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 http://www.roleplaysim.org/papers], 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. [Electricnews.net]

    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. News.com 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.

    Friday, 4 November 2005


    The following was adapted from an email nominated for the best email of 1999. Source unknown.

    Comprehension Lesson

    Learning objective:
    You will understand the title of this post after this lesson.

    A transcript of a telephone exchange between a guest and room-service in a hotel (number of stars unknown)


    Read the following text carefully. Answer the question at the end of the lesson.

    Room Service (RS): Moling! Loom sirfess.
    Guest (G): Yes,...
    RS: Dju witch true odor somefing?
    G: Uh, yes. I'd like some bacon and eggs.
    RS: How july it done?.. Fi, boy?
    G: Oh, the eggs. Scrambled please.
    RS: Howbow bkam?
    G: Crisp will be fine.
    RS: O light. An some DOS?
    G: What?
    RS: Dosee. july some DOS?
    G: I don't understand. What Door-C means?
    RS: Mmmmm.... Toes! toes!
    G: Oh, toasts. No, do you have something else?
    RS: Howbow ink-ga-nutsu mudfun?
    G: Yes, an English muffin will be fine!
    RS: Copy?
    G: Sorry?
    RS: Copy... mill ... all T?
    G: Yes, coffee please and that's all
    RS: O light. Seeangle ache, quits P bkan, DOS, mudfun and copy... wite?
    G: Well... whatever you say.
    RS: Fanquevallemud
    G: You're welcome.

    End of lesson exercise:
    What does "Fanquevallemud" mean?


    Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform

    This is the title of a book I should consider reading from front to back.

    Here are two excerpts which we can read online right now:

  • Games for Physical and Mental Health

  • Interview of Kevin Corti

  • If these two are typical of what I would expect then ...

    as I research a bit more, I found that I actually have commented on some opinions from the same authors, see Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games

    Ooops. I may pass this book.

    Anyway, the authors seem to have something to say. Looking at their background in Amazon, the first author
    David "RM" Michael has been a professional programmer for over 10 years, in a variety of industries, including video games. He is the owner of DavidRM Software (http://www.davidrm.com) and co-owner of Samu Games (http://www.samugames.com), both independent software companies.

    After a quick trip to the two websites, so he is an experienced RPG gamer and game master. The second author is
    A free-lance writer/game designer, ... has been active in the gaming industry for over five years. ... written for mainstream and industry publications, ... a contributor to Secrets of the Game Business (Charles River Media; ISBN: 1584502827) on the topic of online business models. ... In 1996, she was nominated for a Grammy in music video direction.

    What a talent! But it does not have anything to do with education and training.

    OK, I will pass on this one. If you have read the book, please drop me a note to tell me if I have missed anything interesting.

    Thursday, 3 November 2005

    What's the value in a name - domain name?

    I am a supporter of distributed services, learning technology in particular. For example, the solution I proposed for overcoming the "cross-domain scripting" issue in SCORM (for delivering SCOs (Shareable Content Objects) sourced from repositories in different domains from the LMS) is based on distributed web service.

    I see the future of technical support to learning designs (BTW, I don't feel that we can have pedagogically neutral technology!) is NOT based on a single monolithic implementation of something. In order to encourage innovation and experimentation, technological support of learning designs will be (and should be) distributed. However, such designs can be globally available via web services.

    We have seen a lot of very innovative uses of web services. Geobloggers is an integration of google map and flickr; Housing Map is again google map and Craigs List. There are methods to use the huge amount of Gmail as online storage, e.g. Gmail Drive. This is only the tip of an iceberg.

    However, all such services depends on one thing - the stability of the domain name providing the service. Unfortunately, domain name is a property. Even big company like Google runs into problem with its Gmail name in UK.

    The breakdown of negotiations between Google and IIIR [Independent International Investment Research] ultimately comes down to money and a disagreement about the value of the Gmail trademark.

    IIIR boss Shane Smith points to an independent valuation of the brand, compiled in December 2004 by Valuation Consulting Limited, which suggests a value of between $48m and $64m, although he says his company would have settled for much less.

    Even if it will cost half of that valuation ($24M) to settle the case, what will stop Google spending $5.6M instead (the current stock market value of IIIR) to buy the firm right out?

    Am I missing something here?


    Wednesday, 2 November 2005

    LOM and Dublin Core

    At the most recent LOM (Learning Object Metadata)WG meeting in Orlando, it was decided that the work on the LOM RDF binding will be discontinued. The reason quoted is the formation of a new taskforce between IEEE LOM and Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.

    However, due to the significant difference of the abstract model of LOM and DC, it will not be an easy task.

    Nano-learning (n-learning) is the future

    On our way to the airport for my return flight to Melbourne recently, Bob Corderoy and I were talking and reflecting on the increasing number of terms that we were introduced to in the last few years purporting to describe new and innovating ways and theories of describing the teaching and learning process. We took out our crystal balls and would proudly proclaim that "nano-learning (n-learning) is the future".

    So, what is n-learning?

    This is the next BIG thing in the natural regression progression: from learning, distance learning (d-learning), flexible learning (f-learning), electronic learning (e-learning), blended learning (b-learning), and of course the most recent addition, m-learning.

    At the beginning, it was the uncoupling of distance, then the introduction of multi-modal delivery, over-emphasis on one particular delivery medium, swing back to recognise the need of mixing the network-based delivery with some face-to-face. The value of uncoupling of "time" in the delivery mode was noticed. Among the increasing, growing population of digital natives, they value "always on". We also recognised that to the digital natives, "small is beautiful". The next time when you write about learning and want to demonstrate that you are SOMEONE who knows, remember to include "n-learning" in your work and cite "nano-learning, first used academically by Albert Ip and Bob Corderoy" ... then continue with whatever you want to say. For the authorative definition of n-learning, please refer to this post.

    n-learning is the collective noun for nano-delivery of n-learning content for n-teaching and n-learning. Combined, n-learning covers the delivery of bite-sized content to small embedded device. Yes it's the "Chunking Theory" all over again. n-learning focuses on the reusability of content, promotes dynamic and adaptive sequencing of nano-content in multi-modal learning. We recognise the nano-processing capability of the learners (carbon-based cognitive capability limited to a handful of units and an attention span up to a minute). n-learning research will continue to develop technologies to cater for different learner styles, mood, motivation and context. Our preliminary research indicates that n-learning consumers have more than two senses exploited in today's technology: visual and audio. Nano-content in the future may be rendered as tactile feelings, warm or cold feelings, textual feelings, taste and smell embedded in nano devices embedded in the n-learning.

    n-learning is pedagogically neutral as well as culturally neutral. By establishing direct connections to the nano-learners' the natural processing apparatus (the brain) which is already in m-learning mode, n-learning content creates a full-body immersive environment, extending the carbon-based processing device with silicon power including teraflops process capability, 100% accuracy recall of history, ability to search the complete human knowledge bank, and direct communication with any team member anywhere in the universe connected by Internet. This is a break-through vision to the future!

    How to get involved.

    Start reporting the future of learning and spread the news that n-learning is the future. (remember to cite us, retribution attribution is required).

    Anyone ready to move further down the alphabet?

    Melbourne Declaration - update

    I reported on the Melbourne Declaration about a month ago. Here is the press release from DEST (Australia goverment site) and the final wording.

    The Melbourne Declaration
    6 October 2005

    The U.S. Department of Defense sponsored the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative in 1997 with the goal of enabling the highest quality education and training, delivered anytime, anywhere. The ADL's models are now widely adopted in many different contexts and sectors for implementing technology-based learning on a global scale.

    In celebrating this achievement, the Melbourne Forum, Advancing ADL through Global Collaboration, endorses the following points as a means of creating and maintaining momentum for the further international advancement, development and deployment of advanced learning technology initiatives:
  • Scalable and sustainable infrastructure is of critical importance in fulfilling the many visions for teaching, learning, education, training and performance support.

  • Global interoperability based on open standards, is key to achieving scaleable and sustainable infrastructure.

  • An international collaborative approach will optimise the advancement, development and maintenance of this infrastructure.

  • The current ADL community has provided some of the foundation stones for building this infrastructure.

  • The continuing involvement of the U.S. ADL Initiative will be critical to any collaborative venture.

  • The formation of a global steward is an effective means to realise the above.

  • Actions:

  • An international stewardship organisation shall be established and become fully functional within a three year period.

  • The U.S. ADL Initiative in collaboration with the international community will convene, as soon as possible, an Interim Working Group to develop a planning framework and timetable for the creation and commissioning of the proposed international stewardship organisation.

  • The declaration is very similar to the one I recorded during the meeting, with some slight language highlighting and corrections.

    Tuesday, 1 November 2005

    "Big picture view" vs "deep learning"

    I am at University of Wollongong yesterday and today, working on an evaluation tool for them.

    At a causal chat with Christine Brown, a "learning designer" here at CEDIR, we wandered into the subject of broad overview type and deep, investigative type of learning.

    This brought me back to check George Siemens' post on "The Joys of Shallow Thinking..." [via Stephen Downes's wonderful OLDaily.]

    George started with the information overloading aspects, and in line with his connectivism theory, argues for the need to develop literacy skill

    at rapid reading and aggregating information. ... learned to quickly recognize information that is important for deeper exploration.

    Christine started the thinking relating to her experience in using project based learning. There are evidences of really deep learning using such techniques. It echoes with my experiences of students participating in role playing. The deep of study is extraordinary. In a recent role play involving American literature studies (The Scarlet Letter ran in Mary Noggle's class), students not only read all the recommended text (verse previously it would be lucky for some students to read the novel itself), they also did research to really understand the character in order to play the role.

    However, such activities obviously required a significant portion of the available study time of a modern student. The question was "will this deep learning in one unit affect the balance of the curriculum?"

    I throw in a bit of observation about how my view of the future of work will be. With the opening of China (and India etc), there is an over-supply of cheap labour. Given the living standards of such countries are still order of magnitude below the developed countries, it will be a long while that labour from these developing or under-developed countries will be exhausted.

    The advance of ICT, doubling in performance every 8 months to a year, will mean any repetitive jobs will be automated soon. For any person with a little aspiration where the anchored jobs will only be a stepping stone to another career, the BIG question is what kind of job will be available in the future and how can one prepare for that future.

    One thing I am quite certain is that there will always be "exception handling". Things are not just normal and the computer or intelligence behind that hardware or network, just cannot handle yet. People will be needed to solve such situation as fast-response team. People will form "tiger" group, pull together the expertise and solve the issue. THEN, they will move to the next issue/problem.

    Here is how the "Big picture" and "deep learning" may contribute to this thinking. In such dynamic team formation, people need exceptional communication skills in order to quickly move the group into a productive stage. People will be recruited to join a team based on their expert knowledge in a particular domain.

    Look at the skill set in such a situation, the "big picture" curriculum will be those skills that are essential to ensure smooth work relationship with other team members. The "deep learning" is the development of that expert skills.

    Should institutes, higher education for example, still need to deliver standardised uniform curriculum to every student of the same course? I will question the appropriateness of this thinking. Students should be given opportunities to develop their own niche and speciality, at the same time, it is important that students can work in groups effectively.

    Group-based projects, role playing, collaborative learning activities seem to be the kind of learning strategies that we should be promoting.