Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Measuring Research Output

Senator Kim Carr, has announced "Improvements to Excellence in Research in Australia" (ERA). This is the process by which researchers and the organisations they work for (mostly universities) are judged. Much of the assessment of researchers is based on what they publish, in books, journals and at conferences. This process allocates a rating to each book publisher, journal and conference, on the assumption that each publication is of that standard. This process has been controversial, particularly the "journal quality indicator". The minister has indicated that the A*, A, B and C ranks will be removed for 2012.

As someone who very occasionally publishes academic work, the process used has been somewhat perplexing. There was no easy way I could find to see what the ranking of the journals and conferences in my field were, so I target the most appropriate. There is a ERA 2010 Ranked Conference List - Excel Format (411KB) and a ERA 2010 Ranked Journal List - Excel Format (5.27MB) - ZIP File (584KB). But these are large unwieldy spreadsheets of data.

It is not clear what the process to be used in the future is. My suggestion would be to make the process of building research reputation explicit and able to be audited. With this, anyone could rate the work of anyone else. The value given to the rating would be weighted by that person's own net ranking. Thus if I rate highly in a particular field, then my assessment would count more than the average person. My ranking would depend on how others ranked my work.

Such a system would be at risk of abuse, by a group of people colluding to rank each other highly and mark down their competitors. However, this would be no worse than the current system, where such corruption is hidden behind double blind review processes. Instead any unusual patterns could be detected automatically by software and made public.

In addition the idea of a journal being restricted to a particular topic could be eliminated. The idea that papers must be published in a journal specialising in one area is a hangover from the era of paper publishing, which has now past. Instead a paper can have several subject areas associated with it and be found by the reader with a search.

ICT and the Environment in Indonesia

Dr Idris Sulaiman, will speak on "ICT-enablement in Environmental Social Movements in Indonesia" at the Australian National University, in Canberra, 3 June 2011.


Research School of Computer Science

ICT-enablement in Environmental Social Movements in Indonesia. What are the challenges of aligning ICT and organizational strategies in a 'near-networked' nation?

Dr Idris Sulaiman (Research School of Computer Science, ANU)

DATE: 2011-06-03
TIME: 11:00:00 - 12:30:00
LOCATION: CSIT Building, CSIT Seminar Room, N101

The Internet and social media can be used strategically to make social change. The paper examines leading environmental social movement organizations in Indonesia by assessing their ICT landscape and by examining the process of ICT-enablement based on a framework which has been specifically develop to suit the current conditions in Indonesia. Is Indonesia approaching a 'near-networked' nation? What does this imply for the social movement organizations (SMOs or NGOs) that are trying to organize both 'online' and 'off-line'? Will they have to master the move from information-layer to knowledge management? What will be the role of new media such as smartphones, social networks and a variety of open source software?
Dr. Idris Sulaiman is a Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Computer Science, the Australian National University (ANU). His research interests include a number of applied areas of Information Communications Technology (ICT) including ICT energy efficiency (EE) and sustainability, development of EE standards and regulation as well as ICT for development particularly the implementation of e-government, e-Advocacy and ICT diffusion programs both in emerging and developed economies. He also works as an adviser for a number of sustainability and ICT related organisations including Connection Research and Foundation for IT Sustainability.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Information Management for Defence Procurement

David Cochrane, Director General Corporate Services, DMO, Department of Defence, will talk on "Information Management Challenges in a Large and Complex Public Sector Agency - the Defence Materiel Organisation", 7 June 2011, at the Austrlaian Computer Society meeting in Canberra. One of my previous jobs was as Manager of the Defence Information Management Architecture at the Department of Defence. It will be interesting to see how this has progressed.
Effective and efficient information management is essential to successful decision making in a complex public sector agency such as the Defence Matreriel Organisation (DMO)

In achieving its mission "To Equip and Sustain the Australian Defence Force", the DMO comprises over 7,500 employees in 70 locations across the world managing an annual budget of over $11 billion. This complex organisation relies heavily on information streams relating to a wide range of disciplines; from engineering, logistics and project management, through to finance, human resource management and other supporting disciplines

This session explores the key elements of DMO's information management programme and some of the many challenges faced in providing accurate, comprehensive and timely information.


David Cochrane

Mr David Cochrane has been with the Australian Defence Organisation since joining the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) in 1974. He is currently Director General Corporate Services in the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO), based in Canberra.
David’s RAAF career centred mainly on aircraft engineering and maintenance, working predominately with F/A-18 Hornet aircraft in Australia and overseas. His areas of primary interest being aircraft instrumentation, flight controls and electronic warfare systems, as well computer-based avionics test equipment.
Since leaving the RAAF in 2003, David has worked in various roles in the DMO, initially in the acquisition and sustainment of electronic warfare and sensor systems, and more recently in the management of DMO’s Corporate Service Branch. Among other responsibilities, he is the DMO Information Manager. As the DMO Information Manager, David is responsible for coordinating DMO’s information systems, driving reform in information management and providing advice on a wide range of issues relevant to DMO’s information management capabilities.
David holds qualifications in engineering, business, and project management. He is a graduate of Monash University, the RAAF Staff College and the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is recognised by the Australian Institute of Project Management as a Certified Practicing Project Director.

Science Says Blended Learning Works

The approach to teaching science, computing and engineering at universities is about to change radically, following a paper in the prestigious journal "Science". As reported in "The Economist" ("Teaching methods, An alternative vote: Applying science to the teaching of science", 12 May 2011), tests have shown that using a technique calld "deliberate practice" and getting rid of lectures improves education:

The process described is:
"Class time is spent on problem-solving, discussion and group work, while the absorption of facts and formulae is left for homework. Students were given reading assignments before classes. Once in the classroom they spent their time in small groups, discussing specific problems, with the teacher roaming between groups to offer advice and respond to questions. ..."

From: "Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class", Louis Deslauriers and Ellen Schelew, Karl Wieman, Vol. 332, 13 May 2011, Science 13 May 2011
This is not as radical as it sounds, as "deliberate practice" is in effect going back to the pre-industrial approach to education (and the way education is done now in primary and secondary schools): "Here is an overview of the topic: study the materials, do the exercises and we will get together to see how you go".

The more interactive approach to teaching has been made more efficient by the use of wireless computer technology, "clickers", "iPads" and the like. However, underneath it is an age old method. Resistance to this has come from lecturers who are faced with increasing class sizes and who can't afford to risk using what they see as an untried technique. What will convince those from science is a paper in a prestigious journal with with a statistical analysis of test subjects:
We compared the amounts of learning achieved using two different instructional approaches under controlled conditions.

We measured the learning of a specific set of topics and objectives when taught by 3 hours of traditional lecture given by an experienced highly rated instructor and 3 hours of instruction given by a trained but inexperienced instructor using instruction based on research in cognitive psychology and physics education. The comparison was made between two large sections (N = 267 and N = 271) of an introductory undergraduate physics course. We found increased student attendance, higher engagement, and more than twice the learning in the section taught using research-based instruction.

From: "Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class", Louis Deslauriers and Ellen Schelew, Karl Wieman, Vol. 332, 13 May 2011, Science 13 May 2011
In 2007 about the I attended a talk in Canberra on the MIT iCampus and its implementation at University of Queensland, where similar techniques and research results were presented.

In 2008 the Australian Computer Society, commissioned me to design a course on Green ICT using an approach adapted from the UK Open University for postgraduate teaching. In 2009 I started teaching a version of this at the Australian National University.

The process is reasonably simple: first I give the students some lecture notes (without the lectures). They then read some readings, watch some videos and do some exercises, by themselves. We then meet as a group to answer questions and discuss. The students do a mid and end of semester assignment. Group participation forms part of the assessment, but most is by traditional written assignments.

These techniques can be used with pure e-learning, online with no physical classroom. They can also be used in a "blended" approach, with a physical classroom. Ideally the classrooms should be designed with this in mind, in a "learning commons".

The value of such teaching techniques is now well established. The issue is how to apply what has been learnt widely and routinely. This will require an investment in training of staff and re-equipment of campuses. One small example is the use of iPads and i-boards.

One approach which can be used to accelerate the process is by using the teaching techniques to teach the techniques. The University of Canberra is building the Inspire Centre for ICT Pedagogy, Practice and Research. However, more work is needed on better computer tools for use in such centres.

At present students and teachers are confronted with an array of computer gadgets which do not necessarily work well together: interactive whiteboards, "clickers", tablet computers, learning management systems and video conference systems. Classes may be divided into those in the classroom and those online, full time, part time, domestic and international. It should be feasible to bring these all together, so that the teacher and student can choose the most appropriate gadget and teaching method wherever they are at a particular time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning

The first exercise for the introduction to university teaching course I am starting next week, is to comment on the university's "Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning", the "Commentary on the Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning" and the "Code of Practice - Supervision in Higher Degrees by Research".

Previously, inspired by a talk by Professor Ian Young, I looked at what policy and plans there were for "flexible modes of learning" and what might be needed in a "Flexible Learning Policy".

Dissemination and Formatting of the Documents

What I noticed first was that the learning code and guide documents are publicly available in the university's Policies Website, not hidden away, which makes them far more useful and like to be read. Also these are relatively brief documents, the teaching practice code is only four A4 pages long. These are official documents of the university, two being "Policy" and the other a "Guideline".

The documents are provided in the form of simply laid out and readable text, in efficiently encoded web pages. One problem is that the headers of the documents are too large, resulting in the body being pushed "below the fold" (that is not visible) on screen. This will become more of a problem as students and staff increasingly adopt smart phones and tablet computers for reading such documents. The reader has to scroll down a long way before they get to the actual useful content of the document. A simple solution would be to move the "Authorisation & Contact Information" and "Related Documents" sections from the top to the bottom of the document, as these will be of little interest to most readers.

Content of the Documents

The document "Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning" is somewhat confusingly prefixed "policy". It would be more usual to have a short policy document and then a longer separate code of practice. An example of this is the ACS Code of Ethics, which is less than a page long and the ACS Code of Professional Conduct and Professional Practice, which expands on this.

One serious flaw in the code, the other two documents and many other university polices, is the lack of references to provide context and authority. It seems unlikely that these policies sprang fully formed into existence. Their origins, what work they draw on and how they have been validated would add to their authority. This is particularly relevant for academic policies, where the students are told to cite sources and properly reference work, to make it scholarly and avoid the appearance of plagiarism.

Twelve Principle of teaching and learning

The code sets down a set of twelve principles. These are listed unnumbered, which makes them difficult to refer to so, here they are numbered:

All those involved in teaching and learning are expected to:

  1. Adhere to the ... Code of Conduct as it pertains to teaching and learning practice
  2. Value and respect diversity (including, for example, diversity of culture, religious belief, age, race, gender and other personal and group-based attributes)
  3. Contribute to an academic environment free from harassment, discrimination and bullying, with access to complaint procedures which will facilitate speedy and just resolutions
  4. Adhere to the rules and principles governing academic integrity
  5. Contribute to the academic distinctiveness of the University which is characterised by
  6. Teaching based in research and scholarship
  7. National and international orientation of courses and course content
  8. A climate of intellectual rigour
  9. A program which blends fundamental, professional and contextual learning
  10. High levels of communication between the University, its staff and students
  11. Continuous improvement of the University's teaching quality.
  12. Recognise the importance of flexible access to lecture content for the purposes of the University's equity targets and teaching objectives.
The first principle refers to the "Code of Conduct". Unfortunately there is no hypertext link to take the reader to this document, nor is there any formal reference to the document. There is a link to "Code of Conduct", in the related documents section and presumably this is the document intended. If so, the correct name of the document should be used.

The university needs to check that its current practices actually conform to the codes set out. As an example, the "Code of Conduct" states:
  1. The University will indemnify its staff against liabilities incurred by them while carrying out their duties in good faith for the University.
  2. It will stand behind its staff and meet the costs of actions that might be taken against them personally as though the action had been taken against the University, provided that the staff member concerned was acting in good faith.
As an Adjunct Lecturer I am categorised as a member of the staff, however the university requires me to take out and pay for my own indemnity insurance in order to teach. So clearly the university does not indemnify all its staff, presumably only the full time staff. This exception needs to be included in the code.

Principle 4 refers to "rules and principles governing academic integrity". It would be useful if this cited explicitly the "Code of Practice for Student Academic Integrity", referenced at the top of the document.

Principle 12 is overly prescriptive in referring to "lecture content". As an example, while I am terms a "lecturer" I ceased using lectures as my primary mode of teaching last year. This semester I gave only one lecture and do not expect to use lectures for courses in the future. A more general term such as "course content" might therefore be better than "lecture content".

Best Practice Framework for teaching

The term "Best Practice" is nonsense marketing jargon, best avoided is a serious policy document. The term "semester" could also be omitted, as courses can be run over any period.

The framework shows a somewhat dated view of teaching by referring to students being able to "attend ... class times". This will be meaningless to online students and should be replaced with more inclusive language.

The requirement that students should "Select courses for which they have the pre-requisites", is either a tautology or an oxymoron. If students are required to have the "pre-requisites", as is implied by the word, then be definition students will have those pre-requisites. If students are not required to have the "pre-requisites", these are not really pre-requisites. In either case this sentence should be deleted.

The requirement for students to "Accept that the University may be required to limit choices because of available resources" is so general as to be meaningless and should be deleted. The university obviously does not have infinite resources and so must limit choices for students.

The requirement for students to "Attend orientation and induction activities ..." conflicts with principles two and three, as some students will be unable to attend such activities for cultural, religious reasons, or due to family commitments or disability. A requirement to attend may therefore constitute unlawful discrimination. In particular if the student can't attend due to a disability, such a requirement may be unlawful, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992, listed in the document. This particularly applies where the course itself does not require attendance.

Placing a requirement on the student to be in "possession of the required information before the course begins" is misdirected, as it should be for the university to make that information available. Also the concept of "possession" of information is not one likely to be one which will make sense to a student in the 21st century, a term such as "access" might be better.

The activities for the students "during the semester" appear to be based on an outmoded view of education, where students are passive absorbers of information and need to be force fed knowledge. I suggest these obligations be rewritten on the assumption the students are self motivated and the teachers will provide them with assistance to learn.

The obligations for teachers, the University and its Colleges, have fewer problems than those for the students, being essentially a statement of some of the practices in modern educational thinking. However, there are unnecessarily prescriptive and outdated assumptions made as to teaching techniques. As an example, the obligation to "hold lectures in environments where recordings can be made", assumes that lectures are the primary teaching technique.

The Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning should be rewritten to be a much shorter document, on the assumption that ANU follows good teaching practices. The detail on how and what those practices are should be in the guide. References to particular techniques which were used at the university in the past, but may not be in the future, such as "lecture", "attendance" and "examination" should be removed from the code, bur retained in the guide.

Guideline: Commentary on the Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning

The "Guideline: Commentary on the Code of Practice for Teaching and Learning ...", at about 14 pages long is three times as large as the code and less coherently written. It contains a number of problems with the formatting, indicating it may have been prepared in some haste. The document lacks a clear structure.

Unlike the code, the guideline contains numerous references to other documents, with hypertext links. Unfortunately the references do not appear to have been done in accordance with any accepted referencing style, such as Havard. URI (web addresses) are including in the body of the document. In most chases the URIs are hypertext links to the documents, but not all. In most cases the URI follows the name of document, but not all, with some URIs on their own and no explanation as to what they are for.

While the document outlines what students should do, it does not detail what assistance is provided to help them with this. As an example, the University's policies about plagiarism are stated, little guidance is provided to students in order to achieve this. The assumption seems to be that plagiarism is a rare occurrence of something which the student will naturally know how to avoid. However, the reality is this is a topic which many students have difficulty with. About one third of my my postgraduate students need practice with how to reference properly and about one in ten requires individual personal tuition. The policy on "Code of Practice for Student Academic Integrity", could be improved by including some references indicating where the content of the policy was derived from.

The requirement to "Appropriately prepare and complete in a timely manner all assessment items" . In may cases there are optional assessment items, where the student has a choice of which to do. If there is something essential for the student to do, then the assessment should be arranged so that the student cannot pass the course without doing that item.

Similarly, if there is a time limit on assessment it should be enforced. Statements about "Students who do not submit assessable work on time cannot expect the same response regime as their peers" are not appropriate and do not treat students with the respect they deserve.

The guidelines would benefit from being rewritten, with a clearer structure, references to an accepted standard. It would also help to explicitly state the learning philosophy which the university uses, which I expect would be based on assuming students are motivated and honest and the university staff are there to help them achieve their potential.

Interactive Whiteboard As A Large Tablet Computer

Last week I attended a workshop on using Using interactive whiteboards, iPads of University Teaching. To an IT professional, the Interactive Whiteboard and iPad need little explanation. An interactive whiteboard is a computer with a large touch screen and applications adapted for touch, rather than keyboard/mouse input. An iPad is a hand held tablet computer from Apple, with a touch screen and applications for gesture input.

The interactive whiteboard and iPad have much in common, as they both have a touch sensitive screen. The interactive whiteboard could be thought of as a very large iPad. Given that iPads are becoming familiar to the general population, which includes educators, it may be useful to explain interactive whiteboards to them in this way.

It may be feasible to go further and build an interactive whiteboard which uses the hardware and software of a tablet computer. This would allow the growing range of applications for tablet computers to be used on the interactive whiteboard. It would also allow the same educational applications to be used by students and staff individually on their tablet computer and as a group on the i-board. The same applications could use both the tablet computers and large scared board simultaneously. Using the same software for both types of units would also make maintenance of the equipment and the training of staff and students in its use easier.

It would be difficult to modify an Apple iPad to drive an i-board, as the Apple software and hardware is closely controlled by the Apple company. However, the rival Google Android operating system is more open to change and is used on a range of hardware from different manufacturers. There are small, low cost computers available running Google Android. These have the same interface ports as used to drive third party i-board hardware. An example of such a device is the $200 Agora Internet TV Portal. It should therefore be feasible to program one of these to work with existing i-board hardware and build an interactive whiteboard which is essentially an Android tablet computer with a very large screen.

The Android i-Board would have limitations, in that it could not run Microsoft Windows applications, in particular Microsoft Office, Word and PowerPoint (at least not easily, some Windows applications run in emulation under Linux). However, there are applications available which can read and write the file formats of MS-Windows which can run on Android. There are also third party Android "Apps", similar to those for the Apple iPad (but not as extensive in number).

More important than emulating Windows applications might be the ability to work with web based applications. This would allow many web based educational applications and resources to be used with the i-broad.

Using the Android hardware and software would have advantages for an i-board. These devices are expensive, large, unreliable and cumbersome to use. Interactive Whiteboards consist of a desktop personal computer running Microsoft Windows or the Apple Mac operating system, interfaced to the touch surface of the screen. To accommodate the PC requires a large device. As a large and complex operating system and application software is being used, the unit takes considerable time to boot, is at risk of viruses and needs frequent software upgrades.

A Google Android computer can be about the size of a matchbox. This need have no hard disk, relying on flash memory and a network connection. Such a unit can be booted quickly as it has a relatively small and simple suite of software. As most of the applications will be running remotely over the network, a powerful process is not needed, nor are frequent software upgrades.

It should be noted that there are other Linux based operating systems available which could be used in place of Google Android, for driving an interactive whiteboard. Android is suggested as it is the most widely known and widely deployed, with more Android devices in use than Apple iPad/iPhones.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Foundations of University Teaching

Having been on the periphery of teaching at the tertiary level for a decade, I though it was time to learn about it more formally. So I start an introductory course on university teaching next week.

This is with much trepidation, as my last effort at teaching education did not go well: see my "Reflections of an Online Student".

Friday, May 27, 2011

Interactive Whiteboards for Universities

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Taylor Hayes from Electroboard is demonstrating the use of an Interactive Whiteboard. While these units are common in primary, secondary schools and TAFEs, they are less common at universities.

The first feature demonstrated was having the interactive whiteboard emulate an overhead projector. This does not use all the capabilities of the unit but is a good for beginners. A document or image from any application can be displayed on screen (the unit has a computer built it, in this case an Apple Mac) and then a stylus used to write over the document (there are styluses which write in different colors, emulating white-board markers). The image created, combining the background image and the digital scribble over it can be saved as an image file.

There are also "Ink Aware" applications, such as Microsoft Office, which allow the digital ink to be saved in the document as an annotation. However, it appears that the annotation is an image over a page in an application like Microsoft Word, it is not linked to words, sentences or paragraphs in the document. As a result a computer program, or a blind student, will not know what is being annotated on the page. It would be useful if the annotation could be tagged to a particular object in the document.

There is text recognition for the ink aware applications, allowing limited amounts of text to be input. But this would interrupt the free flowing intention of the interactive board.

The major limitation is that there appears to be no "ink aware" support in web browsers. As a result none of the applications I use for education, which are web based, could be used. In place of Microsoft Word, Powerpoint and PDF documents, I now use HTML web pages.

In particular it would be useful if the Learning Management System Moodle could be interfaced to the interactive whiteboard. Many educators think Moodle is just for online remote education, but it is also a powerful tool for use live in the classroom. Moodle works with smart phones and iPads, and there is no reason it would not work well with an interactive whiteboard.

Also it would be interesting to use the interactive whiteboard with a video conference system, such as "Wimba Classroom" or DimDim. Previously at the Defence Department I used a touch screen video conference system.

The particular board being demonstrated is a Smart Technologies, wide screen unit, with a resistive surface. The board has a soft plastic sheet which when pressed detected the location of a finger or stylus. The unit appears to be "single touch" and not particularly sensitive and some touches were not reliably registered. However, Taylor pointed out that this is an old unit which ANU purchased some time ago. There are newer units with more sensitive multi-touch surfaces.

It was disappointing to find that interactive whiteboards, and their use, do not appear to have progressed significantly since I used one for a conference in 1995. The whiteboard worked very well on that occasion and I suspect it resulted in my fellow the Defence Department staff ordering them in bulk.

However, it was disappointing to find the boards can't interactive effectively with web based applications. Also it is not clear if the modes of education at university will suit the boards. It may be that university tutors and lecturers will need instruction in a new style of teaching to be able to use the equipment effectively. It will be interesting to see if tertiary level educators, who see themselves as superior, are prepared to learn how to teach from those at schools and TAFEs with experience and expertise in this.

The interactive whiteboard demonstration was followed by a short introduction to using iPads for university students. This included interfacing them to the interactive whiteboard. This is an area under very active trial at universities and in many educational institutions around the world. What is yet to be established is what is the role for such tablet computers, in the classroom, for students at home. My view is that educations should not fixate on any one platform, such as iPads, and instead look at the educational techniques which can be applied with a range of devices. As an example, Moodle and simpler software can easily be adapted to tablet computers and smart phones, as well as i-boards. These can all also be integrated into traditional university teaching techniques.

Web accessibility and the elderly

Roger Hudson from Web Usability, will talk on "Web accessibility and the elderly" at the Web Standards Group meeting in Canberra, 8 June 2011. This will be followed by Pia Waugh on "Open data and the importance of visualisation".

The web is being increasingly used to provide essential services, but more could be done to make this material accessible to older web users. There is no precise definition of what comprises the "elderly" and a variety of labels are used to describe older people who use the web. This paper outlines recent research into the use of the web by people over the age of 60: What proportion uses the web, how much they use it and why they use it.

The move to online service delivery offers some clear benefits in terms of cost and improved efficiency. Also, the use of social networking tools could potentially enhance openness and greater community participation in the process of government. However as more and more essential services go online, there is a real danger that a significant number of older people may be unable or unwilling to access them.

This paper was originally presented by Roger Hudson at the CSUN 2011 conference in the US. It outlines some common issues older web users encounter and their general lack of awareness about how they can control the presentation of web content. The paper concludes by looking at several options for helping older users of the web overcome some of the problems raised.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Modern Trends in Machine Computation

The paper "Modern Trends in Machine Computation" was published in Supplement to the Australian Journal of Science, 21 February 1948 (Volume X Number 4). This is by Trevor Pearcey, then an officer at the Radio-physics Laboratory of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (predecessor of CSIRO). This describes the state of the art in what would now be called computing. The paper starts by discussing the difference between analogue and digital machines. The accuracy and flexibility of digital machines is pointed out. Charles Babbage's difference and analytical engines are mentioned as precursors to model digital machines. The work of Dr. Vannevar Bush at MIT is noted. The difference between simple repetitive computations needed by commerce and complex scientific calculations is discussed.

Pearcey provides a diagram of the components of a digital computer, which is essentially the same as would be used today in teaching, except for the terms used. The diagram (Figure 2) is captioned "The Organic Structure of a Computer", and has a "Control Organ" at the centre, surrounded by and connected to, the "Memory Organ", "Output Organ", "Arithmetic Organ", and "Input Organ". The difference between decimal and binary number representation are then discussed and the advantage of binary for processing by simple telephone type relays. Valve based electronic computer circuits are then discussed, with a circuit of a binary counter showed.

Memory devices are then discussed: punched tape, punched cards, magnetic tape or wire, photographic film, relay and valve registers, acoustic tube delay lines, and electrostatic storage (in a device similar to a Cathode Ray Tube). The timing needed for sequential computation is then discussed.

The Automatic Sequential Control Calculator (ASCC) at Cruft Laboratory, Harvard is then described in detail (it was an electromechanical relay machine). ENIAC from the Moore School of Engineering is then compared with its predecessor, ASSC from Harvard. The MIT Differential Analyser is described last.

Pearcey then speculates on future developments, with more memory capacity and faster speeds being desirable. The the USA's EDVAC project and UK's ACE are mentioned.

Pearcey ends with an often quoted, and from my reading of a facsimile of a copy of the actual journal article, misquoted sentence:
"In the non-mathematical field there is a wide scope for the use of the techniques in such things as filing systems. It is not inconceivable that an automatic encyclopaedic service operated through the national teleprinter, or telephone system, will one day exist."
When asked about this in his talk in Canberra, 23 May 2011, James Gleick, author of "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood", said he doubted that such a paper would mention computers in 1948. Having read the paper I can confirm it does discuss "Computors" (note spelling), "computing" and specifically electronic digital computers. The body of the paper does not discuss the use of computers for handling non-numeric data, but the mention "filing systems", and an "encyclopedic service" operating over a national teleprinter, or telephone system, indicates that this was in Trevor Pearcey thoughts.

What also makes this paper significant is that unlike many dreamers who speculated about computers, Trevor Pearcey was leader of the team (along with Maston Beard) who built CSIRAC (CSIR Mk 1), the fourth stored program digital electronic computer (1949).

This paper deserves to be more widely known. The poor quality facsimile copy I obtained through the Australian National University, appears to be from a USA based document service. This paper should be digitised at high resolution and transcribed and placed online, so its place in the history of computing can be properly recognised.

Asking the right question

Greetings from the famous room N101 at the ANU in Canberra, where Dr Ying-Hsang Liu from Charles Sturt University is talking about "Query reformulation, individual difference and search performance over query sessions", or in other words, what do people ask web search engines? People with different backgrounds and different levels of expertise will ask different questions. Also they will ask a different question if their first search does not give the results they wanted. researchers are looking at how to evaluate the search algorithms and optimise them.
Query reformulation is the useras articulation of information needs after the initial search. In this talk I will report on findings from a larger study that was designed to assess the effectiveness of MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms when used by different types of searchers in an interactive search environment. I will examine the characteristics of queries formulated by different types of searchers, exemplified by different levels of domain knowledge and search training. Using several effectiveness measures, such as MAP and nsDCG (normalised session DCG), I will discuss the relationship between individual difference and search performance over query sessions.

Metadata in the Public Sphere

Day 2 of the the Meta 2011 Conference at ANU University House in Canberra included myself on "Designing for Democratic Dialogue: More than Mating iPads", followed by with Senator Lundy on "Public Sphere" and Chris Winter, from the ABC on "Developing an ABC Program Information Model - the WCMS project".

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Journal of Learning Spaces

The newly created Journal of Learning Spaces has issued a Call for Submissions for their first issue:

The Journal of Learning Spaces provides a scholarly, multidisciplinary forum for research articles, case studies, book reviews, and position pieces that examine higher education learning spaces in the context of space design, use, and management, as well as assessment, evaluation, and pedagogical practices. Please visit our Focus and Scope page for more information.

Research Manuscripts, Position Pieces, and Case Studies submissions are double-blind peer reviewed.

All submissions are due on or before June 30, 2011.

Metadata, privacy and information policy

Greetings from the opening of the Meta 2011 Conference at ANU University House in Canberra. Professor John McMillan, the Australian Information Commissioner, is discussing the role of metadata in information policy. He pointed out that metadata may contain information about individuals and so breach their privacy, under national provacy principles, which apply to government agencies and non-government organisations. Organisations need to check the metadata hidden in documents, before they release them (it can be entertaining to see what is hidden away in documents released by government).

Professor McMillan also pointed out that metadata is important to the mechanics of implementing the government's information policy. He held up a copy of the new "Principles on open public sector information", which were released today. (along with a "Report on review and development of principles". It is good to see that the commission released the documents in the form of simple and easy to read HTML files, as well as PDF and RTF. They also put the HTML version first, which will be most useful.

One of the audience asked about intellectual property. The Commissioner replied this was the responsibility of the Attorney General's department, but pointed out this was touched on in the information principles and AGs recommend use of a Creative Commons licence for material to be released to the public.

Here are the eight principles of open government sector information:

Principle 1: Open access to information - a default position

Information held by Australian Government agencies is a valuable national resource. If there is no legal need to protect the information it should be open to public access. Information publication enhances public access. Agencies should use information technology to disseminate public sector information, applying a presumption of openness and adopting a proactive publication stance.

Principle 2: Engaging the community

Australian Government policy requires agencies to engage the community online in policy design and service delivery. This should apply to agency information publication practices. Agencies should:

  • consult the community in deciding what information to publish and about agency publication practices
  • welcome community feedback about the quality, completeness, usefulness and accuracy of published information
  • respond promptly to comments received from the community and to requests for information
  • employ Web 2.0 tools to support community consultation.

Principle 3: Effective information governance

Australian Government agencies should manage information as a core strategic asset. A senior executive ‘information champion' or knowledge officer in the agency should be responsible for information management and governance, including:

  • providing leadership on agency compliance with the Information Publication Scheme and Disclosure Log
  • ensuring agency compliance with legislative and policy requirements on information management and publication
  • managing agency information to ensure its integrity, security and accessibility
  • instigating strategic planning on information resource management
  • ensuring community consultation on agency information policy and publication practices.

The senior officer should be supported by an information governance body that may include people from outside the agency.

Principle 4: Robust information asset management

Effective information management requires agencies to:

  • maintain an asset inventory or register of the agency's information
  • identify the custodian of each information holding and the responsibilities of that officer
  • train staff in information management
  • establish clear procedures and lines of authority for decisions on information publication and release
  • decide if information should be prepared for publication at the time it is created and the form of publication
  • document known limitations on data quality
  • identify data that must be managed in accordance with legislative and legal requirements, including requirements relating to data security and protection of personal information, intellectual property, business confidentiality and legal professional privilege
  • protect information against inappropriate or unauthorised use, access or disclosure
  • preserve information for an appropriate period of time based on sound archival practices.

Principle 5: Discoverable and useable information

The economic and social value of public sector information can be enhanced by publication and information sharing. This requires that information can easily be discovered and used by the community and other stakeholders. To support this objective agencies should:

  • publish an up to date information asset register
  • ensure that information published online is in an open and standards-based format and is machine-readable
  • attach high quality metadata to information so that it can be easily located and linked to similar information using standard web search applications
  • publish information in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines version 2 (WCAG 2.0) endorsed by the Australian Government in November 2009.

Principle 6: Clear reuse rights

The economic and social value of public sector information is enhanced when it is made available for reuse on open licensing terms. The Guidelines on Licensing Public Sector Information for Australian Government Agencies require agencies to decide licensing conditions when publishing information online. The default condition should be the Creative Commons BY standard, as recommended in the Intellectual Property Principles for Australian Government Agencies, that apply to agencies subject to the Financial and Management Accountability Act 1997. Additional guidance on selecting an appropriate licence is given in the Australian Government Open Access and Licensing Framework (AUSGOAL).

Principle 7: Appropriate charging for access

The FOI Act requires agencies to facilitate public access to information at the lowest reasonable cost. This principle applies when information is provided upon request or is published by an agency. Other Acts also authorise charges for specific documents or information access.

Agencies can reduce the cost of public access by publishing information online, especially information that is routinely sought by the public. Charges that may be imposed by an agency for providing access should be clearly explained in an agency policy that is published and regularly reviewed.

Principle 8: Transparent enquiry and complaints processes

Agency decision making about information publication should be transparent. This can be supported, within the agency's information governance framework, by an enquiry and complaints procedure for the public to raise issues about agency publication and access decisions. The procedure should be published, explain how enquiries and complaints will be handled, set timeframes for responding, identify possible remedies and complaint outcomes, and require that written reasons be provided in complaint resolution. ...

From: "Principles on open public sector information", AOIC, 25 May 2011

Publishing BBC Metadata on the Web

Greetings from the opening of the Meta 2011 Conference at ANU University House in Canberra. Tom Scott, from the BBC is the first speaker, on Publishing BBC Metadata. Tom mentioned the Semantic Web in his first few words. He asked "What is the web?", showing Tim Berners-Lee's original paper "Information Management: A Proposal" ( CERN, March 1989).

Tom demonstrated the BBC Nature website, which in addition to ordinary web pages, provides structured data, using RSS and RDF and semantic mark-up using microformats. This data is available for others to use and is also used by the BBC to create new stories.

Tom also mentioned dbpedia, an attempt to structure Wikipedia data. At this point he argued that there is no metadata and what is commonly though of is data is actually metadata. In a reference to Stephen Hawking, Tom said "Turtles all the way down". This is an metaphor for infinte recursion, however, I would argue it is "metadata all the way down". James Gleick argues in his book "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood", that the ability to reason abstractly came after writing ("if all horses are white ..."). That seems unlikely, as I am sure horse breeders reasoned on the nature of a good horse, before written language. Data and metadata are intertwined by their nature, not due to a human invention.

Tom argued that we needed to move from the document web to the data web, the web of things, which is what the semantic web is for. However, after spending many years trying to understand the semantic web and teach it to university students (supervising several masters students doing project on using it for cataloguing indigenous cultural material), I think this is a concept which needs to be further refined and simplified to be widely used. Tim Berners-Lee's key contribution with the World Wide Web was to take an existing complex electronic document standard (SGML) and simplify it to make something easy enough to use (HTML). Ever since, information professionals have argued that HTML is flawed, some tinkered with SGML and produced XML, others tinkered with HTML to make XHTML, but lost was the simplicity of HTML In my view the semantic web similarly needs simplification, even if the purists then say it is incomplete.

Tom then explained that the BBC use metadata for program guides. The importance is not the metadata but the information it describes. This is the key point which information professionals tend to find so obvious, that they forget to explain. While they may say metadata is data about data, but do not say why this is useful. That is a topic I will explore in my talk to the conference tomorrow, with Senator Lundy on "Designing for Democratic Dialogue: More than Mating iPads" (11.00 am on Thursday 26th May, 2011).

Next on the program today we have Greg Stone, Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Australia and Professor John McMillan, Australian Information Commissioner, who is launching the new government information policy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

UAE Consults on Green Telecommunications

Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has issued a public consultation document on the adoption of Green ICT practices (الممارسات الخضراء لتكنولوجيا الاتصالات). The document is a concise six pages, with 13 questions. As far as I know, this is the first time a national telecommunications regulator has asked about green ICT. Comments are invited by 12 July 2011.

1.0 Introduction:

In the past few years, the ICT industry has started to adopt environmentally-friendly strategies and many telecom operators have started to implement a green approach by deploying alternative energy solutions to reduce carbon emissions and decrease the negative impact on the environment.

It is estimated that the ICT industry contributes around 2.0 - 2.5% of global green house gas (GHG) emissions. Unless action is taken within the Industry, these percentages are likely to grow as ICT becomes more widely deployed.

The TRA is seeking to play a vital role in leading the ICT sector in UAE to implement green policies and practices thereby reducing the percentage of GHG emissions from the ICT industry. Further, the TRA wishes to study how ICT can help in reducing GHG emissions from other sectors.

As a start, the TRA would like to consult with stakeholders on the best approach, practices and rules that the TRA should adopt when it comes to green ICT within the UAE.

2.0 Main Points for Consultation:

The TRA has started its research into green ICT, and would now like to receive comments and input from the industry on the following Questions:

Question 1: What do you see as the roles of the TRA and Telecom operators in reducing GHG emissions in the UAE?

Question 2: What standard techniques would you suggest are appropriate for the calculation of the carbon footprint of UAE ICT industry?

Question 3: Do you believe that the TRA should promote technologies with reduced power consumption (NGN is consuming 40% less power as per ITU)?

Question 4: Do you agree that the TRA should issue regulations to secure a reduction in GHG emissions from the ICT industry?

Question 5: Should the TRA align its methodologies with those being developed by standardization bodies such as ETSI and ITU?

Question 6: How can the ICT industry play a vital rule in reducing GHG emissions in other sectors?

Question 7: Should the TRA cooperate with local universities regarding studies related to climate change and reducing GHG emissions?

Question 8: Do you have any specific proposals regarding the adoption and use of key performance indicators (KPIs) for the ICT sector in order to monitor the improvements?

Question 9: Do you have any specific suggestions regarding the steps to be taken by the Telecom Operators in planning/implementing green networks?

Question 10: Do you have any specific views on Rating Standards for measuring the energy efficiency in ICT sector?

Question 11: Is there a need to establish an industry forum to address the items for green ICT? If so, who should be represented on such a forum?

Question 12: In your opinion, which is the most appropriate body or bodies for building awareness among all stakeholders on the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Question 13: Do you wish to make any other comments regarding this initiative by the TRA?

From: Public Consultation on Green ICT, Telecommunications Regulatory Authority, United Arab Emirates, 9 May 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

James Gleick on Information

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood; by James GleickGreetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where author, James Gleick, is talking about his new book "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood".

Mr. Gleick told an anecdote about Zick Rubin having difficulty convincing the authors of a wiki that he was alive. The authors had a printed book which said he was dead, which was more convincing than the living person.

Mr. Gleick then mentioned Shannon's paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" (1948) which provided a theory of information. He pointed out that Shannon in his youth produced a "barbed wire" communications network.

It now seems obvious that electrical and optical systems carry information, which has a separate existence from the electromagnetic forms of energy used to convey it. But this was an idea which needed to be developed.

Mr. Gleick's gift is to make esoteric theoretical ideas, first chaos theory and now information theory, accessible to a wider audience. Unlike "A Brief History of Time", where Stephen Hawking tries to explain advanced physics (and fails), James Gleick mostly succeeds. His success may be due to the same advice Cameron Chamberlain gave in his Introduction to Animation last week: make it about something alive, with a personality. Facts about things are boring, but stories about people doing things are interesting.

It is important to realise that great inventions do not spring inevitably from accumulations of information. It takes people with passion. It is curious and informative that information is fundamental to life.

At question time one of the audience asked about a quote attributed to an Australian, envisaging an online computer database linked by telecommunications in 1948. Mr. Gleick said he doubted that this was said in 1948. I recalled something like this attributed to Australian computer pioneer, Trevor Pearcey. It took me a few minutes searching to find the reference:
“in the non-mathematical field there is scope for the use of the [computing] techniques in such things as filing systems. It is not inconceivable that an automatic encyclopaedic service operated through the national teleprinter or telephone service will one day exist.”
This is attributed to "Pearcey, T.: Modern Trends in Machine Computation. Aust. J. Science X/4 Supp. (1948) in John Deane's paper "Connections in the History of Australian Computing", in "History of Computing: Learning from the Past: IFIP WG 9.7", (International Federation for Information Processing, 2010). It turns out that these are the proceedings from a conference at the World Computer Congress 2010, I attended in Brisbane, last year.

James Gleick is also speaking 24 May at the Brisbane Irish Club.

ps: The Australian Information Commissioner, Professor John McMillan, will be launching a new set of "Principles on Open Public Sector Information", at Meta 2011, ANU University House, 25 May 2011.

Using Social Media to keep customers informed in a disaster

Isabelle Johnson, Corporate Communications Manager, Strategic Projects at Ergon Energy will talk on "Social Media - Ergon Energy's experience during Cyclone Yasi" at a RIM Professionals Australasia Queensland Branch Breakfast, 21 June 2011 in Brisbane.
Equally as important as getting the power back on was keeping our customers and stakeholders up to date on our progress.

The social media sites, Twitter and Facebook, were introduced for the first time as a disaster response community communications channel.

This presentation includes an overview of lessons learnt ...

From: "Social Media - Ergon Energy's experience during Cyclone Yasi", RIM Professionals Australasia, 2011
This appears to be an update of the talk "Ergon Energy's social media experience during Cyclone Yasi" given at Queensland State Archives Forum, 29 March 2011. Some excerpts from the slides:
Keeping the public informed during Yasi

• 212,000 calls to contact centre
• news media – wide coverage
• ‘Live read’ safety advertising
• 71,000 website hits
• 10,000 Facebook followers

What led us to use social media

We had in place:

• storm centre website
• social media strategy
• successful trial
• communication process

We wanted to:
• listen and engage
• give our customers
another way to reach us

Social Media – our experience

• Facebook and Twitter hidden but ready
• Observed QPS flood response
• Added value to existing processes
• Command centre – social media room
• Single source of truth
• ‘Lead posters’

Social Media – the risks

• Capturing & reporting safety
• Access to complete, timely info
• Influence, not control

Social Media – the benefits

• Kept customers updated in real time
• Provided a forum to talk & share info
• Built better & stronger relationships

From: "Ergon Energy's social media experience during Cyclone Yasi", Isabelle Johnson, Ergon Energy, for Queensland State Archives Forum, 29 March 2011.
Other presentations from the Records and Information Management Forum, Brisbane, 29 March 2011, Queensland State Archives:
  1. QUT agency experiences Tania Meggitt, Queensland University of Technology
  2. Records implications for social media, Troy Pullen, Queensland State Archives
  3. Social media - Ergon Energy's experience during Cyclone Yasi, Isabelle Johnson, Ergon Energy
  4. Disaster Occupational Health and Safety, Peter Twigg, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland
  5. Prepare, prevent and respond: conservation and preservation, Annette McNicol, Queensland State
  6. A guide to working through a disaster, Sharon Muldoon, Department of Communities

Sunday, May 22, 2011

TV Turning itself on

Having a problem with an SDC LCD/LED 19 Inch TV (model LTE-1920s) from Shenzhen Shunda Digital Information Co. After operating reliably for some time the TV has started turning itself on and then off. This happened after trying the PVR function which records to a USB Flash drive. The TV was a demo model bought after the CeBit Sydney 2010 exhibition. However, simialr models have been sold by Woolworth as a "Bush 19 HD LED LCD TV". Perhaps someone knows where to download a firmware upgrade?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Animation for Education

Greetings from the Mathematical Sciences Institute (MSI) at the Austrlaian National Unviersity where Cameron Chamberlain from ANU School of Art, is presenting an Introduction to Animationmathematicians, next week's workshop is on interviewing (27 May 2011).

Cameron pointed out that even the most sophisticated computer based animation still depends on the principles of live film making and animation. A an example, he used Disney's 12 principles, as documented in The ILLUSION OF LIFE: DISNEY ANIMATION (by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, 1995).

He also recommended The Animator's Survival Kit, Expanded Edition: A Manual of Methods, Principles and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion and Internet Animators (by Richard Williams).

This may not seem relevant to teaching mathematics, but the conventions of animated film, film and live performance can be applied to make appealing educational animation.

People respond to animated objects with personality. This does not require realism, as Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass point out in "The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places" (Cambridge University Press, 1996), research shows that people were very accepting on simple computer animations.

The Wikipedia has a list of 2D and 3D open source animation software. Cameron commented that Blender was the most usable.

Cameron gave rhe example of a mathematics related, award winning file: The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics. My favourite animation along these lines (pun intended) is Airport by Iain Anderson (2005), made using airport signs.

ps: Cameron at one point said "Turn it Up to Twelve", which I assume is a pop culture reference to This Is Spinal Tap.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Solar energy for effluent treatment

Greetings from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, where Dr K Srithar, visiting from Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, is speaking on "Industrial effluent treatment using solar energy". He preceded the talk with some photos of the Meenakshi Amman Temple ( மீனாட்சி அம்மன் கோவில்).

Tanning leather create large quantities of effluent which is traditionally treated by drying in open ponds. These take large amounts of land. Dr. Srithar experimented with running a thin sheet of water over an inclined dark solar plate collector and a spray system. A combination of these were three to four times as effective as ponds for evaporation and used less than half as much land. There was a cost as pumps were needed. The spray system also had the advantage that it would continue to work at night.

Dr. Srithar then discussed how to increase the efficiency of solar stills, to produce fresh water from salty. These use a shallow pond of brackish water with a sheet of glass over it. He found that including sponges, sand, rocks or a roughened surface increased efficiency. The efficiency could be further increased by pre-heating the water in a solar pond, before introducing it to the solar still.

Industrial effluent treatment using solar energy

Dr K Srithar , Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India, will speak on "Industrial effluent treatment using solar energy", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 3pm today, 19 May 2011.

Industrial effluent treatment using solar energy

Dr K Srithar (Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India)


DATE: 2011-05-19
TIME: 15:00:00 - 16:00:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room
CONTACT: daniel.macdonald@anu.edu.au

Dr. Srithar will present a review of his experimental work in the field of solar desalination and treatment of effluents. These include novel designs of a pilot plant using the solar flat plate collector- and spray- systems for treating tannery effluent, and a range of solar desalination systems integrated with solar pond. The designs are now being practically implemented in India for solar treatment of industrial effluents to produce distilled water. Dr. Srithar is a holder of an Australian Endeavour Executive award Award providing for his 3 months stay and research at CSES, ANU.
Dr. K. Srithar is currently an Assistant Professor in Thiagarajar College of Engineering, Madurai, Tamil Nadu at India. He has total 20 years of teaching experiences and two years research experience at Indian Institute of Technology-Madras. His field of interest is solar desalination and alternate fuel for IC engines. Dr. Srithar has published 24 papers in International journals and 5 papers in International Conferences. Dr Srithar is a holder of an Australian Endeavour Executive Award, covering his visit to ANU. ...

From: "Industrial effluent treatment using solar energy", Australian National University, 2011.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Transforming Education

Greetings from the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, where a group is discussing how to introduce "blended" learning, that is traditional face to face classroom teaching combined with online learning. As the enthusiasts for e-learning, we have have developed, selected and proven the technology, we have the proven educational techniques. The students like this way to to learn, but the problem is to explain to our fellow teachers that this is something they can do and to the unviersity administration how to put the processes in practice to make it routine.

The paper being discussed is "Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail" (John P. Kotter, Harvard
Business Review, January 2007
). This has "eight steps to transforming your organisation": 1. Urgency, 2. Coalition, 3. Vision, 4. Communication, 5. Empowerment, 6. Wins, 7. Consolidating and 8. Institutionalisation.

However, Kotter's approach suffers a bit from the Harvard Business approach, where you involve senior management. In many organisations, gaining support from senior management is a measure of success, not a prerequisite for starting. I used a modified technique to get Internet and the web introduced to the Austrlaian Government.

One of the issues is how to teach students to collaborate and make changes.

Social Networking and Policing

I was just interviewed by Win News Canberra, about the use of social networking by the police. I said how police need to be online, with the electronic equivalent of the bobby walking the beat, getting to know people and recommit a familiar face they can turn to in times of need.

However, online literacy needs to be incorporate into courses for students and teachers. At primary school I was trained in how to make an emergency phone call to Triple-Zero, as telephones at home were relatively new. Similarly children need to be formally trained in how to communicate online, and how to avoid dangerous situations. ACMA have a curriculum for teachers on this, which the AFP should join in.

Also some of this will be discussed at Meta 2011, next week.

BBC on Semantic Web in Canberra

Tom Scott, Executive Product Manager and  Technical Projects Lead at the BBCTom Scott, Executive Product Manager and Technical Projects Lead at the BBC will be speaking on semantic web publishing and metadata at the Meta 2011 conference at University House, the Australian National University, in Canberra, 25 May 2011.
... The BBC is an acknowledged leader in semantic web publishing and the use of metadata to create dynamically linked sites. Tom Scott has executive responsibility for three of the broadcast giant's sites, which are often held up as exemplary projects within the Linked Data community. These are: the BBC Nature site (bbc.co.uk/nature) incorporating a major Linked Data and video publishing element; the BBC Programme Support site (bbc.co.uk/programmes), a website that publishes a page (URI and metadata) for every programme the BBC broadcasts; and the BBC's Music site (bbc.co.uk/music), a website that integrates into the BBC broadcast systems and BBC Programmes.

As an active blogger and expert in semantic web publishing, Tom will paint the picture of both the current and future demands of digital publishing and information management and how metadata can enable that using real live examples. “The idea is to help people think about the Web from a different perspective, one that is ultimately empowering because in doing so you can more easily deliver real benefits to your organisation and users” said Scott....

From: BBC Tom Scott to present at Meta2011, Press Release, IMM, 12 May 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Buying a New Mobile Phone Battery

The battery in my Sharp GX30i mobile phone now only lasts for about a 20 minute call. This battery is a replacement from Power Mart aka Topscope Pty Ltd, purchased in August 2009 for $19.95, plus $4.50 delivery. The original battery with the phone lasted more than four years, so the replacement only lasting about 20 months is disappointing. However, this is within the expected life of a Lithium Ion battery.

The company Battery Charger are offering a replacement for the SHARP XN-1BT30 battery, at only $7.69 (assuming they still have them). The catch is $10 for Australia Post registered delivery. While I am at it I might as well order another battery for a Motorola U9 as well (for $9.22). The company gets a positive mention in the Whirlpool forum.

I did consider a new smart phone, but the old 2G phone has worked reliably (being dropped many times) and carries out the main function of making phone calls. Also it would be a shame to create more e-waste by throwing out a functioning phone. Also there is an new range of higher function low cost smart phones about to come out, such as the HTC Wildfire S. That should cause the price of existing units such as the Huawei Ideos u8150, to drop to under $100.

Meet James Gleick: Author of The Information in Canberra, 23 May

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood; by James GleickBest-selling author, James Gleick, will talk about his new book "The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood" at the Austrlaian National Unviersity, in Canberra, 6.30PM, 23 May 2011. Free entry but booking is essential.

James Gleick is also speaking in Australia in May at: 19th Sydney Writers Festival, 22nd Sydney: “Perish the Thought”, 24th
Brisbane Irish Club.
  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (March 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780375423727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375423727

PC Recycling Saves Money and the Planet

Last week I visited Brenda Aynsley at the ACS PC Recycling SIG, now located in the Australian Computer Society office in Adelaide. This is a special interest group of the South Australian Branch of the ACS, which takes donations of old computers, refurbishes them and then sells them to non-profit community groups for a nominal amount. Those eligible include pensioners and TAFE students.

Volunteers scrub hard disks, make any repairs or upgrades needed to the hardware and install new copies of Microsoft Windows software (Linux is also available as an option). This is a useful way to keep some hardware out of landfill and provide a service to the community.

Rented a Youth Hostel on the Hawkesbury

Just booked the Blue Mountains Hawkesbury Heights YHA Hawkesbury Heights YHA, for a long weekend birthday celebration. This provides exclusive use of the whole eco-friendly, 12 person building, at a rate a bit less than it would cost for 12 people to book individually (and much less than for a hotel).

Hawkesbury Heights Fireplace in the Blue Mountains Hawkesbury Heights YHAis one of the smaller buildings available under the under the RENT-A-YHA Scheme, with the others accommodating 31 to 50 people and so suiting organised club events:
  1. Hunter Valley YHA, Near: Watagans National Park, Sleeps: 50
  2. Merimbula YHA, Near: Ben Boyd National Park, Sleeps: 49
  3. Thredbo YHA, Near: Kosciuszko National Park, Sleeps: 48
  4. Bundanoon YHA, Near: Morton National Park, Sleeps: 44
  5. Pittwater YHA, Near: Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Sleeps: 32
  6. Port Stephens YHA, Near: Tomaree National Park, Sleeps: 31
  7. Hawkesbury Heights YHA, Near: Blue Mountains National Park, Sleeps: 12
YHA need to enhance their online booking system to include the Rent-A-YHA program. At present you can check for availability of different room types, but not the whole building. So what I did was make a booking request for 12 individuals (the capacity of the building), to see if it was available. This worked, but was cumbersome.

Cybersafety training for Australian teachers

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released an online "Cybersafety education program" for teachers. The e-learning course, consists of four modules, taking about three hours in total to complete. A Learner guide is available.

Also offered as part of the Cybersmart Outreach program is Pre-Service Teacher program for universities. Unfortunately ACMA appear to have decided not to make the course materials freely available, requiring registration in the programs. This severely limits their usefulness. ACMA should consider releasing the course materials under a Creative Commons licence, to allow their widespread use, in accordance with Australian Government open access policy.

Learner guide


Welcome to Connect.ed — a cybersafety professional development program for school teachers provided by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) as part of its cybersafety education program. Connect.ed is an exciting new addition to the suite of Cybersafety Outreach workshops designed to provide educators and school communities with appropriate tools and strategies to help children and young people have safe and positive experiences online.

Connect.ed is an interactive learning environment that reflects the digital world in which young people currently live. Connect.ed helps teachers to understand typical online experiences for children and young people, what motivates them to use the internet and other online technologies for much of their social activities, and the pressures and potential risks of being online.

Who should use Connect.ed?

Connect.ed is designed for both primary and secondary school teachers. Teachers across all subject areas and school support staff may also find the program useful in their roles.

The program was developed with input and advice from education experts and it has been tested by working teachers.

Prior knowledge of cybersafety or online technology is not required and teachers do not need to have previous experience with online learning to complete the modules.

Program structure

Connect.ed is engaging and thought-provoking. It will take you into the world of young people using online technologies, and allow you to explore the benefits and dangers of their interactions. Connect.ed is a self-managed, self-paced program that enables learners to schedule their learning according to their availability and preferences. It allows learners to track their progress so the program can be stopped, automatically saved and restarted from the same place as needed. Each module can be completed in approximately 45 minutes. Teachers can choose to further enhance their learning by actioning the suggested school-based activities which are provided as part of each module.

The Connect.ed program has four modules:

  1. The connected world.
  2. Cybersafety and your students.
  3. Schools and the law.
  4. Putting it into practice.

Learners are encouraged to undertake the modules sequentially so that they can progressively build their skills and knowledge. The modules provide a range of learning activities including a simulated online world, case studies and quizzes. By the completion of the program, learners will have developed a cybersafety program or activity based on the ACMA’s comprehensive Cybersmart teaching resources, that can be used in their school.

On completing the four modules, learners can print a certificate of completion.

Learners should contact their relevant state teaching institute to have the completion recorded against their teacher registration information.


The program is fully funded by Australian Government and is freely available to all teachers in both primary and secondary schools.

To register online, visit www.cybersmart.gov.au/outreach.aspx Please note that accounts are valid for a period of three months. If the program is not completed during the three month time period the account will lapse and re- registration is required.

In certain circumstances non-educators may apply to use Connect.ed. To enquire about eligibility, please email: connect.ed(a)acma.gov.au

Before starting

Before starting Connect.ed, learners are encouraged to obtain and read their current school cybersafety and internet/mobile usage policies.


For help with the program, please contact connect.ed(a)acma.gov.au

Cybersmart resources and contacts

A comprehensive range of cybersafety information including information on school workshops is provided by the ACMA’s Cybersmart program, through the Cybersmart website, via the Cybersafety Contact Centre—a national telephone contact centre— and through in-school presentations.

For background materials prior to completing Connect.ed, or more information following the program— Visit: www.cybersmart.gov.au Email: cybersafety(a)acma.gov.au Telephone: Cybersafety Contact Centre 1800 880 176...

From: Learner guide, Cybersafety education program, ACMA, 2011