Monday, July 25, 2011

Lecture attendance

Why aren't students attending lectures? Monash asked them recently, and here's their overwhelming response (in excess of 19,000 students answered this poll):

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google+: Not a Facebook-killer (yet)

After a couple of days exploring Google+ (G+), I thought I should share my initial thoughts, particularly in terms of its potential to be used in education. If you've been following me for a while, you may recall my predictions when GoogleWave was launched - and hindsight shows that I was wrong there!

Google appear to have learned a lot from their Wave failure - and from Facebook's success, many aspects of which they have replicated in G+, such as the familiar "newsfeed" structure.

As an educator, I can see enormous benefits in the G+ "circles", which allow users to easily compartmentalise their social networks. (Sure, this has been possible in Facebook for a long time now, but very few of us ever used this functionality.) This grouping of contacts gives us a single click ability to focus our feeds, and attention, down to very specific levels. When it's time to socialise, we can easily view our friends' feeds Similarly, when it's time to work, another single click removes the distractions.

But... I think it's still too early to be calling G+ a "Facebook killer".

Google face a huge barrier to adoption, particularly when dealing with students. The thread that connects G+ and its users is an email address - and, unfortunately, email is no longer the centre of a teenager's online identity. For me, and my GenX and Boomer colleagues, email is vitally important, but our students' online lives are more likely to revolve around their Facebook profiles, not an annoying email address that they rarely bother to use, other than for official correspondence with their dinosaur teachers, or the monthly telephone bill and bank statement. Yes, email is the equivalent of a window-faced envelope!

So, without a "Facebook export" function of some sort, Google have a huge battle ahead of them. Until then, we are likely to see G+ as a cool place for geeks and "older people".

Are you on G+ yet? What do you think? I'd love to hear your view.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mobile phones "ON" please!

On Friday I was facilitating an all-day session on the use of technology to enhance teaching. As the session coordinator introduced me, she said to the group "Please make sure your mobile phones are turned off." I'm sure you've heard that before, it seems to be a common part of many presentation openers these days. Why?

How are our we using our mobile phones? Today's mobile of choice for our students, the iPhone, certainly isn't used very often to make "plain old telephone calls"! It's a powerful ICT device, giving the user access to an extraordinary volume of human knowledge, immediately accessible at any time. Knowledge that I want in my classroom!

Not surprisingly, I told everyone to leave their phones on, and to actively use them at any stage during the session. The odd ringing phone is less of a hindrance to learning than lack of information.

And our students don't let their phones ring out loud anyway - a loud ringtone during a lecture or class is a sure sign of a digital immigrant in the room!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

University 2.0

Over the past few months, amongst a whole range of procrastination activities, I've been doing some research and writing. One of the articles that keeps appearing on my screen, and resonates with my views on tertiary education today, is this one by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams (EDUCAUSE, 2010), where they are clearly calling for change.

Their message is simple: Universities will only survive in the networked, global economy if they open up and embrace collaborative learning and collaborative knowledge production (p.18).

So what has to change?
  • "Lectures", in their traditional form, must go. As Tapscott argues, many of our highest achieving students aren't attending lectures anyway!
  • We should be utilising technology to embrace collaboration, both within the classroom and outside of it.
  • Higher levels of interaction are desparately needed between "professors" and students. Otherwise, our students will simply turn to the almost-endless supply of free resources online.
  • Incentive systems at universities must be adjusted to reward teaching, not just research.
"It's time!" (Tapscott, 2010, p.29)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Is the tide turning?

Maybe it's just my selective attention, but I've been noticing more discussion in the media recently about the need for balance in universities.

In this article in The Age today, Morag Fraser argues that "our universities care more about how they fare in research rankings than they do about the quality of the education their students receive. What's more, the government's funding arrangements encourage this. The bulk of the dollars follow performance in research."

What do you think? Is it time to tip the scales in favour of teaching quality?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New Zealand Copyright Legislation

It's happening in New Zealand, and I suspect only a matter of time before we get this same idiotic legislation here in Australia...

Katrina Shanks, a member of New Zealand's National Party, obviously has no idea what she is talking about. To equate all file sharing with illegal activity/copyright infringement is just plain lunacy. For example, the Khan Academy has recently announced that they will now distribute their educational videos via peer-to-peer networks. TED are also now using BitTorrent for distibuting videos of their amazing talks.

I'd love to hear what you think about this idiotic speech?