Friday, 30 December 2005

Let's take some action

It seems that the debate of "learning objects" has been heating up again. I am tired of this. It is time that we take some action.

Here is what I think the current situation is:

  1. We cannot arrive at a common definition/understanding, not in the near future. In fact, I don't believe we can in any timeframe.

  2. The current meaning attached to LO only serves a "information as knowledge" model. It does not server other pedagogical paradigms

  3. The concept of re-use, and inter-operability are still valid and should be encourage. [Associated with re-use is the issue of discoverablity. Associated with interoperability is the issue of standardisation.]

  4. The current most commonly adopted model is SCO from SCORM. However, SCO only does the communication with a LMS for tracking purposes. There are a limited number of data storing capability by LMS (such as student names, scores, etc.)

  5. SCO as an aggregation unit only helps courses compilation. It does not contribute to the production of quality learning content.

  6. SCO supports a solo learning model, not in alignment with the social constructistic paradigms.

Here is what I think we (people interested in technology-based learning) can and we should do. Stop the debate and get real. Accept that there are more than one best way to learn and support the multiple views of learning objects.

For those who subscribe to "information transfer" model:

  1. There are different atomic sizes for LO. The most important thing is that it is useful to solve at least one problem for you, be it re-use, simplification of workflow, better design, nicer look... Do NOT claim the high ground and ended up useless. (e.g. the most re-usable atomic size of digital object is bit. But that is totally useless in our field of endeavour!)

  2. SCO as a building block for a course is a good start. We are going to work upwards as well as downwards.

  3. Interoperability of courses involves recognising the learning outcome and skill level. This requires understanding of work such as recognisation of previous experience and so on. I am NOT interested in this. So, someone please pick this up.

  4. We should also see the benefit of building blocks to be used within a SCO. A way to make all the building blocks to appear, at least for look and feel, has been suggested. [Overcoming the Presentation Mosaic Effect of Multi-Use Sharable Content Objects from Implementation Issues of SCORM]

  5. The problem of storing SCOs at different repositories (with different domains) has been solved also.

  6. Adding interactivity (ie make the building blocks look slightly more intelligent by adding appropriate javascript) can be done using Unobtrusive Javascript. This is worth investigating. (e.g. sortable table, rich-text input fields, drag & drop and others, tree control...)

  7. For a background data source support, we can use AJAX frameworks.

  8. For interoperability among the building blocks, we can use virtual apparatus framework

For those who subscribe to "social constructivitistic" paradigms:

  1. Continue to use blog, RSS, discusson forum as our building blocks (ie LO :-) ).

  2. Use websites as objects and integrate the functionalities into your coursea.

  3. Read Stephen Downe's OLDaily.

For the rest of us:
Pick from whatever that suit the job at hand. Why argue! Get the job done and move on with it.

Request for Action
OK, enough of this. Here is what on the table.
I have this "virtual apparatus framework" concept for a long long long... time. I have also this web site as well. I am happy to continue to pay for the hosting and will install a wiki to it if there are more than 10 people interested in taking on board this idea of interoperability between building blocks and start from fresh if deem fit. Let me know and I will do something.

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

My Learning Outcome of the "Britannica Vs Wikipedia Debate"

I have been following the development of "Britannica Vs Wikipedia Debate", see here , here and here without really drawing any conclusion. Smelly Knowledge added yet another point of view, The Emergence of Meaning: Wikipedia As Object-Centered Sociality.

If we can accept that an article is a manifestation (one of many) of the author's knowledge of a subject matter and that the knowledge (or understanding) is in a constant changing stage, I can cope with the debate and may be able to take a side.

Articles in Britannica are the compromised manifestation of a group of people (called writers here after) selected by a group of editors.

Wikipedia is a massively multiparticipant distributed collection of articles which are, again, manifestations of the writers of these articles.

I don't know about the article writing process in Britannica, but I would suppose that there may be disagreements of the manifestation among the writers AND the final version is the result of an EDITORIAL process.

There are disagreement of the manifestation as tracked in the history and compromise process is done via the public discussion which is also publicly available - a different EDITORIAL process.

The editors who selected the writers are not themselves active participants of the community interested in the subject matter. This is a matter of "knowing who". OK, put it bluntly, the editors are not expert in the field!

The writers are self-selected. This is a matter of "knowing what". Presumably, the writers are active participants of the subject matter community. Here "self ego" applies. [The writers probably think they are the expert in the field.]

Britannica is part of a business whose objective is to maximize the return of investment. I am not saying whether it is good or bad at the point, just pointing out the fact and the implications. Hence, the subject matter of articles are selected to meet the need of the majority of potential readers. Obviously there would be a cut-off point where it was considered not worthy of inclusion if the number of potential readers of a particular article falls below a certain number. The long tail is typically cut off!

The business model of wikipedia does not depend on tight economic rationale to maximize return of investment. The cost of inclusion of articles catering for a small reader is near zero and hence not a factor in the decision in whether it should be included or not.

I cannot agree to the position that says "Let Wikipedia Be Wikipedia". Both Brittanica and Wikipedia are in the same market place competiting for market share (among other competitors). They both serve the need as a first place to look when someone encounters a new subject matter.

I also cannot agree to the position that says wikipedia is a little slop at the microscale [as] the price of such efficiency at the macroscale. [The Probabilistic Age] In time, Wikipedia would be efficient at microscale too. But Brittanica and Wikipedia are self-correcting (ie when errors or faults are found, later editors would correct them). However, Wikipedia obviously has a much shorter revision cycle and thus allow the self-correction to happen faster and more efficiently. There is not probability operating here. Yes, we may apply statistical methods to compare the articles against the illusive scale of quality. When you randomly pick an article, the quality of the article as measured may be calculated from the statistic as a probability. Each and every article has its own quality scale determined by the community of practice and frankly within any community of practice, I don't think a common quality scale can be defined easily.

Authorship and authority looks too similar to my liking (English is not my first langauge!). The fact that one has authored an article in a subject domain does not automatically assign the status of authority to that author. The days when only a selected few can author have long gone. Reputation is likely to be a good indicator of the authority status in a subject domain. However, reputation is NOT citation count. (I jokingly suggested that I could increase my citation count of an article by writing really stupidly and attacking the popular authors. Most of these authors would reply and hence my citation increases.) Reputation also does not diminish by being anonymous.

Being published by a reputable publisher also does not ensure reliability of information. An efficient self-correction mechanism is much valuable to the users of the information (at least in the market where Brittanica and Wikipedia are operating).

When there is no SINGLE best manifestation of any knowledge, the next best thing we can have is a dynamic manifestation of that knowledge domain, maintained by the community involved with that knowledge domain and have a short self-correction cycle.

Those academics who refuse to accept references to wikipedia from their students, please rethink your position. I don't think your argument is strong enough if you take away your self-interest.

My verdict: I will use wikipedia as my first point of research when I encounter a new subject domain.

Knowledge as an Object?

Artichoke has left a wonderful comment to Libraries, e-learning & Games.

I have been struggling to identify why I am made uncomfortable by many of the claims about LOs and showcased examples in my edu_blog

Do you think the answer lies in that LO's often represent "knowledge as an object" which doesn't fit well with contemporary understandings of learning.

I identified well with the uncomfortable feeling and have been struggling to make sense out of this confusion myself. To me, two of the sources of such uneasiness may due to
  1. our interchangeable use of the words "knowledge" and "information" which are not necessarily the one and the same thing.

  2. learning is considered the same as acquiring "knowledge", hence building collection of information IS ASSUMED to be learning.
[Knowledge and Information, are they the same?]

If we can accept that information is external to us and knowledge is our internal constructs of the world, things started to feel a little better. Yes, reading is ONE way of importing information, but will that import stays depend on yet another set of conditions. I would argue that pedagogy is the art of helping people to efficiently acquire and expand people's internal world.

When a scientist discovers a new way of doing thing or interpreting the world, she may publish as papers, she may also give lectures on the discovery. These papers and lectures are manifestations of her new-found understanding (knowledge) AND these manifestations are not necessarily the same. Another scientist after reading from the paper may repeat the experiment, the thought-process or argument. Such processes help him to import the manifestations to become part of his knowledge (also verify that the new discovery is inline with the community understanding at the time). Many great discovery started as a controversy and was not accepted by the community!

When I am co-authoring a paper with someone else, this can be interpreted as we are trying to come to a compromise of a manifestation of our individual understandings of the subject matter. If we are really passionate about the subject matter, any disagreement in the manifestation (temporary as in the form of drafts) will cause great changes in our individual knowledge internally until we can arrive at a mutually agreeable position. Is that learning? I suppose yes.

Learning communities are great way for the active members of the community to learn. Other may learn equally efficiently by reading elsewhere or vicarious participation in learning communities. Learning ecology is one way of cultivating learning communities, but I don't believe it is the ONLY way of promoting learning. Human is flexible enough to approach things in different ways under different situation.

Monday, 26 December 2005

Aviators, Moguls, Fashionistas and Barons: Economics and Ownership in Second Life

This paper, which you can download in pdf format via the links describes the result of allowing exchange of digital creation within Second Life and the potential of being a valuable learning tool.

Some [players in Second Life] have even setup databases in the real world, tracking inventory, sales, and customer data from their multiple stores within Second Life. Using this data, they adjust product lines, prices, and advertising, acquiring skills and knowledge that would be acquired at far greater financial risk in the real world. For example, residents have discovered that Sunday is the largest shopping day in Second Life and that attractive but simple displays generate more sales. Undoubtedly, some will eventually transfer their newfound business acumen back into the real world.

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Reliability of information

The argument of the validity and reliability of online information, such as wikipedia, has been a focus of discussion.

"Cloning pioneer did fake results, probe finds", New Scientist reported. The flawed study was published in May 2005 by Hwang and colleagues in Science (vol 308 p 1777).

Is there a way for Science to attach a note (or some kind of notice) to readers of this particular article in all its circulating copies that the work reported in the paper has been found deliberately fabricated?

I believe wikipedia, in fact most online publications, would be able to do this quite easily.

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Libraries, e-learning & Games

Stephen Downes said [OLDaily, December 23, 2005] "Librarians and libraries will play a key role in e-learning". I would argue that opportunities of librarians and libraries to play a very significant role in e-learning existed almost from day one. Back in the early days when IEEE was embarking on its journey to produce standards for learning technologies, Frank Farance was defending his definition and described that learning objects as the result of the association of learning assets (reusable learning resources) with LOM (learning object metadata). [What is a learning object, technically?] The notion of metadata is very much from library science (may be "reinvented" by those uninitiated IT partitioners).

While comparing Circulating Libraries and Video Rental Stores, Richard Roehl and Hal R. Varian looked at the history of libraries circa 1725-1850 which, according to them, were not much different from Video Rental Stores, including the role of erotic content in fueling their growth. Obviously, since then, the role the libraries have evolved to become, as Les Gasser, Associate Professor for Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,

what he would dub the ‘b-model': a box of books, an institution that organizes and stores information as a free service to the community and as a cost effective way to promote knowledge in society, [reference]

It is interesting to note that after acquiring the rew role,
there's pressure to maintain this box of books status quo, and deep historical conflicts to keep “low culture” from invading the institution through battles against adding fiction, paperbacks, children's picturebooks, A/V media, and toys to collections.[reference ditto]

As libraries continue to evolve and find their new roles in the new digital era, a recent report from the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) as summarised by Stephen Downes:
recommends that librarians take the lead in the consolidation of Learning Object Repository management and licensing practices, in order to bring an orderly approach to management and use of shared instructional across Canada.

Comparing this with the conclusion from the Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium, as written by in the Event Wrap up that suggests libraries should embrace
beyond simply adding console titles, gaming magazines, and strategy guides to public collections – though all were suggested practices – and into ways gaming might be strategically positioned to bridge the divide between traditionalist views of the institution as a stolid information repository and of libraries as modern civic centers.

This begs the question: "Will there be a role of libraries, or content repositories in today's digital era? If yes, what it would be?"

I am not convinced that libraries, at least in their current form, would survive as "front-people for publishers' licenses and access restrictions." [Stephen Downes]

What about the k-model as suggested by Gasser:
with libraries functioning as a community intelligence center, a “university for the people,” through active promotions of resources and knowledge. Under this model, libraries can play a central role in introducing innovation to society, assimmilating the new, and exploring and making sense of the cutting edge.

Well, what do you think?

Learners as teachers as learners

via OLDaily

On the subject of students/children teaching teachers/parents, this reversal of traditional roles needs support and change of attitude from the teachers and parents and won't come easy.

My daughter, who learns Mandarin at school and speaks English elsewhere except occassionally Cantonese at home, played with a 2 and half year old boy who only speaks Mandarin last night. During the time, the boy brought a piece of Lego to her and asked (in Mandarin) what it was. My daughter was thinking how to answer and before she came up with an answer, the little boy told her the answer that it was a toy (in Mandarin). He kept on repeating the word toy in the hope of teaching my daughter how to pronounce it. The immediate reaction of my daughter was that she was suppose to teach the little boy, not the other way around.

Oh, if a 14-year girl has already developed this sense of uni-directional teaching attitude, the roles of teachers and parents to play the recipient role will need great change of attitude. Hope the Netherlands Safe Internet Day work out well. Please keep us posted, Josie Fraser.

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Second Life as a potential learning platform

Those of you who may recall my writings about rendered world, e.g. Learning Context: Do we need to render it? and Imagining the World: The Case for Non-Rendered Virtuality - the Role Play Simulation Model may think that I am changing my mind. Well not exactly. I always argue that the selection of a technology depends on its use. AND I am constantly looking at ways to use new technology. This post does not imply that I have found a use of Second Life, rather this post may mark the beginning of such an investigation.

At the time of this writing, Second Life has just welcome its 100,000 residents. So there are already quite a number of people in this virtual world, and there are about 2000 players online. Second Life is also one of the most extensible virtual world where players can build in-world objects, buildings and so on. These creations are recognised by the Second Life developers and allow to be shared, given to or traded both in the virtual world using the in-world currency Linden dollars as well as in real-world using US dollars.

There are already quite a number of published articles on the use of Second Life, notable may be Educause presentation at Southwest Regional Conference 2005 Second Life: The Educational Possibilities of a Massively Multiplayer Virtual World by David M. Antonacci and Nellie Modaress.

Second Life's own education wiki has quite a long list of suggested use of virtual world ranging from economics, business, social sciences, humanities to science and mathematics. Obviously, as a business, there are charges to use Second Life as an education platform. However, they do have same incentive programs for educators who are willing to test the water. There is also a fairly active forum by the players on using Second Life for educational use.

I will likely to write more on this subject as I find out more about how we may use Second Life.

About the Second Life links in this post. All Second Life links here embedded a personal referal ID. If you follow the link to sign up a free trial account (or better still to become paid player), I will earn some in-world Linden dollars.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Collaborative Learning Activities Using Social Software Tools

After a break of almost 2 months, I managed to post a new item in Asynchronous Collaborative Learning Activities today. :-)

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

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 2006, 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, clean air and water, 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, 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 greeting, including but not limited to all its associated tangible and intangible good will and best wishes, is freely transferable, duplicated, distributed, copied and reproduced as is.

* 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 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.

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* 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.

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* 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.

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* The wishee may not without wishor's prior written approval disclose to any third party the results of any benchmark test of the performance of the greeting.

* The wishee expressly acknowledges and agrees that in order to protect the integrity of certain third party mechanism of enjoying the wishes, the wishor may provide for security related updates that will be automatically downloaded and installed on your holiday iterary. Such security related updates may impair the movement, enjoyment (and any other activities during your holiday which specifically depends on the said wishes) including disabling your ability to laugh and/or smile, i.e. certain way of enjoying a holiday protected by digital rights management.

* The wisher reserves the right, at any time and from time to time, to update, revise, supplement, and otherwise modify this Agreement and to impose new or additional rules, policies, terms, or conditions on your use of the wishes. Such updates, revisions, supplements, modifications, and additional rules, policies, terms, and conditions (collectively referred to in this Agreement as "Additional Terms") will be effective immediately and incorporated into this Agreement. The wishee's continued enjoyment of the wishes following will be deemed to constitute the wishee's acceptance of any and all such Additional Terms. All Additional Terms are hereby incorporated into this Agreement by this reference.

Saturday, 17 December 2005

A false Wikipedia 'biography' - follow up

The publishing of a false biography and the subsequent media reporting brings wikipedia to the focus again. Here are some views which touched me.

1. Jimmy Wales, wikipedia founder's response. [as cited by apophenia]

Imagine that we are designing a restaurant. This restuarant will serve steak. Because we are going to be serving steak, we will have steak knives for the customers. Because the customers will have steak knives, they might stab each other. Therefore, we conclude, we need to put each table into separate metal cages, to prevent the possibility of people stabbing each other.

What would such an approach do to our civil society? What does it do to human kindness, benevolence, and a positive sense of community?

When we reject this design for restaurants, and then when, inevitably, someone does get stabbed in a restaurant (it does happen), do we write long editorials to the papers complaining that "The steakhouse is inviting it by not only allowing irresponsible vandals to stab anyone they please, but by also providing the weapons"?

No, instead we acknowledge that the verb "to allow" does not apply in such a situation. A restaurant is not _allowing_ something just because they haven't taken measures to _forcibly prevent it_ a priori. It is surely against the rules of the restaurant, and of course against the laws of society. Just. Like. Libel. If someone starts doing bad things in a restuarant, they are forcibly kicked out and, if it's particularly bad, the law can be called. Just. Like. Wikipedia.

I do not accept the spin that Wikipedia "allows anyone to write anything" just because we do not metaphysically prevent it by putting authors in cages.

2. A recent press release by Nature's investigation of the accuracy of Britannica and wikipedia on scientific entries:
suggests that Britannica's advantage may not be great, at least when it comes to science entries. In the study, entries were chosen from the websites of Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica on a broad range of scientific disciplines and sent to a relevant expert for peer review. Each reviewer examined the entry on a single subject from the two encyclopaedias; they were not told which article came from which encyclopaedia. A total of 42 usable reviews were returned out of 50 sent out, and were then examined by Nature's news team.

Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopaedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.

3. Someone post a question "Accuracy reliability of entries Britanica (or comparable sources) vs wikipedia" with a $60 price tag in The current answer leads me to Edward Felten's conclusion.
Overall verdict: Wikipedia’s advantage is in having more, longer, and more current entries. If it weren’t for the Microsoft-case entry, Wikipedia would have been the winner hands down. Britannica’s advantage is in having lower variance in the quality of its entries.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Finally!, an appropriate educational use for PowerPoint


As an agent of change, the example cited is

Seventh and eighth graders teaching their teacher how to improve presentations using PowerPoint gives me hope that there is an appropriate use of PowerPoint after all.

Powerpoint is still Powerpoint is still Powerpoint. However, using it as a content so that teachers can learn from their students is a noble way of bridging the gap and accelerating the notion that teachers are NOT authoritive sources of information, but agents to help other learn.

This is a difficult mentality to overcome. I hope this is the example of many to come.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

The pedagogy is in the activities not in the content.

via OLDaily

I have been very frustrated with the lack of progress in the discussion of "learning object". I automatically skip over any post with LO as part of the title, ... until I saw this "Urinal as a learning object".

As D-Arcy Norman comments:

It ain't art unless it's art. It isn't a learning object resource [my edit] unless it's used for teaching and learning.

Hey, learning resource is NOT learning object*.

Harold Jarche also opines:
any object + learning context = learning object

I would, if I may, modify Harold's equation to:

any resource (object as a physical artifact or other information as in resources) + learning context = learning opportunity

learning opportunity + appropriate meaningful activity = learning

If I send you a great paper, give you a good reason to learn from the paper, but if you don't take any action with the paper (except accept the paper and file it somewhere), is there any learning?

If "knowing that a solution is my file" is counted as "learning", I rest my case.

*I use object as in "object oriented programming", not object as a physical object.

Monday, 12 December 2005

Future of Jobs

I have been interested in the future of jobs for various reasons including a selfish one as I have a young daughter as well as a boarder interest of my passion in preparing our next generation. I have been worrying that developed countries cannot sustain the current level of living standards both because of the general trend of inverting the population primaid as well as hyper-competition from developing or underdeveloped countries where the labour cost is serveral order of magnitude lower.

While information can move around the world in time which, in most cases, will not influence our decision to choose one over the other, physical goods need time to move from one place to another. This creates a new opportunity, as noted by Professor Preiss for manufacturing within developed countries.

... even the garment industry, currently dominated by Chinese manufacturers, which make 70 per cent of the world's clothes, was starting to win back business by using new technology to offer customisation, albeit not at the very bottom of the market.
"The customer chooses the style, of skirt or blouse on a computer graphics system, then is measured accurately in a room with a three-dimensional camera. The personalised clothes are delivered a few days later."

I don't agree that this is viable in the long term if the delivery still takes days (by that long time, the garment would have been made in a developing country and shipped to the customer by air). But the Professor Preiss' idea still holds. When this garment is to be delivered in hours, then local manufacturing becomes essential.

The developed countries should be moving towards mass customisation instead of mass production.

Questions and Answers

Ask Jeeves is a search engine which accepts questions and returns results from searching the web. It is NOT really "Questions and Answers".

Google Answer is a user-pay service where you can ask a question and nominate a price for the answer. " More than 500 carefully screened researchers are ready to answer your question for as little as $2.50 -- usually within 24 hours." All the previously answered questions are available and forms a variable source of information.

Yahoo Answers currently in beta is a social networking based system. It is free to ask a question and anyone can answer (provided you log in using the YahooID).

I find Google answers has provided me with some answer with very in depth research whereas the Yahoo answers seems to be more suitable for student's work. This may be the result of pay verses free.

Sunday, 11 December 2005

How to reduce the graffiti in your institute's toilet

Keep the user occupied using this:

The next steps may be:
1. print re-usable learning objects on the toilet paper,
2. play saved lectures in podcast format.

Saturday, 10 December 2005

A false Wikipedia 'biography'

from USA today.

When online information can be provided by anyone anywhere anytime with any motives, we need to learn to be more careful. However, even if we are trying to cross-reference and double check with alternate sources, it may not help. As noted, other sites may grab the same information from the same source such as and get information from wikipedia verbatim. Such double checking obviously will provide no additional value.

This will post an interesting question as we approach how we can educate our students to rely in information from the greatest information source....

Friday, 9 December 2005

Dragon Quest

I don't what Dragon Quest (DraQue) is until I read this:

The 1988 release of Dragon Quest III embodied the effect that the series has on Japanese gamers. Lines for the game were hopelessly long, stretching around city blocks and inciting less-than-polite behavior from eager gamers, many of whom had skipped work or school to purchase the game.

Wow! So it is pretty old by now. What is it? It is a traditional Role Play Game where monsters battle against each other based on different skill points accumulated during the game (different from Fablusi's role play simulation!)

Now, teacher beware and watch out for some special pencils (Battle Pencils). This may arrive in Western world one day.

The Revecess Blog explains:

Much like Pokemon is short for Pocket Mosters, Batoen is short for Battle Pencils... just the word for pencil in Japanese is enpitsu. It's a simple idea. Take pencils, write stuff on each of the sides, so that the pencil becomes a sort of 8-sided die. You roll the pencil and the pencil, which represents a monster from Dragon Quest, does something, like damage or healing of hp, or other interesting effects (One kid had some hot chick monster, it's effect was, "Moster kisses everyone, they are made happy", more detailed rules after the cut).

It looks like there are 37 sets of 4 of these pencils. So parent beware too when your child suddenly wants to buy a lot of pencils. At the moment, these pencils have the instructions in Japanese. I think someone will be working on making a translation on it soon.

Make the grade with 10 homework helpers

from Microsoft via Sega Tech

Here are 10 websites mainly for students to find information.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Student ethnographies of World of Warcraft

via BoingBoing

For those interested in studies related to Massively Multiplayer Online Games, this is a great site with lots of info, albeit done by undergraduates.

More Creativity resources

Another two wonderful resources on this issue:

Creating Passionate users
Being Brave is Tricky

A TechNation Podcast of the interview of Thomas Kelley (author of The Ten Faces of Innovation : IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization).

Broken key in my laptop

My 4-month old laptop's F12 key broke off. Initially, I noticed the key was not aligned with the other keys. When I pressed it a couple of times, it came off and stick to my finger.

Here is an experience by Doug Johnson: Open letter to Steven Jobs, Apple Computer. My laptop brand also starts with an A, but it is not an Apple. Unlike Doug, I have not dropped my laptop.

I don't know what the reception will look like when I bring it for repair. I'll post the result here later.

Saturday, 3 December 2005

When Teachers/Technies Don't Get It

Here is an interesting debate between the teachers and techies.

When Teachers Don't Get It: Myths, Misconceptions, and other Taradiddle and a reply from Blue Skunk Blog: When Techies Don’t Get It.

I am a teacher by nature and a techie by need. Hence I understand the argument and frustration from both ends. As a techie, I want my all wonderful, interesting, engaging software to be used by every possible classroom. As a teacher, I am juggling with time to cover all the things need to be covered, my personal time is already fully occupied by the marking, preparation and constant personal interactions with my students (on every level thinkable). So here is my check-list of software which may be incorporated into any classroom.

  1. Near-zero preparation time. [Fablusi failed miserably in this item.] Unless it requires no exact time for a teacher to prepare a lesson using that particular software, it will not be used en mass in classrooms.

  2. Must not increase the workload of teacher.

  3. Must be used in groups and with flexible group size, just in case the number of machines in the classroom or lab changes unexpectedly.

  4. Zero training required in using the software. The focus is not technology skill in most classroom. There are other things which are more important in the mind of the teachers.

  5. Engaging and appropriate to the students. Come on, give the teacher some relief so that s/he can work with other kid who needs special help.

  6. Build in assessment.

  7. other bells and whistles which no teacher cares.

  8. Clear learning outcome.

Friday, 2 December 2005


I suggested the theme for December. Please contribute your insight to this question: What can we do to help our children to prepare their career?

"Our world is changing, our schools are failing..." is a common complaint of today's education system (example). The situation is compounded by the rapidly changing economic environment, too. In his book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Friedman talks about the connectedness of the business world and proclaims that future workers can collaborate without leaving their favourite cities. Hence, the world is flat. However, Richard Florida, John Seely Brown and a number of authors disagree. The world is actually becoming spikier. Anyhow, developed countries are moving away from the industrial age, and the education system which was designed to produce replaceable workers no longer meets the need.

In response to this month's theme, please indicate the hat you are wearing (e.g. as a parent, a teacher, an education minister...) and what you would do to solve the specific crisis you identified.

Resources: Innovation and Creativity

Here are some online resources that relate to Innovation and creativity:

From ChangeThis:
The Life Cycle of the Creative Soul
The Creative Generalist

From HBS Working Knowledge
Time Pressure and Creativity: Why Time is Not on Your Side
Creativity—How Can I Get Some?
The Secrets of Successful Idea People
Understanding the Process of Innovation

Creating Passionate users
How to come up with Breakthrough Ideas

Koala Photo book

Just got this from the publisher:

I negotiated special pricing for koala book participant sales within Australia and New Zealand through the Australian Koala Foundation.

The AKF is getting a small set amount of books up-front and would therefore need to know how many extras to order by the time the books ship in about two weeks. Please let me know if and how many you would like to order by December 15, 2005. It be better to hear back by Sunday of this week as the sales coordinator at the AKF is leaving for a long vacation and it would be great if she had a rough idea as to how many to order before then.

While the book's value of $45 USD translates to $60 AUD, participants can pre-order now for only $40 AUD (plus shipping) and get a free Koala photo and video CD that alone is worth more than the book thanks to 135 high-resolution images you are a liberty to use commercially. Note you don't have to pay yet. We only need a rough idea of how many extra books to order.

Please pass on this link to your friends and family and do let them know that you are featured inside of the book also. Your friends will automatically get a free CD as well.

Your truly has a photo or two in the book too. Let me know if you are interested to have a copy.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Putting Teachers in the Loop: Tools for Creating and Customising Simulations

via Lindy McKeown

The simulations referred to in the article relate to "rule-based" simulation for physical sciences. They are good learning tool for conducting "experiments"

Adoption of Role Play Simulation

by Jo McKensie, Shirley Alexander, Carly Harper and Susan Anderson.

On page 93 to 105 (page number of the text in the pdf), there is a quite detailed description of how Dr Vincent Andrew's original design of role play simulation for Teaching Middle East Politics were adopted by some universities both in Australia and USA. However, there are some factual inaccuracies.

I understand that in 1994, Dr. Vincent Andrew has already been running the Middle East Political simulations for many years (started in late 1980s). The original model of Dr Vincent's approach can further be traced back to the simulation, SIMSOC, which was developed by William Gamson at the University of Michigan in the 1970's [reference] which also uses a pen and pencil with human runners to conduct social simulations. The CAUL funding should not be considered as the "seed" or start of the innovation.

The update of role play simulation by US Army (their War College to be correct) was not due to the effort of Dr Vincent, nor the activities within Australia or USA universities. Before the formation of Fablusi P/L with Roni Linser, I have been actively promoting Fablusi (trademarked and was owned by Digital Learning Systems P/L) for many years. Roni Linser was the first Fablusi customer! (Fablusi was developed as an online role play simulation generator, instead of specific simulations, because I did not want to put in the roles, scenarios etc. for Roni and I wanted him to do his part!) When USAWC wanted to start the strategic experiential education group, I have email exchanges with the then project leader which helped to convince him to use text-based role play instead of modelling their strategic learning experience using massively parallel multi players online worlds. Today, USAWC is one of Fablusi's major customer.

The initial commitment and effort to create role play simulation has been greatly reduced with the Fablusi software. As noted in the report, Roni claimed to be able to create a simulation in a couple of hours. The Fablusi Lite, to be released later next year, will further reduce that time to minutes.

One of the reasons of huge time commitment by academics to run simulation may be accounted for by the engaging nature of the role play simulation. They are having fun moderating the simulations themselves, and like the students taking part in playing the roles, time just passed unnoticed.

There is real concern of the lack of proper assessment model for role play simulation from a traditional "educational measurement" angle. However, the overwhelming survey responses from the students have been very positive. The complex range of learning that have been facilitated by the role play simulation may be the reason for the lack of an assessment model. Role play simulation is NOT about memorisation of facts. It is about understanding and acquisition of high level skills which most educational measurement instruments do not measure properly.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Learning Chinese: Next Big Thing?

I really like the quote:

"The more our young people know about cultural context in which they're operating, the better their competence as business leaders."
Charlie Kolb, Committee for Economic Development

I support learning Chinese for several reasons:
  1. China is going to be the largest economy soon. To facilitate future job opportunity, learn Chinese.

  2. About 1/5 of the world population speaks Chinese, it makes sense to know Chinese and its culture. Learn Chinese.

  3. Chinese is a very different language from the Romanised languages. It is one of the most interesting and oldest language which is still in use. Learn Chinese.

  4. It is very easy to learn.*

  5. It is one of the best natural language for robotic control.**

  6. The input of Chinese into computer, once mastered, is fast and efficient.***

*Chinese is easy to learn.
  • Chinese does not have tense, gender, plural or singular. A verb is just a verb, no different variations due to all these complications.

  • Chinese is combinational and rational. Let me use an example. To describe different type of meat, it is different for different animal: beef, pork. In Chinese, we use the animal name followed by the word meat. Train, tram, bus,taxi, lorry ,... have nothing in common. If you don't know these terms, you have no clue what it is. In Chinese, these are all phrases followed by the general word car. You may not know exactly the kind of car, but you know it is about car. January, February, March,.... again the same.

  • In English, it looks easy to learn the 26 alphabets. After that, you still have several thousands of words to learn. In Chinese, after you learn the first 800 to 1000 common characters, you can read national newspapers. So it is at least several times easier than English. On top of that, you don't have all the variations introduced in point 1 here.

  • **Best natural language for robotic control
    I am not the first one to notice that. I was told by the inventor of the Chongji input method, Mr. Chu. Mr. Chu, after analysing all the Chinese characters he can put his hand on (about 56,000), he noticed a regular pattern and hence invented the input method.
  • Chinese characters fall into several categories. Most contains parts which is pictorial. (Other includes sound, metaphor etc.) These pictorial parts form a set of radicals which group Chinese characters into logical groups useful for natural language parsing.

  • Because of the way we express numbers, the parsing of the value parts from natural Chinese is unambitiquous and easy.

  • Again, because Chinese has no tense, plural, gender etc variations, the parsing of verbs are easy and accurate.

  • ***The input of Chinese into computer, once mastered, is fast and efficient.
    Against intuition, Chinese input is actually faster in many ways than English.
  • For reference, a Hong Kong primary student won a public competition at the speed as fast as 200 Chinese word per minute.

  • Chinese input methods are still an area of hot research. New improvements are frequent.

  • Thursday, 24 November 2005

    E-learning industrialization - will the 'customers' like it?

    by Derek Morrison

    This post was written some days ago. But I found it very stimulating.

    I have been arguing that the current school system, based on an industry age model, is failing. I have also argued that at least for the developed countries and if we are to maintain today's living standards, a school system which produces "replaceable" workers will not meet the need of the job nature in the future. Basically, for developed countries, we have passed the industrial age.

    I don't disagree with business process re-engineering fundamentally. However, I have more than once been amazed by the partial execution which resulted in a collapse of a company. In many cases, BPR are driven by employed CEOs who have very short vision and time frame. In order to see short term rewards, BPR may produce long term damage. I use an example of a hot-air balloon. When the outside condition changes, you may find the balloon falling. There are two choices: easy option is to dump some load, other is to increase the burning. In many situation, BPR is like dumping the load. Eventually, when all the employees are gone, there is nothing else to dump!

    Obviously, lining up industrialisation and BPR are not my cup of soup, even if it came out from an ex-Vice-Chancellor of University of Melbourne (and the evangelist of the Universitas 21 venture). Adding "a content-centric" view into the soup, yak!

    Yes, many western governments are decreasing the funding to higher education while HE are faced with increasing diversity of the student population under the policy of " user pay". So HE leaders need to rethink the operation and the financial situation of operating HE. But disconnecting with the customers IS not a good long term solution.

    Technology can be good AND bad. It is the way it is being used, it is the people who use the technology need to be responsible for the result of applying the technology.

    I agree with Derek in his observation and worries.

    ... universities may be increasingly forced to consider institutional changes in order to maintain alignment with the system.

    ... the application of the new technologies is generating a myriad of demands for re-institutionalisation of the university

    Both of these quotes are true, but the conclusion is quite different from where I stand.

    To maintain alignment with the outer system (i.e. the society), universities should aim to produce more diversified, intelligent and adaptive citizens to meet the job demand in the future.

    Technologies are generating demands from students who want more flexibility, more interaction any time anywhere. Technologies are decreasing the value of content rapidly (because the marginal cost of reproducing information is near zero). Students can find information anywhere any time. They don't need to be fed with content. Students need support to learn. So the re-institutionalisation of the university is to foster things which can differentiate a good university from an online information source, the learning experience that a good university can provide.

    Although e-learning industrialisation may be discussed by BIG name leaders, I just cannot agree. Excuse my honesty.

    Virtual Life

    In the last post, I was triggered by the Age news to reflect on some preliminary observations about the mixing of real life and virtual life. This is a topic I am interested in for quite some time.

    Here is an article Living a Virtual Life: Social Dynamics of Online Gaming by Castulus Kolo and Timo Baur in Game Studies:

    This study revealed an interesting demographic of online game players as least for the German Ultima Online players.

    the typical player of Ultima Online is 24 years old; younger than the average German Internet user and, of course, the population average.... However, the percentage of professionals (employed or working full-time on a freelance basis) among the players of Ultima Online amounts to 52 percent.
    Compared to the average of all Internet users the share of female players who responded to our questionnaire was extremely low (3 percent). This value is far below results of studies on other MMORPGs like Everquest where a share of 16 percent of female players has been observed.
    According to the survey, the time spent on gaming is immense. The average duration of a gaming session amounts to about four hours. However, sessions lasting up to 12 hours were also mentioned (see Table 2). The typical player is online almost daily with an average of 5.7 sessions per week (see Table 3).

    With this amount of activity and such a significant portion of games attracted to these games, studying online games should be a serious endeavour.

    As noted in the previous post, there was news about players died resulting from exhaustion by playing online games.

    There were quite some discussions during LOW2005 conference. When I have a bit more time, I will go through the recordings and make a summary here.


    Street games

    by The Age

    Initially, game and virtuality were completely separate from real life. We *enter* into a game environment (took out the console, connect to the TV, plug in/load the game) There is a clear distinct from the moment we switch on the "suspension of disbelief" and equally a clear sense of exit from the game.

    As the need of immersion increases, the line between game and real life is blurring. First we have dancing mat games for fun (and weight lost), eye-toy where the player has to get up and physical, interact with the virtual character in the game.

    Last year, BBC ran the augmented reality game of the mystery behind the death of fictional British pop star Jamie Kane. The controversy is described by Bryan in Infocult as:

    To begin: after a year of preparation, the Beeb launched an alternate reality game called Jamie Kane, centred on the mysterious death of a pop star. ARGs usually prepare many web sites before game play begins, and typically without any signs that they are part of a game - this is called the "This is Not a Game" approach. For example, the BBC mentioned Kane as a real pop musician in its Radio1 news directory without mentioning or linking to the game (and nicely leveraging its own assets to boot).

    We have reality games in the television such as the survivor or Big Brother. People live in a game for an extended period of time.

    There are people living in virtual world (games) and died as a result. We have people buying virtual land with real life money, others make real life money by selling virtual objects in virtual worlds.

    Of course, we also have the kind of street games as described in today's Age.

    If we are introducing games into learning, we should also start to consider the implications.


    Wednesday, 23 November 2005

    Feedster - claim my feed

    No Need to Click Here - I'm just claiming my feed at Feedster feedster:9a7474e81b9f32bab0a0a664f6f6cc19

    COOL - SSE turns RSS bidirectional

    via OLdaily

    I have followed the link to read the specification itself.

    SEE basically is an extension of RSS to carry additional change information about items of mutual interests between parties. When the publisher and the subscriber mutually publish and subscribe to feeds referring to the same item, changes are notified. End points processes can use the notification to handle changes as required.

    The atomic size of change is based on item. Hence, if a post is an item (which is usually the case), then changes will be propagated even when it is a change in a single character in the item. In larger work, we can aggregate a set of items together. Changes are still item-based. There are provisions to enable changing the order of items in a set.

    This model also requires that all participants of the SSE will have local copies of the items. Update is made by comparing the local copy with the published copy and a winner is determined. (see 3 and 4 of the specification)


    Educators Versus Teachers

    from The Committed Sardine Blog

    According to a news report, a certain school that will remain unnamed was recently faced with a unique problem. A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the washroom.

    That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror to blot it and would leave dozens of little lip prints. Every night, the maintenance man would remove them and the next day, the girls would put them back. Finally the principal decided that something had to be done.

    The solution really works. After that, there is no more lipstick marks on the mirror, EVER.

    Answer below by highlighting.

    [The principal] called all the girls to the washroom and met them there with the maintenance man. He explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night. To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, he asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.

    The maintenance man took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.

    Tuesday, 22 November 2005

    Insights from a Techie

    by David Warlick via OLDaily

    What would it mean for a teacher to be clickable.

    This is a question I am most interested in, especially if we want to have an answer which is appropriate in 10 to 15 years.

    David continues to outlines three roles a teacher need to become:

    First of all, the teacher has to create and persuasively describe the place that the students will want to go, a student-centered outcome that is compelling to young learners. Then the teacher must construct a context within which the students will work with relevant/authentic limitations, and appropriate tools to accomplish the goal. Finally, the teacher becomes a consultant, or strategy guide.

    YES! Teacher is NOT the authorative content of a subject matter, but a convincing evangelist of an area of study that demonstrates relevancy to the curiosity of the young and inquiring minds. Teacher contructs challenging and stimulating problems to help the students to continue the scope of inquiry and further the depth of the study. Teacher is a guide, someone who is willing to travel the learning journey with the students helping in every way AND enjoying the discovery and excitement together.

    In The Zen Of Being An Effective 'Mod' In Online Role-Play Simulations [see my other papers on role play simulation in], I wrote, the roles of moderator in role play simulation, which is akin to teacher, are

    Guardian angel: ...maintain an overview of the general direction of the game progression. As a subject 'content expert' the role of the guardian angel is to help participants with the content, if and only if, help is requested, ... While guardian angels should communicate a sense of support to the roles, it is important that roles do not become over dependent on them ...

    Manipulative devil: Given that roles are trying to achieve goals, one tactic to create learning opportunities is to set up obstacles [or new challenging problem in the current context of a new role of a teacher] on the path to these goals.
    Resident Teaching/Learning Resource: Perhaps the most crucial of the MOD various dimensions is the need to recognise learning opportunities and transform them into potential learning. Thus when help is sought or a request for a specific action is made, a learning opportunity opens. ... A Resource should promote reflection and consideration of alternatives. When suggesting alternatives (always plural!), it is important to ensure that participants take responsibility for the role's action - participants should own the actions they take. ... On the other hand offering relevant facts for consideration that seem to be unknown to the participant is also useful.
    Improvising story teller: .... The MOD becomes a story teller and creates extension to the original design to cater for the situation.

    An administrator: ...

    While Dave continues with the focus on the role of content, the conclusion is very interesting:
    Quoting: ... Content today is the dominant thing. I think we will start to see people who can aggregate audiences in interesting ways.

    Woooow! Ok, so it isn’t the textbook? It’s the audience? The class? What is the power of the audience? What is the power of the class? How might we turn the class audience into an engine for learning? What does it look like? Is this where we need to be thinking, in order to drive a bottom-up revolution in education?

    Published simultaneously on Learning for 2020

    Monday, 21 November 2005

    Leagues of World - Day 4 & 5

    Lt. Col. Rene Burgess from US Army War College talked about the Strategic Experiential Education Group and the reason why they have chosen to use role play simulation to provide intuitive insight for their officers to support making decisions.

    We then switched focus to hear from Appalachian State University about their implementations of 3D world and their underlying learning principles of doing so. Here are some of the papers. An Examination of the Influences of a Social Constructivist Conceptual Framework on Creating a Virtual World for Graduate Teaching and Learning, Crouching students, hidden resources: designing and implementing a virtual library

    The use of immersive massively parallel online worlds (second life) was used in Arcada Polytechnic Finland and here are the papers: Analogy is better than Reality: phenomenological foundations for diagrammatic worlds and Analogy is better than Reality: phenomenological foundations for diagrammatic worlds

    It was a very intensive conference. I'll write about my reflections later.

    Wednesday, 16 November 2005

    Learning spoken Chinese

    If you like to learn to speak Chinese, Mandarin in particular, this is a site to subscribe to, based on the ever-increasing popular podcasting.

    Here are some more resources if you are interested:
    Learning Chinese Online from California State University at Long Beach
    Chinese Characters and Culture: Wondering how Chinese look up the words in a Chinese dictionary? There is an interesting Chinese character map in the right lower frame to give you some clue.
    Dragonwise series 現龍系列 from one of best friends: Wing-wah Ki.

    Tuesday, 15 November 2005

    League of Worlds (Online and Virtual) Conference 2005 - day 2

    Yesterday, we heard Mary Noggle, Caldwell Community College of United States, talked about her experience in teaching literature using role play simulation, Novel Simulations in the Literature Classroom. She was one of the online participants and her connected to the conference via MSN and Skype. Her role play simulation played out in two stages in 4 weeks: the opening scenario "begins at the pivotal point of the narrative when Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale meet in the forest, confess to their moments of deception, and avow to begin anew together" and then 15 years later which "introduces students to other historical developments that will serve as background for later literary works, such as Michael Wigglesworth’s The Day of Doom and Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World, also studied in the course".

    In the paper, she did not write about evaluation of the role play simulation. However, in the presentation, she explained that as hers is a community college, students are adults with the commitments. Understandably, some were reluctant to do the course in an unfamiliar way at the beginning. However, after the course, students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the experience and would like to do the next literature class the same way. She has got the funding to do another one based on Shakespeare's' Hamlet.

    The second presentation was also by an online participant Roberto Muffoletto from Appalachian State University on behaviour of he and Ursula Drees from Tech Univ for Applied Sciences Germany. He showed their work in using Blogs in communication courses. Their paper "Engaging Online Students in Higher Order Thinking Through the Use of Blogs and Collective Intelligence Work Environments" is not online yet, rather yet to be written. :-)

    The highlight in the morning was the presentation by John O'Toole, University of Melbourne; Julie Dunn, Queensland University of Technology and truna aka j.turner; CRC for Interaction Design Australia for the paper When Worlds Collide - Exploring the relationship between the actual, the dramatic and the virtual. Everybody at the conference, except me who was behind the video camera, took part in a dramatic experience of creating an educational resource on "explorer" for "Virtually Impossible Computer Company". They showed us how dramatic tensions can be used to activate the affective relationships of the participants and hence improve learning outcomes.

    The afternoon session started by Roni Linser presenting on behalf of Helen Hintjens from Institute of Social Studies The Netherlands for the paper: Quixotic Moves online: Simulating Conflict and Democracy in Action in Venezuela. Hey, this is another first. Roni presenting a paper for someone else. Anyway, the role play simulation described in the paper was also used by George Washington University to teaching a 600-student course in Politics.

    The presenters of another two papers: A Computer Game "Read" as Text and Working In Organisations: A Case Study of a Text-Based Simulative Construct were no show. We used the available time in lively discussions on issues raised by presentations so far. [How did Roni know that these presenters would absent so that we have a whole block of time to use in this way?]

    Day 3 of the conference is a tour to South Gippsland, about 1 and half hour drive East from Melbourne. As I am writing this post, they are on their way. However happened in the day, I am sure they will enjoy the Penguin Parade starring the world's smallest penguins at sunset in Philip Island.


    Monday, 14 November 2005

    Idea for redundant drives

    I wrote about the need of redundant drives in all computers that we use.

    Now, the hardware seems to be almost ready. Via Engadget, I saw this Micro Mini Hard Drives from Iomega. It seems to me that there are 4 1-inch drives in this credit card sized unit. It is just a matter of adding some circuitry to make it a RAID drive which connects to any computer via a USB port.

    In fact, the 2.5-inch form-factor for most laptop hard disk should have enough space to put 4 to 8 1-inch drives in, making an internal redundant drive system possible.

    Hardware manufacturer, listen, here is a potential category killer for you to exploit!

    bouncy balls advert and education

    from Edugadget

    The Sony ad on the BRAVIA contains 250,000 multi-coloured "spuerballs" bouncing down the streets of San Francisco.

    As I first saw it, I did not realise that it can be a good starter for a number of subjects as identified by Edugadget:

    It will get the students’ attention as they wonder what it must have been like to actually be there.

  • Art/Design/Photography - Colour, shape, perspective, motion, framing, etc.

  • English/Media Studies - Storytelling, irony (simple bouncy balls selling the latest technology), evoking emotions, using music to set tone, etc.

  • Physics - Motion, gravity, friction, air resistance, etc.

  • Math - Calculus, geometry, measurement, etc.

  • Social Studies - What can the commercial tell us about the people who live there? What is their story?

  • Geography - What is the geography of San Francisco? What are some of the geographical features and historical events?

  • Technology in Society - Analyze how the Internet makes foreign commercials and other material available to us that would never have been available before. How does someone who has never been to San Francisco or the United States react to the video? What were the project management steps required to create such a commercial?

  • League of Worlds (Online and Virtual) Conference 2005 - day 1 afternoon 2

    This will be the last post today on LOW2005. In the second presentation this afternoon, Susan Wilks from The University of Melbourne presented a joint paper she wrote with Manjula Waniganayake, Macquarrie University on On-line Leadership Challenges for Early Childhood Practitioners.

    The discussion focussed very much on a particular issue Sue highlighted. In the scenario of her role play simulation, there was a role of a young girl. It was interesting to note that during the role play, this young girl (played by a group of fellow students) were totally ignored. When this role asked what was happening, the same kind of "typical" adult talk was given, kind of like "don't worry honey, everything will be OK. Daddy and mummy will sort out everything for you..." That raised an interesting issue that these students were asked to consult the child in the course, but it was not practised in the role play. I suppose old habit (or concept) dies hard!

    LOW2005 is specifically designed to allow lots of interaction with minimum number of accepted paper. Judging from the discussion we have so far, this objective has been achieved. The video capture of today's program will be online in the conference for the online participants shortly. I will see if I can post them later in this blog.


    League of Worlds (Online and Virtual) Conference 2005 - day 1 afternoon 1

    The first session in the afternoon was by Robert Sanders from Appalachian State University with the title In the Beginning…The Genesis of a Virtual World.

    We have a great discussion about using 3D world as a metaphor. However, the general feeling from the group seems to be it is not a good idea to use 3D world as a navigation, but 3D visualisation certainly has great value in some subject domain. The rest of the discussion will occur in the online and sim conference. I will have a look and report next.


    League of Worlds (Online and Virtual) Conference 2005 - day 1 morning session

    This morning, we heard Dr Andrew Vincent talked about his over 15 years of running Middle East Politics Simulations. He is probably THE person with most experience of running role play simulation using Internet technology.

    One of the interesting remarks I can't forget is his remarks about the need of notifying intelligence departments when a simulation is about to start. He said the Australian agencies are pretty relaxed about students playing roles such as a terrorist and understand that it is part of the learning. However, the students who also participate from the US Universities are talked to by the Homeland security agencies.

    I was hoping that there would be a discussion about freedom of speech, learning experience. But it did not happened.

    Sunday, 13 November 2005

    League of Worlds (Online and Virtual) Conference 2005

    League of Worlds (Online and Virtual) Conference 2005 will officially start in less than 12 hours. I just cannot keep the secret any longer.

    League of Worlds Conference 2005 is actually a face-to-face, an online as well as a virtual conference. Delegates are converging into Melbourne as I write (actually most would have already arrived). So that is the face-to-face part. We also have participants who cannot make to Melbourne physically and hence are participating online. The Virtual part is the most interesting.

    Every physical and online participants will be joining this conference TWICE; once in their own original persona and second as a virtual persona. Participants are asked to make up the name of their virtual persona and publish a public and private agenda of participating in this conference. We are also asked not to review the virtual persona we are playing to any other participants too.

    The aim is not only to have some fun, but to enable participants to explore together the virtual vs. the real as an interacting learning environment. It provides an opportunity to focus and experience the issues, problems, opportunities, and overlap inherent in virtual environments and real face-to-face interaction.


    Friday, 11 November 2005

    School kids using blogs to post answers to tests

    by Will Richardson via Collaborative Learning

    a woman in the audience related the problem with blogs at her school. "The kids are posting questions and answers to tests in between periods so kids later in the day know what's coming. What do we do about that?"

    Like Will, my first response would be "sounds pretty inventive to me."

    Will continues to ask a few very good questions:

    1. Questioning the purpose of the test
    How much of what is on that test could those kids potentially find on the Internet anyway? How many of the answers or ideas are already a part of the "sum of all knowledge" that the Web is becoming? And why, if the answers are already out here, are we asking our students to give them back to us on an exam?

    2. Questioning the relative merit of teaching "content" verse "information research skill" and application.
    why aren't we asking them to first show us they can find the answers on their own, and, second, show us that they understand what those answers mean in terms of their own experience an in the context of what we are trying to teach?

    3. Questioning impact of the change in the outer system (i.e. society) on inner system (i.e. the school)
    about what this new landscape means in terms of plagiarism and cheating and ethical use. And I have arrived at the point where it's just so clear to me that it's not the kids that need to change. It's us. We have to redefine what those things mean, because the old definitions just are not reasonable any longer. And please hear me when I say that I'm not advocating that we accept cheating or copying as the way of the world and not work to prevent it. But I am saying that we need to drastically shift our approach to dealing with it. Blocking blogs or Websites or Google is not the answer. Asking kids to take tests to see if they have memorized material that they can now find on the Web is not the answer. Making two or three or four versions of the test is not the answer.

    4. The notion of remix as information consumption
    That they [the students] take the ideas we have tried to teach them and connect them to and show us that they can teach it to someone else with their own spin on it, their own remix.

    Will further shows the disconnection of the school and the way we really learn:
    It's how learning happens in our own lives. We take the knowledge we need when we need it, apply it to our own circumstance, and learn from the result. We need to say to kids "here is what is important to know, but to learn from it, you need to take it and make it your own, not just tell it back to me. Find your own meaning, your own relevance. Make connections outside of these four walls, because you can and you should and you will. This is what bloggers do (at least the ones who are blogging.) And this remix is neither plagiarism or thin thinking. It's the process of learning in a world where, as Lessig says, everything we do with digital content involves producing a copy. This is a profound change from the closed, paper laden classrooms most of us still live in.

    However, the comments on Will's post seemed to focus on my emphasised word in one of Will's sentence:
    The answer, I think, lies in teaching our students how to correctly and ethically borrow the ideas and work of others and in demanding that they not just use them but make those ideas their own.

    I can see some strong opinion such as:
    Will, you're 100% wrong on this one. The school should have some kind of code of conduct which defines what cheating on a test is, and it is probably going to include telling other students what questions are on a test and what the answers are. It doesn't matter what medium you use to transmit the information. It is cheating and, quite frankly, I'd be in favour of using server logs to publicly bust anyone stupid enough to cheat in such a blatant and tracable manner.

    and later by the same commenter [name withheld]:
    Your whole riff on figuring out an ethical way to reuse and remix makes no sense to me. Of course we know how to do that. It is called citation. You know, the research process, with the little note cards and the annoying footnotes and bibliography?

    I would like to see the debate taking into account the changes occurring in the outer system. I am convinced that by the time our students finish schools, they will face a world (in developing countries at least) that jobs are completely different from what they are today, they need to create extra-ordinarily value out of the working hours they have and hyper-competition from the current developing countries.

    I like to ask this question: Which of these two groups of students will be more successful (measured in whatever scale you like): those who use technology to distribute the answer and those who blindly observe the "rules" of the school system and refuse to "cheat"?


    Serious Game for a Serious Problem

    800 million people are in hunger NOW. The world is spending 900 Billion dollars a year in arms, if less than 6% of that (50 Billion) is used in helping the needed, these 800 million people need not die because of hunger or hunger related illness.

    Yesterday, I wrote about the sub-100 laptops. Such program will help the poor by giving them the tool to create wealth. But the effect will be long term. It does not mean that it is not worth-doing. In fact, it DOES.

    However, before the biological needs are satisfied, any higher level desire does not matter. When people struggle to find the food for the day, it will be unthinkable for these people to think how to build a future. Without food, the future is NOT there!

    Postcard From The Serious Games Summit: How the United Nations Fights Hunger with Food Force describes a game for 8 to 13,

    Structured as a race against time in the fictional country of Sheylan, the game is divided into six missions that fairly accurately represent what the WFP [World Food Programme] does in the real world, despite its fictional setting. The six missions are:

    1. Air surveillance
    2. Food formulation
    3. Food acquisition – buying and selling food
    4. Air drops from helicopters
    5. Ground missions involving driving trucks through sometimes hostile territories
    6. Future farming – establishing self-sufficiency

    The game is a fairly large download (about 200M) available for both Windows and Mac, and it is free. Once downloaded, you can put the file on a CD and give it to your friends. So go ahead, help distribute this wonderful game. Meanwhile here is a trailer to give you a taste of what this game is about.

    There are teaching resources in the website too. Don't miss them.

    Thursday, 10 November 2005

    Sub-$100 Laptop

    One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) is an organisation established by MIT's chairman and co-founder Nicholas Negroponte, which is seeking to enhance worldwide primary and secondary education through developing a USD100 notebook. It is hoped that the laptops would then be marketed directly to ministries of education who could distribute them like textbooks. []

    The idea is to distribute 100 millions of these laptops to underdeveloped countries where is not no network access and electricity. So these laptops must be rugged, powered by mechanical means (such as hand crankle) and will form a mesh peer-to-peer network among themselves. has a recently announced specs.

    There was a lesson I learnt years back when I was still in Hong Kong. The then-British-colonial government spent a lot of money in providing schools with computers, but locked in "computer rooms" with no teacher-support training. The result, many computers were locked in the computer rooms most of the time.

    The difference this time is to give a child a laptop computer which the child can bring back home at night and use it for the benefit for the whole family. Access to information, if connected to Internet via some base-station, would provide incredible opportunity for all kind of education and learning.

    I am still very aware that the availability of information is NOT equal to learning. Someone needs to provide guidance. Information needs to be organised in ways which a child can progressively master, enjoy and make use of.

    Currently, there are wikibooks, OpenTextBook, California Open Source Textbook Project, etc. There are other open source book projects such as Project Gutenberg or Open Content Alliance. However, it seems to me that the only one learning support site I can find is Open Learning Support using eduCommon.

    If we really care about educating the disadvantage, something more than giving hardware and information is needed. We also need instructional design expertise (whatever that may mean to you) to help the disadvantage to maximize the utility of the resources available to them.

    Tuesday, 8 November 2005

    Welcome 30,000th reader

    This blog is likely to welcome its 30,000th reader today. Thank you for your visit.

    Since you are so special, can you please leave a mark here? Tell me who you are and what do you think about this blog? Do you have a blog? May I visit you too?

    Monday, 7 November 2005

    IEEE: Virtual Instructors Pilot Research Group

    via IEEE-Discuss mailing list

    IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology has announced the creation of "Virtual Instructors Pilot Research Group". The information can be found in a word document.

    The project is ambitious as stated in the opening of the background:

    by year 2010, virtual humans will pass the Turning Test*. In [Ray Kurzweil 's] prediction, people will not mistake virtual humans for real ones, but will interact naturally with them as information assistants, virtual coaches, virtual sales clerks, virtual teachers, entertainers, and virtual instructors.

    But it is a sensible step forward as the objective of the project is basically just to create an information distribution platform for people interested in this area of work:
    A. Organize online pilot research group list serve.
    B. Organize regional seminars both nationally and internationally.
    C. Facilitate joint publication of research.
    D. Identity interoperable research projects.
    E. Collaborate to define virtual instructor architecture.

    *The statement is quite interesting because it strikes a strange conflicting issue. Passing Turning test implies that the machine is indistinguishable from a human. Yet, the next sentence states that people will not mistake virtual humans for real ones. Anyway, semantic details aside, this should be an interesting project to watch if not to participant directly.