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All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

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My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

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Saturday
Nov192005

Personal media – a confession

I’m not a gadget person.

I’ve made no secret about my distain for cell phones. I have one that rides in my pickup that has about 30 minutes per month talk time and I’ve never gone over my limit. It is rarely turned on and I’ve given the number to about five people. I don’t mind using the phone to harass others, but hate being harassed by means of it myself.

My Palm Tungsten C PDA has long been on my love/hate list as well. The tiny screen, tiny buttons, and a clunky sync process have often made me yearn for my paper planner. Its built in WiFi was unreliable except on my home and school wireless networks. I kept forgetting to recharge the damn thing. It didn’t do much for the line of my suit coat when I carried in a pocket. And fashion plate that I am, this bothered me ;-)

So I surprised myself yesterday. On finding that my PDA’s screen did not survive my recent trip to Singapore, I found myself at the local Sprint store buying a Treo 650 and a new cell service that included Internet access. This PDA/cell phone gizmo ought to combine all the dislikes of both my earlier devices into a single object of scorn. Plus I can now take fuzzy, ill lit pictures with its built-in camera. I’m betting the manual will weigh about eight pounds.

But I am fighting a losing battle – the revolution, as Paul Saffo describes it, from mass media to personal media.

In his handouts from the NLB conference, Saffo has an interesting table:

 psaffo.jpg

I recognize that there are some skills I need to master if I am to survive this revolution– especially now that I will have a new “enabling” device making access to new media even more ubiquitous.

  1. I need to get better at multi-tasking or learn to shut down devices when I ought to be paying attention. It is way too easy for me to pay more attention to what is happening in my e-mail world than in the F2F meeting I am supposed to be attending. Will the siren’s song of the virtual world eventually lead to a crash in the physical world?
  2. I need to be better at discriminating what I read and what I write. For a compulsive communicator, this will not be easy. I’ve questioned before whether the time I have for discretionary reading is better spent on blog sites or with a book. I also have to ask whether my writing time is better spent blogging or working on a book revision. (Which makes me ask, of course, why I write at all.)
  3. I’ve got to master those itty-bitty buttons with my thumbs and remember to recharge.

    Any advice for us geezers trying to live in a  2.0 world?
Friday
Nov182005

Standards 2.0

If you never change your mind, why have one? Edward deBono

Web 2.0
Encouraging to know that one is only 13 months or so behind in keeping up with the latest in geek-speak.

While dimly aware that the pace and direction of web application change has been at gale speed over the last few months (wikis, podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, etc), I didn’t know these things all fell under the common rubric of Web 2.0 until hearing Michael Keller describe the term at the NLB conference last week. (I am a slow learner, but I am a learner.) The origin of the term seems to have come from the Web 2.0 Conference held in back in October of 2004 by Reilly and Media.

In “What Is Web 2.0? Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software,” 09/30/2005, Tim O'Reilly, compares Web 1.0 apps to Web 2.0 apps (partial listing)

Web 1.0     -->      Web 2.0
Ofoto     -->     Flickr
Britannica Online     -->     Wikipedia
personal websites     -->     blogging
publishing     -->     participation
content management systems     -->     wikis
directories (taxonomy)     -->     tagging ("folksonomy")
stickiness     -->     syndication

I’d urge you to read two other pieces as well that hint at some of the implications for education:

Leading to Standards 2.0

Chris Harris’s Infomancy blog entry NETS remixed  points to Jeff Utecht’s The Thinking Stick blog entry “NETS in the 2.0 World”  where he has cleverly substituted “information” for “technology” in ISTE’s NETS standards. This blew me away!


I am convinced  that AASL’s Information Power Standards and ISTE’s NETS Standards need to be revised into a single document. If one does a Venn diagram of each set of standards, it might look like this - with more overlap than one might think:
standards.jpg
Librarians need to understand and master the revolutionary impact of technology, including Web 2.0 trends, on their programs and professional skill sets as reflected in their standards. Technology folks need to realize that learning how to use technology without ever applying it to learning (especially research and problem-solving like information literacy standards require) is not worth much. A single set of standards blending student IT and IL competencies with an eye toward the kinds of understandings and skills required of working in a Web 2.0 environment would be powerful indeed.

OK, ISTE and AASL members – let’s put a little pressure on our professional association leaders, Don Knezek <dknezek@iste.org> and Julie Walker <jwalker@ala.org> to make this happen!

Thursday
Nov172005

Game cheats – and an encouraging discovery

I received the following e-mail today from a reporter:

I cover the federal court system for The Denver Post and I'm working on a story about a lawsuit involving game cheats. Specifically, one cheat site is suing another on copyright grounds…

I've heard about the book you've written, Learning Right from Wrong in the Digital Age and I suspect you would have some thoughts on some of the other issues I want to touch on in my story.

Beyond the issue of cheat sites cheating each other, I'm also interested in exploring the question of what children make of using cheat sites and how parents ought to view it. Game makers frequently embed cheats into games for a variety of reasons, including access for users. Are there circumstances under which it is ethically acceptable for kids to use game cheats? When not? Some make the argument that violent games beget violent kids. Do video game cheats beget dishonest children?

Since I have not played a computer game since the days of Zork, I gave a somewhat lame opinion based on what I know about my son's gaming and use of cheats. But, I also forwarded the question to Brady, now 19, himself. His reply:

I never thought cheating in video games was much of a problem unless you're playing with other people (multiplayer) This is normally viewed as dishonorable and down right annoying. Cheating in a single-player video game is only as bad as skipping a pages in book or knowing the ending of a movie before you see it. [He found the analogy I tried to find, but couldn't! - Doug]

Also there are two different types of cheating. Developer's cheats are the ones the creators of the game want you to find. The other type are the hacker cheats, which you have to buy special software for. You can buy these devices (Action Replay, GameShark) at any dealer that sells games. I sometimes use both when available, but only for difficult or frustrating games. Also, sometimes there are some interesting secrets that developers don’t want you to find. (Grand Theft Auto’s notorious Hot Coffee scene, and debug rooms)

I have never made the connection between cheating in games and cheating in real life. I always knew cheating was wrong and I never really remember cheating in school. (Well maybe I scribbled some vocab words in my hand once or twice but I never made a habit of it.) I guess I always had a clear understanding of what is fantasy and what is real-life. (I don’t leap off buildings expecting to respawn close by; I don’t jump on people’s heads in hopes that spinning gold coins will come out of them; and I don’t have a pause screen.) [Parallel construction! - Doug] The bottom line is school and work are the exact opposite of video games and recreation, and I think that’ s how most people view them. I just don’t see the connection of cheating in video games to cheating in school – there’s just too big of gap…

I was impressed, as only a father can be, that my son has both writing skills and a good intellect. And has perhaps inherited my writing style – for good or ill. (Who are you and what have you done with Brady?)

This also tells me that kids are capable of more sophisticated reasoning and ethical thought than we might think.

Can your students tell the difference between games and reality? Are we worrying too much about raising an amoral generation who have gotten their values from Mario Brothers?