License CC BY-NC-SA Some rights reserved by Clint Hamada

There was a reasonable amount of discussion at the #pleconf last week on the role of e-portfolios in personal learning environments and who should be responsible for providing e-portfolio tools for students. I think the ground swell view was that e-portfolios are important but that students should be able to choose how they create their own e-portfolio. This is a view I agree with and is a slight softening of my previously held view which was that universities had no business in providing e-portfolio software. My view now is that universities probably should provide e-portfolio software for their students to use but that the use of that software should absolutely not be mandated and it should be up to the student to choose how they manage their e-portfolio.

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Alec Couros is keynoting (or unkeynoting) at the Melbourne leg of the Personal Learning Environments conference (pleconf) being held next week. He’s asked for help in crowdsourcing his keynote by asking us why networks matter in teaching and learning?

I’m going to ignore the ‘teaching’ word and just concentrate on the ‘learning’ word because that is far more important and far more enabled by the network. I’m sure there are many reasons but this a short post so I’ll limit it to three:

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Blackboard, Star Wars Trooper
License CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by Kalexanderson

Blackboard have set the cat amongst the pigeons with their announcement today that they have acquired both Moodlerooms and Netspot to help run a new business to support and host open source learning management systems.

Both George Siemens and Audrey Watters have already posted their initial views on this and both provide an interesting and sceptical take on Blackboard’s motivations. I agree with their scepticism but I disagree with George’s analysis of the Blackboard’s motivations. I actually think Blackboard are making a play to position themselves as the cloud provider of LMS solutions. Here are my reasons:

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MIT
MIT - Licensed CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 by Yarian Gomez

MIT today announced MITx which appears to be an open learning initiative. They describe it as “an online interactive learning platform” that will offer a portfolio of MIT courses.

  • organize and present course material to enable students to learn at their own pace
  • feature interactivity, online laboratories and student-to-student communication
  • allow for the individual assessment of any student’s work and allow students who demonstrate their mastery of subjects to earn a certificate of completion awarded by MITx
  • operate on an open-source, scalable software infrastructure in order to make it continuously improving and readily available to other educational institutions.

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Irony
Licensed CC by Adrian Wallett

This morning I was unfortunate enough to attend a vendor presentation for a series of online academic staff development modules. Basically a series of SCORM packages (so HTML pages, images and Flash content with a little xml thrown in). I won’t mention the vendor’s name for fairly obvious reasons.

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People that know me know that I didn’t always agree with Steve Jobs but I have no doubt of his creative skill and vision and his impact on modern life. I also think he had a huge impact on education and not always in the ways you might expect. I’ve been watching the Stanford University commencement address given by Steve Jobs in 2005. I had never seen it before his death on Thursday.

In his address he tells three stories about his life. The first is about his adoption and how his biological parents where determined that he be adopted by college graduates but that didn’t happen. In fact neither of his adopted parents had a college education. When Steve Jobs went to college himself he described how he effectively dropped out after six months. In his words what happened was that he then ‘dropped  in’. He spent the next 18 months going to classes that interested him including a class on calligraphy that sparked an interest in beautiful typography. Ten years later when building the first Apple computer he used his understanding and knowledge from those classes to create what he describes as the first computer with beautiful typography. Continue reading

Obey
Licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 to Dear Knucklehead

It seems to me, as an interested observer of the higher education landscape over more years than I care to think about, that we are reaching the point where it can be argued that the private sector is behaving increasingly in ways that universities should behave and some universities are increasingly behaving in ways that we expect profit motivated corporations to behave. Nowhere is this clearer than in the ways organisations encourage or discourage blogging and, by implication, the degree to which they trust the members of their organisation (employees for corporations and faculty/students for universities).

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Lecture response by Waifer X
Lecture response by Waifer X

I was interested to see this new lecture enhancement technology being bought to market. Prof: ‘Engage Students Through Their Laptops’ — Campus Technology.

I particularly liked this quote:

“The key is to engage students through their laptops or cellphones, so they don’t drift off onto social networking sites”

Of course maybe they actually prefer collaborating online than sitting passively in massive lecture hall. Shouldn’t we take advantage of that?

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King Cloud - licensed CC by Akakumo

The number of higher education institutions (HEIs) moving their student email (and, in many cases, staff email) to a cloud solution continues to grow. Every other day there is a new report one one HEI or other adopting either Google or Microsoft. Intrinsically I am not against this although I do find it interesting how little debate there is about integrating so completely with such overtly commercial companies. By the way, let’s not kid ourselves that that Google are any less of a ruthless corporate entity than Microsoft or Apple or Oracle or any large IT company.

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CC licensed Clock by By Earls37a
CC licensed Clock by By Earls37a

The other day I happened to be on the campus of an old and prestigious university (that shall remain nameless other than to say it was not my own university) when I thought I’d treat myself to a coffee in the main campus coffee bar/ restaurant. Nothing unusual so far but having made my way past all the signs saying that I would be summarily executed if dared to take any crockery outside, I eventually found myself a table only to find a sign on it saying that I was not to use the table for studying between 12 and 2. Stifling the instinct to laugh out loud I was privately relieved that it was outside the proscribed period and I could therefore study to my hearts content. I immediately used my smart phone to browse for the sports results which, presumably, I wouldn’t have been able to do between 12 and 2.

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