Test for audio book reviews

A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?. A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?.A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?.A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?.A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?.A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?.A bit of text and image of the book in question? Maybe some text from students?.

JT book review

Children, sex and safety on the net

There was an excellent program on Australia’s Radio National this week titled Sex on the Net about child safety. In the style of this program it is a very sensible and thoughtful perspective and in 45 minutes goes into considerable depth. The link allows you to listen or download the audio and there is a transcript.

In short, the program says: there are serious issues at stake, there is no need to panic and the issues are complex. As usual, there are no simple answers and there is a lovely section in the program where a man who has been working for years in an educational program for children with one message – don’t give out your personal details, who realises that it is probably a useless approach.

It is a topic that school administrators and teachers need to know a lot about, and many of the ‘expert’ on this program said that they don’t really know what is happening.

Radical change to disrupt the school ecosystem

school desk

I have always liked to describe school systems in terms of a natural ecosystem, where the various players play roles that they have worked out over time that allow them to ‘survive’ in the system. The technologies of the classroom have evolved to support the needs of the players, like desks for students to write on, store books and stationery and keep the student in fixed in one place so that they can be easily managed! There are a thousand other components, human and material, in the system that have evolved to do the business of teaching in a particular way.

desk 2Regularly, over the last few decades at least, new ideas (and technologies) come along and challenge the balance in the ecosystem. Bright sparks in the ’70s in South Australia changed desks into tables that can more readily be placed in groups, moved and did not provide storage. The Open Space teaching model did a lot more than this little example. So to continue my little story, teachers had developed teaching methods that relied on students having immediate access to their work-books, stored in their sturdy desks. When tables came along, books were stored in book trays around the walls of the classroom. So the teachers had an organisational problem caused by the innovative tables. I’m not interested in whether having work-books on hand is a good thing or not, but am making the point that every innovation has lots of negative implications because it does not fit all the existing components in the school ecosystem. It is difficult to change one thing without changing lots of things.
So this is why I thoroughly agree with the point Bill made in a comment on my previous post that incremental change is unlikely to work in getting new technologies embedded in the school ecosystem. Change needs to be bold, as he points out Papert has been urging for a long time. New technologies, be they tables, ballpoint pens or internet access pose a threat to many existing activities. If they are introduced into the environment incrementally, a bit of equipment here, a bit of training there, they will be ‘nibbled to death by ducks’ (Garth Boomer). Radical change recognises that we are not introducing the new technologies to tweak the existing ecosystem but to change it in fundamental ways.

That’s another reason for sparing a thought for those planning the introduction of new technologies into classrooms. Radical requires courage and lots of confidence.

I don’t think it is blaming teachers to say that most have not had strong experience in teaching in an open style, or have a clear ideology towards this type of teaching. Why should they? They have been working in a system that has placed priority on other approaches to learning. They have not had technologies that allow remarkable access to information or efficient collaborative tools. I do not have strong experience in they openness that web 2.0 tools will encourage and allow (and I am a baby of the open space years and the open education revolution of the ’70s!).

I think we young radicals can take some heart, though, because the web 2.0 tools are in the main free, easy to use, only need an internet connection, available from home, and most of all, can be introduced subversively by individual teachers (who can get the filter blocks removed).

Social software report says Go! Have a thought for the poor planner.

Just finished reading the report produced for VET titled Social Software for Learning and published April this year. It is very positive about the benefits of using social software and the writers clearly see it as an almost inevitable trend. The report is based in large part on the views of 70 respondents to a survey. At first glance this seems a weakness of the report because the number in the survey is quite small, and because they are a relatively sympathetic group who already use web 2.0 tools to some extent. Half are within VET and half from elsewhere. But of course people who are not familiar with web 2.0 are hardly qualified to comment on its potential and functionality. And 70 is enough to give a good feel for the topic.

This points to a major problem with seeing the future of social software in education. First, it is very very new, and second, its growth is explosive. So the planner is faced with limited evidence and no time to waste!

“Four key conclusions have emerged:

  1. Social software is valuable in enhancing and enriching knowledge sharing, capability development and the teaching and learning experience and should be seen as ‘another tool’ in the organisation’s and VET practitioner’s toolkit.
  2. The successful use of social software relies on a spirit of openness and a willingness to share and collaborate as well as an enabling culture, both within the organisation and the classroom environment.
  3. The ‘Net Gen’ is a significant client group of the future. It is critical that VET is able to provide them with enriching learning experiences and this will require the use of social software in some form. Other drivers, including economic drivers, may lead to a broader application of social software across the VET demographic.
  4. Like email, social software may well become ‘ubiquitous’!”

No 1 conclusion is the most important: that it is a powerful tool for learning because it fosters our human need to learn in collabration with others. No 2 points to the big implementation problem. Most teachers do not have a strong experience in working in an open manner, and fewer are ideologically commited to this approach. The hope is that many will see the new tools to change their approach. But it will take a lot of selling and clear perceptions of early success. No 3 and 4 suggest that there is a groundswell of success for the new tools that will feed through into education. But many of the old guard teacher have seen the promised land of constructivist education promised over and over again since the ’70s.

The onus of those of us who believe in the power of the new tools and the need for a different focus for learning, is get some examples to show it works. And who better to be the recipient of some collaborative learning processes than the teachers themsleves?

Web 2.0 library thing reader thing

If you want a wonderful Web 2.0 working example to explore or show people, have a look at www.librarything.com – a great big book club where you show off your library, tag your readings, explore the million or more other book entries and converse with people in the hundreds of groups of like-minded readers. This is my tag cloud. Don’t laugh.
library tag cloud

This is a Web 2.0 application that even the most elite elitist will appreciate, because there is a long tradition of people discussing books in a discussion group. The beauty of if is that I don’t have to mix with the people who loved The DaVinci Code, I can go off and form a group of people who like my kind of book.

This seem to me to be the way to persuade teachers and others that something new is happening with Web 2.0. Get them to look at a site like this, and they will Get IT.

Organise your thinking with tiddlywiki

Tiddlywiki is an amazing little piece of free software that is an excellent personal notebook, or journal. It is also not easy to describe because it does not quite fit into a neat category. It is a wiki, and a stand-alone html file, it can be located on the web and have many authors, and it can be a personal file that you carry around as a ‘wiki-on-a-stick’.


If you click on the link above you can try out the navigation for yourself. A tiddlywiki is made up of ‘tiddlers’ which are usually paragraph length entries. These have their own tags (on the right of the illustration) and they are linked to and closed as you like. A main menu is on the left. It is wonderful for adding material to your personal notebook. Just create a new tiddler, add some tags to it, and you are done. You can find all your records on a particular topic or topics simply by clicking on a tag.

If you want to have a go, on the Home site, see Getting Started, and in the body of that you will find Download Software and an empty.html that you download and is your starting point. In about 30 minutes you will have mastered the basics.

The amazing world of TED

The best web information site I have seen over the last year is TED. Just put ted in Google and it is the top entry. TED (Technology Entertainment Design) has the slogan, ‘Ideas worth spreading’. It revolves around a conference held in California once a year. They TED talksinvite some of the brightest people in the world to speak for just 14 minutes each. This is videoed. and the resulting audio and video podcasts or downloads are freely available.

So what do you get from some great achievers in just 14 minutes – stimulated, excited, inspired. That’s what has happened to me over an over again. It helps if you have a video ipod, but you can watch them on a computer. Most of them would work fine in just audio format because while they do use some presentation images, most are just a very stimulating person talking about their achievements.

When you look at the list of speakers, few are recognisable to most of us, but I found that by listening to the first few minutes of each speaker you soon find out whether the topic is of interest to you. I watch about two thirds of them all the way through.

I suggest starting with Ken Robinson (on the importance of educating for creativity – very wise and very funny) and Julia Sweeney (very funny, on religion).

Apart from the intrinsic interest in the content of the talks, what the have done with TED is an inspiring example of the power of the new technologies. They have found a way to present very powerful ideas in a very accessible way to a vast number of people. I could go on and on about individual talks. Have a look, and add comments on your favourite. Don’t miss E O Wilson, a delightful old chap who I have discovered since is considered by some to be Darwin’s successor, one of the world’s greatest scientists and who’s accompanying video on the mini world of biology is a delight.

Jimmy Wales on dealing with the bad mannered

Jimmy Wales and polite questionerIn the Adelaide session I asked Jimmy Wales about whether we will develop good-manners conventions for personal interactions on the web, in time. His answer, “Yes”. His comprehensive and impressive answer was captured by Mike Sefang, and can be found here. (audio)
Again, it repeats his positive but disciplined view of people that has made the Wikipedia work.

Mindmapping online for great collaboration

I have been a great fan of Inspiration, the education focused mind mapping application, but the recently committed the mortal sin of launching version 8 which is not compatible with previous versions. It is quite expensive and does not have an online capacity.

MindMeisterThere are now some very promising looking web based mindmapping applications that are free, at least in basic version, and have the huge advantage of allowing collaborative development of a map. A good review of three of them: bubbl.us, Mindomo, and MindMeister is found here in the Daily Web Worker.

MindomoThe reviewer concludes that none of them have the full flexibility of the best tools, but are very promising. They rate MindMeister as the best, and it is still in private beta. Users can work on a map simultaneously, and can have a chat via Skype while doing it!

That looks as though these offer great educational potential. Another Web 2.0 success story in the making.

Vista Vs OSX some substantial argument

Vista v OSXTechnology Review had a powerful criticism of Vista in Feb from a professed windows fan, Erika Jonietz here. In the April edition the editors said they had their strongest reader response ever to this article, because, I guess, it was such a powerful critique.

They then invited one of their editors to respond which he does here ( rather tepid support I thought) and below, all the responses from the masses. As a Mac owner I am of course completely neutral in this debate.

The word bloated was used a lot!