Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Tesla, the Toaster and the Teacher with a Tablet

Electric car,
1895 (Wikipedia)
Technology is advancing education, but this is evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Consider the Tesla, the Toaster and the Teacher with a Tablet. Tesla cars look high tech, but underneath the streamlined body, there are four wheels driven by an electric motor and drawing power from a battery, just as electric cars did 100 years ago.

Toaster, from 1910s (Wikipedia)
Similarly a modern toaster has a streamlined plastic case, but this hides a steel frame with heated wires, and functions the same way an electric toaster did one hundred years ago. The toaster has a tiny electronic control board added to make it smart, just as the Tesla car has computers added to the hundred year old electric car design.

Stereoscope card illustrating
3D for home education,
1901 (Wikipedia).
In education, as in toasters and cars, a small amount of computer technology is added, to improve performance and add new features. But e-learning's shiny touch screens are built on a proven framework of pedagogy. Even something as new and advanced sounding as a 3D display for distance education, is more than one hundred years old.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

ePortfolios for Australian Degrees

The Australian National University (ANU) launched its e-Portfolio system yesterday. E-portfolios have been in use in Australian universities for at least a decade, but are still not easy to use. QUT lead the Australian ePortfolio Project, which produced a 175 page report in 2008. QUT also produced a 41 page report in 2008 on what they were implementing at their own institution, which remains a useful guide for others to follow.
QUT identified three styles of student ePortfolios:
  1. Structured: predetermined framework of objectives to meet external / internal needs
  2. Learning / Dynamic: opportunity for self-audit, recording, reflection, feedback and on-going development
  3. Showcase: collect together, organise and present accomplishments...
From:  QUT's Student ePortfolio as a 'real world' learning tool, Harper, Hauville & Hallam, 2008
The type of e-portfolio I am most interested in is Structured, where the student can be guided through the requirements of a course, degree program, or professional certification, without being limited to completing fixed coursework or tests. Mahara's SmartEvidence may make this easier. This and could be used for courses, or whole bachelors, masters and professional doctorate degrees.
Problems occur with e-portfolios when the purpose is not clear. In particular a structured or learning e-portfolio is unlikely to be suitable as a showcase. The student's detailed work and reflections are unlikely to be of interest to a prospective employer, and may not be suitable for public release.
One problem is where the student is undertaking professional practice work in a real commercial or government workplace. The student's work can contain sensitive commercial or government information, which  instructors are permitted to see, but cannot be made public. In reflections, students can reveal much personal information, including mental illness, personal and family relationship difficulties, which are not suitable for release.

Also I don't agree with QUT's claim that "Writing reflectively is easy". Providing the digital tool is easy, but getting people to use it effectively is very, very, hard. In particular, reflective writing is not something which comes easily to STEM students, who have been trained to write in the third person from a neutral "objective" point of view. Reflection is something the students need to be trained to do, supported by a qualified teacher.

Athabasca University introduced an ePortfolio for MEd students in 2012. However, this was modified a few years later, in part due to the difficulties the students had in completing a portfolio (Hoven, 2015). It should be noted these portfolios were for students of education, well versed in writing. If anyone should be able to do an e-portfolio, it is an education student.

I was one of the cohort of students during the transition to the new Athabasca MEd e-portfolio process. We were given to choice of the old process, or the new and I chose the new. Rather than the e-portfolio being appended after then end of coursework, it was a capstone course. An instructor took students through stages of work, with peer feedback. However, even with this additional support, the e-portfolio process was not easy. Based on that experience, I hope to help avoid some of the problems with e-portfolios at ANU.

Reference


Hoven D. (2015, January 7). ePortfolios in Post-Secondary Education: An Alternate Approach to Assessment. UAE Journal of Educational Technology and eLearning. Edition 1. URL http://ejournal.hct.ac.ae/wp-content/uploads/2014_Article2_Debra.pdf#page=10

Friday, August 18, 2017

ANU ePortfolio Launch

Greetings from the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where the new e-Portfolio is being launched. The software product being used is Mahara and it has been piloted extensively at ANU.

The choice of this product is a safe choice as it is typically installed alongside Moodle (which ANU already has). I have used Mahara in the ANU Techlauncher program, with computer science students. Previously I have used Moodle/Mahara at ACS, USQ and Athabasca University.

Professor Paul Maharg is providing an overview of how he has used e-portfolios for training lawyers. This was not about a box ticking exercise, but helping a student understand what it is to be a lawyer. He pointed out that "e-portfolios and reflection go really, really well together".

Professor Maharg also pointed out the difficulty getting students to work cooperatively together and to have curricula changed to incorporate it.He then got a little allegorical, likening an e-portfolio to the journal of early explorers, in how they explain not only what they have learned in an objective sense but as something they need to integrate with what they know.

In his presentation used the term "curriculum is technology" and asked where it was from. I traced it to a JISC report (Hughes, Gould, McKellar & Maharg, 2008, p. 40).

Last year I had to use Mahara as a graduate student to prepare a portfolio. This involved reflection and peer work with other students. My hope is that the SmartEvidence function of Mahara will take much of the tedium of the process, for students and supervisors.

Reference


Hughes, M., Gould, H., McKellar, P., & Maharg, P. (2008) SIMulated Professional Learning Environment (SIMPLE). URL http://simplecommunity.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/SIMPLE-FINAL-report.pdf

Thursday, August 17, 2017

University Open Day in Canberra on Saturday 26 August

Canberra's universities and Institute of technology are having an open day on Saturday 26 August 2017. Prospective students, and anyone else who would like to see what happens at a university, can come and look:
  1. Australian Catholic University (ACU)
  2. Australian National University (ANU)
  3. Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT)
  4. University of Canberra
  5. UNSW Canberra/Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).
Each institution has its own character.  ACU is calm and cloistered, being a former seminary. ANU has a grand tree lined avenue, from North America's Ivy League. CIT has workshops and funky designers. UCan has gone upwards with new high rise accommodation. UNSW/ADFA is a modern interpretation of West Point Academy, with a parade ground and everything squared away.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New UNSW Campus in Canberra for 10,000 Students

The ACT Government has announced discussions with the University of New South Wales for a new campus for up to 10,000 students in Canberra. The ACT Government describes this as being "alongside" the Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) Reid campus. However, news reports, such as in the Canberra Times, characterize this as a   redevelopment of the CIT site for UNSW and CIT.

The CIT Reid campus is in need of renewal (I was a student there in 1990 and it does not seem to have changed much). The building need to be refurbished or replaced to suit the new teaching techniques.

One aspect not discussed in the announcement, or media reports, is a possible role for the National Convention Centre Canberra (NCCC) in teaching. The NCCC is across the road from CIT and linked by a pedestrian bridge. The NCCC is also in need of renewal, no longer being adequate for national or international conferences. However, there has been no viable strategy to upgrade the NCCC by the ACT Government. It may be possible to have NCCC as part of a dual use university facility.

Modern university teaching facilities resemble a convention center, with large flexible spaces, movable seating and walls. Universities don't need large permanent lecture theaters, as students spend very little of their time in lectures. The new Australian National University union court will have large flat floor rooms, with Tiered Retractable Seating. At the push of a button a room can be converted from a flat open conference exhibition space, to a theater. Other rooms will have movable walls for meetings of dozens to hundreds of people. Something similar might be provided for UNSW/CIT.

As the ACT Government announcement notes, higher education is an important part of the Australian and Canberra economy. However, this depends on a fickle international student market which, like the extractive industry, can change rapidly. Australia is currently experiencing an unprecedented boom in student numbers. This could change without warning in a matter of days due to regional tensions, or incidents involving international students in Australia.

In the longer term, developed nations (including Australia) will continue to expand e-learning as an alternative to international student travel. I spent the last three years as an international Canadian graduate student, without ever having set foot on the campus I was studying at in Canada. Next week I will discuss a proposal for ANU to have 200,000 m-learning students.

Also countries in our region will continue to build their own universities to educate their own, and international students. Canberra's institutions will need to be able to offer a reasonably priced, quality blended programs to remain competitive with these international offerings.

Using Machine-Learning to Identify Which Work is Not by a Student

Amigud, A., Arnedo-Moreno, J., Daradoumis, T., & Guerrero-Roldan, A.
Amigud et al. (2017) tested using machine-learning to identify what work is not by a student. The AI system is "trained" using work submitted by the students and then can spot work which does not match the writing style of an individual. They claim 93% accuracy, compared to human instructors being able to identify work not by the student only 12% of the time. This approach has the advantage that it can identify where work was contracted out to someone else, as well as where it was copied from a public source. 

When faced with the suspicion that some students are cheating, it is tempting to ask for a supplementary face-to-face examination for that student. However, I suggest designing assessment so that all students are required to present a consistent body of work throughout their course.

Large assessment items can be replaced by multiple interlinked, scaffolded tasks. This will help students learn, while testing they have acquired required skills and knowledge. As a byproduct, this will make cheating much more difficult, as a student can't just contract out one major assignment as it will not be consistent with the student's other work.

As an example, in "ICT Sustainability", students have to answer weekly questions. The student then uses the answers in the two major assignments, which are each in two parts. This makes it difficult for a student to contract out one assignment, as the content has to be consistent with their prior work on the same topic. There are also weekly automated quizzes on basic knowledge, drawn from a question bank (to make cheating harder). To be eligible to pass, the student must get at least 50% for the weekly work and 50% for the assignments, so they can't pass by doing well in just one assignment.

Also I use progressive assessment to identify those students in the first few weeks who are having difficulty, so they can be offered help and counseling. These students will be less likely to cheat, as they can get help and they know they are under closer observation every week. I designed and refined this approach to assessment as part of my graduate studies in education.

Reference

Amigud, A., Arnedo-Moreno, J., Daradoumis, T., & Guerrero-Roldan, A. (2017). Using Learning Analytics for Preserving Academic Integrity. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 18(5). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i5.3103

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

History of Innovation ACT in Canberra

renewable energy entrepreneur and rocket scientist, Dr Lachlan Blackhall,
Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where renewable energy entrepreneur and rocket scientist, Dr Lachlan Blackhall, is recounting the history of Innovation ACT. This started in 2007 as a start-up competition for ANU students (Innovation ANU) and  opened to students at other Canberra higher education institutions in 2009.

Apparently at the first launch event I was so surprised by the large amount of prize money being offered, I asked the distinguished senior academic doing the launch: "Is this a scam?". After ten years of completions, I have concluded it is not a scam.

Students form teams and learn about how to turn an idea into a product or service. To give them incentive, there are prizes. The prizes are now in kind help with furthering their business idea, rather than just cash.

Innovation ACT has helped normalize the idea at Canberra's universities that it is okay to aspire to start a business, rather than just work for one, or be a researcher. With the popularization through media and many government and business programs on
entrepreneurship, perhaps it is time to remind everyone this is not easy.

here is a belief in some of the entrepreneur community that formal higher education is not needed any more and school kids should just learn on their own and go into business. I challenged Steve Baxter, best know for Shark Tank, at at River City Labs in Brisbane. Steve suggested that a tech entrepreneur could obtain business advice and training, but a business person without the needed tech training would have more difficulty. I think I managed to get him thinking that some formal training in both tech and business was worthwhile.

Currently I am tutoring ANU Techlauncher students, mostly computer science, with a few engineers and some interns. The students are learning what are referred to as "soft skills" but are hard, particularly for STEM students. Students who have mastered very technical computer skills soon discover that planning, management, estimating and communication are not easy. Competitions such as Innovation ACT help with this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Seminar on ANU Grand Challenge: Peace through superior education

I will be presenting a seminar on the ANU Grand Challenge: Peace through superior education, 22 August 2017 at the Australian National University in Canberra. All welcome, free but please book.
The ANU Grand Challenges Scheme aims to "...bring people together from all across the University to bring new perspectives to a major challenge confronting society". Nine of the proposes relate to education through the use of technology. This seminar discusses one such proposal, for delivery of education on-line in the indo-pacific region from ANU.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Designing Professional e-Learning

The Australian Computer Society Canberra Conference needed an extra speaker next Tuesday. So I am filling a 2:20pm slot with "Designing Professional e-Learning". It is an opportune time of this as ANU has just announced a "major expansion of engineering and computer science".

Designing Professional e-Learning

Speaker: Tom Worthington, MEd, FACS CP, Honorary Senior Lecturer, Research School of Computer Science, Australian National University

Award winning e-learning designer Tom Worthington will discuss how to equip professionals for the technology challenges of the 21st Century. He will detail how to provide formal postgraduate education to students in their workplaces via mobile devices. Tom will discuss his own experience as an international student using an e-portfolio to provide evidence of skills.

Speaker

Tom Worthington is an independent consulting Certified Computer Professional and an Honorary Senior Lecturer in the Research School of Computer Science at the ANU. He writes on education issues as "The Higher Education Whisperer" and more generally as "The Net Traveler". Tom is leading an ANU Grand Challenge team to provide m-learning to 200,000 students across the indo-pacific region.
 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Peace Through Superior Education

Peace Through Superior Education is an entry in the Australian National University's ANU Grand Challenges Scheme. This entry proposes to test the use of  mobile learning to connect people across our region to address radicalization, climate change, food and energy security.

Other ANU Grand Challenge entries include: Zero-Carbon Energy for the Asia-Pacific and the Grand Challenge of Negative Emissions.  ANU researchers and students interested in working on these can access the ANU Grand Challenges Portal. Non-ANU researchers can contact the project personnel to express interest in participating.

About the Peace Through Superior Education proposal: 


'Many of the world’s most intractable problems occur on Australia's doorstep: where the trade-routes of the world's emerging economies meet. The Australian National University (ANU) was created by the Australian Parliament to meet these challenges in this region. The ANU does this by bringing together the best and brightest young people of the region to learn and to cooperate. Can this can be extended through the use of digital networks, particularly mobile devices, with an order of magnitude increase in the number of students? Can we use digital networks to engage, educate and influence the behaviors of the indo- pacific publics? How can we best do that? To answer these questions a longitudinal exploration into the transformative learning will be conducted. In this way can we can address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): "... end poverty ... protect the planet ... ensure prosperity for all ... foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies ... based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity ...".'


Peace Through Superior Education

M-learning for the indo-pacific to address radicalization, climate change, food and energy security.

 Chris Barrie
Adam Broinowski
Catherine Settle
Tom Worthington

A Grand Challenges Proposal

 


 

The Indo-Pacific

Many of the world’s most intractable problems occur on Australia's doorstep: where the trade-routes of the world's emerging economies meet.  
Map by Eric Gaba (Sting) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons



Australian_National_University Arms
The Australian National University (ANU) was created by the Australian Parliament to meet the challenges in this region. 

ANU Student Ambassadors

The ANU brings together the best and brightest young people of the region to learn and to cooperate. 


Pictograph of an e-book by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US)
Can this can be extended through the use of digital networks, particularly mobile devices, with an order of magnitude increase in the number of students? 
Pictographs by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US). 

Pictograph of issues by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US)
To answer these questions a longitudinal exploration into the transformative learning will be conducted. 
Pictographs by Carlos Sarmento from the Noun Project (CC BY 3.0 US). 


UN Sustainable Development Goals
 "... end poverty ... protect the planet ... ensure prosperity for all ... foster peaceful, just and inclusive societies ... based on a spirit of strengthened global solidarity ..." 
UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015).

Field/s of research


Pedagogy, digital networking, climate change adaption, ethnopolitics, energy efficiency

Interested parties

Adam BroinowskiChris Barrie

Tom WorthingtonCatherine Settle



References

  • UN General Assembly resolution 70/17, Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, A /RES/70/1 (21 October 2015).
  • Worthington, T. (2014, August 23). Chinese and Australian Students Learning to Work Together Online: Proposal to Expand the New Colombo Plan to the Online Environment. Paper to be presented at the 9th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE). Vancouver, Canada. http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/ICCSE.2014.6926448
  • Worthington, T. (2017). Digital teaching in higher education : designing e-learning for international students of technology, innovation and the environment. Belconnen, A.C.T. TomW Communications Pty Ltd. http://www.tomw.net.au/digital_teaching/