Sunday, July 29, 2007

elearnspace: World Almanac of Educational Technologies

elearnspace: World Almanac of Educational Technologies: "World Almanac of Educational Technologies"

... that'd be 'world' in the sense of a handful of countries and no mention of the UK then...

Ah, the world is a small place... and growing dramatically smaller all the time... :o)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Why do we have to die in games?

Why do we have to die in games? | Technology | Guardian Unlimited Technology: "Dying in real life is - religious beliefs aside - the end, the last event you'll take part in. Not so in computer games, where it's never worse than briefly infuriating. In World of Warcraft, the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) that 8.5 million people play every day, your death just means you have to spend several minutes trekking back to the point at which you died. And your avatar is temporarily weakened. It's an inconvenience.

But why is in-game 'dying' necessary at all? Alternatively, why isn't dying in a game as final as it is in real life? In MMORPGs, the latter is in part at least simply answered: it's economics. From Blizzard's point of view, if in-game death were final, people would stop coughing up their monthly subscription. And the vibrant in-game economy depends to a certain extent on death and regeneration: when your avatar comes back to life, your weapons are damaged and need repairing - for which you pay a fee."

Interesting little article about 'dying' in games. It strikes me that death in games is the equivalent of a toddler's interpretation of what death is all about. Gone today, here tomorrow. Death is just a word to a little one and fairly meaningless at that. But it also occurs to me that there's nothing really new as far as computer games are concerned. What about traditional games. Chess? Don't you 'kill' the other player's pieces? Or hangman. The poor guy dies if you're not successful! Maybe the answer isn't too deep at all? We die in a game because it's easier to make a symbolic clean break so we can start afresh? We die in a game because it's make believe and games are about invention and imagination.

By the way... can you die in Second Life? Or is a 'real' computer game death too unpalatable?

Chris Jordan's photos of disturbing consumer stats: interview

Boing Boing: Chris Jordan's photos of disturbing consumer stats: interview: "Chris Jordan renders American consumer statistics as art. For instance: above, 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day."
I find this figure absolutely shocking for so many reasons. Multiply it out a bit and you have...

12,780,000 per month (for an average 30 day month)
155,490,000 per year

Isn't that just the slightest bit depressing?? 155.5 million phones thrown away every year... just in the US. Not even worldwide. What on earth is happening to the world when a simple communication device becomes as disposable as scribbling a note on a piece of scrap paper? I sometimes wonder whether the world has gone mad. Some days a statistic pops up which confirms that it actually has.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Long Tail antidote

If you've read 'The Cult of the Amateur' by Andrew Keen and need a bit of balance... 'The Long Tail' by Chris Anderson gives a much more balanced and thought-provoking view of the current state of the internet.  It probably appeals to the inner Economist in me as well, but it's a good consideration of what's happening to a supply and demand world where the potential for both is becoming unlimited.  I question whether it is in fact unlimited right now since there will always be physical or financial constraints which present fairly immovable barriers (the world will never be 100% digital nor will it be 100% free), but it's a fascinating concept and a gentle meander through what can at times feel like a bewildering fast set of changes in the online world.

Definitely recommended. 

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Sticky wikis?

A quick thought about wikis and whether or not they're ever going to be successful in education in the same way that they are in the sense of Wikipedia.  I have a feeling that it's more about the drive to make content than the nature of the format.  In other words, wikis may be easy to use, easy to publish, easy to edit etc... but if there's no passion from the people making content then they'll remain as static as any other more traditional written exercise.  It strikes me that asking people to compile resources just because it's a useful thing to do in a readily collaborative environment is an idea which works on paper, but if you're asking people to eat into their limited free time to do so or asking them to keep on nibbling at an activity you've set up in order to make it dynamic... it's unlikely to happen if they really don't care that much about it.  In some ways, that doesn't make sense.  Why wouldn't a student be passionate about the subject they've chosen to study?  Well the reality is that there are lots and lots and lots of reasons!  Life intervenes.  It's a means to an end.  It's dull.  It's 'just' a course.  The list could go on and on.

I don't know what I'm really trying to say.  I suppose in focusing on the benefits of using technologies such as wikis, people are often taken aback that they don't seem to fly in the manner of the most successful implementations.  If web 2.0 technologies are about user generated content, then we need to understand what motivates, interests and enthuses learners.  Just because a technology can do something doesn't mean that learners will want to do it.  The killer app is ultimately people.

Friday, July 20, 2007

NZ may offer courses in prostitution

NZ may offer courses in prostitution | The Australian: "FUNDING for tertiary courses in prostitution could be considered under changes aimed at boosting quality and relevance in the sector, New Zealand education officials say.
But MPs on parliament's education and science select committee were told today that although courses in the world's oldest profession might be considered if providers put them forward, they would still have to meet tight criteria to get funding."

A course that definitely couldn't be studied via elearning?! Or is this where SecondLife might come in?? That aside, the overwhelming mental image is that of a scene from 'The Meaning of Life' where John Cleese is teaching a group of boys sex ed...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's a Facebook Life

Just idly browsing round Facebook while I had a mo and a thought occurred to me... the vast majority of people who've posted a picture on their profile have put online a smiley one.  If you walk round the streets of most large towns and cities, you won't see those same smiley faces.  Why is it that the image we want to project is the smiley one... but the image we really project is far more complex and smiley is only a small part of it.  If you were to believe in the Facebook person, you'd think everyone was laughing, chatting, happy and contented, wouldn't you?  Almost everyone wants to present their best self, rather than their real self. 

Your Facebook identity is a strange old mix, really.  Are you a different person when speaking to your colleagues?  Do you project a work image?  A social life image?  A family image?  Do they blend together seamlessly, or do certain networks feel more 'you'?  When you put online your status - who are you talking to?  Would it matter if you said 'Sarah is... hating her dog' if your dog (miraculously!) were able to read it too?  How honest can we really be if by putting online our thoughts we don't take on board how much we're compromising our expressive privacy?

Is it a smiley world... or is it just the homogenized, safe one we need it to be to protect ourselves and our futures?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Trial by Facebook

Students' trial by Facebook | higher news | "Oxford University staff are logging on to Facebook and using evidence they find on student profiles to discipline students."

I guess it was always going to happen and that it's a lesson in the fact that you should never put online what you wouldn't be happy to defend at some form of tribunal(!), but things like this just remind me what a funny old world we live in. We encourage students to become ICT literate as part of the skill set they should have... then, when they use their own initiative to take part, voluntarily, in a social network... employing those skills creatively, uploading images, connecting with others... WHOOMPH! Down on them like a ton of bricks. I imagine this is a headline grabber and a reminder that there is no such thing as privacy if your thoughts have left the space between your ears... but it would be interesting to hear how this situation worked out for these students in the end. Although if it is worked out in a common sense way, then it's not going to be 'shock horror' enough for the news, is it?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Simplified spelling glossary

BBC NEWS | Magazine | Simplified spelling glossary: "Simplified spelling glossary
Here are a selection of reformed spellings as envisaged by the Simplified Spelling Society.

Addicted - adicted

Anyone - ennywun

Are - ar

Beautiful - butiful

Becoming - becumming

Benefit - bennefit

Couple - cupl"...

One word for this idea... NO!

Friday, July 13, 2007

9 year old as 'writer'?!

I know I should be more open-minded... but a 9 year old blogger being featured on CNN etc and describing herself as a 'writer'? Don't know what it is or why, but I'm getting a touch of the 'Cult of the Amateur's' about it all and I can hear my mind shutting down. I may have to force myself into reading her stuff just to see if my instinct will be proved wrong, but... ermmmm, I don't know if I can be bothered. I just feel uncomfortable about it which I realise is daft, but at least I'm being honest I guess!

Infinite Thinking Machine
We are pleased to have a new correspondent join the ITM - 9 year-old Adora Svitak! Adora is a published author who's written hundreds of short stories, maintains her own blog, and has been featured on CNN and Good Morning America.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Real name = real flaming

Interesting article from The Guardian... although nothing which really explains why this might be the case, only that it's an observable phenomenon. Which tells you... ermmm... precisely nothing helpful. Tantalisingly interesting... yet no substance. For me, I'd rather use my own name online because I'm uncomfortable with the concept of not being me. I can't keep up a pretence, so I'd rather not bother even trying.  Hence, I don't feel comfortable with the fake name, fake body of Second Life and I don't normally sign up for things using a nick name which isn't 'me' in some way. I don't know if it makes flaming more or less likely as far as I'm concerned. But I definitely feel more comfortable with existing online in a way that represents the 3D version of myself as best as poss.  Anyway... here's the article...

Removing anonymity won't stop the online flame wars | Technology | Guardian Unlimited Technology
Again and again we hear the suggestion that if only people would use their "real" names when commenting on blogs and sites such as the Guardian's, everything would be sweetness and light. Wouldn't it? New research suggests not, says psychology lecturer Dr Ros Dyer, who researched computer mediated communication for her PhD at Staffordshire University.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Hot air vs. hot off the press

Interesting comment from Bill Thompson (below) on the continuing power of books and more traditional forms of media. He puts together a thought-provoking argument and his comments about the Andrew Keen book are astute.  For me, he's put his finger on what is wrong with Keen's work. Keen is criticising the nature of Web 2.0 - which is fair enough, it's good to be cynical sometimes - but does so by constructing a Web 2.0 style anecdotal diatribe... mistakenly putting it into print so people can 'out' it as an example of bad literature. Maybe his work functions best when it's in the sound-bite format of the internet? It certainly doesn't work when you physically engage with it, paragraph by paragraph, page by page. Can books still trump the digital with all its bells and whistles? Give it the right context and it certainly can...

BBC NEWS | Technology | Cultural past of the digital age
I had a concrete experience of the value of the book recently when I was asked to appear on BBC World television to discuss the usefulness of the internet with author Andrew Keen.

Keen's book, The Cult of the Amateur, is stirring up a storm online as he criticises bloggers, remix artists, social network sites, file sharing and almost every other aspect of today's online world.

I don't think it's a good book, and he needs to learn that throwing lots of anecdotes about the bad side of the web into a book doesn't actually make an argument.

I know this because I read the printed book, and didn't just scan it on a screen. I bought a copy from my local bookstore and then read through it in a way that works extremely well for a printed book, using page headings and the physical feedback that comes from knowing how many pages are ahead to guide me.

You can't do the same online, or rather you can't do it as efficiently.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Surviving 'The Cult of the Amateur'

Just seen a great review of Andrew Keen's 'The Cult of the Amateur' on the Open Gardens blog which reminded me that I was going to write up some sort of response to it myself. I've just finished reading it and apart from having to resist the urge to hurl the book out of the window shouting 'you have an interesting point but a) don't ham it up and b) stop being needlessly rude and derogatory' this review sums up the issues I have with it perfectly. There is a real assumption that amateur = inferior. That payment for service = better service than free. That expert alone = authority. At no point does he address the need for better education on critical thinking, information evaluation or weighing up which tools might suit which job. He has taken a singular stance of the defensive 'expert' and defends his position by attack rather than balanced evaluation and explanation. If this is the best an expert can do... bring on the amateurs. It goes for the shock-horror jugular, but loses its audience by childish name calling and sensationalist nonsense. Sensible discussion of the pros and cons of the state of the Web... yes. Arrogance and intellectual snobbery... no thanks. Mind you, I still do think it's worth a read as it does serve as a bit of an antidote to the Web 2.0 hype which is swishing around at the moment, even if it's a shame it's so badly written.

Anyhoo... here's the review if you think you might be interested in Andrew Keen's alternative look at Web 2.0 - it'll give you a taste of what lies ahead!

Andrew Keen – The cult of the amateur - Book review by Tony Fish
Andrew Keen – The cult of the amateur – how today’s internet is killing our culture and assaulting our economy.

This is a great read as it is the counter balance to the O’Reilly message and excitement over social networking and user generated content, and if for that reason alone – read it.

I suffer with the assumptions, the logic and overall lack of deep coherent strategic thinking. Given the recognition of change – to address the change from one direction (traditional media) without the suggestion that other (tech, telecom, web and mobile) could be the benefactor of the change is naive. It is an ivory tower defence of his own industry and suggests that this should survive above all others.

There is a premise that an amateur is an amateur and will always be an amateur in every context. The book does not recognise a specialist or expert. An expert in one field should not cross the divide and try to move into media. I am not sure when an amateur becomes an expert, where does the ability come from to make a judgement of taste vs talent? Why is a director or editor so good - because he amateur consumers read it and like it – voting with cash. But they are only good or an expert why there is money to be made – this argument is never put forward.

Whilst there is an abundance of criticism of the ‘free business model’ and user generated content from an ‘amateur’ there is no suggestion of a better model. The question you are left with is so what. This is a defence of the existing job and own career and not positioned to punch through to the next level.

There is an underlying belief that all amateur content is rubbish and that the professionals are the only ones who can produce results - there is no difference between news and opinion. Keen never brings out a case where the amateur has caused, to the mainstream medias’ embarrassment, revelations that what they promoted as fact was a lie. WhiteWashGate

Keen ignores the fact that cost saved in one business area is either passed on as profit and increasing wealth to shareholders or diverted into some other budget. Whilst a travesty that adverting lost out on one model, Google gained on the other – there is a need for a balance, especially when my pension fund is at stake.

On page 69, Keen is right to point out that amateur claims are dangerous, but the belief that two governors, four congressmen, three former white house officials and two special counsels are more trust worthy or without bias. If they were (trustworthy) the news industry would be dead! The question is about motivation, not trust!

Perhaps the reason that most of the UGC is rubbish is that we have all read too much mainstream media, watched too much TV ? Where is the responsibility for the education level. Further the book assumes that the news reporters are of a higher moral standing than everyone else. Why then sensational headlines? What sells?

Another assumption is because it works (media) keep it. I am so glade we stuck at the steam train!

I am not sure that surveillance is the issue, capture, sharing and analysis are. People have always watched other people, it is just there is now a mechanism for perfect recall. Everyone Knows.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Wikis in education

Although this website doesn't specifically refer to the use of wikis in education it does give a whole load of really interesting ideas about what will or won't work when it comes to setting up and using wikis. My experience of them so far has not been a dynamic, collaborative experience but instead it's been more tentative and cautious with no-one wanting to 'damage' anyone else's work. I've been trying to think how to overcome these sorts of barriers and I think some of the material on just might do it... maybe... (who can tell when it comes to elearning, huh?!)

Wikipatterns - Wiki Patterns
Looking to spur wiki adoption?

Want to grow from 10 users to 100, or 1000? Applying patterns that help coordinate peoples' efforts and guide the growth of content, and recognizing anti-patterns that might hinder growth - can give your wiki the greatest chance of success.

This site contains a toolbox of patterns and anti-patterns, and a guide to major stages of wiki adoption that explores patterns to apply at each stage. Beyond this site, there are many other additional resources.
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