Friday, 6 July 2007

We have lift off!

Last Saturday we went live with our first Online course. TAFE Outreach Lake Macquarie has done it again!! We’re leading the way in the online delivery of Outreach courses, and we’re loving it!!!!

The course is Introduction to Event Management, and the students are a wonderful group of young Aboriginal students who are also employed under the Australian traineeship program.

A couple of weeks back, Cass and I drove to the Sport and Recreation camp at Point Wolstoncroft where we met with and enrolled the students. To give the group the opportunity to test their skills, interest and team building ability, we had a lot of fun doing warm-up activities.

The activities went like clockwork and the young people made a huge impression on both of us. They got right into the case study and pretty soon they came up with some excellent ideas to answer the questions associated with it.

These students demonstrated they really understand the adage ‘there is no I in team’. They worked together, encouraged each other, and in no time at all, they became a fully integrated team who knew how to get down to business and come up with the goods.

I’m fortunate to have the chance to work with such intelligent, committed and revved-up young men and women. I know we're going to have a lot of fun in the Virtual Classroom and the outcomes will demonstrate success with a capital s.

Our Virtual Classroom is based on true multi-media activities. We've already broadcasted our first podcast, and we've uploaded course notes and assignments. The V.C also has a photo gallery, a notice board and heaps of other stuff. In a few weeks we'll be using video streaming and students have the option to create assignment videos and online slide shows.

With the introduction of the virtual classroom, course work has never been more interesting and exciting. And the big plus is, the more the students use the technology, the more confident they become and the stronger their vocational skills get.

I’ll keep you posted on our progress. This is teacher/student partnership at its best.

Cheers, Suzanne

PS: A colleague sent me an ePoster for the RSVP Event conference that will be held at the Sydney Convention Centre, Darling Harbour on July 17 & 18.

Registration is free, but places are filling quickly. Thought you might be interested so I’ve added the link for online registration.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Ya Gotta Love Teachers!

A great tribute to teachers. It's fun and it's fantastic viewing.

My response to Dr Yoni Ryan

As part of my current post grad course I was asked to respond to Dr Yoni Ryan's article on Online Assessment. This is my response.

Please leave your comments too.

I was pleased to read Dr Ryan did not have a destructive Luddite agenda with regard to Online Assessment, and I was heartened by his repeated comments about students needing, and requesting, regular feed back on their progress.

Dr Ryan’s article was written in 2000 and there has been an incredible amount of technological advancement in the intervening seven years. This advancement has brought with it many additional checks and balances to improve the earlier problems of student identify fraud and plagiarism.

The new IT systems, now being used by universities and colleges, allows teachers to run checks that will test the originality of work submitted, and I am certain we are not far away from wide application of student fingerprint and iris log on authentication.

However until then teachers must continue to work around the limitations they have with regard to online assessment and find effective ways to build complex analytical tasks into their course material. Dr Ryan focuses on limited funding and time constraints facing teaching institutions and professionals, and most will agree with him.

Dr Ryan mentioned feed back to students. He did not mention the fact that dedicate learners want genuine feed back about their progress and this is a great motivator for them to submit their own work and not rely on the efforts of others. Sure there will always be some who will cheat in order to get good results, but most actually want to know how they are doing. They do not want to know how someone else is doing.

It is therefore essential for teachers to think creatively about online courses and challenge students to find exciting ways to research, develop and present their work. Teachers need to use the technology to push the barriers outwards. Taking this approach will engage the students and they will want to take up the challenge themselves in order to test their own ability.

If teachers fail to involve the students and use the technology that is now an important facet of modern society, students will find the course work boring and consider it irrelevant to their world.

An effective way for teachers to engage students is to have them develop special interest communities that will allow them to discuss and share ideas and knowledge. The community members should be encouraged to establish websites and blogs to showcase their work. And there is no reason why teachers cannot design assignments that lend themselves to this sort of public display of the completed tasks.

I have no doubt that Marshall McLuhan would agree that using the technological tools at our disposal will assist learners to express their ideas. And showcasing them is an excellent reward system. Students who participate in online learning will push their own boundaries to explore and use the tools that are available to them; if they are encouraged to do so. Therefore it is up to teachers to validate the use of video, pod casting, You Tube and Teacher Tube movies, video conferencing, and anything else they can get their hands on. Students will respond positively and in the process they will demonstrate their creative ability, their ability to solve complex problems and their adaptability.

Dr Ryan’s assertion that students need feed back to succeed is the most important aspect of his paper. It is up to teachers to play an active role in the course activities. They need to join the students and help them build their projects. They need to contribute to the development and they need to bring enthusiasm to the work.

If teachers do this, they will get to know their students well and they will be constantly evaluating them as the project unfolds. Teachers can no longer stand apart from their students. Teachers and students are equal partners in the learning process.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Looking for a life changing event? This is it!!!

This morning I sent this email to everyone in my address book.

Watch this video and I dare you to tell me it had no affect on you. I dare you tell me the video didn't make you reassess your perception of education and learning. I dare you to tell me the video content has nothing to do with reality.

You won't take the dare, because it will affect you. Your perceptions of education and learning will change, and the video has everything to do with reality. It is the new reality and there's no sense hiding from it.

From the number of responses I received there were plenty of people taking early coffee breaks so they could watch it a few times, and then show it to work colleagues.

I decide to put it on the blog to give others the opportunity to see one of the best all time videos. Watching it really is a life changing event.

Friday, 1 June 2007

An Interesting Phone Call

You might remember my friend Brisley – see Blog entry 22 May 2007

Well he phoned me a few evenings ago; to ask if he can enrol in my Digital Movie Making course. 'Sure', I told him. There’s a new one starting next week, so his timing is great. He sounded excited and told me he’s trying to come to terms with his new-tech knowledge deficiency. He said he recently put an idea to his history students that they jumped at. He suggested they make a movie of their history assignment topic instead of handing in a written essay. He said he was amazed by the positive reaction he got from the three class storm troopers; guys who spend their testosterone powered energy devising new and creative ways to disrupt his lessons.

Bris gave a dry sort of laugh and said he had to admit they came up with some pretty unique ways to sabotage his efforts. They created havoc while he tried to lead students through forty minutes of historical fact, peppered with a little fantasy.

The sabotage swat-team attacks included stuff like taking over the whiteboard and filling it with profiles of gangsters and con men; complete with dates and details about their social misdemeanours; all written in the most colourful language of course.

Brisley said he spent most of his time trying to restore order and always went home riddled with guilt about the fact he’d wasted another day and hadn’t taught the students anything worthwhile. Poor Bris; he suffers from acute Mae Culpa Syndrome. A severe complaint, which is the direct result of his Christian Brothers, private education.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I have great respect for the Christian Brothers, but if you’re over forty, I’m sure you’ll agree the guilt thing left its mark on many kids who came through the Catholic Education system of old. The good news is, those times have long gone, and Catholic Ed doesn’t use guilt as a control mechanism anymore.

As a former pre-change Catholic Ed student myself, I can completely sympathise with Bris. I’ve had a long fight with the guilt police myself.

Anyway, back to the phone call. Bris told me he had a couple of quality reds (wine) and did some serious thinking. He knows the trouble makers are bright kids; perhaps the brightest in the class. So he asked himself what he was doing (no, not doing) that made these kids want to wreck his lessons? He said he took his mind right back to his uni days of classroom practice 101, and he remembered his lecturer saying, ‘when things don’t work, don’t blame the students. Examine yourself. It’s always something you’re doing, or not doing, that is the real problem.’ Bris was pretty fired up by now, and he said, ‘as tough as it is to admit, it’s true.’

CP 101 made him take a hard look at his teaching techniques. ‘The solution’, he said, ‘is engagement. I haven’t engaged their minds. And I’ve failed miserably in my teaching role. These kids are really bright. They've got truly creative minds. And they've shown me they know how to research. I was always amazed by the stuff they dig up on their gangsters and cons.’ He laughed again, 'Where the hell do they find that stuff?'

'They Google it, maybe', I suggested. 'So it's all systems go then, Bris?'

'Absolutely. And you know, I'm really looking forward to it.'

Well that was yesterday. The future is full of promise for Brisley and his students. Especially as he’s already told them he’s new to modern technology and they’ll be learning together.

What a great outcome. One we can all learn from. Way to go Bris!

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Well the debate is heating up.

Yesterday I had coffee with a few colleagues, and before the froth had time to settle, we were right into it. It being a passionate discussion about how new technology is lowering teaching standards, dumbing down academic outcomes, and wait for it, actually reducing people's intellectual capacity; especially young people's intellectual capacity.

My friend Brisley (not his real name) became highly agitated, almost belligerent. Completely out of character for him. He's usually a calm, intelligent, witty and articulate human being. Yet, there he was, going red in the face and blustering about modern technology ruining lives, and society as we know, and understand, it.

The discussion quickly moved into choppy water and suddenly all hands were on deck. These were fiery people with their swords drawn. Ready to slay the dragon, and restore peace to the world. Their world, that is. The world of order and predictability; the bedrock of the education empire. These fiery individuals have been programmed to protect the mighty kingdom, and with Henry the Fifth passion, protect it they would.

Never one to back away from a spirited debate, I jumped up, 'How good is this guys? A close encounter with the education police. It's our time! Finally we can get it out in the open and admit things that may have worked in the past, now need a bloody great overhaul. It's up to us to reshape the building blocks so they fit the future. Square isn't square anymore. Square is a cube with green-goo sides.'

Expressions had changed. Not surprising because these intelligent people just needed a little time to adjust. They're squares, changing into cubes. And they were ready.

Brisley was the first to speak, 'O.K. We get it. Now sit down and stop hogging the floor.' I sat. The hum of thirteen voices energised the room. 'I have to admit', Brisley continued, 'when I read a recent article about the death of teaching I was scared stiff. I love teaching; it's what I do best. If teachers become redundant, then I'm dead.' He laughed, 'Oh sure I can retrain and become a new age healer, or horse whisperer, but technically I'd be dead. Because I'd have no soul.'

Caroline patted Brisley's arm, 'Thanks Bris, but you're not alone. We're all scared stiff.'

'You needn't be', I said, 'We're great teachers because of our love for people. We make our students believe in themselves, and we show them how to reach their full potential. We have to use our skills to help people break down the walls. We have to help them put the sacred cows out to pasture, and remind them that neither, politics, religion or education can control their minds, because minds are fluid things that need to keep flowing towards the sea. It's important they know the sea of knowledge is limitless, and the best humans can do is to accept the fact there are no absolutes.' I paused. Sparkling eyes were watching me, 'If we have courage, our work won't be meaningless. And maybe for the first time in our lives, we can examine every concept, value and belief, and re-evaluate them in the light of ever expanding possibilities. Then we must change our teaching from the premise of 'Why? to Why not?'

SUGGESTION: Google green goo

Monday, 16 April 2007

Uni graduates turning to TAFE for job skills

Thanks to my upaid, research assistant, and friend, Ian Skinner, I have this great article to share with you.

Uni graduates turning to TAFE for job skills
Lisa Macnamara and David Uren - The Australian

February 15, 2007

UNIVERSITY graduates are increasingly being forced to enrol in TAFE courses to improve their job prospects, with students armed with arts and science degrees finding they do not have the skills to enter the workforce.

New data shows one in five students enrolled in some technical courses had completed university but required further study to obtain employment in their desired field.

As employers demanded higher skills from graduates, an OECD report released yesterday found Australia's schools spent too much time preparing students for university and gave inadequate attention to other training options.

The OECD says schools should do more to help students get into vocational education and training courses. "The high share of the low-skilled in unemployment and inactivity, especially early school-leavers, suggests that the upper-secondary education system's emphasis on preparation for university is too narrow," it says.

Martin Riordan, head of TAFE Directors Australia, told The Australian that the rise in university graduates taking up TAFE courses was driven by employers wanting more skills from workers.
"They've found it difficult on graduation or nearing graduation to secure satisfactory employment," he said. "They often finish university but go on to try to complement their university qualifications with a trade qualification. Industry in particular is driving it. (They are) wanting a much higher level of skills."

New federal Education Department figures also reveal growth in postgraduate education as students seek to upgrade their qualifications. Overall, last year witnessed a 2 per cent rise in new university enrolments, with 287,000 students starting courses before the end of March.

click the link to read the full story:,20867,21228752-601,00.html

It’s no accident that TAFE is leading the jobs training way. For the past fifteen years the planning and curriculum people have actually been sitting down with industry and commerce leaders and asking them what they need. TAFE listened and responded. It changed course content, improved teaching methods and it got rid of course padding. Thank God for that. They actually chucked out all that bloody stuff that did nothing to enhance training quality.

And now we can take pride in the fact that graduating TAFE students are properly prepared for the jobs they’re employed for. They can actually be productive workers when they first start their job.

Apart from the usual inductions, TAFE trained people start working on real tasks immediately. Employers don’t have to spend valuable hours retraining them, they can be assigned productive tasks from day one.

I just love wandering around the trade schools. It’s great to watch students building brick walls, house frames, fixing electrical equipment and motor vehicle components or building a boat.

TAFE teachers can take pride in the fact we do it well. The students we send out have great vocational skills.

HATS OFF to TAFE Teachers everywhere!!!!

When it comes to vocational training … we’re the best!!!

Ya gotta luv TAFE!!!

Saturday, 14 April 2007

It's an exciting world out there!

A friend pointed out an interesting article in the Sydney Herald by Dale Spender.

Finally there is someone else who understands young people's learning needs. And the fact they need, and want, a new way of interacting with the world.

Young people do not want, or need, to be taught 'talk and chalk' style.

Why? Because they found out a long time ago, that teachers aren't God. And they also found out that teachers don't know everything.

And guess what else they found out? Shock, horror, they found out they actually know a lot more than teachers often give them credit for. And wonder of wonders, they have discovered the joy of being actively involved in the learning process.

They made some great discoveries in very short timeframe. Congratulations to all those young learners out there. Well done kids!

Young people want mentors who can guide them. People who talk to them honestly about the world they're soon going to enter. They want to hear about the good, the bad and the ugly.

They want to be able to make informed decisions about their own learning and how it fits into the scheme of things. Especially how it fits into the world of industry and commerce.

They need good teachers who respect them. Teachers who trust their ability to make exciting and worthwhile discoveries for themselves.

Young learners need window openers and encouragers. They don't need to be: talked at - talked down to - and most of all they
don't need people telling them they can't take responsbility for their own learning.

Why? Because they can! And they do! And they do it very well indeed.

This is a good article and well worth reading.

Hey! Why not have your say and add a comment ... or two ... or three.

Get your friends to jot down their opinion too.

Education of the young, and not so young, is worth the trouble. Go on; Do it!

Monday, 19 February 2007

Introducing Christopher D Sessums

Christopher D Sessums! Now there's a name worth remembering. Christopher D Sessums is someone we should all get to know. He's a guy who has crammed his Blog with wonderful articles. And it's all stuff that's sure to challenge and engage you.

Be warned! This Blog is not for the light-hearted. It's confronting and it makes no apology for getting straight down to business; the business of teaching and learning that is.

Prepare for a full frontal attack and accept the fact you will respond. There's no ducking these questions. They need to be asked, and they need to be answered.

Whatever your response it won't be apathy and you won't be able to write off the work of Mr C.D. Sessums as irrelevant.

Click the link and go there. A new world awaits you: Be aware, you will come away from Christopher's blog with changed attitudes.

I thoroughly recommend Toward a Theory of Discontent: What can learning theory contribute to education?

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Publish or Perish! Still important to get your stuff out there.

This is a message to all my friends and colleagues, especially those who have written novels, training programs, academic articles and other stuff that I know you’ve got stuck in your bottom drawer.

It’s time to drag them out, brush off the dust and have them published. FREE!

Globusz Publishing is looking for new writers. So get with the program guys and send in your manuscripts.

It’s easy, and it pays to get internet exposure.




Check out these links to see what you have to do. Come on, don’t be shy. You know you’re great, so why not share your work with the world. You’ll get great feedback from readers and who knows mainstream publishers might make you an offer you can’t refuse.

WARNING: If you wrote the works while a college or university employee check to make sure the academic institution isn’t the copyright owner. If you wrote it in your own time, and not part of your usual teaching duties, it’s probably yours to give away, but it pays to check before you send it in.

Friday, 16 February 2007

You Be The Judge.

To follow up on a discussion Leigh Blackall and I have been having, I thought I should add a few links so people can better equip themselves to make choices. (see blog 15/02/07 - comments)

These links will take you to some interesting and informative articles. After you read them you should be able to make informed choices about open-source software.,289202,sid99_gci1226999,00.html

There’s a lot more if you search for it, so keep looking.

I am certain of one thing though, and it’s this: how many users actually have the base knowledge to apply any of this information in a professional way? My guess – not many. And that's a large part of the problem as well. You've got people with low-level skills downloading stuff they really don't understand. And when things go wrong they haven't a clue how to fix them.

Often they will stuff around, fiddling with this and that, and before you know it, they created a heap of other problems. Of course they can never remember what they did while they were stuffing around, and that's enough to drive anyone crazy.

Sorry if I sound like a grump here. But I know how much downtime stuff ups can cause. And they're costly. Someone has to invest time in the rebuilds etc. God, don't let me even go there. I think I've said more than enough. Now you be the judge.

Don't forget to leave your comments. They might help others with their decision making.

Thanks Suzanne.

PS: This is not meant to be a 'I'm right; You're wrong' competition. It's meant to generate valid debate to help everyone expand their IT knowledge so they can make better decisions.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Leigh Blackall's Learn Online.

I’ve been reading some of Leigh Blackall's great articles and I'm pretty impressed with his Blog Learn On Line. Some of you may know it as Teach and Learn Online. He's recently changed from Blogger to WordPress.

Every article is worth reading, but if time’s an issue right now, (and when isn't it?), I recommend you start with these two:

Flexible Learning in New Zealand part 2 (You might like to read part 1 while you're at it.)

Deschooling Society.

I think this piece is essential reading for all teachers. It's a great read, especially if you're familiar with Illich's work. But don't be put off if you're not. This is worth the time investment even if you've never heard of Ivan Illich or his deschooling ideas.

True to Leigh’s usual style, all the stuff on the blog is interesting, extremely well written, and thought provoking.

NOTE TO LEIGH: The Moment of Truth piece, struck a chord with me. My son, Simon, has a highly successful IT company. He and his guys have done some impressive stuff with network and internet security for government and large corporate clients, including Australian Defence.

I’ve been given the opportunity to sit in on development meetings from time to time. Listening to the guys talk about the problems they have to clean up daily, and hearing their horror stories, made me realise, a long time ago. that there's a lot a junk being given away in the public domain and it often causes more hassles than it’s worth.

The old cliché stands: you get what you pay for.

So what’s the problem? Why are people so hung up on free stuff?

Is it just that they have tight budgets and really can’t afford to pay for good proprietary product? Or is that humans, especially the Oz variety, just want something for nothing?

When I make a purchase I usually look for quality products. And I’m sure most people would like to have leading brand, top of the range, goods if they had the cash to fund the purchase.

Instead of us all getting behind the freebies, and making them appear to be in high demand because of consumer preference, why don’t we get together and lobby for domestic multi-user licence arrangements?

Hey, think about it. If fifty thousand consumers lobby Microsoft for domestic multi-user licences, don’t you think they would sit up and take notice?

Multi-user licences for the domestic market would allow ten friends to share the purchase cost and then they could all legally install the software on their home computers.

Microsoft sales would increase, unstable freebie software would diminish, and we would have standards again.

And don’t knock standards. I’m probably older than most people who will read this, and for many years I worked in the software engineering division of a large consultancy firm. I can remember the bad old days when every company had its own custom designed software. It was a nightmare. The designers were never available when things went wrong; training cost rocketed because new people had to be taught how to use the in-house systems; and don’t forget the endless update costs. Every time the programmers decided to make changes, whether they were needed or not, the business carried the cost.

I know it's all very exciting to get freebies, but how do you validate programming quality? And what do you do about the system configuration changes freebies often make when you install them? Even small config changes can send you down the path of destruction and you system can become highly unstable in no time at all.