This is the season for conferences. Immediately after MINA 2014 — 4th Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium in Auckland (where I discussed Phonar Nation), I attended an ascilite (Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education) conference at my home campus, the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. At ascilite 2014: Rhetoric and Reality, I delivered a presentation about Finding and Sharing Educational Resources using Twitter, Hashtags and Storify. Again, I recorded the audio using my iPhone, uploaded the file to Soundcloud and embedded it below, along with the slides, which I uploaded to SlideShare. You can play the audio while advancing through the slides without leaving this post. The paper has been published online as part of the conference proceedings.
This paper reports on the use of Twitter, hashtags and Storify to connect with individuals inside and outside the university who have a shared interest in the future of libraries. The objective was to discover and share educational resources that were applicable to a class project, by engaging with experts through social media, rather than by searching for the resources directly. A related aim was to discover how even limited social contact with others could result in a more collaborative, networked approach to problem solving, in keeping with contemporary design practice. Over the 13-week course, 250 Twitter messages were collected, narrated and archived by the course Lecturer (and author), using Storify. During class discussions, students reported that the resources were useful, and they commented on the effectiveness of reaching out beyond the classroom in this way. This trial also provided insights into how such collaborations could be taken further.
Here is a presentation I delivered at MINA 2014 — 4th Mobile Creativity and Mobile Innovation Symposium, which took place November 20-21 at AUT (Auckland University of Technology) in Auckland, New Zealand. The sessions were recorded through Google+ and archived. My session (27:30) can be viewed on YouTube. I also recorded the audio using my iPhone, which I held as I talked. I omitted the discussion that followed the talk because the questions and comments were not picked up in the recording. The 23 minute talk, which I uploaded to Soundcloud, is embedded below along with the slides, which I uploaded to SlideShare. If you play the audio while clicking through the slides, it’s almost like being there. I also created a Storify archive of about 180 tweets that were published during the symposium.
In this paper, I discuss Phonar Nation, a free, open, five-week photography course that was offered twice during the North American summer in 2014 as part of the Cities of Learning initiative. Photographer and open education pioneer Jonathan Worth created and taught the non-credit course to individuals from 12-18 years of age through a website designed to work on mobile devices (http://phonarnation.org/). The author followed the course as his twelve-year-old son completed it from New Zealand. The community-based Phonar Nation initiative extends the work that Worth and his colleagues have done with Phonar (Photography and Narrative), an open, for-credit undergraduate course at Coventry University.
I argue that Phonar Nation highlights several related developments in education that are leading to innovative approaches at different levels and in different contexts. Firstly, Phonar Nation is not only open access but it also uses and produces material that is open to be shared through the use of Creative Commons Licenses. Secondly, it is collaborative, both in the way that it is produced and taught, and in the way that participants are encouraged to engage with one another in community settings and through social media sites. Thirdly, Phonar Nation exemplifies an approach to learning that advocates call Connected Learning, which is accessible, interest-driven, socially situated and geared to extending educational and economic opportunities.
Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a piece in the Guardian about the Last days of Kodak town: the decline and fall of the city photography built. I lived in Rochester, New York during my Wonder Bread Years.
My family (me, two brothers, two sisters and mom and dad) moved from Ontario, Canada to Rochester in the fall of 1963. I remember we all watched JFK’s funeral in the Maple Leaf Hotel near the border, on the Canadian side, just before crossing into New York State.
I followed the link in the article to The death of Kodak town – in pictures, (about a book of photographs by Alex Webb Rebecca Norris Webb, which looks worth chasing up) and I wondered — what does the neighbourhood where I lived as a child look like now? I searched for our old house at 409 Harvest Drive, on Google Maps (click on the images below and you can explore the neighbourhood, too).
Well, like the rest of the city of Rochester, 409 Harvest Drive has seen better days. Google Maps Street view shows that the family that was living at 409 Harvest Drive in July 2012 (the latest Google Street View Photo) has been there since at least September 2007 (the earliest Street View Image). They were still driving the same pick-up truck, so they’re not helping Detroit much. Or Flint, Michigan. The front lawn and garden are in sad shape, and the big tree is gone. I ‘walked’ up Harvest Drive to Ridgemont Plaza, which looks old and tired. The whole area looks a bit neglected.
My memories of living on that street, in that house, include painting the picture window with poster paints every Christmas, finding a turtle on the road and biking back to the house to get a box to put it in (it was gone when I returned, of course), and digging a tunnel out from the front door during the blizzard of 1966.
I also remember photos of us all in front of that house, no doubt taken with Kodak film. I think those photos are around somewhere, continuing to fade. I remember visiting the sprawling and impressive Kodak plant, which is about 15 minutes drive from where I lived, on a school trip. It was like looking behind the curtain of a massive, magnificent magic show, and I was mesmerised. Between exhibitions of historic photographs, scientific explanations and product demonstrations, the tour guide led us through an endless maze of dark corridors punctuated with red safe lights. Those lights are well and truly out now. In 2012 the Eastman Kodak Company, the great photography pioneer, filed for bankruptcy. Like so many other companies and industries, they failed to read the writing on the wall.
This is a brief report on the 2014 Innovations in Tertiary Education Delivery Summit (#ITES2014), which took place on June 5-6 2014 at the Auckland Museum. The focus of the summit was online education generally, and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) in particular. The two big questions that were posted on the conference website and discussed in small in groups during the event were:
How will technology change the nature of tertiary teaching and learning in the next ten to twenty years?
What are the challenges of changing delivery and uptake of education for existing institutions?
A discussion document, Massive Open Online Courses, prepared by the Tertiary Education Commission, was released ahead of the summit to provide some background about MOOCs, especially in the New Zealand context. A 2016 scenario guide to effective tertiary education in New Zealand: Planning resource for senior managers (13-page PDF, Sept. 2012 Andrew Higgins, Niki Davis, and Pinelopi Zaka) served as a scenarios guide. A 206-page Government and sector-level tertiary e-learning initiatives An annotated bibliography (NZ Ministry of Education, June 2014), published just before the summit, provided a review of the literature dealing with eLearning initiatives, with a focus on Open Educational Resources and MOOCs.
The two-day event was opened by Hon, Steven Joyce, and the presenters included Professor Jim Barber, Simon Nelson (FutureLearn), Christian Long, Dr John Gattorna, Mark Sagar, Stephen Haggard (read his Maturing of the MOOC, 2013) and Salman Khan (founder of the Khan Academy). The New Zealand Herald reported on the summit on Friday June 6.
MOOCs — ‘how to live with them and love them’
Stephen Haggard’s ITES2014 presentation (from slideshare)
A show of hands at the beginning of the summit indicated that few of the participants had experienced a MOOC first hand. Not many used Twitter during the event (I archived 276 twitter posts that included the “#ITES2014” hashtag) and, although attendees were invited to post comments on a website, the conference presentations were not streamed or archived. This is a shame, as many good points were made and several innovative projects were discussed (the archived tweets include links to some of these).
Minister Joyce said “Can I encourage you to focus completely on the learner”, and he noted that more would have to be done to “incentivise innovation”. However, he also acknowledged that the tension between teaching and research was likely to continue. Several presenters talked about the disaggregation of higher education and the increasing need for institutions to specialise. They advocated for substantial changes to the tertiary sector, and for a more flexible, technology-enabled, customer-driven approach. The small group discussions, however, dealt with some of the more practical issues and concerns. These included the importance of open licences (see Creative Commons) and the danger of compromising public control over higher education by partnering with for-profit MOOC platforms.
Simon Nelson announced that the University of Auckland will be offering two MOOCs through the FutureLearn platform later this year (‘Academic Integrity’ and ‘Data to Insight’). There were no other major announcements or discussions of planned initiatives. Whether Massive Open Online Courses will be part of the tertiary landscape in ten or twenty years from now is hard to say, but is its is likely that digital networks will be, and that more change is going to come. Rather than asking how technology will change the nature of tertiary teaching and learning in the future, perhaps we should ask ourselves what changes we would like to see and how we can work together to develop, and realise, a shared vision.
On Wednesday evening (March 26), I joined about 30 others at the launch of the Dunedin Free University. Appropriately, the event took place at the Kokiri Training Centre, 51 Macandrew Road, in the heart of South Dunedin. The Twitter profile for @DunedinFreeUni describes it as a “Free Knowledge Community”. There is also a website and a Facebook page for the project.
The Dunedin initiative is based loosely on the Melbourne Free University model (@MelbFreeUni), which was started in 2010. We heard about how the Melbourne project is structured, how it has grown over the years, and how we could learn from it. Participants gave short talks about the increasingly instrumental nature of higher education, and how knowledge is often treated as a commodity to be sold, rather than as a contribution to the public good. We heard about the history of free education, and how citizens have initiated community-based intellectual discussions in different countries in the past. Someone reported on the problem that rising tuition fees presented, especially in the UK.
We talked about what a community-based knowledge sharing group could do, and what it would need. Meeting spaces were discussed, ideas about how to access books and other resources were suggested, and the use of a photocopier was offered. To get things started, a course on sustainability, running on the last Wednesday of the month for six consecutive months, starting at the end of April, at the Kokiri Training Centre, 51 Macandrew Road, was discussed.
Whatever else they do, institutions institutionalise. Whatever else we teach there, we teach institutionalisation. Many of the systems and technologies that comprise, and operate within, traditional institutions of higher education have been internalised to such a degree that they have become invisible to us. We can’t change what we can no longer see. By operating outside traditional institutions, and by leaving behind the roles, hierarchies, and behaviours that they frame and enforce, we are free to redefine our relationships and to rethink what a learning community can be.