If I do get around to writing some or all of a book like this, I envisage it will have discrete, overlapping chapters like Anything You Want by Derek Sivers or 33 Myths of the System by Derek Allen. As a few people said, it’s probably best not to put ‘decentralisation’ in the title if it’s meant for a general audience.
Last month, a new book came out entitled Digital Badges in Education: Trends, Issues, and Cases. At over £30, it’s the most expensive book I’ve purchased for a while, but thought it would provide some useful insights. And no, there’s no chapter from me in it: I seem to remember a call for contributions going out last year but I don’t work for free / less than my minimum day rate.
Over my discours.es blog I’ve been making notes on each chapter as I read it. So far I’ve completed Part I: Trends and Issues. As you’d expect from an edited collection, it ranges from the average to the excellent. One curious omission is an introduction from the editors.
The links below reference the titles of each chapter in Part I of the book. However, when you click through, you’ll notice that I’ve given my blog posts a different name. These, of course, are my own notes, highlights, and (in some cases) criticisms of the authors’ work.
This is an ‘iterative’ e-book because people have been able to buy into it ever since v0.1. You can find more about this ‘OpenBeta’ model here. Fundamental to the process is getting feedback from readers. I’m glad to say that you haven’t let me down, and the book is better as a result. Thank you for that.
The aim is for the e-book to be practically useful while not being shy about theory. People have said that it’s proving useful for use with trainee teachers and other undergraduates, so I’m glad it’s already having the desired effect!
Release v0.99 of the e-book. This will be textually complete and form the basis of a crowdsourced copyediting process that will take a few weeks.
Release v1.0 of the e-book. This will have benefitted from more eyes than just mine in terms of coherence and copyediting. Should they agree, these people will be given special thanks in the foreword. It will definitely be available in PDF, and I’ll work with people to get it available in ePub and Kindle formats.
I’m not the only conduit for ideas in this space, so I’m planning to follow the lead of people like Yochai Benkler and create a wiki to accompany the book. This will be structured in a similar way to the wiki that is a companion to Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.
A few points to finish off.
Now is be a great time to buy into the book. It’ll save you a couple of pounds compared to the price of v0.99 or v1.0 (you get the updates for free).
This was never about the money. Yes, I’ve been able to pay recurring digital subscriptions from my Paypal balance instead of my credit card, but that wasn’t the aim. The financial element here was to get people to buy into the process early. Once this happened, I could ask for feedback – which I’m delighted to have received on a fairly regular basis.
If you’d like to get involved with the launch, please do get in touch! Examples: the visual design of v1.0, translating the book into another language, or making Bitcoin payments a reality. I’m @dajbelshaw or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special thanks once again to those who have encouraged me and provided feedback over the last couple of years. You’re all very kind. We’re nearly there – just this last hurdle to clear!
More on this next week with the release of v0.99. 🙂
I’m reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at the moment. It’s a bit of a classic, so I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to it.
Last night, I came across the following passage. It must be quite famous as I’ve stumbled across it before:
But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.
This made me think about Purpos/ed. Andy and I are often asked when we’re going to produce a manifesto, or what the ‘next level’ is. Well, that’s the kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.
Pirsig reminds us that even things that seem purely physical (such as steel) are nevertheless human constructs. Despite seeming permanent and ‘natural’ steel is not a substance that exists in nature. It’s the product of human imagination.
Likewise, there is no ‘state of nature’ for education systems. No natural way that we should organise learning.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve decided to start writing another e-book. I want to communicate what I’ve learned during my doctoral studies in a way free from academic constraints. I want to empower educators.
What are ‘digital literacies’? Why are they important? How can I develop them both personally and in other people? These are some of the questions that ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies by Doug Belshaw seeks to address. Informed by his doctoral thesis and experience as an educator, ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ Doug is producing a timely resource for those who are interested in both the theory and the practice of digital literacies!
When are you going to finish this?
It depends on many things, but here’s my proposed timescale:
v0.2 – April 2012
v0.4 – June 2012
v0.6 – August 2012
v0.8 – October 2012
v1.0 – December 2012
I’m erring on the conservative side here. I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver!
In what formats will the book be available?
The OpenBeta version will be available in iPad-friendly (and reasonably Kindle-friendly) PDF format. The finished version will be available in the following forms:
In the long run, [the] flattening of the world can be advantageous for everyone. But to realize these benefits, people from all walks of life, including (and perhaps especially) educators, need to let go of doing business and usual and begin adapting to the changing world. Emerging nations have been quick to pick up the gauntlet – perhaps because they had little to lose and everything to gain. Developed nations have been more resistant to making the changes needed to thrive in this new global society – perhaps because they fear they have everything to lose. But not taking action is a recipe for failure for these nations. (p.1)
Need for more use in order to develop effective models
[W]e find ourselves in the equivalent of the frontier. Until we are able to openly explore effective uses of these technologies as tools for teaching and learning, we are not going to be able to cite good models. (p.3)
Effective education and technology
Effective education is the foundation of successful societies. But in recent years, at least in developed countries, the survival of the existing institution seems to have trumped the importance of providing relevant, timely instruction. This trend can be changed, but the time to take action is now. One way to move education forward is to embrace emerging technologies that make it possible to implement programs where students master core academic content, hone applied 21st-century skills, and learn how to find success in an increasingly digital world. (p.3)
The futility of banning mobile phones
How does [routine confiscation of mobile phones] waste time? Because many students are turning over either old, disconnected phones or replica phones, which they have purchased online for about two dollars. Students cheerfully relinquish and retrieve these devices each period while retaining possession of their real phones… It is far better to find positive ways cell phones can be used as tools for teaching and learning by identifying and enforcing realising parameters within which students may have cell phones in their possession than to fight what is ultimately a losing – and unnecessary – battle. (p.15)
Mobile phones and etiquette
Students misuse cell phones in exactly [the same ways as the rest of society]. But how are they to learn better behavior without appropriate adult models who take the time to teach digital etiquette? Granted, parents need to take responsibility for teaching good manners to their children, but so do teachers and other school personnel who often spend more waking hours with students than do their parents! (p.18-19)
1:1 requires pedagogical underpinning
Experts generally agree that purchasing and installing equipment to reach a 1:1 ratio of students to computing devices is not enough to make a difference in academic achievement. For this investment to pay off, teachers need to rethink their approach to instruction by trying out student-centred strategies that focus on collaboration, communication, and problem solving. In short, although online research and word processing have their place, these activities are starting – not ending – points. (p.41-2)
Objections should not be deal-breakers
Unfortunately… objections are often used as deal breakers. Although it’s important that these concerns be put on the table, the driving purpose should be to enable educators to have open discussions about potential unintended consequences. Once everyone’s concerns are out in the open, it’s possible to consider solutions or strategies for working around problems. (p.113)
Exciting times for educators
This is an exciting time to be an educator. The possibilities for reaching and engaging students are growing daily. As new tools for communication and collaboration continue to be developed and made readily available to people around the world, educators continually need to adapt their approach to instruction to ensure that classroom activities remain relevant. Fortunately, these changes are doable. All that’s required is the will to move forward. (p.121)
When it arrived last Monday, my wife – in that way that only I would notice – looked at me semi-accusingly. “Another book, eh?” she seemed to say, “I thought got your books via your Kindle now?” I swear that the reason old people don’t tend to say much is because they know what the other person’s thinking.
In ancient times, people cut to the chase. Take St. Paul’s letters, for example. He states who he is first and only then greets the elders at the church to which he is writing. It’s always puzzled me that people only indicate who the letter is from at the very end; at least with emails you know who it’s from straight away by virtue of their email address.
So, my conclusion? The Mobile Learning Edge (hereafter MLE) is worth reading by those interested in mobile learning in a formal educational context. Whilst it (presumably due to encouragement by McGraw-Hill, the publisher) tries to be all things to all men, it nevertheless has value to those working in and with educational institutions. Woodill expertly collates and synthesizes information, presenting it in an engaging and convincing way.
Every book has its weaknesses. There is, for example, at times an uneasy glossing and assumed-similarity between the needs of those in formal learning situations and those within businesses. In addition the way in which the book is written seems to purposely align the author with initiatives in which he played no part.
But to overly-criticize MLE would be churlish. It is a readable, reasonably-comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the current state of play in the mobile learning arena. If it were available for the Kindle for £10 (as it should be) I’d recommend it without reservation. As it is, it comes recommended.
I have to admit to chuckling a little when I read the opening pages of MLE. Only the day before I had commented about the paucity of metaphors that I come across in educational contexts. It was only after reading the whole of the introduction to MLE that I realised Woodill was setting up – quite cleverly, I thought – the rest of the book to call for a return to authentic learning. He indicates, and purports to show, that mobile learning is our natural way of learning: sitting in classrooms is something alien to us.
Figure 5.5 on page 184 of MLE features an engraving from eighteenth century Europe showing one of the most crowded, although admittedly neatest, classrooms you will ever see. Context is one of the strengths of the book: Woodill is a master at putting things in their historical place, charting the development of technologies and pointing out significances. Granted, in some cases such generalizations could be contested and rely on the tried-and-tested metaphors of hunter-gatherer communities and the industrial revolution, but they are, on the whole, sound.
Of the ten chapters that make up MLE, around seven will be of immediate interest and utility to educators not directly involved with the overall strategy of their organization. Those who do occupy such senior positions will find enlightening the chapter contributed by David Fell, interim CEO of a broadband corporation. In it, Fell discusses of the importance of ‘co-opetition’, a term that will become increasingly familiar to those in charge of schools, colleges and universities.
Easily the best part of Fell’s chapter, however, is his inclusion of and discussion around the following diagram from Ambient Insight:
Whilst usually skeptical of diagrams that look designed-for-Powerpoint this one nicely summarizes why now, in the current context, is a great time for institutions to be pursuing mobile learning initiatives.
The second contributed chapter comes from Sheryl Herle, a corporate learning consultant. This, unsurprisingly, deals with Return On Investment (ROI) and business-focused strategy. The chapter does, however, contain some gems that I’ve saved for future use, including the advice that you should be focusing on what you don’t want people to do rather than narrowly defining what you do want them to do; that IT Services/Support’s job is to deal with security threats and network stability – which is why they often oppose ‘innovation’; and that whilst it’s possible to come up with ROI figures for mobile learning initiatives they’re unlikely to be comprehensive or realistic.
Returning to the main author, Gary Woodill’s contribution to MLE, it is clear – and indeed he tells us – that he used to be a teacher. Not only that, but his doctorate (like mine) is an Ed.D. For all the discussion of ‘corporate learning’ and ’employees’, Woodill’s pedagogical background pervades MLE. Take, for example, the structure of the chapter ‘Learning by Communicating, Interacting, and Networking’:
High-level overview setting the scene
Problem (disruption of mobile)
Some truths (we are social beings)
Theory supporting examples
The above, fleshed out, could form a lesson plan. This structure and method of presentation makes MLE a satisfying read.
This, as the author would admit, is a book of its time. It’s relevance in a few years’ time will be less powerful but, for now, the appendices, featuring links to relevant blogs and academic articles are a goldmine. Woodill indicates on his companion site to the book, mobilelearningedge.com that there will be a second edition of MLE and that he will use the related site to keep the content fresh.
I often say “I’m delighted to announce…” but it’s rarely been more true than today.
Over the course of the last ten months I’ve been developing a new publishing model called OpenBeta. The idea behind it is to gain readers from the beginning of the process who can give feedback and watch the book as it progresses. I’m pleased to say that 49 people joined in with the first OpenBeta project: #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity.
It’s available as a paperback (via Lulu) or as a PDF over at a new site I’ve put together: dougbelshaw.com/ebooks. There’s also an affiliate scheme you can get involved with and instructions for converting from PDF to ePub/Kindle formats. Check it out! 😀
Want a free copy of #uppingyourgame? Tweet the following and if you’re number 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 or 42 to do so I’ll get in touch for your details!
Checking out @dajbelshaw’s new eBook – #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity – http://bit.ly/dougsebooks
A lot of people get stuck in the trap of trying to create something that is really innovative, something that doesn’t exist in the world today. But the truth is that an innovation that is really supercreative, that has resonance and power plus the ability to do extremely well in the marketplace, is already part of a clear set of products that already exists. In other words, they have a clear context, but there’s something novel about the way that an innovation is being thought about that really shifts the paradigm.
(DeVito, A. (2006) ‘Constantly Experiment’ in Winsor, J. (ed.) Spark: be more innovative through co-creation, p.162-3)
I’m reading the Spark at the moment, a book sent to me by Online MBA after ‘winning’ a competition (I commented on their blog). Spark is a great read with contributions from people who work at extremely innovative organisations such as Oakley, Nike and Herman Miller.
My belief that innovation thrives upon a bedrock of standardisation has been reinforced through the stories and experiences shared in the book. In other words, people have to have time freed up so they can kick ass. That comes through increased productivity, through streamlining – and to a great extent, automating – the mundane, the procedural and the administrative.
As a tangent, I’ve decided that the final version of #uppingyourgame is going to be subtitled ‘a personal guide to productivity’. Positive feedback from non-educators has convinced me that the ideas it contains are more widely applicable! 😀