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Project Update

I remain interested in video games as teaching tools.  In a New York Times blog, James Gee imagines a learning environment where students are doing math by designing virtual roller coasters and space ships.  In James Gee’s conception of learning and assessment of learning, the two should be indivisible; active learning should produce work products that are evidence of growth and achievement.  This of course is very different than the current practice of using valuable teaching time to prepare for standardized exams that lack contextual meaning beyond the test.  I believe educational games have the potential to reshape the practice of math education.  Given the 21st century demands on student achievement, it’s entirely necessary that we revamp math education to align better with 21st century skills. Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica, gives a visionary TED talk regarding how software should change how we practice math.

I have investigated a handful of these games, and though I’ve found some good ones, I have not found anything that would be particularly relevant for a high school curriculum.  Most popular high school math games seem to be using software to motivate engagement with the medium, but not immerse students in deeper level inquiry.  I hope that for my project I can write a draft of a video game script that is both engaging and relevant to topics in a high school curriculum.  I do not have any of the technical skills to program a game, but I would like to try my hand at conceptualizing one.

Posted in Uncategorized.


Project Update: VLE

I am still dedicated to the original project I proposed last term, and by conducting a few experiments, or test cases, I have drawn new conclusions. Last Fall during our ITP Core 1 course I designed a simple mock-up of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for a composition classroom. I spent considerable time researching current Course or Learning Management Systems (C/LMS) currently in use, and collected feedback through online conversation calling for changes and further development in the future of VLEs. The collective consciousness is calling for many of the features I saw as essential to creating a better, more dynamic system.  First, that the system is open source, cost effective, and accessible on a variety of platforms including mobile devices. Second, that it is user-friendly, intuitive, and student centric. Third, that it has what I am calling “flexible walls” allowing all users to link course content to material both inside and outside the university structure – ie: other courses, online articles and databases, websites, and social networking sites. I realize most of these features are available through blogging platforms,which is why course blogs have become so popular in higher education. However, I wanted more than the invisible connections made by creating hyperlinks, categories, and tags. This led me to “Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives”:

http://www.pedagogy.ir/

This chart explains the cognitive process involved in progressing from lower order thinking skills to higher order thinking skills. In my opinion this should be the objective in any college classroom. What I wanted to explore was how to develop these skills through the use of educational technology, which is what led me to Andrew Churches “Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy”:

http://www.pedagogy.ir/images/pdf/DigitalBloomsTaxonomyGuide.pdf

As you can see from the chart, methods such as tagging and categorizing can facilitate lower level skills such as interpreting, summarizing, and classifying, which are all found in the understanding level. However, my student struggle to move from the understanding level to the applying level (see my original post on this project https://itcpcore2spring2011.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2011/02/15/vle-for-first-year-writing-courses/). My solution is to create a VLE feature that allows users to create visual, as well as invisible, connections between content. The goal is to help my students not only make connections that are tangible, but also for them to see the connections I am making as the”expert,” and the connections their classmates are making. In this way, the novices can draw from the knowledge of the advanced armatures. This practice aligns with two of my pedagogical objectives: transparency and collaboration.

Prezi is an open-source, web based presentation tool that is accessible on many platforms. Although developed as an alternative to PowerPoint, I have discovered it is also a powerful learning tool, and has the potential to be an effective platform for collaboration. I have tested these capabilities with undergraduate and graduate students.  First, a few reminders on how and why I organized my prototype as a web. I design my composition courses around a central theme, so my prototype reflects this orientation. Stemming from the theme are assignments which I, as the instructor, upload and control. These nodes include assignment sheets, dropboxes, and reading/research material which I make available to the class. However, the students can then add their own material (text, images, hyperlinks) to the grid surrounding each assignment. The program also allows the users to draw arrows and lines between the content, and insert explanations onto those lines.

I tested this prototype in my current composition class. As you may recall from my original post, my inspiration for this project came from a definition essay assignment for which I asked my students to create word webs. As I did last semester, I had each student create an individual web, then I crowdsource their topics to make a collaborative web for the class. However, this semester I used Prezi to create the class web, instead of the chalkboard, and I connected it to my pre-existing course web. The students were instantly engaged by the aesthetics of Prezi. It is not only innovative and eye-catching, it is effective. I was able to zoom in on each topic, focusing solely on the development of those ideas. This eliminated the distraction, and for many students confusion, of having the central topic and other main ideas in view. Considering the main problem I was targeting with this tool was the lack on second and third level development – in other words asking students to create topics, and then generate several supporting ideas for each topic, and eventually evidence to support those ideas – I think this experiment was very successful. The I strategically planned this lesson on the day I was being observed by a professor who is tech friendly. She made several comments on my evaluation that she thought the use of Prezi was particularly effective.

The second phase of my testing is not directly related to my composition course; it involves a group experiment with my NYU class. As a class of 13 graduate students, we decided to compose texts based on the content and conversation of our very stimulating course work, but we wanted to present and display the text in an unconventional way that would force the reader to change the method in which they interacted with the material. We also wanted to embrace “new tools” and not rely on platforms that we were already comfortable using. I offered Prezi and Vuvox as possible platforms. The group loved my sample Prezis, and I became the group guru. After setting up a skeleton site and uploading material to generate content, I invited all 13 class members as editors. I have never collaborated on a Prezi before, and certainly did not know how well the site would handle 13 editors. Since no one else in the class had ever used Prezi, I held tutorials and offered instruction and advice online to help my classmates get started. When editing at the same time from different computers, cute little avatars of each editor appear on the screen and you can watch them work, work simultaneously, or “pass the presentation” to one person. These functions work in a similar way to a collaborative Goggle doc, and frankly it was really fun to play around. As is the case with most new technology I have adopted, we ran into errors, bugs, and failures. At one point a student uploaded a pdf that was so large it covered all of the content on the screen, and when she deleted it everything behind it was also erased. We lost many hours of work, and this discouraged a lot of the group members (especially those who are not as comfortable with technology). I searched the Prezi site, and this is in fact a known problem that is rectified but clicking the undo button until the content returns, but the student had saved the presentation after the disaster. We met in person and rebuilt the site, and enforced a one-editor-at-a-time policy. So far, the presentation looks great, and everyone is able to edit the content, draw connections between their material and the content uploaded by others, and edit the invisible presentation path. We are presenting this experiment on Tuesday, and I borrowed a Flip cam from the GC to record it. With their permission I will allow you to see the results.

After using Prezi in my composition class and collaboratively editing a presentation with my fellow grad students, I am wondering if there is a need to develop my own program for my VLE, or if I should continue to develop Prezi? I have been working on developing my programming skills as part of this course through resources provided to me by Chris Stein. Here is the link to the site I have found most helpful in learning JavaScript.:
http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/programming-the-real-basics/
Articles 39-51 create a step-by-step guide. It is very accessible. I am also considering taking a course that involves programming and other dh skills. There will be a fall graduate course at NYU, taught by Deena Engel called “Literary Archives and Web Development that might be of interest to some of you as well. Courses for Fall are available here: http://english.fas.nyu.edu/object/english.grad.fall2011.html
here is a link the course description:
http://english.fas.nyu.edu/docs/IO/19390/Engl.GA-2957.pdf
She is Deena Engel <deena@courant.nyu.edu>, if you’d like to ask any questions.
I think that is a fairly thorough update for now. I would love to hear your feedback and ideas.

Posted in Uncategorized.


Update: “Digital Literacies Block” Proposal

Caroline, Jennifer, and I are collaborating to propose a block of general education courses for incoming first-years geared toward encouraging digital literacy and reflections on the use of technology. As we now conceive it, we would each design and teach a gen. ed. course in our field–Jennifer would offer “Introduction to Programming for Artists”; Caroline would offer “Introduction to Sociology”; and I would offer a first-year composition course. Our courses would function independently, but they would culminate in a shared student multimedia project related to the theme of “Autobiography.” Our presentation and proposal will thus center around two problems:

1. How to design a parent site (in WordPress) to be shared by all of the block’s courses.

2. How to design a culminating assignment using the technology as a tool to bring the courses together and allow students to “publish” their work for their class communities.

We will also provide background research into the efficacy of learning communities and blocks for first-years as well as on concepts of general education and the first-year experience. The technology functions in this project as a tool for collaboration between faculty and students geared toward encouraging an awareness of disciplinary distinctions as well as interdisciplinary connections.

I am attaching a very early skeleton draft of my writing course syllabus here as well as some preliminary ideas as to how my class might contribute to the culminating assignment:

Composition I

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of course students should be able to:

  • Read and understand complex texts in a variety of disciplines and genres
  • Analyze and synthesize these texts in writing
  • Demonstrate a command of edited American English.
  • Demonstrate a command of American academic essay structure (thesis-driven essays)
  • Demonstrate an awareness of audience and rhetorical situations
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the writing process and the value of revision

Each student will “publish” a final, 1,500-2,000 word essay as part of a multimedia project evidencing the above skills at the end of the course.

Course Schedule

Module I: Life Writing: Methods and Meaning

Assigned Texts:

Selections  from:

Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Frederick Douglass, The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass

Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

[Accessible theoretical texts on autobiography emphasizing the distance between the lived and the narrated–TK.]

Assignments:

3-4 page “Educational Autobiography” essay

3-4 page Analysis essay

Module II: Making Connections: Using Personal Experience as Evidence

Assigned Texts:

Marlon Riggs, Black Is . . . Black Ain’t (DVD)

Mike Rose, “I Just Wanna Be Average”

David Foster Wallace, “Consider the Lobster”

Virginia Woolf, selections from A Room of One’s Own

Alice Walker, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”

Assignments:

3-4 page Synthesis essay

Module III: Autobiography and Revelations of the Personal in a Digital Age

Assigned Texts:

Mark C. Santos, “How the Internet Saved My Daughter and How Social Media Saved My Family” (multimedia essay on Kairos)

Emily Gould, “Exposed”

Lisa Nakamura, “Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet”

[Articles on social networking, identity, and privacy issues TK]

Assignments:

3-4 page Persuasive essay

5-6 page Synthesis and/or Persuasive essay (emerging from an earlier essay) using features of autobiography to forward a thesis—to be revised several times and “published” with sociological analysis and digital self-portrait online.

Possible assignments:

  • Describing an important turning point in their lives then reflecting on how it compares/constrasts with features of the autobiographies we have read.
  • Using this “turning point” or other significant personal experience to construct a mini-research project (finding 3-4 outside sources) on a topic and then developing a persuasive essay from this experience and these sources.
  • Constructing an essay about life writing on the Internet.

Posted in Project Concepts.


What is “authentic” about authentic learning?

Hi All,

Welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing break.

The focus of next week’s class as we are all aware is Social Pedagogies, more specifically “authentic learning”.  I came upon a good article by Herrington and Oliver (2000), which I hope will guide/inform our discussions.  I want to initiate with the following question:

  1. What is “authentic learning” and what is authentic about it?

Posted in Motivation.


Update: Program without a Name

Like most software development my Grading software has been subject to the usual pitfalls and setbacks. Still, I have overcome the most pressing hurdle: writing text to Word or any other RTF application at the cursor. I did so by abusing the Windows API in ways that I probably shouldn’t. The short answer is that I will have a program that works, the more complicated answer is that I will have to refine this specific function during a later development stage. Right now, the program is relatively “dumb” in terms of how it plays with other programs. When you press a button it indiscriminately dumps rich text into another application. In terms of the coding this presents significant problems when it comes to error handling. As the program doesn’t really know what the user is doing, it’s hard to predict what feedback to give when the user inevitably does something outside of the program parameters.

I have also redesigned the UI significantly. It is now simplified with some of the more advanced features tucked away. When you open the program it is simply a button pallet that hovers over your Word document that will allow you to insert standard comments into a text document. I am also making each button customizable so users can rewrite the default text for each button. On top of which, I’ll include another 6 or 7 custom buttons. At the end of the day, the user will have about 30 odd comments at his or her disposal, this should be enough to respond to many standard errors without becoming overwhelming. I am currently just working on refining the process so the screen shot only shows one lonely button on the form. Once all the main functions have been written adding and subtracting buttons will be relatively quick.

There is also some extra functionality I am working on, but it is too soon to see if it will be successful. I’ll hold off talking about those. Hopefully, I’ll have some sort of working model by the end of the semester. I want to test it out during my summer courses, and reveal it to the English department at Hunter during Fall 2011.

Posted in Final Projects, Project Concepts.


Blogging about my blog…

You are all famous on my blog!

I want to share this post with you, since this class was the springboard for my recent discovery:

https://digitocentrism.commons.gc.cuny.edu/2011/04/20/create-a-social-media-newspaper/

Please read it when you have a chance, and leave comments!

Posted in Uncategorized.


Final Project Details

Hi Class,

Last week you all asked for more details on the expectations and deliverables for the final projects in this class. Joe and I put our keyboards together and here it is. If you have any questions please comment below. Also a quick reminder while I have your attention. There is no class tomorrow, April 19, or the following week, April 26. We would like an update post to this blog during the April 26 week on your projects.

The final project of Core II involves detailing the steps you would take towards the development of an innovative pedagogical teaching tool. Tool here is used loosely to refer to technology that is used to aid in the teaching and learning process. It could be an actual piece of software that you will write (or oversee the creation) or it could be a process for how to use existing technology in a novel way. Ultimately it’s your unique application of technology to teaching and learning. Building out of the work that you have done in the interim blog posts, consultations, and class presentations, your final project will take the form of a proposal that lays out the ideas and theory behind your tool as well as a prototype presentation that demonstrates how teachers and learners will use your tool.

So the “deliverables” will be 1) a class demonstration of some prototypical use of the tool (remember, this is not “blow our minds” —this one should be in the realm of the possible), and 2) a formal written proposal. This proposal should describe both the context for the project —philosophical background, references, who/what/where/when/why stuff— and a plan to make your project really happen in a classroom setting —the how stuff including timeline and practical considerations. Ideally the setting is one where you could implement the tool AND study how it works.

The prototype presentations/demonstrations can take many different shapes and do not require any particular level of technological complexity.  A short video, a physical model, a narrative or dramatic sketch, a slideshow, a passionate manifesto, a role-playing exercise in our class —anything that will allow the class to see what you plan and expect.  In the class presentation, we are hoping for creativity and experiential understanding, while the written proposal will provide details and practical rigor.

Do be aware that the time for the presentations WILL be limited —and we WILL want to have time for questions and discussion.  So be creative and experiential, but be aware of time constraints!

One final note. While your final project for Core II may not necessarily be the exact project you do for your independent study for the ITP Certificate, it COULD be —and you can think about using the independent study as a guide for structuring and motivating your work on this project.

Best,

Chris and Joe

Posted in Final Projects.


Protected: Making good use of hardware…

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Posted in Uncategorized.


Provocation: The Future of the Web

Chris Stein’s post on the “Future of the Internet” was incredibly thorough and thought-provoking, leaving me to simply share my thoughts (and a few videos) that I hope highlight how these technologies may change our work as scholars, and how we can view them as functioning in the classroom of the future.

First, I believe the semantic web holds considerable potential for improving scholarly research. Yes, it is fun to consider that in the future your e-mail could alert your alarm clock that your boss moved your meeting up an hour (wonderful), or that the traffic camera could start your car a few minutes earlier if there is a delay on the highway, or for your milk to send you a text message when it has expired to remind you to buy more….yet all of these are also terrifying. Issues of privacy and control MUST be addressed before companies are allowed to purchase and manipulate this information. The links Chris provided lead to similar discussions. For an entertaining and easy-to-follow explanation of the semantic web and its potential in the consumer market watch this video:

http://youtu.be/off08As3siM

But let’s get back to the world of higher education. As I said, I believe semantic web technologies will fundamentally change the way we conduct research. For example, at a THATcamp panel I attended earlier this year a group of knowledgeable librarians and archivists expressed the need for archived information to be encrypted with Web Ontology Language, which would provide a description readable by humans and machines, so that the work completed in one location would not be replicated at a different location. If databases and archives could communicate with each other, the same set of texts – documents, images, etc – would not need to be digitized multiple times in order for users to locate them from different access points. While this would certainly alleviate a great deal of monotonous work, it also requires a high level of expertise and trust (See the “Semantic Web Layer Cake” on slide 7). The archivist who initially encoded the text would need to write a reliable, authoritative description. This calls into question who can and should be in charge of digitization and encoding – Google? Librarians? Grant-funded interns?

However, if we idealistically assume that we will have reliable editions, then we can look to the potential in data mining the metadata encoded in digital texts using RDF query languages –  we discussed on examples of this, SQLR and SPARQL, earlier in the term. To offer a concrete example, I am currently working on a project in which I must identify which eighteenth century texts have prefaces, and will examine similarities and differences in their form and content. This project would be significantly easier if I had scholarly digital editions that were expertly encoded with both TEI for character recognition, and RDF for more sophisticated descriptions. What potentials do you see for semantic web technologies in your field?

The next topic I would like to discuss concerns communication technology, specifically translation tools. Translation has a direct impact on all of our fields as individual disciplines (I’m looking at you Chad and Jared), but more importantly it is incredibly vital to teaching (especially at CUNY). I am sure many of us, myself included, already have a favorite translation program (software or web based) or translation app(s) for your mobile device. I personally use Google translate (great mobile app as well), dict.leo.org, and the Green Life translator apps. Recently, Quest Visual released their app Word Lens which is incredibly exciting :
http://questvisual.com/

As of now the program can only translate a few languages, but it is easy to see the potential. Speaking of which, this youtube parody of a Microsoft commercial brilliantly captures the possibility of translation technology in true “blow our minds” style:

http://youtu.be/0USn7eufXps

There are of course dangers lurking here as well. How will these technologies change the way we learn foreign languages? Will language programs lose funding in favor of supporting tech solutions? Will these technologies benefit or harm ESL students? My ESL students already trust translation programs to an alarming degree, which results in poorly constructed papers and dissuades them from learning the rules of Standard Writing English. Even more upsetting are my students who use translators to understand what is being said in class – either what I am saying to the class (or to translate my notes) or what their fellow classmates are saying. This further marginalizes the student, ostracizing them from their classmates and the college community,  and puts them at a considerable disadvantage in terms of comprehension, which ultimately leads to plagiarism or failure. The author of the much talked about and highly circulated article from The Chronicle of Higher Education called “The Shadow Scholar”  specifically identifies ESL students as his customers. Driven by fear, lack of resources, or laziness they pay someone to write customized papers for them – even at the Ph.D level! Of course, ESL students are not the only ones drawn to these services. This leads me to an obvious, and by no means novel question – how will the future of the Internet redefine academic plagiarism?

Finally, I am deeply fascinated by augmented reality, and am curious to hear your thoughts on possible iterations for classroom use. Universities are already contributing to the development of augmented reality by creating tools for use in both on and off campus. For example, the good folks at UVa aided in the creation of Old Map App for the iPhone (an app I covet as a Droid user) and they took that technology and applied it to the UVa campus http://www.virginia.edu/mobile/.  This technology seems applicable at every level of education.  I immediately think of James Gee and educational games  – imagine systems through which students can experiment, invent, build, manipulate, travel, and explore through augmented reality technology. The darkside of this may lie in the same fears that have always surrounded video game use (one of many articles citing evidence can be found here ) – will game play in an enhanced reality increase violence, sexual misconduct, and hate crimes in our world?

And the last word is…..addiction! This week in the New York Times there was yet another article about how the Internet is addicting. As the Internet becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, the less capable we are of living without it! How can we avoid Internet addiction in the future?

Posted in Motivation, Uncategorized.

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The Future of the Web

As we all have seen trying to predict into the future is often more informative and enjoyable looking back on the predictions from the future than reading the predictions in the present. With that in mind I’m going to keep the future of the web to the near future. Also this will be heavily biased towards the technical side of the future and not so much on how that will change our selves our social interactions and our educations. The technical side is a bit clearer, it’s something I’m assuming many of you don’t know too much about which you know much more about the personal and social side. And quite frankly I’m more interested in exploring the human side in discussion and not in a post.

If you only read only one of the many links that will be here read the next one. In it Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Web (which is different from and built on the Internet), breaks it down as he sees it. The article is heavily paginated so I suggest clicking on the print button to see it all on one scrollable page: Long Live the Web.

Future of Web Technology

Web 3.0 / Semantic Web

There are a number of names for this but the idea is that in the future it will be easier for computers to talk to each other. As a programmer I prefer to think of it as a future where it is easier for people to write programs that can find and connect data and interact with other programs without the need for human intervention.

Right now we are in a stage where most of what is on the web is one of two things: people publishing information (like blogs and wikis and many web sites), and people using applications on the web (like Facebook, Gmail). Some of this is computers interacting directly with each other, but not much. One of the main reasons is that HTML itself is a pretty vague language. When you define content on a page you can only define general things like titles, paragraphs, lists.

This means that I have a hard time writing a program that can just go to a web site and find out specific information about the site. Google starts to do this but they can only do so much. What is needed are defined standards for how to describe certain types of information that might exist on a site. This is already being started with microformats. These are basically simple formats that use existing HTML but in a predetermined format. When I just visited the site the latest news announced that Google now has a new microformat recipe search. People who have recipes and put them in the recipe microformat will have those indexed and make searchable by Google.

The other method for allowing programs to talk to each other we currently have is APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). When a company writes an API for their service they are essentially opening up part of their data and functionality to programmers outside of their company. These APIs allow us to do things like pull in data from Google into our applications and reuse them. The combining of data and functionality from different services is often called a mashup. This is mashup from one of my students that brings Google Maps and Google Local Search into Flash. As we move forward it’s expected that these APIs will become more common and easier to integrate. For an idea of just how many are out there now here’s Programmable Web’s list: http://www.programmableweb.com/apis/directory

The idea going forward is that you will be able to do things like look for books your friends like and in the background the program will be able to search through their Facebook updates, likes, twitter feed, blog posts and emails to you and find actual books your actual friends like. For an idea of what that might be like try adding all of your feeds to Memolane. This uses oAuth open authentication and the various APIs from different social services to create a timeline of your life on the web (at least as seen through things like Facebook, Twitter and blogs).

And coordination among services will be possible in new ways. When you buy a concert ticket it might put the information in your calendar, notify your partner for whom you also bought a ticket, ask if you want dinner reservations nearby, with a list of possible places and friend recommendations for those places, offer you the option to tweet about it, pull the weather for the day and add a reminder for you to bring an umbrella.

In a more educational vein, the tools we use to search for and gather information will be much better at recognizing related and connected information. Try the search engine Evri for a kind of preview. Below is a screenshot of a search for Cathie Black (ousted yesterday as NYC Schools Chancellor) where it shows stories that are current and related to her and even recognizes and links other people.

If you follow this link: http://www.evri.com/news/for?query=cathie+black it will show yhou a list of stories and on the right have a list of people to help qualify who you were looking for. Click on the Cathie Black link on that list and you’re taken to this page http://www.evri.com/person/cathie-black-0x574bd7 which is the one where I grabbed the screenshot.

If you’re interested in more on Web 3.0 in non-academic speak here are some links:
http://computer.howstuffworks.com/web-303.htm
http://www.labnol.org/internet/web-3-concepts-explained/8908/

Standards

Standards are what have helped drive the internet to this point and they are most likely what will continue to drive it into the future. In the short term we are in the middle of an update to two of the venerable standards: HTML and CSS. HTML is moving to HTML5 and CSS is moving to CSS3. These standards will provide a more robust and flexible base which will make both the semantic web and also general web publishing and viewing better and easier.

For a long look at how they are effecting how we read you can view a post I did about the future of eReading.

Unfortunately in education we have not been able to adopt many easy open standards to help manage our classes, administration and research. For a very in-depth look at these standards (it’s a lot I haven’t been able to get through it yet), this series of articles on IBM’s web site should give you a full perspective (the first and last give a kind of overview/summary).

Technical standards in education, Part 1: Introducing the educational standards
Technical standards in education, Part 2: Learning technology standards, specifications, and protocols
Technical standards in education, Part 3: Open repositories for scholarly communication
Technical standards in education, Part 4: Interoperable resource deposit using SWORD
Technical standards in education, Part 5: Take advantage of metadata
Technical standards in education, Part 6: Standards for assessment and item banks
Technical Standards in Education, Part 7: Web 2.0, sharing, and the open agenda

The simplest way to make sure you are able to at least take part in the latest standards is to Update Your Browser on a regular basis. Now all major browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera and, yes, Internet Explorer) do a pretty good job of being standards compliant.

Interfaces

The web is just a structured set of data built on the underlying structure of the internet for communicating that information between computers. The “computers” that access the internet will group. It’s not just a PC with a browser anymore. In regular use are pc, laptop, netbook, tablet and smartphone. Soon that will include many more devices like refrigerators, cars, home security systems, etc. As the devices expand so will the interfaces we use. These interfaces will move from just keyboard/mouse(old skool), to touch (already done), gesture and voice (on the way despite Google’s April Fool’s Day prank)

These interfaces are being developed and will continue to be developed to get the kinks out. As with iOS and Android it seems that each revolutionary interface also requires a new operating system. This video is an example of a proposed multitouch system that would need a new OS. Multitouch video: http://10gui.com/video/ (R. Clayton Miller)

One of the negative features of these new devices is that they will create more walled gardens. By “walled gardens” I’m referring to the fact that they often run a subset of what is available on the internet. For example although smartphones have browsers much of what people do on them is in the form of apps. In Apple’s case the availability of the apps is also under central control. The internet as used in your car will also likely be usually through an app that has a targeted focus. It will become increasingly easier to play in a corner of the internet the walls of which are determined by OS and app makers, even if we can spruce up the place a bit with out personal info.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is simply put, software that we don’t have to download or install but simply point our browser to and use. Google is a big supplier of this kind of software with Gmail, Google Docs and more. Small companies like Avairy have never been anything but SaaS. Microsoft, Adobe and most major software vendors have jumped into the game in some fashion. This trend will continue with more, and more sophisticated software. Also you will see more services that, like Evernote, offer their product in multiple ways: web service, desktop app, and mobile app.

Augmented Reality

This loosely refers to adding a digital layer on top of the real world in some way. On the at-home end of the spectrum are apps like this one by GE: http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality. If you don’t want to both with printing out a marker and making sure your microphone and web cam are turned on then you can just click the video on the left. This uses image recognition from the webcam to drive a 3d rendering and the volume on your microphone to turn the windmills. Moving out into the world QR codes allow you to point your phones camera at one of the QR codes and be taken to a web site. Not too complicated but it requires a smartphone to work. A bit more exciting are the phone-based AR apps that map data onto an your phone’s live camera display. You can find bars, subway stations, constellations and play games. While these are exciting they also pose new challenges to the meaning of privacy. Using things like facial recognition it’s not hard to imagine an app that could be pointed at random people walking down the street and show you their names, Tweets, Facebook updates and more.

Some AR links:
http://mashable.com/2009/12/05/augmented-reality-iphone/
http://www.revenews.com/ctmoore/augmented-reality-threatens-physical-property-rights/
http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/07/19/zoopla-launches-iphone-app-for-uk-property-with-augmented-reality/

Openness

While there are technology driven and social (authoritarian) forces that are making the internet less open, there is still hope for more openness, both in the technology, as in open source and in the content and relations as in the open government and open education movements.
Some kinks to government and education related open resources

http://www.data.gov/
http://data.gov.uk/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_education
http://www.openeducation.net/
http://www.ocwconsortium.org/
http://www.oercommons.org/
http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm
http://oyc.yale.edu/
http://openeducationnews.org/
http://www.merlot.org
http://openstudy.com/
http://www.opentextbook.org/
http://www.hippocampus.org
http://ww.gutenberg.org
http://en.wikibooks.org
http://www.collegeopentextbooks.org

See this Wikipedia page for an extensive list of open source software:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_free_and_open_source_software_packages

IDENTITY / INTERACTIONS / CONNECTIONS

As I mentioned earlier I won’t spend much time here. It seems relatively certain that as the web changes and grows it will change the way see ourselves, interact with other people and the world and the connections we make with other people. Sometimes it will be useful to have an identity that you can take with you across sites so you don’t have to keep entering the same information everywhere. Other times it will be useful to have an identity that is anonymous and not traceable back to you. Will that be possible?

Social Networking is clearly going strong and will stay that way. Although it seems at some point Facebook won’t be able to have such a monolithic hold on the space. The challenge may come from another country. There is still an imbalance of English speaking and European people on the web. Much of the future will be about the rest of the world coming onto and reshaping it. Berners-Lee also has some thoughts on this internationalization and the human right to connect with other humans: http://bit.ly/eaEUGz.

Posted in Weekly Readings.




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