“Buy Focals”

File Under: You Heard it Here First

Over the years I’ve come up with a few “clever coinings” for phrases that capture some new aspect of our technology-enmeshed world. I swear I was the first person I knew to use the term “linkrot” to describe the broken links that invade Web pages. This was back in 1994, but by the time I got around to searching it, many people had been using the term. Most likely this was just the amplification of many minds engaged in a similar online reality so it’s no miracle that more than a few people more-or-less synchronously come up with the same idea. Sort of the typing monkeys coming up with Hamlet’s “To be” sollioquy – given enough monkeys…

Linkrot was followed by a few concepts:

A New 3Rs: instead of Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – learning in the Web era should be “Real, Rich and Relevant.”

The New WWW – Whatever, Whenever, Wherever: This is the mobile Web, but with a particular understanding. I published an article on it in Educational Leadership in 2005. The main point being that such pervasive access of immediate gratification – especially for children and teenagers – was that the “Whatever” aspect was not voiced in amazement, but the apathetic “whatever” so often heard by teens and immortalized in the Nirvana lyric: “Oh well, whatever, nevermind.”

Along these lines I also spoke sometimes about “Jiminy Click-it” that little voice of conscience that can’t be heard over the siren song of the New WWW.

Around the era of the invasion of Iraq, mobile phones were becoming more ubiquitous and I referred to them as the most lethal WMD – Weapon of Mass Distraction. And for the past couple years I have posed the question about youth and their digitally connected gadgets: “What do we expect when they are left to their own devices?”

Which brings us to the point of this post (no, it’s not for you to pity my monkey-mind obsession with coining new phrases). I want to (finally) go down on record as the first one to refer to Google Glasses as “Buy Focals.”

The Google Glass Project video points out how utterly helpful these cool specs will be, but, of course, their real intent is to support ubiquitous consumption and know what you want before you do.

Nothing wrong with that – who wants lame search results? But the developed world’s penchant for purchasing could be questioned on an individual basis. Will this happen? How quickly have “smart” phones become pervasive? And isn’t 24/7 access to Facebook and Angry Birds what makes phones so amazing? Such “must haves?”

Then again, I’m the weirdo with no TV or game console in the house (but tons of favorite Web sites, podcasts and apps). Alvin Tofler in Future Shock said that one of the hallmarks of the future (read: “where we are now”) would be that anything would be available for us to choose from – I don’t think he expected us to want it all!


Intriguing Ourselves to Death…

a plea for Education…

What follows isn’t anything new, but will likely be all too common – yet it serves as a concrete example of why education must change and what it must address.

Over an hour ago, I thought I’d better see if any comments had been made to a recent post of mine on the InfiniteThinkingMachine Blog. The post was about education learning from Big Music failed response to the digital era (Digital Rights Management, lawsuits, fear campaigns, etc.) and the head of Warner Music now acknowledging this and offering their content DRM-free at Amazon. Fellow-blogger Lucie deLaBruere got me looking into a discussion on Will Richardson’s Weblogg-ed –

Open in New Tab #1 Lucie's comment– Skimming through the post and many comments, I was drawn to Ric Murray’s that referred to his post titled, ” Educational System: Blow It Up And Start Anew

ricOpen in New Tab #2 – I know Ric from year’s back when I met him at a workshop in Rome, Georgia. Ric mentioned Tim Holt, whom I don’t know so I skipped off to his blog that has changed into Intended Consequences. There I ran across this cool video where a graduate student at Carnegie-Mellon demonstrates how to use a WiiMote and minimal LED / IR electronics to create a $50 Interactive Whiteboard.

Open in New Tab #3

YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5s5EvhHy7eQ/

Now if this doesn’t prompt you to further explore Johnny Chung Lee’s Web site, you do indeed have a life! Looking through videos of other projects brought me to something I’ve been thinking since my long-awaited 12-inch Mac Laptop didn’t come out, but the iPod Touch / iPhone did: the next cool super portable Mac should be an enlarged, say, “tablet-sized” slate (iSlate? – you read it here first – oops, a quick Google search shot that one down 😉 – okay so here’s something original (maybe?): you know those silicone cooking trays that bend and withstand heat? Don’t you think that would be a good body for at least the 2nd Generation iSlate? The following video shifts this idea slighter further from Science Fiction and into your backpack:

YouTube video: https://youtube.com/watch?v=nhSR_6-Y5Kg

These two videos lead me to…

Open in New Tab #4Johnny Chung LeeWhere I looked through the other videos on Johnny Chung Lee’s YouTube Profile where I spotted one of his favourites, a video from Crysis. I had not idea what it was, but it looked cool, so take a look.

YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaHS-y_mapQ

Open in New Tab #5crysis - wikipediaOf course a quick Wikipedia search revealed what one of my least “schooly” tech-using students could have told me: Crysis is a new shooter game published by the assembly line of game creators, Electronic Arts. I was so impressed by the real-time rendered graphics that I wanted a closer look at the company that developed Crysis: Crytek. Especially take a look at their video that demonstrates their CryEngine 2:

cryengine 2

So where does this meandering leave us? A few important things come to mind:

  1. I’ve just spent a couple hours thoroughly engaged, letting one idiosyncratic interest lead to another. How many students in school can say the same thing? Isn’t this the way we all learn? Starting with our prior knowledge, igniting interests, adding new pieces to our body of knowledge? (other models of learning you’d like to suggest?).
  2. However, none of this has anything to do with the paying work I began and set aside four hours ago. So where does the incredible “personal learning” afforded by Web 2 technologies align with the demands of things like work and school? The New Tab Clicks above began with my own work / body of knowledge, then added new info about how to hack an interactive whiteboard (maybe I’ll share this with geekier friends at school?), future gadgetry that I like to share during keynotes and ending with an overwhelmed amazement at the life-like virtual experiences most of our children and students will be used to when they aren’t sitting in school. So, yes, I did “learn”, but when does learning become achievement and accomplishment?
  3. So as challenging as many in education would consider “engaging” students, this isn’t enough. The point is not to repeat the worn lament that kids use technology as a distraction. First off, we all do! Second, I see the challenge as not avoiding getting intrigued (which some see as the answer), but doing something with it. Hence this article. Hence, the need to change education from the inconsequential tasks that turn students to intriguing / amusing technologies, into experiences that “amount to something,” that “matter.” My thinking on how to do this involves CEQ•ALL which begins with a foundation of intrinsic motivation and builds achievement through sincere effort to achieve quality and ends with enthusiastic attitudes and creations that demonstrate the joy of learning.

And this is my complaint with blogging – all these ideas and where do they build? This is our challenge as Ed Tech / Learning aficionados. After 20+ years in the game, I’ve got a few essentials down and a lot of huge gaps – which is our human condition and why an “open source / collaborative” model where teams of teachers, working with administrators and students, need to build a body of knowledge, not just posts with good ideas. Any one interested in participating in this?

Apple’s hot & frothy

i LatteAccording to the buzz, Forbes alerts us to a new patent logged by Apple that will allow iPhone users to place their Starbucks order and get a return message when it’s ready.  Use your gadget to jump ahead of all those less savvy latte lovers.  One more incremental step in the dawning New WWW – Whatever, Whenever, Wherever.

The “outsourced brain”

socrates vrDavid Brooks’ Op-Ed piece “The Outsourced Brain” in the New York Times is a must read for educators. Beginning with a GPS goddess that gently steers the author in the right direction, Brooks goes on to invoke his use of calculators for math (a given), iTunes for musical selection, search engines for memory of spot knowledge, smart phones for all the personal details we used to memorize, and finally syncing it all together with the wisdom of crowds that actually makes such “choices” with more validity than most of our own decisions.

It’s a fresh look with a bit of tongue in cheek, but what I love is that there’s plenty of common sense that’s obvious for any who live much of life “enhanced” by the New WWW (90% of those between 12 and 25?). What I find interesting is that many teachers object on something like moral grounds: “it’s just not natural,” “not the way it should be,” “isn’t what was good enough for us,” etc. These comments remind me of two anecdotes related to change. First, we know that Socrates objected to writing as it would diminish the power of the brain and oratory. The fact that what this wisest of men said was true didn’t alter the outcome: tablets, papyrus, scribes, Gutenberg, newsprint, paperbacks, Webpages, etc. “Digging in” against change “on principle” is no more valid than excusing ones self due to skill deficits or technophobia. Professionals work within reality to continuously improve what they do.

The second anecdote I’m reminded of springs from the complaints made by the parents of many of today’s veteran teachers during the last Generation Gap. The complaints could have been about Rock ‘n’ Roll or cohabitation. Even though parents in the 60s didn’t like the, these seismic shifts, they are now mainstream: The Beatles are Muzak and living together commonplace. The point of this minor rant is that many in education have to get over the “liking it” delusion. Not liking the firestorm doesn’t dampen the flames, but turning your back on it is likely to get you burned and place our children at risk.  Maybe part of the trick is learning to live in a reality that seems so unreal?

Teachable Doh!-ment


The Age reports how a Sydney resident recorded The Simpson’s Movie on its premiere evening via his mobile phone and had it posted on the net within two hours. It only took that amount of time before representatives of 20th Century Fox alerted Australian Federal Police about the copyright violation. Of course, by then over 3000 people had downloaded the move and it found its way onto a BitTorrent site that served another 110,000 downloads in 72 hours.The 21-year-old man faces up to five years’ imprisonment.

d’oh – Expresses frustration or anger, especially at one’s own stupidity. (wiktionary)

Big Brother or “Big Mother?”

A few years ago Coca-Cola ran a promotion called “The Unexpected Summer.” In it a combo cellphone GPS device was rigged to look like a can of Coke and placed in over a hundred 12-packs around the country. A companion Web site allowed people to watch the blips as satellites tracked the lucky winners within 50 feet of anywhere the US.

Recently a few news items reminded me of this and the role of technology in keeping track of our whereabouts. Hitachi has developed a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) “powder.” The chip measures .05 millimeters square and 5 microns thick, about the size of a grain of sand. Another interesting development in the world of RFID was a patent taken out in February by Kodak for an edible RFID chip. Among other potential uses is for nurses to know if you’ve taken your medicine.

Less invasive might be the GPS sneakers now on sale from Isaac Daniel. The sneakers work when the wearer presses a button on the shoe to activate the GPS. In some emergencies — such as lost child or Alzheimer’s patient — a parent, spouse or guardian can call the monitoring service, and operators can activate the GPS remotely.We could add to this list the cell phone services and GPS car units designed to let parents know where their children are – out of harms way, one hopes. What will be very interesting as these technological developments continue is who monitors them and for what purpose.

In 1984, Orwell invoked a Fascist “Big Brother,” representing the power and interests of the state. In “Big Brother – the TV series,” a house and voyeuristic citizens take the role of omniscient observer of our every move. As Web 2.0 technologies converge with mobile communications, multi-nationals and corporate marketers anticipate the day when our physical location and long tail of previous purchases unite in an endless stream of opportunities to “impulse buy.”

Stopping this movement isn’t within our means. What might be – for those of us who are parents and teachers – is to advocate and champion a human side to this potential. In other words, demand educational applications that side-step Big Brother in favor of “Big Mother.”

  • We know what people surf for, but do we have an algorithm to help us match students’ learning to their interests?
  • Databases keep track of what we buy online, but can teachers access a similar tool that provides information about an individual’s knowledge, skills and attitudes?
  • Social networking sites match us up with thousands of “friends,” but can the software also help us reflect on the wisdom of our choices?

“World of WarCrack”

I’ve been harping for a couple years about how vulnerable we can all be to the lure of getting “Whatever we want, Whenever and Wherever” (The New WWW). Even though it’s human nature to want what we want (all of it!), there’s some point in every life (that lasts long enough) when a person realizes that this doesn’t lead to happiness. I turn to Martin Seligman’s research on Authentic Happiness which points out that people typically try four approaches to find happiness: 1) pursue pleasure, 2) put meaning into actions, 3) engage in activities that stretch us into “flow experiences,” and 4) serve something larger than ourselves. All but the first work. And we all think (at least sometimes) that getting/doing/having something will make us happy. But the separation of “us” and “whatever” creates a duality that insures unhappiness (“I’m not complete without that“).

W o WI’ve just read the most powerful statement on this subject I’ve ever seen. Posted on a blog, this fellow provides a View from the Top: what it’s like to be successful at the most popular online game, World of Warcraft. Not just what it’s like, but why after a year as a leader in a position of power and respect, he gave it up.

When I started playing, I was working towards getting into the best shape of my life (and making good progress, too). Now a year later, I’m about 30 pounds heavier that I was back then, and it is not muscle. I had a lot of hobbies including DJing (which I was pretty accomplished at) and music as well as writing and martial arts. I haven’t touched a record or my guitar for over a year and I think if I tried any Kung Fu my gut would throw my back out. Finally, and most significantly, I had a very satisfying social life before.

It’s a tale of addiction realized. As powerful as his blog entry is, once you read it, take a look at the scrollbar and see how much of the page is yet to come. I did a quick copy/paste of the text on the page and it came out to 234 pages!

I think this should be required reading for everyone who suspects they might be addicted to online gaming (or gambling, drinking, drugs, eating, exercise, etc.).

With the opportunity to do “whatever” they want, our children face temptations we were fortunate we never had to confront.

‘US full of Internet addicts’

Okay, so I can say “I told you so…” An article recently making the rounds highlights research at Stanford University that “indicated more than one in eight US residents showed at least one sign of ‘problematic Internet use.'” And I suppose it’s also no surprise that “the typical Internet addict is a single, college-educated, white male in his 30s, who spends approximately 30 hours a week on non-essential computer use.” If these guys are vulnerable, how do we suppose tweenies and teenagers will handle the New WWW (Whatever, Whenever, Wherever) as it comes to their personal device? Informants already say that iPods loaded with pornographic videos are common at schools. This said, I’m one of the biggest advocates for integrating iPods into learning (Stanford on iTunes, anyone?). Maybe we need are Real, Rich and Relevant discussions with kids about about choosing what they want to do with their lives?

YouTube used for “Astro Turf”

Apparently “Astro Turfing” was first coined by Lloyd Bentsen to describe fake grassroots campaigns to sway public opinion.  Not only was LonelyGirl15 a fake, but now The Wall Street Journal has fingered the dirty PR company DCI for posting a parody of Al Gore to take the sting out of An Inconvenient Truth.  You see it’s true what teachers have been saying about the Web, you can’t trust anyone (like Zaire, Microsoft, Wal-Mart…).

Here’s what I think: I’ve studied it a lot for almost a full minute and I’m certain that as hot as it is right now, YouTube must be adding to Global Warming.

Okay, how old are you?!

So the teen repellent sound used by shopkeepers in England has been turned to advantage. The best article I’ve found on it is from National Public Radio. Inventor Howard Stapleton, creator of the Mosquito teen repellent, says only a few people over age 30 can hear the Mosquito’s sound.

Click to hear it.

The best response I’ve heard comes from a teenager: when asked how schools might respond to an invasion of this ringtone that only students can hear: “Maybe they should hire more young teachers…” Hmmm. Truly, I think it’s a practical joke – I can’t hear a thing!