What’s the problem? Technology


jdp-342
The impact of technology and the accelerating technological change is one of the themes that often comes up in discussions about why we face literacy and numeracy problems in the 21st century.

The relentless march of technology and increasing technological complexity mean that the demands of work and life have changed significantly in recent years compared to previous generations.

Adult learners today face literacy and numeracy demands today that simply did not exist before. Or at least they did not exist in the same way due to the increasing integration of computers, mobile devices, and the internet in our daily lives and work.

This change is highly visible and means that we all need to develop new “literacies” including digital literacy in order to keep learning and address gaps that could emerge between the “technologically” rich and poor.

Your learners are likely to be at a disadvantage if they can’t access online resources and services for work or daily life.

Some questions to think about

Let’s pause for a few moments. The questions below are not assessed, but thinking about your answers to them will help you with the assessment task.

  1. What impact has technology had on your trade or industry?
  2. What about the impact on how you teach or assess?
  3. What can you do to help encourage digital literacy?

You really should read the Productivity Commission report on the future of tertiary education…


productivity-cover2

I know that it’s a terrible title for a blog post.

But you really should read the Productivity Commission report on new models of tertiary education.

The report is 402 pages long, so here are your options:

And here’s why should you stop playing Candy Crush and read it…

It’s a damning indictment of the status quo and lack of innovation in tertiary education in New Zealand.

I might comment on this at some stage, but you need to read it for yourself and make up your own mind as to what next for tertiary education in New Zealand.

The report analyses the problems with the current system including over-regulation and control by government, but also presents some of the possible ways forward.

Opportunity knocks…

How do I gain access to the TEC Assessment Tool?


Screenshot 2016-03-07 11.17.41I’ve written a lot about how to use the TEC’s Literacy and Numeracy for Adults Assessment Tool.

Just type “assessment tool” in the search box on this blog and you’ll find a bunch of things including how to access your learners’ actual responses on the tool.

  • But how do you gain access to the tool in the first place?

Well, the answer involves bureaucracy. And filling out forms. And probably getting permission from those above you.

The form is buried online, but the link is here. And the first page looks like the screen shot above.

 

 

New online ESOL Assessment: Starting Points Listening


The NZCER have just released the Starting Points Listening to the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Tool. Here’s the blurb:

Starting Points Listening is one of two online, adaptive assessment options designed for learners who are at or below koru/step one of the Learning Progressions for Adult Literacy.

Starting Points Listening assesses a learner’s ability to understand basic, everyday words in spoken English. The main focus is listening. It is suitable only for beginning English language learners (ESOL), particularly those new to Aotearoa New Zealand.

For more information on how to use Starting Points Listening, please see the attached PDF.

Click here for the PDF: Introducing Starting Points. First page of 6 pages is pasted in below. Starting Points Reading will follow shortly.

Introducing Starting Points

Four Tools For Building Cool Stuff Online: Or How To Start Thinking Outside The Box


Supercharge_Poster_v6_web-01-11

I went to the Supercharge conference the other day in Wellington. This was a business conference… nothing to do with literacy, numeracy or even education (I know… thank goodness right…?)

Lots of cool stuff. The coolest though was the 40-minute presentation by Justin Wilcox of Customer Development Labs.

At the start of his presentation, he said that in the 40 minutes that he had to speak he was going to do the following:

  1. Come up with a product idea.
  2. Get some customer feedback.
  3. Build a website
  4. Launch the product

Considering that by the time he had said all this he only had about 35 minutes left I think we were all rather skeptical.

But he pulled it off. And these were the tools that he used:

1. Customer Discovery Ninja

Just this on its own was very cool to see in action. The Customer Discovery Ninja is a tool that allows you to connect to potential customers in North America. They sign up because they have time on their hands and get a small reward for participating.

Justin had decided that he wanted to create some kind of Fitness Tracking App, so he had selected various categories and subcategories in the Customer Discovery Ninja. And ended up with something relating to fitness, weight loss, and diet as the key areas.

From there, he opened the phone line and waited for the call. 10 minutes later someone connected and we listened to him interview a guy in New York who was struggling with diet and weight loss issues.

After a few minutes, it was clear that what this guy needed was not a fitness tracking app, but some kind of product that allowed him to track what was working when it came to diet.

So based on the dialogue, Justin switched away from his initial idea to the diet tracking idea. And then he had about 10 minutes left to do everything else.

2. Instapage

And this is mostly what he used: Instapage. Within about 2 minutes, he had built two landing pages for his new product. Instapage allows you to create web pages via drag and drop.

And then he  created an alternate version of the page so that you could do A/B testing. Instapage makes this really easy. I haven’t tried any of this yet, but based on the demo I think it’s all doable.

3. Powtoon

From here, Justin wanted to jazz up the landing page a bit with a short animated video. For this he used Powtoon. Powtoon advertises itself as an alternative to Powerpoint. It;s drag and drop like Powerpoint or Keynote, but you end up with a animation at the end.

So another 2 minutes to create a short animation. And then he imported this into the Instapage landing pages.

4. Celery

Finally, he wanted a button on the landing page to take pre-orders for the product. So he used Celery for this. Celery is very simple. It’s just a button for taking credit card information for pre-orders. Buyers don’t get charged until your product launches.

And then he launched it.

So Justin didn’t actually create the product, but he did something that was in line with the lean startup method: Come up with a minimal viable product idea and then see if anyone would buy it.

From here, he would be able to take pre-orders to fund the development of the actual product.

It was fast and dirty. But it was impressive.

Justin practises what he preaches as well. And you can have a look at his series of books on how to implement this kind of thinking at his website here: The Focus Framework.

This stuff is cool. I wish I knew this when I started in business. Talking to Justin afterwards, he said that everyone wishes the same thing. And that we all come to these conclusions late.

In my field, we tend to be good at what we do. But this is only in terms of our technical skills. We get professional development and training in these areas.

But we are often rubbish at the skills we need to use our technical skills to build and run a sustainable business. We don’t know how to make a buck… to put it in crude terms.

Most of all, I think we need this kind of thinking in education: Customer validation, lean startup methodology, designing a minimum viable product, product testing.

And then quickly pivoting when it’s obvious that something isn’t working. Unfortunately, the regulatory environment (both TEC and NZQA) act in ways that run counter to this kind of thinking.

This is not their fault. But it’s time to start thinking outside the box.

Really thinking outside the box.

What do entrepreneurs do that you could do if you work in education? Part 3: Tools


basecamp1

Tools for your (mostly) digital toolbox

The other day I outlined some of the ideas, approaches, and tools that I’ve started using in my work in education that have made my life easier and more manageable.

Mostly, I’ve borrowed these concepts and tools from the world of start ups, entrepreneurship, and design.

Then I suggested a short self assessment activity that you could do if you were interested in pursuing this direction yourself. The purpose here is just self awareness.

If you’re perfectly happy doing what you’ve always done, then please carry on. In fact, click away now and look at some more cat videos.

However, if you think that there might be better ways of working and you’re curious about what some of the tools might be to help you with this, then please read on.

Project and task management

Basecamp

basecamp2

  • What is it? Basecamp is a web-based project management tool.
  • How do I use it? You create projects that are based around groups of tasks that you can assign to different people and dates. You can also use it to store emails, attachments, and documents. It’s simple to use and extremely powerful.
  • Anything free or cheaper? I haven’t tried it but it looks like you can get basecamp free as a teacher if you have a look here. There are many other different kinds of project management applications available.

Moleskin Notebook

moleskin1

  • What is it? It’s an overpriced, but very durable hard cover notebook with an elastic band around it to hold it together.
  • How do I use it? Because I do so much work online, this is my attempt to make sure I keep using paper. I use my notebook for managing smaller day to day to-do lists and tasks as well as for ideas and taking notes.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Of course. Any notebook will work, or make your own out of scrap paper.

Cloud-based productivity tools

Google Apps for Work

google_for_work

  • What is it? Custom email, cloud-based file storage, shared calenders, word processing, spreadsheets and more online from my phone, laptop, and iPad. Basically, this is Gmail, Drive, gDocs, and gSheets.
  • How do I use it? 4 dedicated ALEC email addresses used by my team, Drive for shared documents, gDocs and gSheets for collaborating and writing.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Your basic gmail account is free and includes most of this, but you have to pay if you want to deploy across and organisation.

Evernote

Screenshot 2015-07-02 13.44.37

  • What is it? Online storage and notes.
  • How do I use it? I use Evernote like a virtual filing cabinet, particularly for things that I’ve finished with that I don’t want to delete, but I don’t need paper copies lying around for. It’s also a great task manager and place for compiling research or notes for projects. I also use it for clipping documents from websites that I want to save for reading later. Evernote is massively powerful and I like it, but I have run into issues trying to use it which I’ve written about here and elsewhere.
  • Anything free or cheaper? It’s already free, unless you go premium for more storage.

Dropbox

dropbox-box-leaking-sensitive-user-data

  • What is it? Online file storage.
  • How do I use it? I use Dropbox as an alternative to Google Drive and for file sharing with others that I’m collaborating with. It’s also my archive for lots of old course materials and hard drives dating back about 10 years.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Basic account is free but you’ll need to pay if you want increased storage. I pay US$100 per year for a TB of online storage.

Other digital creative tools

USB Microphone

Yeti mic

  • What is it? It’s a microphone that is designed to connect directly to my computer via a USB cable. I like the Yeti Blue USB mic shown here which I’ve reviewed before. But I’ve also been coveting this one for a while now as well.
  • How do I use it? I use the mic for recording audio for podcast style recordings and for laying audio tracks over slideshows that I can then upload to YouTube.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Chances are that the computer you are using already has a mic built in. Also, so does your phone. The quality on these may vary as well. Have a look online – there are plenty of USB mics cheaper than the Yeti.

Audio editing software

Screenshot 2015-07-02 16.54.50(2)

  • What is it? Here I’m referring to software applications that allow you to record, mix, and master digital audio.
  • How do I use it? I use this kind of software to create podcast style audio tracks like these for the training I do and for this blog.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Yes. I also use and really like a free piece of software called Audacity. It doesn’t look quite as racy as Gargeband, but It’s very powerful and as good as anything you can buy. You can download it here for free.

Tablet and stylus

tablet and stylus

  • What is it? It’s a drawing tablet and pen made by a company called Wacom. It’s expensive, but it’s fantastic to draw with.
  • How do I use it? I use it to draw illustrations for slides, blog posts, and other print or digital content.
  • Anything free or cheaper? If you already have an iPad or other tablet there are all sorts of cheap or free drawing apps you can download and use with just your finger or a cheap stylus. If you want to buy a stylus you can get one for around $20 from an office supply or computer shop.

Drawing software

Screenshot 2015-07-02 16.30.17

  • What is it? A software application that you use with the tablet and stylus. I’ve just made the shift to Adobe Illustrator which is now a subscription-based service as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • How do I use it? I use it for creating and editing vector-based graphics and illustrations. It has been, and still is, a steep learning curve.
  • Anything free or cheaper? I started with a free drawing and digital mark up app that I still use called Skitch that you can download on your computer, ipad or phone and that integrates with Evernote. From there I went to a free, open source Illustrator equivalent called Inkscape which I used for a long time.

Video and image capture

apple-iphone-6-1

  • What is it? Currently, I just use my iPhone for any and all images. I’ve used a much older Sony HandyCam for video work, but my iPhone can do this pretty well also, I’m at the stage where I need to probably upgrade. Currently, I’d like to get something like the camera below which would do high quality video capture as well as take excellent photographs. I’m also considering getting a dedicated video shotgun microphone to use this with. This is a significant investment and I’ve been putting it off.
  • How do I use it? I use the camera on my iPhone all the time. I don’t like using the Sony HandyCam as it doesn’t play nicely with the video editing software.
  • Anything free or cheaper? Most people have a built in video camera on their smartphone. These can be cheap and cheerful, but it’s a simple way to get started creating multimedia content. Using a good mic is probably more important. People will suffer through poor video content as long as they can hear what’s going on.

Image editing software

cameraplus1

  • What is it? Software and apps for editing your photographs and digital images. I use an app on my iPhone called Camera+ and I also occasionally use iPhone which comes preinstalled on my Mac.
  • How do I use it? I use Camera plus for cropping and editing photos. It also comes with some nice filters which I also use. For example, the sepia tinged photo of my desktop with the Yeti microphone further up the screen was shot on my iPhone and edited in Camera+
  • Anything free or cheaper? iPhoto is free as long as you have a Mac. There are plenty of cheap photo editing apps for your smartphone.

Video editing software

FCP

  • What is it? This is a specific software application that I use to record, edit, mix and master my video files. I purchased Apple’s Final Cut Pro last year. It’s easier to use than the audio software and I like it a lot.
  • How do I use it? I use this for editing and mastering video footage which I can then upload to YouTube. The quality depends on the quality of the video footage captured. I’ve been a bit disappointed with what I got from the Sony HandyCam, but you can have a look at some video footage that I edited with this software here. Like with any of these applications, I’m not an expert and I tend to work out how to do things “just in time”.
  • Anything free or cheaper? If you already have a device that can record video, you probably already have some built in video editing capability. There are plenty of apps you can download that will help with this for a reasonably low cost.

What do entrepreneurs do that you could do if you work in education? Part 2: Self assessment


We ship widgets

In my last post I discussed some of the things that I’ve borrowed from entrepreneurial and design thinking. These have worked successfully for me and allowed me to gradually change how I think about my work and allowed me to survive and thrive in a chaotic and uncertain work environment.

Like I also said, this is what has worked for me. I think it could work for you as well, but you need to adapt what I’m saying here to your own context.

I want to do two things to take it a couple of steps further.

One is provide an informal way for you to assess how far down this track you might be yourself. And it’s fine if the answer is “not at all”.

The other is to illustrate what I’m discussing here with some examples of the kinds of resources, tools, and apps that I use. You can find more on this in Part 3.

So first of all, here’s a short self assessment exercise. It’s fine if you don’t know the answer to any or all questions.

Also, my context is education and training that is funded in some way – either though government funding, user pays funding, or some combination of both.

Short answers only please. You can write them in the comments section.

  1. Define “customer” in one sentence.
  2. Describe your particular customer(s) in five words or less.
  3. Define “business model” in one sentence.
  4. Describe your (or your organisation’s) business model in seven words or less.
  5. Define “iterate” in five words or less.
  6. When did you last brainstorm, prototype or iterate some component of your education or training work?
  7. What was it?
  8. What systems have you designed?
  9. What do you use to manage tasks? A task is anything you need to get done for your work.
  10. What do you use to manage projects? A project is any number of tasks you need to complete for a bigger purpose, e.g. enrolling a learner, teaching a course, designing a new resource
  11. List any cloud-based productivity tools you use?
  12. List any digital creative tools do you use?

I’m going to be discussing my answers to these questions in my workshop next week and I’ll post a follow up with answers shortly.

In the mean time, if you are unfamiliar with any of the terminology used in the eleven questions I and you’re interested in what I’m saying I suggest you get online and do some research.