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...

    Saturday, 6 November 2004

    Online Role Play Simulation Design - 3

    This is the third of a series of posts on creating online role play simulation. The first post was on how we normally run an online role play simulation. The second post described how to create an engaging and effective online role play simulation.

    In this post, I shall describe the re-usability regime of Fablusi version 2.

    In Fablusi, we distinguish between 4 types of users: simulation creator (author in short), administrator, moderator and player. Re-use makes sense to the first three types of users. In the following, I will briefly describe the main re-use mindset of each of the first three types of users and then how Fablusi provides re-use support matching the mindset.

    Authors are people who create role play simulation, whether for their own learners or for sharing. The primary objective of identifying this user type is to allow role play simulations to be used by others who cannot afford the time and resources to create their own simulation. They can just choose an existing one (via administrator type and moderator type).

    The primary re-use concern of authors is to minimize the amount of tedious work involved in creating a simulation. As mentioned in the last post, after the conceptualisation of the simulation, there are a number of tedious jobs: creating roles, iSpaces, tasks and writing up kick-start episodes. (For the meaning of these terms, please refer to previous posts.) All these "components" are reusable. At the moment, there are built in "web-retrieval" for importing pre-built roles, iSpaces, tasks (and in fact all components) from "content packs". Shortly in version 2.1, we plan to allow authors to export their roles, iSpaces etc. for future import.

    The second reuse, more like a usability, is the concept of "group". By putting roles into groups, rights can be assigned to the same group by a single click and later further customised by adjusting other groups in each iSpace right setting. A rough observation from how our authors work show that by properly grouping roles, there is an average saving of 30 clicks for each iSpaces and a significant reduction of errors too.

    Look and feel used to take up a lot of time during the design process. We now move to a complete CSS-supported paradigm. The look and feel is applied by selecting a template. We have some pre-built look and feel and authors can further modify the look and feel by changing the CSS.

    Administrators is a handle for job of initiating a role play simulation and allocating players into different roles. The first reuse is from the separation of this type of user from the authors. Now, you can just select from a collection of role play simulations (yours or created by other authors) and instantiate to run.

    We also support self-role selection. During self-role selection, administrator may also like to collect a set of data from the players. The data to be collected is defined by a set and the set can be re-used in other simulation or worlds. Notification emails are based on templates which are either pre-built by us, or created by administrator for future or current re-use.

    In order to cater for different cohort size, we allow grouping the cohort into worlds and allow them to play within the worlds. Worlds a great re-use concept, the same design (roles, iSpaces,...) are repeated without additional work.

    Administrators may also like to change the look and feel. Again, this can be further customised from the "default" specified by the author, or select a completely different look and feel depending on whether the author has granted the right to do so.

    We have spent a lot of time in building a comprehensive moderator tool box to support the job of moderating and assessing a role play simulation. The assessment assistant (AA as we call her) consists of defined rubrics and activation rules. Again, these are re-used as they are designed as components to be plug-into different simulations.

    Running any reasonable size role play (say for a typical cohort of 40 players) over 2 to 5 weeks is a major task. There are lots of planning, design and administration. Fablusi has moved beyond just a platform for delivering role play simulation. We have developed many procedures and supports to streamline and minimize the effort required. The fact is that any "artificial intelligence" of a piece of software actually represents a lot of work either from the Fablusi team, the authors and/or the administrators. By implementing a rigorous re-use regime, I hope that such work can be re-used over and over again.

    My ultimate goal is to create a system which allows a "15-minute" preparation time to deliver a 2 to 5 weeks role play simulation. I also aim to create a moderating environment so that a moderator can reasonably moderating a 40-player role play by spending one hour per day during the actual running time of the simulation - including providing continuous assessment during the role play. There are still hard work, but I hope the system can provide an environment to do the job within reasonable effort.

    Thursday, 4 November 2004

    Learning Object Metadata (The Buntine Oration - Reflection 3)

    This is the third post in a series of reflections triggered by Stephen Downes's Buntine Oration. The initiating one reflected on the background of my being here today. The first real reflection was on federated search. The second is on learning object. This post is on metadata.

    As I have previously disclosed, I was lucky enough to have exposure to IEEE LOM at its early stages, having spent some time in harmonising the earlier versions with other efforts. However, also at about the same time, I have developed my own "3-type data model" in conceptualising data about data, which is still an on-going project, see here and here.

    Two metaphors at the early stages in my exposure to metadata were very compelling:

  • Metadata is like the label on a can. Without the label, we have to open up each can in order to find out what is in the can. So, for some years, I was always carrying two cans when I went to conferences and talked about metadata.

  • The notion of "author", "writer" or "creator" all carry similar meaning. But software will have great difficulty in recognising that these are essential the same term. So I was convinced that a metadata standard was necessary in order to simplify the intelligence behind the software in order to "harmonise" all the efforts around the world at that time.

  • My view gradually changed.
  • First of these was the "3-type data model" I was developing. I realised that "metadata" is not the only way of providing the mechanism for support of discovery of learning resources. In fact, the commercial search engines have demonstrated that an inverted index type of "type 2" data is more efficient and scalable. The use of metadata as part of the resource discovery mechanism became less and less appealing to me.

  • As my job still required me to improve the metadata concept, I also looked at the fundamentals of metadata: the process of involving human to categorize information is full of flaws, inconsistency and laden with multiple hidden agenda. Harvesting was investigated. Collaboration between subject gateways studied. But I became even more convinced that we needed a better mechanism. [I remember reading something about metadata crap lately in the blogosphere. If anyone can point to us where it was posted, it will be highly appreciated.]

  • As part of another project in studying the inter-operability of learning resources from different learning strategies, see this and this, I realised that learning resources used in one learning strategy were hardly usable in another learning strategy without re-work, re-word or changes. That was not the kind of interoperability I was envisaging and was promised. I also realised that the ability to "discover" learning resource was a lesser problem than the ability to "render" resources in meaningful ways under the learning paradigm that a particular academic (or faculty in US terms) is subscribed to. We were addressing a problem from the wrong end!

  • The last straw that broke my belief in metadata came from the concept of "dumb down". At that stage, we realised that it was difficult to have a single set of metadata elements to satisfy all needs. Hence, the qualifiers were introduced. We had qualifiers for the element itself - either extending or narrowing the semantics associated with a particular element. We also have qualifiers for the restricted values assignable to these elements in order to cater for different needs and community background. In order to enable interoperability, the concept of "dumb down" was needed. When a cross-walk was unable to match the exact semantics of the element, we "dumb down" to a broader, agreed element. Good in a sense, but, hey all the hard work that gone into creating the differences are all gone!

  • The metadata effort drew a lot of experiences from people with experience in categorising information - the librarians. However, I believe the effort has put less focus in drawing the experience from the "chalk face". The metadata effort has attracted a lot of interest from technology companies who provided solution of content management and from publishers who wanted to maximize the use of their content. But I still failed to see how metadata can help the chalk face in their daily work. Most academic are expert in their own discipline. They have a very good knowledge of the kind of resources they can and would use. They don't need resource discovery support. They need tools to help them use the resources they already own!

    Just another point before I finish off this reflection. I thought Stephen and I have differences in "federated search". After a few comments exchange, I realise that we are actually have the same point of view. From a technical point of view, I don't see any reason why we should not support "mega-searching", i.e. allow searching across multiple resource repositories (assuming that there is such a need). However, I agree with Stephen completely that encouraging "lock-up" content, either by IP enforcement or depositing into deep repository is doing no good for education.

    Wednesday, 3 November 2004

    Want Some Attention? Tell Your Readers To Go Away!

    Robin Good has a very good explanation why Edu_RSS (by Stephen Downes) is attracting so much traffic and/or attention!

    I might just try the same. Go away and read it yourself!

    EDUCHAOS: Tuning in to your own voice!

    Another edition of EduChaos by Marie Jasinski is now out. A good read and very inspiring.

    My own story:

    It was about 20 years ago.

    My wife was a mezzo-supremo and she wanted me to go to a choir with her weekly. So I accompanied her to the choir, sat on a side chair and I refused, definitely and positively, to join. You know, I had never sang. I knew not one song, not even a nursery tune. My scale was sang like this.

    It was like that for weeks.

    But every time, the members of the choir kept encouraging me. Told me how desperate that they needed male singer. Told me how easy it would be. Encourage, motivation, enthusiasm kept coming.

    It was not easy. It took a lot of courage to just sit with the bass section. I dare not produce a sound. But, it got better. By the end of the first session I joined in, I had sang a bass line (simple, just lower C and following a simple rhythm). It was the inner fear of failure and embarrassment that has prevented me to join in. With encourage, I joined and found out that it was not difficult.

    For the next 5 years, I happily went to the choir with my wife every week and even performed in public.

    Thanks Marie for her story which help me bring back a memory I have almost forgotten.

    Tuesday, 2 November 2004

    Copyright v Creativity - Reflection after listening to the audio

    I have listened to the complete audio and found the public lecture very informative.

    The speaker, Andrew A. Adams, has a PhD from University of St Andrews and is currently studying Advanced Legal Studies at the University of Reading and his dissertation will be on

    development of European Copyright Law leading to the WIPO treaty and the European Union Copyright Directive.

    Several key points:
  • Copyright law benefits only the middle man - publishers and record companies. It has nothing to do with helping the creator of the works. The creator has already assigned the rights to the middle man. In record industry, the artists typically get only 5% of the revenue!

  • Since the history of establishing "protection" of intellectual work, the exemption duration has been extended again and again. The Mickey Mouse Law: When the copyright of the mouse was about to expire, magically, the exemption duration was extended.

  • The use of the words "pirate" and "thief" to describe people who violated the "copyright" of other is wrong! Both the acts of pirate and stealing involve the concept of "harm". The only harm that the people who violated copyright has done is to the business model of the middle man.

  • USA joined the international copyright organisation in the 1980's only when they became the exporter of "intellectual property". USA is also enforcing their copyright laws onto other countries through trade negotiations. Australia is a victim of the current free trade agreement.

  • Copyright laws hinder creativity.

  • I echo strongly with the last point. I have, as a joke, said that R & D stands for "repeat and duplicate". There is a lot of truth in that. Our knowledge is built upon experiences and most of the "formal" knowledge are third person experiences - theories and ideas established by others before us. If we need to seek permission to use every of these ideas, how can we become creative?
    "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." - Issac Newton


    The situation is: ("I" in the following quotes are James Farmer)

    Last Tuesday I received a memorandum from a manager cc’d by am exec. director instructing me to cease supporting and promoting weblogging, wikis or any other technology not officially supported by the University. The basic reason given being that I have, anecdotally, not used the CMS (this isn’t true, I always use it) and that ‘commentary’ on the issue of CMSs (quoted I think from this blog or another I set up for a course) is unacceptable. A set-up for disciplinary action should I not follow instructions.

    and James Farmer's difficulty is:
    The difficult decision has been whether to write about it here or not. I’ve done so because you’re my professional community, my support and in many ways my friends & I don’t think I could keep up what I do here without being totally down the line with where I’m coming from.

    James is interested in his job and research. He intended to
    beg that as part of my academic research agenda and in the best interests of the University I be allowed to continue my work.

    At this point, we can only give James our greatest moral support. ;-)

    I resigned from my first job at a uni here in Melbourne when I arrived in Australia about 10 years ago. There were several reasons. One of them was one of the conditions of employment whcih I could not agree. As an employee of the university, the university would own all the work I did. I asked explicitly what about the work I might do at my spare time with my own equipment. The answer was that it was very difficult to ensure that any work I did was actually did outside office hours using my own equipment. Hence the clause in the employment contract was to eliminate any ambiquity! Shortly after that, I resigned and I am glad I did.

    p.s. I don't know whether the same clause is still there. In today's standard, I think some lawyers may be interested to represent the employees for a class action.

    Learning Objects: A Practical Definition

    via elearnspace

    This is a comprehensive review of definitions of learning object. Although the author did suggest a definition at the end, I don't think it is any more conclusive than previous attempts. Have a read if you are REALLY interested in the academic discussions about learning object. I still suggest to call useful learning resources learning resources. Why "object" if the learning resources defined do not carry the additional value of being an object? Learning Resource is such a common term that there will not be any debate about it!

    Monday, 1 November 2004

    Copyright v Creativity

    There are audio files and powerpoint in pdf format of A Public Lecture at The University of Reading on 19th October 2004. These are in Creative Common license.

    I have only briefly gone over the slides and did not have a chance to listen to the audio yet.

    Just by looking at the slides, it seemed to me that there is a solid review of the history of copyright and then leading to the modern copyright laws.

    In the next day or so, when I have a bit more time, I will definitely allocate some time to hear the audio.

    OneLook Reverse Dictionary

    OneLook's reverse dictionary lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word.

    The other services from the website includes:

  • Define words: Type a word into the search box on the front page to retrieve a list of dictionary web sites that define that word. Be sure "Find definitions" is selected.

  • Translate words: Type a word into the search box and select "Find translations" to retrieve a list of dictionary web sites that have translations of that word into other languages.

  • Find words: Type a pattern consisting of letters and the wild cards * and ? to retrieve a list of words matching your pattern. The asterisk (*) matches any number of letters or symbols. The question mark (?) matches exactly one letter or symbol.

  • These are going to be useful tools for me!

    I just hope that the Mozilla people can create an extension of this for use in Firefox (or Mozilla) soon.

    Associative thinking through blogging

    In almost all cases, structured learning activities work better than unstructured. Giving students a goal, an expected use, or a desired outcome frames what the student is to do and why it is beneficial. A student’s personal blog/journal probably would not meet the learning goals established by a thorough educator.

    and continue to suggest:

    ...the type of guidance that Charlie sets; i.e.: use of weblog as “project logs and research notes", gives students a framework for how and why to use this particular tool.

    Good reading (and please follow the links too) for all interested in using Blog in their teaching...

    Online Role Play Simulation Design - 2

    This is the second of a series of posts on creating online role play simulation. The first post on how we normally run an online role play simulation is here.

    In this post, I shall describe how to create an engaging and effective online role play simulation.

    Role play simulation is similar to Problem-Based Learning (PBL) with some similarities and differences. In role play, we create an instructional problem and put the players in the shoes of the stakeholders and let them work out how to solve a problem. The main differences between an instruction problem in PBL and role play are:

  • In most PBL designs, the instructional problem is solved from a single viewpoint. When collaborative techniques are used, the team is still working as one solution provider. However, in role play simulation, we deliberately put different stakeholder view points into direct conflict and each stakeholder is trying to find the best possible solution for that stakeholder. In a way, there is no SINGLE one correct or acceptable solution.

  • As noted in the previous post, one of the first task the players are asked to do is the role profile. Part of the role profile is do articulate the public and private agenda from the point of view of the persona. In a way, the learners are asked to construct their own problem relevant to the situation. This is a fairly high level skill in order to form a comprehensive understanding of the situation as presented in the brief scenario and formulate a strategic game goal for the persona.

  • Most PBL problems are fixed in the sense that a solution is required for the problems posted. In role play, we acknowledge that the stakeholder stance (i.e. both the public and private agenda for the persona) may evolve as a result of the interactions among the persona in the role play (e.g. a stakeholder may choose to alliance with a previous competitor in order to achieve some immediate benefit and then revert back into competition later.

  • So how are we going about to create an engaging role play simulation?

    Defining Appropriate Learning Objectives
    Some learning objectives are better delivered by other learning designs. We need to identify those that are suitable for role play simulation. (We should avoid looking at ALL problems as nails. We should have different tools in our toolbox, more than just hammer. BTW, hammer is the best tool to drive a nail into a block of wood!)

    We always recommend our designers to write down the learning objectives we would like to achieve and we shall refer back to these as our guiding principle in making design decisions.

    Scenario Design
    We then try to articulate a circumstantial situation in which the required skills need to be used. This is going to be a recursive design in which refinement will be made as the design progresses.

    Stakeholder View Points
    Instead of going directly to visualize persona in the given scenario, it is better to start with some general stakeholder viewpoint and identify the similarities and differences among these stakeholders. You may find that some stakeholders may have similar viewpoint which we may combine or a stakeholder group may have subtle differences which we want to explore further.

    Identify Persona (Roles)
    A role may represent more than one stakeholder viewpoint. You can be a parent as well as teacher. This happens in normal life and should happen in role play simulation as well. Sometimes a role may represent both conflicting stakeholder interests too! (Obviously, such roles are more sophisticated and would be better played by your more able learners.) Sometimes, a stakeholder viewpoint may be played by several roles too. This is where flexibility may be built to accommodate different cohort sizes.

    Kick-start Episode
    As mentioned in the previous post, the roles need compelling reasons to act. Role play is also like a game. By giving compelling game goals, the player can get into the simulation much easier. We may create several kick-start episodes and have some in our sleeves in case the simulation needs more “fuel” in order to burn faster!

    Interaction Space and the Social Relationship Among the Persona
    As the name suggests, Interaction Space (iSpaces as we call them in Fablusi) are spaces where interactions occur. The social relationship will define whether a role has access to a certain iSpace or not, or to what level of rights the role may have in that iSpace. For example, if we implement an iSpace called “Women’s room”, we would expect only the female roles will have access to that space and all the male role may not know that such an iSpace has existed. In other words, not every role should be aware of every conversation that may have happened. This is also a key to give some role more power over the other roles.

    Role play simulation design should not be a linear design. All the above “steps” can occur simultaneously and repeated several times during the design cycle. As we continue to refine, we may also find ourselves re-defining the learning objectives, because we may find that design may cover some other learning objectives we have not envisage before, or we may have to drop some learning objectives as the scenario does provide sufficient exposure of the issues to the learners.

    Writing the role profile and the role summary at the beginning and near the end of the simulation are obvious tasks that we can set in the simulation. Other tasks, such as publication of news letter, presentation of a business proposal to the board of directors, undergoing an auditing process and writing up the auditing reports are tasks that we can set in the simulation to give a deadline for the persona in order to set the pace of the progression. These may also be assessable items too.

    We have a design worksheet (this is going to be replaced by a newer version reflecting the new changes in Version 2 of Fablusi) which you may like to have a look as well. The worksheet will be sent to your email when you try to get it. I'll write here when there is a newer version.