Friday, 28 October 2005

Is the world flat?

The concept of yesterday's post was from Thomas Friedman's book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.

We all know that the Earth is a sphere (almost). So what does Friedman mean by a "flat world". In an interview with Wired, Friedman said,

I was in India interviewing Nandan Nilekani at Infosys. And he said to me, "Tom, the playing field is being levelled." Indians and Chinese were going to compete for work like never before, and Americans weren't ready. I kept chewing over that phrase - the playing field is being levelled - and then it hit me: Holy mackerel, the world is becoming flat. Several technological and political forces have converged, and that has produced a global, Web-enabled playing field that allows for multiple forms of collaboration without regard to geography or distance - or soon, even language.

Friedman identified 10 flatteners: fall of the Berlin wall*, rise of Netscape browser, work flow software, open-source computing, outsourcing, off shoring, supply-chain retooling, in sourcing, in-forming and the steroids. (Friedman uses "in sourcing" to mean the re-branding of a company according to new added value as perceived in the marketplace, and "in-forming" to mean the highly focused self-education, especially via the Internet, of individuals and companies regarding subjects that might shape their immediate or long-term future. [source])

While Friedman clearly articulated one aspect of the globalisation, many authors do not agree.

Richard Florida used four graphs, among two pages of argument, to show how unevenly are the distributions of population, lights at night, patents and influential scientific researchers. I suspect, of course, that the Florida's data are very biased towards English-speaking countries (as the last two distributions: patents issued by USA patent office, and influential scientific researchers as indicated by citation in English media.) Nevertheless, the data strikingly indicated that there are high concentration of talents, resources and activities in some "eco-systems".

John Seely Brown in Supernova 2005 presentation, talked about innovative business practices. One of the striking examples was about motorcycle manufacturing in a small Chinese town. (about 7:54 minutes in the ITConversation recording) By leveraging the innovative energy in this small town, they have reduced the production of Honda from 90% to 30% and this company now produces 50% of the world's motorcycle. This is a striking counter-example of Friedman's thesis of level playing field based on geography.

The data and examples cited so that were based on research done and published in English media. Does language matter? Sure it does. Global innovation depends on communicating ideas, global competition depends on creating a selling concept acceptable to a culture. You may be a very good saleman. Unfortunately, I don't understand a single word in French. If you try to sell something to me with the message encoded in French, the chances are I will not buy from you.

John Hagel pointed out the debate so far are based on static data and narrow definition of innovation (in Florida's case).
Companies in some of the rapidly growing urban areas like Shenzhen and Bangalore are pursuing a powerful form of innovation bootstrapping that starts with relatively modest incremental innovations pursued in rapid iterations and amplified by rich interactions with dense local business ecosystems. This bootstrapping is powerful because it accelerates learning and capability building and ultimately bridges into more fundamental product and technology innovation, as is already happening in areas like wireless technology in both China and India. With aggressive use of bootstrapping, even the most modest hills have the opportunity to become formidable peaks.

Most of all, we need to move beyond the snapshots – instead, we have to make and study the movies. This is where real wealth creation will occur. Tom [Friedman] and Richard [Florida] both understand this, but let's not frame the debate in terms of flat versus spiky. The greatest insight will come from understanding the paradox that the flattening of the world is creating opportunities for even greater spikiness.
[my emphasis]

Connectedness, uneven as it may be, offers potential of rapid distribution of information. The greatest challenge to the e-learning practitioners are to help our learners to identify the pearls among the noises, internalise the information to knowledge and output the fruit of that learning as innovation.

Can digital distribution of information beat the "tea-house" innovation in the Chinese Motorcycle town? Can digital networks create geographically separate, but semantically-near eco-systems that can compete as well as those geographically based eco-systems? Can really creative people choose to live in a one place and make their living (and contribution) from another place?

*I did not agree to fall of Berlin wall as a trigger which led to the other flatteners. See my yesterday's post.

Thursday, 27 October 2005

What will her future be? 14 months later

Last year, I wrote What will her future be? trying to find out what the future of my daughter will be, as a generalisation, what the future of our next generation will be?

I even started a blog as a way of documenting my search for some answers. I blogged on 23 Theses about the future of work, I found a bit of relief from ITconversation Richard Florida talked about The Rise of the Creative Class, see What will her future be - 2?

Thomas L. Friedman has proposed a very convincing ways of understanding the impact of globalisation, ICT on our future job structure. Out of his 10 forces that flattened the world, I would argue that the opening of China and the students movement in China has contributed to the Fall of the Berlin Wall, AND liberated a huge low cost labour forces which supported the out-sourcing. Anyway, whatever the driving forces are, massive globalisation (v3 according to Friedman) has arrived.

Friedman identified 4 categories of workers.

Workers who are special are people like Michael Jordan, Bill Gates and Barbara Streisand. They have a global market for their goods and services and can command global-sized pay packages. Their jobs can never be outsourced.

By definition, most of us do not belong to this group.

specialized, so that your work cannot be outsourced. This applies to all sorts of knowledge workers — from specialized lawyers, accountants and brain surgeons, to cutting-edge computer architects and software engineers...

I am not too sure about this group. I believe these jobs will become fungible* too.

The third type is anchored such as
barber, the waitress at lunch, the chefs in the kitchen, the plumber, nurses, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, electricians and cleaning ladies.

The salaries from such jobs will be capped by migrants from low-wage countries, or temporary workers from these countries.

The fourth type is not exactly a job category. It is a worker category, really, really adaptable workers who can create job, find gaps and move quickly to fill in the gaps. The basic skill of this type of workers is the ability to learn, and to improve. Well, it all comes back to BASIC EDUCATION.

The question still remains. What kind of education should we provide to our children? The quest will continue.

* Work that can be easily digitized and transferred to lower wage locations is fungible.


Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Conference: how-to from one without any experience

I have been desk-bound in the last two years, travelling little and attended only a handful of conferences. However, Fablusi is helping to organise the LOW2 conference in Melbourne here in November (OK Roni does all the work!). So I have been thinking why, in this increasingly online environment, we still want to meet face to face?

Good food and wine, relaxing in a different city, away from daily work and having a holiday paid by your employer are good reasons enough to justify attending conference.

As organiser, we need to think how to create a rewarding conference experience for the participants. Here are a few suggestions:

[ideas from Ausweb]

  • Host in a nice resort in the East coast of Australia. Always start on Saturday with workshops. Formally start on Sunday afternoon with conference BBQ. Conference dinner in the first full conference night.

  • Group papers, as most conferences do. Allow only up to 15 minutes presentation and devote a great part of the time for discussion.

  • Publish papers online before hand. Ask participants to read before attending presentation.

  • I.e. try to maximize the benefits of having face to face interactions.

    [technology support]
  • Some years ago, I have stolen the idea from Marie Jasinski, to run an email game before the one-day meeting ( National Summit on Online Role Play held in October 2002) in order to arrive at an agreed statement about the reason why we used role play simulation*.

  • Program published as a wiki. "This means that every session is open for comments, extensions and even revisions by our attendees." [idea from Learning TRENDS #366]

  • Run a collaborative editing session at the same time for keeping a record of the discussion.

  • Make a recording and make the audio and presentation files available online later. (see IT Conversations)

  • Encourage blogging.

  • [Program format]
  • Long program with lots of empty time slots in-between. For example, frequent and long coffee breaks and long lunch break.

  • Do not allow people movement during sessions. I.e. do not encourage people to leave a discussion in the middle. Consider that this is rude to the other participants.

  • [Conference environment]
  • Try to get as many participants as possible to stay in the same place. Hence, they will start their day at Breakfast and finish after the pub.

  • Wireless 24-hour fast Internet access a MUST.

  • Plenty of small tables, comfortable seats with nearby power points, supplied with plenty of drinking water, pencils and blank papers.

  • One more killer tool, which we shall implement during LOW2, which meant to be a secret is (don't tell the LOW2 participants yet.)
  • Run the conference in parallel with a virtual conference where the participants take on another persona. That is, our participants are attending TWO conferences at the same time.

  • *The final wordings we agreed after the email game is:
    We use online role play because it encourages deep approaches to learning through safe, yet challenging, explorations of perspectives.

    - Online Role-Play Expert Reference Group


    Tuesday, 25 October 2005

    Parkin Space: Who Says Learning Should be Fun?

    by Godfrey Parkin [my emphasis]

    The constant admonition from instructional designers that e-learning has to be punctuated every couple of minutes with “interactivity” is one of the saddest mantras of our time. It’s like the American notion that food cannot be palatable unless you smother it with ketchup. If you are working with training that is bland and dry, by all means bring on the sauce. But would it not be better to make the training itself more engaging in the first place?

    The distinction between engagement and interactivity is crucial, and it’s one that many instructional designers – and those who commission the development work – do not appear to understand. Engagement is intense mental absorption; interactivity is often just busyness or sugar-coating. It is vitally important that learners be engaged. Interactivity, entertainment, and fun can contribute to cognitive engagement.


    Interactivity for interactivity sake is absolutely wrong. One of the important questions designers needs constantly asking is "why" when trying to any interactivity into a program. Why you want to add an activity here? Why you want to include this activity? Why not another approach like such as such...? Making the learner busy is NOT engaging.

    Engagement, as Godfrey pointed out, is deeper than just being busy with the material. The challenge is, of course, how to create that engagement in a learning program. Many methods have been suggested, here are some. Please suggest more.:

  • Make the sharing of experience as part of the program. Based on adult learning theory, everyone has something to contribute especially in a on-the-job training situation. We know that people like to share stories.

  • Make the learning relevant to the immediate needs of the learners, help them make the connection and reward success.

  • Make it "hard fun". Shallow jokes are distractions. The fun should come from the joy of satisfaction, from overcoming hurdles, from achievement, from feeling good about oneself.

  • Small success gives us the motivation to continue to work and work harder, which leads to more success. The trick is to create small success to begin with and build on the successes.[source] e-learning has to be punctuated every couple of minutes with "success". This is one of the mantras of our time. However, do not use testing as a way of producing that sense of success! Success should come from inside, not from artificial tests. Think "Who wants to be a millionaire" or any video games where players are absorbed into the game for achieving higher levels or higher scores.

  • True interactivity. Give the learners real choices and enjoy the consequences of the choices. Allow genuine exchange among learners. Trigger positive competitions and positive supports.

  • Allow time to internalise the learning. Create success by applying previous learning.

  • Encourage team work. Most people enjoy team-sport more than solo-sport! Teams also help motivate each other.

  • Tags:

    Monday, 24 October 2005

    M. J. Thompson Network Solutions - About Us

    by Nancy White.

    Nancy's story about her hard drive failure shows the world that there are still many good and honest people. However another lesson is the solution she has suggested - redundant drives.

    I know that we should regularly backup our data, but how many really follow that advice is questionable. Even if you back up, you still lost the data which is generated between backups. For anyone using a computer for work (any kind of work), I believe it is MANDATORY to have reluctant drives. After all, hardware cost are down. I will be shopping for a networked redundant drives and save all my work on that drive! Eventually, I want my laptop to have redundant drives too!

    PC makers, are you listening? Here is a huge market waiting for you to profit!

    Certification and Evaluation

    Dave Lee has a post questioning "why ask why: thinking about evaluation". He started with comment about certification and finished discussing the evaluation strategies.

    When I first arrived in Australia, I was trying to find a job in high school as a Physics teacher. After all, I have over 15 years of High School Physics teaching experience, authored a couple of textbooks, with a Master degree and had been the head of Physics for the majority of that 15 years. I sent out dozens and dozens of application letters responding to jobs advertisements. I got not even ONE single interview.

    On the other hand, I served as a Senior Computer Officer at the University of Hong Kong for the last year when I was still in Hong Kong. I had no formal computing qualification (yes, I have co-authored computer studies text book!) I learnt my skills through hobby.

    Guess what? I was offered three jobs based on that one year of experience and without showing any certificate (yes, I did have employer recommendations).

    So, what's the value of certification? That's a good question. It seems to me it is more related to demand.

    Dave went on:

    i've come to believe that the only reason for a learning organization to exist in a corporation is to effect behavior change in service of the corporate strategy.

    I suppose Dave has answered his own question. Depending on management style of the organisation, most end of training survey serves the reporting need of the manager rather than providing any actual useful feedback to the trainer, nor really gauge the effectiveness of the training. OK, I am biased.

    Sunday, 23 October 2005

    LearnLand Experiment

    by Elliott Masie via Learning TRENDS

    To help our collective learning along, The MASIE Center's Learning CONSORTIUM has invested in the creation of a Sandbox we are calling LearnLand. This will allow us and our organizational learning colleagues to experiment with how a virtual world might be used by learners, trainers and organizations.
    We are "building" a variety of office structures, a retail structure and even some manufacturing layouts, all virtual, in a 3D World. (Second Life) We will experiment with putting live and avatar learning resources into these spaces and evolve design and engagement models.

    Build a virtual environment and then wait for someone to create a learning situation to be used in the environment. I think this is the WRONG order of how good learning package/design can come out. It seems to me that Elliot is falling into the trap of technology-centric rather than learning-centric. OK, Elliot's is an experiment, but I still think he is promoting a wrong example.

    My first question will be to ask why we want to replicate the real world in a virtual world. One of the answers may be: to provide a safe environment for people to experiment and test out.

    In a later update of Learning TRENDS (#363 ), one of Elliot's reader raised an issue:
    Were the discussions of learner's in a classroom dialogue about a topic like sexual harassment or manager competence "off the record" or "on the record"? How much safety could one of her trainer's give to the learners about their disclosures? If one of them talked about a time when they might had done some less than appropriate things, what were the implications?

    If the discussion of sexual harassment (in fact any workplace related issues) had taken place in a virtual environment in the form of role playing, this would not have been an issue in the first place. The learners were experiencing and acting out in the protection of a persona and it would be clear that any discussion related to such issues were made in the roles the learners were playing.

    So, we have established a case for creating a virtual environment. The next question I would ask is what sort of environment. Would that be "3-D virtual environment" or "imagined reality" environment? What are the relative merits of choosing anyone of these?

    We have argued
    that while rendered environments can contribute to learning, they are often too shallow for purposes such as fostering strategic thinking and problem solving. In such cases, non-rendered virtual worlds may be better in using and fostering the required imaginative capacities of learners.

    Am I opposing 3-D virtual world? Definitely not! In League of Worlds 2 conference, a group of researchers and partitioners will be exploring the theme "Playing and Learning in Virtual Environment". (There are still a few places left, if you want to join, contact me or Roni Linser.) I will be reporting on the conference in that week. Please stay tuned.

    Saturday, 22 October 2005

    Proof of Learning: Assessment in Serious Games

    by Sande Chen and David Michael

    From the game designers' view of point:

    Games and game technology are poised to transform the way we educate and train students at all levels. Education and information, skill training, even political and religious beliefs can be communicated via video games. But these games and repurposed game technology, collectively called "serious games," have yet to be fully embraced by educators.

    and slightly further on
    the education strategy of "teaching to the test" clearly identifies to the student what is important to learn and what can be ignored just like in-game scores do in entertainment games

    Oops. Just like educators who are typically lack of insight into how games have engaged millions, game designers are also having a wrong view of the current education strategies. We would be the last to admit that all the teaching is geared towards tests. Yes, we do what gets measured, but the strategy is not to teach for being measured well.

    I believe one of the greatest insight come from Sivasailam Thiagarajan, or more commonly known as Thiagi. From August 2005 issue of PLAY FOR PERFORMANCE
    The scoring system in a game determines what is measured (and rewarded). By modifying the scoring system, you can influence what is learned.

    In a simple game like this 5-player game:
    In this game, the players choose a key phrase (example: simulation game). Each player writes down different words by selecting and rearranging letters from the key phrase. (Sample words from the key phrase, “simulation games”: sin, mule, steam, animal, gasoline, magnate, and limousine) At the end of a time limit, the players compare their lists.

    Thiagi came up with 14 different ways of scoring, each emphasising a different aspect of the game.

    Assessment should be designed within the game, as part of the scoring mechanism. Be creative. This is a whole new game anyway!

    IP: I am confused

    The recent arguments on copyright, patent and IP rights have confused me and messed up with my layman understanding.

    Here is my understanding of the issue, please, PLEASE, correct me if I am wrong.

    Copyright is automatically assigned to the creator for a manifestation. The ideas behind the manifestation is NOT protected.

    If you want to protect your idea, there are two ways to do so:
    1. as trade secret - do not tell anyone. If you do, that's your problem and the secret is out for everyone who gets to know it to exploit it.
    2. as a patent. You tell people of a particular jurisdiction how you have done something (the method) so that you don't need to protect your secret. In exchange, the law grants you a right to exploit your own idea exclusively for a definite period of time within that jurisdiction. However, the law does not grant you the right to exclude someone else finding an alternate method of doing the same/similar thing. Obviously, the law would not be applied outside of the jurisdiction.

    Here is my interpretation of this understanding.

    The creation of a writer is the assembling of words into paragraphs and work. The manifestation is the "assemble". Note that the writer does not own the manifestation of the assemble of "word". Writers use the word commonly available to them as well as to everyone else. Writers do not have exclusive right to use any word. Since the copyright is given to the writer for the manifestation, when the writer dies, shouldn't the right be reversed and the assembling of these words is now owned by the general public?

    A writer may grant a publisher a right to "publish" the work. The manifestation done by the publisher may be in the form of a book. That's should be protected by copyright as well. So, no one should be allowed to "reproduce" the book.

    However, the writer granting the right to the publisher may not be exclusive. The writer may also grant the right to another publisher, who must produce another manifestation, in order not to violate the copyright of the first publisher. So, as long as the book is in different format, different pagination or any way significantly different from the first, the second publisher will have the copyright of the second manifestation.

    Of course, the first publisher would have acquired *ALL* rights from the writer to protect his investment. So, what does this "ALL" mean? I suppose that would mean all the known ways of exploiting the author's work. Should it include those yet-unknown way of exploiting the work? I don't agree so.

    New way of exploiting a work is by itself an invention, protected by patent or by trade secret. Patent, implicitly, involves only the method.

    So, I may later discover that I can read the work, record my reading and exploit my audio recording. I, most likely, should ask the author for this right. If the author is dead, or when the copyright expired, I should be free to do so. Among all the rights the first publisher has gotten, this new right should not be included because without someone discovering that the work can be exploited in that way, that right would have no value. As implied by transfer of any right, there is a compensation. Without the ability to evaluate a future yet-unknown way of exploiting a work, there is no evaluation on the right linked to that way of exploitation and hence is NOT transferred to the publisher.

    The fact that I have recorded a work, whose copyright has expired, should not exclude anyone else doing another recording. I am protected by my own copyright that people should not be able to exploit my manifestation (ie my recording). But my act of recording should not exclude anyone else to do so.

    A new way of exploiting a work should not extend the copyright period of the work as well.

    Here is something I cannot understand.

    Say an author has created a character (in a novel say). In what ways can the ideas that supported the character be protected?

    1. Copyright? No, because copyright only protect the manifestation of work. So, if the character is protected by copyright, anyone else should be allowed to use a specific combination of the few words that make up the name in their own work. The name of a character is only a few words combined in a special sequence. That would not represent, to any reasonable test, a significant portion of the work.

    2. Trade secret? Bad luck. It's out and it is out.

    3. Patent? Should such patent be granted in the first place? What are the distinguishing characteristics of that character from any other character? OK, as described in the work. Fine. Then any use of that name, deviated from that described in the work is NOT infringing on the patent!

    4. Trade mark? My understanding of trade mark is a special symbol to represent a product (and with extensions). A character may be trademarked. That would mean a special graphic representation of the character, either its name or some other thing. However, Trade mark does not exclude people using the word that make up the make. When I say, "my windows are broken", Microsoft(tm) cannot sue me. Although they have trade marked a specific form of the "Windows", they don't own that word.

    Can I use "Mickey Mouse" in my work? It seems that I cannot. I don't understand!


    "you can't blog this"

    by zephoria

    So, i've gotten used to friends telling me that i can't blog something. And teachers. Professors always stare me down and say that i can't blog something that they said.

    [my emphasis]

    The rest of the post, and some very intelligent comments, focussed on the relationship of blogging and publishing.

    I am surprised, and very surprised that teachers and professors are concerned about someone else blogging about the content of their conversation.

    I know the dual role a professor has: as someone interested in helping others to learn AND as a researcher. In the researcher role, it may be of concern for "leaking some research secret" unintentionally during conversation. I can put up several good reasons why the researcher may not want someone to blog about something related to some research results not yet ready for wider consumption.

    For teachers and professors, the latter in the role of teacher, I really do not understand why they do not want someone to blog about the conversation. Knock! Knock! Is teaching really equate to the shuffling pieces of information across?

    Friday, 21 October 2005

    GeoPocket: A classroom tool for the GameBoy generation

    by ANN ARBOR via Educational Technology

    Using hand-held computers in the classroom isn't entirely new. Other devices have been used as "clickers" to allow students to respond to simple yes/no or multiple-choice questions and then compare their answers with those of their classmates.

    So, what is new? [my emphasis]

    if [lecturer] is discussing why the Earth is colder in northern areas than around the Equator and explaining that it has to do with the angle at which sunlight strikes the planet, students can fiddle with an animated diagram, dragging a cartoon flashlight to make it shine on a surface at different angles. As they drag the flashlight, the solution to an equation that describes the relationship shows the effect.

    In another GeoPocket exercise, [lecturer] asks students to point out, on a map on their screens, the primary sources of the world's oil supply. Their answers are recorded centrally, and the students can click on "Show All Answers" to see their classmates' responses. The answers can also be projected for the whole class to see. The professor can then use that information as a jumping off point for a class discussion.

    If I have read the news correctly, the "newness" is the integration of specialized software with the course and such software, I assume, is delivered to the hand-held within the lecturer hall.

    I would question:
    1. Why hand-held? This is not the best form factor to process great amount of information and I believe developing software for this platform has more limitations (due to the small screen size and limited processing power).

    I suggest the software should be browser-based. This would not have to be limited to a particular platform and hence can leverage on any existing computing equipment a student may have.

    2. The first example in the quote is a specialised software, almost custom-make for that particular lecturer. I doubt how sustainable that may be once the funding runs out. The second example seems to be a better. I suppose maps with hot-spots are very generic which can be used in different courses.

    3. I have also pointed to some real time collaboration software which may also be useful in such classroom.

    Thursday, 20 October 2005

    A child's view of tomorrow's learning

    by Godfrey Parkin

    Godfrey commented on an US Departments of Commerce and Education recently commissioned study which explored how K-12 school-goers views on technology for learning. I think I have read the report before, but it is good to look at it again.

    I share Godfrey's comment that the views expressed in the report from this digitally savvy group is

    bland and unimaginative, almost status quo, not at all the kind of creative or exciting thing that kids should be coming up with. It sounds like something a committee of adults would produce one evening over tea and biscuits.

    Godfrey further speculated that
    this report appears to be written by those who only see what they want to see and can only understand that which fits their current frame of reference

    kids can’t visualize what they can’t conceive

    Either way, I think the US thinkers who really care about their country should take concern of this.

    If it was the report writer's filtering which created this, and the government takes that as a blue-print, the funding to learning technology will be biased. If the kids are that unimaginative, the future is bad.

    See my imagination for how I would like to work in the near future. The technologies are here already, just waiting for someone to integrate.

    Wednesday, 19 October 2005

    Digital Native

    Laptops, iPods: are they friend or fiend? - Chee Chee Leung, the Age (Australia) by Ray Schroeder

    Tara was four years old when she started using a computer. By age six, she was introduced to email and accessed her first website, Now aged nine, Tara is an example of what has been dubbed the "digital native", whose natural habitat features computers, the Internet and video games. "As I grew older I became more attached to the computer and I can type faster," the grade 3 Xavier College student says. "It's been a part of my life."

    The other night, I was reading in my study when my daughter was online chatting with her friend. I heard the keyboard sound. I thought I am a fast typist. Oh, I don't think I am not a fraction of her speed.

    She usually stores her contacts on her mobile. Occasionally, she needs to find someone else. She goes straight to The dead tree version of the white pages? Our last year version is still in its plastic wrap!

    That's digital native!

    Games & Learning

    by Josie Fraser

    Look like a very interesting post which I should follow up when I have time, especially the many links to Nesta Futurelab. This also serves as a place holder for myself. :-)

    Tuesday, 18 October 2005

    Survey questionnarie design and delivery

    Best practices in questionnaire design by Godfrey Parkin

    This is a good check-list of creating good questionnaires.

    I would just add two comments about the mechanics of creating and delivering a questionnaire.

    1. Anonymity and confidentiality need not be mutually exclusive. In the case of a value-laden questionnaires, such as promotion-related teaching evaluation, we need to ensure no tampering of survey data both by students AND lecturers involved. We must ensure that only students involved can submit and only submit once in order to avoid biasing. We also need to ensure anonymity to the students through an open process which anonymity is provided by the process without relying on any trust. (I have implemented such a system, but details have to remain with me. If you require such a system, please contact me for references and demonstration.)

    2. Web-based data collection seems to be most economical way of collection survey/questionnaire data. One of the greatest problem of this is the tedious task of creating the questionnaire, especially if you are a frequent user of survey. Choose a survey data collection provider who can provide you with re-use ability of your survey.

    Monday, 17 October 2005

    Recent Posts in my other blogs

    Here are some of the recent posts I made in my other blogs:

    Conversation With My Evil Twin

    English Language Test for New Australian Citizen
    the choice of language is political and economical. Once upon a time, England has been strong and have colonies all over the world. Now, US is economical strong and they speak a dialect of English. But if we are talking about change, we should look into the future and find out what would be good for our citizens or countries in the future
    The problem is in the assumptions of the debate question. I am afraid it will give the wrong impression of Australia going back to a "white policy", and that English-speaking people has a supremacy over non-English speaking people. The world is now about multi-culture and cultural diversity. I suggest Australian should keep it that way.

    Asynchronous Collaborative Learning Activities

    Spontaneous Groups
    That got me thinking. Should we assist the students to organise their groupings (and that in a way will interfere with natural process)? or should we just leave it for them to occur naturally?
    I find this quite similar to the discussions of "formalizing informal learning". Once you formalise the informal learning, is it still informal learning? How would this process interfere with the original informal learning's effectiveness?

    Collaborative writing tool - writely, writeboard, wiki
    With both writeboard and writely free (at least for the time being), teachers can get their student so write collaboratively. Hey, remember to give them more time because collaboration takes more time, but definitely will improve the quality of the work. This is also an experience students will need as they enter the work place in the future.

    Real time collaborative notes taking

    If you have Internet connection in your lecture room, your students can take notes collaboratively. :-)

    Norway's public broadcaster sells out taxpayers to Microsoft

    By Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing.

    There is no much point in repeating a post from a blog which has much larger circulation than mine. However, there is one point I want to make from an e-learning angle.

    The value of the content being locked up could be more than the value of producing the content in the first place.

    Some content's initial value has relatively short life-span. An example in case is the stock market quotes. Years ago, stock price on the spot was very expensive. A day-old data only worth the price of a newspaper. However, the aggregation of the stock market data takes on a complete different value. In this case, the older (or the more comprehensive) has more value.

    Some newspapers publish their daily news free. However, they charge for access to archive of previously free news articles.

    From a learning point of view, the availability of the content is only as good and useful as the need of having the content immediately at the time you need the content. In some situation, it may be "just-in-time" to meet the need of solving a problem at hand. At others, it may be "just-in-the-right-mood" when your curiosity brings you to that content. It is about the "flow", the continuity of experience when dealing with an aggregate of content. You may be doing a comparative studies. You may be following the life events of a person.

    Media enrich the experiences, most probably in the second category above. It is very difficult to associate a value of providing that "flow" of experience. After all, missing a particular piece, among many, may not even seem to worth the effort to count. The problem is, you may not know what you have missed and how vital, or otherwise, the missed part may have modified the experience!

    According to the post linked to by BoingBoing,

    Microsoft Media Centre Edition was chosen because it is the first media centre to be released in a version for the Norwegian market.

    and more importantly,
    Based on the experience from this service NRK will explore possibilities for adding support for systems like Apple Front Row, Mediaportal, MythTV, Beyond Media and Meedio.

    I can see a business case here for Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation to release its archive of content immediately for Windows Media Centre Edition. It is about the value of being one of the first to release such collection AND make them available to their citizens immediately, compared to lost of that value when the release is delayed to allow the potential value creation by Norwegian software houses.

    We just hope that other versions will follow.

    On another slightly different note: BBC has plan to release its comprehensive document. [quoting from BoingBoing again, my emphasis]
    ...most excitingly, it describes a free and open Creative Archive intended to provide Britons with access to the material in the BBC's vaults for free viewing, remixing and reuse.

    If it is about global access and about global domination, limiting the use to the Britons is against that objective!

    Saturday, 15 October 2005

    Einstein's Big Idea

    This is a website about one of the greatest minds in human history. via Internet Scout Project.

    There is a teacher's guide in the website which I don't particularly like. Out of the three activities, you may look at the Physics Quest and forget about the other two.

    Can you guess why I called myself "Albert" as my English name?


    Friday, 14 October 2005

    Top down or Bottom Up

    10 days ago when I was at the "Advancing ADL through Global Collaboration", I was with a group of international learning technology standards participants (SP). As I was watching, hearing and participating in discussions about global learning technology standards, I started to reflect on the differences between a top-down approach to global interoperability, as typically represented there in the forum and the current bottom-up movement as promoted by the active participants in the blogosphere (BP) such as Stephen Downes, George Seimens, James Farmer etc, just to name a few.

    There are, of course, complete different philosophical preferences between the two groups. While the SPs are claiming pedagogical neutrality of the technologies, the fact is, they are NOT. AND, more importantly, SP fails to see the implicit pedagogies embedded in the learning technology standards they are creating. BPs, on the other hand, are pretty open and straight forward about the pedagogy that a particular approach is embracing. For example, George Seimens does not shy away and is actively promoting "connectivism" as a learning theory. I am actively promoting online role play simulation!

    I don't think I ever see a post about describing learning design in a universal way pomoted by BPs (reporting of such development are many!). SPs promoted EML as a notation for learning design. The work done by LAMS Foundation has received wide-spread support. Personally, I think it is a wrong approach. When we try to compare musical notation and education learning activities notation, we are not using a fair analogy. There are very established science in sound and music thoery. Today, educationists are still arguing how to teach, or how to help people learn. In fact, I have to be careful to say "teach" and "help people learn" in order to please both sides of my readers. We are also starting to learn more about how our brain works. Designing a learning activity notation language is pre-mature at this stage. Even if such a notation does exist, the implement of a software system to support the full scope of EML will be a huge monolitic application. The BPs, including myself, are promoting a distributed learning technology strategy. If we want to implement software to preform some pedagogical support, it would be better for such support to be distributed.

    While learning technology standards development is "voluntary", the fact is that these are people doing the standards development as a full-time job, supported mainly by government funding. People participating in blogosphere, mostly, have a full time job and maintain their blogs at their own time, or as a part component of their daily duty. (This is my speculation and I cannot produce any evidence to support my observation!) It would be difficult to predict which approach is more financially sustainable. If learning technology standards remains political important and continues to attract long term funding commitment from the supporting government, it seems that these people can continue to fly across continents for meeting for quite a while. On the other hand, BPs are subjected to the shift of interest of the people involved. Some will come in, other will leave. From the development and the increase of blogs related to education, we are in an upward trend (well, the whole blogosphere is expanding anyway!).

    Interoperability is a top requirement in SPs. It seems to me that the BPs are more focussed on distributing good ideas and leave it to whoever pick that up to implement in their own way. Diversity is a top requirement.

    IMHO, interoperability should be achieved by protocol, not by standardising on the format of the content. Of course, the payload of any protocol is still content, what I mean here is that we should limit the learning technolog standards development to a supporting layer, which will support the "upper" pedegogical implementations. Learning technology standards should NOT concern with the payload standards, rather at an efficient underlying connection technology to support whatever that is put onto it.

    One more observation I may make here is that SPs are more focussed on formalised learning/training whereas BPs are more towards informal and life-long personal development.

    Any comment? Welcome!

    Thursday, 13 October 2005

    They know a lot...

    Mike Currie sent me this. pizzafutures.swf (author unknown. please identify yourself for your good work.)

    The operator may know more about you than you may think. Enjoy.


    It is very rude to restart your machine automatically

    I used an Windows XP (among other machines). This morning, as I was reading a document, the machine started to shut-down automatically and then restart.

    What the hell!!

    After re-boot, a little notice from the Microsoft told me that the automatic update has downloaded an important patch and the machine needs to be restarted -- after the fact.

    Microsoft, given its wealth and domination, no doubt thinks that it owns the world, including every machine on which their software was installed. Can they just ask what the user is doing and/or at least give the user a chance to save the work first?

    I also noticed that Google indexer runs only when the machine is idling whereas Microsoft's indexer runs even if you are executing computational intensive tasks.

    Is it an organisational culture difference, or is it the difference between a teenager and an old man? (Google about 6 years old whereas M$ is 30)

    Friday, 7 October 2005

    Architecture of virtual spaces and the future of VLEs

    via OLDaily

    Scott Wilson's powerpoint slides contrasted the controlled, closed environment of a LMS with an free, open Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

    I like to add another environment into the mix - a virtual rehearsal/practice space.

    ="image ="image While PLE enables learners to model learning to more realistic environment, or even participate in real environment during learning, there are situations whereby such participation is very expensive (pivots need to learn how to land an aeroplane when there is crippled landing gear ), dangerous or morally unacceptable.

    At a more personal level, at critical events, we rehearse. (Think wedding rehearsal...) We also do that for speeches, presentation, etc.

    For complex political environment, students can learn through political role play simulation.

    Thursday, 6 October 2005

    Melbourne Declaration

    The key agenda of "Advancing ADL through Global Collaboration Forum" I have been attending in the last few days is to find out a way to take up the stewardship of that thing we generally call "SCORM". In preparation of the discussion, Neil Mclean and Robby Robson have put forward two discussion papers, linked respectively to the authors' names.

    It is clear in the discussion that it is NOT the intention of the US Department of Defence funded ADL Initiative to give up SCORM and its related technologies. Rather, it is a way forward to further advance the vision of creating a global interoperable infrastructure for advanced distributed learning.

    Three meanings to the term "ADL" need to be clear to understand the "Melbourne Declaration". ADL may refer to the US Department of Defence funded ADL initiative. The term may also mean the vision and/or infrastructure of advanced distributed learning. Yet another meaning may refer to the community which supported, adopted and have given input to the vision. At this point in time, it was agreed that the what as in "Stewardship of What" referred to in Robby's paper should be deferred. Instead, the discussion was focussed on creating a sustainable global stewardship.

    The final and official declaration is not available yet. Here is what I have taken down as the discussion progresses:

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

    In celebrating the achievement, the Melbourne forum, Advancing ADL Through Global Collaboration, endorses the following points as a means of creating and maintaining the momentum for the further international advancement, development and deployment of advanced learning technology initiatives:

    • Scalable sustainable and global 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 the vision.

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

    • Current ADL community has provided some of foundation stones for building this infrastructure.

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

    • The forming of a global stewardship is an effective means to achieve the above.


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

    • The ADL Initiative in collaboration with 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.

    CORDRA, Federated Search, Subject Gateway & Repository

    In 1999, Ip et el wrote a paper "Metasearching or Megasearching: Toward a Data Model for Distributed Resource Discovery" looking at searches based on free-text and web crawling, and depth searches using metadata harvesting across multiple repositories. These are alternate/complementary ways of information discovery. Different methods fit different purposes. In 2001, the group followed up with another "Resource Synergy" paper which looked at the value proposition of specialised collection of resources, called subject gateway at that time.

    Subject gateways exist to meet the resource needs of their communities of interest. They tend to place a higher value on returning quality resources than general search engines - however we may interpret 'quality'. The value of any SG is in finding more efficient and effective ways to build, index and facilitate retrieval from special interest collections sifted or culled from the massive underlying search space. This sifting and culling depends on the domain knowledge of the SG owners. Such domain expertise is hard to find and replicate in general purpose search services.

    As time goes by, it turns out that the value proposition of subject gateways is not sustainable and eventually SGs faded out. Instead, we are seeing a lot of locked repositories where the resources are put behind password protected walls. However the value proposition for collaboration among SG now applies to repositories as well, hence the idea of federated search. Since most repositories are community-based and metadata enabled, apparently it makes sense to based the federated search on metadata. Metadata, based on schema developed to meet specific needs of a particular community, have great difficulty to map among each other. A solution is proposed within the ADL/SCORM community, CORDRA:
    (Content Object Repository Discovery and Registration/Resolution Architecture): An open, standards-based model for how to design and implement software systems for the purposes of discovery, sharing and reuse of learning content through the establishment of interoperable federations of learning content repositories.

    I took the opportunity at the "Advancing ADL through Global Collaboration" to ask Dan Rehak for a sample instance of CORBRA which I can play with without the need of a user name and password. After thinking for a while, Dan asked me whether I can read Japanese. Apparently the only available CORBRA instance which does not required a user name and password is a Japanese repository.

    Business model aside, the value of a federated search is the trust that a user have on the relevancy and quality of the result returned. Federated search will NOT return thousands or millions of potential result. The value of federated search is the limited set of result with the "trust" associated to the result set. That's also one of the value-proposition of subject gateways I referred to earlier.

    The relevancy of federated search is based on a smaller search space with well-defined and hopefully well populated metadata set. It also depends on the specificity of the search criteria that a user can put in. Assuming that the user is part of the community, that's is not a problem.

    When we are tackling search problem among repositories, we are basically cross-searching (or mega search as used in the 1999 paper) among different community. The are different metadata schemas between different communities, obviously because each and every community will customize its schema to fit its own need and requirement. The cross-mapping (or cross-walking) between schemas are problematic. This will introduce a level of "fuzziness" in the return set of federated search. Hence I cannot buy into the argument that metadata-based federated search will consistently produce better result set. (Better in the sense of relevancy as "fitness for the purpose".)

    I reported on Rollyo last Thursday. I don't know the ranking mechanism of Rollyo, but the search space of the result from Rollyo is limited to the nominated websites. This is where the "trust" of quality is exercised by the searcher.

    Will Rollyo be a better alternate solution to federated search? Your call.

    Wednesday, 5 October 2005

    Information != Learning

    At the "Advancing ADL through Global Collaboration", the first day of presentations seemed to focus on information and information management. We have demos of re-purposing S1000D (which is an international standard for technical publication utilising a common source database) data into SCORM training material and Cordra - a software which supports federated search.

    I don't think there is anyone in the Forum who would say that "information" IS "learning". So, why is the skewed emphasis of information management. Afterall, ADL stands for "advanced distributed learning", so shouldn't we be talking more about learning, or distributed learning? We are implicitly equating information, or information delivery as learning?

    OK, here are people interesting in "learning technology", or should it be "learning-enabling technologies"? If it is the latter, I would argue that the technology to support managing information is a key technology in supporting learning.

    It is very important for learning technologists, me included, to remind ourselves continuously that we should not think we can teach because we have been taught. Airplane passengers can't fly an airplane, so people who has been students should not assume that we can teach, or help others to learn.


    Build your own social software free

    According to the website:

    Ning is a free online service (or, as we like to call it, a Playground) for people to build and run social applications. Social "apps" are web applications that enable anyone to match, transact, and communicate with other people.

    Well, what is social apps? Again, according to the website:
    Social apps are web apps made up of code and content that enable people to match, transact, and communicate with one another. Social apps can include listings, reviews, ratings, recommendations, discussion boards, photo sharing, social bookmarking, wishlists, events, people matching, maps, as well as many other features.

    Look likes the Web 2.0 is coming, the second coming of Marc Andreessen?

    Tuesday, 4 October 2005

    Hard SCORM and Pocket SCORM

    I am at Advancing ADL through Global Collaboration Forum today and next two days.

    I saw a very interesting demonstration of "hard SCORM" and "pocket SCORM" by a PhD candidate from Taiwan, Mr Te-Hau Wang.

    Hard SCORM refers to SCORM content printed on dead tree. What was interesting is the integration of book-based content with web-based content. By using a hand-held OCR reader (called Hyper Pen), a learner will scan the printed pages when she turns a page, she also scan on printed symbols on the paper to activate media which is delivered to the computer screen. Hey, who likes to read off long articles from computer screens? That's an interesting solution.

    I remembered about 10 years ago, there was a "live book" project where bar-codes were printed at different places on a dead-tree book. User scans the bar-code to retrieve sound files from the computer, or indicates selection of answers.

    Pocket SCORM is delivering SCORM content to small screen devices such as pda, mobile etc. In order to avoid scrolling both horizontally AND vertically, the content needs to strip of most graphics and re-flow in order to allow a single scroll direction. Nice!

    Yes, he also presented "Video SCORM". The idea was to use television (digital televison) as the delivery platform. Learners can move between screens using a remote control. Is that edutainment?

    Monday, 3 October 2005

    SCORM Courseplayer

    After putting down the project for a long time, I finally got around and updated the SCORM courseplayer.

    Courseplayer will deliver SCORM-compliant courses on CD or DVD, or static web sites. Basically, I have implemented a light-weight SCORM compliant LMS using Javascript. The script will open the imsmanifest.xml files found in the SCORMcourse directory, read the manifest file and create a default table of content.

    This pre-release version is totally compatible with SCORM version 1.2 (OK, I know it is an old spec, but it is the most highly adapted, right?). I have not implemented any sequencing engine and hence will not work with version 1.3. However, it does support the new APIs.

    The pre-release version also supports the professional license (although the online license generator still needs some more work). With a license (put in the setting directory), the courseplayer will ask for a student ID at launch and proceed to capture any cmi data generated. The student should activate the [send data] before the end of the session and email the encrypted interaction data to the tutor via the email address in the license.

    I believe this feature will be useful for supporting e-Learning in remote area where high-speed internet connection is still unavailable generally.