Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Computing in Schools

The Royal Society issued "Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools", 13 January 2012. This topic was discussed in "Open Submission to the National Curriculum Consultation" (by Pia Waugh for Senator Kate Lundy, 22 April 2010). In my National Broadband Network Submission, I suggesting making educational materials available free on-line, so we teach digital literacy (amongst other things) digitally. It should be possible to bootstrap this process: that is we train the course designers on-line to train the teachers who then teach it to the students.

Executive summary


This report is the outcome of a project initiated by the Royal Society in August 2010. The project was prompted by a high degree of concern, expressed in many quarters and documented in several earlier reports, about aspects of the current provision of education in Computing in UK schools. That such concern had been expressed by so many with such different perspectives – including in schools, in business and industry, and in universities – was indicative of a significant problem. The project was guided by an Advisory Group that brought together individuals and representatives with a wide range of professional interests and views, and it sought and achieved a good level of consensus

The main findings and recommendations of the project are set out below. First, however, a word is needed on terminology. In this report, the term ‘Computing’ is used with a very broad sense

Computing is concerned both with computers and computer systems – how they work and how they are designed, constructed, and used – and with the underlying science of information and computation

The influence of Computing in shaping the world in which we now live has been profound, and it is hard to imagine that Computing will become less important in the future. It is argued in this report that it is essential for all school pupils to gain some familiarity with aspects of Computing and for there to be opportunities for pupils to develop their aptitudes in the subject, for their individual benefit and for the future prosperity of the nation

Main findings

  1. The current delivery of Computing education in many UK schools is highly unsatisfactory. Although existing curricula for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) are broad and allow scope for teachers to inspire pupils and help them develop interests in Computing, many pupils are not inspired by what they are taught and gain nothing beyond basic digital literacy skills such as how to use a word-processor or a database

    This is mainly because:

    1. The current national curriculum in ICT can be very broadly interpreted and may be reduced to the lowest level where non specialist teachers have to deliver it;
    2. there is a shortage of teachers who are able to teach beyond basic digital literacy;
    3. there is a lack of continuing professional development for teachers of Computing;
    4. features of school infrastructure inhibit effective teaching of Computing
  2. There is a need to improve understanding in schools of the nature and scope of Computing

    In particular there needs to be recognition that Computer Science is a rigorous academic discipline of great importance to the future careers of many pupils. The status of Computing in schools needs to be recognised and raised by government and senior management in schools

  3. Every child should have the opportunity to learn Computing at school, including exposure to Computer Science as a rigorous academic discipline

  4. There is a need for qualifications in aspects of Computing that are accessible at school level but are not currently taught. There is also a need for existing inappropriate assessment methods to be updated

  5. There is a need for augmentation and coordination of current Enhancement and Enrichment activities to support the study of Computing

  6. Uptake of Computing A-level is hindered by lack of demand from higher education institutions


From: Shut down or restart? The way forward for computing in UK schools", The Royal Society, 13 January 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Chinese Army Today

Dennis J. Blasko's The Chinese Army Today is a detailed scholarly analysis of the role, structure, doctrine, training and equipment of the People's Liberation Army (PLA). Translating the details into western terms can be complex: the PLA also has Navy, Air Force, Naval Air Force and Marine elements. The most important point Blasko makes is that while the Chinese army does some things differently, it has a good grasp on what its job is, is striving to modernize.

As Blasko explains, many people in China wear military looking uniforms, but are not part of the Army. On a visit to Beijing to help the Chinese government with the Olympic Games, I was bemused to find a very tall guard in a military uniform standing to attention in the foyer of the BOCOG building all day. It was very tempting to snap off a salute and see if he responded. I worked out he was the equivalent of an Australian government security guard.

As well as the People's Armed Police (PAP) and the People's Militia, China has uniformed civilians in government agencies. This causes confusion when estimating the size of the Chinese military versus western armies. The confusion is not all one sided: western armies have civilian public servants and contractors operating alongside the military in combat areas (such as the United States Army Corps of Engineers). I have spent a few days in uniform on a military exercise, as a civilian expert (and a week standing in for my one star, brigadier ranked military boss).

There are lessons to learn from the PLA for western military, in areas such as cyber-warfare: combining military and civilian assests.

Osram LED Light-bulbs

Osram Parathom 12 Watt LED Light BulbBunnings Hardware are now selling three sizes of Osram Parathom LED light-bulbs in Australia. These are shaped like a conventional incandescent light bulb, with the lower section a metal heat sink painted white and the top a translucent hemispherical dome. They are all "Warm White" and rated to last 25,000 Hours and are avialable in bayonet and Edison screw fitting. The links in this post are to the Amazon German and UK web sites, as I have not been able to find these for sale on-line in Australia (but you would be better off going into a store in Australia, as the European prices seem very high).

The largest is a Osram Parathom 12 Watt LED for $29.90, equivalent to a 50 Watt incandescent bulb. This is about 20 mm taller than a standard bulb. I found this worked very well in a "Tastic" bathroom fan/heater. The dome projects down below the fan fitting, spreading light evenly around the room (better than the reflector bulb it replaced, which sent light straight down). It looks very bright in a small bathroom.

The 6 Watt is rated as equivalent to a 25 Watt incandescent bulb and is $17.90. It is the same size and shape as a standard bulb.

There is also an Osram 42780 Parathom 4Watt LED, shorter than a standard bulb.

All these bulbs direct very little light downwards, towards the base. They would be good for a ceiling fitting directing light downwards, or an up-light. They would not be as good for a fitting where the bulb lays on its side, or a desk lap where the bulb points upwards, but light is wanted downwards.

The bulbs look very well made with a very solid metal base and strong looking translucent cover (it is a shame to cover the unit with a shade, as they look like modern sculptures). The light is a pleasant color and very uniform. It will be interesting to see if they reach the 25,000 life: the electronics in LED lights tend to fail long before the LEDs themselves dim from old age. My bathroom light is used only about 30 minutes a day and so should last 100 years. ;-)

Philips Master LED Bulb 12WThe price of these bulbs is likely to come down rapidly in the next few years. I can recall when a compact florescent bulb cost $30 (they are now around $4).At the top end Philips are selling their Philips Master LED Bulb 12W at very high prices. Philips MyVision 9 Watt LED BulbThere is also the Philips MyVision 9 Watt LED Bulb which looks very much like the Osram Parathom and is more reasonably priced.

What I have not seen so far is bulbs exploiting the unique characteristics of the LED. As an example, the LEDs are very small. It would be possible to build a bulb which had four or more separate LEDs, which from the factory would point out in all directions giving even light, but could be swiveled to point in one direction.

See also: "LED Lighting becomes main stream" at Ecologically Sustainable Sydney.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Australian High Speed Ship Used by Japanese Military

LinkMedia reports indicate that the Natchan World, a high speed ferry designed and built by Incat Australia, was used to transport tanks and other military vehicles, for a Japanese Self-Defense Force exercise in November 2011. The Natchan World, operated by the Tsugarukaikyo Ferry Company, is very similar in design to the HSV-2 Swift operated by the US Navy. The Natchan World, loaded Type 90 tanks and Type 89 infantry combat vehicles, via the stern ramp (the ramp on the Incat ships can swivel around to load from either side).

Another Australian company, Austal, is making the Spearhead class Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), for the US Department of Defence. Unlike many military projects, these ships have been very successful, as they use already proven civilian technology, with minor changes for military use.LinkLink

Free Office Software for Education in the Cloud

Media reports indicate that the free open source LibreOffice software suite is being ported to run from an on-line server, only needing a HTML5 web browser on the client device. The software is also being ported to Android and iOS operating systems. This could be a useful alternative to Microsoft Office and GoogleDocs, particularly for educational institutions which want to provide students with word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software, but respect the privacy of the students.

For the last year I have been using LibreOffice. Previously I used OpenOffice, but when I upgraded to a new version of Linux, it came with LibreOffice and have not noticed the difference. The word processor has reasonable compatibility with Microsoft Word, the spreadsheet less so and the presentation tool is not so good (and less compatible with Powerpoint). I have been using OpenOffice/LibreOffice for several years teaching at the tertiary level and it has been adequate.

Having the option to supply the students with free office software which runs in a browser, on a tablet computer and on laptops and desktop computers would be very useful. One issue with cloud based applications is where the data is hosted. If the server is in another country, then there is less control over the data stored. If the educational institution can host the application themselves, or arrange for commercial hosting in the same country, this lessens problems.LinkLink

Saturday, January 28, 2012

European Data Protection Changes

The European Commission has proposed changes to the EU's 1995 data protection rules. What has got most attention is a proposed "right to be forgotten", but there are also proposals to streamline the reporting for business and queries for citizens. At present businesses have to register with each national data authority where they do business and citizens have to esquire with the relevant national authority. Under the new scheme the business will deal just with the authority where they are headquartered and will just have to tell them when there is a data problem. Citizens will be able to ask the authority where they are about any business anywhere. The EU has published a comprehensive list of materials. An easy place to start is the media release:

... Key changes in the reform include:
  • A single set of rules on data protection, valid across the EU. Unnecessary administrative requirements, such as notification requirements for companies, will be removed. This will save businesses around €2.3 billion a year.

  • Instead of the current obligation of all companies to notify all data protection activities to data protection supervisors – a requirement that has led to unnecessary paperwork and costs businesses €130 million per year, the Regulation provides for increased responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data.

  • For example, companies and organisations must notify the national supervisory authority of serious data breaches as soon as possible (if feasible within 24 hours).

  • Organisations will only have to deal with a single national data protection authority in the EU country where they have their main establishment. Likewise, people can refer to the data protection authority in their country, even when their data is processed by a company based outside the EU. Wherever consent is required for data to be processed, it is clarified that it has to be given explicitly, rather than assumed.

  • People will have easier access to their own data and be able to transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily (right to data portability). This will improve competition among services.

  • A ‘right to be forgotten’ will help people better manage data protection risks online: people will be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it.

  • EU rules must apply if personal data is handled abroad by companies that are active in the EU market and offer their services to EU citizens.

  • Independent national data protection authorities will be strengthened so they can better enforce the EU rules at home. They will be empowered to fine companies that violate EU data protection rules. This can lead to penalties of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the global annual turnover of a company.

  • A new Directive will apply general data protection principles and rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The rules will apply to both domestic and cross-border transfers of data.

The Commission's proposals will now be passed on to the European Parliament and EU Member States (meeting in the Council of Ministers) for discussion. They will take effect two years after they have been adopted. ...

From: "Commission proposes a comprehensive reform of data protection rules to increase users' control of their data and to cut costs for businesses", Press release, European Commission, Brussels, 25 January 2012

... Article 17 provides the data subject's right to be forgotten and to erasure. It further elaborates and specifies the right of erasure provided for in Article 12(b) of Directive 95/46/EC and provides the conditions of the right to be forgotten, including the obligation of the controller which has made the personal data public to inform third parties on the data subject's request to erase any links to, or copy or replication of that personal data. It also integrates the right to have the processing restricted in certain cases, avoiding the ambiguous terminology “blocking”. ...

(53) The principles of fair and transparent processing require that the data subject should be informed in particular of the existence of the processing operation and its purposes, how long the data will be stored, on the existence of the right of access, rectification or erasure and on the right to lodge a complaint. Where the data are collected from the data subject, the data subject should also be informed whether they are obliged to provide the data and of the consequences, in cases they do not provide such data. Any person should have the right to have personal data concerning them rectified and a 'right to be forgotten' where the retention of such data is not in compliance with this Regulation. In particular, data subjects should have the right that their personal data are erased and no longer processed, where the data are no longer necessary in relation to the purposes for which the data are collected or otherwise processed, where data subjects have withdrawn their consent for processing or where they object to the processing of personal data concerning them or where the processing of their personal data otherwise does not comply with this Regulation. This right is particularly relevant, when the data subject has given their consent as a child, when not being fully aware of the risks involved by the processing, and later wants to remove such personal data especially on the Internet. However, the further retention of the data should be allowed where it is necessary for historical, statistical and scientific research purposes, for reasons of public interest in the area of public health, for exercising the right of freedom of expression, when required by law or where there is a reason to restrict the processing of the data instead of erasing them.

(54) To strengthen the 'right to be forgotten' in the online environment, the right to erasure should also be extended in such a way that a controller who has made the personal data public should be obliged to inform third parties which are processing such data that a data subject requests them to erase any links to, or copies or replications of that personal data. To ensure this information, the controller should take all reasonable steps, including technical measures, in relation to data for the publication of which the controller is responsible. In relation to a third party publication of personal data, the controller should be considered responsible for the publication, where the controller has authorised the publication by the third party. ...

From: Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (General Data Protection Regulation), COM(2012) 11 final 2012/0011 (COD), European Commission, Brussels, 25.1.2012

Friday, January 27, 2012

ICT Specialists for Certification Advisory Groups

Australian Computer Society issued a call for "Expressions of Interest for ACS Specialism Advisory Groups", 27 January 2012. Initially experts in Enterprise Architecture and Internet Security are sought. The Terms of Reference for the Specialism Advisory Group are available.

The groups will advise on competency and skill requirements for certification, body of knowledge, educational and ongoing professional development, as part of the ACS Certification Scheme. Call for ICT Specialists for Certification Advisory Groups

It happens that I have just prepared a proposal for there to be an industrial reference group on "ICT Sustainability" for the Green Technology Strategies course I run as part of the ACS Computer Professional Education Program. Hopefully we can have just one advisory group covering both ACS certification and the education program.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Web Conference for Teaching

Recently I took part in on-line training in the use of the "Adobe Connect", video conference software for education. The training was fun: Like a group of kids talking into tin cans connected by string. wink

Adobe Connect worked much better than when I tried Wimba Classroom and should be adequate for some teaching and research supervision.

I was able to install Adobe Connect for Linux and run the compatibility tests successfully. But it did not work for the live conference (I suspect there is just some little security setting to change for it to work). It worked well enough under Ms-Windows on a borrowed laptop (but like many in Computer Science I don't normally use MS-Windows).

While adequate, I did not think Adobe Connect as good as "Blackboard Collaborate" (previously called Elluminate Live!") and no better than the free open source alternatives available. In particular Connect is heavily dependent on Flash, giving it poor accessibility and limited support on non-Windows/Mac platforms. I was not able to increase the size of the text in the interface and could not move windows around on the screen.

I was able to change the bandwidth setting to "modem" and change to lower bandwidth audio and video settings. So this should work adequately for students on slow links.

A major lack is an automated on-line end-to-end test. What is needed is a place where you can verify the microphone, speakers and software are working, by sending audio and video over the network and having it played back.

One of the participants expressed surprise that video conference software has not improved much in the last ten years. What has improved is the training provided. Having the training on how to conduct a lesson on-line makes a bigger difference than the features of the software. But there are some extra features in the web classroom systems.

While I now know enough to use Adobe Connect, I am not sure what I might use it for, or how we use it with other teaching software, particularly Moodle. As an example, Adobe Connect has provision for dividing a class into groups.

In theory I could have a virtual TEAL room. That is 100 to 200 students could be on-line watching an instructor perform some demonstration or min-lecture Then the class world divide into groups of about 6 to 9 students and each try the experiment themselves or discuss the topic. Then the class would come back together and the groups report. But that would take more support than Adobe Connect provides.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Reducing the bandwidth requirements of web conferences with Adobe Connect

The use of web conferencing (that is video conferences using web based software) is becoming more common. Last year I tried out"Blackboard Collaborate" (previously called Elluminate Live!") and changed the settings so it would work on my slow wireless modem. At the moment I am trying out Adobe Connect at the ANU. I noticed it had similar options for reducing the bandwidth:
  1. Set the maximum bandwidth to dial-up speed: Select Meetings > Preferences > Optimize Room Bandwidth and click on "Modem".
  2. Set the video to low resolution: Meetings > Preferences > Video and select Video quality low. This is sufficient to give the sense of someone being there. Particularly if you are not the main speaker, this should do.
  3. Set the audio to phone quality: By default the audio for conferences will be set higher than standard telephone quality audio (8,000 Hz). Unless you are conducting music lessons, setting this to telephone quality should be fine. This setting might improve the quality of the audio in some settings, as it will reject noise not in the range of the human voice. Select Meetings > Preferences > Audio and select the Speex Codec.
  4. Set push to talk, with half duplex sound: Select Meetings > Preferences > Audio and set the Echo cancellation mode to "Half Duplex". By default the audio should be set so that you have to push a button to be heard. This prevents stray room sounds disturbing the participants and saves on bandwidth. Also setting half duplex helps with clarity: that is when your microphone is turned on, your speakers are turned off: you cannot talk and hear at the same time. People have to take turns to speak, which works well for large groups.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Learning Commons at University of Manchester

Alan Gilbert Learning Commons at Manchester UniversityThe University of Manchester has produced a video fly-through of the soon to open Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (AGLC). Their learning commons looks much like those being built at universities around the world, but is relatively large, having 400 computers installed for students. The video is useful as it has captions to explain the different areas typical in a learning commons. The AGLC follows the current fashion of a glass box fitted out to look like an airport executive lounge: stone and wood finishes in the foyer, brightly colored soft furnishings, minimalist white benches with thin computer screens and tubular steel office chairs.

One way the AGLC differs from Australian practice is the use of security gates at the entrance. The video shows glass gates at the entrance, which presumably require the student to swipe their ID card to enter. The University of Technology Sydney require ID cards for entry to their city campus library, but at other universities I have only seen this feature used for after hours access.

There are also some sustainability features in the building: to reduce CO2 emissions, but these are not evident in the video: triple glazing, natural ventilation, heat recovery system, day lighting sensors, photovoltaic tiles and solar hot water.

ps: While the learning commons may seem a modern idea, in some ways it is like a library. Before the invention of the printing press, illuminated manuscripts were so valuable that they were chained to the desks in medieval libraries. The learning commons has rows of computers displaying illuminated eBooks, secured to the desk with steel cables. ;-)

Free Training on e-Learning for Vocational Educators

The Canberra Institute of Technology is running a free professional development program for Vocational Education Training (VET) practitioners in the ACT to learn about e-learning. This is part of the National VET E-learning Strategy. CIT provides excellent training on-learning, which is applicable to universities as well as the TAFE sector and for in-company training. The catch is that to be eligible for these programs you generally need to be from a Registered Training Organization. (not all Universities are RTOs).

The program runs between February and June 2012:

This six month program is designed to support educators who want to:

  • Work with learning tools and designs for maturing technologies such as mobile technologies (phones and tablets)
  • develop learning designs for virtual and online learning environments ( focusing on Moodle and Connected Learning Community)
  • generate their own web based content that is easily accessible and reusable
  • reuse free learning content from a range of sources or create their own
  • learn the basics of technology and design for le-earning

Face to Face workshops or online seminars include:

Learning activities Using QR codes - Thursday, February 16th, 4.00pm – 5.30pm, CIT Southside campus- Registration opens February 2nd

QR codes are tailor-made for quickly and easily linking to content from smartphones or tablets without the use of keyboards.

They are two dimensional so store far more information than a conventional bar code. They are cheap, quick and easy to create and

can form the basis of many keyboard free and non-classroom based learning activities.

Deconstructing Moodle for better learning designTuesday, 28th February, 8am – 9.30pm CIT Southside campus - Registration opens February 13th

Developing Learning designs for Moodle courses can be problematic because there is always a tension between balancing the use of Moodle’s inbuilt activities, incorporating

Web 2.0 tools and working with the “flat” structure of the Moodle learning environment which can be seriously constraining. This workshops considers how to break free from structures imposed by Learning management systems and online learning environments and move towards more collaborative, networked and knowledge sharing learning designs.

More information to follow for:

Creating and reusing digital learning resources: accessing national collections and user generated content - Tuesday, March 20th

E-Explorers - E-learning basics - TBA

Mini course designs for mobile devices - Tuesday April 3rd

From classroom to online - TBA

Creating “easy to access” resources: What formats work best for your students – Tuesday, May 22nd

Learning Design Tool - TBA

Registration for these workshops will be available via Survey Monkey

For more information contact Helen lynch on ph 6207 4031

Helen M. Lynch, BA, DipEdStud, MEdAdmin, PGC Online Education
Senior E-learning Consultant,
National VET E-learning Strategy
Collaborate Vroom

Phasing Assessment to Help the Student Learn

In "Phases of assessment" educational designer discusses dividing a course up into three phases with difference assessment to suit the development of the student's understanding. For a typical 13 week university course, the phases are:
  1. Assessment for transition: weeks 1-4, to get the students ready to study with tasks that do not contribute to the final grade (or not much).
  2. Assessment for development: from week 5, more prating assessment exercises which can contribute to final marks.
  3. Assessment for achievement: Weeks 7 to 13, where the bulk of the summative assessment is contributing the bulk of final grades.
This is a useful analysis, but spending the first four weeks of the course in transition seems a long time. In my ICT Sustainability course I do the transition in the first two weeks, mostly to see if the students can write and can cope with e-learning. Then the assessment is for development each week, to ease them into a mid semester assignment (worth 38%).

Thirteen weeks is a very long time and if the assessment for achievement was left until the end, a student would have difficulty seeing the connection with the development. Also it would make me very nervous, if most of the assessment was at the end of the course. Software developers and other project managers are trained to place "milestones" so that there are no unpleasant surprises at the end of a project. As a student I avoid courses which have large end of semester assessments (and I would not design a course that way).

Deborah refers us to "Assessment in First Year University: A model to manage transition" (Taylor, J. A. 2008).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Work-Integrated-Learning with E-books and E-Learning

The draft notes for my talk "Work-Integrated-Learning with E-books and E-Learning" (and the Slides) for the Australian eLearning Congress in Sydney, 8 February 2012 are avialable. Please send comments and corrections. Other speakers are from the Department of Defence, KPMG, Sony Australia and Charles Sturt University. My topic is:
  • Forming small multi-disciplinary teams of students
  • Setting workplace-relevant student tasks
  • Delivering course content in tablet-ready format
  • Encouraging students to work together on-line

TEAL Teaching Room at University of Canberra

Last Friday to Saturday I attended Recent Changes Camp 2012, with Wikipedians, in the new TEAL Teaching Room of the "INSPIRE Centre" of the University of Canberra. TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) is a room set up for a combination of short presentations and student group work.

The room has a flat floor with tables for up to nine students each (total capacity around 100). Normally the presenter stands in the middle of a TEAL room, cabaret style, with the students all around at the tables (the UoC room had the lectern in one corner of the room, but I assume it can be moved to the middle). There are projection screens on all four walls and the walls are entirely converted in white-board paint.

The UoC room is more flexible than than other TEAL rooms, in that there is no fixed furniture: all the tables are on wheels and fold up so they can be packed away. There are no computers provided. There are only a few power points around the walls and ion the center, where computers could be plugged in (people with laptops, rather than tablet computers tended to congregate at the power points).

This flexible room arrangement has the advantage that the room can be filled with rows of chairs for a traditional lecture. This looks a much better idea than the stepped floor approach with fixed furniture which some universities seem to be adopting for new buildings. The rooms with stepped floors and fixed furniture will be very inflexible. It will be very difficult to move furniture up onto the stepped parts of the room and a constant risk of it falling off the edge and injuring someone.

For the event I attended we reconfigured the room several times a day, with chairs in a circle for the morning and afternoon single group sessions, then bringing out the tables for small group work. The vast expanse of whiteboard wall proved very useful, allowing all notes from the three day event to be kept: we started in one corner on day one and worked our way all around the room, filling the last section during the closing session. This provided a very useful group memory.

What also proved useful was to use the projectors on different walls. For the single group sessions all projectors showed the same content. But for other sessions, each screen could show a different presentation for each of four groups.

Digital Humanities Australasia 2012 Conference

The Digital Humanities Australasia 2012 Conference: Building, Mapping, Connecting, will be hosted by the Australian National University in Canberra, 28-30 March 2012.

The program includes:


  • Social Network; Online Community: What’s the Difference? (Cynthia Witney, Leesa Costello, Lelia Green)
  • Structural Linearity and the Hierarchy of Online Discussion Participation (Sora Park)
  • (Dis)connecting the Community: Barriers to Online Participation (Julie Freeman)


  • Pacific DH: Building Pedagogy in Aotearoa / New Zealand (James Smithies)
  • Capacity, Curriculum, Content: Teaching Digital Research Methodologies – a Case Study (Deb Verhoeven)DocuDoc: Documentary as a PhD Delivery Format in the Social Sciences (Garry Sturgess)
  • Using Linked Data to Build Large-Scale e-Research Environments for the Humanities(Toby Burrows)
  • How Linked is Linked Enough? (Steven Hayes)
  • As Curious An Entity: Building Digital Resources from Context, Records and Data (Michael Jones, Antonina Lewis)
  • Rapture and Resistance: Students’ Use of eBook Readers in University Literature Courses (Kate Douglas)Implementing Situated Learning of Japanese Traditional Culture in 3D Metaverse (Mitsuyuki Inaba, Michiru Tamai, Koichi Hosoi, Ruck Thawonmas, Masayuki Uemura, and Akinori Nakamura)
  • Teaching Classical Languages in the New Millennium (Janette McWilliam)
  • Social Presence in E-learning (Luke Strongman, Polly Kobeleva)


  • Community Connections – the Renaissance of Local History (Lisa Murray)
  • Inside the Bureaucracy of White Australia (Tim Sherratt)
  • Pancake History? (Paul Turnbull)


  • Detecting Stylistic Differences in Collaborative Writings: Random Forests + Burrows’ Delta on Dickens, Collins, and their Co-Authored Texts (Tomoji Tabata)
  • True Love: Category Romance by the Numbers (Jack Elliott)
  • A Pilot Analysis of Textual Variants Based on TEI-encoding (Maki Miyake)
  • Memory Layers: Revealing Life Writing Patterns Through Text-Mining (Josh Wodak)
  • An Online Database of Stage Directions in English Restoration Plays (Tim Keenan)
  • The Mind of a Murderer and the Meanings of a Murder: The Potential and Limits of Text Encoding and Computational Analysis (Carolyn Strange, Josh Wodak, Ian Wood)
  • Sanskrit and Old Javanese e-Texts on the Web – Project Report (Andrea Acri)


  • Images of the Modern Vampire: An Investigation into Tools for Multimodal Data (Lisa Lena Opas-Haenninen, Jacqueline Hettel, Tuomo Toljamo, Tapio Seppaenen)
  • The Real Online: Database Documentary (Stuart Dinmore)
  • Mapping the Movies (Richard Maltby)


  • Language and Life Stages (Elizabeth Spencer, Alison Ferguson, Hugh Craig)
  • Annotating Spoken Language Data: Implicit and Explicit Knowledge in the AusNC (Simon Musgrave, Andrea Schalley, Michael Haugh)
  • Automatic Extraction of Topic Hierarchies Based on WordNet (Gerhard Brey, Jose Miguel Vieira)
  • Crowd-Sourcing Semantic Tags on 3D Museum Artefacts (Chih-hao Yu, Jane Hunter)
  • Optimizing Crowdsourcing Websites to Increase Volunteer Participation / A Case Study: What’s On the Menu? New York Public Library (Donelle McKinley)
  • Using Web 2.0 to Make New Connections in Community History: A South Australian Case Study (Pauline Cockrill)
  • Why Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth? Exploring Resistance to Crowdsourced Resources among Historians (Mia Ridge)
  • A History of Aboriginal Sydney (Peter Read, Suzana Sukovic)
  • Virtually There: A Progress Report on the Virtual Sydney Rocks, an Immersive and Interactive Virtual Heritage Resource (Kit Devine)
  • Blogging the Past: Recreating History and Creating Community in Bound for South Australia 1836 (Margaret Anderson, Darren Peacock)
  • Cultural Heritage Informatics in Australian astronomy and Space Science (Alice Gorman, Gavan McCarthy, Harvey Butcher)


  • The Screenshot as Virtual Photography, Digital Tool and Media Object (Christopher Moore)
  • Archaeological Photography; The Silent Witness (Bob Miller)
  • Spectral Resemblances and Elusive Connections: A Practice-led Research Dialogue between Poetry and Digital Imagery (Paul Hetherington, Anita Fitton)
  • Modeling an Open Publishing Community in the Humanities: Open Humanities Press and New Collaborative Practices in Scholarly Publishing (Sigi Jottkandt, David Ottina, Paul Ashton, Shana Kimball)
  • Transforming Communication in Textual Scholarship: Open Annotation for Electronic Editions (Anna Gerber, Roger Osborne)


  • Memoradic Narrative: An Approach to Digital Storytelling (Janet Marles)
  • Transmedia Storytelling as a Form of Practice Led Research (Emma Keltie)
  • Communal Dining: Identity, Support and Connection in the Food Blogging Community (Jennifer Lofgren)
  • The Online Identity: Towards a Hermeneutic Phenomenological Approach (Kim Barbour)


  • Mapping the Past in the Present (Andrew Wilson)
  • Reading the Text, Walking the Terrain, Following the Map: Do We See the Same Landscape? (√ėyvind Eide)
  • Putting Harlem on the Map (Stephen Robertson)
  • POSTER SESSION 1. PANEL: Fieldwork in the Digital Humanities(Nick Thieberger, Linda Barwick, Simon Musgrave, Steven Jampijinpa Patrick, Aaron Corn, Stephen Wild, Sally Treloyn, Stephan Spronck)2. PANEL: The Printers’ Web: New Tools to Crack Old Chestnuts(Sydney Shep, Meghan Hughes, Polly Cantlon)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Furniture in the Inspire Centre

The "INSPIRE Centre" at the University of Canberra has an interesting collection of new furniture designs for schools and other educational buildings. Interestingly, many of the items of furniture which would usually be be built in a library or school are freestanding units in the Inspire centre, providing for more flexible arrangement.

Swivel Chairs

There are Steelcase Node Chairs, with a circular six caster base, these chairs are very stable, but movable. The base doubles as a place to put a schoolbag and there is a large worksurface on an arm. The only real problem I found with the chair was that they were so stable that they will encourage the student to race them around the room. It would be useful if a friction brake could be incorporated in the casters, so that they could not move at more than a walking pace.


There are single seat Carrels: these are freestanding three sided single seat booths, as usually used in libraries. The Inspire centre units are interesting as they are about two meters high and covered in gray felt, providing sound deadening. There is a desktop large enough for a laptop computer and paperwork, with a reading light.

There are two carrels arranged back to back. In terms of sound absorbtion, they would be better facing each other, with the two people setting back to back. Each unit would then shelid sound from the other.


There is a column of freestanding storage lockers. Unlike the usual wall of lockers, this looks far less institutional. However, while the unit itself does not take up much space the area needed for access is large.

Podcast Room

There is a "podcast" room, which is essenitally a small soundproof audio recording studio. This is needed for recording high quality podcasts. Otherwise stray sounds, which are not evident to someone in the room can be distracting on recordings.

Emeco 111 Navy Chair

The " 111 Navy Chair" from Emeco is made from more than 100 plastic soft drink bottles. The chairs look like traditional wooden kitchen chairs in bright red. They feel very robust, but are uncomfortably heavy to move.

Tipsy chair/barstool
The Tipsy, designed by Tim Collins is a plastic barstool which can be inverted to be an armchair. The Inspire center uses these three on each side of a high bench, with a wall mounted screen at one end. The idea seems to be similar to the common "diner booth" arrangement I have seen in many learning commons. A small group of students sits facing each other and are able to share the large screen at one end. But in this case it is not clear what is added by having the table so high.

The stools are stable (despite their name "Tipsy"), but are more difficult to get in and out of than chairs. They are heavy and difficult to move, particularly on the non-slip rubber floor. The action of tipping the stools over to make chairs would be difficult for the average student and they might not want to sit in a chair where the arms have been rubbing around in the dirt, on the floor.

A standard desk height work surface, with either standard chairs (as used at ANU Hancock Building) or bench seating (as used in the Eora Exchange Student Lounge at UNSW), would seem to be preferable.

Opening Australian Archives Project

The WikiMedia Australia event today in Canberra, Wikimedia Fellow, Liam Wyatt, discussed the "Opening Australian Archives Project" he is working on with Creative Commons Australia. This could be useful for my redesign of the ANU course COMP7420 "Electronic Document and Records Management" (notes available under a creative commons licence). Also I offered to help by writing a document "How to Use The Wikipedia in Your Work and Get Promoted".

Wikimedia Australia Strategic Plan

The President of Wikimedia Australia, John Vandenberg, gave an overview of the Wikimedia Australia Strategic Plan at RCC2012 in Canberra today. Wikimedia is looking to employ some professional staff to help with outreach to the community. As well as run its own events, Wikimeida participates in joint events, such as the Meta 2011 Conference. One additional activity is to promote the creation of Wikipedia content about Australia.



Department of Defence Hot Issue Briefs

The Australian Department of Defence has issued a series of "Hot Issue Briefs", originally written for the submitted to the Minister for Defence. These are two to four page summaries of issues the Minister is likely to be based about by the media, with suggested responses he can make. Some of the briefs have been withheld or had parts blacked out (redacted), but most have the full text and are useful for seeing defence thinking on an issue and how such briefs are written. Most of the broefs concern alleged improper conduct by military personnel, but some are about problems with weapons systems. One series of briefs concerns the viability of the F-35 and radar cross-section of the F-35A aircraft.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Recent Changes Camp 2012 Canberra Day One

Liam Wyatt and other Wikipedians in a conversation pod at the Inspire Center, University of Canberra, during Recent Changes Camp 2012Greetings from the closing session of the first day of Recent Changes Camp 2012 in Canberra. This is being held in the TEAL Teaching Room at the "INSPIRE Centre" of the University of Canberra. I learned that there is more to Wikipedia than just a collection of articles. There is an organization behind the Wikipedia, looking after the existing content and expanding its use, for the public good. There is funding to educate people on how to create new Wikipedia content and work with organizations. There is are also resources to help with educating on how to create wiki content and how to use Wikipedia in education.

The Wikimedia Strategy

The Wikimedia Movement Strategic Plan (to 2015 ) calls for "Women and other under represented groups will need to be invited/recruited, and the culture of WMF projects will need to be adjusted to accommodate them ..." (User:FloNight).

Wikipedia Outreach

The Wikipedia organizing has been successful at working with the GLAM sector (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums). I suggest that the Wikipedia organization could extend this to other knowledge workers, through their professional associations (such as IT professionals, film makers, scriptwriters and media).

Wikimedia and Education

Wikipedians would like to encourage teachers and students to create more content. At RCC2012 we discussed how this could be done. Wikipedia is seen as a problem in schools and universities with students being told not to use it. This is because Wikipedia is not a primary source, is of variable quality, is not something teachers grew up with and plagiarism by students. The way to address this, I suggest, is to provide teaching materials for teachers to incorporate responsible use of Wikipedia in their courses. A byproduct of this will be the creation of additional Wikipedia content by students and teachers.

The Wikipedia of Things

Someone else had already put up "Wikipedia Education" on the list of topics, so lacking a topic to suggest I wrote up "The Wikipedia of Things". The idea would be to use the "Internet of things" (intelligent devices connected to the Internet) to automatically update the Wikipedia, rather than having to wait for someone to enter the information.

The Inspire Centre Building

It was also to see the Inspire teaching spaces in operation. The centre is new and is still being fitted out. There is one standard size TEAL (Technology Enabled Active Learning) room where most sessions were held. All four walls of the room are painted with white-board paint. Three walls have projectors projecting directly onto the walls and one with a projection screen. The room is equipped with round tables accommodating nine people each. For increased flexibility the tables are made of two semicircular halves on wheels, with flip up tops. There is a computer equipped lectern on wheels in one corner of the room (this can be plugged into a socket in the floor in the middle of the room for "Cabaret" style presentations).

The TEAL room looks to the casual observer low tech (just a big square room with white walls), compared to other computer equipped rooms, with screens for each student bolted to the desk, stepped floors and all sorts of gizmos. But the TEAL room design has years of research behind it, on what actually improves education. Also with a flat floor and furniture which is not bolted to the floor (or tethered by cables) the room can be used very flexibly (think of it like the holodeck on the Star Ship Enterprise, which is about the same size).

Outside the TEAL room is a large common space, with a rubber floor, kitchenette and an assortment of informal group furniture. The centre is intended to introduce teachers to the use of technology in learning, so there is a slightly eclectic assortment of furniture. Most popular was a small circular pod which seats about four people. The walls are covered with cloth, providing a relatively private small group environment. There are some benches with LCD screens at the end and three stools on each side. There are bright red chairs which look like they are wooden, but are actually made from recycled plastic Coke bottles (these looked very durable but were very heavy). There are some chairs on circular wheeled bases with built in desks (these proved popular for pushing each other around on).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Solar Unmanned Aircraft Presentation

Ben Coughlan will speak on "Solar Unmanned Aircraft" at the Australian National University in Canberra at 3pm today.

The Australian National University
College of Engineering & Computer Science

Solar Enrygy Series

Solar Unmanned Aircraft

Ben Coughlan (College of Engineering and Computer Science)

DATE: 2012-01-19
TIME: 15:00:00 - 16:00:00
LOCATION: Ian Ross Seminar Room
Unmanned aircraft are becoming increasingly popular for use in defence, law enforcement and civilian applications. Many of these emerging applications require the aircraft to remain airborne for many hours, even days at a time. Such endurance usually requires very large and expensive aircraft. While battery and fuel cell technologies are improving and becoming more common on smaller aircraft, solar is the most promising energy that can be harvested from the environment while airborne. In combination with behavioural algorithms designed to optimise the energy usage of the aircraft and gain energy from air movement, solar energy is a required step on the path to persistent flight. Unmanned aircraft present unique challenges for deploying photovoltaic technologies and require some unconventional solutions.
From "Flying Forever" by Ben Coughlan:
The albatross can travel great distances
with very little energy using a technique
known as dynamic soaring. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are used for things like aerial mapping, surveillance, atmo-
spheric observation, communication relays as well as various military applications. Many of these tasks could benefit from the ongoing or even persistent presence of a UAV or one with
a practically limitless range.
Aircraft have the ability to harvest solar and wind energy during flight to give them more speed, altitude or electrical energy. By managing these energies and balancing resources against mission objectives, aircraft can benefit from substantially increased performance and the possibility of persistent flight.

This project will focus primarily on producing a frame-work for developing, assessing and deploying small scale fixed wing aircraft capable of managing their own energy resources in balance with their given mission objectives. ...

Modelling Energy Flow

Like any physical system, an Aerial Vehicle is comprised of a number of energy sources, stores and sinks, and has methods for transforming this energy over various states. An energy source is external to the aircraft itself and supplies energy that can be harnessed and used to achieve various goals. This includes the sun which provides electrical energy harvested by photo-voltaic cells on the
surface of the aircraft and air movement in the forms of wind and rising warm air known as thermals, which can provide speed and/or altitude via techniques known as dynamic soaring and thermalling.

The energy flow within an aircraft system can be modelled as a directed graph. Each node represents either an energy source, transitional device (like a motor), or an energy sink. The edges of the graph can be annotated with the efficiency of the energy transition.

Experimentation Platform

Experiments are performed on a commercially available airframe, the Alex F5B. The Alex F5B is constructed of and is made of composite materials to provide a very strong and stiff airframe. This airframe provides a very wide speed envelope allowing various techniques to be tested in various conditions.

The motor is capable of pulling the aircraft vertically at 100 km/h, however this is only used in short bursts to gain altitude. While gliding, the propeller folds flat against the fuselage to minimise drag.

The current payload is an EagleTree inertial data recorder and transmitter allowing the state of the aircraft to be viewed live on a base-station. The data recorded includes GPS, air-speed, accelerations, barometric altitude, servo positions and current draw from the battery. ...

Australian eLearning Congress

I am the first speaker on day two of the Australian eLearning Congress in Sydney, 7 to 9 February 2012. My topic is: "Work-Integrated-Learning with E-books and E-Learning":
  • Forming small multi-disciplinary teams of students
  • Setting workplace-relevant student tasks
  • Delivering course content in tablet-ready format
  • Encouraging students to work together on-line
I will be relating my experience of designing and delivering a course in ICT Sustainability using cloud service and eBooks on tablet computers with international graduate level students at the Australian National University and the Australian Computer Society.

About the Congress:

Workforce training is widely recognised as an important force driving business performance. Professionals involved in learning and development are therefore continuously looking for ways to make sure they are delivering the training the organisation needs, and that people want to do and actually learn from. Over the past decade eLearning has become an important feature of the training and learning landscape, because of its time and cost efficiency and flexible way of getting knowledge across to the targeted people. However, the world of eLearning is constantly changing and new technology, more recently mobile and social technology, are being introduced.

This two-day congress will provide you with opportunities to hear timely and topical case studies from organisations who have successfully implemented eLearning and deployed emerging tools and technologies.

You’ll hear about:
  • Demonstrating the benefits and ROI of eLearning
  • Developing successful strategies for eLearning implementation
  • The capabilities of games and mobile and social technology in achieving your objectives
  • Leveraging informal and social learning and knowledge sharing
  • Engaging learners and creating a culture of continuous learning and development

Other speakers include:

Scott Mengel, Education Training & Development Officer, Department of Defence; Alan Jephtha, Learning Technologies, KPMG; Will Ford, eLearning Content Author, Sony Australia; Associate Professor, Philip Uys, Director, Strategic Learning and Teaching Services, Charles Sturt University.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Recent Changes Camp 2012 Canberra This Week

Recent Changes Camp 2012 starts in Canberra on Friday (preceded by a dinner Thursday night). This is a free informal conference (an un-conference) on what Wikis can be used for (I will be discussing research and education on-line). It is being held at the University of Canberra's new high-tech teaching "INSPIRE Centre". The event runs until Sunday 22 January 2012: participants can attend any, or all, days.LinkLink

Indian-Pacific train documentary

The SBS TV Global Village series featured a documentary about the Indian-Pacific train, on 17 January 2012. Unfortunately there does not appear to be a copy on-line, but there are numerous other Videos of the Indian-Pacific Train. I took the trip in 1995: "Indian Pacific: Sydney to Perth by Train".
Oceans Apart - A trip from Sydney to Perth on the famous Indian-Pacific train, stopping off at Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook and Kalgoorlie. Presented by Silvio Rivier. (From Australia) (Documentary Series) (Rpt) G CC"
From: SBS TV, Global Village, 17 January 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Evaluating Programs to Increase Student Achievement

I found "Evaluating Programs to Increase Student Achievement" (Jason 2003) easier to understand than other books on evaluating courses. I is aimed at school courses, rather than management programs and so was a bit easier to understand.

About the Book
Evaluating Programs to Increase Student Achievement, Second Edition, provides school leaders with practical guidelines and tools to evaluate the effectiveness of school programs. Using reader-friendly terms, the author thoroughly discusses the steps of the evaluation process so that practitioners of all experience levels and backgrounds will gain a solid conceptual foundation, and can plan and carry out program evaluations. The revised edition includes: additional examples to illustrate the program evaluation process, an expanded discussion of the principal's role in the project, a facilitator's guide for team leaders.
Table of contents
  • Front Matter
  • Copyright
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • About the Author
  1. Perspectives on Program Evaluation
  2. How Program Evaluation Contributes to a Learning Organization
  3. Using Program Evaluation to Improve the Curriculum—A Developmental Approach
  4. An Experimental Approach for Evaluating Programs
  5. Program Evaluation Through Collaboration
  6. Measuring Program Outcomes
  7. The Evaluation Process: Phases 1, 2, and 3
  8. The Evaluation Process: Phases 4, 5, and 6
  9. Writing the Evaluation Report
  10. Assessing the Evaluation Project
  11. Revisiting the Principal's Leadership Role in Program Evaluation
  • Back Matter

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spirituality Program Evaluated by US Defence Think Tank

In my research into recent educational theory one of the stranger reports I have come across is "An Outcome Evaluation of the Success for Kids Program" by Maestas, Nicole and Sarah J. Gaillot (RAND Corporation, 2010). RAND is a think tank which usually reports on US military systems, but does occasionally look at education. This RAND report is well conducted, but what is odd is that the report appears to have been originally titled "An Outcome Evaluation of the Spirituality for Kids Program" (2008). The original report has been deleted from the RAND web site and replaced with one having the word "Spirituality" replaced with "Success".

RAND do not indicate in the new report that this change was made, nor offer an explanation for it. This would appear to be because the organization which commissioned the report changed its name following controversy over allegations of US tax investigations and of being a form of mysticism.

While it might be reasonable for RAND to reissue the report with the new organization name, they should document this change. In particular the RAND report states: "SFK Success for Kids began working with a small number of schools in Los Angeles six years ago ...". That statement appears to be untrue, as then the organization at the time was called: ""SFK Spirituality for Kids ". RAND could have, for example, written "SFK Success for Kids (then known as Spirituality for Kids)...".

Sunday, January 15, 2012

German Long Range Submarine not for Australia

German shipbuilder HDW has proposed a new long endurance large conventional submarine, which is clearly aimed at Australia's requirements for a conventionally powered submarine with performance features of a nuclear powered one. There are detailed technical specifications in "Type 216 / U-216 Conventional Submarine (SSK)" (Navy Recognition, 29 December 2011) and more description in "Thinking big: Type 216 concept looks afresh at long endurance SSK design", (Jane's International Defence Review, December 2011).

While described as being based on the HDW Class 214, the proposed 216 would have about twice the displacement. This is one quarter larger than Australia's current Collins class submarines, which are already the largest conventionally powered submarines in the world.

The submarine would have an air independent propulsion system (AIP) similar to the Type 214, using methanol fuel cells, but charging a lithium-iron batteries (similar to those used for electric cars). This would give a greatly extended range underwater. The submarines would operate with conventional diesel engines for transiting to the patrol station.

A vertical multiple propose lock is proposed, with a hatch on both the top and bottom of the vessel. This could be used for launching missiles, mines, or a miniature submarine.

A recent RAND Report discussed the feasibility of building such submarines in Australia. While none of the technology proposed for the Type 216 submarine is new, the construction of six fully operational Collins class submarines, based on an existing overseas design proved infeasible. The probability of successfully building more complex submarines in Australia are zero. Even nations with proven track record in successful submarine building would find this a high risk project.

Australia should instead look at a smaller proven design, such as the Type 214, tailoring the mission of the submarines to what is feasible and affordable.

Use e-Learning to Teach Teleworking

The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said yesterday that Australia's low rate of teleworking was due in part to cultural barriers. He suggested that this could be changed through education and awareness of telework’s benefits. I suggest that e-learning could teach the needed skills and provide experience with an on-line working environment.

The minister was speaking at the announcement of "National Telework Week", to be held 12 to 16 November 2012. Senator Conroy emphasized that the National Broadband Network (NBN) will allow easier access to work from home, with high-definition multi-party video conferencing, large file transfers and real-time collaborative business tools.

However, the Minister did not announce any education initiatives to address the issue of the low take up rate of teleworking. As the Minister suggested, employers and employees need training in how to set their business up for teleworking and how to use it. This is, in the main, not a technical problem of not having computers and Internet access, but of not knowing how to use what they have effectively.

Teach Teleworking via e-Learning

I suggest that one very effective way to introduce personnel to tele-working is trough e-learning and blended learning (a mix of on-line and classroom learning) at secondary school, TAFE, university and work short courses. The some tools and techniques used for teleworking are also now used for education. While teaching staff directly about how to telework, or while teaching them some other subject, students can be introduced to new ways of working.

Learn to Use On-line Formats

Working out how to teach students on-line has taught us a lot about how to communicate on-line in general. One lesson is that documents need to be clear, direct and technically efficient. Documents designed for paper, do not provide the best on-line experience. An example is the Department of for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) National Telework Week Fact Sheet. This contains very useful information about what employers and employees can expect from teleworking, but has been poorly presented in the form of a four page 1.1 Mbyte PDF file. The document is formatted as a traditional paper brochure, with two columns of text. This is hard to read on a small smart phone or tablet computer screen. Also the PDF formatting makes the document ten times as large as it need be. While that size is not significant for someone on a high speed NBN connection, it could be slow and expensive on a wireless device, so I have appended a copy of the text of the brochure.

Effects of Telework on the Environment

Having the NBN's ability to carry high-definition multi-party video conferencing, large file transfers and real-time collaborative applications will enhance teleworking. But what what people first need is to know how to use text, audio, email and the web. National Telework Week (NTW) will help with awareness, but needs to be backed up with more substantial education for Australian employees.

NTW has an interesting list of human resource, IT and building industry backers: Australian Human Resources Institute, Australian Industry Group (AIG), Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), the Australian Network for Disability and the Local Government Managers Australia. Cisco, the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Unity4, Telstra, BlackBerry, Polycom, Infrastructure Australia and the Green Building Council of Australia.

At first glance it would appear that teleworking would be negative for the building industry as if more workers stay at home, fewer office buildings will be needed. But in practice many teleworkers only work a few days a week from home and still need an office to go to. Those offices need to be designed differently for the more mobile workforce. Fewer permanent offices and more meeting rooms and casual areas are needed. The same trend is seen in educational institutions, with learning centres which look more like an airport business lounge than a school.

Teleworking causes challenges for human resource management, as business has to manage staff they do not see much of the time operating out of home office environments they have little control over.

Teleworking also create opportunities and challenges for building and business environmental ratings. If fewer staff are in the office, the electricity bill may be lowers. But the business may have to cool a large building to hold peak staff demand, even though the building is part empty most of the time. This requires changes to building design and meeting scheduling. Also if the energy used by staff in poorly designed home offices is included, the organization's environmental rating may be in jeopardy.

National Telework Week

Telework is working regularly from a place other than the office, in most cases from a home office. Telework utilises information and communications technology to stay connected to colleagues and work systems.

The Australian Government is declaring 12–16 November 2012 as National Telework Week and is encouraging businesses, not-for-profits and government agencies to commit to participating.

Telework offers a range of benefits to both employers and employees. Employers find it easier to attract staff from outside of their local areas. They find they are less likely to lose teleworkers, who appreciate the benefits of telework and are often more productive than their office counterparts. Telework provides employers with a way to save on office costs and increase business continuity during disasters and crises. Meanwhile, teleworking employees typically report a better work/life balance, reduced cost and stress from less daily commuting and better job satisfaction.

Telework benefits the community. It reduces urban congestion on roads and public transport and reduces pollution and fuel consumption. Because of the savings in commute times, and people spending more time in their local areas, local communities also benefit from telework, which is good for local business and community life. With telework, some teleworkers may be able to move to more affordable housing areas—a particular benefit for young families and those with regional or rural ties.

What will National Telework Week in Australia involve?

National Telework Week will provide a national focus on the benefits of increasing telework in Australia. It will encourage businesses, not-for-profits and government agencies to trial or adopt telework.

During Telework Week, the employees of participating organisations across Australia can commit to telework for at least one day, or a number of days. In particular, organisations connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) will be encouraged to participate, to take advantage of the greater telework opportunities it creates.

For businesses, not-for-profit organisations and government agencies, the lead up to Telework Week is a time to consider how to incorporate telework into their operations. Case studies, information and advice will be available to participating employers and employees on a range of important issues.

For employees interested in working from home, the lead up to Telework Week provides an opportunity to approach managers to sign up to Telework Week to trial telework.

A number of other countries have an awareness week for telework, including Finland, France and the United States (US). One of the largest and most successful is the Telework Week organised by Telework Exchange in the US.

During the first US Telework Week in 2011, nearly 40 000 employees committed to teleworking that week, saving US$2.7 million on commuting costs, gaining back more than 148 000 hours into their days, and removing some 1800 tons of pollutants from the air while not driving more than 6 million kilometres. To read more about these results and what is possible, go to www.teleworkexchange.com/teleworkweek

Telework reduces urban congestion on roads and public transport and reduces pollution and fuel consumption.

What will telework using the NBN be like?

What does telework using the NBN mean in practice? Here is a picture of it from the perspectives of employers and employees. Of course, the situations will change depending on who you work for, what you do or what your home set-up is like.


After logging onto the network in the office, managers can see who else has logged in for the day—either in the office or from home—using any number of web- based management tools. A quick status update lets everyone know who has logged on and is available for contact.

On the days that employees are working from home a quick video-based team meeting (that is, a many- to-many connection) could be called early in the morning. The NBN will not only enable these multi- party videoconferences but will simultaneously enable participants to use electronic whiteboards and other web-based collaborative tools.

Such meetings serve a number of purposes. Managers can clearly communicate the day’s outcomes expected of staff in the office or working from home. They also establish a connection between staff members at the beginning of the day, which reinforces that those working from home are a fully functioning part of the team. Known barriers to telework include reluctance by office-based staff to initiate contact with colleagues at ‘private’ residences, and people working from home feeling isolated from their colleagues.

Throughout the day, work continues as usual. Occasionally, if a home-based staff member has a quick question or needs an informal chat that person could message the manager or a team member using a desktop communications application. This is a quick and easy way to talk—much less time-consuming than the back and forth of email. However, email could still be used for more formal requests or correspondence.

Next-generation telework using the NBN will enable managers to supervise employees no matter where they live. As webcams, web-based collaborative tools and high-speed broadband connections become commonplace, managers will interact with teleworkers in a way that is little different to interaction in the office.

At the end of the day, another quick video-based meeting could be scheduled to ensure outcomes are being met or work is on track. It is also an opportunity to manage team performance and provide guidance or feedback with all home and office-based members present.


After breakfast it is time to get to work. But instead of heading outside for a long and stressful commute, the office is set up at home. By working from home employees have, on average, an extra hour outside of work each day leading to improved work/life balance.

After logging onto the office network, it is business as usual. Thanks to the high-speed and stable broadband connection delivered via the NBN, staff meetings are held as a videoconference. Employees at home can see everyone in the office via continuous, full-screen video and everyone in the office can see them. Bluetooth headsets and voice over internet protocol connections mean employees are no longer tethered to a computer or phone and can move freely around the home or office while working.

Throughout the day teleworkers can use the NBN to interact seamlessly with clients or colleagues located anywhere around Australia. Large files are transferred quickly and network connections remain uninterrupted. Managers, colleagues and clients can collaborate in real time using a range of innovative communication tools and interactive software.

Employees at home find there are fewer distractions and they can be more productive. Reduced stress and greater flexibility leads to greater job satisfaction and teleworkers feel more valued by employers and enjoy better relationships with colleagues.

At the end of the day there is another quick meeting with the office to report on what tasks have been achieved. For teleworkers, the end of the day is stress-free, with no peak-hour traffic to negotiate.

For more information

The Australian Government will partner with a range of organisations to support National Telework Week.

Organisations interested in partnering with the government to promote telework are encouraged to make contact via telework@dbcde.gov.au For more on telework, including to sign up for Telework Week (12–16 November 2012) email updates, view other factsheets and videos, and participate in ongoing discussion and networking, go to:

Website: nbn.gov.au/telework
LinkedIn: Telework2020
Twitter: @DBCDEgov, #telework2020

From: National Telework Week Fact Sheet, Department of for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), Australian Government, 2012