Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Students Punished for Facebook Comments

A student council president of a Robert F. Hall Catholic Secondary School in Toronto asked a very pertinent question after being suspended for "online bullying" for negative comments made about the school Principal in Facebook, "When does the school's jurisdiction end?" said Sultana, 17, , adding as far as he knows none of the 19 students was accessing Facebook during school time or on school computers. Since Sultana says he only viewed the comments but did not take part - yet suffered a suspension - where does guilt begin? By association? By viewing comments? By opposing the principal? By voicing free will? By using Facebook to vent? Having an opinion at 17?

The students involved in this online discussion, not able to plead their case or discuss the suspension, are naturally concerned and confused. But what it really signifies is that there is something wrong with the administration of this school - and the students in their frustration were venting about that. Not only is there concern about how they were treated by the principal before this Facebook discussion, but also why they are denied opportunities to discuss the issues when punsihment is meted out.

The long arm of totalitarian control, denying opportunities to face the charges, denial of freedoms - exercised by a principal who obviously has some organizational problems to deal with. This is not what we should be teaching our students.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Waraku Education: PODMO

Waraku Education: PODMO

Another move ahead for free and open learning - a new network technology called PODMO - it works with bluetooth mobile phone devices. Content is free when e within the bluetooth communication range of a PODMO server. It establishes a network within the internet with free data to users -what can be done with it? - think instant messaging, fill in online forms (data acquisition tasks), access maps, RSS feeds, and soon free VOIP calls.

Free phone calls from a mobile phone - PODMO gets its money via advertising but the advertising model is absolutely non intrusive. The user chooses to access this material via menu items.

Waraku Education: Crickee and PODMO

Waraku Education: Crickee and PODMO

Announcing cheap SMS thanks to Crickee a Java program that allows the mobile phone to SMS but have the data transmitted and received via the Mobiles Internet data connection.

Friday, February 02, 2007

BlackBoard Strategy

Blackboard knows that their patent action is unconscionable and is open to challenge. But they didn't do it to becuse they thought it had merit - prior art demonstrates that the patent is not applicable. But they don't need to have the patent honoured -they can succeed at what they really wanted this action to do - scare the market and keep prospective proprietary systems at bay.

Institutions are naturally leary of litigation, and would choose to have sand kicked in their face rather than maybe, just maybe be involved in a legal fight with Blackboard. Blackboard may succeed in putting desire2learn out of business (a Canadian company) , and will succeed in scaring off any other company that is drawing up plans to enter the ed tech software arena. But I think Blackboard is going to lose on two fronts. The first is that some forward thinking institutions will think twice about tying into any proprietary system and will take a serious look at Moodle or sakai or Elgg (eg. Open University and Athabasca University already use Moodle). And the second is that Blackboard has through their actions, galvanized an opposition consisting of the educational blogosphere, educause and the open systems folks, and many fence sitting educators who now see open source as a possibility.

If Blackboard continues to push this patent action they will lose the respect and goodwill they have developed over the years. Blackboard would do well to settle out of court with d2l and let this patent action drift off into the twilight zone. Then maybe they can start acting as the leaders they could be rather than trying to stifle competition and innovation.

Connectivism Online Conference - George Siemens

I'm just now coming down from the heights of chaotic thought provoked by George Siemens' presentation via Elluminate on Connectivism. So there we were, 190 of us, worldwide, linked via web and focussed on listening to George - a trusted member of our network - share his thoughts and ideas with the connectees. And we were all exploring the same questions. Where are we in learning now, where are we going and how will we get there? What skills, provisions do we need on the journey?

Synaptic learning...moments of lucidity...sparks of recognition..a second of how it all fits then fading into ambiguity...excuse me while I kiss the sky; this is learning as it should be - shared, chaotic, questioned, reshared, ideation in process, not product "knowledge in stasis".

Riding through the connective pathways...fast and frugal heuristics, trying to deal with the demanding complexity of our world today, where our linear approach to learning is just not meeting the need. We need to change our interaction patterns, our definition of learning spaces, our focus on product not process - higher education has a lot of changes to make and it is one slow moving beast. But then again climate change drove us all to take a holistic look at our environmental reality and as a result it seems we are prepared to change our behaviour. Changes in higher learning may also be forthcoming - as crisis looms.

Knowledge today is complex, ever changing, and information is overabundant. Knowledge no longer resides in a place, in a brain, in one person or a cadre of experts - it is in the connections we make, our networks of learning. Technology is evolving and affords us the opportunity to connect and share. As our network grows it impacts upon our assumptions about learning infrastructures, about authority, and certainty of "knowing". We'll recognize that a textbook, a professor is a node not a touchstone. Textbooks and professors should not position themselves as experts who can claim to keep pace with the changing face of knowledge - but they can guide us, can provide trusted nodes, a framework, a foundation and skill set that enables and maximizes our learning journey.

Where does knowledge reside in institutions? When is it made available? Journals that few people read, that few people can access. Articles that get refereed by a few experts then disseminated to a small audience usually bound by the blinkers of their discipline. This is not ideation - a fast response to the changing face of knowledge and a recognition of worldwide realities and contextualities.

Institutional approaches are not in line with the rapidity of knowledge development. Containers of learning - courses, professors, textbooks - confined to a space - university - and bounded by time and pace restrictions are not appropriate for this journey.

This learning journey will be troubling, chaotic, fraught with cognitive dangers - and we need to teach new skills to prepare our students, and our professors. We need to have them understand that learning is not a product but a process. That learning is not a place it is a journey. That we have to move from knowing to knowing where, to sense making, and need to learn to apply what we learn to actually learn. The power of the web, the social networking available, and the filtering, tagging, bookmarking tools will help us connect and increase the pace of our sense making .

The chaos and messiness of global networking is seeping into the classroom and higher education is in denial. Guess what? It's going to bite them soon enough thanks to the pace that the lower grade teachers are moving at -using blogs and social networking with their students - the future attendees of universities. These kids will be coming to university with expectations -and skills most professors will not recognize. These kids will have had years of pattern recognition, network formation and evaluation, have exercised critical/creative thinking (collaborate, create and recreate) and learned to accept uncertainty/ambiguity of holistic learning and a recognition that contextually, there is no right answer, their is only the formulation of new ways of thinking.

Is the space, place, pace and minds of the university ready for these kids? Not by a long shot. But maybe, like global warming, higher education will have a crisis to respond to and they might just change. Or perhaps the kids won't care - they'll have other opportunities for their learning journey.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Blackboard Pledge Fear Factor

Educause and Sakai - strong opponents of Blackboard's patent claims on the LMS and more aren't wholehearted about their support of Blackboard's patent pledge - although Blackboard has included in the pledge many named open source initiatives (Elgg being one of them), regardless of whether they incorporate proprietary elements in their applications, Blackboard has also reserved rights to assert its patents against other providers of such systems that are "bundled" with proprietary code. Is that wiggle room or what?

This bundling language could be construed in any number of ways - introducing "legal and technical complexity and uncertainty which will be inhibitive in this arena of development."
And that. after all, was Blackboatd's intent from the beginning. They were not after a patent - they were after scaring away the new development, scaring away institutions from pursuing open source actions - because maybe, just maybe, Blackboard would try to take them to task.

In fact EDUCAUSE and Sakai worked to gain a pledge that Blackboard would never take legal action for infringement against a college or university using another competing product. Blackboard could not agree for reasons related to its existing legal case.

Fear, sadly, is often more effective than the rule of law.

Connectivism Online Conference U of Manitoba

George Siemens is creating a learning space, populated by great presenters, over 1,000 attendees representing over 40 countries, to virtually explore connectivism and social software from February 2-9, 2007. The conference is online and free but already oversubscribed so...follow me in this blog as I report on the presentations from a higher education perspective.

Here's the blurb about the conference intent...."The evolution of teaching and learning is accelerated with technology. After several decades of duplicating classroom functionality with technology, new opportunities now exist to alter the spaces and structures of knowledge to align with both needs of learners today, and affordances of new tools and processes. Yet our understanding of the impact on teaching and learning trails behind rapidly forming trends. What are critical trends? How does technology influence learning? Is learning fundamentally different today than when most prominent views of learning were first formulated (under the broad umbrellas of cognitivism, behaviourism, and constructivsm)? Have the last 15 years of web, technology, and social trends altered the act of learning? How is knowledge itself, in a digital era, related to learning?"

Key themes will include: trends in K-12 sector, trends in higher education, research and net pedagogy, technological and societal trends, and connective knowledge and connectivism.

Confirmed presenters include: Stephen Downes , Will Richardson , Terry Anderson , George Siemens , Bill Kerr and Diana G. Oblinger, Ph.D.

Stay tuned - I'll be posting some filtering comments on the conference.

Blackboard Backs Off

Chalk up a win for the educational community against the unwarranted and altogether ridiculous attempt by Blackboard to claim the history of educational technology for itself. The doors to open learning are now open once more.

Announcing the Blackboard Patent Pledge - a promise to never assert its issued or pending course management system software patents against open source software or home-grown course management systems. This Blackboard Pledge is legally binding, irrevocable and worldwide in scope.

As part of the Pledge, Blackboard promises never to pursue patent actions against anyone using such systems including professors contributing to open source projects, open source initiatives, commercially developed open source add-on applications to proprietary products and vendors hosting and supporting open source applications.

Blackboard is also extending its pledge to many specifically identified open source initiatives within the course management system space whether or not they may include proprietary elements within their applications, such as Sakai, Moodle, ATutor, Elgg and Bodington.