One of the things that I hope to be able to do this year, after surgery a year ago and Bug arriving in February was to be able to run a half marathon and to get back to my “wedding weight”. I’m just shy of both goals today. With a little luck with the weather, I’ll run a 21.2km course on Monday (I’d rather be running that distance in Disneyland this weekend) and hopefully within a few weeks I’ll have the last few pounds gone. Along the way, I’ve been using a couple of tools to help track things. The first is the “body test” in WiiFit and the second (after graduating from Twitter and GMaps Pedometer) is Nike+. After almost four months of training, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would never allow WiiFit to be allowed near anyone who is even remotely conscious of their personal metrics. Why?
Unlike Nike+, where you set your own goals and achieve them without any continuous feedback (though I haven’t tried any of the coaching programs yet), WiiFit’s annoying board is a bubbly know-it-all avatar that will think that anything that deviates from textbook normal is bad. If it doesn’t see you everyday, it chides you for not being committed. If you show up everyday, it encourages you to take it easy. If you train at odd times, it ponders your sleeping habits and if your weight spikes for reasons that you truly can’t figure (or that are outside of the meager list that it provides), it suggests that you have just smushed a cute little animal. WiiFit doesn’t really want you to be a better you, it wants you to fit into a textbook version of you. Granted, you can ignore all the body testing and just play the games, but then one is leaving half the functionality at the door (so it would work in the higher ed context where profs only use half the text anyway). It would be really nice if there was a way that you could tell it that you are actually doing other workouts as well. Maybe that would help mitigate some of the issues, but I’m not all that sure about that. Why? Because WiiFit believes that it has all the answers, which when you are working towards a personal fitness goal doesn’t seem to make very much sense. The Nike+ system has few answers and those that it has don’t seem to be obtrusive to the casual user. I’ve yet to see anything other than trophies for meeting goals and winning challenges and a couple of system messages for passing mile markers.
If Nike is smart, they will partner up with Nintendo and create a Nike+ channel that will integrate the Nike+ site with the balance board so the Nike system is able to not only tell you how many calories you are burning, but if that actually changes how much you weigh – so you could set a goal to burn 10000 calories in a month and see if that actually results in the changes that you want. I don’t know if Nintendo would want to do this with their WiiFit, but I can certainly see EA getting into it with their EA Sports Active – think about the money there for both sides.
As I’m cutting through emails, tweets and stared items in my reader, I’m finding that a whole pile of stuff happened while I was “gone”. One of the things that I remember “starting” before I left was something about Pennsylvania banning, or trying to ban cell phones (and other mobile devices) in schools. I remember commenting on this and this morning as I spotted this article in THE.
Scanning through it, they seem to identify the two edges of the debate rather well. From the pro side, there are all manner of contemporary (not freak’n “21st Century…. we are already here people!) uses for these devices ranging from simple communication between individuals to collecting images, video, GPS data and a host of other “objects” that can be used in a range of different applications including Project K-Nect:
The cons revolve around proper use and security. I wonder how this changes at all when students leave school… it’s not like schools are all of the sudden going to be more or less safe without phones than they currently are. It is my hope that schools are safe refuges from the world where students can learn, but we know that the world finds it’s way into the classroom and though we don’t need yet another vector for this to get in, learning how to use and deal with this element of life properly is a skill that our children will certainly need to have. Other issues revolve around standardization and assessment.
I truly feel that those cons are a ruse. In reality the differences might equate to using different colors of ink to write an essay, but even if the bigger pedagogical issues are there – as in the theories matching what can be done with the device to where those actions would fit on the traditional model – but if we don’t start playing around, we are forever going to be shackled by this hesitation of not moving forward because we don’t know what we are stepping into.
If nothing else, mobile devices have revealed just how conservative the educational establishment really is.
Edit, Bill Ferriter has an interesting post on this subject as well – nascent ideas I guess.
Ok, so I just got out of a meeting with internship co-ordinators where I brought up the idea of using podcasts and blogs as a way to allow students to collaborate and reflect on their experiences. This would not only allow students to create an archive of their experiences, it would allow students to collaborate within their cohort, for alumni of the program to offer support and to allow new students to become interested in having similar experiences. Sounds great right? Well not according to some leaders.
They are afraid of change… but disguising it by saying that they are not sure if the students are even going to use it… worried that it is not cutting edge enough… worried about what employers are going to say… worried about… if the technology is going to be around in 2-3 years. OMFG!
These are almost ancient ‘net technologies people! Students are looking for these as differentiators when applying to professional schools! You are putting students through a pass/fail program that often has them submit limp, “closed” assignments that are there for some level of academic content. If they don’t get that paper in, they fail and they don’t move forward… and they are worried about students not jumping through this kind of hoop? Are they worried that other people might come along online and offer help to these students who are not related to the U or the company?
It is only when technologies become “old and boring” that they become really interesting – I’m sure I’ve posted on that idea once already – and this is the stage where ‘casting and blogging is now. It’s way too late to be on the leading edge – forget the bleeding edge – rolling these services now, it almost feels like we are just about to be bumped off the tailgate of the adoption curve, not a great place to be as you are just as likely to be catapulted forward to greatness as you are to be dropped off into the abyss.
This weekend, I got quite a kick out of the local radio annoucer doing her best to protect Edmonton listeners against the Koob worm that is moving through Facebook and is baiting users to install an update to their machines. While I think it was certainly an admirable thing for the announcer to do, I think it is telling as to how common Facebook and virus proctection has come in common parlance that this advice could be handed out over the radio and people would actually be able to understand it – or stand a chance to.
But where my part in this story comes in is that I tell all the Mac users that I’ve converted that you are safe (and attacks are dropping) from just about everything out there as long as you don’t install something that you are not sure about (unless you were paying attention the the hay that the press made last week about Apple’s KB update that was later pulled) – and this is exactly how Koob is moving, by getting people to install it, banking on the transfer of saftey from Facebook, creating a vector that might allow for Mac/Linux machines to be attacked.
Thankfully the Koob is probably dropping an exe file that won’t run, so we are safe for a while… So in addition to the “don’t install anything that you don’t understand”, I’ll add to my 1-2 saftey rant/appeal for common (computing?) sense – install updates only from the original vendor… if you are prompted to install something from Adobe, go to adobe.com and search for it – or google for the update that you are being prompted for to see if it is legit.
At the risk of sounding like and apologistic fanboy, I really do wonder about stories like this one and other stories like it that say the Wii is slowing down because people don’t buy as many games or because as others have noted – it’s not a technical marvel:
That’s because third-party companies such as Epic Games don’t want to make titles for the Wii because the specs of the 360 and PS3 allows them to push the technological envelope, to stand above the hundreds of titles released annually. The third-party companies that do make Wii titles often make better versions on the other consoles.
So based on this, games are relying on technology in the “hardcore” 360/PS3 market to sell and I would think that the Wii with it’s meager technology would be relying on it’s unique interface. For my money, I would think that the technology would get old fast, but the interface would keep me hooked. That on top of the fact that the Wii is lower cost and targeting a different demographic – slow stable types vs twitchy hardcore gamers.
So how does this relate in any way to teaching? Well, think of it this way – you can throw all the flash (or Flash) you want at a student, but unless they can interact with the content in some unique and meaningful way, it’s likely to be forgotten as they move on for the next fix.
it is so tied to having to login? Well, likely to view ads… But really – for most of the people that I know, facebook it really just the container for scrabble and all the social networking that drew them in so many months ago is what you do while waiting for your turn to come up.
This post was prompted over the weekend as people were trying to use Facebook as a legitimate commuications suite. The messaging system can’t be searched, people can’t be added to the thread and “message waiting” prompts are not sent to external services (home email/mobile) in any timely matter. This lead to a fair amount of frustration to be sure.
I’ve got more to say about all this but this is enough to get the first bits dumped out of the brain.
I’m wondering if this is an admission by Microsoft that it is not an Internet company, and that by sucking up Yahoo (GN) that it might be able to get close. It might work – thinking that this way the new company would have some fingers in each pie that Google has. But it’s all rumor still (update, here is the letter).
If it does happen, I wonder what the impact is going to be on services like Flickr, Yahoo Messenger and Yahoo Mail. The latter two have mirrored services in Microsoft and many users have gone to Yahoo because the don’t like the Microsoft service. But I guess that might become a mute point. My big wonder? What about Flickr? If MS wants some good will, it should make Flickr Pro free (I wish), but otherwise it might do well to leave it be… but then again, who knows.
Last week, I posted to one of the geekier support groups on campus about the possibility of setting up a web based authentication to allow the iPod Touch, PSP, Nintendo DS and other devices that can’t use the current method of authentication. I was expecting a rocky ride as the geeks there are very alpha in nature and are just as likely to spew Napalm as to support any idea that one of the lesser geeks comes up with. What I got was an interesting surprise, and perhaps a look into the heart of the alpha geek.
The first responses came within minutes and were what I expected – “what a stupid idea”, “it’s not a complete/secure/sustainable system”, “the input method sucks”, “waste of bandwidth” – but what surprised me was that these lesser alphas were trumped by two of the top alphas who said that thinking about these alternate devices was a good idea and one of them actually pulled out a link about a web based shell that has an iPhone as it’s example.
So what does all this have to do with looking inside the heart of the geek? Well, it means that geeks are truly no different than any other interest group – there are conservatives and there are Luddites there as well. People want to stay with what they know and what they feel safe with, regardless of how close to the edge their profession takes them. For schools, this might help some teachers understand their IT staff. For other groups trying to integrate technology, it helps to explain why IT staff pile on the restrictions.
This is probably blatantly obvious to some people, but there are many people who ask me every week about why their department has rule x or y or why you have to do z on campus. So it’s for them that this post might help – just as with any other support group, there are enablers and restrictors. Sometimes the restrictions are there to protect the users, other times they are there to protect the admins. If you are unfortunate enough to come up against restrictive IT, it might be an idea to just keep asking questions and ask them at all levels – eventually one of those questions will hit gold and and you might see change in even the most dug in of IT groups. Sometimes the restrictions might actually make sense in the bigger picture and the questions will help everyone understand the rules a bit better.
It’s back to school for most people this week and between all the stories of what has been done to limit the students ability to really be themselves. In some schools, there are dress codes that limit or eliminate hoodies, backbacks and cargo pants – because of security – cell phones – god only knows why… the students might collaborate – and they are taught curriculum that is certainly at least a generation old all through K-12 and then they hit the university environment and there are no restrictions (yet) on what they can wear and likely allow any amount of phone use, but not for class.
One level denies students from being part of the world around them – how are we to train them for tomorrow if they are not even allowed to use the tools of today – and wear clothing that is conservative, but could be concealing dangerous items. The next allows them to use to tools of today, but makes no attempt to make use of it.
With such a separation between the nature of the learning environment, the content of the curriculum, the way that curriculum is delivered and the “real world” is it any wonder that now with a less homogeneous culture that we are seeing that our Victorian era ideas of schooling are failing? Those of us who have done well, truly have in spite of the system, not because of it. Each successful individual has had to go beyond what was given them to make themselves stand out. I don’t think this would be any different if the educational system that we had today was more authentic and adaptable to the needs of society – the standouts would still be there and go the extra mile – but what would be different is what happens with the lower section of the class – the bright kids that just can’t think in a straight line – those that learn with their hands (I’ve got an image of the Happy Feet gang in my head) or feet?
If we continue with this method of teaching, I think we will end up with a class system based on the teaching styles that students were exposed to. Those students who were exposed to instructors that did more than shovel the textbook into the heads of the students will come out ahead, those who had teachers that were able to recognize learning styles and adapt will come out that much better.
Learning is something that is universal – we can all learn and we all have a passion about something (well if we are “normal”), it’s natural – why are we trying so hard to make it artificial?
Waiting in the upstairs lounge, tapping out this post, one thing comes to mind. That if Edmonton (ERAA) wants the airport to really grow, they should make it more attractive for people to wait for their flights or the arrival of their friends or family. That means having more than just Booster Juice, Tim Hortons and Harveys for food (the one sit down doesn’t count for much) and the one magazine stand for “shopping”.
Calgary has the right idea where one might want to come early to wait for flights, paying for parking and food/coffee.
Granted, this is me, a planespotter talking, and I know that not everyone wants to hang out at airports. But there are enough people between the plane spotters and the shoppers/coffee snobs et al that it would make a lot of sense.