Friday, April 30, 2010

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Green ICT in Sydney

Charles Nolan (Director, IT Infrastructure UNSW) and James Dawson will talk about green data centre design and assessment in Sydney, 5th May 2010.
Green ICT

Within this Green ICT presentation the two presenters will touch on specific Green ICT issues within the Industry.

Charles Nolan will discuss trends in data centre technology such as high density computing and more efficient data centre cooling etc

James Dawson will explain metrics being developed and used for data centre “greening” and strategies for improving metrics once these are measured (and tracked), backed up with experiences from a real-life case study and including an update on the progress made since last year.


Charles Nolan & James Dawson

Charles Nolan is the infrastructure delivery manager and data centre consultant at UNSW.

James Dawson is the consulting enterprise architect at UNSW. ...

Australia Leading the World in Gov 2.0

Senator Kate Lundy (ACT) will be talking on Lessons from Down Under: How Australia is Leading the World in Gov 2.0 in Washington DC on 25-27 May 2010 at the Gov 2.0 Expo. Other speakers include Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Tim O'Reilly.

Title: Gov 2.0 in Australia: Building the foundations for open government

Abstract: Senator Kate Lundy will outline her recent “Public Spheres” initiative which takes government policy development online for more citizen involvement, transparency & better policy outcomes. She will also discuss the pillars of open government & some important technical principles to underpin Gov 2.0.

This presentation will showcase Senator Lundy’s experiences as a case study, and will lay down the policy and technical principles she has found to be most important for Gov 2.0. She will also briefly cover what is happening in Australia more broadly, the difference between Gov 2.0 for political offices and government administration (departments and agencies), and finally what she sees as the core opportunity this provides us as a society to design the government of tomorrow, together.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Innovation week at ANU

Greeting from the last Innovation Week at ANU event for 2010 at "spacedock" (aka John Curtin School of Medical Research), Australian National University, Canberra.

Dr. Thomas Barlow, research strategist, former political advisor and columnist for the Financial Times, and author of "The Australian Miracle". He talked about "Innovation in Australia". Thomas grove a humorous introduction describing the ANU as an oasis of civilisation in
the politics of Canberra. He then suggested Australian might be the only developed nation with an extended period of GDP growth in recent years.

He then explored the myth of the "lucky country" pointing out that Australian has high levels of working hours compared to other developed
nations and that even resources extraction requires technological skills and hard work. Australia's economic growth has been accompanied by an "explosion" in investment in R&D (1.7% of GDP?), greater than the UK.
Australian university have doubled their investment in R&D, joining the "category A" nations, with small populations.

Thomas claimed there have been a revolution in Australia's R&D capability, but few have noticed. However, his comparisons are with the USA and UK, which are now not leading technological countries. He argues that this is a perception problem and attributes this to the structure
of the Australian economy. Previously a major area for R&D was in telecommunications. This investment does not appears to have paid off,
in comparison with Finland: we do not have a Nokia. Australia has had a boom in the services sector. However, this is not visible to the general

Thomas pointed to Westfield has a highly innovative company developing shopping malls. Australian IT companies adapt existing technologies developed elsewhere which help other industries. The Australian coal industry invests heavily in mathematics.

Australian is at the bottom of the "category A" pack of countries. As a result very high levels of investment are needed to create outstanding
universities, Thomas suggests. Instead Australia spreads its investments across a large number of institutions across the country. Also Australia
invests in more researchers, rather than giving each researcher more.

There is a bifurcation happening between research and teaching at university. Those doing teaching are finding it harder to access reach
grants, even as those increase.

All this was good news: we are doing better than we thought, but Thomas argues that this is now a problem. The "Luck Country" adapted technology
from the world. The mood changed to say that Australia had to build its own unique technology. Australia is now providing resources and ingenuity to allow China and India to industrialise. Thomas argues that it is dangerous for Australia to try and emulate China or Finland.

This was a passionate presentation, but at the end I was not clear as to what it was we should be doing.

I asked what we, as a nation should do (on the assumption that minister's offices will be reading this blog posting). The response was that Australia should take the best ideas from round the world and build on them. Universities should aim for high visibility, high impact work.

He said that numerous specialised schemes to help individual industries should be scrapped.

Dr Alex Zelinsky Information Sciences at CSIRO then argued the problem was not government programs, but a cultural issue. Alex has a slide with a photo of a person holding a light bulb. Light bulbs seem to be a theme of innovation events. He injected a does of practicality by pointing out that innovations have to be desirable and viable in the marketplace (or for society generally).

Alex showed examples of unusual inventions which were very original, but did not really meet an unmet need. He argued that innovation is about people building teams, rather than technological gadgetry. Judgement is needed to asses how mature a technology is and when t is time to protect the intellectual property.

Alex pointed out that commercialising research requires 10 to 20 times as much money as the prototype development cost. "Smart money" investors provide relationships as well as early stage funding.

Alex then went through some examples, starting with "Seeing Machines", which listed n the London Stock Exchange, five years ago. It had a way to monitor the face of a driver of a car for safety reasons, funding by Volvo. Seeing machines started without a strategy or plan, simply with
the aim for a spin-off company. Instead of a mass market product costing $200 for the automotive market, the company instead produced technology for medical diagnosis of glaucoma. Alex pointed out that the profit margin for medical instruments was far larger than for automotive equipment. Medical researchers were encourages to publish papers about the product, to confirm its strong research underpinnings.

A higher profile success is CSIRO's patents for the wireless LAN. The CSIRO IP was turned into a chip set used by CISCO. So far CSIRO has
received $US200M with much more to come. The work has a strategy. Alex suggested that this was a good model for new developments, in areas of
optical communications, data storage and clean technology.

The last example Alex gave was the application of optical analysis for driver fatigue, but not for passenger cars, but in very large and expensive mining vehicles. Apart from higher margins, a benefit of this market is that trucks are much roomier than cars, and off the shelf equipment can be used, rather than miniaturised custom equipment. This provided an example of an adaptation for an existence Australian industry: mining.

This was the third and last of the innovation week events. While better than the first of the week, it was not as good as the usual weekly ACT
Innovation presentation. The lesson I have taken away from the week is that innovation is about doing things, not talking about them.

Queens University Live Building

The Queen's University, Faculty of Applied Science has set up a "Live Building". The mechanical, electrical and structural systems in their Integrated Learning Centre are monitored in real-time, as are many modern buildings, but in this case the information is provided live on the university web site.

As an example, it is possible to monitor if the lights are on, or off, in the rooms of the building. Also there is a real time display of the air conditioning plant. and display of electrical power use of buildings on the campus. However, the displays seemed to have been designed to impress, rather than inform. It would be good to have some simple tables of numbers and charts, rather than animations.

Curiously the campus solar array is offline awaiting the completion of paperwork with the power company.

Learning to teach in the virtual classroom

Greeting from the ANU Menzies Library Flex Lab (which appears to have been designed by a dentist), where I am in a course on how to use Wimba products for online education. At the moment we are learning about "Wimba Classroom" which appears to be an adaptation of a classic video conferencing interface (and similar to DimDim). This provides audio, video, electronic whiteboard, text chat and similar. This appears intended for real time classes, but does include an "archive" option which records all the interactions. It is suggested to have at least 56kbps. It can also be used in a physical classroom. What is interesting about this is the assumed educational and business model behind the mode of teaching.

Apart from Wimba Classroom, there are an assortment of other Wimba products. What surprised me was that these do not appear to be integrated: Wimba seems to have bought a series of separate applications for creating course content and different forms of communication and then just re-branded them all with "Wimba". As an example Wimba Pronto is a course content creation tool, previously sold under another name and similar to USQ ICE.

Wimba Classroom seems to work as well as other video conference products. It also has the same limitations as other such products. Sufficient bandwidth is required and also low enough latency if video or audio is used. There is an appreciable delay in slide dis-play even when we are all in the same physical room, connected to the ANU's very high speed network.

In addition the application emphasises visual aspects, as an example, slides are displayed for a presentation as bit mapped images. Apart for requiring more bandwidth, this precludes reading of the slides by people with a limited (or no) vision. Even with the presenter's slides in the demonstration I had difficulty seeing. Web pages and documents in some other formats can be designed to allow use with assistive technology. But this assumes there is some text in the content for a Braille or text-to-speech system to use. The bit-map images in Wimba Classroom and similar system do not allow for this. Institutions using such facilities need to keep in mind that Australian law requires access for the disabled, where possible: this is possible and so required.

Wimba Classroom can be integrated with Moodle (also used by ANU). I was easlity able to add an entry in a Moodle course for a Wimba Classroom. The idea is the students can read notes and then at the scheduled time enter the real time online classroom. Unfortunately at this point Wimba Classroom failed. I was impressed with the real time support provided by the company supporting ANU's e-learning system. Within seconds we were in contact with the support staff by real time chat, they excluded the problem to the "NOC" (Network Operations Centre) somewhere, who diagnosed a new problem with the interface between Moodle and Wimba and got to work to fix it. This incident highlights the need for good support for these e-learning facilities, particularly those working in real time.

There appears to be much more work needed in the design of the integration of e-learning tools. This is not just a matter of ensuring that the software works and the links are fast enough. Currently there appears to be a disconnect between the text rich non-real time tools such as Moodle, and graphic rich real time tools such as Wimba Classroom. Some continuum between the two should be technically possible. This would allow for more graceful dealing with technical problems: rather than the student being simply cut off, the system would degrade into a non-real time mode. Students who could not see images, because of limited bandwidth (or because they are blind) would get alternative content. Also this would allow for more andragogical modes of teaching: students could select a form of content and interaction which suited them.

Wimba Classroom and similar products force the participant to select a mode of communication, such as text, audio or video, rather than being able to communicate using whatever media is avialable and suitable.

HTML5 the new desktop operating system?

The Defence CTO is reported to be interested in thin client computers linked to database applications hosted in data centres, but able to be used offline for mobile users. This would allow expensive, difficult to manage, power hungry desktop computers to be replaced with low cost units. The data could be in remote data centres under careful management, which appeals to Defence's needs for security.

Building thin client applications is easy: it is what we used to call "client server". I was part of a defence-industry project to build such applications in the early 1009s (I even published a scholarly letter about it: "Remote Presentation Client-Server More than Just Screen Scraper", Worthington T., Australian Computer Journal, Volume: 27 Issue: 1 Pages: 16-16 Published: FEB 1995). However, just as we got the graphical user interface to work for the remote client, along came the web and made such an interface a commodity item.

Using the web as the user interface for a remote database application is now an everyday application of technology. However, allowing the client to function while disconnected from the central database is very much more difficult. This requires having part of the application running in the client, along with some form of database.

Having an offline application would have required a complex bespoke software setup in a desktop computer and would have not been feasible in something which could be called a "thin client". However, in a review of the new HTC Desire Android mobile phone, I noticed that it used the Android 2.0 operating system, which has improved support for HTML5, including:
  • Database API support, for client-side databases using SQL.
  • Application cache support, for offline applications.
This is what is needed for building offline applications. It should be noted that this is in a mobile device, so building the same support into low cost desktop devices should be feasible.

The Defence CTO's desire for offline thin client applications now does not look that difficult: Use HTML5 for the user interface and provide local database and cache support. This will require as much hardware as a $400 netbook computer, running some sort of cut down Linux operating system, such as Google Android.

However, there are still some difficult issues for designers of such applications. Not all data can be made available "offline" as this would require each thin client computer to have as much storage as Defene's largest data centre. Security considerations would also limit access to offline data. One of the benifits of a thin client computer without offline storage is that when it is offline it contains little or no sensitive data. Thin clients with offline storage will have to be protected the same way as other computers holding sensitive data. Defence issues very detailed instructions on how to protect data, including how to destroy the devices (including what type of hammer to use when the enemy is at the gates).

Also with offline data there is the issue of synchronising with the central database. There is no foolproof what to solve this problem and each application will have to be designed accordingly.

Lastly a thin client computer is "thin" because it is not as powerful as a "thicker" one. There will therefore be some applications not suited to these devices.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Australian Innovation Festival

Apparently this week is the Australian Innovation Festival. I only know this because it was mentioned at the ACT Innovation event. I don't rally know what it is, having see nothing else about it. This evening there was a large pile of brochures at the door. These appear to be about the festival, judging by the cover, but seem to contain nothing but PR material and advertisements. I had difficulty finding anything about the actual event. But there is a web address on the cover, so I will have a look at that:

Even without using the web address it tells me something: this is very similar to the ACT Innovation web address and so may well be related. Having clicked on the web address I am still none the wiser, as so far noting has loaded. I am using a slow wireless Internet connection at present and it seems this web page has not been designed with this in mind.

In the interim John got my attention by using the example of turning a problem into a solution with Staten drugs for reducing cholesterol.

It has been several minutes at the supposed Australian Innovation web site still has not arrived. So I decided to run a few tests to see what might be the problem with the web site. These are the sort of tests my second year ANU web design students learn to do on their assignments.

The first test is to validate the HTML of the web page. The Australian Innovation web page failed this test with 96 Errors. This is a very large number of errors. Students are expected to have no errors on their web pages and a typical web page might have a half dozen errors.

The second test I usually run is for mobile ok. This tests how well the web page will work on the typical mobile phone. Unfortunately the test failed to complete.

John got my attention again by mentioning Bob Clifford, Tasmanian large fast ferry builder. John pointed out that having a ferry tied up at the factory unsold represents millions of dollars. It happens that I met Mr. Clifford once on the bridge of one of his ships at an Olympic Games function (the US DoD now buys such ships from Australia). He surprised me by leaving me in charge of the ship, while he popped down stairs. Fortunately it was tied up at a wharf, but it was still lonely on the bridge.

The third test I usually run is for accessibility. An automated TAW test, which reported thirteen priority 1 problems, 56 Priority 2 and one Priority 3 problems.

At this point the web site finally appeared after several minutes. From first glance, it is obvious why the page took so long to load: there are a lot of high resolution graphics and animation on the page. Unfortunately none of this has helped me find out what the event is about. There are photos of unidentified people along with large blocks of test appearing. But these are disappearing before I can read the text, or work out who these mysterious people are. There are also lots of maps and logos which suggest this is an important and well supported event, but I am still none the wiser as to what it actually is. So far about all I know is that this web site must have cost a lot of money to develop.

Here is the text of the page:

Australian Innovation

* Home * Festivals * Events * News * Publications * Get involved * AusInnovation TV * About Us * Supporters * Newsletters * Login

The future is electric - GM concept car

Take a look inside GM's new EN-V concept car as Chris Borroni-Bird explains how this zero-emission, electric vehicle ...

National News

Startup Camp (Melbourne) 2010 consisted of 30 university students - Read more

From little things, big things grow. Take Google, the brainchild - Read more

New discoveries happen through perseverance in the pursuit of a - Read more

A strong and efficient intellectual property (IP) system is a - Read more

What makes an organisation successful? Able to grow and prosper - Read more
Innovation News

Since the industrial revolution, burning fossil fuel has been - Read more

Innovation remains key to meeting future challenges, enhancing - Read more

In this International Year of Biodiversity it is appropriate that we - Read more

NSW Manufacturing Week aims to inspire and encourage manufacturers to - Read more

As the Minister for Education, I see investments in people, places - Read more

Top Stories - 12 total ( view all )

* The Pursuit of Happiness - Video
* Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy - Video
* 170,000 bouncy balls make good advertising - Video
* Social Entrepreneurship: Creating Change - Video
* The growth of the internet and social networking - Video
* Unlocking your business innovation - World Innovation Forum - Video
* [Comedy] What Google might be thinking - Video
* How TV shows are actually created - Video
* [Amazon] Jeff Bezos’s on regret minimisation - Video
* [TED] Lead your tribe - Video
* The sky is the limit - Video
* BMW (South Africa). Defining innovation. - Video

powered by
publish in twitterbookmark at facebook.combookmark at linkedinbookmark at youtuberss

Solutions for Success
Rankin Design
Copyright 2010 Australian Innovation. All Rights Reserved

* Privacy Statement
* Disclaimer

This suggests that the web page is a collection of events to do with innovation. The rapidly changing content on the home page appear to be examples of events. Exactly who is doing this, or why, is not clear. A search of the ASIC database shows there is an organisation AUSTRALIAN INNOVATION PTY. LTD, created 04/06/2009.

Understanding the Market for Innovation

Greetings from ACT Innovation program, at "spacedock" (aka John Curtin School of Medical Research). John Hemphill, CEO of Axxos is talking about "Harnessing the cycle of innovation - Understanding your market". He describes the ACT Innovation program as "viral marketing". John is provided an entertaining presentation with useful graphics, which is being videoed and will be available on-line in the next few days.

Disaster Preparedness Workshop for Archives

The Australian Society of Archivists have organised a workshop on risk assessment and disaster preparedness, at the National Archives of Australia, Brisbane, 29 May 2010. There may be a follow-up day on salvage of water damaged materials on 24th July.

Leadership 2.0 Needed for Canberra Innovation

Jon Stanhope MLA, Chief Minister of the ACT, opened Innovation Week at ANU last night at "spacedock" (aka John Curtin School of Medical Research), Australian National University, Canberra. The Chief Minister gave a disappointing speech on the role of innovation in the Canberra economy. This was followed by a lackluster debate on "Investing in innovation? This house believes that Australia spends too much money on university research". This contrasted with the previous excellent events in the ACT Innovation program, run by students of ANU and University of Canberra. The Chief Minister and the professors need to learn from the students how to communicate in the 21st century.

The debate was between Professor Lawrence Cram, Deputy Vice-Chancellor ANU; Professor Steve Dowrick, Professor of Economics, ANU and member of the 2008 National Innovation Review; Narelle Kennedy, CEO of The Australian Business Foundation and member of the 2008 National Innovation Review; and Dr Geoff Garrett, former Chief Executive of the CSIRO.

Narelle Kennedy was the evening's best performer, with an engaging and passionate argument in favour of university research. The rest of the evening was a very dull affair.

The Chief Minister set the tone for the evening by giving a generic opening speech which indicated he was not interested in the topic and then confirmed this by leaving immediately afterwards. The following speakers were not helped by using an old fashioned debating format. It was ironic that the hi-tech Finkel Lecture Theatre in the hi-tech John Curtin School of Medical Research was being used for a very low tech debate.Link

Some quotable quotes I picked out of the debate:

"Innovation is ideas successfully applied", "Innovation is a contact sport, like rugby".
"Knowledge is a cumulative process".
"ERA is inwardly focused"

Apart from that, I don't really know what the speakers were talking about. They got up, talked a lot, and then sat down again. This "Lecture 1.0" format was used at universities, before we realised it was not a useful way to communicate.

The ACT Chief Minister and our professors need to be re-skilled in 21st century communication, if they are to provide leadership on innovation (or any other topic). We now teach undergraduate and postgraduate students how to do this, so they can be leaders of the future. The leaders of the present need to sit in on some classes, if they wish to be part of Canberra's future.

The next Australian Innovation Festival Seminar is "Harnessing the cycle of innovation - Understanding your market"
by John Hemphill, CEO, Axxos
Wednesday 28 April, 6-8pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Computing History Tours of Melbourne

The next Computing History Tours of Melbourne are: 1 May, 15 May and 18 July 2010. The tours take in:
  1. CSIRAC: Australia's first computer
  2. Melbourne's first Computer Room
  3. Melbourne's Babbage connection
  4. Site of Australia's first supercomputer
  5. Monash's first computer
  6. Former Melbourne Computer Centre near Albert Park.

Photovoltaic energy from French Solar Cell Company

Dr Roland Einhaus from Apollon Solar (France) will speak on "Overview of Apollon Solaras R & D Activities" at the ANU in Canberra, 11:30am, 30 April 2010.

Overview of Apollon Solaras R & D Activities

Dr Roland Einhaus (Apollon Solar, France)


DATE: 2010-04-30
TIME: 11:30:00 - 12:30:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room ...

Presentation of Silicon activities and discussion of module work ...

Defence thin client computers

The Australian Department of Defence is reported to be planning to deploy 500 thin client computers by the end of 2011. Defence CTO Matt Yannopoulous mentioned thin clients in his talk at the ACS Canberra branch conference recently. Thin clients also feature in the "Defence Next Generation Desktop Project" (issued 22 April 2010).

It should be noted that thin client computing is not new to defence. Melbourne based electronics manufacturer Labtam, produced advanced thin client workstations (then called "X terminals") in the 1990s. These were sold to the Department of Defence and the ANU. The business was later sold to Tektronix Inc. IBM had a contract to supply Defence with hardware, but the Australian made units were superior. I was working in HQ ADF at the time and recall I recall writing a speech for the then Minister for Defence Support, about these terminals being made in Victoria (which the Minister's office liked).

ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010 ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010

The ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010 (Melbourne, 3 to 4 November 2010), has issued a call for papers on the use of electronic portfolios in the vocational education and training (VET), higher education (HE) and adult and community education (ACE) sectors. Abstracts for Full papers, Works in Progress reports, Case Studies and Posters are due 4 June 2010

ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010

Submission for proposals

The theme of the ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010 is Widening participation - engaging the learner (see:

Submission of proposal:

The ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010 Organising Committee invites the submission of proposals for:

  • Full papers or Works in progress reports (peer-reviewed); full papers or works in progress reports of research findings and progress;
  • Case studies (abstract only); discussions of key directions and findings of action research or current practice and ;
  • Posters (abstract only): highly visual media communicating information about an innovation, tool, process or development.

Session duration:

  • Paper presentations and Case studies: 25 minutes
  • Posters: Posters will be displayed for the duration of the conference. There will be an hour allocated in the programme when poster presenters will be available near their posters to interact with conference participants.

Proposal themes:

Papers, reports, case studies and posters should relate to one or more of the following sub-themes:

  • Key government educational initiatives:
    • Quality outcomes and standards;
    • Learner mobility and transitions between educational sectors; and
    • Supporting learners accessing the Compact for Young Australians and Retrenched Workers initiatives;
    • Learner study experiences, retention and course completions.
  • Responsive learning and assessment practices:
    • Learning outcomes and reflective skills;
    • Recognition of prior learning (RPL), workplace learning and assessment processes;
    • Assessing graduate attributes and employability skills;
    • Discipline-specific initiatives;
    • Work-integrated learning, fieldwork and practicum experiences.
  • Career pathways and lifelong learning:
    • Continuing professional development (CPD) leading to professional standards, reaccreditation and/or workforce development;
    • Gaining employment
    • Supporting non-traditional learners
    • Improved partnerships with industry;
  • Implementing e-portfolios - successes and sustainability:
    • E-portfolios in the Web 2.0 environment
    • Technical standards supporting e-portfolios
    • Challenges and opportunities in e-portfolio implementation
    • Accessibility and e-portfolios
    • Sustainability and e-portfolios
    • Communities of practice

Papers, reports, case studies and posters not falling under these sub-themes may also be submitted for consideration, but should justify how the proposal complements the 'Widening Participation' conference theme.

Guidelines for Proposals:

Full Papers and Work in Progress reports are proposed by submission of an abstract (up to 400 words), and the full text of the paper which must be no more than 4,000 words including, appendices and references. As a general guide, a full paper should include an introduction, literature review and methodology, results, discussion and conclusions. Full papers are subject to double blind peer-review as required by DEEWR. Authors of successful submissions will be able to make minor corrections to the paper before final submission.

Case Studies are proposed by submission of an abstract (up to 400 words). Abstracts are subject to review by the ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010 Organising Committee.

Poster Presentations are proposed through submission of an abstract (up to 400 words). Posters are subject to review by the ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010 Organising Committee. Display versions should be sized between A3 -minimum and AO - maximum. You are not required to submit your 'Display' version; simply bring it with you to the Conference. Presenters are required to be in attendance with their poster during the allocated formal presentation period, to explain, discuss and to answer viewers' questions. While every effort will be made to ensure the safe handling of posters, the conference committee takes no responsibility for loss or damage of posters.

Paper submission process:

Please submit papers and abstracts to by the due date as detailed below.

Due dates:

Abstracts (for Full papers and Works in Progress reports, Case Studies and Posters) - 4 June 2010

Author notification of acceptance - 2 July 2010

Full papers (final version) due - 2 August 2010

Review feedback notification - 6 September 2010

Final submission - 4 October 2010

Paper submission enquiries:

Please forward all enquires about the submission process to:

From: Call for Papers, for ePortfolios Australia Conference 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Open Access Education for Open Source Software

Last week Cameron Shorter from Sydney Geospatial open source software company Lisasoft contacted me about how to provide "crowd-sourced" training. The idea was to apply the same open source development techniques to he training materials as the software. My suggestion was to use USQ's ICE system and Moodle.

We discussed open source and education over lunch on Jones Bay Wharf in Pyrmont, Sydney, where Listsoft is located. The Wharf, adjacent to the Sydney Casino and Google's Sydney office, has been redeveloped as a offices for software and media companies, with million dollar yachts pulled up alongside and a million dollar view of Sydney harbour from the outdoor restaurants.

Normally I am skeptical of open source enthusiasts proposing large projects. However, Lisasoft seem to have managed to sell geospetial products and services particularly to government agencies.

The Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGeo) has a project to produce a "Live GIS Disc" of open source geospatial software. documentation to adopt standard documentation. This was to include some training material. OSGEO also has an OSGeo Education and Curriculum Project, providing a Search-able Database of Educational Material. Cameron has proposed aligning the documentation guidelines put in place for LiveDVD with the OSGeo education project. The idea being that along with the free software would be free educational materials.

My talk in Adelaide on open source for defence got Cameron's attention, so he asked how to go about providing educational content. I started by cautioning that it is difficult to get software developers to do documentation, let alone training materials (it is far more exciting to write the code than document it). But I did suggest using USQ's ICE and also Moodle. Both ICE and Moodle are available free and incorporate current thinking about how training should be done.

The difficulty with any such educational material design is to match up the high level definition of the training requirements with the low level training materials created. ICE comes with templates for USQ's course development process. These templates are much the same as commonly used for Australian universities and TAFEs and so should be easily adapted for describing OSGeo's courses. Moodle then provides the infrastructure for delivering the material.

At the technical level both ICE and Moodle generate HTML, making it easy and efficient to incorporate into online systems. Rather than produce PowerPoint (or the equivalent) for slide show presentations, I suggests using
HTML Slidy , as Incorporated in ICE.

Slidy allows for PowerPoint type functionality within the web version of the ICE documents. I have used Slidy for years to give presentations, with few of the audience ever noticing that what they are looking at is a web page, not a PowerPoint document.

One advantage of Slidy is that it allows for automated language translation. As the presentation is just a web page, web translators can be used. Someone looking at a web page through a translator, will see not only the normal web version of the notes translated, but the slides as well. obviously machine translation is not as good as a custom one, but it is available with no effort by the creator of the presentation.

More generally, as OSGEO have encouraged the use of creative commons licenses, there would seem to be no reason why the training materials can't be freely available and visible. Currently you can find the brief description of training materials with a web search, but not the content of the courses themselves.

Tools such as ICE and Moodle produce search-able web pages. This greatly
increases the visibility of the training materials, as they can be found with a web search. The person searching does not need to know of the existence of OSGEO, they would just need to search for words somewhere in the course content.

ps: Geoscience is not my field, although I have dabbled with a satellite fire mapping system.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How to design a tertiary level e-learning course

Last week I attended the Australian Institute of Training & Development (AITD) National Conference at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. What I found interesting were the similarities and differences in the technology used for vocational short courses and university courses.

Training Materials for Open Source Software

While at the conference I had a call from an open source software company asking me how difficult it would be to develop e-learning courses to accompany new open source software products. It is difficult to get open source training materials to accompany new software. This is partly a matter of glamour: plenty of people want to help with the software, but the testing and training is not seen as prestigious. Also many open source products grown organically, so the training can't be planned from the start. Also until an open source product is proven, there can be reluctance to invest time in learning to use it. In addition skills in using a software product are seen to be low level.

Using Open Source Software Training for Higher Level Skills

One way around these problems might be to provide open access training for skills which can be sued with open source software. So for example, rather than training in how to use the word processor, teach how to produce documents using a word processor, with skills applicable to Microsoft Word as well. This also gets over the problem of having to provide exact screen shots with sets of keystrokes applicable to a particular version of a particular software package. Instead the student can expect that the exact keystrokes for the package they have will differ.

Top Down Course Design

The Integrated Content Environment (ICE) is a free web content management system from University of Southern Queensland (USQ) specifically designed for university courses. There is a USQ course template intended for the ICE system, but which can be used with just a word processor. This has the usual headings required for a course, such as the Course overview, Learning objectives, Graduate Qualities & Skills, Assessment, Study schedule, Course resources, Textbooks, Selected readings and Assessment. This is then followed by a list of modules, each with a name, table of contents, overview, Key terms/concepts, Learning Objectives, Assessment Tasks, pre and post module tests and sub topics, Module resources, Textbooks and Selected readings.

This may seem a very mechanical process, but beginning course designers can find themselves in a similar situation to one of their students trying to start an essay and not knowing where to begin. The structure provides a place to start.

Work Required by the Student

The University of Sydney provides a useful over. view of a university program in Australia. USyd describes a a normal full-time study load as 24 credit points (4 units of study) per semester. Each semester is 13 weeks of classes, followed by a study week and an examination period of two to three weeks. The 24 credit points involves an average of 9 contact hours per week (lectures, tutorials and seminars), plus up to 27 hours private study per students. Assuming the student is undertaking 4 units of study (called units, courses or subjects, depending on the university), this works out to 9 hours each. A figure of 9 to 10 hours is the typical among of time students are told they will have to student for an on-campus or off campus e-learning university course. It is a shame this can't be resourced to 7 hours a week, as it would then be a handy "one hour per day".


USyd describes assessment as varying from a 6000 word assignment and no exam to a 4000 word assignment and two hours of examinations. Assessment can include group work, presentations and take home examinations. While not mentioned by Usyd, e-learning courses can use traditional written assignments, online group discussions and online examinations.

As an example assessment my Green ICT Course, has contributions to weekly discussion forums (20%) and two assignments (40% each). This equates to 50 words per point for the assignments. The green course requires the student to also discuss topics in a weekly discussion forum. There are 12 weekly forums. Each student is required to answer questions and also reply to other student postings. Assuming that the 60 words per point applies, this equates to the students writing 100 words per week (about two paragraphs).

A 6000 word assignment for full course assessment equates to 60 words per percent. The University of Melbourne sets 4000 words for undergraduate and 5000 words for postgraduate subjects. UniMelb equates one hour of examination and ten minutes of individual oral presentation to 1000 words of assignment.

One issue with reliance on written assessment can be academic writing abilities. USyd requires proof of proficiency in English for those where English is not their first language (IELTS Overall band score of 6.5 or better with minimum of 6.0 in each band or similar). However, even those with English as a first language and particularly those from a technical background, can difficulty. Universities usually have a have learning centre (such as the ANU Academic Skills & Learning Centre) to help students. Unfortunately few of these centres cater for online remote students.


There appear to be fewer clear cut rules about examinations. The University of Melbourne equates an hour of examination to 1000 words of assignment (working out to 3 minutes per percent of assessment), or ten minutes of individual oral presentation.

UNE define a "university examination" as making up at least 30% of the assessment for a course. An online examination is considered "unsupervised" and in a similar category as a take home examination, made available to students for a week or less. While not mentioned in the UNE rules, an online examination will typically may set a time limit for completion, that is the student may have a week in which to attempt the examination, during that week once they start the examination, they may have tree hours in which to complete it. These definitions may seem archaic and irrelevant, but form example if an online examination was limited to only a fixed few hours this would cause problems depending on the time zone the student was in any local festivals. For this reason UNE does no permit supervised examinations to be held at night, on Sundays or public holidays or in most university vacation periods. Setting a period of at least a week would overcome most of these restrictions.

Sustainable Building Products Exhibition in Sydney

Along with the architecture conference at Darling Harbour in Sydney last week, there were the exhibitions: DesignEx, Form and Function, D4S: Design for Sustainability.

One notable products were Smart Glass from iGlass Australia: this is glass which is translucent until a current is applied when it become clear. The glass can be used as a projection screen. The obvious application I can see for it is in a learning center, where smaller rooms can be made private at the flick of a switch. This is much easier than moving hinged or sliding walls, or lowering blinds.

A slightly older products is marble from Ionia Stone of Turkey.

Ecoglo showed glow in the dark safety products, including non slip edges for stairs. Unfortunately the standards for illumination of exits administered by Standards Australia assume that lighting will be provided by battery powered lights and therefore does not allow for luminous material (New Zealand standards are more advanced). I asked about luminous tactile paving, Ecoglo have designed these but are awaiting standards approval. The idea is that the same floor marking which are used to guide the blind by touch (through a cane) can be used in the dark by sighted people.

Exeloo showed their computer controlled self cleaning public toilets. These report back to a central monitoring facility, not only any faults, but on the consumption of power and water.

Computronics showed their RGB Screens, these are daylight readable large LED screens for outdoor use. They are capable of displaying video as well as diagrams and text. This could be useful for an outdoor classroom.

Safety Floorings were showing recycled non-slip floor coverings. I asked about running cables under the coverings and Luke Doran recommended EcoTile's Cable Access Flooring. This consists of recycled polypropylene tiles which have feet molded on the underside. These are laid directly over the existing floor, leaving enough space to run cables. Carpet or other tiles can then be laid over the top.

New Surry Hills Library in Sydney

The new Surry Hills Library in Sydney was featured in Australian Design Review and other architectural publications, so on Saturday I went to have a look. From the architectural renderings I expected the building to stand out as a big glass box amongst the small inner Sydney terrace houses. But it proved remarkably hard to find. The street front has blond wood panels and the side is a sheer glass wall, but even so does not look out of place.

The ground and lower floors of the building, which hold the library shelves and computers for the public, felt very cramped. Unlike many modern library designs, where the books are hidden away , the books are right in front of the main door . While this makes the library look like a traditional library, it makes it hard to move around. There is a very narrow bench beside the main door with computer terminals. These are arranged in a row with alternating screens just about touching. There is only just enough space to work.

The spiral staircase for access downstairs is very sculptural and dramatic, but difficult to use and obviously inaccessible for the disabled and a hazard even for the fit. There are also a number of changes of level which will make the building hard to access for those with less than perfect mobility. Downstairs is cramped with bookshelves filling the main area and seating pushed to a few narrow areas at the edges. There are 15 terminals crammed in at the far end away from the natural light.

While the building is usable, it could do with about one third of the collection being removed, to make room for people. Also more of the books could be put downstairs and the people allowed up into the light.

Friday, April 23, 2010

New Zealand Rural Broadband Initiative

The New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development has issued an Expression of Interest for a Rural Broadband Initiative. (Reference: 29498). This appears a more modest project than the Australian Government's National Broadband Network. It concentrates on broadband for rural communities and schools.
Companies can download a an Expression of Interest document (MS-Word format 368kb) and a Schools List (Excel spreadsheet 284kb).
The Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) will use a two-stage process, involving an Expression of Interest (EOI) followed by a Request for Proposals (RFP) stage.

2. A two-stage approach is being used to enable the Government to gather more information so that it can make more informed decisions (e.g. about prioritising regions, minimum open access requirements, service specifications, what is likely to be possible within existing budget etc) when finalising the RFP.

3. Following the assessment of EOIs, an RFP will be released detailing the Government’s requirements.

The RFP will specify:

a. The regions for which bids are being sought in the first year of the RBI (noting that national bids will also be considered).
b. The intended scope of the proposed initiative.
c. The minimum service level requirements.
d. The minimum level of open access required.
e. Standards and interconnection requirements.
f. The criteria upon which bids will be assessed.

Defence Next Generation Desktop Project

The Australian Department of Defence has issued a request for Expression of Interest for the "Defence Next Generation Desktop Project" (CIOG 198/10, 22-Apr-2010). The NGD Project aims to provide a simplified desktop interface for defence users and lower costs. Companies have to respond to the EoI to be considered for the RFT. A briefing on the RFI will be conducted in Canberra 5 May 2010.

There are three PDF documents provided via the government tender system:
  1. ITR Conditions (515Kbytes)
  2. Information provided to Requestors (860Kbytes)
  3. Information to be provided by Requestors
Part 2: Information provided to Requestors, describes what Defence wants from the system:
Table of Contents
1.1 Purpose ....2
1.2 Background...2
1.3 Document Structure......3
1.4 Acquisition Objective ....4
1.5 Acquisition Process ......4
2.1 Overview...5
2.2 Desktop Delivery ......5
2.3 Virtualisation .....6
2.4 Applications ......6
2.5 Desktop Security Environment .....6
2.6 Existing Network...7
3.1 Intent.....8
3.2 Contracting Model ....8
3.3 Requirements ...9
3.4 Desktop Delivery ....10
3.5 Application Presentation.....12
3.6 Desktop Security Environment – Multi-Level Security ...13
3.7 Integration...14
3.8 Implementation ...15
3.9 Project Management ......17
3.10 Support ...18
3.11 Commonwealth Activities ...18
5.1 Existing Thick -Client Specification ....20
5.2 Existing Server Specification ......20
5.3 Current End-User Devices......20
5.4 Current Peripherals ....20
5.5 Current Capacity Profile .....20 ...

2.2 Desktop Delivery
2.2.1 The current Defence desktop delivery method uses two alternative mechanisms to deliver a desktop to a user:
(a) traditional PC thick client environment; or
(b) server-based computing (SBC) using Citrix XenApp 4.5.

2.2.2 The majority of Defence Information Environment (DIE) users across Defence connect via traditional PC-based technology using the SOE 125 desktop platform. The SOE 125 platform uses the Windows 2003 server back-end and Windows XP desktop solution.

2.2.3 Presently SBC users on the DIE equate to approximately ten percent of the user base.

These users fall into four categories:
(a) remote access users (DREAMS);
(b) Defence thin-client system (DTCS) users;
(c) users of point solutions for applications (such as the Defence Estate Management system and Aircraft Inventory Management System); and
(d) users who support non-Windows-based systems, for example Linux and Sparc.

2.2.4 The sites using the DTCS are based on a use case scenario. DTCS technology is used in almost all locations outside Australia as the delivery system of choice.

2.2.5 Defence has implemented a roaming system so that a user’s desktop environment is not associated with a specific hardware device. A user can access their desktop environment from any machine, provided it meets minimum requirements for physical and other security issues for both security networks (Defence Restricted Network [DRN] and Defence Secret Network [DSN]).
: : : : PART 2: Information for Requestors

2.3 Virtualisation

2.3.1 The use of virtualisation technologies is mainly contained within Defence’s Central Data Centre (CDC). The CDC is operated by the Defence Computing Bureau (DCB). Server virtualisation is currently managed using VMware and Citrix products and application virtualisation is managed via Citrix technology. There are up to 1,000 server infrastructure devices within Defence facilities and an additional 700 virtualised servers on this infrastructure.

2.4 Applications
2.4.1 Local
2.4.2 The majority of Defence users have a desktop or laptop running Microsoft Windows XP.

These users are provided with standard Microsoft Office 2003
applications, file and print services and most users access at least one corporate application hosted in the CDC. In addition, these users may require access via the DRN and/or DSN to other systems hosted either in the CDC or a variety of locations around Australia.

2.4.3 Other applications presented locally may include, but are not limited to, Adobe Acrobat, Apple QuickTime and Macromedia Flash Player.

2.4.4 Defence uses a wide range of applications; an indication of which is provided at APPENDIX II – .

2.4.5 Corporate
2.4.6 The DCB currently delivers a large number of enterprise applications hosted centrally to users across the DIE. Some applications use the Citrix Published Application and Citrix Application Streaming mechanisms to deliver these applications.

2.4.7 Most applications are delivered by a traditional client server model. These may include, but are not restricted to, ADFPAY (in-house), OpenPlan Professional, PMKeys (PeopleSoft), Roman (SAP) and SDSS/MIMS (logistics management).

2.4.8 Defence uses a wide range of applications; an indication of which is provided at APPENDIX II – .

2.5 Desktop Security Environment
2.5.1 Services are delivered primarily through two major network environments: the DRN being the largest and the DSN being the second largest. To meet the requirements of the Protective Security Manual (PSM), Information Security Manual (ISM) and Defence Security Manual (DSM), using traditional technology solutions, these two environments are physically separated and consist of a wide variety of information systems, communication equipment, hardware, software and application components. Both networks utilise a Microsoft Windows Server 2003 Active Directory (AD) for user authentication.

2.5.2 There are approximately 75,000 users of the DRN. Approximately 20 percent of these are also users of the DSN. The majority of Defence ICT users can be put into three groups:

(a) those who use only the DRN;
(b) those who use both the DRN and the DSN; and
(c) a limited numbers of users who use only the DSN.

2.5.3 The current architecture requires users of both networks to have individual desktops for accessing each network, resulting in duplication of hardware for those users.

2.6 Existing Network
2.6.1 The Defence Wide Area Communications Network (DWACN) is a major sub-system of the Defence Strategic Communications Network (DSCN) and provides core transport services for the majority of Defence electronic communication nationally and internationally. It provides voice and data communication services to over 300 sites. Services include the carriage of some 31 IP Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and voice communications to 150 sites. The DRN and DSN represent two VPNs. Figure 1 shows the DWACN within the context of the broader Defence Strategic Communications Network (DSCN).

2.6.2 Defence utilises the TCP/IP suite of communication protocols.
2.6.3 The current bandwidth of the Defence network for the DRN and DSN across all locations ranges between 512kB to 1GB.

PART 2: Information for Requestors

3.1 Intent
3.1.1 The Commonwealth’s intention in undertaking this NGD project acquisition process is to identify the most suitable Contractor/s capable of supporting the NGD project. In order to support the NGD project, the successful Contractor/s will need to provide:

(a) technical design, supply and installation of a solution which covers desktop delivery, application presentation and a single desktop security environment;
(b) implementation of the pilot and proposed solution;
(c) integration of the solution with Defence’s current environment;
(d) implementation and project management of the pilot and solution; and
(e) support of the system components and pilot.

3.1.2 Key to this will be the Contractor/s:
(a) capability to provide a solution which meets the requirements of the project;
(b) experience in providing a similar solution in a similarly complex environment;
(c) ability to deliver a complex project within tight timeframes, to a high level of quality; and
(d) assessed level of risk in delivering the solution.

From: Part 2: Information provided to Requestors, Defence Next Generation Desktop Project, CIOG, Department of Defence, 198/10, 22-Apr-2010

The "Glossary of Terms and Acronyms" in part provides an insight into the thinking on Defence:

Term: Meaning
ABN: Australian Business Number
ACN: Australian Company Number
ADO: Australian Defence Organisation
APS: Australian Public Service
ARBN: Australian Registered Body Number
C4I: Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence
CDC: Central Data Centre
CIOG: Chief Information Officer Group ...
Confidential ITR: Confidential information pertaining to this ITR ...
Criminal Code: Division 137 of the Criminal Code available from
CV: Curriculum vitae
Data Centre Consolidation: Project to reduce Defence’s data centre numbers to less than ten...
DCB: Defence Computing Bureau
Defence: The Department of Defence
DIE: Defence Information Environment
DOSD: Defence Online Services Domain
DPPM: Defence Procurement Policy Manual (1 April 2010 edition) available from
DREAMS: Defence Remote Electronic Access and Mobility Service
DRN: Defence Restricted Network
DSCN: Defence Strategic Communications Network
DSM: Defence Security Manual
DSN: Defence Secret Network
DTCS: Defence thin-client system
DTSN: Defence Top Secret Network
DVN: Defence voice network
DWACN: Defence wide area communications network
FedLink: Secure communications network between Australian Government agencies
Fair Work Act (Cth) 2009 Fair Work Act (Cth) 2009 is available from
ICT: Information and communication technology
ILSP: Integrated logistics support plan ...
IP VPN: Internet protocol virtual private network
ISM: Information Security Manual
ITR: Invitation to Register Interest ...
JORN: Jindalee Over-the-horizon Radar Network
KPI: Key performance indicator.
LAN: Local area network
L2 VPN: Layer 2 virtual private network
NGD: Next Generation Desktop ...
OGO: Other government organisations ...
PSM: Protective Security Manual
PSTN: Public switched telephone network ...
RFT: Request for tender
SBC: Server-based computing ...
SOE: Standard operating environment
SRP: Strategic Reform Program ...
TACINT: Tactical interface
TCP/IP: Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol ...
VoATM: Voice over asynchronous transfer mode
VPN: Virtual private network
VTC: Video teleconferencing.

From: Part 1, Defence Next Generation Desktop Project, CIOG, Department of Defence, 198/10, 22-Apr-2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

E-learning for the defence industry

Greetings from the Australian Institute of Training & Development (AITD) National Conference at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney. Allison Rossett, Professor of Educational Technology at San Diego State University, gave the morning's keynote on "E-learning is what?". Dr. Rossett reported results of research on the use of e-learning and mobile in particular. It was good to see this conformed with my biases. As an example training staff tended to say the students wanted traditional classroom education., whereas the students said they wanted online learning. Mobile education was talked about a lot by was not used much in reality. This was a good introduction for my session on "Gadgets and more: Mobile e-Learning Made Easy". There seemed to be many people from Defence and federal security organisations at my talk. They got excited when I showed them the Defence department's use of Moodle. Also I was asked how I had done my web based slides, so explained "Slidy".

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Training and Development National Conference in Sydney

The Australian Institute of Training & Development (AITD) National Conference starts today in Sydney. I will be speaking 10:30am tomorrow on "Gadgets and more: Mobile e-Learning Made Easy":

Tom Worthington, (aka the Net Traveller) demonstrates some cool gadgets, courseware and software being used in Learning & Development.

Adelaide North Terrace Cultural Precinct

My last day in South Australia I spent in the Adelaide North Terrace Cultural Precinct. North Terrace runs east west on the northern edge of the Adelaide central business district, next to the Torrens River. Within a kilometer along the terrace are campuses of the Universities of Adelaide and South Australia, the State Library, Museum and Art Gallery.

I stayed in the Hotel Richmond, which is located in an arcade between the main shopping precinct (Rundle Mall) at the front and North Terrace behind.

On the next corner is the Centre for Defence Communications & Information Networking (DSIC), where I met the director, Dr Bruce Northcote who was giving a talk that evening to the ACS. The previous evening I had given a talk on how the IT industry could help defence. The building housing DSIC has a learning commons on the ground floor, with informal computer equipped meeting spaces for students.

As befits a high technology university building, the one housing DSIC had the most complicated lift buttons I have ever seen: to call am lift, rather than pressing a button for "up", you enter the floor you wish to go to. Presumably the lift control system then optimises the traffic.

I walked through the Adelaide University grounds to the banks of the Torrens Rive, where there are kilometres of cycling and walking tracks. A short walk up the river and around the corner was the State Library of South Australia. In the cafe I happened across Dr Genevieve Bell , Intel Fellow, Digital Home Group Director, User Experience Group, Intel Corporation, who talked in Canberra last week.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Australian Innovation Festival at ANU

The Australian Innovation Festival is next week:
Australian Innovation ACT Festival Launch:
Speaker: Jon Stanhope, Chief Minister of the ACT
Tuesday 27 April, 5.30pm for 6pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU

Australian Innovation Festival Debate:"Investing in innovation? This house believes that Australia spends too much money on university research"

Speakers include: Professor Lawrence Cram, Deputy Vice-Chancellor ANU; Professor Steve Dowrick, Professor of Economics, ANU and member of the 2008 National Innovation Review; Narelle Kennedy, CEO of The Australian Business Foundation and member of the 2008 National Innovation Review; and Dr Geoff Garrett, former Chief Executive of the CSIRO.
Tuesday 27 April, 6.15-7.30pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU

Australian Innovation Festival Seminar
"Harnessing the cycle of innovation - Understanding your market"
John Hemphill, CEO of Axxos
Wednesday 28 April, 6-8pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU

Australian Innovation Festival Seminar
Thursday 29 April, 5.30pm for 6pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU
Seminar: Australia and innovation: Miracle country or basket case?
Dr Thomas Barlow, former science advisor to the Minister of Education and Science and author of the 2009 Barlow Report.

Seminar: Making Innovation Happen
Dr Alex Zelinsky, Group Executive Information Sciences, CSIRO

Monday, April 19, 2010

Open Source Tools for e-Learning

Leo Gaggl, from Bright Cooke is upgrading ACS' e-learning system (Leo likes Caffe L'Incontro). ACS already uses Moodle for learning management and Mahara for e-portfolios (leo calls this combination "Mooara"). To this is being added Alfresco content repository and Jasper Business Intelligence package. These are both open source products. Alfresco is intended to allow course content to be managed and shared. Moodle is limited to, for example, having to copy content from one course to another and manually maintain versions. Jasper will also more sophisticated reporting on courses than is possible in Moodle.

Alfresco will provide some of the features of USQ's ICE system, in terms of version control. However, work will be done to allow Alfresco to reformat content. With that done, this could allow, for example, the course content to be maintained outside Moodle, with version for Moodle, eBook (ePub and KIndle)and print formats. As well as being generated in different formats, such as web pages and PDF, different versions could have different content, such as the front-matter for a published book version.

The Jasper report server will be used to create administrative reports and for analysis of courses.

In addition the new version of Moodle will have a theme for use with smart phones.

Green Technology: Procurement and Compliance from Desktops to Data Centres

One interesting aspect of the SIFA discussion I am involved in Adelaide is that ICT skills include procurement and compliance, marketing, learning and development. My green ICT course explicitly references Procurement and Compliance. Perhaps I did the course a disservice by not highlighting these skills in preparing it. So renaming the Green course "Procurement and Compliance for Green Technology". From the marketing point of view, data centres are a hot topic, so a better name would be "Green Technology: Procurement and Compliance from Desktops to Data Centres".

Also it would be interesting to see some e-learning modules developed for marketing, learning and development. These skills tend to be dismissed by ICT technical people as being not worthy of their attention.

SFIA for self assesment

Greetings from the University of Adelaide, where I am in the software engineering building with 17 people involved in the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. It was a little lonely yesterday, with only a few people around the building on a Sunday, but the campus is bustling today with students in academic gown for graduation. Appropriate for the occasion we are starting our deliberations today with a presentation from David Lindley on how to use Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) for professionals to think about their own needs for development of their skills. David entitled his talk: "Know thyself" from Delphi "nosce te ipsum".

David argues that just as Linneaus professional skills. The produced a binomial classification scheme for plants, SFIA provides one for SIFA classification as two parts: one of 86 skill sets and 7 levels of responsibility. The ACS provides education and so SFIA can be used to describe what skill sets and at what level education is being provided. The ACS Computer Professional Education Program is at level 5 of SFIA in a wide, in a specified collection of skill sets. To relate this more widely, a university degree course would aim for level 4 and a postgraduate course at level 5.

SFIA also has a second set of binomial terms for generic skills. Unfortunately this is part of SFIA I am not familiar with and am not sure how it is used.

David claimed that SFIA has been shown to be use full in practice, even though there has not been a Charles Darwin to show that classifications in natural have scientific underpinnings. One worry I have with this is the scientific aura it gives the classification of job skills. I doubt that such a classification has any fundamental underpinnings. Also I worry that SIFA depends on an Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) view of ICT. There is a risk that the easily understood management aspects of ICT will be emphasised and the technicalities will be lost.

I used SFIA to develop the Green ICT Course Computer Professional Education Program. However, I used essentially as a shopping list of skills categories, without a detailed understanding (this technique was described by one of my colleagues as "reverse engineering" the course specification from SFIA). This proved useful in practice and using some framework was better than none. Also using an internationally agreed "Framework" impresses those accrediting courses. But I would like a little more about it.

In terms of the individual professional, David argued that they should aim for a small number of skills (2 or 3, up to 5 or 6). This is so as to differentiate the individual from others. The difficulty is to get the individual to identify a few skills, not dozens. He described a technique from Sheelagh Flowerday, an Accredited SFIA Consultant. The suggested method is to first prepare a wish list, which might be dozens. On a second pass select core skills.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Teaching Professional Practice

Greetings from the University of Adelaide, where I am locked up in the software engineering building with 17 people involved in the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. Apart from ourselves the only people in the building are some students and the security guard. We have spent the day grappling with some fundamentals of how to run professional, postgraduate level education for ICT online. Link

Saturday, April 17, 2010

High Technology Tourist Attractions in Adelaide

Any suggestions for what the Net Traveller should see in Adelaide? I will be there Sunday 18th to Tuesday 20 April 2010. I have a meeting most of Sunday and Monday and will be giving a talk Monday 19 April on "Engaging the Defence Sector with Open Source". But I have Tuesday free.

On my last visit to Adelaide, as well as being trained in the Moodle and Mahara e-learning tools, I rode the Glenelg Tram from the beach to the city, then onto theAdelaide O-Bahn. The O-Bahn is the world's longest guided bus-way (until Cambridge England get theirs to work). The tram has been extended to the Entertainment Centre, which tourism boss, Ian Darbyshire seems very proud of, so I will take a ride on that.

Unfortunately I will be leaving just before Dr Bruce Northcote's talk on Defence Communications & Information Networking Tuesday 20th April 2010 at 6pm (RSVP). DSIC is a venture between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia for defence systems integration research with industry.

ps: This is the one time of the year that the people who teach the ACS Computer Professional Education Program get to see each other. The courses are run online, the tutors and mentors are scattered all around Australia (some in other countries). We have weekly online text based real time "staff meetings", but it is also good to get together in person occasionally. The operation is in transition from a small tutoring group which can be run mostly on personal contact to a virtual higher education institution which requires more formal procedures. It is interesting, if at at times a little frustrating, to be part of the transition.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Role of Libraries in the iPad Age

The National Library of Australia ran an excellent Innovative Ideas Forum 2010. For next year I suggest allowing for more audience input. The NLA provides time for questions and has excellent wireless microphones so you can hear the person asking the question. Also the NLA encourages blogging (tag: iif2010) and twittering (#iif2010) , providing power points and WiFi for laptops. However, what is blogged or twittered does not appear to the speaker or the non-twittering audience. The room is full of talent which could be tapped. Perhaps there could be some breakout session, where we fan out across different pars of the NLA building and discuss the issues, then come back and report.

In any case there is still clearly a role for the library in the iPad age. Being in this building at this event I felt I the "flow" which Ben Swift described in his seminar on mobile music making Linkyesterday. This is helped by the NLA building being in the shape of a Greek temple and having stained glass windows like a medieval scriptorium. Things got a little historically weird when one of the library staff appeared, dressed like a character from a Jane Austin novel.

Food-Scanner needed for Austrlaia

At the Innovative Ideas Forum 2010,one of the speakers asked for a gadget which would tell you the nutritional content of food in the supermarket. So I did a web search and found a iPhone App for US$0.99 called "Foodscanner". This scans the Universal Product Code (UPC) barcodes on packaged food and displays ingredients, nutrition and calorie information. So I mentioned this but the audience said "yes we know Tom, but it doesn't work in Australia and its database is limited".

Cell phone download from iTunes: FoodScanner

The Future is Catered For

Greeting from the reading room of the National Library of Australia, in Canberra. I have taken half an hour off from the Innovative Ideas Forum 2010, which is happening down stairs. The morning session was interesting, exciting, but also hard work. There was an excellent lunch provided in the foyer by the NLA and the chance to chat with participants. I took up what proved to be a strategic position on the couch outside the cafe (corner seat is the best). I then helped a colleague from the University of Canberra design a social networking course for next semester, from the people who wandered over and what they chatted about. That might sound a random process but these were people like Intel Fellow, Genevieve Bell, who I had the pleasure of sitting behind at the "Realising Our Broadband Future" forum in Sydney (where she was carrying out an impromptu anthropological study of the politicians use of mobile devices around her her). Also there are people from the communications department, who work on the digital economy while suffering from the acronym of "dbcde". ;-)

Over the last few weeks I have attended events on e-teaching, innovation, e-publishing and reading a history of Cam,bridge University. It may just be the excellent coffee and the fresh air at the outdoor cafe at the NLA making me light headed, but I think I can see a way to combine these together.

Green IT in Higher Education

"Powering Down: Green IT in Higher Education (ID: " by Mark Sheehan and Shannon Smith as been released by EDUCAUSEERS1002, 04/15/2010). This report does not say much which is new on Green ICT, but is useful in confirming that what applies in other areas also applies in universities. It will be a valuable resource for university administrators, IT providers and sustainability professionals looking to green computing at telecommunications on the campus. But there will still be the usual frustrations, that while many are prepared to talk about green ICT, few are prepared to act to achieve it.

This 2010 ECAR study of green IT examines the stance institutions and their central IT organizations are taking on environmental sustainability (ES), the progress they are making on a variety of key initiatives, and how the work they are doing is helping them become more environmentally responsible in their business, instructional, and research activities. This study provides chief information officers and others with information about the state of ES practices in higher education and identifies practices that are associated with positive outcomes. Based on a literature review to define the issues and establish the research questions, along with consultation with higher education IT administrators and ES experts to validate survey questions, ECAR conducted a quantitative web-based survey of EDUCAUSE member institutions that received 261 responses, 77.8% of which were from the institutional ClO or equivalent. This report is based on results of the survey as well as on qualitative interviews with 31 higher education IT leaders and staff. A corporate edition is available here.

Table of Contents
Entire Study Powering Down: Green IT in Higher Education
Chapter 1 Executive Summary
Chapter 2 Introduction and Methodology
Chapter 3 Institutional Environmental Sustainability: The Basics
Chapter 4 Institutional Environmental Sustainability Initiatives
Chapter 5 Central IT’s Role in Greening the Campus
Chapter 6 Central IT Environmental Sustainability Initiatives
Chapter 7 Distributed IT and Environmental Sustainability
Chapter 8 Knowledgeability and Participation
Chapter 9 Assessing Progress
Chapter 10 Higher Education IT and the Coming Green Revolution
Appendix A Institutional Respondents to the Online Green IT Survey
Appendix B Interviewees in Qualitative Research
Appendix C Supplementary Tables
Appendix D Bibliography

Online Supporting Materials
Key Findings
Survey Instrument

Citation for this work: Sheehan, Mark C., with Shannon D. Smith. Powering Down: (Research Study 2, 2010). Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research, 2010, available from

The Library of Alexandria was Destroyed

Brianna Laugher, President Wikimedia Australia is talking on "Is Wikipedia a one-off? Is mass collaboration all it's cracked up to be?"
at the Innovative Ideas Forum 2010 success was a one off, short term at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. The issue addressed was if the Wikipedia'sphenomena. The Wikipedia might come and go quickly, even the Library of Alexandria, which must have seemed for ever, was destroyed.