Wednesday, December 06, 2006

In the red corner...

I'm a Red Hat Linux user, now a Fedora user. I've tried a few distros (Suse, Ubuntu) but I always come back to Fedora. I've recently upgraded to Fedora Core 6 at work, and for the past three weeks now I've been having the Linux desktop time of my life! I've been a pretty much solo flyer w/ the penguin for 8 years now and i've suffered through my share of disastrous desktop mishaps and configuration nightmares that 8 years of Gnu/Linux has had to offer, but the day has come with the addition of the new OpenGL-based compositing window manager Compiz that the Gnome desktop has become the finest desktop out there. It's effects are of equal if not superior quality to even a Mac desktop, and the usability of the desktop is superior to both Mac and Windows. (I've yet to see Vista and it's Aero effects, but from a couple of quick reads it appears to be focused on transparency - one of the least interesting features of my new Fedora desktop - and shiny translucent buttons, something else I've never been partial to).

At first I thought that Compiz would be just a heap of processor hungry eye candy, but actually the kind of tactile, sensory, stimulus that it provides has really added a level of psychological transference and proficiency to the whole desktop metaphor/interface/experience, and I now find myself pining for it on other desktops I use that don't have it and now seem so geometric, linear, and rigid.

It occured to me that
kids would absolutely love this desktop! When you drag windows they kind of wobble as if they're elastic, they spring into place when maximised, and corners can be peeled back to reveal what's behind them. While this all just sounds like a bit of fun, it's organicism blurs the mathematical rigidity that we've become used to and makes the experience just a little softer, a lot more tactile, and to be quite honest less 'computer' like.

Switching between multiple desktops
(haven't experienced multiple desktops? you're missing out!)

Bending back a maximized window to see what's behind.

I could go on about all the small features that I think are often overlooked but create a better HCI in Gnome than any Windows desktop has - for example small but repetitive actions like renaming files: how a right click > rename on a Gnome desktop highlights just the part of the file before the extension, so the user doesn't end up removing or having to type the file extension as part of the renaming act; or the ability to mouse over a sound file and have it play right in the environment that makes previewing and sorting lots of sound files on your desktop a breeze ... but i'm not going to do that here (perhaps in due course, here:

I want to stick with this idea of "kids" for a second. The one thing that was formerly lacking on Linux machines and that was the 'kid-killer' was games. There were few games ported to Linux. There are more games now, but the thing is that I don't think kids are playing all that many games on the computer anymore. A PS3, Wii, or X-box will do games far better than a pc will, so game playing is moving to specialised hardware platforms with graphics exceleration up the wazoo and controllers that are designed for the actions.

A computer that's not being used for games, but that is being used by kids for homework, communication/socialising/networking etc, has Linux written all over it. Not only is the interface now more customizable, more tactile, more usable, and more impressive than the more expensive competitors, but as John "Maddog" Hall expressed in last years LinuxConf2006 - Linux teaches you twice (if nor more). Linux has many lessons. It encourages experimentation and lifting the lid, it's built on benevolent principles like sharing and openness, it provides support in the form of real people of whom you can ask real questions and almost always get a response (unlike waiting in a hold queus), and it's always trying to innovative in some aspect. It moves man! I'm on my 5th significant upgrade of Fedora since the introduction of Windows XP - and things happen, things get better every release. The idea of waiting (and saving $) for a release every 5 years is just out of step with how technology moves - with how kids move.

If you've never given it a try I think now's the time.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Training Packages Unwrapped - more like unleashed!

Peter Shanks has been at it again. Not long after releasing his FlickrCC app (see previous post here), he's released Training Packages Unwrapped which presents units of the Australian NTIS Training Packages in a variey of easy-to-use formats. Along with a basic HTML view you can also export as moodle frameworks, tiddlyWiki's and wikiversity ready text, CSV, and XML! This is a fantastic idea, and executed with a simplicity that lots of educational software lacks. Hopefully we can get something like this going with similar unit standards in New Zealand. Problem with NZs ones are that they're currently only available in Word or PDF which will be considerably harder to siphon through than Australia's which came in RTF I understand.

Leigh Blackall has already done some experiments importing the Wiki text export into Wikiversity ready for people to add real content around (see I think that both Leigh and I see this as being the real benefit of this idea - that the export acts as a kind of support around which real content and learning can be scaffolded in actual learning environments whether they be in Wikis, or in Moodle, a TiddlyWiki on your desktop, or whatever presentation/delivery system you wish to use. If we could start convincing the powers responsible for producing these things that Word Evil / XML good then we'd be halfway there and people like Peter could move on to even more interesting stuff.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Copyright, Creative Commons and

I'm taking a postgraduate course at the University of Auckland called Media, Sound and Music. I suggested to the class that instead of using the horrible university LMS called Cecil, we use the social networking environment called because it's an environment based around listening and talking about music. I created a group for the class and we've been using the forums to hold discussions, post links, etc.

On Wednesday of last week I posted this to our class forum:

Copyright, Intellectual Property and

I'm going to bring this up here because while not related to music it is an interesting issue in regards to intellectual property debates and copyright -- and because for this course, we are 'required' to use

There has been some discussion, primarily amongst some American high school students, that claims (quite rightly I think) that students have intellectual property rights to their writing and that this makes problematic Turnitin's compilation of student texts. While claims fair use (not even sure if we have a fair use law in NZ... anyone?) institutions such as the U of A are requiring students to give away their work to be used by a third party, for-profit vendor. I'm not that good on copyright but I reckon that if I was to apply a Creative Commons license like the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 ( to my work, which it would seem that I'm perfectly legally allowed to do as I automatically own the copyright on anything that I produce, this would actually prohibit this work from being submitted to, because arguably their database, that includes all our aggregated work in electronic format, is supporting the efficacy of their business model - which to me would violate my 'non-commercial' clause.

In an open letter from the Writing Department of the Grand Valley State University in Michigan they also pointed out that use of such services:

"...emphasizes the policing of student behavior and texts over good-faith assumptions about students’ integrity, and can shift attention away from teaching students how to avoid plagiarism in the first place."

This is a pedagogical decision/stance which I just picked on as another angle to think this thing through... well, more for XXXX really, but I do think that there's an interesting parallel between what is going here and issues around the copying of music, questions of copyright and intellectual property. We're all making digital artifacts for most of our courses while at university and I think that we need to think critically about the consequences (small as they may be at this point) of allowing our digital artifacts to be distributed to services like this without even really questioning the ethics or implications.

What do you think?

The Politics of Plagiarism Detection Services
Issues Raised by Use of Turnitin Plagiarism Detection Software


On Thursday we got this course email from the professor:

Hi everyone,

I've raised the issue of with colleagues for consideration.

For the purposes of this course, you DO NOT have to submit a copy of any of your further coursework to

If you wish you can send me an electronic copy (pdf) version but you do not have to do that.
Make sure you have a copy of that file or another hard copy just in case it should get lost.

But for FTVMS 738, simply one hard copy by the due date is fine.



I'm not going to wax on about this too much ... i think the correspondence speaks for itself. While initially I thought that I was annoyed by turnitin.coms assumption that they could make use of my digital artifact for their business model by obfuscating the details of the model inside a rather lengthy EULA (which includes your agreement to be tried (extradited?) in Alameda Country, California for reverse engineering their technology!), in the end I was more annoyed at the institutions subtle implication that we were all plagiarizing in the first place and that it was easier to farm this dirty work out to a third-party than educate students about plagiarism. My fees are paying for this service?

I'm tempted to bring this up on a larger institutional level as well as start promoting the understanding and use of creative commons licenses amongst students as a way to protect the rights for their work not to be used by such authoritarian surveillance systems.

There is a little problem for me though here, and I'm caught in a bit of a quandry about it. I actually don't agree with the non-commercial license for the licensing of open content. You see the non-commercial restriction can have the effect of closing an open educational resource (OER) to just the type of use that the I'd like to promote, that of developing societies and those with low bandwidth issues. The non-commercial restriction would not, for example, legally permit a local community institution to package a print version of my content for resale on a cost recovery basis for printing, packaging and overhead. Secondly, the NC license is incompatible with other free content projects. You cannot mix material with a free content license (usually GNU Free Documentation License) with material that has a Creative Commons license with the NC restriction. This prevents OER projects gaining economies of scale by taking advantage of the explosive growth of free content from other open projects like Wikipedia. (see this recent speech by John Daniel: Exploring the role of ICTs in addressing educational needs: identifying the myths and the miracles). So I guess for my assignments i'll consider covering them by the NC license to keep this little piece of power in my pocket (and to prove a point), but for everything else i'll just go Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5.

Control-C, Control-T, Control-V

First person to explain what this title means wins a free web browser.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

micropedagogical dump #1

micropedagogies - mobile pedagogies adjusting to shifting environments, landscapes, users, locations, devices. As opposed to 'grand narrative' pedagogies. users/learners/students provide the input. Pedagogies that emerge in response to environments: a vestibular system for learning situations.

Instead of grand narratives of teaching and learning, pedagogies emerge as far more mobile and fluent adjustments towards environments and user/learner demands or requirements. A range of strategies and tactics enable the teacher/facilitator in this approach to guide learning environments towards efficacy and to spin the technologies provided by many sources towards the learning experience. The teacher is a technologist (this is not new - they always have been!)

An example: Flickr - the popular image sharing site provides a range of fairly simple tools for the upload, tagging and simple manipulation of images and text. It also provides an environment for adding notes, comments, starting groups/discussions and supplying licensing on user generated content. There are multiple ways in which Flickr may be used as an environment to generate discussion, learning, creation. Pedagogical approaches (learning designs?) towards an environment like Flickr become valuable approaches that can be shared amongst teachers (without all that pesky XML!). A pedagogy of the compressed.

Tags: , , , ,

Thanks to for making me start thinking this thru some more; he is truly compressed but fully realized.

Monday, October 02, 2006


FlickrCC is a great hack by Peter Shanks using the Flickr API to search and retrieve images from Flickr that are covered by Creative Commons. Just a couple of weeks ago I really needed something like this for a class project where I was applying some apothegms on top of images for a presentation. Because it was so time consuming/clunky to search Flickr itself for CC images I ended up just using pictures that weren't covered by an open license and hiding them behind a private label. Disappointing, because it ended up being a good slide show to walk through an interesting article that I would have loved to have made public. I'm so enamored by Flickr for education that I'm hoping to aggregate more hacks and tips on how to use it in educational settings. Think of this as the first tip.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

tagged flnw

Some photos i've taken on my mobile device the last couple of days in Wellington mostly in relation to the FLWN discourse that has been emerging over the last week. The cafenet photo of my laptop showcased against the architecture of a Wellington plaza was taken, transferred through infrared to my laptop, then uploaded using the cafenet wireless network to Flickr in less than 2 minutes.

A heap more images from the FLNW wanderers can be found here:

Sunday, September 24, 2006

speed, culture and networked learning

I've spent last night and part of Sunday loitering with the open space conference called The Future of Learning in a Networked World – a merry (mostly) band of technotravellers winding their way across the breadth of Aotearoa, serendipitously landing on my front yard in as it rolled into Waiheke Island. The conference participants were invited by John Eyles to the island and I met up with the participants on Saturday night at Hekerua Lodge. After the wine ran out Teemu, Alex and myself headed out to my local, Molly Malones in Surfdale, where we fortunately met up with another part of the group that had gone out for a quick meal. Last call resulted in us picking up some more bevvies as well as local character Greg, and heading back to the lodge to continue the discussion we'd started in the pub.

Greg, originally from Pahea in the Taranaki (birthplace of Poi-e) brought up a fascinating local story that has recently made the local papers and stirred some interesting local discussion. A few weeks ago a high tide at Matiatia eroded part of the foreshore, revealing a skull and a few bones from a Maori burial ground (urupa) that is known to have existed on the foreshore. This has led to some reconsideration of the impending development of the Matiatia area which has been pushed ahead in order for Auckland City to recoup the costs of buying back the land from a private company that it had sold it to 5 years previously. Stimulated by this issue the conversation segued into a discussion of how the digital artifacts, created by us in the present, may be 'unearthed' by future generations. How will these artifacts be interpreted in future social, political, and economic contexts?

Many indigenous cultures, including Maori, have unique conceptions of who owns knowledge artifacts and how such knowledge is transmitted to groups outside of the original producing group. This approach to knowledge is thrown into relief in a networked society that privileges the easy distribution and transmission of digital artifacts whose use outside of our immediate control is often unknown. As Western technophiles enamored by the affordances of the tools of networked society and rhetorically situated inside a 'global culture' the quick upload is the vector of desire. The fantasy of products consumed by the mass Other creates a sort of compulsive drive to upload, express, share, tag, intersect, etc. Speed and immediacy have become our drug because they imply the lessening of mediation, negotiation, or the possibility of control.

While we privilege speed other cultures on the other hand may prefer to take their time on these things. This is probably due to a distinctly more invested relationship to histories and knowleges that are threatened by colonialism and various attempts towards erasure that is so much a part of colonialist tactics. Maori language (te reo) for example was discouraged harshly from being spoken in schools through most of the last century in New Zealand and is now a highly contested landscape both politically within New Zealand, but also amongst Maori themselves.

There are a lot of issues at stake here about encouraging others to put themselves and the products of their work or actions online en masse in the hope that the network will make something useful out of it all. An approach where we chuck it all into the blender may have unforseen consequences and I think that it may be a worthwhile pursuit to investigate what some of the consequences are, particularly when our constituents are young people or adolescents whos ability to anticipate the future is arguably not at its most robust. There is for an example an interesting debate going on here currently in the US about the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA), which in some aspects an issue that is closely related.

I guess the point here is that we should remember to drive responsibly (not that I was on Saturday night, but thats another blog) if we're going to drink in all this juice. This may require us to slow down a bit and examine our own practices in light of perhaps what others around us think and perceive of these practices, as well as what the implications of our work may be for future generations.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

same job, new place, new blog

I'm finally getting around to getting a new blogging space going ... and this is it. When I left the University of Auckland I left my old blog Newped behind. I didn't feel it was right to keep logging into the old server while i was out of the institution, and I kind of wanted to start a blank slate. newped was already taken on blogspot so i had to fish around for something else and well, this just came to me turning the corner from princess to shortland street about in front of the Graphic Novel cafe so here it is. I think it will be a bit different than what newped was... we'll see. Theres still quite a bit to do around here - and this post is mostly just a test, but grab my feed and i promise to produce. cheers.