Monthly Archives: November 2008

OU launches social "Platform"


A few days ago, the British OU quietly launched their new open platform called Platform. It promises to allow users to ‘chat, chill, and connect’, but I could find very little of that. Indeed, it looked more like a copy of the BBC news portal than a social site, and even when diving into the inner spheres of the Platform, where the student societies are located, it only redirected to other sites. So I was unable to find any of the mentioned experiences.

Weblogs, now an integral component of present-day pedagogy, are not, it seems, part of the Platform. The section dedicated to them gives the impression of a carefully selected branded business information column, not the vivid, frank, and sometimes plain stupid bottom-up reports by the community.

Maybe it is too early to judge, but the social promise in the title still needs substantial realisation to lift this beyond a mere marketing site.

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Dazzling immersion


Is this the future or has the past reached the Web?

Experimental 3D site Barcinski-JeanJean provides visitors with a stunning immersion experiense. You need a pair of these cool retro red/blue specs to view the 3D scape. It’s worth, though, to spend the time finding these in your attic, because the site incredibly combines Flash design and mouse navigation, hyperlinks and 360-degree panorama photography to give you absolutely realistic immersion.

The older readers might recognise these retro-specs

Older readers might recognise these retro-specs

The potential for education is enormous, if the immersion factor can be transferred to museums and art galleries it may even save a few field trips. The only downside: after three minutes viewing I could not get up from my chair for another three minutes due to cross-eyed vision (or was it the amazing experience)?

The Google dependency


New figures from search engine analysts show that we use the search engine increasingly and overwhelmingly for navigational queries: for finding, not for finding-out.

My bookmarks, for example, whether in any of the multiple browsers or in Web services like del.icio.us have become so disorganised that I cannot find things anymore. Rather than revisiting them and cleaning out tags, dead links and the now inadequate folder structure, it is more efficient to vaguely remember what the site was about and google it. It is no coincidence that Google Chrome merged the search box and the address bar.

Navigational queries can take different shapes: you might type in ‘apple’ and expect to get swiftly directed to ‘www.apple.com’. Or, you might search more semantically like ‘geotagging photo site’ or ‘online video editing’.

So what does it tell about us, learners and users of technology? Have we become dependent on Google because we failed to learn? – failed to learn to organise our information properly, failed to remember what apparently had enough relevance for us to revisit? Did the convenience of the search power of these tools make us complacent and lazy to train our memories to learn and remember?

The sad future of learning?


A rather gloomy vision of the technology-enhanced future is already emerging. School children in Japan are apparently being tagged with RFID devices to prevent them from playing truant. Omnipresent nano-technology is being heralded as the next revolution in ubiquitous computing. So-called “Smart Dust” will make it possible to produce computational networks that are not noticable to the human senses.

Of course, scientists always create technologies to make life better for human kind, n’est-ce pas? Still, it makes you wonder, why the military is advancing such developments to detect snipers in urban warfare. And why, a hygiene company has created an RFID soap dispenser, so workers can be checked to have washed their hands after they’ve been to the toilet…

“AUSOl :382143.1 badges (e.g., RFID devices) or using biometrics that allow recording mechanism 61 to differentiate the actions of different persons using the soap dispenser. In another embodiment (not expressly shown), signal mechanism 51 and/or recording mechanism 61 may be located remotely from the marking mechanism. This configuration may be desirable where a person monitoring hand washing (e.g., restaurant manager or parent of a young child) desires to have the signal and/or recorded information presented at a location other than where the soap dispenser is placed.” (Patent description here)

Is this what we can expect from education in the next generation? Puppet drill, where you are monitored not to step out of line? Do these Japanese school children and the hygiene workers comply?

The government will surely protect our freedom to choose, our self-determination, and our privacy, no? Protection, my hole, have you ever thought of where the protection is that comes with the Data Protection Act and privacy laws?

O.k. we might live longer, but will we be free to choose how?