Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fantastic Picture...

This is well worth looking at... Check out the original; it allows you to click to each of the famous people on Wikipedia.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

COETAIL Course 2 Project Reflection

'Thai-ing in'

For my final project I wanted to create a wiki that attempted to follow the theme of 'mass collaboration'. The first challenge is how do you start mass collaboration? Answer: one link at a time. The other major issue is when does mass collaboration become 'mass' collaboration as opposed to collaboration amongst a few people? Wikipedia defines the key difference of mass collaboration to normal collaboration being 'that the collaborative process is mediated by the content being created - as opposed to being mediated by direct social interaction as in other forms of collaboration' Perhaps this assignment was an attempt at 'mini-mass-collaboration', m-m-c. Sure the content is under constant creation, especially in the social aspects of the wiki, however some would argue this isn't really mass collaboration.

The purpose of the wiki is to help Integrate new staff into ISB, our community and Thailand, no easy task alone, hence the idea of mass collaboration works perfectly. If all people are able to contribute, edit, add and are aware of their ability to change the course of a wiki to suit the needs of all, then the final product is better off and more effective in achieving it's original goal. The wiki isn't just for the new staff coming in this school year. The idea is that it can grow, evolve and become a site which is a one stop new staff member site for all future ISB teachers.

Setting up the project using wetpaint was easy, however I still get frustrated at their little bug which causes you to appear to be signed in as someone else (requires a refresh to fix). In order to set up the wiki effectively I ensured new staff signed on first to introduce themselves, then collegial partners (who are still signing on). The next step is to invite all other staff to join the wiki to enlarge the possible contributions. The wiki is evolving as we speak, new pages, comments and updates seem to be added consistently.

I have enjoyed registering the page with Google Analytics, which is giving me some pretty awesome feedback. From this data I have been amazed that each day the site is receiving between 15 and 25 logins daily, averaging 7 minutes a session on the site. This kind of information is inspiring me to keep on improving the site.

The issues that I encountered fall around the fact that the site needs to be 'invitation only' as some of the information on the site is of a private nature with regard to individuals and the school. This limits the potential collaborative size of the site. The second issue has been getting people on board with the wiki when they don't have the technical skills to do so. In order to assist people in overcoming their phobia of technology I created video help guides using Jing (a fantastic screen capture tool by TechSmith. The reality is that many people still need one on one guidance in setting up their wiki, here again is where collaboration can occur with our fantastic Tech Team: Jeff Utech, Chad Bates, Dennis Harter and Kim Cofino.

Overall the process of setting up the wiki has been well worth it. It has taught me the technical skills I need to moderate a wiki, it has reminded me of the different abilities of new and present staff when requiring people to use technology to collaborate. Finally and most importantly it has inspired me to use Technology more to connect real people in the cloud so that their feet can stand on a firm foundation when they meet in reality.

For a link to more about how my wiki fulfilled my project requirements please go to my project write up.

A clash of cultures...

Are we preparing students for a world of mass collaboration?

Rob Rubis offers some insightful comments on this question in his recent blog post, which points to the many structural barriers teachers erect when delivering curriculum that stop limit mass collaboration... I hear another Pink Floyd song coming on here! Here in lies the major issue... in order to prepare students for a world of mass collaboration we need to remove the barriers that stop collaboration, we don't another brick in the wall. The problem is that the barriers are often ingrained in our society.

Mass Collaboration:
  • Involves working together
  • Means being open for feedback from a wide range of people
  • It can take on a life of it's own
  • It is uncontrollable by an individual
Our Classrooms often contain:
  • Individual assessment, very little collective grading opportunities etc...
  • Feedback that is often uni dimensional (usually the teacher is feeding back to the student)
  • Scripted, curriculum driven, objectives, standards and learning outcome driven.
  • Teacher control
Our Current Western Society appears to be:
  • Be individualised, competitve, consumer focussed ideals
  • Valuing feedback limited to improving performance, products, accounability
  • Goal orientated, self centered based on personal goals and achievement
  • 'User pays', 'liability', state control point to individual responsibility
What we have is a clash of cultures. Many western classrooms reflect the values that are prevalent in our current society, these stem from a capatalist, individualistic society which runs counter to the ideals necessary for mass collaboration.

The Second issue lies in the ability to get students to engage in mass collaboration, a skill which requires a high skill level: By Ross Mayfield

If Ross Mayfield is correct in his representation of the level of skill and engagement needed to collaborate with others, then collaboration is a tough skill, let alone mass collaboration. The reality is that in our classrooms we rarely get to this level of community engagement, nor do the students believe they can contribute to mass collaboration sites.

So to answer the question, 'Are we preparing students for a world of mass collaboration?', no.

Perhaps we need to reword this question as Rob Rubis also suggests, 'how would we prepare students for a world of mass collaboration?' How do we do this?
  • Create authentic opportunities for collaboration in the classroom
  • Allow students to take control of their own shared learning
  • Create a culture where feedback is a natural and muti-directional in the classroom
  • Reward collective action over individual action
  • Remove the technical 'block's in the wall' (enlarge bandwidth, access to computers etc...)

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata

Where does the power of the web lie? Katy Silberger

Simple Answer: Google it...

Long Answer: Spend the rest of your life reading the 87,300,000 search results
, or alternatively why not harness the power of the web to answer this question... Stabilo Boss

...delicious might give you some good references, facebook or your blog could create comments or writing on your wall, perhaps you could tweat it out, or even create a collaborative wiki to find the answer.

In my mind there are two things that make the web incredibly powerful:

1. It's capacity to hold and connect exponential quantities of information
2. It's capacity to connect people and evolve based on user feedback

Both of these processes are based upon the interaction of people with the web. As the web has evolved into web 2.0 we now see the power of the web lying not in static pages, but in active multi-dimensional web-pages where individuals are engaging with each other creating audiences bigger than ever possible in the history of mankind.

When Susan Boyle sang on Britains Got Talent, she had no idea her different 'You Tube' video's would total over 100 million views touching hearts all over the world. Neither did Alison Chang know that her photo posted by her youth pastor onto Flickr, would receive more publicity than the teenager could ever desire, need or handle (Thanks Virgin Mobile). The internet has the power to rise up and the power to crush. The power lies in it's users and the collective interactions they have.

Charles Leadbeater writes about this in 'People power transforms the web in next online revolution', a great article which points to numerous examples of the web being used as a powerful source of change, creative inspiration and space for inovation and development. Leadbeater challenges us to use this powerful collective element of the web to find answers that are real in society. His book, We Think: Mass Innovation, Not Mass Production is a book I want to read... going with the theme of working together his first three chapters are free on the his book's web page.

So, to finish I want to share a famous Maori Whakatauki (proverb) which points to the power behind the web...

Unuhia te rito o te harakeke,

Kei hea ke te komako e ko,


Rere ki uta,

Rere ki tai,

Ui mai koe ki ahau e aha te mea nui o te ao,

Maaku e ki atu,

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata,

Tihei mauri ora.


If you should tear out the heart of the flax bush,

Where will the bellbird be,

Will it fly inland,

Fly out to sea,

Or fly around aimlessly,

But if you should ask me what is the greatest thing on Earth,

I will tell you,

It is people, it is people, it is people.

Would you climb without a rope?

So when faced with the question of "who's responsibility is it to teach students to be safe online?" The answer lies in the following metaphor...

Imagine, the web is a rock face, users 'climb' the web instead of 'surfing the web', moving freely over the face of the rock, navigating the different arete's, overhangs, cracks while not only engaging with the rock face but also with what lies on it. Climbers learn from experience becoming more effective 'users' as they spend more time on the rock. They move quicker from one site to another, learn the easiest routes, and as they work together, more routes are marked out, anchors are placed, top ropes added and climbing becomes easier and safer. Now imagine taking a whole class to this rock face, let's say a 7th grade class with a range of abilities, experience and confidence.

What is the 1
st thing you would teach these kids?
Safe climbing procedures
What's the 2nd thing we teach them?
Good technique for climbing

You see, we don't send kids wild on a rock face as we know the dangers are too real. So why do parents and educators (including myself) often send kids online without reviewing online safety, and checking that our students have good technique to ensure they are using the web effectively? I think this answer lies in the reality that many parents and teachers see themselves as technologically challenged and in a position not to offer advice to these techno-savy teens.

To overcome this we must educate teachers and our parent population of the risks associated with online use, we need to ensure we are all up to date with basic technology and web tools and ensure that we all role model appropriate use. The reality is that as adults we are more likely to have a good understanding of what is appropriate and what is not, therefore we are definitely in a position to assist our youth on how to operate online.

So, the responsibility to teach online safety is a shared one, in my mind between parents, teachers and the student. Parents have a responsibility to be 'tutors' with their children, reinforcing what is taught at school. Many need to assume a greater role in ensuring they are working with their children to help them be safe online; after all parents wouldn't let their kids lose on a rock face without ensuring they knew what they were doing either.

In the article 'When Dad Banned Text Messaging', Geiger shares her struggles with her husbands decision to ban text messaging. This article demonstrates the lack of thought many parents put into extreme decisions such as banning texting or internet use. Geiger has major issues with her daughter texting 100 times a day and is particularly concerned of 'the mean-girl texts, the ones no one would have the nerve to say to a person’s face but are easy to send from one nonconfrontational phone to another', she appears to support her husbands decision of no texting, but also wishes her children were given the chance to text. Why do parent's resort to extreme stances? Is banning technology the solution? No, the answer lies in educating your children on 'climbing technique', how to use the tools safely and effectively. It is teaching children discernment and self discipline... words that aren't too popular in our impulsive, self centered society.

If Ann Collier's comments are correct on her second life presentation on online safety, then the web has evolved from the depository of documents, web 1.0, to web 2.0, which is ultimately the connection of people. As there is now more at stake with regards to safety online due to the personal connection people are creating, it is now more important to ensure students know what appropriate online behavior looks and feels like.

As schools we need to take the bull by the horns and assume the key responsibility of not only teaching children online safety, but assist in assessing online safety. Any teacher who expects students to use online technology in the classroom has to ensure students know how to 'rope up' and be effective while online, this involves teaching and assessing online skills. There are cases where the school's role with online behavior has been challenged such as shown in Kenrick and Zetter's articles, both cases show how schools can get caught in the grey areas of what happens 'in school' and what happens 'out of school'. The reality is the two are connected. Schools need to be bold in protecting children's welfare to ensure they can effectively learn, part of this welfare now extends to their online welfare... just another area for schools to take responsibility for!

So, are you roping your students up or are they tying their own nooses?