28 October 2010

Flash Developers can now exhale: Painless Flash to HTML5 conversion

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. And so Adobe has given Flash developers a way to put their content on the web as HTML5 with the click of a button. So relax Flash people, your web progress just got automated.

Coverage at Ars Technica.

09 September 2010

New Kindle New Ideas

Today UPS brought  me a new toy, err, device. The new Kindle.

The reason I got this and not the i-pad was just that I wanted to read things on a non back-lit screen. After spending some hours on a computer, I tend to get headaches, but I can read a regular book for hours and hours. While complaining about this to a friend, I got told to get a Nook from B&N. The headaches would go away. 

Well, I got a Kindle and yep, the headaches are gone. Looks like a real piece of paper; I can tell I'm hooked.

Determined to spend no more money on this thing, and knowing that "they" really want me to start buying content, I searched the Kindle book store on Amazon, sorting prices "low to high" to see all the free books they have.

I lucked out and found something really interesting (soon to be forgetting about the "device" and getting into the content).

So, let me just give you a tip for a great, free, article you can get on whatever device you have. Find: The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age by Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg (MIT Press) 2009. What I read here is so in line with the philosophy of my current grad program it's uncanny. My favorite phrase- "participatory learning."

I think it's a good omen the first article I read on the Kindle was this one. Also, check out the related site: www.futureofthebook.org/

Finally, I'm going to sleep, after hours of reading. No headache at all :-)

19 August 2010

Ethical Design & Practical Learning

Sergio Palleroni
Today I learned about Sergio Palleroni while watching the PBS video, "Green for All", part of the e2:Design series of documentaries. The documentary shows how Palleroni teaches his students architectural skill by immersing them in the real world problem of building housing for poor and dis-advantaged populations. He and his team of students go into communities and provide solutions and guidance for building economically and ecologically sound housing. In the documentary he notes that not many Schools of Architecture have this type of program, and it is often not enough to learn simply via a traditional textbook. He champions the "design/build" process, believing it gives his students the ability to better deal with real world problem solving- as well as providing service to communities. I think this approach to teaching and learning is both ethical and practical.

As I watched the program, I saw distinct parallels to how the IDD program at UGA is implemented. We students are learning to use technology in order to help people learn better. One series of classes focuses on the theory of learning, design, and technology. The other series of classes focuses on learning the related tools in order to bring theory and practical implementation together. As the second semester of the program begins, we are being directed to seek out organizations in need of web based learning solutions. We can either chose from a provided lists of clients, or we can seek out our own clients. Ultimately, we will all be providing service to the community, while at the same time learning our tool set. Certainly this is a far superior approach to learning educational design than, say, reading an instructional manual. We all call it "The Studio Approach" to learning. It is only through work with clients with real problems that we can learn to "think on our feet" and learn to dynamically and intelligently solve the inevitable hurdles that pop up in design- and life. It is progressive ideas like this that fuel my passion for work in UGA Learning, Design, and Technology program.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it well: "It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

02 August 2010

Eureka! The Memory Molecule

Ball-and-stick model of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) molecule.
An article in the scientific journal, Neuron, reports that a chemical in the human brain that helps brain cells store memories and aids transfer of knowledge.

The molecule, Aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA, is for sale as a supplement.

Since the study is new and many of the test were conducted on rats, not humans-  I wouldn't advise anyone to begin taking this supplement, but instead to carefully watch developments in the area. Who knows, a "learning pill" may be on the horizon.

A technical achievement of this study is the use of nanotechnology techniques allowing scientists to observe brain interactions at the 10 nanometer scale. In the past, scientist have only been able to observe on the tissue level, whereas this study broke ground as it observed interactions in the molecular level.

As educators and instructional designers, we are constantly challenged to balance learning theory and technology to most effectively address learning problems and needs. I expect advancements in technology will need those of us to decide how to best utilize new breakthroughs, and also feel that as the field of nanotechnology matures, the newly discovered knowledge will impact society on a "revolutionary" level.

To research and follow this development begin with these links:

gamma-Aminobutyric acid on Wikipedia

Article from American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Link to abstract of article in the scientific journal, Neuron.


An Educational Game: The Curfew

Following in the footsteps of their BAFTA-winning Bow Street Runner game, Littleloud has developed their second online game for Channel 4 Education. The Curfew is a miniature Canterbury Tales set in a day-after-tomorrow Security State where non-citizens are under curfew at night. The Curfew centres around four characters fate pushes together on a night that will change their lives and, perhaps, even Britain itself.

Tackling themes of privacy, identity, politics, liberty and citizenship, The Curfew builds upon the real curfews that exist today in over a thousand towns and cities in Britain, where persons under the age of 16 found out after 9pm can be sent home by police. To play the The Curfew click here. (Launches end of July)

Taken from Channel 4 Education press release.

20 July 2010

Stephen Wolfram on the Future of Technology

Stephen Wolfram shares his thoughts about the nature of computation, the definition of purpose, the future of technology and how technology is shaped by humans' definition of need. Read his thoughts from his blog. He makes the point that we are currently in a time when a fair part of everything is being recorded for the first time in history. When history looks back on our current time, we will be seen as ones who initially defined human purpose through technology. And if this is true, we may be defining "the purposes for our whole future."

While reading, I found there were background concepts necessary to follow his ideas. Before you read his talk, you may find it useful to review these concepts: computational irreducibility and the Turing test. (Comparable to the "Voight-Kampff" test Deckard performs on suspected replicants in Blade Runner.) While reading, I stumbled upon yet another great online tool from Wolfram, WolframTones.

Wolfram's talk is somewhat abstract, heavy on opinion and wades through philosophical ideas about meaning and purpose- a fun, inspirational read.

27 June 2010

SCORM: The Basics

When first learning about Instructional Design, I found the United States military played a key role in the development of the discipline. During WWII, America had to quickly train an army, and thus much of the research and progress in the field truly began. I read quotes from German officers stating they (Germany) severely underestimated The United States' ability to rapidly and effectively train an army. So, we can see why the Department of Defense would put a premium on R&D for training. Given this, it seems reasonable to me to look to the Department of Defense for excellent information about the theory and development of Instructional Materials.

SCORM is an acronym for Sharable Content Object Reference Model and originated from the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) initiative developed by the Department of Defense in 1997. Many of us are familiar with Learning Management Systems (LMS). Moodle and Blackboard are probably the most well known, but I would guess Drupal, with it's open source format, could be customized to be an excellent LMS. SCORM seeks to establish standards so that "lessons" can have universal "plug and play" capabilities across LMS. This allows for greater efficiency when distributing instructional materials online. We can eliminate the need to develop multiple lessons on the same subject, instead having one "best" lesson that can be shared across thousands of users, operating systems, and servers. Furthermore, SCORM is not just for military applications, its use has spread to business, Higher Education, and K- 12. The writing is on the wall: instructional designers can ignore SCORM at their peril. The efficiency and quality implied by such a model is hard to discount.

I think Philip Dodds, chief architect of SCORM sums it up the best: "The whole idea of SCORM is to have a set of technical standards that will allow learning content to interoperate across multiple products, environments and tools, and to make it easier to discover and use such content."

Here's a great introductory video; links at the bottom.

Philip Dodds on SCORM

09 June 2010

Visual Tools for Representing Data

While studying ID, I am finding helpful software tools for visually representing data. The first, Inspiration, was suggested by our professor.

This software helps the user to represent ideas with flow charts, and is of particular value to those in ID developing ideas within the ADDIE framework. Sure, you can build flow charts in Word, but this software, being dedicated to the task, makes it painless. Make your life easier and buy a copy. After all, we are "saving time through technology."

I found Tableau while googling about data. You know you've got it bad when you're googling about data. This find was exciting, because the software is free, and used by large companies like The Wall Street Journal. The way Tableau takes raw data and creates an infographic is nothing short of magic. Do yourself a favor and head over to the Tabeau site and look at some demos.

I haven't downloaded it yet, but I can barely wait to begin creating infographics with this software. I think it will yield valuable assets when making the case for instructional needs and opportunities.

These two programs deserve their own category in the sidebar, and so I will create one called "Visualization Tools."

After downloading Tableau I come to find there is no version for the Mac!!!!

26 May 2010

Thiagi: An irreverent and engaging Instructional Designer

Thiagi (aka Sivasailam Thiagarajan, Ph. D.) started his consulting business in 1976 from his basement. Now, 30 years later, he continues to operate the same business in pursuit of the same mission.

Here's a video from youtube that, although long, is a pleasure to watch.


25 May 2010

Kinetic Typography & Motion Graphics

These videos aren't necessarily educational, but they demonstrate fantastic technique in digital artistry. Such skill can be applied toward creating engaging educational experiences for learners. Hopefully, we will approach this in the future.

This first video demonstrates kinetic typography. The style can be achieved using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Adobe After Effects. This video was made by Sebastian Lange.

Flickermood 2.0 from Sebastian Lange on Vimeo.
Fraser Davidson is a senior animator and designer at Mainframe, London creating TV adverts, music videos and channel branding. His clients include brands like Sony, MTV, BBC, Nike & Guinness. Here's an example of his work.

Fraser Davidson Showreel 2010 from Fraser Davidson on Vimeo.



21 May 2010

Adobe Adds HTML5 and CSS3 Support To CS5

Adobe rolls out HTML5 and CSS3 support within CS5. If you have CS5, go to Adobe Labs and download the Adobe Dreamweaver CS5 HTML5 Pack.

Adobe® Dreamweaver® CS5 HTML5 Pack is an extension for Adobe Dreamweaver CS5. This extension provides features to help users generate HTML5 and CSS3 code. Features include Multiscreen Preview, Media Query support, code hinting, starter layouts, and WebKit updates for rendering enhancements.

More information at the Adobe blog.

Finally, here's an excerpt from Google I/O 2010 demonstrating some capabilities of HTML5, CSS3, and how Adobe is working to integrate the language into CS5.

Online Learning: Academic Earth

Academic Earth is yet another website demonstrating the proliferation and effectiveness of online learning. The video lectures cover a wide array of subject matter, and are given by some of the best teachers in the world.

"Media, Education and the Marketplace" is one course offered by Academic Earth. Lecture 5, "MIT/Media Studies Educational Uses of Technology - Steven Lerman" is embedded below. To watch the course in it's entirety, follow this link: Media, Education and the Marketplace, Shigeru Miyagawa

Watch it on Academic Earth

02 May 2010

Screen Capture Software & YouTube

I've spent a lot of time learning online and think most people do the same. When I get a new piece of software, one of the first things to do is search YouTube for related videos. After watching so many of them, I realize good screen capture software is essential for anyone wanting to demonstrate and explain software or coding. Taking several hours to learn about various screen capture software options, I realized ScreenFlow is the best solution for me. Probably the biggest factor in my decision is that most of my favorite instructional videos are made with ScreenFlow.

Below is the first video I made with ScreenFlow. There's nothing particularly instructional about it- just me noodling around in Ableton Live. The purpose in making it was to become more familiar with ScreenFlow. It's fun and easy to use, and the only negative I see is slight video artifacts which seem to be introduced as keyboard shortcuts are displayed on screen. Luckily this is an option users can disable.

Also, I'd like to invite you to my YouTube channel. Most recently I've subscribed to a handful of users who focus on instructional design and e-learning. Later, I'll organize it to feature my favorite instructional design videos. My user name on YouTube is xg95.

Related links:


27 April 2010

Stephen Wolfram: TED 2010

"Computation is destined to be the defining idea of our future." says Stephen Wolfram towards the end of this TED talk. Wolfram states his goals for the site include democratizing knowledge and trying to be an authoritative source. Just a few minutes at wolframalpha.com should be enough to convince anyone the site is on its way toward these goals. It's by no means complete, but potential is very apparent.

Systematizing knowledge, making it computable, and making it available via queries in ordinary, human language is the power of his idea. Wolfram|Alpha is to knowledge systems what Google is to search engines. Hey, it's not a search engine, it's a knowledge engine. I am looking forward to an expanding database. Video courtesy of TED.

Related links:

25 April 2010

Google Sites

Today I made a Google site.

So far, I've made a site that has a registered domain name- www.chiensolutions.com/

To this site, I installed Drupal.

Why all the sites? Well, I want to see all the ways a person can make a site. First, I want to know how to build a site "from scratch." That is, I want to know how to register a domain name, find hosting and write XHTML and CSS code. Maybe I'll get as far as learning some JavaScript. So, that is what chiensolutions.com is all about.

Then, I want to learn about more automated solutions for sites, so I installed Drupal onto chiensolutions as a secondary "site within a site." Logically enough, the Drupal part of the site is simple: chiensolutions.com/drupal/.

Without doubt, the Google site has been the most straightforward to build. In fact, the most time-consuming part of it was finding a name for it that had not already been taken. Finally, I found a name that hadn't already been taken- larryslyceum! Oh, corny!

Site building with Google is as easy as making a MySpace or Facebook page, or for that matter a Google blog. You're led clearly along a path of simple point and click design. Very nice.

Drupal's build process is less intuitive, requiring some serious time to make sense of the interface. The effort is worth it though, because there is an extremely robust range of possibilites via the Drupal "module" concept. Modules for forums, modules for e-commerce, modules for enhanced CSS control- really, modules for just about anything you can imagine. This is my favorite part of Drupal. You don't have to know web programming languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, MySQL and Apache to take advantage of they power they provide. Plus, since Drupal is OpenSource, anyone can contribute a module, and this makes for thousands of modules for hundreds of tasks. It's very powerful, and many "bigtime" sites use Drupal. Take, for example, one of my favorites- theonion.com.

Finally, building a site from scratch (i.e. chiensolutions.com) offers the most challenge. I know it's extremely simple, but that is because it's my first foray into coding XHMTL and CSS. Current web standards call for using strictly validated XHTML 1.0 code for markup and CSS for layout and design. It seems like the main idea behinds these standards is accessibility, with the additional benefit of making web pages load, and be searched, more efficiently. It really is a step forward from the days when HTML and CSS were jumbled together on the same page- site content is relegated to the XHTML markup, and site design is relegated to CSS code. For me, this makes learning easier. I would have been lost if not for the guidance of w3schools.com, a tutorial site provided by w3.org.

It's tempting to use HTML5 and CSS3 for my site, but as it is not yet official, there are compatibility issues across different browsers. Since accessibility is the prime goal of my sites, I can't use these new and exciting languages just yet.

I intend to keep learning what I've started, and I cannot wait to begin classes this summer and add new skills. There is so much I don't know. How exciting!

18 April 2010

The Khan Academy

Salman Khan (Sal) founded The Khan Academy with the goal of using technology to educate the world. Sal received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters in electrical engineering and computer science, a BS in electrical engineering and computer science, and a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

His site provides 1200+ videos (hosted by YouTube) covering a wide range of topics including economics, mathematics, chemistry, biology and physics. It's an ambitious site, to say the least, and a great example of freely distributed educational material- a productive and successful implementation of web technology.

Surely you agree that Sal is a uniquely wonderful person. Watch 1 video a day and in less that 4 years you'll be better. I  am starting today!


12 April 2010

Official acceptance letter!

Last week, I was accepted into the Instructional Design & Development Graduate Program at UGA.

Over the years, I've learned a smattering of graphic, design and audio software and techniques. For the past 3 years, I've been working at the Georgia Center for Assessment, scoring student writing for the State. Most recently, I've been moving away from Dreamweaver and learning to code sites using only a text editor. It's my goal for my sites to be XHTML 1.0 STRICT validated, and for them to be easily read across all computing platforms.

I look forward to putting all these skills together while in the IDD program. Further, I'm ready to learn about the psychology of learning and the methodology of Instructional Design. Finally, I most look forward to getting to know the faculty and students in the program. Cheers to a productive life and work!

22 January 2010

Nature As A Template

We humans have an impressive catalog of great designers, and maybe when they look for inspiration, they look to nature. The concept of the Trojan horse is as compelling today as it was to Virgil. Modern designers are taking a deeper look at nature to come up with design ideas that will drive technology in the 21st century. Many refer to this "modern" idea as biomimicry.

This picture is of genetically engineered, single celled algae. Why do this? To make nanodevices that deliver drugs, collect solar power, switch on, switch off, and filter stuff.

One site that covers biomimicry this is asknature. It's a good for those interested in following current developments in nature influenced design.

See the similarities in Buckminster Fuller's Geodisc (dual version) and a honeycomb?