Saturday, July 30, 2022

Ukraine President to Address ANU Online Wednesday, All Welcome

Volodymyr Zelenskyy,
President of Ukraine
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, President of Ukraine, will speak via video to staff and students of the Australian National University, 5 pm AEST, Wednesday 3 August. This is booked out, but you can watch online.

The Ukraine Ambassador to Australia, who was previously the country's head of information warfare, previously talked at ANU in person. 

ps: Volodymyr Zelenskyy's comedy TV series "Servant Of The People" is available from SBS On Demand. ;-)

Green IT and Electrically Actuated Microbeams

A piezoelectric microbeam with rectangular
cross-section and its coordinate system. 
R. Ansari et. al. doi:10.1155/2014/598292
CC BY 4 2014
I am delighted any time my work is cited. But I feel like I have become a character in The Big Bag Theory, after a mention in "Electrically Actuated Microbeams: An Explicit Calculation of the Coulomb Integral in the Entire Stable and Unstable Regimes Using a Chebyshev-Edgeworth Approach" (Schenk,  Melnikov, Wall, Gaudet, Stolz, Schuffenhauer, & Kaiser, 2022). If you are wondering, as I did, what a Microbeam (or Coulomb actuated microbeam) is, this microelectromechanical system is a tiny strip of material which is made to bend when electricity is applied. These are used by the million in optical displays, and in sensors. Requiring only a tiny electrical current, they reduce the energy needed, and so the authors cited  my book on ICT Sustainability (Worthington, 2017).


Schenk, H. A., Melnikov, A., Wall, F., Gaudet, M., Stolz, M., Schuffenhauer, D., & Kaiser, B. (2022). Electrically Actuated Microbeams: An Explicit Calculation of the Coulomb Integral in the Entire Stable and Unstable Regimes Using a Chebyshev-Edgeworth Approach. Physical Review Applied18(1), 014059.

Worthington, T. (2017). ICT Sustainability: Assessment and strategies for a low carbon future. Lulu. com.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Drones and Global Order

Greetings from the ANU College of Asia & the Pacific where a panel is speaking on "Drones and Global Order: Reflections on Ukraine". This is to discuss the book "Drones and Global Order: Implications of Remote Warfare for International Society" (edited by Paul Lushenko, Srinjoy Bose, William Maley). Moderator, Professor John Blaxland, Head of the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, pointed out that the book was prepared before the current conflict in Ukraine, and so is prescient. 

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Lushenko,  U.S. Army and Cornell University, mentioned that drones can be used to breech and protect national sovereignty. He nominated the General Atomics Reaper drone as the preeminent system. I suggest it is worth pointing out that the usefulness of this aircraft is reflected in its general design being widely copied by both allies and enemies.

Cecilia Jacob, Associate Professor, ANU International Relations, pointed out the dilemma that drones have been useful in response to conflicts short of war. However, the low cost of drones, and low risk for operators, may make war more likely. A positive point mentioned was using a drone to capture evidence for war crimes trials.

Emeritus Professor William Maley, ANU Diplomacy, reminded the audience that drones are not new, with the German V-1, being mass produced in 1944. As the Professor points out, the V-1 was not accurate enough, and the war did not continue long enough for its significance to be appreciated. Drones could be used for surveillance, material delivery, conventional military attack, attack on terrorist leadership, and drone swarms. On the last point I coached a team of Australian Navy, government and industry people working on swarm defence. Media reports suggest Ukraine used drones to distract the defenders of a Russian warship

Professor Maley commented that "Most people think of drones for delivering pizza, not bombs". This made me wonder what will be the effect of low cost mass-produced drones. Will this be like the effect smart anti-tank weapons have had in the Ukraine? What if both sides are supplied with thousands of small, disposable armed drones, which can loiter over a battlefield? I suggest a drone packaged in a disposable  larch tube similar in size and operation to an anti-tank missile would prove a popular product. This would be larger than the AeroVironment Switchblade, with a battery motor for loitering, and a rocket motor for attack.

ANU Techlauncher Learning to Reflect Introduction

Today I had the delight of being in a classroom with the Australian National University's Techlaucher students, as well as those joining online (video available). Normally I stick to the mechanics of how the "Learning to Reflect" module I supervise is run. The staff of ANU Careers provide the actual content, running students through exercises to help them think about a career. However, after reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, I was inspired to talk a little about my own career. The point wasn't big-noting myself (well not entirely), it was to show a career is rarely a straight linear path. I happened to join ABS, just as they had millions of dollars for IT training I joined the DoD computer division only to have it abolished ending up in the nation's military HQ. I nominated for VP of the ACS, but ended up President. I joined ANU to do research and ended up teaching. The latest coincidence is that I went to an ACS meeting last night, and it was the launch of the new version of a computer job analysis used in Techlauncher. The person launching it happened to have an interest in training computer people in Indonesia, as do I ...

Improvised Throw-able Microphone

Inserting microphone into soft toy,
Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY 2022
In a large classroom it can be difficult to get a microphone to a participant. So there are throw-able microphones available. These consist of a wireless lapel microphone inside a soft foam ball.

So I made my own throw-able microphone from a $10 soft toy. The toy has a zip, so I inserted a wireless lapel microphone into the fiber fill of the toy. I removed the metal tag from the zip on the toy, and replaced that with string, to reduce the risk of injury.

The idea is you can throw the unit to someone, without damage to the microphone. Some will automatically mute the sound while being thrown. But the improvised unit worked fine. The only problem was some of the toy's stuffing clung to the microphone, when I removed it.

ps: The soft toy is a "Boba Plush", from Toymate. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Race to the Top for Talent Says new Australian Computer Society CEO

Greetings from the National Press Club in Canberra, where the Australian Computer society are launching the "ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2022" report. Chris Vein, the new ACS CEO, fresh from the USA, described how Australia is in a "race to the top" for global computer talent. This year's Pulse report, prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, backs this up, with details of the growth areas for demand for personnel, particularly as cyber security, digital analytics, and AI. The Hon Ed Husic MP, Minister for Science, then talked about the ACT's role in support of government, and proposals of the new government to open up contracts to local tenderers. The Minister also mentioned the issue of diversity, arguing technology industries have suffered from a lack leading to poor design. The Pulse report (Page 16) bears this out, with a 31% female computer workforce, compared to 46% for professions generally. 

I asked the Minister about cyber training in the region, particularly Indonesia, where a recent ANU National Security College report expressed concern. The Minister mentioned his recent trip to Indonesia, and emphasized vocation education, and micro-credentials as areas with potenital.

Andrew Barr, Chief Minister of the ACT Government, and Attorney-General Shane Rattenbury, are also present. 

ps: The release of the Pulse report is fortuitous, as tomorrow I am helping a class of several hundred ANU computer students think about their future career.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Alternatives to Chinese technology training for the Indo-Pacific

Tom Worthington Speaking at NICT 2018 in Colombo
Presenting on M-learing for the Indo-Pacific, 2018. 

In "China Inc. and Indonesia’s Technology Future", van der Kley, Herscovitch, and  Priyandita (ANU National Security College, 2022), suggest Australia and its allies should provide tech training in Indonesia, to counter China's influence. This is a viable idea, from geopolitical, developmental, and market development perspectives. However, Indonesia has excellent tech educators (I have met many), and so this would be better done by assisting them, rather than being imposed from outside.  In 2018 I suggested countries of the Indo-Pacific could jointly educate professionals using mobile devices, in to counter the influence of China's Belt and Road Education Plan.

Rather than creating free courses, dependent on intermittent foreign aid programs. I suggest that allied educational institutions, and entrepreneurs, could be assisted to set up not-for-profit, and for-profit programs, which will be able to be self funding. This can be done using standard start-up techniques, and Indonesia's exceptionally vibrant commercial sector. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Economics of Charity at ANU

Professor John List, Head of the ANU John Mitchell Economics of Poverty Lab, is speaking on "The Economics of Charity" in Canberra, at the ANU College of Business and Economics. I am watching on-line. He is author of "The Voltage Effect: How to Make Good Ideas Great and Great Ideas Scale" (2022). 

Professor List related how in his early work he conducted experiments into getting donations for a university. He found that private donations in advance to a pubic call increases donations, as a quality signal. Taking an extreme example, mentioning there had already been a donation from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation greatly increased subsequent donations. However, traditional economic models on price effects don't work. In particular, different matching ratios (from 1:1 to 1:3) doesn't make a difference.

Another interesting point is that marketing gifts, only tend to work once. Men are more price sensitive than women.

Interestingly Professor List discussed the use of AI, both for experiment, and in practice. 

Overall an interesting talk, but I had some difficulty with the US outlook, terminology, and jargon. At times I had difficulty working out what were US colloquialisms, and what were technical terms from the field.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Hamburger University Sydney

Front door of "Hamburger University", Sydney.
Photo by Tom Worthington, CC-BY 2022
Desperate for a coffee in Sydney last weekend, I stumbled across "Hamburger University", collocated with a Mcdonald's cafe in the suburb of Thornleigh. This is the unofficial name for the Charlie Bell School of Management,  a McDonald's Corporation training unit. They also offer scholarships for study at Australian universities. 

Note that "University" for this facility is informal (their logo is made of chips), as using this term officially for an educational institution in Australia requires government accreditation. McDonald's Australia Ltd is a Registered Training Organisation (Number 90820). It can deliver and assess a Certificate II & III in Retail, with four  units of competency in safe food handling.  

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Universities Must Prepare for the COVID-19 Peak by Keeping an Online Option for Courses, Meetings & Events

Australia's National Cabinet met on Saturday and agreed to reinstate, continue and introduce some new emergency measures due to rising cases of COVID-19. I suggest all universities must offer an online option for all courses, meeting, and events, at least until the end of 2022. Forcing staff and students to return to a classroom, will place at risk the lives of staff, students, and the general public. It will also place in jeopardy the ongoing operation of our educational institutions. 

Vice Chancellors, university executive members, and all academics who teach, have a duty of care. Allowing students to participate online, without requiring to specially apply, or get permission, is a way to meet that duty of care, and remain within the law.

As well as slowing the spread of disease, an option option will allow those in isolation to participate. Not offering them that option would be unlawful discrimination. It is not as if universities were not ready with an online option. Even those which failed to prepare in advance of the current pandemic, have now had two years to equip and train.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Thursday, July 14, 2022

On-line Graduate Certificate of New Technologies Law at the ANU

Tim Hillman just ran an online seminar on the new ANU Graduate Certificate of New Technologies Law. This program is unusual, as it was designed, and is offered, entirely online. It is short, with the student able to complete the four courses in only six months, full time. But I suggest that if you are working or have significant home commitments, consider doing it one course at a time. There are summer course offerings, so this could take a little under two years.

There is a compulsory introductory course with those not having a prior law degree, then 12 electives. What got my attention was that there are two defence related courses offered: Cyber Warfare Law (LAWS8035), Weaponry and Targeting (LAWS8401). Also #MeToo and the Law (LAWS8403), looks interesting.

The certificate courses can be credited towards a Masters program, but as Tim pointed out in the seminar, you have to thing about your program of study.

ps: I will be speaking on "Designing for scale: How to use mobile devices to recruit, train and equip the extra 18,500 defence personnel", at the Mobile Learning Special Interest Group meeting of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (ASCILITE), 10 am, Friday, August 26, 2022. 

Getting disadvantaged students through post secondary education requires designing programs for them

Sarah O' Shea (Curtin University) asks "So what more can be done?" to get  disadvantaged, particularly regional, students into university. I suggest this is the wrong question. Stone, King, and Ronan (2022) provide some of the answers. They suggest working with Regional University Centres and regional campuses to support online study options for regional students. 

Also I suggest university may not be the best place for these students, and the goal should be broadened to include vocational education and training (VET), as this is just as useful for the community (and the student), if not more so, than university study. Regional students can undertake a short, job relevant program, at a nearby VET institution, which caters to students with limited schooling. If universities want to have those same students succeed, they need to either partner with VET, or set up campuses, courses, and services, to meet their needs.

The length of programs aimed for at university should be shortened, to allow for certificates, & diplomas, as well as degrees. A student who successfully completes a program shorter than a degree is not a failure. Their success should be celebrated, and they should be made to feel welcome to return, with full credit, to continue their studies in a nested degree program, later. Also the learning needs to be provided when and where the students are, online and flexibly. Lastly, the learning needs to include basics and study skills, for those students who missed these.

As it is, universities have been set up to cater for students from affluent suburbs, who undertook courses at school (especially elite private schools), to prepare them for university. It is not surprising that if you don't have a university nearby, have never seen a campus, have no one in your family who went to university, don't know anyone who did, and did no courses to prepare you for university, that it might be difficult to contemplate enrolling, let along completing.


King, S., Stone, C., & Ronan, C. (2022). Investigating transitions to university from regional South Australian high schools. National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Technology needed to check the pulse of education research

Catherine Manathunga suggests we take the pulse of education research, and address climate change, and other wicked problems. My doctor doesn't get out an analog stopwatch to check my pulse any more, instead there is an electronic device for that. These are now so cheap I have one at home. I suggest the same change in thinking, and practice, is needed for Australian education, and research. To take the pulse of education research in Australia I suggest we need technology, as well as for conducting research, and undertaking education.

Due to the pandemic, Australian education research has caught up to were higher education the students already were in 2019: mostly studying online. Before the pandemic, academics, and most researchers of university education, were in a state of denial, bemoaning the lack of attendance in class, without being will to accept that students had moved online. Faced with the alternative of being put out of business, academics finally moved their teaching online.

An agenda for inclusive and compassionate education research doesn't have to be this radical. In 2020 feeling isolated by COVID-19 from my usual education research events I drifted towards the excellent online events hosted by ACSILITE, and found myself collaborating with a group of people online, who I have never met in person. Thsi proved productive, and continues today, across three countries. 

Geography has been an easy gap to bridge with technology. Much harder is the transdisciplinary one, and I work in a twilight zone between my original discipline of computer, and my new one of education. If the gap between education and the disciplines it supports, and support it, the decline research funding can be reversed. This can be done by drawing on the funding for those disciplines, and also presenting a compelling case for increased research to address the current skills shortage, energy shortage, defence climate, and other challenges.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Desktop smartphone holder for webinars

As a backup for my desktop computer during webinars, I put my smartphone in a $10 car-cradle. This has a suction cup I stuck to a CD case, to make a desktop stand. This works remarkably well with Zoom or Microsoft Teams. For additional reliability, the audio for the conference can be via a phone call, rather than the Internet.  

Send Facebook Executives to Jail for Promoting Contract Cheating Services?

Offering to write a university students' work for them has been illegal in Australia since 2020. However, when I asked Facebook to take down a post promoting such a service to Canberra students, they refused.

Perhaps it is time for TEQSA, who administer the law, to prosecute Facebook. The financial penalty is only $100,000 but the possibility of a two year jail sentence might get the attention of Facebook executives. 

What Facebook replied:
"We didn't take down ***'s post

We know that this is not what you wanted, and we thought it might help if we explain how the review process works.

Our technology helps us review reports first. This means that we can find content that goes against our Community Standards quickly and reply to people in a reasonable period of time. Some reports, such as those that might contain child exploitation, are prioritised for review by our team.

Our technology reviewed your report and, ultimately, we decided not to take the content down. If you think that we've made a mistake, you can request another review. We'll use what you've sent us to improve the technology and the reporting experience.

We understand that the content may be offensive or hurtful. Facebook is a global community, and people express themselves differently, but we only take down content that goes against our standards. We review and update our standards regularly, with the help of experts.

Thank you for helping to keep Facebook safe and welcoming for everyone."