Archive for the ‘Masters of Education’ Category

My reason for writing this is to highlight how PLANE, the online Professional Learning Program for teachers, has been affected as a viable Online Learning Community (OLC) and to draw attention to those who might be unaware of this.

PLANE's landing page

PLANE’s landing page

For the uninitiated, PLANE stands for Pathways for Learning, Anywhere anytime – A Network for Educators. It offers a series of resources and professional learning in ICT for teachers. Learning comes in the form of short skill snacks that take a matter of minutes, to lengthier and more involved quests and courses. There are forum boards, a twitter feed, an activity stream, a virtual world based on Second Life to name but a small number of interactive content. Overarching all of this is the user’s Passport, which sees you accrue points as you journey about the site and take part in a range of activities. Simply, it is an engaging form of stamp or badge collecting. Here is a shot of my Dashboard from late August 2013:

I first came to PLANE earlier this year, during my first trimester of a Masters of Education, specialising in eLearning. A colleague had made a passing mention that I should check it out, and having signed up, I spent about an hour having a click around at this enticing site. This was in March and, having made a comment about it on a Forum panel to my university cohort, my subject lecturer mentioned in a Reply post that it was worth a look, but perhaps after the looming assignment had been completed.

As a result, I did not get back to have a look at PLANE until several months later, in July. It seems that, during this time, substantial changes were taking place that would see this OLC in a very different realm. The first thing I noticed was that the Twitter login seemed broken, so having sent an email from within itself (having managed to connect ‘again’ via Facebook), I heard nothing back from Admin. Later I managed to locate a comment to this effect – and that the Twitter Login would soon be fixed; as yet it hasn’t.

Having logged on, one arrives at the News Page. Here the warning bells start to ring. Firstly there is the current statement, that has been up for many weeks now:

PLANE will cease to validate professional learning or issue certificates for completion of PLANE courses after Friday 27 September 2013. Any registered PLANE professional development completed before 27 September will remain on a teacher’s Institute of Teachers record for the purposes of maintaining accreditation. PLANE will continue to offer the current range of professional learning experiences. Teachers will be able to use this professional learning as Teacher Identified Professional Development only, which is logged by the teacher on the NSW Institute of Teachers website and validated by the school principal or their delegate. Teachers can export evidence pages from PLANE as a standalone HTML website to show their school principal or delegate to have the learning validated on the NSW Institute of Teachers website. For more information regarding Teacher Identified Professional Development, please go to http://www.nswteachers.nsw.edu.au/.

Adding to this concern, the Twitter Feed (#planePL) seems stagnant, with no content from PLANE itself since late June and the Educator spotlight has remained the same during this time (this might be intended). By a sad contrast, the Activity Stream that occupies the right of the screen is scrolling continuously. A quick glance indicates that, for the most part, those “scoring” the achievements are probably new to the site, based on the types of activities that they are being credited with.

Going further and exploring the site in detail only appears to confirm one’s concerns. The events calendar has nothing coming up (the last event was June), the Virtual World is empty when I’ve visited, apart from the three virtual characters at Boot Camp (again, with no events scheduled), the Ask an Expert is similarly stalled in June. Other areas such as the Groups (which boasts a striking 162 groups) reflects stagnation through the lack of activity in Forum posts and outdated page information. One area which seems to buck the trend is the Share Club, where participants have managed to keep the content up-to-date.

In trying to study PLANE for my university assignment as an Online Learning Community, I attempted to do some research as to its status. My Google skills might not be the best, but even I found it difficult to find much in terms of what was going on. What I did manage to locate, in a Forum post inside of the site, was a Google Doc that raised worries about the future of the PLANE website and ongoing viability. Additionally, it highlights particular concern about the loss of accreditation for new scheme teachers, which PLANE offered. There were a number of other concerns raised in a detailed and thoughtfully constructed letter.

The pertinent parts to the response is printed below.

As part of my Masters coursework, participants are asked to take part in Forum Discussions. One exercise asked students to explore the for/against of the statement If you build it, they will come. In writing this post, this seems apt. Perhaps more pertinently is that “they” might well come, but will they stay, or even come back? Are they expected to take on the maintenance of the site thereafter?

It would be nice to know if this last observation is the case. Perhaps this might go some way to helping maintain and foster PLANE’s base. I understand that many of the “pilots” who helped administer the site have gone and that it resembles more of an empty shell today. A lot of money has been put into this and it would be unconscionable to see this drift,  rudderless, towards oblivion.

In closing, take a look at this photo. It is from PLANE’s Facebook page (also with last post in June). For me it captures everything PLANE can and should stand for – the energy of a range of dedicated practitioners who have come together to create a fantastic OLC. Please feel free to forward and disseminate this post in your own social and educative circles. Perhaps it can be steered to a more appropriate course for all users.

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I’ve had an idea for the next tech gadget; I apologise if it is already on someone’s drawing board – and if it exists already, I’d love to hear about it.

It’s a virtual desk. Well, a real desk, that does some ‘e’ things…

The idea came about this morning, while working on a uni assignment. My course is all online; the readings, the university website, even uploading my assignment. At the moment, I am working on an iPad and a desktop, switching between using apps like Notability (great for virtual highlighting and note making on the PDF documents I’m viewing), to stalwart programs like Word (where I’m writing the piece itself). Along the way, I’m dropping out of the virtual realm, making notes, thoughts and doodles on paper.

It’s not entirely satisfactory though, or at least it doesn’t feel right in the sense of a tactile and functional learning process is… or even the sense of the aesthetic. And that is where the virtual desk comes in. I got the idea, in part, from the Australian Museum’s virtual display of a collection of things that bite and sting – the blue ringed octopus, ants, box jellyfish, a shark etc – that you can prod at on a large table, with projections from above, and information pops up about the type of ‘bite’ you have received from your virtual prodding. The desk senses your interaction and responds, albeit in a relatively limited fashion, accordingly (try as I might, I couldn’t find a photo for this post!)

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer ...

John Underkoffler explains the human-computer interface he first designed as part of the advisory work for the film Minority Report. The system, called “g-speak”, is now real and working. Note the gloves Underkoffler is wearing. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The virtual desk would be a real desk that, when switched on, would allow you to have a Minority Report (and now I HAVE found a pic, using Zemanta, that seems to show that something approaching my desk, is on the way). But rather than having something vertical, I’m pitching for something horizontal… traditional. A desk where items, such as documents, would appear in front of you. Items that you could slide around, see at once, write on (whether that be with a stylus, like a pen or pencil) or in a way that leads to type being produced.

I would like to think that the desk could be an old one… even a leather topped one (which is something that I have never owned), or something befitting the title “bureau”. And when you’ve finished and switched it off, that majestic item retains its place in your house, rather than being another in a long line of ‘computer ware’.

Just a thought that I figured I would get down while it was in mind. Feel free to send me a pic if you have something like this at your house!

On Monday I will start my first degree since the early 90s. I’m undertaking a Masters in Education, specialising in eLearning. The differences in the two approaches couldn’t be more pronounced. On the one hand, my first English lecture had 800 odd sitting listening to a lecture from a professor with decades of tenure, discuss (I think) the novel, Joseph Andrews. At the time (1989), I was in awe of the University itself – the oldest in Australia – with the size of its place, all of the buildings and the 1000s of students. So this wonderment transferred quite happily to sitting and (trying) to take notes in an A4 Lecture pad while the one-way delivery of performance was given. There were  “tutes” of about ten people, where we would break down the lecture in a more informal and social fashion. Then there was the social side – of clubs and societies, the cafes and bars and growing friendships. There were no mobile phones, the internet didn’t exist and, as I recall from a Psychology I lecture, “my presentations are copyright, so you are not permitted to make audio recordings of these lectures”.

Sydney University Quadrangle 2

Sydney University Quadrangle 2 (Photo credit: iansand)

How much things have changed. Now my University is 700km away and I am studying “by distance”. Ironically, “distance” can actually be measured in metres; the distance to my nearest computing device. Thus I was checking my (required) university email account as I lay in bed last night via my iPad. I can access all the online readings, the library database, the course notes… even the course participants who I will be discussing ideas and working with, without requiring any form of travel outside of my home. There are Facebook pages specific to the course and a Twitter hashtag to follow. I’ve already started using Notability to turn my required readings from PDFs into annotatable documents that automatically sync to Dropbox. I’ve started to use “e-highlighters” in a range of colours without unzipping a pencil case!

I’m excited with what’s about to follow. Most of my work will occur via a Moodlewhere I’ll be able to take part in discussion bulletin boards, use the class Forum and receive and submit my work. I am conscious of the self paced learning which recommends 12-15 hours per subject per week. It is self paced to a degree as I still need to complete those readings and submit those pieces of work. So while I might not need to sit down for a lecture at 9am on a Monday any more, I am conscious that I need to sit down some time and do that work. My education has, until now, been predicated on a timetable and while it still exists, the goalposts are being excavated ready for the subsequent shift. The irony is that I still play field hockey for my alma mater and fondly recollect that learning that I did in those days.

University of New England (Australia)

University of New England (Australia) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if you ever pop by in the future, feel free to give me an e-kick… up the back side, to keep me on course and get me back to my studies!