The Future of Blockchain Technologies in Higher Education

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Figure 1. Blockchain. (2016), by portal gda. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/135518748@N08/26028924154/. Made available under Creative Commons Licence.

This literature review research examines the rise of blockchain technology, its close relationship with bitcoin and other digital currencies as well as the affordances of blockchain technology. The report examines the various ways in which blockchain technology is currently being used across a range of industries as well as potential use cases for other industries. This case study concludes by showcasing the potential for blockchain technology to disrupt education both now and in the future.

This report presents the results of an empirical inquiry which investigated blockchain technology, how it is being used today and its value proposition for higher education. In particular, the study will attempt to ascertain the perceived opportunities that enhance and barriers that hinder the takeup of blockchain technology in education. The case study was designed as an intensive examination of a single case which includes a one hour Skype interview with a prominent thought leader in the form of Georgios Papageorgiou from the Master of Science in Digital Currency degree program at the University of Nicosia plus an informal face-to-face conversation with Dr Jason Potts, Associate Professor at the School of Economics at RMIT University and the use of a survey tool (see Appendix A).

A short survey was developed using SurveyMonkey and distributed via social media on LinkedIn, Twitter, this blog and also by email. The survey was extensively promoted over several weeks on Twitter using a range of popular educational hashtags such as #edchat, #edtech, #education and #edutech. Other hashtags used included #blockchain, #highered and #smartcontracts.

The survey was designed to appeal to anyone who is in any way interested in education and/or information and communication technologies. This includes teachers, educational researchers, lecturers, educational designers, learning designers and educational technologists.

The survey offers respondees the opportunity to think about how blockchain technology could be effectively deployed at their place of employment as well as how blockchain technology could be used in education in general.

Although heavily promoted on Twitter and to a lesser extent LinkedIn, for one reason or another, less than a handful of people completed the survey. Perhaps the small number of respondees may be attributed to the fact that blockchain technology is both fairly new and quite technical. As such, only a very small number of people are likely to know what blockchain technology is let alone feel comfortable trying to predict how it may be used in the future. The upshot of which was a dearth of data. Consequently, it was simply not possible to compile the data and attempt to draw conclusions of any sort about the future of blockchain technology.


What is a blockchain and what are its affordances?

Davidson, De Filippi & Potts (2016) state that a blockchain is a highly transparent, resilient and efficient distributed public ledger. In essence, a blockchain is an encrypted, distributed ledger technology through which digital transactions can be securely made and recorded without approval from a central certifying authority such as a financial institution or a clearing house. A blockchain ledger (or database) is distributed in the sense that it is cloud-based, consisting of digital data that is geographically spread across a peer-to-peer network of personal computers. Moreover, a blockchain is a global and open resource in the sense that no company or person owns the technology. Blockchain technology provides a permanent, unalterable record of every single cryptocurrency transaction that has ever been verified.

In addition, blockchain technology is the architecture that underpins the use of bitcoin and many other digital currencies. A blockchain can be either public or private. Whilst a public blockchain can be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection, with a private blockchain, participation in the network is restricted to individuals and devices within the one organisation.

The most obvious affordance of blockchain technology is that it does not rely on a trusted third party in the way that centralized systems do. Blockchain technology is a potential game-changer for many industries including banking, insurance, energy management, and education. The potential benefits of blockchain technology extend into political, humanitarian, social, and scientific domains (Swan, 2016, p. viii) and may give rise to new organisational and institutional forms of economic governance (Davidson, De Filippi, & Potts, 2016, p. 7).

In the financial services sector, blockchain technology provides the opportunity for more accurate tracking of customer repayment histories, across borders and banks, reducing the risk of defaulters. In education, blockchain technology could potentially give individuals as well as institutions the ability to store secure public records of personal achievement. In healthcare, blockchain technology could allow hospitals and other parties in the healthcare value-chain to share access to their networks without compromising data security and integrity. In energy management, blockchain technology may enable customers to transact in decentralized energy generation schemes such that people will generate, buy, and sell energy to their neighbors. These are just some of the ways in which blockchain technology has the potential to impact a wide range of industries.


What is the nature of the relationship between bitcoin and blockchain?

In order to understand the importance of blockchain technology you first need to know the history of bitcoin which necessitated the use of the first blockchain. Blockchain technology first appeared in theory in a white paper, “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”, written and published in 2008 by an unknown person or entity using the name Satoshi Nakamoto. In this paper, Nakamoto argued for an electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust, allowing any two willing parties to transact directly with each other without the need for a trusted third party (Nakamoto, 2008).

Most people have only a vague understanding of bitcoin the cryptocurrency, and very few have heard of blockchain the technology. Consequently, the words bitcoin and blockchain are sometimes used interchangeably depending upon the context. In some situations the word blockchain is used to refer to crytocurrencies as a general term, the infrastructure used in bitcoin specifically or it is sometimes used to refer to smart contracts.


How does a blockchain network operate?

Blockchain technology is the architecture that underpins the use of all cryptocurrencies including bitcoin and ether and provides a permanent, unalterable record of every single cryptocurrency transaction that has ever been verified (see Appendix B). Each and every time a cryptocurrency is traded this creates a transaction which is checked for authenticity by the nodes in the network and is either accepted or rejected.

Each transaction is verified by way of a consensus whereby at least 50% of all nodes in the network must authenticate the transaction. It should be noted that nodes are not required to verify transactions created in the network however there is a financial incentive to do so in the form of a bitcoin micropayment. As noted by Flynt (2016), only nodes with the time, inclination, hardware and software are likely to verify each individual transaction.

In particular, the node which is the first to verify the authenticity of any given transaction receives payment in the form of a very small percentage of a cryptocurrency such as bitcoin or ether. This process of verifying a transaction is done by requiring a participant’s computer to perform a significant amount of computational work (‘proof of work’) in the form of a puzzle that is hard to solve (i.e., it takes a lot of work), but easy to verify (i.e., everyone else can check the answer very quickly).

The first node in the network to solve the puzzle wins the prize in the form of a micropayment. This process of solving a puzzle is widely referred to as “mining”. The payment is then credited to the winning node’s ewallet and the transaction in question is permanently assigned to a block on the blockchain.

Once the transaction has been recorded on the blockchain it cannot be amended or deleted. As such, a blockchain provides a permanent record of every single cryptocurrency transaction that has ever been verified. See Appendix A for an infographic from PwC on the actual process.


Are there any challenges associated with blockchain technology?

There are some major problems and perils that need to be overcome before blockchain technology can really start to take off. Bitcoin is the first decentralized digital currency and was introduced in 2009. Bitcoin quickly became the world’s most popular digital currency. However, as a payment system, bitcoin is merely the first step. There are many other payment systems that are currently being developed with most of them being underpinned by blockchain technology.

Currently, it takes approximately 10 minutes for a bitcoin transaction to be verified. In other words, anyone transacting in bitcoin must wait up to 10 minutes for their transaction to be verified and added to the blockchain. Suffice to say, some potential users of blockchain technology may be put off by the fact that there is a time delay with all digital currency transactions. For example, whilst a bitcoin transaction is normally verified in about 10 minutes, an ether transaction is normally verified in about 12 seconds and a stellar transaction is normally verified in about a minute. Consequently, its possible that blockchain technology may take time to build momentum since some potential users of cryptocurrencies may be unwilling to accept online transactions that are not verified in real time.

This is a major impediment to blockchain technology. As humans we are hardwired to want things now. We want instant gratification. Most of what we do in the digital world is done in real time. When we login to our bank account and transfer money from one account to another it happens almost instantaneously. When we buy an ebook on Amazon we have access to our purchase almost immediately on our Kindle. When we go to the Ticketmaster website and purchase tickets to an event we receive an email almost immediately containing the tickets we have just purchased. In other words, whenever we transact online its almost always in real time.

However, with digital currencies we are required to wait anywhere from 12 seconds to 10 minutes for a transaction to be added to the blockchain. Having to wait up to 10 minutes is too long for financial transactions where timing matters to get an asset at a particular price, and where latency exposes traders to time-based arbitrage weaknesses such as market timing attacks (Tapscott & Tapscott, p. 257).

Moreover, blockchain technology lacks the transactional capacity needed to scale up should the user base increase quickly. In particular, due to the limited size of a block (1MB), the network is restricted to processing a maximum of seven transactions per second. By comparison, other transaction processing networks such as VISA verify 2,000 transactions per seconds whilst Twitter verifies 5,000 transactions per second (Swan, 2015, p. 82).

One of the biggest challenges of blockchain technology is that the proof of work (PoW) mechanism consumes a lot of energy since the computer performing the mining operation must spend a considerable amount of computational power and electricity just to provide the proof of work. Moreover, the proof of work (PoW) mechanism is not only costly to the miner who must pay for the electricity they use but is also detrimental to the environment since the mining operation will result in an increase in carbon emissions.

For this reason, in an effort to reduce their energy costs, some bitcoin mining companies have elected to move their operations to countries such as Iceland where there is an abundance of dual source energy in the form of geothermal and hydroelectric energy. Other mining companies have chosen to move to Iceland for ethical as well as business reasons. In particular, as well as reducing their energy costs, they are conscious of their large carbon footprint and want to be seen to be doing something about it.

There are other consensus mechanisms that are currently being developed. These include proof of stake (PoS), proof of activity, proof of burn, proof of capacity and proof of storage. A proof of stake blockchain allows a person to mine a digital currency based on how many coins they currently hold in that currency. In other words, the person is unable to mine the currency unless and until they can prove their “stake” in that particular currency. Proof of activity is another mechanism; it combines proof of work and proof of stake, where a random number of miners must sign off on the block using a cryptokey before the block becomes official. Other blockchains such as Ripple and Stellar, rely on social networks for consensus such that newcomers need social intelligence and reputation to participate.

It should be noted that bitcoin mining will no longer reward new coins once 21 million coins have been mined with the last bitcoin expected to be mined sometime around 2140. In other words, once the last bitcoin has been mined there will be no financial incentive for bitcoin mining to continue to be practiced. As a result, many miners are likely to abandon Bitcoin mining altogether and may move on to mining other cryptocurrencies. However, in the short term at least, this does not solve the problem of energy inefficiency in the sense that the energy which was being used to mine bitcoins will simply be transferred to some other cryptocurrency which may or may not be as energy hungry. In other words, the problem will still exist.

However, over the last year or so, there has been some debate around block size. In particular, the only plausible way to solve this issue would be to increase the block size from 1MB to 20MB. Increasing the block size would mean that a larger number of transactions could be processed per second which would no doubt help to make the blockchain network a more appealing proposition.


How is blockchain technology being used today?

Blockchain technology is nascent and in a phase of tremendous dynamism. At this stage, there’s no evidence of any significant large scale deployment of blockchain technology by any of the major global financial institutions. However, many of the world’s top companies have some sort of internal R&D effort aimed at understanding how the Blockchain will affect their business. Some of these companies have formed consortia so that they can run a proof of concept and demonstrate the feasability of a particular use case involving blockchain technology. For example, in 2016, a consortia consisting of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) proved that Letter of Credit transactions can be executed on a blockchain. Other financial institutions that are active in this space include Deloitte and JPMorgan.

IBM is a leading voice in the world of blockchain research and development and has recently announced its intention to open a Blockchain Innovation Center in Singapore with the Center’s first project being to improve efficiency of multi-party trade finance processes and transactions.

Another leading voice in the blockchain stratosphere is R3 which is an alliance of the world’s largest insitutions, with a mission to realise the benefits of distributed ledger technology. This blockchain technology company leads a consortium of 45 financial companies in research and development of blockchain usage in the financial system. The consortia includes several Australian financial institutions namely Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac Banking Corporation.

As well as the financial industry, there are opportunities for blockchain technology in many other industries including healthcare, voting, ride sharing, cloud storage, energy management and real estate.


How might blockchains be used in the future?

Davidson, De Filippi & Potts (2016) assert that blockchain technology is a disruptive new technology that could give rise to new organisational and institutional forms of economic governance. Several researchers maintain that blockchain technology is critical to the success of the Internet of Things (IoT) where we register our devices, assign them an identity, and coordinate payment among them using bitcoin. According to Tapscott & Tapscott (2016), the Internet of Things cannot function without blockchain payment networks, where bitcoin is the universal transactional language.


What are smart contracts?

A smart contract is a piece of code that executes a complex set of instructions on the blockchain. Here are some examples of smart contracts:

  • A smart contract connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) could unlock the door of a car or a house
  • A smart contract could be deployed as a pledge system and automatically release funds from the wallets of donors who have made an online funding pledge to a nominated charity if and when the fundraising goal of the charity is reached
  • A smart contract could automatically transfer the ownership of a vehicle title from the financing company to the individual owner when all the loan payments have been made.
  • A smart contract could automatically make an inheritance gift available on either the grandchild’s eighteenth birthday or the grandparent’s date of death.

Moreover, in 2015, Visa and DocuSign developed a proof-of-concept in which they demonstrated the use of smart contracts for leasing cars without the need to fill in forms.

 

How might blockchains be used in higher education?

For the vast majority of learners today their academic transcripts are managed and controlled by various educational institutions. The learner gets a piece of paper but if anybody wants to verify that credential they have to go back to the educational institution that issued the piece of paper in the first instance. Some researchers see the potential of the blockchain as a way of reaffirming the learner’s ownership of their own record. As a result, most of the research currently being undertaken is around credentialing and open badges. The table below provides a brief overview of some of this research:

Teachur is an open-source platform for building educational objectives, assessments, lessons, courses and degrees tied to the blockchain.
Sony is exploring blockchain based applications for learning by using the technology to send academic records between two parties.
In October 2015, the Holberton School of software engineering announced plans to share academic certificates on blockchain from 2017.
As part of its Master of Science degree in Digital Currency, The University of Nicosia offers a free introductory MOOC titled DFIN-511 Introduction to Digital Currencies. Students who successfully complete the course are issued with an academic certificate the authenticity of which can be verified through the bitcoin blockchain. Moreover, the University also accepts bitcoin for payment of tuition and other fees.
OpenLearn has been trialling a private blockchain for storing educational records. In particular, students register for courses and receive badges which can be viewed in a student Learning Passport with all transactions being timestamped and cryptographically signed on the blockchain. Moreover, OpenLearn have also experimented with using the blockchain to certify the authenticity and validity of student work contained in ePortfolios
In 2015 MIT Media Lab developed a system to issue digital certificates on the bitcoin blockchain. The system makes it possible to verify who a certificate was issued to, by whom, and validate the content of the certificate itself.
BadgeChain is an open repository of posts, news, and notes from Team BadgeChain. The Team consists of experienced badge enthusiasts who are exploring the intersection of blockchain technologies, learning recognition, and digital credentialing.


Appendix A

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Appendix B

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References

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Allison, I. (2016, August 10). HSBC and Bank of America Merrill Lynch use hyperledger project for blockchain-based trade finance. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/hsbc-bank-america-merrill-lynch-use-hyperledger-project-blockchain-based-trade-finance-1575269

Belshaw, D. (2015, March 30). Peering deep into future of educational credentialing [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://dmlcentral.net/peering-deep-into-future-of-educational-credentialing/

Bheemaiah, K. (2015, January). Block chain 2.0: The renaissance of money. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/insights/2015/01/block-chain-2-0/

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Blair, B. (2016, June 24). Using blockchain to re-imagine learning. Retrieved from Medium website: https://medium.com/@KnowledgeWorks/using-blockchain-to-re-imagine-learning-fb3bf2717b09#.qxcbq7wgu

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Buterin, V. (2015, April 13). Visions, part 1: The value of blockchain technology. Retrieved from https://blog.ethereum.org/2015/04/13/visions-part-1-the-value-of-blockchain-technology/

CB Insights. (2016, July 25). Banking is only the start: 20 big industries where blockchain could be used [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/industries-disrupted-blockchain/

Cuthbertson, A. (2014, October 7). Geothermal gold: Why bitcoin mines are moving to Iceland. Retrieved from http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/geothermal-gold-why-bitcoin-mines-are-moving-iceland-1468295

Davidson, S., De Filippi, P., & Potts, J. (2016, March 8). Economics of blockchain. http://ssrn.com/abstract=2744751 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2744751

Eckert, J. (2015, October 21). Holberton school to authenticate its academic certificates with the bitcoin blockchain. Retrieved from http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/holberton-school-authenticate-its-academic-certificates-with-bitcoin-blockchain-2065768.htm

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Flynt, O. (2016). Blockchain: The ultimate guide to understanding the hidden economy. [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com

Institute for the Future. (2016, March 8). Learning is earning 2026. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcP78cLPGtE

Internet of things. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved October 2, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things

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KnowledgeWorks (2016, May 24). Why we need to consider blockchain’s future potential in the education sector. Retrieved from Medium website: https://medium.com/@KnowledgeWorks/why-we-need-to-consider-blockchains-future-potential-in-the-education-sector-1a50671b4671#

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Lemoie, K. (2016, May 12). What blockchain means for higher education. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-05-12-what-blockchain-means-for-higher-education

Levin, D. (2016, March 10). 10 things to know about the future of blockchain in education. Retrieved from http://www.edtechstrategies.com/blog/future-blockchain-education/

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Tapscott, D., & Tapscott, A. (2016, July 27). Thriving after brexit: Scotland should reboot on the blockchain. Retrieved from http://scotvote.info/scotland-should-reboot-on-the-blockchain/

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That’s all Folks! aka My Final Reflection

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Looking back at my blog posts over the course of the last three years I’m struck by the extent to which technology imbues my life and my work. A cursory look at my blog’s tag cloud is enough to give the game away. I made a point of tagging key words and phrases in my blog posts and now when I look at my blog’s tag cloud (see below) I can see the names of lots of different technologies, some of which are educational and some of which are not. These include BitTorrent Sync, Flipboard, Minecraft, Internet of Things and my new favourite, blockchain. In my defense, not all of the words and phrases in my tag cloud are centred around technology. Indeed, I am heartened to see that the phrase ‘design thinking’ is the most prominent tag in my tag cloud followed closely by ‘Personal Learning Network’, ‘PLN’ and ‘Game based learning’.

tags2

The fact that ‘design thinking’ is larger than all the other tags correlates rather nicely with how my views, knowledge and understanding have changed and developed as a direct result of this program. In particular, when I started this course I had never even heard of ‘design thinking’. Fast forward three years and design thinking is a cognitive activity that informs my work as an educational designer such that I make a concerted effort to keep an open mind and leave room for serendipity.

One of the things I talked about in one of my assessments was this idea that we’re all responsible for inadvertently creating our own filter bubble thanks to the technology we use on a daily basis. This course has exposed me to a wide range of ideas and technologies that I would probably not have encountered for quite some time if at all.

Here are some of the highlights in no particular order:

I’m also much more ‘edumacated’ than I was at the start and have added some awesome words and phrases to my vocabulary including:

The colloquia were a fabulous opportunity to engage with one another whilst sharing personal insights. I particularly enjoyed Simon Welsh’s fascinating colloquium on learning analytics. What was really interesting for me was that I was a student discussion moderator for that particular colloquium along with Jerry Leeson and Nadine Bailey.

As a moderator, it was really great to see and hear participants share their personal experiences both synchronously and asynchronously. In particular, Simon’s colloquium provoked some interesting conversations in the virtual classroom and later in the discussion forums. From my point of view, it was great to be able to work collaboratively with others, and to share my view with learners from across the world.

All in all, it has been a wonderful experience but not one I want to repeat anytime soon. Maybe in another 10 years or so. Over the course of this program I have learnt much about myself both as an individual and as an educator plus I have learnt much about technology and the way in way it interfaces with learning and teaching.

 

References

Brown, T. (2009). Change by design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com.

Clark, G. (2014). Personalization, privacy and the filter bubble. Retrieved from http://tracks.roojoom.com/r/9413.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com.

Pariser, E. (2011). The filter bubble: What the internet is hiding from you [Kindle DX version]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com.

Out, Damn’d Filter Bubble! Out, I Say!

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Made available under Creative Commons Licence

Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of research into the trade-off between digital personalisation and information privacy in preparation for my digital essay on the filter bubble. I’m really enjoying learning about the algorithms that service providers such as Google and Facebook use in order to provide the user with the most relevant information at that particular time in that particular context. EdgeRank anyone?

An interesting side effect of all of this is that I’ve become a more conservative Internet user and I’m starting to notice things that were probably always there but which didn’t seem to register previously. In particular, I’m really noticing advertisements on the Internet. These advertisements seem to be stalking me. No matter where I go online I see the same advertisements. This is something that would have barely registered a month ago.

In the past I would have used Google to search for information both at home and at work. Now I use DuckDuckGo as my search engine of choice. DuckDuckGo is my new best friend for the simple reason that I really don’t like the idea of my personal information being harvested, aggregated and then used to create a profile of me. This profile can then be used by vendors that I’ve purchased from in the past such as Amazon and Aussie Bum so that they can market to me via strategically-placed, personalised advertisements when I’m on Facebook or when I’m reading The Age. Moreover, I’m uncomfortable with the idea of some faceless service provider out there in the digital universe knowing more about my life than I do.

I’ve been a Google devotee for many years but not any more. I still use Google Drive to store my stuff in the cloud (I’m intending to start using BitTorrent Sync in the near future) but when it comes to searching for information I’ve been using DuckDuckGo almost exclusively for about two weeks now and I must admit its really not that different to using Google. Not only that but it’s a nice feeling knowing that such a small change may be the beginning of the end for the filter bubble that I’ve been living in for many years now.

3 Key Trends In Technology That Are Just Around The Corner

11123530043_1d28f2fa35_otechnology-1” by tec_estromberg is licensed under CC BY 2.0

There are so many groundbreaking technologies in the pipeline that its hard to know where to start. However, if I had to choose the three technologies that really excite me I would go for 3D Printing, Personal Cloud Services and The Web of Things.

3D printing technology has been around since the 1980s but it wasn’t until 2010 that 3D printers became widely available commercially.

3D printing or Additive Manufacturing is a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.

In the next few years 3D printing is expected to turn manufacturing on its head with corporations spending large sums of money in an effort to develop affordable 3D printers for home desktop use. If this can be achieved then consumers will be able to print products as required. In other words, consumers won’t have to purchase a product then wait as that product is transported from the other side of the world. The consumer will simply purchase a product then take immediate delivery of that product by printing it using their 3D printer. This process will dramatically reduce costs to both the consumer as well as the manufacturer since products will be printed on demand, layer by layer, with no wasted materials plus there will be virtually no transport cost.

3D printing has many possible applications and is currently being used in a range of industries including industrial design, automotive design and aerospace. There are several 3D printing projects currently underway which are worth mentioning. In particular, a 3D food printer being developed by NASA, a 3D chocolate printer being developed by Hersheys in partnership with 3D Systems as well as the ethics of 3D printing of human tissue and organs.

As educators we’re all familiar with public cloud services such as Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive where your data is stored on a server (or ‘in the cloud’) rather than on your computer’s hard drive. Recently however, there’s been a lot of talk about personal (or private) cloud services where users can connect machines without the help of a central server. In other words, a user can sync data between devices without storing data on any server. This development has been driven by the fact that users are becoming more concerned about privacy and the security of their data. There are a number of players in this field including Polkast, BitTorrent Sync and ownCloud.

I’ve been using public cloud services for many years now. Dropbox launched in 2007 and Evernote in 2008. I started using both of them pretty much right from the start and was a big user of both for several years. However, Google introduced us to Google Drive in 2012 and I’ve been using it ever since both at work and at home. I still use Dropbox and Evernote but not to the same extent. Personal cloud services haven’t been around for long but I did give Polkast a try about 18 months ago. I liked it but in the end I decided to not include it in my technological repertoire because it was a bit too complicated.

We’ve been hearing about the Internet of Things for a while now. This is the idea that in the future sensors will be embedded into physical objects such that these ‘smart’ objects will form an interconnected network of devices (or information network) that will communicate with each other via Internet protocols.

In ‘10 of the Biggest Trends in Technology For 2014’ (Banks 2014) the author predicts that one of those trends will be The Web of Things where…

Just about everything we interact with becomes a computable entity, allowing our smartphones to seamlessly connect with our homes, cars, and even objects on the street.

These smart objects including fridges, air conditioners and shoes will be able to do things we can’t even begin to imagine. As an example, one day in the future this technology may allow us to turn on our coffee maker in the kitchen by slapping our alarm clocks in the bedroom.

 

References

D’Aveni, R. A. (March 2013). 3-D Printing Will Change the World. In Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2013/03/3-d-printing-will-change-the-world/ar/1

Banks, D.M. (January 10, 2014). 10 of the Biggest Trends in Technology For 2014. In The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/damon-m-banks/10-of-the-biggest-trends-_b_4725708.html

Chui, M., Löffler, M. & Roberts, R. The Internet of Things. (March 2010). In McKinsey & Company. Retrieved from http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_internet_of_things

Proffitt, B. The Internet Of Things in 2014: Steady As It Goes. (27 December, 2013). In ReadWrite. Retrieved from http://readwrite.com/2013/12/27/2014-will-see-small-moves-towards-internet-of-things#feed=/tag/internet-of-things&awesm=~ozRPXJKZxZGbTT

Sharma, R. (15 January, 2014). The Future Of 3D Printing And Manufacturing. In Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/rakeshsharma/2014/01/15/1255/

3D printing. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing

7 Huge Tech Trends to Expect in 2014. (31 December, 2013). In Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2013/12/31/tech-predictions-2014/

Cloud storage (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_storage

Internet of Things. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things

The Next Big Thing You Missed: A Would-Be Dropbox Meant to Thwart the NSA. (11 February, 2014). In Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/business/2014/02/bittorrent-sync/

Top technology trends for 2014. (n.d.). In IEEE Computer Society. Retrieved from http://www.computer.org/portal/web/membership/Top-10-Tech-Trends-in-2014

Web of Things. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved March 30, 2014, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_of_Things

What Is a Personal Cloud? (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2014, from http://www.seagate.com/do-more/what-is-personal-cloud-master-dm/

What’s With This Flipboard Thing?

What’s With This Flipboard Thing?
Some of you may remember me banging on about Flipboard during our recent Google hangout. Well, in September of last year I emailed the CEO of the organisation I work for to let her know about Flipboard and how it could be used in an educational setting. Anyhow, whilst she was certainly interested, for one reason or another nothing came of it.

A couple of weeks ago the CEO was in Melbourne and she came over and said hello to me. It was at this point that I reminded her of our email conversation last year. She told me to send her some information. Last Friday I did exactly that. I sent her a thoughtful email detailing why I think Flipboard is the best thing since sliced bread and why we should use it.

I thought I’d share this with you because I firmly believe that its up to us as educators to do all that we can to create an engaging, creative learning environment and Flipboard is just one of an arsenal of tools we can use to achieve that goal. Here’s a transcript of my email:

Hi X

Thanks for taking the time to come and say hello to me when you were in Melbourne last Friday. As you know, I’m now a member of the Think Futures team plus I’ve started doing a Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) at Charles Sturt University.

In terms of Think: Education Group continuing to innovate, perhaps our edge as an organisation could be to use Flipboard to actively and creatively promote who we are and what we do differently ie. our Purple Cow as Seth Godin would put it.

With Flipboard we could share content with just about anyone anywhere via an official Think Group Google docs account in which specific documents are being shared publicly (eg. PDF, Google Doc and image files) along with content that lives on the Internet (eg. YouTube videos, SlideShare/Prezi presentations, etc).

You can run Flipboard on most devices including an iPad, an iPad mini, an iPhone, an Apple Mac, a desktop computer, an Android phone and an Android tablet.

Here’s a quick rundown of Flipboard and how we could use it:

  • create a public magazine to showcase the Group as a whole
  • create a public magazine to showcase a campus or a course
  • create a public magazine to showcase our Careers and Alumni
  • create a public magazine to showcase the Student Representative Council (SRC)
  • create a public magazine to showcase graduation photos from a campus
  • lecturers and students could create and curate an endless number of magazines (both public and private) for specific subjects and modalities

Our website says that we are ‘The Leader in Innovative Education’. I say let’s prove it.

Click the Flipboard link below to take a look at some examples of educational institutions that currently have a presence on Flipboard.

Flipboard

Regards, Graham.

By the way, it was quite late in the day before I finally clicked the “Send” button but I was pleasantly surprised to get a response within hours. I’ll keep you posted…

I Can Remember

try this one 2

I can remember discovering social media in 2003 when I was introduced to Delicious (formerly del.icio.us) a social bookmarking service that had launched that year. I was entranced by del.icio.us because using it enabled me to save my bookmarks into an account rather than a browser. In the past, my bookmarks had been scattered across my various devices including my home computer, my work computer and my laptop.

With the advent of del.icio.us suddenly I could take my bookmarks with me wherever I went as long as I had an internet connection. del.icio.us made it possible for me to quickly and easily look for people and tags. Because of del.icio.us I became a social media addict almost overnight. I would spend hours looking through del.icio.us as well as adding stuff to my del.icio.us account. del.icio.us was the first in a long line of web services that I have experimented with over the years including Dropbox, iGoogle and Twitter.

I can remember discovering Mashable not long after it launched in 2005. I fell in love with Mashable because it provided me with social media news and lots of it. Not long after that I discovered Tony Karrer and his eLearning Technology blog followed by Jane Hart and her Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (or C4LPT). I am particularly fond of Jane’s C4LPT website as each year she brings out her “Top 100 Tools for Learning” which is a great way for me to look at what’s up and coming in terms of learning technologies.

I can remember getting into QR codes in 2007 and putting in a grant application with the Telematics Trust in 2008 and the National VET E-learning Strategy (formerly the Australian Flexible Learning Framework) in 2009. I’m happy to report that both applications were successful and enabled me to do research into QR codes and their potential use in an educational setting. It was exciting because I was doing something that had never been done before.

Like many educators I have a fairly extensive Personal Learning Network (or PLN) plus I’m a kinesthetic learner with an enquiring mind. If I hear about a new web service or product that sounds interesting I normally do two things: I do a quick Google search to see if anyone’s reviewed this new service or product and I reach out to the people in my network to see if they can provide me with some insights about this new web service or product.

If I read a bunch of reviews and they’re all good then I’ll try the service myself. If I enjoy using the service and it meets a need then there’s a good chance I’ll start using it on a regular basis. Otherwise, I don’t bother. I also follow various thought leaders on Twitter and elsewhere since they are often discussing subjects that interest me.

As you can see from the tag cloud at the top of this post, my learning has been influenced by (e)books, people and technology. Brown and Duguid (2000) asserted that a person’s access to technology doesn’t necessarily mean that learning will occur. Learning is much more likely to occur when the technology is combined with some kind of social context.

For myself, I’m hoping that this subject in combination with the technology being used here plus the forums and blogs will see learning occur. In particular, I’m hoping that this subject will provide me with a better understanding of the theory behind concepts such as digital literacy and connected learning so that I can become a better digital citizen.

References

Brown, J. S. & Duguid, P. (2000) The Social Life of Information (1st ed.). Harvard Business Review Press.

OK, So Why Did I Decide to Do a Masters?

I decided to do a Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) at CSU for the simple reason that I enjoy learning (lifelong learning anyone?) and the course looked interesting. I remember I was searching for something on the internet in November of last year (I don’t even remember what it was) when I came across the Master of Education course overview page.

Anyhow, I had a bit of a read and decided there and then that it might be worth considering doing a Masters at CSU since some of the subjects on offer were of particular interest to me including INF536 Designing Spaces for Learning, INF443 Digital Preservation and INF541 Game Based Learning.

In fact, I had looked at the possibility of doing a Masters about 2 years ago but had decided to give it a miss due to the cost. However, after getting in contact with CSU I decided that I just might be able to afford to do a Masters afterall.

Anyhow, here we are and I’m about to embark on an exciting new (learning) adventure. Over the course of the next couple of years I hope to learn more about myself and what drives me. I also hope to get to know a bunch of new people and maybe make some new friends. But most of all I hope to make a positive contribution to an ongoing conversation about the future of learning.