112 posts categorized "Mobile"

January 07, 2010

How To Follow WW2 in 'Real Time' Through Twitter & National Archives

History buffs and all of us who love good, old fashioned, paper data will enjoy following @ukwarcabinet on Twitter, as each day, several times a day, the actual documents tracking the War Cabinet's decisions are opened up by the National Archives in 'real time' (albeit 70 years later).

Ukwarcabinet example Yesterday we learned that "Cabinet meets to discuss Finnish progress against the Russians and the possibility of further assistance http://ow.ly/TglB", the link leading you to the actual minutes from the meeting, pictured.

Superb for history buffs, and an alternative, long-line way of learning in depth the history of the War. So it won't fit within the structures of our hour-by-hour school timetables and 40 hour courses, but I'm real aficionados young and old will latch onto it regardless.

It would be great if the National Archives could somehow let us skip the meaningless 'checkout' for free downloads of PDFs. It'd also be a good idea for them to put some welly behind the marketing - this should have at least the 2,500 followers of Samuel Pepys, and then some.

December 16, 2009

Owning My First Original Johanna Basford: Art Made By Twitter

Johanna Basford TwitterPicture
TwitterPicture was quite a feat for a young artist: Aberdeen-based artist Johanna Basford made £15,000 (about $892,000 ;-) in the space of 48 hours of twittering, by inviting normal untalented folk like me to suggest what they wanted drawn by her famous black pen.

The lovely Damien, Suzy and co at the wonderfully cool, hip and talented ISO Design thrust a stocking filler under my arm this evening. And I'm now the proud owner of Twitter's first piece of crowdsourced art, made by Aberdeen-based artist Johanna earlier this year.

In theory, at least, I've also helped make this masterpiece, as mine was one of 230 tweets that fed the end-result - an A3 line-art collage, of the distinctive style that will make Johanna a Turner-winner one of these days (I hope). It now takes pride of place in the living room, where I am reminded of contributions made by quite a few of my twitter buddies.

At the end of Day One, the Central Station arts platform, on which I've been working with ISO, joined the push to get as many people as possible to promote the project and chip in with their own ideas for inclusion. The result is fascinating and beautiful, with "any dinosaur in casual attire" resting next to my own "a baby's first laugh". You can see all 230 suggestions on the artists' certificate of authentication, and come around to mine for a cup of tea to find them all.

IMG_9533 It's a beautiful living room piece, and the first original artwork I've ever owned. But it strikes me that this could be an almost weekly occurrence in art and design classrooms around the world - it's Twitter storytelling for artists.

Catriona's already started trying to emulate Johanna. She's got a bit to go, but she'll get there one day. You can see some of the detail in it on my Central Station art profile, and follow CenSta on Twitter to catch the next time there are fun happenings like this.

December 15, 2009

How Mobile Cell Phones Change Everything When We Do

Mac-filled lecture theatre
Will Richardson posts the above picture and asks
"how many educators look at that picture and think "OMG, puhleeeeese let me teach in that classroom!" (I suspect not many)".
He points out that with the mobile technologies already in our students' pockets we're probably not far off that level of ubiquitous kitting out in our schools already. He's right. But he's less right in implying that great teachers would want to teaching in that classroom.

Further on Will points out that often teachers and decision-makers can get hung up on the "what technology" question, rather than the "curriculum question". This might be a linguistic anomaly, but curriculum, to me, is deciding what we learn, when. It is important, but the most important peg on which we need to hang our thought is pedagogy, which is about how we learn. Teachers decide pedagogy, not administrators, authorities or Governments. That's why teachers discussing not tech, but teach, becomes ever more vital as technologies open up new ways to approach learning.

But linguistic anomalies are the stuff of learning, so I hope Will doesn't mind me challenging this one, and seeing what we really think it possible if we could encourage colleagues to move beyond "OMG puhleeeeese" statements.

The reason the picture presents a dubious message is that neither curriculum nor pedagogy have changed an iota in this learning space: it's about the same layout - with as many apples on laps - as a Victorian classroom would have appeared.

It's not an image to proud of, to smile at, to wonder at, or one I'd want to be in. It sums up the biggest challenge facing learning: too many educators look at that and think all of above.

What can we aspire to?

The other night Stephen Heppell pointed out the Education_2010 report that he, Graham Brown-Martin and other luminaries had pulled together in 1999, outlining what they thought technology would be doing for learning in 2010. The predictions and visions hinted at in that Garamond/Helvetica-shocker of a ClarisWorks document are not far off what we're close to as hurl towards the end of this decade. And that, in no short measure down to the work of the authors in promoting mobiles' inevitable conquest of learning spaces. The key message: learners will all have access to portable 'micros'. The micros, though, are maybe not the laptops or notebooks, even, that photos like the above one hint at.

Christmas Cracker Research

It's particularly apt as the decade ends with a supposedly "credit crunch Christmas" where iPhones and iPod touches, and cheaper but no-less effective smartphones with the major carriers, will be appearing under the trees of our youngsters (and, in what even I, a gadget fan, would consider a touch of spoiling, in their stockings).

In the UK the changes in equipment provision is already happening, and in the US it's going to follow really soon: the image of students locked to their laptops could change to a more human image of students talking to each other face-to-face, and using their mobile phones for research, reference and recording.

That change from the tech-oriented to the person-oriented could change, but it needs teachers, not tech, to make that change happen.

In the UK children have owned and used mobile phones at any kind of scale in schools (legitimately or otherwise) for about six years. I remember the Christmas when they all came back with them. The next year it was the mp3 player. This Christmas I bet it'll be the hyprid iPod Touch or iPhone (if they're lucky). What kids get for Christmas one year is nearly always the forerunner to what is really desirable in a few years' time. Where mp3 players were the hot item in 2003, the iPod shuffle and mini took until 2005 to hit the mainstream school audience. Where iPhones and iPod touches hit the Christmas pressie list in 2009, there will be something more profound and far more widespread in adoption in 2011.

If you want the real aficionados head to South Korea and Japan for a lesson in ubiquity, but still, I wouldn't bet on their curriculum or pedagogy having changed much as a result (and their relative educational success is more likely down to the insane hours students and their private tutors put in, compared to the average three weeks' per year absenteeism of Scottish students).

As the iPhone makes the mobile's northern American cousin, the 'cell', something more mainstream over the Pond, mobiles' learning potential is finally gaining more than a niche gadget audience's attention. It becomes even more palpable as the replacement cell phones are not of the simpler phone-text-image cariety, but, of course, the of smartphone stock. The pic below shows the scale of this: it's part of the half-a-million cells thrown out every day in the USA as people upgrade to the next, better model:

Some mobile phones

But the lessons learned about cell phone use (and handheld learning devices stuck in schoolbags) for learning in the UK, through trials, pilots and the generally higher adoption of mobile telephony here than over the Pond, risk being ignored. Most of the conversations being had in Will's monster 130-plus comment post are thinking through issues that have been thought through, put into action, analysed and researched in the UK as long as four years ago.

There's a monster post (or a book) in pointing to the work of the past decade and what it means for the next one. Many of those lessons are online, in places like the Wolverhampton Learning2Go project, whose initial work in mostly offline potential of PDAs was groundbreaking, or the Consolarium in Scotland which has pioneered games-based learning using devices often hidden away in school bags, not a pioneering effort in theory, I hasten to add, but in hard-to-initiate classroom practice.

Finally, though, it is heartening to see that the pedagogy of Higher Education institutions is changing. The above picture is still far from being out-of-date - for many campuses it's still light-years ahead. But iPhone-equipped students of Abilene university in the States have seen their lecturers change from information-transferal mode (that's what Google's for) to educator,  leader  and even developer roles in the lecture hall.

It’s like a mashup of a 1960s teach-in with smartphone technology from the 2000s.

Each participating Abilene instructor is incorporating the iPhone differently into their curriculum. In some classrooms, professors project discussion questions onscreen in a PowerPoint presentation. Then, using polling software that Abilene coded for the iPhone, students can answer the questions anonymously by sending responses electronically with their iPhones. The software can also quickly quiz students to gauge whether they’re understanding the lesson.

... And if students don’t understand a lesson, they can ask the teacher to repeat it by simply tapping a button on the iPhone.

This is the exception to the rule. Heck, it's in Wired. [Update: My good friend, former Pentagon man and superb Ireland-based educator Bernie Goldbach, blogs on what his students are doing with their Nokias, and the joy they have researching with them.] But a student in the story outlines why making these fundamental changes to access to technologies, whether that is giving it away for free (in Abilene) or just allowing students to bring out the panoply of kit from their Christmas 09 haul, is a no-brainer:

“They’re preparing us for the real world — not a place where you’re not allowed to use anything.”

December 13, 2009

Yann Thiersen Plays "Amélie" on Six iPhones

Yann Thiersen composed the music to one of my favourite French films, Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain. In the video clip above he plays the Comptine D'Un Autre Eté: L'après-midi on six iPhones. Bluetooth-iPhone-App-tastic.

November 09, 2009

"People act different behind cameras": strangely disturbing cartoon

Via Graham Linehan's blog and Techcrunch is This American Life examining our attitudes to censorship, citizen journalism and how people change when they're behind a camera.

September 29, 2009

Young and addicted to social networks: and they've never written so much


Clive Thompson in Wired has summed up some definitive research that backs up what many of us have been saying from our guts for years: kids have never been reading and writing so much, and with the proliferation of social networks and mobile messaging this stat will only increase with time:

Andrea Lunsford is a professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University, where she has organized a mammoth project called the Stanford Study of Writing to scrutinize college students' prose. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples—everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. Her conclusions are stirring.

"I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization," she says. For Lunsford, technology isn't killing our ability to write. It's reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That's because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

Not only that but the writing is of an excellent technical standard, with status updates training our youngsters in the kind of "haiku-like concision" that their verbose parents could only dream of.

It's the kind of research that would have proven handy 18 months or so ago, when I had helped colleagues design some of the most forward-thinking literacy policies in the world, where text messages, computer games and blogs were deemed suitable 'texts' to study alongside the great classics. I got a bit of a hard time for condoning this at the time, and still get a rocky ride in believing that iPhones and iPod Touches could be amongst the digital toolkits in which our most reluctant readers might find the reading bug.

But it still felt right, and feels more right than ever now. Go read, digest and share.

Pic by Mads Berg in Wired.

September 15, 2009

Why we might not want Twitter to grow (when we want something done)

A while back Charlie Beckett wrote from the BBC's Beeb Camp about how Twitter, though still a minority sport, still mattered as it was more creative than the other main ways (email, SMS) people got in touch within the mass medium of television. There are fewer people on Twitter (though this is growing healthily, especially in the UK) and this, in turn, means that there is a better quality of dialogue between "the programme" (or the journalists/presenters/interviewers/interviewees), the audience, and between the members of the audience:

So expert Twittering journalist and Channel 4 News Presenter Krishnan Guru Murthy can appeal for question suggestions via Twitter without getting swamped by replies. If it gets any bigger then it becomes email. Channel 4 has enjoyed some stimulating uses of Twitter to help audiences get more involved in live surgical operations, as well as to comment on the taste of the channel's home (re)designexperts.

Playing along on Twitter, having a conversation with friends as well as strangers who are sharing a common moment, is becoming a common activity amongst Twitters of an evening, using Twitter search or, for example, 4iP's own Hashdash. We've even done some work with the Channel 4 On Demands (4oD) back catalogue, taking 10,000 hours of television archive and making it accessible through a Facebook Connect platform, Test Tube Telly. Go and have a play, see what you're friend are watching and share your thoughts on it all. However, Charlie's point about Krishnan, that "if it gets any bigger then it becomes email", shouldn't be an 'if'. It will happen.

Ray Kurzweil's anatomy of exponential growth tells us it will become bigger, a lot bigger (until 2020, at least), and therefore it almost certainly becomes another form of email: something to avoid on holiday, something to ignore wherever possible. The same thought came to me recently as I was having a bit of bother getting my new home fitted out with a telephone and broadband line. Being a new house, we had been warned by the building site manager that British Telecom would not want to send out an engineer because, from their call centre, the home would appear connected when, in fact, it wasn't. Insist on the engineer, he said.

An engineer was en route until the very last evening before he was due to appear. That evening I wasn't at home, invited instead to an the weirdest dinner I've ever had (a perfume dinner) and ended up sat alongside JP Rangaswami, Confused of Culcutta, one of my blog heros and, as chance would have it, Managing Director of BT Design at British Telecom. He assured me it was easily sorted and that, if I had any problems, I would just have to send a tweet to @btcare and he and his colleagues would sort it out.

I did have problems. @btcare and @jobsworth did sort it out. Really quickly. Really nicely.

I was a happy surfer but started wondering what would happen, when, inevitably, Twitter became THE place EVERYONE started to get their telecoms problems sorted. And it wouldn't just stop there - it would be the place to have your gas line reconnected, get your oven repaired... Would I have to find a new geekerati way to get my stuff sorted out, or simply join the masses in the Twitter queue listening to the Twitter Muzak equivalent of Beethoven's Ninth before I got seen to?

Originally posted at 38minutes.

August 31, 2009

Time for a jerk of the knee: reasons to ban mobiles #54


"Fighting between Millwall and West Ham football fans was planned weeks before the match, the BBC understands.

"A Millwall supporter who organised some of the violence said rival fans arranged to meet via mobile phones."

The same situation within a school: what would the school do?

Pic: Millwall/West Ham

August 10, 2009

FestBuzz: Crowdsourcing reviews from Twitter

FestBuzz The 2009 Edinburgh Festivals are all about tweeting as newspapers cut back on their reviewer staff. Earlier this year in my work at 4iP I commissioned FestBuzz, a really clever piece of artificial-intelligence-sentiment-detection-twitter-search, to make sense of what people were tweeting about each show in all seven Festivals.

Go help a great Edinburgh startup by telling all your mates about it and, if you're at the Festival, tell us what you think of the shows you're at ;-)

FestBuzz analyses what Twitter users are saying about Festival shows and creates crowd-sourced reviews and "five star" ratings that are available on the site or through its API. As printed reviews in traditional media start to emerge, the site will help users identify the differences between the views of established reviewers compared to the Twitterer on the street using its combination of reviews and star ratings.

It allows users to get to the bottom of the ‘word on the tweet’ and get honest reviews of shows by the people who have forked out cash to see the show.

Fresh features are being tested and will be released in the remaining three weeks of the Festival, and provide a means for 4iP - and others - to test how this kind of technology is used by the public, and their demand for it. So far, #edfest tweeting is proving, in some cases at least, to be as entertaining as the shows our twitics are watching.

Why is 4iP investing in FestBuzz?

The site and API is being produced by Affect Labs Ltd, a small Edinburgh University-based startup led by founder Jennie Lees. It was funded after a call-to-action earlier this year around how the artistic spread of nearly 70,000 performances in August could be made easier to navigate. Thanks to its unique back-end technology, FestBuzz is able to accurately work out what shows Twitterers-turned-critics are talking about and how they feel about them with even the most sporadic, misspelt of Tweets.

In addition, users who join FestBuzz don’t need to use special hashtags or keywords to have their messages picked and turned into a star-rated review, making the site incredibly easy to use and picking up the maximum number of tweeted reviews automatically.

As well as the chance to make the Festivals more accessible, FestBuzz is amongst a couple sites putting the traditional notion of the "Expert Critic" under the spotlight. 4iP is also investing in a small, young startup getting its technology out into the public domain for the first time, and hopefully helping to stimulate some more action in the future from this and similar companies.

"FestBuzz was set up specifically to identify hidden gems, looking for hotbeds of emerging talent that are generating buzz on Twitter but slipping past professional critics," says Affect Labs' Jennie. "Our aim is to help people discover shows that they might otherwise overlook, and provide a true, honest opinion that reflects the thoughts of the masses, not just a few people. Having produced several Festival shows in the past, I'm all too aware how a published review can make or break a show; we're trying to level the playing field."

Crowdsourced reviews and revenue potential

FestBuzz is the first live application of Affect Labs’ core sentiment detection technology and, like all 4iP projects, we were keen that it have the potential to support itself into the future. The application can generate revenue through an analytical dashboard that shows performers, venues or show management how their performances were received each day. Affect Labs is also happy to make the API available to partners who want to use it in interesting ways on their own sites and services.

FestBuzz is one of several Twitter-related offerings that have sprung up in the days before the world’s largest arts Festival in the Scottish capital. Some only go as far as showing you pretty simple ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ stuff around shows, or providing summarised reviews from the many tweets we’re expecting throughout the Festival. Any activity FestBuzz or these other sites stimulate around critiquing shows on Twitter only helps make the aggregated reviews better. Critically, though, the age of crowd-sourced reviews has arrived and is being lapped up by Festival-goers.

Follow FestBuzz on Twitter: http://twitter.com/festbuzz

Visit the site for crowdsourced reviews during the Festivals: http://festbuzz.com/

June 06, 2009

Twitter for learning in extremis: Surgery Live and, erm, Big Brother

Surgery Live Adam Gee, Channel 4's Cross-Platform Commissioner for Factual, last week helped bring together one of the most bizarre, insightful and exhilarating learning experiences I think I've ever taken part in on television: watch a surgeon perform his art/science live on television and ask him questions direct through Twitter.

Open heart surgery, awake brain surgery (i.e. patient awake as well as surgeon and us the trusty viewers), keyhole surgery, tumour removal – alive&direct thanks to Windfall Films in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. Wild enough in itself I hear you say but that is not all, oh no, that is not all…

We will not hold up the cup and the milk and the cake and the fish on a rake, but as the Cat in the Hat said, we know some new tricks and your mother will not mind (unless she’s etherised upon a table, as that other cat-lover said). The plan is to tip our hat (red and white striped topper or whatever) to that increasingly common behaviour of Twittering whilst watching TV and encourage people to tweet away during the live operations, sharing their thoughts and asking questions. The big difference here is that this is live TV and you can make an impact with your tweet on the TV editorial. The best questions tweeted will be fed through to the presenter, arch-Twitterer Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News, who will swiftly pose them to the surgeon at work. So a matter of seconds between tweet and the question being uttered on live TV.

There were, of course, thousands of questions put through to the programme, helping the Surgery Live hashtag #slive hit the 3rd, then 2nd then 1st position on Twitter's trending, but there was also a great deal of conversation about the live operation between complete strangers who had found each other through the commonality of the hashtag, and their shared experience of learning what goes on inside our hearts/brains/stomachs.

In more formal education circles there have been attempts this year to engage audiences across education districts in, for example, live dissections of animals, where students are encouraged to put forward their questions. I think the Channel 4 Twitter experiment reveals some different behaviours that can only be encouraged in these more formal learning situations:

1. Twitter offers a certain degree of anonymity, which can be incredibly helpful in illiciting honest, high value questions from an audience (think other Channel 4 examples like Sexperience and Embarrassing Teenage Bodies, and my forthcoming You Booze You Lose). Where people know who you are, it can be inhibiting ("is my question stupid?", "should I know the answer to this?", "oh, I'll just wikipedia it afterwards"...)

2. The restrictions in place around a 140 character question or message mean that people cut to the chase and avoid the redundant language that clutters thinking in classrooms (and blog posts, VLEs, bulletin boards...). This is something found by the UT Dallas experiment highlighted in Derek Wenmoth this week.

3. Twitter helps you bump into people outside your learning/social circle, which in turn helps you emphathise, and see an issue from someone else's (very different) perspective. The one challenge with any Virtual Learning Environment in a school or country is that you are, more or less, sharing like thought with like thought, shaped by the culture and curriculum around it. When you take the questioning and answering global, you have an almost infinite number of conflicting perspectives to challenge your thinking.

At 4iP my colleague Lucy Würstlin took Twitter to a more entertainment-based medium (Big Brother) with her new product, Hashdash. The Hashdash Big Brother 10 launch night might have seemed pure entertainment, but it indeed helped a number of new Twitterers find their voice by educating the masses in Twitter etiquette, how to use hashdashes to have your message seen by more people with the same passion (in this case, #BB10).

Of course, at 4iP we have bigger plans afoot for this baby to help more people learn how the anonymity of Twitter can improve their learning (and their entertainment) with each other.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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