?  What about creating a class performance of a Shakespeare play compared with watching a recording of the same? Then there's big data and supercomputing. 

There's a new supercomputer at the Australian National University.  It runs on Linux - the CentOS distro to be exact. What do Supercomputers let us do that other computers can't?  Process huge amounts of data, more quickly.  Again - it's not the computer itself that really matters, but what we DO with it, and what new things we learn. The ANU machine has been named Raijin after the Japanese god of thunder, lightning and storms. It will be put to work crunching data for Earth system science.

Audience Response Systems are a growing part of the edutech landscape.  But will we really need tricky clickers if everyone has their own smartphone? Aren't they really just limited collective input devices? If we are already holding a device that can input data into the system, why have a single use clicker?

Then there's the downside - distraction.  If everyone has their own device, will it be harder to keep everyone focussed on the group activity?  Or will our attention shift to our own individual mental pursuits?  Perhaps single purpose devices will have their place to limit choice and distraction in order to promote focus and collaboration on the task at hand?

Electronic, Smart and Interactive Whiteboards. I remember when the latest greatest thing was a whiteboard with a thermal printer attached. At the touch of a button I could get a copy of my felt tipped scribble on shiny fax paper.  Now I take a snap with the camera in my smartphone. That paper fades - perhaps some of the ideas communicated at the time persisted? perhaps not.  But was it the whiteboard, or the idea that mattered at the time?  Is recording the activity on the whiteboard what matters?  Or broadcasting content from elsewhere? Or is it about creating a shared interactive window where both happens? I'm not sure - some combination of those factors I guess.

Then there's the Internet. A global interconnected reflection of humanity itself.  Knowledge, communication, art & science.  Crime, creativity, sex, surveillance, protest, support, community.  You name it in the "real world" it's reflected online in some form or another.  But again, it's not the bandwidth, or the device, or the server, or "The Cloud" but what we do and store there that matters.

Very wealthy, privileged schools and systems pioneered 1:1 computing around the world.  The OLPC project focussed on bringing this evolution of technology and pedagogy to the developing world.  The Australian government Digital Education Revolution strove to get laptops to schools that still didn't have them.  Resource Allocation.  But what are we doing with these toys?  Are we learning and teaching differently? Are we addressing the issues of power, control and digital divide? I love technology.  I'm an info addicted geek. But I often think beyond the gadget to the goal, and wonder why that doesn't seem to get talked about as much as the bling. It's not Mac vs PC or iPhone vs Android, or Desktop vs Laptop that interests me - but what's possible with such a tool. And even more importantly - what are the skills required to build the next wave of tools for transformation?

Lots of questions.  Lots of different answers. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

ACEC2014 Call for Papers is Open!

Now It's Personal - Innovating Education. National Conference in Adelaide 30 Sep - 3 Oct 2014
ACEC2014 Call for Papers
The Call for Papers has opened for the 2014 Australian Computers in Education Conference.

All the details, including deadlines and templates are here:

Or dive in, sign up and submit your session proposal now!

Please help spread the word wide and far.  Refereed Paper submissions need to be in by 1 October 2013.  Other session types have until 1 March 2014.

The conference takes place at the Adelaide Convention Centre from 30 September to 3 October 2014 .



Now It's Personal is the theme of ACEC2014 and presenters are being asked to explore one of these three strands.


Strand 1: Inspirational Leadership

Inspirational leadership is about empowerment, working with and walking together. It is about performance, not supervision. It is personal, not institutional; inspiring not constraining; liberating, not coercing. It is a culture, not a state. It is transparent, not secretive. People do the right thing because they want to, not because they have to.


Strand 2: Innovative Learning

Students have ever-increasing expectations of being able to work, play and learn via cloud-based services and apps across their mobile devices, whenever they want and wherever they may be. Innovative learning is about possibilities. It is limited only by imagination. It is open, free and wide-ranging. It is not constrained by past thinking. It is personal. It is about choice, connection and reflection. It challenges the learner to be responsible, not reliant. To lead, not follow. To create, not copy.


Strand 3: Redefining Education

The importance of personal knowledge management and the blurring of the boundaries between formal and informal learning is redefining education. No longer is education constrained by set parameters. It is not limited to time or place. It is free to explore. It offers choices, not constraints. It presents challenges, not solutions. It asks questions.

More information on the conference strands is available on the website.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Testing Simplebooklet

Stumbled across this chrome browser app - simplebooklet - and really just wanted to have a play to see what it was like, and how easy it was to use. Turns out, it's pretty easy. The range of "apps" now available to use on mobile devices, and directly in browsers is pretty astonishing. They're generally cheap too. This is free and spoiled with ads. But for $5 a year you can use it ad free. Interesting huh? Just click in the top right corner to turn the page. [Sorry about the ads...] But it's just another tool. What could we use it for? How could students use something like this? What expression does it enable? Simplebooklet suggest it's a great tool for marketers - it's a codeless way of creating flipbooks, sliders and animated digital ads. It took me about 10 minutes to create this. Probably a bit longer to blog about it as I tried to turn my random thoughts into words. But it's a simple iframe, embedded above. What do you think?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Digital Sixth Sense

Ok - so it's a technology marketing video - but still good food for thought.

I wonder, how might this kind of technology impact on education? In some ways it feels like today's classrooms are still just playing catch up with basic tech tools.

This kind of thing is on the horizon, and not really all that far away.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Digital Technologies - a brand new subject

Huzzah! A draft of the Digital Technologies Australian Curriculum has been released.

Draft Digital Technologies Foundation to Year 10 scope and sequenceThis is the Scope and Sequence for Foundation to Year 10.
Download it as a PDF

The Digital Technologies subject is divided into two strands

Knowledge and understanding

  •  representation of data
  •  digital systems
  •  interactions and impact

Processes and production skills

  •  managing and analysing data
  •  using digital systems
  •  specification, algorithms and implementation
  •  creating and interacting online

Here's a wordle made from the text in that PDF.
data information systems social algorithms digital problems using user software different online needs simple describe sequence requirements programs protocols processes components communication

The Standout words are Data, Information, Systems, Digital, Algorithms, Problems and Social - not necessarily in that order... but that's what leaps out at me.

ACARA is seeking feedback on the draft until 10 May 2013.

But you'll need to register to complete the survey online.

Review the draft. Have a think. Have a say.