Friday, February 17, 2012

Circles and lines

I was pondering this morning if love is like a circle, then self-interest is like a line. Circles are complex, resilient and soft whereas lines are direct, simple and piercing.

John Donne wrote about his love being like a compass, someone who his life revolved around, who drew him back and guided his actions.

And then I thought of the analogy someone made about the difference between drawing and digital rendering, that computers don't do circles, but they do lines very well. And then they made the point that a triangle, progressing to a square, through hexagon becomes more and more circular. The more lines that you add the closer an approximation of a circle you get; but paradoxically the more you add sides to your model the more you move away from a circle because you are just adding more and more lines.

Is this a little like our modern penchant with consumerism? Or the way we regulate our corporations? More rules for our children so they don't actually have to take responsibility for their own decision making? That we have the house and car and plasma TV but lack the core of a contented soul? That we treat workers as parts of the machine, all grist for the mill? Do we need to step back and look at the big picture?

Lets be nice to each other people; do the right thing by each other, and not put our own interests first. We might even find our good deeds come back to us...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

HTML publishing

Does online learning content have to be created in HTML?

What are the advantages over other formats such as PDF? And do these advantages outweigh the benefits of being able to rapidly author in whatever software you like and convert to PDF?

Using a LCMS enables content packages with navigation
Hyperlinking can still be included to external sites
Formatting can be created in stylesheets, and are more accessible than CSS
File sizes are becoming negligible in a ubiquitous high bandwidth environment

Asking subject matter experts to invest in learning HTML is distracting them from focussing on their subject to creating content. Better for them to apply design on building the interaction with that content than on the creation of it.

The big downfall - accessibility
Can PDF be made accessible to W3C guidelines?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Alchemy or chemistry

Truth is not the domain of the expert (GFC anyone) but the constructed argument of a collective.

We are currently switching LMS from a proprietary product to an open-source one. Both systems can replicate features, it is the philosophy that is different.

Higher Education suffers from the proprietary mindset. Often accused of living in Ivory Towers it is time that we walked our talk, swap lectures for action-based learning, come down from the sage on the stage to be guides on the side. Be transparent, develop trust and drop authority. Favour discussion over debate, these are the ways to build the noosphere.

Here is a classic example of what happens when you blindly accept authority.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My public commitments

I recently read that it takes 66 days to form a habit.  You can miss a single day during this period, but the aim is consistency.

I've just started a new job. This is a perfect opportunity to form the habits I want to follow;

  • Fitness - Lose weight, gain strength and flexibility
  • Focus - Develop strong study commitments, and lengthen concentration spans
How am I planning on doing this?

Fitness will come with a regime of bike-riding, swimming and eventually weight training. Couple this with healthy eating and cutting down on alcohol consumption.

Focus will be achieved by sticking to a study plan, early rising and using meditation to develop strong habits and positive mental imagery.

This is my commitment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Personal Learning Environment

I've been thinking about what tools I use in my Personal Learning Environment, and by order of use it currently is;
  1. Email (gmail) for following LinkIn conversations - wish they were moved to twitter-like posts 
  2. iGoogle - RSS updates (+twitter feeds) and tools categorised to my work/mood
  3. Weblog - Record my readings for later reference, thoughts on hyper-linked topics
  4. Collaborative MindMaps - Like Cmap for free use and intuitive interface, different output options: need to spend more time working out how to share from their server (now want an iPhone app for Christmas!)
  5. 3rd Gen Kindle (on order) so I can share notes on texts from/with other users. Low power, cost, E-ink to reduce eye-strain, light and small, sustainable, etc (Not locked into Apples iTune$) (tick, tick, tick)
  6. Wiki - Haven't used one for awhile, but their were some beauties when I was doing a Masters project, with additional features like Discussion Boards, etc.
  7. ShowDocs - Collaborative editing (just found this, but looks good)
  8. Connect Pro - Wish I could afford my own Web-Conferencing + permanent room to store my resources and then whiteboard, share desktop, etc when discussing topics with peers. Skype is untrustworthy and limited in its scope.
  9. Prezi - for a cloud based collaborative alternative to PowerPoint
  10. My iPhone for pull content on my subscribed Pod and VodCasts

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Holistic education in a networked world - how the digital 'book' will change learning

Tomorrow people - guiding them over the threshold.

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.We've created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." Albert Einstein 

We've lost direction with economic rationalism; by focusing on ends we have neglected the means. The best way to correct this imbalance is through education. By creating self-directed learners we can supply the skilled operators of the networked world we have been building. Through the directed use of these new tools we can address the roots of many of the problems we now encounter, such as global warming, pollution, disenfranchised workers, power imbalances, financial crises. The following model will bring it's own problems and we need to be mindful of these, but they will be emergent and predicting them will be difficult, so I will take a scenario casting approach in thinking about them.

The printed book has ultimately turned us into robots - standardised our education, split our thinking into ever narrower, disconnected channels, building on the norm and ostracising the rebel. This is disaster in a networked world - this laid the conditions for the GFC to incubate, the smartest men in the room created a circle-mill in their room of mirrors. Mono-cultures collapse, this is as true of American hegemony as it was of the Roman empire. They feed so voraciously in their arrogance that they starve themselves with their growing appetites on a limited larder. The wisdom of the crowd only works with a true diversity of views, and this is what we need to cultivate in the minds of our learners. We need to grow the ideas on which we will harvest our future feasts.

So what does an holistic education look like?

I'm addressing higher education here, Androgogy, or the practice of adult learning - so I assume that the foundational skills of reading, writing and arithmetic have been laid, along with socialisation and little bit of life experience to build on. In my benevolent dictatorship I'd have all school leavers embark on some sort of Grand Tour/Inter/National Service design for a couple of years to help this and to direct their future work/discover their passion(s).

Anyway - what does one need to become a life-long self-directed learner?

Information Literacy - how to find and authenticate information
  • Accessing knowledge
Collaborating - training in use of social media and creating a Personal Learning Environment
  • Interacting with knowledge
Reflection - what is the process of 'thinking'
  • Forming knowledge
And so how do we guide our students into a learning, liminal space and keep them there? Firstly we need to change our teachers into guides and coaches, and establish longitudinal relationships with them so that we can build trust and understanding between ourselves over the entire learning journey of our 'degree'. We need to have these people as experts in the different areas of 'knowing' things, so you need different guides for the head, the hands and the heart. I think you need to specialise in each area whilst maintaining communication and coordination between all the other guides.

And then how to assess this kind of individualised learning? Well a big focus would be on a continuing formative feedback loop from the guides and their peers, tracking their progress. Ultimately you would need to build some sort of 'portfolio' which is the only thing open to a summative assessment, which would be conducted in a conversation with all of the above and the wisest of the wise, be they department heads, deans, etc.

So its a massive investment in time and resources. Can we pull it off and still make it inclusive? Do we bring back a mentoring scheme where postgraduates are chosen as learning guides by undergraduates to address some of these problems?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Universities have knowledge but not wisdom

But maybe some Vice-Chancellors have vision?

And how to we get well-rounded students? By faculty role-modeling learning, by breaking down their silos of disciplines and invisible colleges. By actually collaborating and being honest enough to admit they don't know everything?

And University administrators starting to actually pay more than token attention to student learning outcomes, rewarding and communicating great teachers and teaching practices, by breaking down heirarchies.

We must teach to hearts, as well as minds and hands. Ignoring them is to do our society a dis-service.