Posts in Category "Uncategorized"

April 9, 2012

“Please sir, I want some more.”

I have seen the future and it is a scary place, and many will indeed be saying, “I want more”.

Our school board is undergoing a major philosophical shift by adoping a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) approach to equipping classrooms with digital devices. Their intent is to;
– put their money into fewer and fewer computers, especially full classroom labs,
– encourage students to bring their own devices, thereby saving the costs for that equipment
– use more and more freeware as much as possible
– give students increased access to the internet, including Youtube which is now available to them
– buy school-based equipment such as laptops, notebooks and tablettes which will live on carts so they can be rolled to any classroom (and since the whole school is now a wireless zone cabling is not an issue) in order to offer this support to students unable to bring their own devices
– keep a few specialaized labs such as our two multimedia labs and two business labs, because of their unique technicala and ergonomic requirements

On the surface this is both scary and wonderful. I am heartily in favour of allowing students, even encouraging students, to work more independantly including using their own digital devices. The obvious downside is – they won’t have the “correct” software and there is no money for them to get it through the school. As budgets dissolve and needs increase this solution will be seen in increasing numbers all over the world. Yes, the school board has immediately recognized that they must, and in fact have, set aside money for laptops, notebooks and tablettes for the students who cannot afford them. And of course, those machines will be loaded with the required software. On the surface it looks very interesting. Score one for student and teacher freedom…. score one for budgetary restraint… not so sure about the rest….

The push to use more and more Freeware is also interesting, and problematic. On the positive side, every student will be able to now have the software used at school, and it will be free. You simply cannot get better than that, assuming it actually works, and that it allows sufficient growth for the students to buld their skill sets appropraitely. After exploring several free alternatives to Photoshop I found that both Sumo Paint and PixLr were kind of interesting. They really evoke the look and feel of Photoshop so using these tools now would still allow a student to transfer their skills to Photoshop at a later date quite easily, disarmingly easily. I was quite surprised at how similar they were. And no, they do not do it all. They are not the real thing. But they were surprisingly good. And they were free. As of this moment I have not seen a response from Adobe or from our provincial Ministry of Education regarding the modification of their province wide licences for Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 and or Premier Elements 8 and Adobe CS4 Web Standard such that students would be able to use this software on their own devices, versus the surrent status on school devices only. BYOD may demand that this arrangement be redefined.

There are many, many other areas of concern, but this at least recognizes a few to start. On the surface I am very interested, but under the surface I see many problems. I also see a re-arranging of the old world in which software companies will need to redefine how and where they make their money. Freeware is not great, but the students I know who use Open Office, for example, are very happy with it and their parents are delighted with the cost. Kind of makes you stop and wonder – doesn’t it.

6:17 PM Permalink
March 20, 2012

ON-DEMAND AMNESIA AT THE SELF-SERVE WINDOW OF EDUCATION

Plato, the smartest man I know, is often credited with having said something to the effects that “if I know anything, it’s that I know nothing at all.
Was he alluding to his own philosophy of ideal form and the fact that he considered himself a perpetual student of life-unformed, unperfected and still in the processs of attaining to perfection-perhaps. Could it be that he was genuinely suffering from some sort of senile dementia that had robbed him of his intrinsic capacity for memorization?
I think that it was a little of both. To understand this we need to re-visit history- both Plato’s history and the phenomenon of history itself.
The historical narrative as we know it in the west today underwent tectonic changes in the period leading up to and beyond the time of Plato.
Traditionally, a people’s history, it’s myths, customs and secrets to survival were encoded and transmitted through a rich mix of media forms that included image, song, dance, story and elaborate eulogies and rituals. This mix of media was used as a mnemonic device to facilitate burning the shared narrative into the collective conscious.
Attending to this legacy of collective wisdom required a collective response and all members of early societies were compelled to bear the burden of the cognitive load of their history by committing some or all of it to memory. This titanic feat of memorization was facilitated through their participation in rituals designed to replicate the DNA of their narrative. This form of the shared burden of memory was highly codified and participatory in nature and constituted a significant drain on the resources of early people’s and may well have been the impetus behind the shift from hunter gatherer societies to sedentary agrarian modes.
The birth of the sign, be it a hand on a cave wall, a hieroglyph or cuneiform impression in clay, “marks” a major shift in media that allowed history, narrative and collective memory to be externalized. According to seminal theorists like Harold Innis, Erik Havelock, Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong, the shift to writing revolutionized the manner in which we were able to organize ourselves and, in the end, our systems of thought. With the embrace of writing, ideas could be disembodied and travel through time and space to reshape the power constructs that shaped our social contract and its associated value systems.
The move to embrace the technology of writing, for all it’s promise, was hotly contested by the Greeks of Plato’s time (It has been contended that Homer and the Iliad was a collection of oral stories that were shaped into a collectively celebrated and performed oral chorus that were eventually canonized into an official text under the aegis of a single author) An early Egyptian account of Pharaoh’s rebuff of the god Toth’s gift of writing also speaks to this issue. Pharaoh contended that writing one’s history would invite sloth and forgetfulness in his subjects. Aristotle pushed writing as a means to establishing standards, verifiable facts and officially sanctioned versions of events-a singular perspective over a mosaic-the very things that make empires and institutions possible. Historical narrative and identity went from being a living, shared legacy to a lifeless, static disembodied archive that had to be retrieved and reconstituted, often without the crucial keys of context. The complex data set of living history was no longer participated in by those who had lived it. If one’s experience was deemed to be valid, it would then be recorded, re-framed and redacted by a singular author. This created a world view that had shifted from composite view to a one point perspective.
The advent of the internet and social media has once again invited a composite and participatory narrative where we can upload testimonials to the banal and the sublime dimensions of our existence. What is interesting to note is that while we are immersed in this participatory narrative, the repository of our experience no longer exists embodied within us in the same way as it did in pre-literate societies. In our state of what Walter Ong refers to as “secondary orality” we have dispensed with the burden of memory. The fact that we use the cloud as a mass-repository of our collective data set allows us to forget. With a simple Google search (Scholars portals for the more academically rigorous) we can conjure up that entire data set on a whim. In short, technology—like spellcheck—has rendered memorization culturally obsolete!
I have observed this phenomenon first-hand in the classroom. Often, when I give a lecture or demonstration, it is painfully obvious to me that few students are paying attention to what I am saying or doing. Performance aside, the fact is that they have access to multiple channels of information through the internet, cell phones, neighbours, etc. and despite prefacing my musings with “THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT IGNORE AT YOUR PERIL!” They continue to push and pull information on demand from these sources. Clearly, I am in direct competition with a staggering array of alternative channels of information. It is not that my students are neglecting to pay attention, they are opting to attend to other priorities at that particular time. It is not that they don’t value what I have to offer either. Invariably, after providing my demos a student will ask a question that I had directly addressed in my presentation. On repeating the demonstration the process frustratingly repeats itself until each student in their own time and on their own terms has what they need from me. At times it feels like I am working the drive-thru window at a burger joint!

What has become obvious to me is,  given that I podcast many of my lectures and that so many similar podcasts abound in places like Youtube, a student can gain access to information if an when THEY need it, NOT when I think they need it. It is truly an ON-DEMAND phenomenon that challenges our assumptions about what constitutes effective teaching and learning. So, despite my frustration at their seeming inattentiveness or inability to memorize I have to remind myself of the environments that they inhabit and the rules of engagement that those environments tend to promote or curtail.
Like it or not we have entered an age of a technologically-induced culture of amnesia and instant gratification. To argue whether or not this is culture has validity vis-a-vis our old teaching and learning ecosystems and their associated methods is not a profitable one, rather, we should be exploring how can we reshape the arena and methods of discourse to facilitate deep and meaningful activity for those who have assumed these new technological milieus as the ground conditions of how they access and use information.

I am still working on the answer to that question!

9:18 PM Permalink
March 13, 2012

Adobe Photoshop Touch and Adobe Connect Pro

Adobe Connect is still a solution in a major snow storm.  Rio and Judy can still collaborative even in a major snow event.  Safety, saving fuel, and the ability to re-watch a lesson are real advantages to Adobe Connect.  The ability to make some hot coco, put another log on the fire, and watch my son learn graphic arts while the snow falls out of a gray sky is a real blessing.  The next magical application is Adobe Photoshop Touch.  We are planning to download it this coming weekend for the iPad 2.  Rio is extremely excited to practice lessons on the go from Judy via Adobe Connect using this new kinetic application.  The next blog entry will be about Rio discovering Adobe Photoshop Touch.

Dave Forrester

1:45 AM Permalink
December 28, 2011

Introduction and ponderings on James’ Tar Pit

Hello James et al.  A very interesting and thought provoking commentary on our ever changing quest for knowledge, albeit Canadian.  I suspect that most teachers in western countries feel much the same. I pondered responding directly to your Tar Pit piece James but thought that an introduction was in order.

Before commenting, I would like to first introduce myself, mainly to contextualise my response.

My name is Deb Whittington and I am a Lecturer in vocational studies in the Printing & Graphic Arts Training Package at Central Institute of Technology in Western Australia.  Training Packages have been created for all core industry groups at a National level in Australia in a partnership between Learning Providers, Industry and the Federal Government, and constitute minimum knowledge and skills required by industry.

They are at once both simpler and harder than traditional curriculum, and contain units of competence, each with their own elements of competence with criteria.  Students are assessed both on-the-job and/or in a simulated workplace, as competent or not yet competent.  There is no pass mark.  Pure and simple – you can either do it, or you can’t.  You either have the knowledge, or you don’t.  The acquisition of knowledge, understanding and competence is overseen by workplace trainers and assessors with significant, high level experience and knowledge.  I occupy that position with tenure.

Training Packages do not replace traditional high school, though many schools are now opting to deliver simulated workplace training and assessment as a vocational alternative to traditional, academic studies.

I must first say that I am by no means a traditional academic!

People talk about life long learning.  I have been blessed with a moderately high intellect, and have been greedily learning all that I could on subjects that have fascinated me since I was 3 years old.  I am now 57 and I still feel that I am in a lolly shop full of knowledge and there is not enough time to explore and learn all that I would like.  But like many young people today, I need a better reason to learn than that it is “what is required”.

I’m fascinated by Jungian type theory and it’s role as a potential tool to understanding and nurturing aptitude and talent, with particular regard to left-brain/right-brain balance skills such as graphic technologies.  In terms of MBTI and Keirsey’s Temperament Theory, my own preferences are towards INTP with balanced I/E, moderate preferences for T over F and P over J, and very strong preferences for N over S.  I have no S preferences on testing.

With your indulgence I will later post some of my observations, hypotheses and discussions over the past 10 years relating to learning, technologies, design and type (as in typology) preferences.  I believe there are some very interesting correlations between the epidemic, modern diagnosis of AD/HD and Dyslexia, and aptitude for learning, technology and creativity.  This has been supported in discussion with a number of learning gurus.

In response to your piece James, there is a plethora of information available as a result of the technologies of today, BUT I believe our role as educators and trainers is to provide guidance through that minefield of often insufficient or inaccurate information, to teach students to question everything, have faith in themselves, to have the joy of curiosity (or as noted Nobel physicist, Richard Feynman’s book suggests – “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”), and to synthesise and provide context for their learning rather than pursue the old rote learning those of my age were often subjected to at school.  We need to teach them to make informed decisions from a sound understanding.

At the beginning of each semester I ask my students who is there for the piece of paper, and who is there for the knowledge and understanding.  Interestingly, to me at least, those who say they want the piece of paper, frequently do not achieve it.  Those, however, who aspire to the knowledge and understanding, are often their own worst taskmasters, and rarely fail at achieving the piece of paper.

We must return I believe to where knowledge and understanding, and provision of sound reason for methodology, are again the prime target of we educators and trainers.  The other will follow.

10:22 AM Permalink
December 5, 2011

Learning Graphic Art Using Adobe Connect

I wanted to give everyone an update on how learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator are going using Adobe Connect.  I am so excited now!  Judy Durkin and Rio are spending twenty minutes a week together learning about gradients, layers, grouping, and scale using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.  The magic of this arrangement is how I created an Adobe Connect Meeting Room called, “Judy and Rio’s Art Room” opened it up and started the recording for them both.  Rio and Judy have learned how to share their screen, request control of the working space together.  I just start the recording and walk away as Judy teaches Rio thirty miles away.  Rio has gone back to the recording several times during the week to go back over what he learned from Judy.  Rio has been working on gradients, creating Jelly Fish with a blend of red and orange.  He has learned the different between rasterizing and grouping.   I can’t believe how a fourth grader can pick up on Photoshop and Illustrator so quickly.  We may have to start a self portrait of Rio soon, another great idea from Adobe Education Leader Mike Skocko.  I would challenge any parent out there who wants to help their son or daughter learn graphic art from home, webbing in some great art teacher.  Maybe you can have your own web fairy art mother or father for your son or daughter?   Adobe Connect is the tool of the future for education!

Dave Forrester

Adobe Education Leader, Connect Shaman

3:36 AM Permalink
November 27, 2011

Video

We are introducing video into the curriculum ( Graphic Information Technology, Arizona State University). Several students are getting up to speed on Premiere and have produced some videos for the college. ( http://vimeo.com/31663179 ) .  GIT is all about creating content and video needs to be part of the mix!   http://photo.asu.edu

4:20 PM Permalink

STEM in the Middle complete

Another session done! This one involved middle school. It was great to teach science and technology via photography. And as always, great fun to show off what Photoshop can do.

4:12 PM Permalink
October 28, 2011

RISK eBusiness: Moving to a Just In Time Method of Teaching

Trapped in a Tar Pit

Metaphorically speaking, a dinosaur is any entity lacking the capacity to adapt to environmental changes in a timely fashion. While a dinosaur may well possess the ability to adapt it may be an unfortunate accident of biology or culture that predisposes it to an internal rate of transformative change that is relatively static compared to the rate of change in the environmental factors that, normally, support and optimize conditions for its survival. This inability to match the pace of change places the dinosaur at a competitive disadvantage that eventually pushes it to the margins of relevance and results in its eventual extinction—both literal and metaphorical.

No creature would invite change for its own sake and—humans being like most other creatures—expend enormous amounts of energy attempting to stabilize our situation and achieve a form of stasis that allows us not only to survive but to thrive in relative safety and comfort. We tend towards mitigating the effects of the unknown and the unpredictable and this requires apprehending and utilizing knowledge of the environment in order that we might exploit it to advantage.

Our ability to utilize binding symbolic language and symbolic artefacts and to fashion tools that—according to Marshall McLuhan—extend, enhance and accelerate our effective selves, creates a buffer between us and a natural order that challenges us with the timeless struggle for survival.

The fact that we will soon be uneasily celebrating the turnover of our biological counter to the 7 billion mark is a testimony to how successful we have been at disconnecting from or minimizing the risks that the natural order presents. One could argue that this disconnection could be better characterized as a complete domination and subjugation of the environment that carries with it a dire corollary for our long-term survival and that the technocomplex that we created constitutes its own environment with its own evolutionary pressures.

The Silicone  Pit

Iterative improvement and automation have resulted in the sort of hyperbolic innovations that engineer Gordon Moore predicted in the mid 1960’s. The rate of change is dizzying and poses significant challenges to our capacity for adapting to the changes they usher in. The explosion of new technologies, whose cycles of innovation and obsolescence relegate one to the status of instant expert or instant dinosaur in the blink of an eye, constitutes our greatest environmental challenge.

Having knowledge of one’s object of inquiry has traditionally meant being able to give a name to it—to plot its co-ordinates and assay and record its characteristics. This sort of knowledge has traditionally conferred on the inquirer a degree of power and control over their object of inquiry—it is a form of experiential mapping, if you will. However, this is not so easy with respect to characterizing much less predicting the evolutionary trajectory of our modern technological landscape. Mapping the contours of our ever-changing, ever-expanding information and techno-complex is intractable as mapping sand dunes or clouds—the particulars are so infinitely complex and changing that it defies linear, rational and concrete approaches to knowing. It is a phenomenon that has rapidly emerged into a quantum state where power comes from making sense of the relational dimensions between the elements of this complex rather than knowing the particular qualities or quantities associated with the constituent elements themselves. Understanding, then, assumes a holistic character where inductive logic gives way to deductive and intuitive processes that may benefit more from a metaphor or narrative thread with which to frame or anchor one’s understanding of the infinitely complex. This form of knowing differs from the traditional detached objective methods of scientific knowing. Instead, this form of knowing is experiential, immersive and, simultaneously, transforms both subject and object.

Consider that, in using a technology, you have changed the manner in which you interact with the world around you and this results in the emergence of new patterns of behavior, new modes of interaction, shifts in language, value systems and culture and we are irrevocably changed and the system within which this technology has been used is changed too. This implies that the relationship between subject and object have also shifted. In short we see the world in a different way for the simple reason that our internal value systems have dramatically shifted and the world that we inhabit has also dramatically changed. While we highly value information that is accessible and searchable many with the means to do so would pay millions of dollars for a highly inaccessible “original” painting by, say, Rembrandt, while few of us would be willing to pay for a digital version of it. An objects potential for ubiquity works in tension with its unique instantiation. An object that can readily be reproduced and reducing its value to near zero in a commodity-based economy where value is predicated on scarcity. The web-enhanced age in which we live is one of infinite abundance and, hence, traditional economic value cannot be derived from the objects produced in this ecosystem but, rather, from the relationships that it facilitates. While scarcity and  authenticity are still significant arbiters of value today we see from the runaway success of social resources like Face Book

The Renaissance Through the Looking Glass

The age of now has oft been described as one of digital tribalism where the age of empire, standardization, control and concentration of power and influence have given way to chaotic and barbaric forces that truculently refuse to be defined and controlled by the old paradigms. We are advancing toward the past—almost medieval, semi-literate forms of informal, quasi-embodied social interaction where the emphasis is on the relationship—on being there (digitally) and participating in the conversation. It is Walter Ong’s Post-literate society or age of “secondary orality.” We are leaving the time where meaning was defined in terms of rational scientific constructs and entering a new epoch where our old science creates more questions than it is capable of answering—adding to an already infinite data set. We are entering a new mythopoetic age where it is pointless to look at the massive complexity of our modern technological and information ecosystem and hope to induce meaning and significance through observing it. What is significant is that we are not detached from it (as the old science would have it) we are caught up in its turbulence trying to keep our heads above water, as it were. The more sane approach would be to recognize that this leviathan chimera unleashes enormous pressures on us and to not ask what this means but, rather, to demand “what do we wish this this to mean for us now and in the future” and to hold it to account for this vision. We must not embrace technology simply for its own sake, rather, it should be subsumed in the service of our collective vision for the future and, in that sense, we are called upon to dream and to do so boldly. To envision a world where technology and information serves to nurture humanity requires that we come to understand who we are at our root and to what purpose must our hearts and our minds be put. These questions resonate with aspects of spirituality that seem antithetical to the project of science. However both science and technology have no life or no meaning without being grounded in the context of life—of attending and attaining to being fully human in a world that is rich,  diverse and healthy and to this end all human projects should bend their respective backs to the task of enriching life on this planet and, thus, must be held fully accountable to this demand. Human health is linked to a complex web of inter-relationships that extends out beyond the human sphere to include the entire created order. Our evolving technological landscape has the potential to allow us to discover who we are both individually and collectively in relation to the broader world and to deepen the veracity of relationships that putative modern western science, and the tsunami of uncritical progress it unleashed, has unwittingly compromised.

Why Are We Here and What Are We Doing?

The philosophical perspectives/worldview that I outlined in the preceding paragraphs were not derived from gleaning through the tomes of savvy and erudite pop culture gurus (although I owe a great debt to Harold Innis, Eric Havelock, Marshall McLuhan, and Walter Ong and have enjoyed sharing insights articulated by the likes of Richard Ogle, Don Tapscott and Malcolm Gladwell), rather they came from a direct experience of some fundamental changes that I was experiencing in relation to my subject area and my relationship with my students.

 

2:44 PM Permalink
October 17, 2011

Parenting in the 21st Century

Two kids, two jobs, home, cat, soccer practice, piano, and everything in between.  I was sitting around in the living room with my kids one night.  I was trying to figure out how I was going to pack in another activity for my son.  My daughter is a singer, my son an artist.  We started singing lessons for my daughter and my wife and I wanted to keep activities somewhat balanced between the kids.  I could not figure out how I was going to fit in art lessons for my son.  Every night of the week was already packed with family commitments, then lighting struck me, well not really, but a bright light came on in my head.  One word echoed in my brain, “Connect!, Connect!, Connect!”  Yes, Adobe Connect Profession came through again because  I did not have another hour to drive around, gas tank to fill,  snack bag to pack, but I had my Connect Pro Account, Phone Conference Bridge, Computer, Wacom Tablet, and the CS5 Creative Suite.  I called my friend Judy Durkin who lives thirty miles from me and I asked her to be Rio’s fairy art-mother.  She agreed to work with Rio twenty minutes a week.  Yes, you are starting to clue in on what I figured out with Judy, no driving, no gas bills with my large truck, no meeting place, no cleaning the house before Judy arrives, well I did have to clean up behind the webcam. Yes!,  art lessons from the comfort of Judy and Rio’s home each week.  I setup the webcam, Judy and Rio arrived in the Connect Pro Meeting Room, we shared our screen and Judy asked for control of the space with Rio.  I started the recording so Rio could re- watch the lesson several times before the next session with Judy.  Adobe Connect Profession was my new parenting tool for the 21st Century.  I will update everyone on how the new adventure is progressing with my next blog.

 

 

Dave Forrester, Connect Shaman

12:56 AM Permalink
September 12, 2011

Atomization of the Product Ecosystem

With the advent of mobile, pad devices and the app store phenomenon there has been a trend that has effectively atomized product offerings that range from the sublime to the ridiculous (the latter seem to be doing a brisk business). This move away from “fat boy” apps that do everything under the sun to a widget with a streamlined and focused set of functions results in a daunting universe of choice akin to walking in to a candy store whose shelves are brimming to overflowing.
With so much up for grabs it begs the question: “Where do I begin?”
Adobe’s Periodic Table of Applications is no exception. While the products on the Adobe shelves are substantial they ,too, are by necessity, ever-expanding. Even for a seasoned user, the choice of which products will get the job done, is a difficult question that requires considerable research.

I am attempting to lead a transformation of our design department that will deeply integrate digital workflows—particularly those in the mobile space—and have been stymied by the task of trying to make sense of which workflows and toolsets make the most sense for particular contexts. The fact that many of the product offerings have significant overlaps in function make this task all the more intractable.
I made this known to some of the Adobe team while attending the San Jose educational summit this summer. I had bemoaned the fact that there was a palpable need for a killer infographic that detailed all of the production pathways and tools that one should use for particular tasks.

It suspect that  I came off as being rather naive to some of my technologically erudite colleagues. They informed me that there was no “right” way of doing things and that the nuances of each project required the aplomb of a Pebble Beach caddy in order to select the “right club” for the task at hand. While this may make sense for the seasoned professional, the fact remains that the sort of deep and latent process knowledge that many experts take for granted is inaccessible to the neophyte. I mused: “If only there were some sort of pre-application interface that could, through prompts, could ascertain the “WHAT” of your project and then present you with a number of scenarios for the “HOW” that would include workflows and tools.”

Imagine then, from a User Experience perspective, if all of our various expertise were to be explicitly rendered in a database that linked to a rich graphical front end, say, the very colourful Adobe Table of Elements. Imagine after answering a few prompts that branched down didactic rabbit holes of possibilities, the table of contents “LIT UP” like the letter board on Jeopardy! Imagine the pathways to production glowing in front of you, lighting your way from beginning to end!

I hope that Michael Gough, Adobe’s UX design head, has the opportunity to ruminate on this possibility!

3:46 PM Permalink