Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lessons from the iPad



I received a fantastic reception from a room full of professional engineers and facilitators today. I presented some findings from my recent work investigating using digital media and software to enhance elearning today, to facilitators at a strategic planning workshop. I was so nervous before the meeting. I kept thinking, "these guys will think this is so old hat" and "what happens if i can't get stuff to show on the iPad?" and in the end I did have trouble with wikispaces, the view on iPad is terrible and it was the one item I hadn't double checked. When I tried to link to it from the link I had put into Google+, it simply didn't work, and when I went into safari and linked to it there, the page view was woeful. There seemed to be some kind of disconnect when I plugged the iPad into the projector. When I loaded up my iBooks CV it changed all the page layout & colours. It wasn't a `digital' projector with a usb interface, it was an old pin plug one, I wonder if that had something to do with it?
I've re-checked the ibook CV again at home tonight with the iPad disconnected from a projector and the CV is now showing normally as I would expect it to.
I've been stalking the apple sponsored e-news publication `Teach with your iPad' for some time now, however it mainly reflects upon using iPads in primary and secondary school classrooms, rather than adult learning environments, and it also assumes that all your class has iPads to work on. It does give links and reviews on some great little aps for education, however they are often aimed at kids. Presenting to a room full of professionals who come with a mix of laptops, android tables & iPads is slightly different. I had restricted myself to demonstrating 4 applications, iBook Author, thinglink interactive images, Storify and Google+, and I was meant to go for 20 minutes, but ended up with 30 and if I'd had more content prepared, could have gone on for another hour!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More new tools


So begins week one of the EDC course. I'm in the middle of designing a short presentation to other Digital Immigrants about Integrating digital and web technology into their traditional classrooms. I need to read the Week 1 course notes on Utopia and Dystopia and start reflecting... but first I am going back to the dictionary, except it's peak hour online time where I live and my internet connection keeps dropping out because I'm in a no-where land stuck in a gap between the towns that have the new national highspeed broadband and the the towns that have not. I `have not' and I'm using a Telstra 4G wireless. It's fantastic when it works, but at this time of night I may as well be in Mali.
I did manage to try out Storify today, another ap that I have fallen instantly in love with.
EDC MOOC takes over http://sfy.co/iE2s #storify #edcmooc #en4709

Here's my current take on Tools for a digitally integrated classroom:

WHAT IS IT?
HOW COULD I USE IT?
VIDEO


Free online hosting service for short video clips

Source reference material
Repository for your videos.
As above
As above



COLLABORATIVE SPACES


Online storage for files that you can allow others to share.Dropbox creates a folder on your computer that automatically updates via the web.

Repository for collaborative documents, course notes, images, readings etc.
As above – slightly more complicated to use thandropbox as you have to go to the website.

As above.
Interactive Webpages – allows for collaborative input & discussion

People are using this to build whole courses!
Free internet phone calls
Limited conference calls – video calls – bring guest speakers into the classroom from anywhere



CREATIVITY & PRODUCTIVITY


Digital stickies used for marking up Acrobat docs
Highlighting and adding addendum to Adobe Acrobat documents

Interactive tool for compiling stories by gathering information in the public space on the internet
Builds great material on anything that is online in the public domain – eg Politics, Construction Management, Scientific research; Fashion!

A website that allows you to create interactive digital images & embed them on other sites.

You’ll `get’ this immediately!
Create lovely visual aids for your case-studies, topic outlines, projects.
Digital image creation
Purely beautiful creative images! Visual Journaling

Web space for collating things that you find on the internet.

Topic research, Discussion starters,
e-publisher for creating books to viewed on iPad
Dress up your notes! Add Video, Audio, Graphics, questionnaires etc.

Update current course notes.
SOCIAL


Social networking page – you can keep it private or open it up.
Material is threaded on a timeline, rather than by category

Can be difficult to manage for course interaction, however is good for marketing & promotions.
Like a personal set of webpages that you can create for a number of purposes. Features communities’, `hangouts’ & the ability to set up discussions and categories.

Create a `community’ around the topic you are delivering.
More social than Wikispaces, more organised than Facebook.
This definitely comes from the world of the `me’ generation!
Used as a tool to scan for information on any topic, or to carry large informal discussions on a topic. Used by self-promoters who like to do the `Look at Me, Look at Me!’ thing.

Social networking for professionals
Has many interest groups that you could suggest students join to extend professional knowledge.

A website that allows you to put out an open invitation to like-minded people to set up f2f meetings.
It is public, so I am not sure what controls there are on who sees the information there.

Fairly new resource – use to set up meetings for course activities such as a city walk to view construction project.



On pre-reading the course convenors notes for the end of the week, I am dismayed to find that they will have the live online Google Hangout launch at the equivalent of 4am Saturday, Melbourne time. One of the `dystopias' of live e-learning.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Where's (my EDCMOOC) Wally?

Digital Culture is like one of those Wheres Wally? drawings. There is so much going on. You know when you first look at the picture there is just people everywhere, then as you start to scan it you realise there are little groups of people doing all sorts of different things in different parts of the picture. But realising this doesn't make it any easier to know where in the picture you should be looking for Wally!  When I first started interacting with the pre-course groups a fortnight ago it was totally overwhelming, and as I'd play around a bit with each forum or social site, I'd get a little more detail of the overall picture or I'd get sidetracked by gizmo aps such as tik-tok or thinglink, or I'd read marvellous blogs written by obviously incredibly intelligent and talented people and I'd let out a sigh as I looked at yet another piece of incredible interpretive and creative work describing others journey through this digital landscape, but I still hadn't found Wally. Unfortunately I missed out on the first twitter chat as it was a little early in the morning after our Big Day in Australia, celebrating being Australian.  So tonight i am looking for that mythical Wally, my EDCMOOC, and just as the twitter chat was delivered at 6am Melbourne time this morning, I rather suspect that when I get up tomorrow morning I will find my Wally in my mailbox!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Digital Humans revised

I think this has just revised all my previous commentary about digital humans....

http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/breakthrough-in-storing-700-terabytes-of-data-in-1-gram-of-dna-20130124-2d89q.html

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

DIGITAL SOULS?

I'm still trying to catch up with a conversation, that I dropped in on between Angela and Ary in our EDC MOOC.  Ary posted a brilliant piece on the construct of being Post Human and even without properly reading the references she gave, I've been thinking about it. I think it's a bit like worrying about e-learning and course design. Really, the principles of Instructional Design don't change and I think the principles of what makes us human don't change. The question remains, can we replicate all that makes us human, in a digital model?
Here's some of my thinking today ...

From what I gather, there is a line of thought that says that the level of accessibility of digital technology is now infact creating a new order of humans, the "Post-Human". The creation of Artifical Intelligence now raises the question of whether we are able to create a digital human?
Even without reading all the materials, I'm going to say No. Without getting into the area of religion and spirituality, I think we still have not fully discovered what makes humans, human.
The questions I need to investigate are
What is the agreed current definition of a human?
Is there a soul?
The two gigantic questions of all time (leaving out the third one - Is there anyone else out there?)

Doing some reseach on the internet I came across this classic (religious) discussion on the Institue of Creation Research which argues that one of the things that distinguishes us as human rather than animal, is as follows:
*Man was created to serve. Human ambition for the purpose of serving oneself certainly cannot provide anyone with the fulfillment they are seeking. There are many examples of people who became famous and wealthy, only to find there is no fulfillment in personal ambition. The resulting disappointment in reaching personal goals and not finding fulfillment in them frequently leads to that individual's despair or eventual suicide. King Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes, described human ambition as "vanity" and "a chasing after the wind," concluding that man's only duty was to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Certainly, a life spent not functioning as it was designed to leads only to frustration and misery. The role for man as a servant can be seen from the beginning of his creation. Adam was created and placed in the Garden of Eden "to dress it and to keep it" (Genesis 2:15). The first recorded task man was given was to serve his Creator by caring for the Garden that He had planted. Christ emphasized the importance of the role of a servant many times to His disciples, teaching them that, "he that shall humble himself shall be exalted" (Matthew 23:12). He consistently used the concept of a servant as a synonym to describe those who would be His followers (Matthew 24:25; 25:21; John 12:26). Christ responded to the question of, "which is the great[est] commandment" by saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37,39). It may be easy to see that loving God with all your heart reflects a servant's attitude, but sometimes what it takes to love your neighbor as yourself is not as clear. When questioned about, "Who is my neighbor?" Christ gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, who at his own expense served the needs of a crime victim from an ethnic group that was normally hostile to Samaritans. This human behavior contrasts with a recent study of chimpanzee behavior revealing that chimpanzees are oblivious to the needs of others who are not related to them.1 In their book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey reported anthropologist Margaret Mead as saying, evidence for civilization is when a healed femur is found. It shows that someone must have cared for the injured person. Someone was a servant, evidence of "what makes us human."*

I think I would rather focus on the need for fulfillment! Do animals have a need for fulfillment? I don't think so. I don't think my chooks wake up each day  seeking fulfillment by laying the best eggs ever.
So. I think that a need for fulfillment is a defining Human characteristic. Well then, I need to ask what is `Fulfillment'?

I like the Webster Dictionary's version

Webster Dictionary

  1. Fulfillment(noun)
    the act of fulfilling; accomplishment; completion; as, the fulfillment of prophecy
  2. Fulfillment(noun)
    execution; performance; as, the fulfillment of a promise 


"fulfillment." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2013. <http://www.definitions.net/definition/fulfillment>.


However the definitions of fulfillment seem to suggest that it is linked to an emotion, the emotion of Desire.

So now to the other piece that troubles me - the soul. If we are to develop Post-Human digital humans, what happens to that perculiar characterisitc attributed to humans only, the soul?

Definition from http://education.yahoo.com/reference/dictionary/entry/soul

NOUN:
1. The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity.
2. The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state.
3. The disembodied spirit of a dead human.
4. A human: "the homes of some nine hundred souls" (Garrison Keillor).
5. The central or integral part; the vital core: "It saddens me that this network ... may lose its soul, which is after all the quest for news" (Marvin Kalb).
6. A person considered as the perfect embodiment of an intangible quality; a personification: I am the very soul of discretion.
7. A person's emotional or moral nature: "An actor is ... often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not" (Alec Guinness).
8. A sense of ethnic pride among Black people and especially African Americans, expressed in areas such as language, social customs, religion, and music.
9. A strong, deeply felt emotion conveyed by a speaker, a performer, or an artist.
10. Soul music.

Taking just the first 2 definitions and disregarding the rest, it seems that Soul is linked to emotion. Now I know that dogs, cats and horses I have had in my life, experience emotions. However I think that having a soul is far more closely connected with that emotional need for fulfillment that I spoke of earlier. I don't believe that even higher order primates actively think about or seek fulfillment.

If you disregard the religious connotations, most of the historical writings on the soul discuss it in terms of what we would today recognise as functions of the mind, ie: thought, emotions, desire, personality. Tibetian Buddhists have an interseting conception of mind, they believe in 3 levels of mind;
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soul
*In some schools, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, the view is that there are three minds: very subtle mind, which does not disintegrate in death; subtle mind, which disintegrates in death and which is "dreaming mind" or "unconscious mind"; and gross mind, which does not exist when one is sleeping. Therefore, gross mind less permanent than subtle mind, which does not exist in death. Very subtle mind, however, does continue, and when it "catches on", or coincides with phenomena, again, a new subtle mind emerges, with its own personality/assumptions/habits, and that entity experiences karma in the current continuum.*

All up , I'm not entirey convinced about the existence of soul, rather I think that humans have simply evolved much higher `states of being' than other animals, including primates.


Science and the mapping of the human genome are also providing some answers, this article is from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3346580/What-makes-us-human.html  by Dr Armand Leroi, of Imperial College London. The article is discussing the genetic condition known as microcephaly or small brain.

*Therein lies the importance of microcephaly. The discovery of genes that control the growth of the brain immediately suggested that these genes might also have changed in the last six million years since we last shared an ancestor with chimps. And so it proved: of the four microcephaly genes that have been found, three bear the hallmarks of rapid evolution. To be sure, chimps have versions of these genes, but the human version is different. So different, in fact, that their evolution must have been driven by natural selection.
It is hard to understate the beauty of this result. Ever since Aristotle, philosophers have wondered: what makes us different from the beasts? What makes us human? The answers that they have supplied: that man is a political animal, a thinking animal, a naked animal, a tool-making, tool-using animal - answers that, for all the aphoristic pleasure they provide, are essentially meaningless if not blatantly false, can now be discarded.
Now, when we ask: "What makes us human?" we can answer: this gene and that one... and that one. We can write the recipe for making a human being. Or, at least, we can begin to.*


Whether we can replicate all of these genetic differences that lead to the state of being human, digitally, is another matter.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Steep learning curves

After spending some time today, by starting with the EDC MOOC wiki, ending up on the various EDC MOOC facebook pages, finding the The EDC MOOC School (fb page), then reading the ppt file behind it and then coming across the AMAZING interactive image created by Kay Odone @KayC28 I'm just blown away! This is what I've wanted to do for 100 years! I'm hooked. Way back when I was a horticultural teacher, I wanted to make interactive images for botany and entomology lessons and it used to just totally frustrate me that I didn't have the tech skills to do it. I'd fiddle around with word documents and hyperlinks, but they just weren't getting me there. I've been in management positions for the past 12 years and am just returning to instructional design and this is magic. Looking at the Thingylink website is inspiring, so many ways to use this technology. Yes, I know the IT nerds will be saying `Oh, we've been able to do this for ages.'. but nobody put it out there for me to use so simply for ages.... So excited.



Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Communications Technology and my real world.

I'm slowly sorting through what I want to use for the E-Learning and Digital Cultures course. There has been massive activity on the various social sites, Facebook and Google+ particularly. I've managed to RSS feed this blog to the Edcmooc news site and it's now been converted to Google+ and is auto-uploading to my Google+ page. I'm getting quite a few people `adding' me to their Google+ pages, so I guess that is a bit like being `followed' on Twitter. I'm still not much of a convert to Twitter. I think it's a personality thing, I just am not into the self-promotion, throwing out my thoughts into the twittersphere for all the world to see. Even adding my feed to my Google+ page is a bit confronting for me!
At the same time as all of this, I'm dealing with a little bit of medical technology that is both exciting and frustrating. I'm a Type 1 Diabetic. That means that I am totally and utterly dependent on insulin to stay alive. I am lucky enough to be able to afford an insulin pump, a small device which is loaded with a cartridge of insulin, a tiny electric pump and amazing software that controls how much insulin is drip fed into me via a tube and inserted `port'.  This system is an alternate to taking 4 to 6 injections of insulin a day, every day. I also have access to the occasional use of a piece of `companion' technology that works alongside the pump. This is a Constant Glucose Monitoring System or CGMS. This system comprises of a sensor which is inserted under the skin, to monitor the interstitial fluid for glucose levels and a radio transmitter that relays the information to the pump system. It is not yet sophisticated enough to create a `closed loop' and actually regulate the pumps dosing activity, however it does give me very accurate information via the pumps digital screen. This information allows me to make much better decisions about how to balance my insulin dose, my carbohydrate intake and my activity to result in a more stable `blood sugar' level.  I only use this system about once a year because it is relatively expensive. Each sensor costs about $75.00 and lasts for about 5 - 6 days. The sensors can be a bit fiddly and temperamental, for instance when I inserted one today, I hit  vein and it became contaminated by the bleeding. I had to remove it and discard it. Good-bye $75.00. Frustration!
I'm writing about this, because it is in a way, a parable for how I feel about learning to improve my skills to deliver better e-learning! Excited by all the potential, investing money in systems, hardware, software and steep learning curves, and in the end not sure about the benefits, but determined to be in the mix and accessing the best technology that I can!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Walking the Talking

Whew! I'm not sure what I've let myself in for with this Edcmooc for E-Learning and Digital Cultures. I've been wriggling around for years trying to get involved in using online and digital media tools for learning and now I'm totally immersed, or will be very soon. As much as I like to think that I'm pretty tech-savvy, the pre-course work alone has got me scrambling! Yes I've had a Twitter account for YEARS! But do I actually use it??? Very rarely. Yes I Blog all the time, in fact I've got about half a dozen different blogs, journals notebooks! Still have trouble making myself write every day. Yes I have a Google+ account, but I haven't done anything with it. Yes I have a Facebook account and use it frequently, but I wouldn't open THAT one up to anyone other than personal friends and family. Yes I have a LinkedIn profile and THAT one, I keep strictly Business. Suddenly my Blogger Account wants to get to know my Google+ account and my Google + account is dredging up every little thing I have ever done on line, including videos I viewed FIVE years ago on YouTube!
I've done all sorts of things over the years, including setting up email challenge games, making & posting small videos, posting lots of photos on Flickr and Picasa, and more recently starting to learn the Adobe suite of Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, with the intention of being able to create my own content. But I haven't got the hang of audio podcasting and management of file sizes for audio and video files. I bought a Mac this year and it's nice using the Mac aps such as iMovie that just do it all for you, however I suspect I've got a very steep learning curve ahead of me.
This is going to be one heck of an experiment.