Sunday, May 27, 2007

Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference

I attended the Second Life Best Practices in Education Conference in Second Life this past Friday, 25 May 2007. Here is a video summary of the days events (and if you look really closely towards the end of the video, you will see my avatar (hondomac Dalgleish) tripping the light fantastic:

It was a great conference highlighting some of the amazing educational environments and opportunities in Second Life. If you are an adult educator and have not yet taken a look at Second Life and its potential as a learning environment, I strongly encourage you to do so.

My thanks goes out to all of the organizers, presenters, and participants who helped make the conference such a great event. I cannot wait for the next conference to be held in Second Life. It is the future...

(Conference logo from SLBPE 2007 conference wiki)

Facebook as PLE - I Have Seen The Future!

There has been a lot written lately about Facebook, both pro and con. Several institutions have actually banned their employees from using Facebook on organization machines. Many school boards have restricted its use.

But there are a lot of positive things about Facebook. I've been using it as a mean of creating alumni groups of former and current learners as a way of staying in touch and developing industry networks. We have posted employment opportunities to Facebook groups created for our programmes (as have learners) and we have had learners get employment offers through jobs found on Facebook. That is a great thing. I am actively exploring the creation and use of Facebook groups for my courses as a way of assisting learners to get to know each other better and to provide a social networking opportunity that hopefully will result in greater engagement and a more positive learning experience.

The real excitement for me though is the recent announcement that Face book is allowing third-party companies access to its API for the creation of Facebook applications. The launch of the Facebook Platform will add an incredible amount of functionality and customizability to Facebook. Some of the early adopters of this platform include apps for file sharing, voice, video, and links to other Web 2.0 applications like Twitter and RSS feeds.

So what does this mean? Well for me it means that Facebook is well on its way to becoming the ideal tool for the creation of Personal Learning Environments or PLEs. The ability for users of Facebook to customize their environment so that they can receive and share information with others will create and even more powerful social phenomenon than Facebook currently is. With available chat, RSS, file and picture sharing, the potential exists for learning to occur in a whole new learning-centred way. I see Facebook and the learners who use it becoming the content generators and consumers of future learning environments. The currently available applications already have the [potential for creating rich learning experiences - I can hardly wait to see what applications get added to Facebook over the coming months - Facebook as learning manager or portal - what does it mean for out current established base of Learning Management Systems (LMSs)?

I definitely know that I will be exploring the available third-party applications in Facebook to determine how they might be used for the development of learning environments for my courses. To start with I have added the following applications to my Facebook page (I am sure that there will be more ...):
  • Picnik - photo editing and sharing
  • WalkieTalkie - voice chat
  • RSSbook - RSS aggregator
  • Twitter - integrate smy Twitter account in Facebook
  • Files - upload and share files
  • Docs - Facebook docs is the Great Library of Schoolwork where anyone can contribute
The addition of third-party applications to Facebook may just be the "killer" Web 2.0 app that everyone has been waiting for...

Friday, May 25, 2007

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Today marked the end of our Spring semester here at NSCC, the end of the academic year for our learners. It's the end of one academic year and the beginning of looking at a new academic year starting in September.

What did we accomplish this past year and what do we need to do to get ready for the Fall? Like each and every academic year there were both highs and lows, successes and failures, but at the end of the day there was learning happening and that is the most important thing. For most learners I suspect, based on their third semester projects, the bulk of their learning was informal, peer-to-peer, and occurred outside of the classroom. If this is in fact the case (and I am still confirming this, but truly believe that it is), then it was very much a successful year. It means that learners began to develop the skills and knowledge to start on their way as life-long, self-motivated learners and to successful careers in industry.

We also had our failures - not all learners were successful and not all learning tools, technologies, and opportunities worked as planned. But this is OK and is part of the learning process. As I keep telling my programming students "Errors are good and mistakes are your friends, learn from them". If that works for them, it applies to me too - there were learning resources that did not work and they will be dropped or modified for the Fall.

All in all a good year - I started using social software in my learning environments more and have started using Facebook as a learning tool and way of maintaining contact with graduates and current students. In fact, two of out current graduates have found employment from opportunities posted on Facebook by other students, a very cool thing.

So what does next year hold? Foe me it's a greater use of Web 2.0 and social networking software in my learning environments - blogs for reflective and critical learning, podcasts as additional learning resources, wikis for sharing and disseminating course resources and content, and RSS feeds for current, topical, relevant information. I am also going to place more responsibility on my learners for discovering course content - I will stop providing mountains of information and resources and instead foster learners to proactively seek out materials and resources that will become their course content (a much higher level of engagement I hope). I will continue to "scaffold and fade" - providing support and guidance where necessary and then fading when learners are capable of doing things for themselves. In my opinion this is the best approach to take for my learners, allowing them to develop the professional and technical skills to be successful in their chosen fields.

Bring on Summer, then the Fall, and a whole new year of wonder...

(Photo - Janus Coin by Livius)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

OK Sir - Just Step Away From The Content...

As adult educators, course content is always on our minds (well on my mind at least) - do we have enough content to support learning, is there enough course content to fill the classes, will learners get the content they need to be goes on and on.

My very wise friend Carolyn (Randommind), who is an instructional designer by day, and I have had the greatest conversations about the issue of content. Thanks to these conversations I have seen the light - LET GO OF THE CONTENT!

Let your learners discover and share course content - don't give it all to them. Yes, you can provide those bits and pieces that are the gems or classics, but for the most part let learners discover and create the course content - they will be more engaged in the learning process, and much more collaborative. I know that this is true because I have seen it in action and it was one of those amazing AHA!! moments where all became clear.

Now, it's not as simple as it sounds. In order for you to give up control of the content, you have to have well-defined, measurable learning outcomes that have been well-crafted in advance and are clearly understood by everyone - learners, faculty, and administration. You also have to support learning with authentic, clear, meaningful deliverables complete with rubrics so that learners and others know what needs to be learned. From this starting point they will discover the content. You may also find that as a facilitator you will spend some time providing (and reminding) learners with context for the content they discover and want to use.

It is a great thing to see learners develop the skills and experience to become discriminating discoverers and consumers of content, two "literacy" skills that will essential for all 21st century knowledge workers. It is a very cool process when it works, but it is very much front-end loaded (as most educational innovation seems to be).

Letting go of content takes a certain leap of faith on the behalf of everyone - faculty has to be confident that learners will engage in the discovery of content (I do that through the use of blogs, wikis, and RSS aggregators for the most part and to a much lesser extent textbooks), and learners have to be confident that they will be "guided" by their faculty to where they might start looking for content and for the validation of the content they find (although I have found that you can fade a bit once learners become comfortable with this process).

So go on - liberate your self and your learners - step away from the content...

(Photo - "Heroes Content Map" by Dan Taylor)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

OMG! I'm an Educational Heretic!

The Oxford Canadian Dictionary defines a heretic as " the holder of an unorthodox opinion in a subject, field". By that definition, I am most certainly an educational heretic as I now believe less and less in "traditional" education.

Before I tell you why I think I'm a heretic, let me first define what I mean by "traditional" education:
  • Content is provided for the learners by teacher, textbooks, other resources
  • Classroom-centric
  • Delivery methods and styles matter
  • Rows of desks, teacher at the front of the room
  • Teacher or learner-centric
  • Presentations, lectures, tests, assignments all derived by teacher/facilitator
  • Formal grade-based evaluation - it's all about the grade - higher the grade, greater the success
  • Formal assignments, specific requirements, styles, content
And now here is how I see adult education should be (and I do this as much as is possible):
  • Facilitator provides scaffold for new learners, courses, concepts, then fades as learners assume responsibility for their learning
  • Learning-centred
  • All learning styles supported - learners given options on how to complete course deliverables
  • Outcomes based - learning outcomes must be clearly defined, consistent ,and measurable
  • Problem-based and project-based learning - collaborative small team and group work
  • Content is discovered, shared , and owned by the learners - facilitator gives up ownership of content (use blogs, wikis, RSS aggregators, and other tools to provide support)
  • Delivery and location agnostic - classroom, blended, online, mobile...
  • PLEs developed -learners create their own Personal Learning Environments - what works best for their own learning styles
  • Facilitator provides the framework for a learning environment that allows learners to succeed - learners own the learning environment
  • No grades - competency-based assessment tools and techniques used - requires the creation of detailed competencies based on valid learning outcomes
  • Cognitive apprenticeship used - facilitator and learners model best practices and behaviours
  • Extensive use of rubrics - initially created by facilitator, then created by learners (scaffold and fade)
  • All evaluation rubric-based and evaluation schemes developed by learners with assistance from the facilitator
What I believe in is learning environments where the learners are given the opportunity to define for themselves what success is, and to pursue that success by being engaged in and responsible for their own learning. This approach actually means more work for me not less, as I have to be prepared for multiple approaches, styles, and learner requirements, but the results are worth the work. You end up with engaged, active, participatory learners who are focussed on learning as their measure of success.

I guess the extra work is the price I pay for my heresy...

(Photo "YKK Genba 1992" by hyperspace328 Photo "Chairs" by Night Owl City )

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Atlantic Internet Marketing Conference (AIM 2007) Day Two

Another information rich day at AIM 2007. Today's focus was more on the technologies and tools available for companies and marketers to do what it is they do attract and retain customers.

Here are the highlights of the presentations that I attended, followed by my thoughts on the day and the conference.

Secrets of Successful Web Sites

The presenter was Rob Swick, Senior Strategist, AlphaSearch (and one of the driving forces behind AIM 2007).

"The main thing is to make the main thing the main thing" - Mike Lipkin. In other words - focus on what it is you do and do it well. here are the main things for a successful Web site:
  1. Planning - Create a plan
  2. Create (borrow, steal) rules
  3. Strive for structure and simplicity
  4. Home page is the main page
  5. Understand the team, what they do
  6. Fill the Funnel - grow the relationship - be found
Some of Rob's rules:
  1. Navigation buttons - 7 or less
  2. Tools go in the "tool nav"
  3. People don't read, they skim
  4. Earlier pages promote internal pages
  5. Show it
  6. White is your friend - whitespace and white backgrounds are OK
  7. If you are not capturing e-mail addresses you are wasting money
Panel Discussion - Understanding Internet Technology
  • Managing client expectations is the most important thing - know exactly what a Web page will and won't do
  • Keep things fresh and updated
  • Simplify technology for clients
  • Understand costs involved in site design/video production
  • Communication is essential
  • Bridge the gap between client wants and reality
  • Panel was somewhat anti-geek/anti-technology, more focussed on business processes
Electronic Personality and Positioning

Presenter was Wilma Hartmann from Applecore Interactive

Web sites that work have their own personality - it's all about identity alignment

The total online experience is carried on the following four pillars:
  1. Design
  2. Content
  3. Navigation
  4. Functionality
There are things you can control about your Web site and things you cannot control or can only influence:
  • You can control
    • Domain URL
    • Search Engine
    • Links
    • Partners/affiliates/listings
    • Online advertising
    • e-News/e-Mail
    • Traditional Marketing and advertising
Web 2.0 is like nailing jello to a wall - you have little control
  • You cannot control
    • Blogosphere
    • RSS
    • Podcasts
    • Social marketing/chat
    • Rooms/newsgroups
    • Unsolicited listings
  • You can influence
    • Bologosphere
    • RSS
    • Podcasts
    • Social marketing
    • Unsolicited listings
Emerging Web 2.0 values:
  • Authenticity
  • Democracy
  • Innovation
  • Co-creation
How do you protect your brand in this fluid environment (thriving in a co-creative world)?
  • Monitor (Google/Yahoo, yourself)
  • Influence (be a part of Web 2.0)
  • Stay true to who you are
Future decisions for emerging media - do we or don't we. For example Sweden has set up an embassy in Second Life. Adopt what works with your personality

Digital Content and marketing in the Multi-Platform World

Presenter was Graham MacDougall, Director of Digital Media, DHX Media

A changing media landscape - much more complex and fractured environment- digital media formats/devices/tools

Major changes in how people access media

Content/Distribution Models
  • Blogging - personify brands
  • Podcasting -fivefold increase in revenue from 2006-2011)
  • Social networking - 1 out of 4 Internet users access a social networking site once per month
  • Rich media - Flash, video
  • Music - now 10% of total music sales
  • IPTV (Internet Protocol TV - Joost, Apple TV, JumpTV)
  • Mobile - 20% of users browse Web from cell and smart phones, but slow growth for now
Graham highly recommended Jakob Nielsen's book The Web Bible - Prioritizing Web Usability

Viral Marketing

Presenter was Sarah Oldford, Online Media Manager, Colour

"You don't find your audience - your audience finds you"

There are now many ways to reach out online. Viral marketing is the phenomenon that facilitates and encourages people to pass on a marketing message
  • No defined viral campaign strategy
  • No solid best practices - it's constantly evolving
  • There is however, trying too hard
  • Avoid copying/mimicking existing viral campaigns
  • Viral marketing is hit or miss
  • Start with the brand
  • Look to your marketing messages for brainstorming
  • When you have a relevant, fun idea then talk about online
Who has done it well?
Panel - Which Medium For My Message?
  • Understand your audience
  • Think like your customer/consumer
  • Capability of organization to support channel selected
  • RSS - push content
  • Blogs - highly search engine friendly
  • Tagging - Digg,, technorati
  • Rich media
  • Text
  • Cell phones / smart devices
These must all be used appropriately - need to use more than just one technology and possibly multiple formats of the same content (Real, Quicktime etc.)

Blogs are trust mechanisms

Panel - The Good, he Bad, and the Ugly

The final session of the day, the panel reviewed several Web sites of attendee companies and others. They were mostly unkind, finding fault with most, which was interesting, because several of the reviewed sites were created by panel members (which just goes to show you that if you put four Web developers in a room, you will get at least six opinions).

My Thoughts

It was another information packed days. It is apparent that the marketing world is aware of Web 2.0 and is doing its best to take advantage of these tools and technologies. There is still a gap between the knowledge of the marketing professionals and business owners. many are still trying to come to terms with the potential impact and benefits of Web 2.0 and social networking on their businesses.

It will be interesting to see where marketers go next. With the media markets now so fractured, marketers must decide which channels to use to get their messages out. It looks like the Internet is rapidly becoming the channel of choice, and that all types of devices and approaches to making customers aware of what is available will be the next frontier...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Atlantic Internet Marketing Conference (AIM 2007) Day One

Today was a long, full, rich experience with lots of information passed to the attendees. The majority of the presenters gave number-heavy presentations to reinforce their positions on market penetration, changing consumers bases and practices, and a very much evolving marketing art to marketing science. One of the major themes running through out the day was that the consumer was now the hunter with the tools and technologies to find the marketers and their messages, not the other way around.

If I were to include all of the information I received today this post would go on forever, so my intent is to briefly recap each of the presentations that I attended and then conclude with my thoughts on the day. All of the conference presentations will eventually be made available.

Keynote - Yahoo! - New Methods for Online Marketing

The keynote speaker was Kerry Munro, the General manager of Yahoo! Canada. He presented a lot of facts and figures about current Internet usage and penetration in Canada generally and with Yahoo!.ca in particular. here are just a few of the numbers:
  • 58% of Canadian households are on line
  • By 2009 $16 B Can will be spent on e-commerce
  • Over 1 billion people online world wide
  • Main use of Internet in Canada by consumers is for research, not purchase
  • Yahoo! has 70% penetration - most visited site in the world (Yahoo's words)
  • 82% of Canadians have Internet access (second in world only to South Korea)
  • The Internet is 21% of weekly media usage but only 6% of the marketing budgets spent
  • Canada most engaged country in the world - average of 40.8 hours/month spent online (29.6 hours/month for the USA)
  • Canadians are not like Americans - more social, want more entertainment, humour, and sports, use more IM and downloads, higher % of women and teens. Canadians spend less per-capita online - main reason is a dearth of Canadian online merchants
  • Internet is the new prime time - from 4 PM - 8:30 PM 70% of the 12-24 age group is on line. They spend more time online than with TV, print, or radio media
  • Yahoo!.ca front page reaches over twice as many viewers as the top-rated TV show
According to Yahoo! you need the following to be successful on line:
  1. Get online
  2. Make the most of your site
  3. Market online - branding
  4. Use behavioural targeting
  5. Make the most of Web 2.0 (a very common theme through out the day)
  6. SEM (Search Engine Marketing) - searchers are engaged - 2-3 brands compared before choice made.
eBay - The Internet as Primary Customer Acquisition Driver

Presenter was Jordan Banks, General manager, eBay Canada. eBay was web 2.0 before there was Web 2.0 bringing together communities of buyers and sellers. eBay now has 233 million registered users (Q1 2007), $14.3 billion in revenue, reaches 55.4% of Internet users and has 12,416,000 unique visitors/month.

Only 14% of Canadian retailers are engaged in e-commerce. The following things have had the biggest impact on Internet marketing and marketers:
  • Broadband - it's "always on"
  • Search - can't fight disintermediation
  • Mobile - convenience rules the day
  • Social nature of the Web - ignore it at your great peril (less about content, more about engagement)
  • Personalization - make it about me
  • Distributed content - widgets etc.
The Changing Face of Marketing

Presenter was Jamie Davison, Principal, Modern Media

Now about behaviour targeting and analytics. marketing is changing from an art to a science. Thirty years ago there were 3 major TV networks, today there are 12 major media segments with thousands of choices - mass marketing approach no longer as effective. What has changed is:
  • Internet celebrities (Yuma Yuma boy, etc.) - not good content, but available on demand (Democratization of content)
  • Web 2.0 - marketing tool increases engagement - Facebook, Second Life
  • You cannot just buy people's attention, you must engage them
Who's Clicking You? Internet Attitudes and Behaviours Among Atlantic Canadians

Presenter was Layton Dorey, managing director of Research, Bristol

Authors of the Inside Out Report, Atlantic Canada's in-depth journal of public opinion. This presentation had a lot of very interesting statistics on Atlantic Canada Internet penetration and usage. Here are some of the highlights (all relate to Atlantic Canada):
  • 60% penetration
  • TV, radio, and newspaper media still strong
  • 17% in a social community - Second Life, Facebook, etc.)
  • Biggest issue is developing trust in the technology - over 2/3 of all respondents across all age groups do not trust Internet ads or click on them
  • 84% never click a pop-up ad
  • 84% watch more than 2 hours of TV per day
  • 60% spend more than 2 hours online per day
Forget 2.0... Let's Talk Web 3.0 and What It Will Mean To You

Presenter was Frederic S. Gionet, VP Innovation, Bristol

This was the best presentation of the day for me as it was the most relevant and interesting to me. To provide context, the "Christmas Carol of The Web" was presented:
  • The Stone Age - Pre-Web
  • The Past - Web 1.0
  • The Present - Web 2.0
  • The Future - Web 3.0 and beyond
Presentation highlights included:
  • Second Life was presented as an example of Web 3.0 - immersive, customizable, and engaging
  • Devices other than computers will become the dominant medium (smart phones etc.)
  • Web will be more instinctive, easier to use
  • Web 3.0 (1010/2012?)
    • Mobility including GPS
    • Internet-enabled TV
    • Domination of Web Services
    • Digital Paper - interactive/changeable ads
    • Smart Billboards/Display
    • 3d interaction and collaboration - Second Life. Bristol has an island in Second Life
    • User will be King
Integrated Inline-Offline Marketing

Presenters were Chris Keevil, President, Colour and Malcolm Fraser, President ISL

Offline media is anything not the Internet - TV, radio, print, etc.. Customers now harder to reach - due to fragmented media and a move towards personal media.
  • 1954 - 74% of families were watching "I love Lucy"
  • 2007 - 15% of families watching "CSI"
Main points of the presentation:
  • Big change in the numbers watching the top-rated TV show - marketing issue.
  • More things to consume attention now than ever before
  • Hunter has become the hunted - marketers need to be in a place where they can be found
  • Must drive traffic to your Web site
  • Web site usability is key
  • Media has changed - gather and collect information but now must also think of layout and content too
Youcasting - Communication in the Age of the Clever Consumer

Presenter was Jeff White of Brightwhite Design.

A very good presentation on the use of the following online marketing tools:
  • Viral video - companies are making YouTube amateur quality video to market themselves
  • podcasting
  • Word of Mouth - IM/chat - GMail - no advertising - just WOM invites
  • Blogging - least expensive/most time consuming marketing tool, but search engines love blogs
The key is building connections with consumers

Beyond The Internet

Presenter was Krista White, Associate Media Director, Cossette Communication Group

The last presentation of the day the focus was on video games, cell phones, mobile media, TV and out of home media:
  • Video games now out revenue movies ($10 b to $9B)
  • Average age of gamer in Canada - 33
  • In game advertising and product placement now common
  • Pizza Hut/Everquest - can order a pizza while playing the game
  • Ceel phone - adoption low in Canada (61% - Japan - 95%)
  • Texting growing
  • progressed from SMS to enhanced EMS to multi-media MMS
  • Mobile TV growing
  • Proximity-based marketing growing - infra-red communication between cell phones/PdAs and billboards/vending machines
  • ITV - Interactive TV - 8% of Domino's Pizza's orders in the UK are from ITV
  • TV viewing is not declining but commercial watching is - PVRs, VOD (Video on Demand)
My Thoughts

A very interesting day - the Internet is the marketing tool of the present and the future. It was interesting to see the knowledge of Web 2.0 and social networking and how marketing has had a fundamental paradigm shift due to the fracturing of media into so many sectors.

It will be interesting to see which sectors and which technologies truly dominate the future. It may be that the fracturing of media will mean that no one technology or media will dominate - cell phones, ITV, the Web, all will have a part to play. Can't wait for tomorrow...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Conference Mash-Up

From Elluminate's blog "Transforming teaching and learning through innovative technology", this post - "The conference mash-up: Conference + Webconf + Blog + Moodle + Wiki (A Conbooki?)", talks about the changing nature of conferences as they evolve into something new - not held just in a hotel ballroom, but in a ballroom, online, through blogs, and wikis, and yes through Elluminate and other ways all at the same time that allow non-traditional conference audiences to attend.

The post gives several great examples of what these "mashedup" conferences can be. I have attended (remotely) a couple of them and they work - all the advantages of attending a conference without the travel, the jet lag, or the bag of goodies (hey! wait a second...).

A very cool concept and I believe the conference of the future...

Wiki-Based Software Guide

This might be one of the best software review sites I have seem - It's a wiki-based software guide covering open source software (OSS) and commercial software. It's both a directory and a review site and you can filter it based on categories and types of software that you are looking for. Users can review and comment on the software - who better to do that than the actual users. A very cool, practical use of a wiki...

Some Web 2.0/Social Networking Flotsam and Jetsam

One of the effects of becoming immersed in the use of Web 2.0 and Social Networking tools and technologies is the sheer volume of information that I now receive daily. Between the hundreds of feed a day that I get from Netvibes and other sources, I have an ever increasing circle of friends and colleagues with whom I am sharing information and they are doing the same in kind right back at me. I would not be surprised if I was receiving more than 1,000 pieces of information a day.

Obviously that is way too much information to easily manage and utilize and I am sure that I am missing some great stuff that is just floating around out there. But on the other hand I also see a lot of stuff that I would love to spend more time with but just can't. This post collects some of that flotsam and jetsam and gives me a chance to at least briefly try to make some sense of it.
  • Politicians and YouTube - several politicians are actively using YouTube, Facebook, and Second Life among other tools, to access their constituencies at the same time that governments are banning their use by civil servants. What's that all about?
  • 2007 Web 2.0 Awards - To really see what is going on with Web 2.0, check out this site - over 200 Web sites in 41 different categories - a great way to check out the great stuff being done with Web 2.0
  • Shaping Learning Through Comments - a great post on how students are learning from comments posted to their blogs - a very effective learning tool from my perspective. The teacher here uses student blogs to have learning happen and then measures it against standards like "the student understands and acquires new vocabulary and uses it correctly in reading and writing". Very cool.
  • Can Social help in finding resources? From the Flosse Posse, this post talks about leveraging our learning communities through the use of Social Information Retrieval (SIR). SIR is described as "a family of techniques that assist users in obtaining information to meet their needs by harnessing the knowledge or experience of other users. Examples of SIR techniques include sharing of queries, collaborative filtering, social network analysis, social navigation, social bookmarking and the use of subjective relevance judgements such as tags, annotations, ratings and evaluations." This is how I am getting and sharing most of my daily information - neat to have someone put a name to it. There is a SIR workshop planned called SIRTEL 2007. Check it out!
  • Encyclopedia of Life - the Encyclopedia of Life is an an "ecosystem of websites that makes all key information about life on Earth accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.". It's aim is to catlogue all species on Earth and have the information accessible online. This just might be the "killer" Web 2.0 app.
  • Tagging Tips and Non-Bloggy Remorse - this post is from Nancy White, who is absolutely amazing. Some tips and hints on how to keep up and manage tags while still living and working your busy life - a must read. Check out her blog and company.
  • McLuhan's Laws of Media and PLEs - from Terry Anderson (more brilliance), this post applies Marshall McLuhan's Laws of Media (Enhance, Obsolete, Retrieve, Reverse) to PLEs (Personal Learning Environments). If you are at all interested in PLEs, you have to read this post.
  • Read/Write Web Weekly Wrapup - a weekly wrap up of all things Web 2.0. You can subscribe and get the weekly feed. A great way to get a manageable digest of what's happening with Web 2.0 tools and technologies
I know there are literally thousands of other bits and pieces out there. Hope that some of these will be of use. Now, it's time to fire up Netvibes and get the next flood of information...

(Photo "Flotsam and Jetsam" by RobW)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Does The School of The Future Have Walls?

As technology and education come together and as more and more educational institutions look at online, blended,distance, and other forms of delivery to augment their brick classrooms, are we at the cusp of an educational revolution? Will there be a paradigm shift away from "traditional" classroom-based learning environments to ones designed and dictated by learners that are highly customizable, mobile ad distinctly non-traditional? My answer to that question is yes, but...

As adult educators we need to get out of our current focus on the space (classroom), method (delivery), and content and focus completely on the learners and their learning. This means developing strong, measurable, authentic outcomes and the competency-based assessment systems to evaluate learners competencies against these outcomes. It has to be about the learning and what works for the learner.

So let's look at how learners learn, where they want to learn and what they want to use in order for their learning to happen. It will mean a lot more work and planning for educators (particularly at the front-end), but will result in a much better experience for the learners.

The reason I said yes, but.. earlier is that I think there will always be "classroom" learners and we need to continue to offer those learners an environment that works for them. We will also need to offer learning environments for the distance learner, blended learner, mobile learner, and learners we have not even thought of yet. We will need to include all learning styles when we develop these learning environments and their supporting learning resources. The learners must be included in that development too. I do it now, and once they get over the initial shock of being asked to engage in the development of their own learning, most learners really appreciate it and take an active role.

So, will the classroom of the future have walls? Well, yes, but I think they will be much softer, portable, and porous than now and hopefully a lot more inclusive...

(Photo "final exam" by dcJohn)

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Facebook Saga Continues...

I awoke this morning to a front-page story in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald - "No classes for no-class acts". Four to six students at a local high school have been suspended and are under police investigation for remarks they posted on a Facebook page about one of their teachers. The remarks were inappropriate and insensitive, and personally I agree with the actions taken - users of social networking sites should still maintain some level of decency and common sense.

The Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) has blocked Facebook, MySpace, and MSN Messenger (and probably many other social networking sites) from all school computers due to the "distractions" that they cause and that school computers are only for school use. They have also been blocked to attempt to reduce cyber-bullying, where students gang up on each other online, a noble intent.

As posted by Randommind, the Ontario provincial government has banned Facebook, and now along with it, so has the city of Toronto, and Parliament Hill in Ottawa, both in an attempt to stop workers from "wasting" their time at work.

I see two issues here, but that may not be the case. In the case of the HRSB banning social networking sites, they are dealing with a constituency of primarily school-age minors. But does banning sites send the right message or should these students be educated in their use, so that when they become adult workers they won't "waste" time? For all of the parents out there - what age is the right age to allow access to social networking sites? Are they something only adults should have free and unfettered access to? Do they need parental controls or some similar way to limit access and functionality?

I teach at a community college where the learners are adult, both in age and in the way they are treated. What rules apply for Facebook et al? Free access or banning? Does the college need a policy for proper use? Is that even feasible or realistic? How do I react if a learner posts something insulting or inappropriate about me?

The second issue is the continuing banning of Facebook by public agencies whose main function is dealing with the public. Wouldn't it make more sense to use Facebook and other social networking tools to increase access? Hmmm...

Lots of question, and not lots of answers. The saga continues...

Pictures From The NSCC Great Teachers Seminar 2007

I've posted a set of pictures from the NSCC Great Teachers Seminar on my Flickr site. You can check them out here. A visual recap of an amazing week as the sun sets slowly in the West...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Randommind - A Must Read - The Sequel

I have already told you that Randommind is a must read blog (my friend Carolyn is amazing - so insightful and always on topic), but there are two recent posts on the blog that really are must reads.

The first one is PLE ON A Cellphone?. What an incredible idea and what an AHA! moment for me. Talk about breaking down the walls of education. I am a big believer that PLEs are going to have a major impact on my learners and myself in the next few years. What an amazing concept - create a learning environment that works for you, the learner. To take it the next step and make it mobile - too cool. Just think of the learning opportunities... Check out the post.

The second post is Facebook Banned By Ontario Government. The Ontario government has banned provincial employees from using Facebook, which I find just mind-boggling. I'm currently using Facebook as a way to stay in touch with past, current, and even some future learners (not to mention colleagues, friends, and even some complete strangers) - it's a very powerful tool for getting information out. I've had learners get work from jobs and opportunities posted by other learners - too cool! I am seriously looking at Facebook as a learning tool (a future post).

If one of the jobs of a provincial government is to stay in touch with the residents of the province what better way to do it than Facebook. Like Randommind says in her post, even the Premier of Nova Scotia has a Facebook site. The reaction of the Ontario government to Facebook reminds me of the way a lot of organizations reacted years ago to the use of the Internet during working hours placing restrictions on its use. Well those restrictions are mainly gone now, and I suspect the same will happen with Facebook - it is just too valuable and useful a communication tool.

Thanks for the always great stuff Carolyn. I can't wait for your next post...

Atlantic Internet Marketing Conference

Next Monday and Tuesday, May 14th and 15th, I will be attending the Atlantic Internet Marketing Conference (AIM) at the Westin Nova Scotian Hotel. The focus of the conference is businesses and marketing them using the Web. My interest in this conference is primarily because I facilitate a course to our first year students called BUSI 2750 - Introduction To Business and Information Systems. One of the objectives of this course is to get learners familiar with the various business functions and marketing is one that we spend some significant time on.

Maximizing marketing opportunities on the Web is a great thing for all businesses to do, but particularly small businesses with limited resources and staffs. The AIM aims (:-)) to help businesses throughout Atlantic Canada market themselves on the Web. Major sponsors of the conference include, Travelocity, eBay, NSBI, and many others.

I'm really looking forward to hearing what the experts say about marketing online. I am really interested to see if anyone is combining goods and services marketing with Web 2.0 and social networking on the Web.

If you are in Halifax next week and at all interested about Internet marketing, check out the conference...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Are You A Modern Man?

Are you a modern man? Check out this hilarious video from George Carlin (he is a genius). Then decide if YOU are a modern man...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Back From The Great Teachers Seminar

I'm back from the NSCC Great Teachers Seminar and it was an amazing week. I blogged the experience, and will continue to post on my GTS blog as I work through the thoughts I have brought home with me.

I highly recommend attendance at a GTS for any educator - it truly is an altering experience. I have picked up a lot of valuable tools, tips, and techniques that will make me a better educator and facilitator.

I will also be pondering on some of the issue sthat we discussed as th week progressed. Hmmm...