Sustainable living – CD repurposing

I have just made one of these drop spinners from a couple of old DVDs and it works like a charm. It is a good way to recycle, reuse, repurpose and create something which is functional. I find the CD drop spinner very easy to use because I can easily get the clockwise twirl with one hand as I hold the yarn with the other. It is all good thinking. You have to trouble shoot, look for bits which will make the drop spindle and find the fibre which works the best. You can start with cotton wool balls to get started. it teaches hand eye co ordination, develops peripheral skills and then you have to develop a rhythm. The CDs can be decorated to get a nice pattern as you twirl them. The video is evidence of life long learning and a commitment to a sustainable planet. I actually used the backs of teddy plastic eyes to hold the CDs in place and then some grommets to buffer the CDs. I also used some beads to weight the bottom of the stick. It’s a great maker learning project. There are written instructions on World in a spin.

Managing your online identity

If you google Cathy Woods you will find many references to the exonerated Nevada murderess who erroneously served 35 years in gaol. Google is swamped with people with your name who lead interesting lives. You do need to know what comes up under your name if you are running online accounts. Does it worry me? No. I could probably pay to get my profile up there on Google. Do I need to? No. People can find me if they want to because I manage my online identity so that those I want to find me can. If you google sally07 then my Twitter account will come up and it’s the reason I can’t change my Twitter handle. I have the account in my name but the handle is my old one from the days where we didn’t use our real names. The world changed and I blogged about my decision to be myself online. That Twitter handle has to stay, though.  It carries with it a lot of online positives. I don’t link my Facebook account to anything. Facebook is my online home, I suppose. I check the settings regularly because Facebook makes changes and then doesn’t let you know necessarily . It also broadcasts when you are online, what comments you make, makes you available on Messenger and tells everyone what you like. Stalkers paradise right now. I have turned the sidebar off and I log out now so that I maintain my privacy and the privacy of others. I have changed settings so friends of friends cannot see things. You really need to check your settings on online sites and you really need to be aware of how this may or may not be affecting you. My online identity is not the whole of me but it is a genuine facet of me.

Danielle Di-Masi’s video is a good way to start thinking about your online identity and the UNSW article about her follows that up. Forbes also has a good article about managing your online identity and then a link to some tips for improving what you do.

Make the most of online tutorials

We live in a visual world. We have access to devices and the internet. Nobody needs to be stuck. We haven’t quite got to the stage where we are capitalising on the value of video tutorials . Some people are still text based and want text information. Most people have shifted to ingesting video information and it’s worth its weight in gold:

You can find out quickly how to do things
You can promote information to fill in learning gaps
You can highlight relevant information

Different age groups view technology differently at the moment. Older people would probably think it is not very sensible, secure or appropriate to be doing their banking with phones and tablets. It would seem too casual for them and not the way they have been brought up with the highly valued bank book, the important banking and financial meetings and the belief that financial dealings are a very serious business. Younger people would want the ease and convenience of device banking because they are time poor and have a different way of looking at it. Not everything should be done online because there is real value for all concerned to have genuine people contact with real conversations. Online videos , though, can smooth the way to getting people more comfortable with how they can do things differently. All businesses and organisations need their little video tutorials about how to make the most of their services or ideas. Video tutorials help people to know how to do things so they can participate. Trawling through FAQs can often leave people as baffled as they started unless they are well organised and presented. Even FAQs could have videos to help people navigate interfaces and thinking around content.

The how to create a website video by WordPress has had nearly a million views. It was well worth the making of the video and the comments attest to that. Backing up online content with video help is a good way to engage everyone as the aitsl site clearly demonstrates. Videos initiate a culture of participation and can shift thinking and practice. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook all have video capability and so we can all share our thinking, ideas and knowledge in a very easy way to create those connected conversations which will move us all forward instead of dividing us. In truth, there is no generational gap. There is generational advantage which can be shared now across the internet. Every generation has its strengths and videos and images are an efficient way of making those connections.

Digital Eye Strain

Digital Eye Strain (DES) is a self inflicted condition we have brought upon ourselves because we use digital devices so frequently and our world requires that we do in order to work, play and organise our lives. Phones and tablets put out enough light to illuminate a dark room. That ought to remind us we need to take care of our eyes and we need to respond more pro actively to looking after them. It comes down to knowing what to do, taking action and reminding others to take action. Constantly staring at screens is creating problems for people so we need to be sensible and build in the health routines which will alleviate some of these problems. Vision Optique has some helpful inforgraphics to show us what some of the problems are and then some very helpful ideas to show us how to improve what we are doing so we avoid digital eyestrain. None of it is hard. Optometrytimes looks at how DES is affecting people and what can be done about it. Again there are some good visuals to help us.

How to insert a SIM card

It came to my attention last week there are people who don’t know how to insert a SIM card into a phone or feel insecure about replacing one. They don’t know where to start and they don’t know what to do and think they will break their very expensive phone. I have further noticed, now I want to do this blog post, that YouTube has mostly old videos about inserting SIM cards. The world is probably assuming that by now we know how to do this because mobile devices are no longer new technology. They have been around for a long time. I have used a video for an iPhone. There is a video for Android phones here. If you cannot insert and remove a SIM card you are not in control of your device and can’t use it independently. We all need to know something this basic and we should ensure people around us are comfortable with an essential functional behaviour with regard to mobile devices. And what does SIM stand for ? System Information Module.

Make your own cloud

wiredzero talks you through how to set up your own cloud storage on Linux but , as he says, you can set it up on any operating system. If you want something which is already done for you , then you need to be looking at CNET’s video and if you want a Raspberry Pi project then AvoidErrors has a video about setting up cloud storage using a Raspberry Pi.

Cloud storage has become a bit of a thing because we do have large amounts of data , especially in media files and we want to be able to access them when we want to. We also are getting to the point where our smartphones are becoming overloaded with data files and we need to rethink our storage. Personal or third party cloud storage is then an option provided you have internet access. Pocket drives are the option if you don’t. You cannot always connect a pocket drive to a smart phone , though. Most people would need a laptop so cloud storage is back on the menu of options.

People want to be able to use their own files and their own media in particular. We are closer to the day where we shall only have digital media files and no hard copies of anything. Creating a personal cloud still means you are using a service from somewhere . You need to understand how you can benefit from cloud services or what they offer so you can decide whether it is for you. Cloudwards gives you a detailed run down on the free services available. With the wiredzero video you are making your own virtual server to store your media so that you are in control of your media storage.

What’s DevOps?

DevOps is a new , highly paid IT job but it’s a concept we all need to understand. It’s about smoothing the path between developers and users so that the software is better suited to the environment in which it works and the  people who use it can get the best out of it for what they want to do. In an economy it’s about making yourself the one who is seen, heard and used. ACADGILD explains it really well but then pushes its company. I have used the video by Sanjeev Sharma. He explains it really well and has a lot of experience in the field. The world has changed and the world is changing. We want to use technology in a way which suits us and we want it to be able to do what we want it to be able to do. Developers can come up with ideas and projects . Some of those now are launched as test/lite projects to gain valuable feedback for further development. We do not live in a static world. We now live in a world of communication, collaboration and constant improvement which is why the concept of DevOps has to be understood. Developers can create things but they may not suit the market, the audience or the environment. They may create software which is half way decent and then we need  input to get it to be the best software for the time and place. I sometimes contact developers because I can make suggestions as to how I think something can improve in its functionality or if the software works well on one device and has limitations on another. Software development is complex. Developers work hard and long hours. I don’t expect my changes to occur and I usually only offer suggestions if I am asked. TheAstronauts blog explains why developers are not really interested in your unsolicited ideas. The explanation hits home. The feedback loop is becoming part of most organisations and businesses now and needs to be a part of everything. I have given feedback and thought, well, that’s not going to help, because the feedback form is too limited or doesn’t actually allow you to pinpoint the problems or clearly make observations. That’s when I blog or tweet if I want to. If I think something needs to be changed I put it out there into the ether. It will be picked up. It will be read. It will be considered. People can only do what they do and we have to avoid swamping them. If I have used classroom software which doesn’t quite work in that situation I haven’t hesitated to contact someone who would be able to make the changes and have a conversation. Today that is essential. It is important to be pleasant, polite, concise and prepared to wait . Offering suggestions is part of the process now. I have been stunned by how quickly some things are changed for the better. I have been pleased to see how many sites now include that feedback loop. In the end we’ll all get good at this idea of DevOps. We are no longer a world of victims when it comes to development. We are now part of a collaborative process.

Design and Agile Thinking

agile - definitionAgile is the new buzz word. Agile thinking, agile management, but it comes from the IT industry and software development. It is about including the user to ensure good outcomes with design , delivery and functionality. The  key elements are here on LeadingStrategicInitiatives. It comes back to what I have been saying: the tried and true internet way of doing things: Create content, share , gain feedback and then grow your ideas. It’s a constant improvement , growth circle. Spiral , maybe ,because you are always getting better.

Agile and Design thinking are at the heart of our Professional Teaching Standards but they haven’t been articulated in that way. They have been out since 2011 and perhaps need to be refreshed so that we can see clearly these standards are very much part of the 21st Century.

1.
Know students and how they learn
Refer to the Standard
at each career stage
2.
Know the content and how to teach it
3.
Plan for and implement effective teaching and learning
4.
Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments
5.
Assess, provide feedback and report on student learning
6.
Engage in professional learning
7.
Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers
and the community

If you look at the video clip you can see how well our standards fit in with the elements of design and agile thinking. Knowing others and engaging with them is fundamental to design and agile thinking. Getting that feedback so you can improve delivery and experience is fundamental too.

These principles of design and agile thinking are articulated within the standards e.g.

1.3 Design and implement
teaching strategies that are
responsive to the learning
strengths and needs of
students from diverse
linguistic, cultural, religious and
socioeconomic backgrounds.

2.2 Lead initiatives that utilise
comprehensive content knowledge to
improve the selection and sequencing
of content into coherently organised
learning and teaching programs

3.2 Work with colleagues to plan, evaluate
and modify learning and teaching
programs to create productive learning
environments that engage all students

4.1 Demonstrate and lead by example
the development of productive and
inclusive learning environments
across the school by reviewing
inclusive strategies and exploring new
approaches to engage and support
all students

Design thinking is : Understand, Explore, Prototype , Evaluate

Agile Thinking is about bearing the end user in mind, making incremental improvements and gaining feedback before you move on.

These types of current and technological thinking are at the heart of our standards . We call them growth mindset and improvement model.

SlideShare revisited

SlideShareSlideShare has partnered with LinkedIn or vice versa and has a whole new look. It suits the new device environments better and has a very good visual interface. I originally used SlideShare to improve my presentation skills and then to produce content for my class room. It was also a place where I could get ready made content for my classroom. Slide presentations are perfect for flipped learning, for IWB presentations and for sharing detailed and well thought out information which uses the essential notion of progressive disclosure. I had a student who would automatically create her own slide presentations from information I was teaching and then she had a beautiful visual record of what she was learning. There is now a clipboard section which I shall have to find out about because I have only just discovered through an email that SlideShare has been resurrected. We live in a visual world. We need well thought out presentations to guide us through and an easy platform for sharing our information. The feedback I got from the SlideShare community really helped me to improve how I presented my information and the success of some of my presentations both in the classroom and on SlideShare is proof that feedback works in a powerful way.

Benefits of gaming

Let’s get this clear. It is not all gaming and it is not binge gaming. There has to be discernment and balance with gaming as there ought to be with other things in life. One of the unexpected benefits of gaming I have discovered in my research into gaming is that they are actually helpful to people undergoing treatments for cancer and for pain management therapy. Cancer treatment of America looks at the benefits of gaming for cancer patients. It has been particularly good for children because it reduces the amount of pain killers they have to be on. NCBI has published research on the use of video games for pain management. Psychology Today looks at the cognitive benefits of game playing which is what has mostly been picked up in the media. Dr. Mark Griffiths who is a professor at the Nottingham Trent University in the UK looks at the educational benefits of video games in his research. C. Shawn Green and Aaron R. Seitz have a very thorough look at the impact of gaming and which games are helpful and how they are helpful neurologically . It also makes clear that games have to be tailored to the individual in order for them to be having a positive impact on cognition, attention and neurological development:

“The effect of a game depends on how it is interacted
with—A key difference from the action of a drug is that the
impact of a video game depends on how that individual interacts
with the game, with individual differences in motivation,
personality, and nascent cognitive abilities leading to
completely different game experiences. At the extreme, it is
obvious that having a child with ADHD press random buttons
on the game controller will provide an ineffective learning
experience. Thus, the results of a given video game
intervention can vary widely across individuals. While we
have discussed data from many demographic groups (from
children to seniors; from those with mental health impairments
to athletes and surgeons), showing that video games
can positively influence many demographics, there are
numerous reasons why a game that helps one individual may
or may not have the same effects on another.”

Impact of gaming

Daphne Bavelier is a professor at the University of Geneva in the area of cognitive neuroscience. Her research is identifying the impact of gaming on brain plasticity and brain function in people who are gamers. She is looking at the effects gaming has on brain function and that is important. There also needs to be research by gamers who understand gaming from the inside to know what gaming is doing to cognitive abilities and function. Gaming will improve your vision, your capacity to think fast, your capacity to absorb fine detail. Anyone who games at the high end is processing text, audio, visuals and decision making at lightning speed. The comments under the video add another layer of understanding because they are largely comments by gamers. Her comment of gaming 15 hours a week is too conservative. People can play games for 10 to 15 hours a day. We need to understand all of these things. We need to see how the patterns are formed and how the thinking is developed and what exactly is happening when people game.

test goldfish to climb a tree Gamers are in their 30s. Children grow up in homes with parents who are gamers now. It is a part of our society. Daphne Bavelier observes that the  benefits of gaming can be used in all sorts of ways to improve cognitive and visual function in non gaming people and there is information  to follow up on.  Gaming is such a big part of life now there will be a problem with students who are tested using only static text based tests. This is not how many of them operate or process screen information. It’s the testing the goldfish to climb a tree meme so we need to be looking at better ways of finding out how people are learning through games and what exactly they are learning. Professor Bavelier’s work is throwing light onto that.

Visual planning

Habitica

Image: Habitica

There are so many visual planning apps and so much software these days for individual and collaborative use. Trello is one of the reliable, well known ones which also comes as an app from the Microsoft store for Windows 10. Techworld has a list of recommendations for worthwhile project planning tools to consider. It is  worth reading the comments too as they give other ideas about good visual planning tools people are using.
RealTimeBoard has a suite of tools for different purposes in terms of visual planning and they all have a free version as well as premium versions. My own favourite is MeisterTask which is good in that it breaks down the tasks for you so that you focus on the individual components and then there is room for collaboration if desired. Habitica adds a questing and gaming layer to increase motivation and achievement if that is what you like. All these planning tools allow you to see what you are doing and what you are achieving. You get sound visual feedback on progress and success so you don’t overlook the fact you have been working hard towards goals. You can see what has been done and what needs to be done very easily. That keeps you positive and motivated.

Make a vision board

Vision boards are actually about accountability and responsibility. When you create a vision board you are taking responsibility for who you are and what you represent and then you make yourself accountable for that because you are getting visual feedback about yourself and your ideas. Vision boards are a good way to look at your visual image and that is important in the digital world. You have to come to some kind of understanding of how you are representing yourself online and what that might mean and the impact that might have. Vision boards allow you to take control of visual imagery and , in particular, images which represent you . To do a now and future self is not such a bad idea. You can look at how you want to project yourself, how you want to be, what you want to be important. We relate very quickly to images and so do others. A vision board can sum us up in one view. That might be important in the digital world. How do I want others to view me? Why? Brand is built on images and action. You have to know what that entails and how to do it. I had a home group where we all made vision boards at the beginning of the year. We pinned them at the back of the class so we saw them every morning when we came in. The vision boards never failed to make an impact or a statement. Other students who came into the class room could see the ideas and inspiration. It had a positive snowball effect every day. The students who made them had a strong sense of self that year and were motivated to achieve what was there on the wall or to be clear why they didn’t want that in their life and thinking any more. The vision boards brought about a clarity of vision and inspiration and then a framework which acted as a personal guide and ideas generator for others. For me as a teacher it meant I became aware of things about my students I wouldn’t have known just by having home group. I could see their art skills, their ideas, their dreams and the fun . The choices you make to create a vision board is part of the cognitive process and along the way you learn a lot about technology if you do a digital one. It’s your vision board, you want it to be right.

Best Smart Phone apps 2017

Because we all need new smart phone apps! We do. Developers are highly productive and becoming more creative and so it pays to check from time to time to see if there are apps which will improve and enhance your life and productivity. Phones are becoming more the must have device because they can now control and manage so much as well as serve their function as a communications device. Both android and iPhone are offering some really good new apps this year. PCMag has 100 new apps for android phones you can have a look through . popularmechanics has 23 iPhone apps for your consideration and then the video offers some more. Have fun!

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!!

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