Tuesday, 31 January 2006

25 words that hurt your resume

via lifehacker

I am not looking for job, thank you.

But here is an important lesson: "show, don't tell" which is also true in teaching.

Image: www.fablusi.com

Monday, 30 January 2006

Kung Hei Fat Choy

29th January 2006 is the start of the Chinese New Year of the Dog. May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Chinese New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choy.

The link in this post is to an article in Wikipedia. However, the discussion of this article is a more interesting read.

Images from: www.tangoll.com.hk and www.hku.hk

Thursday, 26 January 2006

no e-learning patents


for those hard-hat like me.

First, it is an open source project. The license is even more liberated than GPL. You can basically do anything with the software except sueing the developers and keeping it open.

Second, it is a peer-to-peer collaboration platform with nice 3-D interface. Yes, 3-D interface.

Third, it is cross-platform, of course!

Fourth, it is in pre 1.0 release at the moment. That's why you find it out here instead of the mass media.

I am going to try it, downloading all the three versions: Windows, Mac and Linux.

The Bad Guys Win

Trebla describes what happens in the rest of the world when the "Bad Guys Win".

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Simulation for Clinical Practice

source of photo: http://www.kyotokagaku.comI am no medical school lecturer - in fact, I have very little medical knowledge. BoingBoing has two posts related to clinical models today! I think this is a good example of using simulator in training. I don't want by doctor to keep trying to find my vein if I needed to blood test.

source of photo: http://www.limbsandthings.comHere is another model which may help women learning self examination of the breast.

Photo credits:

Monday, 23 January 2006

Crash course in learning theory

You are really passionate about helping people learn, right? If not, you are probably reading the wrong blog. Are you feeling that the information passing model of elearning sucks? Want to get the best advice? Read on.

Kathy Sierra from The Creating Passionate Users has written a wonderful Crash course in learning theory. Since she also provided a summary pdf, so let's put her theory into practice.

OK, now print out the first seven pages from this summary pdf. Yes, I know I have been advocating paper-less office, so only the first 7 pages, NOT the whole pdf.

With a pencil in your writing hand (mine is the right hand, what's yours?) and the print-out in front of you, go to Crash course in learning theory and start reading, taking notes as you work thought the post.

Go, read it and come back afterwards. Press that [back] button, ok?

Welcome back, now check your hand written notes. What? You have not got any written notes? Go back, try again.

Welcome back again. OK, compare your hand written notes with the last two pages of the summary pdf. How do you score? Laminate your notes and hang them up in front of you. Read daily!

Friday, 20 January 2006

I Will

via Blue Skunk Blog via ....

The original post is about the difference between learning with technology and without technology.

Doug Johnson added the angle from teachers.

Please make sure you read these lists. Wonderful reading any way.

The cost of a laptop per year? - $250

The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive

The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? - Priceless

Picture credit:

Wednesday, 18 January 2006

The World is Flat

a presentation by Thomas Friedman, author of The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century via OLDaily

This is a brillant presentation and worth the bandwidth and time to veiw the whole presentation. If you are going to miss the most, don't miss the last 10 minutes when Thomas talked about how the flatting of the world will affect our future - how to prepare ourselves and our kids to participate in this flattened world.

When the collaborative tools are available to everyone, the difference is in the ability to imagine, the ability to create. It is important to think positive and be creative positively.

Smart Power Strip

We, elearning professional, use computer and monitors, right? How often do you switch off your computer AND monitor when finished?

I use my laptop mainly these days because I can use both the laptop screen and a second attached monitor so that I have more screen estate. When I am not going to use my laptop for a while, I close the lid which will automatically put it to hibernation. In that mode, my monitor would theoretically auto turn-off and go into standby mode. However, it is still comsuming some power - the standby transformer of the laptop and the standby power of the monitor.

It does not sound saving a lot of energy if the power board can automatically switch off the power supplied to the standby device. But this is what this piece of cool tool does and I think it really matters.

This is so simple. You plug your PC into the main socket, and then plug your printer, scanner, monitor etc into the other sockets. When you turn off your computer, the smart unit shuts the power off to the other sockets. Saves power from constantly-on transformers, saves the environment, and saves lives from electrical fires caused by overheated DC adaptors.

I have read (but cannot verify) that there is a 90% lost during journey for the power generated at the power station to our home. That's every Joule saved at the consumer end will save 10 Joules at the generator! When added up, that would help.

I am going to buy a few if I can find an Australian version.

GreaseMonkey and Equivalents in other browsers

from Information Research, Vol. 10 No. 4, July, 2005

In case you don't know what is GreaseMonkey:

Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets you to add bits of DHTML ("user scripts") to any Web page to change its behavior.

Here, the article listed some efforts to make the same functions available to the other browsers, in case you still have not switched over to Firefox.
Two scripting extensions have just been introduced for Internet Explorer: Trixie and Turnabout. The Opera browser supports user scripts, and Apple's Safari browser has a plugin called PithHelmet.

I have not checked them out and am wondering if the scripts are inter-changeable with GreaseMonkey.

Monday, 16 January 2006

Standardised Tests and Teachers' Pay

via Autono Blogger which leads me to Apcampbell reference to an New York Times article: Houston Ties Teachers' Pay to Test Scores.

HOUSTON, Jan. 12 - Over the objections of the teachers' union, the Board of Education here on Thursday unanimously approved the nation's largest merit pay program, which calls for rewarding teachers based on how well their students perform on standardized tests.
The pay incentives are to be based on three components, or "strands."

One will reward teachers based on how much their school's test scores have improved compared with the scores of 40 other schools with similar demographics around the state. Another will compare student progress on the Stanford 10 Achievement test and its Spanish-language equivalent to that of students in similar classrooms in the Houston district. The third measure will be student progress on the statewide Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, as compared with that in similar Houston classrooms.

Interesting? I hope that our Howard Government does not know about this!

I came from Hong Kong, with an educational system based on examinations. I, myself, was a victim of the system as I was a late bloomer. I knew how to teach students to score high marks in standardised tests quite early in my teaching career.

Many young boys and girls have passed through my classroom, some very smart and performed very well in public examinations as well as very successful today; others less successful both in public examinations and today's life. BUT, equally important to note is that there are many who were not very good at public examination have become very successful in life and vice verse. Although there seems to be a statistical correlation between public examination results and success in life, however, I would be very foolish to draw the conclusion that public examination results and success in life is a causal relationship. It seems to me that the success factor is not the result, but the attitude.

Linking teachers' reward to standardised test performance is still one more step more remote to determine the success of a student.

The problem of designing an incentive system for teachers is the lack of tools for valid measurement. In many cases, the effort of a teacher would not be appreciated until many years afterwards. When the administration executives are basing their reward packages in short intervals (5 years?), they will not have the vision nor the will to look for long term benefits which cannot be measured in the short term.

We have also seen a gradual decline in the particpation of joining the teaching profession. In Australia, education faculty is one of the faculty admitting students at the lowest possible entry level. Some join the profession based on a passion, many enter the education faculty as a second or last choice.

The social status of teachers are not high too, pay not great, work load high and working environment bad. Who will join the teaching profession?

However, it is the time when educating our next generation is one of the most important and rewarding investment a government can make. As the society is entering a post-industrial era, when information becomes freely available, when repetitive tasks are taken over by automation, when low cost productions are out-sourced to developing countries, now is the time for the government to ensure that our next generation can compete in the new economy. The new wealth will depend on creativity, on new ways of manufacturing and on new ideas. In short, creative, adaptive and highly motivated citizens.

These young people, when they enter the work force, will need to have such a high productivity that one working person may need to support three to four dependents.

There is no sure way to achieve that. But Chinese traditional wisdom is to invest in education. Physical wealth or intellectual properties can be destroyed by war, change of policy or any circumstances beyond our control. The ability to adapt and adopt, the ability to create and survive (the result of sound education) stays with us.

Standardised tests measure conformance, even when they are effective. But we no longer need interchangeable workers in an assembly line. We need individual who are uniquely suited to solve unique problems on a daily basis. I don't think standardised tests can predict the achievement of these type of citizens.

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Not Invented Here

Christopher D. Sessums left a comment in D’Arcy Norman's post: Albert Ip on Learning Objects.

Here at my uni, we seem to operate under a “not invented here” motif, i.e., if it wasn’t created by me, I’m not going to use it in my class.

That is a very sad situation. As a high school teacher for nearly 20 years, I was native enough not to recognise this situation when I was doing my PhD. Bascially, the virtual apparatus framwork was very similar to "learning engine" project by another staff member at the unit I was doing the study. At that time, VAF was demonstratively a better idea. The Director has asked us to work to produce a consolidated solution and I agreed. However, once the agreement was reached, the project started a nose-dive. Was that NIH in its full glory?

That was almost 8 years ago. Thing has changed today?

In the book Co-Opetition : A Revolution Mindset That Combines Competition and Cooperation : The Game Theory Strategy That's Changing the Game of Business (Paperback) the authors argue that
your competitor does not have to fail for you to win. Conversely, you don't have to fail either. Your failure, in fact, can hurt your competitor. It is better, the authors assert, to have both cooperation and competition.

I have also jokingly remarked many times that R&D as in research and development actually stands for "repeat and duplicate". It is through repeating an experiment that scientific theory gets established. It is through duplication that techniques are learnt and you climbed to the back of the giant before you.

It is really very sad to see academic, who should have understood this better than everyone else not to acknowledge the work of the colleagues and whole-heartedly adopt other's good practice. In my humble opinion, it is the first step of further innovation and discovery.

Argubly, NIH may as well explain why people cannot agree on a common understanding of "learning object" - everyone wants to put a spin on it.

Friday, 13 January 2006

Virtual World and Real Life

Clickable Culture has a post describing the bad feeling left behind to the Second Life citizens by a real life company carrying out a failed experiment in Second Life.

I don't have any details about the experiment and hence not in any position to make any comment.

However, I know that there are many educators, tempted by the low cost availability of virtual world are looking at virtual worlds as a platform for teaching and learning.

I have been, and am now still not convinced that a virtual world with citisens of anything beyond your own class will be a good platform for simulations, role play or rule-based for educational purposes. I would question the wisdom of dropping a learner to the deep end of the pool in order to teach swimming. The very nature of simulation is to reduce the complexity into a certain level which will provide a reasonable challenge to the learners, yet provide a safe environment for making mistakes and not overwhelming with complexity beyond the current level of the learner.

A persistent world, by its very nature, will have different levels of sophisticated participants. This is not necessary not a good or bad thing. However, from a teacher's point of view, getting the group to focus on specific agenda will become more difficult once people beyond the class participate in the activity. In the virtual world, some of the dangerous acts would have less consequence, we may, hence consider virtual world meeting the requirement of providing a safe environment for making mistakes. Unlike simulation which start from fresh everytime, the persistence of the world will mean any mistake will presist as well. Again, whether such persistence of mistakes is good or bad for instructional purpose is very much depend on how it is being used.

I am not drawing any conclusion at the moment. This serves as a "progress report" of my effort to understand how virtual world may be used educationally.

Game As Critic As Art

via Clickable Culture

For those like me who cannot read any Spanish, there is an abridged English translation to the essay accompanying the event:

  • Part 1: Reverse-engineering; the reward of defeat; new systems of social justice.
  • Part 2: Simulated violence to denounce real violence.
  • Part 3: Educating with games. Against the simplification proposed by the game industry.
  • Part 4: Case-study of two proposals.
  • Part 5: Recommendations, diffusion, investigation.

The essay listed many games designed to convey a social message. While a number of these games are not in English, but the translation still gives you an idea of what that is about. In particular, please make sure you read Part 4
videogames are a great medium to convey political and social messages because they can relate between themselves hundreds of variables in the same time. It doesn't mean that games can model perfectly a society, but at least, they can help players get a better understanding of complex situations.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

Interactive Learning Fails Reading Test (Or Does It?),

via OLDaily

What I am not happy about is the reporter who reported this story in the first place and the "quality checking" procedure of the publishing "journal". This should not have been published in the first place AND it does not have any value for the general uninformed readers.

Rather, I would like to use this as a springboard for another topic.

In the Slahdot discussion, b17bmbr (608864) said,

I am a high school teacher (seven years junior high 3 years high school) and have yet to find a piece of software that is effective and better than a more traditional approach.

Well, let me describe to you a sucessful use of technology by Mary Noggle. She is currently teaching literacy to a group of radiologists in her community college. She searched the web and found some interesting cases involving radiologists in a hospital. She devised a scenario based on the cases and asked her students to roleplay different fictional characters devised. Using a discussion forum, her students enjoyed the experience. While she admits that it is not as good as running a full role play simulation using Fablusi, it is good enough to get her students very engaged.

Technology is always a tool. The art of helping people learn still lies in the hand of the teachers. Hoping to have a software to automate this process is a false expectation - at least with today's technology.

Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Despite All Our Games

by Shannon Drake

Games are addictive for the same reason anything pleasurable is addictive: Our brains give us little pats of wonderful chemicals when we do enjoyable things. Sometimes the wiring wins.

Shannon asserts that despite all these years of evolution, we are still simple organisms subject to Skinner's behaviourism like a rat in a cage, as demonstrated by the undoubtfully additive power of games. Do the educators miss anything?

Games and game designers have been telling us a number of things, see e.g. Educational Games Don't Have to Stink! Now we can add to this list that it is the triggering of pleasure which makes games additive. How can we make courses pleasurable so that students are constantly being pat by "wonderful chemicals when we do enjoyable things"?.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

RIP-ping on Learning Objects

via OLDaily

I have urged people to stop the debate and get real. I don't know why I am on this again. Perhaps my interest is still alive. Perhaps it is from David Wiley which I cannot afford to miss.

Those familiar with my work will notice that David's argument is almost the same as mine. You don't expect I have something to add, don't you? WRONG! Read on.

Just a bit of history to fill you in why I developed the thinking I have today. I started my journey into modular, reusable construction of learning resources with the concept of "virtual apparatus framework". The first proposed specification dated back to 25th August, 1997. At that time, I recognised that there will always be technical requirements for educators to compose an interactive and engaging webpage. I found Paul Fritz's Director based components extremely interesting, but he was primarily only interested in Director-based development. One of his tool is a graphing tool which can both display different types of curvea and recognise the curve drawn by a student using Bezier curve fitting techniques. Comparison to standard answers can be done by noting the starting point, the end point, the starting gradient, any (and location if any) characteristics etc. He also has another component which can interact with his graphing tool by sending commands between different components. At the time, I was independently working on similar concepts based on Live-connect, Java-applet and javascripts on webpages. I saw the value of a common standard approach to integrate all these together, hence the "virtual apparatus framework" proposal. Unfortunately, for political reasons, we did not further any work.

Back to the present. David wrote about "localisation" in his post. I suppose by localisation, he did not mean translating an English webpage to a Chinese webpage. If I have read him correctly, localisation means modifying the learning resource (or whatever you want to call it) to fit the learning context at hand. He cited resources in format such as "Flash files, Java applets, Photoshop images with many layers, and the like". To me, localisation means the ability of *any* educator to take a digital learning resource and makes the necessary changes herself. Is that a big ask? Yes, it is. Frankly, with my technical skills (I wrote Fablusi all by myself) and daily work related to learning technology, I am not confident to say that I can do that. The creation of Paul's graphing tool is not just programming skills in Director. It also involves good understanding of mathematics and digital graphics.

So, what is the next possible scenario?

What about creating a webpage with all these wonderful resources embedded within? Yes, that's much closer to the expected skill set of educators.

I realised that creating "content" is the easy part. The demanding skill is in creation of interesting interactions either among the students or between student and content. I believe it is still true today. One of the contributing factors to the success of blog in education is the easy of creation and use!

To me, in the term "learning object", we should emphasis on the "object-oriented programming" characteristics of object. These objects should have well defined "behaviour" and can be easily controlled by external parameters or commands. In addition to the graphing tool, what about an image viewer which will show different layers controlled by the students or the teacher while within the context of the learning at hand? Easy to create, yes. Can anyone just rip out one in an hour? I don't think so. I believe a lot of teacher will find this object very useful!

The ultimate ideal is all these wonderful "learning objects", when embedded in a webpage will behave co-operatively. That's the "virtual apparatus framework" dream.

*Fritze, P. & Ip, P. (1998). Learning Engines - a functional object model for developing learning resources for the Web. In T Ottman & I Tomek (Eds.), Proceedings of ED_MEDIA & ED-TELECOM 98 Conference. (pp. 342-7). Frieburg: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Kennedy, D. & Fritze, P. (1998). An interactive graphing tool for Web-based courses. In T Ottman & I Tomek (Eds.), Proceedings of ED_MEDIA & ED-TELECOM 98 Conference. (pp.703-8). Frieburg: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Ip, A. & Fritze, P. (1998). Supporting component-based courseware development using Virtual Apparatus Framework script. In T Ottman & I Tomek (Eds.), Proceedings of ED_MEDIA & ED-TELECOM 98 Conference. (pp. 597-602). Frieburg: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Sunday, 8 January 2006

Realities: physical, virtual, imagined & rendered physical

I have been very interested in virtual world such as Second Life and its application in education and training.

My argument has been that it would be better to activate the learner's imagination to create the reality rather than designer's imagination. However, again as I always maintain, it is a matter of choosing the right tool for the right job.

Today, I have posted Looking beyond 2020 - rendered physical reality in Learning 2020. With the advent of rendered physical reality, the matrix of tools obviously increased and we need to think beyond the current box.

Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Knowledge and Information, are they the same? Take 2

Since I wrote Knowledge and Information, are they the same?, I am becoming more and more uncomfortable when these two terms are used interchangeably. A strong feeling is growing inside me that said without a proper understanding of the difference between externalised information and internally coherent knowledge that we have, it would be very difficult to fully understand how learning may be best advanced. I am not a philosopher, so I don't know much about any previous debate/discussion in this area, if you can point me to any resource, it will be highly appreciated. Anyway, the following paragraphs explain why I am feeling so uneasy about this.

The essence of the "knowledge" and "information" distinction is the recognition of the boundary between "me" and "the rest of the world".  Knowledge is part of me (obviously one other part is the material (my body) which supported my biology existence), my being, my conscienceness.  This knowledge has been built to the current state via all the sensory inputs that I have been able to utilise.

I am not a good writer.  I know prefectly well that the words that I put down do not reflect 100% what I really want to say.  I also know that the way you interpret these words may be quite different from how I have interpreted and will interpret these words.  I also know that no matter how hard working I am as a writer, I will never be able to write down ALL of my knowledge.  So as externalized information, all my writings combined will only represent a small part of the knowledge that I have.  

Since the start of humanity, we have been trying to externalised our knowledge and trying to pass that onwards. With the advent of printing, these externalised partial knowledge (information as I prefer to call them today) of many great minds have been accumulating faster and faster, to the point that I will never able to read them all and hence will never be able to incorporate them all into my knowledge.  With today's technology, lots of them are at my finger tips. I will be contantly enchanted and enlightened by more reading and hence extending my knowledge.  But before I get the chance to read them, these externalised information, remains as "non-knowledge" to me.

Does this great collection of manifestations constitute as knowledge? If I own a copy of such manifestation, can I say I own that knowledge? Or, can I say I know the "partial knowledge the writer tried to manifest in that information"?

So in order for a piece of information to become part of my knowledge, I need to exert certain effort to make that information cross the "me" and "not me" boundary AND incorporate that into my current knowledge.

I suppose "learning" is this effort.

Pedagogy is the art of

  • convincing someone to put in the effort to get information across and to be integrated to be their knowledge
  • helping people to make this effort more effortless :-)
  • directing them to some sources of such information

I prefer not to call this process as knowledge transfer. Obviously, giving a learner a pointer to some information is only a small part towards helping the learner to learn.