Importance of e-governance and leveraging technology

It is quite important that the administration leverages technology to increase citizen participation in order to spread their programs among masses. And this is not just the government authorities to take up the entire responsibility. It is the duty of the corporate organizations to lend their helping hand in whatever means they can to increase…

What I’ve learned from my kids: Motivation

A while ago I started writing about things I’ve started to learn from watching my kids grow and how they see things. I’ve started to realise how much I take for granted. Or rather I’ve started seeing things through their eyes and realised that, for them, the world can be simpler, yet harder, than I thought.

Gamification is something I’ve used in my work (badges, progress indicators, social interactions, etc.) and i’ve used as part of my (old) social media activities. Remember FourSquare? However, the best way I’ve used it myself is at home, with my two boys aged 7 and 8. Whilst I’m sure there are some excellent ways to gamify the home for rewards for tidying up, being kind and compassionate, coming off screen-time quietly, etc. this one way I’m going to describe here has worked wonders … exercise. And by exercise I mean walking.

We’re not exactly an active family, in that we don’t play sport, but we are active in that we walk rather than drive if we can, we get the bikes out and go for cycle around our village, and we go for (longish) walks. While the ‘let’s get the bikes out’ is normally a good thing, in their eyes, we nearly always get a grumpy retort when we say something like ‘let’s go for a walk’. Even if we promise to stop off and get a snack on the way back, it’s not a very popular event.

Then we tried geocaching. Everything changed. In a nutshell, for us, geocaching is a means to make a country walk interesting, give the boys something to aim for and a small amount of competition between them on who finds the cache first.

“Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a GPS receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world.” Wikipedia

We look for caches that are part of a series and follow the cache around using my phone and Geocache app. Each cache site can be used using the GPS and map within the app, and each cache has a clue to help identify exactly where it is when you reach the GZ (ground zero). Sometimes the cache is magnetic and small (I mean really small, so it can take a while to find) and sometimes it’s a box or container where you can leave ‘swaps’ for others to take. All caches are well hidden so they’re not interfered with or removed, and some are hidden so well we end up flagging them as DNF / ‘did not find’.

What has changed is that the kids don’t complain when we say we’re going out. Whereas a short walk of a mile or so would’ve been met with complaints and grumpy shoe-shuffling a few months ago, now we’re doing 4 and 5 mile walks and going from cache to cache, finding the GZ and then seeing which of us finds the cache first. Some are easier than others, some are a nightmare to find, especially if they’re hidden in the undergrowth and it’s the sort that stings.

Link this to another app I use called Map My Walk we can see how far we’ve walked … very important as these walks are also being used for the boys and their Beavers/Cubs hike badge! See, it’s all part of the larger plan. 

Gamifying our walks has worked, and the kids don’t even realise we’ve done it. We’re slowly covering the areas immediately around where we live, but we’ve also met family members further afield and done some cache’s with them. We also found a few when in Austria a couple of weeks back, and it was the kids who wanted to try. The motivation is now there, they love what we do as they want to beat their friends, who are also geocachers, or compete with family members on who can reach the next milestone number of cache’s found. 

Geocaching Map My walk

Image source: Trevor Manternach (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Speakerphone

The past four months have seen me working remotely and from home. Not only has it meant more time with the family but it’s meant the technology has been essential to my ability to work, and I’ve put it all to extremely good use. I think I ought to write an update to my EdTechRations … ?

One item I could not be without is a speakerphone for the daily Skype calls I have. I’ve got a Jabra Speak 410 speakerphone and it means I can be natural and comfortable on calls, even walk around the room as we talk. I don’t need a headset which doesn’t limit me to where I can be. It’s compact and light so easily transport where I need to be and it has excellent microphone with no feedback. I’m a convert!

Obviously it’s not practical in an open office where you probably don’t want everyone hearing your conversation, but you can plug in earphones if you want, so I still use a headset for that, but it is fantastic as a conference phone – place it in the middle of the group of you and it picks up your voices from a good distance away, from all angles. You have the ability to mute the microphone if you want to stop sharing your audio (always useful if you want to converse privately before being open), change the volume if it gets too loud or quite (all done through something called the ‘digital signal processing’ technology).

It’s USB based and works easily on my Windows laptop and Mac desktop, integrates seamlessly with both Skype and Skype for Business, as well as nicely for Facetime on the Mac. What’s not to like?

Image source: Jabra website

The ‘killer’ interview question?

In your last interview, were you asked a question you thought was either too tough, too personal, too ambiguous, etc.? Did you think you ‘nailed it’ or did you come away confused about the purpose of the question, your response, or whether the interviewer was messing with you?

From the article:

“…candidates often struggled with the question: “Tell me about your most significant technical accomplishment, the project that you’re most proud of.” Max Brown, ex-Tesla recruiter.

This doesn’t sound too bad, does it? I can think of a few examples here, but is it the kind of thing the interviewer is looking for. Brown says that “most people’s first instinct is to pick the project or achievement that sounds the most substantial on paper – but that’s not always the one that illustrates their actual technical ability” and that “it’s usually better to shine the spotlight on a smaller project where you can truly speak to all of the technical aspects. In many cases, the biggest, most impressive-sounding initiative you participated in was largely the result of a team effort.” Hmm, really. Well, here’s what I would say, and these were my first thoughts when reading the article last night …


How would you answer an interview question about your 'most significant technical accomplishment'?
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My most ‘significant technical accomplishment’ would probably be one of my first positive experiences using computers. Back in the early- to mid-80’s my Dad bought me a ZX81, and then a ZX Spectrum. Before we bought a cassette player to record and load games I had to type each and every game I wanted to play. Copied from magazines or books, this could take a couple of hours, required squinting intensely at code which, as I’m sure you’re aware, would be rendered useless if you got just one comma or semi-colon in the wrong place. I learned the hard way to pay attention, keep the finer detail in mind when trying to rush to finish before bedtime, etc. I also learned to fix the broken published code. I learned what form the code should take, how to reference other bits of code. I learned how to trust myself and my ‘intuition’ when the code was wrong, so I could fix it before continuing.

From this I learned to write my own games, albeit very basic, but it was still all mine, from concept to (working) completion. I remember a worm race … six or eight worms race from one side of the screen to the other with random generator controlling how fast each went. Whichever got to the other side of the screen won, and I got the whole family to watch and choose a worm! Quality family time, eh? It’s from here that much of everything I do now stems … my interest in computers and computing, developments in AI and VR, gaming (although less and less now, but I’m getting back to it through my kids), the Internet, self motivation and confidence, advances in wearable computing, etc.

If in doubt, here’s another perspective for your next interivew .. “never stop learning”.

What would you choose as your ‘significant [technical] accomplishment’?

Image source: Barney Livingston (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

The University of tomorrow is …?

I’ve just read this article and wanted to share a couple of thoughts I had while I was reading it: “It’s the end of the university as we know it”

The title is clearly clickbait, testing your resolve to read beyond the tweeted headline, knowing full well ‘the end of the university’ will get people interested (or enraged that this kind of talk is still going on … MOOCs anyone?). That the URL is not the same as the title implies they might change the title at a later stage … “/the-future-of-the-university-is-in-the-air-and-in-the-cloud/”?

Here are some soundbites from the article:

“Shocking as it might seem, there is one catch-all answer that could be the remedy to many of these concerns: Cut the campus loose. Axe the physical constraints. The library? Classrooms? Professors? Take it all away. The future of the university is up in the air.”

Another, when looking at the history of how and why universities are set up like they are:

“It is untenable for universities to continue existing as sanctums for a small group of elite students, taught by top scholars.Technology isn’t only refashioning the ways in which we live and work, but also changing what we need to learn for these new schemes of existence: It’s returning us to a need for specialized learning, for individualized education that is custom-tailored to one’s needs. A world in which most of our learning is more self-directed and practical is, in many ways, a return to an apprenticeship model that existed before industrialization.”

Predictions on the future of learning, at universities at any rate:

Online “cloud” teaching is cheaper; universities can offer such online-based (or majority-online) degrees at the lowest rate—making for a cheap(ish) degree, available to everyone with access to the internet, and taking place completely digitally. Meanwhile, other students will pay a premium to interact with professors and have more of a traditional campus experience. At the highest end, the richest or most elite students may get the full Oxford tutorial experience, brushing elbows with the best of scholars; they’ll just have to pay through the nose for it”

Read the article, let me know what you think – agree or disagree with the tenet of the article, that this is the end of the university?

Image source: Dave Herholz (CC BY-SA 2.0)

‘Wise Guy’ with @GuyKawasaki

I’ve spoken before about the way in which Learning Technologists need to think and act as go-betweens in the institution between the academics, the administrators, the IT helpdesk and IT systems integrators. Oh, and definitely between the institution AND the students. Never forget the students.

We need to be both leaders, managers, workers, liaison, testers, helpdesk, mentors, specialists, visionists (is that a word?), innovators, critical thinkers, creative, entrepreneurs, etc. This is why I believe we should pay attention to how people think, work, collaborate, communicate, etc. outside of our educational roles. Hence I’m recommending you listen to and engage with people like Guy Kawasaki, speaker, entrepreneur, and evangelist.


Learning technologists need to be leaders, managers, workers, mentors, specialists, innovators, creatives, etc. #altc
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I have read quite a bit of Guy Kawasaki’s work that I believe more Learning Technologist can benefit from it. Whether you listen or watch or read about creativity, entrepreneurial activity, disruptive leaders, etc. or just enjoy hearing someone speak passionately about their work, there is something from Guy here for you.

Guy has recently started a new Facebook page in an effort to share his insight and experiences to “help you succeed”. Whilst aspect of this won’t interest or be relevant to Learning Technologist, to understand the wider concept of being creative (disruptive?) will help me/you see where and how we fit our roles and interests into the constraints of our institution and its culture.

Find out more about Wise Guy and Guy Kawasaki, as well as the weekly video episodes, on the ‘Wise Guy’ Facebook page.

“Wise Guy distills Guy Kawasaki’s decades of experience and thirteen books Into short lessons to help you succeed. Guy covers innovation, recruiting, fund raising, branding, and social media. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, small-business owner, intrapreneur, or not-for-profit leader, you’ll get a ton out of this video series.”

I would go further to say that you will learn about how other people view creativity and entrepreneurial activity or thinking, about how you can also use these approaches to foster your own skills (either as an entrepreneur or creative, or working with them) and how you can learn more about yourself. Go on, what have you got to lose?

Image source: Adam Tinworth (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Future of Learning Technology in UK Higher Education

Last year I was approached and interviewed by Microsoft. In that interview I talked about my experiences and hopes for my work, both in the sense of personal development and in how I see (and want to see) the use of technology improve in higher education. This improvement, I said, needs to come from three main areas:

  • How we, learning technologists (in our various roles and titles) perceive technology is being used, can be used, and should be used with students. These students can be classroom based or fully online, or the use of technology in a blended approach.
  • How we work with staff (academic and administrative) to introduce new technology or new ways of working with existing technology, how this relationship with our colleagues grows and whether they are the kind who are receptive to new tools and techniques or ‘ludites‘, and
  • Why we look at new technology, how we work out if there is a use for it and if so, what is it? We’re also fully aware that some technology needs to mature before it becomes an effective teaching tool (either in reliability, resilience, or in it’s adoption across the sector).

From the report:

Learning delivery in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) is being reshaped before our eyes, thanks in part to advances in technology and the new pedagogical theories facilitated by that technology. In order to understand more about the ever-evolving relationship between technology and learning, we spent time speaking with six of the UK’s leading learning technologists working within HEIs.

In a series of interviews exploring current practice, changing needs and key trends, we were able to establish how digital devices are being used in universities and how cutting-edge technology can continue to compliment a sector experiencing fresh emphasis on collaboration, creation and innovation.

Key take-away messages from the interviews and report look at things like our ability to be device agnostic (despite this being a report from Microsoft Surface), seamless capability, VR and AR developments, AI, collaborative working and learning analytics.

David Hopkins reiterated the point (investment in institutional infrastructure) that the role of a learning technologist is “to make sure that the academics use their time with the students efficiently.”

Alongside key “UK’s leading learning technologists” like Mike Sharples (OU), Terese Bird (Leicester), Neil Morrise (Leeds), Rose Luckin (UCL), Dave White (UoAL) and myself, the Microsoft report concluded that “the revolution in learning technology is quickly becoming the most significant factor in improving student performance – in turn helping universities to fulfil their transformative role for society, the jobs market and the economy.”

Download the Microsoft Surface report here: The Future of Learning Technology in UK Higher Education.

50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media #Jisc50social

For a month or two JISC has been asking for names and nominations to a new list they’ve been producing – 50 Most Influential HE Professionals Using Social Media. Well, the time has come and the final list has been announced.

There are some wonderful people on this list I am proud to know and call friends, and some I’m not previously aware of and will be looking at (hmm, sounds a bit stalker’ish, sorry) to learn about what they do, why, and how.

“The final line-up – chosen by a panel of social media experts, including award-winning social media editor for Times Higher Education Chris Parr, Insider Higher Ed journalist and blogger Eric Stoller, and Teacher Training Videos founder Russell Stannard, as well as Jisc’s David Kernohan and Sarah Knight – features an impressive mix of academics alongside vice-chancellors, librarians and IT and support staff.”

The final 50 features outstanding cases of social media use that others could benefit from, and we will be looking to highlight some of this excellent practice in the weeks to come.”

Even more helpful than the list is also the Twitter list, making it easier to follow the work of all those on the list.

Again, it’s an honour to be on the list, and I’d just like to sat how much I enjoy being ‘social’, talking about and sharing ideas and experiences, and above all hearing all about the wonderful things people are doing with students, learning, engagement, collaboration, technology, communication, and each other.

Harness the power of video and increase student engagement

Earlier this year I was invited to contribute to a guide for teachers on the flipped classroom, concentrating on the inclusion, or rather availability, of video to increase student engagement (flipped classroom or not).

This is what I wrote:

“Believe it or not YouTube has only just turned 10 years old. Yes, that’s right. So much has changed in that time that it’s often easy to forget just what the rate of change has been. Video has always been something that could be used in classrooms or for teaching and learning, but it was often a bulky CRT television on a trolley, with a VHS player and a multitude of knotted cables that the teacher could never unravel to get it near the wall socket. Therefore, in my experience, my teachers often gave up and tried something else instead. Not only was the actual technology / hardware itself difficult to use, the materials we were shown would be old programmes, not always relevant or interesting, and more often than not of poor quality that only a few in the class would be able to see and hear it properly.

Now fast forward to today and look at what you have. We have access to hours of genuine, original television programmes to choose from. The quality of both the video and content is as good as it’s ever going to get (even the self-produced materials), and the opportunities to create and share our own material has never been easier. With personal computing and audio/video equipment as cheap as it is, and with the growth of mobile computing still climbing, there really isn’t any excuse for a teacher to not find something to use in their classroom.

If you needed convincing, how about these examples? What if you wanted to show, instead of explain, how truncated spurs are created over millions of years by water or glacial erosion? What if your students can’t contemplate the distances involved when dealing with the planets in our solar system, or beyond? What about trying to help a student who’s struggling to understand a complex mathematical theory, such as the Brouwer’s Fixed-Point Theorem?

This is the power of video as part of a teaching and learning programme. For me there really is no reason to not include video in your teaching materials. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s to introduce complicated or difficult concepts, other times it could be to relieve stress or boredom.

Whatever, there is a reason, you just need to find it!”

Download the PDF guide and read from myself and other leading educators on flipped classrooms and other techniques for enhancing student engagement in the Teacher’s Practical Guide to the Flipped Classroom.

Supporting emerging technologies

Thanks to Grainne Conole for sharing this on Facebook this morning, and to Michelle Pacansky-Brock for sharing on LinkedIn too – 5 Ways to Support Faculty Who Teach with Emerging Technologies.

It’s a great image (available from Mindwires, CC BY) depicting 5 types of innovators, or rather 5 approached of innovating in learning and education, from the (my understanding of the labels, anyway!):

  • ‘Laggards’. Those who  follow on once a technology has proven itself.
  • Late majority. Those who will join the implementation of something new once the initial buzz has quietened down and the research is starting to support it’s use.
  • Early majority. Like those in the ‘late’ majority, they will wait for the back to be broken on the testing and development before adopting and implementing, but will have been keen observers from the start.
  • Early adopters. Being involved and helping developing new uses for existing technologies (as well as driving developments) the early adopters will often be closely tied with the ‘innovators’ through professional connections.
  • Innovators. The first to know, the first to try, and sometimes the first to fail. These ‘technology enthusiasts’ will not stop when something doesn’t work, they’ll often try again, alter their approach or expectations, and keep looking around to see if there’s anything else they could use to improve work or learning efficiencies.

What do you think, do you identify yourself (or someone else) in any of the descriptors here?