Thursday, September 28, 2023

The Future of Education as Envisioned by My Students: Online and Industrially Focused

I just finished reading 200 career goals submitted by computing students, as part of an assignment I set. This made me feel positive about the next generation of professionals, and the future of education. Three students are planning to undertake further university studies. The rest of the students sensibly concluded that a bachelors or masters degree was sufficient for the present. We need a few students to go on to do doctoral studies, but only a few.

Rather than university studies, many of the students are planning to undertake online short courses, and industry certifications. In particular cyber security is very popular.

Most students are aiming for a job in industry. A few having ambitions to work for the major computer companies. A handful of studnts plan to work for start-ups, or set up their own. 

Students already have the option to work on their own startup and get credit for it. What I think I need to work on now is options for them to get support, and formal course credit, for undertaking short online courses, and obtaining industry certifications.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

In Christchurch NZ for ASCILITE 2023 3 to 6 December

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre, 
Photo by Klajban, CC BY-SA 4.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
What is there to do in Christchurch in December? I will be in and around the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre, 3 to 6 December for the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education ASCILITE 2023 Conference. I don;t have a paper to give, just a Mobile Learning Special Interest Group (MLSIG) session to contribute to. Happy to catch up with people, and give a talk, if someone has an audience and venue. 

Monday, September 25, 2023

National Skills Passport Doesn't Need $9M Consultation: Just Get On With It

Tom Worthington's
digital ANU certificate,
Copyright ANU 2013
The Australian Government has announced consultation on a National Skills Passport. This is a teaser, from an Employment White Paper due out tomorrow. The government proposes to spend $9M on a business case and consultation. A Skills Passport is a good idea, and one which higher education has been working on, in Australia and around the world. There are some minor technical issues, but the major challenge is acceptance. The ANU provided me with an electronic version of my Graduate Certificate, but Athabasca University did not accept this when I applied to study there (I had to pay ANU to courier a paper copy). Fortunately Athabasca now provides electronic certificates provided by a consortium of Canadian universities (so presumably accepts them). 

It would be useful for the federal government to consult with employees, employers, educators, and other governments. However, this is not something new. It should be well within the capabilities of government staff, and should not cost $9M to do. Instead I suggest the money be spent on building the system.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Kambriwood Creative Studio at ANU to Take Students Beyond Chat GPT

ANU Multimedia Studio
Greeting from the soft launch of the Australian National University's new central  multimedia studio. Grazia Scotellaro, Senior Educator for College of Arts and Social Sciences, argues that we need to provide opportunities for students to create content in new ways, so they don't just fall back on generative AI, such as Chat GPT. Grazia said "We don't need Hollywood", just very creative content. So I suggested we christen the new facility "Kambriwood" (Kambri is the name for the center of ANU). This follows the convention of naming film centers after Hollywood.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Australian Sovereign Research Wealth Fund

In a speech to the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering, Professor Brian Schmidt, Australian National University Vice Chancellor is reported to have said: 
“We are the only country in the world crazy enough to prop up our sovereign research capability with international funds. It produces huge distortions and vulnerabilities in our higher education system." 
I suggest this could be addressed with an Australian Sovereign Research Wealth Fund. International student fees would be treated as a windfall, with a levy applied. The levy would go into the central research fund. This would be invested in developing the results of Australian research. The earnings from the fund would be distributed as competitive grants to universities. 

The levy would be calculated at a level which would allow university to retain a proportion of the surplus from international student fees. This could be set at a 75% share for universities initially, reducing to 25% over ten years.

It might be argued that taking away most of the revenue from international students would be a disincentive for universities to have them. But a university would still be receiving a reasonable return on each student. Also it could be argued that this is the government profiting from the hard work of universities. But the money would be going back to universities in the form of research grants. Also it is not the quality of individual institutions which attracts students, as Australia as a desirable destination.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Tech Central Sydney Needs Old Buildings, a Good Cafe, & Course Credit for Students

In Clamperdown Park, for the
Tech Central Sydney consultation.
Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
This is to suggest planners of the Tech Central Sydney Camperdown Node ensure there are old industrial and commercial building for startups to re-purpose at low cost, a start-up center in one of them, a good cafe, and course credit for students working on entrepreneurial projects.

I went along today to a consultation in Camperdown park, about the Camperdown Node. The collection of government lanyards, and branding, would rival an episode of ABC TV's Utopia. There was even someone from the Greater Cities Commission, successor to the Greater Sydney Commission. This is worryingly close to the "Even Greater Sydney Planning Committee", which was a comedy sketch on ABC Radio Sydney each Friday, by HG Nelson and James Valentine. 

It was a little odd having planning staff of three agencies consulting the public about a high technology precinct. There was a map showing the area, but little in the way of detail of what was proposed, so not much to be consulted on. I was asked about my views, and couldn't resist asking the staff what they would like me to tell them about how to set up a high tech hub, as I had spent a few decades looking into this.

Building Arcadia: Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success

In my closing address as chair of the 1998 Information Industry Outlook Conference,in Canberra,  I argued that Australia should create a cultured image to market information industries. I suggested Cambridge (England) as the model, as detailed in the report The Cambridge Phenomenon. It is now possible to use Canberra as a model, with the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), and a cluster of high tech companies adjacent to the Australian National University (ANU).

Old Building and Egg Rolls

I told the staff at the consultations, what was needed for an innovation precinct were old low cost industry and commercial building for startups to re-purpose. The problem for planners is how to prevent this transition zone close to the Sydney CBD being filled with retail outlets, and high rise apartments, with no place for companies, and advanced manufacturing. Also there needs to be a really good cafe for entrepreneurs to meet in. One angel investor keeps singing the praises of the egg rolls at the Australian Technology Park Cafe.

The other ingredient is a nearby university to supply people with innovative ideas. University of Sydney can provide this. One point I had to NSW, Sydney and Inner West planning staff on was not relying on graduates to provide entrepreneurs. There needs to be schemes to encourage current students, and staff to become entrepreneurs, as well as graduates. Through programs such as Techlauncher, the ANU allows studnts to work on a commercial startup at CRBIN, while a student. The students can get course credit for working on their own, or someone else's  startup. 

Innovating for Health at Your Fingertips

Oximeter from RPA in Use, 
Tom Worthington CC-BY 2022
The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is located between the Sydney University campus and Clamperdown, making bio technology an obvious focus for the area. However, tech is tech, so there is no need to have particular policies, or restrictions on the area. Sydney's inner west has hosted diverse startups, including submarines and military drone builders. Developments don't need to be particularly tech intensive. As an example, I contracted COVID-19, and thus became a patient of RPA Virtual. After registering my location with NSW Health, I was contacted by a nurse at RPA, who took my details, and sent out an Oximeter. There is potential for companies offering more advanced forms of tele-medicine, to improve care, and lower costs.


Building Arcadia: Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success, closing address to the ACS 1998 Information Industry Outlook Conference, Canberra,  7 November 1998

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Virtualize the Consumer Economy to Save the World?

Professor Sharon Friel
Professor Sharon Friel, chair of the  "climate change, social equity and health symposium at the ANU argues that consumption by the rich has to be reduced to combat global warming. The Professor suggests that social movements can accomplish this. However, asking rich powerful people to give up what they have has not proved successful so far. I suggest a better approach would be to redefine success and wealth. 

The Internet provides a way to virtualize wealth, decoupling it from material goods. As an example, art has very little physical substance, as does money. Marketers can label the same physical goods so they have more value for some people. We can make the wealthy continue to feel wealthy without having so much "stuff". That should make them feel better, and save the planet.

In a series of talks around the region I pointed out how this is routinely done in the automotive industry, selling versions of essentially the same car as a budget and luxury product. This can also be done in education with the same degree offered online in a low cost, low carbon emissions version, and on campus for those who can afford it. Those willing to pay for the on-campus experience will feel better about it, but receive the same learning as the online student. 

Climate change, social equity and health symposium now online

Paul Girrawah House, welcome to country,
Greetings from the "Extinction thwarted? The nexus between climate change, social equity and health" symposium at the ANU Research School of Physics theatre in Canberra. There is still time to join in free online. The symposium explores the interaction between climate change, social inequality, and disease. How do we fix that? One aspect was suggested Paul Girrawah House in his welcome to country, by learning from indigenous knowledge as part of Voice , Treaty and Truth. This was followed by the ANU Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt, pointing out the value of person to person learning. 
ANU Vice Chancellor, Brian Schmidt 

Friday, September 8, 2023

VR and Virtual internships and VR for Crisis Management

The Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at the Australian National University has wrapped up after a successful week's hard work. One reason I volunteered to mentor, was to see how this was done. I have done some training at Australian Staff College, back in the days when bits of paper were used, and wanted to see how teaching in this area has evolved. Some of these techniques might be used for computer students.

What was most striking about the ACSS, was the use of video conferencing for a hybrid mode. Base of operations was in Canberra, but with groups of students, and some presenters, distributed around Australia, and a couple of US universities. This format fitted well with the subject matter. The students at each remote site were playing the role of a government agency crisis team. In reality, each team would be communicating with their counterparts electronically. Those in the main venue were in separate rooms, and also used electronic means to communicate.

Conducttr crisis simulation software was used for the simulated news items, and social media. Zoom was used for 24 hour news service. Microsoft Teams was used for team to team video. Google dos was used for group document preparation. It might be worth considering the use of a tool such as Slack, which could incorporate all these functions. However, the use of the tools which are used in the real workplace is worthwhile.

It might be interesting to include specialist technical students in the simulations. This one features cyber security, satellites, submarines and other defence related technology. One of the problems experienced in a real crisis is to quickly get usable, understandable, relevant advice from experts. It would be useful to have teams of law, computer, and engineering students practicing providing time critical advice. 

A professional media company, Shoelace Creative, was brought in to produce live TV news for the simulations, using a student with media experience as the interviewer.  For smaller scale events, this might be replaced with an AI newsreader.

A difficult question is if such simulations could be incorporated into the curriculum. This requires assessment. There is a risk that assessing the simulation would take the fun out of it for the students, and the external mentors. I suggest this could be handled in a similar way to internships: documents generated as part of the process are used for group assessment, plus an individual personal reflection. Rubrics can be used to reduce the burden of assessment for staff. 

Some VR and AR might make the simulations more realistic. One gimmick demonstrated at EduTech 2023 Australia recently was a hologram-like booth, which showed a remote presenter. A simpler form of this could be done by positioning a conventional flat screen behind a podium, so the presenter appears to be standing there. 

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Cyberwar Breaks Out at Australian Crisis Simulation

ACSS Domestic Briefing, 
in the ANU Moot Court.
Photo by Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
Greetings from the Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at in the Moot Court at the Australian National University in Canberra. Game play became very interesting in the last round, when one team took a fake news item as real and spread it through the government agencies, causing confusion and consternation. The game masters discussed intervening. I suggested letting the game run as this was a very realistic possibility and a good learning experience. But this was disrupting the play, and so a mentor provided some advice to teams to get things back on track. 

ANU Moot Court  tea urn & banana, 
Photo by Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023

Today is "domestic" with a focus on crisis in Australia, rather than the region. Ominously, the head game-master quoted 
General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Order of the Day (1944) "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. ...". Amidst this drama I noticed the ANU's Moot Court was equipped with a tea urn, and a banana. ;-)

More drama occurred at the start of the domestic simulation, with a system glitch. This required the team to reschedule, and also was a useful learning experience of what happens when you depend on a computer based system.

Last night there was a celebration with Canberra participants, and sponsors. This was a slightly unusual combination of glamour event, with representatives from allied government, and displays from secret government agencies (who recruit the students). 

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Cyber Crisis Simulated

James Weatherman interviewing
Tom Worthington on SBC. CC-BY
Greetings from the Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at in the Moot Court at the Australian National University in Canberra. A scripted simulated cyber attack has just happened, and the pretend company representative is being interviewed on the fictional SBC (Summit Broadcasting Corporation). I thought the student playing the role was putting on a fake american accent, but it turns out they are in a team at a US university. Earlier in the day I was interviewed. The fake news channel is being provided by Shoelace Creative, with one of the studnts providing the news anchor. 

This infrastructure takes a lot of work. A lower effort way to do this would be with a synthetic newsreader, working from a prepared script.

Crisis in the Moot Court

Briefing in the ANU Moot Court.
Tom Worthington CC-BY 2023
Greetings from the Australian Crisis Simulation Summit at in the Moot Court at the Australian National University in Canberra. A team of ANU students are running simulations of national security situations (with cyber-attacks, grey-zone & information warfare, plus natural disasters), for teams students across Australia to respond to in real time. I am mentoring some local teams, using my experience working at HQ ADF. 

The Moot Court turns out to be ideally suited to running such an exercise. The main room, which is set up like a mock courtroom is used for briefings, which are sent out via Zoom. The setup resembles the sort of government briefing rooms used for real briefings. The room has a folding wall which has been deployed, so one crisis team can work in half the room. Outside is an area used for breaks. Opposite are two small Harvard style tutorial rooms, being used for smaller mentor briefings, and team work. There is a glass walled kitchen at one side of the tutorial rooms, which the student team is using as their HQ. This way they can look out to see what is happening. 

The students are wearing black lanyards resembling those worn by public servants, adding to the authenticity. Some have earpieces and walkie-talkies, looking very James Bond. ;-)

ps: It easy to dismiss the simulation as just a training exercise, and the students as just students. But some of the students work in major government security agencies, and the mentors have experience in various government roles. The scenarios they have prepared are disturbingly close to current regional and world events. At the outbreak of the Falklands War the UK Royal Marines were conducting Mountain and Arctic Warfare training. The class and trainers were sent to the Falklands to put the training into immediate practice. Hopefully a crisis in the region will not require the ACSS participants to do the same.