Here is my keynote talk presented at the African Digital Scholarship & Curation Conference 26 May 2010, University of Botswana Conference Complex, Gaborone Botswana -- Augmented reality and semantic context: A next big thing is here now
Open Source platforms, tools & approaches for 21st Century connected learning: A Wits case study delete
1123 days ago
These are the slides from my talk at the IST Africa conference in Durban, Thursday May 20th, 2010. Unfortunately, I didn't record it for podcasting.
If you are at Wits, you can also upload your presentations to http://presentations.wits.ac.za and share them online like this.
My speech at 'Cultural practice and memory: reclaiming living heritage through sacred sites'
1150 days ago
Minister for Arts and Culture, Honourable Lulu Xingwana; Deputy Minister, Paul Mashatile; colleagues; ladies and gentlemen.
I am happy to be able to say a few words at this conference entitled Cultural practice and memory: reclaiming living heritage through sacred sites.
This conference is taking place during the International Month for Monuments and Sites. Now I am a biologist turned technogeek strategist, and I have no claim on any expertise in this area. However, way back when I was a high school student living in a rural part of Newfoundland, in Canada, I started exploring the sites that our ancestors had occupied before settling finally in the tiny town of Gambo, at the head of a bay. I wrote an assignment on this for my history class, and I am pretty sure that by now those unprotected sites have deteriorated and all but vanished.
During my university days, I did some anthropology courses, and got involved in underwater archaeology, in which I still have my certificate. I was involved in a couple of underwater digs, and learned how important it is to protect all aspects of our heritage.
I travel quite a bit and often visit historical sites, and I know just how important sacred sites are in preserving aspects of our history; history that is often otherwise unwritten.
The first thing that I noticed about this conference is that it is a partnership among three entities:
the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities
the Department of Anthropology at Wits University, and
the South African Local Government Association’s (SALGA) Gauteng Department of Community Development.
I often say that if I could choose my middle name, it would be synergy. And partnerships of this nature are a way to create synergy and do more than either of us could do alone working with the same level of resourcing. We have too few of everything in South Africa for us to try to succeed without creating synergy. For sure, we will not be innovative without these kinds of partnerships.
While Wits has expertise and research capacity in a number of areas, I would want us to view collaboration and partnerships as much more than us just lending our expertise and capacity to the initiatives of the Department of Arts and Culture and other departments of government. It is in our mutual interest and the interest of our nation that we use these partnerships to strengthen all of us. Indeed, as I have said, without critical mass, there is really no other way forward for us.
Delegates at the conference have deliberated on key issues pertaining to sacred sites in the South Africa. I hope, as do the organisers, that this conference will open up avenues for future research in relation to the development of a framework on management, ownership, access and use of sacred sites in South Africa. A lot of these sites are in rural areas, where sustainable livelihoods are complicated and threatened.
I have confidence that the collaboration of Prof David Copland and his students with the CRL Commission on a very major research project that they have envisioned will produce the kind of synergy to which I am referring. Such an initiative should lead to broadened communication between Wits, the CRL, local government, community stakeholders and the tourism sector. A modest economic development should also result, and none of this would happen without the kinds of collaboration we see here today.
I have a dream for Wits and for our country. At Wits, we hold a lot of materials of historical significance, and we have the potential of hosting a lot more. But we need to hold them in a state-of-the art, world-class facility, and ensure that they are converted into digital representations and that those representations are preserved for the enjoyment and research activities of future generations.
Madam Minister, I have engaged with your National Archivist and the CIO of your department, and I believe that we have much to learn from one another, and much that we can do together in this area as well. All for our mutual benefit of course.
But let me not take away from this gathering with my own dreams, let me welcome you to Wits on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, thank you for this engagement. Let me also express my hope that this is the beginning of something truly special, something that will build synergy and become a win-win-win scenario for all of us, and for the people of our country.
In closing, let me mention that we have our own arts and cultural experience happening this week at Wits, for it is the week of WALE, the Wits Arts and Literature experience. A rich programme activities are enriching our campus, and the cultural life of our community.
Powerpoint and dead kittens
1157 days ago
Since I never use PowerPoint, and wouldn't touch it with someone else's barge pole, I love this image. Just have to share it. It has no pedagogical value, however.
After a discussion with Prof Yunus Ballim, DVC Academic, I have started to give some thoughts to the ideal digital classroom and large class pedagogy for Wits. I am an edutechnogeek, so I have aggregated pedagogy and technology together here. Clearly we need to really do some serious work on the pedagogy of using technology in large classes. My impression so far is that there is very little researched pedagogy for technology in our our context. Please consider this the basis for a discussion, much of it half baked, it being precisely 27 hours since I first started thinking about this.
Note: all software referenced in this blog post is Free Software (open source), and can be implemented easily, quickly and cheaply.
We can imagine some of the characteristics of such a classroom fairly easily. Firstly, people should want to be in the room. The dingy 1970s browns have to go! The walls should be 21st Century in their decor, which need not involve expensive elements, rather simple, psychologically pleasing designs. The rooms should be bright an airy, with well placed lighting that is suitable for the purpose at hand.
Secondly, the seats must be comfortable and suitable for using technology other than the paper and pencil for which our lecture rooms are mostly designed. We can assume all students will bring mobile computing devices to class, so each seat should have an electricity plug. The room should be wireless enabled, with sufficient capacity to support the number of seats in the room.
It is time to replace the green chalkboards with interactive whiteboards. The benefits of interactive whiteboards are well known, though careful consideration needs to put into achieving the benefits. In our case, the lesson from the whiteboard should be easily saved to the eLearning platform in the correct location in a course, and made available immediately to the students. Conventional wisdom suggests that a benefit of this lies in the fact that many students are not English first language, and being able to review a lesson in this way could mean the difference between success and failure.
At the same time, the classroom should have a podcast recording capability. This should be easily interacted with using a simple wireless microphone, and should immediately save the lecture to the eLearning platform after the class. This can easily be implemented currently using a machine running the GNU/Linux operating system, and PodderLive that talks directly to the eLearning platform already. However, research has shown that podcasts do not benefit students unless learning activities that engage the learners are undertaking. Thus, podcasts alone are unlikely to produce benefits. They have to go hand in glove with learning activities based around them.
The room should have two video sources, one pointing at the white board, and one at a lecture position. Both should be able to be webcast to an IceCast server, and made available live online via a filter either in a public website or in the course on the eLearning platform. With the hardware in place, this can easily be accomplished by capturing the video and streaming it from a GNU/Linux based computer running Flumotion or another streaming application that can stream directly to an IceCast server or other Open Source streaming media server.
Two relatively lightweight computers running GNU/Linux would be ideal for controlling this classroom. It would be best if they were fixed in place and had large dual screens with touch controls.
Currently some lecturers use clickers in class, something not without controversy. Alternatives to clickers become possible in the large classroom when all students have mobile devices and WiFi access. For example, microblogging with hash tags that could be aggregated onto a display or onto the lecturer's console. We could easily create the equivalent of what lecturers do with clickers that would send the results to the eLearning platform, and provide for an analysis. Students who miss key concepts could be directed to recorded material, as well as to special face to face tutorials as is currently the case.
Students should be able to interact in the classroom to use whatever device they have at hand. They should not need particular brands of computer, particular software, or even particular categories of device. Some examples of appropriate technologies could include laptops, netbooks, Internet-enabled mobile 'phone', PSP devices, etc.
Students should also be able to use the technologies of knowledge creation, and their blogs and other personal learning spaces should integrate easily into the classroom. We need to build digital knowledge creators, not just digital knowledge consumers.
This is just a first stab at some ideas. Other ideas welcome. Please post them to twitter with the hashtag #large-class-pedagogy.
Fossil watch - what people are saying
1170 days ago
Below is what people are saying in real time, brought to you via the Chisimba reatime collecta API filter.
Note that not everything about these terms concerns the Wits fossil, but there is no current way to disaggregate conversations in real time without some kind of selector that is not under our control.