RSS .92| RSS 2.0| ATOM 0.3
  • Home
  • About James Clay
  • New Stuff
  • Old Stuff
  • Podcast
  • 100 Ways
  • App of the Week
  •  

    The Journey to Information

    December 3rd, 2013

    Road to nowhere...

    One of the benefits of the internet revolution is that is has widened access to information and knowledge, whilst at the same time reduced the time it takes, the journey to get that information.

    Illustrated London News

    The newspaper pictured above is available to any learner (or member of staff) across Activate Learning anytime, and anywhere they have an internet connection.

    Forty years ago, if you wanted to access a newspaper archive you would probably needed to have been a PhD student or more likely an academic, as the only place you could go was to the newspaper offices and access their archives.

    Twenty years ago, newspaper archives were available on microfilm, I remember when I was at university ploughing through the microfilm archives trying to find a series of articles. There was no integrated search with microfilm.

    Ten years ago we were all accessing newspaper archives on CD-ROMs. These opened up access to the said archives to schools and colleges. They were searchable by keyword, but could only be accessed inside the institution. It was also restricted, as we only had one CD-ROM to one person at a time. Not all newspapers were on CD-ROM and generally the collections only went back a few years.

    Today we have newspapers, digitised, searchable and accessible from any device with an internet connection. We have archives that go back hundreds of years or as recent as yesterday.

    This has made it much easier to access newspaper archives, but brings with it the challenge of managing information overload. Learners need different skills to manage the amount and ease by which information can be accessed. The information skills needed today are very different to those of a few years ago.

    It also means that we need to rethink assessment, ensuring that it is doing what we need it to do. In many ways the journey to information was in the past a way of assessing learning. However now that the journey is so much shorter, we need to ensure that assessment is based on understanding and not just discovery of information. Using something like Bloom’s Taxonomy ensures that when designing assessment it is more than just discovering knowledge.

    The internet and web have ensured that the journey to information and knowledge has got shorter and shorter over time, this is a real opportunity to add depth and breadth to learning.


    Stephen Fry: The Internet and Me

    December 9th, 2010

    Stephen Fry

    I quite enjoyed reading this article by Stephen Fry on the BBC News website (even though it is 18 months old) when I found it for the first time.

    Stephen Fry – wit, writer, raconteur, actor and quiz show host – is also a self-confessed dweeb and meistergeek. As he confesses “If I added up all the hours I’ve sat watching a progress bar fill up, I could live another life.”

    One of the main reasons I like it is one particular quote that I have used time and time again in meetings.

    This is an early thing I said about the internet at the time things like AOL were still huge. I said it’s Milton Keynes, that’s the problem with it. It’s got all these nice, safe cycle paths and child-friendly parks and all the rest of it.

    But the internet is a city and, like any great city, it has monumental libraries and theatres and museums and places in which you can learn and pick up information and there are facilities for you that are astounding – specialised museums, not just general ones.

    But there are also slums and there are red light districts and there are really sleazy areas where you wouldn’t want your children wandering alone.

    And you say, “But how do I know which shops are selling good gear in the city and how do I know which are bad? How do I know which streets are safe and how do I know which aren’t?” Well you find out.

    What you don’t need is a huge authority or a series of identity cards and police escorts to take you round the city because you can’t be trusted to do it yourself or for your children to do it.

    And I think people must understand that about the internet – it is a new city, it’s a virtual city and there will be parts of it of course that they dislike, but you don’t pull down London because it’s got a red light district.

    For me this is a nice analogy of how institutions should look at the internet when thinking about their learners. It’s not about closing off the city to our learners. It’s much more about informing and making learners aware not just of the benefits of the city and the wonderful places that can be seen, but also that there are places in the city they may want to avoid.

    When I was teaching European Studies many years ago, we took a group of students to Amsterdam to look at European culture. There are some wonderful things to see in Amsterdam, however myself and my colleagues made sure we were just as aware of the “not so nice” places to ensure that we could provide the right information and advice to our learners.

    There is of course those learners who will ignore you and go where they shouldn’t (and this also happened on our trip to Amsterdam) and the key here is to ensure that those learners know what to do and to whom they should seek help and support if they do decide to ignore the advice and venture into the sleazy areas.

    The internet has many wonderful sites, tools and services. In my opinion an institution needs to provide the right guidance and advice (digital literacy and information literacy) to our learners to make sure that they can make the most of and find the best of what the internet has to offer. They also have a duty of care to inform learners about the less desirable areas of the internet and how to deal with those parts too.


    To block or not to block

    February 15th, 2010

    Very often in education it is decided that the best way to “protect” learners is to block as much of the internet as possible. This is more often than not the policy in schools, nearly just as much in Further Education, and even in Universities.

    I have for many years that technological solutions such as blocking are a blinkered approach to e-safety and that educating and training learners in how to use the internet safely and to be aware of the issues relating to digital identify was a much better and superior answer. If you block and lock down the internet, it can result in a false sense of security, this could result in learners not been fully protected.

    It would appear that this viewpoint has been echoed in a recent Ofsted report on e-safety.

    There was this interesting article from BBC News on this report:

    Pupils given a greater degree of freedom to surf the internet at school are less vulnerable to online dangers in the long-term, inspectors say.

    “Managed” online systems were more successful than “locked” ones at safeguarding pupils’ safety, they said.

    The article continues…

    The five schools judged outstanding for online safety all used managed systems to help pupils become responsible users of technology.

    So what was the difference?

    …while the 13 schools using locked down systems kept pupils safe while in school, these systems were less effective in helping them learn how to use technology safely.

    Now this is interesting. You decide that the best way to protect learners is to lock down your system, the end result is that they are less protected.

    One of the key reasons that this happens is that as the teachers and management perceive that the network is locked down and thus safe, they don’t need to worry about informing the learners about e-safety and digital identity. Of course once that learner goes home to their unlocked home internet, their smartphone, their 3G dongle, a friend’s computer… they have no concept of how to act responsibly and safely online and as a result put themselves at risk.

    I would suspect that those schools that lock down their systems, have no real idea themselves about the issues and potential dangers of the internet for their learners; and feel that their responsibility only lies with their own computers… let the children fend for themselves outside school….

    Whereas those schools which manage their systems, allow learners greater freedoms, have a much better awareness of e-safety and have ensured that it is part of the curriculum or tutorial programme.

    If your institution is serious about e-safety and safeguarding, it will know that technological solutions are in fact not solutions at all, merely simple aids in supporting a coherent, robust practical strategy and policy based on education and training.

    So what type of institution is yours?

    Who helps your learners “become responsible users of technology”?


    Transforming the World

    March 13th, 2009

    A quarter of the world use the internet and half the world now has a mobile phone.

    The Guardian has an interesting article on an UN report.

    The speed and scale of the world’s love affair with mobile phones was revealed yesterday in a UN report that showed more than half the global population now pay to use one.

    The survey, by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the UN, also found that nearly a quarter of the world’s 6.7 billion people use the internet.

    I assume that if you are reading this that you more than likely have access to the internet (unless some kind soul prints out my blog articles for you to read) and if you do have access to the internet then more than equally likely you have a mobile phone.

    The world is changing and the world is changing fast.

    Transforming the World

    We can’t as a sector afford to stand still, nor is it merely a matter of moving from one state to another. Society and our learners are changing and we need to ensure that not only we keep up with the technological changes, but that we also support our learners to keep up too.

    The problem with ILT and e-Learning is that it will never be a place we can get to, it is much more a moving target and we need to keep moving to keep up.

    For example new services come and go.

    I use to demonstrate Gabcast which was a fantastic free podcasting tool, now it is no longer free. Should you stop using it, well no, it might cost money, but it might be money well spent. College systems may need to change in order to make it simpler for them to pay for services such as Gabcast, but the issue is less money (colleges spend money on lots of things) and more about processes and procedures.

    This doesn’t mean that you should never use Web 2.0 and other free services.At the end of the day, things change, things close down.

    My view is that institutions and individuals need to be more flexible, responsive and robust in how they use services and resources so that when things do change, break, close, or whatever, it has a minimal impact on the end user, the learner.


    Mobile internet usage on the rise

    November 25th, 2008

    Mobile internet usage on the rise

    BBC reports on the fast growth of mobile internet usage.

    Mobile internet use is growing while the number of people going online via a PC is slowing, analyst firm Nielsen Online has found.

    Some 7.3m people accessed the net via their mobile phones, during the second and third quarters of 2008.

    This is an increase of 25% compared to a growth of just 3% for the PC-based net audience – now more than 35m.

    One thing which the survey also found was:

    It also found that the mobile net audience was younger and searched for different things.

    What this demonstrates is that our learners will be (or already are) using mobile devices to search for things on the internet.

    Our learners will also as a result be more likely to utilise their mobile devices to access college web services, so we should ensure that ours are accessible from a mobile device.