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Jots from the Future of Technology in Education 2009 (p.m.)

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Blogging from the Future of Technology in Education 2009 a free one-day conference on 2nd Oct 2009, Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, London, hosted by the University of London Computer Centre with the aim of getting people together.

See the previous (a.m.) post for info about tags, twitter, watching it all on video etc). What I didn’t mention is that DR from ITS is next to me.

Will McInnes – Our Social Tomorrow


Fragmentation. Explosive unbundling. Authority can change rapidly. Internet is agnostic about hierarchies of the physical world. People are scattered across the web. Widgets mean that online identities are homeless. Tapestry metaphor (seems to contradict the homelessness metaphor).Data. Nike+ widget in his partner’s shoe.

Coke bottle designed so that even if it were smashed in pieces, it was recognisable. Can we do this with educational identities?

(Unreal – everybody is laughing because he said his cat died.)

Continuous partial attention. He dug out some of the backchannel comments from twitter.

Communities. How does one make a community? Communities aren’t drag and drop. Digital tumbleweed is rolling through a lot of social media sites. Communities are more a matter of gardening than construction. Organic. Flicker personally greeted every new registrant, but most sites are like big cold warehouses. 1% do a lot of creation, maybe 9% edit or comment, and the rest are consumers. The 1% are very valuable, and need to be nurtured (but who nurtures the nurturers – isn’t this circular?)

Gaming. Toyota prius presents miles per gallon; that number becomes a driver of their behaviour when driving. Optimising that number becomes a game. Like beating your tomtom’s ETA. Can their be a score or metric that taps into some notional basic human motivation? (ACTION – Adam for 3DGraduate, or the Gold Award). blipfm has props; social currency.

Realtime. Google and Facebook rumoured to have tried to buy Twitter because it’s a cauldron of realtime reactions. Realtime demands different things from us.

Transparency. Rating and reviews. Apparently shallow but profound in their impact on organisations (there was was a TwitPoll for the morning’s speakers). Powerful in helping to accomplish some goals. E.g. it’s very helpful to know what your one-star products are. Can we harness this in education (Uh-oh ratemyprofessor. Uh-oh that prostitute rating site Harriet Harman flagged).

Will McInnes raises a lot of questions most of us have already asked, but in an entertaining way.

Physical internet. Wii. Streetview. Barcode scanner on my phone which can work out where I can get hold of something based on my GPS location. Nike+ goes in your shoe, you can do stuff based on your location (what stuff? What stuff?)

Online curating. Via filter blogger enthusiasts and scholars on Twitter or elsewhere.

James Clay (Uni of Glouc) the future of learning

Asked questions online and wordled them for the presentation. No one definitive thing will change or hinder learning.

We start each academic round in October. Put your hand up if you need to get the harvest in. Our ways of doing things are embedded in the past and we just tweak (but actually it has always been thus, and look how far we’ve come).

Institutions are constraining.

Is everything really learning? I don’t think it’s helpful to think of everything as learning. The kinds of learning we want to foster in HE are conscious, reflective forms.

There’s something illustrative about James Clay talking slightly wistfully about educational revolution from the front of the auditorium, as an authority figure. Why are elearning conferences still like this? Something’s working…

GPS – location-based learning is a new dimension (reminds me of Pearls(?) which does the same for the Wed).

Ereaders are going to change the way that learners learn.

James Clay has a mifi which provides connection for 5 people.

Battery technology has to change. Where are the power sockets for charging in secure places?

Specialist tools v. universal tool. (In my bag is a phone, an mp3 player, a reader, a camera and a laptop. Al of the above play mp3s, three of them have cameras, 4 of them can present documents. But I got them for their specialist interfaces. e.g. I can’t listen to an mp3 on my reader or my camera or my phone in the rain and easily scan through a podcast. Yes, this is an environmental disaster.)

Institutions have to stop saying No as a default position, and start looking for solutions.

How to stop worrying and learn to love the Internet – Nick Skelton Uni of Bristol

Seminal Sunday Times piece by Douglas Adams in 1999 on how everything which already existed in the world you were born into is fine, everything which you experience as new when you’re an adult is to be suspected until 20 or 30 years have passed without incident.

Tim Berners Lee: the internet doesn’t connect machines, it connects people. It has a social purpose not a technical purpose.

How can we see the future?

Unis are going to be transformed by the internet. They’re about knowledge, learning and ideas. The internet is dominating knowledge, learning and ideas. TED. RSA. University of Oxford Podcasts.

TED’s self-definition is also a pretty good definition of a university. TED is less exclusive than it was.

New collaboration tools threaten existing hierarchies.

Information – in 10 years our problem has switched from having too little information to having too much. (The poor quality of blogging is perhaps partly attributable to a complacency about information, a willingness to devolve fact-checking to the reader instead of it being something good writers do). Information you don’t have, or can’t find, is useless.

It’s trivial to copy information. Anything online will leak. One response to that is for institutions and individuals to say no to recordings. This is futile. Ian Tomlinson at G20 and Little Brother who recorded his abuse by police officers.

What is artificially secret becomes public – “Student beats chating charges for posting work online” (Chronicle of Higher Ed) even though tutor complained that they would have to set new exams.

Attention and reputation are the currency that matters.

We’re doing now what we thought was inconceivable 30 years ago. Maybe we ask the students to watch a video presentation before turning up, and use the lecture hour for question and answer and group work (but aren’t students already supposed to do reading before lectures? And how many do)?

What is our role? (who is “our”?)

The Edgeless University” JIC

Kevin Kelly “New Rules for the New Economy”

ideasandohdears is Nick’s blog.

Peter Robinson Oxford University – Pocket University

Refer back to Peter’s talk back in summer.

Laptop ownership is 90% at Oxford. Facebook dominates social lives at Oxford – by far students’ favourite website.

Podcasts break down the silos in universities – particularly when students begin to create audio.

PR is a great believer in audio – often no need for video, which increases the work, bandwidth hugely and limits how learners can engage with the piece ie not on the move, driving, walking.

Legal issues loom large – in order to move fast they had to check and approve every single piece they recorded and posted. Big challenge. HoD sign-offs.

Unbundling the university – Douglas Hine – School of Everything

Distinction: between the future of educational institutions and the future of the things we value education for. Education cannot be circumscribed by any single institution. Learning certainly can’t.

We aren’t good about predicting which technologies are going to take off. Video phone calls didn’t take off. SMS, unhyped, did take off.  Who’d have thought that Twitter would be perceived to be as important as it is?

Innovators and technology consumers are not superior to the other parts of the adoption cycle – ‘laggards’ is insulting.

Needs drive uptake and activities. We should be looking at dissatisfactions and unmet desires, rather than at the behaviours of people who just like new technologies.

For example mztek.org meets needs of students dissatisfied with facilities on their Media and Arts courses. Pippa Buchanan’s DIY Masters. Accessing teachers, mentors, fellow students. Thinking about where to get accreditation from. Self-organised alternative to higher education. Another example – the Economics PhD student who needed better maths but couldn’t get it within his institution. Another example – the SmartWork Company, Anne Marie McEwan finds it less frustrating to teach through her own teaching practices than through a university. Another example AlterFutures meetups for students.

Obstacles and objections which came up in a Demos seminar. According to the banking model of education, you deliver content and hand out units. But learning is not just about scaling up, but also about scaling down and self-organising through meetup or schoolofeverything.

What with all the scaling up and scaling down, what might be left in the middle for some universities might be a crisis.

Qualifications and accreditation need a rethink. Currently they function as a valid currency, portable achievements. What about the role of genealogies and recommendatiions.

(From Twitter – notgoingtouni.co.uk.Compare and contrast with the Peer to Peer University and the University of the People.)

Digital Identity – Shirley Williams, Uni of Reading

Digital identity map shows different categories of the trail you use on the Web.

Sometimes you can’t remember how to access the account on which the embarrassing information about yourself, posted years ago, is hosted.

The idea that your ‘social graph’ will be worth as much as your house.

The social revolution needs you – Lindsay Jordan, Uni of the Arts

metablog – a blog about blogging (ACTION – plunder heavily and use as example for blogs and blogging workshop)


Community is important. Reciprocity. The need to nurture a network of people to help us learn – leading and learning by example – and enabling other people to do the same.

Need for action and vision, vision and action.

Panel on virtual worlds

Look at K0 report in virtual worlds.

Bloke from life sciences background says that 2nd Life hasn’t given him anything he can’t get in real life.

More pro bloke – 2nd Life can break barriers of distance, is a start in simulation – training paramedics for example. Students can access simulation outside class time. It’s relatively cheap. And a third area – imaginative ways (unspecified)

Evan from JISC RSC – collaboration and face-to-face is very important, and students would entirely miss this in a virtual environment. Analogy between simulated patients and real patients might not be helpful. Interrupted by the pro bloke reminding about flight simulations (which is of course different again).

Qu: simulations are quicker and cheaper to set up in 2nd life than in other environments. (But only some things can be simulated.) Another panelist queries the claims of relative cheapness and quickness. The pro panelist authoritatively talks about a research study comparing different ways of learning surgery, including the finding that those who went into an operating theatre were paralysed by fear. In second life they were relaxed enough to experiment and learn.

There are sensory input devices for Second Life.

Good idea to watch this one on the vids – website (http://fote-conference.com/) for the presentations in a few days.


Written by Mira Vogel

October 2, 2009 at 17:35

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Jots from the Future of Technology in Education 2009 (a.m.)

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Liveblogging from the Future of Technology in Education 2009 a free one-day conference on 2nd Oct 2009, Royal Geographical Society, Kensington Gore, London, hosted by the University of London Computer Centre with the aim of getting people together.

Because this is being recorded, just going to jot down the key stuff – hopefully coherently – as my power supply trails across the aisle unhealthily and unsafely (the organisers are using Twitter to tell us helpful things like:

FOTiE #fote09 info: we have charging points in the breakout rooms if needs be. H&S issues wiring across the theatre….”

(The delegate twittering is on the tetchy side, which seems to be normal – it’s subversive donchaknow. I’m joining in. Whenever I have a tetchy thought, I offer it up to Twitter where I’m posting – impersonally, perhaps the wrong decision – as goldsmithsLEU using the hashtag #fote09.)

Cutting through the hype to see clouds in context – Dr Paul Miller, Clouds in Context.

Definitions of cloud computing come towards the end of the presentation, including from NIST. Basically, infrastructure (computers, storage, bandwidth and elastic scalability, electricity and cooling) becomes a service. You can scale demand, and you don’t need a huge outlay of capital. Then there’s platform as a service – the Google Apps engine is the most celebrated example. Then you have software as a service – Google docs, the WordPress blogging software I’m using here. Data swirls through these three elements, and is becoming more open.

There’s no single ‘cloud’. There are many data centres and many networks. Is a web search a service from ‘the cloud’? Opinions vary.

The cloud looks like containers and cables. Cold, wet places are ideal – less power spent cooling. New economies for northern scotland?

Some nervous minutes where Paul asks us to (show of hands) agree or disagree with some assumptions or statements about cloud computing (the centralised storage of data in data-centres from which it can be accessed anywhere you have a web connection. Most people not playing – they feel a bit exposed. Good for attention though.

Interesting about whether it’s greener or not – Paul says that the servers are running at far high capacity and with less idle cycles. He also mentions some bloke who says that because humans are inherently wasteful, if there’s something available, we’ll collectively waste it.

Unreliable? Averaged out across all the servers, it’s probably OK. The thing is, can you produce evidence of downtime if you need it? You can with Goldsmiths systems.

Insecure. Not really. But the US can read your data.

There are data-centres in tiny UK villages.

Guy Rosen has tracked some cloud computing service growth, and found that there is steady growth.

What about the cloud and HE?

JISC has a number of ITTs for cloud computing project. Amazon Web Services gives funding for educational projects, eg Uni of Wales at Bangor’s School of Chemistry.

What can we do? virtualise existing on-campus services.

It would be good for every student to be able to easily bookmark to, say, delicious or google by having a toolbar.

Sharing data through virtual research environments

Get rid of on-campus email and calendar? Pros and cons (Data Protection and other statutes)?

If a research group asks for another server, perhaps they could get some space on an e.g. EC2 server instead.

We need to identify problems before considering the cloud as a solution. Of course.

Security in the cloud – Simone Brunozzi

Overview of Amazon Web Services. “Mechanical Turk”? I want one!

Reasons to go cloud. You can just pay for what you use. Creation of new projects is much easier – investment not so front-loaded. No need for capacity planning – if you overestimate, you don’t waste.

Reasons people don’t migrate to the cloud include avoiding waste of legacy software.

An outline of the principles of secure design of Amazon services. Basically eggs in many baskets and bit-rot detection.

This presentation was a big pitch, which reminds me, I don’t know who funds fote. We have BBC clips on tapes to hang our name badges / twitter handles from.

The Collaborative Campus and the Cloud – Microsoft

This presentation is about the difficulties balancing the institutional needs with the needs of the isntitution.

Students aren’t debating about whether the cloud is a good idea – they are using it.

There’s a big tension between the established institutional way of doing things in HE and the emerging individualised way of doing things. Security. Data protection. Data preservation.

Trust and de-centralisation. Do we need a UK data centre? An EU data centre? An English data centre? Or how about all of them, with their use subject to individual decision.

Institutional decisions to be made about cloud hosting or internet based. Email? Storage? Synching? Intranet? How manage services for institution while meeting the needs of individual? Keep your security, managed learning environment, parts of your IP. The challenges are control, flexibility and protection of intellectual property.

Education, collaboration and the cloud – Pauline Yau from Huddle.net

Huddle’s a young web 2.0 startup based in London, doubling in size every 4 months in terms of users and revenue. Named by BusinessWeek Mag as one of the top 50 startups to watch. It’s a series of online workspaces. Pauline is dealing with the educational sector.

Huddle is a(nother) replacement for using email to collaborate. Email – you send round large file attachments by email. Instead you can post it somewhere, encourage people to come and get it, discuss it, engage with it, add to it. You don’t have to worry about whether or not you are working from the correct version.

ULCC surved some post-compulsory institutions.

Huddle is good for collaboration with overseas partners – recruitment and broadening participation (Annette might be interested ACTION)

Bill Ashraf (Uni of Sussex) – HE ‘s free and feral

Like me he’s interested in academics’ engagement, as something that has been under-attended to.

Issues with trying to get bits of technology to work with each other (we had a recent experience with our PRS system). Technology should not pose obstacles, should be invisible, really easy to use – as easy as boiling a kettle. Plug it in and it works.

Future-proofing. Kit that’s out of date as soon as it’s been bought. Standing the test of time. Shouldn’t we be leasing kit? (thinking about our PRS handsets again).

How to get academics interested in new initiatives e.g. Google wave.

‘Operational efficiencies’ Why are there 2 IT depts in the Uni of Sussex and the Uni of Brighton?

Trend for providing educational content for free. iTunes U. Varying quality of content (do you really want to sit through 15 min of preliminary operational stuff each lecture and having the lecturer constantly referring back to other events which weren’t recorded, assuming viewers/listeners will know what she means).

Expectations that stuff will be free. Tetchiness if it isn’t. But universities are expecting returns on the stuff they make available.

Ashraf says that resistance to change comes not from students but from institutions – academics and senior managers. Institutions are very conservative places by default. (But actually, students aren’t so progressive – they just have a different set of assumptions about the way things are, and they are humbler about asserting the way things should be, or have less at stake).

Interesting-looking 2008 report from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council on the impact of web-based lecture technologies. From the exec summary – my word!

“Overall, there was a clear mis-match between staff and student views on learning and achievement of better results. Sixty seven percent (67%) of students compared with 30% of staff agreed that WBLT helped students achieve better results. In addition, 80% of students compared with 49% of staff agreed that WBLT made it easier for students to learn.”

Ashraf. “Targetting the students and getting them on side isn’t the issue, I think. It’s the staff”.

(I should put this in the intro of my report for the HEA on staff engagement ACTION)

Great film (by Max Livesy, 1st prize for something 2020 – find on YouTube)

Google Apps – one year on. Leeds Met.

First UK university to take Google Apps.

“Google Apps has worked really well for us and we’re delighted with it. It means we get to take the occasional lunch break nowadays instead of standing over a server fixing something”.

Strategy meets serendipity.  Strategies are actualised in and disrupted by the real world.

Google apps was easy in. Save, save, save (on effort, anyway, although there was a fair bit of design involved). What about easy out?

Grrr – the idea that you can export your carbon emissions. Oh well, at least people are talking about emissions now.

A lot of academic concerns about the ethics of Google Apps. A big pilot and lots of engagement. These were addressed, he says, to everybody’s satisfaction.

Helpful sharing of info about person hours dedicated to the switch, and what types of helpdesk queries they’ve had. Ain’t it funny – users aren’t hassling IT Services as much when the system goes down but (appear to be) waiting patiently.

QR codes (I love my phone’s cam with a barcode scanner and generator app. Linking the physical world and the web. Beautiful. Should do a brainstorm / workshop on them. ACTION)

James Ballard ULCC – integrating repositories and VLEs

“Interoperability is not enough – what we need is interoperation” Paul Walk blog post.

i.e. need some proof of concept.

Issues of personal, institutional and bought-in ‘content’. People shouldn’t have to keep jumping into different system. VLE is proving to be enduring as a linchpin for educational content, drawing stuff together.

Moodle 2.0 Repository API separates content from the delivery of content. So you don’t have to force users to use one or other bit of software. MIxing and mashing up from different systems while the VLE provides the user- and assessment-management functions. Users and tutors have one place where they can go. Moodle will have a file-picker in which users can find the repository they need – the repositories are presented not dissimilarly from the way folders are presented in established file management software..

CLASM project.

Panel – for/against cloud computing and ‘virtualisation’

Chair Tim Marshall from JANET. All-male pane (this didn’t escape the Twitterers):

  • Miles Metcalfe from Ravensbourne
  • Martin King
  • Andrew Charlesworth
  • Jason

How to balance institutional responsibilities with need to take on good changes. Miles talks briefly about the merits of proceeding in a state of ignorance, but then talks more seriously about balancing risk. ISPs are beginning to build the law into their practice; HE institutions came quite late to it.

Chair asks “Is cloud computing a magic wand, one-stop-shop for all computing needs, like supermarkets dominating the high street”?

Reminder to look at exit strategy when considering a cloud provider (this goes for individuals as well as institutions).

Issue of regulation, which is still a little nebulous (pun intended).

Question about forcing users to use one or other provider. Chair passed this difficult question to Robert from Leeds Met. He acknowledges the concern, but side-steps it (transparently) by reminding us that as an IT person he is there to tell people what the technology does, rather than hashing out the ethical issues for institutions.

Question from chair about green obligations – does cloud computing make us greener in our behaviour. But this went unanswered because the session ended.

Lunchtime now, so I’ll publish – second installment for p.m. to come. Go to website (http://fote-conference.com/) for the presentations in a few days.

Written by Mira Vogel

October 2, 2009 at 12:47

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