What is e-learning now?

Yesterday I got the opportunity to speak again at the Chisholm Institute ‘Ripple’ Conference at the Mt Eliza Business School, overlooking Port Phillip Bay; this time with a focus on what e-learning looks like to me  now and how can help support teachers through change.

Last year I focused on the students who were coming in to tertiary institutions from k-12 schools and what that meant for learning environments. This year my focus was more on the teachers. It was a beautiful spring day, maybe the first real spring day this year, and the conference was well run with a group of teachers who wanted to be there.

Below is a an abridged version of the slideshow with some of the key ideas. There’s also an annotated list of the resources I used on Diigo here: http://www.diigo.com/list/warrickw/ripple-2010

The end of Ning

One of the worrying things about ‘free’ online tools is that one day you may have to pay the price. Which is what is happening at the moment with NING, an online tool that educators have taken a lot of interest in,which announced last month it would be discontinuing its free service.

It took me a little while to understand the potential power of being able to create your own social networking site but once I ‘got it’, I saw the power. I’ve talked a bit here about some of the Nings I’ve joined and even some I’ve created. Some haven’t worked. For example, the Ning I created for me and my cycling mates was a total disaster with interest level petering along about the level of my puncture stories. I wont even link to it; it’s too embarrassing.

But, some have been great. I created a Ning for a network meeting that I attend twice a term and it’s worked really well. The Expanding Learning Horizon Conference Ning was very handy and the ASCD Conference ‘Edge’ website, modelled on the Ning ideas, was better and more useful than the official website. So, I understand now.

But some day you’ve got to pay the piper, and last month Ning announced it was discontinuing its free service in favour of a paid model. Bad. Bad for me and time I’ve put into my cycling site and the network site, but worse for large, well developed Nings like Classroom 2.0 which currently has over 42000 members. I guess you could say that with that many members the site should be paying (and maybe they are) but bad for those people who’ve invested time and energy and content into something that is now likely to disappear. The screenshots below from Classroom 2.0 show it as a lively and interesting place.

Ning’s latest blog posting ‘Mythbusters‘, sounded just a little defensive to me as they tried to claim that they would still have a model for educational and non-profit organisations. We’ll see next week.

Meanwhile, don’t start any new Nings until you see their new pricing plans and be aware that some of the tools we’ve all become pretty reliant on (Gmail, Wikispaces, Wetpaint etc.) might one day decide they want to update their business model or simply fold up the tent and slip into the night.

I’d be worried about Wetpaint next. Take a look at the most recent look of my Peninsula Creeks Wetpaint site. A giant, inappropriately contextualised ad for ‘Glee’ and Google Ads taking over the navigation space down the left hand side. Hmm. Maybe we’ll all go back to building our own web pages again. Now, where’s that book on HTML got to? And, WordPress and this blog is safe. Isn’t it?

Ipad as a tool for students?

Of course I’m going to get myself an ipad sometime in the forseeable future and enjoyed StephenFry’s piece on this new tool in TIME last month. Maybe for me it will be the second generation version, when the bugs like wireless dropping out have been fixed, but I must admit I wasn’t really seeing the ipad as a tool for students in the classroom.

As a long time proponent of the 1-1 computer version of learning, I couldn’t see the point in giving kids a relatively under-powered device that lacked the content creation facilities of a decent notebook computer. Our students get the full version of Office, large chunks of the Adobe Master Collection including Photoshop, Illustrator and Acrobat Pro along with a suite of other software like Inspiration, Photo Story and some tablet-specific things like Ink Art. We’re looking at flash drive based machines running Windows 7 that start up quickly and can multi-task with ease, as the students can too!

But I was talking to an educator yesterday who was pretty enthusiastic about the Ipad as a learning device, particularly for younger students. And that was something I hadn’t thought about, concentrating as I was on students like my senior Literature class who have been using OneNote as their note-taking tool and collaborating on multiple wikis.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to this post by Will Richardson, which has a video conversation with NY TImes columnist Warren Buckleiter, who talks enthusiastically about the potential of the ipad for younger students: the power of its tactile nature and the growing range of possible apps. The conversation is here:

ACEC 2010

I had the interesting experience of being home and online this week while the ACEC Digital Diversity 2010 Conference was on in Melbourne and for the first time I felt that I could be pretty connected the goings on from a distance.

The Twitter stream coming out of that conference was detailed and reflective. I used Twazzup or a specific search column in Tweetdeck to keep up to date with what educators were thinking about live sessions, and even the official conference website incorporated the Twitter updates right up on their front page. It also helped that Steve Collis was live-streaming some of the sessions from his notebook computer. The audio was great and while I couldn’t read all of the PowerPoint slides that presenters were talking to, I could keep up very well with the presentations.

And those presentations and thoughts aren’t lost in the ether either. Do a Twazzup search for #acec2010 and you can re-live some of the  conversation and finds links to longer blog posts reflecting on the conference and resources like this page from Gary Stager. where I found his article debunking the New York influence on our current curriculum agenda and his Amazon list of books for combatting Julia Guillard. Nice stuff! And I could sneak out for a bike ride and check out the live surfing webcast from Bells Beach as well!

combat books

How to teach the smartest generation

I was pre-disposed to enjoy Don Tapscott’s ASCD session on the net generation and I wont detail it too much as I’ve blogged here before about his writing and his books, including the latest, Grown Up Digital.

Some good quotes to take away though were:

‘Some universities aren’t post-Gutenberg, they’re pre-Gutenberg’

‘The internet is not a problem; it is a learning opportunity’

The Conference Daily, a daily newspaper of the conference (yes, this conference is that big) reported Tapscott this way:

‘We are creating a generation that is thinking differently from every other generation before. These students are not just multi-tasking, they have better abilities to code-switch. They are constantly searching, story-telling, collaborating, developing and authenticating.’

He urged educators to disable the ‘generational firewalls’ that they had erected between them and their students and embrace a culture of collaboration, integration and self-organization. Banning social media such as ‘Facebook’s says, ‘We don’t understand your tools. We don’t trust you’.

Superintendent Power

I’ve had a bit of trouble figuring out just what a superintendent is; one presenter described his as the ‘king’; I think it’s a cross between a Principal and a District overseer?

Anyway, I attended a session on ‘Empowering the 21st Century Superintendent’ which was about empowering, re-engaging and equipping leaders to be ‘tech-savvy’ leaders.  They’ve even put a ‘toolkit’ for superintendents online at superintendentempower.org

The basic idea, that school leaders need to be confident enough about new technologies to make the right decisions for their schools, is a good one, but the questions around the room at the end of the session were unsettling: ‘how can we use these tools to drive instruction?’, ‘what tools did you use to know this stuff works? and ‘If you upload software you could  jam up the system and bring in a virus couldn’t you?’.

And, an emerging thread that resonates with my thoughts on Australian directions: too much from Central Office!

The Education Revolution

Video promoting the NSW component of the ‘Digital Revolution’, the 1-1 notebook (or netbook) program. NSW, which originally seemed unenthusiastic about the Federal Government’s plans to give each student a computer (where’s the infrastructure) seems committed now. Scott McLeod calls it a great idea in his recent blog post, and it’s hard to argue with putting powerful tools in the hands of our students.