Friday, April 27, 2007

wikinomics & becta's latest report

A book by Don Tapscot & Anthony D. Williams called Wikinomics (available via Amazon & ereader) provides a look at how business practices are being changed by the way in which commercial enterprises have started to use Web 2.0. In education, we are on the cusp of tapping into the capabilities for collaboration that are a hallmark of Web 2.0. Business enterprises have started to use the capabilities of Web 2.0 to make use of the social networking to enhance their bottom line. The story provided in the first couple of pages of the book is an illuminating example of what can happen when you share information and ask for help. It describes how, in 2000, a gold mining company used the open source idea of developing the Linux operation system to provide access via their website to all the geological information that they had available. A large prize was offered to the participant who could find the most likely place to mine for gold that would yield good returns. The data was then taken on by other geologist as well as a whole raft of students, consultants, mathematicians, experts in physics, intelligent systems, computer graphics etc. who all came up with many targets for exploration, 50% of which the company itself had not previously identified. 80% of the new targets yielded substantial quantities of gold!

The above is brought into focus by the release by Becta of volume two of their Emerging Technologies in Learning series. There are articles on emerging trends in social software in education by Lee Bryant, learning networks in practice by Stephen Downes, the challenge of new digital literacies by Jo Twist with Kay Withers, how to teach technology by Marc Prensky, computer games in education (two articles, one by Keri Facer, Mary Ulicsak & Richard Sandford & the other by Tim Dumbleton) and ubiquitious computing by David Ley. In the first volume, mobile learning, the ambient web, human computer interaction, social networking and the broadband home were covered. There is therefore a definite move towards mobility, ubiquity, social networking and Web 2.0. Aligned with the aspects of social connectivity and networking are the underlying currents for personalisation. People want to choose who they connect with and how they socialise and learning within networks.

I need to think the various concepts through so that I can better align the mlearning project I am working on towards encouraging more learning amongst my apprentice groups. How can we connect, using mobile phones as the main tool, so that individuals in the group can have access to each other’s ePortfolios. At present, downloading of the personal portals we are trialling is very difficult and expensive on mobile phones. Perhaps we need to build portfolio show and tell sessions into year 2 and 3 block courses using the facilities we have available at CPIT. Will access to viewing the ePortfolios of other apprentice lead to better portfolios, more reflection of one’s own portfolio? I think it will but the mechanism to allow this to happen needs to be easy to use, cost effective and still provide privacy for apprentices who prefer to keep their portfolio to themselves.

Also need to think through how to package the above information into an accessible form for tutors here at CPIT. Tutors with limited awareness of how the web has changed are totally overwhelmed by the new concepts. This is proving to be a barrier to their uptake of Web 2.0 type technologies to enhance their teaching as they cannot see the applications until they become familiar with at least one aspect of web 2.0 (ie blogging or using flickr or an RSS feed).

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