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Coming up in April - ACEC & the NLA's Innovative Ideas Forum

I have a couple of interesting gigs coming up in April.

First is a Wikipedia editing workshop at the Australian Computers in Education Conference. I gave a talk called ‘Safe wiki’ at the last such conference, in Canberra in 2008. Now it is rolling around to Melbourne and I am doing something a bit more hands-on.

Registrations for ACEC are now open. You can also buy a ticket just for Thursday (to catch the open source stream!) or even just a half-day if you like.

Second is something quite exciting, the National Library of Australia’s Innovative Ideas Forum. It is a national event they hold, one day long, free, but only about 300 attendees. This year they are encouraging the use of Twitter throughout, and will probably podcast it, if last year is any indication. One of the other speakers is Nicholas Gruen, who was head of the Government 2.0 Taskforce. Esteemed company indeed! My talk is called “Is Wikipedia a one-off?: Is mass collaboration all it’s cracked up to be?

The NLA is a great host for such an event; it doesn’t surprise me that they are encouraging big-thinking and innovation in technology. Their Australian Newspapers site is not only a fine example of making dead-wood products machine readable and comfortably at home amongst the electrons, but it also integrates ‘crowdsourcing’ (OCR correction) in a very natural and, from what I understand, successful manner.

I hear places are filling up quickly so if you are in Canberra, register soon!

10 March, 2010 • ,

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Melbourne EDNA workshop this Friday


Some late breaking news. This Friday I’ll be speaking at an EDNA ICT Workshop at the State Library of Victoria. EDNA is “Australia’s free online network for educators”. Among other things, they run me.edu.au, which is pretty much Facebook for teachers, and a great calendar of educator events. I understand that they are an especially useful resource for casual teachers and others who fall through the cracks of the usual (state) teacher networks.

This workshop is part of a series of workshops around the country. My talk will be an updated ersion of the talk I gave at ACEC last year. Guaranteed to be better second time around! :D

18 May, 2009 • ,

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☍ Links for 2009-01-25

Some nice things showed up in my feed reader while I was at LCA.

25 January, 2009 • , ,

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Video: Pia Waugh talking about Open Source Futures

VITTA keynote: Pia Waugh on Open Source Futures from blip.tv

This is a video that I took at the VITTA conference (Victorian IT Teachers Association). I was there giving a workshop about using Wikipedia in the classroom (session 1202), and Pia was there keynoting (1601 — the video above) and talking about OLPCs in Australia (1307)! She was also kind enough to let me license it CC-BY-SA.

While there I also caught up with Donna Benjamin (1207) and Pru Mitchell (1203) — we three had the bad fortune to all be scheduled in the same time slot. Although with 20 simultaneous sessions, it might not be avoidable.

By comparison with ACEC, this conference had a much better representation of open source software advocates amongst its speakers. The Linux Australia stand in the exhibition was getting excellent traffic throughout Monday.

My workshop went well; the first time I’ve done anything like that, but the participants seemed engaged enough. 50 minutes is not really long enough for anything substantial, and I think a better ratio than 1:20 would be more helpful, but it’s a start!

28 November, 2008 • , ,

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Video from AussieChix microconf - Wikipedia & the education system

I had a great, although tiring, day yesterday: I went to the AussieChix microconf event. AussieChix is the Australian arm of LinuxChix. The “microconf” was a one-day event simultaneously happening in Melbourne and Sydney, with speakers in both cities, connected via videoconferencing. Giant thanks to Mary and Alice for organising it, and Google Australia and their wonderful employees for donating their space, bandwidth and time to enable us to have this event.

I first got involved with LinuxChix not long after WikiChix was founded, I suppose. I was curious about this group that we were modelling on, and I was probably feeling more confident about exploring Linux. I really can’t speak highly enough about the Australian LinuxChix. They are some amazing women. Every single one of them is just doing really cool stuff. Whether they are quiet or boisterous, they are all really strong and each have their own way of not taking shit from other people. It’s like women-company nirvana for me. And that we all just utterly geek out is the icing on the cake. :)

Anyway enough raving. I gave a ~15 minute talk on “Wikipedia & the education system”. It’s not anything super polished, just some thoughts I have been having since I attended ACEC, the computers in education conference.


Talk: Wikipedia & the education system from Brianna Laugher on Vimeo.

Skimmable format:

26 October, 2008 • , , ,

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"Safe wiki": Teaching responsible use of Wikipedia

My ACEC talk. ( Links and info )

Safe wiki: Teaching responsible use of Wikipedia
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: education acec)

This Slideshare bizzo is pretty neat. (But after you press play you probably don’t want to do anything else in your browser.) The audio synchronising tool is well designed — now what’s the offline equivalent?

While I was there I felt a certain duty to start this article

02 October, 2008 • , ,

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Whither free software in education?

I just arrived back from the Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC). It’s actually still going, but as I’m not a teacher and hence hanging out at education conferences doesn’t constitute paid work for me, I decided to go home early.

It was all a bit of an eye-opener for me. There was a huge hall filled with exhibitions mostly from commercial software companies, where all meals were held. I was rather taken aback at the idea that teachers might wander around and actually purchase software based on these stands. Reminded me of pharmaceutical companies marketing to doctors.

For fun I spoke to the woman at the Encyclopedia Britannica stand. I didn’t even realise they had much Australian presence. And I didn’t even realise the main thing they were pushing these days was website subscriptions (as opposed to books and CD-ROMs!). They offer basically three versions of each article, written for different ages/reading comprehension skills. She also told me a couple of scare stories, like what if chill-uns look for pictures of the murray darling (“Imagine what they get, with the word ‘darling’!” — actually they get exactly what they’re looking for), and a surely made-up story about her 10 year old nephew looking for pictures of soldiers by typing in “pictures of privates”.

There was exactly one talk relating to open source software (many others by commercial software providers). At first I was so excited to see another FLOSS advocate (despite the somewhat troubling use of the word “freeware” in the abstract.) So I went to it… and the speaker proclaimed that “Google” was “open source”. I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean, most Google products don’t even supply source, let alone under an open source license. So that was kind of a shocker. What a shame. There was supposed to be an OLPC talk but that was cancelled.

I spoke to a university lecturer there I had met before, and I said how I found the lauding of web-based technologies a little worrying given the concerns about network lock-in, and that as I saw it there was little difference between being locked in to a software product/format vs a website. (It’s all about the API — can you get your data back out if you need to? If not, tread warily!) He mentioned how a large company had come to his campus offering to take care of his university’s infrastructure (email, course management etc), and his university had just laughed at them because it would be ludicrous to give up that control to a commercial company for little to no benefit. And seemingly the large company was taken aback because elsewhere they had had a good reception. Seriously.

What primary school and high school students learn to use is likely to be highly influential. Many of them may never go software-exploring beyond what they become familiar with at school. As I remember my grade 12 software development and design teacher putting it, why the hell should the state education department pay Microsoft (or anyone else) for the “privilege” of using their software or services? Why the hell shouldn’t they be paying the education department for the opportunity to influence this captive audience of millions of students?

OK, so that’s a naive dream, but I learnt more about free software in education at a Software Freedom Day event with an audience numbering tens, than I did at a gigantic biennial national computers-in-education conference. So we freedom lovers can’t afford lobby groups and trade show exhibition stalls; I reckon we could have at least put together a FLOSS talk from someone who actually knows what the term means.

01 October, 2008 • , , ,

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