Education and the Future of Learning

As I gear up for this weekends unconference, I’ve been looking through my Delicious bookmarks, specifically on things around Education, which is one of the sessions I’d like to run, if nothing else – to get a different perspective from that discussed at this years BaaCamp where I was part of a similar session.

I came across this video, speaking to the one way approach many educators are taking to using the Internet as a resource. The presenter has written a supporting article (PDF) where he explains the different roles students can take to build engagement, and to collaborate with their global peers

Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November from Brian Mull on Vimeo.

Food for thought – and a definite starter for our discussions at TelecomONE this weekend – how can we as an industry help support our educators and their students to become part of the global voice of learning?

Painting it Black

s92-banner-300x250

You may have noticed a number of avatars turning black since the start of this week, this blackout is only a part of the actions planned during the recent FooCamp to draw attention to New Zealands impending copyright law changes.

I’m going to use this post to bring some of the commentary on the subject together, for more detail – follow the links below:

Stephen Fry even joined the fray blacking out his avatar, changing his bio and posting updates such as this one [image] – once he joined in and linked to a story covering the blackout, that was it for the hosting site… for a few minutes at least, he did apologise… and got some coverage from the NZ media about it (and on Stuff).

Even some NZ businesses and websites have joined the campaign:

And it’s been on the radio:

And the telly:

Just to be clear, I am not advocating stealing copyrighted works, the reason I created this post is that I (personally) believe that S92 has a number of fundamental flaws which require attention now, rather than a retrospective patch up job.

For an interesting perspective on copyright and why some people may feel they should ignore it, check out this article (hat tip @Titine)

Also, an interesting result from some digging around ARPA by Simon Lyall can be found here. Joining the ‘interesting’ articles, is this one which outlines Clare Currans view on S92 even down to the view that “there are significant issues with the controversial Section 92A” and this one from Tony Millett of the LIANZA’s Copyright Taskforce.

Juha has also published an interesting article summising the RIANZ responce to the industry TCF here.

Foocamp Day Three

This is part three of my three part coverage of FooCamp 2009. You can also read part one and part two for more.

On the final day of foocamp there was only time for yet another delicious breakfast (gotta feed the brain/clear the hangover) and two final sessions.

The wrap-up followed the second session and as we debriefed the weekend, you could sense the excitement and desire for more in those who had gathered. We discussed the potential for more specific FooCamps to complement this one (EduFoo / ScienceFoo anyone?) and how we could make improvements on the event itself. One of my calls to action was to engage with the ministers who were invited but didn’t attend this year. I will be doing this in the next few weeks once I have recovered and aligned my thoughts on the weekend – and hey, I’ll be able to take what I learnt in the “Hacking Government” session to ensure I make the best use of my MPs time, and present the best case I can…

Yet another fantastic Foo by Nat, Janine and Russell – thank you so much for the experience and having me as part of the weekend.

Day Two of Foo

This is part two of my three part coverage of FooCamp 2009. You can also read part one and part three for more.

Again, this entry is written under the constraints of FrieNDA and will summarise only those observations which are non-attributable to anyone but myself.

After the big brain squeeze yesterday, I kicked off the day sitting under a tree and summarising my thoughts as to what shape my session on Education would take, I wanted to engage conversation early – but felt it important to frame the direction I was approaching the issue from up front so we could end the session with some definite take away points and next steps.

The rest of the day took the following format:

Renewable Energy
A inspiring gentleman who is in the process of building (and experimenting with) his ‘Eco House’ in the Coromandal took us through a great discussion around renewable energy and how, harnessing something as simple as the free energy of the sun, we can heat our homes, our water and make a real impact on our energy usage.

Out takes:

  • The installation costs are still somewhat high (could do with some governmental/power company assistance?) but the running costs are negligible
  • There is a definite case to be made for dual voltage systems in a home (low power for appliances/LED lighting, mains voltage for high drain devices)
  • The freedom to experiment in the suburbs is minuscule, truly effective eco-housing needs (currently) to be situated in a rural area.
  • There is such a thing as a device which allows you to send generated electricity (from a Photovoltaic array on your roof as an example) back *into* the power grid. Power companies in NZ that support this will give dollar for dollar. This provides a potential for distributed power generation via private citizens homes.

Hacking Government
The interesting thing I found here is that the framing of the debate is typically influenced most heavily via the use of words and the spin put around them by/via the media. As an example of this consider the use of the words ‘Theft’ and ‘Piracy’ when the issue of copyright is discussed.

A suggestion was made that it would be interesting to track the word clouds of political communications and compare them to those of lobby groups to see where the influence was coming from. This may already be being done, I just need to find some links to point you toward.

Out takes:

When communicating with a government official:

  • Have, and express your points clearly
  • Be polite and concise (email spamming the same message does NOT work)
  • Know your stuff and, if you are fortunate enough to get some face time with an elected official be able to back your position with facts/studies etc. as there will be people present who will know their stuff and challenge your points.

And most importantly.. give the decision maker a safe way out!

Recommended reading:

Real-time data
I attended this session to feed my home/consumer devices and automation obsession, and came away with even more information than I dreamt.

Out takes:

  • The XMPP protocol is hella useful here
  • Need to expose location information to users so THEY can find an application for it which they find useful
  • The value of different types of data changes over time (there’s a graph of this I could insert)
  • Caution required to not overload users with information. Context sensitive notifications
  • Being able to connect disparate data sources which pertain to similar information would extend the functionality able to be offered (example of different types of weather stations, aggregating their ‘Raining/Not Raining” information)

Things to check out:
Pachube – “a service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world”

4 Million Leaders
Tim (in his usual enthusiastic manner) tells us about his latest project (conceived, built AND launched in 10 days) ThinkSmall a “free, open community aimed at finding solutions to issues that face New Zealand”

Out takes:

  • New Zealand is disproportionately able to effect massive change of it’s own environments
    We sit alongside 200 or so other ‘small’ nations, dwarfed by the two or three huge nations
    Sign up to ThinkSmall and get involved, you will be held to account for your calls to action

Things to check out:

Broadband
Broadband, a simple word and HUGE subject

Out takes:

  • Much angry shouting
  • Difficulty expressing what was desired in terms of services (fast and “[insert a big number]” is not a service)
  • People using an asynchronous technology to upload vast amounts of data have problems (they should like VDSL when it launches?)
  • General agreement that there needs to be a more collaborative approach to providing bandwidth appropriate to desired services to the people

Education

This was a session that I led, based around a growing interest in how we as technologists, can help our kids schools and teachers. We had over 30 of the Foo attendees interested in this session and, while I can’t discuss the exact nature of the outcomes due to FrieNDA, there were some generic truths and a call to action which a number of us will take away from the weekend.

Out takes:

  • Teachers spend an inordinate amount of their non-class time in administrative duties.
  • Extra curricular and professional development also take up a lot of a typical teachers time.
  • There are a huge number of things that we as parents with wide range skills can do to assist the teachers and their schools.
    • Volunteer, seriously. Whether it’s transcribing lesson plans, scrounging up some awesome resources for a specific lesson or coaching a school team, whatever you can do will impact on the additional workload of the teachers
    • Tutor or assist – I personally will be re-offering my services to the school for any teachers who would like to spend some time learning applications, how to search the internet, or how to get kids interested in the world accessible from the keyboard.
    • Ask the school what they need, see how you can help – is your company updating it’s infrastructure, can you redeploy old PC or Wireless LAN equipment to the school campus rather than attempting a resale via disposal brokers?
  • There are some incredible schools out there, there are some amazing teachers – if you have access to either, see if you can help them help others

Things to check out:

  • Discovery 1 – “Discovery 1 is a special character, state funded primary school based in the heart of the Christchurch Central Business District. It is an innovative learning community where all key stake holders (children, parents & staff) take an active part in the creation  of a child’s learning journey.”
  • Unlimited High School
  • Digital Technology Framework

For those attendees of the session, if there was a specific point that you made and you feel can be released here outside of FrieNDA, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly off the FooCamp attendees list.

Section 92 – The Countdown

We had an amazing and inspiring discussion around what could be done in the last weeks before the act becomes law. To be part of that conversation was both humbling and exciting. The results of the discussion will see the light of day in the weeks following Foo.

A huge day in the company of excellent people with phenominal brainpower and an unquenchable desire to lend their expertise to resolve any issue they can… Time for some more wine, another conversation or three and then bed.

FooCamp 2009, Warkworth, New Zealand

This is part one of my three part coverage of FooCamp 2009. You can also read part two and part three for more.

Well – here I am at the 2009 FooCamp New Zealand it’s 11:30 as I start writing this piece and I’d say that things were winding down for the night but I’d be lying. Although the first two sessions of the camp have concluded, there is no end to the discussions which flow as freely as the drinks.

It’s been an awesome start to what is shaping up to be an awesome weekend. I was fortunate enough to be able to offer a lift to 5 other Foo attendees and the car was filled with incredibly interesting conversation ranging from hacking whiteboard presentation tools for the purposes of entertaining infants, to privacy, security and airline saftey – through to the pain of managing open source coding projects.

I have had a remarkable conversation on education with a couple of people from a major Tertiary institution along with a gentleman whose role included going to schools and assisting teachers in the science curriculum. This conversation will spill into a session I plan to run on Saturday afternoon around Education, collaboration and community – not my standard fare of geek and gadgets, but a subject I’ve been mulling over on and off for the past year or so.

Due to the FrieNDA which is put in place at these ‘unconference’ events, there will be no specific details posted about people or the conversations.  This is to protect all of the attendees, promote openess, and allow compeditior companies to share views in a intelligent manner without egos and personalities getting in the way.

For the record, the first two sessions of the weekend that I’ve attended were both around the control of content. Session 1 was around if a company should start releasing it’s content under creative common licencing, and the second was a very good session led by New Zealands “Creative Freedom Foundation” it’s worth the time of every New Zealander who is active on the Internet to read and understand the implications of the impending changes to the copyright act. I must admit that I learnt a few things during the session that I’d not known before.

Anyway, it’s very late and if I don’t want to get dragged into a game of Werewolf (and lynched) I’d best go hit the hay… What a great strt to an awesome weekend.