64 posts categorized "Wiki"

December 04, 2007

Knives and restaurants

Knives An anecdote from Jimmy Wales this morning:

Think of the last restaurant you went to. Did you have a knife on the table? Did you know that knives can do real harm if they are used to stab people? Have you seen our new restaurant? We keep each customer in his or her own cage, so that no harm under any circumstances can be done to others.

You wouldn't expect that, would you? We have common rules and consequences for stabbing each other in restaurants, and they work.

Why would you expect individual cages in your institution when it comes to using Wikipedia?

Pic: Wiseacre

The truth in numbers: creating communities

Wikiafrica The Wikipedia Academies, set up in Africa and India and documented in a forthcoming Wikipedia film The Truth in Numbers, reveal some of the reasons behind the success of Wikipedia.

There are 280m speakers of Hindi yet only around 14,000 articles written in the language on Wikipedia. On a trip to an Indian slum, where parents have to create their own schools in the absence of any government services, Jimmy had thought perhaps it would be useful for more articles to be published in the local language, Hindi. However, the parents, who pay handsomely and go through hardship to send their children there, are desperate for their children to learn English, as this is the way out of the slum.

On the other hand, the 'father' of the Swahili version of Wikipedia saw it as an opportunity to start documenting the oral history of his country and culture. Until that point stories were deemed not to "be true" unless they were written down. He was able to hand that power to the people by kicking off the home-language Wikipedia.

And although the net is exploding, it remains a huge challenge to get the most basic connections into areas like this, and the challenge of hardware, poverty and connectivity remain the basics if we are ever to achieve freedom of information to all.

This is why Jimmy has travelled to these places, trying to find nodes, or 'fathers' and 'mothers', who can work day in and day out to create content, build community, take ownership of their pages. These five or ten people then go out, thinking about their own connections to find nodes, and help build expertise in editing and managing Wikipedia, and achieving something for the good of everyone in their communities.

Who would the potential 'mothers' or 'fathers' in your community be? Could you set up an 'Academy' to get these nodes working for the good of the community?

Related posts: The Red Cross of Information

The Red Cross of Information: Wikimedia

_mg_9788 This is the first of several posts from Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales' keynote at Online Information Conference, London.

Charles Van Doren, in 1962, said: "The ideal encyclopedia should be radical. It should stop being safe."

About 40 years later it's costing about $1m last year, $2-3m this year, to run Wikimedia, a tiny financial drop in the ocean when you consider the impact that its encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has had: it's the 8th most popular site in the world (even in Iran, not the first country to come to mind for the freedom of its information, it comes in at 14). And the best thing: all of this comes from tiny donations, the biggest ones generally amounting to no more than $50-$100 from any one individual. Literally, little pieces loosely joined.

What is free access?
Free access is, in the sense outlined by Richard Stallman, based on four freedoms:

  • freedom to copy
  • freedom to modify
  • freedom to redistribute
  • freedom to redistribute modified versions

and all of this commercially or for the common good.

This all comes from the GNU FDL type licencing, yet most of the other 'free' culture movement platforms (like Flickr, for example) come under the Creative Commons scheme.

Soon, Wikipedia will be licenced under the as yet unpublished new GNU FDL licence, whereby Wikipedia can be relicenced under the Creative Commons Share and Sharealike scheme. This should mean an easier linkage between all these sources of 'free' information, and maybe make clearer the similarities, and distinctions, between what constitutes 'free'.

Coming up today on edu.blogs.com: Online Information Conference

Want to hear what Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has to say about the state of information in the 21st Century? Stay tuned to both edu.blogs.com and Connected Live for more...

Coming up this week on both edu.blogs.com and Connected Live, live blogs from one of the world's best and biggest conferences on the state of information in the 21st Century, Online Information Conference, at London Olympia. I've been honoured to be part of the Expert Advisory Committee for the conference this year, to see the huge number of talented people who have proposed some mouthwatering sessions. There are 101 countries represented this year, a record-breaker by any measure.

On edu.blogs.com, I'll cover the main points from all the sessions on new technologies, while on Connected Live, I'll try to draw some lessons for the Scottish classroom, curriculum and technology futures. You can subscribe to edu.blogs.com here, so as never to miss a link, or copy this feed address into Feedblitz to receive Connected Live's highlights via email every morning.

First up, will be the main points from the keynote of Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia...

October 20, 2007

Keynote: Harnessing The Leading Edge Of Technology

1473611480_fc91d87636_o Thanks to the kind people at Core-Ed the video and slides of my last 'season' of talks on how all of us can lead education and technology change in our schools, Local Authorities and organisations have been put online for all to view. There's also a Google Video without the slides.

Every time I do a talk or seminar it's different; in the age of podcasts, vodcasts and conference blogging it's only a fool or a lazy researcher who says the same thing day in, day out. The main lines of this talk have been popular but two points were raised afterwards which are worth tackling. They are both related, one about the substance of what I showed in the talk and the other on the 'entertainment only' value of new technologies. I disagree (of course) with both, because I believe they're just wrong.

In this version of the talk I have unashamedly concentrated on the final products of learning, giving passing mention to the importance of the changes in process that leads to them. I was, if you like, appealing to the professionalism and attitudes of teachers to think about what the processes might have been, rather than just listing what changes took place.

The second relates as much to the way I present stuff as to the depth of change and transformation these new technologies offer. Yes, they are entertaining, and what's wrong with that? Yes they increase motivation for being rather fun to use. But they also transform the way we do things because they open collaborative and time-shifting opportunities in learning that have never, until now, been on offer.

I hope these points come through for most people, but any other ideas or feedback you have that hasn't already been mentioned would be greatly appreciated.

September 18, 2007

Google Docs Presentations: It ain't Keynote...

Google_docs_presentations ...but it does have a black gradient template.

If you go down to the woods today in your Google Docs account you'll notice that you can create a new document, a new spreadsheet and, yes, a new presentation. Collaborative presentation writing has been born.

It's great if you like using Microsoft Office tools, since it resembles PowerPoint pretty well. It's also got the distinct advantage of being a presentation tool on which you can collaborate with many other people, simultaneously or asynchronously. From this perspective, it makes school PowerPoint presentations something much more feasible, leaving F2F time for some more valuable types of learning to take place.

The disadvantages? Limited fonts on offer, no facility to embed video (just images) and no transitions to make your presentation flow. I guess it depends on who you're presenting to, what you're presenting and with whom you're presenting it.

But at least it's there. Another handy tool in the box. They've even put up a wee video to show how it might be used.

August 15, 2007

Kevin Kelly@Pop!Tech: Where does collective intelligence begin?


  Poptech 2006 
  Originally uploaded by poptech2006

Kevin Kelly gives some astounding insights on how the web resembles the human brain, in his Pop!Tech 2006 performance.

The web is currently being clicked on
100 billion times per day, with over one trillion links. This is the same number as there are synapses in the human brain. Likewise, one quintillion transistors make the web go around, which is about the same as the number of neurons in the human brain. There are 20 petahertz synapse firings on the web and 20 exabytes of memory - the parameters of the web as a whole entity are very similar to the human brain. One problem: our brains are not doubling in size every 18 months.

What does this mean for us?
It means that the collective intelligence gathered on the web, especially right now as its collective power bypasses the power of the individual's mind, means that no one body is truly more powerful than everybody. It means that we can say with increasing confidence that technology has the potential to define us and our culture, rather than the other way around.

Kelly makes a point that SecondLife and The Sims, for example, could or should have an equal status as any other thing that we have created in the past, greater, perhaps, than any other piece of art.

Does collective intelligence have a starting point?
I'm going to attempt to beg to differ on one account, just to see where the argument might take us.

To comfortably say that what we have produced collectively is better than what one (genius) artist or creator has made then the whole power of the web must be mobilised, every link and synapses would have to be used in one direction for one creation, to truly use more "brain power" than the one genius individual human mind that created the object which is respected by the relative masses.

It's easy, perhaps, to see the collective superiority of wikipedia over one individual's knowledge, but in the realm of creativity we are looking at things far more subjectively. Everyone has an inkling of creativity in them, so the differentiating factor, as Stephen Heppell commented last month, is ingenuity. My definition of ingenuity is completely different from the next person's. My definition of optimum collective output might only be that from 100 really ingenious creatives (as defined by my criterion) rather than from one million randomly average creatives on the web.

So we reach a key question in trying to work out where the collective intelligence boon of the web begins: how do we know the tipping point where collective creativity and collective pulling of knowledge is greater than the specialisation and ingenuity of one person or a smaller number of these 'ingenious individuals'?

May 17, 2007

Getting down to some Extreme Learning


  NQTs getting down to some Extreme Learning 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger.

This kind of working position summed up some exciting ideas coming from our Newly Qualified Teachers in East Lothian this morning, as they attempted to make sense of the ideas behind Extreme Learning and put what have been mostly concepts and ideas into some sort of practice.

You can see some of their work already, although the rest might take me some time to upload:

These teachers were incredibly challenged when they were asked to create a framework for a project which would relate to the four capacities of our Curriculum for Excellence, which would should some kind of intellectual challenge by virtue of doing the Extreme Learning project and which incorporated some kind of reflection.

And that was it. Really, it's quite a fluid set of guidelines that Don started the day with and this, it seemed, proved to be the main challenge: "What are we meant to do?", "What knowledge are we meant to cover?", "Is this too narrow - or if we add anything else is it too broad?", "How long would this take to 'cover'?" In brief: the way we have been taught throughout our lives colours - heavily - what we are capable of thinking about, or at least the ease with which we think about it.

In the end they came up with wonderful projects. I've taken the main overviews as pictures here, from which you can link off and follow their progression, exploring their projects in the way you want to (it might take me a wee while if you're reading this hot off the press.) There are also some nice snaps of the teachers in action in this set.

Here are the key observations from the group that were at Musselburgh this morning:

Different perceptions of primary and secondary teachers
This may be down to the feel of their working environments. Primary teachers, being, in the best sense of the words, the 'jack of all trades' have teaching practices which are far more akin to the Extreme Learning ideas (a secondary teacher talking here). There is some crossover, but perceptions get in the way. The opportunity here is that we have generalists in primary with specialists tapping in.

Secondary teachers may be struggling with the (cue huge generalisation) more restrictive, narrow style of learning and set questions which set learners off down certain paths.

Primary colleagues put a greater emphasis on breadth and also, interestingly, on the learning environment, whether that be physical, virtual or mental. Open spaces, time to think, opportunity to explore tangents, even if they are false leads.

We stand a massive advantage if we can learn from our primary colleagues. Asking in either sector "where this fits into the curriculum" has to stop. The curriculum (and technology, or the lack of it) should be no reason to preclude youngsters comparing, seeing others' work, judging their own level of practice and achieving better. Had our own NQTs seen the examples before they started perhaps they would have been able to do all this better.

Traditional learning expectations vs Freer thinking and frameworks
Depth was lost because of a lack of time perceived by one team, a team which felt they had gone down the wrong path due to a misunderstanding. Clear cut instructions from a teacher lead people down particular paths, though, so maybe we need some guidance and examples of how specific different ages of learners have to be.

The first research question is the hard part. Once that's nailed the follow up questions help form the mindmap in such a quick time to discover new leads.

Assessment
Our NQTs were asked not to apply a grade to other projects, but rather place themselves in relation to the other eight projects. What was fascinating is that only two groups out of the nine placed themselves first, with equal amounts going for third and fourth. One swayed between fourth and fifth. No-one went below fifth place. So does Extreme Learning lead to more confident individuals than kids who think they're "no good at school an' stuff"?


Technology as a means to share, collaborate
Plagiarism has come up as a potential issue. Don's answer is well founded. Extreme Learning projects like these are not about getting an Honours degree, a good grade (the end product); they are about the process, a means of getting somewhere else. David made a great point that echoes Ken Robinson's Out Of Our Minds thesis about the commoditisation of qualifications. Perhaps the process, the things learnt through it and the evidence that's there for all to see on the web will be the thing that sway uni entrance officers and employers when they are faced with 100 very similar CVs.

I don't think that plagiarism is possible, either, because the projects by their personal nature are individual for a start. But also, what will be 'plagiarised' are presentation ideas, methods of working, ways of planning. They won't be lifted directly, but rather translated into the context of that particular learner to make their learning better.

Above all, the advantages of sharing and collaborating online far outweigh the cost of dealing with those who think they even can attempt to plagiarise entire projects, as Don's setup post explains. In this type of learning you really are the only one to lose out if you plagiarise.

Problem solving approaches, extreme learning projects and evidence
The first two approaches work - that much we know. But what is the role of the third in either celebrating or stifling these approaches. Criterion-referencing is a myth - it's all norm-referencing to some degree. Running projects online is a great way (the only way?) to reinforce regular norm-referencing, self assessment in relation to others. It's also a great way to check that progress is, in fact, being made.

Who's leading the project?
We do learn more from doing a project like this than being teacher led the whole time. But what is the balance between the two. There is more control of the individual's learning by the individual.

The confidence factor
What about kids who lack the confidence to grade themselves, or who grade themselves low the whole time? Does differentiation through outcome alone, and not groupings of kids, provide enough support to coax these individuals before?

Conclusions
The fact is, that working in this way is probably taught, not caught. We'll need to take every kid through a dry run of a project to build that confidence in a safe environment.

Update: see it from a probationer's point of view over at Dave Cain's place.

Update: see Don's rundown of what happened, why and what we all gained from the day.

May 15, 2007

eduBuzz, blogging and engagement

I wasn't able to attend last night's eduBuzz Open Meeting, since I was giving some training down the road in Tranent. Reading the many posts of those present makes me wish I had been there, too - ashame that we haven't worked out how to be in two places at once. These are the bullet points I would have made had I been able to attend: [Disclosure: I'll have a certain bias ;-) since I've been working on the design and growth of the site and WPMU system since August]

  • The eduBuzz homepage:
    Most of the suggested improvements on Stuart's ace post are, in fact, on the task list for the site, and many have been since last November. The reasons for these tasks not being carried out is almost certainly down to the prioritising of work with teachers themselves in the classroom, instead of development of the site. This is something which, I feel, we need to work on more, even if, in the short term, we have to say 'no' to a few teachers to get it done something, on reflection, which can hang on seven weeks until the summer hols. Things that I believe are vital to get done asap:
    • accurate statistic gathering - we still don't have an accurate measure of use of the 'portal' page or our blogs;
    • a dynamic element on the homepage to show the most recently updated headlines from a selection of eduBuzz blogs;
    • a short strapper to explain what and where eduBuzz is (although talksharebuzz gets it over to most people I've met);
    • clearer links to the help wiki (large Help button) and consistent underlining of hyperlinks
    • changing of wording (thanks Stuart) from tools to raison d'ĂȘtres in the Explore page (something we have done quite well in the Share page)
    • the PageFlakes team are currently skinning up the PageFlakes pages to have more continuity between the main eduBuzz home and the edubuzz.pageflakes.com page.
    • the development of A-Z pages of themes and contributors, which have been on hold since November, are essential to give an overview, and the data exists already in the eduBuzz blog, just waiting to be alphabetised, ordered and skinned up. We could also use MyMaps along with MyMapsPlus to create a geographical layout of at least the teachers' blogs.
    • the cluster PageFlakes pages need populated asap from our blogs database.

    Ollie
    and Don blog that we will be making a change from the current page to the eduBuzz blog: a bad idea, for my tuppence worth. Give some time for the current page to be brought up the standard it could (easily) be and continue to improve. The blog format, for most newbies I work with, is more confusing than the simple invitation to Share or Explore, or to get some help.

    The eduBuzz blog would also need some work to make it usable for newbies - it currently takes at least three clicks to find a blog from a list, with no indication of whether it's active or not and a relative difficulty to browse without having to constantly click back. The current eduBuzz pages demand only two clicks (through Explore) and then present the user with a selection of current posts and current blogs, arranged by cluster or by some themes (such as Glow). These pages are also constantly changing as new posts are added by our bloggers, providing more reason for people to come back often to the page.

    I have to say that my experiences with people around the country and above all in East Lothian, who have never heard of eduBuzz or participated in a blog, 'get' the site quickly and find it unthreatening enough to get as far as creating a blog. It's hard for a User Group which, as Dave points out, is made up of those who are already there or willing to give it a go to also be representative of all those who don't want to give it a go.

  • eduBuzz Conference:
    Large conferences have their advantages, generally of the networking nature, but generally they have low impact - it's a small group who take ideas forward into the schools.

    That's why the team behind eduBuzz have also been working on TeachMeet training sessions. The clue's in the name if you've ever been to a TeachMeet bloggers' meetup. The training sessions are done with a group of people who are already a community face-to-face: a whole school, several school departments, a cluster. They learn together, get to the same benchmark together and then have an opportunity to plan in a new skill to their work for the next term.

    These are incredibly cost effective as they capture relatively high numbers of people yet with a low tutor-trainee ratio. The training takes place in their school, with their equipment. There is follow up from the ICT Team, since it's inhouse and not an outside expert who knows what the school is likely to need in terms of support over the next few months. Everything we cover - including blogging - has a huge potential to impact on students' (and teachers') lives.

    These sessions are gaining great popularity and a steady stream of bookings is coming in from around the Authority. Again, I think this needs to be given a chance to have its effect.
  • Critical mass:
    There is always a desire to have the 'masses', those who are not innovators and first adopters, adopting the tools on offer in eduBuzz, particularly the blogs which, I guess, still have a cool factor. The fact is, since September, since the introduction of the right tool for the job, the right kind of portals to capture life in East Lothian schools, the suitable training and priceless online support through things like the eduBuzz wikis, we've attracted about a quarter of our teachers to blogging alone - that's beyond critical mass (you'd normally consider a respectable 20% critical mass). We've gone from a modest 20,000 visits a month to nearly ten times that.

    Ultimately it would take one task to move things on yet again: put the current eduBuzz.org page as the homepage on every computer in East Lothian schools. Curiosity would get the better of most students (and teachers, I'm sure). Once we've got more people sharing we might even lower the profile of the Share page and put the aggregator or personalised homepage forward as the next solution. Then we're onto no clicks to find interesting content you want to read or view.


For me, the priorities and opportunities for eduBuzz lie more and more with the outcomes of the Teaching and Learning Group of the Authority, who, every time they meet, seem to make the link between sharing online and pedagogical change easier and easier. When the messages start coming from the line of pedagogy instead of technology I think we'll see the next burst of growth in eduBuzz. After all, that's what it's all about...

May 04, 2007

The Future of Computing in Schools

Img_5751 I'm offering a mininote at the second day of Scotland's first ever summit on the future of computing (applied ICT, computing studies...). How does this subject sit in a school and 'real' world where computing infiltrates to an extent that many kids are potentially experts in the subject before they begin it?

Professor Brian Boyd, one of the architects of the wonderful potential in the Curriculum for Excellence, is stirring us up first, and believes:

  • the synthesising mind is the mind that will make the difference in our planet. Our curriculum does prepare kids for learning this essential skill;
  • collegiality needs to happen for successful cross curricular connections and synthesis to be made;
  • learning to learn, thinking and understanding are at least as important as learning stuff, if not more so. The Curriculum must help teachers teach kids about the unknown. Gone are the days where the teacher can second guess what might be in the examination and success for the students ensues;
  • students need to be able to perform their understanding in many different ways - it's the only way we can be sure they are learning. That means that assessment and classroom work are being adapted to allow this performance, rather than the regurgitation we've seen before.
  • we must focus on understanding. "How many times in the recent past have you heard yourself say: 'I don't care if you don't understand it, just learn it. That's all you need for the exam.'?"
  • inter-disciplinary learning, rich tasks, extreme learning - these are big challenges for many subjects, but perhaps computing studies is one of the best placed to take advantage of it. The Australian rich tasks work has shown that the subject disciplines are actually reinforced by inter-disciplinary work.


Is there an 'e-pedagogy'?

Personally, I don't think there is a separate e-pedagogy, and Brian agrees. Pedagogy changes to harness the richness of the technological enhancements on offer. This is something I'll bring up in my talk, too, with my reference to the HMIe's report on ICT.

What are the challenges, then, to achieve all this much better?

  • The downward incrementalism of exams - people writing as fast as they can for two hours is no way to test whether children can 'perform'. This deficiency trickles down to all areas of education.
  • Vocational versus academic - a false dichotomy? Like Brian's son (ubiquitous mention in every talk, I've seen his son grow up from Standard Grades [when I was studying teacher training] to his degree [now]) I studied a vocational course at university: Law.
  • Deep and surface learning.

Mark Tennant from East Lothian and David Muir have been here for the full two days and have just started to capture the debate around the promise of a Scottish system open to change and what happens elsewhere in the United Kingdom and the world that was being discussed yesterday. They'll also, no doubt, capture what it is I'm just about to go on about.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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