Friday, 30 December 2005

Let's take some action

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

Here is what I think the current situation is:


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

For those who subscribe to "information transfer" model:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



For those who subscribe to "social constructivitistic" paradigms:

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

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

  3. Read Stephen Downe's OLDaily.



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

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

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

My Learning Outcome of the "Britannica Vs Wikipedia Debate"

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge as an Object?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 26 December 2005

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

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

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

Sunday, 25 December 2005

Reliability of information

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 24 December 2005

Libraries, e-learning & Games

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


Well, what do you think?

Learners as teachers as learners

via OLDaily

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

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

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

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Second Life as a potential learning platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 21 December 2005

Collaborative Learning Activities Using Social Software Tools

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

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Season Greeting


Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, the best wishes, referred to as this greeting hereafter, for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, non-specific sexuality, celebration of the winter solstice holiday in the northern hemisphere and summer solstice holiday in the southern hemisphere, practised within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your preference, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a financially successful, personally fulfilling, emotionally enchanting and stimulating, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects, in a world filled with love, peace, joy, harmony, diversity, tolerant, good will, and respect, clean air and water, and having regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith and your preference to the choice of blogging software, RSS reader, email system, web browsers, including but not limited to the free Firefox and/or Internet Explorer with due considerations of their respective differences to the interpretation and implementation of W3C web standards, computer platform, brand of microprocessor, type of visual display unit, keyboard, mouse or any other pointing device, operating system, including but not limited to singular or a plurality of variations, whether for a fee or free open source, and Internet service provider connected by modem, permanent modem, broadband, or otherwise, or dietary preference of the wishee.

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

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms:

* This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 17 December 2005

A false Wikipedia 'biography' - follow up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

Finally!, an appropriate educational use for PowerPoint

Yes!

As an agent of change, the example cited is

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


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

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

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

The pedagogy is in the activities not in the content.

via OLDaily

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

As D-Arcy Norman comments:

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


Hey, learning resource is NOT learning object*.

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


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

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

learning opportunity + appropriate meaningful activity = learning

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

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

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

Monday, 12 December 2005

Future of Jobs

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

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

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


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

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

Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 11 December 2005

How to reduce the graffiti in your institute's toilet

Keep the user occupied using this:


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

Saturday, 10 December 2005

A false Wikipedia 'biography'

from USA today.

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

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

Friday, 9 December 2005

Dragon Quest

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

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


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

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

The Revecess Blog explains:

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


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

Make the grade with 10 homework helpers

from Microsoft via Sega Tech

Here are 10 websites mainly for students to find information.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005

Student ethnographies of World of Warcraft

via BoingBoing

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

More Creativity resources

Another two wonderful resources on this issue:

Creating Passionate users
Being Brave is Tricky

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

Broken key in my laptop

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

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

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

Saturday, 3 December 2005

When Teachers/Technies Don't Get It

Here is an interesting debate between the teachers and techies.

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

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


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

  2. Must not increase the workload of teacher.

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

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

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

  6. Build in assessment.

  7. other bells and whistles which no teacher cares.

  8. Clear learning outcome.




Friday, 2 December 2005

IdeaExplore

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



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

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

Resources: Innovation and Creativity

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

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

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

Creating Passionate users
How to come up with Breakthrough Ideas

Koala Photo book

Just got this from the publisher:

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

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

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

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


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