Friday, December 15, 2006

2006 reflections

How has the year gone? Or should I say, where has the year gone? I have just re-read my blog from the beginning of the year to see if I have made any progress on making use of mobile phones and Web 2.0 applications to set up eportfolios. I think that I have made some progress, enough to make a bid with our ITO to set up a pilot for using mobile phones to complete theory of baking units and to collect workplace based evidence with mobile phones. However, the bid has been unsuccessful. My school is now not prepared to support work on mlearning until a review is undertaken to see if there are other avenues we can use to deliver learning & workplace assessment completion to apprentices in the workplace.

I am disappointed at the outcome. Also frustrated at the lack of support for what I can see is an initiative that can have wide reaching application for trades based training. One of the arguments put in place is that the numbers in baking are too small to warrant investing in expensive development time. Point taken but the numbers involved are also ideal for running a pilot plus with a group of young people representative of workplace based training.

The registration of new National Qualifications in Baking has proceeded at a snail’s pace. The new qualifications are now just about to be registered, a year to get them through the ITO & NZQA hurdles! We need to put in place some way of assessing apprentices in the workplace that does not cost us or the apprentice too much.

I now realise the limitations of mobile phones & Web 2.0 applications and am focused on working around these challenges. I am optimistic that most of the limitations will disappear or become obsolete as mobile phone & Web 2.0 applications improve, innovate further and become even more user friendly. However, with no funding support for the interim, it will be a case of chug along on whatever time becomes available.

It also still leaves the question of whether mlearning is the path to take. From the start, we have understood that travelling out to apprentices to complete their workplace based assessments would not be financially viable. A really easy option would be to just have a ‘tick & flick’ logbook type option. Apprentices come to us with a list of products ticked off (by their employer) & they undertake a practical assessment at block course. If they do not make the grade, then they have not met competency. We could insist on photos being added to the ‘logbook’ but the question of authenticity arises when the evidence is being moderated. With mlearning, the date / time the photo was archived would be recorded, our plans were to contact the apprentice at some of these occasions to set up a ‘situated learning’ opportunity. We would know that the apprentice is working with a certain product based on the photos they were posting on to flickr or similar. At our next fortnightly check on them, we could go through the underlying knowledge questions linked to the product to see how well they are actually understood how to put things together.

Anyway, I am looking forward to the summer. A few good tramps will help me recollect my thoughts & reflect on alternative delivery methods to mlearning. I will still continue blogging as many of the tools I have discovered (like personal portals) are useful in my teaching context. I plan to use vox to set up scenarios on competency judgement for hospitality students and pageflakes to help novice bakers build scaffolds that will help them keep up with their learning during their full time programme. Plus, I will still maintain investigation into mlearning as I am ever the optimist!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Moving mLearning forward

I have been thinking about how to move on with mlearning over the last couple of months. This has come about as my mlearning trials have started to pay off and I now have firmer ideas of how to go about delivering mlearning supported distance learning courses & mlearning based eportfolio compilation. Next year, we will pilot what we have been trialling. I will be evaluating and re-evaluating the various ways in which we will go about delivering the courses & compiling eportfolios.

I have been dipping in & out of several books on eportfolios, globalising and ubiquitous computing over the year. They are all providing me with food for thought so that I can work at sorting out how we can move mlearning further along.

Thomas L. Friedman “”The world is flat” is a good read about the way in which technology is changing society and the pace at which globalisation is moving. From an educator’s point of view, it opens up many challenges and possibilities.

Adam Greenfield’s “Everyware: the dawn of ubiquitious computing “is another interesting read. His concept of ubiquitous computing predicts that we will be surrounded by ‘smart buildings, smart furniture, smart clothing’. We will be wireless, networked and tagged whether we want to or not. I am not sure if I will want to be as connected as the image he portrays. However, parts of the future he envisions are already with us. We can either ignore it, allow it to creep into our lives or keep up with the play & contribute to the concept in a more educated way.

Elizabeth Hebert’s “Power of Portfolios” & Deborah Meire & others “multiple intelligences & portfolios” are both books that provide examples of how portfolios are used to build up rapport with students and to allow the narrative of the student’s learning to come through in the form of the portfolios that they have put together.
This is also supported by work by many in early childhood & primary education, an example from Buckland’s Beach School in Auckland being Ian Fox’s learning to learn model.

These are three different but intertwined areas. John Seeley Brown’s work provides some direction for educators. He brings together ideas learnt from many organisations on now to ‘manage knowledge’ and increase innovation to counter some of the disadvantages wrought by globalisation on developed countries. Some of solutions involve the use of socially networked software (much of Web 2.0) and the ability to harness the power of many. Eportfolio’s are one way for individuals to collate their strengths (especially innovation and creativity) into an accessible form that can be readily showcased.

The Press (local Christchurch paper) had a front page article on how schooling would change in the next 20 years. (oct. 12th 2006) They were summarising a report made to the Ministry of Education about the future of education in NZ. There was a distinct move to student centred learning and a move away from the current ‘factory’ model of schooling. mLearning mashed with Web 2.0 applications are one way to provide ready made / relatively low cost tools for progressing the vision of schooling without walls.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Promise fo Web 2.0 for mLearning

A light teaching load this week but I am catching up on all the usual paperwork that has piled up. Interspersed with wrestling with spreadsheets & trying to work out where the $$ have been spent on our various research projects, I have been browsing the net in an effort to update myself on what is happening out there in Web 2.0 development land.

What I have found so far has been heartening. In particular, I see a real move towards ubiquity in the way information is accessed. Mobile seems to be the way in which many Web 2.0 applications are focused and all of this only means good news for the pilot I will be working on next year.

Stephen Downes article on eLearning 2.0 summarises many of the developments on the WWW that have and will impact on how we learning takes place in both formal and informal learning environments. It’s a good article to read for background. Recent blogs by both Will Richardson & Derek Wenmouth lament the slow movement of the use of IT into the formal education area. Both of these bloggers also show the many ways in which the WWW could be used to held enhance learning. Will blogging recently on the uses of blogs in research, pageflakes as student portal and wikis & Derek with his thoughts on personal learning environments & ePortfolios.
Unfortunately, as I have learnt time & time again with staff presentations, the majority of teaching staff are still unaware about what Wikis or personal portals are, let alone how to use them in helping their students engage with learning at a more personal level.

I caught up with Ajit Joakar’s article, summarising how mobile devices and Web 2.0 could work together to change the world as we now know it. It provides for an optimistic picture for the future of mLearning using Web 2.0 applications. I also found & read the blog on whether mobile 2.0 will rival Web 2.0 which provides some reality in the form of the usual questions about the closed nature of mobile due to the constrains put on the phones by telecommunications providers. There is a way still to go but VoIP, WIFI & sheer consumer pressure to have these services will coax manufactures and telecoms providers towards cheaper and more use friendly mobile phone browsing of the WWW.

It’s surely interesting times ahead for all educators who are pushing the envelope with regards to using Web 2.0 type applications via mobile phones.

mLearn2006 presentations now available

The presentations from mLearn2006 are now available online.

My presentation can also be downloaded via the above site or via this direct link.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Evangelising ePortfolios

I presented a session on ePortfolios @CPIT to the PASM forum yesterday evening. This is a group of principal academic staff members (PASMs) who are promoted to the position through proven academic leadership at a national / international level. This year, staff development at CPIT convened several forums (there are others for Heads of Schools, programme leaders, administrative managers etc. ) to try to move the institution towards a more horizontal way of communicating as many vertical silos of subject and administrative expertise had become entrenched throughout the institution.

My presentation centred on what ePortfolios were about and how they could be useful in capturing the reflective part of learning (both formal & informal). I set up a ePortfolio using Blackboard (took about half an hour). The scenario was to use staff promotion as an example. On the Blackboard site, I included sections for a CV, areas for archiving evidence of expert standing in one’s discipline or subject area and teaching practice. In each of these areas, I put in links to Word documents reflecting on why I had used the various pieces of evidence and included evidence in the form of papers / powerpoint presentations at conferences, links to other blogs / web pages that mention my presentations, photos of white board work and a video taken at FLNW by Stephen Parker.

Apart from the above, I also provided examples of how personal portals could be used to bring together an ePortfolio and discussed examples of how these could be used for other teaching and learning uses. These include:

-using something like Pageflakes to set up RSS feeds pertinent to an evolving area for study
-using Vox to set up a teaching resource to build up scenarios for students to access for critique of analysis. I plan to use this methodology to build up a ‘collection’ of ePortfolios to use with students I teach for a unit on ‘assessing a candidate performance using standards’. I am never sure whether students understand how they get to the stage of making a judgement on whether a performance is competent or not yet competent. I plan to have students view several ePortfolios, make a judgement and then reflect on how they came about their decision. In the past, I have been using role plays but the role plays are ephemeral, subjective one-off arrangements and students unused to observing others working do not have time to make a studied judgement, let alone be able to reflect on their judgement.
-Using Vox and Multiply as ePortfolio collators
I received good feedback. It was especially good to articulate my options for personal portals as I have only started looking into them in greater depth. I will have more time to play with the personal portal sites over the summer and will record other uses I find for using them in my teaching.