Virtual Pedophillia and Second Life

TechCrunch has featured a story on the growing problem of “virtual pedophilia on Second Life. Check out this Sky News inside report.

Beyond my disgust, I continue to see that such virtual worlds and user-generated content can bring up some unique moral and legal issues. While I’ve never believed that video game violence is directly related to real-world violence, I think very differently about those fantasizing about sexual encounters with children.

Read more at TechCrunch.

CAREO Being Decommissioned

D’Arcy Norman writes that today that “CAREO, the learning object repository we built at The University of Calgary, is being officially decommissioned. Unplugged, mothballed, and put into storage.” I’ve always though this was a very impressive initiative, but I agree with D’Arcy that there is no longer a need for this type of institutional repository.

CAREO was important, back in 2001-2004, as a prototype. As a sandbox for trying out some of these concepts. As a place to easily host metadata and content and try the repository model. From that perspective, I think it was a huge success. Without CAREO, I would likely still be saying that we need centralized institutional repositories to tightly manage resources.

But, because of CAREO, I now know that we don’t need repositories at the institutional level. Personal repositories are much more powerful, effective, and manageable. They’re called blogs, maybe you’ve heard of them? And small pieces, loosely joined. Want to manage photos online? Use Flickr. Videos? Use YouTube/GoogleVideo/etc… We don’t need a monolithic institutional repository.

A job well done D’Arcy, we’ve all learned a lot about knowledge in the last few years, and the LORs were another important and crucial step for our overall understanding. Here’s to celebrating this piece of collective achievement.

Open Social: Social Applications Across Platforms

Open Social is launching tomorrow, and it’s being announced all over the web and via twitter.

In a nutshell, Open Social is an open web API that can be supported by two kinds of developers:

    “Containers” — social networking systems like Ning, Orkut, LinkedIn, Hi5, and Friendster, and…
    “Apps” — applications that want to be embedded within containers — for example, the kinds of applications built by iLike, Flixster, Rockyou, and Slide.

Open Social is very similar to the Facebook Platform announced a few months back, however, Open Social is a standard that can work across all adopting services.

My favorite part:

Open Social — by making this exact same kind of opportunity available to any other social network or container and every app developer and site on the web, in an open and compatible way — will prevent Facebook from having any kind of long-term proprietary developer lock-in. Developers will easily write to both Facebook and Open Social, and have every reason to do so — in fact, 100+ million reasons to do so.

When proprietary standards are threatened, I am a very happy guy.


Teach, Don’t Preach

My friend Peter Rock at gnuosphere always does a great job at voicing important issues that I’m sometimes weary to touch. Peter is confrontational on many important issues of freedom, such this one.

Peter reacts to a post from Teacher Jay who writes on his reflections in his classroom as he teaches his students why it’s wrong and illegal to download music content. Teacher Jay writes:

When the concept was explained that they were obtaining a product that they did not pay for and it was essentially stealing from the artist and the recording company they (the students) seemed to understand […]

Peter reacts, writing:

They “seemed” to understand because they’ve been told a subtle lie. What students need “explained” is that they have violated 20th century copyright law in need of reform to fit our 21st century technology. Then they need to see the difference between physical objects and intangible information. Then they need to see how Big Media ignores this difference every time it claims downloading to be “stealing” and that “piracy” must be fought to “protect the artists”. Students need to see that the analogy with sensate “products” is deceptive propaganda used to encourage thinking of copyrighted works as “property” when nothing could be further from the truth.

I may get some bashing here, but I agree with Peter. If you decide to react, read his point carefully. To describe the issue of music downloading without bringing in the contextual issues of corporate power over creative processes (read: culture), and simply telling your students that “it’s stealing, it’s illegal thus it’s immoral” is theft in itself. In very real terms, you are denying your students the liberty and freedom to critique issues of power in our society. Instead, what about being critical of the very idea of “intellectual property.” Or, what about discussing the potential benefits of free culture? No matter how you approach the topic, whether from a copyright or copyleft approach, critical debate on this topic is necessary. The world is changing for our students, there are many challenges ahead, and they need the tools to solve these issues themselves.

Additional note: I just noticed that Downes mentioned the book “The Starfish and the Spider” today on OLDaily. I read this a while back, and chapter one does an excellent job of explaining the need for decentralized leadership, and uses the music downloading developments since Napster as a key example.

Apple, Open Up

I’ve had many computers in my life. I grew up with the Commodore Vic-20, the Coleco Adam, the Apple ][ series. In particular, I spent most of my adolescent and teen years on an Apple //c, in fact, this same computer took me right through my early University years.

Apple //c

I remember exploring my computer as a kid. My //c had a few hardware issues along the way, and instead of asking my parents to fix these issues, I turned first to my own experimentation. Without any knowledge (or thought about safety), I took my //c apart numerous times and was always able to fix any issues.

So in a sense, maybe this has been Apple’s strategy all along. If you keep things locked up, eventually adolescent boys will want to “get in”, play around and fix things to make them work better. It seems to be working. After all, it took only a 13yr old hacker to unlock the iPod Touch. OK … I’m thinking that hypothesis is quite unlikely.

My New iPod Touch - PerfectioniPod Touch. I must admit, Apple designs beautiful products (even the //c was amazing for its day). Out-of-the-box, I was able to do the following with my new device:

    – play music, podcast and video files,
    – browse Youtube directly,
    – browse iCal (calendar) events, contacts,
    – browse the web via Safari, and
    – use a few other basic applications (e.g., clock, calculator)

Things I could not do out-of-the-box include:

    – checking mail through Mac Mail mobile application,
    – adding calendar items,
    – viewing weather data,
    – using a notes application,
    – browsing a mapping application,
    – checking the status of my current stocks, and
    – add any third-party applications.

The iPod Touch is capable of using virtually all iPhone applications, but these have been disabled. I understand Apple’s business model, and I assume that they are doing this as to not cannibalize the sales of their iPhone. However, in doing so, they are missing out on a huge opportunity for educational uses of these devices. More so, we’re missing out (i.e., faculty, teachers, students) on what this could bring for mobile learning

Within about a week of owning my iPod Touch, I felt that I could no longer be locked down. It is my right as the owner of this device to use it in anyway I wish (of course, without harming others). I understand that it is not within my rights to distribute the code. Therefore, I am not distributing it, but simply, linking to it.

Unlocking and adding third party apps to the iPod Touch is incredibly simple. The process is automated through downloadable software called iJailbreak. There is a slight possibility of “bricking” your device, but this can be corrected through a firmware restore process. Once the jailbreaking process is complete, you will now have many of the iPhone apps on your iPod Touch. Additionally, you will have greater control of your device, will be able to automatically (and easily) install any new apps and also be able to FTP in to your device.

The only thing that was not resolved by the Jailbreak process was the Calendar function, the ability to add events to your Calendar from the Touch. While it has been widely reported that this was a bug and that Apple had intended to allow this functionality, the “fix” shows pretty clearly that this was intentional. Enabling this feature involves nothing more than getting into plist code, and changing a preference to “true”.

So, Steve, why do we have to play these games? The iPod Touch is an amazing product. For just over $300, Apple has designed a beautiful mobile device which features rich multimedia, web browsing, email and data entry. For the price of 4-5 fat clients in a classroom (an approach that is popular in my parts), you can equip 20 students with these devices. There is so much lost potential here. C’mon Apple, open up!

Update: Even an easier, one-step iPod Touch/iPhone hack has been developed. Simply point navigate your Touch/iPhone to Read about this here.

Dean Shareski On Educational Design

Dean Shareski, educational technology guru and fellow Saskatchewanite, recently prepared a digital keynote for the Flat Classroom Project.

In the keynote, Dean touts the importance of design in education, especially that related to the creation of multimedia. Key points covered include planning, imagery, simplicity, constraints and significance, and Dean borrows from Dan Pink’s “Whole New Mind”, one of my favorite new reads.

The content is great, but the most important piece here is how Dean pulled it off. He walks the talk. I see so many faculty members and teachers talking about one thing, but doing another (e.g., Direct teaching about how to create a constructivist classroom). Dean has developed a well designed, well-articulated, informative, humourous and personal presentation here. For my students in ECMP 355 or involved in the Digital Internship Project, be sure to pay attention.

Kids, Technology & Careers

I have been enjoying many of the recent and not-so-recent stories related to youth, their perceptions of educational technology and their often amazing skill sets.

Most recently, Steve Hargadon spoke with “Arthus”, “a 14-year-old student in Vermont who recently became involved in the online dialog about educational technology.” I found this interview amazing, and
Hargadon feels that while “Artus is not representative of most 14-year-olds, he is representative of the kind of independent, engaged, proactive, and self-directed learner we often think will thrive in the flattened and connected world of the Internet.” I agree. Don’t miss this interview.

I’ve also recently heard about Andrew Sutherland, the creator of Quizlet and president of Brainflare. Quizlet is described as a “lightning fast way to memorize vocabularly lists. It is flashcards, but much more fun and interactive.” Quizlets can be easily and intuitively created, combined, shared, searched and used in several ways. Sutherland was only 15 years-old when he developed Quizlet. It’s a neat site and I’m finding many of my university students are using it (although I wish they weren’t subject to courses where memorization was that important).

George HotzThen there’s George Hotz, the 17 year-old New Jersey “student known for publicizing the collaboration leading to a procedure for unlocking the Apple iPhone, allowing the phone to be used with other wireless carriers, contrary to AT&T and Apple’s intent.”

It is becoming clear that our youth our becoming more technologically savvy. In some cases, these teens end with long careers in IT. The individuals mentioned above have already started on this path. Yet, I noticed an interesting article from Computer World yesterday that paints a different picture. The article suggests that while many of our youth are comfortable with technology, this very factor can deter these students from entering high-tech careers.

This is the group that simultaneously IMs, blogs, surfs the Web and downloads podcasts. In the end, ironically, it might be this extreme comfort with technology that most deters these young people from pursuing IT as a favorable, even desirable, career.

“To another generation, IT was cool because no one else knew much about it,” notes Kate Kaiser, associate professor of IT (and one of Lee’s instructors) at Marquette. “This generation is so familiar with technology, they see it as an expected part of life” — and therefore not worthy of consideration as a full-time career.

And an other interesting observation:

And the up-and-coming generation puts a premium on work/life balance, having seen firsthand the toll working around-the-clock took on its parents. As a result, they tend to shy away from jobs that demand the 40-hour-plus workweeks typical of IT.

At the very least, it’s going to be interesting to see this generation grow up. And I hope everyday that teachers in the field will start to realize that we are dealing with an incredibly different situation in our schools. It is time we tapped into these precious talents and begin to see that the future of these kids will be radically different than anything we can predict.

Powerful, Inspirational Videos

I made my students cry today. I cried.

Baby Eliot
We were investigating the power of media, specifically, students listed videos that drew great emotional responses. Irma sent me this video, 99 Balloons, a story about baby Eliot who was born with Edward’s syndrome. This is an incredibly touching story about Eliot, his very loving parents and their experience. It’s very powerful. See the video here.

I just noticed another powerful video, albeit in a different way, on The Cool Cat Teacher Blog. Vicki writes, “Whatever your beliefs, you should see this video. It is a message to all of you leaders out there who are reading this blog.” I agree.

Put together, these two videos reminded me of the Dick Hoyt video I blogged about almost a year ago.

That one also made me cry, but these types of video inspire me to be a better leader, a better father and a better person.

Have any videos inspired you lately? What are the most powerful videos you have ever seen? I’d love you to share.

Update: I’ve started a wiki for these inspirational videos. Feel free to add or edit!

Creating Multiple Student Accounts From One Gmail Account

I noticed a twit from Kim Cofino re: her setting up linked Gmail accounts from one account. This made me wonder how this was done. I’m not sure if this is what she meant, but if you follow this Jingcast, you will see how you can set up multiple student email address which can all be handled and filtered through one Gmail account.

See the Jingcast here.

I did this quickly, I hope it’s understandable. If there are any questions, let me know.