Book Dash aims to gather creative teams together to write, illustrate, edit and produce a children’s story, in 12 hours. These stories are licensed as creative commons works, which means that anyone can print and distribute these beautiful children’s books, for free. The intention is that the books get into the hands of those who need to access reading materials, but can’t afford to buy a children’s book.
What was I doing there? I can’t claim any great story-making skills, but I can do a bit of stuff with computers, so I got to be the tech director and made sure that scanners, printers, Wi-Fi, power and other technologies worked as they should of. Producing a book is not for the faint of heart. There were many exhausted illustrators at the end of the day. I think that they’ve almost recovered from this book creation sprint – or was it a marathon? Whatever! All enjoyed the day thoroughly. To let you get a sense of the event, I’ve created a Bookdash Storify as a record of the day.
Some advice from below to my ed techie friends above. Career climbing involves risky routes. Without clear boundaries, an unending 24/7 passage awaits the enthusiastic networked sherpa. The online world, with all its advantages, has little respect for the traditional pathways that once characterized the standard 9-5 job.
Watch where you place your feet. Before moving anywhere, inspect the stability of the ground. In this any-time any-place world, make sure that you know the up and coming terrain. Slipping unexpectedly where the tread is uneven or unsure can be sore. Be aware. Read the warning signs. Notice the red flags before you press on upwards and apply for a new position.
The flags relate particularly to eLearning positions in an academic environment. But they might apply elsewhere. Before you fill in that application form, ask yourself these 5 questions.
- Flag 1: Why is the position vacant?
How long was the previous incumbent in the advertised position? Are other potential colleagues in acting positions? How long has senior management been there? Have there been unexpected departures or a high staff turnover?
- Flag 2: Are you going to be working for a boss?
Bureaucrat, boss or leader? Does the head of the academic unit have any credibility among his/her academic peers? What does his/her academic profile look like? Have you spotted his/her digital footprints? Don’t be confused by his/her electronic puffery. Expect at least a national leader with peer recognition and academic substance.
- Flag 3: Does the institution understand their users?
What’s it like from the bottom up? Pretend to be a student who has lost a password. Phone the helpdesk with a query. See how they respond. Find out what the LMS is called. Then search for mentions on Twitter. Look for support materials authored by the unit. Are there genuine attempts to communicate urgent information to all students, academics, support etc?
- Flag 4: Does the unit make regular attempts to communicate with their stakeholders
How transparent is the unit/department? Website? Social Media Account? What’s the balance between marketing and communication content? Any recent collaborations within the institution or beyond? Do they disclose any details or are they just releasing press statements?
- Flag 5: Do the people that work there make attempts to reflect and research their practice?
Can you find blog posts, academic policies, peer reviewed journal articles or conference paper pertaining to the unit’s focus? Check out the advert again. What’s the job focus? Combine the focus with the institution’s name on Google scholar. Any papers? Any substance? If they are thinking and researching their work, then they’ll be sharing it with others and glad to share with you.
My listicle consists of 10 red flags. The first five (see above) are for ed techies to consider before they take the job. And the second five (to be added later) are intended for shortlisted ed techies, considering whether they should move on up and accept the job offer.
Next five flags will follow
I’ve taken the Bingo format, and updated it for the web. I’ve removed “chance” from the game and replaced it with a grid of skills. Each participant receives the same bingo card that contains a grid of instructions or tasks. Participants read the various tasks on their cards and select certain which ones to complete. As in Bingo 1.0, the aim is for participants to fill up a line of marked tasks on their own grid. Once the skilled and quick participant has filled their row of squares on their bingo cards, they then shout BINGO.
Here are a selection of Bingo 2.0 cards that I have created.
- Digital Footprint Bingo – intended to encourage participants to explore each other’s online presence. Good for digital literacies.
- LMS Bingo – intended for students to show each other what they can do on the LMS. A more active way to orientate students to the LMS
- Mobile Bingo – intended for participants who own smartphones, but are not aware of all its functionalities. Good for mobile or BYOD focused events.
These “Bingo 2.0” style activities make good workshop ice-breakers. They encourage participants to get out their huddles or comfortable zones, mingle and explore a topic that will be covered and offer the workshop facilitator informal feedback about the skills levels of participants.
You are most welcome to use them, improve and adapt them. I’d be interested to hear about how well they worked.
The “good deal” offered by a good conference is being sullied by predator conference companies. These conference companies have no recognised expertise in the field, have no mandate from an academic or professional body and have profit as their motivation. They are akin to scavengers , preying on inexperienced pups, not sure who to turn to, what questions to ask, or know how to frame the unknowns.
Within my field (education technology), I’ve developed a checklist that offers a spectrum of 10 questions, designed to help me determine whether the conference is a predatory event. I use it to evaluate the invitations I receive. The checklist does not make any blanket rules. Some legitimate events might even tick some of the boxes. They might be well-arranged, organised by respected people with an appropriate background. I am grateful to them for their hard work. The checklist is simply a range of red flags for me to use. You might find it helpful.
- Is there a conference chair? What connections do they have to academia, the ICT industry or education technology?
- Are the listed speakers reputable experts. Check their profile on Twitter and use Twitteraudit.com to see if their followers are fake or real
- Do the advertised speakers know about the programme? Contact a few and ask them whether they know about the event and if their attendance is confirmed.
- If this is the 3rd, 4th or 5th event, then use Google to locate the previous years conference brochure. Does the programme from the previous year have the same speakers talking about the same topics?
- Does the PDF attached to the invitation email have the initials or a name associated with the consultant who contacted you about the conference. For example, 3rd-international-jp. This name/initial is probably the sales representative, working on a commission basis.
- Check on LinkedIn. Does the LinkedIn profile of the person sending out the conference invite have any connections to the field they are promoting? Do the conference organizers have a reputable LinkedIn profile?
- Does the organisation associated with the conference have a website, does the website mention the conference? Follow up on links. Where do they take you?
- Is the layout and design of the programme a little patchy, amateur or contradictory. Google the first paragraph. Has the text been plagiarised? Read the programme. Are there obvious errors.
- What indexing and storage service does the conference offer for the previous year’s presentations?
- Finally, are the terms and conditions associated with the conference fair?
- Does the organiser reserve the right to change the venue?
- Does the organiser reserve the right to change speaker/facilitator?
- Does the organiser reserve the right to change programme content?
- Does the organiser offer refunds, or do they offer a credit voucher?
- Is the conference fee realistic? Do you believe that you will get value for your money?
This is my list. You are welcome to use it. For ed techies (and other professionals within this field), if you are going to participate in a conference, then these events need to be arranged by people with a history. Speakers should have a critical/informed position on the subject, not just an impressive title. Presentations should be shared freely afterwards with those who were not able to make it.
Don’t get involved in predatory conferences, they do not deliver the value they promise. These “dodgy” and opportunistic operators out there are bogus. They are sometimes difficult to spot. Don’t feed their growth. Check the quality and suitability of their “goods” before spending a lot of money on an inflated fee. Let the conference attendee and speaker beware.
E-learning has been repeatedly invoked by certain friends, colleagues and practitioners as a “solution” to the #feesmustfall campus shut down. The logic, to them, is clear. If students can’t attend lectures on campus, then let’s capture the content with a video recorder or webcam and then post them onto YouTube or the LMS. Students will then be able to watch the lectures using their cell phone, tablet or laptop (if they have one). Putting classes online (according to this line of reasoning) will allow students an alternate route to progress with their studies.
I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable with this argument. While lecturers are to be commended being proactive and offering alternate routes to teaching and learning materials, creating “Plan B” and expecting students, without the means, to access rich learning resources on the web, simply re-enforces and perpetuates certain students sense of inequity.
Initiating “Plan B” is probably not intended to provoke a reaction among students But before putting your videos online, get to know the access constraints facing your students. Remember, you (and I) are on the connected side of the digital divide. With our uncapped WiFi in our homes, our coffices with cappuccinos and contract cell phones with data plans, video seems like an obvious solution. Students with the combination of academic ability and “wealthy” parents will probably also be able to afford access to online course materials. But not all students are on the connected side of the digital divide. For capable students that come from homes where loans have been taken and income is already stretched, only putting lectures online in a video format will not necessarily assist, it simply creates another barrier to learning.
Data is expensive for the pay-as-you-go student. Try it yourself. Buy a pre-paid data bundle and use it instead of your contract data or home Wi-Fi. See how much you’ve got left of your bundle the next day. Putting work online only benefits those that have the money to pay for access. Yes, there are many ways to connect. And students that have the ingenuity and gumption to make use of these different routes are to be commended. Lectures that want to reach out and use online to teach also deserve recognition. However, expecting stressed and cash strapped students to follow your Plan B may unintentionally reinforce the current inequalities that students experience daily, add another financial burden when they are cash strapped and further alienate them from the inclusive learning and teaching culture that academics intend to create.
Plan B, i.e. only putting resources on the web, without considering the costs that students have to bear, is not going to address the various issues that have been highlighted by the #feesmustfall movement. Creating a digitally inclusive learning environment requires that we go beyond simply using videos as a replacement for lectures.
I’m going to be facilitating a conversation today (Wed 24 August) at LeaderEx about education and innovation. Will be asking questions about high tech tools and whether they are the solution to South Africa’s education crisis. Will be chatting to Warren Hero, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, Enoch Thango, Deputy Principal of Sunward Park High & Mfanelo Ntsobi, Chief Director: School Support, Gauteng Department of Education (our panelists).
Our panel will also discuss the pros and cons of implementing a #paperlessclassroom.
You can expect to hear opinions about the following.
What does it mean to teach and learn is this digital age?
What are some of the threads that will weave themselves into classrooms of the future?
Why do we want to innovate with education technology?
Is ed tech having the impact on education that we hoped for?
How do we go about scaling up successful innovations?
Interested? See you at Leaderex Conference at Sandton Convention Centre at 14h30 – 15h30.
UNESCO’s research has found that mobile reading represents a promising, if still underutilized, pathway to literacy for children. Mobile devices offer new opportunities to access text for literacy development. Especially in Sub Saharan Africa, where millions of people do not have access to text, but do own a mobile phone
While young children do not own phones, their parents or caregivers have the opportunity to use mobile phones to read books and stories. Together with the Goethe Institut and local librarians, we are going to explore how librarians can assist their patrons to confidently harness the power of their own mobile phones and use their devices to read stories to children.
Final whistle. Game over. Goodbye Wits. I’m a consultant now. Here’s my ‘split lit‘ tale.
I arrived in Johannesburg in 2010, just as the Soccer World Cup was about to start. Jozi seemed golden and Wits, I thought, was ready for the change game. The Elearning, Support & Innovation Unit (eLSI) under the leadership of Prof Derek Keats, DVC of Knowledge and Information Management (KIM), had been formed. Chismaba was ready. A new “tech savvy” elearning strategy heralded a new set of tactics.
Fast forward five years, and playing field had changed. Johannesburg was parched, in the midst of a heatwave, water supplies were diminishing. Change was no longer a players game. #Feesmustfall students had taken the vice chancellor hostage and were marching their anger to the Union Buildings. Most of eLSI management (apart from me) dispatched, and merged under the Centre for Learning Teaching and Development (CLTD) “directorate”, who had unceremoniously dropped “Support & Innovation” from the eLearning unit’s name.
Innovation, by its nature, involves both failure and success. As a team, eLSI had both. We launched Sakai, we saw growth in uptake and budding change. But were unable to sustain the momentum, mainly because of an ill advised re-deployment of the software development team. I blew the whistle but it didn’t stop the game. My departure from the field was as a result of a brutal tackle. I should have packed up my boots. Quit earlier. I’m a consultant now with many tales to share.
Goodbye to you and you and you and to me and to all that.
The past two weeks of #FeesMustFall protests have demonstrated how digital networks can be utilized to disrupt higher education here in South Africa. While it may be premature to compare this movement to the Arab Spring, it is quite clear that students, with their data and cell phones, are sufficiently capable to use digital media to mobilise other students, university management and government to pay attention to their demands.
#FeesMustFall has also exposed the different digital capabilities across the Higher Education spectrum. Student’s capacity to make use of digital media to amplify and enable their campaign stand in stark contrast with parliamentarians and higher education execs relative silence within the same medium. Over the last two weeks students, executives and politicians have repeatedly missed opportunities for communication and engagement via web 2.0 technologies and social media. Despite VCs and politicos having access to traditional and new media, communication units and infrastructure, they have not demonstrated that they are able to take advantage of these alternative modalities to connect and engage with students.
If ed techies are to learn and respond to this communication gap between students and executives, then we need recognize this as a digital capability issue, offer leadership and act. Here’s a golden opportunity to promote the use of learning technologies to address many of the any educational issues raised by students. But don’t ask Radio, TV or MOOCS to replicate one size-fits-all, undifferentiated and restricted 20th-century model of higher education in an electronic form. Ed techies need to be part of a conversation envisaging a future where ICT’s are able to offer a flexible and accessible education that can be tailored and customised for each individual.
James Hilton suggests that if we don’t want to miss the opportunity to redefine education for a world in which access to information, networks, and computation is ubiquitous, then we need to do the following (my paraphrase).
- Embrace the duality of ICT. Digital is both a part of the infrastructure and a strategic asset. At present ICT is seen as a part of the infrastructure. This services delivered on this infrastructure are important, but administration and management is not its only function. ICT is also an innovation platform. The two are not competing with each other. They’re complementary roles.
- Allow ICT to play an enabling role. We accept that universities are designed to foster innovation, to create an environment in which people research, share ideas and data and come up with something new. The role that communication technologies, computation, and networks play in enabling this innovation should be used to further the teaching and learning mission of a university.
- Bring back the joy. There was a time when ICT was an enabling force on campus. This additional empowerment brought joy to many academic and student. It would be very easy to turn off the WiFi, restrict device usage and forget the joy associated with the network and become driven by fear. We need to retreat from the fear and reclaim the joy of learning and playing with ICT.
As our interactions between each other, what we are learning and what we are doing become more and more mediated by networks, we have the opportunity to build a global learning laboratory. Higher Education needs to take be invited to be part of this global learning laboratory and combine it with the scholarship of teaching and learning to begin looking for evidence-based practices about what works and what doesn’t work.
ICT can be used to enable an accessible and flexible education. Ed techies need to reclaim this audacious vision and promote a digitally capabilities right across campus, where all are encouraged and enabled to use ICT to enhance and innovative and not only manage and control. If we are going to respond appropriately to #FeesMustFall, then we need to use this opportunity to rethink about our current use of ICT.