I’m not a web designer (anymore) and I just stopped teaching web design courses earlier this year. I’ve been reading a lot about the new spec for HTML, which is HTML 5. If you do design pages, or even HTML pages that end up in LMS’s, then HTML 5 will be a game changer for you. First of all, the canvas element is something that will be huge. I talked a little about it in the previous post, but if you’ve ever attended a Wimba or Elluminate session, you’ve seen the whiteboard interface that those products provide. Canvas can act like a whiteboard – the interactivity isn’t there yet, but I can see a Javascript library extending the functionality of the canvas.

Also, inline support for video types (well, two video types) will also change how things work.  No more embedding in a player, as long as you use Ogg Vorbis and H.264. All that will be handled native in the browser. No more broken plug-ins, no more codec hunting (well, you’ll probably have to do this anyways). Of course, to get videos to display across all browsers, you’ll have to encode twice – once in the format that Firefox and Opera understand (Ogg Vorbis) and once in the format that Safari and Android browsers understand (H.264). Thankfully, Chrome understands both and Internet Explorer understands neither. I would suspect that IE will be the traditional pain in the ass that it is, and only support Windows Media formats.

Edit: IE will support H.264.

State of Web Development (and Learning Online)

So the State of Web Development 2010 is out and a few results are surprising. The one result for the sector one works in was interesting: in 2008 10% of responses indicated they were involved in education, while 7.7% for the 2010 results. Are there less web designing/development going on? Or have those previously been involved in web design now moved over to e-learning?

The Google Chrome browser use has grown over 15% over the year. When developers and designers start using a browser, this usually means the results will filter down to end users. Maybe this is the vanguard of browser change?

Only a third of designers/developers optimize for mobile devices. I interpret that as mobile devices are not a priority to develop for because either they aren’t seen as “mission critical” or that Mobile Safari or Mobile Opera browsers do a good enough job of interpreting website for the mobile platform.

The interesting thing is the early adoption of HTML 5 and CSS3 – which works surprisingly well out of the box on modern browsers. What’s disappointing about this series of results is how far behind LMS developers are from the useful tools in HTML5 (hello, canvas element!) and the usability of CSS3 (it’d be wonderful if we could write a CSS template to apply to learning space areas). I guess it comes down to the closed box system – if you’re paying for a closed box you shouldn’t be surprised when they close the lid too. I think the first LMS that jumps on the HTML 5 bandwagon will be a big winner – the canvas element alone will allow for easier ways to be creative and new ways to work on the web. Canvas Demos is a site that’s showcasing different uses of the canvas element – a lot of games are being drawn on the canvas it seems – but I’m sure you can see the ways that you could use this as a new method of getting input. Or perhaps, eliminating expensive web conferencing tools and brewing something a little more open source. Can you say interactive whiteboard?

Information Behaviour and Mental Models

I typically read four to six articles/blog posts per day about usability. Not all articles are new, or even that good, but I’m trying to understand the psychology of the web better, because it seems to me the future of education is on the web, even if it’s only using the web to augment a face-to-face classroom. It’s endlessly fascinating to me how people use the web, rather than what people use the web for (which is what we’ve used media for for the past five hundred years, to communicate with others). So when the article Information Behavior & Mental Models showed up in my reader, I thought that it had a ton of application for guidelines for the creation of online learning spaces. Especially the part about the memory of frustrating experiences – we’ve all experienced when bad reviews go further than good reviews – but I wonder what happens when it’s not a purchase but an experience in online learning? What happens when students are frustrated? Do they drop out? Or simply fail?

Searching and Learning

We already have changed how we get information – instead of reading books or taking a course a lot of us just use Google or other search engines to grab the information we need. Unfortunately, there’s a contextual issue, where grabbing information off the Internet doesn’t necessarily provide some linear context for that information that may be important. Sure, with books you can use the index, find the pages that the information is on and scan for just what you need, but inevitably you end up reading at least a few paragraphs before and after and getting some context. Searching the Internet is different – we have Google as a situational context provider (even if it is false context, like Google lending it’s authority to search results). I’ve been thinking about how this ties into education – specifically higher education – and I think the way we informally learn information like we do through Google will trickle up to higher education. In ways, we already see this with how students use the Internet for research.

I’m not the only one thinking about this either, Futurelab released a poll a couple days ago asking (primarily K-8 teachers) which search engine they used. I answered the poll, even though I’m not in that demographic, I figured the more data the better. I think that this poll indicates that others are beginning to use search engines in their teaching – which further moves the teacher away from being the sage on the stage, and more towards the guide on the side (with thanks to my friend Otto who had a habit of saying this at least a couple times a semester and burned the phrase into my head).

Also, I was turned on to the book Search Patterns and the accompanying Search Patterns website – both of which the patterns of how people search – which has tremendous implications for how people learn using the Internet.

My Internet Vacation

So for the last seven days I went on a vacation with the family. It was also an unintended vacation from the Internet, which really was an interesting exercise. I usually check e-mail, update the blog and do other miscellaneous tasks. I decided at the last minute to leave the laptop at home… and I didn’t miss it. Of course, I had over 200 e-mails to clear out yesterday between my three e-mail accounts (I know, I know, not that big a deal). I also did use my iPod Touch in the Orlando airport (thank you free wifi) an hour before the plane departed, and I did try out the iPad in the Apple Store in the Florida Mall (underwhelmed). There was a couple of times where I wanted the Disney World app (which tells you wait times, character locations and other information tidbits) or the weather forecast for the day, but ultimately, I didn’t require it. In fact the two Internet addicts I live with were jonesing for YouTube and Facebook more than I was missing e-mail, twitter and everything else I connect to on a daily basis. It was kind of pleasant not thinking for a while.

Games, Marks and Informal Learning

Games. I love them. I used to play World Of Warcraft, Warhammer Online and going back further, Dark Age Of Camelot. I’ve been Elderitch (a bastardization of Palmer Elderitch, a character in a Philip K. Dick novel) in each of those games, so if you see me around feel free to say, “hi”. I’ve also played a whackload of others, doing beta testing with half a dozen more. What really strikes anyone  who spends a few minutes is the capacity for a group of players to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time – people learn a whole lot about how the game works and what the best matchups are, or the best skills. Educators have long wanted to harness some of the zealotry that gamers have put into games, and put it into education. Yet, that zealotry rarely translates. Why? Lots of theories abound – motivation is the “big push” though. What makes learning in games tick is the same stuff that makes informal learning tick. Why talk about this? Well, I’ve been looking at the patterns I’m exhibiting since buying an Xbox 360 (gamertag: dietsociety) and I’ll spend time searching out how to do something online, or connect with another gamer to figure out the problem. With my traditional education, I don’t necessarily jump to collaborate first. I wonder if that’s because I feel like a formal education is an individual competition – for marks – whereas my informal education (for games specifically) are a group competition – for points.

What I Learned This Week (Part 10)

Why Digital Natives Aren’t…. is a great read that busts up the generalizations that prevail in the media. Like a billion others writing on blogs, I’m not a fan of the Digital Natives tag (nor Digital Immigrants and the rest).  While I see some value in the generalizations, not as defining characteristics of an age range but as defining characteristics of groups of people. Certainly the tech savvy folks I know are much more Digital Native than some of the supposed generation.

Malcolm McLaren is dead. Or maybe not, it could be a hoax. Everyone seems to blame/celebrate him for creating punk, which is hogwash. Punk was a movement that McLaren capitalized on, like all good businessmen. He didn’t create it, but saw it as his opportunity to push some buttons and push some boundaries. That’s the inspiration I take from him, and many others, in my teaching and work.


I found this interesting quote over at A List Apart, a brilliant web design resource:

Design is largely an exercise in creating or suggesting contrasts, which are used to define hierarchy, manipulate certain widely understood relationships, and exploit context to enhance or redefine those relationships…all in an effort to convey meaning.

Isn’t this what we do with teaching? Use contrast to try and make a point, or to illustrate the difference between one concept and another? Is this what we are doing when we design instruction?