Friday, December 28, 2007

Creating better mp3 files....it is music to your ears

A small article in Wired magazine (November 2007) caught my eye. It was about ripping better mp3 files. Ever since the creation of Napster and portable music devices....the mp3 file format has become the choice for many around the world. The good thing is that mp3 compression allows for smaller music files - but the problem with this is that we have become used to listening to (as the music purists would put it) - "crap." We have sacrificed sound quality for small file sizes.

The Wired article states "the audio geeks behind LAME (the decoder) continually fine-tune their compression algorithms so cymbals don't crunch like garbage-can lids, and screaming guitars don't sound like squeaking Fisher-Prince toys."
(Image Reference)

The article suggests 2 mp3 applications to try (they are free of course):

  1. Mac users: iLas
  2. PC users: Exact Audio Copy
If you are using Audacity (a free audio recording and editing application that most schools now use....for Mac, PC & Linux.) Be sure to download and install the lame.dll file. This will enable you to export your audio files as .mp3 files with a great compression. This is important if you are using Audacity to record Language or English assessments.

One of many possible links (if Googled) you can download the lame.dll file (download)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A website that helps you create everything from badges to a motivational poster

There are thousands of free websites available on the Internet that will do free easy tasks for you - no matter where you might be located. Any computer.....any where. All you need is an Internet connection and access (in the case of this website) to some of your personal images.

BigHuge Labs
lives up to the name by having a huge amount of free web based applications to have a play with. You can use images from your computer, Flickr, Photobucket or URL (from a website).

I will attempt to list some of them:

  • Create your own motivational poster (great for the classroom)
  • Create a custom name badge
  • Develop your own personalized letter to Santa (good for next year)
  • Create a magazine cover
  • Make a mosaic from your fav set of photos
  • Create monthly calendars with your own photos
  • Design your own trading cards
  • Add comic book style captions to your photos
  • Warholizer: "Andy Warhol" an image
  • Choose from a variety of frames to put around an image
  • Turn any photo into a desktop or cell phone wallpaper
  • Cube: create a cube you can print out with 6 of your fav photos
  • etc.....
You get the picture (pardon the pun), there is unlimited things you can be creative with.

What a great site to have some fun with all those great photos you have taken over the holidays!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Technology has given biologists the opportunity to discover new life.

E.O. Wilson (a professor and honorary curator in entomology at Harvard University) presented at TED in March 2007 which is quite an inspiring and fascinating talk for any age group. A video that should definitely be shown in every biology class. He encourages everyone to get to know more about the insects and small creatures, to learn more about our biosphere.

There are over 500 bacteria (now known) that are friendly living in your throat and mouth alone. Biodiversity is a yardstick with which to measure the health of planet Earth. Much of early biology consisted of identifying and classifying creatures. As the world famous Ecologist E.O Wilson says, “Everything is connected”. It is these interactions and the totality of life, which give rise to the term biodiversity. Biological diversity can be defined as the variety of living creatures, including their ecological roles and their genetic diversity. Biodiversity is in short the “creation” in its mind-boggling entirety.

HIPPO is an acronym that Wilson uses to describe the threats to biosphere:

  • H - habitat destruction
  • I - introduced species (introduced invaders by humans often kill out native species)
  • P - pollution
  • P - population (Wherever humans step - they gobble up resources)
  • O - overconsumption (North Americans - 5 % of the world population but consumes 25% of world resources)
E.O. Wilson wishes that all can work together to help create the key tools needed to inspire preservation of earth's biodiversity - it is called the Encyclopedia of Life. A website that has a page for each species on earth that makes this information available for everyone on the earth. Could scientists and the everyday person can come together (almost in a wiki format) to develop the Encyclopedia?

School Chat....
How can your school or class be involved in your corner of the world? Contact the folks at Encyclopedia of Life to see how your program can contribute.....the smallest of discoveries can be found by the youngest scientists!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Christmas to All

Holiday wishes from a Kiwi Christmas. I hope everyone has a healthy and happy holiday.

Kia Ora

Friday, December 21, 2007

Will Nano Technology extend the lives of our beloved technology?

Over dinner tonight the discussion turned to batteries. Yes, I know what you are thinking....not the most exciting dinner conversation, but it actually got into quite a conversation.

We were actually talking about Pleo (see yesterday's posting) and I was telling everyone that it has about a 1 hour battery life and starts to get sleepy when the battery starts to run down.

Two of us at the dinner table love gadgets....I mean we absolutely love new techi gadgets and that , unfortunately, involves charging and batteries. Whenever I pack I have cables and battery chargers and extra external chargers to charge all my gear in case batteries die. Now I have found some clever little travel tools that will reduce the amount of cables you need to carry as you can just "switch the plug ends." I was given as a gift an Electronics USB Cell phone/PDA/iPOD/Charger Kit by Tumi and it is great! It really reduces the amount of cables you have to carry and when traveling overseas you only need the one adapter as it switches to all international power plugs.

I also never leave home without my Tunejuice by Griffin Technology. It is a great little battery extender for any of the iPods (except the little shuffle). Just pop in 4 AAA batteries and if your iPod starts to die you just plug it into the bottom of the iPod. Griffin Technology reports that "TuneJuice will provide up to 14 hours of additional audio play, or 2 more hours of video viewing." I can't verify the length of time as my Tunejuice has not run down yet while in use. I think the longest I have used it is 5 continuous hours and it was still going strong.

So my point is, as much as we love our technology and gadgets we do have a charging/battery issue. I just read an article from ScienceDaily that reports this problem may be solved very shortly. A report that researchers from Stanford University have "found a way to use silicon nanowires to reinvent the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power laptops, iPods, video cameras, cell phones, and countless other devices." (read further)

Research into this technology has been going on for sometime, but it seems the team at Stanford has cut through and solved any of the previous problems. These new batteries "produces 10 times the amount of electricity of existing lithium-ion, known as Li-ion, batteries. A laptop that now runs on battery for two hours could operate for 20 hours."

Exciting stuff! No reports yet when consumers might see this available on the market, but you can bet it might be around the corner.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Animatronic Dinosaur named Pleo, learns to engage and interact with its owners.

What is the latest fad this Christmas? A Pleo!

Pleo is the latest creation of UGOBE, a privately-held company from California that specializes in the development of robotics that "transforms inanimate objects into lifelike creatures."

What is Pleo?
Pleo, a one-week-old robotic dinosaur that interacts with its owner by moving organically, expressing emotion and autonomously exploring and responding to the world around him. Software shipped with Pleo allows for subtle shaping of personality and temperament. Future free software updates will allow Pleo to develop a unique personality based largely upon how he's raised. Plus, owners can go to Pleoworld.com to connect with other owners, find training tips and download new enhancements to Pleo. Pleo has a sophisticated sensory system has devices that enable it to hear, to see, to sense touch, and to detect objects.

The battery charge apparently lasts for about 1 hour and then Pleo starts to get sleepy. It even makes little cooing noises.

Check out one of the many videos (below) about Pleo on YouTube
.


What are the "guts" of this new interactive robotic marvel?

Significant Processing Power:
  • 32-bit microprocessors: central and image processing
  • 8-bit sub-processors: motor control
Highly Articulated Movement:
  • 14 motors
  • Over 100 custom-designed gears
Complex Sensory Network:
  • Camera-based vision system: light detection and navigation
  • Microphones: binaural hearing
  • Skin sensors: head, chin, shoulders, back, feet
  • Foot switches: surface detection
  • Force-feedback sensors: one per joint
  • Orientation tilt sensor: body position
  • Infrared mouth sensor: object detection
Multiple Data Ports:
  • Mini USB port for online downloads
  • SD card slot for Pleo add-ons
  • Infrared transceiver for Pleo-to-Pleo communication
High-Quality Sound:
  • 2 speakers located in Pleo's mouth and back
L6 Power Source:
  • Rechargeable and replaceable NiMH battery pack
  • Recharges in 4 hours; provides approximately 1 hour of operation
Selling in the USA for about 348.00 US...for ages 8 to really old!

There are plans to release a PDK (Pleo Development Kit) - "to make hacking Pleo easier."

An amazing interactive toy that engages with its users. I remember the days we got excited over a pet rock.....times have changed :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Navigating the waters to find out information on various USA universities can be tricky

College Navigator is a great website that brings together all of the USA universities and colleges to help people choose a school that they may want to go to.

Picking up on the "personalized" aspect we usually see in social networking sites, this website allows the users to personalize their search. With things such as building a list of favorites for side-by-side comparisons; interactive maps that will pinpoint school locations; exporting your results onto a spreadsheet; saving your sessions to go back to for further investigation.

The site is sponsored by National Center for Education Statistics offers over information on approximately 7,000 postsecondary institutions in the USA. There is a wide range of resources available on this website to help a student narrow down a choice for a postsecondary institution from finances to housing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Latest Public Beta Links from Adobe Labs

Wondering what to do over the Christmas or Summer (yeah Southern Hemisphere) Holidays?

Why not try some of the latest public betas hosted on the Adobe Labs website.







Brio - next generation of Acrobat Connect
http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/brio/

Flex 3 public beta 3 available on Labs
http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flex/

Adobe AIR beta 3
http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/air/

BlazeDS beta
http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/blazeds/

Adobe AIR update for Flash CS3 Professional beta 3
http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/AIR:Flash_CS3_Professional_Update

Adobe AIR Extension for Adobe Dreamweaver beta 3
http://labs.adobe.com/wiki/index.php/AIR:Dreamweaver_CS3_Extension

Monday, December 17, 2007

Social Networking continues to be the "hook" for many new online web services

Social networking....social networking....that seems to be the "hook" for many of the new web services that are popping up on the Internet.

eSnips is a social content-sharing site where a user can publish and share any media type. Users have up to 5 GB of free space.

eSnips allows the user to create a folder structure where each folder can have permissions assigned to it....who has access to the folder and who doesn't. "eSnips is for anyone who has anything they want to share with others - like home movies they want to share with family members or a hobby they want to share with others with the same interests. eSnips creates a community around your passions by making it easy to find others and for others to find you."

Friday, December 14, 2007

Mobile networks are quick, fast and efficient in Japan

You are now able to book your airplane ticket through your mobile phone in Japan. It takes about 2 minutes and once you have booked your flight through your mobile phone, you are sent a "barcode" to your mobile phone. When you get to the airport you place your phone over a reader that will talk to you to 2D mobile barcode. It immediately prints you a ticket and off you go to your plane.

Quick, fast and efficient!

"The International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade body that represents 240 airlines and 94% of scheduled international travel, has reached an agreement on a global standard for mobile barcodes, which it says "paves the way" for air travelers to use mobile phones for check-in at airports." (review .pdf)

In July, Air Canada started testing the 2D mobile barcode with select passengers out of Montreal.

"Passengers involved in the pilot test first check in without baggage on mobile.aircanada.com. This generates a 2D barcode – in fact an e-boarding pass – which is sent directly to their mobile device. They then use this e-boarding pass to cross screening check points and to board the aircraft. 2D barcodes can be found on all Web itinerary receipts and on the paper boarding passes issued by an agent, at a kiosk or through Web check-in. "

School Chat.....

The mobile phone is evolving at a very quick rate. I was watching an interview on the news with a famous Japanese clothing designer that has now turned to "mobile design." He said that in Japan the mobile phone has seasons just like the fashion industry. The Asian market demands that a mobile phone changes every 3 months. In most countries the mobile phone is only used for talking.....but in Japan, the end-user demands that the mobile does so much more from booking airline tickets to booking restaurant reservations. The services that are demanded from the end-user are growing rapidly and quickly.

How many schools in most countries still ban the mobile phone instead of embracing the technology?

Friday, December 07, 2007

You can run but you can't hide from technology.....

I was watching the morning news and perked up with a story that was reported earlier this week. A man in the UK showed up at a police station saying....I understand that I have been missing as I have amnesia and don't remember where I have been. This man was missing from a kayaking trip for over 5 years. He had left behind a wife and children. Finding a paddle, canoe and other items, he was declared dead after one year. His wife received insurance money and what looked like, to everyone including her children, started to move on with her life. This is where the story takes a wee turn....


Stories around the Internet report that shortly after the insurance money was received, the wife bought property and furniture in Panama. When the story first hit the airways....reporters questioned why hasn't anyone come to "the surface" that may have known this man over the last 5 years? Where has he been?

So as one does, people hit the Internet to search for the name of the wife and husband, Panama, etc.... Beware of your digital footprint - didn't a picture surface that had been taken of the man and his wife in Panama....wait, wasn't he supposed to be dead and she the grieving widow?

When the true story was revealed this week, close friends and their children were furious. How could their mother have them believe all these years that their father was dead?

Wife guilty? Husband guilty? I am sure more will surface over the next couple of days. Then next year by this time we will see a prime time movie will be made about it......but in the meantime......

Classroom Chat....
I used to have discussions with my students about digital footprints....when you put things in "digital" format, it can come back to haunt you. You never know where someone may be taking a picture and posting it to the web. Almost every mobile phone has a camera built in it. You never know who can get access into your social network and retrieve information or post information on you. I we are just coming to terms in understanding impact of our own digital footprints.

Further Reading:
Dereks Blog: Online Safety
School Video that Mocked Student with Disabilities Posted on YouTube
Teenage girl posting dangerous photos online (NZ Herald)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Synthetic Worlds - New Scientific Guinea Pig

Virtual Parallels collide at the Synthetic Worlds Institute at the University of Indiana.

Arden was developed by
Professor Edward Castronova and colleagues to explore the economic changes that can occur in a synthetic world and real world and how one impacts the other. Arden "gives social scientists an entire populated world on which to perform experiments - something always lacking in the real world." (BBC.com)

The Shakespeare era has been created to engage with online players to create a social laboratory without the users realizing it. Social scientists will start tweaking within Arden and see how the synthetic community within Arden will respond.

Takes the white lab rat to a whole new level.

Classroom chats.....
Will synthetic worlds take over social research? Is it a reflection of directions that societies will take...evolve to? Will social scientists be able to predict and be able to stop potentially harmful events from happening? Time will tell.....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

User Interface for Personal Discovery

Sometimes a person needs to chat about things for no other purpose than they are cool or fun.

Musicovery is both that....a little web application that has been designed to connect your tastes in a visual manner.

User Interface (UI) is something that has always been important to digital designers, but I believe it is something that is going to be VERY IMPORTANT for the 21st century. A visual UI that focuses on inclusion across gender, cultural and age boundaries is one that will be successful.

Thoughts......
Is the UI for musicovery the UI of the future? What will the UI for future-proofing look like?

Monday, December 03, 2007

Splashup is a free (beta) "web-based" graphic editing program. You don't need to sign-up to start using the program right away. You can either load an image from your computer or from a URL, Picasa, flikr, facebook, splashup or an image captured from a webcam and edited directly in Splashup.

Splashup has a photo sharing service built into it. With a variety of tools, like many of well known photo editing software applications, such as filters, editing multiple images, layers and blend modes, layer effects, brushes, etc...

I did have some difficulty with some of my image manipulation upon trial. When I tried to erase part of an image it kept moving and replicating itself. I also tried to manipulate layer names and it kept defaulting back to the standard name.

Over all, for a free beta quick and easy image editing program accessible on any computer - anywhere - it has potential.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Web 1.0 - Web 2.0 - are you ready for Web 3.0?

Some people laugh when you say Web 3.0 or semantic web....they don't believe there will be a "Web 3.0" but rather something completely different.

The folks at Project10X will argue that Web 3.0 is the next wave and it is starting now!

Project10X is a "research consultancy specializing in next wave semantic technologies and solutions. The firm’s clients include technology manufacturers, global 2000 corporations, and government agencies."

A quote from a report just released by Project10X looks at the 4 stages of Internet growth....

"The semantic wave embraces four stages of Internet growth.

  1. The first stage, Web 1.0, was about connecting information and getting on the net.
  2. Web 2.0 is about connecting people — putting the “I” in user interface, and the “we” into Webs of social participation.
  3. The next stage, Web 3.0, is starting now. It is about representing meanings, connecting knowledge, and putting these to work in ways that make our experience of Internet more relevant, useful, and enjoyable.
  4. Web 4.0 will come later.
It is about connecting intelligences in a ubiquitous Web where both people and things reason and communicate together."

The executive summary of this 400+ page report is free to download
[ .pdf ]

This report looks at emerging technologies and explores the market readiness.
Project10X also "projects that public and private sector R&D relating to semantic technologies in the 2008-2010 period will exceed $8 billion and that global ICT markets for semantic technology infused products and services will grow from $2.1 B in 2006 to $52.4 B in 2010."

If this evolves as predicted, it means a lot of new/spin-off companies will be formed around this growth and development. One just has to scour the web now to see all of the new websites/companies that have been born during the Web 2.0 era.

School Chat....
This means that schools need to "wrap their head around" what impact all this will have on their students and their programs. What information and skills will need to get to the students in order for them to be "future-proofed".....ready to take on the semantic entrepreneurial spirit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Motorola supports innovation in young people with grant program

Motorola and the Motorola Foundation "support the education, economic, environmental and social needs of communities around the world."

"The 2007 Innovation Generation Grants support 106 breakthrough programs that use innovative approaches to develop interest in technology-related fields while strengthening leadership and problem-solving skills. The grants target programs that encourage girls and ethnic groups currently underrepresented in technology fields."

Motorola also links recipients of the Innovation Generation Grants with each other through a new company-hosted portal site that expands and enhances the global network of advocates for education in science, technology, engineering and math.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Innovation in Education....futurelab

If you haven't discovered the futurelab website.....now is the time.

A colleague from the UK had sent me the link to futurelab last year and I have read through many of the intriguing articles and projects from this not-for-profit organization in the UK.

What does futurelab do? "Futurelab is passionate about transforming the way people learn. Tapping into the huge potential offered by digital and other technologies, they develop innovative resources and practices that support new approaches to learning for the 21st century."

The list of projects (that I encourage you to explore) futurelabs have helped come to fruition are exhaustive. One of the latest projects is MobiMission - "a location-based, social, mobile phone experience for young people aged 16-18 that enables players to engage with their environment and community in new ways."

Explore the list of resources .... some may even challenge your thinking and beliefs in the development of digital technologies and education.

If you are a teacher, instructor, professor, administrator - a member of an education community.....you need to read and explore this website with an open mind!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Open Student Television Network

OSTN (Open Student Television Network) was launched in 2005 by the CampusEAI Consortium and Internet2, a 24/7 worldwide channel exclusively devoted to student-produced programming.

"OSTN now is delivered to 41 million users at 4,500 university member campuses and 36 countries around the globe. OSTN can be viewed on televisions and personal computers."

OSTN is accessible at colleges and universities around the world through the following methods:
  • Television on Campus
  • Televisions in a Community
  • Laptop and Desktop Computers on Campus
There is a submission process....no uploads randomly like other video websites.

View information on how to become a member and get involved.....read more.
Information on the OSTN Media Festival....read more.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The future workforce may rarely be physically in a traditional office

"Telecommuting, e-commuting, e-work, telework, working at home (WAH), or working from home (WFH) is a work arrangement in which employees enjoy limited flexibility in working location and hours. In other words, the daily commute to a central place of work is replaced by telecommunication links. Many work from home, while others, occasionally also referred to as nomad workers utilize mobile telecommunications technology to work from coffee shops or myriad other locations." (Wikipedia)

Are we moving towards empty offices around the world? Will coffee shops become the new board room? Will gossip around the water cooler now happen in a virtual world instead of the lunch room?

Last year I blogged about preparing our students for working from that "third place." Students today are more comfortable working in an informal environment such as a coffee shop. My question is are we preparing students to manage time and foster engaging work relations from a third place?

Telecommuting seemed to become popular again after 9/11. I was reading an article this morning which was got me on this path called Telecommuting found to boost morale, cut stress wrote that "last year an estimated 45 million Americans telecommuted, an increase of 4 million from 2003, according to the magazine WorldatWork." The article goes on to further discuss how telecommuting can have a positive impact on ones carbon footprint.

Food for Thought.....
So where does this leave the 21st century learner? What skills will be required to successfully manage and work within a telecommute environment?

Managing and accessing data and knowledge is going to be a huge issue if telecommuting continues on this popular pathway. To be able to access your data from anywhere and be sure that this is being done securely will be very important.

Those businesses that foster telecommuting, how will the foster their working community? How will they build their corporate story when many of their employees will not be physically around to contribute?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is 21st century literacy? Is traditional reading at risk?

I came across an article in the StarTribune.com (you may be required to register to view articles...its free) called "Reading's new chapter?" that discusses the debate over reading literacy levels of students in the USA.

NEA (National Emdowment for the Arts) has released a report called "To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence" [download pdf version] that hilights Americans are reading less and doing it with lower reading abilities.

Some of the highlights from the report:

  • Nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure.
  • People ages 15 to 24 spend only seven to 10 minutes per day on voluntary reading (about 60 percent less than the average American).
  • Reading scores for 17-year-olds are down, while those for 9-year-olds are at an all-time high (ground that is lost in adolescence).
  • Even while reading, 58 percent of middle- and high-school students are watching TV, listening to music or using other media.
  • Literary readers among college graduates dropped from 82 percent in 1982 to 67 percent in 2002.
    (source: StarTribune.com)
Is the problem really about reading levels or is it the ability to change the assessment tools and standards to reflect digital literacy?

I blogged a while back about hand writing and questioned if this skill is one that could be lost? Through my own discovery and understanding from discussions with colleagues and further research, I have come to the belief that it is a skill that is evolving and changing. Could the same then be said for reading?

Should students be forced to read books? Are books the answer for the 21st century learner or are there other types of communication that will be equally or more important for the future success of these learners? Are education systems around the world evolving fast enough and in the right direction for the needs of these learners?

As governments struggle to find the magic formula that will put their people...their country ahead in the 21st century. We can not afford to hang onto old schools of thought and we need to be prepared to change...as scary as that can be.

The 21st century learner is different than previous generations...everything around them has helped this evolution. Technology has given us instant communication, the ability to author our own media presentations and publications, and technology has given us an easy and accessible route to submit our opinions and comments...such as this blog. The 21st century learner thinks about the world very differently and has always had access to it at the touch of a keyboard.

Remember...technology and innovation gave civilization the courage to realize the world wasn't flat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Researchers develop a virtual elearning teacher that responds to learner emotions

A research team at Massey University in Auckland have created a virtual teacher called Eve that is part of a new teaching system.

The Massey scientists, led by Dr Hossein Sarrafzadeh at the Auckland-based Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences have developed the system initially for "one-to-one maths teaching with eight-year-olds."

"The animated Eve (with a human-sounding voice) can ask questions, give feedback, discuss questions and solutions and show emotion. To develop the software for this system the Massey team observed children and their interactions with teachers and captured them on thousands of images."


"From these images of facial expression, gestures and body movements they developed programs that would capture and recognise facial expression, body movement, and (via a mouse) heart rate and skin resistance."

Read press release....

School Chat....

A very interesting concept to discuss with your students....computers that can detect and react to human emotion.

This new technology could take computer/human interaction to a new level.

Will emotion now be a part of digital virtual worlds such as social network websites?

How will this "human factor" be able to help businesses build global networks?

Could this have an impact on reducing a global carbon footprint?

Where does this take the learning classroom of the future? As a life-long-learner, will we all be assigned a virtual tutor that could adapt to our career pathway and keep learning from a global knowledge gateway?

Will the virtual teacher become the news aggregate of the future?

So many questions.........

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mova Contour - Technology pushes digital actors to realism in a new film - Beowulf

Since Mickey Mouse and other animated characters appeared on the screen we have watched an amazing evolution of the animated character. A new movie just released in North American theatres this past weekend is Beowulf, an "animated film based on the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, was the top film at U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend..." (source: Bloomberg)

Steve Perlman developed a process:
fluorescent child’s make-up + 44 cameras = captures of 100 thousand reflective points on a human face. Cheaper and less time consuming this process captures a much more realistic digital clone of the human actor. The process is called Mova Contour an advanced motion capture method that "captures subtle movements of body, skin and cloth."

More Reading:

School Chat....
Think of what an experience it would be for young "future technologists" to be exposed to this process from a "road show." In other words - mobile unit with all the motion capture hardware and tools moving from secondary school to secondary school to engage students in a world they could only imagine or read about......think of the possibilities for this industry when these students get into the work force. Do I sense a challenge here for the industry :)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Email is so old school.....the young embrace other forms of communication

Okay raise your hands.....how many of you are just getting the hang of email.

Too late!

Let's move on now.....


An interesting article by Digital Chosunilbo .... "New Forms of Online Communication Spell End of Email Era in Korea" writes that due to "replacement forms of communication," the era of email is coming to an end!

Korea is one of the IT power houses in the world. Two quotes from this article said it all, "
I use email when I send messages to elders" and "I use email only for receiving cellphone and credit card invoices." Spoken from two young Koreans in their early twenties.

"Internet messengers, mini-homepages (dubbed "one-man media"), and SMS" in Korea have become the communication tools of choice.

Guess what....this article was written in 2004....feeling really behind the times now?

Today...."South Korea is one of the world's most wired nations, with broadband connections in about 70% of homes. Blogging is a common form of communication." (source: globaltechforum)

One third of South Korean teenagers average 100 text messages per day.....how many of your text messages actually get spelled and sent correctly to the recipient? How many words per minute can you text without looking at the keypad?

School Chat....
So what does this mean for education institutions? Well it means if the only means for your students to communicate with "you" as teacher or with each other while at school is email.....old school.....old technology.

You know the drill, as soon as those kids leave the doors of the school they are back into their multi-sensory, multi-communicative world.

Hmmmm - kind of makes you want to be a kid again, doesn't it?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Font project for scientific and engineering community now released

I am sure there are many science teachers around the world jumping up and down about this project!

The mission of the Scientific and Technical Information Exchange (STIX) "font creation project is the preparation of a comprehensive set of fonts that serve the scientific and engineering community in the process from manuscript creation through final publication, both in electronic and print formats."

Designed to work with all web browsers, word processors, and other scholarly communications software, as well as all general purpose software - this development is a huge step in scientific, mathematical and engineering communities.
(link from: Slashdot.org)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Hi Tech Funky Christmas Gift

With Christmas around the corner and being an avid watch collector myself, I had to indulge myself to include this post today. If you haven't discovered Tokyoflash Japan .....you must check it out.

If you are looking for a unique gift for the "techo" in your life or just something different....browse through the various watches that can be shipped worldwide.

Don't be setback by the prices listed as they are all in yen. Go to XE.com Currency Conversion to get an idea of what a watch might cost. For example, 14,000 yen is about 127.00 US or 123.00 CAD.

Take a look through the watch museum to see some of the conceptual and 1-of designs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Popims Animator - Free Morphing Software

Popims Animator is a free Windows application that can be quickly downloaded.

The folks at TechRepublic have given Popims Animator a review/overview.

An application that can be used to morph one image into another along, extract images from digital videos and animated gifs, export as .avi, etc...

Not as powerful as some of the commercial products.....but hey, it is free.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Product RED - Consumer choice helping fight AIDS in Africa


I remember teaching about AIDS to high school students in the 90s. It was every where in the media. Then slowly....it went away. It became a very small part in the school curriculum and only talked about in the back pages of the newspapers. AIDS has not gone away and there are still thousands of people dying from it everyday.

"(RED) was created by Bono and Bobby Shriver, Chairman of DATA to raise awareness and money for The Global Fund by teaming up with the world's most iconic brands to produce (PRODUCT)RED branded products. A percentage of each (PRODUCT)RED product sold is given to The Global Fund. The money helps women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa."

Read more on how (RED) works....

There are presently 7 products available. Those companies participating are:

If you are shopping for yourself or for Christmas presents, and you might purchase a new mobile phone, iPod, watch, fragrance, cards, T-Shirt, shoes or get a credit card....think (RED) before you buy!

Other links:
Antonin Kratochvil shot photos of HIV-positive individuals in Zambia, and then returned 40 days later to photograph their miraculous return to health thanks to antiretroviral medicine (ARVs). Here are the before and after photos.



School Chat....
What can be done in schools? Start talking about it again. Developed nations can not take the NIMBY approach...."Not In My Back Yard." Challenge your students with questions....from questions and discussions comes action!

How if any technology has slowed down the spread of AIDS. Has technology made a difference in getting the message out around the world about AIDS? Does/can Technology have a conscious? What can students do to help this fight?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Will Web TV be Successful? Hard to tell with all the gatekeepers in place.

One would like to think that the web is still an open and venturesome place where knowledge and new ideas push the boundaries of what already is.

I think THE WORD that I will be referring to time and time again over the next 12 months is going to be.....transition - and possibly patience :). Technology and innovation is pushing traditional thinking into transitional phases. Some industries are moving forward while others (like education) seem to be stuck in a void at the moment...although this may be more due to "gatekeepers" and Victorian thinking more than anything else.

Web TV is an interesting evolution and one to watch over the next 12 months. Web TV is on the scope of many companies at present. Some have already entered the market while others are still product testing.

Hop over to Adobe Labs to test out the Adobe Media Player (read previous blog entry....). The reason for my query on the fate of Web TV is a beta for Hulu that I had signed up for. I had my beta password sent to me this weekend and sat down this afternoon to give it a go and view some of my favourite shows.

As I logged in and viewed the list I quickly picked out a couple that I wanted to view....click....player opens....message appears: "Unfortunately this movie is not available in your country or region. We apologize for the inconvenience." Okay, this will probably only happen for a couple of shows, I told myself.

Click, click, click, click --> no love on any of the shows.


First thought....let's email the folks at Hulu and let them know that when they are running a beta - make sure you invite those people that can actually participate :(

Second thought....how will other companies work around this? How will companies hit that global market with all of the gatekeeping that will occur? I don't want to watch reruns! Do we need to throw our LCDs out the window and yell "we aren't going to take it anymore!" (Okay, pretty hard to do with a 42inch plasma....but you get my drift). Television in the Southern Hemisphere is not the most exciting at the best of times....one can only watch so many reruns of Will and Grace.

As geographic boundaries are closed by digital bridges - new business models need to be developed.

With the advent of laptop programs for developing countries now coming to fruition. In the next 12 months there will be a connectivity greater around the world than ever before. Web TV has a huge potential for sharing of knowledge and learning......I guess that even though the web is an "open" source and new innovations and knowledge highways are being created throughout the web......the gatekeepers are still thriving!

Friday, November 09, 2007

21st Century Connections - technology solutions that will help students to learn 21st century skills.

The 21st Century Connections website explores "delivering technology solutions that will help students to learn 21st century skills."

I found a great statement in an article I was reading the other day. "The Victorian Era prepared our students for general literacy.....now we need to move the 21st Century Era into media literacy."

We need to change our thoughts on how our students learn and how we deliver this knowledge....we are no longer in the Victorian Era.

21st Century Connections "site links students, teachers and administrators to the latest resources, creative tools and educational leaders behind digital learning."

Hosted by Technology for Learning.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

VectorMagic - a free online vector conversion tool for images

A colleague of mine sent me this link the other day - thanks Robin :) A research project by James Diebel and Jacob Norda out of Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

VectorMagic is an "online auto-tracer converting bitmaps to vectors." Easy, easy....just upload the bitmap image and in a few seconds (or minutes depending on the size of the image) you are returned with a lovely converted vector.

Difference between vectors and bitmaps (aka raster images)? Bitmaps are made of of pixels, so when you try to increase the size of a bitmap it will get fuzzy and pixelated. Vectors are made up of mathematical equations (geometric shapes such as lines, circles and curves) so it resized, it looks just as clean at almost any size.

Input: JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF
Output: EPS, SVG, PNG

A great little web-based tool.....give it a try.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A new ergonmic design......is it a mouse or a pen?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (what is....) is a "painful progressive condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist."

Although research will state there are several causes and factors of CTS....there seems to be more CTS cases since people started having computers in their homes and offices.

CTS has caused a lot of "down time" in many offices/businesses around the world and a lot of research and product development has been done in this area over the years.

A new product that has hit the market is the WOW-Pen. A unique concept that has evolved through the research of CTS. One of the culprits of CTS is the computer mouse. A simple input device that many of us don't think twice about but is something that we "hang onto" for long periods of time throughout a day. How many people think to "fit" their mouse to their hand before they buy one? We all have different sizes and shapes of hands....why would we think that one size or type fits all?

The WOW-Pen attempts to address the CTS issue along with functionality of a new mouse. Based around the concept of a pen, the WOW-Pen is quite different than what we are used to. There are several models to choose from that include a variety of functions to suit every ones needs.

Would be interested to know if anyone has given WOW-Pen a try and what they thought of it.

I may have to throw my old scroll mouse away!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Maximizing the Impact: The Pivotal Role of Technology in a 21st Century Education System

A report was released today (Nov 5th Northern Hemisphere Time) called "Maximizing the Impact: The Pivotal Role of Technology in a 21st Century Education System." It was written by ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association), and Partnership for 21st Century Skills .

The report urges action in 3 areas:

1. Use technology comprehensively to develop proficiency in 21st century skills.
2. Use technology comprehensively to support innovative teaching and learning.
3. Use technology comprehensively to create robust education support systems. [ read more.... ] [ pdf version ]

This report supports the framework developed by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills [ pdf version ]

Are school communities ready to take the immediate action that is required to make these and other actions come to fruition? The luxury of reviews, discussions, planning committees, etc... may have come to an end.

It is time for action...what country will reach out for the golden ring first?

Monday, November 05, 2007

GoSee4Me - the dream of letting people see "anything"

GoSee4Me is a unique concept that connects photographers from around the world with an opportunity to earn some money. Using a bidding buyer/seller concept....it works like this.

Say I was developing a presentation and I needed a great photograph of a certain angle of the Eiffel Tower....only problem is....I live in New Zealand. I put my request in for this photograph on the GoSee4Me community. Any of the registered photographers that may have this photo or are in the area to take the photo, then bid online to be the chosen photographer. The bid is what it will cost you to pay the photographer for the photo. You choose which photographer you want, payment and photo transaction occurs, and everyone is happy.

Great idea to give new and budding photographers some pocket money and exposure!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Supporting education in emerging markets

Early in the week I looked at the One Laptop Per Child program which targets students off the power grid.

BBC News writes about the laptop program that Intel has backed with their new laptop called Classmate PC.

This laptop also targets students in "emerging markets" ("...those countries in transition between developing and developed status." - Wikipedia). Part of Intel's World Ahead Program, "connecting the next billion people to uncompromised technology around the world."

Programs such as Intel's World Ahead and OLPC can give a voice to children and young people that we (the rest of the developing world) have never heard from before.

What thoughts, directions and impact will these voices have?

What new visions and ideas will come out of these new voices?

I for one am excited and thrilled to see programs like these progress. Having worked with educators in Zimbabwe in 1996, I know the exhaustive commitment these teachers have to their schools and community......what an exciting time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Meet the digital media interpreters.....

Remember the discussion about "education needs to prepare students for jobs that don't even exist yet" (if not...see sidebar of this blog). Here is an enterprising group of folks that you can bet did not know that this niche would exist when they were in school.

Commoncraft is a unique pair of entrepreneurs who have created a company around the concept of digital media "interpreters." They present a product or service for their clients in plain English by using "unique and understandable videos in a format they call Paperworks."

Could YouTube have inspired these entrepreneurs? Web 2.0?

Possibly.

We know that in today's business world, many business doors are closed before they even have a chance to stay open. We need to teach our students that for every closed door they need to look for new open doors (possibilities) and/or create their own open door.

Well done Commoncraft!

Okay, still having a problem understanding what a Wiki is? Need to have a simple explanation for your school administrator or a class of students?

See Commoncraft in action (you can also search on YouTube for Commoncraft to find more of their great work.)

Wikis in Plain English



Social Networking




Use in the classroom....
Great process to replicate....the "Commoncraft communication model"! Try this in a variety of classes: English, Interactive Media, Media Studies, Communication, Business, etc... Choose a concept that you need to get across to a customer in an easy and creative manner. Students must create a storyboard for their idea, decide what tools they will use to capture their story (e.g. paper, chalk, etc...). Write their script, film, add audio and then publish (easily done with Premire Pro or Premiere Elements and Audition).

_________________________________________

P.S. - Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

21st Century Standards Technology Literacy - vision for teaching & learning

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) have developed a set of standards that "offer vision for teaching and learning to both guide and beckon our profession as education leaders. "

9 foundational common beliefs are defined:

  • Reading is a window to the world.
  • Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
  • Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
  • Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
  • Equitable access is a key component for education.
  • The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
  • The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
  • Learning has a social context.
  • School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.
The document explores how learners use skills, resources, and tools to
  1. inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge;
  2. draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge;
  3. share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society;
  4. pursue personal and aesthetic growth.
Direct download of pdf [ link ]

Explore some of the other resources available on AASL:
  • Resource Guides for School Library Media Program Development [ link ]
  • Tips and Guidance for Managing and Communicating about the Internet [ link ]
Other 21st century overviews/reports - technology literacy:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Screen Interaction....touch, sight and sound

Over a year ago Jeff Han spoke at TED Talks and showed a demo of the work developed at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Creating a "simple, multi-touch, multi-user screen interface" that has now gone commercial and available to purchase from Neiman Marcus for Christmas. The Online Only Media Wall "eight-by-three foot screen, the entire wall becomes your canvas, allowing you to navigate, locate, and manipulate information by touching anywhere on the screen."
We see touch displays becoming more and more evident all around us and integrated into our lives daily. Interactive white boards, mobile phones, Microsoft surface, and simple touch kiosk screens - which have been around and a part of our lives for many years.

TactaPad
"camera continually captures an image of your hands. Your hands are translucently overlaid on your display as live video."

How will these multi touch screens change or impact schools and classrooms?

As the R&D phase of this technology is now moving toward the commercial phase, it is only a matter of time before we start to see multi-touch & multi-user products become available for the classroom.

Exciting times.....

Saturday, October 27, 2007

One Laptop Per Child powered by One Cow

OLPC stands for "One Laptop Per Child" this is a non-profit association that is working to develop & supply a $100 laptop for children around the world.

Presently they are working with the following countries: Argentina, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Libya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Thailand, Uruguay & USA (read more about selection of countries and those waiting to enter the program.)

The laptop is called the XO, it was "created expressly for the world's poorest children, living in its most remote environments. The laptop was designed collaboratively by experts from both academia and industry" (see laptop specs).

Highlights of the XO are:

  • can be hand powered
  • light and durable
  • estimated product life: 5 yrs
  • full-time wireless router
  • 2 display modes available (low power consumption)
  • 7.5 inch TFT 1200×900 pixel screen
  • the machine overall has been designed to be power efficient...from the CPU to the display
  • built from free and open-source software
Now, what initially grabbed my attention was an article written about the OLPC experimenting on new ways to power the XO program......they are looking at "cow power."

An article written in InfoWorld discusses finalizing the design of a cow-powered generator that the XO could easily be powered from....."The goal is to develop a low-cost energy source that can be used in Indian villages."

What a great innovation!

Cows hold an honored place in Hindu society, and it is part of Hindu tradition to avoid the consumption of beef. There are an abundance of cows in India and what a great partnership this would be to help the children of India!

Some delays in production has the XO hopefully rolling off the production line for mid-November 2007 (Reuters).