Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Interview with Alex Hayes from EDUPOV

On  September 15, 2010, the combination TESOL pp107 Multiliteracies course, TESOL Arabia EdTech SIG professional development series, and the regular Webheads meeting each Sunday noon GMT conducted an interview with Alex Hayes.  Alex is the CEO of EDUPOV (, a company that sells wearable technology for education.  Because it's wearable, it presents itself from the wearer's point of view, or POV. 

Alex left us his PhD proposal to read in preparation for his talk:

In reading this over, if I were a Wordle, the word I would make most prominent in Alex's proposal is CONNECTIVISM. On p.8/16 of his proposal Alex mentions the role of connectivism in networked learning to be one where participants build "a living literacy that embodies electronic connections amongst all other human considerations," which seems quite relevant to the topic of the Multiliteracies course. He says also that his proposed research "posits a Connectivist theoretical framework as most suited to examining  the risks inherent with adding more veillance to flexible education settings." Wearable POV technology is as rich with affordances (for vocational training, for example) as it is fraught with potential for invasion of privacy, especially when the technology is geo-locatable, contains photographs of others, etc.  These latter issues conjure a world of veillances: sousveillance, uberveillance, and of course surveillance, which we already (think we) know about (

This word 'connectivism' stood out for me because although Alex and I have never met in person, we have interacted on numerous occasions.  Alex and some friends of his held a relaxed chat for example as a keynote address at the 2009 WiAOC convergence, which I moderated (; I haven't located recording yet). Apart from that I have occasionally crossed paths online with Alex sometimes socially but always in connection with some learning event.  This is not surprising because connectivism is how we both learn best (Siemens, 2005:

Quite a lot of what I know about Alex I acquired not live but asynchronously, through podcasts (, for example).  He is an organizer of conferences in Australia (e.g. Because Australia is a big country with huge distances separating learners from places they would previously have had to go in order to learn, their educational system tends to be strong on distance learning innovation, and the conferences Alex organizes feature speakers discussing how POV technologies help trainers overcome some problems inherent in those distances. Having had this wider context in which to understand Alex's work, I realize that participants in the multiliteracies course I'm teaching might, without this perspective, be wondering what connection his work has with them. 

Thus the frameworks underpinning Alex's work are not so apparent when Alex discusses the products of his work; however, I hope that we are modeling here with one another new insights into connected learning. One good example of connected learning was reported just the other day when a teacher in Brazil had her students blog and then requested comments on their posts through the Webheads list. This message reveals the serendipitous outcome of that:

Another practical intersection of Alex's work and pedagogy is where Alex mentions in his proposal the New Media Consortium's Horizon Report.  The NMC's annual reports of what's new on the near and distant horizon in educational technology make interesting assessments of trends for the near and far future: For example, this trend: "People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to. Life in an increasingly busy world where learners must balance demands from home, work, school, and family poses a host of logistical challenges with which today’s ever more mobile students must cope," helps explain the prediction that "On the near-term horizon — that is, within the next 12 months — are mobile computing and open content."

So I invited Alex to talk with us because I too feel that mobile technologies are crucial to the near future, if not the present, of connected learning, which is in essence the field that Alex is working in. I think mobile technology is moving faster than teachers are at this point; for example in Argentina, almost all bars and restaurants have wifi which customers frequently access through their mobiles, which they all seem to have; yet classrooms there block mobiles and seem resistant to technology of any stripe. Where I am in the UAE we are at the stage where all students have mobiles, often more than one, and bring them to class, and use them to get on the Internet, yet teachers here in the UAE are not really exploiting even computer-based internet that much in teaching (I mean, falling short of its true potential; mobile tech hardly at all: Stevens, 2010, I noticed when traveling this summer that more and more travelers are carrying smart phone and using them in conjunction with Facebook for what they used to do in Internet cafes.

This question of how what Alex talked about is relevant to teachers touches on the issue of cohesion, which has been raised in the multiliteracies course I'm teaching. There is some suggestion that cohesion could best be achieved if we worked from one learning platform (Desire to Learn, for example) rather than spreading ourselves thin on the Internet (wikis, blogs, Ning, YahooGroup and Grouply).

Cohesion should not be confused with simplicity. Simple things are easy to understand.  For example if I show you black and white and frame these with respect to a color scheme, this is cohesive, and easy to understand.  But if I explain that color is only one aspect of human subjectivity, and that the importance of color might depend to some extent on whether you are right or left brained, and whether your eyes can detect colors in the first place, whether you have a prior schema based on racial prejudices or the color of hats in early cowboy movies, then you might feel that this topic is not so simplistic, though we might be able still to supply cohesion to our discussion.

We would have to provide a platform for our discussion.  If I chose just one then this might simplify our task of discussing the topic, but when the topic itself is multiliteracies and connectivism and how cohesion is achieved when people try to learn and disseminate knowledge on the Internet, then not modeling how that works through some sort of emulation of real life in choice of learning management system could in the long run be detrimental, like presenting simplified native-language based language learning materials as opposed to exposing students to authentically communicative situations.  Of course if the students know nothing of the language then some simplification is in order, but if the topic is multiliteracies and connectivism and new ways of learning and knowing via networked learning environments, rank beginners are becoming fewer and farther between.  Some degree of immersion is appropriate.

One way to draw a distinction between beginner and experienced learners of a topic is to ask whether they are ready to learn on their own.  If they need guidance at the start of their learning path, then the teacher can consider simplifying both the material to be learned and the platform for delivery. But if the learners are capable of driving their own learning, then a real-world simulation might be the best platform for them.

This what I was hoping to discuss with Alex, some of the connections between his work and new literacies, and how we achieve connected knowledge by mobilizing that!

MobilizeThis! and StreamFolio are two initiatives of Alex's I also hoped to get him to talk more about.
Also, Alex and I had both reviewed the slide show here
which I intended to ask about with respect to a podcast Alex left online recently at the Australian eLearning09 conference:

This would have been a discussion of interface vis a vis what people actually do when using social networks online. The issue of privacy would have come up (veillance and uberveillance, and Adams's thoughts on distinguishing your networks by strength of ties, and preventing items meant for one set of ties, close friends for example, from getting out into another, a professional network for example). You can judge how closely we came to these goals when you listen to the recording of the interview in Elluminate at:

Tiny URL for this post:

One further comment, and thanks for this one, not sure I deserve it but I am humbled


pmur70 said...

Hi Vance,

I think George Siemens' post on the role of the teacher in the socially networked learning environment is apropos here.

Sarah Sahr said...

I enjoyed reading this summary very much. Especially the stuff about students who bring mobile devices to class, but the class never explores technology. Recently, I revisited my Peace Corps village in Ethiopia, very small, very removed. It had been 10 years. All my friends now had mobile phones (10 years ago, the only phone in the village was a crank phone and it usually didn't work. You had to travel 30k to get to the nearest phone and it was always under lock and key.) Anyway, what I thought was the greatest thing, my best friend had traveled a day and a half (probably spent a week's salary to do so), to a "wired" city, to sign on with a gmail account... he knows that someday, the internet will reach his village. And he just wants to be ready.

My point, even in the smallest places the information of connectivity is getting out there. I really don't know how he learned about the internet, but he did. And he's making sure to be prepared. Oh, maybe you'd like to know, he's a vice principle at a high school in Sidamo, Ethiopia.

Vance Stevens said...

Thanks for your comments, and I particularly appreciate the tweet in the graphic at the end of the post. Patrick's link to Siemens will be used when I revise the post previous to this one, and Sarah's allows us to further model and illustrate how the web in the wild, as opposed to in a tamed encapsulation such as D2L, can serve to support a conversation such as this one, what in D2L would be a threaded discussion (the problem HERE is that you have to somehow lasso and corral the discussions whose threads are in a tangle all over the Internet, but another thing this course explores is how to address just that; by tagging this one evomlit10 in Delicious for example).

When reading Sarah's comment I'm put in mind of a really good TED Talk that came my way via my PLN this weekend, Chris Anderson's (not the long tail Chris, the TED Talk Chris) How web video powers global innovation

I've watched this a couple of times and I believe it encapsulates pretty much what we are trying to get across in this course on multiliteracies, that if you can understand the references to crowd sourcing and connectivity and the power of people coming together online as opposed to the means available to them in the past, then you are on a path to making the paradigm shifts that such an understanding requires.

It's not about mobile technology per se, though some of the video that is the topic of this talk would be shot and transmitted from mobile phones (for that matter, part of what Alex discussed was StreamFolio, his attempt at video-anywhere, so you see how the relevance of what he is doing transcends to mobile technology and now percolates into video, as Anderson frames it). Some of the examples Anderson gives are from Pakistan and Kenya, and this is why I think Sarah would be particularly interested in this video to add her example from Ethiopia, and why we might make this video the basis for further discussion in this course.

The only question in a course of this nature is, where do we HAVE this discussion? :-)

Roxana said...

Taking into account that Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age, it is crucial for us to be updated and study the current use of technology, the decision making processes entailed and the effects on education on a personal and an institutional level. I guess we have to make wise use of technology to manage resources. In Uruguay, for example, students love to use mobile phones in class and they text all the time. Well, if you can´t fight them, we´d better join them and make the most of it.