Just playing with Animoto - here is a movie from the LAMS conference
I’m at the LAMS European Conference in Cadiz, where we’re presenting some of the work from the OU Learning Design project. Grainne gave a keynote on Thursday morning, along with Stephen Downes. Simon and Andrew presented their work in the afternoon, and I got co-opted (read press-ganged) onto the panel at the close.
Stephen was talking about he made an Audacity recording of his presentation, and that constituted a learning object in his view, although it wouldn’t meet many of the strict definitions of one. Grainne was talking about our Cloudworks project (loosely based on the Flickr for learning design concept) and the importance of adding in the social factor to encourage educators to share. Listening to Stephen and Grainne talk one thing struck me – education often seems very bad at solving some of these problems. For instance, learning object repositories haven’t been a resounding success despite being such a plainly good idea. And yet Slideshare is very successful and could be thought of as a repository. So why did they succeed where many smart, dedicated people in education failed? Here are my suggestions:
So the question this raised for me was ‘is there an equivalent change we can do for learning design that happened for learning objects?’. I’m hoping it’s Cloudworks, but it may yet be some smart start-up in San Francisco.
Photo story: In the conference bags the LAMS people gave away a lamb in a can. My bag was devoid of this item, and I tweeted to this effect (it could constitute my travel gift for my daughter). An international incident of bodyline proportions was thus avoided when one was donated to me.
Fellow UK edu-blogger Doug Belshaw had the unusual experience of being censored last week. He had done a post back in May looking at various VLEs. In it he had compared them and made one provider, TALMOS, had come out unfavourably on some accounts.
The company whose VLE product I did’t rate very well threatened me (via my school) with legal proceedings.
The upshot was that I felt it was in my best interests to remove the ‘offending’ paragraph so as to not cause difficulties within my school. I replaced it with one that, in my eyes, was more damaging to the VLE vendor: that they’d almost forced me to remove any criticism (however slight) by referring to ‘legal proceedings’ in their communication with my school
The point here is not whether Doug was right or not in his assessment, but that this is such a poor way to play the situation. When people talk about markets being conversations, they mean you talk to users and engage them in dialogue. A good response to Doug's post might have been something along the lines of "Sorry you didn't like it Doug, actually it does do what you want" or "We always welcome feedback, actually in the next update we're going to include that", or whatever. The aim is to engage the blogger (unless they're a nutter and are suggesting your software is made by sucking the souls out of children or something, but then no-one would listen to them anyway). It's a grown-up conversation we're having here, and threatening legal action is just not the way it's done. I'm always impressed when I blog about a piece of technology, good or bad, and get comments along the lines of the ones I've suggested, from the software company. It makes me well-disposed towards them, and likely to offer genuine feedback.
What the threat of legal action nearly always demonstrates is that those doing the threatening simply don't get it, they don't understand the nature of the online world and how you engage users, create mutually beneficial dialogue and generate good publicity. It's bad enough for any organisation to reveal this, but for a technology company it's reputation suicide. CEOs need to know when not to listen to lawyers.
Oh, and in case it's needed - these are my views not endorsed by any organisation I am associated with.
We had a very good user workshop on SocialLearn last week (Jo and Nigel have both blogged about it). That one was for OU folk, but Simon Buckingham-Shum has organised another one for non-OU people (apparently they do exist I've been told), on the 1st and 2nd July. Details are here if you're interested:
(Apply there, not through me - I'll only lose it)
A couple of thoughts from the last one:
i) Organising successful workshops which have the right amount of interaction and information giving is a definite skill. I don't have it, Simon does, so thankfully he's organising these.
ii) There was a very active backchannel in operation, to the point where I wondered if the presentations weren't becoming the backchannel and the twitter conversations the foreground. It didn't prevent very fruitful discussions in real social space though, and probably encouraged them (for instance I found out that Michelle was friends with Howard Rheingold through Twitter). But I'd like to foreground it more, so maybe have it displayed during the presentations. Mind you, Simon used Ning to this effect, and that was interesting to watch.
I was really pleased to be asked to contribute an article to the edition of On The Horizon that Michael Feldstein is editing. As part of the procedure all the authors are writing a guest blog post on e-Literate. It feels kind of like getting the opening slot on the Parkinson show (US readers - substitute with Leno).
My piece is up now, called SocialLearn: Bridging the Gap Between Higher Education and Web 2 (surprise choice of topic, I know!). As well as talking about SocialLearn I wanted to make the argument that the technology we (individuals and institutions) use is a metaphor, or at least an artefact, for how we engage with the social issues. My argument then is that the conventional LMS is the wrong metaphor, not just the wrong technology, for engaging with some of the changes we are seeing that we might cluster under the web 2.0 banner. I am in the position of being able to quote myself, so I'll let M Weller sum it up:
I would suggest that the reason the centralised LMS is not the answer to the ‘web 2.0 problem’ for education is because in its software DNA it embodies the wrong metaphor. It seeks to realise the principles of hierarchy, control and centralisation – the traditional classroom made virtual. This approach won’t help educators understand the new challenges and opportunities they are now facing.
Brian Kelly has a post about UK universities on Facebook. He states that the OU is the most popular university on Facebook:
"The Open University Facebook page is the top of all University pages, with 7,539 fans (with the University of Michigan way behind in second place with 5,313 fans (up from a count of 2,874 a month ago). The other most popular UK Universities are Aston University (2,976 fans), Royal Holloway (1,765), Aberystwyth University (1,655 fans), University of Central Lancashire (1,475 fans), Keele University (1,420 fans), Cardiff University (1,357 fans) and the University of Surrey (1,166 fans)."
Now we might quibble whether number of fans equals most popular, but certainly if having student use Facebook were a goal (or, even better, if it was linked to funding), then the OU would be doing well.
I think there are three possible reasons for this:
Now the first two aren't factors other universities can do much about, they are intrinsic to the nature of the OU. But, if they wanted to have a reasonable Facebook presence (a debatable goal), then is the last one relevant? Does creating University applications increase your Facebook presence?
I'm afraid we can't answer this with any solid research, but here's some thoughts. I reckon the presence of our apps has three functions:
So, my hunch is that the OU applications have contributed to the OU's popularity on Facebook, but it is difficult to quantify this (unless someone wants to give me lots of money to research it).
Following on from our business models discussion, Tony has a really interesting post on some back of a beermat calculations on what you would need to generate from ads to match current revenue for courses. It assumes there is no other income, ie students don't pay fees, no Government subsidy, no additional services, etc. It's a bit hard to follow, so here are a few headlines.
Now, of course, there are loads of assumptions and simplifications in Tony's model, check his original post to see these. But what it does show is that current revenue streams would not really be sustainable on a pure advertising basis, at least as we do it currently.
Now I don't think we ever thought they would be, but it's good to get some figures against it. So, let's pretend Governments stopped funding Higher Education tomorrow, how would we fund it?
Here's some thoughts:
But most of all it would mean we don't do education like we do now. This is the big (and necessary for his purposes) assumption in Tony's post - that new forms of return need to equal current ones. If Government funding disappeared then so would many academic jobs and functions. Education would become much leaner, so who knows, maybe the ad model could fund this new stripped back model. The question then would be who would want to work in such a system?
I have visions of an 'academic call centre' with bearded profs answering phones to queries on Heisenberg while an aggressive 18 year old manager prowls the floor, barking out admonishments:
"Russell, stop smoking that pipe!"
"Dawkins, you've been on that call for two minutes, if they haven't got evolution by now, hang up."
"Everybody - three minute journal break, then back at your desks."
If we didn't know it already, Tony's post highlights that education doesn't come cheap, particularly the sort of education system educators would want to work in.
Tony has posted a follow up to his original vid, so in the spirit of friendly competition, I'd best follow suit. I have taken my Future of Content post and done an eduVJ (as Patrick dubbed it) mix. I'm not sure it works as well as the first one, mainly because this is trying to make more of an academic point, so maybe the fit to the song isn't as neat.
I'm enjoying doing these though, and this one taught me some more about using Camtesia (such as save your file because it might crash out half way through). The last one was a Camtesia recording of Powerpoint, this one was all done in Camtesia. I hope you'll forgive this experimenting in public approach, it's a good way of learning.
Anyway, here it is, I'll do a YouTube annotated version later too, but this is the Blip.TV one:
YouTube now allows you to add annotations to your uploaded videos. It's very easy to do (to go back to my previous post, another example of lowering the 'cost' to the user). So, I took my edupunk video, and added some annotations, see below.
What adding comments does is potentially transform any video into an educational one. Much of teaching can be seen as providing commentary, analysis and interpretation on the world. YouTube annotation allows this second order decoding. If you combine that with the discussion permitted by comments and you've suddenly got a pretty compelling learning application. At the moment (I don't know if there are plans to change this), you can only add annotations to your own, uploaded videos. It would be much more powerful for educators if you could add annotations to other videos.
So here is my edupunk video with annotations. By adding these comments it changes from being a jokey nod to some of the people involved and edges closer to being an edupunk 101, ie you could use it to introduce the concept to novices now, in a way you probably couldn't with the original. You have a comparison now, the original unannotated version on Blip.tv and the annotated version on YouTube. I prefer it without comments, since any humour that may have been present in the original is destroyed by explanation. But the latter is a better teaching device.
[I've just tested this and despite what YouTube says, the embedded version seems to lose the annotation - click on the vid to go to YouTube where the annotations do work]
I've been reading Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody. In it he argues that organisations have costs that means they struggle to compete with masses because the masses can afford to have lots of failures, because the cost of failure is low, and the ease of organising is now drastically reduced. I made a similar argument in the Future of Content, by using natural selection as an analogy. Natural selection can afford to make lots of mistakes because it has thousands of individuals and millions of years to experiment over. An individual designer cannot afford to have so many dead-ends. But when it comes to producing complexity, this massively distributed process wins.
Shirky's argument is that social communication tools have lowered the threshold for organising. He gives an example of organising photos from an event - previously this would have required someone to organise it, to get in touch with all possible photographers, to collect and publish their photos. Now all that's required is that people stick them up on Flickr, and use a tag, independently of each other. The cost of organisation has collapsed overnight.
Things such as eduglu, sociallearn, loosely coupled teaching apps, and PLEs have been much on mind recently, so when reading Shirky's book I thought some of the same arguments he makes for organising people could be made for technologies. The 'cost' of organising, or integrating, applications used to be high, but through approaches such as widgets, RSS, web services, etc this cost has drastically reduced.
To make my point here are a couple of Shirky quotes which I'll then rephrase for technologies.
"By making it easier for groups to self-assemble and for individuals to contribute to group effort without requiring formal management, these tools have radically altered the old limits on the size, sophistication, and scope of unsupervised effort"
"By making it easier for tools to (self) assemble and for applications to contribute to the environment without requiring integration, these approaches have radically altered the old limits on the size, sophistication, and scope of any individual to create their own environment"
And this Shirky statement:
"because the minimum costs of being an organisation in the first place are relatively high, certain activities may have some value but not enough to make them worth pursuing in any organised way. New social tools are altering this equation by lowering the costs of coordinating group action."
Can be recast as:
"because the minimum costs of being an integrated environment in the first place are relatively high, certain applications may have some value but not enough to make them worth pursuing in any organised way. New data techniques are altering this equation by lowering the costs of integrating all applications."
So, it isn't a case of here comes everybody but here comes everything. What's an educational tools? Whatever you want it to be.