Low-Cost Laptops and Industry Change

From CNet News

… if mainstream PC buyers start to find their needs met by a lightweight, simply featured, inexpensive portable, it’s likely to impel all of the major players in the industry to pile on by lowering their prices. And that’s in an industry with already low margins for retailers and manufacturers.

If the Eee PC just catches on with Linux developers, enthusiasts, and the tech-savvy early adopter crowd, that’s fine by him. “But if mainstream buyers buy it, then, whoa,” Abary said.

This is becoming a win for Gnu/Linux and for consumers. As for OLPC and the benefits to Africa? I still need to be convinced.

My Presentation to EPS 100

I spoke to a group of EPS 100 students last week, and Del Fraser (one of their instructors) wrote up some notes about my presentation. I thought that these were well done and captured much of what I talked about.

One of the opening lecture points I made was that I wanted you to think about your role as an agent of change in your teaching practices. Not change just for the sake of change, but change for the continued adaptations we need for students to succeed in their new worlds. One such change is that of using Information Technology as a partner in successfully teaching your students.

One of the responsibilities that teachers may assume is that of “protector”. We assume this role in a natural way as we assume responsibility for the learning community and students who are part of our everyday circle of contacts. It is somewhat natural for us to be aware of how connected our students are while under our guidance and care.

Alec Couros showed us several ways of connection and emphasized the huge value of students thinking globally … the many benefits for learning which accrue through information sharing and interaction.

He asked that we 1. Understand media, 2. Know the power of media, 3. Use media for opening creativity in our students, 4. Be aware of the social activism aspect of media, 5. Check and recheck the background of media connections.

Initially, we all are confident in our ability to use computers in our personal lives. The recent (i.e. last two years) advances and developments in technology offer an amazingly quick way to access information in standard and mobile processes. As beginning teachers, consider the plus and minus aspects of technology in your teaching.

There are many advantages and many concerns regarding the use of information {IT} technology in teaching. This will not change. We need to maintain an on-going review of the effectiveness of any strategy and/or instructional process in our teaching. A reflective professional will do this.

How we deal with IT in our classroom is one part of the reality which teaching professionals face in classrooms, school communities, and school divisions. It is not an isolated issue and we are not alone in our discussions or actions.

As a beginning teacher, consider:

1. What part does IT have in your plans for professional growth?

2. What are the issues for you relevant to the use of IT in teaching?

3. Are you going to be the kind of teacher who wants to be constructivist in implementing IT?

4. What are your plans for keeping informed about IT for the classroom – in the face of rapid changes in technology?

5. Does a corporate agenda present itself regarding IT? Is this a good thing – why or why not?

6. Will you be prepared to confront and deal with issues of a negative nature …… cyber bullying, sexually explicit websites, racism, social injustice, violence, stalking, pornography, hate sites, copyright, text messages, technocheating and whatever else may rear its nasty head?

7. Will parents/caregivers expect you to fully inform them and educate them regarding your IT plans in your future classroom?

8. SaskLearning is a source of guidance regarding IT. Is there an STF policy, a Schoolboards policy?

9. Will you be an agent for change when you see inequities in IT resources?

10. Where does IT fit in your worldviews regarding the Five Commonplaces?

Thank you Dr. Alec Couros for your timely and humorous presentation.

It’s always a pleasure speaking to our new preservice teachers. I hope they enjoyed the presentation as much as I did.

Google Sites Tour

I am sure that many of you have already heard that Google Sites was released today. However, if not, the following is a product tour that gives an idea of what it is, and how it works.

And, here’s some more information from Wikipedia:

Google Sites is a structured wiki offered by Google as part of Google Apps. It was launched on February 28, 2008 and is currently in beta stage. Google Sites started out as JotSpot, a software company that offered enterprise social software.

Looks like a great tool so far, and I am already contemplating its usability as an educational tool.

Short Audio Reflection on EC&I 831

I spoke briefly about Ustreaming my Graduate course on EdTechWeekly last Sunday (Feb 24, 2008). This short audio clip was captured and synchronized to a screencast of the course site. I assume this was done by either Jeff Lebow or Dave Cormier.

I think this captures a bit of what I am experiencing with the course. The delivery mechanisms are somewhat complex but much more in tune to the principles of “open, connected & social” than a WebCT/Blackboard-based course could possibly be. I hope that the students are enjoying it as much as I am.

Shares(ki) Tells His Story

Dean Shareski was our guest in EC&I 831 this past Tuesday. Dean did an incredible job of sharing his story of virtual and face-to-face experiences with his “personal research team”. This team includes many well known educators, Dean’s colleagues, his students, family and probably you … the person reading this. Dean’s presentation was engaging, there were several lessons learned, and my students have reacted very positively in their own blogging spaces.

Dean’s Slide Deck:

You can also experience the entire presentation through the recorded Elluminate session.

Thanks again Dean. This was a terrific presentation, and you have represented yourself very well within the growing list of amazing EC&I 831 presenters.

What Does the Network Mean to You?

I’m presenting to my colleagues at the Faculty of Education, University of Regina this coming Wednesday on the potential for networked learning in teacher education, K-12 and higher education. Inspired by a very recent initiative by Robin Ellis, I’ve decided to put up a Voicethread slide and ask for feedback from people on their experiences with networked/social learning.

I would very much appreciate your feedback and would love to have faculty members hear your thoughts throughout the presentation. Thanks much in advance!

Click here for the full size view of this Voicethread.

Wisdom of the Chaperones

A recent Slate article describes the reality behind user-generated content champions such as Wikipedia and Digg.

Social-media sites like Wikipedia and Digg are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site’s edits. The site also deploys bots—supervised by a special caste of devoted users—that help standardize format, prevent vandalism, and root out folks who flood the site with obscenities. This is not the wisdom of the crowd. This is the wisdom of the chaperones.

Why is the view presented in this article important to you? If you are touting sites like Wikipedia as proof of a social media utopia and someone (say, a Luddite-type administrator) confronts you with data like this, it is important that you have done your homework. Seek better examples for your arguments. They do exist.

New Edtech Posse Episode with David Jakes

We were privileged to have had David Jakes as our guest on the last Edtech Posse podcast. After a bit of a delay, Rob Wall has masterfully edited and published the conversation. Dean Shareski has posted more details of the conversation including show notes. I had connection problems that night so I only made a brief appearance, but the conversation was great and I am glad I get to finally hear it.

Thanks to David and the Edtech Posse. I can’t wait until the next conversation.

Attention Economy: The Game

Ulises Mejias has developed a pen-and-paper game to help students better understand the Attention Economy. The game is developed as part of the course, “Friend Request Denied: Social Networks and the Web”.

How do new bloggers gain recognition? Why are some people in MySpace or Facebook more popular than others? Why does one YouTube video get seen by thousands of people, and another by just a few? What does it mean that “on the internet, everyone is famous to 15 people”? Can the subject matter of the content we post to an online network make us more or less popular?

This game is an accelerated simulation of the process of gaining attention online (acquiring more readers, friends, hits, etc.). The goal of the game is to collect the most attention. The game tries to condense a process that can take weeks or months into about an hour. It is intended for people who are new to the study of online social networks, but anyone can play. The game can also be used to teach some basic characteristics of networks, such as the role of hubs or connectors in scale-free networks. Players are asked at the end to critically reflect on the values that drive this Attention Economy.

This looks like a great idea, and I wish I were as creative. While I feel many of these concepts are best actualized/experienced online, a game like this could help students gain a deeper understanding of their own online relationships within the greater networked context.

See also The Attention Economy by Goldhaber (1997). It is a bit older but still a very relevant read.

How To Improve Your Online Video

Izzy Hyman recently released Izzy Video #79, Improve Your Online Video under a Creative Commons license. I’m a fan of the Izzy Video Show and this would be a useful clip for teachers talking to students about the basics of good video production.

Also, I have recently added a WordPress plugin called Riffly to this blog. This will allow you to add video or audio comments in response to these posts. I would love to have someone try it out.

The Curse of Being Free

Brian Lamb recently wrote one of those posts that made me get up from my seat and point frantically at the screen in agreement.

Re: finding a solution for inexpensive course hosting, Brian writes:

This approach is fatally flawed in a number of respects and it will never catch on. For one thing, it is far too cheap, and can never justify escalating technology infrastructure budgets. Worse, instructors and students could adopt this technology with minimal assistance or oversight from instructional technology specialists. In this profoundly unserious framework, there is nothing to prevent students from previewing courses before they take them, or reviewing courses later on. Indeed, some “learner” might benefit from this content without being an enrolled student at all!

The course that I am teaching currently uses a number of free software tools and services, and the content is freely available online. Yet I predict that this approach would not currently go over well with the majority of faculty at my University.

I just read a similar idea in regards to the lack of popularity of GNU/Linux on the desktop. Vlad Dolezal tells the story of Tom Sawyer where he cons his friend into giving away his favourite possessions to have the opportunity of whitewashing a fence. Dolezal concludes:

The above story illustrates a basic human nature. We don’t value things we can get easily. Yet we’d climb mountains, cross rivers and travel across deserts just to reach something we can’t easily get our hands on.

Dolezal talks a bit more about the idea of value and how individuals may perceive value to be less when something is given away. Because Windows as a product is priced at (roughly) $300, it is valued to be worth that cost. If one is to choose between a pirated version of Windows and a free copy of Ubuntu Linux, the cost is the same, but the perceived value is different.

Dolezal comes up with a plan:

I’m going to present Ubuntu as a very expensive posh OS. I’ll mention it sells for upward of five hundred dollars in the States. I’ll say I managed to get an illegal copy off a Polish guy I know over the internet.

Only THEN will I mention all the positives. Multiple desktops, bullet-proof security, stunning visual effects. Somehow all of it makes sense in the context of a super-expensive elitist OS. I’ll see how many people I can convert when advertising Linux this way.

I’ll post exactly a week from now, reporting back on how my Linux Preaching v2.0 went. Hi yo, Silver, AWAAAAY!

Hmmmm. While I believe there are many other reasons for a relatively slow GNU/Linux uptake, these are interesting points. And, it makes me feel that there is some way to solve the problems that Brian has identified.

Danah Boyd on Social Networks

Discover Magazine recently interviewed Danah Boyd, a well known PhD candidate who has been studying social networks. The interview is described as “a look at how kids use technology, where mobile phones are going, and the Facebook vs. Myspace smackdown.” Click the photo to watch the interview.

Danah Boyd on Social Networks

For many, there will not be much new information on social networks here. However, for those who have missed the piece on the beginnings of formalized social network services and how kids are connecting online, there are some interesting points made here.