Thursday, 30 July 2009

One number to Phone them all...

One of the biggest challenges facing users of digital media in both professional and private areas of their lives is the difficulty in joining the dots.

By that I mean it's hard to let people know what you're about when so many online services are available. For example, I can be found on Facebook, Blogger, Skype, Twitter, Delicious, Issuu and Flickr. Each service fulfils a different need, ranging from reflective blog postings here to timely observations on Twitter, and a range of personal and professional photos on Flickr.

In the past I've tried to harmonise my digital footprint by using the same moniker - svanstraten - but even that fails to show interested parties the holistic view of what I'm doing.

So, there are two services that have grabbed my attentions recently. The first is which collects all your online streams of information and bundles it into one place. It's an excellent service and from it I've discovered that historically I've made over 631,000 online postings!

The other development comes from Google, which is trialling a one number fits all service. Basically, users get one number for friends and colleagues to dial. This one number then sends the call through to every phone device owned by the subscriber. The subscriber can decide where calls are diverted, so for example, business calls might go to your business desk and mobile phones only, while family calls go to every number that's been entered. In an age of VOIP calling, increasing mobile ownership and the growing expectation that we can be contacted whenever/wherever, it's a fascinating development, and one that could make it easier for schools to keep in touch with busy parents and digital native students. Read more here.

All in all, we're beginning to see online developers address the need to provide a range of services that link the disparate elements of online life. And that can only be a positive outcome.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Using Flickr to teach colour in Art

I've come across some fantastic tools for searching through photos on Flickr, where remarkably my own photostream passed the 90,000 views today.

First up is a great tool for searching for photos using a colour picker wheel.

You slide your way through to a colour you like and hey presto!, the colour you chose suddenly appears from the millions of photos on Flickr, which, if you don't already know, is one of the largest online photo sharing sites in the world. Give it a go here.

Next up is a wonderful tool for making up mosaic walls based on search terms. From this you can create your own badge, as I've done here, to display my own work. Of course, art teachers could use it to create embeds into school webpages or blogs that focus on particular themes.

It's called Photo to Wall and you can try it here.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Future roadmaps for ICT in schools

As part of my MA in Online and Distance Education at the Open University we've been looking at policy and research into the use of ICT in education. Understandably, most of the course we're studying, entitled Technology Enhanced Learning: Practices and Debates, focuses on higher education. At the moment we're investigating the bigger framework for technology enhanced learning (what some are calling cyberlearning) and my colleague John Haren, who's based in Ireland, came across an excellent framework for ICT deployment, set out by the Irish government.

Rather than re-hash John's post, I'm going to point you to his blog. The main thrust from this policy document is that investment in teacher training and maintaining educators' knowledge and understanding of why we should include ICT into our teaching and how it can help, are key to the success of ICT within a school environment. I couldn't agree more and that's something I and the rest of the ICT team at school will be doing next term - going into classrooms, talking with teachers and offering hands-on training and support, so that ICT isn't seen as a lurking monster, but rather as an effective tool for enhanced learning opportunities.

Here's the link to John's post.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Postmodern mashups make the User Content King

A great video and an interesting blog post from Epic FU.

The video takes a song by Phoenix and matches it with clips from 1980s Brat Pack films. The end result is a brilliant and entertaining mashup, that once posted on YouTube gained the respect of the band and even its own tributes. However, as the posting on Epic FU points out, the very act involved in making mashups brings the producer involved into breach of copyright.

Somewhere along the line there needs to be a careful re-think about this issue. At a school level I find myself in the odd position where I'm told by my exam board (OCR) that while students choosing to make A Level music videos using commercial music won't be penalised by the exam board itself, they may find themselves in breach of copyright when they make the obligatory posting of their content to a website. And that may cost them marks and grades.

In this case the students are not attempting to defraud the music companies or their artistes. They're engaging in an academic exercise. As for most of the mashup producers, they're having fun and quite often bringing added airtime and publicity to bands. Famously, the Red Hot Chili Pepper ran a mashup competition a couple of years ago, inviting fans to make their next music video. The age of collaborative media production is upon us and the relationship between audience and institution has changed. Someone should tell that to the legislators and traditional content producers. As with Apple and the iTunes store a creative and innovative solution is required, so that user generated content can continue to flourish within a framework that doesn't threaten the financial well being of commercial media producers.

For now, the waters remain choppy and grey, but at least there are some great videos being made!

The Future of Learning

A great video fronted by technology and education supremo Prof Stephen Heppell, all about the need to adapt modern day teaching methods, so that technology is integrated into the fabric of what teachers and students do.

Recommended viewing.

Scary faces of mobile recognition

This video is demonstrating a concept, but it's easy to see how it might well make it into the mainstream in a few years' time.

In some ways it's easy to be dazzled by the ever-increasing ability of technology to blend the real and the virtual, especially as so much of our lives are fragmented now in a variety of online spaces. However, given the current generation of teens' inability to comprehend the dangers of posting personal details all over the Web, I can't help but feel a little un-nerved by what I'm seeing.

Let me know your thoughts.