Thursday, January 31, 2013

Humanitarian Open Source Software Meeting at Linux Conference

Tim McNamara arranged a well attended meeting of those interested in humanitarian uses of open source software (and hardware) at Linux Conference 2013 in Canberra on Wednesday. The HFOSS BoF (Humanitarian Free and Open Source Software Birds of a Feather) was held at the Purple Pickle Cafe on the Australian National University campus (just opposite the College of Engineering and Computer Science: CECS). Topics discussed included: CrisisCommons, mailing list, Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK), Sahana Software Foundation, Ushahidi, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), OpenMRS, RapidSMS, and the Serval Project.

Tim suggested one way organizations could assist is to provide a venue for volunteers to work on projects, especially during a crisis. It occurred to me that perhaps more work needs to be done to address on-line disasters. As we become more dependent on the Internet and telecommunication and as these come under threat from cyber-attack, as well as natural disasters, some form of crisis response is needed. This would provide a surge capacity in a crisis, beyond the resources provided by organizations such as AusCert.

Canadian On-line University Course Has Lower Fees

I was asked about the cost of my ICT Sustainability course, so I did a quick check of the fees at the institutions which offer it. But one of my former students runs a version of the course in Canada, which is much cheaper than the Australian courses. It will be interesting to see what level of competition there will be between on-line university courses internationally:

Fees for ICT Sustainability Course at Various Institutions
InstitutionCourse Fee
Australian National University$2,808
Australian Computer Society$1,800
Open Universities Australia$1,800
Athabasca University$1,100

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Verifiable and Accessible Electronic Voting System

At Linux Conference 2013 today at the Australian National University in Canberra,  Craig Burton, E-Voting Manager, Victorian Electoral Commission, talked on "Designing a Verifiable and Accessible Electronic Voting System". I had considerable difficulty understanding the presentation, perhaps due to my limited knowledge of e-voting systems. Dr. Burton began by detailing at length the problems inherent with e-voting systems and asserting they should not be used. He explained how paper voting systems are vulnerable to "retail" voting fraud (such as ballot box "stuffing") but not wholesale tampering with the tallied results, which e-voting systems are subject to.

At this point I was more than a little confused as to why an E-Voting Manager would be arguing that e-voting should not be used. Why the Federal and ACT Electoral Commissions would have been using e-voting for the last few elections if such systems where known to be so insecure? Also if computerized back-end systems are very vulnerable, then the current federal and ACT voting systems are at a high risk, as the paper ballots are tallied by computer.

Dr. Burton argued for a system where the vote could be checked through a combination of paper slips and electronic safeguards. However, in my view there is no way to use technology to completely guarantee a secure vote. Ultimately it is necessary to rely on the integrity of the electoral staff.

My confusion increased when Dr. Burton showed a video demonstration of what was apparently a prototype Victorian e-Voting machine. This device was using a clumsy looking combination of a tablet computer and a bar-code scanner.  What made this demonstration even more confusing was a demonstration of its touch screen used for the blind. An interface with a mechanical keyboard (as used for the ACT and Federal systems), which provides direct tactile and sound feedback, would be the obvious choice.

It should be kept in mind that there are many circumstances where citizens are involved in making collective decisions and voting in state and federal elections are not necessarily the most important. As an example, I live in an apartment complex, with its own federated system of governance. An elected committee runs the body corporate of the building and elects a representative to the non-profit company which runs the complex of buildings. These non-government bodies provide the garbage collection, streets, street lights, park and gardens, as well as some of the energy supply and telecommunications. Similarly I am a member of various non-government bodies, and own shares in companies, which provide services to the public. Such bodies hold elections and have more effect day-to-day, on the lives of citizens, than do governments. The voting systems used by these bodes therefore need close attention.

Open Source Mapping for Disasters

Greetings from Linux Conference 2013 at the Australian National University in Canberra, where  Kate Chapman talked  on "Open Source and Open Data for Humanitarian Response with OpenStreetMap". She described work in Haiti and Indonesia on using using the OpenStreetMap open source mapping to help with disaster management. What I foound interesting wasthe effort put into learning materials for mapping.

CSIRO Digital Productivity and Services Flagship

The CSIRO has announced a "Digital Productivity and Services Flagship" to deliver A$4B benefit to the Australian economy by 2025. Unfortunately few details have been provided, apart from the the relabeling of existing work. CSIRO needs to detail what resources are to be committed to the project and where the  funding and staff, are to come from. CSIRO needs to make some difficulty decisions about restructuring its current organizational arrangements to focus on priorities.

Students Cheat Less in Online Courses

In "Students Cheat More in Online Courses?", George Watson and James Sottile (Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, 2010) report that students admit to cheating more in face to face courses than on-line ones. They suggest that this is because the students work together in the classroom and so are included to share answers. To stop the sharing of answers in on-line tests, the authors suggest having the test supervised, or better still change to other forms of assessment, such as assignments. One approach which they surprisingly do not suggest is group work. Students in the face-to-face class are working together should be seen a a positive outcome and could be encouraged by group work. I use online discussion forums as part of assessment, along with assignments.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Apps in HTML5

Jeremy Apthorp talked on "The Future of HTML5 Apps" at Linux Conference 2013 today. He described the history of the quest for web based applications which work outside the browser window and work on different operating systems. He described standards work by W3C. He showed how some of the problems of making such apps secure and run offline with Goggle Chrome Packaged Apps. One design decision I did not understand is that remote image files are not permitted, on the basis that the device may be off-line and so not have the image file. However the IMAGE tag of HTML included ALT to provide alternate text for when the image cannot be seen. This could be used when the image in not available. Application designers are required to implement this anyway for accessibility reasons. One curious aspect of this is that Google has two different operating systems (Google Android and Google Chrome) for the Apps to work in.

Open Government Live in Canberra

Greetings from the opening of the Open Government Mini-Conf of Linux Conference 2013 at the Australian National University in Canberra. Pia Waugh is introducing issues with Open Government/Gov 2.0, including citizen centric services. Pia will be working with John Sheridan, the new Australian Government Chief Technology Officer (GCTO). Pia is editing a Open Government Wiki with response from the conference delegates live at the podium. My suggestion is to use on-line workplace open access educational materials for educating both public servants and the private company employees which support them. I will be discussing this during a later session of the conference with "Learning Open Government Techniques Online".

Monday, January 28, 2013

Firefox OS at Linux Conference

Ben C. demonstrated the Firefox OS on a smart phone, as well as on the software simulator under Linux at the the MobileFOSS stream of Linux Conference 2013.This is intended as a more open alternative to Google Android. One issue which came up was accessibility.

Mobile Open Source Software

After the keynote I decided to join the MobileFOSS stream at Linux Conference 2013. Google Android is the leading smart phone operating system and is based on Linux, but there are other more open Linux based operating systems in development for mobile phones. One example is "Open Phoenux", a development of Openmoko. Others are Firefox OS , Tizen, Ubuntu Phone.

Linux Conference 2013 in Canberra

Linux Conference 2013 opening in Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University in Canberra.
Greetings from Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University in Canberra, where Linux Conference 2013 just opened. IThe hall is usually used for classical conference and it is curious to see it filled with people with laptops. One notable sponsor is DSD. The giveaway for the first day was a wireless energy monitor.The keynote is by Bdale Garbee with a plea for building things we like to use. As an example of what not to do he pointed to the "Evolution" email package and of what to do as xfce desktop.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ian Warden on Marion Mahony Griffin and Australian Flora

Canberra writer, Ian Warden, will give a free talk on "Tiptoe through the Telopeas: Why Marion Mahony Griffin would have boycotted Floriade", 31 January 2013 at the Australian Botanical Gardens in Canberra. This is part of the Canberra Centenary.

Canberra History Talks

The University of the Third Age is hosting five "Canberra Conversations" events for the centenary of Canberra:

  1. February 11: How has Canberra’s planning shaped our lives?
  2. April 8: The bush capital – the environment and its impact
  3. June 17: The capital as civic cradle
  4. August 12: Canberra at Play
  5. October 14: Self-government in the Territory, and politics all round

Friday, January 25, 2013

White-Board Paint

Rust-Oleum Dry Erase Brush-On Kit White-Board Paint
The University of Canberra covered the walls of its Teaching and Learning Commons with White-Board Paint so that they can be written and projected onto (using a short throw projector). There are now do-it-yourself kits, such as the "Rust-Oleum Dry Erase Brush-On Kit" for home use or a small office and the larger "Professional Dry Erase Kits".

The paint is made up of two parts which have to be mixed just before applying. The material is reported to be hard to apply, not having the consistency of normal paint. So this is something you might want to leave to specialist painters.

Learning in the Field

Professor William Maher, Institute for Applied Ecology, University of Canberra
I bumped into Professor William Maher in the coffee shop at University of Canberra and got talking about teaching students outside the classroom. He handed me a copy of his "Learning in the field : a manual for conducting field classes" (HERDSA gold guide, 1323-4021 ; no. 5, by  M. Manning, J. A. Harris, W. A. Maher and K. G. McQueen). What struck me was the similarity between fieldwork and an on-line course. In both cases the class is conducted outside the confines of the classroom and so has to take into account all the vagaries of the real world, or the virtual world. Also the importance of preparation and of post class review and reflection are emphasized. It is a shame this handy little book is not available on-line.

New Australian National Cyber Security Centre

Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard speaking in the DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre
The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard,  visited the Australian Defence Department's Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) at the Defence Signals Directorate in Canberra to announce an "Australian cyber security centre to be established". This followed the launch of the  "Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia’s National Security". The centre is planned to be staffed by the Defence Signals Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, the Attorney-General’s Department’s Computer Emergency Response Team Australia, Australian Federal Police and the Australian Crime Commission. However, I suggest the government personnel will need to be supplemented by industry and academia, as that is where the greatest expertise in cyber-security resides and because it is the civilian infrastructure which is more vital and more at risk than government computer systems. It is not clear where the new centre will be located, when it will be established or what budget it will have. The DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre would be an obvious choice, but it may not be large enough. Also it is not clear if one physical centre is needed, or if it would be better to connect existing centres of expertise secure broadband links. A one minute video of the PM's Australian National Cyber Security Centre presentation is available;e from the Defecne Department. Interestingly, the PM mentions being "in the pit", referring to the horseshoe shaped sunken section of the centre.

Gunning Wind Farm Tour

Acciona Gunning Wind FarmThe ANU Climate Change and ANU Change Institutes (which I am a member of), are hosting a tour of the Acciona Wind Farm at Gunning, NSW on 11 February 2013.
The Gunning Wind Farm in New South Wales consists of 31 wind turbines built on the Cullerin Range, approximately 15 kilometres north-east of Gunning in the Upper Lachlan Shire.

The turbines are located on the privately owned property Walwa, which is predominantly cleared pastoral land. The wind farm site continues to be used for grazing.

Project Snapshot
  • Location: approximately 15 kilometres north-east of Gunning and 70 kilometres north-east of Canberra.
  • Capacity: 46.5MW (31 wind turbine generators).
  • Completion Date: May 2011.
  • Energy Production: Gunning Wind Farm can power 23,250 homes annually.
  • Job creation: 100 manufacturing and installation jobs were created during the construction phase. There are will be nine operations and maintenance staff overseeing the operation of the wind farm
  • Project Value: A$147m.
The Gunning Wind Farm has an electrical substation, access tracks to each turbine, an operation and maintenance facility and 17.4km of underground cabling. A 14km 132kV transmission line was also constructed to connect the wind farm to the existing Yass-Goulburn transmission line.
Prior to development of the site ACCIONA Energy and independent consultants identified how best to utilise the wind farm site and identified constraints. Areas of study included flora and fauna, cultural heritage, sound, visual aspects and vehicle access.
The turbines at Gunning
The Gunning Wind Farm steel towers are 80m high with a base diameter of 4.5m and top diameter of 2.5m. Each tower base is anchored into position by approximately 250m³ of reinforced concrete. The nacelle and hub have a combined weight of approximately 65 tonnes, and together are 12.5m long and 4m high. The fibreglass blades are up to 40m long and weigh up to six tonnes each.
Transmission line
A new 132kV transmission line has been constructed to connect the wind farm to the existing 132kV Yass-Goulburn transmission line. Electricity is generated from turbines at 12kV and is then stepped up at a substation to 132kV to match the existing Yass-Goulburn voltage before connection can be made to the grid. ...
From: Gunning Wind Farm, ACCIONA, 2012

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Australian National Security Strategy Emphasizes Cybersecurity

The Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, launched "Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia’s National Security" at the Australian National University in Canberra, on 23 January 2013. The 58 page document is available as a 3.4 Mbyte PDF file 3.44MB and RTF 1.37MB. Also available are a Media release on the National Security Strategy and the text of the PM's speech "Australia's National Security Beyond the 9/11 Decade". In the list of key national security risks, "Malicious cyber activity" is placed third, ahead of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

DSD Cyber Security Operations Centre, 13 January 2010, DoD photo
The PM also mentioned that an "Australian Cyber Security Centre" would be separately announced. The policy document also mentions as a priority "Integrated cyber policy and operations
to enhance the defence of our digital networks". This would be a welcome change in the government's current approach, which is to announce cyber-security strategies, such as the Cyber Security White paper, and then  not properly resource and implement them. Also the approach has been fragmented, with different government agencies having separate uncoordinated initiatives and not involving the private sector, or state governments. The Australian Defence Department officially opened its Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) at the Defence Signals Directorate in Canberra on 15 Januar 2010. Unfortunately the government chose not to support the non-government AusCERT , leaving the private sector open to attack.

Some excerpts from the "Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia’s National Security" document:

AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY

VISION

A unified national security system that anticipates threats, protects the nation and shapes the world in Australia’s interest

NATIONAL SECURITY OBJECTIVES

  • To protect and strengthen our sovereignty
  • To ensure a safe and resilient population
  • To secure our assets, infrastructure and institutions

KEY NATIONAL SECURITY RISKS

  • Espionage and foreign interference
  • Instability in developing and fragile states
  • Malicious cyber activity
  • Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
  • Serious and organised crime
  • State-based conflict or coercion significantly affecting Australia’s interests
  • Terrorism and violent extremism

PILLARS OF AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY

Countering terrorism, espionage and foreign interference
Deterring and defeating attacks on Australia and Australia’s interests
Preserving Australia’s border integrity
Preventing, detecting and disrupting serious and organised crime
Promoting a secure international environment conducive to advancing Australia’s interests
Strengthening the resilience of Australia’s people, assets, infrastructure and institutions
The Australia–United States Alliance
Understanding and being influential in the world, particularly the Asia-Pacific

AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL SECURITY OUTLOOK

Economic uncertainty and global reordering

  • Ongoing global economic uncertainty and volatility
  • Shift in economic and strategic weight, and trade flows towards the Asia–Pacific region creating new risks and opportunities for Australia
  • Active middle powers increasingly influential in the region; but the United States - China relationship will be the single most influential force in shaping the strategic environment
  • Multilateralism is becoming more important for regional security and at the same time more difficult

Continuing importance of non-state actors

  • Persistent threat from terrorism and increasingly sophisticated serious and organised crime, aided by money laundering and corruption
  • Technology enabling remote but pervasive threats - for example malicious cyber activity
  • Increasing influence of legitimate non-state actors such as private companies

Fragility and conflict in at-risk areas

  • Low likelihood of major power war, but probable ongoing low-level instability in Australia’s region
  • Fragile states and instability in the Middle East and South Asia will remain a challenge
  • Possibility for strategic shocks or local conflicts
  • High demand for international development assistance

Broader global challenges with national security implications

  • Resource security and scarcity
  • Climate change
  • Changing demographics
  • Increasing urbanisation
  • Increasing online engagement
  • Resurgence of violent political groups
  • Corruption

FIVE YEAR PRIORITIES

Enhanced regional engagement in support of security and prosperity in the Asian-Century
Integrated cyber policy and operations to enhance the defence of our digital networks
Effective partnerships to achieve innovative and efficient national security outcomes
...

Executive Summary

This National Security Strategy (the Strategy) is Australia’s first. It provides an overarching framework for our national security efforts, and sets priorities for the next five years. The Strategy is an important next step following the 2008 National Security Statement, which articulated Australia’s national security agenda and set in motion reforms to strengthen the national security community.
The Strategy is in two parts:
  • Part I explains the national security framework - our vision and objectives, and the activities we undertake to achieve these objectives.
  • Part II looks to the future - it examines the strategic outlook and sets priorities to ensure Australia embraces the opportunities and confronts the challenges of the Asian Century.
The Strategy lays out the pillars of Australia’s national security, and sets directions for the next five years. It will aid in focusing the Government’s pursuit of policies and objectives identified in the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. The Strategy will help inform prioritisation of our resources in a time of fiscal constraint.
Importantly, the Strategy also serves to inform the Australian public, industry and our international partners of our approach to national security. The Strategy will be implemented through enhanced annual planning and budgeting arrangements across national security agencies. There will be a greater focus on partnerships that will see the strengthening of ties with states, territories and business.
Building on the existing strong foundation, our vision for Australia’s national security is for a unified system that anticipates threats, protects the nation, and shapes the world in our interests.
Chapter One discusses Australia’s national security objectives: to ensure a safe and resilient population; to protect and strengthen our sovereignty; to secure our assets, infrastructure and institutions; and to promote a favourable international environment. These objectives anchor decision-making and planning for the national security community.
Chapter Two explains the evolution of Australia’s strategic environment. Given our geography and alliances, our approach to security has always emphasised the defence of our nation and its borders. Naturally, there has been a focus on our own region. Our efforts are reflected in our many regional partnerships. Importantly, our international engagement is imbued with our commitment to liberal democratic values, such as the rule of law, human rights, and equality of opportunity.
The events of the past decade were instrumental in shaping our approach to national security. We have built our capacity to combat terrorism and transnational crime, including through an expansion of our intelligence and law enforcement capability. We developed a more integrated approach to supporting regional stability, for example through our assistance to Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands. This experience also shaped our strong emphasis on civil-military cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chapter Two concludes with a summary of the important national security challenges that Australia will continue to face, and the opportunities we must look to seize.

Chapter Three sets out Australia’s fundamental approach to national security and how this approach reflects the current national security environment. It describes the eight pillars of our approach to national security:
  • Countering terrorism, espionage and foreign interference.
  • Deterring and defeating attacks on Australia and Australia’s interests.
  • Preserving our border integrity.
  • Preventing, detecting and disrupting serious and organised crime.
  • Promoting a secure international environment conducive to advancing Australia’s interests.
  • Strengthening the resilience of Australia’s people, assets, infrastructure and institutions.
  • The Australia–United States Alliance.
  • Understanding and being influential in the world, particularly the Asia–Pacific.
The second part of the Strategy looks to the future. In particular, Chapter Four examines the strategic outlook to anticipate challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. Most importantly, it examines the shifting geopolitical environment of the Asian Century. As the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper made clear, our approach to national security must make the most of the transformative economic and strategic changes occurring in Asia.
Asia’s economic growth will increase pressure on water resources and food and energy supplies, with implications for global markets and stability. The growing economic and political weight of China, India and other Asian powers, is also changing the established strategic order, including as a result of their increased military spending.
Neither strategic competition nor the growth in defence capabilities of regional countries makes conflict in the region inevitable or even more likely. Major regional powers understand that a war would be catastrophic. Deepening relationships between states across the region and the increasingly complex interdependencies that now underpin the Asia–Pacific also act as strong stabilising forces.

But there is no room for complacency. The interdependencies that make conflict less likely also make the potential consequences of even the most minor conflicts more far reaching.The increasing capability of armed forces in the region likewise increases the potential for minor clashes to have dangerous outcomes. A concerted effort will be required to shape a peaceful and stable order. Trust and entrenched patterns of dialogue and cooperation will be critical.The threat posed by non-state actors is also likely to evolve and possibly expand - new technology will be harnessed by criminals and terrorists, as they continue to augment their tactics and approaches.
Chapter Five considers the implications of the strategic outlook for Australia’s national security arrangements. It outlines three priorities for the next five years, to achieve our vision for our national security:
  • Enhanced engagement in support of regional security and prosperity in the Asian Century.
  • Integrated cyber policy and operations to enhance the defence of our digital networks.
  • Effective partnerships to achieve innovative and efficient national security outcomes.
... There are also more immediate national security
challenges facing governments around the globe.
In particular, non-state actors such as criminal and
terrorist organisations pose an enduring challenge.
Organised crime is becoming more sophisticated.
Our systems, methods and tools for dealing with it
must keep pace—cyber-enabled crime in particular
requires innovative responses that protect both the
rights and security of citizens. Terrorism remains a
serious threat requiring vigilance through a proactive
intelligence effort, strong partnerships with states and
territories, across business, the Australian community
and our international counterparts.
... In recent times, new and more complex national
security challenges have received greater global
attention. The growing number of malicious cyber
incidents has juxtaposed the dangers of a
hyper-connected world against the considerable
economic and social benefits afforded by the Internet.
Our national security and law enforcement agencies
are now focusing more urgently on how best to
combat cyber-based threats, but not at the expense
of Australians’ privacy and the broader benefits the
online environment brings.
... Malicious cyber activity: Every day, Australian
governments, businesses and individuals face a
range of cyber-related threats such as state-based
and commercial espionage, identity theft, and denial
and disruption of services. If left unchecked,
cyber-related threats have the potential to undermine
confidence in our social and economic stability and
our prosperity.
... Other activities, like our efforts to promote
international norms for cyberspace, see our
diplomats, international lawyers and policy specialists
working with industry, the not-for-profit sector and
foreign governments to shape a secure, open and
accessible online environment that directly benefits
our national security, societal safety and digital
economy.
... Serious and organised crime: Serious and
organised crime can undermine our border integrity
and security. It can erode confidence in institutions
and law enforcement agencies, and damage our
economic prosperity and regional stability. It can
involve the procurement, distribution and use of illegal
weapons. This type of crime is highly adaptive and
may link to, or exacerbate, other significant issues
of national security, such as terrorism and malicious
cyber activity.
... States have always used espionage as a tool to
pursue national interests. Today, our reliance on
cyberspace has increased our exposure to this threat.
Espionage and foreign interference activities against
Australia place a range of our national interests at
risk, including: classified government information;
commercial information with direct consequences for
business and the economy; intellectual property; and
the private information of our citizens.
...


From: Strong and Secure: A Strategy for Australia’s National Security, Australian Government, 23 January 2013

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

3D Printed Parts for Toilet?

Toilet Tank Fill Valve
One way the Internet can help the environment and the community is by providing advice on replacement parts and instructions on how to repair, rather than replace products. One example is keeping a flush toilet operating. Older cisterns use more water, but can be upgraded to a dual flush and the outlet valve can be repaired if you have instructions. Most recently the inlet valve was leaking, wasting water and making an annoying noise. A replacement toilet fill valve is around $15, but I only needed the $4 Ballcock Replacement Seal.

Apart from saving some money, replacing a seal or washer, rather than the whole unit, results in less material thrown away. However, it can be difficult to work out exacly what needs replacing, how to remove it and what to get. I found Graeme Hawkins video "How to replace a ballcock washer in a toilet cistern" very useful (complete with New Zealand accent). But for hardware stores to stock large numbers of seals and replacement parts is a problem

 Perhaps a 3D printer could be used to manufacture these parts on demand. University of Washington students are reported to have 3D printed a whole toilet.

ps: The Canberra "Make, Hack, Void" is holding a free conference to show off some of their work (including 3D printing).  MHV MakerConf 2013 is 2 February 2013 at the Australian National University in Canberra, in conjunction with LCA2013.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Using an e-Portfolio to Demonstrate Graduate Attributes

The University of New England UNE) "Guidelines for implementation of the Graduate
Attributes Policy and Quality Management processes" (June 2009), include the option of presentation of evidence via a personal ePortfolio. UNE reference UNSW's "Assessing with ePortfolios" and offer students the Mahara e-Portfolio tool.

Software Engineering Internship Requires E-Portfolio

The course Software Engineering Internship (COMP3820), offered by the ANU  Research School of Computer Science, requires students to reflect on their experience in an Internship Journal (e-Portfolio). This makes up 20% of their assessment, equal to the report by their Industry Supervisor. The students are intended to be able to demonstrate learning and professional development through mapped to Engineers Australia technical competencies. Accreditation by Engineers Australia, requires the equivalent of 12 weeks full-time work experience for each student. This course (COMP3820) satisfies the requirement and makes up one full time semester of study by the student.
The aim of this course is to use the internship experience to enable students to develop their software engineering skills and practice. Students will be placed in industry, working full-time and assessed for academic credit. The internships will be aligned with the aims of the software engineering program. Students will experience a real-life engineering workplace and understand how their software engineering and professional skills and knowledge can be utilised in industry. They will also be able to demonstrate functioning software engineering knowledge, both new and existing, and identify areas of further development for
From: Software Engineering Internship (COMP3820),Shayne Flint,  ANU  Research School of Computer Science, 2012

Assessing with ePortfolios

The University of NSW (UNSW) provides a useful set of guidelines on "Assessing with ePortfolios" (3 May 2012). ePortfolios are suggested to "support students in planning their personal, educational and career development", "present evidence of achieving program outcomes through artifacts that demonstrate transferable skills"and "in capstone courses and programs that require professional accreditation". UNSW provide a useful list of issues to consider with ePortfolios and further readings. UNSW have installed the Mahara e-portfolio tool (as used by ACS and USQ).

Guidelines on what is e-waste under the Basel Convention

The Basel Convention regulates the movement of hazardous waste, including e-waste, across international borders. New draft technical guidelines are being prepared on the distinction between waste and non-waste used electrical and electronic equipment (22 December 2012). Australia contributed "Criteria for the export and import of used electronic equipment" from the Department of the Environment and Heritage, March 2005. The guidelines try to distinguish between used equipment destined to be repaired, refurbish or reused (which is not waste) and that which is to be disposed of (which is e-waste). This is a problem for authorities, as regulations on e-waste could be circumvented by simply labeling the material for reuse.
  1. To determine if equipment is waste it may be necessary to examine the history of an item and its proposed use on a case by case basis. However, there are characteristics of the equipment that are likely to indicate whether it is waste or not.
  2. Without prejudice to paragraph 26, where the holders of used equipment claim that this is intended to be or is a movement of used equipment intended for direct reuse and not e-waste, the following should be provided or be in place to back up this claim to an authority on its request (prior to the transport, either generally or on a case-by-case basis):
  3. a copy of the invoice and contract relating to the sale and/or transfer of ownership of the equipment with a signed statement that indicates that the equipment had been tested and is destined for direct reuse and fully functional and includes information on the further user or, where this is not possible, the retailer;
  4. evidence of evaluation or testing in the form of copy of the records (certificate of testing – proof of functionality) on every item within the consignment and a protocol containing all record information (see Section III C);
  5. a declaration made by the holder who arranges the transport of the equipment that none of the equipment within the consignment is waste as defined by national law of the countries involved in the movement1 (countries of export and import, and, if applicable countries of transit) and;
  6. appropriate protection against damage during transportation, loading and unloading, in particular through sufficient packaging2 and stacking of the load.

Testing of used equipment should be performed before shipment in the country of export. Except from the situations described in paragraph 26, all the above-listed criteria would need to be met for the used equipment not to be considered waste.

1 In case of disagreement on the status of the equipment being waste or not the procedure for the strictest interpretation (i.e. the procedure for shipments of waste) should be followed.
2 With regard to computing equipment, see the packaging guidelines developed under PACE. ...
From: Draft technical guidelines on transboundary movements of e-waste and used electrical and electronic equipment, in particular regarding the distinction between waste and non-waste under the Basel Convention, by the Open-ended Working Group of the Basel Convention (OEWG 8), 22 December 2012.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Action Research Real Research?

Action Research: Living Theory
Several of the courses for the Certificate of Higher Education I am studying have touched on "Action Research" without explaining it in detail. As described it would not be regarded as "research" in the Computer Science discipline. In 2000 when relaunching the Australian Computer Journal and setting up a new conference paper series, we decided to add Practice to the title ("Research and Practice in Information Technology") so that professional practice, which did not qualify as research, could be included. Looking at my practice systematically could be a worthwhile educational exercise, I did not see how trying out something in my classroom was "research".

These issues are discussed with clarity and passion in Action Research: Living Theory (A Jack Whitehead and Jean McNiff, 2006). Whitehead and McNiff put the case that Action Research is valid research technique, alongside those of the social and physical sciences. They claim action research as a rigorous and valid approach for a PHD thesis. What I found most useful was the explanation that Action Research was not trying to emulate social or physical science research methods, but do something different and more personal, with the researcher more involved with their subject.
After reading this book I feel I understand Action Research better. I can see its role in educational development and as an approach for scholarly discourse.

However, I am still not convinced this is equal to  conventional scientific research techniques. It is useful for a practitioner sets down an educational technique they tried, to document their progress and as an aid to other. But that is not sufficient to base a theory of education on, or to make recommendations for widespread educational practice, or the investment of large amounts of education funding. Before deciding on a theory, practice or program  I would want to see  research which involved many educators and students and which applied statistical analysis techniques with tests to see the results were not due to chance, or wishful thinking.

References

Whitehead, J., & McNiff, J. (2006). Action research: Living theory: Sage Publications Limited.
Worthington, T. (2000). Re-engineering the ACS Journal:
Notes for the launch of the Journal of Research and Practice in IT, 17 April 2000, Sydney. from http://www.tomw.net.au/2000/jrpitw.html

Australian Government Digital White Paper

Is the Australian Government preparing a Digital White Paper? Who is preparing it, how are they consulting interested parties and when is it to be released?

The Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) issued a discussion paper “Connecting with Confidence, Optimising Australia’s Digital Future”, 15 September 2011, with the aim of releasing a policy white paper in mid 2012. The Australian Computer Society assisted PM&C with consultations, including arranging a meeting in Canberra, 18 October 2011. The ACS released a Submission for the Australian Cyber Policy White Paper. But in a speech October 2011, the Prime Minister said that she thought the Cyber White Paper should be broadened to a "digital White Paper" ("Closing Remarks to the Digital Economy Forum", Speech, Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia, 5 October 2012). No Cyber White Paper has been released.

The only mention of preparation of a "Digital White Paper" from government I could find was from the Australian Information Commissioner ("Review of freedom of information legislation, Submission to the Hawke Review", December 2012). The Australian Council of Deans of ICT (ACDICT) issued a "Digital White Paper Submission" (Professor  Leon Sterling, President ACDICT, 9 January 2013). This quotes from "Digital White Paper", Key Themes: "The information and communications technology (ICT) skills and training required to sustain the digital economy now and into the future ... The development of collaborative partnerships between governments, industry and community". However, there is no formal reference for the document and I was not able to find the document this quote is taken from.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nothing is Wrong With Our Universities

Richard Hil, author of Whackademia: An Insider's Account of the Troubled University, argued on ABC Radio  ("What's Wrong With Our Universities", Sunday 20 January 2013) that Australian universities are under-funded and its academics overloaded with administrative work and pressure to pass sub-standard students. He looks back to a golden age when academics where funded without any accountability and could sit around thinking great thoughts. However, I doubt such an age ever existed. Universities cost money and someone has to pay. If academics want to sit around and think great thoughts, then ether they will have to think up something very useful occasionally which justifies they salary, or do something else, such as teach, to subsidize their thinking time.

Hil expresses concern that there is are a countless number of part time university teachers who do not have the pay and conditions of permanent staff. This seems to contradict other parts of his argument where he calls for less administrative burden on academics and more flexibility. As an adjunct lecturer I like the relative freedom of not being included in university administrative processes. I don't have to go to administrative meetings, unless they concern my course. I don't have to fill out leave forms, because I don't get paid for leave, just for the courses I teach.

Hil claims there is pressure from administration, even from VCs, for academics to pass students who are not up to the required standard, particularly international students. I have never been under such pressure. Any academic who is, should report the matter to the appropriate internal review body, or if it appears to be a systemic problem to the independent commission against corruption (or equivalent).  There will always be legitimate debate about marks, but if inappropriate pressure is being applied for financial gain, then that is a crime which needs to be reported and investigated.

Universities have to balance the need to be financially viable with research and teaching. There is also the need to balance the need to turn out "work ready" graduates and to create new knowledge. There is never going to be enough money to do everything every academic wants and everything society expects.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Fellows Garden Australian National University House

Greetings from Australian National University House at ANU in Canberra. University House is the original accommodation on campus, opened in 1954, now an boutique hotel. It is a 1950's interpretation of an English "Oxbridge" college (a better interpretation than many of the modern colleges at Oxford and Cambridge). There is a peaceful green "quad" (you are allowed to walk on the grass) with a reflecting pond. The "Fellows Garden" has long tables for scholars to sit with a drink. There is a magical atmosphere at twilight, on graduation day, with all the new graduates. Under the building next to the garden is a bar and restaurant (for when the garden is too hot or cold).

The construction of ANU University House and other original buildings for ANU academics were discussed at the highest levels of the Australia government, intended to attract world class academics to accelerate the economic development of the nation and were influenced by cold war politics, as detailed in Milton Cameron's book "Experiments in Modern Living: Scientists’ Houses in Canberra 1950–1970".

787 Battery Fire

burned auxiliary power unit battery from a Boeing 787
The US National Transportation Safety Board have issued photographs of the burned auxiliary power unit battery from a JAL Boeing 787 (14 January 2013). The lithium-ion cells are barely recognizable due to the fire. The battery weighs 63 US pounds, so there is a serious risk to an aircraft from fire.

Flying a Robot Helicopter by the Seat of Your Pants

Greetings from the famous room N101 at the College of Engineering & Computer Science at the Australian National University, where summer students are reporting on their projects. One project is on the use of haptics (touch sense) for controlling UAVs (robot helicopters). Hobby model control aircraft are typically flow by the operator looking at the aircraft and using two joysticks. However,  a UAV can fly  out of the visual range. A camera can be used, but has limitations in terms of the field of view and the stability of the image. A pilot in an aircraft has other senses they can use, especially touch. This touch interface can be reproduced, typically with a force feedback joystick.

Learning Interdisciplinary Research Techniques

Greetings from the famous room N101 at the College of Engineering & Computer Science at the Australian National University, where summer students are reporting on their projects. One theme emerging is the difficulty of interdisciplinary research. There are environmental economists and biochemists being supervised by computer scientists and engineers. The students need to learn how to bridge the disciplines. Another issue is simply the mechanics of running a large number of short presentations. This is particularly a problem for computer scientists who need specialized software for their demonstrations. Some of this will be discussed at the "2013 Integration and Implementation Conference: Taking Stock" at ANU, September 8, 2013,  investigating complex multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, crossdisciplinary, systems-based or mode 2 real world problems.

Libraries as Secular Temples

National Library of Australia Building
In "Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion" (discussed on By Design, ABC Radio, 22 February 2012), Alain de Botton argues that a secular society still needs public buildings with the inspiring characteristics of places of worship. This does not seem a very profound or new idea.

A good example of a secular temple would be a great public library building, which has imposing architecture, the equivalent of priests (the librarians) a demand for silence and ritual (line up to borrow a book). An outstanding example is the National Library of Australia Building (by Bunning and Madden), which is clad in white marble, designed along the lines of an Greek temple, with the stained glass windows of a medieval church in the foyer.

Of course the idea that "religion" was something separate from everyday life is a relatively new concept and one which much of the world has not adopted. To many the idea that spiritual concepts would only apply to specialized "religious" buildings would seem odd.

Cloud on a Chip

Greetings from the famous room N101 at the Research School of Computer Science at the Australian National University, where summer students are reporting on their projects. One project is "Porting the Xen Hypervisor to Intel's Single-Chip Cloud Computer".  The SCC an experimental chip with 48 cores, each equivalent to an Intel P45C processor. One feature is that cores can be switched off to save power when not needed. The problem is to get this to work in practice.

Offshore Combatant Vessel

Austal Multi Role Vessel MRV 80 bow view
Australian Defence project SEA 1180, proposes to replace patrol, mine and survey ships with one design of "Offshore Combatant Vessel" (OCV). Containerized equipment would be placed on the ships temporarily to suit the mission. The obvious design for this would be the Austal Multi Role Vessel (MRV 80). This is a trimaran, which looks like a patrol boat at the front and a car ferry at the back. The proposed MRV 80 is about 50% longer and heavier than the current Armidale class patrol boa,. Due to the trimaran design the MRV 80 is twice as wide as the patrol boats, providing room for a helicopter flight deck and hangar, as well as 500m2 of covered space to accommodate cargo, vehicles, or containerized equipment.

The MRV 80 resembles the US  Independence class littoral combat vessel from the same designers. But the MRV 80 is smaller and leaves out the high tech weaponry and complex systems of the LCS.  The LCS has a stern door for launching boats and sensors at sea, with a side ramp for loading equipment in port. In contrast the MRV 80 has boats stored in open areas on each side and a stern ramp for loading equipment. The stern ramp is based on a proven design used on car ferries and might be used to launch sensors at sea and transfer cargo while underway, as well as in port.

US Education Bubble About to Burst

William Baldwin suggests a USA education bubble may be about to burst (The Scary Economics Of Higher Education, Forbes, 15 January 2013). He points to US universities and colleges investing in new campuses and buildings, funded by tax-exempt bonds. Baldwin suggests that also surplus educational places could drive down tuition fees to the point where educational institutions can't service their debts. While not as large as the previous the housing bubble, Baldwin suggests this is similarly caused by government subsidies and tax deductions encouraging over investment. Individuals  encouraged by government policies, are also investing in education which does not lead to jobs with high enough wages to pay back their loans.

The other risk pointed out is from on-line education providing low cost or free courses. Baldwin suggests that on-line courses do not provide the social experience of a campus, but my recent studies of education suggest that there are ways to provide the collegiate spirit on-line, with blended courses. University campuses are changing to look more like a mall, airport business lounge and a leisure center. Australian universities are turning their libraries into learning centers and providing on-campus accommodation and entertainment facilities, backed by private investment. There are fewer traditional lecture theaters being built, but labs and places for learning circles to meet are in demand.

Baldwin suggests a blended four year degree, with a 50% split between on-line and on campus study. I suggest this is more likely to be 75% on-line or more. The typical student will do most of their study on-line, visiting a campus only for essential lab sessions and intensive workshops. They may get together with other students, at a local learning center of a public library or a coffee shop.

One curious suggestion by Baldwin was the threat of the "European" three-year degree. Presumably Australia's three year degree and adoption of the European style Bologna Process for higher degrees would also be a threat to US institutions. However, the low US dollar may cushion US institutions from overseas competition, at least from Australia.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Installing Solid State Disk in HP Pavilion Notebook

With Mint Linux 14 installed on my HP Pavilion DM1-4108AU notebook, it was time to swap the hard disk drive (HDD) for the Solid State Disk (SSD) from my Kogan Agora. This was easier than upgrading the RAM. The hard part was getting the back off the computer (it slides off after removing the battery pack and pressing the battery catch as far as it will go). There is one screw holding the disk in place, after removing this the disk lifts up and out, after which the connector is pulled off. There is a diagram and step by step procedure in the excellent HP Pavilion dm1 Entertainment PC - Maintenance and Service Guide. The disk has a metal carrier held on by four screws. The SDD has the same screw holes and connector, fitting in place of the HDD.


Previously I had installed Mint Linux 14.0, but there had been an upgrade to 14.1 in the interim, so I tried that. The result was a blank screen, so I went back to 14.0 which worked fine.
 
As I had reinstalled Linux I needed to reset my favorite settings. One annoyance is font sizes, which are too small by default. Setting the Resolution DPI to a larger value than the default 96 helps (I use 192) in: Menu > Preferences >Appearance > Fonts > Details. But Thunderbird and Firefox still use tiny fonts for displaying email and document. There are thousands of postings on the web about how to fix this and hundreds of add-ons offered. It is curious that Mozilla can't have these applications use the operating system default DPI and font sizes. I found "Firefox Tweaks" helped.

HP Pavilion dm1-4210usI have solved the problem of the shiny black bezel around the HP's screen, by painting it with a can of flat black enamel paint. The bezel is held on by clips (explained in the service manual) and so can be removed with care for painting. Remember to cover the window for the web camera before painting. The silver painted hinge covers are attached to the bezel so I painted these black as well. The result is the removal of distracting reflections. This looks so good I am tempted to paint over the remaining sliver portions of the case, to make the computer less conspicuous. I have also removed the five stickers from the case which advertised Windows 7 (no longer installed), HP's support line, HP Premier Experience (whatever that is) and the AMD chips. Some problems remain with the HP hardware, in particular the shiny screen is still an annoyance and I have yet to find a suitable anti-reflective filter.

Monday, January 14, 2013

We Are Not Becoming Internet Addicts

Mal Fletcher asks "Are we becoming Internet addicts?" (Online Opinion, 11 January 2013). I have been using the Internet almost every day since 1994, so I guess that makes me an addict.  ;-)

The suggestion that university students studies are suffering because they are less able to follow lectures seems to miss the point. Universities now use more interactive and on-line teaching methods, not because the students ability to concentrate has declined, but because conventional lectures were never a good teaching method. Conventional wisdom was that a student took in about 15 minutes of an hour long lecture. The lectures were an hour long simply for logistical reasons. So now live lectures are made more interactive, with discussion and exercises, or replaced with shorted recorded material on-line and with interactive exercises. An example is my ICT Sustainability course.

Australian Universities Publishing Research on the Web

Claire Shaw asks "Where are university websites hiding all their research?" (The Guardian, 10 January 2013). This suggests that university webpages that publicise research are uninviting, unimaginative and out of date. However, I suggest a simpler solution, implemented in Australia, is to have the research in a repository which is accessible to external search engines. As an example, you will find my paper "A green computing professional education course online: designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using Internet and eBooks" in the National Library of Australia's Trove system. The NLA imports the metadata for academic papers from the Australian university repositories.  The Australian Research Council's (ARC) has a new "ARC Open Access Policy" to encourage researchers to put copies of their work into the university repositories. The policy is not perfect, but is a start.

Teaching Entrepreneurs

In "Starting Young" (BBC World Service, Global Business, 12 January 2013), Peter Day talked to new graduates undertaking the UIK Entrepreneur First program to teach them how to launch a new business. The Australian National University started a similar program in 2008, which is now open to students at other Canberra tertiary institutions, called "Innovation Act". These programs encourage students to form a team, prepare a business plan and pitch their idea. One flaw with these programs is that they tend to emphasize face-to-face contact and do not teach on-line skills. Also these programs could be used as part of university degree programs (particularly postgraduate programs) rather than as an extra-curricular activity.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 21 Progress

In October 2008 I was commissioned to design a twelve week course in "Green IT". This was first run in February 2009 by the ACS. It was then revised and run at ANU in July 2009. The coruse has been run several times since then by ACS and ANU. One of my students then adapted the coruse for Athabasca University, Canada in 2011. There is a formal published paper about the coruse "A Green computing professional education course online: Designing and delivering a course in ICT sustainability using Internet and eBooks" (Worthington, 2012) and presentation. The coruse is next offered by ANU in February 2013 as "COMP7310 ICT Sustainability". Here are blog postings about the development corse from the time of commission:

  1. Where to start, October 23, 2008
  2. Learning Outcomes, October 28, 2008
  3. Corrections and Frameworks, October 29, 2008
  4. Online Social Networking Course Coordination, October 30, 2008
  5. SFIA and learning objectives, October 30, 2008
  6. Course Outline, October 30, 2008
  7. Setting up in the LMS, November 05, 2008
  8. Revised Outline, November 07, 2008
  9. Books, November 09, 2008
  10. The Content, December 05, 2008
  11. Other Courses, December 11, 2008
  12. Two Week 7s, December 16, 2008
  13. More Pragmatism, January 02, 2009
  14. Wikiversity version, January 07, 2009
  15. Revision, June 16, 2010
  16. Sustainability, July 19, 2011
  17. Format, July 23, 2011
  18. New Version, August 18, 2011
  19. New Version on web, iPad, Kindle and print, October 10, 2011
  20. Standardized Course Description, February 17, 2012

Wikipedia-like Travel Guide Launched

Map of Sri Lanka with provincial regions colour-coded
The Wikimedia Foundation, best known for the Wikipedia, will officially launch its Wikivoyage travel guide on 15 January 2013. Like the Wikipedia, anyone can create or amend an entry in the travel guide. I was skeptical of the idea, but was impressed with the entries for Sri Lanka and Canberra.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Online Publisher Removing Copy Protection From e-Books

Online ebook publisher Lulu has announced it will cease using Digital Rights Management (DRM) for ebooks from 15 January 2013. Readers will be able to make copies of e-books, although copyright will still limit when this is legally permitted. I decided not to use DRM on the books I provide through Lulu, because of the problems the anti-copying technology causes for readers and the fee charged for use of the technology makes up a significant part of the price of a low cost ebook.

Friday, January 11, 2013

National Award for Engineering Excellence

Shayne FLINTLynette JOHNS-BOASTCongratulations to Lynette JOHNS-BOAST and Shayne FLINT at ANU who received a High Commendation in the Australian Council of Engineering Deans National Awards for Engineering Education Excellence 2012 for their student software engineering group projects.

ARC Rejects Open Access Policy

The Australian Research Council's new "ARC Open Access Policy" requires that "... any publications arising from an ARC supported research project must be deposited into an open access institutional repository within a twelve (12) month period from the date of publication.". Unfortunately the policy still allows researchers to publish in closed journals which never allow public access. The researcher just has to make public where their results can be purchased, they do not have to provide the actual research results for free. The ARC policy is not an open access one and misleading for the ARC to name it as one. The ARC seems to wish to continue the system where the Australian public pays for research and then has to pay again to read the results of the research. In contrast the US NIH Public Access Policy requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to a public archive  upon acceptance for publication, with these papers accessible to the public no later than 12 months after publication.

Dr David Prosser, Director of SPARC Europe criticized the ARC for its lack of an open access policy in a talk at National Library of Australia in Canberra, 14 August 2009.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Report Shows Steady Progress With US Online Education

The report "Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States" by I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman (Babson Survey Research Group, January 2013) surveyed 2,800 US university vice chancellors (and equivalent) about on-line education at their institutions. They found 6.7 million students taking at least one online course, an increase of 570,000 on last year. This is 32% of the students undertaking online courses. However, the study uses the definition of 80% more of the course being on-line as "on-line", so this is really a measure of blended courses, not pure online ones.

According to the report, VCs are not convinced Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are a good idea, with only 2.6% having one and 9.4% are planning to introduce them.

VCs increasingly see the need for more discipline by online students as a barrier, with the number mentioning this increasing from  80%in 2007 to 88.8% in 2012. In my view, this is not the fault of the student, but poor course design, which is easily corrected. Retention rates is also see as a problem by the majority of VCs. I suggest this is a problem with program design. Programs need to be flexible to allow for the changes which on-line students experience. Having a rigid program with a fixed timetable designed for full time on-campus students and then blaming the student when they are forced to drop out is not the solution. One approach I think shows merit is the ANU Graduate Studies Select (GSS), where students can select from a range of courses across the university and from partner institutions and progress through a Certificate,  Diploma and Masters.

While VCs rate on-line education as having at least as good learning outcomes as the classroom, less than half believe their teaching staff accept this view.  While this study is useful, it would be interesting to get the view of the teachers themselves. It may than teachers understand the effectiveness of on-line education techniques, but are not getting the support to implement it and expect to be penalized with lower pay and more work if they do.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Learning Techniques

I will be presenting "Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning: Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques", at the 8th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), April 2013. In this I suggest that while a class of on-line students may not be physically present in the same place, or looking at materials at the same time, it still is useful to have checkpoints, so they progress as a group. The paper was originally prepared as an assignment for the USQ course Online Pedagogy in Practice.
Citation: Worthington, T. (2013). Synchronizing Asynchronous Learning: Combining Synchronous and Asynchronous Techniques. In Proceedings of 2013 8th International Conference on Computer Science & Education (ICCSE), 26 Apr - 28 Apr 2013 , Sri Lanka.

Abstract: On-line learning uses the terms synchronous and asynchronous to describe tools and learning activities. This research looks into the origins of these terms, their use today and asks if these are the correct terms to use and if the use of these terms has held up the development of better tools and techniques.

Conclusion: Current on-line educational literature uses the terms synchronous and asynchronous with meanings different from their use in everyday language and in the computing discipline. It is recommended that these terms be replaced with “real time” and “store and forward”, as used in the computing discipline. As well as improving the clarity of discussions of educational theory, this will have practical benefits for the development and use of systems and educational techniques. In particular this can aid the thinking about the development of simpler software for learning support, combining the features of the store-and-forward LMS, with real-time video conferencing. It is recommended the term synchronous be returned to its original meaning and be applied to discussing the coordination of learning activities and the role of synchronization in the learning experience be explored.

A further area for research is the use of information diffusion analysis to automatically assess when an on-line class has reached an appropriate level of understanding of a topic and can move on, without the need for an explicit test. New system designs combining what have previously been though of as separate synchronous and asynchronous forms of on-line learning can then be merged to support a constructivist approach , where each student builds their own understanding in their own time, while also participating in the class to reach common goals.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/9556

Link to publisher version: http://www.ieee.org/conferences_events/conferences/conferencedetails/index.html?Conf_ID=30408 Type: Conference paper URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1885/9556
Appears in Collections: Open Access Research

Lego Linux Robot with iOS and Android Compatibility

Lego have announced that the "EV3 Intelligent Brick" for their LEGO Mindstorms Robot will run Linux and be able to be interfaced to Apple iOS and Google Android devices. The brick will have a USB port and SD slot will offer nearly unlimited programming and expansion capabilities. The brick will cost US$349.99, which is expensive for something with the equivalent computing power to a $25 USB computer, but would be useful for education, given Lego's  support and materials.

Measures to Detect Hoax Media Releases

A hoax media release purporting to be from ANZ Bank is reported to have caused a drop in Whitehaven Coal shares. One way to detect a hoax media release is to check the website of the organizations. Companies and government agencies normally have a specific part of their website where they list media releases. Companies on the stock exchange may also have a location for important announcements to the market.

There are more technical ways to authenticate documents with "digital signatures", but simply checking web site will do in most cases.

In 1995 when setting up the first web site for the Australian Department of Defence, media releases were included.

ps: You can check up on me in the ANU website. ;-)

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Pedagogical Patterns Collector

The Pedagogical Patterns Collector (PPC) is an online tool to allow educators to select from a set of generic learning designs and see how these would be applied in different subject areas. A pattern can then be selected and the details customized. This appears to draw on ideas of a a pattern language, as applied in architecture and computing.

There will be a free webinar about the PPC, 31 January 2013, by Diana Laurillard, Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies at the London Knowledge Lab.

Unfortunately the PPC tool has been implemented using Flash, making it all but unusable. The tool is slow to start and the text is unreadable on my screen. The tool does not appear to meet accessibility requirements, which would make its offering as a service in Australia (and most likely in the UK as well) unlawful.