Who is Smik?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Let go of the paradigms of the past

In her talk for TED this year Diana Laufenberg says we must let our students learn from their mistakes: to actually fail sometimes and learn from failure.
Her talk is about the importance of experiential learning, empowering student voice and embracing failure. Teachers need to recognise that students aren't actually coming to school to get the knowledge, that is the paradigm of the past. They are coming to communicate and collaborate and put ideas into practice.
It's a great video: just 10 minutes of your time.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

24 Tips for e-Learning

24 Tips for eLearning Professionals, is an advent calendar of elearning brought to you by the eLearning Network.
14 great posts so far
  • How to design thought-provoking interactions
  • 5 tips for running your own Alternate Reality Game
  • Screencasting
  • We’re Yamming…
  • The ten commandments of learning design
  • Ask a question before you tell a fact
  • Avoiding Crapathy in Your eLearning
  • Using tab interactions for knowledge check questions
  • Lend me your ears! Tips for effective use of audio in eLearning
  • Do the impossible – design compliance e-learning that engages users and changes behaviours
  • Thou shalt not convey meaning by colour alone…
  • Tips for successful online discussions
  • 10 ideas to use social media for professional development
  • How to write a voiceover script
Throughout the run-up to Christmas, go back each day for practical, helpful or just plain fun tips from people across the industry.

Friday, 10 December 2010

As the year rolls over..

For many teachers and students in Australia today is the last day of the school year. Senior students sitting for public exams vanished long ago, final assemblies and prizegivings have been held, and if people are at school today, it is likely to be a short day with students on their way at lunch time, and teachers breathing a sigh of relief.

But, befitting a country that had problems even getting its railway tracks the same distance apart, the school year dates are not the same Australia wide, nor even from deployment to deployment. Just recently Tasmanian teachers seemed to win the battle to be the only state sticking with a 3 term school year that gives them longer summer holidays. There's always been a disparity between the school term dates for government and independent schools. Some systems have their teachers come back a week earlier than students and use the time to get ready for the coming year. Invariably government systems give teachers one or two days chock full of meetings prior to the coming of students.

Of course the beginning of a school year is complicated by the observance of Australia Day on January 26, with government systems known in the past to insist that teachers return just before Australia Day, to do their preparation days, so schools can be open for students immediately after.

I didn't really mean to witter on about the beginning of the year, but rather to think about what has happened in 2010.

For me it has been a fairly significant, can I even say traumatic, year with a company merger between Education.au and the Curriculum Corporation into one ministerial company Education Services Australia. For me the euphoria of a merger quickly vanished with the departure of my immediate boss, former CEO of Education.au Greg Black, in March. As a result my job changed significantly.

For me, this has been the year of the e-book and e-reader. I've given 4 presentations and participated in 2 online forums on using digital texts, and I have 3 more lined up in March next year. These are interesting times we are living in.

On Wednesday the Ministers of Education, meeting at MCEECDYA, endorsed in principle, the implementation of the Australia curriculum, but it is clear that the process is going to be a slow one, with each of the states adding different content.  Full implementation won't occur until at least 2013. As I said, interesting times

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Are e-books the biggest paradigm shift since the printing press?

This blog post in some measure owes it's existence to some thoughts developed after reading online text forwarded to me by a friend. The original came from Mark Treadwell but I have been unable to locate it. The quoted material is from something he has written titled Foreword: "Whatever! Were we Thinking?

What the world is experiencing towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century is the first ever global macro-paradigm shift. This event is unique and without precedent. The last time we came close to an event like this was on a regional scale, resulting in the Renaissance period 500 years ago.

The invention of the printing press, in particular the Gutenberg press with it's system of moveable type, in 1450, had a huge impact.

The printing press was the technology that would drive the first paradigm shift in learning. The printing press did this via its dramatic capacity to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of learning by making knowledge dramatically more portable and reducing the cost of access to knowledge.

What the printing press essentially allowed to happen was the sharing, and building on, of ideas. It also stressed the importance of reading and writing. It's social impact was enormous.

e-readers and e-books have the potential to take this sharing of ideas to a new level.

  • e-book technology brings the book to the reader. One of the attractive features is the ability to purchase an e-book online and have it delivered wirelessly almost instantly to your e-reader. No putting it on a list to check when next in your favourite book shop, or even placing an order for it. If it is available as an e-book then you purchase it then.
  • in addition, most e-readers have a tool which allows the reader to annotate and bookmark while reading. If you are connected wirelessly then you can view "popular" highlights, even share your own comments and those of others. Currently many users don't take advantage of this capability because of the effect on the battery life of the device.
  • a third feature that will revolutionise how books are used is that comments and highlights in an e-book are stored on the device and can be transferred to a document on an attached computer and thus become the basis for creative thinking and writing. This places on the user the need to understand the boundaries of plagiarism and copyright.

Most of my presentations on e-books just recently have ended up with a plea/challenge to teachers and teacher-librarians to bite the bullet and buy an e-reader and find out what this technology has to offer. It needs to be more than a passing acquaintance too. They need to understand and be able to use the tools that come with the devices.

Sure, made-from-paper books are not going to disappear but digital technologies used in this way offer a new depth to the sharing of ideas and the creation of new understandings.
(And I'll scream if one more person says I'm happy to be Luddite! not the least because Luddites actually stood in the way of progress not by passively ignoring it, but through active protest which involved more often than not the destruction of the new mechanised looms.)

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Tuesday, 7 December 2010

e-books: will Google ebooks make a difference to me?

Watchers are tipping that the recent plunge by Google into e-books is going to change the way the e-book market works.

Well, for those of us In Australia, not much is changed as yet.
Here is the first thing I saw as I explored the Google eBookstore.

The latest Google eBooks are not available for sale in your location, yet...

Google is working with publishers around the world to let you buy the latest ebooks from top authors. In the meantime, you can still browse millions of free and public domain Google eBooks and read them effortlessly across your devices.Learn more

It looks like you're located outside of the United States. Although you're welcome to read about Google eBooks, please note that Google eBooks are only available for sale to customers in the U.S. at this time.

So my question on availability was answered.
My other question was - what format are the books in?

Google eBooks can be read with any dedicated eBook reader that supports the Adobe eBook platform, including the Barnes & Noble Nook™ and Readers™ from Sony. More than 85 devices support the Adobe eBook platform today including Reader™ from Sony devices (PRS-300 - PRS-700), Aluratek Libre, Astak EZ Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook™ and Nook Color™, BeBook, Bookeen, COOL-ER, Elonex eBook, HanLin eBook, IREX Digital Reader, Neolux Nuut, and more.

Currently, Google eBooks are not compatible with Amazon Kindle devices, though we are open to supporting them in the future.

So the format is not really epub - it is Adobe Digital Editions.

So in answer to the question I posed at the beginning in my subject line: no, Google ebooks will not make a difference to me at this stage.

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Monday, 6 December 2010

A collection of e-book links

The e-book e-reader cyberworld is really a fast changing one and I thought I'd pass on some information and tips that have come my way recently.

First of all from Nick:
A new online reader – the FlexBooks System promised to minimise the issues with ebook readers and copyright issues. Read more about this in my short blog here or on blogger.

There are number of Webinars happening soon, so visit the CK12 website for the schedule starting from Nov. 23 to Dec. 16th.

FlexBooks seems mainly to be about free Science and Maths text books available as e-books. There is an introductory video you can watch.

Another interesting one is COPIA. This one has the byline "If a book is worth reading, it's worth discussing", and is a site that enables social interaction through reading. This seems similar to the comment system that Amazon has been developing on the Kindle, which works if you are connected via the wireless.

One of the interesting things with this sort of development is that in most of the discussions that people are having about e-books and e-readers at the moment, particularly in an educational context, such as the one I have been participating in on Your School Library for the past few days, they are focussing on whether you can lend e-books, and whether there can be such a thing as a lendable e-textbook. Many miss the concept that the e-reader is a personal device, and they are not aware of the social networking aspects at all.

It seems to me that much of the development is around the epub format, with the idea of inclusion of the e-book onto the iPad through an App. As the Kindle is really the only viable e-reader that uses the Amazon format, and if Amazon's real interest is in selling books, e-books among them, then I think this is going to push Amazon into retailing e-books in epub format as well as .azw. The day is not long off when Amazon asks the buyer what format they want the ebook delivered in.

For those who want their e-reader to handle colour then the NookColor looks like a winner, with a ready market here in Australia if Barnes & Noble ever decide to release it for international users. You might be interested in this review.
The writer gives the NookColor the following ratings, with an overall B

Hardware/screen/physicality: A
Battery: B+
General interface/navigation: B
Book reading: A-
Newspaper reading: B
Magazine reading: C+
Kids’ books: A
Shopping/periodical selection: C
Search, highlighting, dictionary, lookup: A
Note-taking/account syncing: F
Music and video playback: B
Library books: B+
Web: B+
Social/LendMe: A-

and a prediction that major problems with be fixed with a software upgrade in January/February along with the launch of a NookColor App store.

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