Your information flow might be so last century

It’s Monday morning, and as I sit down for my morning cup of tea and toast, I open my iPhone to see what’s in my email, and what items in my calendar will need my attention. I can take a little time over this, as I don’t have a long commute to work ahead of me, though I will ‘commute’ across the country (online) while I collaborate with my colleagues on curriculum standards and content alignment in the work we are doing for the new degree.

Next, as I flicked through Twitter (because I like to do that, and because it’s an important information tool) I stopped – and sighed at the struggle still before us of convincing teachers in K-12 schooling that they have to keep up! Well, there are lots of things they need to keep up with, and their own knowledge discipline is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about information flow – the stuff of our knowledge networks, and the fabric of our connected lives.

In just a couple of minutes of my twitter feed (never mind all the hours I was asleep) I found:

I suspect that I don’t take my information flow nearly as seriously as I should. But at least I try! You should try too! We know that there is a lot happening, and that there are various ways of responding to the speed of info-change. Putting your head under a rock is not one of them!

As Stacey explains in her post Extreme Curation:

I’ll admit it! Sometimes I’m a bit slack and while I endeavour to manage my information well sometimes I just can’t be bothered. So now I think I have the answer “extreme curation for slackers”.

Our Edublogger guru Sue Waters provides us with the brilliant Flip-aholic’s Ultimate Guide to subscribing and sharing.

Just to add to the mix, Darcey Moore explores his own new workflow in Writing and Worflow: Scrivener and Simplenote, explaining:

Workflow, for a whole range of professional needs and personal pleasures, is constantly being disrupted lately as tools and processes morph daily or my understanding deepens of what is possible.

Enough said!

If you are involved in education in some way and you’ve still got people who believe that email, google searching, and journal subscriptions are ‘the go’, then you’d better scramble into your Tardis and get to a timezone that’s relevant to the needs of students today.

Image: Dr Who cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by aussiegall

Beyond mobile to technology as ‘me’



Last year I spoke to my mobile phone. I wasn’t ringing anyone, but I asked my phone a question. No answer. Last week I spoke to my phone, and it gave me some answers right there on my screen. Soon there will be no need to read an answer, and in another few decades there may not even be a question. The singularity is rising, and futurists tell us that we will be our technology, and information will be who we are or what it made us. As we watch the fast-paced changes taking place in technology, the web of data and the social connections between us, the value of information as knowledge remains the core business of librarians, teachers and info-nerds.

It starts with the mobile device in your hand and Siri is a tool that I am constantly being surprised by. Here’s why.

Siri Speaks to Me | Class Tech Tips

For Apple lovers like me the iPhone 4S was at first a mixed blessing. I was desperately in need of a new upgrade, but initially underwhelmed with the features of the 4S. (Where was the iPhone 5 I had been dreaming of?)
Siri (voice recognition software on the new iPhone operating system) has made my life easier and most importantly it has increased my productivity.
How?  In the data driven world of education that demands consistent documentation–evidence that I’m doing my job– Siri has enabled me to document student conferences and create comments to post on student work. Here’s a link that lays out everything for you.
There are, of course, a number of other tools that are being used to re-engineer our use of interactive technologies. Just two examples in daily use by educators the world over are Diigo and Evernote. These fall in the category of “oldies but goodies” these days!

Use Diigo to annotate and organize the web

In short, Diigo is an amazing tool for knowledge workers to annotate, archive and organize the web – either for yourself or in collaboration with others. And as an educator, you even get a free upgrade to a Diigo Education account with unlimited highlighting. Cha-ching!!

Diigo - highlighting and annotate the web

Evernote Blog | 10 Tips for Teachers Using Evernote – Education Series

As a teacher, my Evernote use falls into three categories:

  • Prior to class
  • During class
  • After class

Evernote for Teachers is is a great tool for teachers to capture notes, organize lesson plans, collaborate on projects, snap photos of whiteboards, and more.

But seriously, I wonder where it will actually end. Using tools FOR empowering our thinking and organisation of ideas and workflow is one thing. Using technology to BE me is quite another.

If you have followed the topic of the singularity, and the merger between humans and machines, you’ll have an idea why this news report about cyborg futures is weirdly scary.

3D printing is a mere blip on the creative horizon of Dmitry Itskov and his project. Scientists are taking tiny, incremental steps towards melding humans and machine all the time. Ray Kurzweil, the futurist and now Google’s director of engineering, argued in The Singularity Is Near, a 2005 book, that technology is advancing exponentially and that “human life will be irreversibly transformed” to the point that there will be no difference between “human and machine or between physical and virtual reality”.

This man is not a cyborg. Yet.

To change that picture, he reasons, we must change our minds, or give them a chance to “evolve,” to use one of his favourite words. Before our minds can evolve, though, we need a new paradigm of what it means to be human. That requires a transition to a world where most people aren’t consumed by the basic questions of survival.

 

Hence, avatars. They may sound like an improbable way to solve the real problems on Itskov’s laptop, or like the perfect gift for the superrich of the future. But the laws of supply and demand abide in Itskov’s utopia, and he assumes that once production of avatars is ramped up, costs will plunge. He also assumes that charities now devoted to feeding, clothing and healing the poor will focus on the goal of making and distributing affordable bodies, which in this case means machines.

 

For now, just acquiring a lifelike robotic head is a splurge. Among the highlights of the New York congress will be the unveiling of what Itskov describes as the most sophisticated mechanical head in history.

Weird, right? Check out our progress in this timeline from the same article.

On the road to avatars

Some random stops along the way to joining humans and machines.

1784: First known use of the word “avatar”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. From Sanskrit, it refers to a Hindu deity in human form.

1924: Hans Berger begins the history of brain-computer interfaces by developing EEG, which measures electrical activity in the brain.

1958: In Sweden, Arne Larsson becomes the first person to receive a surgically implanted pacemaker.

1961: The first cochlear implant, called a bionic ear. It marks the first time a machine is able “to restore a human sense”.

1987: Max Headroom, about a fictional avatar, makes its debut on TV. In the story line, Max was created by downloading the memories of a TV reporter into a computer.

1992: Snow Crash, a Neal Stephenson novel, helps popularise avatars. “If you’re ugly,” he writes, “you can make your avatar beautiful.”

1997: Researchers at Emory University teach a stroke victim to use electrodes implanted in his brain, and sensors taped to his body, to move a cursor and spell words with his thoughts.

2003: Linden Lab starts Second Life, an online world that allows users to create avatars that can interact with other avatars.

2008: At Duke University, a monkey implanted with a brain-computer interface controls a robot on a treadmill in Japan.

2011: Dmitry Itskov starts the 2045 Initiative.

2012: At the University of Pittsburgh, a quadriplegic woman, Jan Scheuermann, eats a chocolate bar attached to a robotic arm controlled by implants in her brain.

2013: The MIT Technology Review reports that Samsung is working on a tablet computer that can be controlled by your mind.

Image: Warhol bots.

Learning in Networks of Knowledge

For me, knowledge networks is what it’s all about!  I was honoured to speak with the staff of the State Library of NSW about the issues and drivers that we consider as we work with students in our tertiary learning environments. Learning in Networks of Knowledge was just the beginning of a bigger conversation.

Thank you to the wonderful innovation team [see my last post] for this opportunity.

Is being out of office your job?

I experienced an ‘oh yeah’ moment while I was checking out apps to use to remain connected and manage my workflow better.  I mention this in the positive sense – it’s not that I am complaining about being connected or the range of things I need to do, but rather it’s because I want to  make my work more interesting AND engaging; I want to be connected;  I do NOT subscribe to the “I’m traveling and will have limited access to email” kind of message that I often come across.

Out of Office” – probably the most common auto reply in the world, so popular there are even tutorials on how to write one. But times are changing and the term is gradually losing its meaning. From telling people that you would not be working, Out of Office is becoming where more and more where work really happens. There are many professions where being out of the office is your job. And, although his quote was in response to some companies moving away from remote workforces we get the feeling that the world is moving towards more flexible work styles, not away from it.

Working as I do in online learning environments, I get very frustrated by examples of distance education that are locked into the “out of office” mentality. Consultation times for 1/2 an hour at designated times each week? Phone calls made and received only when you are at your office desk? Invitations to join social media groups left languishing for a week or two – oh because you didn’t log into the account?

As a member of the international Advisory Board, I’ve started my reading and research involvement with the next Horizon Report K-12 2013 edition. If anything, the regular releases of the Horizon Report have proven that the predictions are not fantasy – but a real litmus for where learning and teaching is going. If you haven’t already done so, read the NMC Horizon Report 2012 K-12 edition, and grab the app while you are at it.

Let’s face it – when students can talk with an astronaut currently circling the earth, or follow his twitter feed of photos and more,  the goal posts for connectedness can definitely be considered to have changed.Check out Okanagan students chat with Commander Hadfield. What a great series of questions. Jump to the video and experience history! What’s also cool is that this event was made possible by ham radio operators. Yep! Twelve minutes – an event of a lifetime.

HatfiledIf we are genuinely aiming to prepare teachers and information professionals to engage in the kind of environment that  represents the best practices of connected learning and communication, the old models of being ‘out of office’ just have no traction – except when you are on annual leave!

Then it’s fine to turn off your mobile device, and drop off the grid.

Image: Podio connections

Why digital citizenship is important

Are you busy preparing new content and learning experiences for your students?  If you are, never miss the opportunity to include digital citizenship in relation to online environments.

This video cleverly highlights the scary truth about how much personal information is available about those who are not careful. A fun way to make a point!

Open Access – the good, the bad and the ugly

Open Access has become a major theme of interest within the research community and those interested in dissemination of information and knowledge.

In the debate around Open Access, the sadness around the loss of  Internet activist and programming star Aaron Swartz highlights that we have much to learn, and little time to learn it. Computer hacking Swartz was a vocal open-access campaigner, and died at the age of 26. Swartz was integral in creating RSS, and created a company that later merged with popular internet destination Reddit. However, more recently he was investigated for hacking JSTOR, the subscription-based journal service, and extracting its database with the intention for public release. For more on Swartz – and the impact of his work on free-data, and the world he leaves behind – read Lawrence Lessig’s piece “Prosecutor as Bully.” BoingBoing’s Cory Doctorow also has a must-read tribute to Swartz, including information on the organization, DemandProgress, Swartz helped establish.

But what exactly is Open Access?    In this video  Nick Shockey and Jonathan Eisen take us through the world of open access publishing and explain just what it’s all about.

Historically, the two main types of obstacles to information discovery have been barriers of awareness, which encompass all the information we can’t access because we simply don’t know about its existence in the first place, and barriers of accessibility, which refer to the information we do know is out there but remains outside of our practical, infrastructural or legal reach. What the digital convergence has done is solve the latter, by bringing much previously inaccessible information into the public domain, made the former worse in the process, by increasing the net amount of information available to us and thus creating a wealth of information we can’t humanly be aware of due to our cognitive and temporal limitations, and added a third barrier — a barrier of motivation.

Open Access publishing is aiming to bridge the gap in higher education areas. Good research should have no boundaries. Here in Australia the Australian Research Council (ARC) is the largest funder of basic science and humanities research in Australia. So when the ARC talks, academics listen. The ARC has introduced a new open access policy for ARC funded research which takes effect from 1 January 2013. According to this new policy the ARC requires that any publications arising from an ARC supported research project must be deposited into an open access institutional repository within a twelve (12) month period from the date of publication.

In most cases, this open-access publishing will occur through electronic institutional repositories – university websites where one can freely download researchers’ articles. Search engines such as Google Scholar will automatically index these articles and link them to related research. The resulting stream of freely available research will be a boon for our society and economy. But it’s not perfect, just a step in the right direction, as publishers also get ‘a say’ in what happens with published information.

Check the ARC Open Access Policy for more information. While  the ARC policy will shift some power away from the publishers by putting institutional repositories centre stage, there is a counter-flow that is not in the same spirit of Open Access. Just because public domain content is online and indexed, doesn’t mean that it’s useful.

Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers

The gold open-access model has given rise to a great many new online publishers. Many of these publishers are corrupt and exist only to make money off the author processing charges that are billed to authors upon acceptance of their scientific manuscripts.

Scholarly Open Access showcased the Beall List of Predatory Publishers 2013. The first includes questionable, scholarly open-access publishers. Each of these publishers has a portfolio that ranges from just a few to hundreds of individual journal titles. The second list includes individual journals that do not publish under the platform of any publisher — they are essentially independent, questionable journals.

In both cases, the recommendation is that researchers, scientists, and academics avoid doing business with these publishers and journals. Likewise, students should exercise some caution when reading and referencing these articles in their own academic learning.

Follow Scholarly Open Access for more insights into the contentious field of Open Access publishing.

Image cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by kevin dooley

Effortless video meetings at meetings.io

Lately I’ve been very busy – who isn’t these days?  My kind of busy has meant less blogging and more collaborative planning and conversations.

I’m always on the lookout for  flexible options for conversation spaces that are hassle free, and don’t need complex logins or software downloads. Free is also good (while it lasts!)

So effortless video meetings have become a must – and now I think having my own meeting space is also a must! I’ve tried out the new browser-based tool at  Meetings.io  http://meetings.io/ with a small group of people a few times, and have been very happy with the ease of communication. Works across a range of devices – nice!

New features are promised, but for now the standard features work ‘out of the box’ with the click of a button.

Better still, I have my own vanity meeting room, making it drop-dead easy to invite people to a meeting. Better still, I can find and retrieve past chat logs and files, all in one place.  Apparently I can schedule new meetings and manage all my upcoming meetings, but I’ll be honest – I  haven’t tried this out yet.

Overall, this is better than Google Hangout – simply because so many people still get confused by the whole Google+ meeting thing – and it’s free versus video group meetings in  Skype. Other stuff is more expensive again.

Give it a go and see what you think!