Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘sharing

Some folks might not like how long behind-the-scenes videos can be. So here is a quick process and product Instagram video.

Those who enjoy longer form videos might like the quirky animation and storytelling of TheOdd1sOut. In his latest video, the main man behind the channel, James, takes shots at uncritical thinkers.

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Anyone who has made videos will know how tedious the processes behind video-making can be. James opted to share his difficulty with saying “muggle public school”. 

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The painful and funny sequence might provide a small insights to non-videographers how much time and effort goes into voiceover work. I can relate because I used to make videos for the now defunct Cel-Ed channel.

On broader reflection, I wonder how many educators share their processes and failures more openly and reflectively. I know I do from time to time on this blog. These are not monetised or amusing, but I am certain that our collective efforts help other educators see that they are not alone.

One of the first viral TikToks and memes of 2021 must be the revival of the sea shanty. This is thanks to the Wellerman effort of Nathan Evans.

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The video above is an example of the quick and distributed collaboration between people who have not met before. The reach and success of the video (and other videos it spawned) led to radio and TV interviews for Evans, and an offer to make a proper music video.

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Superficially, one might draw inspiration from these events to take opportunities as they come your way. Dive a bit deeper and you might explore how to make opportunities instead of waiting for a chance encounter.

But the type of making that I am thinking about is not the commercial or mercenary sort. That might be associated with YouTube channels and Instagram feeds that need their media to go “viral” as often as possible. This could lead to formulaic thinking, taking shortcuts, and going with what is trendy.

This is not what we do in education. At least, it should not because we do not look for short term gains. One difference of sharing in the educational Twitterverse and blogosphere is sharing ideas and resources openly and generously.

One of my own shared resources is from 2016, Remaking the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy. Its pingbacks help me trace its use to various agencies. I am most glad when I see that institutes of higher education overseas use the explanation and job aid I provided to fuel the professional development of lecturers and professors.

It would be nice to be invited and paid to conduct the professional development sessions myself, but this is not possible in the era of COVID-19, not in-person at least. Nor do I expect a Zoom session since the resource is provided with a CC license: CC-BY-NC-SA. But it would be nice if I was invited!

Sharing ideas and resources openly can be infectious in a good way. If only more people were taught how to do this properly and responsibly.

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Now that my teaching commitments for the semester are almost over, I reflect on some Zoom habits I practiced.

I continued using fill-in lights, particularly for evening classes. I had two gooseneck LED lamps that I used on either side of my iMac to project even lighting on my face.

I also used a second camera option in Zoom. I connected my iPhone to my iMac with a cable and chose the advanced option of screen sharing. When I enabled this, I could demonstrate the ‘live’ use of apps. This option also meant that I could also provide another camera view, e.g., a top-down view of my table top.

Zoom advanced screen sharing.

Before I started the teaching semester, I was worried that my Zoom account (which was affiliated with one education institute) would have different rights or features compared with another organisation. I discovered that it was more important who the host was.

As a holder of a Pro account in one institute, I had many options and settings. Video recordings and chat transcripts of the session automatically saved to the cloud and to a folder on my iMac. This was because I was the host of each session I facilitated.

With another institution, an IT staff was the host and that person had to transfer hosting rights to me. However, the IT folks and administrators there chose not to allow recordings and transcripts. But other benefits, like holding sessions longer than 40 minutes, persisted. If there was no initial IT host (with the Pro account), our online sessions would have been short.

Zoom is still not made for basic but empowering classroom strategies like station-based learning. I shared my experiences on the new Zoom tool that attempted this and it was rudimentary at best.

I hope that competitors like Google Classroom and Meet provide better designed conferencing and cooperation. The feature in Google Workspace for picture-in-picture Meet in Google Docs, Slides, and Sheets will be a powerful enabler of cooperative activities. These are more valuable than listening to talking heads!

Sadly, Google and its suite of tools lost some ground to Zoom. There were already rumblings of discontent in the few years before all of us had to school and work remotely. I met folks who were almost irrationally dead set against it!

The only good thing I can say about Zoom is that it has given Google a kick in the pants it needed to up its game. I look forward to the competition.

Yesterday I recommended a few things that teachers and educators could do if they were thinking of getting a new Apple product. One of the tips was to install OneDrive to increase storage space.

Today I share an important caveat: The IT administrator of your school or institute might limit file sharing. One way this happens is to restrict access to users within the same domain.

STOP by planetlight, on Flickr
STOP” (CC BY 2.0) by planetlight

While this has some utility, e.g., sharing documents in a class or course, it does not reflect broader real-world needs and uses. Such a move reeks of a policy that isolates classrooms from the world-at-large.

Not every school or institute operates like this, but I found out that one that I partner with does. It seems like it would rather let administrative concerns override meaningful use.

How did I find out? I created a short video for someone else to edit. To share the video, I thought about using OneDrive to temporarily store the 150MB file. But I soon found out that I could not share the file outside “educational” domains, i.e., I could not share to a user with a Gmail address. I resorted to using Dropbox instead.

While I understand that an IT administrator might wish to avoid misuse of shared folders and files, it has created a catch-all policy that does not discriminate between good use and abuse of the space.

So if you are a teacher or educator, you can use OneDrive to expand storage. But you might not be able to operate the way the rest of the world does — more openly, collaboratively, and responsibly.

The context for this slide: It was 2013 and I was presenting to an audience more used to US English spelling (hence the spelling of “decentralizing”). More importantly, I was on the same mission of advising people to not make the same unnecessary mistakes that others had already made.

Fear Factor: e-Learning Edition Part 3

The advice I gave was simple. A teaching solution that is often presented before considering the learning problem is a vendor-provided learning management system (LMS). This creates lock-ins of platforms and tools, pedagogy, and finances.

All three lock-ins can have hidden elements. For example, you might already be invested a particular tool but that same tool is not compatible with the LMS. If you wish to get the equivalent tool or a new one, this is likely to come with additional cost. In any case, the likely end result is teaching to the whims of the tool instead of letting good pedagogy lead.

Today, that same advice might be recontextualised to not relying almost solely on a content management system (CMS) like our Student Learning System (SLS) or a video conferencing platform like Zoom.

One fear of having multiple platforms and tools is the loss of administrative and IT systems control. This is the top-down approach which is largely non-consultative and does not create ownership or empowerment among its users.

To be fair, you can rationalise the need for such an approach because users might not know what to use in a situation like COVID-19 lockdowns and home-based learning (or more accurately, emergency remote teaching). Having just one (or very few) tools and platforms also allows for system managers to provide more focused support.

However, this presumes that teachers and student have no idea what to do and use. This is not the case. Practically any system has its technology leaders, laggards, and those somewhere in between. The first group is likely to already be using some technology tools without sanctioned support. This can be a boon or a bane depending on how it is planned and managed.

The recent phenomenon of zoom-bombing — trolls joining and disrupting Zoom-based video conference calls — could be used as evidence of why the command-and-control approach works. If people try different tools and managers know that some tools are better and safer than others, why let those people use inferior and unsafe tools?

However, that question is a flawed premise because a small group of administrators and IT folk do not and cannot know as much as a large group of users trying and testing different tools. If just a small portion of active users manages to identify flaws with a platform like Zoom (and there are many), they are a valuable source of testing and information. They could — and have — advised on NOT using Zoom in the first place.

Why rely on actual users instead of administrators and IT folk for testing, analysis, and critique? They are actual users who will use and “abuse” the tools for teaching, learning, and unanticipated ways. They will not think and operate along the lines of spreadsheets, policy, security, etc. They will use the tools authentically.

So the issue is not the loss of control in decentralising technology initiatives. It is the coordinated planning, evaluation, and sharing of such tools and their practices. The fear of losing control is misplaced and misguided. The energy that is wasted here could be channeled to coordinated decentralisation.

One of the initiatives I led when I was a faculty member was using open learning tools and resources.

While administrators of academic institutions lock information down with the help of publishers, I countered with open publishing. While instructors concerned themselves with strict copyright and intellectual property rights, I pushed open source and Creative Commons resources.

I still model this mindset and behaviour by using ImageCodr to embed and attribute CC-licensed images almost every day in this blog. I create and share resources for my talks, workshops, and classes with open and non-expiring tools.

I am not always aware of the reach of these resources because they do not have trackers. However, sometimes I find out via my blog that they are making an impact.

Recently two of my blog reflections received an unusual number of hits. One was Remaking the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy while the other was Dumbfounded (Part 2). Using the WordPress dashboard, I could link the hits to visitors from Cambodia and Egypt respectively.

I was curious as to why, but did not have any answers because the dashboard results were not fine-grained enough.

Thankfully, an educator from Cambodia contacted me to ask for editing rights to my revision of Bloom’s Verb Wheel. She wanted to convert the words to Khmer. As I use that resource actively, I said I could provide a copy as long as the subsequent resources were shared under similar CC licenses.

But I have no idea why so many Egyptians were interested in my critique of a poorly conceived, badly written, and irresponsibly broadcasted programme on Channel News Asia.

The bottomline is this: Those of us in education should share as openly as we can. The people I reached would not have been helped if the resources were not available to them via a quick Google search. We have a responsibility that extends beyond our classrooms and borders.

… why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

This was one of the questions I asked myself after the seemingly endless ad-tweets for ICTLT.

ICTLT is a locally run and controlled edtech conference that happens every two years. You might say that it is by Singaporeans for Singaporeans to show off Singaporean efforts.

There are invited speakers from elsewhere, of course. No conference worth its salt would ignore the pull of A-list or even minor academic celebrities.

Events like ICTLT are meant to disseminate, inspire, and propagate. There is current or new information to share, people to energise, and propaganda to spread. There is also the overall Singapore brand to sell.

But I return to my original question: If we are that good, why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?

I am not saying that our natively born or locally nurtured professors and experts do not present at all. I am wondering why our reputation does not seem to be matched by our reach.

There are a few usual suspects — you can count them on one hand — who are invited to do keynotes or seminars internationally. But we are not known for our prolific sharing.

Might we be better at quietly implementing and not pronouncing these efforts on the highest stages? Why operate along this false dichotomy when we need to be doing both? After all, if we are rich with information and experience, we should be sharing more openly and frequently instead of keeping this to ourselves.

Are we going to keep hiding behind the excuse that our schools collectively hosts lots of visitors from lands near and far? Visitors from those very same countries do their share of hosting and they dominate the conference floors and stages.

So I still wonder: If we are that good, why do we not dominate at edtech conferences overseas?


Welcome home, brother! by vynsane, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  vynsane 

STEM, STEAM, coding, maker spaces. If you are an educator, you should be well acquainted with these buzz words.

There is nothing like a good story to make these real. The YouTube video embedded below is a wonderful example of making and coding with LEGO so that kids with physical disabilities have modular artificial limbs.

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All making and coding needs context. If they do not, they will be as empty as current deliver-and-test curricula. So what better context than creating artificial limbs for kids that they can co-design and actually enjoy?

In showing care in context, such projects might also create sustainability. Such limbs must literally grow with the kids, and for some, might grow on them. A few might be inspired enough to also make and code.

So by all means promote coding and making, but do not lose sight of context. That context does not just provide opportunity for authentic problem finding and solving, it might also show care for others and sustain coding and making for the long run.

One of the things that an academic has to do (whether s/he wants to or not) is attend conferences. Conferences are a good way to get a trial paper into a conference-linked journal or a journal proper. It is part of the “publish or perish” adage that academics live by.

Whether academics like to admit it or not, we choose conferences not just as opportunities to network and catch up with friends, but also to travel to cities we have never been to.

Today is the deadline for submission of proposals of one of my favourite conferences. This conference introduced a practitioner track and I was keen on sharing a more elaborate version of my three dimensions of flipped learning. But something stopped me.

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It was not the fact that I will be leaving my job as a university faculty soon. It was more about the fact that most conferences are run more like businesses and cost a lot to attend. I questioned the need to pay airfare, accommodation, and conference fee in order to share something of value that I created that will benefit only a relative few (the few that pay to attend and get the documents).

I did not have to play the usual academic game anymore. I decided that if I am going to share an article, it should benefit those it is meant to reach (practitioners), an in order to do this, I should do it openly.


The final quarter of 2013 is going to be a busy one for me.

I have five speaking engagements (one standard presentation, two panels, two keynotes). Four of the five take place in October!

  • Presentation: Jailbreaking Schooling with Mobile Learning* (MobiLearn Asia 2013)
  • Panel member: How I implement game-based learning (International Symposium on Technology-Enhanced Learning)
  • Panel member: The implications of new technology on education stakeholders (Cambridge Schools Conference)
  • Keynote: Rehash of * for a military audience (shh!)
  • Keynote: Progressive strategies for implementing and sustaining e-learning (International Congress on e-Learning)

Each time, I am going to try something a bit different. But I might leverage on something to backchannel for all.

I also have a book chapter to write and a five-part YouTube series on the Flipped Classroom!

But like a busy bee, I think I will be collecting and bringing pollen to be shared for the greater good. I just hope I do not get stung!

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