Saturday, July 21, 2007

Is Facebook Going To Be The Next Microsoft?

Techcrunch has an interesting article posing the question "Could Facebook Become the Next Microsoft?". The article notes several similarities between the early days of Microsoft and where Facebook is today. Facebook is being adopted by the masses, many of whom are not "traditional" users of Web 2.0 or social networking sites (grandparents, digital immigrants, companies etc.), similar to Microsoft's initial growth.

The addition of third-party applications to the Facebook interface has greatly expanded and enhanced the use of Facebook, far beyond it's social aspects - it can do just about anything - limited only by it's users' imaginations. As it grows, Facebook is effectively becoming a Web OS - I know that I spend a lot of time on Facebook doing tasks that at one time I used other tools - e-mail, chat, etc. If Facebook becomes the number one destination on the Web, what are the implications for other Web 2.0 sites (ask DOS and WordPerfect that question in relation to Microsoft...). Will Facebook do the social Web what Microsoft Windows did to its competition? Right now we ave lots of Web 2.0 choices on the Web - but will they or can they last against the tidal wave that is Facebook?

The article goes on to compare Facebook with Google and right now give the advantage to Facebook for having better "glue", linking all of its offerings together.

There is a cautionary tale though - Facebook is a closed environment right now (Microsoft Windows anyone?), and could that lack of openness eventually lead to its downfall in the worlds of Web 3.0, 4.0,5.0, and beyond? Hmmm...

(Image from Facebook)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Canadian "Piracy" - The Other Side Of The Story

The issues of intellectual property, copyright infringement, and piracy are current hot topics. The media and foreign associations like the MPAA and RIAA, along with the foreign-dominated CRIA, would have you believe that Canada is a haven for copyright thieves and pirates. IP has also become a huge issue in educational circles, an issue that must be addressed as we move forward with Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web - as information use and distribution becomes universal, issues of rights and ownership and how they will be managed will need to be resolved.

Michael Geist is the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, and is an expert on these subjects. He has produced a great video refuting the industry and media claims that Canada is a huge violator of IP and copyright laws:

It's always important to get the other side of the story and Dr. Geist has done this well. I think that this video should be watched by anyone involved with information, creativity, copyright, or intellectual property so that you understand what is actually happening in Canada, not what foreign governments and industry associations and the media want you know. This is not a simple or easy set of issues to resolve, but it must be resolved by Canada for Canadians, not for and by foreign interests. Hmmm...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dancing With Angels

This is a video of the ZeroG SkyDancers from Second Life. This show was part of the SkyDancer's first anniversary and the fourth anniversary of Second Life. The SkyDancers are simply amazing and demonstrate some of the art of the possible in Second Life - it's amazing what you can do when you can fly!

I like to think of the SkyDancers as a virtual Cirque du Soleil..

Paradigm Shift.. Or Was That A Pair of Dimes?

I've finally finished reading Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams book Wikinomics. It's required reading for anyone who is online today (or it certainly should be), particularly for anyone in business or education on the Web who is using or thinking about using Web 2.0 tools. Throughout the book, the authors talk about a paradigm shift and it's one we all need to be aware of.

The paradigm shift here is openness and collaboration - sharing information, product secrets,and business processes in order to improve them. It really is a major shift for many people and not just in business. I personally think that the implications of Wikinomics are even more profound for educators and academics. We live in a world of intellectual property, of copyright, where "it's mine and I won't share" is not an uncommon refrain. Here is where the paradigm shift occurs - we can no longer afford to hoard our knowledge, only sharing after some sort of royalty or payment is made - information transfer is happening too fast and there is simply too much information out there to ensure that this old, tired way of doing business happens.

So what is the new paradigm? Should the creator of a work be fairly compensated for their efforts? Of course they should, but we also need to take a long hard look at what is fair compensation and what that means for all of us as information consumers. I have noticed that my learners have a whole different attitude towards information and knowledge sharing, whether they be digital natives or not. They simply consume what they discover - they don't see it as plagiarism or cheating - the information is out there to be used, so they use it. This, obviously, clashes with current attitudes and policies towards academic integrity and plagiarism. So what to do? Educate all of our learners in the "old ways" of intellectual property, or develop a new way of doing things. I prefer the latter and I think that the Creative Commons licensing process is a great start.

The Creative Commons system allows creators to choose how they will license their products for use, whether that be all rights reserved, some rights reserved, or free use. Personally I tend to use the Attribution Non Commercial or Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike licenses, as most of what I do is non-commercial in nature. If you do commercial work, try the Attribution Share Alike license on for size.

Whatever we do with information and knowledge as we go forward, and as the sheer speed of knowledge acquisition and dissemination increase exponentially, there is no doubt that a paradigm shift is happening and we all need to be aware of this shift, because it will cost us a lot more than a pair of dimes if we don't adapt...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Engage Me, Immerse Me, Learn Me?...

There have been a lot of posts lately on the SLED (Second Life Educators) mailing list on the subject of immersiveness.
The debate has been over the issue of if you are immersed in something, in this case Second Life, is learning necessarily happening? Also, if this immersive experience has engaged learners, are those learners actually learning anything?

To me the answers to these questions are critical - if we engage our learners, and they become immersed in their learning environments, yet no learning is occurring, where does that leave us as educators, and more importantly, what does it mean for out learners? As we explore and move towards PLEs, and other customized, individualized approaches to learning, we have to have the answers to these questions.

What is engagement, what is immersiveness, and what do either one have to do with learning? The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) defines engaging learners as:

"Engaging learners in the process of learning involves teachers adopting and fostering active, interactive and deep learning approaches so that learners can interact meaningfully with the concepts, materials, processes and people in a course." (the italics are mine)

As for immersing learners in their learning environments, one of the newest set of tools and technologies for doing this is Immersive Education. Immersive Education is an initiative of Media Grid. Media Grid (as defined on its Web site) is:

"The Media Grid is a computational grid platform that provides digital media delivery, storage and processing (compute) services for a new generation of networked applications. Built using Internet and Web standards, the Media Grid combines Quality of Service (QoS) and broadcast features with distributed parallel processing capabilities. Together these features create a unique software development platform designed specifically for networked applications that produce and consume massive quantities of digital media. The Media Grid is powered by service providers (such as rendering farms, clusters, high-performance computer systems, computational grids, and similar systems) that furnish on-demand services to Media Grid clients (users).

As an open and extensible software development and delivery platform the Media Grid is designed to enable a wide range of applications not possible with the traditional Internet and World Wide Web. Applications enabled by the Media Grid include: Immersive Education; on-demand digital cinema and interactive movies; distributed film and movie rendering; truly immersive multiplayer games and virtual reality; real-time visualization of complex data (weather, medical, engineering, and so forth); telepresence and telemedicine (remote surgery, medical imaging, drug design, etc.); vehicle and aircraft design and simulation; and similar high-performance media applications. The Media Grid is modeled after an improved national power grid, with added security and stability features that eliminate downtime and blackouts."

Media Grid defines Immersive Education (the tool) as:

"A novel learning platform that combines interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat (Voice over IP/VoIP), Web cameras (webcams) and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms. Immersive Education gives participants a sense of "being there" even when attending a class or training session in person isn't possible, practical, or desirable, which in turn provides educators and students with the ability to connect and communicate in a way that greatly enhances the learning experience.

Unlike traditional computer-based learning systems, Immersive Education is designed to immerse and engage students in the same way that today’s best video games grab and keep the attention of players."

So if we use this information to define engaging and immersing learners, we now need to answer the question "does learning happen when learners are engaged and immersed?" In my mind the answer is a simple yes, if you are engaged and immersed in what you are doing them learning will occur, if only by "osmosis". But several people have raised some interesting issues on SLED. I'll summarize them here:
  • Learners are different today (Presnsky - digital native/digital immigrant)
  • Today's learners read few books
  • They have shorter "sound bite" attention spans
  • They lack literacy skills and information discrimination skills (good vs faulty data)
  • They play video games and watch TV
  • The old lecture, classroom style of learning is not reaching today's learners, but Nintendo is
  • Many teachers and facilitators don't "get" their learners
So what are the implications for us as adult educators? As far as I am concerned in order for learning to happen there MUST be engagement - without engagement all the learner hears is a lot of noise. Now do learners also need to be immersed in their learning environments/opportunities for learning to happen? Probably not as long as they are engaged in learning, but I also think that the more immersive a learning experience is, the more learning occurs. Even taking in all of the points raised above engagement and immersion are key to learning happening, perhaps more now than ever. I think the big issue here is educators who don't see the engagement and immersion happening because they don't "get" their learners - that's the issue - understand who your learners are and how they learn - they learn through engaement and immersive environments.

So Engage me, Immerse Me, Learn Me? You bet, and these will only become more and more important for successful learning as we move towards "soft" classroom walls, alternate delivery, distance education, and methods not even thought of yet to bring more and more learners into our institutions.

Let the engagement, immersion and learning begin...

(Photo "Hopscotch" by Jan Tik)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The 7th Mass Media: Mobile

There has been a lot written about the creation and use of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs). I believe that they are the future of adult education, providing flexible, customized and personalized learning environments, allowing learners to learn what where, when, and how they want to learn.

I have also been reading a lot and hearing a lot about the use of mobile devices as deliverers of PLEs. Here is a great post that talks about mass media and that mobile devices have become the 7th mass media. It is the blog of the book "Communities Dominate Brands - Business and Marketing Challenges for the21st century".

The following quote from the post caught my eye - "the mobile is the 7th Mass Media is as profound as Gutenberg inventing moveable type". People are using more mobile devices than computers or any other device to connect with each other and to access information (Pew Internet Report - PDF), and if you combine this use of mobile devices with the creation of PLES, couldn't you have the "perfect storm" of learning? I certainly think so. All I know is that I have to spend more time getting to understand how I can create and deliver learning opportunities, resources, and environments to learners using mobile devices.

Will the iPhone and the other next generation devices be the next great thing in learning? Hmmm...

Photo "1000 Mobiles" by Gaetan Lee

I Am Canadian...

With apologies to Molson's Canadian, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Canada Day - Canada is 140 today. Despite some of the issues we are having as a nation, Canada is still one of the best places to live in the World. I am very proud to be Canadian - I AM Canadian!!

I'd like to take a moment to thank all of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, wherever they are, for everything they do. Thanks everyone.

There are celebrations going all all over the nation. Here is the site for celebrations in our nation's capital, Ottawa. Join the party!! Happy Birthday Canada!!

Thanks to Ole Trout for the Canada Day video and thanks to John Hollohan for the music and lyrics: