Monday, April 26, 2010

Open Access Education for Open Source Software

Last week Cameron Shorter from Sydney Geospatial open source software company Lisasoft contacted me about how to provide "crowd-sourced" training. The idea was to apply the same open source development techniques to he training materials as the software. My suggestion was to use USQ's ICE system and Moodle.

We discussed open source and education over lunch on Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont, Sydney, where Listsoft is located. The Wharf, adjacent to the Sydney Casino and Google's Sydney office, has been redeveloped as a offices for software and media companies, with million dollar yachts pulled up alongside and a million dollar view of Sydney harbour from the outdoor restaurants.

Normally I am skeptical of open source enthusiasts proposing large projects. However, Lisasoft seem to have managed to sell geospetial products and services particularly to government agencies.

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) has a project to produce a "Live GIS Disc" of open source geospatial software. documentation to adopt standard documentation. This was to include some training material. OSGEO also has an OSGeo Education and Curriculum Project, providing a Search-able Database of Educational Material. Cameron has proposed aligning the documentation guidelines put in place for LiveDVD with the OSGeo education project. The idea being that along with the free software would be free educational materials.

My talk in Adelaide on open source for defence got Cameron's attention, so he asked how to go about providing educational content. I started by cautioning that it is difficult to get software developers to do documentation, let alone training materials (it is far more exciting to write the code than document it). But I did suggest using USQ's ICE and also Moodle. Both ICE and Moodle are available free and incorporate current thinking about how training should be done.

The difficulty with any such educational material design is to match up the high level definition of the training requirements with the low level training materials created. ICE comes with templates for USQ's course development process. These templates are much the same as commonly used for Australian universities and TAFEs and so should be easily adapted for describing OSGeo's courses. Moodle then provides the infrastructure for delivering the material.

At the technical level both ICE and Moodle generate HTML, making it easy and efficient to incorporate into online systems. Rather than produce PowerPoint (or the equivalent) for slide show presentations, I suggests using
HTML Slidy , as Incorporated in ICE.

Slidy allows for PowerPoint type functionality within the web version of the ICE documents. I have used Slidy for years to give presentations, with few of the audience ever noticing that what they are looking at is a web page, not a PowerPoint document.

One advantage of Slidy is that it allows for automated language translation. As the presentation is just a web page, web translators can be used. Someone looking at a web page through a translator, will see not only the normal web version of the notes translated, but the slides as well. obviously machine translation is not as good as a custom one, but it is available with no effort by the creator of the presentation.

More generally, as OSGEO have encouraged the use of creative commons licenses, there would seem to be no reason why the training materials can't be freely available and visible. Currently you can find the brief description of training materials with a web search, but not the content of the courses themselves.

Tools such as ICE and Moodle produce search-able web pages. This greatly
increases the visibility of the training materials, as they can be found with a web search. The person searching does not need to know of the existence of OSGEO, they would just need to search for words somewhere in the course content.

ps: Geoscience is not my field, although I have dabbled with a satellite fire mapping system.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Green IT in Higher Education

"Powering Down: Green IT in Higher Education (ID: " by Mark Sheehan and Shannon Smith as been released by EDUCAUSEERS1002, 04/15/2010). This report does not say much which is new on Green ICT, but is useful in confirming that what applies in other areas also applies in universities. It will be a valuable resource for university administrators, IT providers and sustainability professionals looking to green computing at telecommunications on the campus. But there will still be the usual frustrations, that while many are prepared to talk about green ICT, few are prepared to act to achieve it.

This 2010 ECAR study of green IT examines the stance institutions and their central IT organizations are taking on environmental sustainability (ES), the progress they are making on a variety of key initiatives, and how the work they are doing is helping them become more environmentally responsible in their business, instructional, and research activities. This study provides chief information officers and others with information about the state of ES practices in higher education and identifies practices that are associated with positive outcomes. Based on a literature review to define the issues and establish the research questions, along with consultation with higher education IT administrators and ES experts to validate survey questions, ECAR conducted a quantitative web-based survey of EDUCAUSE member institutions that received 261 responses, 77.8% of which were from the institutional ClO or equivalent. This report is based on results of the survey as well as on qualitative interviews with 31 higher education IT leaders and staff. A corporate edition is available here.

Table of Contents
Entire Study Powering Down: Green IT in Higher Education
Chapter 1 Executive Summary
Chapter 2 Introduction and Methodology
Chapter 3 Institutional Environmental Sustainability: The Basics
Chapter 4 Institutional Environmental Sustainability Initiatives
Chapter 5 Central IT’s Role in Greening the Campus
Chapter 6 Central IT Environmental Sustainability Initiatives
Chapter 7 Distributed IT and Environmental Sustainability
Chapter 8 Knowledgeability and Participation
Chapter 9 Assessing Progress
Chapter 10 Higher Education IT and the Coming Green Revolution
Appendix A Institutional Respondents to the Online Green IT Survey
Appendix B Interviewees in Qualitative Research
Appendix C Supplementary Tables
Appendix D Bibliography

Online Supporting Materials
Key Findings
Survey Instrument

Citation for this work: Sheehan, Mark C., with Shannon D. Smith. Powering Down: (Research Study 2, 2010). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2010, available from

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Australian higher education in the workplace

The Australian Collaborative Education Network will hold its 2010 NATIONAL CONFERENCE at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Western Australia, 29 September 2010. The Call for Abstracts closes 31 March 2010 and registrations are now open.
Australian Collaborative Education Network Inc.
29 Sept – 1 Oct 2010
Curtin University of Technology
Perth, Western Australia
Conference Update #2



Selected ‘best papers’ from the conference will be invited to be refined and resubmitted as proposed publications for the following book and journals
In addition to the previously announced high profile speakers (Professor Mantz Yorke and Ms Mary Hicks) we are please to advise that we now have a third keynote speaker
  • Mr Peter Tyree
    President, Business /Higher Education Round Table
    Former Chairman of the Tyree Group of Companies
Peter is the former Chairman of the Tyree Group of Companies, one of the largest non public companies in Australia. As an Electrical Engineer he has attained a diverse knowledge in the areas of energy, waste water treatment facilities, and electrical conductors. Peter’s “give to society” attitude has seen him work in charitable and industry bodies as well as keeping long term relationships with several universities. In his relationships with universities, his involvement has been as a member of a number of “visiting” Committees, School and Faculty Advisory Boards and Foundations, particularly the University of Wollongong, University of Sydney and the University of NSW, each of which has given Peter deep insights into how important the Business/Higher Education relationships are. Peter took on the role of President, Business/Higher Education Round Table in February 2010.

Monday 27 September 2010 - 1.00pm Venue: Murdoch University
WIL Research and Scholarship Symposium (Open to active researchers).

If you are interested in research or scholarship in Work Integrated Learning, here is an opportunity for you to get involved in an exciting national event to explore WIL research and create research/scholarship partnerships and initiatives. This Roundtable kicks off a national WIL conference at Curtin University and will bring together renowned international researchers with Australia’s best WIL scholars and you have an opportunity to be an active participant. The Roundtable will identify research priorities for WIL in Australia, forge research partnerships and develop collaborative, cross-institutional research initiatives.
If you are an active researcher and would like to contribute please contact Rick Cummings (
Cost: Nil

Attend two workshops and get a 30% discount off the second (Symposium not included)

Workshop 1 Tuesday 28 September 2010 - 9.00am to 12noon
Venue: Curtin University of Technology
The WIL Process: Setting up effective WIL programs
Presenter: A/Prof Jan Orrell ...

Workshop 2 Tuesday 28 September 2010 - 1.00pm to 4pm
Venue: Curtin University of Technology
The Work of WIL: The fine balance of managing WIL workload: employer relations; and student expectations
Presenters: Carol-joy Patrick and Merrelyn Bates ...

Workshop 3 Tuesday 28 September 2010 - 1.00 pm to 4pm
Venue: Curtin University of Technology
Understanding and researching WIL: a workshop for new WIL researchers
Presenters: Dr Franziska Trede and A/Prof Maree Simpson ...
From: Call for Abstracts, ACEN, 2010.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Green ICT education references

Google Books looks like it will be very useful for finding references. As an example I was helping prepare an application for a grant to work on green ICT education. To make this look plausible, I needed a page or so of references. So I typed "green ICT education" into Google Books. This produced a list of 717 books, including at number seven, my own "Green Technology Strategies". From this and similar searches I quickly found some useful reference. Unlike a conventional search through a physical library, you don't have to go and get the book off the shelf: the search takes you straight to the relevant page of the book:
Title Green Technology Strategies
Author Tom Worthington
Publisher Tomw Communications Pty Ltd, 2009
ISBN 0980620139, 9780980620139

Outline of approach to an accredited internationally aligned green ICT course.

Title Future Trends and Challenges for ICT Standardization
Author Ramjee Prasad
Publisher River Publishers, 2010
ISBN 8792329381, 9788792329387

See page 234 on education and generic approaches to ICT.

Title Sustainable schools: are we building schools for the future?, 2006-07.
Author Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Education and Skills Committee
Publisher The Stationery Office, 2007
ISBN 0215035968, 9780215035967

Page 66 discusses delivering sustainable learning environments.

Title Sustainable development and innovation in the energy sector
Author Ulrich Steger
Editor Ulrich Steger
Edition illustrated
Publisher Springer, 2005
ISBN 354023103X, 9783540231035

Discusses the role of education in the energy sector in development.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

BarCamp Canberra 2010

Greetings from BarCamp Canberra 2010 at the famous Room N101 at ANU in Canberra. There are about sixty people here so far and the room is filling fast. About one third of the room seems to be from Sydney, boosting the Canberra economy. You can follow the event in Twitter: #bcc2010.

The infrastructure is well set up with video projectors, WiFi, power-boards and Senator Lundy just arrived with duct-tape to hold the cables down.

For this I have prepared "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads":
Simple web pages and free open source software
to create an accompanying e-book for a university level e-learning
course. Educational materials can be provided for Netbooks, Amazon
Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone. This technique should also work
for the recently announced Apple iPad.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads

For the BarCamp Canberra 2010, tomorrow I have prepared "Making e-Books for e-Learning on i-Pads". This is about how I used simple web pages and free open source software to create a university level e-learning course and accompanying e-book. Educational materials can be provided for the Netbooks, Amazon Kindle, Google Android, Apple iPhone. This technique should also work for the recently announced Apple iPad for education.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Green Learning Commons

Prompted by "What Happened to the Computer Lab?" I was asked by Idris Sulaiman if there are any Australian guidelines on Green Computer Labs. This is a good question. Computer labs are evolving into general purpose computer equipped teaching spaces in the information commons and spreading across university campuses, as well as vocational education and schools. As a result there will be more computers using more energy (and causing more e-waste) at educational institutions. Green guidelines for these are therefore becoming more important.

The guidelines for university teaching spaces in Australia are mostly about how many square metres of space to allocate per student. The allocations for computer equipped labs are much higher than for traditional classrooms. This will cause a further environmental problem for education, as computer equipped spaces become the primary form of teaching space on campus. This could result in a doubling of the environmental footprint of the institution, as well as greatly increased costs.

As I teach my green ICT students, the the best and primary way to reduce the environmental impact of computers is with efficient, cost effective design. Building a computer equipped classroom which requires half as much space per student will reduce the materials required and energy use. If it is cheapr to build as well, that will make it more likley it is built.

There are some good examples of computer equipped learning centres in Australian universities, some of
which I have visited and commented on in my blog under the headings classroom design and flexible learning centre.

Perhaps we should look at writing some guidelines and build two prototype green computer labs.

Some time ago I did a short exercie to see how one of the ANU Computer Science computer labs could be adapted for belnded learning. With this I propsoed to double the number of students the room could hold and allow for individual, group and whole class learning styles.

Also I proposed a portable centre, which would be a airline carry on wheeled bag with enough equipment for a dozen studnets.

Perhaps we could build some prototypes using ALTC funding and provide some guidelines. The results can then be incorporated into free open access e-learning materials, in a similar format to my Green Technology course, but perhaps with some more video and audio.

Others might like to join in this work.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

My School web site design

Hon Julia Gillard MP, Minister for Education launched the "My School" web site today. This is intended to provide information to the public on schools, including the number of students and teachers, socio-economic status and literacy and numeracy test results. Media reports indicated problems with the site responding. I found the site would not respond at about 9am, but by 9pm it was working well. However some simple changes to the web page design could improve the site.

I ran some tests on the page for the Montessori International College (Buderim,QLD,4556) and found:
This school web page contained:
  1. document: 139.1KB (HTML, text and scripts),
  2. stylesheets: 26.4KB,
  3. images: 16.3KB.
The document contains 4.4 kbytes of text, only 3% of the total. This indicates an excessive used of HTML mark-up in the page design. Reducing this would speed up access to the site. Some simple changes would reduce the code size by two thirds.

The code shows an excessive use of nested DIVs. At one point DIVs are nested ten deep, to display just two images. The large amount of white space which this deep nesting causes may also slow the system down, depending on how the pages and generated and transmitted.

Also automatically generated identifier names appear to be excessively long, such as: id="ctl00_ContentPlaceHolder1_SchoolProfileUserControl_SchoolDescriptionLabel".

In other respects the page is reasonably well designed . It is readable (perhaps more readable) with the styles turned off. However, it is not clear if the general public will be able to understand the complex tables displayed. It might be better to offer an introductory page for each school with summary data. This would also be a way to reduce the load on the server. Most readers will not read past the first few lines of text and therefore downloading the complex tables is a waste of resources.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Risk Management of Work Integrated Learning

The Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) is planning a forum on "Risk management and legal issues related to Work Integrated Learning" in Sydney on 20 April 2010. They are looking for speakers:
The NSW Chapter of ACEN will be holding a one day Forum on "Risk management and legal issues related to Work Integrated Learning" in Sydney on Tuesday 20 April.

The Forum will cover topics such as:
  • the division of responsibility between the university and the workplace
  • issues of confidentiality and privacy in high risk environments, like policing, teaching and social work
  • guidelines to ensure risk minimisation in the workplace, and
  • providing insurance for students who undertake volunteer work.
... We plan to have a representative from the Fair Work Office also present at the Forum. ...

Is this your area of expertise/interest? Would you like to share your knowledge and present at the Forum? If so, please email Matthew Campbell by 5 February: matthew.campbell(a)

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Education for Electronic Data Management

The ANU asked me to run a course in Electronic Data Management (COMP7420). This is 3 units (half the length of a normal ANU semester long course) and is the equivalent of 60 hours work for the student (10 hours a week for six weeks). In finalising the content of the course I thought I should look at what guidelines, standards and other courses there are. The first difficulty with this is the narrow specialisation of the course.

The nearest similar course I could find was "Electronic Records and Document Management" ( LIBR 5009 012621) at UniSA School of Communication. AIIM have aElectronic Records Management (ERM) Certificate Program of four days duration (or online equivalent).

The Records Management Association of Australasia have an extensive list of Educational and training courses for records management. However, these are mostly for records management in general, not electronic records in particular. Listed for Monash University, Faculty of Information Technology, School of Information Management and Systems is their Graduate Certificate, Diploma and Masters of Information Management and Systems (Electronic Recordkeeping and Archiving Stream).

RMAA refers to "Records and Archives Competency Standards" available from Innovation and Business Skills Australia, but I was unable to find any mention of such standards on the IBSA web site.

National Archives of Australia have a web page detailing Qualifications for records staff. Knowledge, skills and experience are defined with reference to Australian Standard for Records Management AS ISO 15489 – 2002.There are two parts to this standard (General and Guidelines). NAA refer to the university courses listed by RMAA and also Australian Society of Archivists Inc (ASA). The Business Services Training Package (BSB01) of IBSA is referred to but with a non-functional web link.

NAA also provide the materials for a free short course "What you need to know about managing records when working for the Australian Government". This includes Powerpoint slides (pdf, 470kb), presenter's guide (pdf, 2.6mb) and a 20 minute self paced e-Learning module. The e-learning module is avialable in a tex/print version optimised for accessibility, as well as the HTML (low-bandwidth) and Flash (media-rich) versions. Unfortunately this is not a complete e-learning module as it lacks any form of assessment for the student to assess what they have learnt. However, it could be a very useful start for a course.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Amazon not supporting Australian Authors

I have prepared an electronic edition of my "Green ICT" book for's Kindle e-Book device. are now offering an international version of the Kindle for use in Australia. So it seemed a good time to publish. But after carefully formatting the book and uploading to Amazon's Digital Text Platform web site, I found I was not able to publish without a US bank account and US tax information. I am already registered as an Amazon Associate and receive cheques from Amazon. But the Australian address and Australian tax details which are acceptable for Amazon Associates appear not to be acceptable for Kindle. The result would seem to be that only US based publisher will be permitted to publish with the Kindle. This is unfortunate as it makes the device unsuitable for educational use. I attempted to get around this by seeing if had an arrangement to publish on Kindle, but they don't.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Development of Young Professionals

I crept out of the opening session of the 2009 International Young ICT Professionals Conference in Sydney, to talk to some of the exhibitors. This conference has a different focus to the usual technical IT event. This is about career development for young professionals. It is applicable to other professions and some of the people here are qualified in other disciplines, such as economics. Most of the exhibitors I am familar with, such as the ACS Foundation, who organise scholarships for students. Inspired Training Solutions I was not familiar with are delivering short courses on business practices for professionals. IBM have an unusual exhibit on their Smarter Planet initiative, with a colouring in competition for adults. Charles Stuart University are talking about their Master of Information Technology (MInfoTech) and Graduate Diploma of Information Technology (GradDipInfoTech) courses, but interestingly CSU also offer industry certifications as well.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Simple web designs last the test of time

In 2003 I designed a simple web site for my brother, Dr John Worthington, who is an Educational Psychologist. This consisted of about a half dozen pages of text with a photo and some links. This has proved adequate, with medical practitioners using it to refer patients to the services. Many people print out the relevant page and bring it along for a consultation.

He asked for a small change to the home page and I did a quick check of the code. I found one minor error to fix. Out of curiosity, I ran it through the W3C mobileOK Checker, which scored the page at 80/100. Even so there were a few problems found, which I will fix, but leave the page otherwise unchanged.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Implementing ICT in Australian education and training has produced a series of reports for Australian Government on the use of technology for education. There is "strategic ICT advisory service 2009:key messages" giving an overview and summary of recommendations. Unfortunately like the individual reports, this is a hard to find, hard to read PDF document. At 15 pages the key messages document is a bit long. I have extracted the recommendations below. needs to provide a web page with a guide to their material, not longer than two A4 pages, with hypertext links.

While it might still be necessary to produce a couple of pretty looking printed copies of such reports for PR proposes, these are a waste of time and money for actual practical use. Government policy makers have entered the digital age and are capable of using web pages. It is not necessary to give them electronic documents in PDF format which closely mimic paper reports.

In my policy development work I have found that if you provide policy advisers easy to read simply formatted electronic material, your recommendations are more likely to adopted. This is because the busy advisers can more easily understand what you are proposing and if they like it, can simply copy and paste from your document into their report. In contrast's PDF reports are hard to read on screen and can't easily be copied from.

One of the lessons from the success of the Internet is that the use of this technology comes from actually using it. have written an excellent set of recommendations, but have not really taken them to heart by providing them using the technology they are recommending be used. needs to lead by example, if they want their recommendations to be credible.
Summary of recommendations

The SICTAS project was commissioned by the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) to undertake the Strategic ICT Advisory Service (SICTAS) project during the 2008 – 09 financial year.

The purpose of SICTAS was to provide DEEWR with strategic advice to assist policy makers in the development of policy and programs to support the implementation of ICT in Australia’s education and training sectors.

The SICTAS project was commissioned as a response to the complex environment in which policy makers are currently working. The environment is made complex by a range of factors including Australia’s political structure of cooperative federalism, the range of approaches required to address the needs of multiple sectors within education and training, and the rapidly changing technological environment. developed a program for the SICTAS project that incorporated a range of inter-related activities. These activities were designed to respond to DEEWR’s requirements for advice relating to the implementation of ICT across all education and training sectors, and to engage with stakeholders in the sectors, both through providing avenues for them to contribute to the thinking underpinning the investigative research program and through publishing and broadly promoting the findings.

SICTAS activities included the following:
  • an investigative research program that delivered five published reports on topics, including
    • ICT in collaborative teaching and learning
    • site-blocking of Web 2.0 tools and services
    • national software infrastructure with an emphasis on gaining the most benefit for education and training from Web 2.0 tools and services
    • professional learning for in-service teachers in schools
    • e-portfolios as lifelong learning and career development tools beyond education and training
  • a think tank program that engaged leading thinkers across the education and training sectors, incorporating online discussion and a national symposium
  • a report on emerging technologies that synthesised the findings of the investigative research program and the think tank around the implications of new and emerging technologies for
    • learning and learners
    • professional learning
    • infrastructure for supporting implementation of ICT in education and training
  • two short papers, referred to as hot topics, that provided information on issues arising during the course of the project including
    • a set of case studies to build a model of characteristics of successful ICT support for the implementation of ICT in schools and VET
    • a review of the approach to embedding the use of ICT in teacher training for pre-service teachers.

Summary of recommendations

Collaboration in teaching and learning

The Collaboration in teaching and learning report, focused on collaborative learning as it relates to ICT.

Collaborative learning is a broad term for educational approaches involving joint intellectual effort by students, or students and teachers together. Considerable evidence has been found for its educational benefits, and the success factors required to support it have been identified.

This investigation finds that effective collaborative learning using ICT is dependent on services and skills that are not specific to collaborative learning, but are essential for the provision of ICT in
education more generally. The report provides a number of recommendations that focus on leveraging from the considerable investment by the Australian Government in ICT for education and training to provide benefits across all sectors and to support the delivery of education options to disenfranchised groups such as remote and regional users.


Provide access to post-secondary education options for remote and regional users leveraging the investments being made through the schools-focused DER and existing broadband initiatives.

Extend the digital education revolution concept to the VET and University sectors.

Task a national body to work through national partnerships to reduce fragmentation of effort, and making best use of the investments made in ICT in education at a broad level, and collaborative learning in particular.

Embed new media literacy skills into Australia’s national curriculum in a consistent way independent of specific technologies.

Web 2.0 site blocking in schools

The rapid emergence of Web 2.0 has presented the education and training sectors with a dilemma. On the one hand, Web 2.0 tools and services provide rich opportunities to improve student learning by significantly contributing to personalised, collaborative learning and supporting the development of internet literacy. On the other hand, teachers and school policy makers face a number of challenges in regard to effective use of Web 2.0 in teaching and learning, ranging from lack of teacher knowledge, confidence and expertise in the use of Web 2.0 tools and ervices to the inflexibility of site blocking policies and systems.

The Web 2.0 site blocking in schools report investigates current practices across schools with relation to site blocking and makes a number of recommendations related to the role of the Australian Government in policy development and implementation and in the establishment of national collaboration to showcase and share best practice in the development of tools and techniques in Web 2.0-aware content filtering, tools and safe access to rich media content.


Establish a national collaboration to identify, promote and share best practice in the development and implementation of Web 2.0-style collaborative online learning policies within schools.
Establish a national collaboration to showcase and share tools and techniques in Web 2.0-aware content filtering, tools and safe access to rich media content.

Towards a 21st Century national software infrastructure for education

This investigation builds upon the Collaboration in teaching and learning and Web 2.0 site blocking in schools reports and provides a picture of the essential elements of national software infrastructure for education and training.

An overarching focus of the SICTAS project has been on the need for a culture that embraces and seeks to benefit from ongoing technological change. Accordingly, the Towards a 21st Century national software infrastructure for education report emphasises infrastructure that supports and enables the integration of Web 2.0 tools and services and new and emerging
technologies ongoing.

The Towards a 21st Century National Software Infrastructure for Education report provides an analysis of current national infrastructure and identifies gaps and opportunities for integration of existing services and projects. The recommendations are focused on the three key elements of national software infrastructure – software services, interoperability standards, and governance, leadership and operations.


Add support for learner-centric identity and collaboration services to the existing national software infrastructure.
  • Commence trials to inform the development of integration of strong authenticated trust services (as currently provided by the Australian Access Federation) with Web 2.0 user-centric identity and social networking services.
  • Extend the Australian Access Federation (AAF) into a national cross-sectoral service for Trust, Identity and Access Control.
Commence trials to inform development of a national Web 2.0-enabled collaborative interoperability service.

Develop an ongoing national collaborative capability to sustain and enhance the national software infrastructure in a rapidly changing technology environment.

Teacher professional learning: Planning for change


The investigation into teacher professional learning for in-service teachers looked at the challenges for schools in integrating ICT into teaching and learning, and was informed by input from one of the tankettes. The report includes case studies of four schools (including public and private, primary and secondary) which are addressing the challenges of providing appropriate professional learning for teachers to encourage an integrated approach to using ICT with their students.

The Teacher professional learning: Planning for change report states that professional learning for teachers needs to be supported by the establishment and maintenance of ICT standards in schools for both students and teachers and makes recommendations that indicate the importance of the Australian Government’s role in developing a national approach in this area.

The report also recommends the development of a national strategy for professional learning, citing the example of LearnScope, the professional learning program for the VET sector administered through the Australian Flexible Learning Framework (Framework).


That the Australian Government take a leadership role in collaboration with the jurisdictions to develop a national professional learning strategy for schools, based on sound research into good practice school improvement. That this strategy frames the Australian Government's support for ICT-
related professional learning.

That the Australian Government takes a leadership role, through the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority and in collaboration with the states and territories, to develop
and maintain ICT standards in schools. The standards should build on existing state, territory and other jurisdiction plans and provide a common language and direction for the integration of ICT in the school curriculum.

That the Australian Government take a leadership role, in partnership with other education authorities and entities, in implementing and maintaining the ICT competency framework for teachers as described in the Raising the Standards18 report. A key component of the described framework is teacher standards.

The Government should task AICTEC, through its advisory bodies, to develop teacher ICT standards for:
  • pre-service teachers
  • practising teachers
  • school leaders
  • teacher educators.
E-portfolios beyond education and training

A large amount of work has already been and is currently being undertaken around the use of e-portfolios within education and training. This investigation has sought to provide insight into use of e-portfolios in Australia’s current economic climate, where policy makers are challenged regarding how best to support and manage Australia’s workforce.

E-portfolios arguably become most important as they are used to help prepare and support transitions. These may be transitions within educational settings, between education and employment (and vice versa), or changes in employment status.

The E-portfolios beyond education and training report provides case studies of a number of international examples of the use of e-portfolios to assist people in the workforce and in career development. It makes recommendations that include enhancing current national infrastructure to enable Australians to use an e-portfolio to enhance career development, lifelong learning, and
workforce participation.


Expand Myfuture to include the following:
  • the types of e-portfolio services offered by Careers Wales
  • features that address labour market adjustment issues, particularly the needs of workers dealing with unemployment and trying to get back into the workforce
  • multiple user interfaces to support different audiences
  • appropriate communications tools for collaborative reflection in professional development.
Fund e-portfolio trials in areas of particular relevance to Australia.
Fund interoperability trials between the recommended ‘Myfuture’ e-portfolio and existing Australian institutional e-portfolios.

Annual report on emerging technologies: planning for change

The Annual report on emerging technologies: Planning for change report is the culmination of SICTAS’ investigative research program. It incorporates and extends the recommendations made in the preceding reports and includes strategies and actions that support the recommendations.

The work of this report is informed by the tankettes, the symposium and submissions from invited peak bodies.

Extensive research is already available into particular technologies through such projects as Horizon. Accordingly, the Annual report on emerging technologies: Planning for change focuses on the implications of continuous and rapid technological change for learning and learners, for professional learning and educators, and for national infrastructure and policy makers.

The report’s recommendations highlight the Australian Government’s crucial role in providing strong and visionary leadership and coordinating development of policy and programs to support the integration of ICT in education and training. The focus is on how to leverage extensive work at national and jurisdictional levels to provide benefits for all users of education and training across Australia.


Implement an ICT in teaching and learning continuum so that learners’ new media literacy skills and abilities are augmented as they move through the education sectors.

Task a national body to support national collaborative partnerships to reduce fragmentation of effort, and make best use of the existing and future investments made in ICT.

Commit to providing ongoing resourcing and funding to maintain, sustain and enhance a technology rich environment for the education and training sector.

Develop and implement a national approach to software infrastructure that minimises the barriers to effective use and sharing of resources, and maximises access.

Address the complications of Australian copyright law in a way that encourages sharing and exchange of resources in the education and training sector, including the implementation of Creative Commons across Australian education and training.

That the Australian Government take a leadership role in collaboration with jurisdictions, sectors and educational institutions to develop a national professional learning strategy based on sound research into good practice.

The Australian Government take a leadership role, in partnership with other education authorities and entities, in implementing and maintaining the ICT competency framework for teachers as described in the ‘Raising the Standards’ report, but look to apply this to teachers in each of the education sectors.

A key component of the described framework is teacher standards. The Government should undertake to task AICTEC, through its advisory bodies to develop teacher ICT standards for:
  • Pre-service teachers
  • Practicing teachers
  • School leaders
  • Teacher educators
  • VET teachers
  • University teachers.
Hot topics

The SICTAS project team undertook two rapid response papers on issues arising during the course of the project. The reports provided some directions for the future.

Hot topic: ICT teaching and learning support services

This report uses a series of case studes to develop a dynamic and responsive ICT service model that attends to the day-to-day user demands and the ever-changing ICT environment, but at the same time, maintains standards and security.


The essential and interrelated components of this model are:

  1. Sound governance: the ICT unit is represented in and accountable to the highest level of management in the organisation.
  2. User-centred culture: the ICT unit adopts a responsive service-oriented mode of operation, following ITIL standards.
  3. ICT staff competence: ICT staff are selected on the basis of their competency and capacity to embrace change.
  4. Robust infrastructure: the infrastructure is stable, secure, reliable and modular, to enable growth with ever-increasing levels of demand.
  5. Open and flexible adoption of software applications: Open Source technologies are critically evaluated and embraced where appropriate.
  6. Secure Internet access.
  7. Robust and responsive technical operations: central to this is an online and phone help service desk to manage help requests.
  8. Vigorous user digital literacy training and mentoring: a continuous, decentralised and highly targeted training regime.
  9. Robust communication.
  10. Sound performance measures: the performance of the ICT is reviewed regularly against an agreed set of standards and resources allocated accordingly.
Hot topic: ICT in pre-service teacher training

This hot topic investigated the current experience of student teachers in applying ICT in pedagogy, any barriers to using technology at University, challenges in the practicum and ways to improve their experience of ICT in their pre-service.


The evidence presented in this paper strongly points to fundamental systemic flaws in the pre-service teacher education system in Australia in terms of developing teacher competence in embedding ICTs in pedagogy and practice.

The report proposed future directions related to
  • a suite of virtual world schools as teaching and learning simulation environments
  • individual on-line identities
  • e-portfolios
  • research and infrastructure
  • accreditation and registration
  • private sector engagement. ...
From: "strategic ICT advisory service 2009: key messages",, 2009

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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Education for Climate Neutrality

In addition to reporting current greenhouse gas emissions, the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment has a strategy of "Education for Climate Neutrality". This includes a list of Examples of Education for Climate Neutrality and Sustainability at member institutions:

  1. Arizona State University: School of Sustainability: Established in 2007, the School of Sustainability, part of the Global Institute of Sustainability...
  2. Berea College: Sustainability and Environmental Studies Program: Established in 1999, the Sustainability and Environmental Studies (SENS) Program is an important part of Berea College’s efforts to develop a sustainable campus. SENS links the formal curriculum of the classroom to the many opportunities for experiential learning. ...
  3. Cape Cod Community College: Natural Sciences and Life Fitness Department Environmental Technology Program: Environmental Technology is a career field that utilizes the principles of science, engineering, communication, and economics to protect and enhance safety, health, and natural resources. ...
  4. Cornell University: The Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future (CCSF): CCSF is a campus wide "umbrella" organization designed to bring together many existing programs and to nucleate new efforts in sustainability. ...
  5. Dakota County Technical College: The Instructional Action Team: The Instructional Action Team is looking at ways to integrate sustainability into selected aspects of program curriculum. The Instructional Action Team has developed a "Sustainability Across the Curriculum Survey".
  6. Emory University: The Piedmont Project: The Piedmont Project emerged as a grassroots effort on the part of a group of concerned faculty to strengthen Emory’s engagement with sustainability and environmental issues. ...
  7. Goshen College: Merry Lea, Goshen College’s 1,150-acre nature preserve has recently finished construction on Rieth Village, created to house Goshen College’s expanding environmental science program.
  8. Kalamazoo College: Sustainability Guild: The Sustainability Guild will foster connections between the many elements of life at Kalamazoo ...
  9. Lane Community College: Sustainability and Learning Committee: The Sustainability and Learning Committee is working on a plan to integrate eco-literacy into all discipline areas at Lane ...
  10. Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD): As part of its Green Building Initiative, LACCD has developed the e7 Internship Program providing students hands-on high-tech experience for modern careers in architecture and engineering.
  11. Northern Arizona University: The Ponderosa Project: The Ponderosa Project at Northern Arizona University (NAU) is an interdisciplinary faculty group effort to incorporate environmental sustainability issues into university courses ...
  12. Ohlone Community College: The Ohlone College Newark Center for Health Sciences and Technology is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum College in the world.
  13. Unity College: Unity College makes sure that students have the intellectual tools they need to solve the problems of our time through “hands-on” learning. All students must study sustainability before they graduate, and the campus strives to be as sustainable as is physically and fiscally possible.
  14. University of New Hampshire: CORE: Curriculum, Operations, Research and Engagement: At the University of New Hampshire, sustainability encompasses climate and energy, ecology, food systems and culture across what they call the CORE: Curriculum, Operations, Research and Engagement. ...
Adapted from: Examples of Education for Climate Neutrality and Sustainability, American College & University Presidents Climate Commitmen, 2009

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Use of Computers in Education Needs to be Planned

Research by Clotfelter and others suggests that the introduction of home computers has a negative impact on student performance. Rather than seeing this as a reason for not providing computers, this indicates that computers and networking have to be integrated into the planned education. Just providing a computer will distract the student, rather than help them. I will discuss this on the panel on Making “social inclusion” a focus when creating opportunities for participation in cooperative education programs ACEN Forum, University of Sydney, 20 August 2009.

... the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps. ...


From: Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement, Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor, Duke University, July 29, 2008

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sustainable IT Metrics and Tools

The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research have released "Getting Serious About Sustainable IT: Metrics, Tools, and Solutions". This short 12 page (139 kbyte PDF) document gives a useful list of tools and techniques for estimating the greenhouse gas emissions and other enviornmental effects of computers and telecommunications. Educause's remit is in the education field, but the resources listed here are generally applicable to companies and government agencies:

Getting Serious About Sustainable IT: Metrics, Tools, and Solutions

Title:Getting Serious About Sustainable IT: Metrics, Tools, and Solutions (ID: ERB0914)
Author(s):Thomas L. Franke (University System of New Hampshire), Nancye Jenkins (University of New Hampshire) and David Harper Wilson (University of New Hampshire)
Topics:carbon footprint, Data Centers, Green IT, Metrics, ROI, Sustainability, Technology Lifecycles, Technology Selection
Origin:ECAR, Research Bulletins (07/14/2009)
Type:Articles, Papers, and Reports

This ECAR This research bulletin provides a review of current tools and metrics for assessing IT sustainability and green initiatives. It evaluates current measurement tools and proposes conceptual models of tools that are needed. It is intended to pave the way for institutional discussions about topics such as:

  • What is the life cycle use and carbon impact of various types of computing hardware?
  • Of the many suggestions for reducing environmental impact, how can we determine which are most effective? In other words, what is the ROI, in terms of reduced impact, of our technology choices?
  • What information is currently available to guide technology leaders, and how specific and useful is it?
  • What additional information or tools will be needed for our community to make responsible and effective decisions to promote “sustainability” in computing?

Citation for this work: Franke, Thomas L., Nancye Jenkins, and David Harper Wilson. “Getting Serious About Sustainable IT: Metrics, Tools, and Solutions” (Research Bulletin, Issue 14). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2009, available from

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Leadership Training for the Australian Government

Austrade have issued a Request for Tender for "Harvard Business Publishing Online Content". Perhaps they should have made the RFT about materials for leadership and management education, not specifically the material which only one company has the rights to supply. Harvard Business Publishing supply the materials Austrade has asked for, so it is not clear how Austrade were planning to have a competitive tender process.

The contractor is required to provide Harvard ManageMentor, Essential Leader, Case in Point, Stepping Up To Management, Leadership Transitions, Harvard Business Publishing Centres, Leading for Results, Fifty Lessons, Harvard Business Review Reprints and Faculty Seminar Series. These are all good materials, but other organisations provide other similar material. In addition, Austrade might want to consider online collaborative education for their staff, rather than just passive reading of web pages.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Registration of Education Agents in India and Australia

The Indian government is reported to be drawing up laws for registering education agents sending Indian students abroad. Australian universities work through authorised education agents (such as agents for ANU), but currently education agents are not licensed in Australia. Perhaps Australian and India should draw up complementary legislation and have a common registration system for agents. It is not clear how regulations would cover students doing courses over the web. As an example students in India and China can do COMP7310: Green ICT Strategies at ANU without leaving home.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Open Web Education Alliance

W3C, the people who do web standards, have set up an Open Web Education Alliance Incubator Group, to foster education about web standards. See: News, Deliverables, Meetings. and Charter:

The goal of this Incubator Group is to bring together interested individuals, companies, and organizations with a strong interest in the field of educating Web professionals, to explore the needs and issues around the topic of Web development education. This Incubator Group will detail the options for establishing a group dedicated to bringing Web standards and best practices to the process of educating future professionals in Web professions, no matter where this training and education might be provided, and will define the goals, activities, and a clear mission for such an organization, and will seek to establish this organization's viability and role.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Festival of Teaching

Greeting from the Australian National University ANU Festival of Teaching now on in Canberra. Henry Gardner is demonstrating some applications of graphical programming for both art, such as in computer games, and in science, such as visualising the flight pattern of bats. He showed examples using the Processing, an open source Javan based programming language.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

DimDim web meeting disappointing

Last night I was scheduled to give a talk about how to use ICT to reduce carbon emissions. One technique is to telecommunicate and so I tired using the DimDim web meeting tool to allow people to participate online. It did not work well.

I was disappointed with DimDim. While it worked in test, it failed on the night. The major problem was with the audio, which for most of the time just produced a hiss.

There are confusingly several sets of controls for the audio and video with DimDim: one in the DimDim software itself and one in the Flash plug-in used for the audio and video. I tried to set these to minimise bandwidth use, but suspect I ended up with a conflict between the settings. I may have been better off leaving the defaults set.

What made the problem worse was DimDim's limited support for accessibility. Because I have trouble reading the text on the screen with the default font, I increase the size. DimDim's text then starts to overlap, making it hard to read. Also the Web 2 interaction is a bit problematic. I found pop up windows for setting parameters which did not fit on the screen and some times I found myself chasing the popups around the screen with the cursor. There are a lot of windows on the DimDim screen and it is hard to follow what is going on and give a presentation at the same time, even without the overlapping test and runaway popups.

Also I was using a desktop relay facility which I am not entirely happy with. With this you install an application which copies everything from your screen to the remote users. Apart from the security implications, the copy process slows down the host computer and there is the problem of the quantity of data to send. DimDim has a more efficient facility to share a web page, but at the last minute I found it is not compatible with the HTML Slidy web based presentation tool I use.

You can nominate a web page in DimDim and that page will then be opened in a window on the remote viewers computer screens. When you scroll down the web page their copies also scroll. When you click on a link, the new web page is opened on their screens as well. However, I found that JavaScript based navigation is not relayed to the remote user. So while I was clicking down through my slides on my screen, the remote viewer was stuck on the first slide.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Dealing with a pandemic in an educational institution

An international conference was run from Hong Kong in 2003 on how to deal with the SARS outbreak in university and other educational institutions ("Educational Narratives and Reflections in the time of SARS"). The papers from the conference are available online and would be of value for schools, vocational institutions and universities now considering how to deal with a flu pandemic. Assuming institutions will simply shut down is a dangerous assumption to make.
Paper TitleDescriptionSent in byDate
VITLE classes: HKBU library supporting e-learning during SARS outbreakOn how the VITLE system at HK Baptist University was used to deliver general courses to schools and the public and on a library-run course on searching. (Ref: 76)SOUL System Admin30-MAY-2003 10:15:29
IT Learning meeting notes of 16 April 2003Notes of a meeting of a small group of senior staff commenting on how HKU coped with teaching during SARS. (Ref: 74)SOUL System Admin30-MAY-2003 10:12:56
Does your library disaster preparedness plan have a section on epidemics?
A revised draft written for a library magazine (Ref: 73)SOUL System Admin30-MAY-2003 10:11:48
"Mind the Gap"
A school principal's frustrations. How have others felt? (Ref: 72)McNaught, Carmel26-MAY-2003 13:27:47
From: Educational Nattitives and Reflections in the time of SARS, Hong Kong Web Symposium Consortium, 19-31 May 2003.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Maintaining services online during a flu pandemic

The Australian National University has released a revised ANU Pandemic Response Plan. Like many such plans, this envisages a progressive reduction of organisation activities with all but essential activities being stopped. However, this is based on the assumption that educational activities require gatherings of people. Instead, education and many administrative services, can be maintained using telecommunications, while avoiding face-to-face gatherings of people. Most staff and students can stay at home, but maintain many educational and research activities online.

Some simple steps would be required, such as checking that procedures allow for distribution of electronic documents in place of paper ones. Some procedures for example may refer to requiring "signatures". This requirement can usually be met with an email message with the person's name typed on it, but where a higher level of authentication is required, submission via a password protected system might be needed . Staff may need to be issued with additional equipment at home and trained in its use. Students may need advice on what to get. Online courses would need to be checked to make sure they work on slower home links and ones overseas. Servers would need to be checked for capacity.

In addition to telephone and Internet services, educators can make use of broadcast and cable TV services, including in Canberra Transact, to provide content. In the event of a pandemic, is likely that a significant proportion of the Canberra population will be at home and looking for something to keep them stimulated. The universities and schools might make some materials available for this purpose.

ps: The ANU COMP2410 students have completed their assignment on designing a swine flu advice web site for Australia. This expertise is now available, if needed.

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Saving money and energy in the learning commons

The University of Canberra is remodelling one floor of its library into a Learning Commons. Library users were asked for input so I should put in some comments, about the use of furniture, computers and lighting. Here are some more comments about floor space, air conditioning and lights:
  1. Reduce floor area: A major determinate of cost and environmental impact of a building is size: the bigger the building, the higher the financial and ecological cost. I suggest using a higher density of seating than is usual in learning commons: twice that currently used in the University of Canberra library. This can be done by using compact computers, carefully positioning seating and interspersing desktop and laptop positions. A space allocation of 2 m2 per student could be achieved with careful design. This could halve the cost of facility.
  2. Separate Air Conditioning: As the learning commons will be open when the rest of the library is closed, a separate air conditioning system should be used, which just conditions that floor. This will save having to heat or cool the whole building, as is done at present. If there are several enclosed rooms, these can be air conditioned separately, so unused rooms are not conditioned.
  3. Automated lights: Normally libraries leave all lights on when any of the building is open, even when large areas are unused. Lights should shift to a lower power setting when an area is unoccupied and switch back to full power when someone enters. This can be done much more simply with LED lights than with fluorescent lights. It should be noted that lights should not switch off completely in open plan areas for safety reasons. Lights can switch off in closed rooms when they are unoccupied and on again when the door is opened.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

ANU Festival of Teaching

ANU is holding its Festival of Teaching, Wednesday 10 & Thursday 11 June 2009 in Canberra. While mostly for ANU teaching staff, there is usually room for interested educators from other institutions (contact the PVC Education). Video and audio from the 2008 Festival of Teaching are available.
Festival of Teaching
Inspiring Teaching
Wednesday 10 & Thursday 11 June 2009

9.15 am Welcome and opening: Professor Ian Chubb AC, Vice-Chancellor
Introduced by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lawrence Cram
9.30 to 10.30am Keynote address: Professor Trevor Gale
Director, National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, UniSA

Trevor Gale is Professor of Education and the founding director of the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education; an Australian Government funded research centre hosted by the University of South Australia. Previously he was Associate Dean (Research Degrees) in the Faculty of Education, Monash University, where he also taught courses in the sociology of teaching, policy sociology, and qualitative research methodology.

10.30 to 11.00am Morning tea

11.00 to 12.30 am What inspires teaching? What inspires learning?
Introduced and facilitated by Associate Professor Richard Baker, Deputy Dean ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment; ANU College of Physical Sciences

Undergraduate and postgraduate student presentations
Sham Sara
Tom Galvin
Tegan Kelly

Presentations from Directors and Deans
Professor Chris Baker
Professor Joan Beaumont
Professor Aidan Byrne
Professor Michael Coper
12:30 to 2.00pm
Break out groups: Inspiring teaching; inspiring learning
Groups facilitated by
James Meek
Megan Poore
Gerry Corrigan
Jonathan Powles

2.00 to 3.00pm From Inspiration to Action
Reports and conclusions from break out groups: moderated by Dr Elizabeth Beckmann, CEDAM

3.00pm Afternoon tea

9.15 am Keynote addresses Associate Professor Marnie Hughes Warrington
2008 winner Prime Minister’s Award for University Teacher of the Year
Introduced by Associate Professor Alex Clarke, Deputy Dean, College of Business and Economics

In the ten years that Marnie Hughes-Warrington has taught at Macquarie University, she has worked to create learning and teaching environments in which students and staff can engage in innovation by being historians. As a teacher she seeks to expand the breadth of students' historical thinking, taking them from thirteen billion years of history in thirteen weeks in a first year, first semester course, to the sometimes acrimonious debates about the role of history in society today in upper-level undergraduate and graduate courses. Students use metaphor, creative research tasks and self-assessment to shape and reshape narratives about the world and about themselves, and to reflect upon their learning so that they are able to grow as historians for the rest of their lives. The students' experiences, in turn, have inspired her research and publications on the nature of history, world history and historical films, and her work with schools and organisations such as the National Curriculum Board and the United Nations.

10.15am Morning tea

10.45 to 11.00am Presentations from teaching enhancement grant winners and students teaching award winners
Introduced by Dr Denise Ferris, Associate Dean (Education) CASS

1045-1100 Lindy Orthia (Winner, ResearchFest award for Excellence in Tutoring)
Inspiring Teaching - Inspiring Teachers to Teach

1100-1115 Wayne Morgan, Law How to (Un)Inspire Students
1115-1130 Paul Chen, CBE Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes: The Impact of
1130-1145 Daniel Martin, CASS From reading brick to listening playlist: podcasting in Spanish
1145-1200 Molly O’Brien, Law Teaching Evidence in Context
1200-1215 Henry Gardner, Martin Jolly, Clem Baker-Finch

Over lunch, in and around the foyer: presentations from
Tutors Support Network: Fringe Festival
Megan Poore: CASS/CAP Education Innovation Project
Sharon Peoples, Beth Beckmann, Kylie Message:
Exploring museums and heritage: student-created digital teaching resources
1.30 to 2.30pm Wattle Information Session
2.30 to 4.30pm Wattle Getting Started for New Users Workshop

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Designing a Learning Commons

The University of Canberra is remodelling one floor of its library into a Learning Commons. This is to provide more access to computers and facilities for group work. The library users have been asked for input and plans will be on display in June. As a user who has made a study of such learning commons, I thought I should put in some comments:

Some thoughts on a design
  1. Movable furniture is not necessarily flexible: Many of the designs I have looked at use movable items of furniture, on the assumption this makes the space "flexible". In practice the furniture rarely gets moved, after the initial novelty of being able to move it wares off (apart from when the students get playful and use it for furniture sculpture). Where computers and data access is used having movable furniture become very expensive and creates a large maintenance bill. I suggest instead having fixed, low cost furniture with built in wiring, which and be used in different ways, but without having to be moved. Expensive proprietary cabling systems and modular furniture are not needed: cheap laminate will do. The University of Queensland Ezones have a good arrangement with custom made curved desks with wire baskets under the desks to hold the cabling.
  2. Mix laptop and desktops: One trend has been to provide separate areas for laptops and desktop computers, with the laptops tending to get less space. Instead I suggest mixing the two. An example would be to furnish every second workspace with a desktop computer. This would allow for people with laptops, or for people who don't need a computer. It would also allow space for a group of students to cluster around one screen when working together.
  3. Keep some books and magazines: It is a little depressing to go into a library and not be able to find any books or printed periodicals. I suggest retaining some of these.
  4. Movable walls: While moving furniture is difficult, having movable walls is comparatively easy. The University of Queensland Ezones have a good arrangement with training rooms having sliding glass wall, so they can be opened up to the common area when not in use for a class. The space and computers in these rooms then become available for general use.
  5. Thin Clients: More space and less clutter is possible if very small computer processor boxes are used. There are computers available fitted into the screens, but this limits the range of models available. Most computers provided do not require DVD/CD drives.
  6. Combined digital signage and instruction screens: Large LCD screens are now reasonably priced. The library envisages using these for digital signage to stream news to the students. Some of these screens could do double duty being available for group work and then switching to digital signage when not otherwise needed.
  7. Green ICT: The library needs to look at the energy costs of what is proposed. The Library already uses low power thin client computers for catalog enquires and should look at upgraded devices in place PCs for most of the commons. Also LCD screens with low power features should be looked at (although these tend to be more expensive).
  8. Food: Provision for food should be made.
  9. Business metaphor: One useful metaphor I read somewhere (anyone see the reference?) was to think of the learning commons like a business, with a reception desk, offices and the like. This might be a better metaphor for the students to understand than the learning commons (which is rather a mixed metaphor anyway).
How to improve the consultation process:
  1. More clearly communicate the project to the customers: The library invited comments, but this was done in a printed newsletter with small print taped to a wall in the library. They could have used a larger sign. The electronic version of the newsletter is not in a format accessible to the disabled, making it hard for everyone to find and read (I have untangled the broken sentances and words below). It would also help to have explicit instructions on how to comment.
  2. Provide some examples: I spent a year going around Australia and overseas looking at flexible learning centers and learning commons at universities, schools and the private sector and so have an idea as to what is intended. The average library client will have no idea and so it would help to provide some illustrations of examples of what has been done at other libraries.
The Library has been funded to transform Level B of the Library into a Learning Commons. Features include:
  • After-hours access to computers and printers (when the Library is closed)
  • A range of flexible furniture to facilitate group work
  • More computers
  • More power for laptop users
  • LCD screens for streaming news
The layout and facilities of Level B are being redesigned in response to stu-dent preferences for Library spaces The Law collection will move to that support collaborative learn-Level D with a new group studying and social networking, integrate room nearby. Training Room 1 will with access to information resources and productivity software, assist with research and roving help with technology. Major work will commence in August to improve these Library environments.

From May to July, preliminary works for the Learning Commons space will improve facilities for quiet study on the Library’s Level D “quiet zone”.

The Law collection will move to Level D with a new group study room nearby. Training Room 1 will relocate to Level A greatly reducing noise from people traffic on Level D. Detailed plans will be on display in June in the Library foyer. During May, students and staff can have their ideas influence the Learning Commons final design by completing a form for the Suggestion Box in the Library foyer or by going online to the Library website.

From: Under Construction! The Library Learning Commons, Library News, University of Canberra, Autumn Issue ISSN 1836-862x

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Learning e-learning in Canberra

Sir Roland Wilson Building at ANUGreetings from the GAGGLE @ The Australian National University. This is a free meeting of educators at the ANU in Canberra, on e-learning and distance education. The program had to be changed to put the expert panel debate on first, because, ironically, the data projector is missing. Yoni Ryan, Allan Herrmann and Robert Fitzgerald are debating about the detail, standardisation and precision needed for describing university courses. What will be interesting is if universities will swallow their pride and ask for help from the vocational sector and industry bodies who have been doing this for years.

Robert Fitzgerald talked about the importance of the notion of presence with technology such as Twitter (his presentation is on Slideshare). He cited "The Social Life of Information", "The Wealth of Networks" and "Opening Up Education". He argued that Facebook had a symmetrical relationship (I would call it binary), where you have friends and not friends, whereas Twitter allows more complex relationships. It would seem to me that technology like Mahara would suit this.

Allan Herrmann talked about the effect of learning spaces on learning and how to design flexible learning spaces, both physical and virtual. He started with a quote from Alice Through the Looking Glass, the point of it was you need to know where you want to get to when designing the physical spaces and learning materials. He recommended the latest EduCause on designing learning spaces.

When someone finds the data projector, we will have Karen Visser and Jenny Edwards on the best of EDUCAUSE 2009.

Topics include the implementation of the open source Moodle learning management system at ANU (which I am using next semester to teach Green ICT around the world).

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Canberra e-learning meeting

Sir Roland Wilson Building at ANUThere will be a free meeting of educators at the ANU in Canberra, 19 May 2009 on e-learning and distance education. Topics include the implementation of the open source Moodle learning management system at ANU (which I am using next semester to teach Green ICT around the world).

GAGGLE @ The Australian National University

3-6pm, 19 May 2009

Sir Roland Wilson Building
Short Course Room 1, Level 3
(top of the stairs, on the left)

RSVP Deborah Veness


3-3.15 pm

Meet and greet with a coffee and biscuit

3.15-3.45 pm

Good ideas in summary: the best of EDUCAUSE 2009

Karen Visser and Jenny Edwards

3.45-4.30 pm

Expert panel debate

Educational Design in 2009: The Hot Topics
Yoni Ryan, Allan Herrmann and Robert Fitzgerald

4.30-5 pm

Group discussion

Favourite take-home ideas

5-6 pm

Drinks and informal debate and discussion


Professor Yoni Ryan
BA Hons; DipEd; MA; (UQ); MEd (Melb); PhD (UQ)

Professor Yoni Ryan is Director of the Learning and Teaching Centre, Australian Catholic University, and has worked in education development at tertiary level in Australia and the Pacific for over 30 years, and specialising in educational design in her early career. She co-edited Supervising Postgraduate Research Students of Non-English Speaking Background (NESB (1999) with Prof. Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, co-wrote major Australian government commissioned studies New Media and Borderless Education (1998) and The Business of Borderless Education (2000), and has most recently published with Associate Professor Rob Fitzgerald on Web 2.0 in education.

Her current research interests span the challenges of teaching new generation students, and using social technologies, as well as professional development for tertiary staff.

Mr Allan Herrmann

Allan Herrmann has been Manager of Educational Technology Services at the University of New South Wales for the past five years. Prior to that, he was a Senior Lecturer in Open and Distance Education at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia. His main interests are e-learning in Defence environments, student and staff engagement with technology and isolated and rural distance education.

Dr Robert Fitzgerald
BEd (Prim); BEd (Sec Maths); MEd Hons (UNE); Phd (Syd)

Dr Robert Fitzgerald is Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Education, University of Canberra, and has worked for over 18 years in universities in Australia and Hong Kong. Robert has a strong grant and publication record in information and communications technology (ICT) particularly around its application to learning and capacity-building. He began his professional career in 1985 as a mathematics and computing teacher in the West Wimmera of Victoria working with his colleagues to trial the use of audio teleconferencing, facsimile, and computer conferencing software (Macintosh Timbuktu by Farallon Computing) to teach physics to remote students. He serves as an assessor for both the ARC (INTREADER) and ALTC (Australian Learning and Teaching Council) and has recently completed an ALTC project on Web2.0 and social technologies (Digital Learning Communities). Robert is currently working on a rural information and capacity building project using mobile technology in Cambodia (funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research).

Robert's current interests include elearning and the application of Web2.0 and social technologies to learning and problem solving; ICT integration and the role of open collaborative technologies and the use of ICT in developing countries (ICT4D). His website can be found at:

Karen Visser and Jenny Edwards

Karen and Jenny work within the Information Services Support (ISS), Division of Information at the Australian National University to build information literacy capabilities across the campus community. The ISS unit supports academics, students and general staff to make the best use the rich information services available for research, administration, teaching and learning. These information services include: online learning management systems (Wattle and WebCT) for teaching and learning, using collaborative online services (Alliance/Sakai), using resources within the ANU Library, and being fluent users of Information Commons computers and software.

This group were finalists in the 2004 Australian Awards for University Teaching, Enhancement of the Quality of Teaching and Learning and winners of the 2006 Carrick Australian Awards for University Teaching, Awards for Programs than Enhance Learning.

The ISS team is currently engaged in working with the ANU community to move from WebCT4.1 to Wattle (Moodle augmented with a range of other tools and applications).

GAGGLE 'gægəln.1.2. an orderly and cheerful group of professional educational advisors

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