there doesn’t seem to be a post 25… in the either is suppose
Nice Saturday afternoon here on the East Coast, and a very interesting day of talking to some very nice people in Europe about the upcoming nordic conference, and how to make money at this edtech stuffâ€¦ I have a ton of things iâ€™m playing around with, which is part of what makes all this so fun. One of the things that keeps coming up on my radar screen is Elgg. For those of you who listen to the webcast/podcast, you know that I am very fond of the program for many reasons. As Harold Jarche said on the brainstorm on Thursday night â€œelgg is the first program to really invert the paradigm, to allow the user to create their environment, to choose to create their own groups etcâ€¦(pardon the pitiful paraphrase harold)â€ Soâ€¦
Who the %$@ am I to talk about it?
Contrary to what people might imagine considering how much I talk about this program, i have no formal affiliation to the elgg community. Iâ€™m a teacher and an edtech who started looking for software for my own students a few years ago, and just came across this in a conversation with Nick Noakes in edtechtalk #5. I installed it, instantly liked it, and have been playing with it ever since. Iâ€™m currently edteching for 2 installations, both K-12, teaching a university level course with it as an adjunct to moodle(comparing its usage to blogger in a comparable class) and hopefully will be a member of it in another, continuing-ed context. Four elggs, four different situations. I have experience, not knowledge. This is not meant to be a definitive post, but more the opening of a conversation on four fronts, with pieces filled in as I go.
What is it?
Elgg is, in the words of its founders, a personal learning landscape. In the words of others, itâ€™s a multiuser blogging platform with FOAF capacities, and still others an e-portfolio platform. It supports tagging and podcasting, as well as RSS. The elgg.net installation has a couple of thousand members, and is by far the largest installation i know about. Itâ€™s being used for communication between professionals in companies, for students in a classroom, as a meeting community for people of various interests, as a blogging platform, and as an eportfolio environment. It has a couple of really cool features which facilitate this, everytime you post to the site or add a file, you can mark it as public, restricted(to a particular group) or private. It also very easily facilitates the creation of impromptu groups by people who are members of the site allowing for a very natural layout, controlled by users. It will not grade tests for you, or allow you a great deal of control over other members of the site.
This is something that I have just started, and I actually moved the class to a computer lab for the first go at it. They registered and were up in about 10 minutes. They posted quite easilyâ€¦ and seemed to have a good time for a first day, Iâ€™ll update as we go.
It can offer some much needed security if you are looking for a private environment, and also has one feature that really sells it as a blogging platform for students – at the click of a button, you can see all the posts made by everyone on the site.
The install into a root directory is pretty straight up. mysql database (import the .sql file), includes.php file, a couple of chmods and youâ€™re ready to run. If you want to install out of root, thereâ€™s a couple of minor adjustments that need to be done, but not a big deal. It has a simple, effective admin panel. More than youâ€™d expect from a 0.3 release, but not what youâ€™d get from something like moodle (which i like btw, the less control the admin has over somthing like moodle the better, although there are a couple of features like more control over registration that Iâ€™m hoping for for 0.4, also possible with a little playing around) There are apparently still serious issues if you wish to play outside the English language. Iâ€™m told they are working on it, but itâ€™s an important consideration.
If itâ€™s so cool where can i get one?
Last i heard, the elgg guys were offering elggs for people to try out. Go to elgg.net and post on the site. Itâ€™s the best way to get started. If thereâ€™s a more formal way of registering Iâ€™ll find it and post itâ€¦
Over the next few months, Iâ€™ll be talking about the relative success of the different projectsâ€¦ Iâ€™ll keep basically the same format, and weâ€™ll see if itâ€™s any use to anyone.
2 Responses to â€œElgg – an intro or A teacher, A techie, A flower making bask(i)etâ€
Will has focused another conversation for me here, on another gloomy morning on the red dirt island. Although my kitten is desperately trying to flay the flesh from my thighs (that or sheâ€™s trying to jump up on my lap to find out what all the clicking is about). Willâ€™s post is about the feedbooks less blog focused sister, the wikibook. Iâ€™m going to try and tap out a few ideasâ€¦
I worry about the loss of the ability to read a single author. Maybe this is my sacred artifact that I canâ€™t let go but it seems to be thereâ€™s something in the single voiced bard/storyteller that needs a certain literacy that students will lost without that (Eric Hobsbawm comes to mind (Willâ€™s comments a couple of days ago about not reading books anymore strikes an even deeper chord).
Of course, most textbooks are already really multivoiced, which is why they are so dead sounding. Theyâ€™re written to deadline, see bunches of editor/censors and are designed, for the most part, to toe the line. Not very inspiring stuff.
wikibooks once the big guys get involved
I think that the wiki-stuff will be BETTER researched than the textbooks, especially after a year or so, once everyone has edited out the errors, gotten rid of the boringly written parts, and added the best annecdotes from hundreds of teachers around the world. Imagine it, all the coolest stories made up of the experience of all those teachersâ€¦
As to deep knowledge. Wikipedia isnâ€™t designed that way. Not too difficult to get an expert driven wikibook. Imagine if Eric Hobsbawm started an FOAF community to â€˜writingâ€™(sic) the definitive wikibook. Sound pretty cool to me.
In addition to the freshness of the material, the multiplicity of voice and perspective and the fact that your textbook will never be out of date, one of the first things that would happen is a decentralization of the instructor. While the instructor would usually be responsible for the basic set of links (although I believe Iâ€™m going to be in a class soon where we start with none) gone will be the rabbit out of a hat magic that comes from controlling the flow of knowledge. Students will actually be able to add to that flow of knowledge as their research brings up new sources of course material.
Whatâ€™s it going to look like
Some of the ideas I read and have been discussing areâ€¦
- You could just use an open source aggregator like rssowl on each personâ€™s desktop
- [http://planet.eduforge.org/ eduforge] has a an example very close to what the content of my own feedbook would look like
- So far the solution I like best is a combination of delicious and some program or website. Iâ€™m currently playing with [http://aggrssive.net aggrssive] a great little product from UBC but the install is giving me some problems – i doesnâ€™t come with instructions.
- My ideal would be to plug del.icio.us into elgg. That would be my dreamteam for the feedbookâ€¦
If you wish, post your responses and additions here, or go over to the wiki
Some of the more interesting comments on feedbooksâ€¦
Scott Wilson OPML is fine if its just resources being shared; FOAF:Group with dublin core metadata is a better model when mixing both resource information and participant information
Hanoi ICT I think the feedbook might partly be a solution to my attempt to introduce VLE in the IMIH project. What if Ms Quy and myself set up a blog on the integration of ICT in education that is translated into Vietnamese by Ms Hong (possibly in collaboration with other VVOB project on the integration of ICT in education in HCM).
Gardner Campbell Iâ€™m thinking that college is now the opportunity not only to begin oneâ€™s personal library, but also to build oneâ€™s personal suite of trusted and inspiring experts. That of course is what already happens to some extent, but now it need not be confined to the campus. The campus is where the beloved local professor simply starts the ball rolling.
2 Responses to â€œFeedbook – 1 month anniversaryâ€
Cold, windy and rainyâ€¦ me and the rest of continental North America I guess. Nice to see so many new faces on the website over the last 24 hours, that Stephen guy sure has alot of friendsâ€¦ Itâ€™s weird though, kinda like being a ghost in an odd, pleasing dream where crowds of people you donâ€™t know show up for your birthday party, and you wander from room to room, wondering who they are and unable to ask them. So it goes. I think iâ€™m far too spoiled by the â€˜right nowâ€™-ness of the internet. This is probably good practice for me.
Loved Will Richardsonâ€™s post yesterday. He was saying that a teacher was complaining that students were blogging the Questions and answers to tests between classes. I couldnâ€™t help think of my rotters in Korea. Long before i was introduced to anything other than â€™survive the dayâ€™ teaching, I realized I couldnâ€™t stop 40 students in a classroom from cheating. Itâ€™s a science there, from writing on the inside of the label on the coke bottle, to actually keeping your notes on the wall of the classroom, you could track it, but never beat it. So I started writing tests that couldnâ€™t be cheated onâ€¦ Thereâ€™s a problem with thisâ€¦ they take forever to grade. Nothing like a nice multiple choice test for getting in and out of grading (especially if youâ€™re using a test engine).
But hereâ€™s the questionâ€¦ why test them at all? In willâ€™s words
- â€ why, if the answers are already out here, are we asking our students to give them back to us on an exam? I can understand why we used do this, back in the days when the answers were difficult to find.â€
But now what it means for a student to â€˜knowâ€™ something has changed. Imagine, using our examples drawn from the article I referenced yesterday, how great someoneâ€™s memory had to be to recite the Iliad. They did it from memory. Those long descriptions of the people who were present before the gates of Troy were meant as a test of that memory. Being able to do it would get you a few nights in a castle, a bunch of wine and some decent foodâ€¦ now? If it were a child, maybe a trip to Letterman(the special 12 hours Letterman devoted to little Chrissy who can recite the entirety of an old, old play), but youâ€™d be an oddity. A curiosity. That form of knowing is outdated. Sure itâ€™s neat, and we can imagine a situation where having that kind of memory would be useful, but you ainâ€™t getting into a castle with it.I still think that multiplication tables should be memorizedâ€¦ i use mine all the time. ABCsâ€¦ sure. Iâ€™m sure we could come up with a list of things that would be useful to keep a permanent place in my mind. The dates of the Prime Ministery(sic) of Margaret Thatcher? Takes two seconds. There is, in my mind, no conceivable purpose for memorizing this information. In an age where people are bombarded with data from a hundred sourcesâ€¦ Thereâ€™s an old line from Sherlock Holmes that comes to mind in talking to watson he says â€œyour mind is like a lumber room, things wanted always buried.â€ We need to organize information, to find it, to assemble it – not memorize it.
Lets look at the sabotaged test a little closer. If the students are blogging the answers, and this is bad, that means that these questions have one (or potentially a couple) of right answers. That would mean weâ€™re probably talking about definitions, or something similar. Freely available all over the internet. If the students are blogging the questions, and this is bad, this means that the teacher is not telling the students what is on the test. This implies that the students are expected to study, and remember, a great deal of material that wonâ€™t even be on the test. Not only is it possible that remembering it (as opposed to storing it in a convienient digital location) will be useless, they wonâ€™t even be able to use it on their test!
What good does this do? Well, it helps memory practice. It encourages students to do meaningless tasks and obey. there are some problem solving skills involved in learning how to beat such tests. I guess the make up of a plant cell might come up in conversation some day (not that I can remember which part is which) And on this pointâ€¦ they always had the diagram in their textbook! Why did i memorize something that i had a book to read from dammit!
What bad does it do? More than anything else, it leads to alienation. Alienation from the system, from people in positions of power. Force someone to do something without purpose and watch their trust in you and/or your system fade.
The Learning 2.0 that Iâ€™m talking about addresses the literacies that the students are going to need (indeed, have always needed). The people who are successful, whether in charity work, business, politics or family life are not successful because they remember things (except the last and laundry, remembering this being very important iâ€™m learningâ€¦) They are successful because of their creativity, their ability to adjust to change, to get along with others, to sway peopleâ€™s opinionsâ€¦ If we really want people to be able, for instance, to out-think commercials (think of how much money Oscar Meyer has made over the years with that damn song theyâ€™ve put in so many childrenâ€™s mouths) they need those same old literacies, the successful ones, to be able to navigate what knowledge means today.
Our testing should reflect this. But how, how oh how, can we test and not test memory, while still leaving teachers the time to cut their lawns? The way good teachers have been doing it is balance the creative learning against their schedule. Do as much as they can handle, and draw the lineâ€¦ or burnout and face â€˜realityâ€™. The reality that the way the system is constructed does not allow for the teaching of many of the more useful literacies. This is where all this tech comes inâ€¦ We can set up a whole new set of goals, not test goals, but accomplishment goals, and use the digital slave to do the work. In this world, the kid who was getting the answers on the test from his classmate gets a C, the one sending the questions a B and the students sending the answers an A. The C for finding information, the B for for helping focus the conversation, and the A for giving people exactly what they need to succeed. This is knowledge, as it exists today.
hard on the head.
These are the things i wanna cover (blog style). What does it mean to know, right now? What does it mean to be literate? What are these modern literacies? What, if anything, do these questions have to do with e-learning 2.0?
This article that started many things for me. It opened my mind to the question of â€œwhat it means to knowâ€. I had studied philosophy, but most of it was old and/or anglo-american, this was my first trip into the postmodern. The article traces the history of some of the tools that are associated with knowledge use: writing, the printing press and now the computer. Think about the transition from Socrates to Plato. Socrates is supposed to have complained that writing would ruin discourse as well as ruining peopleâ€™s ability to remember. For him, memory was everything. There was no other way to record things, and therefore it was the primary â€˜literacyâ€™ that people needed. Follow that thought through the written word, past the mass production of the printing press (see reading/memory) and on to our era of hyperinformation. Too much of everything. What are the modern literacies?
I was talking to a teacher friend of mine Christina Forgeron tonight about teaching, elearning 2.0 and why it matters. I was saying that knowing is changing, and that soon whatâ€™s taught in school will have very little relation to the world at all. Not a new topic, I know. David Warlick and Sara Armstrong wrote a very interesting article on how traditional literacy was perceived and how it needs to be updated. There position is that now there are new literacies that students need to learn, that the world is changing at a wicked pace and â€œhow the traditional 3 Rs, naturally and out of necessity, evolve into 4 Es to define literacy in an increasingly, and soon to be exclusively, digital and networked world.â€ The word â€˜literacyâ€™, as it is inherited from the old education system, seems too conflicted to remain in its singularâ€¦ how does one, for instance, relate the root of the word literate with numbers? Are we reading numbers? We are moving to 4, why not five or six, and why keep using the singular? I fully agree that the idea of digital storytelling, scanning, processing should be included in our conception of literaciesâ€¦ but iâ€™d like to talk about how we got here, and the foundational issues that this transition away from old-literacy â€˜bring upâ€™.
So again, here are the questions I want to talk about. What does it mean to know, right now? What does it mean to be â€˜literateâ€™? What are these modern â€˜literaciesâ€™? What, if anything, do these questions have to do with e-learning 2.0?
In the old model of the classroom, we have experts at the front of the classroom, who taught students the things they needed to learn to work in a factory: be on time, accomplish your task, listen to authority, to read, to write and to count(notice our 3 Rs). This model worked well with the original intention of these schools, to teach the poor the necessary skills to be able to work in the factories of industrial revolution England. We had the cane, instructions to â€™speak when spoken toâ€™, and a strict set of rote things to learn. Ideal training ground. Over the intervening years (dave treads quickly, trying not to exhaust his audience, I have this research around if anyoneâ€™s interested) we moved away from that initial conspiratorial beginning, but have never really replaced its goals with new goals. This leaves us, I argue, with a new school system without any clear goal. By this i certainly donâ€™t mean that teachers or administrators donâ€™t have goals, I mean the system itselfâ€¦ the testing, the learning the memorizing the succession of â€˜gradesâ€™ to pass through donâ€™t have any purpose. Why do we send students to school? What is the purpose of it?
If we call the reading and the writing and the rithmatic â€˜literacyâ€™, we have the same conception of literacy that we see in these initial â€˜poorâ€™ schools, the schools that were designed to keep the poor, poor. But what does it mean to be literate. To read. But what does it take to read a society? If I give you a book by Chomsky (or the article by b. stewart above for that matter) and you donâ€™t have access to the technical or social language, can you â€˜readâ€™ it? When someone who hates Goerge Bush writes something to someone who loves him, can they really read it (or vis versa)? When you look at a tag cloud for the first time, or you â€˜googleâ€™ someone, are these simply skills that you are using. My position here is no. Literacy has never only been about the 3 Rs. Itâ€™s always been about a set of cultural understandings, social and personal skills combined with some very basic sign reading. Or, to put it another way, very complex sign reading of simple signs.
This is backed up by the experience of most teachers. The single most important skill a student needs when they start school is to be able to sit in a chair. After that, maybe focus on a task. Ability to work on groups, play fair, take criticism. Where, in this group, is â€˜read lettersâ€™? Any teacher worth anything can teach a student that the letter â€˜aâ€™ sounds like it does when spoken, but itâ€™s them knowing how apple sounds that really brings you over the top. Itâ€™s the cultural knowledge that allows people to learn. Ask a child to do a science fair projectâ€¦ is it their handwriting or addition that mattersâ€¦ or is it their experience project managing? These are real literacies. These literacies have not changed in the over-information age. There are a few new ones, but for the most part, those that are going to be successful will succeed on the same set of skills that they did 50 years ago.
Warlick/Armstrong also say â€œSome months back, Michael Cox, a chief economist for the Federal Reserve Bank, predicted to a group of students that they would have at least five jobs after they graduate, four of which havenâ€™t been invented yet.â€ I agree. And the pace of change is increasing. What used to take 3 generations, now takes 1 or even half a generation. But my job didnâ€™t exist when I was born. Nor was anything I was taught in school designed to prepare me to meet it. School has NEVER filled that role. It has filled the role of controlling the populace. Teachers who have been successful with their students, have, on their own, added a purpose to their teaching.
As I see it, we have reached a crisis point in modern education. We are reaching a point where the students in our classrooms have more literacies than their teachers do. We are also reaching a point where the disciplinary ideas of that original â€˜military modelâ€™ classroom have completely broken down. Students now understand their rights as citizens and are no longer staying in their place when they are told. They now speak before they are spoken to, and often. They are sceptical, and cynicalâ€¦ and too often violent. For many of us we see the way out to give them a voice, give them a purpose at school. I certainly see publishing (blogs, vlogs, podcasts etcâ€¦) as offering this. What Iâ€™m saying here is that the reason it works is that at this moment in time, there is no â€˜reasonâ€™ for school.
We used to transfer knowledge onto the next generation. Lets take a look at this knowledge, and think about how it would look to somone pulgged into the world. In the united states, the second world war started in 1941. In Canada, 1939. One could argue that for the Italians it started in 1935, and Eric Hobsbawm argues that the first world war never really ended, and that what we had was a 31 years war. Who is right? No one really. Itâ€™s all a matter of perspective. I will accept that the sentence â€œWWII started in 1834â€³ is incorrect, but there is no way to navigate through the other ideas without context.
This is what the internet offers us, infinite context. We have to navigate through it all to judge what is right for us, and for the people we live with, love and care about. In my mind, every time someone learns something new, thinks a new thought, changes their mind on a long accepted position, listens to a speech and decides whether it is valuable, or true for them, they are using a variety of literacies. The literacies that I learned as a child, Iâ€™m using to navigate this big beautiful beast. We all are. They are cultural literacies. They are our self confidence. Our audacity. Our ability to work together, to learn from others. Why would we imagine that the next generation needs anything different. What we need to do is decide what we want our schools to be. No one wants the military model. But do we want a system without a clear goal, or do we want to try and figure out what â€˜good global citizenâ€™ means to us, and figure out how to teach it. This is the opportunity given to us by elearning 2.0â€¦
The skills, or literacies, havenâ€™t changed. What has changed is what it means to â€˜knowâ€™. We will still learn this knowledge using our ability to work together (now more important than ever) and our memory will definitely be used diffently, but knowing is about connection. Itâ€™s about communities of knowingâ€¦
gotta stop, Iâ€™m getting carried away.
6 Responses to â€œE-Learning 2.0 – Why bother? – or â€œA rant on how techknowledge changes everything and always hasâ€â€
Had a really great chat with a bunch of people last night on the show. Bud the teacher, Todd Vanek, Ant Jackson, Jeff Lebow and Jeff Flynn, Learndog and Pete Pasque all joined us at different times to talk about all kinds of stuff including the private public blog e-portfolio debate and what each of us has been doing over the last week trying to pull our edtechs together. Bud was telling some great stories about directing student blogs toward the guidance councillors in order to create some safer and more honest dialogue. It did alot to quell some of my fears from the post I made a couple of days ago. Iâ€™m still â€œscared of the people who are going to be scared of the honesty,â€ but as there is nothing that can be done, itâ€™s just a question of being ready to face it when it comes.
If any of you are interested, feel free to join the live showsâ€¦ times at edtechtalk.com
Iâ€™m also working with Jeff F. trying to put together some online feedbook examples. The wiki has just been put up, feel free to put up any feeds that you like, and either put them in their catagory, or just leave them lying around and Iâ€™ll put them away. A quick copy and past from delicious accounts or something more focused, any help would be appreciated. Bud was talking about how he works to get the people around him using the new technology, which is what got Jeff and I thinking about getting these feedbooks ready.
Great open source for education article tagged by Stehen downes. If you are trying to convince your people to go open sourceâ€¦
Strange thoughts strangely fitting for a night spent refreshing a resume. It is a strange process of ever increasing â€˜truthinessâ€™ the older you getâ€¦ No longer do I have â€˜worm farmerâ€™ or â€˜house painterâ€™ on my resume, I donâ€™t need to stretch the teaching credentials anymore, and that feeling like I need to describe the way I walked around the work site to fill up that extra two lines is gone (â€and I always put my tools awayâ€). I now shrink the font, instead of enlarge it. But there is very little â€˜realâ€™ in a resume. I try to sneak some in, but I have, once again, decided that that would have to wait for a future interview process.
Itâ€™s the blog real that it gets me thinking about. Much of the things that I hear myself and others smarter than I say about blogging is about students â€˜getting a voiceâ€™ and being empowered. I wonder about students â€˜getting a voiceâ€™. We live in a culture of repression, where our feelings are governed by propriety, by the necessity to conform to given situations. Something that came into full focus upon reading technoratiâ€™s second highest rated blog Post a Secret. Some of the posts are no doubt people playing around, trolls in the blog as it were, but some have that real feeling of truth. That kind of truth that binds us together with people at the oddest of moments, when eye contact is followed by that rare pronoucement of truth. I remember my first one as an adult â€œwe really donâ€™t like each other alot of the time, if it werenâ€™t for the kids we wouldnâ€™t be together at all, are you REALLY sure you want to get married.â€
There is a natural restraint in much of the blogger universe, particularly amongst teachers. We are a wary crowd (wary used in lieu of more direct and honest terms that I wont use without three paragraphs of context). What happens, I wonder, when the â€˜I want to kill myselfâ€™ posts start showing up in the classroom blogs. (Iâ€™m sure itâ€™s happened somewhere by now, with all the accompanying questions about what the poster â€˜reallyâ€™ feels) I remember being a teenager, my voice wasnâ€™t very happy. And I, for one, am quite pleased that there isnâ€™t a portfolio of all the silly things that I wrote and felt at that time. While I do see my identity as one created by my history, I also wonder about my history never going awayâ€¦ Thereâ€™s something about all this â€˜publicnessâ€™ of the private that scares me. The honesty doesnâ€™t scare me, I strive for that kind of honesty. Itâ€™s other peopleâ€™s reaction to honesty that scares meâ€¦ and i really donâ€™t know why.
late night, and good night to all of you.
My Secret Postcard for tonight – I always wonder where you all are, and if you are happy when you are in front of your computer screensâ€¦ I sometimes feel a little addicted.
There was never a 17. it might have been my bio. but now it’s my break
Had a great show today with Will Richardson and Stephen Downes on Edtechtalk. They were very interesting, brought up some great points, and really quite a coup for us to have them on the show today. The thing that struck me the most was how nice they were. This is something that I have found consistently inside the blogging community (so far), everyone is willing to listen. They are willing to let people make mistakes. In talking about the software they like, and donâ€™t like, they are always respectful of the work that people have done, whether itâ€™s by Microsoft or billy joe rubberboot from down the street.
The other thing that struck me (and i mean in terms of personalities, they said lots of tech and ed things that struck me, but Iâ€™m going to need more time to process that) was their talk of the roles that they fill inside the community. Stephen as researcher and philosopher and Will as teacher and practitioner. I didnâ€™t explain it very well during the show but I canâ€™t help but think that these two groups NEED to come together to produce â€˜officialâ€™ material that can trickle down to the public that isnâ€™t â€˜wired inâ€™. An invitation with the authority of the academic and the wisdom of the practitionerâ€¦