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My ‘Edonis’ interview with David Noble

edonis

David Noble (@parslad), a Scottish educator with a long track record of innovative and supportive blogging and podcasting, interviewed me last month. David’s one of the founding members of EdTechRoundUp, so I’ve known him for a while. He too is doing an Ed.D. but hasn’t taken the easy route (as I have) and is actually doing some original research!

Focusing on the question How are learning professionals dealing with the social web?, David’s podcasts can be found on his Booruch blog. You can listen to mine either on his blog or by clicking below. 🙂

Contents:

  • My (professional) educational background
  • My experiences of ICT-related training and professional development: as a student teacher, during INSET, and as part of CPD
  • My previous workplaces and the level of web access availble learning professionals
  • My notion of a ‘learning network’
  • My uses of the social web
  • Changes I anticipate in use of ICT over the next 3 years.

HOWTO: Tether an iPhone to a netbook running Jolicloud

Introduction

I mentioned in an earlier blog post my favourable early impressions of the ‘cool new operating system’ Jolicloud on my Acer Aspire One. One thing that I wanted to be able to do with it is to ‘tether’ my iPhone to it for 3G internet access. This was easily done under almost any operating system when I’d ‘jailbroken’ my iPhone (through PDAnet) However, it’s not so easy with an iPhone running the standard firmware and a netbook running Jolicloud. This is for two reasons:

  • An unjailbroken iPhone can only tether by USB or Bluetooth, not wi-fi.
  • Jolicloud does not come with access to Synaptic Package Manager, trading this for ease-of-use.

Tethering an unjailbroken iPhone to Jolicloud is still possible, however, if you’re prepared to copy-and-paste some lines into the Terminal. Here’s what to do…

How to tether your iPhone under Jolicloud

1. Activate tethering on your iPhone. You should really go through your contract provider for this, but if you’re naughty – or feel overcharged as it is – then try emailing to your iPhone and then running the relevant .mobileconfig file found at http://www.benm.at/help/tethering.php

2. Install ‘jolicloud-netbook-config’. To be honest, I’m not actually certain this step is necessary. But it can’t hurt! On your netbook, open up the Terminal (found under the ‘Accessories’ menu in Jolicloud). Copy-and-paste this: sudo apt-get update (then press ‘Enter’) followed by sudo apt-get install jolicloud-netbook-config (Enter). You may get errors. Ignore them. 😉

3. Install Blueman. Whilst still in the Terminal, copy-and-paste this: sudo sh -c "echo 'deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/blueman/ubuntu $(lsb_release -sc) main' >/etc/apt/sources.list.d/blueman.list" and then hit Enter. Follow this typing sudo apt-get update (Enter) and then sudo apt-get install blueman (Enter). You’ll get errors, but don’t worry!

4. Configure Bluetooth Manager. Make sure you have Bluetooth turned on your netbook and both Bluetooth and Tethering on your iPhone. The ‘tethering’ option is found withing Settings / General / Network on your iPhone. On your netbook, go to the Preferences menu and then click on Bluetooth Manager:


4. Connect to your iPhone. Click on Search within Bluetooth Manager. Your iPhone should be listed. Click on it, then Bond. You’ll have to do the usual thing of setting a passcode to be entered on both devices, etc.


5. Set up your iPhone for ‘tethering’. Within Bluetooth Manager click on the Trust button to save time in future. Then click on Setup and keep pressing Forward until your iPhone is ‘tethered’ (i.e. set up for 3G internet access with your netbook).


Your iPhone should now have a blue bar at the top that says Internet tethering (see image at top of this post). Open up a browser and surf away! 😀

Finally…

To reconnect on subsequent occasions, make sure that Bluetooth and Tethering is active on your iPhone. Then go back into Bluetooth Manager on your netbook, right-click on your iPhone and select the option to re-establish a Bluetooth connection. An icon should pop-up indicating you’re connected and, of course, the blue ‘Internet Tethering’ ribbon should appear to the top of your iPhone! 🙂

Many thanks to the author of this blog post (which has some additional steps you may want to try which forces Ubuntu Netbook Remix – on which Jolicloud is based – to configure the connection as an ‘official’ Mobile Broadband connection)

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Meeting with Ed.D. thesis supervisor: ‘aspirational naming,’ hegemonic power and finishing early?

umbrellas

Image by gagilas @ Flickr

Last Wednesday I met with Steve Higgins, my Ed.D. supervisor at the University of Durham. I enjoy the level of intellectual conversation I have with him and this meeting was no exception. Our discussion ranged from everything from Foucault to doing online shopping for your grandmother(!) and seemed to fly by. This post serves as a reminder for me and an insight for those interested in my chosen topic of ‘digital literacy.’

Concept maps and ‘umbrella terms’

Those familiar with the enormous Ed.D. concept map I produced will be familiar with the fair amount of complexity it contains. Steve suggested that I go back to it and attempt to synthesize some of the elements, perhaps by reworking it into a kind of Venn diagram. I replied that at the moment it’s something I don’t want to spend too much time looking at (because it took so long to produce), but will go back to it eventually!

I expressed my (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) annoyance that Lankshear and Knobel in the introduction to their 2008 Digital Literacies had pointed out and drawn attention to something I was going to present as a new analysis in my thesis: the ‘umbrella term.’ Many theorists take their conception of literacy and consider all others in the light of it, usually relegating them to some type of ‘sub-literacies.’ Steve suggested I try a different metaphor than umbrellas… 😉

Intentionality and trajectories

Steve reminded me that there is a ‘rhetoric’ to everything produced by theorists, even those who are leaders in the field (e.g. Lankshear and Knobel). There is an intention behind what they are doing; they are, to some extent, ‘tussling for position’ and attempting to prove a point.

All theorists in the realm of ‘new literacies’ deal in neologisms. That is to say they coin terms that they hope will enter common usage. Steve posited the idea of a ‘trajectory’ – that I need to show in my thesis where theorists are ‘coming from,’ what their definition is, what they’re trying to achieve through that definition, and then the logical implications and practicalities of this.

Language issues

At some point during the discussion I mentioned that I’d read that Norwegian has no word for ‘literacy’ as they use a different, but related term. I suggested that this might allow Norwegians to bypass some of the historical baggage bound up with the term ‘literacy.’ Steve pointed out that Norwegian also makes no distinction between ‘efficient’ and ‘effective’ which, if you think about it, is rather problematic. I can think of lots of efficient yet ineffective people vice-versa! :-p

I moved on to Gunther Kress‘ argument that because many languages don’t have the term ‘literacy’ then sub-dividing it into ‘visual literacy,’ ‘digital literacy’ and the like was problematic. I mentioned that I wasn’t convinced by his argument. Steve pointed out that English is a richer language (in terms of number of words) than other languages. This means that there may be actually an advantage in breaking down terms in English into sub-areas as it may be difficult to work out of a genuinely complex ‘super-concept.’

Thesis structure

The structure of all theses tend to be in a state of flux until towards the end, and mine is no different. Given that I’m doing a rather bizarre thing – a conceptual, vocational doctorate(!) – the structure is not prescribed nor, indeed, self-evident. I pointed out to Steve that although it is usual to write the ‘methodology’ chapter after the ‘literature review,’ it might actually be a better idea and more coherent to the reader if the methodology comes before the literature review.

I’m planning to write a chapter on ‘digital flow,’ after being inspired by Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work Flow: the psychology of optimal experience. One of the issues with ‘digital literacy’ is, as Steve put it, ‘aspirational naming’: we come up with terms describing states to which we aspire. ‘Digital flow’ (as I shall define it) would be on the same spectrum and would, inevitably, include value judgements and aspirational statements about how I want the world to be. We’re came back our earlier mention of intentionality.

After coming up with a (tentative) definition of ‘digital flow’ I shall be doing some policy analysis looking at whether conceptions of digital literacy and/or flow are embedded in pronouncements and practice in countries ranging from the UK to Singapore. Steve suggested that I look at the relation between literacy and hegemonic power; ‘the position of the individual relative to the discourse.’ Steve’s of the opinion that power comes as a ‘valuable incidental’ to those in power and control and that they don’t necessarily reinforce this on purpose through such things as literacy practices. It’s a question of ‘coherence and complexity’ despite Marxist rants to the contrary. He suggested I look at the difference between devolved and ‘real’ power (c.f. Foucault).

The nature of literacy

I’ve avoided in my thesis up to now discussion of ‘media literacy’ as I thought it would take me down a rather tangential rabbit-hole. However, as Steve pointed out, at the end of the day it’s all about semiotics and the encoding of meaning. It’s about production and reproduction, said Steve, as letter-based literacy is a ‘dense’ and precise method of exchange. Visual literacy, media literacy and the like points towards more metaphorical use of language. Poetry, for example, would be somewhat of a ‘halfway house.’

It was at this point that I re-conceptualized what Steve said as being almost a continuum ranging from the ‘literal’ use of language in literacy left to ‘metaphorical’ use of language on the right. Text-based literacy would be on the left whilst umbrella terms – metaphors of metaphors (or ‘second order metaphors’) would be on the right. It may be interesting to plot conceptions of literacy on such a continuum in my actual thesis.

This reminded Steve of C.S. Peirce‘s idea of ‘firstness,’ ‘secondness’ and ‘thirdness.’ This relates to something which equates to ‘raw perception’ (‘firstness’), the ‘idea’ of it (‘thirdness’) and the way of trying to express this (‘secondness’). I think this could be a really effective addition to my discussion of the ‘red pillar box’ in my phenomological introduction (sample below):

Human beings are tasked with making sense of the external world. We feel the need to decipher and communicate oft-repeated experiences and sensations, allowing other minds to share the same (or similar) conceptual space to our own. For example, research in Phenomenology tells us that two individuals may have two markedly different sensations when viewing a red pillar box. If, however, they agree on the category ‘pillar box’ to refer to approximately the shape they see before them, and that the colour sensation they are experiencing shall be called ‘red’, then meaningful discourse can ensue.

Returning to the policy document analysis, Steve re-iterated that I need to concentrate on producing an ‘interesting synthesis’ rather than getting bogged down in detail. I also need to separate out in my thesis the difference between ‘digital literacy’ and ‘being digitally literate.’

Finishing early

I mentioned to Steve – as I have done at previous meetings – that I’d like to have my thesis finished by next summer. That’s a year before my official end date, after which people are still allowed a year of ‘writing up.’ There’s three reasons why I want to finish early:

  1. I want to finish before I’m 30 (December 2010)
  2. It’s costing £thousands every year.
  3. Every additional year I take is another year in which I have to consider and attempt to synthesize other people’s work into my thesis.

The official line for the Ed.D. is that the taught elements give the skills to undertake something at equivalent level to Ph.D. This is usually done where there’s a professional dimension to this ‘something.’ However, overlaps with other areas (in my case, for example, politics and philosophy as well as education) is inevitable. The examiner will ultimately be looking for ‘doctorateness’ and whether the thesis is sufficiently conceptually rich. 🙂

Steve said he’d get back to me with whether I’d be able to finish early, which he did the next day. It turns out that, officially, the earliest I’m allowed to submit is January 2011. I could apply for a concession to submit early, but given Durham’s ‘glacial bureaucracy’ and the second point in the list above, it’s unlikely that would be successful. I’ve decided that to have ‘finished’ by December 2010 and to submit on 1 January 2011 is fine by me!

Final thoughts

Other things we mentioned that I need to consider:

  • How would you go about ‘teaching’ digital literacy? (Foucault & power, etc.) Mention the ‘digital divide’ etc. and equality in society.
  • Make sure show aware of Prensky, ‘digital natives’ etc. – so ‘immersed’ and it is ‘second nature’. Two-edged sword – miss the ‘critical’ element. Intentionality? (step back, underlying conceptions – HTML, programming, etc.)
  • At the moment, people can still refuse to engage in digital world, and still function. Link to power and authority? Teenagers can’t do this? Bridging technologies (chequebook and Switch card)
  • Need to define ‘digital’ (definitions often aren’t bounded) – more than text (images, other media, etc.)

Very finally, we discussed the rather problematic issue of how I should submit my thesis. Given the nature of my thesis it would be more than a little anachronistic to only submit it in a printed paper format. Therefore we’re going to look at ways which would satisfy the university as well as ourselves (and the wider community) for the final thesis. Steve’s thoughts are that the appendices at the very least should be some sort of website. Given issues relating to ‘digital permanence’ Steve pointed out the very useful website snapshot-archiving tool iCyte which I’ll be exploring in more depth…

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Jolicloud: my first impressions of the ‘cool new [social] OS for your netbook’

A few days ago I wrote a post entitled Which is the best netbook operating system? The result of my experiments were rather skewed having neither access to a netbook at the time (I used virtualization on my Macbook Pro) nor to the promising Jolicloud operating system.

Built upon Ubuntu Netbook Remix, an operating system which I already have a lot of respect and time for, Jolicloud is another ‘layer’, as it were. It treats web applications and desktop applications as if they were the same, so to install OpenOffice.org and ‘Google Reader’ is achieved via the same one-click interface (shown below)

I bought myself an Acer Aspire One netbook, for the bargainous price of £99 + delivery on eBay. There was nothing wrong with it at all. I’ve simply added 1GB RAM (c.£11) to make it a bit more speedy.

As you can see below, you ‘sign in’ to Jolicloud and can follow other users. This means you can see what apps. and other things they’re using.

Signing in also lets you check if there’s any updates to Jolicloud (I’ve just upgraded to Alpha 2c)

If you have more than one computer running Jolicloud, you can see the on the screen below. I assume this will lead to the ability to ‘sync’ them in future?

WINE, a Windows emulator for Linux, is also a one-click affair. This means that you’ve got access to the excellent Spotify, quickly and easily! 🙂

Below you can see some of the applications I installed via Jolicloud and how they showed up under the ‘Internet’ tab.

I was delighted to see that the Jolicloud team have included a development build of Google Chrome. It’s a great browser and, in fact, I’m using it to write this blog post! 😀

Finally, another ‘application’ – this time newsmap. Jolicloud simply opens it full-screen in a window.

Finally, just a note to say that everything – and I mean everything, works out-of-the-box. The latest release even has a drop-down menu at the top-right to select what speed you want the processor to run, or if you want it to run ‘on demand’. Legendary.

Suffice to say it’s staying installed on my netbook for the foreseeable future! :-p

The 8 C’s of digital literacy

generator.x show

Image by jared @ Flickr

Poets talk of a ‘muses’ and people talk of inspiration ‘just coming’ to them. Me, I’m a believer that connections come when you completely immerse yourself in something. About an hour ago I had a breakthrough with my thesis, the tentative title of which is What does it mean to be ‘digitally literate’? A Pragmatic investigation.

I’ve been looking for a way to organize the multitude of definitions of ‘digital literacy’ that there are – almost as many as there are writers on the subject! Then, as I was looking for categories, I noticed that almost every category I used began with ‘C’! I quickly wrote down eight and tweeted it out:

My original tweet

Josie Fraser, herself quite the expert on digital literacy, responded that I really needed a ‘critical’ element in there:

Josie - helpful tweet

She had a very good point and I noticed that the similarity between the things I wanted to put in the ‘cultural’ and ‘community’ sections I’d demarcated. Hence, I changed it round to come up with this, the 8 C’s of digital literacy. Each of the following I believe to be an element with which any definition of the concept must deal:

  • Cultural
  • Communication
  • Cognitive
  • Citizenship
  • Constructive
  • Creativity
  • Confidence
  • Critical

I haven’t numbered them as they’re in no particular order. I will, no doubt, be thinking and reflecting more on the subject. I just wanted to get this post out before anyone else tried to claim this as their own! 😉

A reminder that you can view my thesis as I write it, if you wish. 😀

Which is the best netbook operating system?

Technology Adoption Lifecycle

The above graph is known as the Technology Adoption Lifecycle and is an approximation as to how new types of products and technologies are adopted. I’m usually in the left-hand 2.5% for most technology-related things (well, I’ve got to be honest!) This post is about Netbooks, small form-factor devices used primarily to access the internet and run lightweight applications. Since 2007 I’ve had three netbooks: an Asus Eee 701 (with stock Xandros Linux), an Advent 4211 (MSI Wind clone upon which I installed Mac OSX with some success), and an Asus Eee 1000 (running Ubuntu Netbook Remix). The latter was a fantastic netbook and I was disappointed when I had to return it to my previous school upon leaving.

Since then, I’ve been on the lookout for a (very) cheap netbook with which I can mess about. If you’re thinking of purchasing one of these then I’d recommend first having a look at the excellent comparison of netbooks on Wikipedia. The problem with having a £1500 Macbook Pro is that it makes you rather reluctant to take it to places like the beach (now only 1.5 miles away from where I live!) In addition, my line manager at my new job as well as my father have been asking for advice regarding netbooks. As a result, I thought that now would be a good time to look at the best operating system to run on a netbook.

Why Linux?

You may be wondering why I don’t automatically recommend Windows 7 for netbooks. That’s because I’m a great advocate of Open Source Software. In the past, it was difficult to hand-on-heart recommend Linux (an Open Source Operating System) for the average person. I’ve used Linux since Red Hat Linux in 1997 and it hasn’t been until the dawn of Ubuntu Linux around 5 years ago that I’ve been able to recommend it to, for example, my parents (who have run it on their laptop for the past 3 years).

Linux is more flexible and configurable than Windows. Oh, and it’s free. 🙂

What to look for in a netbook operating system

To my mind, a netbook operating system should be:

  1. Quick to boot-up (from cold, hibernation and suspend alike)
  2. Work with no glitches (i.e. support hardware out-of-the-box)
  3. Intuitive
  4. Aesthetically pleasing
  5. Easily configurable

The contenders…

Below you’ll find quick video demonstrations of the following operating systems that can be installed on netbooks:

Why have I chosen the three above? There’s no sound, scientific reason apart from that a) 3 is a good number of options to give to people, b) I’ve used Ubuntu Netbook Remix before and have an interest in test-driving the other two, and c) Jolicloud, the other OS I wanted to test, won’t play nicely with virtual machines.

Oh, that’s the other thing. This is completely unscientific as these videos demonstrate how these operating systems perform within a virtual machine within my Macbook Pro. Your mileage may, and probably will, vary. The videos are simply there to give you a taster… :-p

Easy Peasy (Ubuntu Netbook Remix)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4wOsTSE3Gk&w=425&h=344]

gOS

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nw4rFuclzZY&w=425&h=344]

Linux Mint

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LSfs_BhwjM&w=425&h=344]

Conclusion

So… which is best? I’d love to be able to say gOS (or Jolicloud if I could get it to work). I love the idea of the netbook being a device simply to connect you to cloud-based working. However, practicality is the order of the day. You have to be able to work effectively offline. Whilst all OS’s will allow you to do this, Ubuntu Netbook Remix allows you to do this in a straightforward and streamlined way.

Ubuntu Netbook Remix – via Easy Peasy if you have an Asus Eee – is the winner! 😀

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Watch my Ed.D. thesis grow in real-time…

thesis

I’ve got until Tuesday to get a much of my thesis written as possible to send to my supervisor. I’ve made a start, but need as much help as I can get to continue to be motivated. I thought, therefore, that sharing what I’m writing in real-time with an audience might help with that.

Click here to access my thesis as I write it!

N.B. The comments are obviously notes to myself. Oh, and unlike everything else on this blog, this is most certainly Copyright – All Rights Reserved. No quoting at all until it’s finished please.

Do feel free to add comments here and/or motivational quotations, inspirational thoughts, and helpful guidance! 😀

Using Joe’s Goals to track and then improve your productive outputs.

In keeping with yesterday’s post about actually using tools before recommending them, I’d like to introduce you to Joe’s Goals. As with all the best productivity tools, it’s really very simple and straightforward. It looks like this:

Joe's Goals

As you can see, I’ve specified my ‘goals’ down the left-hand side and the days of the week appear along the top (along with the date). If you complete your goal on a particular day, clicking on the relevant box fills it with a green ‘tick’ icon. There’s also the option to have a ‘journal’ entry box which you can see at the bottom of the above screenshot.

I’ve been using Joe’s Goals for a few months now and have found it very useful. The satisfaction and motivation element of being able to ‘tick off’ that I’ve completed a target I’ve set myself is very worthwhile. There’s three main benefits as far as I see it for using Joe’s Goals are that you can:

  1. Track what you’ve been up to in order to see what you did when.
  2. Monitor trends (e.g. I’m statistically more likely to write a blog post if I’ve been for a run that morning)
  3. Motivate yourself to do something you haven’t done for a while (in my case, work on my Ed.D.!)

Have YOU tried out Joe’s Goals? What did you think? What are the alternatives? 😀

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The importance of heuristics in educational technology and elearning.

Dilbert - heuristics

This post has been brewing for a while.

I’m sick to death of people ‘recommending’ products, services, applications and utilities based on, essentially, zero real-world testing and feedback. Why? They can’t help with the heuristics.

What are heuristics?

Wikipedia definition:

Heuristic is an adjective for experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or ‘optimal solution’. Heuristics are “rules of thumb”, educated guesses, intuitive judgments or simply common sense. Heuristics as a noun is another name for heuristic methods.

Why are heuristics important?

As I argued in my SHP Conference workshop Raising achievement in History at KS4 using e-learning, it can actually be damaging to:

  • launch into using educational technologies without thinking it through properly (the how not just the what).
  • attempt to replicate what someone has done elsewhere without thinking about the context.

People like Andrew Churches (of Educational Origami fame) deal with heuristics. They show how educational technologies can be used, things to think about, and issues that may arise.

What I’d like to see

Think about new users of educational technologies. Let’s say that someone wants to show parents what’s happening on a school trip in the following country. They ask for advice. Which of these would be the most useful response?

  1. I’d use a blog if I were you.
  2. Have you seen Posterous?
  3. I used Posterous successfully. Here’s how to set it up and here’s an example of how I’ve used it before. Ask me if you get stuck.

Obviously 3. I really don’t want any more of 1 and 2 thank you very much. :-p

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How to SPIN your way to giving more constructive negative feedback.

Spin

Image by jaqian @ Flickr

It’s difficult to give feedback, especially when it’s not positive. However, as a leader, it’s something that’s necessary to get the best of people. I know I keep banging on about Jo Owen’s book How to Lead: what you actually need to do to manage, lead and succeed but it’s excellent. Concise wisdom is what it is. 🙂

Owen believes that using the acronym SPIN can help leaders give more constructive feedback:

  • Situation specifics
  • Personal impact
  • Insight & interpretation
  • Next steps

Situation specifics

First of all, make sure the time and place is right. Give negative feedback in private when the person to whom you are giving it is calm. This needs to be as close to the event as possible (‘feedback, like milk, goes off fairly quickly’) but not when they are shouting and screaming!

Be specific about what happened. Using terms such as ‘unprofessional’ is not helpful and can actually be provocative. Talk about what it is in particular that is the problem (e.g. lateness to meetings).

Personal impact

People can argue about objective matters but not about how things make you feel. For example, saying that arriving late for meetings makes you think they don’t consider them to be important cannot be argued against.

Going down the ‘personal impact’ path allows you to talk about the issue without arguing, for example, about the number of minutes late, number of times, etc. Deal with the issue and

Insight & interpretation

Instead of telling people what to do, ask them if the impact that they’ve made (i.e. upsetting you) was the impact they wished to make. Get them to reflect on their actions. They are much more likely to value the solutions they come up with above any solution that you hand them.

Next steps

Once you’ve been through the above steps, you should now be able to calmly agree ‘next steps’ between you. Focus on the future being positive and constructive. Don’t play the ‘blame game’ and avoid discussing the past at this point.

Conclusion

Owen advises taking time over each step and not rushing through them. Although no-one looks forward to giving negative feedback, I am happier now that I’ve got a constructive way of approaching it!

What are your thoughts? 😀

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