Reflections on ETC 2010

So here’s a few ideas that I got out of the ETC 2010 conference. Digital literacies aren’t even on the road map for a lot of people at this conference, which is a shame but also an opportunity. Anytime I brought up in conversation that there needs to be a digital literacies course for students (and faculty as well) that looks at evaluating information online, as well as developing skills for creating media in this new paradigm, people thought it was a good idea, but weren’t sure how to proceed beyond that.

Adobe is seriously making a play to solidify their position in education in a smart way – from the student’s perspective. They’ve given away their software to students at several institutions, presumably as a loss-leader, pitching it as an enrollment perk to attract students. The other thing is Adobe’s really good at analyzing a market and identifying gaps, which their new ePortfolio tool somewhat addresses. ePortfolio is part of the Acrobat product, and allows you to grab a folder of stuff (really, they claim any file will work) and import it into ePortfolio, and it will export it as a PDF. So your SWF? Plays in PDF. Your 3D drawing from AutoCAD? Imports and acts as a 3D object in the PDF. First thing I thought was that this was a way around the Flash issue on the iPhone, but after asking a few questions it seemed like it wasn’t the goal. It’s a neat side effect though, if it works.

There was a lot of talk about time management, filtering, how to manage information and information overload (or filter failure as Will Richardson said). Both keynotes made mention of it, but neither talked about tools to help you aggregate information in any depth. A missed opportunity in my presentation, would have been to pick up that thread and go with that angle. I did see a presentation that did the opposite of that, which was about search engines that were not Google and video sites that aren’t YouTube.  I’m not sure if people want more information, that’s why they stay with Google or YouTube, those are the trusted sources. It’s going to be very very hard to fight against those properties because of the entrenched nature of those two sites.

Something that I overheard, which was “we’ve been told that Wikipedia is a bad source for years!” That statement seemed a bit odd, seeing as we’ve seen a study saying that half of the people who edit wikipedia have a Master’s degree or better. We’ve also seen that corporate entities have sanitized their pages as well. I think Wikipedia is fine as a starting point, but really the interesting discussion to have is about what it means when everyone is a consumer and a producer, and even more importantly, what happens to what is good in this new paradigm.

What I Learned This Week

According to the World Internet Usage Statistics, North American Internet use is 15% of the world, and the penetration of the Internet in North America is almost 74%. To contrast, Asian Internet use is 42.2% of the world and the penetration of the Internet in Asia is at 18.5%. Clearly, I interpret this to mean that as Asia grows and becomes more connected, we will see more Chinese, Japanese and Korean language webpages on the internet, meaning the end of English as the dominant language of the Internet. What this means for education is that there’s a huge distance education market growing, and the forward thinking education institutions will be grabbing at those folks.

Mobile video is an emerging technology that is coming into the mainstream. The mobile video ad market is growing (slowly). The reason this has been slow to develop is that fast wireless networks and data plans that weren’t an arm and a leg are relatively new to North America. This will become more mainstream as 3G networks become commonplace. When Microsoft and Ford are beginning to buy ad time with mobile video in mind, you know it’s going to be important. Again, educators need to keep this idea in mind – so that the technology we use isn’t locked into one intended use. I can certainly see that mobile video will be important in developing countries as well – as internet connectivity has skipped over home use and gone directly to cellphones in places where technology is a luxury.

Two interesting things coming out of this Wall Street Journal blog about Wikipedia. The first is that approximately 20% of editors of Wikipedia pages have a Master’s or better. I wonder what that means for the authority boogey man that people trot out everytime someone says that Wikipedia isn’t a good source. I think this means that it is a good source, if you do the leg-work to ensure that it’s correct and are not lazy about fact checking. Secondly, people contribute to Wikipedia for mostly altruistic purposes. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s pleasant to see that people actually are good sometimes. Yes, the fact that Wikipedia users are predominantly men is interesting, but the blog comments by Tara Deck covers it pretty good, and I have nothing to add to her comments.

Also from the WSJ, a blog post about the EFF’s DIY test (called Switzerland) to see if your ISP is blocking packets for peer to peer transactions.