There is a fundamental debate taking place in Scotland at the moment with regard to the next implementation of Glow, Scotland’s National Intranet. Whilst to those outside Scotland it may seem a parochial affair, the significance of this discussion extends way beyond Scotland's boundaries. This is a microcosm of how online resources resources networks for learning might or might not evolve. A glimpse of how to make things work, and what will fail and how good intentions may be derailed. Unlike many other countries which are encumbered with either dis-jointed, or legacy ICT provision, Scotland has had a National strategy for ICT for many years, and in September 2011, Scottish Education Minister, Michael Russell left the door ajar for Glow to evolve from a closed Intranet into a learning ecosystem developed around the evolving free and open Internet tools, facilitated by broadband accessibility and referencing to BYOD, (Bring Your Own Device). A clean slate, with the vested interests of technology companies not a prime consideration.
Although I am not directly involved in Scottish education, the discussions struck a couple of chords; firstly I grew up and was educated in Scotland and I still see it as my home, but more importantly Scotland is in a unique position to be a leader in thought and practice in this field. Therefore I make no apologies for contributing my personal opinion. I take note that Jaye Hill states we have to be careful avoiding a “he said - she said“ dialogue and I will bear that in mind for the rest of this post.
So how is it all coming along?
Over the past weekend a growing number of tweets suggested all was not as it should be, and this was extrapolated in various blog posts, including the following by Douglas Chappelle and Pam Currie.The crux of the matter is Google have pulled out of, and decided not to participate directly with the forthcoming implementation of Glow - (Glow2)
I think the telling lines are these:
“A commercial tendering process....is inconsistent with our philosophy and is not in the best interest of Scottish schools...”
and explaining that philosophy.....
“ is to provide our apps at no cost at all to qualifying schools...”
The problem appears to be the procurement process that does not sit well alongside free and open; and whose beneficiaries are most likely to be commercial IT providers rather than learners, (and free gives an unfair advantage o:) Now a better driver for building GLOW2 might have been mutually beneficial partnerships.
Source http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6225749 11th May 2012
Whilst Douglas’s and Pam’s posts hint at a subculture of technopolitical inchworms who want to bring Glow back within the wall of the restrictive cultures, (that many of us have endured within institutional and educational ICT); other commentators ask some pertinent questions about trust and how Google uses data it collects. Jim Henderson raises concerns over how Google accesses user data from across its product range and also asks questions about the ownership of one's data on Google. However, such T&Cs are widespread across most cloud based service therefore I think it is important to make a realistic appraisal of such terms and conditions, as pointed out by Brian Kelly. (JISC /UKOLN). Such details should be discussed openly in forums, by stakeholders, rather than be left to the procurement process, whose ‘procurers’ who may not necessarily be experts in either teaching or learning, or cloud based technology.
Indeed Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Dropbox have all been subject to wide discussion recently.
Of course, Google are not the only tech company who can be accused of not playing straight, Microsoft re-launches Browser Wars, whilst Apple’s DRM and content strategies and Pearson’s inroads into state education systems have also been heavily criticised recently.
So what might have been/be lost if Google is not involved;
Firstly, the Google ecosystem comprises of an organically evolving toolset: covering amongst other things: search, translation, communications, YouTube, Geodata, content & document production and sharing. Google + offers Hangouts on Air which brings together conferencing and broadcast- possibly a game changer. Over past 12 months all these tools, services and apps have been combining into a whole and at the moment there is nothing that comes close. Even if one is critical of Google, currently, it is the best model we currently have of a learning ecosystem.
To see even a few of these affordancesin an Intranet or VLE would allow its developers to shout: world beater’
Meanwhile; Google has done a nifty sidestep by offering to work nearer ground level with Local Authorities. Some believe this would result in fragmentation, I suspect some LAs might engage - others be wary? The next few months could be very interesting. Take your partners for an Orcadian Strip the Willow!
I think it is important to recognise that since the inception of Glow, digital technologies have reconfigured the possibilities for learning, online spaces are very different. There is no going back.
The learning landscape is now increasingly cloud based, international and moving to open. You can do most things online and collaboratively and this includes activities previously requiring specialist kit such as audio recording and video editing. There is melding of educational platforms and courses that are truly international - whether that be Khan, TED-ED, or the MOOC courses being developed by top US Universities. There are also the smaller communities ranging from HE’s JISC to special interest groups such as The Big History Project.
Concurrently - other users are adding value to educational search and content through Curation which is probably one of the most significant recent practices to evolve on the web, and Wikipedia is central to knowledge building and sharing. The Mozzilla foundation and DML are promoting the idea of Badges, as explained by Doug Belshaw.
Of course there are likely to be cultures, interests and mindsets that will do all they can to halt or slow down the pace of technologies, and perhaps we are witnessing an example of this in this instance.
Understandably, and rightly some spaces within Glow must protect the privacy of the users, eg. parent/teacher/student dialogues and identities in appropriate contexts, but that Intranet should be a subset of Glow2 and not its driver. Spaces where learners can share and exhibit work must be open to all, so that learners and teachers work can be seen world wide. The first ports of call for content should include harnessing open educational resources (OER) and Commons licensed resources wherever possible.
I would agree wholeheartedly with those in the discussions who have publicly stated that any Government funding should be directed at improving infrastructure and accessibility, for example fast broadband - adequate wifi. support and PD as necessary, not squandering money on subscription based content, with useless terms that negate digital opportunities for learning.
Glow can only work if it is an adaptable digital educational ecosystem for learning that facilitates and empowers the use, sharing communication and collaboration digital resources by all learners, teachers and parents. So this is far too important an area to be left to the devices of professional procurers. Otherwise you will end up with an expensive white elephant whose only beneficiaries will be the providers that have been procured. As Douglas says time to: re-open the wiki. And for that reason I stress we need to be talking about partnerships, (including commercial) and collaboration to create ecosystems not Intranets whose affordances have been superseded by social networks and communities of practice and globalisation.
Glow is a product of Scotland; if Glow2 is successful, Scotland can deservedly reap the credit, but only if it opens it up to the world - which will recognise and acknowledge its contribution to learning in a digital age. However if it ends up with a local shop policy this would be a huge injustice for all the folks in Scotland who have been, and are directly involved with this, the teachers and the learners. The world awaits.
I have been thinking about the value the educational community and learners gain from using digital resources, especially those targeted for educational. In the visualisation above, I have extrapolated, which possible actions or behaviours by educators might be of most benefit for learners, (and other educators). You may wish to suggest others in the comments, or even disagree with the model; I would really welcome your thoughts and feedback on this.
How one can use a resource will be determined by the terms and conditions of the resource's licence. The example below is typical of licensing offered by many, (educational), content providers.
The first two conditions, attribution and non commercial use, are fair, reasonable and make sense, because they allow modification and remixing; but the last element precludes using the resource at anything other than an individual level, or at best within an institution. Such content may still have a great deal of value for an individual, but it stops there, as it cannot make full use of the educational affordances of digital technologies. Some other resources are even more restrictive; allowing no modifications, their terms often state they can only be printed or used offline. These will have little or no value within a digital content ecosystem.
Whilst it is understandable that some content providers may wish to protect content they have created or acquired, this should be seen against the exponential growth of openly accessible resources; Wikipedia, YouTube, Science Commons and Encyclopedia of Life are just a some of the many examples. This past year has also seen clear move towards OER, (Open Educational Resources) with many initiatives at both individual and institutional level.
A number of potentially significant developments are taking place, Khan Academy is planning to crowdsource resources created by teachers around the world and invite them to add content to its portal and make it available through the Khan Academy’s noncommercial public domain licence. On another front, Pearson, one of the worlds largest educational content providers will make some of its content available through an API which will hopefully be developed as valuable educational materials as discussed recently by John McLear.
Within current discourse on video for learning, there are many concurrent ideas on how to use video in educational contexts. These cover a wide spectrum, ranging from recorded lectures, or the Khan Academy video tutorials, (which have inadvertently given rise to the flipped classroom meme), to dedicated educational platforms that aggregate online video, for example Watchknow.org Sometimes video is mixed with other content using APIs, as on the HistoryPin website.
Other platforms such as EdMediaShare which uses the Dial-e framework, (developed at the University of Hull), are designed to promote an alternative way of using video. However the most frequent use of video in learning is still to illustrate or amplify subject matter or to present didactic information in the form of a recorded lecture or presentation.
This is understandable, one of the drawbacks of using video, as opposed to text, is that it cannot be searched in as easily as texts. Whilst it is straightforward to search search a library of documents for a word - sentence or paragraph but with video search relies on title or associated metadata. This may be about to change. Research at the Hasso Platter institute has come close to making 'semantic video' a reality. Using semantic media analysis; in the near future, it will be possible to conduct searches within video, (collections, and individual videos), directly by the content within them
Here are a few thoughts on how this might work, using some clips from EdMediaShare to illustrate:
It seems likely that such tools will completely redefine the ways in which we can learn through video. Hopefully some of these tools them will also be found within YouTube in the not to distant future.
I have recently spent quite a bit of time watching, David Rumsey's inspirational keynote describing how digital technology and visualisation can aid the understanding and interpretation of historic maps; thus building new knowledge, not only of the maps, but about people, the societies they lived in and the prevailing culture and values of the time.
Using Google Earth overlays, historic fly-throughs, 30ft globes, and virtual worlds
this 40 min video is awesome, the screen capture above offers a flavour. Indeed it is one of the best uses of virtual worlds that I have come across in a long time.
The Creative Commons licensed Rumsey Map Collection accessed through the Luna Browser, is a good example of how digital technologies can refocus our interpretation of other cultural artefacts, for example, posters, photographs or moving images, in order to shed new light on our past and our present.
The idea of digitally synthesing of old and new is beginning to gain momentum, and there are projects, open to students and educators, including Hypercities which explores layers of time through city maps, or HistoryPin which crowdsources old photographs and superimposes them on Google Street View.
Even if mapping isn't your personal interest, digitised archives or artefacts can provide a stimulus for meaningful learning designs and contexts for all stages of learning. Applying digital tools to data we already have allows new interpretations and ways of using the data which makes this a very rich field for educators to explore using digital technologies.
And whilst at first glance, some of the artefacts and ideas from the past may seem absurd today; in context, they reveal the hidden codes for our future, which are gaining recognition amongst an emerging cohort of paleo-futurists, digital humanists, digital anthropologists and archaeologists who participate in innovative projects and networks. As Tom Seinfield from the Found History blog states:
"innovation in digital humanities frequently comes from the edges of the scholarly community rather than from its center—small institutions and even individual actors with few resources are able to make important innovations."
This is highly encouraging and it is certainly an area I plan to spend a lot more time studying and working in.
Screencast - panning and zooming into 360deg video
Last week the delegates at the Diverse 2011 conference were treated to a fascinating presentation by Dr Roy Pea, Professor of Education and Learning Sciences at Stanford University, on using video for classroom observation. Roy described how he used a 360 degree Lucy videocam to develop a model for observing lessons and classroom interactions. The Lucy enables all corners of the class to be filmed simultaneously, together with the surrounding audio; and the DIVER software developed by Roy and his team lets viewers zoom in to, comment and annotate different parts of the video. This lets different viewers, including both researchers and trainee teachers, pick up on different events happening in the classroom simultaneously, and from different viewpoints. This method of audio-visual analysis brings together multiple perspectives resulting in a multilayered and multidimensional narratives.
Indeed, these video research techniques could be applied to other situations outside the classroom, a good situation might be an art gallery or museum, where the system could record data on visitors strategies and engagement with exhibits and resources. Of course filming in public spaces, and classroooms, raises ethical issues; and to be effective, needs to be consensual and offer privacy safeguards.
Roy also introduced the audience to Dot, a panoramic camera lens for the iPhone 4, which is due to launch and retail at around $99. This looks awesome, and makes 360 degree video capture avaialable at a consumer price point. As you can see in the screencast above, I have been having a play with one of the video examples from the Kogeto site. I think it really works with movement as you can follow and zoom in or out on the overtaking cars, or turn back to see something you have passed. Because every viewing is a different experience, learners can draw their own meaning from a video sequence. Combining movement with multiple viewpoints offers remarkable opportunities for sport and travel based videos. Whether filming a walk through a neigbourhood, recording environmental spaces such as a wood, or simply placing the camera on a table during a conversation; the Dot is sure to offer opportunities for creating innovative video for learning.
Just in case you missed it, YouTube has enabled users to upload videos using a Creative Commons Licence. This is a very welcome initiative, which now gives all users some basic editing tools to experiment with online. They are pretty basic at the moment but there is plenty of creative potential. YouTube has seeded the platform with around 10,000 CC licenced clips from sources including; Voice of America and Al Jazeera, together with plenty of sound and music files for creating a soundtrack. Ideal for digital story telling and of course you can add captions and subtitles to already uploaded movies, using the video’s edit button. Once you have edited and published your video remix and you can download the file. My only caveat is that there isn’t as yet any Search for CC on the main video page.
It seems likely the real value of the CC Licencing will emerge as more CC licenced videos are added to the database. It is also worth mentioning that any videos you have uploaded can be retrospectively changed to a CC licence, which hopefully many of you will do, in order to quickly increase the breadth and depth of the database.
Unfortunately there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the majority of schools still won’t be able access the YouTube platform in order to exploit the learning potential of this, or other recent developments such as YouTube Create. It seems clear such innovations are unlikely to unlock the mindsets of the gatekeepers who filter and block YouTube. They simply recite the old e-safety mantras, without providing significant evidence to justify denying the thousand of teachers and children access to a contemporary and relevant media channel.
Luckily this is not the case for all schools, in Authorities such as East Lothian, or indeed other countries, for example in Denmark, YouTube is not blocked, and believe it or not; “the sky has not fallen in”. They are the lucky ones.
What is becoming increasingly clear is that many teachers see real value for learning with YouTube video, and are engaging in research or developing resources. Crowdsourced examples including this wiki on YouTube useage, Tom Barrett’s online survey of web 2.0 blocking, or Jamie Portman’s History video database. I am sure there are many other examples, as well as school YouTube channels. If you know of any lease add them to the comments below. I think the more of these co-ordinated examples we have. the better the arguments with which to counter the gatekeepers.
I have been involved with major international research project, (472 responses), which has shed some light on video and YouTube in schools, and we are beginning to piece together a picture of how educators select and use online video.
As an example teachers many teachers will access YouTube out of school in order to download the video file and convert it to a desktop format for use in class. However such strategies, (which incidentally, break YouTube, Terms of Service), are not always sustainable or scalable because they rely on individual expertise and commitment, or may not have been sanctioned by the school leadership. We also found many teachers use YouTube as a search engine, in order to find material that matches their curriculum or subject, but that is starting to change, as some are now exploring the affective qualities of video.
I suspect Creative Commons licencing will encourage a more constructivist approach to video for learning.