Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for the ‘ Web 2.0 ’ Category

Geek 2.0
March 22nd, 2009

School folder on the iPhone

I purchased an iPhone not long ago. I had not used a mobile phone for about eighteen months prior to that. I passed my previous mobile phone to my wife when her mobile phone bit the dust. I did not particularly miss my mobile phone. I managed to survive. It is possible.

I had my eye on an iPhone for some time and I finally decided last Christmas to bite the bullet and obtain one. I have added a number of apps to the phone during the last few months. The most useful have been NetNewsWire, Air Sharing, Tweetie, Remote, ……..

I have utilised Air Sharing to back-up all my school related documents. The folders on the iPhone replicate those on my Mac I use at home and the Mac I utilise at school. I prefer to use my MacBook Pro and I would lug it from home to school and back each day. They are not as light as Apple would have you believe.

I recently performed a clean re-install of Mac OSX on the 12″ MacBook G4 I use at school. That laptop is supplied to me by the school. Good, eh? It is three or so years old now and it is still an excellent machine. I have Leopard installed on it and it works like a charm. I have always felt that the 12″ MacBook G4 was an elegant piece of engineering. I have kept it quite lean in terms of installed applications. I only have the apps that I really need on a daily basis at school. I have also backed up all my school related documents on that laptop as well.

So, in short my school based files, all 1.94 gigabytes, are replicated on three different devices that I use regularly (in addition to an external hard drive):

1. MacBook Pro 15″ (Home)
2. MacBook G4 12″ (Work)
3. iPhone (Anywhere)

Yesterday I did a little research in order to see if I could find an Automator script that would allow me to sync all three devices at the end of each day. Ideally I would like a scripted ‘drop box’ type set up which automatically syncs files on the fly. It is still early days yet I managed to find a simple automated action appropriately titled ‘Sync Folders‘. I imported it into Automator and then exported it as a self contained app or ‘droplet’ if you like. I named the droplet ‘sync’.

Aliases or shortcuts on the desktop

I have created a folder on each Mac and the iPhone named ‘Files Transfer’. I simply save any new files into that folder on the Mac that I am using at that point in time. Later I shift the files to their appropriate destination within the school documents folders. I created aliases, or shortcuts, to the transfer folders and the sync app on the desktop of each computer. All I need do is select and drag the folders to the sync app and the contents of the respective ‘transfer’ folders on the Mac and the iPhone are synced. I perform the process at school and then repeat the same process when I return home. And vice versa. It is easy and fast.

File Transfer folder on the iPhone

What is the net effect of all that? I no longer lug any laptop to and from school. All I need is the iPhone. Simple. Sure, it is a bit of a pose. But, what the hell? I prefer to travel light. I think that makes me a geek.

I know I could use a thumbdrive and achieve the same result yet the impact is simply not the same. Gotta go geek.

I travel to school each day as part of a car pool. I share the travel with two colleagues. They often commented on the heavy backpack I carried to and from school each day. You can read about our adventures here and even see photographs of we three scaling massive mountains and traversing threatening cliffs, Ripping Yarns style.

Well, while I am waiting for my colleagues either in the morning or the afternoon I can catch up with my various feeds. I use the NetNewsWire client on my Mac most of the time. The feeds are synced to my NewsGator account and thence to the NetNewsWire app on my iPhone. If there is a post I would like to investigate further I can add it to my ‘Clippings’ and the next time I launch NetNewsWire on the Mac there they are. All is synced. Beautiful. Geek.

Then there is Tweetie. I have used it to microblog in 140 characters or less from various locations and even to post a photograph easily accessible from my Twitter feed. Geek.

When I am at home I can use Remote to manage my iTunes playlists on my MacBook Pro. I have my stereo linked to the wireless network at home via AirTunes and now I can sit outside, barbecuing, or drinking a beer, and change the song or playlist without having to go back inside the home. Geek.

As a complement to my Air Sharing experiment I have started making use of a DropBox account I opened 6 months ago. I will begin dropping files on DropBox in the future. I am not sure how it will handle the proxy at school. DropBox gives you 2 gbyte of space free. Quite good. The client interface on the Mac is very nice. It adds an elegant icon and menu to the menubar.

DropBox opens in Safari on the iPhone. It has a dedicated mobile interface. When you open DropBox for the first time on the iPhone do as I do. Select the “+” button at the foot of the Safari iPhone screen and select “Add To Home Screen” to place a DropBox icon amongst your apps on the iPhone. I do that with all of the mobile friendly sites that I access on the phone. DropBox also has a partially user friendly mobile interface. The top level is user friendly. The subsequent levels are not. As well, you have no options when you access a file. It would be convenient if you could email a selected file to an individual for example. More on DropBox in the future.

Those 184 RSS feeds twelve months on
March 15th, 2009

Twelve months ago to the day I wrote the following post….

This morning I read and commented on a post by Will Richardson in which he reflects on the 130 plus comments that one of his earlier posts received. He asked the following questions within his post and I replied as indicated below:

Question: Can anyone really read through 130 comments? Answer: Not all the time.

Question: Are we getting too distracted, too connected, too participatory for our own good? Answer: Yes.

When I began using Netscape I used to bookmark everything. It was all so new. It was like being a collector. An obsessive compulsive disorder. I just had to collect that next bookmark. Those hundreds of bookmarks are on a CD-ROM gathering digital dust.

There are only about a dozen websites that I regularly visit now. That is enough.

But then there is those 184 blogs in my RSS reader. Will the majority of those blog feeds go the same way as my deceased bookmarks? I think so.

That question again: Are we getting too distracted, too connected, too participatory for our own good? Answer: Yes.

I feel that there is a considerable amount of redundancy within the edublogosphere, a consequential reduction in original thought and the growth of an edublogging elite.”

Well, twelve months have passed and I find I that I now have 208 feeds in my reader. I did pare down the number to less than 100 at one stage but the number has crept back up. A number are subscriptions to Delicious bookmarks. I find those to be most useful. I still only regularly visit a select number of web sites. Online newspapers in the main. Will Richardson mentions he received 130 comments on a single post. It would take about 12 months for my entire blog to accumulate that many comments. Oh well. That’s life.

I use NetNewsWire on the Mac to keep track of the feeds I read. I find I can skim through the feeds much more quickly than with Google Reader. I scan through the feed headings and pick out those with the most interesting titles, particularly for those fetched from, for example, Read Write Web and TUAW. Their posts really pile up after a few days. I also apply a similar technique to those bloggers that are prolifically reviewing and linking to educational resources. A quick scan, select a post here and there and mark all the rest as read.

The NetNewsWire application is synced to both NewsGator online and the NetnNewsWire app on my phone. I am able to scan through posts quickly on the phone and any that I wish to follow up I add to Clippings. These turn up on the client on my Mac. Useful.

Twelve months on there is still a great deal of overlap and redundancy in the feeds that I read. Material is being reinterpreted, recycled and reposted. Just as I have done with this post. I feel that the micro-blogging service Twitter has had an impact on blogging. I follow 500+ people on Twitter yet I have not subscribed to all of their blogs. What am I missing out on I sometimes wonder. I even feel guilty about that sometimes. I should not of course. Comes from a Catholic upbringing.

During January and February of this year I rarely scanned through the feeds. Perhaps I missed some great posts yet the sun still rises and sets each day and the edublogosphere continues to rotate on its axis. Not too sure what forms the composition of that axis. That’s a thought.

I focus more upon the blogs composed by those members of my PLN that interact on a regular basis. Feels like the thing to do. Need to reciprocate more frequently.

Blogging, twitter and that audience
February 28th, 2009

Mark has written a post in which he evaluates Twitter and writes rather astutely about that audience that many bloggers and twitterers ponder upon, seek or desire. It is a good read, like all Mark’s blog posts. Mark is also great with video. Check this out. This one too. Anyway, I digress. Mark’s post about Twitter and his side note on the audience garnered a response from me and as I have done in the past I repeat those thoughts below.

Mark, a nice evaluation and thoroughly enjoyed reading the side note. Many of us have those thoughts, emotions, feelings regarding publishing on the net. It is only human.

The advice I have read and received is blog for yourself. Write for yourself. Simply blog about things you have done. The audience will come, whether you know it or not. It may be small or even large. That is not important.

Recently I have been focusing on that little group of bloggers and twitterers that comment on my blog and respond to my tweets. Do not worry about the ‘big knob’ bloggers out there. Who cares? Focus on that loyal group of followers or commentators. That is when it really kicks in.

I think you have the best Twitter avatar of them all. Is that you in the picture? Your avatar immediately grabs my attention and makes me take notice of what you have to say or share Mark. Blog on!

Cheers, John.

A tweet from Pompeii 79AD
February 21st, 2009

Source: Historical Tweets

A post by Francesca Tonchin in Classical Archaeology News just alerted me to Historical Tweets. The specific tweet relates to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD and the consequent disaster that befell Pompeii, Herculaneum and other regions of Campania. [This event and the societies of Pompeii and Herculaneum are a core unit of the Ancient History course in the New South Wales Higher School Certificate.]

The idea generated some thought and made me wonder about other possible applications such as “Famous Last Tweets”. Imagine asking students of literature, during a break or diversion in that programmed syllabus, to compose tweets that would have been written by writers such as Plato, Lawrence, Dickens, Twain, Pepys, Shakespeare, Orwell, Donne, and so on. I believe John Donne’s tweets could have been particularly telling…. “This bed has fleas…” or “Just picked up a nice compass“.

Care to suggest others?

Passenger or driver?
February 1st, 2009

I met Darcy Moore the other day. I enjoy reading Darcy’s blog and catching up on his tweets. We grabbed a brew at the Laconia coffee lounge in Kiama. I like that place. Like stepping back in time as you stir your coffee, complete with a real cup and saucer, as you sit in one of those luxurious booths that hark back to the glory days of the 1950s.

Our conversation covered career, driving and the change that is happening with the Internet and mobile technologies. The other day Darcy gave a presentation at the Illawarra and South East Regional Conference (DET). As Darcy wrote on his blog his “aim was to propose a way that educators could engage students using new tools by transforming professional development in the ISER region with Web 2.0 concepts”. Darcy’s post is an informative read and a number of great comments have been added to the post. I suggest you give Darcy’s post a read and add to the conversation. I commented as well and I thought I would take my words and repeat them here…

Darcy, your drive and passion will have an impact. You have sown the seeds and now is the time to nurture the growth and spread the thinking, rationale and implementations of the programme set out above. Incremental yet formative steps.

Change is underway in how many members of society communicate and act. Individuals are no longer simply the passive recipients of news and information. They now have the power to publish and disseminate information. Passive has been replaced by proactive. That entails a measure of responsibility.

Decision making and choice was often imposed upon society via marketing and regulation. Now, via the web, individuals have the ability to make change occur from the ground up via rapid publication and the sharing of their views and decisions. Ideas and actions, both good and bad, can be disseminated quickly and efficiently.

Technology has provided society with a new swathe of communication and publication skill sets. These new skills have arrived rapidly. Much can be achieved with the change that is taking place with respect to the empowerment of the individual and the group facilitated via the changing use of the Internet. The wise and beneficial use of these skills as positive change agents within society predicate that good exemplars and education is required.

The Internet as a platform has changed. individuals are not simply an audience observing a performance on stage. They now have the potential to be part of the performance whether they be actors, writers, directors or producers. Education has a role to play in facilitating the staging of a good performance.

Think upon the car. A rapid impact on society. Imagine driving on the roads if driver education had not taken place. Not the best of similes yet I feel that the evolution of the Internet as a media that primarily facilitated consumption to one that fosters participation educators (and also those elected to oversee the functioning of our society) cannot simply sit back and watch it happen. They need to be involved and, at least, to understand. Comprehension of the change can facilitate sound judgement and the provision of good exemplars for students, colleagues and the wider community.

On another level the Internet and mobile technologies have collectively allowed the individual to be either a passenger or a driver on this new road. Our students have already made the decision to be drivers. The ride can either be bumpy or smooth. Would you rather be a passenger or a driver? Certainly not hiding in the boot of the car.

Compulsory PD re Web 2.0? Will it happen? Frankly, I am not sure. Perhaps, like the car, the impact on society of Web 2.0 will become so significant and so pervasive that educators will want to secure that license and learn how to drive it anyway. Not all, but many.

We all need to grab a map, buckle up, turn that ignition key and make the journey happen otherwise we will be left behind, standing at the kerb, and observing opportunity as it disappears over the horizon.