Friday, 24 December 2004

Season Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Thursday, 23 December 2004

More tips from the coaches

It was the Victoria State Age Championship in the last few days. I have been ferrying my dear swimmer between the swimming pool and home about 3 to 4 times daily until we have arranged car-pool to reduce to two trips per day. That's a big slice of time from my busy schedule!

During a causal discussion with the coaches, I learnt that swimmers need to overcome "pain barrier", learn to push their body, handle the pain from the physical work and recover afterwards. I know that my daughter knows her heart beat very well. She knows how much warm-up will get her heart beat to certain level in order to swim at certain percent of her maximum speed. However, her coach said that she actually hasn't really pushed her body hard enough. So she is performing under her potential.....

Our great Australian swimming hero Grant Hackett admitted that during Athens Olympic games, he defended his title in 1500m freestyle with a collapsed lung, with only 75% of his full lung capacity. The pain arising from that long swim was unimaginable!

I guess any success story will have sometime like that.

Roni and I are struggling through the Fablusi pain barrier - working long hours several times around the clock, mentally, socially and physically pushing ourselves and our family to the limits.

Interestingly, my sister forwarded a motivational powerpoint from her company's HR - advising the executives to do 20 minutes quick walk daily to reduce heart problems....

Life is a balancing act. The tips from the coaches are not only the "pain barrier" part. It is equally important to know how to recover after exerting oneself. This is the part I need to learn.

Monday, 20 December 2004

Context matters

My sister sent me this:

This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

If she is getting dressed, this is half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given 5 more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.

This is the calm before the storm. This means "something," and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with 'Nothing' usually end in "Fine"

This is a dare, not permission. Don't do it.

This is not actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A "Loud Sigh" means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you over "Nothing"

This is one of the most dangerous statements that a woman can make to a man "That's Okay" means that she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

A woman is thanking you. Do not question it or faint. Just say you're welcome.

While this is more like a joke about the differences between the sexes, there is a lesson here for e-learning designer. Typically, e-learning will be delivered without the rich feedback from face to face interaction. If such misunderstanding (or re-interpretation) of common words used require explanation likes the above, computer-mediated messages are more likely to be mis-interpreted. If our e-learning content is solely dealing with information, that would not be much of a problem. For rich interaction like role play simulation, there is a lesson or two to be pondered carefully.

Copyright and Google Digital Library

re: Press commentary on Google's Digital Library Initiative via Auricle.

One of the press quoted was:

... we have the Sunday Times article All the world's best books at a click (Sunday Times, 19 Dec 2004) by John Sutherland, Professor of Modern English at University College London, which raises the commercial spectre:

"By the act of converting printed books to digital form Google will be creating a new copyright ... Works in the public domain will effectively be privatised. Whether or not Google chooses to exercise its rights, it and its library partners will be owners of the newly processed property. So the vast reservoir of material in the out-of-copyright public domain will become 'proprietary', or pay-per-view. If we get access, it will be because we are 'allowed', not because we have the right. Great Books will go the way of Test cricket. You don’t pay, you don ’t see. Google hasn't said it will do this; but, as far as I can make out, nor has it definitely said it won't. "

My understanding of copyright is that copyright protect the manifestation of a piece of work. While and if Google is digitising public domain material and locked them away in a pay-per-view system, it can only be charging for the manifestation it has created. Google, or in fact anyone else, has no right to forbid anyone else to digitise the work and put the work up in public domain or lock-up in yet another system. If we still believe in the "invisible hand" of the free market, the competition pressure will make the cost of digital goods to near zero because of the near-zero marginal cost of reproduction although there is the upfront cost in creating the material in the first place. The market competition will be shifted to another level (e.g. competing in the ease of locating the material) and we would be likely to pay for the convenience of finding of the content - not the content itself.

I hope the decision makers in Google (or any large data repository) will understand this economical force and adjust their business models accordingly. Otherwise, it will be just a waste of their initial investment in digitizing the material. People won't be paying the content, but will be happy to pay for the convenience of finding the material directly (which I am doubtful) or indirectly (e.g. via advertisement).

Sunday, 19 December 2004

It’s all about rich e-learning experiences

The opening paragraph (by Maish R Nichani) is (with my emphasis):

Here are my thoughts on the current discussion between focusing on tasks and focusing on information in an e-learning course. Amy Gahran points out that a task-oriented approach is more effective in most e-learning than an information oriented approach. My point is that a decision-making or an execution-based approach is even better. Decisions are what business organizations are about. The need to perform a task or to acquire information really depends on the decision you are trying to make. Thus, know-how is equally important as know-why or know-what, it really depends on the decision.

The rest of the post tells a convincing approach to more effective e-learning.

My reflection on this is why we only think in terms of tasks and information. A memorable, life-changing experience is not necessarily tasks nor information oriented. We, human, are blessed by our ability to learn from first person, simulated, second person and third person experience. The effectiveness of delivering an experience by narration depends on how well the story-teller can relate to the previous experience of the listener, in order to really triggers the links between the narrative and the existing base of experience of the listener. In many ways, narrative is still a uni-directional delivery. Tasks require operationally measurable output which may, or may not, reflect the rationale of doing the task in a certain way.

The author has used a very good title in the post "rich e-learning experiences". Rich experience implies a blended, clever and effective use of information and tasks. E-learning is about two or many directional exchange of ideas. When all the learners (or trainees) are exchanging meaningful stories related to the theme of the training, I would say we have a rich e-learning experiences.

Why am I so quiet lately?

Working from my home office for my own start-up business is no fun! Lately, we were installing Fablusi v2 for a US customer. My business partner Roni was over there and I was providing technical support from base.

During the last two weeks or more, I had been working 9-5 USA work hours, 9-5 Aussie work hours + overtime. We discussed the issues over Skype from midnight Melbourne time to about 7 am. Then I took a power snap. Got up again around 9am Melbourne time solving the issued raised aiming at delivering a solution by midnight before the USA guys got back. If I was lucky, I might take another power snap before midnight.

The technology was fantastic! Skype provided a cost-free and clear audio channel continuously during the USA 9-5 interval. We also used a number of tools: remote desktop, net-meeting, IM and video to supplement the audio channel. I must say doing things between continents have never been easier and affordable.

The cost was in my relationship with my family and my health. Working like this is NOT healthy, both biologically and psychologically. I am fortunate to have a very understanding wife who supported me all along. I really own her a lot!

Now that the pressure has ease off slightly, I am returning to my regular programming - about 12 hours daily. However, I would be taking a holiday in mid January. I am allowed to bring my laptop only for watching DVD on it. My GP advised me that if I don't do so, my life expectancy can be counted by the fingers in one hand. I don't want to see this happen!

What will happen to this blog? I will continue blogging for about 3 to 4 weeks before I take the break and will be back after that. I have opened a number of threads which I want to continue, but am afraid that I won't be able to finish before the break. I still like to write another two or three pieces on role play simulation design, another reflection on Stephen's Buntine Oration and some more on the "experience theme". I have started an open paper with only early drafts...

So, keep on reading and share your ideas with me ....

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

How to make miniature modelling clay oranges

via Boing Boing

This is an amazing photo sequence showing how to make miniature mandarins (or oranges). The Boing Boing remark:

Oranges are symbolic of gold and wealth for the Chinese, hence they're all over at the Lunar New Year

is incorrect!

Chinese has mandarins during New Year (Mandarin has the same sound as "lucky"), not oranges. But these fruits are close enough. This is why the photos show the peeled version (which is a common way to peel mandarins - we usually cut oranges!)

Warning: The advertisement links on the website are pornographic!

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Dear IE, I'm leaving you for good

See the original, then:

ps I actually have fallen in love with Firefox. Firefox is lean, fast, responsive and understanding, just stunningly beautiful. Unlike you, Firefox surprises have been nice so far. When I needed some extra helps, there is extension around. Did I also mention that Firefox is compliant to standards? It changes its look readily, suiting my mode all the time.

pss BTW, when everyone else love Firefox, I just follow the crowd.

Monday, 13 December 2004


by Bill Pelz via Teaching and Developing Online. Original article published in Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks Volume 8, Issue 3 - June 2004.

Thanks Darren Cannell for pointing out an article which I will keep handy on my desktop.

The three principles are:

A. Principle #1: Let the students do (most of) the work.
1. Student Led Discussions
2. Students Find and Discuss Web Resources
3. Students Help Each Other Learn (Peer Assistance)
4. Students Grade Their Own Homework Assignments
5. Case Study Analysis
B. Principle #2: Interactivity is the heart and soul of effective asynchronous learning
1. Collaborative Research Paper
2. Research Proposal Team Project
C. Principle #3: Strive for presence
Social Presence
Cognitive Presence
Teaching Presence

In an earlier post: Levels of online courses; Where is yours?, I suggested that we should start looking for a level five course which achieve BOTH effective learning AND reduce workload on the part of the instructor/moderator/teacher. Bill Pelz has shown us how to create such a structure (an environment) - learners take on the responsibility of learning and do most of the work. Bill has provided the "structure", in image format, which can be used in many different types of courses verbatim. Unfortunately, I cannot find the use condition of Bill's work.

I would like to add that the "presence" of a responsible figure in the learning environment also serves two other purposes: 1. as a representation of the authority (i.e. the institute) who provided the learning environment and hence the right to provide evidence of achievement and 2. as an obligation to exercise "the duty of care". So if I may add one more sub-element to principle C, I would add "pastoral presence".

Interview of Stephen Downes by Robin Good

WOW, you can get anything better than this!

The mp3 file is waiting for curator approval. The window media is available. I have yet to listen to the interview. One of my favourite writer interviewed by one of the best reporter in the field....

What a treat!

Sunday, 12 December 2004

Piracy vs. Stealing: Teacher Fails "A" Student for Topic Choice

I am going to address two issues in this post.

The first part is about the issues of evaluation and assessment. The next part deals with lesson I learnt from an instructional design point of view.

First background (Quoting from Boing Boing):

"Sixteen year-old Steve Geluso was failed by his English teacher for choosing to distinguish piracy from stealing in an essay.


"His teacher failed him, saying there was no difference between the two and that he was "splitting hairs". Other teachers who read his essay said that he did well from an organizational and technical standpoint, but because his teacher felt that there was no difference between piracy and stealing, she gave him an 'F' because she disapproved of the content of his essay.

Steve's papers (scanned) can be found in his web blog.

On assessment

One of the first comment on assessment can be found here (THE NEW ACCOUNTABILITY). While this post initiated to discuss the new way of using the net to hold teachers accountable, the post reflects the mainstream view of assessment (evaluation of a PRODUCT as a way of evaluating the ability of the learner who produced the product, without looking into the PROCESS of how the "product" was created.):

The first scorer failed to assess the product (in this case the essay) based on the agreed* rubric.

*"agreed" may be a wrong word here. The publishing of the assessment criteria and the fact that the assessee produced a work according to the published criteria should legally form a contractual agreement which, in this case, there is no exit clause. Assessing the product in any way other than this published criteria is violating the contractual agreement under which the student took the examination.

[This point is irrelevant here: Isn't splitting hair one of the way our understanding of our world can be advanced? Most academic papers are hair splitting definition arguments! Take the definition of "Learning object" as a vivid example relevant to e-learning, or irrelevant to e-learning!]

For important assessment like this and if there is disagreement, a second assessor could be called. It is important that the second assessor is independent and have no prejudice to either parties. It seems that there is a clear case of "information cascading" happening here.

The fundamental problem with assessment based on a single end product is that it is based on an industrial age paradigm.

There is nothing wrong with such a paradigm if you are still living in developing or under-developed countries. The education system in any developed countries should start thinking seriously what kind of citizens will be required to sustain the current standard of living. "America cannot remain rich by producing pillar cases" is true for all developed countries!

One of the important corollary of the industrial age quality control (assessment) is that any product must be evaluated against an agreed set of measures. Any deviation from the measures outside the agreed tolerance is considered faulty - even if the deviation actually *improved* the product in some way.

I will leave my dear readers to ponder a better solution, because I don't have one! We know that learning is a process. What can we do to evaluation the effectiveness of the learning process? What kind, under what condition and how many evidences should we collect in order to provide us with confidence to draw the necessary conclusion? Do we evaluate the learning process (as in how it is delivered etc.) or do we evaluate the effect on the learner (as in how well a learner has mastered a certain skill or concept)? I raise this second part of the last question because I don't believe education (learning) should be a way of "sorting" people!

On lessons learnt

So far, you have been reading a story - a story told by me with a "coloured" glass put on. You may find it interesting (I assume so, since you are still reading this line.). The great question is "SO WHAT?" Have you learnt anything? Have you found anything useful? Is there any ROI for the time you have spent reading up to now?

If you have found my argument full of crap, laughing all the way thinking how silly I am. You have your reward! Entertainment!

OK, let's put on our instructional designer hard hat and assume that we want to use this story for some instructional purposes. By selecting such a story, have we done our job? My answer will be a simple NO. We are not started yet.

Our job is to induce learning, cause changes in the learners' mind. Throwing information (in this case, a story) to the learner is NOT inducing change. We should design ways to activate the change process, prompt the learner to reflect on the information, build links to his/her prior knowledge and arrive at a socially agreed view on the issue.

How can we do that? Let say this is the e-learning design challenge for this festive season.

ps BECAUSE WISDOM CAN’T BE TOLD (OR READ ONLINE) provides some fuel for thinking about this. I may write a post re: case-based learning later.

Thursday, 9 December 2004

Role play and real life

In a post called "Is humanity so easily forgotten?", Matt Mower (Curiouser and curiouser!) described a reading about

Zimbardo Prison Experiment in which Stanford students became prisoners and guards in a simulated prison environment. The article [sic] describes the aims of the experiment, how it was set up, how it operated, and how they evaluated the results.

From my reading of the article both prisoners and guards more or less internalized their roles (maybe they were already there to begin with?) by day 2. The guards also showed similar effects in how they responded to wielding power, even though they knew they were being watched, they knew it wasn't real.

While the Zimbardo Prison Experiment took place in a physical world with all the preparation procedures to "prepare the prisoners", the fact that the internalisation occurred only two days into the experiment (while no doubt there was "suspension of belief" operating), and that the randomly chosen groups behaved in the way in line with their assumed roles BOTH being watched AND in private is a powerful reminder of the intensity of role play. It is almost impossible to emphasis the moderator's duty to monitor the well being of the role players when we are dealing with emotional intense situation. Proper de role and debriefing are essential parts of using role play as a learning tool.

This also reminded me about a computerized doll, programmed to mirror the needs of a real baby, shows teens what parenting is really like. See RealCare® Baby II website. [Note: this is not a paid advertisement. I am just using it as an example of the use of real physical objects and environment.]

Using role play in training and learning, online or otherwise, has great potential and hence responsibility. More to think about. I total agree!

Monday, 6 December 2004

The voting is ON now

The EduBlog Awards is now open for voting. Please vote.

In Autralia, voting is compulsory AND my blog is written in Melbourne, Australia. You know what you should do, right?


Support this blog, vote for me in "New Comer" award category.

Sunday, 5 December 2004

Levels of online courses; Where is yours?

Darren Cannell posted four levels of online courses. The characteristics that indicate the level of courses created are:
Level One:

An attempt to recreate the textbook style of teaching.

Level Two:

The recreation of a successful face to face course online.

Level Three:

It is a level two course in which the teacher recognizes the fact that they are teaching with the largest library in the world at their fingertips and have access to technology.

Level Four:

A level three course which recognizes the student might be able to choose the questions and the teacher assist them in using the technology and the Internet to find the answers.

I am not interested in Level one and level two. So, I suggest to analysis the last two levels like this:

Level 3 recognises the vast amount of information on the web. Here, the teacher will have great difficulty in managing "duty of care" as information arriving at the learners' screen is mostly out of the control of the teacher.

Level 4 recognises that the web is a communication medium as well. Allowing the students to choose questions and communicate the choice to the teacher who will assist in finding the answer.

The investment of effort (from the teacher's point of view) obviously increases as the level advances. Level three and level four involve a continuous effort on the teacher's part as the course is run. The "instructor-less" paradigm is completely throw out of the window - which is GOOD!

One question I would like to ask is why online course. What is the benefit, if any, to both the teacher and students? If no additional benefit over face to face, why change!

No doubt my knowledgeable readers will be able to name a long list of benefits, but suspect in close examination, these are more towards the students than the teachers. Hence, I would suggest there should be a Level Five. Level Five course is not necessarily a level four course, may not even be a level three course. Level five course should have all the achievement of level three and level four course. In addition, it would reduce the workload of teachers running such courses.

What are these level five courses? Let search or create one!

What will her future be? - A Second Look

In a previous post What will her future be?, I thought all repetitive work and production of physical goods (and some digital goods) will be out-sourced to developing or under-developed countries. Because of the huge difference of living standards, there will be a continuous supply of low level skilled labour (and some sophistic skills as well) from these countries. On the other hand, we also know that our own life expectancy is increasing. Our kids need very high value jobs in order to maintain the living standards they are brought up with. My question was "what kind of jobs will be available in 2020" and how should I prepare my daughter to face this unknown future.

At that time, my suggestion was that only service industry will be left - but this will not provide the value production to sustain the living standards of the current developed countries. My search continues until...

I heard a presentation from IT conversation by Richard Florida on The Rise of the Creative Class.

We're in the midst of a fundamental economic revolution, bigger than the change from an agricultural to an industrial society. It's based on creativity including technological, economic and aesthetic creativity.

The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It's Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life by Richard Florida:

... the rise of a new social class that he labels the creative class. Members include scientists, engineers, architects, educators, writers, artists, and entertainers. He defines this class as those whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and new creative content. In general this group shares common characteristics, such as creativity, individuality, diversity, and merit. The author estimates that this group has 38 million members, constitutes more than 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, and profoundly influences work and lifestyle issues.

From a book review by P. Lozar "plozar" on

Richard Florida's study began with a rather straightforward premise: what characterizes the cities and regions that are economically successful today? His conclusions are rather controversial, but, based on the statistical evidence he presents (as well as my own experience), I found them highly convincing.

The liveliest economies, he finds, are in regions characterized by the 3 T's -- talent, technology, and tolerance. The implications are profound, to wit:

1. Conventional wisdom holds that, to boost an area's economy, it's necessary to attract large companies and thus create jobs. In fact, companies locate where the talent is; all the tax breaks in the world won't bring a large company to your area if they can't find the quality of employees they want there. Often, too, the talent itself will generate new companies and create jobs that way.

2. Urban planners assume that, to attract talent/jobs, what's important is to provide infrastructure: sports stadiums, freeways, shopping centers, etc. In fact, creative people prefer authenticity -- so making your city just like everyplace else is a sure way to kill its attractiveness.

3. The often-misunderstood "gay index" doesn't mean that gay people are more creative, or that attracting gays to a community will ipso facto boost its economy. Creative people tend to prefer gay-friendly communities because they're perceived as tolerant of anyone who isn't "mainstream"; a city that's run by a conservative good-ole-boys network isn't a good place to try to start a business unless you're one of the good ole boys.

Richard Florida looked at the problem from an American angle and provided advice to government. My interest in more about how we should prepare our kids. If he is right, I now have a direction to look for the kind of attitudes and qualities which I can help my daughter to develop.

Here are some books on the subject by Richard Florida on Amazon for your convenience:

Friday, 3 December 2004

Online security and Online teacher's duty of care

I have commented before (here, here, here and here) that as we move to e-learning, the notion of "duty of care" and cyber security for learners are difficult issues. I shifted constantly between in favour of "education" to in favour of "filtering" and back. The spam emails (mostly inappropriate for minors) take up about 95% of my incoming email. Without filters, I just cannot work. However, the recent entry of MSN into the blogosphere is another demonstration of how bad filter may be (at least as an implementation by Microsoft). See this from Boing Boing.

... from a BoingBoing reader about the fact that MSN Spaces, Microsoft's new blogging tool, censors certain words you might try to include in a blog title or url. If you can't speak freely on a blog, what's the point of having one? This demanded a full investigation.


(1) BoingBoing's readers said the title "Corporate Whore" was censored. My attempt at "Corporate Whore Chronicles" met the same result, but "Corporate Prostitute Chronicles" worked fine. Hooray for synonyms with more syllables!


(4) Uh-oh. My attempt to create an MSN Spaces blog called "Pornography and The Law" is met with rude red text advising me to can the profanity. So, if I were a law student who wanted to start a blog about the history of obscenity law in the United States, I'd be shit out of luck.


The conclusion? A mixed bag of results that manages to do what most attempts to automate censorship do -- make fools of the censors. - Xeni Jardin

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Season Greeting

Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, the best wishes, referred to as this greeting hereafter, for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, non-specific sexuality, celebration of the winter solstice holiday in the northern hemisphere and summer solstice holiday in the southern hemisphere, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your preference, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a financially successful, personally fulfilling, emotionally enchanting and stimulating, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2005, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, in a world filled with love, peace, joy, harmony, diversity, tolerant, good will and respect, and having regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith and your preference to the choice of blogging software, RSS reader, email system, Internet web browsers, including but not limited to the free Firefox and/or Internet Explorer with due considerations of their respective differences to the interpretation and implementation of W3C web standards, computer platform, brand of microprocessor, type of visual display unit, keyboard, mouse or any other pointing device, operating system, including but not limited to singular or a plurality of variations, whether for a fee or free open source, and Internet service provider connected by modem, permanent modem, broadband, or otherwise, or dietary preference of the wishee.

This greeting must not be read if you do not accept the terms and conditions of this greeting. By reading this greeting, you have indicated your explicit acknowledgement of accepting this greeting in the aforesaid manners . This greeting inclusively, exclusively and non-exclusively cover you, your spouse, whether same or different gender and/or whether such relationship is legally recognized or illegal in certain jurisdictions, including singularly and plurally, previous, present or future, your children including natural, adopted, by-law or sponsored, dead, alive, or unborn, and/or your parents, related by blood, by-laws, adopted, or sponsored dead or alive. Upon being covered by the greeting of the aforesaid greeting in the same aforesaid manner, those covered wishees will extend the aforesaid greeting to the same relates they have recursively and infinitum.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms:

  • This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal.

  • This manifestation of the greeting is copyleft under GNU license or other open source license similar to GNU license and or Creative Commons when and if such license(s) is/are enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or when GNU or similar open source license is not enforceable or not applicable in certain jurisdictions this greeting, and all its associated tangible and intangible good will and best wishes, is freely transferable, duplicated, distributed, copied and reproduced provided that any further addition or alternation shall not impose any limitation beyond those implicitly or explicitly expressed this clause.

  • Any alteration and addition, including but not limited to the syntactic, semantic, linguistic, artistic, aesthetic, spiritual and material improvements, shall only be made to the original greeting in the same good faith and honour of any reasonable person and that the proprietary rights, including but not limited to the intellectual and moral rights, publishing rights including but not limited to publishing via the blogosphere, by email, by web sites, on CD and/or any electronic means, and or the right to perform in private and in public to a small, medium or large group of present or remote audience and or the rights to transmit, preserve and retransmit by any physically means or electronic means of the wishor are preserved, acknowledged and/or enhanced.

  • This greeting implies no promise by the wishor to actually implement any of the wishes.

  • This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishor.

  • This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

  • The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

  • Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", "Santa" or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

  • Any names or terms used in this greeting, whether trademarked, copyrighted, copylefted, patented or have been placed in the open source under GNU, Creative Commons or other open source licenses belong to their respective owners and promoters.

  • The wishee expressly agrees, by the acceptance of the greeting, that the greeting is accepted and enjoyed at wishee's own risk. Neither the wishor, its affiliates, nor any of their respective employees, previous or current employers, friends, relatives, spouse past, present or future, agents, third party providers or licensor's warrant that the greeting will be uninterrupted or error free; nor do they make any warranty as to the results and effectiveness of the greeting.

Executed today and valid irrespective of any signature which may be required or not.

Signed Albert Ip
The Wishor

Signed You
The Wishee

To better enjoy this greeting, print this out, frame in a nice gold frame, hang 20 inches in front of your desk or in front of the monitor, read daily and smile.

"Practice Makes Perfect" - a follow up

Harold commented on my post with a story about a gymnastics instructor.

Her main method of teaching was to provide only positive encouragement after each attempt, without criticism. Just before the next attempt, she would give some corrective advice, like "keep your elbows tucked in this time".


I still believe that the only way to develop a skill is through practice and feedback, however when and how the feedback is given is extremely important.

(original emphasis)

It seems that we have a lot to learn from the coaches as well!

Sexual Harrassment Role Play Resource

Will the use of these mouse pads constitute a case for inappropriate behaviour in a workplace? The link is not pornographic, but may not be "workplace" safe. Be warned.

World Record

Hong Kong will achieve a new world record in 2005: the largest ever demolition of new, unused buildings.
Seven residential blocks built two years ago were never inhabited. Developers will tear them down to make way for luxury flats which will net about HK$6 billion in profits.
-Daily BWG

How does Hong Kong get to such situation? This is a separation issue. Developers' avarice aside, the courage and risk-bearing attitude is unmatched.

Most educational institutes are publicly funded. If an educational institute needs to take similar drastic action, whose interest should be served?

Some of my reflective questions (white on white, highlight to cheat)
Who are the "shareholders" of higher education?
Will "CEO" of any education institute be willing to bite the bullet even if s/he is convinced that such a decision will serve the best interest of the "shareholders"? (i.e., can it be his/her own career-promoting decision?)
Are there any such "new, unused buildings" (metaphorically speaking) which need tearing down in today's education institutions to generate even better profit for the "shareholders"? What are they, if any?

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Blog Etiquette

I have always wondered whether I should post my comment on the original blog's comment area, or put up as a post in my own blog.

Here are some suggestions:
Commenting vs blogging: opposition more than composition

Waiting for the right solution, I usually write my comments like standard posts in my blog, then I put short messages in the target blogs like simple comments, giving a flavour about my opinion, and inviting to read the full post on my blog. It's simple and it works.

The Tragedy of the Comments
If instead of commenting, you write a response on your blog, you are standing behind your words, and associating them with the rest of your writing. The social dynamics are very different; you think more before responding instead of posting a quick flame. You can't really spam, as you are only soiling your own garden.

Do it in your own backyard
Imagine that you really don't like me. One evening you get mad at me and drive over to my house where you daub the message "Matt Mower is a total asshole" in bright yellow paint on my walls for everyone to see.
Note that you haven't daubed your own walls with your message of hate. I think it would be very different if that was what you had to do. I think the inevitable consequence of that would be that you would have to learn to be more moderate or people would stop coming by.
-- via Paolo's weblog

I like Alan's cogdogblog warning:
Note: Blog-spamming roaches beware- we will immediately remove, trace, and trackdown all unsolicited comments containing objectionable URLs. You will not win any Google points here. Any thing not-related to content on this entry will be sprayed and killed on contact. Comments will be open only for 30 days.

Humans with something meaningful and relevant to say to us are welcome to write their comments via the button below. Bots, porn peddlers, spam roaches are instead invited to sample some doom.
I am not a spammer but have something to say

Alan, is your warning effective? (and I like the graphic too!)

Saturday, 27 November 2004

EPIC 2014

via EdTechPost

Social software, recommending systems, Googlezon...the future of media in 2014. Go watch this now. It's well done and thought-provoking, even if you disagree with the conclusions.

I will reflect on this provoking piece sometimes later after I digest it a little better (or repeat the watch a couple of times later). Please stay tuned.

"Practice Makes Perfect" - WRONG!

I cannot even agree with the title, not to mention about the idea in this piece. (I won't mention the source.)

My daughter's swimming coach puts it very well: "Practice makes your stroke permanent. If you practise bad technique, you just become a more efficient bad swimmer with the bad stroke. It is even more difficult to unlearn the bad strokes."

The value of simulation (computer-based) is the opportunity for the player/learner to explore different alternate paths through the environment. "Going through the same path *every time* in a simulation" does NOT provide any more learning opportunity. The multiple paths offered by the simulator and the infinite patience the computer has are the key reasons why simulation can be of value to the learner. Again, if the model behind the simulation is bad, the learner is only exposed to a wrong model. It is no good too.

The value of internships is to model a master, learn good techniques and be "scaffolded" when solving NEW problems. I had been a bank teller trainee. The first few days, I learnt a lot of things: how to count money, how to recognize counterfeit money and so on. After about a month, I kept on counting money (faster), but I learnt nothing new. A good internship should involve shadowing a master and modeling how the master tackles different problems. Again, practice does not make perfect, practice makes the skill you are practising permanent or more efficient. (Efficiency is important, but this is not the point of discussion.)

The author did mention that the current main use of technology is for assessment which he thought was wrong. I am not going to argue whether today's state of affair in the use of technology in teaching and learning is primarily focussed on assessment. I do agree that if the assessment is purely based on technology-based techniques, there are lots of faults and problems. By the way, why we need assessment any more? The corollary to author's conclusion is, unfortunately, unacceptable to me too. I don't see why face-to-face encounters will be used more for assessment. Put aside the argument whether we should continue to assess learner performance, I don't think face to face assessment is feasible, both logistically and economically - unless it is continuous assessment which is performed during the learning process. But if the learning is done via technology, how can we arrange face to face encounters ...

Friday, 26 November 2004

How to Kill a Country

The Technology News of The Age today published an email interview of the authors of a book which details the specifics of the US-Australia free trade agreement. I am no expert in Intellectual Property Laws nor economics. I am just very concerned about the long term benefit of this wonderful country called Australia. I am copying some paragraphs* from the interview below.

The book deals with the subject at hand simply - the average person can read it and understand the implications of the trade deal from the Australian perspective.

We use the parallel experience of Canada to buttress some of these points. Canada is now being described by leading author, Mel Hurtig, as a "Vanishing country" ... In Mel Hurtig's illuminating book The Vanishing Country, he shows how Canada abolished its Foreign Investment Review Agency (the equivalent of our Foreign Investment Review Board) following its FTA with the USA in 1989,

... our book on four areas of institutional dismantling - quarantine, the PBS, government procurement and intellectual property rights. All are important for Australia's future and all are threatened by the FTA. The most subtle of the changes introduced by the FTA are certainly those to do with intellectual property rights (IPRs) ... the Australian negotiators overlooked the point that Australia is a net importer of IPRs (i.e. we pay out more than $1 billion in royalties over and above what we collect) and that this imbalance will only get worse as a result of the FTA.

There are some promotions of "Buy Australian Own" instead of "Buy Australian Made" concept here by a local hero Dick Smith. His commercial interest aside, this is not without merit. As the case of Canada shows (from my limited understanding my reading only the Age's article), when foreign investment controls the major corporations of a country, these corporations will not necessarily put the country where the operation are happening into any major consideration. It cannot be good for the country!

As pointed out by Andrew A. Adams, see my comment here, increase enforcement of copyright laws (and IP protection) does not contribute to more innovation, does not benefit the original creator of the IP (because the reward of such extension will only benefit the "middle man")and in fact will hinder new innovation (by suffocating more liberal use of ideas in order to create new ideas).

This quote again:

"If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." - Issac Newton

*Note: Less than 10% from the original article. This lies within the "fair use" exception of our Australian copyright law which governs my activity. - Sorry, as I am writing this post here in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, I am out of the juridistion of American and the FTA is not yet effective. All text from the original article is in [blockquote] style in this post and this serves as the attribution of the source of the text. ;-P

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Nominated for "Best newcomer (2004)" in The edublog awards

Josie Fraser has a good description of the current event in "The edublog awards" initiated by Alex Halavals which is taken up by James Farmer. The nomination form is here.

"Random Walk in E-Learning" is very honoured to be nominated for "Best newcomer(2004)" award by Josie Fraser. Thank you, Josie!

I started this blog on 2nd August 2004. In the first post, I jotted down my reason for starting a blog as:

Partly because I feel I like to join the bloggers, partly as a mechanism to market my wares and partly as a record of my personal journey in eLearning. Anyway, it has to have a start.

For this start, I must mention Stephen Downes who gave me such an inspiration. In these three months, I have tried to post as frequently as I can, knowing that I must keep up the momentum. I also have collected a increasing blog list in Sage on my Firefox browser and enjoyed reading the various blogs. I seemed to have made many good friends via blog comments, posts and reading of their writing. I said seemed to have made because I have not met most of these friends. As a digital migrant, I still cannot avoid the need of a physical hand-shake. But, I really feel very connected to this community. I am glad I started this.

I am a new-comer, no doubt about this. I am humbled by being nominated. I still have a lot to learn in this ever-lasting journey and I will continue to share my random thoughts here.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

LMS: The wrong place to start learning

George Siemens posted an article and the main argument is very much in the title.

I prefer to call LMS Learners Management System, which most LMS does a good to decent job. In terms of content management, I am not too sure. Most LMS are good in delivering static content (albeit with some varying sequencing using Simple Sequencing) but failed miserably in terms of version management of more dynamic content or allow just-in-time creation of content by the instructor based on perceived performance abilities of the cohort.

SCORM-compliant LMS promise to support SCO/course re-use. Without a formal agreed way to separate the look and feel from content, I don't see how SCOs can be re-used extensively. See my earlier arguments here, here and here.

Of course, as the article rightly pointed out, focusing on content is NOT learning. However, content does have a place in our information needs. I argued that I would like to see e-learning industry develops into a service industry, see My birthday red egg to her birthday party analogy.

In this aspect, I resonate well with Stephen Downes' view on the future of knowledge, e.g. his recent presentation slides. I reckon the ability to "know where to find", "who is who", "what is related to what" (network-type knowledge, or information about information and their relationships) is a sensible way to handle information overload. After-all, just-in-time information for the problem at hand fits well with our limited temporary memory for processing information. Computer and Communication are extension to our cognitive ability to search and locate information. This meta-skill is properly one of the most important thing we shall need to survive in an information age. The other important group of knowledge is our holistic world view which is built on our experience - first, second or third person. Ability to learn from second and third person experience are our characteristic as a human. Hence, we should not overlook the possible of utilizing third person experience. But, again, we should not neglect the huge power of first (and simulated) experience, or see here.!

Monday, 22 November 2004

Good Karma

I am not religious. My primary school years were spent in a Christian school. Part of my secondary schools were in a Catholic school and I have taught in a Buddhist school for about 15 years.

But good advice is not linked to any religion. So I am happy to share this message from Dalai Lama and wish you all the best.

It is in the form of a powerpoint presentation. Please download from here (about 100K).

Sunday, 21 November 2004

The Fallacy of the Underachieving Child

I totally agree with Vicky Woodward on her assertion that

An underachieving child has never existed.

This fallacy is a result of the industrial age requirement of producing workers who are inter-changeable with jobs. In order to keep the machine running (which was huge investment), people who works around these machine takes shifts. If one is sick, ideally, anyone should be able to substitute his place and continue to produce. The production line cannot be stopped because there is a shortage of labour at one production point.

In order to meet the need of industrial age, education system has been set up as filtering system, grading people into different "classes". The measuring instrument to do the sorting is academic performance. "Underachievers" are those who cannot be measured by the current measuring instrument.

My focus is not in criticizing the current education system. At least I am brought up in such a system. My focus is more in the future - a future where
  • repetitive tasks will be replaced by computer and machinery,
  • creativity and innovation are critical,
  • communication skill, team work and problem solving skill are important,
  • productivity must be so high that an average people will support the needs of parents who had inadequately funded their retirement and children of their own,

  • an unknown future when fossil fuel may be close to running out, green house effect may have affected the climate, human life expectancy has been significantly extended due to medical advances, the rich is still richer and the poor are still poor, ...

    My focus is on today. How can I prepare my child to face an unknown future that we don't know?

    I suppose I don't need to worry. Human are so adaptable that our children, by the time they need to face to problem, they will find a solution. But I was also reminded by Lawrence Lessig that today's politicians are putting our kids in big trouble.

    I look forward to reading Vicky Woodward's future post and seeing what she will offer us.

    Saturday, 20 November 2004

    Firefox takes first place

    Firefox public release was only weeks old, but it is picking up browser share - at least in the "geek" community. This stat recognised its audience bias and hence cannot represent a general public.

    I recommend Fablusi v2 users to use Firefox. Firefox is about 4 times faster in loading the extensive client-side javascripts and about 16 times faster in performing computational intensive tasks (such as score statistics).

    There are some differences in the implementation of Javascript in Firefox and IE6 (windows). One of main difference is Firefox allows the declaration of a variable without specifying the value while IE6 will throw an error. E.g. var s; is allowed in Firefox, but not in IE. The eval statement (which is depreciated by the spec, but unfortunately, I still find that I used quite a bit) is erratic in IE too.

    On the other hand, Firefox is quite lose in terms of the terminating semicolon in statements where as IE is much stricter. In this sense, IE is better!

    There may be a memory leak in Firefox. As I develop my scripts using Firefox as a debugger, I found its memory foot-print increases gradually. But, the debugger environment in Firefox is so much better (especially if you have installed the Verkman debugger) that I use Firefox as the main debugger.

    As an e-learning developer, I would like to see Firefox takes up a larger browser share - but that also means our life is a bit complicated that we need to check our codes in other browser environment. My strategy is code to the standards (Firefox) and make work-around when the code breaks in IE6. This strategy seems to be working for me quite well so far.

    Friday, 19 November 2004

    An Introduction to Client-Side XSLT: It's Not Just for Server Geeks Anymore

    For my own memory and those who are following the development of the SCORM look and feel issue, this article points to a way that we may take to attract the problem of SCORM look and feel and content separation.

    More on a future post.

    Maiden Voyage - Engineer's Journal 1

    After years of preparation, the Maiden Voyage of Fablusi v2 has departed. Crew on board - Captain: Marie; First Officer: Albert and another 15 very experienced sailors. Destination: Sexual Harassment in the workplace (Bencon Industries).

    It took about 2 weeks to load all the resources, the role information, configure the iSpaces, set up the tasks and look and feel. We then started enrolment. All the recruits were assigned roles.

    We sailed into a storm - literally. The first was the Melbourne storm - several sudden flickers of power. I thought our server was protected by UPS (uninterruptable power supply), but obviously that did not protect us. So mysteriously, only one role profile was left in the database. Some of our sailors had to re-submit.

    Then came the "random auto-self destruction" of the database. Every now and then, but not every time, the database created about 300,000 records of the same sim-mail reference. After a few of those uncontrolled, unplanned and unintended creations of a few million records later, the database started to slow down. The connection time-out was set for high speed venture and fast response from the database server. Hence time-outs kept occurring. It took me the better part of two days trying to figure out what has happened. You will now see a larger area on my head - hair being torn out during frustrations.

    At the same time, I was trying to install another database server. [In heavy production environment, it is absolutely necessary, I know!, But I thought I was at the engineer room and thing should be OK, so there was no backup database!] The web server I am running is still a NT box. The new server is a window 2000 server. After I installed everything and moved a copy of the database to the new server, I found out that NT and window 2000 databases do not speak the same language. The ODBC on NT is speaking 8-bit (single byte) ASCII and window 2000 speaks 16-bit (double byte) uni-code! I have to go into the window 2000 database and change each field to single byte. It was done after two nights of 2:30 am bed time.

    Then I found out that my window 2000 does not like to be a database server too. It happily serves the data if it is called by the web-server it is hosting, but refused to pass any data to my NT box. (User management problem...)

    By now, the party has heated up. Rumours and harassment are flying everywhere. We almost reached the port of Sexual Harassment in the workplace. Marie decided to declare emergency and evacuated the ship and continue the journey on foot.

    That gave me a chance to reboot the NT server. You know what, after reboot, the database no longer messed up. I was trying the whole day yesterday trying to bombard the database with all sort of data. It stood up and refused to misbehave!

    I reckon, during the Melbourne storm, some memory might have been damaged and causing the database random misbehaviour. After reboot, the bad memory may have been blocked, or it was a soft-damage that it has recovered. Anyway, the database is running beautifully at the moment.

    Thursday, 18 November 2004

    Conceptually bereft or subunderstanding?

    Neoligisms! Don't you love them? They just pop up from nowhere and before you know it, you are using them every day as a sort of "in language" with your crowd. Wink wink - in the know. One of my current favourites is "conceptually bereft". I work with many innovative practitioners who are pushing the elearning edge. The creative part is coming up with new ideas and shaping them. It is so stimulating and energising - a real buzz.

    Rolling out those ideas isn't always as much fun as other stakeholders often need to be involved and usually this involvement contaminates your original pure creations. Oh well that's life. You have a few "Whine without cheese" sessions, feel purged and then get on with it.

    Sometimes it's more serious. Innovative thinkers who are into 'status grow' are not always seen as assets by their bosses, especially if 'status quo" is more comfortable. Sometimes they have a tough time.

    Take my friend Andy. He's smarter than his manager and his manager knows it. To some mnagers, smarter means asset. To others, smarter means liability. Hmmm... power could be usurped.

    Being a smart liability causes Andy a fair bit of anguish as a lot of his energy is invested in ducking and weaving and hiding and hoping he won't be found. All he wants to be is cognitively flexible and intellectually curious and to do the very best for his clients.

    We have some great "Whine and Cheese" sessions. Andy was really whining (technical term is debriefing) about the fact that his boss was an innovation blocker....

    She's so...... she's so....

    Andy couldn't find the words and the frustration was permeating through his pores. So I offered "Conceptually bereft?" I don't know where that came from. A light went on for Andy. Yes! That's exactly right! Conceptually bereft!

    That's the tricky bit. Andy is conceptually adept. He values multiple perspectives and points of view, including that of his manager. His manager on the other hand believes she understands where Andy is coming from but Andy knows she doesn't. Andy's manager is conceptually bereft . Can these opposites co-exist?

    Polyocular Vision or Subunderstanding? is a very insightful paper that explores these issues. It's by Magoroh Maruyama San Diego, USA and the best reading I've come across in ages!

    Here's what the overview says:

    There are several meta-level considerations which are seldom taken up but are crucial. Two of them are discussed in this article: polyocular vision, in which the differences between images obtained from many angles enable the brain to compute invisible mental coordinates; and illusion of understanding, in which a person is convinced that he or she has a perfect understanding while missing the most important points of others. Job rotation and quasi-rotation help cultivate polyocular vision. On the other hand, concept inbreeding in an organization poses a barrier to polyocular vision. Intellectual outbreeding is facilitated by establishing conceptual ‘free trade zones’ such as the Peripheral Vision section in this journal.

    It's not an easy read, but a worthwhile one! And a great resource for your next "Whine without Cheese" jam session!

    Tuesday, 16 November 2004

    Experiencing Knowledge

    This is an article in the first issue of "innovate" edited by James Morrison, and the second author is a long term friend - back to the days when I was serving EdNA.

    The first thing that strikes me is the title: Experiencing Knowledge. To me, knowledge has always been internal. We can experience information and through that experience, we gradually form our knowledge of our world, self being and anything in between.

    Apart from the semantic of the title, this is a stimulating article to cause us to reflect on our own information seeking behaviour and strategies; and what implications technological advances in computing and communication have on us. But I find a bit unsatisfying that the authors do not describe how I should prepare my daughter for her eventual life in 2020 when she has to face survival and supporting her then-old parents. :-) Here is a quote from the conclusion:

    The transformation of learning through technology has many implications for the future of our educational institutions, our workplaces, and our culture at large, ..... Currently we still face considerable challenges to innovation, with regard to both our habitual mindsets and our current tools and infrastructure. .... our engagement with knowledge will take on wholly new forms. Through the development of pervasive computing environments, knowledge will be experienced in a more multidimensional, timely, flexible, and efficient fashion, such that it is no longer bound by the conventional barriers that have continued to determine how and where we learn....

    I just prefer to change the word "knowledge" to "information".

    On the Edge with Albert

    Albert = unpredictable! Ten minutes ago I was chatting on IM with Albert. Then he said " I want you to post in my blog." I thought it was because I was putting him under the pump to fix some bugs in the latest version of Fablusi and he didn't have time. "Now worries" I said thinking I'd do a post on his behalf and that would be the end of it. And here I am. But not as I expected! That's the essence of Albert. Fire! Aim! Ready! I've worked with Albert since 2001 when I first discovered collaborative role play simulations. I remember the very moment when I knew we'd work well together. We were in a group having dinner and talking about all the exotic food we'd eaten - sea urchins, emu, deep fried crickets - that sort of thing. Then Albert pipes up: "I eat anything with four legs except table and chairs!" YES! RESONANCE! That sealed it for me.

    At the moment we are dealing with a potential disaster. We've had a bad day at the office. We overheard Heath the Business Consultant whisper to a colleague: I'm telling you mate, there's too many women in suits around here with their precious EEO this and sexual harassment that... whatever happened to just having a good laugh??

    Wayne the Business Development Manager noticed the Staff Room fridge needed cleaning:
    This fridge needs a good clean out. Must get one of the girls onto it.

    Verity was not impressed: Guys - I've just left some rubber gloves and gumption on your desks - all's fair in equity and of course, as you know, we promote equity for all at Bencon.

    Actually, what's really happening is that we are in Day 2 of "BBQ at Bencon" a role play simulation on sexual harassment in the workplace. Sixteen intrepid volunteers are doing a demonstration role play for the Virtual Organizational Development Online Conference which started today. Participants can observe the play or shadow a role and get a player's eye view of the action. We're having an engaging experience wondering what will emerge next. This is the launch of Version 2 of Fablusi, a role play simulation generator that Albert and our colleague Roni Linser have been re-developing for over 12 months. It's exciting! We're on the edge! And thriving!

    And here's my presentation that goes with it!

    Welcome to Marie Jasinski

    Welcome to my first co-author of this blog. Finally, Marie has agreed to post here. So please look forward to reading her inspiring tales.

    eLearning models

    A 'filling station' model of e-learning? from Auricle.

    Some previous models:

    My birthday red egg to her birthday party
    E-learning models

    Sunday, 14 November 2004

    e-Learning: In Search of a Better Definition

    From Big Dog, Little Dog by Donald Clark

    there are two parts to learning, just as there are in performance. Gilbert said that performance has two aspects: behavior being the means and its consequence being the end (1998). Learning is similar in that it also has two aspects: training or teaching being the means and its consequence being the end. Now the training or teaching may be self-taught, accidental, informal, or purposeful, however, there is a means and the consequence is learning.

    The author found IBM's definition of e-Learning most interesting and promising:
    it also refers to the two aspects of learning -- "innovative technologies and learning models" to provide the means, with the consequence being "acquiring new skills and access knowledge."

    While my focus so far has been on the education side of the equation, I agree with Donald that for corporation, at least:

    The reason that we have to design and develop for the "right skills and knowledge" is that we are accountable to the organization for spending resources wisely. In the IBM article, Victor Jeurissen further remarks that, "75% of CEOs think employee education is the most critical success factor relative to other people issues. Learning directly supports the top agenda of CEOs, business groups and customer responsiveness."

    Viruses for the Mind

    Kuro5hin has posted this article, titled "Coding Viruses for the Mind". I have stripped off the first word for this post's title.

    Kuro5hin's article is an analysis of religions using the idea of mind virus:

  • It is a virus for the mind only. The host of mind virus are human mind.

  • Virus spreads from one host to another.

  • Virus has a payload. The effect of the mind virus on the host.

  • The article gives a rather thorough analysis of how religions spread, but the discussion of the payload is a bit shorter. This concept is not new. The recent term for this, I think, is meme. A definition from Google of meme is:

    /meem/ [coined on analogy with `gene' by Richard Dawkins] n. An idea considered as a {replicator}, esp. with the connotation that memes parasitize people into propagating them much as viruses do. Used esp. in the phrase `meme complex' denoting a group of mutually supporting memes that form an organized belief system, such as a religion. This lexicon is an (epidemiological) vector of the `hacker subculture' meme complex; each entry might be considered a meme. However, `meme' is often misused to mean `meme complex'. Use of the term connotes acceptance of the idea that in humans (and presumably other tool- and language-using sophonts) cultural evolution by selection of adaptive ideas has superseded biological evolution by selection of hereditary traits. Hackers find this idea congenial for tolerably obvious reasons.

    Is instructional design a way of spreading mind virus? or Is education a vaccine against meme?

    Saturday, 13 November 2004

    Knowledge Transportation

    A very good metaphor for KM.

    Taking the metaphor another step, some people view the transportation infrastructure as a mean of transporting "knowledge packages" and other as allowing a learner to travel from one point to another.

    After all, human can learn from first person AND third person experience. In some cases, simple instructions can get work done just-in-time. Get the "knowledge package" courier to me quick! At other times, I may enjoy the ride and scenery, picking up precious knowledge and experience on the way.

    Simulation experience is more than "ersatz" experience

    Marc Prensky's Weblog is back. First up, he posted a few articles. The one which attracted my attention is Interactive Pretending -- An Overview of Simulation. Here are some of my reflections after reading his wonderful article.

    The first sentence in colour is:

    All simulations are “tools that give you ersatz (as opposed to real) experience.”

    The first thing I did was to look up the meaning of "ersatz" and this is what I found from Google

    literally "inferior substitute"
    Being a substitute or imitation, usually an inferior one.
    an artificial or inferior substitute or imitation
    Substitute. As a rule, the term implies that the Ersatz is inferior to the article for which it is a substitute.
    artificial and inferior;

    Emphasis are mine.

    It is true that experience arises from a simulation is NOT real, but I cannot agree that it is inferior to real experience. I have written about how we form our holistic world view. Two points I raised were:
    1. our concept of “real” is created via our senses
    2. some concepts are learnt, e.g. via secondary or third person experience.

    Our everyday routine experience of brushing our teeth, washing our faces have faded into the background because these experiences do not provide new stimulation to excite us, to enlighten us or to cause us into reflection or self-improvement. These are ersatz experience if we still want to use a simulation to repeat them. But remember, these experience have once been very exciting... the first time when you can brush your teeth! I have captured my daughter's first trial on tape!

    If simulation is used to deliver these ersatz experience, I can say no more.

    The good news is that we use simulation to excite, to learn, to create new insight and new ways of understanding things. Such experience is NOT inferior in any sense. Because the simulation provides you with a safe environment to experience situations which may be too expensive, too dangerous or morally unacceptable, I would say these are very "valuable" experience.

    Any stimulation entering our cognitive system is as real as any other stimulation. Yes, for some simulations, we do have to activate our "suspension of belief" in order to fully engage and work through the experience without constant reconciliation with our existing belief. But this is of no relationship to the value of the experience. It is just a different kind of experience we actively put into a different category.

    Marc uses ersatz as opposed to real. I prefer to refer to simulated experience as "simulated experience". I would not attach any connotation of any inferiority to such valuable experience created by simulation.

    Marc also talks about the model of a simulation being the magic black box and the utility of the simulation depends on the assumptions made when building the black box. I agree 100%.

    To me, role play simulation's black box is the social structure we created for that role play simulation, by giving different persona different rights in different interaction spaces, by giving different persona different knowledge, wealth and connection to other persona. The assumptions we made in defining such power relationship and social structure is something we should constantly review.

    The input and output model as described by Marc is a correct generalisation. However, I would like to point out that the output is not necessarily based solely on the black box. In role play simulation, the life experiences of the players affect the game play significantly. These are input from "outside the black box" while still constrained by the meta-rules set up by the role play simulation.

    Finally, fidelity is an interesting issue. Our Fablusi role play simulation does not put a lot of effort in creating a highly graphical interface. In fact, we try to avoid giving the player a visual image of the persona. I compare this with playing chess. While having a set of beautiful chess pieces is one thing, the enjoyment and engagement of the game is almost a completely different matter. As long as you have an opponent of similar skill, the game will be exciting. For some simulation, fidelity is extremely important. So I agree, again 100% with Marc, that the investment in creating the realistic representation should be contained by the nature of the simulation and the expected learning outcome.

    Friday, 12 November 2004

    Two sides of the Same Coin

    My sister, who works for a large international corporation, passed me this from her corporate trainer:

    Focus on Problems vs. Focus on Solutions

    When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn't work at zero gravity (Ink won't flow down to the writing surface).In order to solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and in a temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C. And what did Russians do .......................................??

    The Russians used a Pencil!!!

    What is the story behind this?

    I suppose the intended message is in the title: "Focus on Problems vs. Focus on Solutions"

    My reflection on this:

    If you can afford it, like NASA, you opened up new revenue streams by selling your new invention to other markets (under-water mining, pipe-laying...)

    This is one of the problem with many today's top management: the term of their service - usually 5 years before they move on. With such short term focus, long term planning will suffer. This is hard decision: achieving your goal in limited budget, or allow risk in the hope of opening up new market. In some ways, this is why incumbent has opened up opportunity for disruptive technology to displace them!

    Thursday, 11 November 2004

    International Journal of Web Based Communities (IJWBC)

    It seems at least the first issue has all the paper in pdf format available online free.

    More on "Discussion Forum"

    Triggered by Nancy White's comment to my response to her comment on my comment on E-Learning Queen's post, I was looking for the source of a piece of brilliant idea I came across years ago this whole morning - but still cannot find it.

    [Side notes]If the referencing of referencing of referencing in the above sentence is too much for you, then this is result of attribution required by the CC-license. So, I am going to change the CC license of this web-site, and remove the attribution requirement![end side notes]

    Any way, if the idea I am writing below belongs to you, please let me know and my apology for not properly acknowledge the origination.

    Nancy asked a very good question in her comment:

    But what is permanent any way? Certainly not my short term memory?

    Human history/culture was passed between generations orally through stories and songs until writing was invented. Writing gave a "permanent record" of the stories although the interpretation of the stories do changed through the generation because some of the language use might have lost their original contextual meanings. Writing is also a cognitive tool for us to extend our cognitive ability - by referencing written text and hence can process more information/data. The invention of printing is another historical significant moment.
    As Elizabeth Eisenstein, Marshall McLuhan, William M. Ivins, J. David Bolter, and other students of the history of the cultural effects of print technology have shown, Gutenberg's invention produced what we today understand as scholarship and criticism in the humanities
    - from

    At the same time, speech, or oral communication remains to play a significant role in our daily activities. Because once a statement is spoken, the subsequent interpretation (or the exact wording of that statement) is subject to negotiation. (How many times we have engaged in argument about whether the other party has said this or that?) This "time" factor plays an important role for our daily interaction.

    Computer-based communication broke this "fuzziness" and provide a permanent record of the discussion, to the exact spelling of how each word was spelt. Again, this can be both good and bad, pedagogically. A record of our previous conversation enables us to get back to the previous statement and ponder more deeply than would be possible in an oral environment. However, as I have noted in my comment to comment... that this may also back flip to attack us. Political leaders are frequently quoted during interview from what they have said long times ago. This is a typical "attack" which is unseen before all these recording abilities. Discussion forum has this characteristics and some learners may be reluctant to response because of this. (this is what I referred to as "intimidation" by the media).

    Gotcha in Upgrading to Firefox 1.0

    I have upgraded my Firefox pre-release 1.0 to Firefox 1.0. Guess what, some of the extensions I have been dependent upon disappeared, sort of.

    The first is the spelling checker. I was shocked after I wrote this piece and right click. No more spelling check! Luckily, it was easily resolved by going to and do a reinstallation.

    The spiderzilla, a website download tool, is gone as well. Again, a reinstallation from solved the problem.

    Sage, RSS reader and aggregation is also gone. ditto at

    The web developer tools were are intact! Good news for this one including the Javascript debugger.

    So, when you upgrade your Firefox, be prepared for some work to get the extensions you have become used to.

    Wednesday, 10 November 2004

    Meta-Data Repositories Meet Semantics

    via OLDaily.

    I echo strongly with Stephen's comment:

    Sounds good, but look at the presumption it is based on: "Semantics define a concept's meaning in a manner that is both unambiguous and universally correct in meaning." This is not a sound presumption on which to base an industry....

    Without going into the semantic level, metadata itself poses lot of issues. Different metadata profiles should not be completely harmonised into a common straight-jacket.

    Metadata is "data about data". Without going into a recursive relationship of data and metadata and metametadata, let's just look at "metadata" of physical goods.

    In most business, goods are kept tracked by using "metadata" - data about the goods. For example, the "inventory" is tracked and order for new stock is made, promotion program are used based on the records of the metadata of the goods. People seldom count their stock every minute or every day. Not even every month. They do their "reconciliation" half-yearly or annually.

    Any accountant or auditor can tell you that every business has its own different sets of characteristics about the goods in their metadata. The freight company is more interested in the weight and size of the goods, the fashion industry interested in size and color, and so on. As an industry matures and needs interoperability, usually a common set of characteristics will stand out and get standardized. However, the competition is ALWAYS on the differences, not the standard features that everybody has. It is always the difference that distinguish a brand from another, and customers are making their buying decisions on the differences! When I bought an MP3 player for my daughter, I made a decision on the specification. She decided to want one against another is based on the look of the MP3 - not any standards or specification! It is because it looks "cool".

    [Business hat ON] If a consultant to your company suggests you to convert all your critical company data (or metadata) into a common set of metadata which everybody else uses. Think twice! Who is that "everybody"? and where will your competitive advantage be once you adopted this approach? How can you keep track of your competitive advantage? [Business hat OFF]

    If we can understand this, the issue of metadata is a "fitness for the purpose". Different communities will develop different "metadata profile" to meet their special needs. This development effort can be driven "top-down" or "bottom-up". Both approaches have their pros and cons. It is sufficiently problematic.

    If we are trying to "cross-walk" and apply "semantic" to elements over a board range of communities, I am not optimistic!

    An Interesting Comment on ELearning

    Nancy White found my comment on "Sage on the Stages" intriguing.

    Well, not only

    Discussion are permanent. Every word we enter into the discussion forum is stored and can come back to "attack" us.

    Blogs too. :-)

    The Real Toy Story

    This is a story about an exhibition at John Batten Gallery, Hongkong from November 2-27, 2004 by a photographer Michael Wolf.

    As a surprise for my son Jasper, I bought a sack (app. 600) of second hand toys at the local goodwill store and distributed them on every available surface in his room - surprise! The effect was stunning.

    As we examined the toys closer we made a discovery – every single one was made in China.

    Jasper observed: “I thought Santa and his helpers made toys!” It was then the idea came to me: what if I was to make an installation and cover an entire wall with toys “made in China” and juxtapose them with portraits of Chinese toy-factory workers?

    The emphasis is mine.


    I was concerned with the future of the job market, see What will her future be? back on September 26, 2004. My speculation was:

    In 2020, all physical production will be outsourced to developing or underdeveloped countries, like China and India.

    This is a vivid example. Today, China is almost the world's factory, at least the 16,000 toys used in the exhibition are all made in China. This will only continue because we are only utilizing a small fraction of the China work force. Today's factories in China are mostly located in the eastern provinces. There are still huge amount of poor, hard-working work force in the rest of country waiting eager to work.

    For people in the developed countries, the overall job market in 2020 is definitely different from today. How should we prepare our children is a big question I am interested in, but feel helpless to ponder. Michelle Strbich suggested that I should, and my daughter as well, read the books by Robert Kiyosaki, such as "Rich Kid, Smart Kid", "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" & "Rich Dad's Guide to Investing" ...

    Accumulating wealth and make use of the wealth to generate more income is a good suggestion. That might be a solution for me, but the question is still here - what the overall job market will look like, and hence how should the education system adapt to meet the new challenge?

    Tuesday, 9 November 2004

    The Engadget Interview: Niklas Zennström

    Niklas Zennström is the CEO and co-founder of Skype. I have been using Skype for some time now and found it very good both in terms of sound quality, cost effectiveness and ease of use.

    When Roni was presenting Fablusi to the US Army, I was listening to his whole presentation via Skype and was able to jump in to make additional comment here in Melbourne. It was a good experience.

    This interview is interesting in several ways:

  • The look into the mindset of the CEO of a company which is developing a disruptive technology to compete with big telcom.

  • The implication of business model when we are in the digital age where the marginal cost of reproduction is near to zero.

  • I am also excited as they are also planning to third party developer to integrate the Skype technology into other application. Fablusi will be holding its hand up high immediately.

    Monday, 8 November 2004

    Some useful resources for Political Role Play Simulation

    Fablusi was started as a role play simulation platform for running political science role play simulations (polsim in short). One of the key design feature of these polsims was the setting of the simulation time 3 weeks ahead into the future. In other words, the players are in a future world. Any events that happened today in real world will be treated as history in the simulated world - provided that such event does not contradict what has happened in the simulated world.

    Such a design gives the player incentive to study the political figures as well as watching the current news in order to pull in relevant events to advance their game goal. As such, these resources may be quite useful.


    is a free non commercial news site with up to the minute news headlines collected from multiple news channels. Incoming news is automatically scanned for "names" allowing for charting, achieving and email alerts by name, showing you who's hot and who's last weeks news.

    This web site searches the news from 15023 sources updated every 15 minutes and allows a visualisation using a News Map. The size or the color of a piece of news on the map can represent age of the news or popularity. The location (grouping) is based on source or a combination of source and popularity.
    Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. Color is used for both age and categories and the size for popularity (??)

    Both news visualisation will be useful for players of polsims to quickly get a glimpse of the world events and move their game goal accordingly.

    10x10 and 100 words of current news

    via Furl- The Alan Levine Archive

    Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input. - from 10x10 website

    This is a very clever idea and interface is well designed to match the objective.

    The current data is gathered from 3 western news feeds. We know that news sources are not free from political bias. See for example: A Tale of Two Osamas. Obviously as the source of news feeds expands, the web-site will reflect a more balanced world view.

    I also noticed that there are many repeats of the same image. Without checking the news sources, I cannot accurately describe the issue here. I guess, this may be the result of :
  • the news sources are using each other's photograph, or

  • the pictures are driven by the frequency of the words extracted from the news.

  • If it is the latter case, I hope 10x10 can improve by removing such duplications. Yes, at the moment, with only 3 news feeds, 100 pictures with 100 words may be an over-representation of the key issue at this historical time. Again, this may be easily overcome by a wider selection of news feeds.

    Sunday, 7 November 2004

    showcase - savannah

    via The Alan Levine Archive

    Savannah is a strategy-based adventure game where a virtual space is mapped directly onto a real space. Children ‘play’ at being lions in a savannah, navigating the augmented environments with a mobile handheld device. By using aspects of game play, Savannah challenges children to explore and survive in the augmented space. To do this they must successfully adopt strategies used by lions.

    The interesting thing to me is the integration of virtual space and real space. I would love to know more about this project...