Saturday, December 03, 2011

Web of Stories

The 'Web of Stories' site is forms an amazing resource containing the thoughts and life stories of a magnificent generation of individuals from 20th Century. Below listen to Alice Hertz-Sommer (b. 1903) as she describes living in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.
 Czech concert pianist Alice Herz-Sommer (b. 1903) has experienced a wealth of suffering. Incarcerated in Theresienstadt concentration camp during the Second World War, she survived the Holocaust with her young son, although her husband died at Dachau in 1944. Despite these experiences, along with her battles with cancer and the tragic loss of her son to illness in 2001, Herz-Sommer remains passionate about music and life. At 104, she published a bestselling book 'A Garden of Eden in Hell' recalling the events of the concentration camps. In 2010, a television programme about her life story was aired on BBC4.
Take a look at the array of lives here [link]

Online learning - Should Education be learning the lessons from Business ?

I have a niggling doubt in my mind that I actually followed completely the wrong strand at the Online Educa Conference, which comes as quite a shock to me now!
Over the past 4 years at conferences on online education I have yet to discern that education has made the big leap forward into online learning....please hear me out before you jump to disagree. There have been great projects and groups of educators promoting the use of technology as a driver both for students and teachers. However at conferences it still appears that these moves are project based, and as such often finite even though they often make a valuable change in practice.
Presenter after presenter from higher education institutions were focusing on their work, often seemingly reinventing 'the wheel'  as far as pedagogically sound online learning. I chatted with the developer of a 2 year EU project which aims to improve the online skills of teachers, the project was offered with a maximum number of 600 teachers - 1700 applied (showing the perceived need) the project required its facilitators to become online practitioners through a five month training programme, which was then delivered to teachers over the same time scale. The result of the project was the production of 'open source' courses by many of the teachers concerned, I suspect that these teachers will be looking for their 'next step' .... however the project has now finished! My question was where does this go next? The answer will be a new project proposal......does this embed online learning in practice and make a significant change to the way teachers teach? I would suspect yes for those involved but!

I believe that I should actually have visited the Business Strand of the conference as my perception is that business 'gets it' as far as online learning is concerned. This is often because they have large often geographically diverse groups of workers who they have to train in a standardised easily scalable way in order to ensure the upskilling of their workforce.......does this sound familiar? Large companies have made extensive use of online training over the past 5 years. It makes good sense from a QC ( quality control) and financial sense to them which as it affects the bottom line is a great driver of this method of training be it in an LMS or Virtual World.
Education has always been somewhat sceptical of business practices, however shouldn't we admit that the case for online learning is proven. Do we not now to adopt a paradigm for online training along the lines of a set of internationally agreed 'standards' for online learning developments and delivery?

I look forward to the time when we can move the discussion on to the next level.

Thank you for hearing my thoughts. I look forward to reflections.

Tablets do rule!

Having just returned from Europe's largest conference on 'technology supported learning and training'  Online Educa in Berlin I have to report that 'Tablets in whatever guise they come do appear to be becoming the device that is taking over. Of the 2000 delegates and presenters there were an increasing number who have given up the use of even the slimmest laptop/net book for the easy to use tablet/smartphone solution.
I deliberately place tablets ans smartphones together because as I have found the Android device that I use is the same in all practical aspects as my HTC Hero smartphone. The main difference for me is the larger screen/keyboard on the tablet screen, enabling me to make notes without the requirement of switching to reading glasses!
It was interesting that a colleague of mine, who as we all have been is attached almost umbilically to a laptop, was heard to say in the taxi to the airport that a Tablet would be her next purchase as the advantages did appear to outweigh the disadvantages. I am sure that this was not the only such comment being made over the time of the conference.
For me it was the first full test of the device in a full conference setting, where did it win:
* Battery life - having the tablet with me from a 9.30am Plenary through to a 5.30 pm debate session, taking notes and pictures throughout the day there was still 20% battery. No longer the requirement to search for power outlets.
* Ease of use - the tablet is a much more user friendly device in a conference, small, lightweight, cool on the lap and easy to switch between apps. I was able to take notes which were uploaded to a Dropbox along with images of the often endless Powerpoint presentations. The device allowed all of the usual 'backchannels' of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Email ... in addition to certain points when decent into Angry Birds was called for in order to disippate frustration ( Peter Nowak!).
Where did it not work so well:
* Keyboard - the on screen keyboard though large enough can be a little tedious for long text.
* Android and W/P - Androids do not come with a basic W/P package and rely on the download of a few compatible apps, which is an irritation ( unless anyone knows better).
For me apart from a frustration which occurs at most 'Tech Conferences' , the issues with wifi in general not being able to cope with 2000+ users all of whom want good connection speeds....... the tablet is certainly a step change on from my previous Asus netbook, which as many of you will know I was very attached to.
I would be interested to hear if this is the feedback that others are getting from colleagues.