Short Audio Reflection on EC&I 831

I spoke briefly about Ustreaming my Graduate course on EdTechWeekly last Sunday (Feb 24, 2008). This short audio clip was captured and synchronized to a screencast of the course site. I assume this was done by either Jeff Lebow or Dave Cormier.

I think this captures a bit of what I am experiencing with the course. The delivery mechanisms are somewhat complex but much more in tune to the principles of “open, connected & social” than a WebCT/Blackboard-based course could possibly be. I hope that the students are enjoying it as much as I am.

Shares(ki) Tells His Story

Dean Shareski was our guest in EC&I 831 this past Tuesday. Dean did an incredible job of sharing his story of virtual and face-to-face experiences with his “personal research team”. This team includes many well known educators, Dean’s colleagues, his students, family and probably you … the person reading this. Dean’s presentation was engaging, there were several lessons learned, and my students have reacted very positively in their own blogging spaces.

Dean’s Slide Deck:

You can also experience the entire presentation through the recorded Elluminate session.

Thanks again Dean. This was a terrific presentation, and you have represented yourself very well within the growing list of amazing EC&I 831 presenters.

OLPC & Education

If you follow me on Twitter, you’d know that I have been trying to get people to convince me of the value of OLPC. I have been intending to write a comprehensive post on some of these responses and my thoughts, but I just noticed an important post from Teemu Leinonen that will the gap in the meanwhile.

Leinonen shares that likely the greatest accomplishment of OLPC so far is that it has created a market for low-cost educational computers.

One Laptop per Child – the laptop project of the OLPC association, a North American non-profit has change the markets of low-cost mobile computers for educational sector. Even that in the OLPC there are such a multi-billion industry sponsors as the AMD, Google, Nortel, and Newscorp, the achievement of changing a whole market, or actually creating it, is absolutely remarkable.

In 2008 we will have the Intel’s Classmate ($250), Zonbu notebook ($279 + $14.95/month), Asus Eee laptop ($299-399), Nokia Internet Tablets ($150-$299), Nova NetPC “thin client” system (around $80/unit), and the OLPC’s XO laptop ($200).

Leinonen then goes on to argue that the OLPC is really a laptop project, and not an education project (as OLPC founder Negroponte continues to state). Leinonen follows with three reasons why the OLPC is in fact a laptop project. These include:

    – The OLPC has shown total lack of understanding of education as a system.
    – The OPLC has a naive believe on computer technology (per se) as a silver bullet in education.
    – The OLPC do not understand different cultures and traditions.

From everything I have seen related to OLPC, I would have to agree with Leinonen. There are some excellent points here, and the post is certainly worth the read. Most importantly, I think, Leinonen doesn’t see this all as negative, rather, he calls for a greater educational emphasis on the project.

I have a lot more to say about this, but it is much too late, and morning is near.

Understanding Digital Citizenship

(Note: There is some sensitive content discussed here, especially under item #4.)

I recently spent most of the day with Dean Shareski in Moose Jaw co-facilitating a couple of digital citizenship sessions. Here’s the wiki for the media literacy portion, in case you are interested.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot about digital citizenship. I even dreamt I twitted about it last night (when Twitter is in my dreams, I know I need a break). Here is mostly what I have been thinking.

To me, the current approaches to digital citizenship seem to leave out important meanings of the term citizenship. It seems the Dr. Mike Ribble and Dr. Gerald Bayley are associated with the term quite frequently and they have a lot to say about it. At their digital citizenship site, it reads:

Digital Citizenship is a concept which helps teachers and technology leaders understand what students should know to use technology appropriately. But Digital Citizenship is more that just a teaching tool, it is a way to prepare students for a society full of technology. Too often we are seeing students as well as adults misusing and abusing technology. The issue is more than what the users do not know but instead what is considered appropriate technology usage.

This is as close to a definition that I can find on the site. From this, it seems that digital citizenship is about using technology appropriately, and not misusing or abusing technology. Not bad, but pretty vague.

So I explore the site a bit more, and there are “Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship“. OK, this is better. These include: digital etiquette, digital communication, digital literacy, digital commerce, digital law, digital rights and responsibilities, digital health and wellness and digital security (self protection). The item I am most interested in is the “digital rights and responsibilities”. Up until now, most of what I have seen related to digital citizenship relates only to safety, literacy and etiquette and the strategies we use in teaching these to children. While these approaches have merit, I still feel there is something significant missing.

So under “digital rights and responsibilities” it reads:

Digital Rights & Responsibilities: those freedoms extended to every student, administrator, teacher, parent or community member. Just as in the American Constitution where there is a Bill of Rights, there is a basic set of rights extended to every digital citizen. Digital citizens have the right to privacy, free speech, etc. Basic digital rights must be addressed, discussed, and understood in the school district.

Wait a minute … there’s the rights, but where’d our responsibilities go? I looked around … yet, no where in sight.

So I turn to a colleague down the hall … actually walked down the hall, didn’t Google him. Dr. Marc Spooner who recently wrote the paper, “Full-Spectrum Literacy, For Full-Spectrum Citizenship: Education as a process towards agency, engagement, and critical awareness and action“. Ironically, the title itself has told me more about citizenship than anything I’ve read so far under the digital citizenship label. In the article, Dr. Spooner writes:

A fully literate citizen is at once critically self-reflexive and critically reflexive of his/her collective and position within it.

This helps a great deal. Will get back to this.

Also helpful is the description of polis citizenship in Wikipedia. Most specifically,

The obligations of citizenship were deeply connected into one’s everyday life in the polis. To be truly human, one had to be an active citizen to the community, which Aristotle famously expressed: “To take no part in the running of the community’s affairs is to be either a beast or a god!” This form of citizenship was based on obligations of citizens towards the community, rather than rights given to the citizens of the community. This was not a problem because they all had a strong affinity with the polis; their own destiny and the destiny of the community were strongly linked. Also, citizens of the polis saw obligations to the community as an opportunity to be virtuous, it was a source of honour and respect.

I’m not sure if its my Greek roots or my leftist views, but this appeals to me as well.

So in bringing these two last source together (and I know I’m taking a giant leap here), I can say that digital citizenship can be extended to include;
1) A responsibility to critical interpret our place in the collective, especially in terms of power, authority, influence and position, and
2) An obligation toward bettering our (digital) communities through critical, ethical and moral decision-making.

Again, I know it’s a leap, but I may fill in the gaps later.

OK, enough theorizing. I’d like to give you an idea through examples of why I think this missing piece is critical to our understanding of digital citizenship.

1) Star Wars Kid: Perhaps the greatest tragedy for Ghyslain Raza is that he will forever be known as the Star Wars Kid. This young boy was a victim of a global, yet widely unintentional, bullying assault which prompted him to end his school year in a psychiatric ward. At the time, most could claim that they didn’t know better, and this is likely true. There had never been a viral incident like this, and some predict there will be nothing like it again. So what have we learned? Have we been any kinder to our youth or adults that make mistakes? Do we join in on the laughter? Do we act? What do we do?

2) LonelyGirl15: Controversy emerged when “Bree”, a supposedly 16-yr-old YouTuber who went by the screen name of LonelyGirl15, was revealed as a corporate hoax. Since then, other Youtube hoaxes have emerged including Bride’s Massive Hair Wig-out and The Pit Breakup. Types of democratic media (e.g., blogs, video) which have been instrumental in exposing the lies and biases of corporate media (e.g., RatherGate) are also being used in these same, coercive ways. While it may not be the end of the world when the content is light as in these examples, this can be much more severe when the topics are more critical (e.g., Global Warming is a Hoax, or Pro Suicide). Certainly, critical literacy is important here, but it’s more than that. If deception continues to be the fad, what are our roles and responsibilities?

3) Prison Thriller: A while back I blogged on the “Prison Thriller Video“. When I first saw the video, I didn’t think much of it, until I saw a post from Scott McLeod reporting on the “not so thrilling” background to this video. With media rushing at as so fast, it is so difficult to analyze anything very closely. Do we need to slow down and explore in more depth? And when we find cases like this, what should/can we do about it?

4) 2G1C: In recent weeks, the 2G1C video has been classified as a viral video, as well as a shock site. I have linked to the Wikipedia page about this video, I encourage you NOT to seek out the original, and I assume that after you have read the description, you will not want to. This is not a video I would usually talk about in an educational blog. I would not usually want to bring more attention to something like this. The problem is, it’s too late, and I don’t see any educators talking about this and what the implications may be.

The problem I see is that this video is becoming somewhat mainstream. Boing Boing (they’re ranked #3 in Technorati) has covered the issue several times. A search in Youtube, which will NOT bring up the video itself, links to over 6300 reactions. These are people watching the video, reacting to what they see, usually getting sick and disgusted. Most of these reactions are from young adults and teens. One individual even set up his grandmother to watch the video to tape her reaction. Horrible.

5) Facebook-like Petitions: A while back I asked a few questions about the Internet and prosocial change. I received many excellent responses (Dave Cormier’s for example) but one that has stuck in my mind was from Brian Lamb. He writes,

Is there any more anemic and ineffectual form of protest than a Facebook petition? The practice seems to be solely about a form of preening self-indulgence: “look at me,” the Facebook activist is proclaiming, “I care.” It reduces political and social engagement to a form of self-branding, no more or less significant that the lists of favorite movies, bands, silly quotations and virtual hugs and SuperPokes.

This quote pretty much speaks for itself in the context of this post. When social activism and engagement are reduced to these types of activities, what do we need to do to change this?

Of course, there are many more examples I can include. If you have your own that fit within (or outside of) this thinking, let me know.

I’m just beginning to rediscover what digital citizenship means. I know it needs to cover more than safety issues, literacy and etiquette. I know it is not just about our rights as online citizens. It needs to concern itself much more with social responsibility and social learning than is currently being addressed.

10 Worst Consumer Tech Trends – Education Edition

PC World has released an instantly popular list of the “10 Worst Consumer Tech Trends“. As soon as I read the list, it was easy to see the parallels in education. Thus, here’s my educational take on the list.

10. Closed Source Technology – I’ve been an advocate of FLOSS for quite a few years now, in fact, my dissertation had much to say about the topic. While we are nowhere near a world where Linux is ubiquitous, we’ve made a lot of progress through Firefox, Open Office and newer software like Google Android for mobile devices. In my courses, I make use of our Windows and Mac machines, but introduce many open source apps on the desktop. As well, Linux Live CD’s are used often to get beyond the tyranny of the desktop.

While we have a long way to go, my best indication of how far we’ve come is that the terms “open source” and “free software” (not simply a the “free in beer” sense) have become much more common in conversations with my non-techy students and colleagues. I think there are many experiencing a mental shift, however, we need to catch up through user interface and viral marketing approaches.

9. Over-promising and under-delivering: I’m still convinced that salesmen do more educational technology planning than educational administrators. I know of institutions locked-in to student administration systems like SCT Banner for periods of more than 10 years when (I’ve been told) there are other open source solutions available. I hear nothing but complaints from institutional users of Blackboard, people who’d rather learn Moodle on their own than go with the supported, Blackboard “solution”. IBM Learning Village is a common “instructional portal” in many school districts, one that has been abandoned by many teachers in favour of flexible, free environments, services like Ning.

And while we’re talking “over-promising, under-delivering” we can go beyond the issue of proprietary software. Larger, conceptual frameworks like course/student/learning management systems or just about any monolithic learning “solution” (or learning theory for that matter) can be critiqued in a similar manner.

8. Fanboys: “The definition of fanboy (or fangirl) is an individual who harbours a fanatic devotion to something without logical reason.” While at times I might be considered an Apple fanboy, I’d argue that I’m promoting a particular concept more than an specific product. I wrote a while back re: the Apple iTouch and the potential implications for learning. And while I love my iTouch, I was more critical to the fact that I needed to Jailbreak it before it actually became a usable, personal learning device.

And in relation to this point, I’m witnessing a disturbing trend in some parts of the edublogosphere as of late. I’ve ditched several, (once) trusted blogs from my reader in the past few weeks due to their less-than-critical, over-promoting of certain Web 2.0 tools and services. Note to those (few) edubloggers: if you’re on the take, your readers deserve full disclosure.

7. Region-encoding: I couldn’t think of how this applied to education in any significant way. Any ideas?

6. Licensing fees: Put simply, I do everything I can to avoid any content or products where licensing is required. I promote freely available media through such sources as the Creative Commons and As well, I nurture a learning environment where learners become producers nearly as much as they are consumers. At the same time, I do recommend exemplary copyrighted works, and do understand this livelihood model. However, the bar has been raised in relation to what I will spend money on. In this abundance economy, I need a strong demonstration of “value-added” before I ever consider pulling out my credit card.

5. Format wars: I haven’t much to say on this topic other than getting into a rant on the Open Document Format, and others have said it better. Anyone?

4. Proprietary file formats: Most proprietary products produce proprietary formats out of the box. Whether it’s a .doc, AAC or even .mp3, these formats can cause a huge issue, proprietary file format lock-in.

3. Annoying web ads: I won’t get into a rant against web-advertising. I am one of those people that pays to make my learning environments ad-free. For instance, I pay about $20/month to turn the ads off in my Ning groups, and I pay a smaller fee for my Wikispaces pages. For those in K-12, it’s great that you can turn off the ads in both of these services for free.

2. High cost of wireless data plans: It’s remarkable how many of my students have mobile phones. Even when I visit K-12 classrooms, the number of cell phones is high. For now, I can only dream of the possibilities for mobile learning. Our data plans in Saskatchewan and throughout Canada are simply too expensive to do anything creative. And beyond that, we’re not even at 3G yet. Maybe someday.

1. DRM: If DRM has done anything for our education system, it’s helped to nurture authentic, problem-based learning activities in our hacking communities. DRM does not work. It will never work. The system has to change. We are now seeing the power of an emerging, decentralized era. See Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails.

That’s it. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Apple, Open Up

I’ve had many computers in my life. I grew up with the Commodore Vic-20, the Coleco Adam, the Apple ][ series. In particular, I spent most of my adolescent and teen years on an Apple //c, in fact, this same computer took me right through my early University years.

Apple //c

I remember exploring my computer as a kid. My //c had a few hardware issues along the way, and instead of asking my parents to fix these issues, I turned first to my own experimentation. Without any knowledge (or thought about safety), I took my //c apart numerous times and was always able to fix any issues.

So in a sense, maybe this has been Apple’s strategy all along. If you keep things locked up, eventually adolescent boys will want to “get in”, play around and fix things to make them work better. It seems to be working. After all, it took only a 13yr old hacker to unlock the iPod Touch. OK … I’m thinking that hypothesis is quite unlikely.

My New iPod Touch - PerfectioniPod Touch. I must admit, Apple designs beautiful products (even the //c was amazing for its day). Out-of-the-box, I was able to do the following with my new device:

    – play music, podcast and video files,
    – browse Youtube directly,
    – browse iCal (calendar) events, contacts,
    – browse the web via Safari, and
    – use a few other basic applications (e.g., clock, calculator)

Things I could not do out-of-the-box include:

    – checking mail through Mac Mail mobile application,
    – adding calendar items,
    – viewing weather data,
    – using a notes application,
    – browsing a mapping application,
    – checking the status of my current stocks, and
    – add any third-party applications.

The iPod Touch is capable of using virtually all iPhone applications, but these have been disabled. I understand Apple’s business model, and I assume that they are doing this as to not cannibalize the sales of their iPhone. However, in doing so, they are missing out on a huge opportunity for educational uses of these devices. More so, we’re missing out (i.e., faculty, teachers, students) on what this could bring for mobile learning

Within about a week of owning my iPod Touch, I felt that I could no longer be locked down. It is my right as the owner of this device to use it in anyway I wish (of course, without harming others). I understand that it is not within my rights to distribute the code. Therefore, I am not distributing it, but simply, linking to it.

Unlocking and adding third party apps to the iPod Touch is incredibly simple. The process is automated through downloadable software called iJailbreak. There is a slight possibility of “bricking” your device, but this can be corrected through a firmware restore process. Once the jailbreaking process is complete, you will now have many of the iPhone apps on your iPod Touch. Additionally, you will have greater control of your device, will be able to automatically (and easily) install any new apps and also be able to FTP in to your device.

The only thing that was not resolved by the Jailbreak process was the Calendar function, the ability to add events to your Calendar from the Touch. While it has been widely reported that this was a bug and that Apple had intended to allow this functionality, the “fix” shows pretty clearly that this was intentional. Enabling this feature involves nothing more than getting into plist code, and changing a preference to “true”.

So, Steve, why do we have to play these games? The iPod Touch is an amazing product. For just over $300, Apple has designed a beautiful mobile device which features rich multimedia, web browsing, email and data entry. For the price of 4-5 fat clients in a classroom (an approach that is popular in my parts), you can equip 20 students with these devices. There is so much lost potential here. C’mon Apple, open up!

Update: Even an easier, one-step iPod Touch/iPhone hack has been developed. Simply point navigate your Touch/iPhone to Read about this here.