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Building an Australasian Commons – June 24, 2008: Brisbane


To explore, expand and expound upon the emerging Australasian Commons, the Creative Commons Australia team have organised a free one-day symposium which investigates a range of activities, programme and philosophies driving open access and the cultural commons across Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia.  I’ll be there, participating in a panel on the Creative Commons and Education, as well joining the team facilitating a workshop on ‘Building Knowledge: Open Education Resources (OER) and Research Materials’.  Here are all the details:

… are proud to announce that registration is now officially open for the Creative Commons ‘Building an Australasian Commons’ Conference. The conference will be held on Tuesday 24th June 2008 from 8.30am – 5pm at the State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane, and is proudly supported by Creative Commons Australia (http://creativecommons.org.au), the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (http://www.cci.edu.aau), and the State Library of Queensland (http://www.slq.qld.gov.au).

This event provides an opportunity for those interested in the free internet to come together to exchange ideas, information and inspiration. It brings together experts from Australasia to discuss the latest developments and implementations of Creative Commons in the region. The conference aims to be an open forum where anyone can voice their thoughts on issues relating to furthering the commons worldwide.

The current programme detailing the array of presentations, workshops and round table discussions can be found at http://creativecommons.org.au/australasiancommons. Attendance is free and open to all comers. However, places are limited, so if you’re interested in attending please register ASAP. Registration closes 9  June 2008. You can download the registration form at http://creativecommons.org.au/materials/ccauconf08/
and return it via email to Elliott@creativecommons.org.au.

The conference will be followed on the day at 6pm by the second CCau ccSalon, a showcase of Creative Commons music, art, film and text from Australia and the region.  This will be a great opportunity to mingle and relax after the day’s events while experiencing CC works in action. We look forward to welcoming you at ‘Building an Australasian Commons’.

Keep in mind, it’s a completely free event, so if you’re interested and can be in sunny Brisbane on 24 June, I’ll see you there!

[Image based on Them colors… by jurek d CC BY]

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One of the big announcements at the celebrations of Creative Commons’ fifth birthday was the release of the CC+ (CCPlus) licensing arrangement which combines existing CC licenses with ability to also explicitly point to additional licensing (for example, terms for commercial use on an NC CC license).  From the CC blog:

CC+ is a protocol to enable a simple way for users to get rights beyond the rights granted by a CC license. For example, a Creative Commons license might offer noncommercial rights. With CC+, the license can also provide a link to enter into transactions beyond access to noncommercial rights — most obviously commercial rights, but also services of use such as warranty and ability to use without attribution, or even access to physical media.

“Imagine you have all of your photos on Flickr, offered to the world under the CC Attribution-NonCommercial license,” said Lawrence Lessig, CEO of Creative Commons. “CC+ will enable you to continue offering your work to the public for noncommercial use, but will also give you an easy way to sell commercial licensing rights to those who want to use your work for profit.”

While CC+ isn’t exactly new – it was always possible legally – the simplification of this arrangement is sure to see a lot more people explicating the terms under which they’d released material commercially and, hopefully, this encourage commercial producers to use material in this form. 

In case you prefer you explanations to be more engaging, here’s a video explaining CC+:

If the video is a little hard to watch at this size, head to the full-size version on blip.tv or download a QuickTime movie version (56Mb).  Alternatively, you can check the CC+ page or download the explanatory PDF.

One of the reasons I really like CC+ is that I can really see its value for media produced by students; CC licenses really encourage others to view and share, but having commercial uses spelt out means that if what students create is good enough, they could also see it making money for them!

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From YouTube to UniTube?

It would appear that the University of New South Wales (UNSW) has the dubious honours of being the first Australian university to have their own YouTube channel.  In the past couple of months, there have been a number of reports of US universities setting up on YouTube.  For example, this article from News.com on UC Berkeley’s channel:

YouTube is now an important teaching tool at UC Berkeley.

The school announced on Wednesday that it has begun posting entire course lectures on the Web’s No.1 video-sharing site.

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at youtube.com/ucberkeley.

Berkeley said it will continue to expand the offering. The topics of study found on YouTube included chemistry, physics, biology and even a lecture on search-engine technology given in 2005 by Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

“UC Berkeley on YouTube will provide a public window into university life, academics, events and athletics, which will build on our rich tradition of open educational content for the larger community,” said Christina Maslach, UC Berkeley’s vice provost for undergraduate education in a statement.

Similarly excited press has greeted other US universities, this article on the University of Southern California’s channel (Via).  However, the I think educational administrator and web 2.0 aficionado Greg Whitby notes probably wins the most excited prize for his take on the UNSW channel (Via):

While it’s a great marketing strategy, it recognises where today’s students are.  Although the channel will broadcast some lecturers in an attempt to reach potential students, it captures the ubquitous nature and popularity of Web 2.0.  

This is the democratisation of knowledge – no longer contained within lecture theatres or classrooms but shared.  Learning becomes accessible, anywhere, anytime.  Transportable, transparent, relevant and exciting.

The University of NSW is to be applauded but we still lag behind.  iTunes has developed a store dedicated to education called University.  It’s ‘the campus that never sleeps’ –  allowing universities across the US to upload audio/video lectures, interviews, debates, presentations for students – any age, anywhere.  And it’s free. It’s astounding and exciting to think that a cohort of students and teachers from a school western Sydney can watch a biology lecture from MIT. 

The challenge for us is to open our K-12 classrooms to a new audience – to share knowledge as professionals and to showcase quality learning and teaching as we move from isolated classrooms to a connected global learning environment.

Readers of any of my blogs will know I’m also an advocate for integrating certain web 2.0 tools into learning and teaching.  However, these announcements seem oddly familiar to me – it’s just like the press that came out as pretty much every university in the world embraced podcasting one after another, each pushing out press releases about embracing the future.  However, what didn’t happen half as readily was the pedagogical discussion about how podcasting should or could be used in education.  Nor, I have to say, are we seeing much interrogation of the use of online video via YouTube or other services.  Let me be clear: there is certainly value in using YouTube in particular ways in education.  However, as I argued about podcasting in the past, it’s probably more important to focus on working out new ways to engage students (such as having them create content for podcasting or to post on YouTube) rather than primarily just replicating the top-down structures of lecture delivery. (I don’t have a problem with recorded lectures, I should add, I just don’t think that’s all we should worry about.)

It’s also worth keeping in mind that YouTube is a two-way street as demonstrated by clips of teachers at their worst appearing on YouTube.

[Cross-posted from my eLearning blog.]

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Reflections on the Australian Blogging Conference and Blogging in Education

As readers of this blog will know, I spent Friday at the Australian Blogging Conference at QUT’s Creative Industries Precinct in Brisbane. It was a fabulous, stimulating and intellectually rich conference and a great end to Tama’s-month-o-conferencing. I was the facilitator for the ‘Blogging and Education’ session so thought, in the spirit of the conference, I’d better get my notes up here:

Blogs and Education

The session ran for two hours, with a good balance between K-12 educators and those of us from the Higher Ed sector. After a brief (well, brief for me) introduction, the session was loosely structured around three main questions…

Why blog in education?

The Pros

* Allowing students to connect with community, family and an intellectual arena beyond the boundaries of the classroom.
* While most educational institutions have some sort of Learning Management System (such as Blackboard), the architecture of these systems tends to be inward-focusing, getting students thinking that everything they need is inside the walls of the black box. Blogging, by contrast, is outwardly-focused and keeps students focused on the broader (potential) public or audience they may be writing for. Thus, if we’re teaching life-long skills, blogs are often better platforms, due to their openness, than other closed systems.
* Blogs can meaningfully extend the educational experience, giving students a space to engage, write and communicate beyond the tutorial room. The uptake of this opportunity will often be uneven, but it’s often the less confident students who flourish in blogged communication.
* in certain contexts, blogs can become ‘student property’ once a particular unit of course is over, thus allowing students to continue to build and use their blogs (this clearly differs depending on the context and aim of an educational blog, and on the age of the participants).
* Blogging as an ethos is about sharing knowledge, building ties and acknowledging the input of others – all key characteristics of good pedagogy!

The Cons

* Having purchased the (usually quite expensive) Learning Management System, the majority of schools and universities invest most of the training, support and infrastructure costs to maintain the hardware and use of this system. Blogging is thus often done using peripheral tools which educators must teach themselves to use rather than getting central support.
* Many institutions desire to contain and control everything that students are producing, both in terms of protecting student privacy and in terms of protecting institutional intellectual property or even just keeping work away from outside scrutiny. While this can be overcome, it’s often IT and central policies which have to be convinced and converted to make the use of blogs (and other web 2.0 tools) feasible.
* At times education in Australia is still focused on the idea of a digital divide – where the aim is to get every student access to a computer – whereas the meaningful discussion needs, really, to shift to the idea of the participation gap – where the focus needs to be on ensuring all students are familiar with network and digital literacies, thus being able the meaningfully utilise social software and other tools, which is a lot more than just having occasional access to the internet.
* The mythos of the digital natives tends to scare many educators because it suggests that many younger people (dubbed digital natives as they’ve never know a world without the internet) will always have more familiarity than their teachers (who are dubbed digital immigrants since the web appeared at some point during their lifetime) and thus teachers are worried about not being knowledgeable in these areas.

Examples and reflections?

K-12 Examples

* Year one ‘Little Gems’ blog – Amanda Rablin demonstrated this outstanding blog by year one students (!) which not only broadened their classroom experience, but also showed a level of reflexivity well beyond the primary school level!
* PodKids Australia – From a year 4/5 class in a WA country town who have used podcasting (and their blog) to communicate with their parents and the wider world in a sensible, thoughtful and safe manner.

Higher Ed Examples

* Self.Net Tutorial (Monday 2pm) blog – An example of a blog used to expand the engagement of students in the tutorial process, and extend their potential interaction beyond the confines of the classroom.
* iGeneration Honours Unit blogs – A full university unit where the entire curriculum is online (collaboratively constructed by the unit coordinator and the students) as well as all of the students work – which include critical evaluations of blogs and podcasts as the major assessment item – and the week-by-week tutorials in the course.
* Communication Studies 1101 link blog – the least exciting of all the examples, but nevertheless useful, this blog is simply a series of links to useful material for students in a first-year Communication Studies course at UWA.

(All three Higher Ed examples use Creative Commons licenses to make legally explicit the intention that students’ content can be build-upon by others, on the condition of citation. I was particularly pleased to see both Elliott Bledscoe and Jessica Coates from Creative Commons Australia in this session!)

Missing from these examples was the best use of blogging as per blogging as a participatory cultural form which is a course-length blog maintained across the three to five years of a degree. One good example I’ve found now that the session is over is Sarah Demicoli’s Looking Up? blog; notably Sarah is a student in Adrian Miles’ Labsome Honours cohort.

Should academics blog?

This question ended up being divided into two parts: should K-12 teachers blog, and should academics (and doctoral students) blog? The first question proved far more complicated in that there is an expectation that teachers in the K-12 environment will share less of their personal lives with the world. The accountability that comes with being a teacher – especially from parental expectations – means it’s something of a challenge to share too much of a teacher’s life publicly, less it be seen and critiqued by parents or students. Likewise, the important line between teachers and students was one of those areas where teachers need to be especially careful when using social networks like Facebook or MySpace because ‘friending’ students might inadvertently be read as entering into a social dynamic with students which is generally something of a taboo. Some folks felt this was particularly complicated since some teachers using social networks might be less familiar with the social norms of the platforms and accidentally cross a line – or be perceived to cross a line – by accident. Sadly, excessive accountability seems to be one of the major reasons that teachers would be hesitant to blog – or at least only blog on a narrow band of topics. That said, there was still a sense that teachers would blog if they found the right reason or topic, but that the boundaries as to what other personal information would find its way online would be a very solid boundary indeed!

On the ‘should academics blog?’ front, things were decidedly more optimistic. There was a strong sense that academic blogs were a rich source of information, insight and commentary and that these were often far more accessible than other forms of academic writing. I asked a particularly loaded question – should academics feel obliged to blog since in publicly funded institutions the onus is to share our thoughts, research and ideas with the public, not just a our peers via peer viewed gatekeeping – and a few people were enthused by this idea, although there were a few comments about the need to have peer review before academic ideas escape into the world. The confusion surrounding danah boyd’s MySpace/Facebook class paper, and her subsequent reflections on the process, proved a useful example. That said, the biggest boundary to academic blogging seemed to be the amount of time it might take, but most people in the session thought it was time well spent!

I should add that these notes are re-constituted from rather poorly recorded keywords during the session, so further reflections, comments and notes on this session are most definitely welcome!

The Rest of the Conference

I don’t have terribly detailed notes from the other sessions I attended (which might be a blessing since caught the red-eye from Perth the night before the conference was thus a little less than coherent in the morning sessions), but thankfully being a blogged event, there are plenty of posts about the conference worth reading. Reflections well worth reading include those from Senator Andrew Bartlett, Australia’s most web-savvy politician. Derek Barry has posted three detailed reports on the Morning Panel discussion, The Politics of Blogging session and the panel on Citizen Journalism. Mark Bahnisch, one of the Politics of Blogging facilitators, has also posted on the ‘state of political blogging’ specifically for that session. Robyn Rebollo has notes from the conference which include reflections on the Legal Issues and Blogs session. Nick Hodge was one of the facilitators for the Business Blogging session and has posted both his notes and powerpoint slides. Likewise, Joanne Jacobs has some useful notes from The Future of Blogging closing session, and Kate Davis’ notes from the parallel ‘Building a Better Blog’ session are useful, too. Conference notes and reports keep emerging, so watch the blogoz tag on Technorati for more.

I should say, as well, that I was fortunate enough to catch up with a whole bunch of folk I’ve known through blogging, social networks, shared research interests and so on, but never actually met in the flesh before. It was great chatting with Brian Fitzgerald, Jessica Coates and Rachel Cobcroft, as well as Elliot Bledscoe who I met a few weeks earlier, all of whom are part of the Creative Commons Australia team, which Brian leads. Given their enthusiasm and energy, I’m sure CC Australia has a lot going on in the future, and with any luck I’ll be involved with some of the CC and Education things as they emerge. I also chatted to Melissa Gregg, Jean Burgess and Axel Bruns, all of whom are blogosphere friends who its nice to see annually (or thereabouts) at conferences. Quite unexpectedly, I ran into Sarah Xu who I’ve met through local fannish events, but I hadn’t realised she’d landed in sunny BrisVegas to write her doctorate, which is creatively exploring the important question: “how can cyberfeminist practice and Web 2.0 applications be used to recode gendered representations of women on the Internet?” Sounds like a thesis worth watching!

Finally, a huge congratulations to Peter Black who put the conference together and assembled a fascinating group of people to participate in some really meaningful exchanges! Time to start planning for next year …

Update: Peta Hopkins also has some notes from the Blogging in Education session, including a several things I’d forgotten we’d talked about (including ebublogs.org).

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Learning Futures: Day One Insights

I’m at the Learning Futures Symposium today and tomorrow.  I’m not blogging summaries of sessions because, to be fair, that’s often quite dull.  However, I thought I’d take the opportunity to take the conference discussions to springboard some observations or thoughts that occurred during these interactions…

Insight #1: There is a reasonable amount of critical distance in terms of the ‘digital natives/digital immigrants’ rhetoric, but the same critical perspective doesn’t stretch to critiquing the idea of ‘web 2.0’.  Whereas ideas which supposedly encompass an entire generation are easy enough to pull apart, many educators seem wary of software and claims made about software as they acutely feel that this is one of the few areas in which students know more about this area than they do.  I suspect that if the same educators were dipping their toes in a little more they’d realise something commonsensical which seems to have entirely escaped these kind of conversations: that while there are many types of web 2.0 software, there are generic skills to be found in using these tools and platforms.  The reason that people can move from Friendster to MySpace to Facebook so easily, for example, is that at a basic level there is a lot of similarity between the way these platforms operate and the skills needed to use them.  Sure, the rate of new names of software can be overwhelming, but if we remember that a large section of the skills learnt using one social software platform are viable for the next, super-duper, upcoming must-have web 2.0 tool are transferable, that makes taking the time to learn and teach them a whole lot more important and palatable.  And social software platforms are just one example; skills in blogging, using wikis and many other forms of ‘web 2.0’ tools are similarly transferable and, at some level, generic.  Perhaps we should be focusing more on what those skills are.

Insight #2: Often the people in the driving position for educational policy aren’t confident to make decisions about ICT – nor should they be!

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It’s Going to be a BIG September!

I’m attending four conferences or symposia across the next four weeks.  In a perfect world, each will come with details blogging; however, if I don’t get around to writing much for a few weeks, here’s why …

[X] Learning Futures Symposium – 10 & 11 September, Canberra – This is a two-day symposium held at ANU looking at the changing shape of education, pedagogy and learning in general in the face of changes brought on by digital communication under the web2.0 umbrella.  The programme (pdf) looks pretty interesting, with showcases of Australian social software educational efforts and some great sessions which are more centred around conversations than too many formal presentations.

[X] Thinking Society, Thinking Culture – 13 & 14 September, Perth – This is an interdisciplinary forum organised by the Institute for Advanced Studies at UWA with the aim of bringing WA’s many academics, researchers, artists across the range of historical and cultural studies, and other social sciences, together the share their work and build fruitful interdisciplinary networks and exchanges.  I’m giving my paper “‘We’re sorry, but the clip you selected isn’t available from your location’: Watching Battlestar Galactica in Australia and the Tyranny of Digital Distance” in ‘A Digital World’ session which takes place on Friday, 14 September starting at 10.30; this panel will also feature Toby Burrows talking about ‘e-Research and the Humanities: Current Directions’, Ethan Blue talking about ‘Prison Medical Photography in Early 20th-Century California’ and Jeremy Blank speaking on ‘Past,Present,Futures:Integrating practice in Visual Art studies’. 

The keynote is being delivered on Thursday (13th) evening by Ross Gibson from UTS talking on “The Aesthetics of Repletion“; this talk is open to the public, so if you’re in Perth, come along!

[X] PerthDAC – Digital Arts & Culture – 15 to 18 September, Also Perth – DAC has a history of being at the cutting edge of digital arts and media studies and this year looks to be no exception.  There’s lots to look forward to, from talks on blogs in education to Axel Bruns on produsage to a host of key names in game studies talking about everything from Second Life to the Wii. DAC is concurrent with BEAP (the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth) so the theory of DAC will mix with the performance and exhibitions of the latest in digital art which will no doubt be a very rich and exciting four days!

[X] The Australian Blogging Conference – 28 September, Brisbane (Free!)- Sessions will include The Politics of Blogging; Researching Blogging; Blogs, Creativity and Creative Commons; Legal Issues; Citizen Journalism, Blogs and Education; Business and Corporate Blogging; and Building a Better Blog.  I’ll be facilitating part of the Blogs and Education session, although I’m not sure how many people will be there since I suspect the concurrent Citizen Journalism session, which includes a focus on YouDecide2007, might prove quite a draw-card.  That said, Blogging in Education is certainly fun to talk about and there’s a lot going on in the world of edublogging, so I trust we’ll have some great exchanges in our session, too! To see who’s already confirmed they’re attending, click here; that list will grow substantially across the next few weeks, I suspect!

I’m also chuffed it’s September because that means Jill Walker Rettberg will be joining us at UWA for the month! And let’s not forget that October will also include Australia’s first Podcamp which will also be held in Perth!

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Australian Blogging Conference: 28 September 2007


The big news of the day is that The Australian Blogging Conference, a fabulous-looking free one-day event exploring everything about blogging in Australia (including education and Creative Commons!) now has a date: Friday, 28 September 2007 in sunny Brisbane! All of the details are here. I’d write more, but I’m now running around to see if I can get myself from Perth to Brisbane for the day of the conference!

 Update: I’ve successfully organised flights and my benevolent university has agreed to part with me for the day (yes, the day, so I’ll be on red-eye flight at midnight Thursday flight!) so Aussie BloggerCon here I come! 🙂

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Powerpoint: Learning through Laughing

Using PowerPoint poorly is probably one of the most common sins of academics in the early twenty-first century. Being told how to make slides properly is useful, but so is an eloquent example of bad slides. Thus, comedian Don McMillan makes all of our lives a little easier, as he demonstrates powerpointlessness in his stand-up routine. Check it out:

Life After Death by PowerPoint

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Perhaps this should be mandatory viewing for all teachers?

[Via and Via]

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