Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Totally Free!

Update: I wrote about the We7 music website in Free MP3s. At the time I did say, "...there is currently a fairly limited choice of artists". Well, they've just signed a deal with Sony which means there's now a much bigger choice of music. :-)

Just one catch though... No, not the ads. I don't mind the ads. They are surprisingly unintrusive and more than worth listening to in exchange for the chance to download music for free. No the catch is, currently the Sony stuff can only be listened to online and cannot be downloaded. However, in the We7 blog they say, "Its our aim to make all the content ad funded download over time. To do that we have to prove that the artists make the same or more money this way than with the traditional models such as CD sales and pay for downloads." Excellent.

So, how do they make money for the artists? I assume it is by people listening to the tracks (and adverts) online. So here is my Foo Fighters playlist with the albums that I don't currently own:

So if you listen to my playlist, or enrol and create your own, I think the artists will be rewarded and We7 will have evidence that the model works... and I really hope this model works. As I said recently, Copyright law is hugely confusing and hard to understand (The copyright lawyers are taking over the asylum!) however, here is an aspect of copyright that is easy to understand and important to teach - creators should be acknowledged and rewarded for their creations. And We7 gives an easy to understand model that rewards artists and provides a simple way for fans to download music for free. It's win/win. If you agree - listen online. :-)

Addendum: While on the subject of free music, I recently came across the Totally Free Music blog which directed me to the Nine Inch Nails remix site. The music may or may not be your taste but what a brilliant idea. What Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is doing, is releasing multi-track files of Nine Inch Nails songs and inviting people to create their own remixes. Once you have re-mixed a track, you can share it back with other fans on the website. As I said, brilliant! And useful for school music departments? I suspect so.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

OLPC - Help wanted!

I have a student writing about Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. It's something that I've been aware of but haven't followed too closely, so I enjoyed seeing her first draft. She picked up on Negroponte's repeated assertion that, "It's an education project, not a laptop project", yet almost all my encounters with the project thus far have all been from the technology side rather than the education side.

Originally uploaded by Jeff Kubina
In part, that's what has prompted this post - she has found it difficult to get good educational critiques of the project. She has some stuff on the technical, business and economic sides, but next to nothing by way of educational critique. For example, the idea of making technology available to pupils in Less Economically Developed Countries would seem laudable. However, can technology based, constructivist approaches to learning be exported to countries with very different educational practices and expectations?

So I'm asking for your help. Does anyone know of specific educational critiques of the One Laptop Per Child program or a more general consideration of the difficulty of imposing technological "solutions" to educational "problems" in less economically developed countries?

As a supplementary question (in case you want to go for the PhD answer), what are your thoughts on the One Laptop Per Child project's impact on educational technology developments more generally? For example, has it raised the profile of green/eco-friendly issues in computing? Has it had an influence on the development of technology such as the ASUS Eee PC or the Elonex ONE?

All help/suggestions appreciated!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

The family that social networks together...

I was directed to a website today called it's our tree. I'm impressed. It's not quite powerful enough for a serious genealogist (for example, although it allows the export of data in GEDCOM format, it doesn't look like you can import GEDCOM data)... or at least not yet but it is just at the beta testing stage, so it may get more powerful.

However, as you can see from the screenshot above, it looks very child friendly and I can imagine all sorts of educational uses. For examnple, the family tree of the royal family, or the characters in a book. Also, it is available in a variety of languages so you could switch into French to do family relationships - "votre arbre généalogique" as the site says!

What I really like about it though is you can invite your family members to join and work on the tree with you. Now, if for "family", you substitute "class" you have the makings of a great collaborative project. By way of experiment, I started a tree for James I and VI (see the screenshot above). If you want to see it and help add more information/people, let me know and I'll invite you to join my family. :-)

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

The copyright lawyers are taking over the asylum!

I'm happy to admit that I do not understand copyright law... of course, that doesn't stop me talking about it! (See for example Stealing, borrowing or using?) However, a couple of recent bits of lunacy have been drawn to my attention by a colleague that I thought were worth sharing.

No Photography
Originally uploaded by smenzel
Here is part of a report from the MacUser news pages:
Organisers of an exhibition marking the 50th anniversary of the 1958 Brussels World Fair have sent out an appeal for 100 "photoshoppers" to remove a copyrighted building from photographs they hope to display.

The Atomium is the only structure from the 1958 expo that still stands. The Mechelen exhibition is collecting photographs taken at the expo, and
appealing (in Dutch) for 100 people skilled in image editing to remove the iconic structure.

rding to the Atomium website, the building's image is protected and cannot be used, reproduced or distributed without permission. And Sabam has been known to take action by sending takedown notices to websites.

Though not to Flickr, it would seem, since the
Atomium blog is happy to link to the photo sharing site's many images of what is probably Brussels' most famous landmark - after a small urinating boy.

-- MacUser: 100 "photoshoppers" wanted to erase copyright building
It is worth reading the whole article but the above quote gives the flavour. The Atonium people say that a building, in full view in a public place, is protected by copyright and you cannot put your own photographs of the building on a website. Is it just me, or is that a bizarre concept - that you can copyright a public building and prevent people posting pictures of it online? What is even more bizarre however is that the copyright lawyer right hand doesn't seem to know what the Atonium blog using left hand is doing!

However, the same colleague also showed me an example that is closer to home:

In case you can't make it out from the screenshot, the Copyright notice says, "linking to... this site or any part of it is not permitted without express permission" but then, underneath this, they helpfully give you a set of buttons that allow you to link to the site! Again, left hand, can introduce you to your right hand? A couple of further observations. Firstly, I have linked to the site and I have reproduced a part of it in the screenshot, so clearly I am in trouble. Secondly, does the person who wrote that part of the guidance know what the World Wide Web is? It's the links to and from sites that make it a Web!

How are you supposed to teach children to respect copyright when it is as weird and confusing as this? The sooner Creative Commons becomes the norm rather than the exception the better.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Crowdsourcing... sort of

I think this is brilliant for at least two reasons.

Firstly, it's Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from the greatest band in the world playing at a Foo Fighters concert. I mean, how cool is that? Brilliant.

Secondly, there's how the video was created. It has become almost standard for people to use their cameraphones to record live events and almost always what they do with the recordings is post them to YouTube. So lots of people are at a Foo Fighters concert, Geddy and Alex turn up, lots of people video it and many then post it to YouTube. So far so good. What vidiot4u2 did is what I think is brilliant. He edited and remixed the various cameraphone videos to create a multi-angle view of the performance. He has created something greater than the sum of the parts.

It's the blind men and the elephant... except someone has taken all the partial views and shown us the pachyderm! Useful in education? I think so... Oh wait a minute, YouTube is banned in schools! Bah!

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Flickr and "Long Photos" Hmm!

Coke And Mentos
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
Interesting... I think. I've just noticed (thanks to S Pipczynski's invite to her Flickr Video! group) that as well as photos, you can now upload short videos to Flickr too. Flickr describes them as long photos and seems to be pitching them as an extension of the photo service it already offers rather than as competition for YouTube.

To be honest, I'm not sure how or if I'll make serious use of it. If I wanted to share videos, I'd probably use some other tool.

Any thoughts as to why Flickr video might be useful in education?

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Telling Stories

Thanks are due Susan Kambalu's post on Digital Stories for drawing the We Tell Stories 6 from Penguin to my attention. It is a brilliant idea and Penguin have done a fantastic job putting it together. Of the three works of digital fiction published so far, I think my favourite is The 21 Steps.

27/365: Fix?
Originally uploaded by DavidDMuir
What I especially like is that the techniques used to tell these stories could easily be used by pupils to create their own examples of digital fiction. For example, I'm really inspired to have a go at telling stories using Google Earth along the lines of The 21 Steps and I hope I get the chance to try it with some students soon.

It also reminded me of work I did with BEd students towards the end of last year where we used Flickr to tell stories. Here for example are a few of their six word story ideas:
We also had a go at some stories in five frames:
I was also intrigued by the possibilities of using Flickr to make Choose your own adventure games. Flickr may not be the best way to create this kind of game but it does make them very easy to share. I had a go and created the Jargon Hall Adventure. There's potentially a lot of creative writing in describing the locations and the decisions to be made... and it was surprisingly good fun to make. :-)

And finally... Twitterstories! A simple, but stunningly brilliant idea. One hundred and forty students, from around the globe, each contributing a Twitter message to tell a story. (See Mr Mayo's blog for more details.) What I really like about this project is the constraints that the pupils have to work within, for example, Twitter messages must be 140 characters (or less) in length and the story must reach some conclusion within 140 messages. The authors will have to pick their words very carefully to keep their message within the word limit while still moving the story on and keeping it interesting. Are your pupils overly verbose, using a plethora of extraneous words and multiple sub-clauses, which, in actual fact are full of repetitive, redundant and superfluous detail and, in the final analysis, producing long, rambling and confusing work? :-) Perhaps the constraints of a twitterstory would help. (Twitterstory or Twition or Twittory or ... ? A good idea in search of a good name!)

Do you know of any good examples of pupil produced digital stories?

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Opportunity or Threat?

I was sent an advert for a pdf recently. The document is called a "Social Networking Guide for IT Managers". It came from a company selling Web security services and I thought it sounded interesting because it was advertised as: "7-Steps to Controlling Social Networking Use in Your Business". Hmm! So, it's all about control?

opportunity knocks
Originally uploaded by whyswomen
Is it still trendy to do SWOT analyses? To look at Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats? This report concentrated almost exclusively on the threat to businesses, for example "cyber-slacking". I'm not saying the advice in the document was bad as some some of it made good sense, for example, "Have a comprehensive Acceptable Use Policy in place. Ensure that employees are aware of it. Review and update it often". However, by concentrating exclusively on the threats there is a danger that opportunities will be missed.

Although this document was pitched at businesses, there are many in education dealing with similar issues. ...And the dangers are real - just today in the news there was an item about an Ofcom report which highlights some of the risks to children who use social networking sites. The report presents some useful statistics (for example, "Two-thirds of parents claim to set rules on their child’s use of social networking sites, although only 53% of children said that their parents set such rules."), but perhaps it also focuses too closely on Weaknesses and Threats. However, I need to read the full report more carefully. Maybe the Strengths and Opportunities are in there too.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Clearly, Micrsoft are more worried about Google than I thought. As well as throwing money about in an attempt to buy Yahoo, I heard a leak of a rumour that they are going to take on Google Docs directly by making Office available as a web application. Apparently it will use something known as Locally Originated - Online Formatting technology (LOOF) to deliver almost all the power of Office but through the web rather than a locally installed application.

the 5% solution
Originally uploaded by darkmatter
At first I couldn't see how Microsofft hoped to make money out of this venture and it seemed unlikely that it would be doing it purely out the goodness of its heart. Apparently though, it has developed a new form of online advertising that it calls Limited Impact Rapid Photo Advertising (LIRPA). To me, this sounds a bit like subliminal advertising but the Miicrosoft people seem very confident that it is all legal and above board.

I like Google Docs, but a full Office suite online, made freely available from Microsft, sounds very interesting and I'd like to see it in action. At the moment both LOOF and LIRPA are untried technologies but the leak of the rumour I saw seemed confident that they did the job required.

What do you think? Do you want to see Office made freely available on line? Are you interested in learning more about LOOF and LIRPA? Let me know what you think.

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