Another Zotcast?!

Today I discovered there’s actually another Zotcast, at a site called MacZot, which is giving away one of my favourite Mac Applications, SubEthaEdit by CodingMonkeys. I also learnt that SubEthaEdit gets its name from HHG2TG, also a favourite of mine:
“It’s from Douglas Adams’ a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. The reporters of the guide submit their entries using the SubEthaNet (interestingly enough the Ethernet wasn’t yet available in time of writing of the HHGG) – therefore we named our editor SubEthaEdit in honor of Douglas Adams’ great work.” How weird is that?

Online Role-plays Podcast

Role-play has long been used as an educational tool to provide learners with a way to understand the real world. Since the advent of the World Wide Web, online role-plays have become widely used in Australian tertiary institutions to provide students with authentic learning opportunities. This presentation profiles two examples of online role-plays developed at the University of Melbourne: DRALE Online, in which final year law students form legal teams in a dispute resolution process, and The Campaign, a role-play about journalists and political advisors following a political campaign. To see the whole podcast, visit The Zotcast.

"Brainport" turns tongues into eyes

This is amazing. ABC News is reporting that scientists are looking at the use of a specialised device that allows you to see using sensors connected to your tongue. “By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes and fish.” While the research seems to be focused on military uses, they’ve also found that it can allow a blind person to catch a ball, and might be useful in treating vestibular disorders. “In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them and caught balls. A version of the device, expected to be commercially marketed soon, has restored balance to those whose vestibular systems in the inner ear were destroyed by antibiotics.” Read more.

Where is the cutting edge?

A lot of work in educational technology claims to be at the crest of the wave, at least technologically speaking. That is, technologies that are now prevalent in homes and workplaces are being exploited for educational uses. The original design of technologies is often adapted to achieve educational aims that weren’t originally considered. Marconi proved wireless radio communications were possible in the late 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that HF radios were used to teach school kids in remote locations in outback Australia. The internet is, of course, another obvious example. But is it always the case that educational uses of technologies need to lag behind their discovery for other purposes? One disadvantage of considering educational aims as a second thought is that we are always forced to adapt something that has been designed for some other reason. It may be that we can never really understand the way a technology will be used until long after its invention, but at the very least we could start to look at emerging technologies and their possible educational uses much earlier than we typically do. A list of emerging technologies might include:

  • Podcasts – already being used in some educational settings, but not widely
  • Blogs and Wikis – more widespread uptake for education, but not much written about it yet
  • Voice over IP – probably some uses already. Are there Skype schools of the air? Do students conduct interviews with experts, or engage in teleapprenticeship activities & long distance classroom-classroom interactions using VoIP?
  • Wireless and 3G – as wifi becomes prevalent and technologies like WiMAX sound more plausible, what will this do to student expectations and our expectations of their connectivity? What will it do to our physical spaces, and how are we going to keep up with demand?
  • Multi-touch – more on the cutting edge, the work by Jefferson Han and colleagues on Multi-touch interfaces has some exciting educational applications. Who’s considering them?
  • Roll-up computers – sounds like science fiction, but I first people like Alan Kay talking about this sort of technology in the mid-1990s.

Parkside

After a very sad start to the week, we were really glad to have some good news yesterday. Lotte has got a job! She’ll be working as a Cover Supervisor (teaching assistant) at a fantastic school called Parkside Community College, right in the middle of Cambridge. She’s overjoyed because the school is particularly good and the staff were really nice. They have a fantastic media arts programme and have dance and drama as part of the curriculum, which is what was important to Lotte. We’ve been looking at the website and hoping they would advertise something Lotte could apply for since before we left Australia. As if that wasn’t enough, on the same day I found out I’ll be getting a new Macbook Pro. Tonight our friends Simon and George are coming up to visit us from London, and we’re going to celebrate Lotte’s new job by going out to dinner.

An Aussie In Cambridge

I’ve recently moved from Australia to the UK to work at the University of Cambridge. I intend to use this blog to reflect on my time here, and talk about issues in educational technology along the way. I’m an educational designer, and have been working at the University of Melbourne for about 13 years. My new job is as a research associate at the Centre for Applied Research in Educational Technologies (CARET).

This was the first entry in my blog over on the Educause site, which I no longer update.

Goodnight and goodluck, sweetheart

We spent last weekend exhausting ourselves on the dance floor at Goodnight Sweetheart in Hertfordshire. It was a fun weekend for us because we hadn’t had much dancing in a long while. The weekend included workshops from Steven & Virginie and Peter & Giselle, among others. I think my favourite thing for the whole weekend was the classes from Peter & Giselle. Really great. The huge, gigantic, spectacular World Championship Battle of the DJs turned out to be rather disappointing. Sound systems that didn’t work, a strange setup, stressed organisers, and guess how many songs we played? 3! Even the final two only got to play a total of 6 songs. The winner in a very good field was Alf from Norway who did an excellent job in these difficult circumstances, I must say. He gets to buy himself a ticket to Canada (if he can afford it) as a prize. Hmmm. Still, it was great to get away for a while, and even more terrific to make some new friends and catch up with our great mate Dozka. She did us proud by making it through to the semi finals of the DJ Battle too. That’s better than I did, that’s for sure.

An awful lot is still going on here as we settle in. The big news for us is that Lotte’s found an ad for a job that really sounds like her, so she’s putting some time into preparing to apply. Keep your electronic fingers crossed, folks. She won’t know for a few weeks yet how she does, though. Work here for me is going well. I’ve had time to get to look at some things that I know will help me in the next year, including updating my knowledge on tools for qualitative research. In the running are Nvivo 7, Atlas.ti, and a Mac-only thing called TAMS Analyzer. I’m going to try the last of these over the next short while becuase I can run it on my machine and it has a limited feature set (an advantage for my needs, perhaps).

Today jeff pointed out this demo of Multitouch (14Mb, Quicktime), a gestural interface project that looks absolutely amazing. Also see this article and this page about the project. That’s exactly the sort of thing I heard Alan Kay talking about in 1994. It definitely takes a long time for these ideas to come to fruition.

Intel inside

So it’s true. Apple is putting Intel chips into Macs from next year. The five stages of Intel Macs has an amusing take on the way it panned out. For the full story, you need to see the Steve Jobs’ WWDC Keynote.

I’ve been mulling it over for a week now and I guess I’m starting to see the sense in it. They’re not talking about ditching Apple hardware, just about making it faster and cheaper. They’re also not talking about another painful OS9 -> OSX type jump. Anything that runs on PPC will still run courtesy of Rosetta, with a 30-40% speed hit that will be at least partly compensated for by the horsepower of the new boxes. And developers are for the most part very positive, meaning that we shouldn’t see a return to the days of Copland when developers started leaving in droves. The proof of the pudding will be how smooth the transition is, of course, and how well Apple is able to ride out the inevitable blip in its sales as people wait for the new boxes to arrive in a year’s time.

Digital TV ahoy

Last week I’d pretty much decided that it was time to get a digital set top box to improve our reception at home. Our antenna was blown off the roof soon after I moved in and for various reasons (long story) we’ve never replaced it. Of course, those little rabbit ears only go so far. Then I learnt that JB Hi Fi was selling set top boxes for $99, so yesterday I went out and got one (a Soniq DVB12). Took 5 minutes to plug in, and it works a treat. Crystal clear TV, with program guides and all. And at that price, you can’t go too far wrong.