National Archive of Educational Computing moves

Boxes and crates of the National Archive of Educational Computing

On Monday 15th Feb, the National Archive of Educational Computing moved to its new home, bringing it to a spare school science lab from a storage facility. Now the work can begin to make sense of it all and enhance the web site.

Thanks are due to Keith Lashmar of Chelmsford Van Hire and his tireless workers, together with Maureen Gurr and Patrick Millwood for helping to make it a smooth and well-organised move.

Ultralab's last room is demolished

By coincidence I was in Chelmsford the next day, and saw the last room of Ultralab about to be demolished – we were on the top floor of this building. A sad day.

iPodTouch Conference Oldham

Richard Millwood at iPodTouch2010

A real buzz of learner-centred excitement surrounds the reports of iPod projects presented here – especially the desire to create rather than simply consume resources. Interesting reports of large and small scale use including ESSA Academy’s 1 to 1 roll-out. Working with Friezland‘s Year 3 was a treat and reinforced what I learnt from listening to delegates, that iPod and App store had simplified the whole management issue so much that kids and teachers could take charge and feel empowered.

More at the iPodTouchConf2010 Ning.

Can we reverse the decline in schools’ computing, especially with girls?

You are invited you to participate in the fifth in a series of annual lectures to address the issues surrounding manufacturing, technology and education.

  • Can computing be viewed as a form of manufacturing in the knowledge economy?
  • Why is it in such decline in schools, especially amongst girls?

In 2005 there were 7242 students sitting A Level computing exams, 815 of these were female. By 2014 that is predicted to drop to around 1500 and all of them will be male, based on figures released by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ).

Dr Stan Owers’ thesis claimed that the human species evolved in symbiosis with technology since the stone age.
What part has computing in such evolution?

The evening will begin with a focused presentation by our guest speaker, Kate Sim, followed by a brief response from Professor Stephen Heppell, leaving ample time for discussion.

For further background information, please visit:

http://www.core-ed.org.uk/tools/lecture-2009.html and?

http://www.core-ed.org.uk/tools/questions.html

If you are unable to attend, please feel free to nominate colleagues.

A Short History Offline

Becta have just published the article they commissioned me to write about the history of educational computing. I enjoyed writing it – after all, I have been very active in the field since 1977, so much of it is from the heart.

1989 - planning multimedia on a chalk board
Alan Edis, Richard Millwood, David Riley & Colin Smith of the Computers in the Curriculum Project plan a multimedia CD-ROM on a chalk board in 1989 at Kings College London

But its real purpose is to try and bring some kind of coherence to a complex story and thus to create the hindsight analysis which can help us use the National Archive of Educational Computing as a storehouse for insightful & inventive design, deployment and application for the future of learning with technology.

If you want to help this venture, please sign up to support the archive or even better, tell your story.

TreeMeet

treehouse

The ephemeral TreeHouse Gallery in Regents Park London provided a magical venue for an enjoyable discussion on new forms of teacher CPD. Initiated through Twitter by Drew Buddie who facilitated the meeting, which attracted myself, Leon Cych (who broadcast it on TwitCam), John Davitt, Merlin John, Anthony Evans, Dave Smith, Bill Gibbon, Andy Broomfield, Will and Daren Forsyth.

We got excited about TeachMeets, punchy presentations (whilst acknowledging the scope for lengthier, compelling presentations), Twitter and Blogs and the value of global networking. But we couldn’t tackle the challenge of recognition for such learning – could it be that informal learning should be left alone and valued for its own sake? Perhaps its value is in developing risk-free peer-learning, light reflection and seeds for the adoption of new practices –  formal learning undertaken for rigour, recognition and career progression will always benefit from such experience.

All-in-all a valuable moment to pause for thought before tackling the new academic year (and a chance to see how a hobbit might feel in Lothlorien 🙂 .

The act of digital lobotomy

Hugh D’Andrade‘s article on the Electronic Frontier Foundations web site, Orwell in 2009: Dystopian Rights Management, shows how Amazon have fulfilled in part the provocative predictions made by Mark Pilgrim in his blog in November 2007 The Future of Reading (A Play in Six Acts).

In the sixth act, ‘Act VI: The act of learning’ Mark Pilgrim quotes from the Kindle Terms of service (still accurate at the time of writing this blog entry):

Termination Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate without notice from Amazon if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without notice to you and without refund of any fees.

Amazon, Kindle Terms of Service

Suppose I was the kind of modern, 21st century learner who augmented their memory with notes and annotations on electronic devices such as the Kindle?

Suppose I was the kind of professional who carried their digital notes to work to augment my performance in real-life work situations?

Both of these augmentations would be out of my control if I subscribe to Amazon’s conditions and  slip up – even if I did not stray from their compliance, their recent act could be tantamount to a lobotomy…

Regardless of my rights, my augmented mind is being controlled…

UPDATE 31st July 2009

A student is suing for loss of learning – from the lawsuit:

“28. As part of his studies of “1984,” Mr. Gawronski had made copious notes in the book. After Amazon remotely deleted “1984,” those notes were rendered useless because they no longer referenced the relevant parts of the book. The notes are still accessible on the Kindle device in a file separate from the deleted book, but are of no value. For example, a note such as “remember this paragraph for your thesis” is useless if it does not actually a reference a specific paragraph. By deleting “1984” from Mr. Gawronski’s Kindle 2, this is the position in which Amazon left him. Mr. Gawronski now needs to recreate all of his studies.”

PhD / Masters opportunities with University of Bolton

I have been working part-time in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics (IEC) at the University of Bolton for the last two years, after seventeen years at Ultralab.

IEC houses three major projects:
•    the JISC Innovation Support Centre for Educational Technology & Interoperability Studies (CETIS);
•    the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning project creating innovative higher degree frameworks (IDIBL);
•    the TenCompetence European research project developing a lifelong competence development infrastructure for Europe;

I work on the IDIBL project with Stephen Powell and Mark Johnson – an enormous pleasure to refine and improve the Ultraversity model we created in Ultralab at Anglia Ruskin University in 2003 and which is still running. The model is of work-focussed action inquiry as a means to learning, supported by colleagues, online community, facilitators and experts.

After IEC’s success in the recent Research Assessment Exercise, we are able to ramp up our activity in this area and are looking to extend our research group in IEC to focus on the following topics:
•    systematic institutional transformation;
•    organisational improvement;
•    inquiry-based learning;
•    learning with technology;
•    interoperability and standards;
•    learning design;
•    assessment and portfolios;
•    lifelong competencies.

Key features of the learning experience for new members of the research group are:
•    improvement in current work context as the focus for study which enables work full time and study full time;
•    completion of Masters in 15 months, PhD in three years;
•    study online with no need for attendance;
•    learning together as an online community with access to IEC experts;
•    assessment to fit creative and work expertise.

A competitive bursary scheme for PhD will help lower the costs for successful applicants.
If you feel that you fit the bill, then we would be delighted to  to discuss further – mail me at r.millwood [at] bolton.ac.uk or call me on +44 779 055 8641

Opting for innovation

Just read Paul Haigh’s blog on opting-out of Building Schools for the Future ICT , in which he speaks of the injustice for leading & innovating schools –

“The DCSF will say there is a fair procedure in place for schools who feel the way we do- they have 42 days to produce an Alternative Business Procurement Case that the business experts in their Local Authority will have had 18 months to work on (in our case 107 pages long).”

and he continues to say –

“This is a trick, there is no way any school can show economy of scale (even though I actually have the figures to prove we can- it won’t be accepted, it’s sacrilege to suggest it) or show ‘transference of risk’ (we don’t talk about transferring the risks of educating our children elsewhere, we talk about professionals taking responsibility in house- isn’t this a lesson from the credit crunch?)”

It’s hard not to sympathise, but I wonder: can schools like Paul’s club together across the UK and share the burden?

Isn’t this an excellent opportunity for open source procurement thinking?

Leading CPD in the School – Using Web 2.0 Tools

The logo of TeacherNet UK - a project to revitalise CPD for teachers using the online community and the internet from 1998

(This is the logo of TeacherNet UK – a project to revitalise CPD for teachers by using online community and the internet from 1996-2000, after which it became the name of the governments’ website to provide unified information for teachers.)

This seminar lead by Professor Marilyn Leask at Brunel University, feels like a revisit of the work we did over ten years ago when the internet was fresh.

The question is how to best exploit technology to enhance continuing professional development for teachers? I have five minutes to answer…

… and of course the easy way out is to pose two further questions:

What is it about Facebook?

Facebook is highly successful in maintaining vibrant relationships between people, which leads me to ask:

  1. Is it a successful online community or is it a social network?
  2. How is it achieving this without facilitation?

I think it’s a tool which permits both online community and social network and there is a need to reconsider these terms and their meaning. Its success perhaps derives from these four things (amongst others):

  • simple ownership and participation, the ability to make your own space and express creativity by putting your own material in it;
  • automated gossip, the reporting of other user’s activity;
  • some control over privacy and membership in hands of the user including identifying relationships with others;
  • a route for creative developers to extend the system.

Such features continue to be innovated and prevent us from settling on a specification – we need a platform able to change without confusing participants.

How should we conceptualise CPD?

I have been working at the University of Bolton in the Institute for Educational Cybernetics to build an undergraduate and masters degree framework, the Inter-Disciplinary Inquiry-Based Learning project (IDIBL),  which permits any professional practice to be explored in the workplace and online. In devising this framework, we tried hard to leave the subject discipline to be determined by context and to focus on inquiry discipline. Nevertheless there remained  a problem of how to form viable online communities to study in this way, and our solution was themes.

In the world of teacher CPD, I argue that a multi-professional theme such as ‘Every Child Matters’ would form the basis for such a theme. In this kind of CPD, masters study is undertaken together with the social worker, health professional, special needs expert and police in order to gain a rounded understanding of a learner-centred improvement in practice.

Thus I would applaud the GTCE for considering action inquiry a central process in the Teacher Learning Academy, but extend that thinking to include a broader online community of the professionals that surround the challenge society faces in transforming schooling. And, benefit from the know-how in higher education of action research methodology and the opportunity for peer evaluation at a high level of rigour.

TeachMeet North East London

2simple-cake

This TeachMeet was brave enough to throw the rules up in the air and try a new plan – and mostly it worked! I enjoyed the way the break-outs gave more intimate discussion and flexibility, but I missed the quickfire and serendipitous action of the random speaker. Most of all there was a mature relationship with commercial sponsors who were very much present, but respectfully supportive – thanks to all of them.

There were great talks from Drew, Tom and Ollie and others I didn’t hear, but I also loved the Max’s ‘next thing coming’ talk with augmented reality, Blue Peter style. As ever with Teachmeet there was a mix of old-timers (I mean you Penny) and newcomers (Edith) and enthusiasm in buckets.

Having done CEME, can we do the top of Canary Wharf next time? Can’t think of anything else they’ll want it for…

Guilt upon accusation

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. Join the black out protest against it!
There are some major proposed changes in NZ law that will have an impact on education.
The proposed Section 92 of the NZ Copyright Amendment Act assumes Guilt Upon Accusation and forces the termination of internet connections and websites without evidence, without a fair trial, and without punishment for any false accusations of copyright infringement. An organisation called the Creative Freedom Foundation has been set up to specifically represent artists voices on these issues.
Check out their website: http://www.creativefreedom.org.nz , sign up and help NZ MPs make an informed decision about S92!

Moderating a Web 2.0 world

It’s illuminating when an organisation such as the BBC takes the trouble to explain its efforts to deal with the flood of expression that has risen in a  Web 2.0 world.

Thanks to Tom van Aardt, Communities Editor, BBC Future Media & Technology, for blogging their experiences here – Strictly Message Board: What Happened

“Eventually, I decided to close the Strictly Come Dancing board at 22:00 so the moderators could work through the backlog of messages.”

He doesn’t mention the hours that the reader can sink into reading such commentary in the search for insight, a phenomenon I have recently experienced whenever trying to make sense of high definition television or keeping up with reaction to Obama’s election!

Content is muck

muck

I have been reading  the report ‘On-line Innovation in Higher Education‘ submitted by Sir Ron Cooke to John Denham recently and I’m not impressed.

It seems to be but a variation on the ‘content is king’ theme and, by its own standards, seems to miss many points.

The title of this blog ‘Content is muck’ is intended to disparage this approach and at the same time recognise the importance of high quality, accessible content as a fertiliser for the growth of knowledge amongst learners.

Probably most critical is the following:

“2.5 The education and research sectors are not short of strategies but a visionary thrust across the UK is lacking.” p8

So where in this document is a vision outlined – where is it to come from? I (and many others) would be happy to offer one! But seriously, this is the moment and little here is visionary.

These further quotations from the document raised a range of issues:

“1.1 [..] We lag behind in generating and making available high quality modern learning and teaching
resources. [..]” p3

The difficulty I have with this is the way in which we go about catching up. We should be careful not to spend too much money on material which becomes out-of-date within a year, is specific to particular courses, contexts and levels or fails to enhance the creative rôle for the learner in developing their own knowledge.

“3.15 [..] diagram [..] showing areas where students are currently pushed beyond their comfort zones.[..]” p12

The diagram referred to shows some ICT tasks in a grid with four quadrants – the top left shows tasks which are ‘”Familiar” / “Not comfortable using”  and includes “Using social networks such as Facebook as a formal part of the course”, but the task “Using existing online social networks to discuss work” is shown in the bottom right quadrant “Unfamiliar” / “Comfortable with using” – how can this be, what do they mean? Sadly the document lets us down here, with no reference to a source, unlike the bulk of the work. A report of this significance needs to be of the highest quality of it is to be convincing.

“3.19 [..] iv. where students tend to learn almost entirely at a distance (e.g. The Open University and the student base the UK e-university aimed for) high quality, purpose written, online materials and high quality online support services are essential;” p13

I agree in part, but what does “tend to learn almost entirely as a distance” mean? Is it not the case that  learning materials and support for face-to-face learning should be of similar standard? The unspoken assumption is that learning at a distance is solitary and thus the materials and support must compensate for the lack of ‘learning conversation’ – this is simply not the case in the modern social web.

We have had extensive experience over five years of fully online provision in the Ultraversity project where “purpose written, online materials” have been minimal. This has led to no lack of quality, as the guidance and support is generated through dialogue shared by a cohort of students – the online community of inquiry. Authoritative sources, journals and textbooks including key professional documents, are available widely on the internet and can be engaged with rigorously, critcially and comprehensively. This way of organising learning is most effective in that it also sets up the student for further lifelong learning.

“3.28 [..] The e-university was ahead of its time but the UK can learn from its mistakes and it is not too late to try again to address the demand for virtual, largely on-line education in the UK and
elsewhere. [..]”  p15

I think not – the e-university did not take a visionary nor innovative approach in my view and was not at all ahead of its time, but tried to take old approaches into new technology with minimal account of growing evidence of the efficacy of new models of online learning.

For the sake of my tax bill please lets not try again without considerably more care and wisdom!

Engineering Diplomas get boost

Jamie Tuplin, Stan Owers, Mick Waters and Pete Williamson

Jamie Tuplin, Stan Owers, Mick Waters and Pete Williamson – presenters at the Owers Lecture 2008

The Guardian reports “Oxbridge to accept engineering diploma” – welcome news to learners and their teachers pioneering the Engineering Diploma in Barking & Dagenham schools. This timely announcement comes a week after another stimulating and informative Owers Lecture presented by Jamie Tuplin and Pete Williamson, and an excellent commentary in response from Mick Waters, Director of Curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. This fourth Owers lecture, organised by Core Education UK, was once again held at Oracle UK‘s offices in Moorgate, London on November 12th, thanks to Oracle’s ever-supportive Chris Binns who is champion for Oracle’s altruistic ventures Think.Com and ThinkQuest in the UK.

Jamie Tuplin, who leads the diploma developments Barking & Dagenham Local Authority and Pete Williamson, Head of Design Technology at the Warren School (and Learning Line Lead for Engineering for the authority), reported their experiences & issues of Engineering Diploma implementation in the first three months.

The question put to the audience was ‘Can Diplomas Cure the ‘English Disease’?’ and Mick Waters’ response, designed to provoke further debate, was to outline several diseases, all of which needed attention! In the end we had to stop, but discussion was strong and all participants were hungry for more.

The price of cheating seems low

I was surprised at the size of the fine, £7,015 plus £1,000 costs, handed down to  the London College of Business and Accountancy which had cheated by claiming accreditation from the British Computer Society and from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

This surely isn’t a great deterrent, considering the potential damage to the reputation of its students…

The business of training looks troubled to me – a new credit-crunch to come?

Online community

I have enjoyed discussing with colleagues at Manchester University the nature of online community, which made me think about the various terms used – hence the above slide. It was also fun to explain the work done over ten years and how we came across many of the concepts we take for granted. Here are the slides as a PDF file, which miss out on the many videos I showed of participants talking about their experience.