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)