Pinboard Bookmarks

bookmarks for June 23rd

Pinboard Bookmarks

bookmarks for June 6th

  • How cell phones will replace learning – "I'm happy to be ignorant about something because the phone replaces the need to learn. I've outsourced the responsibility for that knowledge from my brain to my phone." Happy article on how mobile searching can develop towards natural language searches and agents. – (elearning ple iphone web3.0 )
New Media The Mundane

iPhone Apps for New Media, part 1

3568463428_8d0c739875.jpgTake Lev Manovich’s The Language of New Media, in one hand, your iPhone in another, and try these exercises in transcoding.

Bloom. Creates paradigmatic montage, with an applied algorithm creating syntagmatic variations. Takes input to initiate the montage, but also sets up syntagmatic expectations in response. The music is looped, with variations creating a syntagmatic sequencing. But the loops are placed paradigmatically in layers.

Koi Pond: Montage, paradigmatic, to create a syntagmatic scene for narrative, if not a narrative itself. Composites image, motion, sound, and reaction: ripples can be created by touch, and come audio; fish will feed if given food or touch a finger held to the surface. Lilypads can be moved on the surface. Motion and sound will continue without interaction. The app doesn\’t engage narrative, but it encourages experiment with setting for narratives.

Shopper and other grocery list apps: Menu selection from a larger to create a subset, which is then accessed and modified in situ. Might be location based, in which case the app selects the subset. Might be mapped to the store, in which case the app draws on prior use and movement through the store to re-create the narrative movement. Items in these lists do not need to be real objects. The Shopper database can store elements the user sees fit to enter, using paradigmatic alternatives to Groceries. A user can create a fully motivated (if linear) narrative of shopping: Turning into the Tunnel of Love, you purchase a vinyl copy of McGough’s Summer with Monika. Crossing Shaftsbury Avenue, you buy a pickup for your steel guitar.

StarMap and others. A database of stellar objects, presented by selectable criteria: place; time of day, day, and year; direction. Data on each object is accessed in typical ways of touching, zooming in. Access points are mapped to cosmological traditions (constellations) and measures of astronomy (celestial equator, horizon).

Enigmo, Crayon Physics. The object in these is to create a device that achieves a simple goal (get the fluid in the container, the ball to the other side of the screen) by selecting and placing surrogate objects on the screen. The objects interact with the agent (water, ball) and with each other in a simulation of physical properties. In Tetris, we don’t ask how we’re able to rotate the pieces as they fall: physical limits are set aside. In these games the object is to make explicit how agents on the screen can be acted upon. Can create a sense of picaresque narrative – a narrative of trial and error – in that the machine may have to be constructed and torn down more than once to complete the puzzle.

CameraBag. Selection of filters from a time-centered menu. Most of the filters are constructed to degrade the digital image towards material-based techniques: make it look like it was taken with a Holga, a Polaroid. In other cases, the filter vignettes and adjusts the image towards a cinematic frame. This is material nostalgia: nostalgia for lost tools. Even the title – CameraBag – replaces the idea of selection from a menu with a selection of cameras.

More to come. What’s on your iPhone?

Print Culture

some notes on using the iPhone as a notes reader that ends in paper inertia

What I’d like to do

Make docs and some images available from a desktop and laptop to iPhone for reference and for use in classes. These are mainly rtf notes, but I’d also like to access to pdfs for articles.

I keep my course and research notes in DevonThink. They get into DT in a number of different ways, but I work on them mainly in DT.

Ways to go about it

  • Use an online notetaker like Evernote. Problem: Files aren’t available without network.
  • Use a wiki. Problem: Can be hard to read in a browser, doesn’t handle pdf, and see above.
  • Well, use a wiki and Instapaper. Store the notes on a wiki, then then read it on the phone with Instapaper. Problem: Need to remember to hit the page with Instapaper twice: Once to store the page, and a second time before class to store it on the phone, in case the network goes down.
  • Use a utility to transfer files from desktop to iPhone. Problem: Sometimes the file is on my desktop, sometimes on a laptop. Issue: I’d rather not run Yet Another Client on the desktop to make files available. Using a browser is only slightly less clunky.
  • Print everything out.

I’ve eliminated a few utilities that I’ve tried (DataCase, Air Sharing, NoteBooks), which seems to leave me with two options.

OneDisk. Accesses iDisk files and folders. Needs MobileMe. Clear interface, landscape view. Can email files from the app. No luck reading a Numbers page, but it’s supposed to. The pdf reader is as good as any. Can set bookmarks and create folders.

Briefcase. VPN, I think. Uploads and downloads from phone to computer via Bonjour. No desktop utility needed. Can access any folder on the computer. Interface similar to that of OneDisk. Landscape view. Reads the usual suspects.

In both cases, getting files onto the phone requires some planning – nothing major, but planning akin to – and no less hassle than – printing out the notes. Planning means forgetting.

Using OneDisk, files have to be uploaded to iDisk from the computer, and then downloaded to the phone. Upload times can be a longish for larger documents. Upload now; download later.

With Briefcase, files have to be loaded directly to the phone using the phone near the desktop. Transfer now. Read later.

From a step back, the whole idea of moving notes to the phone for reference in class seems about the same as printing stuff out.

Even worse. The problem isn’t just in transferring stuff but reading it. Unless they are formatted with screen reading in mind, notes are difficult to read on a mobile device. Pdfs are just too difficult to read on a small screen. Pdf is for paper. My best luck so far has been with some rtfs – using 14 pt Helvetica, which is what I use when I print out the notes.

What I need – when going from desktop to phone top – is an app that will reformat .doc and .rtf files for reading on the phone.

And that might lead back to Instapaper. It’s the formatting and the local storage that help.

Then there’s the consideration of going the other way: from the phone to the desktop.

Makes me want to just make a paper notebook (video) -but my handwriting is unreadable and, well … Paper, that just defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it.

Any other ideas?

Other links


yancey and writing in the 21st century

studio photoKathleen Black Yancey in her recent NCTE report Writing in the 21st Century (pdf) touched a chord for mobile teaching of writing.

Yancey sketches a 19th and 20th century history of writing in America, and mentions the changing spaces of composing, from pen and ink, to pencil, to ballpoint, to typewriter, to stand-alone PC, to networked PC/camera.

Here, she centers on a few observations that take me into mobile learning and mobile learning software.

  • Our current model(s) of composing are located largely in print, and it’s a model that culminates in publication. When composers blog as a form of invention or prewriting, rather than as a form of publication (which I did in composing this text: see ), what does that do to our print-based model(s) of composing that universally culminate in publication?
  • […]
  • How do we define a composing practice that is interlaced and interwoven with email, text-messaging, and web-browsing? As Mark Poster observes, composing at the screen today isn’t composing alone: it’s composing in the company of others. How does that change our model(s) of composing?
  • How does access to the vast amount and kinds of resources on the web alter our model(s)?

Composing is ubiquitous, Yancey claims in a statement designed to redefine the teaching of composing from K – 12 on. And so sites of composing are open for teaching and learning on the fly. But on the fly doesn’t mean without pedagogy. It means that because we can’t control the environment for composing or teaching composing, we need a strong, well-grounded pedagogy

I’m all for saying goodbye to the print-based aims and means of composing, but people are still heavily invested in it. It’s safe, known, bounded, academic. I watch students draft and edit in Word then paste a finished version into the wiki for presentation. They love that grammar checker, spelling checker, and word count; they love that double spacing; they love that paper. They love it because they have developed writing practices suited to paper from working with paper – like interlinear editing – and have yet to become deft at online and networked versions of those practices.

Anyway, a few points for mobile teaching and learning, starting from Yancey:

  • Where in a composing process based on paper (the model students bring with them) would a second or third person enter – and how? By IM, txt, email, comment? a look over the shoulder? Where in the process is the trial balloon of posting ideas and chunks to a blog or wiki for feedback from others? What does the text look like at that point? It might be ThreadMode on a wiki, or something less structured, or (yikes) something more structured. (Going to articulated sentences too early in the process make it difficult to rip them down to restructure.)
  • What has to be unlearned or challenged as the site of composing changes?
  • Look to how txt poetry has been composed for a start, and look to how people compose txts. The other morning, I watched a woman compose and send a 3 line txt msg on her qwerty phone between ordering, paying for, waiting for a coffee. On other mornings, when the coffee line was long, I composed and snapped a pic, annotated it with a note – about waiting in line – and posted it to Brightkite for whoever was looking in. What’s the process engaged there? What’s the exigence?
  • Composing goes on between other activites in the same composing space. Even as I compose this blog post, I’m doing some directory maintenance on a server, flipping between composing in ecto and deleting files in Transmit – and still having time on my hands while wait. Not two writing tasks, but two tasks. Walking and chewing gum.
  • To teach composing open to mobile learning, we may have to start with writing that stays online, that is not meant for print. Change the ends – the delivery – and the means might have to change.
  • Look at the physical, social, and cognitive activities that people engage and draw on when composing in the interlaced social space – composing in the company of others – to develop a model of composing. Start with the environs.

And then consider what a mobile course in 21st century composing might look like.

New Media Wikis

rough notes on personal learning environments or how i spent my xmas vacation

PLEI spent most of my semester break messing with looking at some social networking apps and how to link them up. I was familiar with a few of them already and had been using them regularly: flickr, delicious, facebook (not so regularly), tumblr, twitter. I added brightkite, friendfeed, and Righ away, brightkite and friendfeed struck me as useful for what I wanted to do, and less so. Brightkite fuses image and text and geotags them both. Friendfeed aggregates feeds to a common stream and allows connecting those feeds with others.

On the browser side, I tinkered with Flock for a day, but went back to Firefox and installed add-ons to coordinate some of my feeds; I wanted to put them in the same app if not the same frame. I’m currently working with Flickerfox, Sage-Too for rss feeds, TumblrPost, and Twitbin. I’m watching for a Brighkite add-on, but Sage-too makes it possible to put an rss Friendfeed stream in the sidebar.

I haven’t added browser-based notes, however. I’m still using the browser mainly for access to content and working with other apps like Evernote and DevonThink for collection and text production.

This catalog of web apps, social apps, and plug-ins looks geeky, I know, put there’s a point to it.

Spurred on in part by using an iPhone more and more, I started to get interested in how to pull the apps together in some kind of more or less coherent set. I got interested in creating an informal PLE.

Gloss from Wikipedia

Personal Learning Environments are systems that help learners take control of and manage their own learning. This includes providing support for learners to

* set their own learning goals

* manage their learning; managing both content and process

* communicate with others in the process of learning

and thereby achieve learning goals.

A PLE may be composed of one or more subsystems: As such it may be a desktop application, or composed of one or more web-based services.

Roughly, a PLE is a more or less hacked together system or space to work in – and that’s a pretty good idea of it, for me, for right now. My wife has a PLE for her work. It’s her studio. Al Gore has one. It’s called his office.

But PLEs extend beyond office and studio walls to include sites and sources, the devices used to access those sites and sources, and the devices used to manipulate the content of those sites and sources. Desktop computer, laptop, iPhone, mobile, digital camera … You get the idea. Hardware, software, people, content, places.

The memex was an early conception of a PLE. Englebart’s Study for the Development of Human Augmentation Techniques a 1968 overview of the idea. And his mother of all demos is an early demo of one: hardware, software, people, content, and places.

Martin Weller has a lot more to say on the matter than I do right now. Brian Lamb has posted on PLEs recently. And he’s picking up on comments made by Stephen Downes.  A Collection of PLE diagrams presents a range of visualizations about PLEs.

To my mind, is experimenting with informal PLEs. In their work, streets and parks and buildings become part of the PLE, which also includes other people, both present and past. Their work emphasizes the material in the environment, where learning takes place by creating and manipulating maps and boxes, and by physically and virtually annotating physical spaces. See Social Tapestries, for instance.

Creating or using a PLE of any complexity is going to demand some fluency in transliteracy.

I made some remarks on PLEs from a side angle in Wikis, Blogs, and eFolio: How wikis and weblogs trump eportfolios and No One Stop Shop. My sense of PLEs is the learner mashup rather than the prepackaged OfficeMax D2L. Having just reread these drafts and notes, it looks like the PLE is a common thread in my thinking, one that might open into a more extensive article.

More notes

I’m a late-comer to the PLE party, so a review is in order:

A PLE – VLE continuum

on the PLE

A Collection of PLE diagrams

E-learning 2.0, Stephen Downes

More later.


shopping with an iphone

buymilk.jpgI’ve been using an iPhone every day for almost two months now, checking and responding to mail, reading news, playing games, looking over a variety of apps.

High on my list are shopping apps. I’m interested in how they use different methods of invention to help generate and organize the list. Some let you select from a list, others demand that you input your own items. Some allow organization across stores, some create silos for each store. Some allow metadata of amount and have=true, others don’t. Essentially, these shopping apps are outliners that focus and constrain outlining in ways the designers reckon will facilitate making and using lists.

Here are a few I’ve been working with. There are others, but these are the ones on my phone right now, from a variety of countries.

I haven’t decided which are my list-making faves yet, but I will say this: None of them are as useful in the store as a scrap of paper – unless you have a partner handling the list (efficiency low but social interaction high).

In this, shopping apps are a lot like the Maps feature. Maps can be set to trace a route, even to give step by step directions, but while driving it’s not as easy to use the feature as it is a list of abbreviated instructions.

I expected this. I have been trying to use Palms as paper for eight years now, almost always with limited success. It always seems to come down to the physical manipulation of the device in certain circumstances: shopping and driving, for instance. All the data is there. And the device can make inputting data (a list) or getting data (driving instructions) easier, but the device does not make using the data easier.

Set aside looking like a pretentious geek, pulling out and firing up an iPhone while standing, basket over arm, in the coffee aisle. It’s a matter of needing two hands to handle the phone. It’s a matter of constantly finding your place, or of letting the screen time out and having to re-start it. It’s the potential of dropping the thing. All this makes fuss than is necessary.

On the other hand, I have no problem using a look-up app like Save Benjis while shopping for moderate priced gear at, say, Target or OfficeMax. Using the iPhone in this situation to look up information I need to make a more informed choice on what to buy is a dream. It saves a trip back to the laptop to do the kind of research I typically do. I still look like a pretentious geek, but not as pretentious and geeky as those who wear bluetooth headsets, especially those big, clunky Star Trek ones.

These observations about shopping lists and headsets aren’t trivial when it comes to mobile teaching and learning. Attempting uses like these tells me what might work and what probably won’t, and what else has to happen to make things work. For instance, following a list on the phone while doing something else detracts from the doing in a way following a list on paper does not. To address the problem, pair up: one person follows the list, the other performs the task. Seems obvious.

Or another: Looking stuff up while performing a task needs to be facilitated by a tightly focused app. A wide-ranging google search would be difficult while shopping, but one focused through selected sources works. As well, saving the results of the search – as a trail or just the endpoint – has to be possible and should not distract from the task itself.

More on all this later – especially when it comes to composing on the mobile device.

Gotta go write a to do list for the week. Pick up some cilantro and parsley on the way home, ok? I’m thinking lamb tagine for dinner.

Pinboard Bookmarks

bookmarks for September 12th through September 13th

Pinboard Bookmarks

bookmarks for September 5th through September 6th

New Media Print Culture The Mundane

three weeks on the phone: are we literate yet?

We’ve been living with iPhones for three weeks now and it’s still a toss up between Christmas and hell. Essentially, the phone is another computer – one that does voice but really just another computer. So we have to learn to deal with another set of computer idiosyncrasies: typing issues, restarts, crashes, syncing, settings…. The reading and writing spaces are different again from laptops and even the Palm TX that I’ve been using for the last year and a half. Learning a new interface brings forward the affordances we learn to work with in writing and reading. Writing on the iPhone is a little like 10th grade typing class and a little like using PC Write. I wrote a 130 page thesis in PC Write, and I got a B in typing.

I’ve been using the iPhone as a notepad while I was fixing a server snafu this last week. Useful that way. I emailed myself annotated extracts from man pages that I had reviewed on a laptop that I could refer to as I worked, and it was useful to have a second screen to work from.

(On the other hand, composing sentences on the touchpad makes for some really annoying and sophomoric constructions. Composing on point is influenced by the means of input. I handle a keyboard better than a touchpad and a pencil. The more rapid the input the more compositionally sophisticated I can get. I’m making sytax moves on this keypad I would never make on a keyboard. Crap moves that demand an editing to clean up. And they are not oralisms.)

As a notepad ok. As a writing space for more extended prose, not so good.

Access to stuff is brilliant: newsfeeds, proper news, Flickr, podcasts, mail, maps. For access, the iPhone almost replaces a laptop – but it’s best when the data has been scraped and formatted for the screen; there’s lot to be said for web apps and standalone reader apps. A laptop is more versatile; it can make more stuff accessible more readily. But the iPhone is far more portable for the typical stuff I need to do. Sort of a Mini Cooper compared to a Toyota.

Games and drawing apps: pretty good. Easily equal to a laptop – as long as the game is designed for the small screen. Card games can’t simply be ported. The card faces need to be redesigned for the small screeen. Compare solitaire games and you’ll see. Pips aren’t necessary on the small screen.

Always on – always connected. This is interesting because I find myself doing things I hadn’t done before. I can check prices online while in the store. I can take pics and upload on the spot. Viv and I can share lists.

Ok: These are mundane uses, either unnecessary or easily handled in other ways. Yep. Superfluous. Bourgeois. Silly. Mundane.  But it passes the time.  And what’s mundane can be valued by others. Historians pour over 13th century shopping lists to get a sense of day to day life.

Most recently, I added a nifty WordPress plugin to this blog that handles displaying it on the iPhone. A lot of sites are going to need this sort of re-fit to be really useful on the phone – especially for education. It’s a matter of usability design.