Posts Categorized: Learning

Passover Googlebomb

Given yesterday’s fire bombing of a Jewish school in Montreal, I’m doing my part in "Googlebombing" to ensure that racist propoganda is pushed off the web. From Liz Lawley’s Blog, I’ve discovered that the top-ranking Google search for "jew" is a racist site. Therefore I’m linking to Wikipedia’s definition, in order increase Wikipedia’s Google ranking. This in turn will decrease the racist site’s Google ranking [note no link]. This small post is now part of a larger movement in the blog world, showing how a lot of networked indviduals can work together for a better future. Any fellow bloggers, please join in.

I wish all of our friends a happy and peaceful Passover.

Via James Farmer’s Incorporated Subversion.

Atlantic Canada eLearning Case Studies

A recent Industry Canada sponsored report, Innovative e-Learning Practices in Atlantic Canada: Case Studies is now available online. From the eight case studies, the conclusions drawn by the researchers on success factors for elearning in rural areas are:

Address a Clear Market Need
Use a Partnership/Collaboration Approach
Have Access to Broadband Technologies
Create a Sustainable Business Model
Use Prior Learning Recognition (aka PLA)
Training the Trainers/Teachers

Learning Objects Summit

I attended the final day of the eduSource Learning Objects Summit in Fredericton today. An interesting presentation from Doug MacLeod of the Netera Aliance with this thought – open source is a way of nurturing the e-learning industry to become a "real" industry. I guess it’s like railroads, you need the rails before you can start shipping. Open source gives us a common platform.

Also, there is now a training module on IMS content packaging developed by the Unversit?ɬ© de Moncton, available online.

Atlantic Wildlife Institute Officially Launches

One of my other roles is as director of education at the Atlantic Wildlife Institute, a voluntary position with an exciting charitable organisation. Having just developed a five-year strategic plan, I’m looking forward to using social networking technologies and practices to build a much larger community of learners. Comments on learning and the non-profit sector are always welcome. Here’s some of our latest news:

?��Ǩ?�Our mission is environmental education and our theme is renewal,?��Ǩ�� says David Hawkins, recently designated Chairman of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute (formerly Maritime Atlantic Wildlife). ?��Ǩ?�We?��Ǩ�Ѣre launching our new season with a new name, a new slogan, a new web site, a new Wildlife Learning Centre, and a new board of directors.?��Ǩ��
The name change, to Atlantic Wildlife Institute (AWI), reflects an expansion of the focus of the well-known Maritime Atlantic Wildlife organization, which has been in operation for the past eight years. It will now add an important dimension of learning and research to its initial mission of rehabilitating displaced or injured wildlife. The new Institute program will include wildlife education and ecotourism experiences, as well as training opportunities for people who want to gain the skills required for responding to wildlife emergencies.
?��Ǩ?�The Institute designation also underlines the non-advocacy nature of our activities,?��Ǩ�� continues David Hawkins. ?��Ǩ?�We are ready to partner with any organization that has a sincere interest in enhancing the relationship between human society and nature. We?��Ǩ�Ѣre actively seeking constructive solutions, but we?��Ǩ�Ѣre not activist, in the confrontational or lobbying sense, nor will we be.?��Ǩ��

Performance Improvement Certificate

There is finally some formal training/education in the field of performance improvement available in Canada. From CSTD news feed is this article on a program being offered by Fanshawe College and Seneca College, both in Ontario. From the joint course description:

Training can be the most expensive of performance improvement options. It is also among the most frequently and inappropriately used, and without performance support in the workplace, is a highly perishable investment.
The number one workplace complaint compromising job satisfaction is poor systems and processes: 94% of employees flagged this issue in studies conducted by W. Edwards Deming, father of Total Quality Management. By contrast, training and professional development solutions address skill and knowledge gaps almost exclusively.

All I can say is that it’s about time, but what about Atlantic Canada? Is anyone willing to get a program going on the East coast?

“Classroom teaching will not scale”

Stephen Downes succinctly tells us why technology is the necessary equalizer in creating a global learning society:

Classroom teaching, even if supported with technology, will not scale. If we are to provide access to all, we must abandon the idea that education is something that is done for us and support the idea that it is something we can do for ourselves. That’s why we need technology in learning.

New technology, used to support new approaches to learning, is akin to the replacement of scriptoriums by literacy. Just as we no longer need people to read and write for us, we will, in the future, no longer require people to teach for us. The technology should – and will, because people demand it – allow us to teach ourselves. But clinging to the traditional model – in which writing is still done in scriptoriums (albeit, with ballpoint pens and laser printers) is to show a casual disregard for the needs and aspirations of people who not only benefit from writing, but are liberated by it.

In Tunisia I was told that the country had very different demographics than Canada. Most of the population is under 20. In order to make room in the classrooms for the expanding group of younger students entering the school system, the older students’ learning needs were starting to be addressed through e-learning. In this way, the limited physical infrastructure could be reserved for younger children. In Tunisia, classrooms don’t scale well either.

Objects & Repositoires

George Siemens distills the essence of the use of learning objects and repositories in the e-learning field:

… content in context is the real challenge. Or put another way, the extraction of meaning from an object is the real challenge. We can have access to all the content in the world, but if we are not able to find what we need, when we need it, in the format we need it, and for the task which we need it, it’s of no use. Content management takes care of organizing resources. The extraction of meaningful content is where systems fail.

I find that there is still a lot of snake oil being sold as e-learning. If you can help people find what they need, when they need it, in the right context to be useful, then you will have effective content management and/or performance support. The rest is what a friend of mine calls "shovel ware".

What, more laptops?

Stephen Downes recently attended the RIMA conference in Quebec where, among other things, he covered Seymour Papert’s presentation on learning environmentalism. It was wide ranging presentation, and here is an interesting statement on laptops in schools:

"Putting laptops in schools, he [Papert] noted, is not tantemount to educational change, but it’s the seed of educational change. It is the act of putting the change in motion. But it couldn’t have come from within. Ask educators what the proper ratio of computers to students is, and you may hear, %:1, 6:1 – but the proper answer is 1:1 – but that is something that can be said only outside the system."

So it’s not about the technology. It’s about planting seeds of change, and as any internal consultant can tell you, change from within is difficult. The kids want change, the parents want change, Governors and Premiers want change, but those in charge of the education system don’t think that radical change is necessary. Neither did the politburo.

Laptop Furor

The Premier of New Brunswick is trying to get a pilot laptop project going for Grade 7 students in one of our schools, but there has been much vocal resistance. His interest in the subject was sparked during a visit to Maine, where laptops were recently introduced into the school system. The initiative appears to be a success in Maine. I’ve already commented that I used to be against the idea of technology for technology’s sake, but laptops give students a wide range of opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have. These include access to courses online, connections with other schools in other countries, use of blogs and wikis for knowledge creation, and others.

Now there is non-profit organisation in Britain lobbying for laptops in all schools. The author of the Digital Equality report from Citizens Online stated, "The very process of education is dependent on technology and not having equal access to laptops is like some pupils using pen and paper while others use slate and chalk."

Human nature is funny. If you say you can’t have something, then everyone wants it. If you have something to give away, then no one wants it.

RAND Report – The 21st Century at Work

A recent report by the Rand Corporation The 21st Century at Work: Forces Shaping the Future Workforce and Workplace in the United States is available for +300 PDF pages of reading pleasure. In the report, three factors affecting work are discussed ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú demographic trends, technological advances and globalisation. The US workforce [read Canadian too] will not grow as quickly as it has in the past. Technology will continue to reshape production, jobs and organisations. There is a worldwide marketplace for goods, services and labour.

This is a comprehensive look at forces affecting labour, organisations, the nature of work and technology. This report combines what a lot of other reports have already mentioned and should be a good reference for the next year or two.

Some interesting extracts:

?¢‚Ǩ?ìJust as individualized medicine is envisioned as an outgrowth of biotechnology, individualized learning programs that are optimized for a given person?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s knowledge base and learning style are expected for the future. Such learning programs will become increasingly sophisticated over time with advances in hardware and software, including artificial intelligence, voice recognition and natural language comprehension.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

?¢‚Ǩ?ìThese workers and others who increasingly interact in a global marketplace and participate in global work teams will also require the skills needed to collaborate and interact in diverse cultural and linguistic settings (Marquardt and Horvath, 2001). Individuals who can exploit diversity to generate new knowledge about customers, suppliers, products, and services will be more likely to succeed in a competitive global environment.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù