Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ubiquitous Interfaces, Ubiquitous Functionality at Toolness

Ubiquitous Interfaces, Ubiquitous Functionality at Toolness

Ubiquity is a new plug-in for Firefox that integrates multiple tools as key commands right in your browser. When you are at a restaurant web page, for instance, you can bring up a map from Google, a review from Tripadvisor, and translate the page from the Spanish all by typing into your web-browser. When you are using the plug-in, you do not even see those other services, they all just get bundled into your browser in a way that you can send to other people.



This particular plug-in is not the future of web-browsers but it will be something very close to this. Most of the faculty I work with balk at all of the log-ins they must manage and this is not only a way to overcome that, but is a new way of using information on the internet.

Sidenote on Logophobia: So I do not believe that Web 2.0 is the future. I believe that seamless, user-generated mash-ups are. I need to teach Web 2.0 tools to help students and faculty learn to create content on their own and not wait for information and services to be delivered. In other words, someone who is taught how to use the net critically and knows how to use Web 2.0 tools will be ready for what's next. I am going to use the word "Web 2.0" because people know what I mean when I say that. They may not know what I mean when I say "social media tools" (media? really?), or "Meta-cognitive connectivist hyper-collaboratogy." The phrase "Web 2.0" is not a particularly elegant phrase: it does not concisely define anything, but we are talking about a broad collection of tools. When someone talks about Web 2.0, I know they are not talking about the old Yahoo!, web pages made with Netscape Communicator, or Compuserve. We can call the next stage Web 3.0 or what ever word falls into common usage. I have an education book from the 60s called "The Rasberry Experience." The name was an attempt to break out of the semantic games of educational research. They failed.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Translation Technologies in Second Life

I was really thrilled to find the "Simbolic Translator" in Second Life ( Simbolic Translator: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Cupo/102/120/36). About ten years ago, I worked with Lou Spaventa at Santa Barbara City College to help him use a MUD (text based virtual worlds) to participate in the United Nation's World Youth Day. We had people who were learning English from around the world all meeting in various "rooms." The rooms were listed by country and it was really eye-opening because we thought that all of the French people would be in the "France" room, etc. But it was much more dynamic and evolved that than. There were a lot of Egyptians and Israelis talking for instance, it became very political but all very positive. In a single day, a lot of friendships were made and email penpals made. It was a fascinating process. Lou Spaventa is an extremely dynamic and intelligent person. The technology, though, was a lot for him - probably most of us. It was very sophisticated for its time and Lou found it all very stressful. I see this all the time. The technology changes but our relationship to technology doesn't seem to change. It can be very stressful - it is new, complicated, resource-heavy, and you have to trust that a lot of people really know what they are doing to really make it work. And failure has to be an option. People today would probably laugh at that technology: terminal programs all logging in to a single server.

Anyway, in Second Life there is this program that will translate any text in and out of about 22 languages. It handles Asian, Slavic, Greek, Arabic and pretty much all of the romance languages. I have used it to communicate with Asian and French people and have invited some to participate in some of our projects at Evergreen Island. I think it is time to revisit an idea like "World Youth Day" but change it to something like "World Student Day" to include the wide-variety of ages that are represented in education. I wound up giving the creator of Simbolic Translator a thousand lindens which is about $5 American in Second Life. The creator, Tragix Wilder, made a big deal about my donation but I have paid for things in SL that did a tenth as much and work like his really deserves recognition.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Study: Fastest Growing US Companies Rapidly Adopting Social Media - ReadWriteWeb

Study: Fastest Growing US Companies Rapidly Adopting Social Media - ReadWriteWeb: "A one year follow up on a study of social media adoption at 500 of the fastest growing companies in the US has found that familiarity with and use of blogs, podcasting, wikis, online video and social networking has skyrocketed in 2008 to nearly double what it was in 2007. 77% of respondents now report at least some use of a social media tool in their business."

I did not find the results of this study surprising at all. I was talking to some people at Harcourt once about a new hire. They had two nearly identical candidates both with internships and a freshly minted degree. They went for the candidate who was comfortable with blogs. Creating a student success like our HIM 101 course at Tacoma Community College is not just an eccentric choice of technologies; using social media tools for teaching and learning prepares the students for the actual workplace. In all my years in the private sector as an employee or consultant, no one has ever asked me to take a multiple choice test or write a ten page paper. There are things that need to be written, but they are almost always written collaboratively. We do a great disservice by not including those skills in our teaching and assessment.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Rick’s Cafe Canadien: Siemens interview on connectivism

Rick’s Cafe Canadien: "Siemens interview on connectivism"

Just watched this interview with George Siemens on connectivism. George's ideas are of great interest to me and definitely shape what is happening in my own teaching. The idea of creating knowledge networks for students is brilliant. His book "Knowing Knowledge" should be required reading for teachers and instructional designers. I am, however, uncomfortable about people getting too attached to metaphors. The interviewer was very effusive about George's theory mirroring "the 'actual' operation of the brain." I don't think we are that close to really knowing the "actual" operation of the brain. The research does not prove that knowledge exists in networks or nodes. Knowledge and memory are non-localized phenomena in the brain. There are nodes and networks in the brain, but to then make the leap to "we know how knowledge works" is too much of a stretch. It is a logical fallacy to say that because the brain functions in a particular way physically that we therefore learn in a like manner. There are still textbooks on the shelf that show electrons orbiting a nucleus like little planets. The current metaphor says that the electrons exist in a probablity cloud. That is a lot harder to print up in a textbook. George does say that the science of cognition is a rapidly changing field. For connectivism to be a useful theory of education, it has to answer more questions; questions that are currently answered by constructivism. I am not saying it can't answer those questions, but it will have to. Collaborative learning and mind maps all have their place in constructivism. In fact, I found an interesting constructivist mind map. Connectivism runs the risk of being a return to cognitivism where we become more concerned with an information processing model of the brain that does not adequetely address the complex social and psychological relationships involved in teaching and learning.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Something about these old books from the 60s makes me sneeze. They really don't make paper like they used to. Some salient quotes from R. Buckminster Fuller's Education Automation (1962):

"I would say, then, that you are faced with a future in which education is going to be a number one amongst the great world industries, within which will flourish an educational machine technology that will provide tools such as the individually selected and articulated two-way TV and an intercontinentally net-worked, documentaries call-up system, operative over any home two-way TV set."

This sounds like YouTube. I am sure though he was not thinking it also hosting re-runs of "Hogan's Heroes." There are some great pieces of film that are winding up on YouTube that you just can't find anywhere else (like "Why Man Creates").

"We would also find that generally speaking the geographically larger the physical task to be dome, the duller the conceptual brain that is brought to bear upon the integration of the scientific discoveries and their technically reaqlized applications."

The above is an early argument for open source. There is no way that one person, one company or even a handful of governments is going to bring education to those that need it most. The message that fuller has is that we need to give people access to the information and the networks (two-way TV set). Today's education is still a system of one-way delivery. The interaction that is inherent in the network is everything.

"I would counsel you in your deliberation regarding getting campuses ready now to get general comprehensive environmental controls that are suitable to all-purposes like a circus. A circus is a transformable environment."

This is why I like what Howard Rhiengold is doing with his "Co-Lab." It is an extremely flexible collection of tools. It can be added on to a commercial learning management system (the "duller conceptual brain" that Fuller was writing about) or be used as a stand-alone LMS itself. I like being able to chose what tools I use rather than having them chosen for me out of the box.

"You don't need a detailed drawing; we do not make that kind of communication to craftsman anymore; but all of the schools go on teaching that we do. The data no longer goes to the craftsman; it goes to the tools...What we want is the man who gets the fundamental concept, the information significance, and can do some comprehensive thinking regarding that information. He will put the data into the information machines, and it will be processed by automation into physical realization of his effective thinking. We don't need many of the myriad of 'things' we have had in schools."

A side note about Connectivism: So whenever I am faced with a new theory of learning, the first question I ask is "So what?" How does this theory describe what we do? How can this theory tell me about how people learn, and therefore, how I should teach? I want any new theory to be like an information machine; I can give it my data and get out of it a realization of effective thinking. Knowing that some information is more significant than other information is currently one of the top critical skills. I know how constructivism approaches this problem: we apply information to our experiences and the experiences of others and we create new knowlege. The goal of education is to create places in space and time where this can happen. Teaching is to facilitate this interaction. This fits my experience in the classroom and online. My questions about constructivism (and they are questions because they are unanswered - there is nothing rhetorical about this) ask if the creation of a network isn't just the future of constructivism? Is it focusing on the network rather than the people and experiences? The connection rather than the connected?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Edupunk is Dead: Long Live Ednuwave

Who are you trying to kid? The era is over. Edupunk is fine but the insurance liability of the moshpit (workshop) got pretty stiff. And it got repetitious, the same old vomit into your keyboard and swing at the dean. And after the violence of the SoHo edupunk riots in the late 70s, I began to feel, as wikipedia puts it a certain sense of the experimental, a lyricism that I wasn't finding in my Sex Pistols approach to education technology. Those boots were killing my feet. I want the edgy creativity of the Talking Heads, the soulfulness and hair of Flock of Seagulls, and the emotional intelligence of the B-52s. The EdNuWave is hair! I mean HERE! If you are interested, on e-Bay, I am offering the early Ednuwave proto-techno hit "Do the Rubric" by Dapf Zingbat and the Pedagogues (from before they broke off on their own and became the Boomtown Pedagogues). The other side of the 7"features the ballad "Norming Session." The New Pedagogues are performing at the Emerald Queen in Sept with only one original member, Nick Stiffy.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Favorite Recipes of HIM 101

We had a file sharing exercise in the Health Information Management class I am co-teaching and the files we shared were favorite recipes. Here are the results:

Read this document on Scribd: Favorite Recipes of HIM101 Summer '08

Armchair astronomer discovers unique 'cosmic ghost' - CNN.com

Armchair astronomer discovers unique 'cosmic ghost' - CNN.com: "During the last year, more than 150,000 armchair astronomers from all over the world volunteered their time, submitting more than 50 million classifications."

This is the story about one amateur astronomer who made a discovery. The discovery is important enough to warrant the attention of the Hubble Space Telescope and professional astronomers. But the real story is how the discovery was made. A couple of scientists were trying to classify one million images of from telescopes. They asked for help from the amateur astronomy community.

"The public's collective wisdom -- the same principle that guides jury trials, or Wikipedia -- proved remarkably astute, Schawinski said. For example, if 33 of 36 volunteers thought a galaxy appeared elliptical, then astronomers could be confident the classification was correct, he said."

This is similar to the same process that goes on with bird counts. Professionals rely on data collected from many amateurs to determine migration patterns, habitat health, and bird population levels.

The article goes on to describe the discovery but as I said, the real discovery is that scientists are learning to rely more on the collective intelligence of people.

Monday, August 04, 2008

When a Syllabus Is Not Your Own - Chronicle.com

When a Syllabus Is Not Your Own - Chronicle.com

Okay, when I started teaching English, I would not have made it at all without the spirit of collegiality (the old school tie, insert secret handshake here). I had to teach a course I had never taught before and I asked an instructor for help and she gave me her syllabus. I said "you are just giving me this?" and she said "syllabi don't teach, teachers teach." In other words, the syllabus is merely a skeleton and the oh so delicate flesh makes all the difference. I freely hand out my syllabus online. I do ask that if you take a syllabus, workbook, or assignment that you send me a copy of your adaptations but if you don't - it is on you. I once wrote a manual that I copy-lefted to the world. It was a handbook on writing with computers for English students. I did not have time to update it every semester. By making it freely available, I had people update it for me, use it in their courses, give me the updates and suggestions for new assignments. The sage-on-the-stage attitude of the author of "When a Syllabus is Not Your Own" is elitist and demonstrates an ignorance of copyright law and is incredibly naive about how information moves in the modern world. Nobody's, and I mean nobody's, syllabus is all that.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Hyperpolitics, American Style (Live Version)

Hyperpolitics, American Style (Live Version)

Okay, the information in this video is astounding because it shows that the modern education system is headed for a significant failure if it does not account for the creation of networks as a part of education. We have to go from being a top-down hierarchical delivery system to a distributed network of learning. Humans sent 43 billion text messages to one another -- why aren't more educators tapping into this?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Slideboom Presentation on iTunes

This is a brief presentation on iTunes that I did for my class using Slideboom. It does not auto-advance, you have to click through it.: