Tandem Learning

I’ve been involved with an ambitious accessibility project in Indonesia. In short, if you have accessibility needs in Indonesia, even being colour blind, you will find it almost impossible to attend any form of consistent education, not least University. As many as 59% of Indonesian children with any sight impairment get no education at all.

MQAS is working hard to improve this. It’s not easy, but it’s massively rewarding to learn that our partner – Brawijaya University – has enrolled 10 students in under-graduate courses with disabilities – the first time ever. This is of course achieved by lobbying for funding, something that groups who work with disabilities know all about.

If you have ever met MQAS’ Sharon Kerr, you’ll know that there is no dream too big, and no high office that can’t have it’s doors opened. Getting students into University was step one. In the next few months, we’ll be working with 33 provinces, teaching teachers how to work with and teach people with disabilities. As if that wasn’t enough – we’re also starting generating ideas on how to get children with disabilities to school – even if that school is actually a University using technology.

One idea is “the tandem project”. If we can get 20 tandem bikes (lots of bikes in Indonesia, not many tandems), we can use them to get people with vision impairment to school in a peer-mentor program. This is perhaps the opposite of what might be expected from a technological solution. Perhaps we could just give them iPads – but they don’t have electricity reliably or the Internet in many cases.

The idea is to create geographic “bike-hubs” which act as classroom, perhaps makeshift, perhaps not. The essential ingredient is to have a socially inclusive classroom where fully able child can help another get to a place of learning. They not only learn together – they learn about each other shoulder to shoulder.

In many cases this might be for the first time ever for both of them. This makes it all the more remarkable that 10 students have been able to get into a University at all on their own merits – they have been taught by their communities alone and the photo here shows the volunteer mentors. That’s the key ‘volunteers’.

If we could get 20 tandem bikes in communities , it would  allow 40 students to study for less than the price of 10 iPads. So that’s one of the next missions – how to make this a reality for kids.

If you want to help, then get in touch – saving the world is a multi-player game.


Macquarie University joins Second Life

I’ve been busy this week working with Jo Kay developing a Second Life build for Macquarie University. As part of the ongoing ‘innovation to integration’ research, the MQ teaching and learning centre has joined Jokaydia. An extension to the capability of the learning and teaching centre it will serve as a classroom for educators wishing to explore Second Life. The build will also be used as a practical venue for distributed staff to meet and work.

I arrived at MQ just as the Learning and Teaching Centre was developing its 2009/10 strategic plan, so it’s been a busy few weeks trying to get up to speed and working with so many passionate educators and meet an end of year deadline. I am really impressed that in adding this element to the centre’s operations, that I really didn’t have to go through the ‘why don’t you get a first life’, ‘is it a game?’ conversations. I wasn’t quite expecting that or the depth of understanding already of Virtual Worlds. Everyone recognised these are an important technology in educational development research. It has been fully supported and very easy to deliver (mostly thanks to working with Jo). So in just over a week, the centre is ready for our first professional development session next Monday.

MQ already runs a successful iLecture system in many classrooms, deliverying recorded audio content to students which continues to grow, and will begin testing of video-lectures in 2009. The LTC has Elluminate, Adobe Connect and Elluminate as core technology offerings – Second Life however was missing from the ‘set’. It is interesting that once you talk about Second Life, all sorts of people come out from the shadows and say that they have been investigating or un-officially ‘doing something’, something which was echoed at the recent Open Education Workshops, where many presenters said that their now successful projects started life in-secret.

MQ on Jokaydia has two spaces, a practical resource, information and teaching ‘building’ and a second area, which the University can use, as a collaborative space. The aim is to allow students and staff to have a workable and sizeable space in which to develop anything that supports learning and teaching. We talked about developing an ‘island’, but felt that the nature of Second Life is as an synchronous, interactive first person experience – rather than a visual statement. I have been part of the Jokaydia community for some time, and so know just how engaging and inspirational some of the work has been. The professional development opportunities are created through the community engagement on Jokaydia – so placing MQ students and staff into the community to me is significantly richer than just wandering around your own island or occasionally running a symposium.

In 2009, the MQ space will also be connected with student and staff support mechanisms, together with a series of symposiums that I’m working on as face to face events (open to all), webinars etc., In addition, we are going to explore connecting Podcast content in-world. It will then be possible to ‘stream’ content on demand into the classrooms. This then allows students to meet and discuss the lectures – which is particularly important to MQs on-going focus on student engagement, given the vast number of students that are enrolled in distance education though various study pathways such as Open Education.

This facility will assist staff and students in exploring the multiple opportunities and impacts that ‘first person’ experiences has in learning and teaching – all supported by the amazing Jo Kay.

Graphic-A-Day#8 – What I hope I do.

My job says I have to ‘teach’ students skills and information to pass exams. The result of my efforts has a determination on the immediate steps that students can take, and things they can do.

If they choose to go to University,  I hope that the way in which they learned gave them ideas and skills to be creative and enter further study with that mindset rather than some form of human photocopier.

MobilzeThis – Charles Darwin University Conference

This unlikely character is part of the Mobilize This conference which in on in Darwin, Australia 22 – 24th October 2008

At some point, I’m doing a presentation during the three days along with about 20 other educators.

The conference is about making learning connected, fluent and mobile. It is also FREE. It will be a little out there in places, but it will also have people pushing the edges of ‘what’s next’.

This photo is of a set of wifi enabled glasses, which Alexander Hayes was testing over a few beers in the back yard. I love how homebrew some of this stuff is and how great a discussion you can have with via Ustream.

The f2f face events at the Charles Darwin University will be using this technology, so that presenters can Ustream media from their perspective – which I think is a significant change in how we still consume streams from the third, not first person view.

The glasses are audio and video enabled, with a decent transmitter that would cover a kilometer or more hooked up to it. The gathering was talking about how these can be used in vocational settings, especially for on site learning where teachers would benefit from hands free learning, and where safety glasses are normal.

Even in high school, these things would be so easy to hook up and record practical lessons.

The price point at $600AU is not cheap, but then a wifi webcam is about that. It won’t be too long before Nokia et al, have blue-tooth enabled POV (point of view) cameras available too, which begs the burnin question of at what point do we stop calling something like the Nokia N96 a phone. Its a much more than that. Its amazing to think how a decade ago, this kind of technology was sci-fi – now a bunch of blokes in the back yard can stick them on the dog and watch where it goes. Amazing times we live in.

Learning about teaching in Second Life

Jass Easterman aka Sue Gregory from the University of New England talking about her role in working with a range of students. They were learning how to use Second Life in their future professional teaching career. This is a story of what Sue was doing. The audio is a feed out of the conference, so at time’s shes answering comments and questions in the back channel. I found it facinating to hear some of experience.

Recorded at the 2008 Jokaydia Unconference. Here’s the link to the Sue Gregory Podcast.

Unconference Day#1

Peggy was talking about Ramapo Islands. Not the usual stuff, but sharing a lot about how she sold the idea into administrators, how she has been strategically designing the islands to suit the needs of her learners and some of the projects and outcomes that she has been running.

A fantastic, in depth look at innovation in education.

Jo, Konrad and Al, were touring Newbies around the gardens, and it was great to hear so many new people asking questions and sharing ideas on how they can use virtual worlds in their classrooms.

Chris (aka Gnu) and Jeff did a really engaging session on Microblogging.

Jeff’s off the cuff story telling of his own journey into developing and participating in a personal learning network was a really powerful message. Jeff (aka teacherman79 or Henny) used lots of examples of just how he’s been using it for his personal development as well as digital story telling in his classroom.

He talked about collecting a bunch of old PCs today that we’re being thrown out, so he can use them in his classroom, and shared how he had to take the truck and his dog up there to get them, then his dog chewed through its leash. He used his phone to shoot pictures and upload the event to a microblog – so when the kids get the computers, they’ll get the story of what he did to get them. He said that kids are such visual learners, that he’s trying to capture as much of ‘life’ as he can and then use that for further discussion in the classroom.

He also talked about how Montana is isolated, and how he now feels connected like never before in a personal learning network. Its amazing to think how a passing conversation in a virtual world can lead people to make such powerful and ever changing connections with their learning.

I loved that his story was about TODAY – and so relevant to what he is doing TOMORROW.

That’s the difference I think that many in the Jokadia community offer – far less engaged in ‘gazing at the why’ – which seems to me in perpetual orbit in some online sessions – and more about conversational learning that happens right now. I learned a lot today from Peggy, Jeff, Chris and Leigh Blackall … and it was great to see Sue Waters and Judy O’Connell – whom are a constant source of inspiration.

I’m really looking forward to working with Jo and Konrad in the near future … who needs walls?