Friday, February 26, 2016

Training Police On-line

Helen M Lynch will speak on the "Distributed Content Environment" developed for the CSU School of Policing Studies, at the Australian Computer Society e-Learning Special Interest Group in Canberra, 5pm 11 May 2916.
"The distributed content environment (DCE) is a system developed and implemented for the School of Policing Studies, CSU, to customise, reuse, update and deliver teaching and learning resources in mobile ready formats to students, teachers and classroom. The DCE has wide application as it enables a truly “digital“ classroom and supports the use of mobile devices by teachers and students in and outside of the classroom. DCE enables the distribution of teaching and learning resources by harnessing a range of educational technologies that are common to most universities and TAFE institutions in Australia today.
The core technologies of the DCE are the digital object repositories and the online learning environment e.g. Moodle and Equella, as well as content authoring tools which when harnessed together create a seamless distribution of teaching and learning resources to a range of audiences.
This session explains the DCE and how it can be applied to a range of teaching and learning situations."

Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce:

Greetings from the Sydney Opera House where Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, is launching the report "Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce" (Hajkowicz, Reeson, Rudd, Bratanova, Hodgers, Mason and Boughen, 2016). The report does not contain any new insights on the future of work, but is a useful compilation of conventional wisdom: IT will take over many jobs and the workforce needs to be trained for more high-tech and also human focused roles, with continual learning.

The area where the report is weak is in policy implications. After outlining what is going to happen, the report does not really say what we, as a nation, should do about it. As an educator, to me the implications are clear: we need to train people with tech and social skills, but most importantly, people who know about how to learn.
Foreword 1
Executive summary 7
1    Introduction 17
2     A snapshot of Australia’s labour market today 23
2 1     Employment rates and spare capacity of labour 24
2 2     Youth unemployment 24
2 3    Earnings 25
2 4     Skilled labour – Australia’s competitive advantage 25
2 5     Climate change and employment 25
3     Strategic foresight 26
3 1     Strategic foresight method 26
3 2     Expert interview outcomes 28
4     The megatrends 31
4 1     The second half of the chessboard 31
4 2     Porous boundaries 36
4 3     The era of the entrepreneur 40
4 4     Divergent demographics 44
4 5     The rising bar 49
4 6     Tangible intangibles 53
5     The scenarios 57
5 1     Horizontal axis – extent of institutional change 58
5 2     Vertical axis – extent of task automation 60
5 3     Scenario 1 – Lakes 62
5 4     Scenario 2 – Harbours 63
5 5     Scenario 3 – Rivers 65
5 6     Scenario 4 – Oceans 68
6     Technology and employment 71
6 1    Globalisation 71
6 2    Automation 71
6 3    Augmentation 72
6 4     Distributional impacts 74
6 5     Technology and the firm 75
6 6     Market structure 76
6 7     Jobs of the future 76
7   Policy implications 85
7 1     Digital inclusion 85
7 2     Empowering and informing labour market re-activation 85
7 3     New workforce statistics 86
7 4    Education 87
7 5     Workplace relations 88
7 6     The need for choices 89
8    Conclusion 91
References  94

One problem with the report is that it has been released with a restrictive copyright notice, contrary to Australian Government policy. 


Hajkowicz SA, Reeson A, Rudd L, Bratanova A,
Hodgers L, Mason C, Boughen N (2016)
Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce:Megatrends and scenarios for jobs andemployment in Australia over the comingtwenty years. CSIRO, Brisbane.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Cyberwar: Hypothetical for Teaching ICT Ethics

Last week I attended a series of seminars as part of the Securing our Future in Cyberspace Conference hosted by the Australian National University. This gave me inspiration for new material to teach ICT Ethics at ANU. Here is a draft. Comments are welcome:
Unclassified. All Scenario Data is Notional and For Exercise Only

Cyberwar: Hypothetical Scenario for Teaching ICT Ethics

Briefing by Cyberspace Operations Wing at Headquarters Joint Operations Command (COW/HQJOC), 12:30 Zulu 1 April 2017:

RAAF P-3 Orion Aircraft, photo by 'Timothy' CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Maritime Surveillance Aircraft
"At 02:20 Zulu, 1 April 2017, one of our maritime surveillance aircraft was reported missing. The aircraft was conducting a freedom of navigation flyover on one of the reefs, subject to claim by several nations. The last recorded radio transcripts are:
  • OPFOR: "Unidentified military aircraft, you are entering a restricted zone. Turn now to avoid unfortunate consequences.
  • OURFOR: We are over international waters, in accordance with accepted law.
  • OPFOR: Unidentified military aircraft, turn back now. This is your last warning.
  • OURFOR: Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, this is Surveillance One Zero Five Charlie Delta, one zero zero kilometers South East of ... " [Transmission ends]
RSAF G550-AEW Aircraft, photo by 'Alert5', CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
SIGINT Aircraft
Intercepts from our new signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft, which was on a test flight in the area, reported signals from a fire control radar, shortly before communication was lost.

Chinese HT-233 SAM, photo by Max Smith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
SAM Fire Control Radar
The radar was in test mode, however, the older radar warning receiver in our maritime surveillance aircraft is not sophisticated enough to distinguish a test signal from a real attack.

Our aircraft's flares and electronic countermeasures were activated. This may have been mistaken for the launch of a cruse missile, which our aircraft can carry (but was not).
Chinese HQ-9 SAM TEL, Photo by Jian Kang, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
SAM Transporter Erector Launcher
A surface-to-air missile (SAM)  was launched and our aircraft appears to have crashed while maneuvering to avoid the missile. The crew have been rescued by a civilian vessel, but have not yet been debriefed.

The media are reporting that one of our unarmed aircraft has been shot down and the Government has asked for military options to respond. The best kinetic solution is a precision air attack on the missile batteries, guided by special forces landed from a submarine, which is already on station. However, the government has also asked for a cyber option which would disrupt the opposing force's systems, show our national resolve, but avoid casualties.

It is proposed to target the opposing force's electronic control systems. This is expected to disable electrical systems and cause some local electrical fires. Our intelligence assets in the area will arrange for video of the damage to be posted to social media, for maximum news value. We will be working with civilian government personnel with special expertise, to prepare a human factor attack on their Internet of Things (IoT).

Unclassified. All Scenario Data is Notional and For Exercise Only

What Will You Do?

Suppose you are a Senior Incident Responder (SRI) in the Digital Protection Group (DPG) at the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) of the Government. Your job is protecting the whole of government website. Recently you detected a sophisticated attack and boasted "we could turn that attack back on them!". So you are now asked to do just that, despite being a civilian employee.

You are reasonably sure you can mount a cyber-attack which will have the desired political effect: it will disrupt systems of the opposing force enough to cause public embarrassment to their government, with minimum risk of casualties. But can you be sure its effects will be confined to government systems, or to that country? What if the attack shuts down hospital in their country, or across the world?

Is it ethical to be involved in planning such an attack? Would your answer be different, if you are a civilian contractor rather than a government employee, or if you were a military officer? Note that the hypothetical scenario does not say what country is planning the attack, or who they are attacking: does it make a difference to your answer who is attacking who?

Note that you are not asked to become an expert on the Geneva Conventions or the laws of war. However, as an professional you need to be aware of the ethical implications of what you choose to do, or not do, in your work.

The Australian Computer Society's Code of Professional Conduct and Professional Practice, incorporating a code of ethics which requires all members to act with professional responsibility and integrity. How does that code apply to cyberwar? In decreasing order of priority, the ACS Code of Ethics lists:
  1. The Public Interest
  2. Integrity
  3. Confidentiality
  4. Objectivity and Independence
  5. Competence
  6. Keeping Up-To-Date
  7. Subordinates
  8. Responsibility to your Client
  9. Promoting Information Technology
  10. The Image of the Profession and the Society
There will be a question on this topic in the examination.


The hypothetical scenario presented is based on real events. In 2015 an Australian military aircraft was challenged by radio while on patrol (Wroe & Wen, 2015). In 2010 the "Stuxnet" computer worm was released, apparently designed to destroy a nuclear processing facility, but spread world wide (Langner, 2011). In 2014 five military officers were charged with hacking to obtain trade secrets (Wechsler, 2016).

Henschke (p. 17, 2014) points out that "the purpose of a cyberweapon is to attack an information system in order to perpetrate harm". Ford (p. 7, 2014) provide a diagram to help decide how to respond to a critical infrastructure/high impact attack. This chart could equally used to plan an attack for maximum impact.

Screen image of the web page for the fictional Concinna Day Care Centre
Fictional day care centre
Page & Jean, 2013)
Cyber-warfare attacks do not necessarily need sophisticated computer code. Human factor attack, where someone within the organization being attacked is tricked into providing information or access. In 2013 invitations to apply to a supposed government endorsed child care center were sent to employees of an intelligence agency. An attached form was designed to collect personal information which could be used for later attacks (Page & Jean, 2013).


Ford, S. (2014). Warfare, cyberweapons and morality. In M. Keelty, A. Henschke, N. Evans, S. Ford & A Gastineau & L. West, Cybersecurity: mapping the ethical terrain. National Security College (ANU). Retrieved from
Henschke, A. (2014). A decision-making procedure for responding to cyber-attacks. In M. Keelty, A. Henschke, N. Evans, S. Ford & A Gastineau & L. West, Cybersecurity: mapping the ethical terrain. National Security College (ANU). Retrieved from
Langner, R. (2011). Stuxnet: Dissecting a cyberwarfare weapon. Security & Privacy, IEEE, 9(3), 49-51. Retrieved from
Page, F., & Jean, P. (2013, April 16). Free childcare scam aimed at intelligence staff. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from:
Wechsler, P. (2016). Issue: Cybersecurity Short Article: China's Unit 61398 Pulled From the Shadows. Retrieved from
Wroe, D., & Wen, P. (2015, December 15). South China Sea: Australia steps up air patrols in defiance of Beijing. Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved from:


Department of Defence. (2014, March 18) Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft. Department of Defence. Retrieved from

This presentation contains images that were used under a Creative Commons License. Click here to see the full list of images and attributions:

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Australian Virtual Colombo Plan helped fund the African Virtual University

In looking at research on international distance education I stumbled across the "Virtual Colombo Plan" (VCP). This which was a $230M Australian Government/World Bank initiative from 2001 to 2006, to fund on-line education for developing nations (Curtain, 2004 and McCawley, Henry and Zurstrassen, 2002). The VCP ended in 2006 with little ceremony, but it did help fund the African Virtual University, which continues today (Wolff, p.25, 2002).

The original "Colombo Plan" was a cold war era multi-nation effort to combat the rise of communism, through education and scientific aid to developing nations. Australia funded students from developing nations at Australian universities. The Australian Government later again appropriated the "Colombo Plan" name for its own national program, in the form of the "New Colombo Plan" in 2013. The New Colombo Plan reverses the approach of the old, sending Australian university students to nations in the region, as part of their education.

Also, the Australian Academic Research Network (AARnet), in a submission to the Australian Government  Draft National Strategy for International Education, proposed a “Digital Colombo Plan". This was similar in aim to the Virtual Colombo Plan, to provide high speed broadband to universities in developing countries in the Pacific to improve education, participially for on-line courses from Australia. The proposal was not adopted.


Curtain, R. (2004). Information and communications technologies and development: Help or hindrance. AusAID Virtual Colombo Plan. Retrieved from

McCawley, P., Henry, D., & Zurstrassen, M. (2002, March). The Virtual Colombo Plan: Addressing the ICT Revolution. In Global Summit of Online Knowledge Networks Conference, Adelaide, Australia (pp. 4-5). Retrieved from

Wolff, L. (2002). The African Virtual University: the challenge of higher education development in sub-Saharan Africa. TechKnowLogia, International Journal of Technologies for the Advancement of Knowledge and Learning, 4(2). Retrieved from

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Simplified Technical English

Pincas (p. 40, 2001) discusses the problems of using English as an international language for education, arguing it is "impossible to define 'Standard English'". However, there are controlled natural languages, most notably the "ASD Simplified Technical English" (ASD-STE100, aka STE) for aerospace manuals (Kuhn, 2014). STE provides a simplified grammar and style rules, as well as a limited dictionary. It clearly is possible to define a standard English for use in a discipline, should the discipline wish to devote resources to the task.


Kuhn, T. (2014). A survey and classification of controlled natural languages. Computational Linguistics, 40(1), 121-170. Retrieved from
Pincas, A. (2001). Culture, cognition and communication in global education. Distance Education, 22(1), 30-51. Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Taming Cyberspace With International Law

Fred CateGreetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Fred Cate from Indiana University is speaking on "Taming cyberspace: Applying international law in a new domain" as part of the part of the conference "Securing our Future in Cyberspace". He claimed that on-line systems are not secure. He challenged the audience to name one secure system and no one took up the challenge. The room is full of people from Australian government intelligence agencies, who hopefully have such systems but can't say. ;-)

Professor Cate claimed that 85% to 90% of break-ins to systems are due to human failings, due to phishing or poor passwords, not highly technical attacks. He also claimed that outside banks and a few other categories, there is no legal obligation to secure systems. His conclusion was "We are not taking cyber-security seriously any more", saying US investment in the area is small compared to other security matters. Professor Cate criticized the US Government for only having a "Cybersecurity Coordinator" (currently Michael Daniel).

Professor Cate claimed there were not regulations requiring organizations to have good security. However, he mentioned earlier on "governance". Australia developed the standard "Corporate Governance of Information and Communication Technology" (AS8015), later adopted internationally as ISO/IEC 38500 in 2008. These standards are not mandated by law. However, there are corporate governance laws. I suggest that the standards could be applied though case law, or could be explicitly made mandatory through legislation.

Professor Cate claimed that there was no one in the US Government to shut down a government server which was sending out computer viruses. With the greatest respect to the professor, I do not believe this to be true. Any IT professional with a server under their control has an ethical and legal obligation to shut it down if it is sending out computer viruses (unless of course it is part of an authorized security operation).

Professor Cate asked if any government had a system to deal with a widespread emergency without the Internet. A quick search shows they do. The US military has the Minimum Essential Emergency Communications Network (MEECN) and the Australian Defence Force and state police forces have HF radio networks. There are also Australian outback HF networks.

An interesting comment by Professor Catewas that insurance companies are effectively setting cyber security standards in the USA.

There are an extensive set of papers on Cybersecurity by Professor Cate.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Enhancing university graduate employability strategies

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am taking part in a workshop on Enhancing university graduate employability strategies, by Dr. Shelley Kinash of Bond University. Participants were handed an extensive set of papers, including "8 ways to enhance your students’ graduate employability". Also I found a paper "Enhancing graduate employability of the 21st century learner". The amount of material provided was a little overwhelming, but it is all clearly written and well designed (including use of graphics). There are also materials, with a creative commons license on the website

One aspect of universities addressing "employability" of graduates is that universities have helped create the problem. Previously only a very small proportion of the population obtained a university degree. Employers could use this as a way to shortlist candidates, even where the degree was unrelated to the job. With many more graduates available, employers can no longer do this.

It seems to me that universities are relearning what the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector already know and implement. Trade training traditional includes work experience and apprenticeships. This applies to hi-tech jobs. As an example, with the Australian Government has an ICT Apprenticeship Programme,  the apprentices work four days a week in a government agency, while undertaking a VET Certificate or a Diploma. There is also a Australian Government ICT Cadetship Programme, for university students after their first year, working 2, or more, days per week in an agency.
The workshop also touched on employability of postgraduates, with surveys showing they are unhappy about the assistance they are offered. However, if the aim is employment, then I suggest the student should undertake a professional degree. Students undertaking a research degree cannot expect this to assist with general employment (and it may well make them less employable).

Securing our Future in Cyberspace

Greetings from the Australian National University where a research symposium on "Towards a political ecology of cyberspace" is taking place as part of the conference "Securing our Future in Cyberspace". There is a public forum on "Quantum sovereignty: the Westphalian principle and the global governance of cyberspace" tomorrow, "Taming cyberspace: applying international law in a new domain" Wednesday,  "The role of cybersecurity in Chinese foreign policy" Thursday and "Securing our future in cyberspace - next steps" on Friday.
The event has not started well, with the first speaker asking "What is Cyberspace?" and answering their own question with "Well it is really big.". This sounds like a line from the 1995 Steven Seagal  film "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory": a US DoD technician searching for a orbital weapons platform says something like "It called 'space' because it is really big". ;-)

The first presentation on the ontology of cyberspace. The second presentation was on the ethics of cyberwarfare. An interesting aspect is the interaction of IT and military ethics. Perhaps the most insightful comment of the morning was describing cyber-warfare as "a game of rock, paper scissors".

The last session I attended was on Balkanization of the internet". This seemed to have missed the point that "The Internet" (with a capital "I") is an internet (small "i"): that is a network of networks. So the term "Balkanization of the Internet" is a tautology: the Internet is, by design balkanized and this is one of its strengths. The network of networks provides for security and Resistance of the Intent. Balkanization is not an emergent property of the Internet, it is an important part of the design.

The "Towards a political ecology of cyberspace" research symposium was disappointing. It presented some introductory material which would be suitable for a first year introduction lecture. Some of the material was technically incorrect. The work presented was of practical minimal pratical value and not high quality academic research.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Resources for Teaching ICT in Schools

Joel Cowey talked about the CSIRO ICT in Schools Program at the Australian Computer Society in Canberra, 10th February 2016. Joel explained how the program (ICTiS) partners volunteer ICT professionals and with school teachers who are teaching the new Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum. He showed some hardware used in schools for teaching ICT, as well as pointing out useful online resources. Here are some links:

For IT Professionals and Teachers:

  1. CSIRO ICT in Schools Registration
  2. InteACT ACT IT Teachers Association
  3. Australian Digital Technologies Curriculum
  4. Free Online Course for Teaches on the Digital Curriculum
  5. Teach for Australia Program for graduates to take up teaching
  6. Double degree for science teaching from ANU and University of Canberra
  7. Comp8440 ANU Free and Open Source Software Development

Activities for Students:

Hardware for teaching IT:

  1. Bee Bot a teaching robot for young students
  2. Arduino Low cost single board computer
  3. Arduino LilyPad Low cost computer designed to sew into fabric 
  4. Makey Makey Game controller for kids

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thermal Counters Show 30% of ANU Studnets Attend Lectures

The Higher Education supplement of the Australian newspaper has reported that 30% of students attend lectures at the Australian National University after the first two weeks ("Chills as the body count drops", by Paul Cleary, 10 February 2016). This is not surprising (except I would estimate the figure at 25%). For this reason I stopped using old fashioned lectures as the primary teaching tool in at ANU in 2009.

Financial Performance of Australian Universities

The LH Martin Institute have released an analysis of the latest financial data from Australian universities: "Financial Performance of Australian Universities in 2014". The Australian National University had the highest per student revenue ($63,922), followed by Melbourne University ($49,770) and UWA ($45,375). The highest revenue per academic were at Charles Darwin ($739,658) and Central Queensland University ($665,157).

UN Sustainable Development Goals for Education

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where a panel of experts is discussing "What will the SDGs mean for Asia?". The "SDGs" are the 17  Sustainable Development Goals which were, adopted by the UN last year to "... end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all ...". The SDGs have been criticized for being more complex and vague than the previous development goals. One question I did not get to ask the panel was about addressing displaced people. Now more than 60 million, if a country, refugees and displaced people would be about the world's twentieth largest country. Refugees, and their children, in particular miss out on education.

Of particular interest to me is Goal 4 "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all". This applies to both school and adult higher education.

The goals are intended to be universally applied, not just in developing countries. It happens today the Closing the Gap Prime Minister's Report 2016 on Indigenous Australians was released. Chapter Two of the report is on Education . There are three measures reported on: school attendance, Literacy and numeracy and Year 12 attainment. It should be noted that the Australian targets only cover school eduction, not vocational or university attendance. Even on the limited measures used, Austrlaia is failing to close the "gap" between
Indigenous and other Australians. School attendance was 9% lower for indigenous, than non-indigenous students in 2015be met. There is progress on literacy, numeracy and year 12 attainment, however, here the target is to only halve the gap by 2018 (and 2020 for Year 12 attainment), not eliminate it. Even this seems unlikely to be achieved for indigenous students in  remote areas. A fundamental flaw in the strategy is the emphasis on sending students away to boarding schools, rather than bringing the education to the students in their community.

"Goal 4 Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations
4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development
4.a Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all
4.b By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island
developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology,
technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries
4.c By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

E-Sabak: Indonesian Educational Tablet Computer with e-Books

News reports indicate that the Indonesian government is planning to introduce an "E-Sabak" (e-Slate) tablet computer for education. There have been questions asked about how well this will go, compared to Indian tablet initiatives. However, the most interesting aspect for me was mention of providing e-books for free with the computer. Azmil Tayeb recently presented a seminar at ANU on "The State and Management of Islamic Education in Indonesia and Malaysia".
Azmil's research looks at the centralization and decentralization of education in these countries. It occurs to me that a government could take the opportunity of replacing textbooks with e-books to centralize education control further.

Monday, February 8, 2016

CSIRO Researchers Need Innovation Training

CSIRO and the former NICTA (now Data61) were certainly in need of reform, but I am not sure if the new CEO's cure is not worse than the malaise the organizations were suffering from.

A few years ago I spent a year as a visiting scientist in CSIRO's IT R&D area. There were world class researchers working on important problems. But the management of the organization did not appear to be paying much attention to this. there did not seem to be any overall direction for the organization. CSIRO was using "matrix" management, which seemed to be an admission that there really was no one running the place. Having spent 15 years associated with a university, I am used to the difficulties of a diverse research orientated organization, but CSRIO's problems were an order of magnitude worse.

The new CSIRO CEO, Larry Marshall, is attempting to apply Silicon Valley management techniques to what is a losse federation of scientists. CSIRO probably does need a shock like this to restart it. But the language used to communicate with the staff, I suggest, needs to be translated from start-up speak, into something resembling Australia English. Lucy Kellaway writes a column for the Financial Times where she ridicules management speak used by CEOs when they are announcing staff reductions. She would have plenty of material to work with in Marshall's announcement.

The former NICTA (now Data61) was also in need of a rethink. I was one of those who was consulted and advocated the multi-center model for the organization, with nodes in each state associated with a major university. However, this has not worked, with the organization not having a clear identity of its own.

One of the ways I suggest CSIRO, Data61 and its university counterparts could improve the R&D process is to train researchers in how innovation happens. CSIRO have announced the ON innovation and entrepreneurship program. The first part of this is an accelerator an program called AcceleratiON, with eight teams of CSIRO staff and outsiders spending three moths developing a venture. However, I suggest research CSIRO all need basic training in innovation.

Innovation is not about how to have a brilliant new idea, but how to translate that idea into a marketable product. This is not to say every researcher needs to become an entrepreneur, but they do need to understand the basics of how their work is turned into something useful. Too many researchers in white coats (yes, some do really wear white coats) have the idea that they are doing the hard bit and someone else in a pinstripe suit (or(back skivvy) then has an easy job to turn this into a product. A little training will teach them how important and hard this is. I have been designing on-line mobile deliverable innovation training modules to help with this.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Fixing Courses with Cognitive Load Theory

Greetings from Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Dr Raina Mason, from Southern Cross University (SCU) is speaking on "Using Cognitive Load Theory to improve troublesome courses". They have a paper with Cooper and Wilks (2015) applying this to teaching mobile app development.

The idea with using Cognitive Load Theory is provide students with links between items, so as not to overload the student, so that what they are learning goes into their long term memory. The short term working memory can only hold nine items at once and only for a few seconds. If they are presented with too many apparently random items, the student will not be able to remember it.

Dr. Mason and her colleagues have produced the "Cognitive Assistance Factor Evaluation" (CAFE') toolkit, to help with course design. I was able to register and start using the tool during the workshop. I ran my "ICT Sustainability" course through the toolkit, which took only a few minutes. The tool asks a series of questions about the course and then presents some recommendations. Obviously this information could have simply be presented in booklet form, but the step by step process is useful. Here are the ones I got:

"Suggestions from your Course Evaluation

Based on your answers to this evaluation tool, the following comments and suggestions are offered for your consideration.

General Factors

Reduce Extraneous Cognitive Load

Using multiple memory modes

The best way to present an explanation of a diagram is via verbal commentary. This allows incoming content to be divided between visual and auditory channels. For this reason, the best way to present information explaining complex diagrams in your course is via screencasts of common activities with highlighting synchronised with audio explanations.
For more information see Reduce Extraneous Load: modality effect.
This audio commentary, however, should be provided without explanatory text on the diagram itself. The only text on the diagram should be labels if necessary.
For more information see Reduce Extraneous Load: redundancy effect.

Remove unnecessary elements

Provide external memory support to reduce working memory load

It is preferable to provide students with as many external memory aids as possible. Some examples of these for a course would be
* check-lists
* exam support sheets ("cheat-sheets"), and
* summaries
These external memory supports reduce load on working memory and allow students to direct limited memory resources to learning. As learner expertise increases, these memory aids can be reduced or faded.
For more information see Reduce Extraneous Load: external memory aids.

Use segmenting, sequencing and student pacing to present content gradually

When students are required to design and produce original works, the best approach is one where students are initially provided with example works and given opportunities to use and familiarise with these works, only then moving on to modify the work and create their own works. This approach allows management of working memory and schema acquisition and elaboration. Students first are able to familiarise themselves with the type of works they will eventually create. They build schema for using these works, without overloading memory by attempting to create works at the same time. Modification of the work then allows management of the cognitive load on working memory through chunking and segmentation. When schemas for modification and using the work are well established, students can then turn their attention to design tasks and creating their own work.
For more information see Reduce Extraneous Load: segmentation.
Students should be given control over pacing as much as possible. In the case of a whole course, it is preferable if students are free to pace as they see fit provided that they have completed all materials by the end of the course.
For practical reasons, this is usually not possible, and if so students should be free to pace as they see fit provided that they complete all assignments by the due dates.
For more information see Reduce Extraneous Load: segmentationeffect and Learner Expertise Differences.

Transition from worked examples to independent performance

The best educational approach for your cohort of students is to start with direct instruction, with many worked examples. This should be followed by faded worked examples, and then move to problem-solving and guided discovery learning after your students have reached a reasonable level of expertise.
For more information see Reduce Extraneous Load: worked examples effect.

Promote germane load

Accommodate differences in student expertise

High performing students should be given access to extension materials in order to elaborate and consolidate their schemas.
For more information, see Learner Expertise Differences." From: "Cognitive Assistance Factor Evaluation" (CAFE') toolkit


Mason, R., Cooper, G., & Wilks, B. (2015). Using Cognitive Load Theory to select an Environment for Teaching Mobile Apps Development. Retrieved from

Benchmarking Computing Degrees

Greetings from Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Professor Chris Johnson, Executive Officer of the Australian Council of Deans of Information and Communication Technology (ACDICT) is presenting on "Benchmarking and Curriculum Improvement for the Computing Disciplines".

Chris then handed over to Steve Drew, who discussed the Consultation Draft "Information and Communication Technology Academic Standards Statement" this attempts to translate the what to teach in curriculum standards into what graduates should be able to do.

Dr Sara Booth from University of Tasmania, then talked about "Peer Review of Assessment". Sara has been working with approaches developed for the school sector and applying them in higher education through an "Online Peer Review Tool" (OPRT). The tool is being tested. The OPRT User Manual is publicly available, but the tool itself is proprietary. This publicly funded project might have more impact, I suggest, if it was to release the results under an open access license, in accordance with Australian Government policy.

Overall the workshop was useful. However, it highlights the challenges for Australian universities in meeting employer's expectations, while maintaining academic norms. There is an  tension between maintaining diversity between Australian universities and meeting national and international standards. Developing an Australian standard and benchmarking IT degrees seems to me to be of limited value, as Australian universities need to meet international standards.

The benchmarking processes described seemed to be for an form of university education from a past era. Program and courses should be designed in a systematic way, by people with training and qualifications in educational design. The use of standards and benchmarking is then routine. It is the distance education universities and vocational sector, which excel at this, as without a systematic process they would not be able to operate at all. Traditional face-to-face institutions need to learn these processes. A simple way to implement this is to have staff trained using the techniques and courses already developed for distance education.

For the last three years I have been learning how to design and deliver education using the techniques developed for vocational and distance education, which I find are equally applicable to the face-to-face classroom. It seems wasteful for universities and bodies such as the OLT to commission research into how to solve educational problems which have already been solved decades ago.

Teaching Problem Solving Skills to Technologists

Greetings from Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Geraldine Torrisi-Steele from Griffith University is speaking on "Supporting students' development of metacognition and problem solving skills". She suggests that students to taught study skills to develop metacognition should be built into courses, rather than a separate and optional training program. She argues that the students who need the training will not be aware they need it. In my view there should be both: some students will be identified as having difficulty and need to be diverted into special programs, most will need just a little promoting.

Torrisi-Steele administered a Metacognitive Awareness Inventory to computer science students and found that even some of the better students had limited awareness of how they learn. They then framed coding as problem solving and had students doing use cases. This reverses the usual sequence where students learn basic coding first and higher level design skills later.

Torrisi-Steele mentioned that primary school science teachers have techniques for developing metacognition in students and suggests this can be applied to university students. It occurs to me that there is a carefully designed Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies for years k to 10. Perhaps this could be adapted for university computing students. An interesting question is what will universities teach when student who have been through the new school curriculum? Also much of what Torrisi-Steeleis advocating is the use of basic teaching techniques, which school teachers are routinely trained in, but university lecturers are not.

Torrisi-Steele has previously published on Online Learning and Metacognition (2015).


Torrisi-Steele, G. (2015). Online Learning and Metacognition: A Design Framework. Handbook of Research on Learning Outcomes and Opportunities in the Digital Age, 221.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Interactive 3D for Combating Public Health Emergency

Greetings from Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Dr. Dale Patterson from Griffith University is speaking on "Interactive 3D Web Applications for Visualization of World Health Organization Data". Formal experiments show that 3D depictions of data are more engaging than 2D and this more than tables of numbers. This is timely, given the declaration of a Public Health Emergency by WHO over Zika virus transmission.

Job of a Teacher

Bumped into a colleague this morning grumbling about the amount of work before the start of semester. To which I replied:
"Remember that the job of a teacher is not to work very hard, it is to make the students work very hard."

With apologies to General George S. Patton, United States Third Army.

Human Face of Internet of Things for Smart Cities

Greetings from Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where Dr. Kerry Taylor is speaking on Semantic Sensor Networks: The Internet of Things needs the Web of Data. IoT is normally seen as being about devices, but Dr. Taylor reminded us it is for people, including to make cities more livable. She showed a demonstration of a join of two sets of data using the semantic web. In another example the ontology of the data can be fragmented and embedded in sensors in the field. This has been proposed to W3C as a standard "iot-lite Ontology".

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Security Flaws in Staphones Revealed in Canberra

Dr Leonie Simpson, from QUT, today detailed flaws in the encryption technology in commercial satellite phones. Simpson said that only an ordinary laptop computer would be needed to break the encryption of satphones and "All users of commercial satellite phones are at risk" also that only an ordinary . These phones are used by Australian government officials and the Australian Defence Force on overseas deployments. Simpson was speaking at the Australasian Information Security Conference (AISC 2016).

At the conference exhibition Contact Singapore are providing details of the Singapore Government Cyber Security component of their national development road-map.

ASIC is part of Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra until Friday. ANU is also hosting the international "Securing our Future in Cyberspace Conference", 15-19 February 2016.

The paper is:

Vishesh Bhartiya and Leonie Simpson. Initialisation Flaws in the A5-GMR-1 Satphone Encryption Algorithm, Australasian Information Security Conference, February 2016

ACSW 2016 in the Tank at ANU

Delegates for Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) are in "The Tank" (aka Haydon-Allen Lecture Theatre (Building 23) at ANU. Demonstrations of ANU Techlauncher are in room GO52.

UK Learning Space Toolkit

A "UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit" has been issued by the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association at
University of Oxford. This is a 92 page report, available as chapters or one PDF download. It is to help plan new formats of teaching rooms, usually called "innovative and collaborative spaces" to replace traditional tiered lecture theatres and small tutorial rooms. The idea is to provide for both presentations and group work in the one room, combining the lecture and tutorial. 

The toolkit provides detailed advice on designing new learning spaces, including the placement of equipment. After investigating many complex designs over several years, I decided that simplest was best: rectangular rooms with flat floors, white-board walls which can be projected on. All furniture should be on wheels, so it can be rearranged. The same standard computer and audio-visual equipment as used in lecture theaters should be installed, but otherwise there should be no computers installed (assuming students bring their own).

ps: I received an acknowledgement in the document, but couldn't recall what it was I contributed. Apparently they changed changed some of the terminology used, based on my suggestions.

IT for Lifelong Well Being

In the opening plenary of ACSW 2016, Professor Judy Kay from University of Sydney described how IT could help with health and well being. She described health as a "Sisyphean" task, which you have to do every day. A wearable device can help with this as it can monitor your health constantly and prompt you to exercise and eat well.One unusual device is an instrumented cushion to track how long people sit down. I suggest this could be enhanced with a feedback device to encourage people to get up occasionally: an electronic whoopee cushion. ;-)

Australian and NZ Computer Science Educators Meet to Make Degrees More Relivant

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where conference chair Professor Tom Gedeon opened the Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW 2016) of the Computing Research and Education Association of Australasia (CORE), was just officially opened. Deans of computing from universities across Australia and New Zealand met yesterday, before the official start. Hot topics for discussion were how to make degrees more relevant to industry and preparing graduates to work on start-ups. Dr Shayne
Flint presented the ANU TechLauncher Program for student start-ups.

ACSW 2016 runs until Friday, with ten conferences. The program includes plenary presentations by Professor Judy Kay, University of Sydney on "A Human-Centred View of Big Personal Data: Scrutable User Models for Privacyand Control", Dr Kerry Taylor, Chair W3C/OGC Spatial Data on the Web Working Group & ANU, on "Semantic Sensor Networks: The Internet of Things needs the Web of Data" and Geraldine Torrisi-Steele, Griffith University, on "Supporting students' development of metacognition and problem solving skills".


Conferences at ACSW 2016:

  1. Asia-Pacific Conference on Conceptual Modelling (APCCM)
  2. Australasian Computer Science Conference (ACSC)
  3. Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE)
  4. Australasian Information Security Conference (AISC)
  5. Australasian Symposium on Parallel and Distributed Computing (AusPDC)
  6. Australasian User Interface Conference (AUIC)
  7. Australasian Web Conference (AWC)
  8. Australasian Workshop on Health Informatics and Knowledge Management (HIKM)
  9. Interactive Entertainment (IE)
  10. Australasian Conference on Artificial Life and Computational Intelligence (ACALCI) 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Teaching Better Judgement

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am taking part in Professor Lambert Schuwirth's  Better Judgement Workshop. This is part of a Flinders University, funded by the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT). This is about how to better train assessors for professions such as medicine.

This is about assessment of skills in the workplace. But something which struck me was that I feel very comfortable sitting in a classroom. I have been teaching and doing only  on-line courses for the last year and there is something familiar about being back in a classroom, with rows of desks, a lectern at the front and fellow students around me.

The next thing which struck me was that the workshop seemed to be about workplace assessment for competence, an area I was trained in as part of a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment. With this you first decide what the job requires, then what behavior you can observe of the student to asses if they can do what is required. This could be the student actually doing the job,or doing a simulation of the job. Only if that is not feasible would you give them an "examination" as such, as that is not a very good way to assess what some can do.

Also the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector, unlike universities, requires formal training and assessment of assessors. Having been trained in how to design and administer assessment makes me more confident in what to do and, hopefully, better at it.

This brings up a problem with the OLT's strategy for improving the quality of terracing at Australian universities. OLT funds research on teaching and learning issues. The researchers are required to not only produce the usual academic papers, but also disseminate their results to academics. The usual way is to present results at workshops on campuses across Australia. The problem with this is that, by its nature, research has to be on something new. However, the day to day problems with teaching in Australian universities already have known solutions. The need is not for research, but for training of staff in how to teach.

Monday, February 1, 2016

US Computer Science For All Could Follow Australian Approach

US President Obama has issued a proposal for "Computer Science For All" (White House, 30 January 2016), for school students to learn computer science. This proposes $4B to states and $100M to school districts for training teachers, materials and regional partnerships. I suggest the US could adapt the Australian  Digital Technologies Curriculum, which is far broader than just computer science.

Also the USA could adapt the CSER Digital Technologies Course, from Computer Science Education Research Group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide for training teachers online. Training teachers in digital technologies will have benefits across the school system and it would be best if this teaching incorporated the use of digital technology.

ps:  I have arranged for Joel Cowey from CSIRO to speak on the CSIRO ICT in Schools Program at the Australian Computer Society in Canberra,10 February.