Friday, 29 December 2006

Top 100 Education Blogs

This blog is very proud to be included in the Top 100 education blogs under the learning category : "The focus of these blogs is on learning theory, informal learning, and knowledge."

Thank you.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Informal Learning - an oxymoron?

I searched and posted a short list of various definitions I found on the web on "informal learning" because this term just seems to be wrong in some way.

I always believe that learning is an effort, an explicitly executed effort by the learner. To me, one of the most important measure of the effect of learning is whether [the result of a previous learning] can be called upon [in the future] to service a need.

This does not mean that the "effort" must be great and hard. It can actually be very enjoyable and satisfying. Just like the effort I am putting in now to try to understand what is "informal learning" and hence will improve the way I teach (not likely any more) or design my learnware.

Of course, such a definition of learning will post a problem for unintentional learning. Can unintentional learning really happen?

To me, informal learning refers to learning that is not officially organised. "Official" here refers to your employer, or if you are a student your school.

A note on just-in-time learning: Again I think there is something wrong with this term. When we face a problem, we call upon our "search skill" to find the information needed to solve the problem. The information is NOT just-in-time learning. The information is the result of an action which we have learnt before - the search skill. How many times we search for the same piece of information to solve the same problem? It is because we DID NOT MAKE an effort to take in that piece of information (ie we did not learn) so that we need to search for the same piece of information over and over again. The learnt skill that was used in this situation is the "search skill" which has been learnt before!

Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Informal Learning - some definitions

Informal work-related adult education activities that take place without an instructor. Examples of such activities include on-the-job demonstrations by a supervisor or coworker; on-the-job mentoring or supervised training; self-paced study using books, videos, or computer-based software; attendance at brown-bag or informal presentations; and attendance at conferences, trade shows, or conventions related to one’s work or career. []

Informal learning: Refers to learning resulting from daily work-related, family or leisure activities.

Occurs in everyday life and may not even be recognized as learning by the individual.

links to explorations of learning through participation in the life of a group or association (also talks about "informal learning as an administrative concept")[]

# Formal learning takes place in education and training institutions leading to recognised diplomas and qualifications
# Non-formal learning takes place alongside the mainstream systems of education and training and does not typically lead to formal certification, e.g. learning and training activities undertaken in the workplace, voluntary sector or trade union and through community-based learning
# Informal learning can be defined as experiential learning and takes place through life and work experiences. It is often unintentional learning. The learner may not recognise at the time of the experience that it contributed to the development of their skills and knowledge. This recognition may only happen retrospectively through the RPL process, unless the experiences take place as part of a planned experiential, or work-based learning programme
[ The same text is also referred at]

People don't learn - informally or otherwise - when they are not doing anything. Informal learning isn't 'water cooler learning'. People learn when they are doing something. Informal learning is the learning you do while you're in the process of doing something else. [OLDaily - Stephen Downes]

Open Educational Resources – anonymity vs. specificity

via OLDaily

The term "OER" may be new, the concept is nothing but new. Teachers use resources everyday, in every lesson, under every situation. Some of the resources used are specifically developed for educational use, but many are just resources that are conveniently available at the time. The former is called "educational resource" and the latter are also "educational resource" because they are used educationally! [Photo caption: Yesteryear, we have blackboard and chalk (educational resources), ages ago, Chinese mother taught her children using stick to write on sand!]

Under most copyright regime, educational use of resources are covered by exceptions (fair use in most countries, and exceptions in Australia).

The paper correctly points out a commonly known problem to educational resource:

the specificity of educational resources, which are usually made to fit into a specific teaching/learning context

By comparing to OSS (Open Source Software development), the author identified the inherent difference between OSS and OER:
OpenSource initiatives show a very centralistic attitude regarding the communication between the contributing 'hackers'. Responsibility for the coordination of one project is clearly given to one person and so called forking, i.e. looking for different solutions to the same problem, is held as an exception and needs very good reasons to be accepted by the community (Raymond 1998).

With such centric structures of communication the medial conditions of the Internet foster the production of common goods....

In contrast, the production of OER though based on the same Internet-technologies is highly dispersed....

I may also add that the learning context of every learner is unique and hence "common goods" is not necessarily good for learners as there is just no such learner called "common learner".

I like the author's conclusion:
The main resistance to the flow of OER is rather to be found in their dispersedness and the need for adaptation to a new local context. Both in the field of their production and usage OER have to counterbalance this 'disadvantage' in relation to existing and successful open networks, because as long as the effort for finding suitable resources is expected to be higher than the expected effort to create them oneself, the network will not gain critical mass and the potential of OER for global learning is not used optimally. Neither institutional backing nor strong community attitudes will gain sustainable success otherwise.

So what is the future of OER, I wonder?

[Photo from flickr. If this post has helped anyone understands a bit more about the use of resources in educational circumstances, this post may be considered an educational resource. My use of this photo is just because it was conveniently available to remotely illustrate a point.]

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Season Greeting

Please accept, and/or renew, 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. This greeting, without implied obligations also extends to cover a financially successful, personally fulfilling, emotionally enchanting and stimulating, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, 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, respect and happiness, clean air and plenty of water, less pollution, reduced green house gases, 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 having read 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 subject to the conditions below.

* 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.

* The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.

* Any proprietary rights associated with this greeting, including but not limited to the intellectual and moral rights, publishing rights including but not limited to publishing via the blogosphere, by email, by web sites, on CD and/or any electronic means, the right to perform in private and in public to a small, medium or large group of present or remote audience and or the broadcast rights to transmit, preserve and retransmit by any physical or electronic means are the property of the wishor.

* This manifestation of the greeting, 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.

* Any alteration and addition, including but not limited to the syntactic, semantic, linguistic, artistic, aesthetic, spiritual and material improvements, shall only be made to the original greeting in the same good faith and honour of any reasonable person.

* Any references in this greeting to "the Lord", "Father Christmas", "Our Saviour", "Santa" or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

* 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 itinerary. 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.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

How to Exercise an Open Mind

Simply put, doing unique, random, different, and ridiculous things is a good way to exercise the mind and promote new ways of thinking about the world around us. One hour of increased brain activity via thinking a lot or experiencing new stimuli can make you smarter, more energetic, more creative, more sociable, and more open to new experiences and ways of thinking. Here are some of the endless numbers of activities that can stimulate your brain. The key ingredients are to to be open to new experiences, and changes in previous ways of thinking about these experiences.

Not sure how sure (or scientific) are these claims, but fun anyway to follow some of the suggestions such as:
[2] Stimulate your eyes in new ways. Look at different art sites such as deviantART or Seventh Complex Digital ArtWorks. Go to a cheap or free art gallery. Even if you think it's bad art, it can still be stimulating and thought provoking.
[4] While waiting (in line at the bank, a coffee shop, a restaurant, the grocery store, or waiting for someone to pick you up, or a show on TV to start), ponder things, calculate, memorize. You can, for example, memorize digits of Pi (you can get to 50 in a matter of hours, 200 in a matter of weeks),...
[5] Take unusual classes. Find a community college or community-based educational program near you, pick up a catalog, and open your mind to learning things like Art History,...
[10] Learn how to write backwards. Leonardo DaVinci, the quintessential Renaissance man and a jack-of-all-trades, wrote all of his notes backwards so that they could only be read with a mirror.
[16] Try foods you have never tried.

and many more. [The list suggested 42 things you can do.]


Karyn Romeis has tagged me with the five things meme. So here it is.

  1. I was born in Hong Kong, studied Physics and had taught Physics at Senior Secondary Schools for almost 15 years. (Yes, I still remember quite a bit of Secondary school Physics - although I have forgotten most of my University work.) I worked at Hong Kong University at a Senior Computer Officer at a distributed teacher support system for English language teachers before I migrated to Australia.

  2. Albert is NOT on my passport. In my Secondary school, my English teacher, Mr Clifton Chan, asked everyone to make ourselves a Christain name. At that time, my surname was actually spelt as Yip1, so I wanted a name which would move me into the front of a name list. I admire Einstein so much that I named myself after him. (At that time, I don't know there is a name called Aaron! But I guess I may have still called myself Albert - naming after Einstein should have a highly priority at that stage of my life.)

  3. Before I came to Australia, the only one who would regularly calls me Albert is my girl friend / wife. (Of course besides the long lost classmate and Mr. Chan)

  4. We arrived Melbourne in July. With my experience in Physics teaching and that Australia needed Science teachers, I thought I should be able to get a teaching job quite easily. After sending over 300 application letters and scoring not a single interview, I landed three jobs on Christmas eve that year, all related to Computer which I have no formal qualification; a help desk support, a teaching job in Computer Science and a developer job for multilingual project.

  5. I am a very dull and un-fun human being. I don't like sport. I don't listen to music. I don't drink, gamble nor smoke. I watch TV only when I am VERY VERY tired. I read Physics journal as my bedside reading. But I am curious. I like anything new and different. I like to read anything that stimulates my mind. I surf (not on water) most of my wake up hours.

Here is my five victims (blogs) for the five things meme in the order of my reading list:
Christopher D. Sessums
e-Learning Acupuncture
E-Learning Queen

Sorry for all those good bloggers lower than what I have reached here on reading list, I am reading you, but only you are not the victim of this meme. Think of yourself being lucky!

1Yes, my immediate family (my natural father and natural brother and sisters all have different spelling of our family name) all have different spelling of our family name. At that time, I was following the spelling of my father's family name (naturally). It is only when I entered University that I discover the family name on my birth certificate is Ip and hence had changed to Ip since.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Chinese, traditional or simplified

Keen readers may notice that "Random Walk in Learning" had no post at the beginning of December. It was because I was in Beijing and Hong Kong.

There was no posting not because of Internet connection. In fact in Beijing, the hotel I was staying had free broadband Internet in every room (yes, some rooms' connection were not working). In Hong Kong, I was staying with my sister who had very fast broadband as well. There was no posting during that time because I was overwhelmed with all the experiences that I needed time to absorb.

My last visit to Beijing would be over 20 years ago. This time, my impression of Chinese capital has totally changed. It is modern, fast moving and lively. People are much nicer too. Girls are beautiful, modern and well dressed. Weather was cold and with high wind-chill factor.

I spent one day alone in the Forbidden City (currently the national museum) and sometimes in a local book store. These two visits formed the most heart-arching experience I have for a long time.

As I walked slowly pass the historical display of work in the Forbidden City, I found that I can read the words on these thousands-year old document, word by word. Although some of the usage may seem strange, but I can read them and understand what was written on these historical records. Chinese written form has been stable for the last 3 to 4 thousand years.

When I was flipping books in a local book store, my heart sunk. Books are in simplified Chinese. As I look around, I was wondering how many of the young people who were also browsing would be able to read the historical work in the Forbidden City.

Traditional Chinese has about 56,000 characters. Simplified Chinese has about 3,000 characters. Hence it is necessary that several traditional characters be mapped to a single character. Just from an information entropy angle, a huge amount of information has been lost in such a mapping process.

I want to start a project. A project to estimate how much Chinese culture has been lost due to the use of Simplified Chinese. If anyone can help, please contact me.

It's virtual social interaction

via Mary Noggle by STEPHEN MAJORS

Computer simulations, which have for years been used by the military and airlines, increasingly are finding their way into professions such as teaching, policing, sales and other fields that depend more on interpersonal skills than technical proficiency.

The STAR Classroom Simulator [snip] mixes computer technology and a human role-player.


Computer simulations, which have for years been used by the military and airlines, increasingly are finding their way into professions such as teaching, policing, sales and other fields that depend more on interpersonal skills than technical proficiency.

If I have read the article correctly, basically what these simulations have done is to can responses by human actor in an attempt to provide a wider range of responses than the current AI can support.

My question: Why do developers always think of developing an application for "solo" learners? Why don't we leverage on the knowledge of peer learners - let's role play!

Monday, 18 December 2006

Educators explore 'Second Life' online

In a special series on "Welcome to the future", CNN reports on educators using 'Second life'. The story talked about

The three-dimensional virtual world makes it possible for students taking a distance course to develop a real sense of community, said Rebecca Nesson, who leads a class jointly offered by Harvard Law School and Harvard Extension School in the world of "Second Life."

Frankly, I don't see the value of holding a regular class in 'Second life'.

A real good use of 'Second Life' I know of is by Lars Lundsten (I hope I have remembered the name correctly. If not, my sincere apology) in Helsinki, Finland. He taught a course in Department of Commerce where the entire course was run within 'Second Life' and course participants ran virtual organisations and businesses within 'Second Life'. 'Second Life' is NOT used as a classroom, but a space where simulated business practices were run and experienced.

In parallel, a multimedia course by Owen Kelly, partnering with Lars Lundsten created all the virtual campus, houses, companies headquarters etc. in 'Second Life' as "virtual contractors" for the commerce students.

That's creative use of the new technology. Yet-another-classroom is definitely a poor use of 'Second Life'.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Issue-enquiry Approach

It seems to me that this term is used mainly in Hong Kong education discussion. When you do a Google search, the document 4. 課程內容 is a good introduction to this approach. [Don't be intimated by the Chinese title, the article is actually in English.]

From the document:

(a) The issue-enquiry approach implies a learning/teaching methodology in which a learner searches for relevant solutions to a problem and can argue reasonably for and against the possible solutions. Its techniques encourage students to be inquisitive, to develop solutions by questioning and research and to find possible solutions for themselves.

(b) The approach centres on the development of skills that enable students to identify, investigate, understand, evaluate issues and offer solutions for them. Pre-determined positions on the part of students might be modified by discussion, and consensus may evolve but is not a necessary outcome. They should be encouraged and be given opportunities to gather essential information for these purposes. Strongly held, reasonable non-consensual views should be respected.

The following are some of the basic questions to be considered in order to make the issue-enquiry approach effective:

    (a) What is the issue?
    (b) Why does this issue arise?
    (c) What areas are covered by this issue?
    (d) What kinds of questions do students wish to raise about the issue?
    (e) How might they obtain the basic information?
    (f) How can they distinguish between facts and opinions?
    (g) Are there different approaches to this issue?
    (h) What possible solutions seem to arise from research and analysis?
    (i) How viable are the alternatives?

This looks like a good approach to teach subjects which have no black and white answer.

Friday, 15 December 2006

Educational Games and Serious Games

I attended a workshop in Beijing during ICCE2006 on using games in education. My position has been written up. That did not mean that I was against using games in education. I was saying that for "formal" education, using commercial off-the-shelf games to teach specific learning content IS not possible NOR a good approach.

During the discussion at ICCE006 , there was a consensus (most of the participants were from education, except a game developers focusing on delivering games for education) that research was needed to understand more about the use of games in education. I reminded the audience that game designers are also interested in developing games for education, which they call "serious games".

Given that we have two communities approaching a problem from two directions, I suggested that we should start to bridge the gap. An identified gap would be the linkage between "game goals" and "learning objectives". I was reminded that "there are Learning objectives and there are Learning objectives". I totally agree. Similarly, we can also say "there are game goals and there are game goals".

Both learning objectives and game goals are heavily debated and are evolving within respective community. However, they would at least provide a stable link between the community if we can accept the following definitions:

Game goal is the position a player wants to achieve at the end of the game within the context of the game. It is the “winning” position. Learning objectives are things an external institute (one who provided the games in the first place) wants the players to acquire during and/or after playing the game.

[from Why Commerical Off the Shelf Games Will Not Work in Education? And What Is The Alternative? ]

Frankly, I don't know how these communities can collaborate/co-operate to come to a mutual beneficial understanding to develop this field.

Your reaction required

cubed egg

The above picture shows a boiled egg, in a special cubric form. What is your reaction?
Uh, why?

The above question divides the people into two categories: those who can survive in the new age and those who won't. Which category are you?

[The way I see this: The new world needs people who are curious about new thing. We no longer need people who just follow old rules - may be except in developing countries where and when you are part of a production line.]

All e-learning should be entirely templated.

via OLDaily.

I especially like Stephen's summary, reproduced entirely here:

In this article, [author] presents an [article type] on [technology type]. The point of the article is [conclusion]. This is similar to something I said in [previous article], which of course [is now|is not] mainstream. [Edublogger] once also said [comment], but was [wrong|deluded]. In my opinion, [author] is right when [he|she] says [something I said], but misses the point when [he|she] says [something I never thought of].

Since I started my research in creating learning technical systems, I have realised that there are at least three communities involved in this process, listed below in reverse order of importance .

1. Technologist which produces technical platform in which learning may occur. Examples include web servers, discussion forum, blogging software, Fablusi online role play simulation platform, etc.
2. Educator/Learning facilitator who uses the technical platform to deliver the learning. This includes customising the content of the platform (e.g. using blogging software in the learning process, creating/putting subject matter specific content into the platform,...)
3. Learner who uses the technical platform to learn.

The lowest level is "reading" material created by [2] in [1]. (Think first generation web: lecture notes on the web in which web is [1], the lecture notes is by [2] and [3] reads.) We have since moved from this model. For example, [2] may identify a specific [1] implementation and ask [3] to use [1] to post learning episodes.

Note: "ask [3] to use [1]" is somewhat an action of [2].

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Speaking possibility requested

I tried to plan for a round-the-world trip last November and did not eventuate. I am planning a trip for March to June time in 2007 again.

I intend to leave Melbourne and travel East. The first stop may be Samoa visiting National University of Samoa, time to be confirmed pending any other proposal in the West coast / middle USA. I will be presenting at The International Conference on College Teaching and Learning with Mary Noggle on Rapid Creation of Innovative Online Role Play – Two Case Studies in USA East coast (Florida) on April 2-5, 2007. This stop is now fixed in my itinerary and the rest of the trip will have to work around this.

Then, I hope I will have opportunity to stop over in UK or Europe before paying a visiting to Chinese University of Hong Kong in late April or early May.

If you like to provide me an opportunity to talk on role play simulation, game-based learning, learning technology standards and (you know what I am interested in), please contact me. (albert dot ip dot w dot c at gmail dot com)

Monday, 27 November 2006

Is the world flat?

According to the statistics displayed/animated by, it is. See a "worth-more-than-the-time-you-spent-watching"1 presentation (20mins). hosts a number of flash files which allows you or your students to look at available data in new and exciting ways. This would definitely stimulate much more informed discussion about the world we are living in.

1We can read much faster than people can speak/show. I found podcasting a step backward because I am forced to get in the information at the speed dictated by the presenter/podcaster instead of my ability! So I decided to refer to all future recommendation based on whether it is worth the time you spent watching. Here is the first one I categorise multimedia in this way.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Deaf culture

I have normal hearing, so I don't know what is "deaf culture" and don't know whether such a culture is worth keeping.

The culture war is started by Richard Dowell at the University of Melbourne showed that 11 profoundly deaf children who received cochlear implants before the age of 1 had entirely normal language development at least up to age 4 to 5. There is a general agreement based on research that the earlier the deaf child has a cochlear implant, the better, or more normal, the language development of the child will be.


"The idea of operating on a healthy baby makes us all recoil," says Harlan Lane, a psycholinguist at Northeastern University in Boston. "Deaf people argue that they use a different language, and with it comes a different culture, but there is certainly nothing wrong with them that needs fixing with a surgeon's scalpel. We should listen."

Is this objection reasonable? Who has the right to decide whether a deaf child, before one year old, should or should not recieve a cochlear implant? Is deaf "nothing wrong"?

Monday, 20 November 2006

Global Warming: Early Warning Signs

The site shows a map illustrating the local consequences of global warming.

There is a section for educators.

Pictures of $100 laptop

via Boing Boing


Saturday, 18 November 2006

Beautiful Animated Periodic Table

Get it here

Friday, 17 November 2006

11 tips for managing a good blog entry

Vincent Maher listed 11 tips which Stephen Downes disputed each and every one of the 11 tips. Sally Falkow joined by pointing another 10 guidelines from Phil Lesly.

I started blogging because Stephen Downe's OLDaily.

However, everyone blogs with different reasons and motivations. To me, my blog is more like a journal documenting my "random walk" in the sphere of "Learning". Care to join me, welcome. I am equally happy to walk my own way.

I like to walk this journey with a friend who meet in the cross road. If we happen to walk in the same direction, I will enjoy a chat or two with you. If you have to leave, I will happily say goodbye and wish you all the luck.

When I stop and sing and shout and day dream and blog, I like to have an audience to share, but I will still blog even if nobody is reading this. Sometimes I try to sing and shout and day dream and blog with an imaginary audience. Sometimes I just enjoy doing this for myself.

I put Google Adsense around my blog. I like to make money out of this. But the money that really come in won't buy me the coffee I need to keep awake in order to write this post.

My blog(s) are the externalised manifestations of my inner world; part of my inner worldview, never my complete worldview which actually is changing all the time. But I don't delete my blog in big chunks, because it is my journey.

The 10 Commandments of Web 2.0

If you are stressed and your boss is NOT behind you, click the title and have a smile. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006

Australian Copyright law gone too far

According to Lisa Murray in Soon recordings will be a crime

HUNDREDS of U2 fans used their mobile phones to record Bono belting out their favourite songs at Sydney's Telstra Stadium over three concerts ending last night. Little did they know that under planned changes to copyright laws, they would be committing a criminal offence, attracting a maximum fine of $6600.

From the Channel 7 morning program Sun Rise, I learnt that Bono actually asked the fans during the concert to hold up their phones and asked to pleach their support to the "Stop World Poverty" by texting a number. All the received SMS messages were displayed on the big screen and each sender also recieved a thankyou SMS from Bono.

Good artists and reasonable rational people will embrace the technology and come up with creative ways of tapping such a wonder. Whose think of all these stupid laws to ban Australian to use the device?

Australia is definitely lossing its position as a creative nation - the boardband speed is a disgrace (according to News Ltd Chairman), the copyright law sends us back to the pre-Internet age, reluctant to join the Kyoto Protocol ignoring the climate change, investing in long term storage of CO2 gases, introduce nuclear power plant instead of utilising solar energy.... Plus the cut to high-education funding when the Howard Government first came into power. The future of Australia is bad unless some dramatic change in policies take place after the next Federal election!

LTSC - 2

Yesterday, when I posted LTSC, I thought the discussion may be ended. However Jon Mason [our own leading learning standards expert in Australia] jumped in late last night and added:

Gee, it's been a while since I've witnessed such a discussion on the LTSC list. Lots to consider. Unfortunately, I couldn't make the call last week not even for a short while but all this discussion in its aftermath has been good reading. Thank you to everyone who has bothered to speak their mind.

I agree with Claude's comment below -- btw, welcome Paul.

A couple of observations...

When I read Paul Storfer's comments I immediately recalled my own very similar experience some years ago. I was totally mystified as to what to do & how to engage for at least 12 months __ & it was a case of really having to persevere to crack it. Some things have become clearer over time, some probably haven't changed much to "outsiders" looking in -- though the new website is much better at providing this information. That leads me to ask the question: How do I, as a member, know who else is a current member? How would I have known that Paul was just recruited if not for this email thread? How would Paul know who I was & who else is on the c'ttee? I think we need to make this kind of information more accessible to members.

My perception of the impact & relevance of the LTSC in the broader specs & standardisation space is that it has waxed & waned, & at times looked vulnerable due to what seemed like a diminishing membership. I've also encountered perceptions from many people along the way that it's a forum for a small group of stalwarts. So, in my mind, for the LTSC to go forward it really does need to put some attention to these issues. The Charter says all the "required" stuff -- but what does "learning technology" really mean these days?

On another issue -- maybe I'm stuck in the last century but I really don't think wikis are the answer to all our collaboration needs. Some work & some don't, & there seems to be a limit to the number anyone can effectively participate in. How many do we need?? Password control can be frustrating at times, & all they do is create yet another silo of activity.

This invited two more responses: From Goeffrey Frank:
I want to reinforce Jon Mason’s comments about it taking almost a year to get into the flow of LTSC. That was certainly my experience. Given that we are all volunteers, it is a constant judgement call as to the return on our investment of time and effort for participation. That long learning curve makes the ROI decisions more difficult. As Jon says, you have to perservere, and that is very difficult for a volunteer. It is easiest for those who join with a specific agenda to make those investments. This typically happens when the stakes are high and the stake-holders with deep pockets are involved in the standards process because they know what they want out of the standards. As Rolf’s diagram indicates, LTSC is not currently at that point.

I would like to suggest that we need to do a better job of expressing the value proposition of our standards in the early stages of the standards development process, and that we use the value proposition as a touch-stone for guiding the development of the standards to focus on what will make a difference. It has been my experience that understanding and communicating the value proposition associated with technology is essential for getting the investments needed to move the technology forward.

One way of expressing value propositions is through use cases, especially when the use cases include the ROI commentary. The joint LTSC/SISO discussions on SCORM and simulation interfaces are currently focused on use cases, (although not usually including the ROI commentary).

and Claude Ostyn:
Paul, Jon and Geoffrey have made excellent points regarding the difficulty to engage with LTSC. I think this difficulty, not age, is the main reason why the LTSC is not as dynamic as it could be, because without new participants attrition and fatigue are inevitable in any group. There is plenty of good work left to do, but without people to do it and champions for projects that does not really happen. I found it very encouraging that some new members did come forward to participate in the WG 20 (Competency) work, and in particular for the grueling work of the P1484.20.1 ballot comment resolution committee.

There has not been any deliberate policy or action to make engaging difficult for new and prospective members. Rather, the difficulty stems mostly from privacy issues and logistics. In the early days of LTSC, the main way to engage was to attend face to face meetings that lasted several days. New and prospective members knew who everyone else through introductions in the conference rooms and further bonding typically took place over meals and evening activities. Times have changed. As LTSC evolved with time to become more international, and as some of the funding sources for standards activities have shrunk, it has been more difficult for many participants to attend face to face meetings in various places around the world. So the work has moved primarily on line, with phone and web conferencing supplementing email lists as the primary meeting venues. So, the new reality is online meetings and internet work, both synchronous and asynchronous.

Here comes the privacy issue. Not a problem in face to face meetings, but a real problem in virtual meetings and communications. We are very protective of personally identifiable information. As Jon points out, there is no simple way to know who the other members and interested people are because their identities are protected by the listserv and the web site. Normally the Sponsor Executive Committee members (officers and WG chairs) have access to the list of paid members. However, the members at large, prospective members and less well intentioned data trollers don't have access to this information. On some of the LTSC mailing lists, because there is an option to subscribe in "stealth" mode, even if access when the list roster is allowed a number of the subscribers remain invisible. That's the situation today. Should it change, and how?

So here is are some practical questions:

1. Assuming that it would be good for people to know who the other LTSC members are, should we make this information available to: (a) only members of the same working group (b) all paid members of the LTSC (c) anyone who cares to find out

2. Which of the following information should be available (assuming that some precautions are taken to avoid data mining and screen scraping for email addresses, etc.)? Note that if you participate in a standard your name only is automatically inserted in the published version of the standard.
[ ] Name
[ ] Primary affiliation
[ ] Country
[ ] Email address
[ ] Web site, if any
[ ] Official LTSC role(s), if any
[ ] Working group(s)
[ ] Additional volunteered information

3. Should the available information be filtered depending on whether it is viewed by a paid LTSC member or someone who is not a paid LTSC member?

4. Would an easily accessible, self-service members profile browsing facility (a mini myspace) be useful in helping members to become or stay engaged with the LTSC? I have seen such a facility used by other groups, but it is often not of much use because many people don't bother to put up or maintain their profile. Would *you* put up and maintain your profile?

5. Would you subscribe to a RSS feed updated when a LTSC member profile is created (because a member joined) or updated (by the member)?

Finally, I agree with Jon that Wikis are not "the" solution. One big issue is also information overload. I am willing to bet that a large percentage of the subscribers to the LTSC list have stopped reading this post long before reaching this point, and many did not even open it. On the other hand, we really should take advantage of the available technology and best practices. We should also try not disperse the efforts among undocumented virtual sites. Anyone should be able to go to *one* site ( and there find easily all the current, up to date links to anything of interest. Transparency is critical, but it takes considerable effort to maintain it.

It is good to see that access and participation is being discussed.

Tuesday, 14 November 2006


For those who may not be following in the LTSC discussion closely, here is a quick and dirty cut-and-paste of emails that have been circulating between Nov 10 to Nov 12. (Now that the discussion has died down and hence a good time to post.) (LTSC is the "Learning Technology Standard Committee chartered by the IEEE Computer Society Standards Activity Board to develop accredited technical standards, recommended practices, and guides for learning technology.)

Scott Lewis wrote on Nov 10:

Although I did not attend the Orlando meeting, I did call in and listen. As I'm sure you all know, the intent of this meeting was to determine the future of LTSC. What I heard at the end of the meeting was that LTSC would go into a maintenance mode and would not initiate new standards. Basically, the LTSC plans to go to a mode that says, "Our job is done, and we will cease to exist except to renew the standards we have published."

Robby Robson (Chair, IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee) quickly responded with this:
That said, I heard something quite different. My impression was this:

1. There is a lot of work to be done – no question about that. BUT….
2. This work divides roughly into two types: (1) work that is clearly covered by the original scope of the LTSC and involves interoperability of learning technology and (2) work that increasingly involves other communities and new approaches. This is an exciting time during which ICT is changing rapidly and during which learning technology is converging with other domains, and we recognize that a whole new wave of standards may be needed and that we do not know where, how, or in what form they will (or should) take place.
3. The consensus at the meeting was to focus the LTSC on the first type of work while engaging in conversations to determine how best to pursue the second, without making a whole lot of assumptions about the best way to proceed.
4. As a consequence, when projects come along that fit into the learning technology interoperability category the LTSC will be there to work on them. Adoption of IMS Content Packaging and adoption of PENS are examples of potential projects that were mentioned, and SIM-SCORM interoperability is an example of an existing Study Group in that realm.
5. Also, the LTSC will complete and maintain its existing standards, and that will be a non-trivial effort that stretches on into the future.
6. With regard to metadata, the plan is to release a maintenance update of LOM as part of the required re-affirmation process. That is NOT a statement that metadata has no future or that people in the area are not looking to what’s next. Quite to the contrary, it is an acknowledgement of the success of LOM and the value of having a stable standard that being increasingly adopted worldwide as well as an acknowledgement of the work that is being done by the broader metadata community on things like the Dublin Core Abstract Model. We discussed several possible paths for that work becoming an IEEE standard, but they are independent of the maintenance of the stable LOM standard.
7. With regard to new work involving other communities, “Web 2.0” and the like, I believe the consensus was to engage in conversations and not to commit the LTSC to taking on that work since we don’t know what it will look like or whether the LTSC is necessarily the best or only venue for it. That is not to say it isn’t – we just don’t know.

My personal opinion is that the LTSC has a growing installed user base that needs stability while the bigger picture in which we fit is undergoing some rapid changes. This leads appropriately to a conservative approach to what we have and an open approach towards what we will do next.

Of course, this is all open for discussion – and that is exactly why we held a meeting to openly address these issues. Please chime in with corrections, updates, suggestions, etc.

Luk Vervenne expressed interests in the new generation of cross domain standards. and Andy Heath in accessibility technologies which Rolf (Lindner) pointed to ISO/IEC JTC1 SC36 WG2 "Collaborative technologies".

Wayne Hodgins (Chair, IEEE LTSC Learning Object Metadata (LOM) Working Group) came in with:
Good summary Robby, thanks for getting to this so promptly.

Scott et al, I suspect that the misunderstanding was due to this being what amounted to a day long discussion and the fact that you were only able to catch the end of it. In hindsight we should have probably concluded the meeting with a summary such as what Robby has now done here on Email.

In the hopes of adding some additional clarity, my sense is that we had an extremely comprehensive and far reaching discussion on the future of not only LTSC but also on standards in general, adjacent domains to learning, education and training and anything else which would be appropriate means to our common end goal of improved learning and performance. As I recall we did note several times in the meeting that we had done this bifurcation in our exploration of the future, however as your comments appropriately point out we should have repeated this at the end of our discussions.

As per Robby’s notes below, we saw a very strong and ongoing role for standards within the scope and charter of the LTSC and the “learning” domain. These would be very much in line with your comments on the future needs for standards. For example, in the LOM meetings (which were in the morning that day) for the immediate future we did indeed agree to complete an update to LOM in the form of a corrigenda to the current version. We also noted that an outcome of this specific action would be to create a specific list of anything reported through LOMnext that was outside the scope of the corrigenda. In the longer range, we did an update on the work of the joint DCMI/LOM Task Force which is working on the abstract data model (DCAM). We have already created a PAR to cover the standardization of this work so we are ready to proceed whenever the Joint Task Force has sufficiently completed its work to know the timing and type of standardization.

In the afternoon sessions, which you were able to attend the end of, we went on to consider the future of LTSC and in doing so we also noted that there was a need to take a much more holistic and comprehensive view of the needs and the market. As noted above there was no question as to the viability and need for the continuing role of LTSC and that the original charter, scope and purpose of LTSC would continue to serve this well. We then went on to have a very enlightening discussion on the needs to also look beyond the scope of LTSC and beyond the domain of learning, education and training. For example we discussed and explored the growing interests and needs for standards in the areas of competencies and talent management, as well as the inclusion of domains such as Human Resources, human performance improvement and others. This is of course an ongoing and still rather open ended discussion so we agreed that our discussions and our work with other groups and domains was all the more important to continue and pursue with even greater priority.

It should also be noted that we (LTSC) have been very pro-active and responsible in taking this long view approach. For example as per previous announcements on this listserv last month, and as also discussed earlier in the meeting last week, LTSC has initiated the new Study Groups for Competencies and this has already led to our collaboration with groups such as HR-XML which Luk Vervenne noted in his Email. It was within this context and in the part of this discussion you heard, that we noted the importance of looking beyond the charter of LTSC and beyond the domain and perspective of learning, education and training so as to be able to do a better job of advancing the progress within these domains and our overarching and shared visions for improved learning and performance.

Thanks very much for starting this thread Scott and pointing out the potential confusion and misunderstanding that the discussion at the end of the day could have when taken outside of the context of the larger all day dialogue. Hope this has helped to clarify the multiple dimensions of our discussions and the way forward for both LTSC and standards in general.

Claude Ostyn (Chair, LTSC WG20) wrote:
In short, there are a few open issues.

- Who will drive the LTSC? As noted at the meeting in a reminder of earlier postings to this mailing list, the terms of the LTSC Officers are expiring (see message from Debbie Brown "RE: CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS: All IEEE LTSC Officer Positions" of 1 November 2006). There are currently no nominations or volunteers for the positions of Chair (Robby Robson) and Secretary (Debbie Brown). My understanding is that Robby indicated that he would prefer to see someone else as a chair, and Debbie indicated that she would not be available. Chad Kainz and Brandon Muramatsu indicated that they would accept a nomination to continue in their position of Vice Chair and Treasurer, respectively. I have not heard about the Information Officer position now held by Wilbert Kraan.

Action item: For the LTSC to continue to function effectively, it is important to get nominations (or self-nominations) for the LTSC Officer positions. Dear reader, this may mean YOU. See Debbie Brown's email for details.

- Which is the best organization to pursue the study, development and/or vetting of some of the standards that are currently being considered? While some potential future standards are clearly in the area of Learning, Training and Education (LTE), others, especially competency technology standards, have major stakeholders outside the LTE area. Some of those stakeholders have expressed interest in developing IEEE standards because of the credibility and quality afforded by an open, accredited process, but don't think that the LTSC is the appropriate sponsor because of the "Learning" in "LTSC" is not their niche. Other stakeholders seem to think that the IEEE Standards Association is the wrong standards organization altogether, notwhistanding the activities and commitments of IEEE in computer technology, because of its focus on engineering. I find this difficult to understand; we're talking about technical standards here, something the IEEE does very well.

Action item(s): Investigate, reflect and decide (sooner rather than later) whether this is an issue of perception that is correctable, or whether there is a better home for the work on those far-reaching standards.
* Practically speaking, reflect on whether it would be harmful to simply change the name of the LTSC to something like "Learning and Performance Technology Standards Committee" (LPTSC) or "Performance and Learning Technology Standards Committee" (PLTSC), and find out whether those stakeholders who are turned off the the LTSC names would find that this name change addresses their concern. Of course, the Committee's charter would be amended by adding something like "human performance technology" to the mission of the committee.
* Considering that a new slate of Committee officers is due to be elected, working to effect such a change might be part of their platform. This may bring new life to the Committee by attracting nominees from a broader group, to complement those from the LET area who are willing to continue in their position.

- Which standards are we talking about? In addition to the strawman slate of candidate standards cited by Wayne, there is strong interest from various people in the creation of a standard for the representation of simple competency models, a.k.a. "competency maps", leveraging the Reusable Competency Definitions standard (P1484.20.1) that is nearing completion as a LTSC activity in Workging Group 20. At the March 2006 meeting of the LTSC WG20, it was decided to pursue this as a study item and WG20 notified the SEC of its intention to form a study group for this topic. The HR-XML consortium decided at its recent Barcelona meeting to pursue such a standard, both as an HR-XML specification and as participants in an IEEE working group, should one be formed, and several other people have indicated interest in joining a study group to define a PAR for such a standard. In many ways, this study initiated in WG20 is more advanced than other proposals.

Action item(s):
- Avoid announcements and dissemination of documents that may lead to the perception that separate study groups are being formed for specific competency standards, or that the "slate" of projects is already defined. There should be one study group whose role should be to considers the candidates for standards projects and to develop PARs for those that are considered promising. This must include the PAR for the simple competency models, a.k.a. "competency maps".
- The work of the recently announced "competency technology standards" study group should be represented to interested parties and in external communication as a "roadmap" for upcoming and potential projects, to avoid the perception that a whole slate of projects must be defined before work can begin on any project.
- Since WG20 has been involved with competency issues for quite a while, while focused on completing the RCD standard, and has a distinguished membership that includes many people whose scope of interest is not limited to the LET area, this should be done in coordination with WG20.
- Again, some decision is needed sooner than later on whether LTSC (under a changed name) or some other new organization is the best home for this work. The work toward the simple competency models standard should not be held hostage to delays in making such a decision.

In conclusion: A strength of the LTSC has been the breadth of interests and expertise among its members. There is no question that the world is not the same as it was 10 years ago when the LTSC started its work. This requires some adjustments, and in some cases those are radical, evenpainful adjustments. Other standards groups with broader scope have emerged since then, who don't use the IEEE accredited process. Ultimately, though, what makes a standards organization successful is how committed its members are to doing useful work, and how relevant its standards are. So, let us make sure we don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. To the extent that LTSC (maybe renamed LPTSC or PLTSC) works on relevant standards, it does remain relevant. To the extent that we encourage willing participants, the commitment of its members can sustain it.

The LTSC is you and me. This message will only seen by LTSC members -- many other interested people are not on the LTSC listserv distribution list. Effective, positively tuned communication with those other interested people is another action item for all of us recipients of the messages in this thread.

IMHO, action item No. 1 right now is to get nominations for the LTSC Officer positions, since the election is in December. Even if the nominated individuals come from outside the current LTSC membership, that's fine as long as they are willing to join and serve in accordance with the LTSC charter and IEEE Standards Association rules.

Still IMHO, action item No. 2 is to get the PAR for simple competency models (a.k.a. competency maps) completed and approved.

Stephen Downes weighted in commenting the process of LSTC:
I attended very briefly, you may not have even seen me, sound wasn't working and all I could see is some stationary slide. Now I regret not being more persistent, but this comment leads me to this thought: it's too bad that no recording of the meeting was made.

I have long disliked the format of these standards meetings, which is why I am such an infrequent attendee. I dislike scheduled and closed discussions. They feel to me like some kind of unsavory backroom lobbying session, and I get the sense that participants are interested in manipulating the process for their company's advantage. I am uncomfortable being complicit in this, in sanctioning the results of such a process.

I wonder whether bodies like LTSC could fine relevance again by opening up the process. Having the meeting on Breeze was an excellent idea. Recording it and posting it in topic-based chunks would allow a wider audience to listen. In an ideal world, a transcription would be posted. Distribute meeting notices, news and other items via RSS. On post items more frequently (eg., it would have helped to have a series of items and discussions rather than an after-the-fact notice that 'competencies has passed'). Open a discussion area (with email and RSS options) to follow up the meeting.

I have my views on the role of LTSC and the nature of standards, too, but these in my mind really take a back seat to process.

This is echoed by

Paul D. Storfer:
I have read the recent threads with interest. As a recent member (Claude recruited me to join), and someone deeply involved with competencies (I co-chair, with Luk, the HR-XML workgroup and am on their Board), I wanted to offer a couple of observations....

1. LTSC is, for an outsider, a very difficult organization with which to get involved. Perhaps I have missed mailings, but since I registered and paid my fee I haven't been able to find out how/when to participate or even how to get my password to vote on the standard. I'm not sure who to go to, and so I merely sit on the sideline and attend a meeting if I can (and, I admit, I got notice too late for last week's meeting). However, as more of a business person than a technologist, and as an active participant in MANY of these types of organizations, unless you make it easy for new people to get involved it is difficult to find new leadership and the work always falls on the same people -- a death knell for most organizations.

2. The competencies workgroup has been anxiously waiting for an RCD standard to emerge around which we can put an XML binding. I have had discussions with Claude around this topic for over a year. There is clearly a good technical role for this organization. But if it does not clarify its goals and role then other organizations will, inevitably, step in to fill the void. I think it is important to clarify a position if you want others to work with you.

Hope these points add to the discussion.

Tom King:
There is good constructive feedback here. The bulk of the structured IEEE processes seem to work quite well for LTSC and many others. Adding technology and process (RSS, topic-based structure, transcription, more frequent updates) may facilitate discussions, particularly on more abstract items.

However, some of the characterizations and comparisons in the earlier note may seem belligerent to the uncompensated volunteers who regularly participate, and would not perceive themselves as manipulative nor unsavory back room lobbyists. I suspect that persistent and regular involvement with any group changes perception. Process or format changes that facilitate and encourage involvement are good things. Being more involved helps anyone who truly wants to participate and enables one to engage in the process to change the process.

This is just the opinion of someone who watched IEEE from a distance in the 90's, and then help draft a specification and saw that go through ballot and approval in 2002-2004. Others have surely had different experiences, but I found wisdom in the crowds. The diversity of the group and recurring active participants ensured that no single individual could manipulate the specification to favor them or a single organization.

But disputed by Schawn Tropp:
Some of the points Stephen brought up about opening up the process. I don't believe that it is a closed process by any means, but is there other ways to "open" up the understanding, communication and other organizational procedures (e.g., recording sessions and posting them on the site, transcriptions of recorded sessions, distribution of meeting notices, especially if we evolve across domains and organizational bodies, discussion areas, RSS feeds and the like). I believe these items need to be address as we evolve IEEE LTSC.

and Robby Robson:
I agree with Stephen’s underlying observations: Despite all attempts and good intentions, it has never felt to me that any of the organizations involved in learning technology standards has been as inviting, easy to join, or easy to use as is desirable. However, as Tom King pointed out, it works, based on the efforts of uncompensated volunteers.

It is also instructive to contrast our approach to that used by mainstream standards efforts in the ICT industry, e.g. wireless technology, e-business, Web standards etc. There, participation requires attending many international meetings in person. Typically, “participation credit” is given only for face-to-face meetings and voting rights are only given on the basis of participating credit or on the basis of hefty membership fees. Other costs are involved as well. For example, some companies in other ICT areas maintain full time staffs of standards professionals who participate in standards activities and, when appropriate, send teams that include product managers and high level engineers. Most standards bodies charge meeting fees, and the bigger ones pay for administrators and technical staff, or buy services from an organization like the IEEE Standards Association.

Despite this, when you move away from the high profile activities, my impression is that not everyone is in great shape. I am sure that Stephen’s observations would apply to far more areas than learning, education and training. In fact, our volunteers have done a remarkably good job measured by standards produced and by participation levels considering the way we are funded, and the paucity of resources that companies and organizations in the learning, education and training arena devote to standards! There is enormous room for improvement and I fully support Stephen’s requests for more openness and access to the process, but let’s not forget that we have also accomplished a lot as well.

Personally, I think IEEE process is very much USA oriented and learning technology being international, participants in countries other than USA sometimes find it very hard to be continously contributing.

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Just-In-Time Teaching

via Scout Report

The very notion of “just-in-time” (JiTT) teaching may seem to some to sound
like a phrase adopted from the world of corporate culture, but in fact, it’s
actually a “…teaching and learning strategy based on the interaction between
web-based study assignments and an active learner classroom.”

From Just-In-Time Teaching website

Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions "just-in-time" to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students' needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the "feedback loop" formed by the students' outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Academic Freedom Under Attack - 2

After watching the SBS program online again, I realized that Political Science departments would face a particular issue no other academic department would face (or at least to the same degree of external influence).

As clearly pointed out in the background material (US Campus watch), lobbying groups and political parties have immerse interest to influence the academic curriculum in Political Science. Such interests, whether they are for or against certain viewpoint, would try to see the opposite viewpoints being suppressed or condemned and their own viewpoints being promoted and glorified. This has given rise in the "war" in the funding of academic positions, in the hope of creating an emphasis of certain voice.

This is simply unhealthy for educating an informed citizenship.

Academic, as part of their job and before "publish or perish" is abandoned, will continue to publish their viewpoints in various forms. They are totally entitled to their views. However, when that view is delivered in classroom, they may be accused of teaching/preaching biased viewpoints by one or other political interest groups. When "teaching" in Political Science departments is based on "lecturing", such accusation of bias, whether it exists or not, is a matter of opinion.

Understanding complex situation and issues, such as the Middle East, is immensely difficult and listening to lectures is the not best way to acquire and assimilate such understanding. The political science role play simulations, pioneered by Dr Andrew Vincent, provide an open and transparent exercise which demonstrates unbiased approach to the subject matter. In such simulations, students investigate the real world by doing research from different viewpoints, act out the decisions in a simulated environment and construct a real appreciation of the complex situation.

Role play simulation, not only engaging, fun and effective, is the ONLY way political science teachers should approach the subject matter in order to avoid being accused of being biased.

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Academic Freedom Under Attack

I just watched the latest Dateline on SBS (Campus Watch) which is not up on the net as I am writing this post. Hope by the time you read this, the show is available.

I am not a political scientist and I have no political position on any Middle East issues. However, I do understand very well how Dr. Andrew Vincent conducts his Middle East role play simulations. [My role play simulation platform is an advanced implementation of Andrew's pedagogical design and see some of my work (and others) on role play simulation here.]

Andrew has been running his Middle East Role play simulation in the last two decades as early as when email was the *only* thing on the Internet. See this paper and video.

The video linked in the last paragraph is a description by Andrew himself how his simulations were run. I cannot do better than that. So please watch the 9 minutes video now.

A few things I would like to add to Andrew's own description are these:

1. His simulations were run 3 weeks ahead of time. In other words, any event that happens today in real world is history in the simulated world. This forces the players to really study what is happening and cannot act in total ignorance and imagination.

2. The players are required to do extensive research about the role they are playing before the scenario is released in the form of "role profile". The independent research done by the students to really understand the role would ensure that there is no possibility of Andrew forcing biased view onto his students.

3. As part of the role profile, players are required to identify the public agenda and private agenda of the roles they are going to play. From point 1 above, it is to the interest of the players to adhere to current events, culture and history in order to come up with the most likely agenda to advance. It should also note that private agenda are not visible to other roles (only to "controller" in order for the controller to judge whether the students are acting in character or out of character).

4. Andrew's resource list include both western and middle east media. Political science students should know that media is a propaganda machine and they are encouraged to use the media (within the simulation) to advance the role's agenda. In a direct way, Andrew is teaching the students to critically examine all media. Students are free to research on the web and library to understand the role they are playing.

5. Killing is a reality in politics. However, in Andrew's simulation, one of the game rule is that "thou shall not kill" or equivalent. If killing or serious harm must be done, it can only be done with controller's approval which typically requires extensive support why such a violent act is likely, is in character of the role they are playing and help to advance the agenda of the role. I have seen some of such requests, which were several pages long, well documented evidence and culture practices, prepared by the players in order to get controller's approval. To the students, violent act IS a last resort because it is just too difficult to get an approval to do this within the simulation.

6. Many of Andrew's simulation were run in parallel to courses in other universities, many not in Australia.

Years after years, students know that Dr Vincent course is a difficult course to take. His course is demanding and requires more work than any equivalent course. However, Dr. Vincent's Middle East course usually has the highest number of students within his political science department. Within the three weeks of role play simulation, thousands of simMails were exchanged (a typical simulations have around 3000 simMails) and an almost equal amount of posts in different forums within the simulation. These are on top of the "role profile" and "role summary" and only worth 40% of the total grade of the course.

Using role play simulation to teach politics is now being adapted all around the world.

If anyone would like to accuse Andrew of delivering a biased course, listen to SBS interview and identify the list of guest speakers he has invited to deliver lecturers to his students. If there is any chance of introducing bias into the simulation, it may be done via the scenario which Andrew spent a lot of time in crafting. Andrew never admitted this, but I knew that many of simulations run using his model had predicted the real world events very accurately.

After all these years, I am very sorry to hear that Andrew's role play simulations are stopped. People who tried to stop Andrew's simulation did so for their own political agenda. It is NOT because these simulations promote biased viewpoint, insigate violent nor pedagogically ineffective. Parliment member(s) attacking Andrew in the Parliment is/are protected from being sued for anything they say in Parliment. Andrew does not have that privilege.

It is an attack on academic freedom and inhibit our students to learn the *real* facts.

[added on 9th Nov, 2006 at 9:45am] The transcript of Campus Conflict and the interview with Vincent/Danby are available now.

[added 10th Nov, 2006 at 8:30am] The SBS video is up now.

Movies on youTube as subject for study

From The Age by Stephen Hutcheon

Year 8 students at Eltham College are studying the videos of YouTube. Their teacher Stuart King said,

"After all, one of the jobs of a teacher is to help kids make sense of the world they live in,"

Aside from providing a lesson in 21st century communication, Mr King says there are many other valuable experiences that can be gleaned from the YouTube project.

"One of them is how we can teach kids to master this technology and not just be passive consumers," he says.

The students are also taught about ethical aspects, such as respecting copyright and how to use the medium responsibly.

See also the reporter's responses to the questions asked by students here.

This is a great example of teachers using and adapting current technologies to teach.

Copyright law in Australia

via OLDaily

ABC News Online reports that the Internet Search giant Google said that the [Australian copyright] laws could open the way for Australian copyright owners to take action against search engines for caching and archiving material and effectively "condemning the Australian public to the pre-Internet era".

My position has always been that copyright issue is a civic dispute between the copyright holder and the individual. It should not be treated as a criminal case and hence waste tax-payer money to chase after "offender" on behalf of the rich and wealthy copyright holder.

The original copyright law in the western countries is a compromise between public good and private interest. The continual extension of copyright duration (and patent duration) is AGAINST public good. Government, any government, should not act on behalf of any group (noisy as it may be) against public interest. We elect representatives to the different levels of government to "protect" us, not to condemn every citizen to become a criminal1.

When a physical object is stolen, the owner is denied the enjoyment of the physical object. That's a criminal offence and government should protect and help citizen to prevent such to happen. Unlike stealing physical goods, copyright dispute does not cause harm nor deny enjoyment to the copyright owner except the "opportunity" to make some money. This is a business matter and should be dealt with as such - a civic case.

A government should be working to increase public good - that is to reduce the life time of copyright ownership and duration of exclusivity granted to patents. Resolution of copyright dispute should be initiated by the copyright owner in a civic court with the copyright owner bearing the burden of proof, burden of cost (including the defendent's lawyer unless proven guilty) and "actual" lost of income (not estimated potential lost) in the specific case. Any claim should NOT include any punitive damages. Assistance from the law enforcement agencies to help to collect evidence should be charged as at-cost rate to the copyright owner. This would ensure that copyright owner has no incentive to chase after individuals who occasionally violate copyright agreement - but still provide the legal framework for the copyright owner to chase after "whole-sale" copyright violations (those currently labelled as software prirates!)

1The current proposed copyright law allows australians to "time-shift" a TV boardcast. However, it is against the law to view the recorded program by any people other than the one who record the program and you are only allowed to view the program ONCE. I believe this will make ALL Australian to be a criminal sometime in his/her life. One scenario I can think of is watching a program recorded by my wife and we watch them together. According to the law, I should not be watching. Where is the "family" value comes in?

Monday, 6 November 2006

The Human Factor

from The Scout Report

Inspired by “…the courage, industry and intelligence required of the American working man”, two colleagues from the Harvard Business School (Donald Davenport and Frank Ayres) sent out a call to leading businesses in order to develop a visual collection that could be used in the classroom.

During the 1930s, they received over 2,100 photographs that documented “the human factor” embodied in the interactions between worker and machine. Recently, the Baker Library at the Harvard Business School created this online exhibition to showcase a selection of these remarkable images. Visitors should begin by reading the introductory essay; they should then proceed to the exhibition, which is divided into nine sections. Each section begins with a short preface, and then continues on to a sampling of images,
which include workers monitoring massive wheels of Swiss cheese in 1933 and a photograph of women assembling parts for Philco radios in 1926. Each photograph can be viewed in great detail, and it is worth noting that the site also contains an exemplary bibliography.


A peer-reviewed journal which provides a broad range of ideas for teaching and learning mathematics at any level.

At the moment, most articles, if not all, are free for pre-view. Will they change thier policy, I don't look. But definitely worth a look for those teaching mathematics.

Sunday, 5 November 2006


by Daniel C. Dennett

About two weeks ago, Daniel was rushed by ambulance to a hospital. His heart was stopped entirely and his body and brain were chilled down to about 45 degrees to prevent brain damage from lack of oxygen until the medical staff could get the heart-lung machine pumping.

Friends were anxious to learn if I had had a near-death experience, and if so, what effect it had had on my longstanding public atheism. Had I had an epiphany? Was I going to follow in the footsteps of Ayer (who recovered his aplomb and insisted a few days later "what I should have said is that my experiences have weakened, not my belief that there is no life after death, but my inflexible attitude towards that belief"), or was my atheism still intact and unchanged?

DANIEL C. DENNETT is University Professor, Professor of Philosophy, and Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. His most recent book is Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.

Here are some notable quotes from this wonderful, must read essay.

Yes, I did have an epiphany. I saw with greater clarity than ever before in my life that when I say "Thank goodness!" this is not merely a euphemism for "Thank God!" (We atheists don't believe that there is any God to thank.) I really do mean thank goodness! There is a lot of goodness in this world, and more goodness every day, and this fantastic human-made fabric of excellence is genuinely responsible for the fact that I am alive today. It is a worthy recipient of the gratitude I feel today, and I want to celebrate that fact here and now.

Daniel acknowledged that his own a debt of gratitude: the cardiologist, the surgeons, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and the perfusionist, the dozen or so physician assistants, and to nurses and physical therapists and x-ray technicians and a small army of phlebotomists.

More importantly for those who prayed for him, he has gladly forgiven them. "I am not joking when I say that I have had to forgive my friends who said that they were praying for me. I have resisted the temptation to respond "Thanks, I appreciate it, but did you also sacrifice a goat?" I feel about this the same way I would feel if one of them said "I just paid a voodoo doctor to cast a spell for your health." What a gullible waste of money that could have been spent on more important projects! Don't expect me to be grateful, or even indifferent. I do appreciate the affection and generosity of spirit that motivated you, but wish you had found a more reasonable way of expressing it. "

The best thing about saying thank goodness in place of thank God is that there really are lots of ways of repaying your debt to goodness—by setting out to create more of it, for the benefit of those to come.


Or you can thank God—but the very idea of repaying God is ludicrous. What could an omniscient, omnipotent Being (the Man Who has Everything?) do with any paltry repayments from you? (And besides, according to the Christian tradition God has already redeemed the debt for all time, by sacrificing his own son. Try to repay that loan!) Yes, I know, those themes are not to be understood literally; they are symbolic. I grant it, but then the idea that by thanking God you are actually doing some good has got to be understood to be just symbolic, too. I prefer real good to symbolic good.

cross posted to Sustaining Future

Friday, 3 November 2006

Hard and Soft Knowledge

Here are some quotes I found:

Hard as in solid and soft as in liquid: [George Siemens as cited by Remote Access]

Knowledge possesses different states.....along a continuum. Hard knowledge occurs in fields and eras where change is slow. Through a process of expert validation and acceptance of the public, knowledge acquires solid states.

Differentiated by people's ability to articulate/codify: [Paul M. Hildreth and Chris Kimble The duality of knowledge]
The part of what people know that can be articulated we will simply term 'hard knowledge' and the part of what people know that cannot be articulated we will term 'soft knowledge'.
hard knowledge as being 'codifiable' ... soft knowledge as that which is less quantifiable and cannot be so easily captured and stored.

[Emile Durkheim Many Faces Exploring Knowledge]

Hard as in physical and soft as in human-nature:
[Ngiam Tong Dow Singapore must not alienate its brightest]
America's invasion of Iraq was an example of hard power. Winning the hearts and minds of the people is soft power.

In classical Chinese thought, the equivalent distinction would be 'wen' and 'wu', the pen and the sword, or the scholar and the warrior. The Chinese ideal is a combination of the scholar and the warrior in the same individual.

The difference between hard and soft can also be applied to knowledge, distinguishing between 'hard knowledge' and 'soft knowledge'. Rocket science, which requires heavy investment in jet-propulsion technology, is hard knowledge. Researching demand for luxury cars in developing countries requires soft knowledge.

[complied by Carter McNamara Sales Staffing and Training]
"Hard" Knowledge and Skills
Advertising and Marketing Laws
Advertising and Promotion
Communications (Writing)
Contracts (Business)
Customer Satisfaction
Customer Service
Decision Making
Ethics: Practical Toolkit for Business
Etiquette (Manners)
Positioning: Deciding and Conveying Your Unique Selling Position
Public and Media Relations

"Soft" Knowledge and Skills ("People Skills")
Conflict (Interpersonal)
Etiquette (Manners)
Handling Difficult People
Non-Verbal Communications
Presenting / Speaking
Team Building
Valuing Diversity

Dimensions of Core Knowledge Types:
Hard Knowledge ("what Button does what")
Fuzzy Knowledge ("what sequence of actions in Blender makes sense in order to achieve a certain result")
Soft Knowledge ("what looks cool and what looks bad and how do I seperate the two", "how do I aproach a certain task in Blender")

Dimensions of Fringe Knowledge Types:
Hard Knowledge ("how do I set up a Blender render cluster", "how do I build models for the Torque Game Engine")
Fuzzy Knowledge ("what other tools make sense in a Blender 3D pipeline", "how is the human body built", "what result demands which tool")
Soft Knowledge ("what narrative styles are there", "what visual style supports/demands which type of poetic essence")

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Family Maths

from Bruggie Tales

This week Peter (8) had a maths lesson about division and remainders. He had 25 lollies (candies) and had to evenly divide them between a number of people and work out the remainder.
The first question was concerning four people.
"How many lollies do each get and how many are left?" Lana asked
"They each get six and Dad gets one."
"Dad?" Lana asked.
"Yes." Peter replied seriously, "Dad always gets the leftover ones. [This is true - it is a very important family tradition I started]
"What about six people?"
"They get four and Dad gets one."
"How about nine people?"
"They each get two," and here Peter paused, then in shock said, "but Dad gets seven! That's not fair!"
It was okay when I only got one to their four or six, but when I ended up with more, then it "wasn't fair".

How unfair!

Monday, 30 October 2006

SCORM 2004 3rd Edition

ADL has releassed the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM®) 2004 3rd Edition. From the email:

Since the release of the SCORM 2004 2nd Edition several key evolutionary steps have occurred. The IEEE approved 1484.12.3 Standard for Learning Technology - Extensible Markup Language (XML) Schema Definition Language Binding for Learning Object Metadata and IMS has approved the IMS Content Packaging Specification Version 1.1.4. These advancements along with comments and suggestions received from the ADL Community during the two Public Draft review periods have culminated in a more stable and robust set of standards, specifications, and guidelines within the SCORM 2004 3rd Edition. Along with the SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Documentation Suite, the SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Conformance Requirements, Conformance Test Suite and Sample Run-Time Environment are also now publicly available.

With this milestone release, SCORM 2004 has built upon its stable foundation. This version is more robust and complete than the SCORM 2004 2nd Edition, in that it corrects issues, resolves ambiguities dealing with interoperability and incorporates changes based on accredited standards. As the new baseline standard for SCORM, ADL strongly recommends that the ADL Community migrate to the SCORM 2004 3rd Edition. The ADL Community is encouraged to test their products in accordance with the SCORM 2004 3rd Edition by utilizing the SCORM 2004 3rd Edition Conformance Test Suite. This will assist organizations in measuring impacts to their current systems, plan for changes and begin to make updates.

Saturday, 28 October 2006

3D Learning Management System

via OLDaily

Stephen said:

"Imagine a Moodle course that, if you wanted, could turn into a proper 3D interactive classroom with all your Moodle resources available to your students in the virtual world." This is very doable, since you can import external objects (such as videos) into Second Life. To me, the greater challenge will be fusing an open source LMS into a commercial 3D environment. But hey, it might work! Then Blackboard will say it invented it.

I would ask WHY? Why do we want a 3D Learner Management System (be it patented commerical or free/open source)? Do you want to create such an environment because you CAN? What are the potential of 3-D in enhancing learners' experience? Please enlighten me.

Friday, 27 October 2006

Define "technology"

This is my 600th post in this blog. When this blog was first started, I called it "Random Walk in eLearning" which implicitly implies that I would be posting on things related to learning mediated/supported by technology.

Doug (of Blue Skunk Blog) said:

I would suggest that “technology” is a generic term that could (and should) be applied to nearly any device or invention humans use to increase their abilities to learn, work or play. Books, lathes, snowmobiles, and mouse traps, as well as computers, are all “technology.”

As with "learning object", teachers use anything to illustrate, stimulate, (list of verbs that you agree as part of teaching/learning). Hence I have always agued that there is no such thing as "learning object". We use all object (physical or digital) to aim in our learning.

The same applies to technology. I don't believe there is a category of technologies which are specific for instruction or education. Terms "Instructional Technology" or "educational technology" do not give us any additional information more than the simple generic word "technology".

Of course we can talk about how to use a certain technology in a certain way to help some learners learn something. This is the process and context. Technology, information, artifacts, classrooms, chairs, etc are just part of the context. The actual process occurs between the ears of the learners, may be influenced by the process organised by the teacher.

Now, this blog is called "Random Walk in Learning".

Thursday, 26 October 2006

eLearning Industry Association of Victoria

eLearning Industry Association of Victoria was officially launched yesterday.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Are Students Ready for a Technology-Rich World?: What PISA Studies Tell Us

Drawing on data from the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Are Students Ready for a Technology-Rich World? What PISA Studies Tell Us, examines:

* Whether access to computers for students is equitable across countries and student groups;
* How students use ICT and what their attitudes are towards ICT;
* The relationship between students’ access to and use of ICT and their performance in PISA 2003;
* The implications for educational policy.

I have only read the powerpoint presentation and found the data interesting.