Archive - Nov 2009

November 30th

Liveblogging Colin's Class

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Statistics Education Application for the iPhone

At the Digiday:APPS conference in New York City last August, Teaque Lenahan, an Associate Partner, at Gravitytank presented the results of some of their recent research. He showed a clip of some of the people that they had spoken with, including a principal talking about giving kids iPhones instead of text books. I really liked this idea. While I am leaning more towards other mobile devices as the best development environment, iPhones do have a lot of appeal, and I could imagine some students really enjoying doing their studies on an iPhone instead of from a textbook.

So, it was with great interest that I received a press release last month from Michael Mayrath of GetYaLearnOn. They had just launched a pilot test of an application for learning statistics on the iPhone at Abilene Christian University. I corresponded with Dr. Mayrath to get a better understanding of what they were doing. It seems there is no dearth of educational apps for iPhones. What makes their app stand out?

What makes GetYaLearnOn’s approach exemplary is that Dr. Mayarth has his PhD in Educational Psychology and their director of Research and Development, is finishing up her doctorate in Educational Psychology as well. Dr. Mayarth did post-doc work at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on Virtual Performance Assessment under Dr. Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies. Besides his work on virtual performance assessment, Dr. Dede is working on Developing Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE)-based ecosystems science curriculum modules for middle school. I have long been a fan of multiuser virtual environments for education and would love to see such an environment eventually available at the school my daughter goes to.

Dr. Mayarth also suggested checking out The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia as another good starting place for information on instructional design in multimedia learning environments. He also noted that his Masters was an evaluation of a two year pilot program that examined best practices for using Second Life in the classroom.

The focus on assessment of learning tools, I believe to be critical, and I was very interested to hear about their focus on this as part of developing their application.

I must admit that I’m not an iPhone user and have not had a chance to kick around GetYaLearnOn’s Statistics Application for the iPhone. However based on the discussions I’ve had with Dr. Mayarth, it seems like they are approaching using mobile devices in education in ways that the principal in the Gravitytank presentation could only dream of. Hopefully, it will help establish a new standard on how educational applications will be developed.

#trinblogwar Captain Futurist and the Innovators

This evening, I will be speaking at Colin McEnroe’s class Course on New Media and Old Media at Trinity College. I’ve spoken at his class in other years, typically starting from my role in various political campaigns in Connecticut. Yet the discussions often would go off in many unrelated directions. This year, I’m not currently working on a campaign, and I’m finding I’m talking more and more as a futurist.

I’m not a big fan of futurists. I don’t think any of us can really predict the future. We can observe certain trends and talk about how these trends might change things, but that is about it.

For me, there are several important trends that should always be considered when thinking about technology and the Internet. Perhaps some of it is the Dance of Shiva, tearing down and building up again. One trend, is disruption. Someone will always come up with a new idea that challenges the ideas of the status quo. It is disruptive technology. It follows the technology adoption lifecycle. The first adopters are the innovators, the people that live for this sort of disruption, the visionaries, and perhaps real futurists. They rush into each new potential disruption, play with it, and in some cases push it forward to the point where the early adopters and then early majority come on board. Other potential new disruptions don’t live up to their potential and end up becoming fuel for other ideas of potential new disruptions.

This is the space I live in, the work I like to do. Let’s find some new technology, technology that isn’t ready for the early majority, technology that the late majority will shun and lampoon, and work with it until the early adopters and the early majority start playing with it. Then, it will be time for the next innovation.

This takes me to another trend, which I believe good innovators should be looking at, which is convergence. When someone comes up with a good idea, other people will copy it, they will riff off of it and create their own versions of the same thing. Eventually, the best implementations will capture the attention of the early adopters. These early adopters will try different systems and they will want the systems to interoperate and to converge. Look at email. In the early days of email, you had CompuServe, you had Prodigy, you had SMTP, You had X.400; the list went on and on. However, SMTP was the simplest and most open way of connecting, and eventually it all converged on SMTP. You are seeing the same sort of thing with instant messenger systems; AIM, Yahoo, MSN, Google and others. Google is based on XMPP which is perhaps the open standard for instant messaging like SMTP was for email.

So, as I look at disruptive technologies, I like those that are based on open standards and can easily be developed for and expanded upon. It is part of the reason I like Google’s Android and Nokia’s Maemo better than I like Apple’s iPhone.

With this in mind, I also suggested to Colin that his students should look at Portable Contacts and DandyID as well as OpenID and Open Social. One of the diversions we might get off on is how we understand our digital identities. Colin asked his students if some of these are ‘safe’ ways of managing one’s online identity. Too often, it seems like people are more concerned about hiding part of their identity, instead of sharing their identity the way they want it to be shared.

Personally, I think the best way to control one’s online identity is to be open and share it widely. If not, Tom Friedman’s warning may come into play. “On the Internet, either you do it, or someone else does it to you.”

This leads to the area that does not get enough attention by innovative geeks; what sort of social impact these disruptive technologies might have. They typically shun the discussions that always take place around one technology or another about whether it is a ‘good’ technology or a ‘bad’ technology. These are the topics for freshman college classes, which rapidly become tedious. Us geeks always think of technology as being neutral. It can be used for good or for ill.

Yet this is where the political side comes in and it ties nicely back to Colin’s class. What are the real implications of technological change? In 2004, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson released a flash video entitled EPIC 2014. It looks at the effect of technology change on the news media. It is bleak. It was later updated to Epic 2015 which is a little less bleak and a little more up to date.

In EPIC 2015, they predict the Wifipod, an iPod with Wifi and a camera. It was a pretty good guess at the iPhone. They also predicted the Google Grid, where all kinds of content gets stored and shared. In many ways, it seems like Google Grid is their early guess at Google Wave.

I like playing with GoogleWave because the underlying technology is very open. I have my own GoogleWave server and I’ve been working on porting the QWaveClient to the Nokia N900

In the evolution of EPIC, they also talked about Google gathering contextual information from the web to build the personalized news. There are two companies that I’m keeping an eye on right now that seem to be focusing on this, Clara and Peer 39. They are mostly looking at it from a marketing or advertising framework.

Another thing I found interesting in EPIC 2015 was Microsoft’s NewsBotSter. The latest stories of Rupert Murdock trying to strike a deal with Microsoft so that news from Murdock owned sites would only appear in Bing. Jeff Jarvis has the best analysis of the Murdoch Madness I’ve seen so far.

Meanwhile, the Federal Trade Commission is holding a two day workshop entitled From Town Crier to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive in the Internet Age?. I had hoped to be able to attend, but my schedule is just too busy right now. Murdoch will be speaking as will Arianna Huffington, who is attempting to approach the news from a slightly different angle than Murdoch. It should be a great workshop, and I hope to catch some of it online.

This leads me to another topic I wanted to talk about with Colin’s class. As more people communicate real time via the Internet, as they join in more of a conversation, even if some of the conversation is about what they did during Thanksgiving, or the traffic coming home, it has a great possibility to impact the way government works.

So far, much of political activism has been about elections. But more and more of it, I believe, will be about more direct citizen involvement in all levels of government. At the local level, See, Click, Fix, is a great new way for citizens to make their voices heard at city hall. Systems for submitting comments to rules making bodies, like the FTC and FCC are evolving and improving and more people can get involved this way as well.

In October, I wrote a blog post about submitting my first comment to the FCC. I wrote a follow up about submitting comments to the FCC based on some of the feedback I received. I also submitted a comment to the FTC workshop; initial thoughts, almost final draft, and submitting the final comment.

One final thought about eGovernance; as more and more people get their information online, I expect we’ll see better information coming out of the government about what they are doing. I get emails from the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, as well as various parts of the Department of Justice about what is going on in their areas. Various agencies, elected officials, candidates and advocacy organizations are now sending their press releases and media advisories to CT News Wire a Google Group I set up for them to send their information to, in hopes of reaching bloggers, citizen journalists, and anyone else interested in this sort of information. More and more raw data is becoming available online and this has lots of implications for those interested in computer aided reporting.

I’m sure there will be plenty of other interesting thoughts shared during the class. Maybe some of them will be shared with the trinblogwar hashtag. Maybe I’ll even try to CoverItLive.

What do you think?

November 29th

Tiger Woods, Howard Stewart and Jodi Rell

This morning on Twitter and Facebook, @RickHancock asked the question, “How closely are you following #TigerWoods story? Seems like non traditional media is dominating coverage of this story

On his Facebook page, I added this comment:

As a non-traditional media sort of person, there are times that non-traditional media provides an important service in highlighting important stories the traditional media seems to miss.

It does seem like the non traditional media is dominating coverage of the Tiger Woods story, and this time, it is the traditional media that recognizing just how important the story really is, by not spending as much time on it.

Instead, we need people to focus on the bigger stories. How does this relate to domestic violence? To the Howard Stewart story? How does this relate to funding of programs in Connecticut?

Theses are the stories worth pursuing, but they require more thought and are less titillating.

For those of you not following news in Connecticut, Howard Stewart is the fifty year old man accused of lighting his girl friend on fire. What was going on in Mr. Stewart’s head? How does this relate to domestic violence? October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

How does this relate to funding cuts as Connecticut and other states struggle through the recession? Susan Campbell wrote about Rell's Veto Is A Cruel Blow To Abuse Victims.

Tiger Woods and his wife have some issue that need to be worked out. I hope they find help, although I suspect that the non traditional media is really helping in this area. I suspect their finances are such that they can afford the help that they need. Howard Stewart needs help too, as do the children of his girlfriend. It is too bad that Mr. Stewart didn’t receive the help that he needed before he attacked his girlfriend.

The non traditional media is writing titillating stories about Tiger Woods. The traditional media is writing important stories about Mr. Stewart. All of these stories need to go deeper and help us deal with the scourge of domestic violence in our country.

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November 28th


Screenshot, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Screenshot of Ubuntu Laptop Desktop with QWaveClient running in X86 mode of an emulated N900 This screenshot is being uploaded via the same emulation

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