TED Talk: The Filter Bubble

Companies are personalizing web sites for us. Facebook only shows us things like what we have before clicked. Google gives us search results tailored either to our user id or a number of factors.

Basically, our perspective of what is on the Internet could be highly flawed due to actions we had no idea was judging us. So usually clicking on Democratic news items filters out the Conservative perspective which helps us be more balanced in our thinking.

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If the above video does not work, then try Beware online “filter bubbles”.

TED Talk: How Kids Teach Themselves

Find it amazing children who have never been exposed English can learn it from a kiosk with just 1980-90s computer games made available to them. That the kids worked in groups appears to enhance the effect was also pretty interesting. One child would operate with 3 advising and all 4 would test the same, so they learn as much by watching as doing.

Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his Hole in the Wall project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own — and then taught other kids. He asks, what else can children teach themselves?

In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

In the following years they replicated the experiment in other parts of India, urban and rural, with similar results, challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The “Hole in the Wall” project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra, who’s now a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), calls it “minimally invasive education.”

    “Education-as-usual assumes that kids are empty vessels who need to be sat down in a room and filled with curricular content. Dr. Mitra’s experiments prove that wrong.”
    Linux Journal

Please Don’t Write Off the LMS Just Yet

Found the Educational Technology Trends 2010 quite interesting. Especially the part which predicts yet again (still?) the death of the LMS.

Both learning and learning content are moving away from traditional centripetal models, in which everything happens at set locations and is controlled at the institutional/publisher level (top-down), and moving toward centrifugal models that are learner-focused (bottom-up) and in which learning happens wherever a student happens to be. This means new platform models for learning (post-LMS), greater mobile access, more flexible e-commerce models, and a renewed explosion in generic online learning.

I suspect the relationship between the LMS and what is next is more like  LMS : post-LMS/PLE/DIY U :: book : Internet. The Internet has not as of yet killed off the book. We still have plenty of books available. Even books are shifting towards digital. The Internet just moved into greater prominence and changed how we think. Similarly, new platforms may result in something which we will think of as how students learn in higher education, but the LMS will still be around for a very long while. (Which is good because it means I still have a job for a while.)

Linux Adventure Part 2

Linux Adventure Part 1Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

So far into the story, I tried repairing Windows Vista which failed to actually give me a working entry into the operating system. The Linux Live CDs were non-committed forays into Knoppix, CentOS, and Ubuntu. All failed to turn on the wireless. An ethernet cord would have gotten me online.

So I was stuck with pretty much a brick.

My next step was to venture out to the store and buy a hard drive. The Ubuntu CD included an installer, so I used it to install a local copy. Continued research revealed my problem probably was the fact my computer came with a Broadcom 4312 card. (My brother said my problem was trying use wireless with Linux.)

Without an ethernet connection, I ended up installing Linux STA drivers from source by downloading them and transferring them by FTP.  No good. Multiple times. I never got it to recognize them. Other options called for installing a firmware update on the wireless card. The idea of a firmware update to the wireless card making me stuck on Linux worries me.

Thankfully I got home to where I have ethernet cords. By this point, I had so completely hosed things, so I reinstalled Ubuntu to start over fresh. Now seeing the Internet through the LAN, Ubuntu offered me “restricted” hardware drivers. The b43 set didn’t do anything. The STA set did enable the Wireless option. Even dhclient referenced eth2! However, the wifi status light doesn’t turn on when I enable wireless. Ugh. So the drivers work better but not enough to get it working.

Also, (based on the time stamp of the file I was able to find in a backup of the problem laptop) I haven’t connected a computer to my home network since February, so I didn’t remember what was the password for the network. Finding which computer or external drive contained the information took a few hours. Yay for backups.

Linux Adventure Part 1Linux Adventure Part 3 [SOLVED]

Useful User Agents

Rather than depend on end users to accurately report the browser used, I look for the user-agent in the web server logs. (Yes, I know it can be spoofed. Power users would be trying different things to resolve their own issues not coming to us.)

Followers of this blog may recall I changed the Weblogic config.xml to record user agents to the webserver.log.

One trick I use is the double quotes in awk to identify just the user agent. This information is then sorting by name to count (uniq -c) how many of each is present. Finally, I sort again by number with the largest at the top to see which are the most common.

grep <term> webserver.log | awk -F\” ‘{print $2}’ | sort | uniq -c | sort -n -r

This is what I will use looking for a specific user. If I am looking at a wider range, such as the user age for hits on a page, then I probably will use the head command to look at the top 20.

A “feature” of this is getting the build (Firefox 3.011) rather than just the version (Firefox 3). For getting the version, I tend to use something more like this to count the found version out of the log.

grep <term> webserver.log | awk -F\” ‘{print $2}’ | grep -c ‘<version>’

I have yet to see many CE/Vista URIs with the names of web browsers. So these are the most common versions one would likely find (what to grep – name – notes):

  1. MSIE # – Microsoft Internet Explorer – I’ve seen 5 through 8 in the last few months.
  2. Firefox # – Mozilla Firefox – I’ve seen 2 through 3.5. There is enough difference between 3 and 3.5 (also 2 and 2.5) I would count them separately.
  3. Safari – Apple/WebKit – In searching for this one, I would add to the search a ‘grep -v Chrome’ or to eliminate Google Chrome user agents.
  4. Chrome # – Google Chrome – Only versions 1 and 2.

Naturally there many, many others. It surprised me to see iPhone and Android on the list.

Why Read Books?

That I read books probably lowers my highly coveted geek cred. Instead, e-books read on the computer screen, phone screen, or e-book reader should have long ago replaced reading on dead wood. Unfortunately, I am intentionally avoiding reading books much on computers, phone, or readers.

  1. Why I need a purseNo purse to carry more stuff. I have big fingers, so I need stuff with big buttons. Things like iPhones are maddening to use because I cannot seem to hit the buttons correctly. Things with lots of big buttons tend to be big which makes them a pain to carry.

  2. Never underestimate my ability to break toys. Only the most resilient of electronic toys survive me. It isn’t uncommon for my laptops, phones, or cameras to experience 5 foot falls. Everything I carry with me ends up with marks from the abuse even books. Paper can take the abuse. I have no faith e-book readers could maintain their screens from being around me.
  3. Computers tend to tempt me to fail at multi-tasking. When I shut down my computer to go home, I typically have at the minimum a dozen windows. (Even the client I use to connect to my servers usually can fill that dozen.) Reading on a computer rarely will result in more than a page of reading every 10 minutes. Because blog posts are usually pretty short, distractions have less chance to interfere with reading them.
  4. Books are common enough people accept them as normal. Cool toys attract attention. I’d expect an expensive phone or e-reader or laptop to attract the kind of attention which results in theft. Books are cheap few would care to go to the effort.
  5. Phone are becoming more like computers. What I don’t want is a phone (or another device) which I treat like my computer, aka failing at multi-tasking. Just today I squared 1024 on paper instead of using the calculator on my phone. Having access to the Internet through my phone could be bad for keeping me on task.
  6. Why faux paper when you could use paper? The e-book readers market how much their technology looks like paper. Paper looks, feels, smells, and tastes like paper.
    🙂
  7. Spending money on a device to get to read seems counter-intuitive. The devices should be subsidized by the content. But that would mean Amazon $10 books would cost more like $20.

Typically I don’t change until I have a problem with what I am using. Books don’t cause me problems. So I am happy to continue to read books for the foreseeable future.

TED Talk: Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history

The tumult in Iran is huge news of late. As a Baha’i, news of the persecution of Baha’s in Iran has stepped up because of the Internet. Stories crossed the ocean through email. News agencies almost never picked up these stories. As fast as the Iran government could shut down CNN and NYT and BBC reporters, the same government cannot seem to quell dozens who don’t have press credentials or passports to revoke from sharing the message. So the idea of several thousand sharing a similar message evading the same government doesn’t seem all the surprising to me.

[The Iran unrest] is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. This is it. The big one.

Calling this unrest a revolution seems premature. Still, all this information making it overseas is interesting to watch.

The LMS is So Web 1.5

The claims Blackboard’s Learn 9 provides a Web 2.0 experience has bothered me for a while now. First, it was the drag-n-drop. While cool, that isn’t Web 2.0 in my opinion. A little more on track is the claim:

The all-new Web 2.0 experience in Release 9 makes it easy to meaningfully combine information from different sources. The Challenges Are Real, But So Are the Solutions

Integrating with a social network like Facebook is a start, but again, in my opinion, it still isn’t Web 2.0.

So, what is Web 2.0? I did some digging. I think the Tim O’Reilly approach meets my expectation best. He quotes Eric Schmidt’s “Don’t fight the Internet.” as well as provide his own more in depth.

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them. (This is what I’ve elsewhere called “harnessing collective intelligence.”) Web 2.0 Compact Definition: Trying Again

Users expect a site on the Internet to meet their needs or they eventually move on to a site which does. There are so many web sites out there providing equivalent features to those commonly found in an LMS. There is the danger of irrelevance. This is why every LMS company or group strives to continually add new features (aka innovating). The bar continually gets raised, so LMS software continually needs to meet this higher standard.

Tim additionally provides some other rules which you can see at the above link.

When an LMS reachs the point where the resources of the Internet helps people learn, then it will be a Web 2.0. As long as an expert or leader imparts knowledge on students, the LMS is still something different than Web 2.0. Sorry…. The irony? This is exactly what Michael Wesch and PLE advocates preach.

USPS Forever

The United States Postal Service keeps raising postage rates. Yet, I still wonder about this statement regarding the 2 cent increase going into effect this year. 

When the postal service announced price increases in February, postal officials estimated the hike will cost the average household $3 a year. Forever Stamps not lasting long: Brisk sales before rate hike | onlineathens.com

To cost a household $3 a year, the household would need to buy 150 stamps a year. That is 12.5 a month! Obviously I am not the average household. I bought a set of 20 Forever Stamps about 2 years ago just after they became available. I just used my 5th one for something today. So projecting at the current usage the next year would cost me 4-6 cents if I didn’t have the Forever Stamps.

That’s not exactly budget breaking….

If Internet usage is causing people not to send mail anymore, then I am an exemplar.
🙂

Digital Legacy

A book on time management in talking about long-term goal planning suggests we define the legacy we wish to leave. Coming from academia, I typically think of a legacy as a name on a building, an applicant with an alum for a parent, or a scholarship. However, the artifacts left behind by previous cultures are also a legacy.

Our digital footprints both could be part of this legacy or easily lost. I lean toward all this data we spew about the Internet will be lost eventually. I have seen floppy disks and hard drives die, taking with them the only copy of critical data. I have seen companies report their hard drives stolen from their machines in co-location as why customers lost their data. I have seen companies close web sites because they ran out of money. Let’s not forget natural disasters like earthquakes and floods.

So we keep backups.

Who will preserve these backups once we are gone? Are you able to read the data from computers 40 years ago? Maybe we’ll be better about being able to read the data from past when we reach 40 years into the future?

Not likely.