Wednesday, March 30, 2011

OpenStack is some serious shit!

Being backed by Rackspace, NASA, Dell, Citrix, Cisco, Canonical and over 50 other organizations make this a force to be reckoned with... and two of my current favorites of Rackspace and Canonical... and given I run nothing but Dell (servers, desktops and laptops) at home with a mix of XP, Vista and Ubuntu, I'd have to say Dell could be considered a favourite as well. I digress. OpenStack is going to provide the freedom to move your applications around with relative ease, if your an IT shop with Internet facing applications / servers I'd strongly suggest you start becoming aware of OpenStack and where available, playing in this architecture for building apps and sites.




Ignore copyright and blissfully create OER

One of the themes coming from SXSW was comments that 4chan founder Christopher "moot" Poole made in how Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) doesn't get it. And how anonymity isn't cowardice but allows a greater freedom to create. I agree.
"totally wrong on anonymity being total cowardice. Anonymity is authenticity. It allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, raw way. The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself.” - Poole
I believe this also applies to the creation of Open Educational Resources (OER). I Increasingly believe that people are not contributing to OER projects in any significant way due to having to assign copyright to the works they create or not being encouraged to contribute anonymously. Other than Wikiversity, as far as I know, there are no OER efforts where people can contribute in any depth with complete anonymity. I believe having to login to a system to create OER and having to assign a copyright is hindering the success of OER and its widespread adoption. Here is why I believe this;
  1. In the OER context, copyright is there to protect the institution. fair-use and fair-dealings allows anyone to use copyrighted materials for research and  private study. And the interpretation of these should be liberal and ask whether the dealing with the content was genuinely fair. Any materials you create are yours regardless if you assign a copyright (unless you gave this away via professional or contract obligations). And due to fair use / fair dealings anyone can use the materials you have created. Given you are creating and learning within an OER context openly sharing is a part of the journey. So why be burdened with having to decide upon, think about the issues around assigning a copyright to your work? Just create, participate, use, reuse, and enjoy your learning! Leave the copyright issues to the institutions, not the learners.
  2. I also believe having to assign a copyright (creative commons, gpl or other) can be a barrier to contribution. Its intimidating for the newbie. I know I've been considering the issue for a number of years and I have switched between CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, CC-BY-NC-SA, copyright rejection and a complete abstinence. And I distinctly remember wading into the copyright arena with hesitation, at first brush it can be pretty heady stuff. And if a graduate level technology person hesitates (me) what do other adult learners think when confronted with the copyright issue. If one of the main ideas behind OER is to encourage contribution why put a barrier in the way. Just encourage people to create, use and re-use and don't think about copyright; for what they are doing falls under fair-use / fair-dealings.
  3. Anonymity would allow you to create OER with reckless abandon (in an unvarnished, raw way), without fear of some kind of academic scrutiny. If the OER is referenced, used, and reused that proves its worth, regardless of who created it. In the end it is about your own personal learning, if what you have created has a value to others that is a bonus, but not the purpose. And I will hedge that the deeper the personal learning in creating the resource, the more valuable the resource is to others.
Why is the OER movement so adamant upon the learner / creator having to create public profiles and assign some form of copyright? When the reciprocal of no license and anonymity could increase contribution. And could even leave the community of OER creators, users and re-users to identify the quality OER through their referencing, using and reusing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Challenging the copyright status quo in OER

A couple of days ago I commented on a post titled "Paul Stacey from BCcampus: Open Education and Policy" on the creative commons blog (funny thing, it never was accepted as a comment). Now I really think that Paul has made a great post because it is increasing the dialogue around the issue of copyright and OER... All Good! My comment was questioning the use of copyright by the adult learner within the OER context, this is what I posted;
This post is fantastic! Having the chart is a great addition to see who is doing what... One of the items around copyright that I don't see discussed is how fair-use and fair-dealings has an impact. Given fair-use is a looser approach, lets consider the tighter of fair-dealings where copyright materials used for private study isn't governed by any copyright. I agree with this, using materials for learning regardless of copyright should never put you in violation of copyright. I've looked for case law on this issue and to date I have found none. I'd like to see an individual lose a copyright suit when they used the material for their personal learning. I don't think it is going to happen. So essentially copyright / GPL / CC / copyleft is irrelevant for the learner. So the application of the copyright (or other) is about protecting the institution from copyright violations not the learner. So why is the learner burdened by these issues around copyright? If I create some OER (as long as I haven't given my rights away due to a contract or other) it's mine, regardless if I attach some form of copyright to it. I'd like the discussion to be around refusing copyright. If I create OER, my choice then becomes; do I want attribution or do I want to put into the public domain without attribution. All other forms of copyright don't matter to the learner given fair dealings / fair use. Cause no matter what license I attach to something, every other learner can ignore it due to fair dealings / fair use... if OER is about education being an attainable goal for everyone, why are we burdening everyone with copyrights that are there to protect the institutions? Or have I missed something?
So, I believe every adult learner should ignore the burdens of copyright during their research and private study and learn, create, use, re-use open educational materials with reckless abandon. And during that time I will continue to look for case law challenging fair-use and fair-dealings.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Create your own life long learning portfolio

Why should creating a learning portfolio be limited to K12 children? This is a great short video describing the Learning in Depth work of Kieran Egan, the idea makes such fundamental sense. The idea being that children have a project (or two) that is carried through their full K12 experience. I believe very strongly this simple idea would apply very well to adult learners, for the same set of reasons that it applies to the K12 learner;
  • celebrates learning
  • supports the building of expertise
  • goes beyond building a superficial understanding
  • following your bliss / engage your imagination
  • lives beyond a single year
  • ebbs and flows as a life well lived does
  • has no limits to depth and broadness
  • watch the growth toward mastery in a subject

How to get started? Set up a blog... commit to exploring an idea of great interest over a long period of time. Aspire to mastery of the subject over many years. Love your learning...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inspired Adult Sk8r

Rod is a friend who has taken it upon himself to learn how to skateboard at the youthful age of 40-something. He was inspired by the interest show by his 10 year old daughter and a friend who has a 15 year old son. Rod wants to learn to ride the bowls in a skateboard park. He wants to drop into a peanut shaped swimming pool and be able to ride the rails. At 40ish this is no easy feet, IMHO Rod is an inspired adult learner. During our conversation about his learning processes, I was deeply inspired. He spoke of how he uses the Internet to watch YouTube videos about how to skateboard. He can't get enough YouTube videos on how to ride in a swimming pool. He seeks out all the information he can on the internet and then uses this to deepen his learning. He takes all he has learned to skateboard parks and try's to put it into practice. He was very inspired by two videos put together in 2009 about how to skate a swimming pool.

What was most inspiring was when Rod spoke of the fear he has experienced as he try's to drop into the pool to begin a ride. To do this right you have to commit to falling head first onto concrete. Not an easy fear to overcome, particularly as an over 40 adult. I consider Rod an inspired adult learner who is using the Internet to enhance and deepen his learning.

Inspired Learners Series

Inspiration in online learning can be found in many places. You can find many people who use the Internet to learn new things. And increasingly the Internet is being used for personal learning, there is no shortage of examples and resources. The idea of this series of posts is to celebrate adults who use the Internet as a learning resource, to tell their stories and to encourage others to do the same. As I have said before my focus is on Inspiring Adult Learners, I hope this series of blog posts will do just that; Inspire Adult Learners.

If you have a story of your own online learning or another person's online learning please let me know.

Sincerely, Peter Rawsthorne

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What do the teens think of OER

This project is in the idea formation stage for me. I need to get it out into the open so I can discuss it further and have people critique my beliefs / ideas. If you come across this blog post please make comments, give feedback. It will improve my view and deepen my understanding. Thank-you.

I believe some emerging efforts around Open Educational Resources (OER) and related copyright and accreditation issues are born out of a traditional view of the educational world. I believe some influential groups within the OER movement is taking something that is currently open and free and wanting to pull it back into the restraints (and business model) of the institution. The institutions need to "control" the content and accreditation process or they will increasingly lose relevance. The OER movement is currently active around issues of copyright and accreditation under the guise of making a better "educational" future. What they seem to be doing is taking continued control of the "educational" future, whether consciously or not is IMHO irrelevant. The people who are going to be most impacted by these changes are the current K12 students and younger (in all corners of the world). Their voice isn't included in many of these OER and related issue discussions. I believe we need to include their voice by gaining greater understanding of their thoughts around OER, copyright issues, accreditation and how they want to learn, and how they are learning. I believe this is a critical pedagogical issue, and we need to engage those who will be most impacted.

Another important piece of background information is I am parent to three children; Ana Rose (15), Lucas (5) and Kai (4). I have expressed concerns about public education, in particular higher education. I see OER as an amazing opportunity and I want it to remain free, open and focused on the needs of students, regardless of ethnicity and socio-economic position. I don't want my children restrained by an old paradigm.

Teens don't care about OER, copyright issues and accreditation (particularly, when it comes to learning). Learning should be free and with the internet they have access to all they need. Given fair-use and fair-dealings all content is already open for educational use. Accreditation will be replaced by good reputation management and success doesn't require a credential.

I'd like to begin a movement of smart mobs that discuss this and related topics. The data gathering would occur using a world cafe and / or open space approach with the use of video capture of (and by) the participants, participant blogging, wikis and related discussion tools, photographs of drawings and a good tagging strategy. I'd like to find a way where the teens are doing this data gathering on their own, asking themselves the right questions and making these results available to those making decisions / recommendations.
Big question for me here is approach... is this best researched via an ethnographic or action research approach? Or is my approach described above, adequate? How could I best gather some data on this or initiate a movement where teens voices from around the world are being recognized?

Monday, March 14, 2011

So I built my own Pipe Chord

I wanted to start transposing some simple songs to their fingering on the pipe. I couldn't find any blank music sheets to transpose to, so I built one myself. I'm thinking this will work well for me, only after I actually transpose some songs and use them with my learning will I really know.

The idea being I will write the notes on the staff and then figure out the pipe fingering based on the notes. All good. Nice thing is I will also be bringing back some of my musical knowledge that I never really gained.

Cumulative commitment: 6 hours
  • 1.5 hours creating sheet music template
  • 2 hours reading music, transposing "twinkle twinkle little star"

twinkle twinkle little star

I'm still waiting for my pipe, thinking it will be here this week. So, my first task is going to be learning the scales then quickly move into learning a fairly simple tune.

It has also been suggested "twinkle twinkle little star" is easy to learn and has a simple beat so I can easily integrate the tabor. First step is to map the pipe fingering chart to the music. This should be straight forward. My ability to read sheet music is almost non-existent so my learning curve is going to include a many corners. All fun!

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - Music and Lyrics 

Fingering and Notes (with blow strength) for the Pipe

Location of notes of the staff

Also found a great website with blank sheet music. Going to print out the 6-stave (large for elementary school use), just about my speed I suppose;

Cumulative commitment: 2.5 hours
  • 1.5 hour reading
  • 1 hour blogging (refecting upon)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Inspire Adult Learners

A few weeks ago I realized that what I really want to do is Inspire Adult Learners, and this is a big part of what I have wanted to do all along. All the work I have done over the last 25 years that has included completing a Masters of Education, developing a lot of software, teaching adults in many different situations and building online communities has been toward one primary goal. I want to inspire adult learners to pursue their passions and use the current technology to assist and facilitate in this pursuit. If you are interested in directing your own learning; the technology available on the internet can provide you most of the tools you require to start being an inspired adult learner.

Learning happens with a story, some educational resources and good friends.

How to get started
I believe there are two primary activities along the trajectory of self-directed learning online; the consumption of materials and the production of materials. Start with consumption, then very quickly get into production.
  1. Start with blogging. There is no shortage of research indicating that reflecting upon a situation deepens the understanding of the situation. Writing to a blog is exactly that, and to have the blog public only increases a persons quality and further deepens learning.
  2. Get a better understanding of RSS. RSS is the how you are notified of when your favorite new information becomes available.
  3. Set up an RSS reader. Setting up your own RSS reader is like creating your own personalized online magazine that only contains articles you are interested in.
  4. Start tagging. Tagging allows you to create a personalized catalog of all the information you find on the internet.
  5. Further develop your producer skills. Write lots of blog posts about what you are interested, reflect (in writing) about all that you have learned. (Note: creating learning resources for your consumption on how to develop producer skills will be a big part of this blog over the next while)
  6. Iterate; Share... revisit old ideas, build on current ideas, have fun, write, blog post, learn, revisit old ideas, build on current ideas, have fun, write, blog post, learn, do it again...
  7. Engage; Share...tag interesting articles, subscribe to RSS feeds of interest, tag interesting articles, subscribe to RSS feeds of interest,do it again...
Make it all as much fun as possible... I'm going to further develop and reference open educational resources around all these topics, so stay tuned.

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Progressive Video; Platform and Pedagogy

    15 months back I described the design / creation of a progressive video assessment system. The AIM Language Professional (ALP) web site has now gone live and therefore so has the technology platform which implements progressive video assessment. We have also recently submitted this project to be considered for the CNIE-RCIE Award of Excellence and Innovation in Instructional Design, wish us all the best.

    The Platform
    The platform for building and hosting this product is Drupal 6.x using Kaltura for hosting and streaming the video. After a fairly rigorous selection process the project chose Drupal for a number of reasons;
    • its content management features 
    • its community and discussion features
    • its mature developer community and related support
    • the ability to find a very good contract development company
    • its ease to integrate with video hosting and streaming providers
    • its ability to implement a great user experience 
    • its open source

    Kaltura was chosen for video hosting for its openness, ability to integrate well with Drupal, and easy pricing model.

    The Pedagogy
    The AIM language professional site was designed to use existing (yet emerging) pedagogical approaches by  following both progressive inquiry and connectivism. These two approaches are very well suited to encouraging a learner by their progressing through learning modules while being supported by the network of peers present within the site.

    The progressive inquiry model is designed to facilitate engagement in an in-depth process of inquiry and expert-like working with knowledge that are essential for productive participation. The model moves between different activities of discovering and presenting new knowledge, critical reflection, deepening research and activities, and engaging a distributed network of expertise.

    The connectivism model is grounded in forming connections where learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. Aim Language Professional allows a person to create and connect to many different nodes of either their or others’ making. These nodes include; writing, reflection, video, discussion, quizzes, exams, gesture database, notes, messages and posts.

    The use of these two pedagogical approaches occur in the following areas within the site;
    1. Learning organizer – this aspect of the ALP allows the learner to organize all their work into a single online portal that they can easily manage. The innovation occurs in how comprehensive and accessible the knowledge gathering toolset facilitates learning, reflection and mentor/peer based learning.
    2. Mentorship and peer review – the use of learner uploaded video with peer mentorship makes innovative use of video-upload services and the discussion that can occur around the video for assessment purposes.
    3. Remote observation of classroom – the video also allows for remote (asynchronous) observation of the classroom for rapid assessment feedback to the learner.
    If you want a short screencast describing how all this works together feel free to watch the online guide describing the assessment approach.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    Reflections on Software Quality

    There is no avoiding software testing, and no matter at what stage of the software development life-cycle you are, testing will happen. Over the last 25 years I have shipped a lot of software, this ranges from COBOL through to PhP and many programming languages in between. I have worked on medical, insurance, financial, DRM, websites, Mainframes, Minis, UNIX, Mac, PC... whatever, the list goes on. During this time I have learned teams ship and test software differently. I wouldn't say their is one right way to do it, it just needs to be done! The extreme of this could be Google, they ship their software as beta. Essentially, they have their customers test their software, or at least let them know it is still a work in progress. This isn't to say Google doesn't do testing before they release to beta, they do. The other end of the spectrum would be medical or the military, where a bug could be fatal. Needless to say they test their software exhaustively before they ship. The main point being is if their is a bug in the software, it will eventually show itself. The question then becomes how much effort do you put into testing before you unleash your software upon your customers / users? This is an interesting question for it also aligns with your brand and what level of quality is associated with your brand. Google can release beta software and they seem to be doing alright as a company... people are used to them as an innovator and the idea of using beta software is a part of their brand. Your company may be associated with high quality, reliability and works first time, so releasing software with bugs may not be the best approach.

    The great thing is that software testing is a mature practice and their are many options available to organizations who are involved with shipping software. There are many testing frameworks, approaches and standards available. I see there are two themes with software testing; the first being the traditional that was born out of some of the big quality standards like ISO and CMMI. And the second that came from the agile approach of developing software. I have experience within both themes, and my preference is with the Agile / Automated approaches.

    CMMI is subscriptive not prescriptive. In other words it is a set of guidelines where your organization needs to have or create the practices that fit the guidelines. CMMI doesn't tell you how to do it (cause that depends on organizational culture) it just says that you need to do these things if you want to achieve a certain amount of maturity in relation to your organizations software development capability.

    In my mind, Agile testing means automated testing. The idea being that testing is as automated as it can be and is built into the software development life cycle. In some situations an automated test suite is built before coding of the software has begun. Another would be while the software is being built a dedicated Quality Assurance (QA) team builds automated tests and works in concert with the developers to test as features are being buit, this is my preferred approach. All this is known as test driven development. The cool part of this is a projects can have thousands of automated tests and if a software build makes it through all the tests it will automatically be migrated to quality assurance for the next round of testing to begin. If the test suite fails everyone knows immediately and can address the issue based upon the knowledge of what code changes were most recently done. It can be very motivating to developers to have such a mature development environment.

    No matter where your organization sits with all this, thorough testing needs to be done. And having testers who can as closely model end-users would be preferred. If your not that thorough during your software development process your users will quickly let you know where the flaws can be found. Hopefully, your organizational brand will not be negatively impacted by these user discovered flaws.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2011

    Daughters first radio interview as a musician

    Wow!!! I am one proud parent! My Daughter (Ana Rose) was interviewed on CJSF 90.1 FM. She had (with other rock campers) the opportunity to discuss Girls Rock Camp Vancouver and to play some of her own and Kerplunks music. If you want to listen to the radio show in its entirety point your mp3 player at either of these two links, or download the mp3s and load them to your iPod.

    Love you Ana Rose! Keep learning outside the institution!

    A New Culture of Learning

    "A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change", Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown.

    Just finished reading the new book from Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown. It pretty much captures it for me, the whole idea of learning as play and following your bliss (or passion) while pursuing learning is exactly how I see it. If you have been following my blog over the last while and the anchoring of my self-directed "nophd" you will know I firmly believe in the value in learning through following your passion. Outside of the institution it would be a herculean task to complete a PhD without a strong internal motivation. Not to say it is easy from within the institution, just their are structures to help with getting to completion when in the institution. If you are a life-long learner and considering scholarly pursuits this book is a must read for all adult learners; and parents who are wondering best how to prepare their children for a future of constant change.

    I have been a follower of John Seely Brown since his co-authorship of the article "minds on fire". This article galvanized my change of career when I brought together 15 years of information technology work with 8 years being college and university faculty. The reason I bought the book was I caught wind of the difference between a collective and a community and how a person learns within the collective. And how a person within a collective is different than a person within a community. Essentially, the person serves the community and the goals of the community where a collective has many participants and the people are served by the collective. This is an important difference to the motivations behind engagement. From the life-long learner perspective, finding a collective where your interests are strongly aligned is a blessing and a great support for your learning.

    The book also touches upon inquiry and the fun that can be had when asking questions and gaining new knowledge. And how inquiry really focuses on the gaining of knowledge rather than the outcome. You know, its the journey not the destination kind of thinking. This inquiry part resonates for me as I often refer back to the Progressive Inquiry Model when I am thinking and writing about online and learning 2.0. I still see Progressive Inquiry as the first writings about pushing beyond constructivism and provides a model for the activities that go on within connectivist learning. It is the connections that are created within the "progressive" inquiry where the knowledge is gained, developed and grown.

    Thomas and Seely-Brown make use of the word indwelling, which originated from Michael Polanyi. I found the use of the word indwelling as new for me. Though I have thought about it often, particularly as I have been thinking about my "nophd" and how it could take a great deal of time to gain the expertise to have a PhD depth of knowing. And this mastery of a subject occurs through a prolonged study of a subject. For me I recognize this and aspire to master folk music and dance over the next period of time, whether it be 10 or 30 years. As adult learners I believe this is the playfulness and ease which is found as one attains indwelling that will assist in success. All good!

    Where I found the book could have elaborated more is in how this thinking could be applied in institutional environments. Over the last few years I have been very critical of institutionalized learning and recently I have been thinking more about all this great work with the new approaches to learning and rarely do I read about how they could alter and enhance institutionalized learning. I thought the book was going to get into it for it touched upon the number of hours students spend on campus and how much "free" time they have outside the classroom. I see this time as being open to be occupied by this kind of learning, the free flow of exploring ideas and following those subjects which excite the learner, even if they are on campus.

    I loved the story this book told. It did a great job of setting the stage and followed up with a succinct and powerful description of how people are and will be learning in the 21st century. A great read for all the life-long learners who want to add approaches and understanding to their learning.

    Saturday, March 05, 2011

    Consolidation of blogs

    A month ago I decided to move my website hosting all over to rackspace and this has been progressing very well. Changing hosting providers is not a small task as I have my own domains and those of a couple of clients also hosted with netnation. The hosting provider move will require the following steps;
    1. Contact clients, tell them of the move
    2. Assist clients with their move as we agree
    3. Review my services and develop migration strategy
    4. Consolidate my blogs
    5. Create rackspace instance
    6. Move with focus on creating and testing email services
    7. Move with focus on email services, mysql, php, REST APIs, and Drupal
    8. Move with focus on website and email services
    The move of docudance went very well, and in the process a new developer released a completely reworked version of the site. It looks great!

    I have also moved my first blog (2004 - 2007) from to have all the post a part of this criticaltechnology blog. There was not an export service from my original blog so this took some effort. It was time well spent as I got to review my past writings. Quite interesting to again read my thinking from six to eight years ago. The main themes and standout posts are;
    • The importance of software quality on technology start-up success
    • The formation of my ideas around ICT4D and how it should be driven from the village out
    • The creation of a Learning Systems Architect job description
    • A whole lot of thinking about Agile software development and how to manage small teams
    • Prediction of SEAMLESS LEARNING

    The next phase of the migration is to create my new rackspace instance. Oh, the technical fun begins...

    Thursday, March 03, 2011

    Internal corporate blogging

    With such large numbers of knowledgeable and skilled people retiring, wouldn’t it make sense to have them blog (or contribute to a wiki) every day as a part of their job description. They would create postings about the work they do and the wisdom they have before they leave the building for their retirement. Once in a blog or wiki all this knowledge could then be indexed by the internal indexing / search engine and it wouldn’t be lost.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2011

    Sir Isaac Newton and Lorenz's Butterfly

    Oh the wonders of Morris Dancing. I came to a deeper understanding of one of our dances over the last week. The dance is known as Lorenz's Butterfly. I actually find it one of our most beautiful dances, this is due to its dynamic flow and simplicity.  It is also the only dance I know how to call. Here is a version danced by Bogart's Breakfast;

    What gave me a deeper understanding was initiated by my watching this outstanding BBC production titled; Complexity - Secret Life of Chaos, and the reading of some amazing scientific minds;

      So what really got me thinking about how all this fits together is how the dance has four dancers ganging up on one dancer, dressed as the devil. I see the four dancers being Alan Turing, Edward Lorenz, Boris Belousov and Robert May all beating up on Sir Issac Newton signifying the death of the Newtonian scientific view. And therefore giving birth to a new science that includes Chaos Theory... The dance has the following moves which signify the following themes;
      1. Opening - ganging up on Newton.
      2. Chorus - exchange of ideas.
      3. Round the gardener - scientific inquiry within a focused area of study.
      4. Chorus - further exchange of ideas.
      5. Flutter - the birth of a new theory.
      6. Chorus - further exchange of ideas.
      7. Lines - the communication of a new theory.
      8. Chorus - further exchange of ideas.
      9. Exit - the setting free of the new theory.
      So there you have it. A Morris dance interpreted as scientific discovery or is that scientific discovery interpreted as a Morris dance, or is that a small jig that sets off the wonders of a whole chaotic Ale... Oh the magic of it all.