February 7, 2017
by Campbell
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Segways

As you all may know, I did some stuff for Pixar on the side in the past. There, you have the option of hiring a Segway to help get you around for the day between and within buildings, so it got me thinking, I still can’t find the point of the Segways.

Yes, it feels sort of magical and sci-fi, and if you told me such an invention would exist when I was six years old my eyes would have been wide open in wonder. But after trying it by myself, it felt like a massive overengineering exercise: putting a lot of effort, money and energy into building a big expensive gimmick that could be replaced with a more “lo-fi” approach: cheaper, safer, and incurring in lower maintenance costs (both economy and ecology wise).

Balance

I found keeping the balance on the Segway pretty unnatural and unsettling, even before I fell. On a bike, I can always step with my foot on the floor and regain balance, and if things are really bad I can push it away from me and fall sideways, but on the Segway I kept thinking of terrible scenarios: if I fell I would fall on top of it or on my face and break my teeth, or fall backwards and break my back or my head or my elbows or… As you can see, it didn’t inspire me any confidence!

Speed

Also: the thing was incredibly slow. I could possibly have walked faster and be less stressed, and able to look at things and the scenery instead of being worried I’d fall if I lost balance for a second.

Efficiency

Finally, the last aspect that bothered me is how inefficient it was. People before me clearly made a few trips around the place before us, and the batteries were already pretty drained. The amount of energy it was expending in driving us very slowly was painful to my ecowarrior heart.

Even if they charged the batteries using renewable sources, it feels such a waste to spend so much energy on a platform that uses that energy to try to be stable but moves along very slowly. It is more efficient and less stressful to walk.

What’s the use case?

It’s hard for me to come up with as a valid use case for these machines. The only semi-acceptable use I can think of is security guards on big closed environments such as airports. All other cases look overengineered and dangerous to me, and could be replaced with “lo-fi” things such as cycles, electric bikes, skates, scooters, tricycles or just plain simple (can you believe it…?) walking, if you can. All these are stable and safe for both driver and surrounding environment.

I admit that I like trying things before I decide if they’re for me. And I can now say I tried a Segway, and didn’t like it.

Vocational Education

January 19, 2017
by Campbell
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Intro to VET in Australia

Lately, I have been working in the VET sector, and for those international people who read my blog, I thought I would write a quick overview to help de-mystify what VET is. Generally, in Australia, after people complete their compulsory schooling, their main choices for furthering their education are Vocational Education and Training (VET), University or Apprenticeships/Traineeships.

VET aims to provide people with the skills and knowledge to help them enter the workforce, train or re-train for a new job, upgrade their skills or move into further study.

VET offers a range of national qualifications, from Certificates that can be completed in a relatively short time (1 month to 6 months usually) through to Advanced Diplomas that generally require two years of study. Anyone over 15 years of age is allowed to do VET. Around half of all high-school leavers undertake vocational training within a year or two after leaving school. Even some high schools provide some vocational education and training as part of their offerings. Known as “VET in Schools”, this recognised training is available to all students as part of their senior secondary school education. This form of training offers students the chance to complete their secondary education, acquire work skills and gain a VET qualification.

In a nutshell, Certificates I and II provide students with basic vocational skills and knowledge, preparing them for employment such as factory hands or sales staff etc. Certificates III and IV have largely replaced the range of traditional trade certificates like plumbing, real estate, nursing etc. and prepare people for employment.

Apprenticeships and traineeships are a notable feature of Australia’s VET system. They bring together training and employment under a legal contract between the apprentices and trainees, training providers (such as TAFE) and employers.

December 6, 2016
by Campbell
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Authoring Tools

With the huge growth of tablet devices lately, it seems that eLearning authoring tools are going through another change. It’s nothing new —just another step in the continual evolution we all have seen since the early 1990s, when authoring tools were first introduced to help eLearning professionals create and deliver learning. Since the beginning of eLearning, there’s been a struggle to maintain a balance between ease-of-use and learner engagement, and authoring tools have had to evolve to maintain this balance, as well. In the early 1990s, the industry was largely dominated by PC or Mac based applications that required simple programming/scripting to “author” solutions like Hypercard, Authorware, Director and even some cases pure Flash. While powerful for their time, these tools were not easy to use, requiring complex programming skills except Flash. Macromedia Authorware, was my clear favorite tool at the time, where I could create learning programs primarily via dragging and dropping icons, whereas Actionscript (for Flash) and Lingo (for Director) could not be described as “simple” to learn for those not able to program. Then after about five years (2004 I think), Captivate and Articulate came along and allowed people like me to create interactive simulations of software, using screen recording/scraping and limited interactions. Now it seems like the authoring tools like Captivate and Articulate are introducing mobile/tablet friendly building functions. I wonder what the future of authoring tools will bring, as who knows what technology will come our way.

August 20, 2016
by Campbell
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Monopoly

Oh Monopoly. It’s the game that seemingly most board game geeks hate. Of course, everyone also plays it completely wrong, and just adds to eventual frustration of it. So while placing collected taxes on Free Parking may seem like you are doing everyone a favor, the game only works by the removal of money from the system, not by adding it back into the game.
But, after reading this interview with the US Monopoly coach, I now realize how COMPLETELY wrong people play the game even if they are hardcore rules Nazis.

Most people view Monopoly as a game where you move around a board, collect some property, and build on them, with a little trading involved. When played at the tournament level, however, the game is almost solely based on trading; moving around the board just sort of randomizes which properties you start with, and who you have to pay when you land of other player’s properties. The entire focus of the game has changed while still keeping the same rules. This is the equivalent to professional poker players who, after enough time under their belt, don’t even care what the cards are, and instead only play player’s reactions. You’re still playing poker, but playing at a completely different level with access to a whole different set of information.
However, it should be noted that there’s a big difference between the two. Poker is a fairly quiet, solitary experience at this point. Studying and reading your opponent intensely requires quite a bit of concentration and understanding of tells. And everyone THINKS they can do it. This can easily be accomplished no matter what the joviality rating is at any table; primarily because it is an individual talent.

Playing a game of high stakes trading Monopoly requires a whole table of people willing to trade. Unless you have the capabilities of the shrewedest, slickest used car salesman alive, trying to spin 3-way deals probably will get you nowhere. If you are trying to give 4 loosely gathered properties to someone just for Electric Company, which you can then bundle with Illinois to someone else, you will most likely end up with a lot of uneasy trust issues and have the deal blocked. I think that everyone who’s played Monopoly grew up playing it so straight and conservative are more than willing to lose the game to ” that bad dice roll” than accepting the fact that they potentially got “swindled” at some point.

Assessment

August 5, 2016
by Campbell
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Assessment

Been a while since I have been writing here and also doing stuff on online learning and educational multimedia production. This post is all about an important component of good educational media and that is, Assessment. Assessment is the process of gathering and interpreting evidence to make judgements about student learning. It is the crucial link between learning outcomes, content and teaching and learning activities. Assessment is used by learners and their teachers to decide where the learners are at in their learning, where they need to go, and how best to get there. The purpose of assessment is to improve learning, inform teaching, help students achieve the highest standards they can and provide meaningful reports on students’ achievement.

Assessment can be what is called a formative and/or a summative process. Formative assessment is used to provide feedback to students and teachers to promote further learning. Summative assessment contributes to the judgement of student learning for reporting and certification purposes. Formative assessment – is assessment for learning. It is used at the beginning of an instructional sequence and during the process of instruction as teachers check for student understanding. Diagnostic tools determine what students already know and where there are gaps and misconceptions. Formative assessment also includes assessment as learning, where students reflect on and monitor their own progress. Where as, Summative assessment is assessment of learning. It is used near the end of the instruction sequence. Summative assessment information provides educators with the information about how effective their teaching strategies have been, time needed for instruction and how to improve teaching for future students.

Then there is this thing called Recognition for Prior Learning or RPL. RPL is an assessment technique which is used to measure whether a candidate’s work, education and life experiences enable them to meet the levels of competence outlined in standards such as units of competence. It gives people the opportunity to gain formal recognition for their knowledge and skills without attending structured training classes. This competence may have been gained through life or work experiences, learning in informal settings or formal studies.

Computer Repair

July 4, 2016
by Campbell
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Computer Woes

Last week my Windows 7 machine stopped booting. I would hit the on switch and the fans would rev up and… nothing else would ever happen. Hmmmm! That is NEVER a good sign. The desktop machine was designed to be my work machine originally (well, before I got my Macintosh laptop hahahah), and it has two high-end PCI-E 16x Nvidia cards SLI’d together, and two hard drives RAIDed together in stripe mode to improve my video and 3D rendering performance. So yesterday when it crapped out my first thought was “oh god, the RAID…” When my XP machine died in March during the move, recovering the data from the RAID was a really fun adventure (NOT!).

So I started down the path, swapping memory modules, unplugging the DVD drive, pulling out the video cards, unplugging the hard drives… all manner of things, none of which had any effect whatsoever. Ohhhh great. Recalling the many times I have screwed something up on the computer because I was frustrated and tired, I decided to call it a night. So tonight I pulled the machine out from the desk, set it up on the table, and untangled all the cables inside. Got it down to one memory module, no video card, no hard drives. I figured it should at least beep on boot. Nope. After a cup of milo, I grabbed the screwdriver and yanked the motherboard. By this point I figured I was dealing with either a frotzed CPU, motherboard, or power supply. Or maybe the motherboard was grounding against the case somehow. The easiest way to figure it out would be to pull all the parts out and slowly replace them one by one in a controlled environment.
But first, to rule out the grounding – I set the motherboard on some standoffs over the top of an antistatic mat, plugged the power supply into it and nothing else and… hey, it beeped!
Woohoo!
Okay, well, whatever was causing the problem seems to have something to do with the case. So I pulled all the motherboard standoffs out of the case, re-bent and re-oriented them, duct-taped them in, and used smaller screws to reduce the likelihood of shorting the motherboard out with them. After putting the machine back together along with the power supply, a stick of memory, and one video card, it still beeped and booted. Yay! After another hour or so everything was put back together (minus one video card) and the machine still seems to be working just fine. Except… it doesn’t recognize the RAID. Ohhhhh great.
After 10 minutes digging through the SATALink and BIOS manuals, I realized I likely just needed to toggle a couple flags in the BIOS (I had reset the CMOS earlier in the adventure). Sure enough, after a toggle and a reboot, it’s all working again. But I left one of the video cards out since I don’t use the Vista machine much for gaming these days.

Ahhh nice to have that sorted out!

But here I am again, having narrowly escaped death, wondering why I bother to keep personal data on my PC at all. Lucky, my old friend Duncan gifted me with this box, I have called BEAST. It is fantastic. It is super quiet and very speedy. It just sits out there attached to my home network and serves up my files, and it’s very easy to access from the network, or even the Xbox 360 talks to it for that matter (for music, photos, and videos/netflix). I need to set up backups but this seems like the perfect answer to me these days. Because I’m working on technology on the PC, I do a lot of updates to my PC software and hardware, so the chance for a system crash is high. Why not keep just my applications and games on the PC, and whatever files I’m working on at the moment, and put all the rest of my data up on the server? I think that’s what I will set up next.

This does give me pause though, and makes me think more about the idea of using Internet compute clouds, or running applications over the net like Google Docs. I hate giving up THAT much control over my PC environment, but it sure would be easier to just have all my apps out on the net, and all my data on my Home Server, and a very dumb but fast home PC. Hmmmm someday… we’ll see. For now I have about 4Tb of data to try copy over to the server.

CPD

January 20, 2016
by Campbell
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CPD

At work lately, I have been privileged to work on a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) program. For those that don’t know the philosophy of CPD, as a member of some companies/professional bodies, you must understand the value of life-long learning. Some companies/professional bodies there is an obligation to participate in continuing professional development (CPD) as part of your membership, and as the name suggests it ensures the learner continually builds the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in achieving their development and career goals.

I think CPD is a great program, as it increases value to your organisation and your clients, knowing that you have transferable skills and it also helps to build reputation as a business leader/consultant. The financial industry (which I am developing the CPD for) has in general been proactive in pushing towards attaining its status as a profession rather than a trade, and education standards are a key component of that, and as a result where degree qualified financial planners are the rule rather than the exception and come June, it will be mandatory. The industry staple qualification for compliance is the Diploma of Financial Services. Another key component is a proposed requirement for all financial advisers to complete a knowledge update review every three years to stay on top of rule changes, market issues and new products.

In the past, when I have asked professionals about the learning they access during the course of their careers, it seems that subject-specific CPD often takes a lower priority than their other training and development. For me, I find this is concerning. Without regular updates of the latest in pedagogy and content for a subject especially in public facing roles like financial planners, lawyers, accountants or even the medical field, there is a high risk that the content will be inaccurate and possibly put others at risk too.

Time is a precious commodity in any industry, and often the idea of putting aside an entire day, or two, for a professional development session can seem impossible. There is also the added trouble of trying to find a day that suits everyone. So, I am glad that I am working in online learning, where one of the real benefits can be seen – you can study whenever you want. So instead of having to put aside an entire day, you just need to find an hour here and there. Traditional workplace education includes educator costs, catering costs, often room hire costs and also the costs of covering shifts so other staff members can attend the training. However, with online learning these costs are removed. There is usually just a per person enrollment fee, which is often quite low when there are large groups getting trained.

Also within online learning it goes without saying that the broader community expects that the requisite skills and knowledge have been obtained in order to deliver service to a professional standard. Hence, CPD is a great model in order for those skills and knowledge to be obtained.

November 24, 2015
by Campbell
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Mini game tips

I was thinking the other day, how I could I make some quick little wins for some eLearning solutions, so I could maybe modulise and integrate into some solutions. I thought of minigames.

For those that don’t know, a minigame is a simple game created to provide variety and represent simple activities. From my research many minigames are based on or are variations of classic arcade and classic home console games. Let me clarify, a microgame is a minigame that takes seconds to play. Half of the challenge of microgames is learning how to play them within the short time allotted. Warioware and the likes in Mario Party are compilations of microgames.

Minigames offer many advantages to game developers. They are quick to create and test, they are easy to play, and they can be used as metaphors for complex player activities. I truly believe ANY activity can be represented by a minigame. For example:

• Lockpicking: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2K, 2006)
• Hacking electronics: Batman: Arkham Asylum (WBI, 2009)
• Portrait painting: Spongebob Atlantis Squarepantis (THQ, 2008)
• Tagging walls: The Warriors (Rockstar, 2005)
• Cooking dinner: Cooking Mama (Majesco, 2006)
• Serving dinner: Diner Dash (Playfirst, 2003)

When designing a minigame, make sure to:

• Keep the controls simple. Minigames by their nature imply easy- to – learn
gameplay.
• Keep the gameplay sessions short. No longer than 5 to 10 minutes. Microgames can last only a few seconds long.
• How does progression work? It is designed or random? Ramp the difficulty gently. Minigames are meant to provide variety, not torture the player.
• Add new elements with each progression. Progression doesn’t mean every level: it can be a grouping of levels. Progression can represent a major element like a new weapon or enemy or minor like a change in an enemy’s movement pattern or bonus modifier. Even a different background art, sound effect, or song keeps the game from getting stale or repetitive.
• Consider limiting the minigame’s controls to only a few buttons. Assign only one action per button or control stick to keep control schemes simple.
• If possible, allow for player customization. The web – based minigame Upgrade Complete (Kongregate, 2009) allows the player to upgrade EVERYTHING, including the player’s ship, the background graphics, and even the copyright screen!
• How does your minigame end? Does it have an end? Make sure the victory condition is clear to the player. Some games can be played “forever” — or at least until the kill screen appears.

Minigames don’t even need to be segregated from the core game. The platformer/puzzle game Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (EA Games, 2009) and the RPG/puzzle game Puzzle Quest (D3, 2007) combine two styles of gameplay; platforming and puzzle. If you do this in your own game, just make sure you allow time for the player to make a “brain shift” between the two gaming styles; give them a second to reorient themselves with a “ready” screen or pause in the action.