The Reality of Happy Slapping

This last semester, I’ve mentioned happy slapping a fair bit, along with other abberant, digitally-inspired behaviours. If you haven’t heard of happy slapping, well it’s a phenomenon sweeping the UK in which an individual slaps or strikes a (usually) complete stranger while the incident is recorded on a video-enabled mobile phone. Of course, since such phones are also Bluetooth or MMS equipped, videos can be usually traded, shared and uploaded, and competition promotes one-upness.

A recent article by Carl Longino (via Boing Boing) helps to support the point that these incidents should be taken seriously, and instigators are violent criminals. Longino points to a video compilation by blogger Alfie Dennen which shows just how violent these attacks can in fact be.

If you are at all sensitive to violent video footage, skip it. However, if you want to see how bad this problem could get, you may want to take a look. Scary stuff.

IBM Joins the Sakai Project

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sakai, it’s a an open source collaboration and learning environment (CLE) geared for higher education. The origins of the project come from the University of Michigan and Indiana University, but now involves over 70 schools around the world.

Well now it looks like IBM has become a corporate sponsor of the project. While I always have mixed feelings about a large corporate entity coming in to support open products, institutions that have been resisting the adoption of open products such as Sakai may be able to reconsider.

And IBM has a few nice things to say about open source software:
“IBM believes the open-source movement is leading to the next major paradigm shift in the software industry. We think it is important to view the role of open source in the more holistic form of an ‘open approach’ overall. Together, open source, open standards and open architecture form a powerful combination for the creation of the next generation of applications.”

Yea … duh!

Why Some Social Networks Work, and Others Fail?

Jyri Engeström recently wrote a thoughtful post on the reasons why some social network services succeed, and others do not. Engeström’s hypothesis, which he labels “object centred sociality”, follows the thinking of sociologist Karin Knorr Cetina. Basically, “object centred sociality” takes the stance that it makes little sense to discuss ‘social networking’ if we ignore the “objects that mediate ties” between people. “The fallacy is to think that social networks are just made up of people. They’re not; social networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.”

Engeström cites success stories such as Flickr (object = photograph) and (object = URL), and alternately, less successful services (e.g., LinkedIn) where the object is not as explicit, or even absent.

It’s an interesting argument backed by some really compelling sociological theory. I recommend taking a look.

Email More Damaging to IQ than Cannabis?

The Guardian reports, “The distractions of constant emails, text and phone messages are a greater threat to IQ and concentration than taking cannabis”. This finding emerged from the results of 80 clinical trials at King’s College, London University.

Hmmmm … you know, come to think of it, I do feel a bit dazed and confused after a day of reading blogs, checking voice mail, instant messaging students and sorting through new and old email … among the dozens of other information items in my daily routine. This field of study, as many others, demands thoughtful and disciplined information management and I wasn’t surprised to read that “The most damage was done … by the almost complete lack of discipline in handling emails.”

Hmmmm … I never thought that I might become an email burn-out. Well, I guess “it’s better to burn out, than to fade away”. Ahhh … it must be late.

Social Bookmarking Tools: Article

I have been a big fan of social bookmarking tools, and use Spurl on a daily basis. And since I’ve introduced such tools to my students, they continue to comment on how these tools have become indispensible.

So it’s great to see a thoughtful article on social bookmarking tools in D-Lib magazine. While I was aware of most of the tools the article mentions, it’s great to see description by each, and a bit of a matrix developed to help users decide which are the best tools for their specific needs.

Check out the article, and don’t forget to Spurl it! New(er) Reputation System

I received word on Opinity (Beta). While it looks like the company has been around since 2002, this particular service seems fairly new.

Basically, the service acts as a centralized reputation system, similar to eBay’s system, but not specific to one particular activity. Opinity allows subscribers to rate others under a variety of circumstances. Beyond business relationships, here’s an example from the Opinity site.

“You decide to meet a person through an online dating site. You see a profile that is a good match. However, when you actually meet in person, you find the person is not even close to the profile posted on the web site. You feel like you waste your time and want to tell others that the information at the web site is not trustworthy. You go to Opinity to write a review about the person.”

Along with allowing users to rate you, Opinity also offers “reputation management”, which, if you have a decent reputation, you can post your authentic reputation report to your website or blog.

I am not sure this actually works (its a bit confusing), but I have concerns on a couple of levels. First, if anyone can review anyone (which I am not sure is the case), can we avoid reputation vandalism? Or, alternately, if one needs a userid (or other specific information) to review another person, who would let this information out to someone who could damage your online reputation. And in this case, we would only get the positives in most cases.

I like the reputation system in eBay as only those who you directly deal with can comment. And even so, eBay can mediate reputation disputes. In a way, I do like the idea of a central reputation service or reputation systems in ideal terms. However, I am seeing that something like this, in the way it is set up, can either be damaging, or essentially useless in providing accuracy.

Don’t Steal This Professor’s Laptop

There’s an interesting story moving around the blogosphere (is there a better word for this yet?) regarding a Berkeley professor who had his laptop computer stolen (via Boing Boing). Evidently, the laptop was loaded with tracking technology, and full of highly secret government and corporate information. However, it seems the thief was probably only after a digital copy of a course examination.

In the following video (BitTorrent Download), the professor describes the ominous and terrifying consequences of this incident for the thief. Wow … I’m sure glad I didn’t do it!

This also goes to show both the sensitivity of information that can be stored on portable devices as well as the security measures that are often in place to protect this data.

And by the way, if you have not yet discovered Bit Torrent, feel free to ask me what this means, and how you can use it. It’s currently one of the best ways to share files to many users.

CyberBullying Presentation

I’ve been asked to present on the topic of CyberBullying to a group of parents in Canora, Saskatchewan. I’ve put together a presentation which I created in Keynote. I’m making it available to anyone who might find it useful.

Here it is in Keynote Format (zipped), Powerpoint format or as a PDF.
Note: The export to PowerPoint function wasn’t perfect, as I’ve found there seems to be some overlapping text. If you have Keynote, it’s probably your best bet.

Additionally, Dan has helped my put together a few resources for the presentation, so let this be the official announcement that our new domain has been officially launched. There’s not much there at the moment, but stay tuned as it develops.

iPods in the Classroom

Since I’ve purchased my iPod, I’ve found myself trying to justify it as an educational tool vs. merely a personal music player. While Podcasting is one route, I am still looking for other ideas. Well, Edugadget recently featured an article titled ‘iPod lessons for all of us“. The article extends what Apple has already suggested, and together, these sites give a few good ideas of how to use the iPod (or similar) in the K-12 setting.

WFB Launches Humanitarian Video Game, “Food Force”

The United Nations’ World Food Programme has launched a free educational video game titled “Food Force”. The game is designed to “teach children about the logistical challenges of delivering food aid in a major humanitarian crisis.”

I’m pleased to see that the game is available for both PC and Mac platforms (although unfortunately not Linux). The game can be downloaded from Free, humanitarian, learning, game … sounds like a winning combination to me.

Use of Blogging in Undergraduate Courses: My Experience

Well another semester is about to end, and so I would like to reflect on how blogging was integrated in the courses I have taught so far this year. So, without further ado …

I taught two undergraduate courses focusing on the integration of technology in education. They include:

ECMP 355 (Computers in Education)
ECMP 455 (Computers in Education: Advanced)
Note: Yes, these courses have been around for a while and certainly need a name change, as we deal with much more than just ‘computers’ in the classroom.
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