Saturday, December 17, 2011

Steam Age IT re revisited.

In 2010 I was was reading the article “Is IT Becoming Extinct” by Miguel Guhlin

The topic of In-house IT systems and the development of utility computing has been interesting. I like to chime in from my personal experience and reading of various sources, one being a book by Eric Larsen, in “Devil in the White City”. He describes a time when electrical service was new. There was a big debate about AC or DC electricity.

Many of the institutions in the early days of electricity had their own power generating plants. They employed many people who saw the switch to utility electricity as a great threat and passed around a lot of scare stories about how horrible it was and all the hazards.

Of course, the switch happened and not many institutions employ big groups of technical specialists to generate a private source of electricity. The naysayers lost all credibility and the whole specialization evolved.

Same thing with IT, utility computing is here. In spite of all the horror stories and manipulations of the tech elite, there is less and less reason to have a big group of specialists to operate expensive and clunky private networks.

As a teacher using a computer mediated approach over the last 10 years, I found myself “working around” IT a lot of the time. Many of the tech folks didn’t believe that computers should be used for the purpose of education even though they worked for educational institutions.

Nor did they think that teachers were capable of using technology and they reinforced that opinion by constantly undermining any effort teachers made to develop the necessary skills.

The cultural clashes between corporate IT and administration didn’t help either. Lots of energy was spent on those epic battles and teachers and students were a very minor consideration for all the espoused values of “Students are #1″ in every educational institutions mission and vision statement. The struggle for control and authority have resulted in most of the failures of education related technology innovation.

In-house, corporate IT is like the steam powered DC generating plants of 100 ago. Pretty much done. It is going to take a little while for the change but probably not as long as it took to switch to AC electricity. One of the benefits is that education is being transformed. Technology will accommodate education rather than the other way around.

I know lots of teachers who just gave up on computers and the web and felt that they would never be able to develop the necessary skills. It was just so draining always having to get IT to open a port or set up file system or authorize access to a resource. So they stuck to Outlook, MS Word, Internet Explorer, the “approved tools”.

Happy to say that web based tools and cloud computing has made it incredibly easy for teachers to support learning in the digital era. All the alarmist rhetoric about identity theft, cyber-bullying, online predators etc. is being recognized as the last gasps of a system in transition, a struggle for control and authority. I would encourage all teachers to take another look.

Dec, 2011: I just keep updating this post and watching the trend.
Today reading an article about utility computing see how attitudes have changed in just 3 years.

And for startup companies, the decision to not build is a no brainer. Connectivity to the cloud is the real issue for these companies. “If I was starting a greenfield company, the data center would be the size of my bathroom; there wouldn’t necessarily even be a server, maybe a series of switches and all my backoffice apps, my sales force automation, my storage would be handled in the cloud,” said Dave Nichols, CIO Services Leader for Ernst & Young, the global IT consultancy

In the last year I have been teaching IT courses for pre-service teachers and instead of having them buy a couple of $100 textbooks I have them buy $250 netbooks. The class proceeds with a combination of wireless routers and everybody learns how to use ICT and social media on their own devices. The not only learn how to use the netbook but they start constructing their own personal learning networks from amongst their class mates. The idea is that when they are finished their training and are out on the job, they will have a group to communicate with, on a channel the are familiar with using their own device that they know how to operate. As we approach a state of ubiquitous connection and persistent proximity, BYOD is more important and storage in the cloud is just another part of that sort of independence.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Never rains, pours

Had to turn down an invitation to address the International Leadership Association because I am presenting at APRENDRED-IV

Two excellent looking conferences, each on topics of great interest to me. If only one, or both, was actually in SL.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MOOCs in Virtual Worlds

Getting set up for a couple of MOOCs this fall. and CMC11
I'm on the roster for week 8 of CMC11.

I've been participating in these fabulous learning experiences for a few years now starting with the earliest instances but mostly with Connectivism08. Each one has been an excellent learning experience no matter what level of attention I was able to pay.  It is an amazing way to get to meet with people with similar interests and to participate in all sorts of activities.

In many past MOOC's  a group would meet in Second Life. Some participants were experienced in SL but many took the opportunity to learn and explore a virtual environment and evaluate it as a part of their personal learning environment and as one that they would like to investigate for use for various education related purposes.

I am offering the use of my space in SL as a meeting place to discuss the weekly topics and as a starting point for further exploration of SL, networking, maybe a little dancing etc.

If you are familiar with SL, the meeting space is at

If you are not familiar with SL you can start here to get set up and there are usually many welcoming avatars to help you get oriented.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Much has happened but I haven't been recording adventures here so much. Recently got involved with a major research project in MB. The project is sponsored by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, in one of their divisions called Communities and Universities Research Alliance. The project title is Vital Outcome Indicators for Community Engagement for Children and Youth. So SSHRC-CURA VOICE. The project is a long term project to try to determine the indicators for success for northern youth. It is a participatory action research project with contributors from a number of communities and sectors throughout MB.

My participation so far is to work with the Knowledge Mobilization group to set up and organize a broad spectrum of social media. Such as Twitter and Facebook. We are starting out using a Wikispaces wiki to coordinate information, one of the long term requirements of the project specifications is that Knowledge mobilization occur through the use of a wiki. Right up my alley!

We have had a launch meeting via the new Cisco systems tele-presence suite located at Brandon University, University College of the North in Thompson and The Pas, U of W and U of M in Winnipeg.

Prior to the launch meeting the KM group met under the direction of Dr. Robin Enns and Dr. Karen Rempel to begin the process of setting up a web based communications system. Applications used include Skype, Mindmeister, Zotero and Ushahiti.

One of the over-riding concerns for this project is to be respectful of the Ownership, Control, Access and Possession (OCAP)

of information generated by First Nations people. The basic precepts of participatory action research require that all participants be equivalent and that the distinctions between the researcher and the subjects be eliminated.

The bones of the VOICE-IT wiki are emerging. This wiki is to support the work of the KM group but may also serve as a model that could be used to coordinate activities and to aggregate information through out the project.

A workshop is scheduled for June 28-28 at Elkhorn Resort to provide background information about the PAR approach.