Archive for vocational education and training

The value of reflection

This post is a valuable one because it reminds me of the value and art of reflection. In lives that are probably too fast,  there is something priviledged about even being able to stop for a moment and review past feelings and experiences. So Dean Groom offers  three stages of reflection which teachers can readily apply preferably with different read/write tools (eg. blogs, aggregators, wikis,  and social bookmarking ). They are reflecting before and during the activity, and critically reviewing actions and experience after the event.  The first stage is in the revealing of the activity; it is about talking to students about their expectations and/or any prior knowledge or skills associated with this activity (microblogging).  Once the activity is underway, there is a need  to monitor the actions of students and ensure that they have an understanding of where it fits in to the context of what is being learned (MUVE). And finally reflecting on the learning process through recall, for example by talking supported by a blog post or a screen shot. What kind of read/write tools are you using in your class? Which ones are the most popular?


Would you make a good history detective?

If this is a question that you have been asking yourself all your life, here is the answer. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) have been showing a series called History Detectives and I was paying particular attention to games and quizzes. I came across the game On the Case and I only wished it was longer.  You get to pick the case you wish to investigate, and after an explanation of The Case,  and the historical context, you are presented with 3 choices which influences the course of the case and the steps that follow. At the end you are rewarded by being acknowledged as a Five-Star History Detective,  although I have the feeling that all players of this game are praised in this way! Have a go! It’s fun!

What do we do online?

timsamoffHarvard Business School professor Mikolaj Jan Piskorski has spent years studying users of online communities and what needs these networks fulfil. His biggest surprise: people love looking at pictures and spend 70% of time viewing photos or other people’s profiles.  He finds that online social communities are also most effective when they are addressing failures in offline networks.  His example is the failure to  identify a person to help with a start up through friends and even friends of friends. When this strategy fails – LinkedIn fills the gap. There are gender differences, and  Pikorski finds that the biggest users are men looking at women they don’t know followed by men looking at women they do know. Again there is a fragility in the offline networks.

These findings may indicate that serious thought be given to what is missing in offline networks which may be driving the online ones.  What do you think? Does this research suggest that if we explore specific offline communities,  we may be able to identify gaps and translate them into popular services or applications in our social networking sites?

Saving time with checklists

If you are interested in saving time when selecting online tools for class, look no further than Tektrekker’s  Web 2.0 Selection Criteria.  He has identified his criteria as access, usability, privacy and intellectual property, workload and time management, and fun factor. I am going to do a direct copy of his process which is selecting a learning tool from GO2WEB20 after thinking about a learning objective.  I want to find something that is fun for people with a disability to play with on the computer and so I think I will explore the categories of games and fun.

I have come across Scrapblog and discovered that it is web based but before I use it I will test it in Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox and see how it works through a Dial-Up connection. I have established that the tool is free through FAQ and it can be used on a PC and a Mac. There is a need to create an account, but nothing needs to be installed or downloaded onto the computer. I check for issues in the forum to see the kinds of problems that I can anticipate if I decide to use it. There is a restricted access option to the work, but it is unclear about the copyright status of the content. There are tagging and comment features so the Scrapblogs can be brought together under one name, and people can leave their comments about their friends’ works (NB: Do a session about constructive comments). There seems to be a fee attached to printing them off, which requires further investigation.

This selection criteria is great. It allows me to make short work of selecting tools and then evaluating them against the list even before starting to experiment with them.

Why do we care about engaging online?

Nancy White thinks that engagement in any community is on a spectrum from active participation in a group to internal reflection in a subtle and often invisible way. It can be with people or with content and can have positive or negative nuances. We should care about engaging because that is how most of us learn either online or offline, so the next question is how can we encourage engagement online?

We can’t jettison our offline manners in an online environment. Many of these mores  still apply, such as addressing people by name, acknowledging or reciprocating contributions, asking good questions, rephrasing something that lacks clarity, varying media,  interspersing content and activities, and  modeling a good example of engagement.

There is nothing that can be assumed about other people in an online group. We have no non verbal cues to measure the progress of our interactions so silence may mean shyness, anger or a broken microphone. Each option requires a different strategy so the process of checking in becomes more frequent, particularly at the beginning of an online session. There are those people who are quicker online and their experiences are different from those members who participate less regularly and may feel a sense of being overwhelmed and abandoned by the moderator and rest of the group. If this persists, there may be a need to encourage fast posters to slow down and the late adopters to log on more often, otherwise the group may fracture.

I really like this article because it gives practical information about how to think about an online community, and implies that  individuals or subgroups can fragment the experience, and reminds us that community is not a holistic entity.  If there is a moderator, they require sophisticated communication skills to negotiate between the various ‘communities of interest’ within the group to ensure that each member learns something of value to them. Have you come across groups who successfully embrace early and late adopters? What do they do that is different from other groups that you have registered with?

Team Australia doubles medal tally

Plenty of video coverage from the International WorldSkills Competition in Calgary, Canada thanks to SkillsOne and World Skills TV .  Interviews with competitors and experts give a good overview of the entire Competition.

I have just been watching Carah Fraser who is a welder and a bit of a character. She discovered welding after some job hopping and is loving her work even though it is in a traditionally male dominated environment. Her advice to women is to go for it and not listen to the old dinosours who say that it is not women’s work! Grant talks about how he got into plumbing and said that he had ‘hands-on’ and business skills and is now teaching plumbers. Karl discusses  his project in fitting and turning and how early life on a farm fired up his interest in making and fixing things. There are lots of good and positive stories that are coming out of Calvary which are captured beautifully on video.

Competitors start in regional competitions and then successful ones participate in the national event and possibly go onto the internationals. WorldSkills Australia is featured prominently in this week’s edna VET theme page with their latest annual report, and a case study on how WorldSkill’s Australia set up some ‘green’ benchmarks for future events. In Australia, it is supported by the state and Federal Governments, and a wide ranging list of supporters and sponsors.

There is also information about the governance of WorldSkills International. It is run with a Board of Directors and Secretariat,  and a General Assembly, Leaders Forum, and Youth Forum convening at various times during the two year cycle leading up to the next international event.

Into the deep end

Diman and Kat's dive by OksidorPool is a collaborative space created by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) where people can share, co-create, and collaborate.  You can create a profile, upload/download files, remix and reuse the ABC archive, collaborate with Radio National producter,  and search for resources. Recently an interesting document has been released called Pool user research which comes out of a consultation process and workshop. Some thoughts:-

  • the structure of the report is excellent and so I follow the headings of their sections in this post.
  • Pool is..what Pool is from the perspective of its users and stakeholders – there is still a conflation of users and stakeholders which I question because it seems to me that they are separate groups, and  it is a bit like  putting together shareholders (stakeholders) and customers (users) in a bank setting.
  • Pool users want to… (the motivations and goals of Pool’s community) –  and this is interesting – produce something, gather interesting stuff, belong to a media community, and be part of the ABC. It seems that here they have clearly identified what it is that users are there for and what they are doing when they are there.  Something worth noting in this section is that 38%  used it as a place to display work, 16% said they wanted to give their work a chance of being used by the ABC, 12% wanted to be recognised by the ABC, other came in on 10%, 8% to find inspiration, 6% to feel part of a community, and to find other artists to collaborate with and 4% to get recognition from other users.   The commentary states that users feel that the community is important as it motivates and attracts people who feel the presence of other like-minded people in Pool.  The stats though say that community is close to the bottom of the reasons why people use Pool.  Two things that stand out are the attraction of having a space to display work, and the drawing power of a reputable brand such as the ABC.
  • Pool should…resolve existing issues that current users have, address usability issues, communicate a purpose, and retain the level of engagement of staff, and warmth and support of Pool community managers.  Those users interviewed often commented that the responsiveness and helpfulness shown by Pool community managers contributed to a warm and welcoming ‘personality’ of Pool, and that they were willing to forgive any technical shortcomings because of this. Significantly the commitment factor of users is tied to the people  and processes that make them feel welcome.

This paper is really useful because it discusses issues that probably arise in every online community – what people come for, what they do once they are there,   and whether they are comfortable as a member of the Pool community, in particular,  the nature of the help and encouragement to continue.

I am interested in any comments about what strikes you about a friendly online community. What are the things that make you feel welcome or not? Does having the presence of someone in the background really count? Or are guides and how-tos just as satisfactory?

New theme page released

The edna VET team is committed to pulling together  resources  into theme pages that are interesting and relevant to you.  Currently there are 16 themes on Teaching and Learning in VET and 17 themes on Business and Industry The latest one is the last of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classifications (ANZIC) 2006 and has been entitled ‘Other services’. What are ‘Other services?’ I hear you ask.

Well, according to ANZLIC  they are fairly varied including autobody repairs, hairdressing, beauty therapy, and funeral services.  The theme page picks up on the fact that many of these occupations are related to personal care but also draws repairing and maintaining equipment and machinery (with some exceptions) into its ambit.

A nice aspect of this page is that it includes some young people who are part of the 2009 Australian Skillaroos team that has gone over to Calvary to compete – check out the Twitter feed. Lots of discussion happening and you can get an RSS feed to save you having to travel to the website for news every day. Thanks to WorldSkills Australia for using web 2.0 tools to create a rich picture of what is happening over there in Calgary for the 40th International WorldSkills Competition.

The importance of passion

Pride by specialkrb

Pride by specialkrb

I am  moved by Chris Brogan’s post on online communities. It  resonated for me when he speaks about ‘the people who live for community, the ones who know that the human-shaped web is much more powerful in the longer run than any technology out there today’.  He says that community is about making friends, building relationships and looking forward to what can be done together. It is at the ‘core’ of his belief system, and in his ‘blood’.  And that these feelings cannot be reproduced by corporations or people who want to make profits.

I can think of someone who demonstrates Chris’ point. Interestingly enough she expresses this passion in online and offline environments.  She comments on people’s posts, and shares her knowledge in blogs but also works as a face to face volunteer supporting a well known medical NGO.

Obviously everyone is not motivated by genuine commitment or such full-on energy. Can you think of anyone in one of your online communities who does and what  are the qualities that stand out for you? Are they active offline too or perhaps there isn’t a crossover at all….?


Here is something fun!

The question being asked is ‘How does the internet see you?’ and the answer, try Personas . Developed by the Sociable Media Group ,  it ‘uses sophisticated natural language processing and the Internet to create a data portrait of one’s aggregated online identity.’ I just entered my first and last names and the results are fairly broad in four quarters – online, books, sports, and education- in four different blocks of colour expressed in a linear way.  It appears to be pretty simple really but the idea of capturing an online identity in a nice graphic form is appealing… The only thing is sports is really not  one of my things and I am questioning how that result came about! :-).

If you have a common name it might be a bit more interesting but you are really sharing your online presence with other people of the same name. I tried ‘Lyn Clark’ and it came out with online, books, sports, management, genealogy, family committees, aggression (interesting one!), media, education, news, illegal (what does this mean?), legal, social, religious, medical, professional and accident, all in different colours and different proportions along a linear pathway.

It fits into the context of a new exhibition at the MIT Museum exploring the ‘social potential of new communication technologies’ so obviously something visual, quick and fun would be  great  for engaging people in that space. Do you think this tool is just fun? Or could it be something that quickly and easily expresses  ‘digital footprints’ for us with a tweak here and there?