Virtual schools

There has been some talk about increasing online options for students. It needs to stay like that until clear and successful models have been established for online learning. There are then the issues around online learning in virtual schools like isolation, social engineering, social justice, care giving, duty of care, cyber and real life safety. It is going to come and it is going to happen but we are the ones who need to drive this because we want technology to work for us not for us to be entrapped and enslaved to technology. Of course it’s cheaper to run online schools. It saves about half the costs. That would make it an attractive option for some but we need to think about the other costs. It would suit some students well, you just know it. It would suit some teachers better. There is no longer a one size fits all so there is no reason to ignore the benefits of webinars, online conferencing and communication tools which we now have. It needs to be thoroughly thought out and planned and then carefully trialled.

Good online tools for learning provide quality content, report on progress, create local and global activities, allow work to be customised and set and then report on participation. They allow student and staff input , participation and feed back. They have a proven track record. Students can ignore all of that, though, and so someone needs to be monitoring participation and progress. SBS looked at Aurora Online school and its progress earlier this year. That is a school which runs synchronous online lessons. Victoria is running online schools in languages with some success. The Victorian virtual schools network is also running other online subjects via video conferencing tools. This keeps the people aspect of learning going. Babble has a parent point of view on virtual schools which is worth the read. Geoff Masters has written an excellent piece about the challenges for Australian schools and that looks at flexible learning arrangements. There has also been some useful research into the differences between online and traditional learning  by Joseph Cavanaugh and Stephen J Jacquemin. Kevin Gumienny  has looked  at what you really need to run successful online courses and has isolated the issues well. Not that you could ever quantify or objectify the lifelong impact of a teacher who has written on your life.

Online learning has to be targeted, effective and able to achieve its goal. It has to involve the learner and for that to happen it has to meet the needs of the learner . Participation both cerebrally and emotionally is important. A learner needs to have input and help. Online learning tools need to consult the learner about how to progress and improve the delivery. That two way conversation again – create content, share, gain feedback, improve.

Zen Colouring book

Zen colouringThe Jasmine Illustrator does not have a lot of views on her video but I like her approach. She is genuinely and naturally articulating her views about art and digital art, in particular , and has drawn some thoughtful comments because of her willingness to be open and honest. There has been quite a discussion about whether digital art is real or proper art. What about digital colouring? Does it have the same benefits as paper and pencil colouring? The benefits of colouring can be found on the net. Some of the main points are made on color-meanings which discusses the therapeutic benefits of coloring for adults. Lynda.com has a video interview with John Derry about the advantages of painting digitally. The Microsoft store has the Zen: colouring book for adults for free for Windows 10. You can purchase more images but there are plenty there to start with. I can use the really nice interface with a mouse. I think it would be easier with a graphics tablet or on a Windows touch screen. There are other versions of digital colouring books online if you are not using Windows 10. It’s handy to have something like this as a brain break or as something which will just let you sooth your thinking. The benefits you will find for yourself.

Emby

As I often do, I am putting up this post so I don’t lose my links to Emby because it is something I want to find out more about. It has a functional free version and then you can subscribe to the premium version with extra functionality of you want to. It is designed to organize all you media , including streaming media , across devices. Emby has parental controls if you need them and appears to read all the media files and then have a very workable user interface. It syncs and backs up your so no matter which device you are using you can access what you want from anywhere. Judge for yourself. The video and site explain what you need to know to see whether you are interested.

Nextpad

NextpadNextpad is a visually improved version of Windows 10 Notepad. Notepad is a simple text editor but you can use it for scripts, web page design, time logs  and text editing. I have often used it to sort out font mismatches. There are times where I have cut and pasted text and then the fonts won’t converge into one font. The quickest way around it is to copy and paste all the text into Notepad and then back into the document. You can then sort out the fonts easily. I also use Notepad too ,well,to  keep notes while I am working on something. It’s just quick and easy. The other advantage is the text files are small. Sometimes you are looking to save space for data. Nextpad operates like Notepad but has a really nice interface and I have put them next to each other in the picture so you can see. Nextpad integrates with your Windows colour scheme. You can contact the developers of Nextpad if you have ideas , want to give feedback or want to know the latest news on the app. It is free from the Windows store. The only negative I can see is you cannot appear to  time stamp it and sometimes that is needed.

Puzzle Craft 2

Puzzle Craft 2I love this game. It is very demanding in a good way. You have to think, plan and puzzle. I have four villages now and the fourth one added such a good level of complexity that it really put the game into a whole new arena which created an even better use and development of cognitive skills. It’s rewarding. When you achieve something, you really feel like you have achieved it. I have been confronted more than once with those awful weeds. Every time I nail them there is a great feeling of satisfaction. With the wolves it’s the challenge of getting rid of them without resorting to shooting them. With the rats…mostly I ignore them. It is good to be at the bit where I can collect them with grass. The fourth village has brought me a water puzzle game. At first it seems to be as bizarre as anything . Yes, you have to use your brain to get it going and to understand it. I still don’t really know what it’s about. I just do it and follow my instinct and that seems to be working. It’s a bit addictive catching fish and locating spices. The challenge is the 4 moves restriction on the boat. This is why Puzzle Craft 2 has become my favourite game. It changes and challenges. It gives you enough information and help to keep you going but it forces you to participate and actually play it in a comprehensive way.  Every step of the way you have to think it out. I am running raw materials and resources across 4 villages so I have to work out which mines and farms to work, which resources to have where, which raw materials are better sourced in which village.  If I am buying I have to work out whether it is cheaper to buy the raw materials or the ready made resource. It is a game for a brain which likes to be busy and a game for those who like to manage across a range of expectations, requirements, demands , materials and assets. You can’t just play it as such and bash your way through the game. Some really good challenges arrive unexpectedly and you have to think them out. At one stage I thought I would never get to my fourth village. Even had I wanted to I could not have bought my way in. You can use your real money to short circuit the play if you want to but a lot of the game requires you to look at other things besides the fact that easy cash will solve everything answer. I love that. There are things like time, patience and strategy. I had to work hard to get into the fourth village and had to let time do the work. For the fifth village I already have the requirements but that is not to say it will be a straightforward move when the time comes. The game can surprise you like that. It’s not a game you get done. It’s one you sit and enjoy for a little while. It’s not stressful. It is absorbing.

Dealing with cold callers

You have to keep a level head dealing with cold callers. Most of the time you can just avoid the call, block the number or hang up straight away if you are caught by accident. There are times where you are caught and you end up in a totally inappropriate conversation with an overly friendly person who thinks they have the right to tell you how to run your life. Worse, it might be someone who is trying to disrupt you and your life with unpleasant news of one sort or another. I had one of those accident phone calls referred to in Guy Arnold’s video and I more or less followed the advice I found he is giving and  it worked. I did ask them who they were ,please and  how they were. When they talked about the accident I asked if they were sure because that was indeed worrying. I said no one I knew had had an accident and so it was really unfortunate because they must be ringing the wrong number.I said it was really important they should find the right person.  They were apologetic and got off the phone. Solved. I always Google the numbers I don’t recognise because they are almost always cold call numbers. It is surprising how much documentation there is on these numbers. So why is it allowed to continue? Why are these numbers not blocked by telecommunications carriers? Why are people from other countries allowed to harass us and why is it allowed to continue in our own country? It’s the equivalent of someone barging in your front door when you open it and helping themselves to a cup of tea and hijacking your life and conversation  in the real world. It’ appallingly rude and unacceptable. There are some tips on the Guardian as to how to manage cold callers too. It needs to be dealt with in a more concerted way. I am never rude if I am caught by accident. These people might be working at the only job they can get. These people have gone to work to try and get money for their life. They may have no other choice in life. We do. We have technology and we need to more effectively filter and block these callers at all levels.

Things smart phones have replaced

things smart phones have replaced

Image: teacherswithapps

I shouldn’t be surprised with how long the lists are. Smart phones have been around for a while. They were looked upon as fancy upgrades to the phones we had at the time but in real terms they are having an economic and environmental impact. Fewer devices means less clutter in our homes and less e-waste. I still keep a paper copy of contacts and addresses because electronic devices are not 100% reliable. They can lose vital information because of a crash , loss or changeover. I back things up but there still isn’t a perfect way of ensuring your data is there when you need it. Worse is if you have no wifi or internet connection. Then you really are in trouble. In Australia we haven’t moved over to electronic purchase receipts. That would save so much paper. I love e-tickets of various sorts. It is simple and works well. I do carry my shopping list and any other list on my phone. No more lost bits of paper. I haven’t totally converted to e-books because a paper book is just nice to have and isn’t counted, tracked or quantified. You can just read in peace. Smart phones have revolutionised a lot of what we do and will probably continue to do so because they will run our smart homes , smart cars and smart gardens. I have seen non English speaking tourists in our shops using smart phone translators to get the things they need. It is not perfect but certainly better than being stranded with no way of communicating in a language you don’t know. It is less worrying for the tourists and easier on the shop personnel. Smart phones have also been our way of quickly establishing relationships with people. You no sooner meet someone than their smart phone comes out and you can see pictures of their family, their holidays, their skills. We have used them to create authentic relationships in a very effective way. They are very complex now and can do so much. In time they will replace more things and then add their own layers of functionality. There is another list on technologreview, apart from the link at the top of the post ,with more things smart phones have replaced. For the generation  coming into smart phone use, none of this is relevant. They have what they have and won’t know about what has been replaced so there is a whole bank of generational experiences which have gone too and whether that matters or not is to be seen. I was wondering who’d remember what a rolodex/teledex was and who’d actually care? I used to love playing with it and thinking it was something to achieve to have my own one! What the smart phone uptake does do , though, is create a way of thinking and processing information and if you don’t have the things you are used to, you might be scrambling for the workarounds and not understand some digital processes. That replacement function will be affecting cognition in some people.

Ambient Intelligence

These Chinese students have put together a video which effectively shows what ambient intelligence can mean for us. Sensory technology which responds to our needs. We have had precursors to it with smart phone apps which manage climate control in our homes and security devices which ring through to back up help for us. The next step is to have ambient technology in our environment so that our experiences are driven by the changes we want. There needs to be a lot more done on privacy, though, before we give ourselves and our environments over to ambient technology. Who wants a self driven car which can be hacked by some random? A wearable device which can be giving false information because it has been remotely tampered with?

And, if ambient technology is to become as integrated into our lives as previous technological revolutions like wood joists, steel beams and engine blocks, we need to subject it to the digital equivalent of enforceable building codes and auto safety standards. Nothing less will do. And health? The current medical device standards will have to be even tougher, while still allowing for innovation.” Walt Mossberg

Walt Mossberg’s article The Disappearing Computer has a good explanation of what is occurring and how this might play out. Artificial Intelligence and Ambient Intelligence are not going to go away. They are the future. It is important we understand the developments and their implications for us. TechCrunch also has a very good article, The next stop on the road to revolution is ambient technology , looking at the future possibilities and transformations which will be brought about by ambient technology. Since the plan is to outsource cognition to devices, then we need to know what the plans and developments are so we can have some useful input and know what it will all mean for us.

Protect your privacy

Privacy

Image: Pixabay

I have mentioned BetterCloud before. I subscribe to the email and I always get very good quality tech information. Today was no different. In this morning’s email was a link to an article about 66 ways to protect your privacy. You may know some of them, you may want to try the others and then there might be some you are not sure about and you can investigate. If nothing else this is a lot of solid advice about how to protect your privacy online.

Polly want a cracker !

We are surrounded by crackers and crackpots on the internet. Par for the course and parroting of information is something we have to work to avoid. We have to know how to think , not what to think. It’s why we cannot downplay and underestimate the role of academics and librarians in our society. We need them to be vocal so we are reminded that good research skills are vital in a connected world where a lot of the information is repeated ad nauseam in well-trained ornithological style. Information regurgitation. That isn’t learning and it’s not knowledge but it is hard to avoid. The video clip points out, too, that it can put young lives in danger. The internet can make claims and pronouncements and people can feel obliged to comply because they don’t know how not to. It’s not that social media or YouTube or other popular sites are bad and evil but you have to understand how these things operate. Newly created , conventional wisdom is nothing more than pulp fiction and has to be recognised as that. Merlot II has an Internet Detective tutorial which helps gives students critical thinking skills about the internet. The stated objectives of the tutorial are that students:

be aware that there is an issue of information quality on the Internet
have learned practical tips and hints for evaluating Internet resources (eg dissecting URLs)
have a list of quality criteria to apply to information found on the Internet
have practical experience of evaluating electronic journals, mailing lists, subject Web sites and organisational home pages

The difference nowadays between the information rich and the information poor is delineated by the quality of powers if discernment with regard to information.

Should children use technology?

The ongoing discussions about whether children should or should not use technology, particularly of the mobile variety, continue and so they should We need to be clear about what we are dealing with. We need to be clear about the benefits and pitfalls. We need to be clear about what constitutes abuse of technology with children. Mobile devices are everywhere. The internet is everywhere. If you choose not to let your child have unlimited access to technology, then you need to be able to deal with the thoughts around the fact someone else might allow them access. Schools use mobile devices to good effect. Classrooms ought to be a safe, reasonable place for students to learn responsible use and the benefits of technology. Parents who do not want that can use schools which don’t use technology and have a different approach through early childhood. Have we decided what the best age is for using technology? Have we decided what children need in terms of experience when it comes to technology? I have seen primary school children in the Apple store in town. They love it. They are totally focused. I saw children at the Yidaki exhibition in the museum in town. It was an interactive exhibition with a well thought out use of technology to deliver its learning and messages. The children were silent. No one asked them to be silent. They just wanted to be and they wanted to see what the different technology offerings did and how they worked. They were lost in learning. It’s not technology which is the problem. It can certainly be the content and it can be the lack of balance. Everyone needs to practise a range of skills and to be open to learning from all sorts of areas and experiences. There has to be balance.

Taylor and Francis online have some interesting discussions about some of the myths surrounding children and their use of technology which are worth considering. Victoria Prooday is a mother , occupational therapist and blogger who is deeply concerned about the welfare of children in our society and puts forward some strong discussions and ideas about what we need to look at, how we might address it and then what we need to stop avoiding. We all need to look at this so that parents, children, experts and professionals can all have an ongoing conversation about what to do. We do need to manage technology until children can manage it for themselves in the same way we manage driving, ratings for media, travelling. We haven’t quite got it right where we are clear that adults need to be responsible for technology use until children are old enough because we haven’t decided what old enough is and what that means. We don’t have that problem with other things. There is a very good honours project by Kristina Hatch which looks at Determining the Effects of Technology on Children. We need to keep having that calibre of research, the discussions and the conversations. We tend to create opposing sides when we are not sure which way to go and what is the right thing to do. We need to keep exploring the experiences children can have with technology so we endorse the benefits and limit the negatives.

– How old do you believe children should be before they are exposed to technology of all sorts?
I think the only reasons very young children should not be exposed to digital media have to do with matters
of health – I’m not sure we know yet how much of what kind of exposure to electronic devices might have
some kind of negative impact on the development of very young children. But other than that, I see no
reason why babies should not be allowed to enjoy smacking their little hands on an iPad screen and
enjoying the colorful splashes and silly sounds it might make when they do it. The problem is not
technology, its doing any one thing to the exclusion of all others, a kid reading books every minute all day,
every day, is not a good idea either… Kids need a balance of play with all their senses – and the more we
can use our bodies while playing with digital devices, the better for kids. And kids also need a balance of
the real (nature) and the invented (all arts, including computer and video).

Cornelia Brunner – senior research scientist at the Center for Children and
Technology

Free audio books

 

Being read to at bedtime is no longer the privilege of a good  childhood. Now anyone can be read to and there are plenty of free audio books online. YouTube is one of the places you may not have thought to look for audio books. Some sites offer reasonable free trials of free audio books and then you have to pay something like $15-20 a month for unlimited access. That might suit some people. I listen to audio books sometimes in the car and there are times when people are too sick to actually read but would welcome being read to.  thebalance offers 15 sites where you can get free audio books online. It does mean you can use your phone or other mobile technology to listen to books if you are on the move and it does save carrying a book or reader around if you need to do it that way.

Educational app evaluation

Image: pain rating app

It’s pleasing to discover that the world has become very serious about rating mobile apps for educational purposes. There should be some solid reasons and explanations for using apps in an educational setting and there ought to be a well considered way now for rating apps because we have had mobile technology for quite some time . As an educator you need an approach to apps which will guide well thought out decisions about apps’ use. You also need a way to include learner opinion of apps because they are at the receiving end of it and need to be encouraged to be more than passive users. Education apps won’t improve unless we are all working together as a team and rating apps is a good way of identifying strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvement. With some apps you have no choice . They are introduced into an educational environment and you are expected to use them. If you can then go though the process of rating them then there is solid evidence and data to help inform decisions for negotiations about the use of an app or to be able to contact developers and ask if they can work on certain aspects of the app. Those who work in technology usually like a challenge and so are very approachable if you can be clear about what you are asking. Digital teaching and learning is a constant improvement environment and way of being where clarity is important. There are some very helpful evaluation sites which show how you can go about rating apps:

Mobile app rating scale

App evaluation checklist

Ways to evaluate educational apps

I always involved students in app rating and it was a very helpful and interesting exercise for all of us:

The great iPad app review
There are also two useful pdfs to download if you click on the links:

Evaluating apps for Teaching and Learning

Rubric iPad Apps v0.4 Department of Education Western Australia

Technology trends 2017

Gartner is a big, American technology organisation which delivers technology research to global technology business leaders so they can  make informed decisions about key initiatives. It is one of the sites to keep an eye on if you want to see what the trends are and have some intelligent information to go on. It looks at different aspects of the impact of technology on our world and how it shapes it. It looks at the things which are changing and how they are being changed. What we don’t want to do is leave people out of this and people need communication and information. They need to know how to navigate the systems which are now in place. The information about how things are changing are getting to normal people as easily because so much is going on in the areas where the developments are occurring and so those who work there are used to it but hen it is not connecting with the larger population. The changes are quite quick and so what you thought was the way to do things isn’t any more. Much of the change is driven by big data and how we can analyse and use it but that then isn’t translating into everyday knowledge necessarily. More than ever we need to talk to each other , share information and share ways of doing something. We also need to be constantly aware that big changes are occurring and we need to look out for them and have some idea of how the world is now being landscaped. Communication is fundamental to that. Having grand new ways of doing things won’t help if people don’t know how to easily navigate them and don’t understand how the systems are now working. The video sums up the key changes very succinctly.

Puzzle Craft 2

PuzzleCraft2I completed the 50 levels of Puzzle Craft and got into my Imperial Castle. I can still play the game if I want to but I have achieved all there is to achieve. I thought I’d give Puzzle Craft 2 a go. Initially it was a shock because I had gone so far in Puzzle Craft and had enjoyed the freedom of it. I was back to having to build up resources and currency and Puzzle Craft 2 is far more complex. It seemed a bit kiddie at first but it’s not. There is so much you have to manage and keep your eye on. For a busy brain which likes to puzzle this is the game. There are so many elements and strategies . The game puts in challenges and it works across different villages this time. I have completed the second village and have to gather the resources to move on to the third village. I packed everything up without realising that. Not to worry. It’s not easy to work everything out and some of it you stumble across or the game gives you a bit of help. It’s certainly a generous game in terms of offering supplies and bonuses. I hate the notion that you can pay real cash to get yourself out of every single difficult situation. In my opinion it’s a bad lesson to teach and defeats the purpose of gaming. Games make squillions of dollars, it’s true, but cash ought not be the driving force because there is so much teaching and learning which can occur with a game and that to me is the most important thing. If I just buy my way out I have gained nothing.

 

I have got myself going and am currently stuck because there is no way I am going to be able to get 150 iron out of the mine in one hit. The puzzle board has 36 squares and not all of them are filled with iron. That is a tough challenge. I have learned to make tools on the first farm to save the resources on the second farm for the other tools. I am not sure why buildings provide free tools when they are not added to the count. You are strictly limited on the amount of tools you can have in this game unless you pay for special packages with game currency which you can build up quite well. Those tools are added to the stock pile. Sometimes I just play the boards without the tools. I try to focus on the one thing I have to do but it doesn’t quite work out that way because you have other things to keep in mind and that is where strategy and planning come in handy. I hate the long chains but the game thrives on them. I preferred the shorter chains of the first game. You can shorten the chains by hiring workers but that comes slowly when you don’t want to keep paying out more real money. There is plenty of variety in game play and it’s a game which keeps you challenged. It will change as I go up the levels and I look forward to discovering whether I enjoy it as much as I ended up enjoying Puzzle Craft. The graphics are really good and the level of organisation in the game is good. There is a really comprehensive review of it on GameZebo.

Call centre standards

Is this what we have come to? Call centre staff wanting to be mean to us and we want to be irritated  by and mean to them? The comments under the clip are just as revealing. We have done this to ourselves. We have allowed technology to run a system which is not suiting either side in many instances. Some companies and organisations have very good and effective call centre procedures so everyone is happy . Others do not. Apparently there are no call centre industry standards and that is maybe something we should be looking at. ContactCentreCentral has an article about the myth of call centre standards:

“I wish such a formula existed. I even wish there was a standards body that published verified performance measures.  But there isn’t.  And there never will be. We refer to the contact centre as an industry, implying consensus and uniformity where it doesn’t really exist. The reality is that each contact center is unique in terms of the value it provides to the enterprise, unique in terms of the skill and knowledge of the management team and unique in terms of the centre’s culture”

Talkdesk has some benchmark statistics which would only come into play if the organisation or enterprise has competition. In that case , what appears to be happening is that people are taking the solutions into their own hands and that might work initially but then it will create yet another bottleneck as companies and organisations address the change in client behaviour. Britain has been working hard to address call centre issues because it is costing people time, money and their health. The  DailyMail published an article about what health issues lengthy call waiting could  possibly create. That is something which needs to be researched , established and dealt with in a society which rates work/life balance and wellbeing highly. MyfamilyclubUK has some interesting work arounds to avoid long call queue waiting. I certainly have never forgotten the time I was on Twitter while I was waiting in a call queue and I actually solved my query on Twitter with the help of that company while I was still waiting in the queue. I stayed in the queue and encouraged them to keep providing that social media service. Emails /voicemail only work if you get the call back or a response to your email which helps solve the issue. People are in call queues because they need to solve a problem. If it can be resolved off the phone then that will save time and costs. I am also in favour of the call back option. That works for me. I am happy if I know that I’ll get a call in an hour or whatever they say. That is helpful and I can get on with my life. Talkdesk also has an article on improving call queues. They believe it comes back to staffing but that may not be the case when it comes to an emergency or an unexpected set of circumstances which then has everyone on the phone. Call abandonment is often how companies judge the success of their call centre system. If, however, it doesn’t matter how many people hang up because they cannot get through , then that is not addressing this call centre problem. I think we do need to look at better ways of managing this. I think we need to use our technology options to help us. We can use texting, voicemail, email, chat, phone calls, social media. There are so many ways we can communicate these days. We need to clearly identify the issues and then clearly develop ways of stopping call queues of 20, 30 or 40 minutes. If the call is costing nothing, that is not an issue. I know people who leave the call on speaker phone and then jump to answer it when it’s their turn. Some numbers are expensive to call because of mobile phone costs or the cost of the number being dialled. I am not sure what holds places back from using the toll free 1800 numbers. In terms of social justice and equity it’s a sensible decision. I’d like to think we’ll resolve this call centre craziness we’ve brought upon ourselves . We need to start that conversation now.

Call queue craziness

 

 

This is an interesting clip from Singapore. It identifies some of the man-made madness of call queues but it is a problem world  wide. I wonder which country has dealt with this effectively? It’s a situation we have brought upon ourselves with the advent of ubiquitous technology use and it’s something we need to address. The main problems seem to be :

Waits of 10 minutes or more. More is frequent.

Numbers – punching in option numbers, ID numbers, PIN numbers, passcode numbers

Verification of voice or secret word

Cost of queueing

Dropping out of the queue somehow

Having to constantly repeat yourself

There are a number of videos on You Tube which highlight both sides of the call queue . A customer rings because they have a problem. If they then have to pass through a series of hoops and then an interminable wait it can create anger and emotional issues. The call centre staff will then be dealing with someone who is not reasonable.

The other aspect is you can be offered an email option which only works when the email is responded to in person in a reasonable time frame. The automated responses acknowledges receipt but then you need to know that your query is being resolved. How long is a reasonable wait for an email response?

There are also time differences and language differences. Customers can be in different time zones which does have its impact and then they can be talking to someone who doesn’t understand them or they don’t understand the call centre person. Clear communication is central to effective problem solving.

We live in a complex world because we have technology and so many options. Next post I’ll look at some of the solutions.

Call centre queues

I am going to write a trilogy of blog posts about call centre queues. It is something which technology has given us and in the age of communication we care not communicating effectively when it comes to customer service through call centres. We have also created a job which is demanding and tough. This video is interesting because the CEO of a company has been into the call centre for his company to gain experience and knowledge. The staff member mentoring him is one who is a designated “escalated calls” resource. The issues around call queues and call centres needs t be addressed. Technology ought to be facilitating customer-business communication but it is evident that it becomes a trap for all concerned and one we are largely ignoring. We should look at it and find some resolutions to pressure cooker situations on the phone.

Set up a mobile phone hotspot

Dottotech’s video is more comprehensive and goes more slowly but for some reason WordPress won’t let me embed it. You can find that video here. A lot of people already know how to turn their mobile phones into hotspots. It means you are using your 4G network to set up your own wireless hotspot which you can connect to. I use my old Samsung Galaxy Express to be the hotspot and then connect my laptop , phone or tablet to that. It means I am running a separate sim card but for that I use prepaid and can make the data choices which suit me and my needs at the time. You may not have wifi access. Not all places can easily offer free public wifi. I live in one of those places. You also might want to do it for security reasons so that you are on a safer network. It can also be a life saver if you need wifi but have no other way of getting it . Yes, it runs up your mobile data costs and you need to be aware of that, but there are times where it becomes a good option for you . If you are unaware of the option you cannot choose it. It is simple to set up and it works well.

I’m using the internet!

I cannot believe it! Back in the  free world and my phone and internet connection have been restored ahead of schedule. Back in the free world! That was no detox. That was horribly hard. I have learned a lot, though, as you always do when life forces you to confront difficulties. I am more than grateful to all the tech support and telecommunications staff who worked so hard and consistently to try to resolve this problem for me. I haven’t had a home phone or proper internet access since 4pm April 26th and that was the second phone/net loss in April. No one’s fault. All part of building an information super highway. I truly do thank all those people who were trying to resolve this and then the ones who got that port swap done. So happy ! Ha ! Ha!

Putting the internet on to boil

I am currently using technology as an appliance. I am still waiting for the port swap to occur which is booked for tomorrow so I haven’t had my home phone or internet since 4pm April 26th. These things take time and telecommunications technicians are flat to the floor boards. It is creating erratic costs and erratic connectivity. I have a home phone number redirect and mobile data and phone to get me by. This is not how I use the internet. These days I put the internet on to boil, make a cup of contacts, maybe a spoonful of banking or  isp dashboard and maybe a splash of looking and searching. No surfing the web for me. No online courses. No online groups. The experience has been interesting to say the least. I don’t spend hours on the net but it is an integral part of who I am and how I live. I don’t just pop on the net to find the nearest coffee shop or quickly make brief contact. Keeping and staying in touch is more than that and being connected is normally normal …

 

Image: blog summall

Phone with cobwebs

Puzzle Craft

Puzzle CraftPuzzle Craft 

Puzzle Craft is a nice little game which I play on the iPad offline but here is an Android version of it too. There really isn’t a need to be online because it’s not reliant on a network of players to enable progression. It’s single player. It’s not a game you can stay on, either. You have to wait until you get money and build up equipment and then you can go farming and mining to build up coins and experience points. At the heart of it is matching sets of similar items so it’s like a match 3 game, but you match more than 3 but it becomes relatively demanding with the treasure chest challenges, exploding gas or wolf attacks. Nothing serious! For a while I didn’t have the coins to employ workers and they certainly help you progress faster through the levels. I am up to level 45 and aiming for 50 where I get the imperial castle. I am not sure what will happen after that or if all I have to do is fill the artefact shelves in the museum. It’s not at all stressful but you do have to think about strategy. At times you run very short of particular resources or tools and have to work out how to manage that. Once you get to level 40 the game becomes more challenging and you have to think more carefully about how you are going to progress.

I have over 400 trimmers, a tool which changes trees to grass. Why? It’s not like hay isn’t easy to come by. I have used a trimmer about 6 times in the game just to get the treasure chest challenges completed. Nothing worse than getting 9 trimmers from the treasure chest when you already have hundreds. Not sure why that is in an otherwise carefully panned and well thought out game. The graphics are good, the progression is well planned and the capacity to engage is there. Trimmers? Who knows what that is all about.

There is a Puzzle Craft 2 which appears to run differently and I look forward to playing that once I have finished this one or have had enough of it.

I am at the stage where I have to make sure I have plenty of tools built up before I can go on t he farm or into the mines. I also have to make sure I am hiring workers as often as possible so I can progress more easily.

This is not a game which tries to get money off you, trick you into paying for progression or needs a financial input so you can play it. There is an option to invest money in it if you want to and that would get you through the levels more quickly. I find I am going through the levels at a rate which is fine. At the moment it seems to be two a day and that is quite a change from the one a week or every four days. It’s the amount of coins you have to invest in tools and workers which makes a difference.

Waiting for the cyber faeries

cyber faerieImage : Cyberfaeries wear boots with my own custom border

We can’t see the information super highway. We can’t see the infrastructure. Even if we work in that industry, we can’t see all those connections all over the planet and then up to satellites and back. We just take it all for granted and yet, it is a hugely complex ,connected world. When a motor highway is being built , repaired or upgraded we can see what is happening and so we understand it . In recent times I have lived through the construction of 2 expressways and a train line extension and electrification in my area and driven past the desal plant being built . You can literally see the landscape change and be amazed at what we are capable of achieving. You manage the inconvenience and disruption because you know what you are dealing with.

When we are rolling out telecommunications infrastructure we can’t see what is happening. We don’t understand the changes and we can’t put the picture together easily. It’s new ground and it’s a J learning curve. We live in the information and communication age , though. Communication is central to getting everyone to work together.

I have had access to a home phone since the 70s and the internet since 1995. It has been tough to do a month with first 8 days of no phone and no internet and currently day 10 of the second adventure of no phone and no internet. I am waiting for a port swap which will hopefully resolve my disconnected state. It’s hard living without unlimited access to data and a phone. I have never needed my mobile phone much so I didn’t have a plan to cover an event such as this. This has never happened before is probably the reason I haven’t thought too much about mobile access and plans.

I have had a lot of conversations with technicians and technical support over this last month. I have also seen a lot of telecommunications people out on my local streets as I drive around, some of them totally lost in the big trenches they have to dig. Everyone is working . Everyone is doing their job. Everyone knows what they know and it’s now we are starting to get those connected conversations which are going to facilitate the process and understanding of what is actually occurring.

Not everyone is having my problem. It’s a classic new millennium situation which requires a 21st century process: personalised learning, customised response and then everyone being part of the conversation to get the feedback and growth which will inspire solutions. Create content – share – get feedback – reflect – create more content…. I have spoken about the internet model so much on this blog.

Technicians I have had personal contact with and the tech support from my ISP have just been getting better and better. People listen to me. They say what they need to say, they give me information and then we move on.

I have had to get really good at mobile technology. Everyone should learn how to set their phone up as a mobile data hotspot. It’s not hard. It’s in the settings and the phone tells you what to do for wifi name and password. It is now a life skill for when there is no wifi, no ethernet. Just you and your devices. In a city you could probably go outside and get free wifi. Doesn’t work like that here. I have to get in my car and drive somewhere and access is not 24/7. You have to learn to make the right decisions about mobile plans and then ,if you get another sim card ,to make the best choices there. Currently I am using my old phone to be the wifi hotspot. I should have made the unlimited talk and text choice for the old phone and used my regular phone for the wifi hotspot. I have learned.

Complex problems need complex solutions. It’s important to know what your options are and understand how you can customise your own survival package depending on where you live and what choices you have. For me mobile data has been critical but then I have been stuck when I need to make a call which isn’t often but not having a phone plan which covers calls in this situation is making it harder. Took the wrong turn at Albuquerque but at the time I didn’t have enough information and the outage wasn’t expected to be this long. I have done it the olden days way and paid my commercial practices a visit. That has been the nice side of this. The other bonus is now I am so familiar with my online information from my online ISP account. It’s a great site which gives very useful and helpful information . I knew it was there and what it did but it is only become meaningful to me now because I have had to have very particular information in order to go from one day to the next. So my top 5 tips:

Know :

your mobile plan and sim card options

where you can access free wifi

your ISP site and what information it provides

how to set up a mobile phone hotspot

how to use one online calling service like Skype , Messenger, What’s App or Facetime phone.

As I mentioned in my previous post, mobile access is expensive and so you have to be really mindful of that. It is something we all need to think about because normal access isn’t expensive at all. We all need a tech outage plan like we have a bushfire plan and an electrical outage plan. Meanwhile I am waiting for the cyber faeries to do their work. Some of them are a bit mischievous and like to play tricks but I have faith the cyber faeries will work their magic and get my cyber connections back.

Messing with mobile


Wordpress says to share my story here. All about narrative these days. In my 14th day of phone/ADSL2 outage for the month. This is from the second lot of scheduled upgrades for my area. My phone never comes back when the outage is over. Waiting for a port swap. This could take a while. Meanwhile I am having to run my connected life disconnected. I feel like a cat up a tree tentatively picking my way through the branches. The mifi worked until it gobbled up my last 500mb data yesterday. Great.  No more mifi. At $10 a gigabyte for mobile data that is not on. So I bought a sim, revived my old Galaxy Express phone and am totally mobile now…trying to economise , find the work arounds and use my data efficiently. I cleaned up the Express. No updates, no notifications and no sites which muck me about and just chew up data because that is how they are designed. They make you click and stuff up and then you have to redo. Meanwhile data is draining. Those sorts of sites are to be avoided. I am back to bluetoothing files, using my stylus for screen accuracy and finding I can do things better on a mobile. It is not the freedom of a wifi connected person with unlimited access. I am a user not a consumer. Either way mobile data plans need to be more generous. There are some improvements. Limited data means limited experience and limited access. I’ ll just have to keep gingerly picking through these branches and hope my free, connected world comes back soon. I don’t  feel upgraded . I do have a weakth of learning challenges, though. This , for instance, is my first blog post ever from a mobile phone. Thank heavens for mobile apps.

The last of the red hot outage queens

no netOutage is the new normal , apparently. For the second time in a month I have had another unexpected Sunday to Wednesday outage on my phone and therefore my internet. Last time my phone didn’t come back as it was supposed to so I actually did a Sunday to Monday outage. Who knows what this one will bring, except my ISP is really onto it this time and has been great at keeping the information to-ing and fro-ing so we know what we are doing should my phone not come back as expected. Which it hasn’t . I am now back in the process of trying to unmuddle the muddle. There is another line mix up again so my calls are going elsewhere. I live in an area which is in the middle of nbn line installation and then line and broadband upgrades. Telecommunications staff are pushed to their limit at the moment. Establishing nbn into Australia is a massive job. Upgrading networks is a huge undertaking. Some who have signed up to the nbn are saying it’s woefully slow. It probably will be until we have all the connections there. Technology likes all the bits to be the same and they have to be able to talk to each other . If we are introducing old bits to new bits , the old bits are going to get mighty huffy. There needs to be some public awareness programmes going on to raise the profile of what is actually occurring. At this point a decision has been made as to how it will be done. What needs to happen is people need to really be informed as to what that entails.

At no stage have I lost patience with telecommunications staff. They all got up that morning to do their job. They are not responsible for the things happening to me , my phone and my internet. They are there to listen and to try and help resolve the issues. ISPs are not the ones who own the lines . Only one ISP is and then nbnco for the optical fibre installation. The work on the upgrades may or may not entail direct involvement with an ISP. I am already in the habit now, if my phone goes down , to start living on M&Ms – mobile and mifi.

I check my isp site

I check the aussie outages site

I check the Telstra site because they own the lines involved with nbn upgrades.

I check the nbnco site

I check the roads in my area

As inconvenient as it is this , it is the equivalent of building a major expressway and I have lived twice through expressway building . It takes a couple of years and literally ground breaking changes. We cannot see our telecommunications upgrades and so communication with each other and with the key organisers of this upgrade is vital. We have to notice and contribute. As soon as my phone was gone again, I waited an hour and then emailed my ISP after I’d checked as above. Since then there has been useful two way communication.

I have learned :

to prepare what I need t o do on the net to save data

to turn off automatic data downloading

have found that Facebook phone calling is good

have navigated my mobile devices better and know more about them

have stuck with Linux. As an OS and with the Ubuntu browser I save data

to park myself in the call back queue of my ISP to save my mobile data

It’s not the same as being always connected but it’s manageable and we need to talk about this. About what is happening and what our responsibilities are in a connected world , because we can facilitate the process by sharing of information and then what is actually being done. This way no one gets the blame. No one gets unpleasant surprises and we can just do it until it’s done. Meanwhile I am queued for a call back.

Nutrition information

chicken vs eggsGoogle is trying to improve how it provides us with useful and quality nutrition information . The results are instant and so if you are trying to find out about food or make informed food choices then the option is there to use Google to get a quick answer and then follow it up in your own time and way. It’s not perfect. The more we use it and the more Google can establish what we are trying to do and find out ,the better Google will become. In the search bar you type, for instance :

beef vs chicken or chicken vs eggs

 

chicken vs potatoAt the moment Google needs basic input . It can’t do chicken vs barramundi. If you type something like chicken vs potato you will get 129 million results and they will be about the nutritional information with regard to each food and you will have to make the comparison yourself. If you type something like tomato vs cucumber it will bring up the sites which compare these two foods and then other nutritional sites to do with each. The results are not consistent as yet for each comparison you do and a search engine like Google relies on people input patterns to improve its performance. One day it will dazzle us with its comparisons but right now , it’s still pretty impressive and helpful.

Cyberjargon tools

If you have trouble understanding SMS speak  or cyber jargon which comes up on the Net then I highly recommend the site Lingo2Word. You can decode SMS but you can also dazzle your entourage by coming up with perfect SMS speak! If you click the top  links on the site you will find common emoticons and acronyms that some people use as a matter of course.  The other site for decoding cyberjargon and slang is NetLingo. This site has a sense of humour but it also keeps a current database of all the cyber terms on our planet and so you are always in the know! Currency. It’s about currency.

Usability

 

Is usability a science now? Certainly there is detailed analysis around usability in the design of apps, websites and technology in general. Does detailed analysis and data collection make it a science?  The fact the hue saturation can fatigue users is a fact we know now. If the colour on your sites or in your apps is too saturated then people will tire easily and maybe blame the app or website . Don Norman is the doyen of design and who people interact with it and he is worth listening to because he has spent his life in this area, researching about it and then sharing his ideas. He is widely acknowledged for expertise in the fields of design, usability engineering, and cognitive science. He looks at how people interact emotionally with design and how that plays an important role in what they can or can’t do with technology or will or won’t do. “It’s the real needs of people, what people think they need often isn’t right.”  We do need , at least, cognitive science to determine the best outcomes for people who use technology. We do need to understand how it can impact on others when we choose and select our designs for apps and websites. UserFocus UK  has an interesting discussion about whether usability is now a science or not. It comes to the conclusion :

“But I do think we can agree that as usability practitioners we should at least adopt a scientific way of thinking. By this, I mean we should approach our work with a self-critical and naturally sceptical mind set, and that our methods, whenever circumstances and budgets allow, should employ the scientific method of investigation.”

Usability at the least needs to be informed by science and if you are using technology to teach others then you need to understand the basic , underlying principles of UX and UI design and their emotional impact. That way you make informed choices about what to use and how you present your content.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs 2017

Maslow's hierarchy of needs This revamped version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been making the rounds. I found this one on Twitter by Morten Øverbye. It’s something which has sparked some good discussion on his feed. Adding battery and wifi to the hierarchy of needs acknowledges we have become technology dependent. Does it mean we can’t be stable and secure without them? Is it a first world problem? To have battery there is a bold statement about how we have failed to address the basic requirement of a technology society. We are constantly interrupted by failing batteries, batteries which have a short life, places which don’t sell the batteries we need,waiting for the right battery to be delivered. It really is an implementation problem in our technology paradigm. As for wifi, yes, we are looking for that everywhere, but we also have mobile coverage which can alleviate the problem if we have the money to pay for it. Do we need batteries and wifi before food and water? I think not, but as someone points out , we might need our location services to find food and water. Interesting remodelled hierarchy to ponder and a sign we are changing as a society and that Maslow’s will need to be upgraded.

Easter apps

Color me Easter appHave fun this Easter with the Easter apps reviewed on technologyrocks. Have a Happy Easter!

Google Easter Eggs 2017

These Easter Eggs have been made this year so there is some chance you’ll find something different. Hidden tricks and surprises in programmes and apps are just a nice little fun thing to do as a developer and find as a user. Have fun with your Easter Eggs from Google. Is there an online award for the best tech Easter Egg?

YouTube gaming Easter Eggs

You Tube Gaming

 

 

YouTube has its own gaming subsection where you can just focus on videos to do with games and publish your live gaming videos.  It has the 3 horizontal bars top left which you click on and then you get to the setting which are discussed in the video so that you, too, can find the gaming Easter Eggs.

Check username

namechk siteThere have been a number of funny memes about how hard it is to create a username for some sites because the one you want is always taken and then you try 10 others and end up with something stupid just because you are frustrated trying to find a username. Namechk will cross check usernames across plenty of sites. It means you then have the chance to dignify username choice because you are not in that pressure situation of trying to come up with a username as you are signing up to a site. Namechk will block out the sites where you cannot use that name and highlight the available sites in green. Easy!

Accurate weather information

My favourite free weather app is AusWeather. The graphics are excellent as is the information you get with it. If you can read satellite and radar pictures then you can increase your capacity to interpret weather data. Not all of us can do that and sometimes we just want an app which tells us. Dark Sky is a paid app  for Android and iOS which has been getting excellent reviews. It particularly predicts rain accurately in your area and gives you detailed information and alerts about it. It can handle the snow , too. Down the track it might be able to forecast other weather events for exact locations . The story of how the app came about is interesting. Apps development is becoming increasingly needs based. People have ideas and are connected and are now using the data we produce to create apps which will serve our needs. If you are an events manager, have events planned, have a life where you need to go outside and do things then Dark Sky can take the guesswork out of whether it might rain or not. It would save a lot of heartache and stress when planning outside events. Dark Sky has a website too which you can use and then decide whether you want the app or not. You can download the app here. If you want to know more , Wired has a detailed review.

Windows keyboard shortcuts

Windows 10 shortcutsYou aren’t going to remember all of the keyboard shortcuts for an operating system. Most people know the CTRL-C   CTRL-V shortcuts for copy and paste. If you learned those, you can learn others and it’s a matter of prioritising. Choose the ones you want to know and would help you and learn them one at a time. In the end you’ll know quite a few and some are better than none . There are times when you need to know keyboard shortcuts because it is the only way you can access the screen. Other times it’s good to know them because it just makes things quicker. g-Post has a complete list of Windows 10 shortcuts.

MiFi

MiFi

My new BFF

So what’s MiFi ? I knew about it but it’s not been a thing with anyone I know and I have never seen anyone using one . They have been around for quite a few years and yet, they don’t seem to be a thing in Australia. They are very handy little devices , though , and worth knowing about . The MiFi featured left has saved my internet bacon from the week long loss of my own phone and internet services. When I borrowed the MiFi on Saturday my life changed and I could start feeling connected (normal) again. The MiFi I had was prepaid and I set it up in less than 5 minutes. On this one you can connect up to 10 devices if you want to. It is a life saver during outages. It would be handy if you have mobile access  towers anywhere. It would be great if you were on holidays in Australia and wanted internet access. The one I have been using is as big as the phones we used to have before smart phones became popular. In fact, it fits neatly into one of my old phone cases. It is so portable. It would be good camping or caravaning and I am certain if people knew about them , they’d use them more. Mobile data can be expensive , though and I am not sure why that is. I couldn’t get a mobile broadband stick to work and yet this MiFi connected and settled in straight away. It doesn’t like my netbook but it loves my iPad, my android smart phone an my Linux laptop. It was just as fast and efficient as my normal ADSL2 service. No different in use at all. Knowledge Centre looks at  a number of pocket wifi gadgets. PC Advisor looks at different MiFi gadgets and what to look out for. They can be locked to a mobile carrier like a phone and you might not want that. You can also rent them and that might be an option you need to know about. Lifehacker explains why it is better to use a MiFi device rather than your phone as a tethering device. It really isn’t good for your phone.  I have only known this device for a couple of days and I find it hard not to like it a lot. It is just so handy and convenient and when I get to think about it some more I may just want one of my own. This one has to return to its owner as soon as I have used the data. I learned very quickly only to use one device at a time on the wifi and make sure the other devices had wifi turned off. I also made sure automatic updates were turned off. You do have to pay attention to how your devices are using data when you are attached to these things because, as I said, mobile data does not come cheap. It taught me to discipline my usage!!

Writing , writing and writing

writing Image 10 Best Writing apps

Devices offer a diverse array for writing practice in all its varied forms. You can painfully type your way on a mini touch screen and embarrass yourself publicly in quite a spectacular way like I do if you wish or you can nimbly glide across a touch screen and insert images and sound as quick as lightning. Writing doesn’t have to just stare back at you. You can make it move, talk, connect to a website, a clip. You can add animation and annotations. One of the great experiences I discovered on my iPad was iPad magazines. I still read paper ones from time to time but an iPad magazine might include video clips, text reading, QR codes to go elsewhere on the Net, interviews. The whole thing just jumps into life. It means there are also a variety of tool where students can practise the art of writing, planning writing, publishing, multifaceted writing and a number of literacy skills. When there is a smorgasbord of how you can write and develop your writing then the chances of your writing well and being creative are probably quite high. Some of the “cooler” apps are paid for. It is important to research them well to see if they meet your needs or the needs of your classroom. Any app I plan to use in class I research first and then test it out with a couple of students if I plan to use it. They value participating in reviews. TeachThought has 15 e-book writing apps which seem to be paid but which do come tested, so to speak, and so you can look at them to see the sorts of things the e-book writing apps can do. I can see my students using some of these and loving it. There are also 10 best writing apps recommended on NextWeb. Some of these are free and some of them practise and utilise hand writing skills. My favourite writing app is Notability but I also like Documents Free. Now that I have seen all these other apps I want to try them out because each app creates a different impact. Bottom line? Don’t go anywhere without Evernote! Cross platform, cross device , always there and pretty comprehensive.

Disconnected

outage“Use the cloud, “they said. “It will be so much more effcient. “

“Detox , “said the others.”You’ll feel so liberated without technology.”

“I am neither, “say I.

I have been without internet access and home phone from Sunday afternoon 2nd April until….who knows. My cordless phone reports line in use and there is activity on my internet account which the isp hasn’t blocked. There was no notice on this outage of major proportions. No chance to rally a plan B, to let people know or to organise myself. I was suddenly hurled into a non-connected world. I don’t have a big mobile data plan so using mobile data was not an option. I frugally used what I had to try and get some things achieved. I even went to the library Wednesday and soaked up all the delicious connectivity. Thing is, though, when you are randomly trying to manage a connected world in a non connected way you are nowhere near as efficient as when you have access to technology services. Maslow’s hierarchy of digital needs is a reality these days. The worst thing was that people trying to call my home phone number had been getting a lady in a suburb one over. She has had to battle this as part of an ongoing two week mess with her home phone line. She is with a different isp. Is it really 2017? I haven’t been able to access my banking, my planning, my social media, my online course, my blogs, my searches, my online tools. My outage is caused by the nbn rollout in the area and the technicians have been in my street and around the corner for several weeks now. The outage was notified on the line providers site but I had no knowledge of it. They are not my isp or phone providers. Communication in this day and age ought to be easy. I was in the middle of personal business transactions which needed attention and the capacity to achieve that without the internet and a phone has stretched me to the limit. I feel like I have been thrown into the Tardis and transported back in time. I am scrambling for pens, paper and envelopes. I am going to the library to do things. I am going into my bank to talk to people to resolve the issues and then more pens, paper and stamps. It all feels so cumbersome and awkward. I confess the banking people were so effective , as have been others ,I have had to deal with in person.

None of this has been helped by what would be a strain on our telecommunication services because of the cyclone in Queensland. It’s hard, I know. I do think outages in nbn areas need to be publicly broadcast and notified somehow. People need to have a chance of working out their best way of managing an outage of several days. It is disrupting phone services I found out by talking to others. It is a big infrastructure change. There will be problems but no one is owning and identifying the problems. We are left in the dark and confusion.

It is better to have things on your computer than in the cloud for the reasons I have experienced. There are files and information I can’t access because they are in cloud storage. I do keep plenty of back ups and files ready to access on my computer but not everything and much of what I do is now connected to online services. There are not alternatives. I’ll be rethinking all my cloud things again but there really isn’t a solution to a world which is increasingly online other that to have a rock solid access available and then a well thought out back up plan for when it isn’t. Wouldn’t it be possible to have wifi access available in areas which have outages as they have in major cities?

I know there is mobile broadband. The stick which worked perfectly interstate on a trip refused to work in my time of need. The older stick I had didn’t work either and neither did the other older stick . I tried. I tried on 3 computers to get a mobile broadband stick to work. No. Computer said no.

I don’t feel detoxed. I feel like I can’t run my life properly or effectively. It’s amazingly quiet and I have appreciated that. No ringing, dinging, blipping, plopping, bingly bonging. Nothing. Birds singing, cars passing by and maybe an occasional voice. I have liked that. For some people it would send them to breaking point. No capacity to have or make phone calls and no chance to engage online. They would be isolated like in the olden days. The other thing I have really noticed is that it is so much easier to establish yourself online. People get to know you and your capabilites very quickly because you can showcase them very efficiently. In real life lots of people would not know who you were and what you can do and have no way of connecting with you. I have worked out you can make the real life relationships as positive as online and it allows you to connect really quickly with others . Apply those online skills in the real world and it really facilitates relationship building.

For now, I am glad someone has lent me a mifi gadget. It is saving my life and my sanity. . I am going to rethink my online things and try and get a back up outage plan together. Internet and phone providers need to consider that too , especially when there are major telecommunication infrastructure upgrades going on. You can’t really ask people to lump it. That is not a business plan for technology use at all and the bottom line in all of this is communication. Work with people.

Alexa AI on Raspberry Pi 3

Christopher Barnatt is the consummate professional when it comes to making instructional videos about the Raspberry Pi. Everything is presented carefully and in an organised fashion and the visual aspect of his videos has been honed to perfection. This video is clear, instructive and easy to follow. Christopher Barnatt is a professional futurist and is very comfortable in a changing world which relies on technology development. He wants us to be too and as a consequence he gives us ideas to work on which we can follow. Alexa AI 10, 000 skills available now. Tech Republic has a quick overview of what Alexa AI can do . The video shows you how to set up Alexa AI on a Raspberry Pi 3. I haven’t done it yet and even though I have the recommended wifi dongle for the Pi 2 I may not have sufficient processing power. I might try it and then work out whether I really need a Raspberry Pi 3. Nice little project for a rainy day.

Keep IT knowledge up to date

wizard installs softwareAs I have mentioned before on this blog, the internet shifts about every six months and you have to make some functional and cognitive adjustments to realign yourself with it. It’s not doing that to be difficult. IT is developing at a rapid rate and our skills and knowledge are growing at an exponential rate. Keeping up with the trends is as simple as staying connected with good sites which bring you the up to date news. You won’t want to know all of it and you won’t be able to take it all in. You will know what is happening, though, and you will find things which you immediately connect with. Better Cloud is a site I like to visit and I subscribe to their daily email. I do want to know how to keep Google secure and you might want to know how to explain IT developments and changes to non IT people. There is at least one thing every day which is of value to me…even if it’s just looking at the memes they put up from time to time. One of the acronyms you find frequently on the site is SaaS = software as service. We have the hardware. Big developments and improvements are being made in how software looks, functions and delivers. Much of that it to do with subscription services and hosting 3rd party software elsewhere but you pay to subscribe or sometimes there’s a free and then a premium version. It’s where the cloud services are gaining traction and becoming more important.

Google search tips

Google is probably everyone’s best friend. I don’t know how I lived without it. Lugging an encyclopedia off a shelf and thumbing through used to be a serious, important task, now I just Google. I never have to live in ignorance and I can always know. Google has a lot of built in functionality that you may not be aware of. It pays to keep up to date with their changes to help you find exactly what you need. Your results are as good as your search techniques. Distractify offers 32 great tips for Google searches. I am always using it to look up words, translate single words, dates and so I knew a lot of these. There were a number I didn’t know. Every time you add a new search function to your toolbox you will improve your ability to get what you want!

Adding bullets and numbering in Word

 

I am writing this post because today two people I know were driving themselves crazy trying to get Word to number and bullet properly. Often happens when you have more than one line and not just a list. It’s important to go back to basics and remind yourself to check and double check settings. Sometimes you have to clear the settings out. Word is designed with big companies and offices in mind and so if you change what you are doing frequently you can sometimes fall foul of the settings. You can read straight forward instructions here on computerhope. There are times when it’s most certainly not you – it’s them – and the best thing to do is Google for help with something like: how to fix numbering in Word 2013. You If nothing else you will be comforted to know it’s not just you!!

AI update

No single post could hope to cover all the new innovations with AI. It will , however , give you an orientation to what is being done and what already exists that you can readily identify with. We have voice synthesisers, text to voice synthesisers, we have robotics in car manufacture, mining, hospitals and Japan even has hotels where the check ins are managed by robots. Artificial talking heads are popping up over the Net and have their uses. Professor of AI Nello Cristianini of Bristol University is world renowned in the  field of artificial intelligence. The video explains the sorts of things we are already accustomed to but he has other videos on YouTube which look at the implications of this. Data mining and labelling is critical to optimally functioning AI and so we do have vast quantities of data being kept and sorted through. TechRepublic looks at the top 10 things IBM is doing in AI because machine learning is becoming increasingly important so we can manage the huge amounts of data we have. It has to be sorted , labelled and categorised so we can create the information architecture of tomorrow. If you are interested in AI you can keep up to date with developments with Science Daily. Wired also runs articles on AI developments.

Extract dominant colour

Image: Vaunt

It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to accessorise your latest outfit, decorate your home, create a stunning PowerPoint, an impressive visual presentation, rejig your website or create an appealing app, attention to colour is an essential skill in a visually oriented world where we are looking at everything all the time. Some people have always had a natural colour sense. The rest of us can now use tools to help create a finished product which is visually cohesive and has impact. You do that by extracting the dominant colours of an image and then matching the additional elements to that colour palette. It is easily coded and so there are apps and online sites which will help you keep your sense of colour together and aid you to create web pages, projects, posts and videos which have an intrinsic sense of colour balance. You can also use it to play with colour to get more interesting visual effects.

Vaunt is a free app which will give you plenty of dominant colour extraction options. It is as simple as dropping the image into the box and then trialling the options until you get what you prefer. There are two other quick and easy online sites for doing this as well but without the extractions options: Color Thief and Vibrant.

Enjoy!

IT skills for jobs 2017

it skills for jobs

Image : smh 

We are well past the stage where using a computer and mobile devices are desirable job skills. We are very much into the realms of data, SEO (search engine optimisation), apps development and UI/UX (user interface and user experience). Education is not about jobs but the skills people learn through study are generally the sorts of things which will carry them through to employability and the learning skills needed to advance themselves. Students do need to be familiar with the sorts of knowledge which will promote growth in their lives. I have spoken about UX and UI a lot on this blog. In classrooms which use technology it is something teachers need to be aware of. Design and technology  together. There was an article in the Sydney Morning Herald which discussed the sorts of IT skills we are looking for in Australia and it also included the soft skills we seem to be short of : teamwork, ownership and problem solving. Collaboration has been a classroom requirement for a long time as has teamwork. Ownership is about belonging and certainly there have been conversations and practices around that in education in Australia so I am wondering why these skills seem to be missing. CIO looks at the 10 IT skills which are most in demand at the  moment and looks and the reasons why.  The World Economic Forum looks at it from a global perspective and lists the skills we are looking for in the world. Not that much different form what we are looking for in Australia. FastCompany discusses at length three IT skills in particular and why they need to be commonplace now because they are so important to economic growth.  They are also important to an understanding of how technology works and influences us and how technology is being used and leveraged in today’s world. We have a lot of tools and software now. We need to progress to the next phase where we get he best out of them and then understand how they are impacting on us and can impact on us

Texting and driving doesn’t work

Well over a million people  world wide are victims of mobile phone misuse in traffic. Snapchat can be one of the biggest traps these days for people to text and drive. The “snaps” are quick and people are compelled to react to them. The message still has not got through about mobile phones and driving. Why? Plenty of people have been hurt. Too many people have been killed or seriously injured. The police and emergency services are over removing mobile phones from the hands of a deceased person behind a wheel. Nothing sadder when the phone is active and the person is not. YouTube is now full of videos of people using mobile phones and driving. There are personal videos, police videos and advertising designed to stop people indulging this destructive habit. It’s like people cannot understand it’s dangerous. It’s their mobile phone. It rises above all. It conquers all. It is invincible. There are people , like the instructors in this Belgian driving school, who are trying hard to help people break these stuck thoughts about mobile phones. It really is important to clearly demonstrate why this is dangerous and how it is because people just are not getting it. Technology has given us mobile phones but it has also given us the avenues for constantly re educating people about good uses of mobile technology as opposed to dangerous ones. 

Wireframing digital lesson planning

digital lesson planning

Teachers probably need to wireframe assessment plans and lesson plans on a reasonably regular basis. Wireframing means you can get the block areas of the document easily so that you are covering all the current requirements. I have put an example up from i21zone because one of the key features of this is that it covers technology in a sound way. A lesson plan (or assessment plan) now needs to include so many elements:

lesson goals/outcomes

lesson content

digital resources

cross curriculum links

other resources

acara subject

acara general capabilities

student performance standards

teacher performance standards

inclusion

accessibility

school site plan

There are other things which should and could be added and that is my point. Lesson planning and topic planning in the 21st century has become complex and mostly for good reason. It would be a good exercise, then to sit and map out a wireframe for the perfect lesson planning document to suit your needs. It would also be an interesting exercise to sit and group plan a wireframe for the most suitable lesson planning document. Wireframing could just be done with pen and paper. but there are free apps you can try for wireframing. You need to get a list of the elements first. Once that is done the blocks need to be designed and the y have to fit an A4 page. It’s all part and parcel of aitsl encouraging teachers to base their lesson planning on reason. It is also why the innovation unit in the UK has done so much work around getting the right lessons for students. In the end it is about getting a template which suits your needs and the needs of whom you are teaching. Without it you are carrying all that stuff around in your head and it’s draining.

Innovation is done

Looking around the inside of one of Google’s data centres is fascinating and you can hear from the vice president of the Google data centres himself. As he says , innovation is not done, not by a long shot. We may eventually get to the stage where we have smaller, more efficient data centres but that will take time, planning , thinking and innovation. You can see from the tour that a lot of thinking has gone into place to create a centre like this. I use Google all the time. I have never really thought about it being a place which has to be maintained and had no concept of the enormity of it. I just use Google. The centre is run on hard work but thought has had to go in as to how to manage the sustainability of a place like that. I am wondering what the air quality is like inside this water cooled, air conditioned centre. As they move around on their little scooters then some thought has gone into physical activity. You could not sit all day as you worked somewhere like this. All this for my Google searches and Google apps. It’s not just what goes on our screens which is important. It is all the work and infrastructure behind it which allows you to understand just what we are achieving and then to understand what the vice president of Google data centres clearly understands. We are not done yet with the innovation for the brains of the internet. We need to grow and develop our own brains to keep moving forward.

Checkbox for Ubuntu 16-04

I discovered Checkbox at the time I also discovered that if you press the Windows key on your keyboard, the Unity screen comes up. I had pressed the Windows key and there was Checkbox, an app I had not seen or heard of. It is a very thorough system checker and you can see the impressive list of what it checks on the Ubuntu help page. It checks everything! The video I have on this post has no sound but is a live example of what it is like to use Checkbox and how you can select preferences. I got it to check everything and it takes a while. I did have one problem. There was no opt out when the tests came up and it was too hard at the time to get my headset and earphones when Checkbox was doing the test for those. I was under time pressure . When I used the laptop later in the day I nearly blew my ears off with the racket coming from my speakers. Checkbox had set the volume to very high and the sound distortion was incredible. Easily fixed though, and my own fault for not plugging things in. It’s a very comprehensive diagnostic tool and worth knowing about. Checkbox is still an active Ubuntu project so the refinements and improvements are happening all the time. It is very much a community, collaborative project.

Content review

content planningIt doesn’t matter who you are providing content for. It doesn’t matter if you are an educator, a business owner, a trainer , an entrepreneur, an organisation, society or individual, you have to create a process whereby you review the content you are producing. I have created two slides which show how I quickly assess my content. It has to be current. My content has to address the fact I have a number of visitors from all different countries, some of whom do not speak English. I have to make some sort of effort to ensure the limitations of electronic translators will not mar comprehension. It is also important to be aware that you can offer your content in different ways and that visual literacy is very important in a digital world. Sometimes you find old content you created which needs to be updated and made relevant because the core messages and information are still relevant. People want to know there is value in content. They want to be able to use it, add to it, grow it and move it forward.

content review If you want them to act on your content you need to explain why and give them reasons for doing so. Content also needs to be appropriate for the audience. Nothing more unsettling to find out you don’t belong where that content is and you don’t want anything more to do with it. The opposite is also true. You find yourself engaging with content and then find yourself asking – What was that all about? Why did I bother? There was nothing in it. There are what are known as puff pieces. Your content review then has to focus on relevancy and context. You need to create a framework to ensure others can see the relevance of your content. Some of that it is in your display. Some of it is the perspective you offer and the way in which you show the value of the content. People like to have takeaways. They are surrounded with information and stuff. If you don’t look at the creation, presentation and development of your content in a constructive way then you just become part of digital chatter.

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