What I Learned This Week (Part 5)

Finally, one of my major pet peeves with Google has been answered. Matt Cutts announced late in October that Google Docs now lets you do a bulk export. I’ve played with Docs a lot, but never considered it a real threat to Word in my workflow as I couldn’t get all of my crap off of the one system in one shot. Now I can. Thank you Google for doing the right thing.

Was listening to Martin Weller’s presentation for CCK09 about the Pedagogy of Abundance, and while Martin’s presentation content was great, the sound was difficult. It wasn’t the quality of sound per se, although it was a bit rough around the edges. I don’t know if it’s just me, or a combination of my background as a sound engineer and sensitive listener, or if it was just my mood, but the sound was off.

It got me thinking about the aesthetics of sound, and how sounds might be pleasurable or distracting, and how that works in a networked learning environment. Clearly, the aesthetics of the new media environments extend further than the visual realm and will have to be considered when developing e-learning courses and environments. With the ubiquity of good sound devices, we still will have to have quiet spaces from which to broadcast, or record.

I also found out about Sherlock, the Codec Detective. I’m not sure how Apple feels about the possible name confusion (although I’m not sure that Apple’s search is called Sherlock anymore either), but this is a great little utility that helps one figure out if they have a video codec installed or not. As everything moves towards Flash video, this sort of tool may not be needed in the future, but in the meantime it’s incredibly useful for me, as I switch between several different machines throughout the day and may need to edit video on any of them.

Visualization of data is a huge trend, and in my opinion only going to get bigger as text literacy declines in favour of visual literacy. I’m not saying text literacy will disappear; just that visual literacy becomes more important in the future. Flowing Data posted an interesting contest, to see if a correlation can be drawn between SAT scores and class size. The contest isn’t about the correlation per se, but it’s about the visualization and what comes of it.

Open/Shut Tabs?

Mozilla’s study of how people use the web recently released the results of the tab open/close study. Some interesting things here related to user experience and how people use the web. The study concludes that most people have 5 or less tabs open at a time. Which means that we probably are multitasking when we are online. Sourcing information and producing content will require a couple of tabs at least (and if you’re like me, probably upwards of 20).  Another interesting finding from the data:

If the default tab is a different site from the closed tab, the user is around 77% likely to stay on the default tab for at least 5 seconds; but if the default tab is on the same site, this probability climbs to about 85%.

Which speaks to stickiness, a concept that web designers and marketers are well aware of – keeping people at your site is key. It would be interesting to see how this relates to e-learning sites alone – what people are leaving LMS’s for (mostly resources like Google I suspect)?

Blogging as a Continuance of the Oral Tradition?

This article, Digital Media: The New Democracy brings up an interesting idea – blogging, and by extension all the social media we engage in (like vernacular video) is continuing the tradition of oral history. Of course, theorists like Ong (secondary orality) and McLuhan (the global village) have talked about these ideas in relation to the democratization of the narrative – as we take control of publication and the content of the publication we also change the way history is recorded and how the future will look at us.  Of course, having the written word overwrite some cultures, and even some people’s existence, what will the digital oral history overwrite?

Certainly it is easy to see “primitive” cultures being overwritten, there is very little Kalahari bushmen websites, or anything other than minutia about what the “cultured” world has done to them (for diamonds, for the land they live on…) from a documentary perspective. While this is progress, and some will argue inevitable, is it right? Do those of us in a privileged position have a moral (oral?) obligation to bring these issues up?

What I Learned This Week (Part 4)

I’ve been working on adapting a AODA module for Desire2Learn, changing some minor things, tweaking the navigation and other minor bits. It’s intended to illuminate some of the issues people with disabilities face in daily life at an educational institution. It’s well designed (educationally speaking) but some of the sites I’ve been to in looking at accessibility have been, well, aesthetically challenged. As we all know, content is king, but I have to say, the way things are presented on some of these sites could use some sprucing up to bring it in line with modern web design that is accessible. Certainly CSS could be leveraged to provide different looks depending on what browser/screen reader was being used?

Along a similar line, this article sheds some light on the issue of teacher’s blowing out their voices – one of their main tools in the classroom. Certainly we have seen repetitive stress injuries for athletes and office workers – are we just maybe working too hard? E-learning can assist with this, of course, by recording things that might be said four or five times a week – streamlining teachers to actually get in the trenches and actually work with students to assist in their learning. The end of the article had an interesting thought, “you can’t teach French without speaking.” I think you certainly can – using a blend of native speakers on YouTube or a more community based site like Language Exchange.

Finally, from Reuters, technology doesn’t isolate people. The study doesn’t really reveal much, other than people who are active socially offline are also active in publishing and creating content online. I’ve always believed that technology doesn’t change who we are, but it does change who we communicate with. In many ways, this study and article backs that idea up.