Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Summer Break

I am looking forward to the summer break. In New Zealand, this goes from just before Christmas until the middle of January. Many Kiwis leave the cities to spent time at the beach or by the lake in their baches / cribs. Apart from the usual festive celebrations with family and friends and a massive catch up with reading etc. towards my studies, I traditionally go on several tramps (hikes, backpacking / bushwalking) with a group of friends. All the trips are into the Southern Alps, tramping for 3 to 7 days involving some climbing up to passes or saddles, camping by mountain streams and hopefully good views of mountain tarns, snow clad mountains and alpine flower filled valleys.

Tramping is a good way for me to reflect on various aspects of my learning over the course of the year. I find I return to work & studies with renewed vigour after particularly challenging but rewarding trips into the NZ mountains. I suppose it’s because I have been able to leave a lot of extraneous thoughts behind & the long walking days provide me with an opportunity to revive, renew and nurture the intuitive side of my brain. This poor area of my brain is often hammered over the course of the year by too many doubts cast by bureaucratic structures and the demands of maintaining academic integrity. However, out in the big outdoors, all the edifices put up by institutions and administrators seem to become minuscule compared to the majesty of the mountains and the challenges presented by track conditions, river crossings and the changeable NZ weather. My physical & mental self has to give of it’s all to get to the next summit / saddle/ col and then on to the next camping spot. My back brain is librated to do it’s thing! I have taken to taking along a piece of paper & a cut down pencil (I am a minimalist tramper – nothing that weighs more than a gram & is not useful is carried in my pack) to record flashes of inspiration that seem to cascade through my brain as I work my way up another hill.
Will be back blogging by the end of January. Thank you to the readers of my blog & a good Chrismas & a happy new year to all.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

eLearning 2.0?

As a follow up on my blog last week on Web 2.0, I have been reading several articles about eLearning 2.0. eLearning 1.0 being the much more structured, institutionally organised version of current forms of eLearning compared to a more ‘free form’ view of how learning can take place in the schools and workplaces of the future with eLearning 2.0..

Several writers steer clear of using the term eLearning 2.0 as elearning is evolving rapidly with the influx of Web 2.0 innovations. The overall message is clear for educators. Opportunities to take learning to the learners, at their time, venue and convenience are now possible using a myriad of Web 2.0 applications. The emphasis in learning (especially for adult learners) is to changing to provide opportunities for learners to connect & to build their own content. Our task as educators is to work out:-

  • what fits into our particular learning context,
  • what teaching / learning philosophy we are using to help learners learn
  • the level of expertise our learners have with new technology,
  • the type of learning that we would like to foster with our learners
  • the depth with which our learners are willing to delve into the complexities of working with emergent technology tools
  • the most ubiquitous delivery interface (ie desktop computer, laptop or tablet with WIFI, PDA, mobile phone) that is appropriate to our learner profile

As educators, our responsibility also lies in ensuring that technology is used as a tool to enhance learning for our learners. We need to:-

  • keep up with the play,
  • evaluate the possibilities of new applications with regards to their uses in teaching or support of learning both within and outside of our subject context
  • be prepared to put time into experimenting and trialling new applications before we unleash them on to our learners
  • be willing to think outside the square
  • ask hard questions of our institutions about their preparedness to take on new ways of interacting with students for administrative and record keeping processes

Other questions revolve around our philosophies on the appropriateness of introducing the use of technology into our teaching. Although technology is often viewed as a tool, the overall pervasiveness of technology in our daily lives will need to be analysed. Questions include:-

  • Is technology also changing the way in which we interrelate with our peers, colleagues, students, family etc? My answer is YES but how is it impacting on individuals. What is the degree of change? Who are the change agents?
  • How is this push by technology to always be connected changing the way in which work, social networking, education are being viewed?
  • For example, is microlearning a valid construct that may become mainstream in corporate and workplace learning settings?

A good summary of the implications of Web 2.0 technology on education provides examples of how educators could make use of currently available Web 2.0 software. However the article does caution that there is a vast plethora of software out there that may become overwhelming. There is also encouragement for educators to try out the software to find out the possibilities in education. Another article by David Baird discusses the promises Web 2.0 bring for social networking. Examples of how flickr can be used in the curriculum are provided. So lots to think explore, digest, think through and perhaps apply into my teaching for the next year.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The impact of Web 2.0 on education

Over the year, I have been following with interest, the development of Web 2.0. A good summary is found in a paper written by Tim O’Reilly. Web 2.0 emphasises the use of the web as a platform for ‘social software’ with the users of the software generating the content. Blogs and WIKIs are the most common examples of the application of Web 2.0 for educators.

The prospects that web 2.0 offer education have also been discussed on the blogs of George Siemens, Stephen Downes and Jay Cross. Essentially, Web 2.0 web based software has the potential to change learning from educators transmitting and students absorbing of knowledge to being able to both teacher and student being able to connect with, evaluate, re-engineer, innovate and apply knowledge.

Web 2.0 is a continually evolving platform. I found Steven Brook’s edugadget via the edublogger’s frappr site. Steven is one of 4 Kiwi edubloggers who are registered on frappr. Frappr itself is a good example of a Web 2.0 software application as it allows many people with a similar interest to post their contacts so that they can then make connections with each other. The edublogger frappr site came through Steven Harlow’s blog which I follow via bloglines. The whole process of how my learning about Web 2.0 has progressed is another example of how the social networking aspects of Web 2.0 work.

Steven’s edugaget had a link to a site he had set up on Ning to check out how many Web 2.0 pieces of software any reader of his blog would be familiar with. This really opened up a whole new area of exploration for me! To keep up with the ever increasing number of software applications that are being launched as web 2.0 applications, I now follow techcrunch. Not all of the items of software launched will survive. However, users are the ones who are driving the way in which Web 2.0 works, so applications that meet specific user needs and are user friendly to use are the ones that are becoming more main stream.

The exciting thing for me is that many of the ways in which mobile technology is evolving is also in synch with what is developing with Web 2.0. Software that allows the people to find each other like friendster, blog, share photos via flirkr, play, download and create podcast on odeo and collaborate on writing webpages like Writely are also being made available via mobile phones. At some stage in the development of mobile technology & Web 2.0, one hopes that there will be the opportunity for educators trying to build platforms for mobile phone based portfolio collation to tap into available software to get the task done. An integrated package would be the ideal but trialling with software that is free to use and accessible via the web is a good way to work out the logistical challenges.