Archive for May, 2010

Required end-of-course blog entry: a bit elliptical…

May 29, 2010

So, what do I think of blogging.  Was it a useful part of the course?

I was thinking of starting a blog anyway, as

  • I write as easily as I speak – and I talk a lot, even if it is mostly inside my head while I do housework;
  • I have many thoughts which my children wouldn’t be bothered reading now, but might like to read one day;
  • I listen to, read, and watch a lot of information texts, and remember and  integrate much of it to new (to me) ideas –  before children, I wrote Science Fiction for fun;
  • I know a lot about many sorts of topics (or will find out by the next day); and
  • I am (I’m sure you noticed) very, very egotistical.  One day, when someone asks what my favourite subject is I will no longer resist the temptation to say “Me!” (Well, really, the latest shiny idea/factoid I’ve come across.) Therefore, I suspect that what I have to say is worth recording to raise the median value of web-writing.

So, commanded to blog, I blogded (new word).  Not as well as Tom’s “Bloggy blog Bloggy” or Simon’s , but still ….

So I yarned to a friend, as though we were on a long walk, pausing to see what others said, or to look at the scenery, and then talk some more about what I saw.  That was easy.  The hard part comes  from my ability to pick up ideas but inability to recall references, even if I did copy them down: sure, I have some references, but which one of a hundred said what?  I don’t know what I’ll do when I no longer have access to the University journal search facility…

Sometimes it chewed up time I should have spent on something else; other times it got persistent ideas out of my head so that I could sleep, concentrate on an assignment, or just free up working memory.  Those ones are probably my subconscious at work…

Hating to chew over old writing (I reread for accuracy more than style, deep review is for Summer holidays – psychoanalysing takes energy), I’m not sure whether I established “my voice” online.  I have as many voices as Peter Sellers, representing many aspects of my personality (and subconscious, which has personalities and bulk-processing space of its own); which ones snuck out as I wrote?  I’m not sure I want to know … But then, perhaps, as “many voices” is a part of my nature some shifts in style are good reflections of me.

Well, whichever voices I used, I think it helped that I had to try to use the readings, experiences, and tools.  No way would I have experimented with them all without (Hm!) strong encouragement.  As it is, I’ve even got around to trying “delicious” (and getting past the confusion from it changing its spots {or, indeed, dropping them] to a plain word.).  Next week I make the tags into a cloud …

I doubt I’d have got around to making a video with minimal technology, let alone post it to YouTube, even though I’d been peeved by the lack of a clear explanation of the topic in the “kids ed” sites I browsed.

I think the best parts of feedback were when someone (usually the lecturer) gave a relevant reference for further reading.  So why didn’t I do that for others? HM?  (My superego is looking over my shoulder … I hate it when she does that.)  Well, I’m a little shy of coming the heavy on colleagues.  I’d rather respond to the good bits, and give “places to look” only if asked.

Mind you, I think Twitter fed to the blog is a handy way of quick record-making when you don’t want to make a full delicious record, and can draw things to the attention of any interested enough to check it.  My dream is to have someone check my tags the way my housemate checks GRINDING .  Sigh …

I’m looking forwards to future web improvements, so that things can be more easily embedded.  Big thumbs down to Wetpaint’s free version, unwilling to embed and with appalling flashy ads – discretion sells, folks, I’m moving my wiki out as soon as the rush is over.

WordPress is a bit clunky, but I think I’ll stick with it for the foreseeable – I’ll use it as a contact point for CC, at least.  Unless my subconscious has other ideas …

At least I know that, whatever new tools come along, I can figure out how to use them and explain their use to others.  Hey, today I showed a PP student who had trouble with the mouse how to use the start-button (with wiggly window pattern) and the keyboard to log off.  I showed another how to use the shift key to type BIG LETTERS, and to use the arrow and backspace keys too!  Next week I’ll show them how to get to the desktop without stopping the program they’re in:  they want to share their saved work, and haven’t figured how to do it without stopping the current project.

So much room for development…

Ciao for nao

21 today (in 20 years)

May 28, 2010

Just a trivial thought:

I’ve been thinking that there’s a culture shift coming:  with parents making “baby facebooks”, and adolescents baring all (in both literal and metaphoric senses)  – what embarrassing “family file” items will be left for the 21st Birthday Party Dad’s  Speech?

Will there be a virtual tour of a 3D lifespan instead, with remote friends’ avatars  from all continents dropping in?

I think I prefer face-to-face.

Well put, Woo : teach deep critical approaches.

May 28, 2010

Woo Young said it in qoutes::

We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.

John Naisbitt

Information literacy can be defined as ” a new liberal art that extends from knowing how to use computers and access information to critical reflection on the nature of information itself, its technical infrastructure and its social, cultural, and philosophical context and impact” (Shapiro & Hughes, 1996).

She went on to stress that, as the internet is there for students with the computer equipment,  we must meet the the need for students to be taught to “read between the lines”, applying critical skills to the source as well as the content, and seeking a range of reliable sources to check any text’s claims.

I think this holds, no matter how technology changes.

Well, there’s that topic wrapped up!

So I got that video onto Youtube

May 26, 2010

Recently I reported on my efforts to get a video uploaded.  It was suggested that the Uni security might have blocked the upload.  Nope.  The .avi would not load at home either.

It turns out there is more than one form of .avi, so I tried a more compact one – my friend’s elderly a/v program doesn’t do mpeg-2 etc.

That worked – but it uploaded very slowly.  Knowing how temperamental the browser has become since the  last upgrade of its sourcecode,  well, more mental really, I didn’t dare do anything else on the machine, and feared that if I went to bed  it would send a message demanding “action in set time or default options would apply” (I’ve had that happen …)  Heigh-ho.   Heigh-ho. Ho-hum.

Was it worth it?  Well, here it is.

A YouTube video for young ones with slower perception speeds:  they get so lost in a busy classroom.

seeing sounds – not synaesthesia

May 25, 2010

While editing sound files, I realised that I take the wave-forms of speech for granted. Primary students – and non-sound-editing older people – probably won’t know about them.  I think that could be a very useful tool.  I know it from its use in linguistics, but had not considered its use in the classroom.

I’m not thinking so much about the LOTE classes, though it would be useful there – have the language expert record some words, and the students try to match the wave forms – as I am about oral skills.

It could be fun, trying to match each others wave-forms.  Cunningly, it would also involve learning about the way the vocal apparatus makes the sounds, and getting immediate feedback bout one’s enunciation.  Very interesting if one student uses the velar /r/ (that gargled European form) and one uses the dental trill. has some interesting (older) freeware listed,
as has University College, London.

Better Than Life

May 25, 2010

Just for fun

Real life is for those who can’t take RPGs.
There are some great artists out there.

Portal: entry to useful skills

May 25, 2010

Watching a player [who has worked (without cheats) through the game] playing “Portal” creatively was an experience of fascination and awe for me.  ( If you want to see how the game looks,  I Twittered a link to a page with an advertising video for it a while back.)

The game involoves aiming a “gun” at certain classes of surfaces.   Left /right mouseclicks give access to make the blue /orange portal.  The player can have only one of each open at a time.  If ve enters a portal ve exits at the other with the same velocity relative to the surface of the portal, so falling two stories into one on the floor can hurtle ver out of one on the wall.

The playing space is, of  course, filled with delightful ways to die, and has a charming AI talking to the player  as ve is “tested”.   Watch it too long and you start talking like her … and it is terribly easy to watch too long.

At one point, the player has to set up a portal high on a wall, and its partner on a floor in a distant room to which ve can dive from a height.  Ver acceleration must be enough and the wall  portal at the right height for the ballistic curve to carry ver to a small walkway high over a pit of acid.  Oh, I didn’t mention the acid?  I’m thinking like the AI …

At least it’s high enough for the player to meditate on the value of good spatial skills as ve falls to (yet another) death dissolve.  (And you can’t get me for that pun, I’m far away now … love the net.)

Just fun?  It certainly isn’t anything the educational system assesses.
And it ties in strangely to what I was reading on “Subjectivity, choice and virtual death in digital media”.


Throughout the game the player uses mental mapping, vector recognition and ballistics prediction skills, and scans the environment for useful / dangerous things.  The mapping gets very complex in the large “training facility”.

These are the skills for things like  military and emergency services’ remotes’s operators,  laparoscopic surgeons,  and resistance to confusion in strange cities.  They also will be useful for an activity not yet here:

With knowledge stores represented as virtual space, the links between areas of knowledge, theories, and individual authors will be complex architecture like this, with distant places having “portal” links.  These players will find navigation easy.  How will you go?

Making a video for YouTube

May 25, 2010

So, as a person whose previous use of digital cameras was using someone else’s to “point and click” I borrowed a digital camera (less than $300 worth, “just a camera” in the shops, but it can record sound to images) on a tripod, and made a wee video.

A script, storyboard, props and spare props, a hand with the stagework …

Then there was learning to edit a low quality sound-track, boosting some sounds, deleting others, getting a microphone to work (the preferred computer still despises it) ,  recording voice to pc and dubbing the new sound over where  the original had a really bad bit.

The art of making scene divisions and fade effects was another new game.  Interesting how different people find different effects make them feel anxious or unwell – material for a class activity there.

Making the video was interesting, but getting it to load on youtube was a pain.  I had, in the past, made a login in Google but abandoned it part-way through, so when I tried to start again it wouldn’t let me – very messy, eventually I wimped out and used another email ID.  That leaves the other ID to tidy later.

Then the DVD wouldn’t load to the web, although it plays on the Uni pc.  So I copied it to the PC, and tried from that file.  Still no joy : “Upload failed due to unknown error.”

(Thinks …)

Well, maybe it doesn’t like .avi files (of course, they are so common, naturally it hates them.)

So now I must learn how to change formats …

I bet that, if I do get it to work, there’ll be similar dramas linking it to my blog and wiki.  DAMN THESE LEARNING CURVES.  (yes, i know, it’s rude to shout, but really …)

Futureproofing : avoiding Future Shock

May 23, 2010

One of the problems comprising ” information overload” is the stress load of coping with change.  I seem to be much more playful with technological change, less stressed by it, than many younger adults – and I know why.

To me, it isn’t change.  It’s just revisiting a world I met in a book.  Or New Scientist.  (There’s a BSc’s worth  in every three years’ reading in that mag.)

Population pressure?  Larry Niven has examined this.  Try “Ringworld” (Sphere, 1972):  in thebackground,  population pressures and proven corruption lead to the “Birthright Laws”:  one child per adult, with rights gained by donation, arena combat (if you haven’t yet used yours),  purchase,  notable achievement, or an annual lottery of all the “places” not filled by other means that year.   All that to justify Niven’s examination of the results of “breeding for luck”.

Advanced robotics?  Before I was born,  Isaac Asimov had started writing about independent robots (what later writers called “volitionals”) and considered the problems of controlling and analysing the actions of extremely complex self-directing machines.   Robert Heinlein considered the distinction between volitional and controlled, and invented the “Waldo”: a radio-linked device for a human to control from a distance, reflecting ver action on equal, micro, or enlarged scale.  A related form is the “remote”, not reflecting the bodily action but with all actions initiated by the controller.

Satellite communication and control?  Arthur C.  Clarke, 1945, says Collective Intelligence.

Internet capable mobile phones?  Asimov, again, years before the first “mobile” suitcase phone was built.

Cloning?   More a case of who didn’t.

Wetware?  More recent – William Gibson.  (Oh, haven’t you heard?  Brain-implanted  chips,  able to be programmed with knowledge/skills/links to mechanical prosthetics).  In a sense he was preceded by Anne McCaffry’s “Ship who Sang” (1969), where profoundly deformed infants are put in life-support “shells”, with electronic links from their brains to a wide range of electical links, allowing them to run complex mechanical bodies amd speech devices – including having an  interstellar spaceship as a body.

I read them because they were not like my life.  (Drugs are for those who can’t role play or read S.F.)  Now I see them, and have no “shock of the new”.

Alvin Toffler, I win!

I’ve finished the latest New Scientist.  Now, what’s at the bookshop in the way of new  “hard science” S.F.?

How many friends do you have?

May 23, 2010

The talk about the (career) need for a wide range of “friends” with small interest overlaps reminds me of Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft and their relation to depression.

The short version:
Gesellschaft is to do with “work community”: single-strand interactions predominate: the postman. Gemeinschaft relates to “neighborhood community”: Postman Pat. If our lives are full of shallow interactions, we are more linkley to suffer anomie and alienation.

By spending hours keeping our “networks” sweet, we risk losing the most valuable time we have: the non-work enriching hours with family and Gemeinschaft relations, those who share our interests, ideals and mores, those whose children and hobbies and dogs we know. Yes, this is another call for balance between work and home life.

An interesting problem comes with workplaces which seek to enforce “multithreaded” relationships dsespite being essentially product-oriented: if they succeed, they create the same stifling pressures that village life had – leading to another form of depression. If not, they simply irritate those forced to give lip service to the Corporate Mission Statement.

A very different aspect is those who make online Gemeinschaft communities (for good or ill) with mainly single-thread relations in the physical commumity. They make the global community stronger, but shrink the range of opinions aired in the local community at the same time as they weaken its weave.

How many friends should a child have?
Various figures are tossed around for how many people we can “know”, commonly 150 to 300. Beyond that, it is said to be recognising faces and names – quite a different thing. I’ve not seen any serious research, though – I bet they’d find there is a great deal of interpersonal variation.

Still and all, though some people worry about a child with “only” two friends, I’d worry more about the one with a hundred.