Friday, October 31, 2008

Green Computing for K-12 Schools

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) has the Green Computing for K-12 Schools. This has materials for schools on Tech Energy Use, Purchase/Disposal, Reduce Waste, Resources, News and Case Studies. There is a CoSN Energy Usage Calculator, to estimate the electricity used by a school.The includes estimates for energy use by thin client computers.

Review of existing Australian and international cyber-safety research

The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has issued a Request for Tender for a Review of existing Australian and international cyber-safety research. The work is expected to cost $50,000 to $100,000. There is a 61 page document describing the project to potential tenderers:

The internet is an essential part of the Australian economy and a powerful resource for communication, interaction, entertainment and learning. While there are many ways in which Australian children benefit from computers and the internet, there is also risk associated with their use. This is particularly the case given the internet’s global reach, and that in some jurisdictions the internet is unregulated or laws are not enforced.

Cyber-safety is about keeping children safe online. Potential dangers for children using the internet include:

  • exposure to pornographic, illegal and other inappropriate material
  • cyber-bullying and harassment
  • exposure to promotion of inappropriate social and health behaviours
  • cyber-stalking and sexual grooming
  • identity fraud
  • violation of privacy
  • spam and computer viruses

Such dangers can lead to both short and long-term effects such as physical harm, anti-social behaviour, depression and have a financial impact.

In the 2008-09 Budget, the Australian Government committed $125.8 million over the next four years to a comprehensive range of cyber-safety measures, including law enforcement, education, international co operation, research and filtering.

The Department, in collaboration with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and other government agencies, is tasked with implementing the Government’s comprehensive cyber safety plan. The Consultative Working Group on cyber-safety has been established to consider issues of cyber-safety to guide future policy. Outreach activities, including practical guides for parents and teachers to increase awareness and education, and improved web sites to provide cyber-safety information, will be implemented by the ACMA.

The Consultative Working Group was established to advise the Government on cyber-safety issues in order to ensure properly developed and targeted policy initiatives. The services procured in this RFT are intended to inform the work of the Consultative Working Group and the Government's cyber-safety policies and programs. Ongoing research into the changing digital environment will assist in identifying issues and target future policy and funding.
...

The Service provider must provide the Department with a report based on the professional investigation, identification and analysis of existing authoritative Australian and international research on cyber safety. The report must identify:

58.1.1 the nature, prevalence and implications of cyber safety risks to Australian children. This should include:

a. findings from existing Australian and international empirical research, surveys and literature reviews; and

b. presentation of findings by key age cohorts (eg preschool, junior school, high school and college);

58.1.2 what is known about quantification of the risks and their consequences. These risks, without limitation, must include:

  • abuse of children online (cyber-stalking and sexual grooming);
  • cyber-bullying;
  • exposure to illegal and inappropriate content;
  • promotion of inappropriate social and health behaviours (technology addiction, anorexia, drug usage, underage drinking and smoking);
  • breaches of privacy, identify theft and online security; and
  • “drifting” behaviour (viewing of inappropriate images leading to unhealthy curiosity about and tolerance for images of greater concern, e.g. child abuse);
      1. technical and behavioural measures deployed by children, teachers, parents and others to mitigate cyber safety risks;

      2. the effectiveness of current technical and behavioural measures as perceived by children, parents, teachers and others;

58.1.5 additional measures that children, parents, teachers, the community, industry might take to reduce cyber-safety risk and the potential effectiveness of these;

58.1.6 external factors which may contribute to the type and level of risk that a child encounters online;

58.1.7 any gaps in research, and in particular gaps in Australian data, relevant to the delivery of 58.1.1 through 58.1.6; and

58.1.8 options for maintaining the currency of information collected and considered in the delivery of 58.1.1 through 58.1.6.

The report must be presented in line with the Commonwealth style guide. All report findings and statistics contained in the report must be properly referenced.

The report would be considered fit for purpose where its findings are demonstrably authoritative, can be relied on by the Government to effectively inform its policies and programs, effectively reflects comments and amendments requested by the Department in response to the progress reports and the draft report and accords with the terms and conditions of the Agreement for the delivery of the Service.

ANU Climate Change Institute

The ANU announced this week it has set up a Climate Change Institute and will be offering a Master of Climate Change from 2009:

The Master of Climate Change is an interdisciplinary coursework or coursework and research degree that allows students to develop a program of advanced learning suited to their individual interests and skills in the area of climate change. The degree is jointly offered by the Crawford School of Economics and Government and the Fenner School of Environment and Society.

The program comprises a minimum of three compulsory courses in core topic areas covering climate impacts, vulnerability and adaptation, climate change economics and policy, and methodological approaches; elective courses can be selected from a wide range of topics to meet individual student needs and interests. Master of Climate Change graduates can expect to:

  • gain both a high level of knowledge in particular aspects of climate change, and a broad knowledge of the current issues in and approaches to climate change vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation;
  • develop their independent learning, analytical and research, teamwork, and oral and written communication skills;
  • develop networks relevant to their academic and professional interests; and
  • be better placed to respond to the challenges of climate change through their chosen careers.

The Master of Climate Change program allows students to take courses from across the ANU, to draw from the University's breadth and strength in the science, economics, law, policy and governance aspects of climate change vulnerability, adaptation and mitigation. ...

From: Master of Climate Change Overview, Faculty of Science and Crawford School of Economics and Government, ANU, 2008



I have suggested they might like to include a unit on Green ICT.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 6 Course Outline

In part five I selected SIFA Level 5 competencies for a new e-learning course on "Green IT Strategies", to be offered as part of the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. The next step was to relate the competencies to learning outcomes and then schedule the weekly content to help the students achieve them. Here is the first draft of the course description (comments and suggestions welcome):

Green ICT Strategies

Prepared by Tom Worthington FACS HLM

Version 0.1, 30 October 2008. Draft for comment. Not Approved for delivery of a Course.

Welcome to our elective subject Green ICT Strategies (GICTS) within the Computer Professional Education Program of the Australian Computer Society.

When preparing this subject, as with all the subjects in the Computer Professional Education Program, we have assumed that you and your fellow students are over-achievers; self-motivated, disciplined, and determined to succeed. You have extensive prior knowledge and experience relevant to your study; you are open-minded about sharing your work and educational experiences; and you accept critical thinking as part of the learning process. Further, you are comfortable with, and competent in, written communications; and you recognise that effective learning can occur outside a traditional classroom. Most importantly, you want to control how, when, and where you learn.

Critical to your success in this subject is a regular and disciplined study routine. Only through consistency will you keep up-to-date. Every week there will be specific tasks to complete and, if you fall behind, it will be difficult to catch up.

Also important is that you correspond; at least twice every week; with your fellow students and tutor. Your correspondence must be intelligent and investigative. You will answer questions posed by your tutors, and then debate your answers with your classmates.

Learning Outcomes

Green ICT Strategies is an emerging discipline with no widely accepted approach. This subject is drawn from practices being developed in the public and private sectors internationally. Implementation methodologies and assessment tools currently being field-tested are introduced. Qualification schemes and accreditation are yet to be established and it is possible those completing this subject may be involved in that development.

The ACS course on Green ICT Strategies is based on:

  1. The Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program, Sustainable IT Lecture Series, Natural Edge Project, 2008

  2. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), Green Electronics Council. GEC 2006.

  3. Energy Star Program , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, 2007

At the completion of this subject the student can:

  • Describe need for Green ICT Strategies and its relevance to business and the community

  • Articulate the benefits of implementing Green ICT, in financial and environmental terms

  • Apply the Green ICT Strategies practices in their organisation

  • Explain the environmental context and the technical developments shaping contemporary Green ICT Strategies;

  • Explain the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on Green ICT Strategies processes;

  • Explain the need to address Green ICT in the marketing, commercial, operational and technical viability of projects throughout their lives;

  • Apply specific Green ICT Strategies techniques such as impact analysis, estimation techniques, energy and material life cycle analysis;

Competencies based on Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA)

The Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) provides a common reference model for the identification of the skills needed to develop effective Information Systems (IS) making use of Information & Communications Technology (ICT).

Green ICT Strategies will target SIFA Level 5 competencies: "ensure, advise: Broad direction, supervisory, objective setting responsibility. Influences organisation. Challenging and unpredictable work. Self sufficient in business skills". With the following skills:

Category/Subcategory/Skill

  • Procurement & management support

    • Supply management

      • Procurement: Clarify sustainability specifications for products and services. Investigates the technical and commercial options, including possible sources of supply, and agrees the preferred options and potential suppliers with the business. Ensures that suppliers are approved in accordance with company procedures. Manages the tender, evaluation and acquisition process with expert assistance as required. Negotiates with preferred suppliers, drafts contracts and technical schedules, develops acceptance procedures and criteria. Places contracts. Implements, maintains and disseminates procurement strategy, policy, standards, methods and processes.

    • Quality management

  • Strategy & planning

    • Business/IS strategy and planning

      • Business process improvement: Analyse business processes to identify alternative solutions which reduce environmental impact, assesses feasibility, and recommends new approaches. Contribute to evaluating the environmental impact of alternative strategies. Help establish requirements for the implementation of changes in the business process.

      • Enterprise Architecture: Contribute to the sustainability of the systems capability strategy which meets the strategic requirements of the business. Incorporate Green ICT into the models and plans to drive forward the strategy, taking advantage of opportunities to improve business performance, as well as environmental benefits. Takes responsibility for investigative work to determine requirements and specify effective business processes, through improvements in information systems, data management, practices, procedures, organisation and equipment.

    • Technical strategy and planning

      • Emerging technology monitoring: Identify new and emerging hardware, software and communication technologies for energy saving and materials reuse. Products, methods and techniques and the assessment of their relevance and potential value to the organisation. The promotion of sustainable technology awareness among staff and business management.

      • Methods and tools: Ensure that appropriate methods and tools for the planning, development, operation, management and maintenance of systems are adopted and used effectively throughout the organisation.

Pre-requisites, Co-requisites

Business, Legal and Ethical Issues should be completed prior to undertaking this subject.

Content

Week 1: Introduction to Green ICT Strategies

Objective: Understand environmental, social and business context for sustainability, and overview of background, boundaries.

Week 2, 3: Methods and tools

Objective: You are asked to reduce the ecological footprint of an ICT organization. This organization could be the one you are currently working with or any other organization. How would you go about measuring the ICT system's demand on the Earth's ecosystems and developing a plan (strategy) to reduce the impact?

Week 4: Energy saving

Objective: Computers and telecommunications equipment contributes about 2% to greenhouse gas emissions. How can energy ratings programs be used to guide procurement and reduce energy use. Explore the benefits and some of the limitations of the US EPA's Energy Star Program.

Week 5: Materials Use

Objective: Energy reduction is only part of making a Green ICT system, there is also the issue of use of materials and hazardous substances. How does the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) deal with material use?

Week 6: Environmental Auditing

Objective: Environmental standards, such as the ISO 14000 series, include processes for certifying and auditing organisations to environmental standards. In this module we will explore how to engage environmental auditors .

Week 7, 8: Procurement

Objective: Much of the environmental benefits come about by selecting the right products and services. How do you ensure that your hardware, software and services suppliers provide green products?

Week 9, 10: Business Process Improvement

Objective: ICT has the potential to provide significant environmental improvements, by replacing energy and materials consuming processes with more efficient ICT ones. How do you analyse business processes to identify alternative solutions which reduce environmental impact, assesses feasibility, and recommends new approaches?

Week 11, 12: Enterprise Architecture

Objective: The business of business is business, so any environmental goals have to fit into the systems capability strategy which meets the strategic requirements of the business. How do you incorporate Green ICT into the models and plans to drive forward the strategy, taking advantage of opportunities to improve business performance, as well as environmental benefits?

Week 13: Revision and discussion for assignment 2

Objective: Let us revisit the Service Life Cycle. Let us discuss about the specific process you are going to improve in your organization through the assignment 2.

Workload

To complete the subject you will need to spend 8-10 hours each week reading, communicating with colleagues and tutors, and preparing assignments.

Review/Evaluation Methods

There are 2 areas of assessment in the subject;

  • Contributions to the 13 weekly discussion forums, worth 20% of your total assessment.

  • 2 assignments, worth 40% each.

To pass the subject overall, it is necessary to pass in both areas of assessment.

Teaching Strategies

By distance education through online learning methods plus one text book. Online learning is the main delivery method, moderated and supported by a tutor, mentor, student discussion forums and weekly feedback through ACS Education. Students are grouped in cohorts of 20. The students are also supported by the Registrar with email, phone, and fax contact.

Specialist Features or Equipment

The subject is supported by a website ACS Education hosted by Moodle where the online learning takes place. All learning materials plus discussion forums are available through this site, apart from the text book.

Course Designer

Tom Worthington is an independent ICT consultant and an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University, where he teaches the design of web sites, e-commerce and professional ethics. In addition, he has an interest in environmental design, and is the founding chair of the ACS Green ICT Group. In 1999 Tom was elected a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society for his contribution to the development of public Internet policy. He is a past president, Fellow and Honorary Life Member of the Australian Computer Society, a voting member of the Association for Computing Machinery and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

References

There is no set text for this course. Online references will be used, including:

  1. The Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program, Sustainable IT Lecture Series, Natural Edge Project, 2008

  2. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), Green Electronics Council. GEC 2006.

  3. Energy Star Program , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, 2007

  4. ACS Policy Statement for Green ICT, Australian Computer Society, 16 August 2007

  5. The Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy, Tom Worthington, Report and Recommended Plan of Action, prepared for the Department of Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Version 1.0, 23 September 2008.

  6. ROI Analysis: Reducing 856,000 Pounds of CO2 Emissions through Remote Services and Off-Hours Power Management, Government Case Study: Power Management and CO2 Reduction, Intel, 2008


Creative Commons License
Green ICT Strategies Course Outline by Tom Worthington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.

Stapler with Security Cable Loop

Stapler with Security Cable LoopFound myself having a discussion with a group of highly trained ICT experts trying to work out how to secure a stapler to a desk. After such options as looping a chain around it, drilling holes and using screws (even replacing paper with e-documents), I typed "stapler security" into the web and found that what was needed was a "Stapler with Security Cable Loop". This makes me wonder why staplers and other office items are not made with a Kensington Security Slot.

Bizarre as it seems you can buy stick on Kensington Security Slots (officially called a Security Slot Adapter Kit) . This is a small pad with a slot in it and a tube of high strength glue. You glue the pad to the item to be secured and then attach a security cable to the standard slot. This is a bit like a hole kit from Acme Corporation. One catch is that the kit costs more than the average occice stapler you might secuere with it.

See also on amazon.com:

Staplers



e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 5 SFIA and learning objectives

In part four I described the use of social networking for coordinating the ACS Computer Professional Education Program (CPE Program) with staff of for ACS Education. Now I need to details some learning objectives aligned with SFIA for a new e-learning course on "Green IT Strategies". The most relevant SFIA categories are: Procurement & Management support and Strategy & planning.

Strategy & planning

The Strategy & planning seems more high level, so I will start with that. What I need are responsibility and accountability at SIFA Level 5: "ensure, advise: Broad direction, supervisory, objective setting responsibility. Influences organisation. Challenging and unpredictable work. Self sufficient in business skills".
Strategy & planningInformation strategy Information management
Advice and guidance Consultancy
Technical specialism

The first subcategory is "Information strategy" with skill "Information management" but this has no level 5 and does not seem that relevant. Similarly, "Advice and guidance" Consultancy has no level 5 and "Technical specialism" is proposed for deletion from the next version of SFIA, so there seems no point in using it.

Business/IS strategy and planning Research
Innovation
Business process improvement
Strategic application of information systems
Business risk management
Information security
Information assurance
Research would be relevant for a university orientated course, but not for a practical one like CPEP. Business process improvement has the potential to provide significant environmental improvements, by replacing energy and materials consuming processes with more efficient ICT ones:

The identification of new and alternative approaches to performing business activities. The analysis of business processes, including recognition of the potential for automation of the processes, assessment of the costs and potential benefits of the new approaches considered and, where appropriate, management of change, and assistance with implementation.

SFIA 3: Use of this skill at this level

Analyses business processes; identifies alternative solutions, assesses feasibility, and recommends new approaches. Contributes to evaluating the factors which must be addressed in the change programme. Helps establish requirements for the implementation of changes in the business process. ...

From: Business process improvement: Level , SFIA Foundation, 2008
Strategic application of information systems can be used to translate environmental business vision, goals and strategy for the enterprise's future state. The SFIA version 3 description for this seems a bit short and vague, and I prefer the expanded proposed version 4:
Contributes to the creation and review of a systems capability strategy which meets the strategic requirements of the business. Develops models and plans to drive forward the strategy, taking advantage of opportunities to improve business performance. Takes responsibility for investigative work to determine requirements and specify effective business processes, through improvements in information systems, data management, practices, procedures, organisation and equipment.


From: Enterprise Architecture (replaces "Strategic Application of Information Systems"): Level 5 Proposed for SFIA 4, SFIA Foundation, 2008


Technical strategy and planning Systems architecture
Emerging technology monitoring
Continuity management
Software development process improvement
Network planning
Methods and tools
Systems architecture seems a little all encompassing for just Green ICT. Emerging technology monitoring is the first skill which looks relevant:

The identification of new and emerging hardware, software and communication technologies and products, services, methods and techniques and the assessment of their relevance and potential value to the organisation. The promotion of emerging technology awareness among staff and business management.

SFIA 3: Use of this skill at this level

Monitors the market to gain knowledge and understanding of currently emerging technologies. Identifies new and emerging hardware and software technologies and products based on own area of expertise, assesses their relevance and potential value to the organisation, contributes to briefings of staff and business management. ...

From: Emerging technology monitoring: Level , SFIA Foundation, 2008
Those working on Green ICT will need to know what new sustainable technologies are available.

Continuity management might be relevant where new green data centres are being planned, but is a peripheral issue. Similarly Software development process improvement might be used to make more efficient applications which therefore need less hardware to run on and less energy and Network planning could be used for greener networks, but these are also not central to the course.

Ensuring that appropriate methods and tools for the planning, development, testing, operation, management and maintenance of systems are adopted and used effectively throughout the organisation.

SFIA 3: Use of this skill at this level

Promotes and ensures use of appropriate techniques, methodologies and tools. ...

From: Methods & tools: Level 5, SFIA Foundation, 2008
Procurement & management support


Supply managementProcurement
Supplier relationship management

Procurement appears central to the Green ICT issues. One of the primary ways to make ICT sustainable is to use different criteria in the procurement of hardware, software and services. This looks like it might be the most important skill needed.

The management, or provision of advice on, the procurement of goods and services.

SFIA 3: Use of this skill at this level

Clarifies specifications for key products and services. Investigates the technical and commercial options for fulfilling the requirements, including possible sources of supply, and agrees the preferred options and potential suppliers with the business. Ensures that suppliers are approved in accordance with company procedures. Manages the tender, evaluation and acquisition process with expert assistance as required. Negotiates with preferred suppliers, drafts contracts and technical schedules, develops acceptance procedures and criteria. Places contracts. Implements, maintains and disseminates procurement strategy, policy, standards, methods and processes.

Proposed for SFIA 4: Use of this skill at this level

Clarifies specifications for key products and services. Investigates the technical and commercial options for fulfilling the requirements, including possible sources of supply, and agrees the preferred options and potential suppliers with the business. Ensures that suppliers are approved in accordance with company procedures. Manages the tender, evaluation and acquisition process with expert assistance as required. Typically as part of a wider commercial and legal team, assists with negotiations with preferred suppliers, drafting contracts and technical schedules, and developing acceptance procedures and criteria. Places contracts. Implements, maintains and disseminates procurement strategy, policy, standards, methods and processes. ...

From: Procurement: Level 5, SFIA Foundation, 2008
Supplier relationship management seems less relevant.

Quality managementQuality management
Quality assurance
Quality standards
Compliance audit
Safety assessment
The quality management Subcategory is relevant, in that there are many similarities between the software quality standards used in ICT and the ISO 14000 series environmental management standards. The Skill Compliance audit specifically refers to ISO 14,000:


The independent assessment of the conformity of any activity, process, deliverable, product or service with the criteria of specified standards, such as ISO 27001, local standards, best practice, or other documented requirements. May relate to, for example, asset management, network security tools, firewalls and internet security, real-time systems and application design.

SFIA 3: Use of this skill at this level

Evaluates and independently appraises the internal control of automated business processes, based on investigation evidence and assessments undertaken by self or team. Ensures that independent appraisals follow agreed procedure and advises others on the audit process. Provides advice to management on ways of improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their control mechanisms. Compliance activity can include safety assessments of the design, testing and validation and verification methods used in given safety-related systems. Involves the identification and evaluation of associated risks and how they can be reduced. ...

From:
Compliance review (Replaces "Compliance audit"): Level 5, SFIA Foundation, 2008
Safety assessment looks less relevant as it refers mostly to human safety, not that of the entire planet.

Resource managementProject office
Asset management
Information System co-ordination
Client services management
Professional development
Resourcing
Resource management looks a little too operational for Green ICT.

e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 4 Online Social Networking Course Coordination

In part three I wrote some learning objectives for a new e-learning course on "Green IT Strategies" for the ACS Computer Professional Education Program (CPE Program). Last night I attended a weekly staff meeting of the coordinators, educational designers, tutors and mentors for ACS Education. This was held using an online text chat forum, which worked well.

About eight people attended the meeting for an hour. You can see the list of who is online, who is currently writing and who arrives and leaves. One person acts as the chair, introducing topics, but due to the asynchronous nature of this form of communication, the short text messages which arrive could well be referring to the previous item.

This system worked well and in many ways is better than a face-to-face meeting or a video/audio conference (such as the Green ICT video conferecne last week). In an audio event only one person can talk at a time and they can hold up proceedings by talking too much. With the text chat, everyone can contribute at once and long contributions can simply be ignored (not that there were any on this occasion).

One useful feature is the ability to include a web address in the text, with these being automatically converted to hypertext links. This is much more useful that the usual practice at a meeting where someone vaguely refers to a document and everyone tries to scribble down the details.

One problem is that the software used does not have a spell checker built in. Normally I spell check everything I write several times before sending. But this was not possible with the real time chat, so every third word I sent was misspelled.

Another issue is that text chat is written and therefore can be archived and may be treated as an official record. In theory an audio or video recording of a meeting may be similar kept, but in practice this is harder to do and harder to search.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

e-Learning Course on Green ICT Strategies: Part 3 Corrections and Frameworks

In part two I started writing the description of a new e-learning course on "Green IT Strategies" for the ACS Computer Professional Education Program (CPE Program). My next task is to provide learning objectives and competencies based on the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) . The course and assessment then needs to be mapped out.

Corrections

David Lindley, Academic Principal of ACS Education, asked why I had titled the course "IT" (Information Technology) rather than the newer term ICT (Information and Communications Technology). It turns out that was a misunderstanding on my part, thinking IT was the term ACS used in its courses. So I have changed IT to ICT.

Chris BlackallChris Blackall pointed out I had duplicated one of the SFIA competences and had some useful suggestions for the content (covered in the next posting). We discussed this at a PPS (Purple Pickle Symposium).

One problem I had was the new Open Office 3.0 crashed about every third edit I did on my document. I suspect this is due to the mixture of HTML I had, from cutting and pasting my course outline document from several different sources. I attempted to report the problem but was unable to fathom the OOO error reporting system. To overcome the problem I cleaned the HTML with HTML Tidy.

One success I did have in terms of tools, is that I was able to install an Australian English dictionary and a Language Tool to check grammar, using the Open Office Extensions Facility. The spell checker in OOO underlines misspelling in red, whereas the grammar checker uses blue. The extension facility allows extra features to be easily added to the word processor.

While I was worrying about formatting details, I inserted a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License into the HTML and added a line to say this was a non approved draft, not a final document.

Learning Objectives and Frameworks

The seven learning objectives (as per Bloom's Taxonomy), I wrote were based on those from the ACS IT Service Management and Project Management subjects. David Lindley, liked the last of these:
Apply specific Green IT Strategies techniques such as impact analysis, estimation techniques, energy and material life cycle analysis;
He also suggested I look at the SFIA skill sets for SFIA Level 5 in the categories: Procurement & Management support and Strategy & planning. At this point I got a lost. SFIA is arranged by Category, Subcategory, Skill and then by level (starting from level 7 and going down). If you are looking for a particular level, this is difficult as you have to sift out all the other levels. David has produced a spreadsheet just for Level 5, to help, but there were so many cells in the table, it made my eyes water. I had put this to one side several days ago and then couldn't find it. Perhaps what is needed is a web based service which will extract a custom subset, as required.

From a web search I found the SFIA consultation web site, which has drafts of new versions and a slightly easier to read format. I extracted and adapted the Procurement & Management support and Strategy & planning categories from there:

SFIA Procurement & Management support and Strategy & planning categories
CategorySubcategorySkill
Procurement & management support Supply managementProcurement
Supplier relationship management
Quality managementQuality management
Quality assurance
Quality standards
Compliance audit
Safety assessment
Resource managementProject office
Asset management
Information System co-ordination
Client services management
Professional development
Resourcing
Strategy & planningInformation strategy Information management
Advice and guidance Consultancy
Technical specialism
Business/IS strategy and planning Research
Innovation
Business process improvement
Strategic application of information systems
Business risk management
Information security
Information assurance
Technical strategy and planning Systems architecture
Emerging technology monitoring
Continuity management
Software development process improvement
Network planning
Methods and tools

What I need to do now is to go through each of these, and see if the skill sets for SFIA Level 5 are applicable. Then I can write a description of a learning outcome which corresponds, followed by a suitable assessment to measure it and then the course content for it.

E-books for the Australian Army

The Australian Department of Defence has issued a Request for Tender for "Provision of Computer Based E Books for Health Services at Army Logistics Training Centre". These would be used for medical training. An electronic book (e-book or ebook) is an electronic document designed to replace a printed book. The RFT does not make clear if it is for e-books, or e-book readers, the specialised tablet computers used to display the books. E-books are typically formatted in PDF and some type of HTML.

Apart from specialised e-book readers, small notebook computers (such as netbooks), PDAs and smart phones can be used. A good example of this is the OLPC, which has a rugged case, low power transflective screen which can be read in sunlight and which can be folded back over the keyboard to format a tablet computer. The OLPC would make a very useful semi-rugged and low cost e-book readers for the military.

See also, from Amazon.com:

International Tsunami Warning Excercise Pacific Wave 2008

An international exercise to test tsunami warning systems is currently taking place across the Pacific. Exercise Pacific Wave 08 is testing the distribution of tsunami advisories (bulletins, watches and warnings), by the international and national centres, including the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre (JATWC).

The exercise scenario uses a fictional Tsunami from a magnitude 9.2 earthquake near Japan on October 29, 2008 at 0000UTC. There is a carefully scripted list of events scheduled at specific times in a detailed 132 page Exercise Pacific Wave 08 Technical Bulletin. The exercise materials are supposed to be marked "For Exercise Purposes Only" to distinguish them from real messages and if there is a major real event the exercise will be cancelled.

Pacific countries are being encouraged to exercise their own internal tsunami warning and emergency response procedures. While messages are issued by the international warning centres, it can take a long time for them to reach the population.

Dangerous Lack of Standardisation in Tsunami Message Format

While the exercise has been carefully planned, one problem with the warning systems remain: there is no standard international format for tsunami warning messages. The formats used for tsunami warnings predate the Internet and were designed for devices such as Teletype machines. As a result there are incompatibilities between the formats and Internet technology which could cause dangerous miscommunication. In addition there is no rigorously defined format for messages.

As an example the exercise document states that "All documentation and correspondence relating to this exercise is to be clearly identified as Exercise Pacific Wave 08 and For Exercise Purposes Only." However, only the first two of the supplied exercise messages include the text "Exercise Pacific Wave 08" and none of the messages include "For Exercise Purposes Only". Such imprecision can cause dangerous confusion, with the exercise messages being mistaken for real ones and real messages for exercises.

International tsunami authorities need to agree one standard format for tsunami messages which has a precisely defined format and wording and is compatible both with the Internet and backward compatible with older communication devices. Failure to do so could result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.
The initial bulletin will be issued by the NWPTAC because the earthquake is located in the immediate vicinity of Japan. Initial bulletins from PTWC and WC/ATWC will follow, initially using the earthquake parameters from the NWPTAC. To avoid any possible misinterpretation, bulletins issued by the warning centers will be in a “dummy” exercise message format (Appendix I) that will refer participants to a specific scenario bulletin number in this exercise manual (in Appendices II – IV). Dummy messages will be issued for each simulated real message at the beginning of the exercise, but later PTWC and WC/ATWC dummy messages will be issued only once every four hours until the simulated tsunami has crossed the entire Pacific and the exercise concludes. ...

TSUNAMI BULLETIN NUMBER 001
PACIFIC TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER/NOAA/NWS
ISSUED AT 0010Z 29 OCT 2008
THIS BULLETIN APPLIES TO AREAS WITHIN AND BORDERING THE PACIFIC
OCEAN AND ADJACENT SEAS...EXCEPT ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...
WASHINGTON...OREGON AND CALIFORNIA.
... A TSUNAMI WARNING AND WATCH ARE IN EFFECT ...
A TSUNAMI WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR
JAPAN / RUSSIA / MARCUS IS.
A TSUNAMI WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR
N. MARIANAS / GUAM / WAKE IS. / CHINESE TAIPEI / TAIWAN / YAP /
PHILIPPINES / MARSHALL IS. / CHUUK / MIDWAY IS. / POHNPEI /
BELAU / KOSRAE / INDONESIA / PAPUA NEW GUINEA / HAWAII
FOR ALL OTHER AREAS COVERED BY THIS BULLETIN... IT IS FOR
INFORMATION ONLY AT THIS TIME.
THIS BULLETIN IS ISSUED AS ADVICE TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. ONLY
NATIONAL AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE
DECISIONS REGARDING THE OFFICIAL STATE OF ALERT IN THEIR AREA AND
ANY ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN IN RESPONSE.
AN EARTHQUAKE HAS OCCURRED WITH THESE PRELIMINARY PARAMETERS
ORIGIN TIME - 0000Z 29 OCT 2008
COORDINATES - 40.0 NORTH 143.0 EAST
DEPTH - 33 KM
LOCATION - OFF EAST COAST OF HONSHU JAPAN
MAGNITUDE - 8.5
EVALUATION
IT IS NOT KNOWN THAT A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED. THIS WARNING IS
BASED ONLY ON THE EARTHQUAKE EVALUATION. AN EARTHQUAKE OF THIS
SIZE HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GENERATE A DESTRUCTIVE TSUNAMI THAT CAN
STRIKE COASTLINES NEAR THE EPICENTER WITHIN MINUTES AND MORE
DISTANT COASTLINES WITHIN HOURS. AUTHORITIES SHOULD TAKE
APPROPRIATE ACTION IN RESPONSE TO THIS POSSIBILITY. THIS CENTER
WILL MONITOR SEA LEVEL DATA FROM GAUGES NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE TO
DETERMINE IF A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED AND ESTIMATE THE SEVERITY OF
THE THREAT.
ESTIMATED INITIAL TSUNAMI WAVE ARRIVAL TIMES AT FORECAST POINTS
WITHIN THE WARNING AND WATCH AREAS ARE GIVEN BELOW. ACTUAL
ARRIVAL TIMES MAY DIFFER AND THE INITIAL WAVE MAY NOT BE THE
LARGEST. A TSUNAMI IS A SERIES OF WAVES AND THE TIME BETWEEN
SUCCESSIVE WAVES CAN BE FIVE MINUTES TO ONE HOUR.
LOCATION FORECAST POINT COORDINATES ARRIVAL TIME
-------------------------------- ------------ ------------
JAPAN HACHINOHE 40.5N 141.7E 0033Z 29 OCT
IOC Technical Series No. 82 Appendix II
page 12
KUSHIRO 42.9N 144.3E 0043Z 29 OCT
KATSUURA 35.0N 140.3E 0102Z 29 OCT
SHIMIZU 32.8N 133.0E 0225Z 29 OCT
OKINAWA 26.2N 127.8E 0319Z 29 OCT
RUSSIA URUP IS 46.1N 150.5E 0118Z 29 OCT
PETROPAVLOVSK K 53.2N 159.6E 0226Z 29 OCT
SEVERO KURILSK 50.8N 156.1E 0229Z 29 OCT
UST KAMCHATSK 56.1N 162.6E 0248Z 29 OCT
MEDNNY IS 54.7N 167.4E 0249Z 29 OCT
MARCUS IS. MARCUS IS. 24.3N 154.0E 0225Z 29 OCT
N. MARIANAS SAIPAN 15.3N 145.8E 0326Z 29 OCT
GUAM GUAM 13.4N 144.7E 0342Z 29 OCT
WAKE IS. WAKE IS. 19.3N 166.6E 0350Z 29 OCT
CHINESE TAIPEI HUALIEN 24.0N 121.7E 0403Z 29 OCT
TAITUNG 22.7N 121.2E 0407Z 29 OCT
CHILUNG 25.2N 121.8E 0430Z 29 OCT
KAOHSIUNG 22.5N 120.3E 0442Z 29 OCT
TAIWAN HUALIEN 24.0N 121.6E 0404Z 29 OCT
YAP YAP IS. 9.5N 138.1E 0417Z 29 OCT
PHILIPPINES PALANAN 17.1N 122.6E 0425Z 29 OCT
LAOAG 18.2N 120.5E 0445Z 29 OCT
SAN FERNANDO 16.7N 120.2E 0504Z 29 OCT
LEGASPI 13.2N 123.8E 0507Z 29 OCT
DAVAO 6.8N 125.7E 0521Z 29 OCT
ZAMBOANGA 6.9N 122.1E 0605Z 29 OCT
MARSHALL IS. ENIWETOK 11.4N 162.3E 0428Z 29 OCT
KWAJALEIN 8.7N 167.7E 0511Z 29 OCT
MAJURO 7.1N 171.4E 0540Z 29 OCT
CHUUK CHUUK IS. 7.4N 151.8E 0432Z 29 OCT
MIDWAY IS. MIDWAY IS. 28.2N 177.4W 0443Z 29 OCT
POHNPEI POHNPEI IS. 7.0N 158.2E 0444Z 29 OCT
BELAU MALAKAL 7.3N 134.5E 0446Z 29 OCT
KOSRAE KOSRAE IS. 5.5N 163.0E 0511Z 29 OCT
INDONESIA GEME 4.6N 126.8E 0519Z 29 OCT
BEREBERE 2.5N 128.7E 0529Z 29 OCT
WARSA 0.6S 135.8E 0545Z 29 OCT
MANOKWARI 0.8S 134.2E 0552Z 29 OCT
PATANI 0.4N 128.8E 0554Z 29 OCT
MANADO 1.6N 124.9E 0601Z 29 OCT
SORONG 0.8S 131.1E 0604Z 29 OCT
JAYAPURA 2.4S 140.8E 0607Z 29 OCT
PAPUA NEW GUINE KAVIENG 2.5S 150.7E 0556Z 29 OCT
MANUS IS. 2.0S 147.5E 0556Z 29 OCT
VANIMO 2.6S 141.3E 0607Z 29 OCT
BULLETINS WILL BE ISSUED HOURLY OR SOONER IF CONDITIONS WARRANT.
THE TSUNAMI WARNING AND WATCH WILL REMAIN IN EFFECT UNTIL
FURTHER NOTICE.
THE JAPAN METEOROLOGICAL AGENCY MAY ALSO ISSUE TSUNAMI MESSAGES
FOR THIS EVENT TO COUNTRIES IN THE NORTHWEST PACIFIC AND SOUTH
CHINA SEA REGION. IN CASE OF CONFLICTING INFORMATION... THE
MORE CONSERVATIVE INFORMATION SHOULD BE USED FOR SAFETY.
THE WEST COAST/ALASKA TSUNAMI WARNING CENTER WILL ISSUE PRODUCTS
FOR ALASKA...BRITISH COLUMBIA...WASHINGTON...OREGON...CALIFORNIA. ...

From: Exercise Pacific Wave 08 Technical Bulliten, Commission ocĂ©anographique intergouvernementale. Exercise Pacific Wave 08. A Pacific-wide Tsunami Warning and Communication Exercise Pacific, 28–30 October 2008. IOC Technical Series No. 82. Paris, UNESCO, 2008. (English)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

e-Learning Course on Green IT Strategies: Part 2 Learning Outcomes

In part one I decided I am going to use an Open Access licence for an e-learning course write a "Green IT Strategies" in the ACS Computer Professional Education Program (CPE Program). My next task is to provide a description of the course, including learning objectives and competencies based on the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) . The course and assessment then needs to be mapped out.

Fortunately I have the existing CPE Program subjects to use as a model:
  1. Business, Legal and Ethical Issues
  2. New Technology Alignment
  3. Business, Strategy and IT
  4. Project Management
  5. IT Service Management
  6. Adaptive Business Intelligence
The most relevant seemed to be IT Service Management, so used that as a start. The first step is to take a copy of the description of the course and paste it into an editing program (I use Open Office 3.0). Then I substituted "Green IT Strategies" for "IT Service Management".

Welcome Unchanged

The first introductory section of the description did not need any changes, apart from substituting the new the course name. This is really an introduction to the philosophy behind the ACS CPe Program, shared by all courses. Not all of this I agree with, as for example the assumption that the students are over-achievers". However, given courses at Australia's leading university, I guess I am surrounded by such overachievers, every day. ;-)

Welcome to our elective subject Green IT Strategies (ITSM) within the Australian Computer Society’s Computer Professional Education Program.

When preparing this subject, as with all the subjects in the Computer Professional Education Program, we have assumed that you and your fellow students are over-achievers; self-motivated, disciplined, and determined to succeed. You have extensive prior knowledge and experience relevant to your study; you are open-minded about sharing your work and educational experiences; and you accept critical thinking as part of the learning process. Further, you are comfortable with, and competent in, written communications; and you recognise that effective learning can occur outside a traditional classroom. Most importantly, you want to control how, when, and where you learn.

Critical to your success in this subject is a regular and disciplined study routine. Only through consistency will you keep up-to-date. Every week there will be specific tasks to complete and, if you fall behind, it will be difficult to catch up.

Also important is that you correspond; at least twice every week; with your fellow students and tutor. Your correspondence must be intelligent and investigative. You will answer questions posed by your tutors, and then debate your answers with your classmates.

Learning Outcomes

Obviously the learning outcome of a course on IT Service management did not fit a course on Green IT, so I started rewriting the text incorporating what someone who had done the course would be expected to be able to do. One difficulty with this was there was no set body of knowledge or accepted practice I could point to, as can be done with IT Service management, which can reference the well established ITIL. So I made the language less strong, pointing out that this is an emerging discipline with no widely accepted approach, practices being developed with methodologies and assessment tools currently being field-tested. Qualification schemes and accreditation are still being established. Those completing this subject may be involved in that development.

In the absence of an accepted approach and texts I had to cite what I considered the best sources available. The ones I have initially chosen are:
  1. The Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program, Sustainable IT Lecture Series, Natural Edge Project, 2008

  2. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), Green Electronics Council. GEC 2006.

  3. Energy Star Program , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, 2007

The Sustainable IT Lecture Series, grew out of a series for engineers. At my suggestion, The Natural Edge Project then did a series specifically for IT professionals (Sponsored by HP Australia). The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an implementation of IEEE 1680 Standard. The Energy Star Program, are from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. EPEAT and Energy Star are required for US Government purchasing and in RFT 0708-705 – Provision of Desktop, LAN, Helpdesk, and Midrange Services, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage, 7 August 2008. It is likely these will be adopted by the Australian Government.

The IT SM subject had only three learning objectives, which is possible as the ITIL system it is based on is so well defined. For something less established, more objectives were needed. So I copied in the thirteen objectives from the Project Management subject, eventually trimming this down to seven. The objectives will need to be refined and they use a very specific set of words, the subtleties of which I am not fully conversant with.

Green IT Strategies is an emerging discipline with no widely accepted approach. This subject is drawn from practices being developed in the public and private sectors internationally. Implementation methodologies and assessment tools currently being field-tested are introduced. Qualification schemes and accreditation are yet to be established and it is possible those completing this subject may be involved in that development.

The ACS course on Green IT Strategies is based on:

  1. The Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program, Sustainable IT Lecture Series, Natural Edge Project, 2008

  2. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), Green Electronics Council. GEC 2006.

  3. Energy Star Program , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, 2007

At the completion of this subject the student can:

  • Describe need for Green IT Strategies and its relevance to business and the community

  • Articulate the benefits of implementing Green ICT, in financial and environmental terms

  • Apply the Green IT Strategies practices in their organisation

  • Explain the environmental context and the technical developments shaping contemporary Green IT Strategies;

  • Explain the impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) on Green IT Strategies processes;

  • Explain the need to address Green ICT in the marketing, commercial, operational and technical viability of projects throughout their lives;

  • Apply specific Green IT Strategies techniques such as impact analysis, estimation techniques, energy and material life cycle analysis;

Competencies based on Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA)

SFIA was developed by the British Compeer Society as a common reference model for skills needed by ICT professionals. ACS is using SFIA to map courses to the corresponding jobs, at the appropriate level. This is a very complex process, but much of the work has been done for me as the Green IT Strategies subject is classified by ACS as a "Specialism Elective". The ACS have already determined that Level of Responsibility 5 is appropriate for the CPe Program and mapped the "Specialism Elective" to SFIA Generic Skills. It should be noted that SFIA uses terms such as "business" and "customers" which may not be common to some areas, such as government.

  1. Influence
    • Influences organisation, customers, suppliers and peers within industry on contribution of specialisation.
  2. Complexity
    • Challenging range and variety of complex technical or professional work activities.
    • Work requires application of fundamental principles in a wide and often unpredictable range of contexts.
  3. Complexity
    • Challenging range and variety of complex technical or professional work activities.
    • Work requires application of fundamental principles in a wide and often unpredictable range of contexts.
    • Understands relationship between specialism and wider customer/ organisational requirements.
  4. Business
    • Advises on the available standards, methods, tools and applications in own area of specialisation and can make correct choices from alternatives.
    • Communicates effectively, formally and informally, with colleagues, subordinates and customers.
    • Clear understanding of the relationship between own area of responsibility/specialisation to the employing organisation and takes customer requirements into account when making proposals.
    • Takes initiative to keep skills up to date.
    • Demonstrates creativity and innovation in applying solutions for the benefit of the user.
But what is not entirely clear to me is what I do with this.

Android desktop PC

Assuming the Google sponsored Android software platform becomes popular, it might be feasable to use this for low cost netbook and netPCs. Android is based on the Linux kernel and has a language for developing applications. It is intended for smart phones, such as the T-Mobile_G1. It should therefore run very well on a small notebook or desktop compters. These would be much like a thin client computer and could in theory run other opertating systems and applications. But thin clients and small computers have not sold well, being seen as cut down limited function computers. If instead they are see as high performance versions of smart phones, they may be more popular. If the netPC included a VoIP interface for an analog telephone, it coulod replace the desktop computer in most offices.

Monday, October 27, 2008

OLPC in Australia

Greetings from the CASE hosted One Laptop per Child Open Day in Canberra. Pia Waugh of Waugh Partners is speaking about the One Laptop per Child Australia Foundation and her ongoing involvement with the Free and Open Source Software community. Pia used the OLPC web site for her presentation. Below are some notes on the publishable parts of her presentation.

Pia emphasised that the project is about interactive group education for primary school children (six to twelve years old). This is a group younger than the Federal Government's Digital Education revolution is targeted at, which is for secondary school children. The "One Laptop" is misnamed as it is intended to be an interactive teaching device, not a conventional laptop.

In Australia a trial has been undertaken at two schools: a typical Australia school and for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. There are also projects collaborating between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific countries. OLPC hardware sold in developed nations will be at a premium to subsidise the cost for developing nations. Also a support base, both online and with people visiting will be established. In addition fund raising can be undertaken.

There were 5,000 OLPCs donated to children of the pacific. The South Pacific Council are working with the countries on the projects. See: One laptop for every Niuean child (BCC News, 11:01 GMT, Friday, 22 August 2008)

Australia's first trial of the OLPC finished Friday and will be published next month. This is being done at a small primary school of fifty children. Also a small school in a remote area is being liked to a respite centre with specialist staff. This is also being considered for distance e-health. This is being independently assessed. Questions to be answered alter are: this good for typical students, indigenous students, those with special needs, who with this may to the curriculum.

The project tries not to assume a large infrastructure. The hardware of the OLPC has been optimised for use in areas without much infrastructure. The current cost of the OLPC is about $US180 and is expected to drop to $US50 by 2010.

There were some interesting questions at question time. One was about the extend to which the computers can be localised by the teachers. The OLPC can be customised at the national level for different languages. However, there are numerous indigenous languages used in Australia. The question is if the system can be customised for many small groups. Pia replied that this should be feasible to do as open source, so that it could be done and owned by the community.

The OLPC project is based on open access licences. Apart from the OLPC hardware and software, there is also OLPC School Server software designed to run on low cost PC hardware. The project is encouraging content developers to also use an open licence, so the content is available to schools.

The OLPC assumes a particular model of education, where each student interacts with their own computer. Even in developed nations this model has not been adopted, with many schools preferring to have students work in groups, even where a computer for each student can be afforded. Also a computer for the teacher and an interactive whiteboard which can be seen by and used for the whole class is seen as a priority over computers for each student.

The OLPC project may be aimed at education but many of those involved are computer people, not educators. I was the only one who put up their had when the audience was asked who as a teacher (and I am just an adjunct university lecturer, not a primary school teacher).

While the OLPC project appears meaning, it is not clear to me that the aid model it is based on is a good one. It might be better if the computers were sold commercially and developing countries were free to spend their aid money on the OLPC, on a rival product, or on other educational materials. The current model does not give the beneficiaries the choice of what they get.

It would also be useful to be able to decouple the issues of the OLPC hardware from the educational applications. Australian trials of the OLPC for remote education may well save the worldwide project, by emphasising education and remote access, and being able to communicate them to the educational and general community based on credible research. Australia also has a strong tradition and expertise in distance education with services such as the School of the Air.

OLPC Canberra Day

Greeting from the CASE hosted One Laptop per Child Open Day in Canberra 27 October 2008. They have about a dozen OLPC XO one laptop per child computers for people to try out. At 5.00pm Pia Waugh of Waugh Partners will speak about the One Laptop per Child Australia Foundation and her ongoing involvement with the Free and Open Source Software community.

The OLPC is a low power sub-notebook designed for children. It was originally intended to be a $US100 computer, but the current cost is about $350. The OLPC project would claim that the project is not really about creating a laptop, but a children's computer for learning. However, my view is that this is a sub-notebook computer, much like the netbooks by ASUS and others.

The hardware and software on the computer is different to the typical sub-notebook. There is no hard disk, a robust brightly coloured case and long range WiFi. The screen is transflective, being a backlight colour screen indoors and monochrome reflective outdoors. The screen can be folded back to make it an e-book.

The XO runs a version of Fedora Linux with an icon based interface ("Sugar") different to the usual Apple Mac/Microsoft Windows interface. The WiFi is programmed to be part of a mesh network to enable a group of computers to communicate without the need for a backbone network. The computers can also share one Internet connection, such as at a school.

The computers are frustrating to use for adults used to a Microsoft Windows or Apple Mac computer. The tiny rubber keyboard is difficult to type on with big fingers and the icons used are different to the typical Windows ones.

The hardware appears very robust, but the software still has problems. Even is a short test of a few minutes, a text based error screen appeared. The system quickly recovered and restored the graphical interface, but still it was disconcerting and would be even so for someone has never seen a terminal window.

The OLPC is designed to change the face of education in developing nations. However, it is not clear if this USA developed idea of what developed nations need is what they need or want.

Records management for Executive Levels

The Australian Public Service Co0mmission is offering a one day course in Records management for Executive Levels (for EL 1 and 2). There are no details of the course, but I assume it has similar content to the 12 hour course I run at ANU.

Simplified Robotics Framework for Bomb Disposal

ANU Buzz Linux RobotA team of students at the ANU have developed a Linux Robotics Framework to simplify development of robotics applications. This should be particularly useful for bomb disposal robots, where the requirement change rapidly due to changes in the threat.

As noted in Bomb Squad Diary (Glenn Zorpette, IEEE Spectrum, October 2008), the threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) is changing rapidly and equipment needs to be constantly modified to adapt to the changes in the tatitics and techniques of the bomb makers. Being able to rapidly modify the software and the hardware of the robots would be an advantage.

The team's demonstration robot is called Buzz , controlled by a NGW100 network gateway low-powered development board with a Atmel AVR32 processor. This could allow for the development of disposable military robots. Currently each military robot used by the US DoD and the Australian Department of Defence costs more than $100,000.

Target.com to be accessible and $6M damages

US retailer, Target Corporation has agreed to make its web site fully accessible to blind customers by February 2009 and pay $6M in damages to Californian vision impaired customers. The case is similar to the 1999 one concerning the 2000 Olympics Web site, which I was an expert witness for, but on a larger scale. Note that the Target Australia Pty Ltd web site is not necessary covered by the US legal decision.

For those interested in how to create accessible web sites (and which also work for mobile phones) see the notes for the course I teach on this at the Australian National University: Website Design, For Information Technology Professionals, for "Internet, Intranet, and Document Systems" (COMP3400/COMP6340).

By the way the Target Australia Pty Ltd home page passed an automated accessibility test at Level A. It had four Priority 2 and one Prioritise 3 issues. This is a relatively good result for a commercial web site. I was unable to get the test system to work with the USA Target site.

Australian Government Rostering System Tender

The Australian Government's Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has issued a Request for Tender for a Staff Timesheet Rostering and Allocation Information Technology System (DAFF 151/08 24-Oct-2008). This should be expanded to provide a government wide, wenb based service, in line with the with the recommendations of the Gershon Report on Australian Government ICT.

The tender documents include a very comprehensive 67 page "Statement of Requirements - Business Requirements". There is also a ten page document on the technical details of the AQIS data network. The data network details are interesting in that it includes mobile connections via the public Internet and mobile phones. It is likely that tenderers will offer web based systems in response.

As with the multiple e-recruitment system tenders, it seems likely that there are other Australian Government agencies with essentially the same requirements. The government should therefore expand this tender to meet other agencies requirements. Apart from lowering costs and increasing the flexibility of the system it would also reduce the energy use and greenhouse gas emissions of the system. This would fit with the recommendations of the Gershon Report on Australian Government ICT.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Centralized Mail Delivery

One low technology way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel use is "Centralized Mail Delivery". With this the mailboxes at individual homes are replaced with one central set of boxes. This way the postal vehicle just as to stop once to deliver the mail for all the homes. The arrangement is most common for apartments, where it is usual to have the mailboxes near the entrance. But it can also be applied to town houses and detached houses.
"... Centralized mail delivery: Neighborhood Delivery & Collection Box Units (NDCBU) are popular in home and office complex developments. USPS can help
plan centralized ..."
From: on Page 878, Architectural
Graphic Standards, Tenth Edition (Book only)
Charles
George Ramsey
, John
Ray, Jr. Hoke

Curiously, one new feature for homes this then creates are Package Delivery Vault without a letterbox. The idea here is that while the mail goes to the centralised mailbox, packages can be delivered to the home.

Swapping Ideas on Teaching in Higher Education

Mick HealeyOn Friday Professor Mick Healey, Co-Director of the Centre for Active Learning (CeAL), University of Gloucestershire, conducted a "Linking Research and Teaching Swap Shop" at the ANU Festival of Teaching in Canberra. About thirty people attended. We divided into groups of between three and six people. The members of each group then took turns to present a teaching idea. Each person had five minutes to talk and then five minutes of questions. We then swapped groups and repeated the process.

This produced some interesting ideas:such as inviting an ex-senator to be an on-line moderator for a course on law and having the students use a wiki to create resources for a course. My contribution for the swap shop is: "Blended Learning: Using a Learning Management System Live in the Classroom".

The following panel discussion brought up more interesting ideas, including peer learning, flexible spaces and the mixing of staff and students at Earth Sciences, Oxford Unviersity. There was also mention of a book on "Education for Sustainability" from the UK. Unfortunately I couldn't find exactly which book was being referred to, but this seems a useful phrase: "education for sustainability".

One aspect this brought out was the need for appropriate resources for group learning. While ANU has many excellent teaching venues for group work, The Hall of University House, where this swap shop was held, is not one of them. This historic space is a wonderful venue for dinner, concert or speech, but as it can hold 500 people is not ideal for small group work.