Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Radio Bit from Presentation

Hi all,

There was some interest in the radio broadcast I had generated for our presentation on Tuesday, and I though I would upload it for all interested parties:

As far as the actual music clips, several of them are retrieved from a 1937 Canadian Red Cross Appeal (now public domain). This includes the "Rule, Brittania" by Thomas Arne, and "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar (unfortunately the orchestra is unnamed, most likely the CBC orchestra).
Also included is a song entitled, "What did we Learn at School" by Vivian Ellis, performed by Gloria Jean.
There is also a clip of the 3rd movement "Adagio" from Elgar's "Cello Concerto in Em, Op. 85", performed by John Barbarolli and the London Symphony Orchestra featuring Jacqueline du Pré, from 1965 for EMI.

For those wanting to know how to upload podcasts to a blog without having to use the iTunes store, here is a good page that gives you the details:
Squidoo: How to Upload Mp3 on Blogger


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The future of teaching?

I want to quickly post about something that really disturbed and interested me when I saw it this week. Please watch this quick news broadcast about new teaching methods in Japan:

Now I'm sure many of you are thinking: "That will never replace me as a teacher." Well, maybe not, but let us look at the state of education around the world. We are moving toward greater and greater strictures upon education through systematic education and standardized testing. Many teachers are lamenting this standardization, and therefore either reacting against it, or teaching only toward the test so as to receive lauds and funding.

So if we desire a completely standard, "unbiased", inclusive classroom, knowing exactly what we are going to get from our child's classroom teacher, wouldn't a robot be the best option? A robot only follows its programming, and therefore could teach content in exactly the same way, and utilizing its data banks to provide other methods to present data to students. You know exactly what, and how your students will be taught, in a completely standard and systematic way.

Of course, many of you know I can not be serious about this assertion that we should be replaced by robots, the very idea is preposterous. However, people said the same thing when Starbucks went to computerized espresso machines so that it removed the variability that customers would receive from barista to barista. Now you can go to any Starbucks in the country and get that same over-roasted, burnt, too watery latté that you know and love.

Some day we may be replaced by androids, but until that day, I think all our jobs our safe; at least if you prefer to work outside of Japan.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

UUI: The Real Future of Education

We have talked at length in class about the importance of mobile computing, and the integration of mobile devices/technologies into a classroom environment. I do not believe that this is the way of the future for the interactive environment that is the classroom, as it still relies on a classic 1-1 ratio of student to device, creating a culture of working in isolation despite the best efforts to work in a networked fashion. What I do believe the future of classrooms is lies in the now dating SmartBoard technology, or rather the 'augmented reality' of UUI (Universal User Interfaces) which create an interactive digital space our of the very physical space we inhabit. To introduce this, I will first outline a brief history of user interfacing with technology, so please bear with me.
(If it all becomes a blur, feel free to skip to the end of my history lesson)

In the early days of computing, there were punchcards. A series (sometimes thousands) of cards with punched rows would be fed into a machine that blinked and hummed, which would eventually output the desired effect. This was first implemented in a digital computing environment in 1938 by German Konrad Zuse in his "Zuse" machine. Previous to this computers were 'analog' machines, meaning they used electricity in handmade circuits to create an analogue, or similarity, to real-life phenomenon such as bomb tragectories, or water levels. A few years after Zuse, the British developed 'Colossus', a card-input device which was electronically programmable, meaning it could be used for multiple purposes such as code-breaking.

As computers became more sophisticated, the invention of the transistor allowed for smaller, cheaper computers to be built, and so new means of interfacing with the technology became necessary. AT&T, which ran the Bell telephone service in the United States created a research group to develop a new means of creating a communicative and malleable system by which multiple users could access a centralized processing computer. What eventually developed in 1969 was the first rendition of UNIX, a computing environment where users could run applications from either punched cards or magnetic tape and received the output of those functions on their terminal. AT&T wanted to market this to the educational community, as well as the Defense department, but could not market any product in the 'computer industry' as they were prevented by an Anti-trust and monopoly suit launched against them in 1959 because of their monopoly on telecommunications in the United States (It is interesting to note that AT&T ran the Bell telephone system, which was the parent company of the Bell Canada company currently vying for the right to Usage-based-billing for internet in Canada. In 1880, the Canadian government granted Bell Canada exclusive monopoly over Canadian long-distance telephone communication).

At the time they were built, Unix systems were run in local networks, but within a year the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was founded, and in 1969 there were 110 interested parties desiring connections to the ARPANET. The ARPANET was initiated as a research and development forum for the sharing of ideas between laboratories, the initial proposals by J.C.R Lickleider in 1962 were designed as an "Intergalactic Computer Network" and contained many of the foundations for the Internet. As this form of communication became more efficient, and the ability for user input within computing operations became possible, there was a need for an effective means of providing user input to the computer technology. This took the form of the keyboard, which began its life in 1970.

Interestingly enough, the computer mouse actually predates the use of electronic keyboards as an interactive computing device (of course ignoring the early analog keyboards that manipulated mechanical calculators). Developed in 1962, it was developed by Douglas Engelbart and Bill English at Stanford for use in their own text-based network system. In fact, they experimented with other forms of manipulation such as motion detection by cameras, and several head mounted devices, but settled for the mouse because of its ease of use.

Despite many familiar sounding terms, none of these applications would seem familiar to the modern user of most standard computing schemes today. The true leap towards the modern computing environment began in 1980 with the introduction of the Xerox Star. This Prometheus of the Personal Computer sold for $20,000 USD, and sported 384 kB of ram, and a 10 MB HDD, utilizing a 4-bit AMD processor. The key to this development was that it was the first system to utlize a GUI (Graphical User Interface). Now users could not only interact in real-time by inputting text, but could use a mouse to graphically manipulate objects onscreen. Despite this quantum leap, the Star did not catch on due to its hefty pricetag, and within two years, Apple Inc. had created the 'LISA', utilizing a GUI and sporting a 5 Mhz processor and 1Mb of RAM. Using the Lisa Office System, it paved the way for the Macintosh 128k, an affordable $2,500 Personal Computer which would hold the launch of Macintosh System Software (Mac OS) 1.1, the first globally popular Graphical User Interface.

Soon after this, IBM arrived with a more economical version of the Personal computer. Through updated patent laws, IBM was not able to prevent companies from cloning their software, and so the PC was born. Generic companies created cheap systems running Microsoft's MS-DOS, a non-graphical command-line interface. In 1981 Microsoft developed "Interface Manager", a GUI complement to MS-DOS, but due to issues did not get released until 1995 when it was rebranded "Windows 1.0". Thus began the three decades battle between Apple and Microsoft for domination of the proprietary Operating System market.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> If you stopped reading above, continue here<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

So what are the implications of everything stated above? Realistically, computer hardware has advanced to the point that CPUs are thousands of times faster, HDDs hold millions of times
more data, and for $50 you can get graphics processing units not even available for millions of
dollars twenty years ago. Yet, despite these vast changes, in the 3 decades since GUIs have
been common applications of operating systems, we have seen little change in the way we
operate and interact with computers.

Mobile computing is no different. Despite a touch screen environment, and highly portable
application, they are still limited to 1 user per device, and create an isolated environment in
which data and applications can be interacted with. In essence, they are no different from any
traditional computing application, only more portable.

UUI (Universal User Interfacing) is truly the future technology application in the classroom.
Already in implementation in technology such as the Smartboard, UUI presents computer input
and output in the same digital and physical space, making the classroom the computer. It allows
multiple users to share, collaborate, communicate, and create simultaneously, and does not isolate
users to single terminals. It also removes the separation between the abstract digital world, and
the concrete physical world, fusing them into one interactive environment where content can be
acquired through waving a hand, or asking a question. Applications can be run simultaneously
with real-world activities, and creative collaboration is fully available and able to be realized.

As UUI technology becomes a standard, and our current concepts of input and output go by the
wayside, so will mobile computing and our preoccupation with using it in a classroom context.
Interactive fusion of the digital and the physical is the way we need to go as educators to truly
integrate technology into the classroom.

If you haven't been able to follow anything I am saying, or would like to see an interesting video
on UUI, check out the following TED Talk:

Monday, January 24, 2011

From Dead Reckoning to GPS

The Hudson Bay Company, formerly the Hudson Bay fur trading company, is one of the most salient examples we have in Canada, possibly even the world, of an organization on the edge. From its conception it utilized the most modern of technologies, and sometimes re-purposed traditional methods for new uses. As an organization it defied the odds, performing feats many deemed impossible, and in the process defined a nation.

From the beginning the Hudson Bay Company was on the cutting edge. Even before its conception Henry Hudson, a British national sailing a stolen Danish jacht of the most modern and intelligent design, sought out the Northwest Passage, eventually attaining the bay which bears his name after several failed attempts and with the aid of the most modern navigational mathematical theories and technologies. In fact his navigator utilized new sets of formulae to create more accurate longitudinal and latitudinal measurements which corrected the errors of 'dead reckoning', a process of using the North Star as a guide which could be off as much as 6° or 660km.

Along with the largely French backed Northwest Company, the HBC also utilized the newest ideas in social media, or rather mediums, by actually cooperating with local indigenous peoples and utilizing their expertise in map-making, navigation, trapping, and hauling. Not to say these relationships weren't without their deep flaws, but compared to other examples from Colonization in the West Indies, India, Africa, the Caribbean, and not to forget the stunningly failure of diplomacy in United States and their genocide of many indigenous cultures. In Canada we had companies creating active partnerships with tribal groups, offering 'fair' trades for furs and bringing a new idea of 'civilization' to the populated 'wilderness'.

Moving forward in history, we saw a more settled nation in the Canadian wilds, and great engineering feats were performed not by the HBC, but for it as one of the premier business adventures in this budding colony. The St. Lawrence Seaway, begun by a leader of a Catholic seminary in 1680 is one of the longest seaways in the world, and today raises ships from the Atlantic to the ports of Quebec, Montreal, Toronto and eventually Thunder Bay, a vertical movement of over 100m over the Niagara Escarpment.

Railway was also a major development, and with the backing of many major players in the Canadian economy, notable the HBC and John Molson, the first commercial railway line opened in Quebec in 1836. With the British North America act proclaiming Canada a country in 1867, one condition written in to the act was for the building of the Intercontinental Railway, which linked Eastern Canada. The reason for this bill was the circuitous route taken by the railway which ignored all economic considerations, and therefore was not backed by major businesses. The largest feat of railway engineering happened several years later with the incorporation of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1880, and its completion 5 years later with the driving of the last spike. This drove from a need to get personnel and goods quickly from the Pacific to the Atlantic, as well as to expedite the economic needs of the HBC as it had been forced to expand its hunting and trapping territory into the far less populated west.

Fast forward to the modern era, we see the HBC as no more than a mere relic of its past. Yet, the company has kept abreast of the modern developments and exists in the technological climate of its day. Today it manages many historical and highly lucrative properties in many of the urban settings of Canada, as well as being the premier department store in the country. They offer everything from furs to computers, and until recently sold automobiles and performed automotive repair. Like many competitors, they provide customers the opportunity to shop in store or online, and have maintained a competitive edge in the cutthroat world of modern retail.

For a company who history predates the creation of the empires of North America, and who was vital in the creation of our country, it has not only maintained but fostered the technological revolutions that make our society what it is today. While this did not come without missteps, there are few who could argue the influence the HBC has had on the west.

Monday, January 17, 2011

What were we supposed to do again?

I'd like to thank Liz for quoting the syllabus as to the actual content expected for these blogs. I went tangential on the last post, and should reign it in to the current course content.

Many of you have posted, stating your 'shock and awe' as to the use and possible abuse of technology by the generation next (or the Millenials as I recently heard them described). I too was disgusted by the seemingly apathetic parenting that allowed countless hours of 'screen time' and almost constant digital communication the subjects engaged in, while trying to multitask in a way that makes Superman look like Franklin the Turtle. I too am ready with the Luddite mobs to banish cell phones from classes and get children playing street hockey, building snow forts, and (Heaven forbid) walk to school again. Yet, I want to play the devil's advocate and look at this societal issue in another way, to see if maybe it isn't just the Millenials that have a problem.

Growing up I loved video games. I still love video games. In fact, I sometimes catch myself at 3am still playing a game I may have began five hours before. Am I an addict... yes. In fact studies have shown that the endorphine kick we get from gaming is similar to using heroine or extasy. There is a picture of my brother and I playing games on a Commodore 64 Vic 20 when I was still in one-piece pajamas. So needless to say, video gaming and a digital lifestyle has been a major part of who I am as a person. So can I blame my parents for my digital lifestyle? They always imposed healthy limits to my computer time, and encouraged me to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Looking back even further, their vice was the budding television culture. My father's family got their first T.V. when he was in his teens, and so could we say they were addicts because they watched much more T.V. than the generation before them? To take it even further, our grandparents were radio addicts, absorbing hours of radio dramas that changed the fact of entertainment.

That may have seemed like a senseless ramble, but what I am striking at is the fact that we look with disgust on a youth culture that eats and breathes a digital life, and yet if we look back through time, every generation looked at its youth as if they had lost the plot. We may not understand how youth can multitask, and text, and tweet, and blog, and surf, and watch, and play; but our parents probably didn't understand why making a pixelated Italian plumber in a red suit jump on mushrooms and slide down pipes was entertaining.

I worry about the youth of today. I worry about their health, their sedentary lifestyle, their overindulgence in the digital world, and their completely distracted and over-stimulated environment. However, I think we need to take a hard look at ourselves as a generation, and see if maybe we had some part in it, and if so, how we can help to make change.

Too Much Television

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Age of Copyright

We now live in a copyrighted world. From cells, to seeds, to the 'E' chord, to information limited to certain bits of plastic and metal; almost everything we touch and contact comes copyrighted and contractually to us. What kind of effect does this have on our world, and the way we interact with the information and technology around us?

There are many interesting and murky areas of copyright that many users of technology either purposely ignore, or are completely unaware of that challenge our very ideas of individuality, choice, and the right of ownership. Do you realize that when you buy software, you are only given a temporary license to utilize the software, and at anytime this right can be rescinded by those with the rights of ownership? Media purchased through iTunes must be viewed in iTunes proprietary formats which contain DRM (digital rights man
agement) protocols which can be used to track and monitor your media usage. In fact transferring these into formats more suitable for your various technological devices can place you, the user, into the hotseat as liable for charges of copyright violation.

Apple Computers does not limit this proprietary monopolization backed by copyright just to their digital media software. In fact, running OS X on any hardware that is not specifically sanctioned by Apple corporation is liable to prosecution as a violation of copyright, and in fact sued a small business in California which was installing Mac OSX on generic PC components.

This is why the debate over open source is as hot as ever. Many computer users believe that monopolies and control of information is a violation of rights, and advocate for user-controlled and created software which is protected under the GNU public license (and open-source license for public usage and manipulation of software and media). In this age where everything can seemingly be dominated by those wealthy and powerful enough to convince a judge that they have a right to place the name as the sole owner intellectual property, we need to come to a social consensus about where to draw the line. I believe people should get paid for what they create, and that our time and talent is worth financial compensation. However I don't believe in companies that, through their vast legal operations, are able to control and monopolize the entire industry while purposefully seeking the destruction of companies who may in the future threaten this foothold on the financial sector of technology. To scare you even more, these companies not only use the legal arena, but are actively seeking laws and political backing to support their technological regimes.

Be aware, and be afraid, be very afraid...