The Future of Tablets — and More

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

Recent news of a drop in iPad sales1 by Apple triggered some thoughts. Reporting that educational sales of iPads are still on the rise prompted more thinking. Then, I found that some of our customers had a very interesting response to our queries about this area.

We deliver our software as HTML5, making updates unnecessary and allowing for the software to run on any platform: iPad, iPhone, Android device, Chromebook, MacBook, MS Surface, Linux desktop, etc. We can readily convert the software to an iOS app and to an Android app. The question we asked is, “Should we?” The answer, at least from schools, was as resounding “No!”

ipad oct2014

Making predictions is a very risky business, if you care about your credibility. I am going out on a very long limb by making two predictions for the future. Any number of new developments can make these predictions wildly inaccurate or could cement their certainty.

The first prediction is that iPads will continue the decline in sales and eventually level off. There will be some bumps in this path, of course, but the overall process is one of stagnation at best. The article gives some reasons. For example, people are not upgrading their old iPads as quickly as Apple had anticipated. An iPad is not an iPhone and does not engender the mass hysteria with respect to new versions that you see with such a constantly visible status symbol as your cell phone.

Those tablets also don’t have as many preferred uses as many had predicted. Most who can afford an iPad also have a “real” computer that they use for power applications such as word processing. The tablet is mostly used for videos, music, email, texting (when not using the cell phone for that), and so on. In brief, tablets are not supplanting computers in large numbers. Given a computer and a cell phone, with screen size growing apace, the tablet is the “middle child” and is unnecessary to everyday functioning. It’s too large to carry in your pocket and too small for many serious uses.

The above is not to suggest that tablets will vanish, only that they will settle into a niche market until someone radically changes the interface. The touchscreen is magic for young children and some applications. My grandchildren took to them like kids to candy, even at ages 3 and 5. Still, a touchscreen interface can only take you so far. Adding three-finger gestures really doesn’t make it that exciting. The problems lie in two primary areas: screen size and computing power (CPU and memory). The apps for them have been designed to use what’s available.  Continue reading

Social Media Tips for Virtual Conference Attendance

By Melissa A. Venable

[Note: Jessica Knott, ETCJ’s Twitter/Facebook editor, has coordinated the publication of this article. -Editor]

Last month The Sloan Consortium’s 7th Emerging Technologies for Online Learning took place in Dallas, Texas. According to the latest Sloan-C View newsletter, there were “more than 700 onsite and 1,000 virtual attendees representing 47 states including DC and 23 countries.”

Saint Leo University provided virtual access to a limited number of instructors, including adjuncts like myself. In my formal request to attend, I made a commitment to “be active on multiple social media platforms and use the symposium hashtag – #et4online – to further engage in live sessions and network with other attendees.” I was fortunate to be selected to attend, and it was this social media commitment that made all the difference in my experience.

Recorded sessions are helpful but don’t provide the energy and interaction of real-time attendance. And there is a lot to be gained from following the social media backchannel of a conference, but formal registration allows for a different level of access to the sessions and other attendees. This article includes a few of my lessons learned as a virtual conference participant.

Prepare to Participate

Are your social media accounts up-to-date? This may be the best place to start. Take a look at the platforms that are being encouraged by the conference organizers and review your profiles before the event starts. If it has been a while since you logged in to an account, it could take some time to review and refresh the information you are providing about yourself. Keep in mind that these profiles serve as your business card in an online networking sense.

Follow the conference itself and the sponsoring organization. In addition to the conference hashtag, this Sloan Consortium event was also active with social media accounts focused specifically on this conference, including Twitter and Facebook. These accounts provided a constant stream of reminders, letting participants know about upcoming sessions, highlighting participants and presenters, and announcing schedule changes.

Set Realistic Expectations

The Sloan symposium offered fewer streamed sessions than onsite sessions, but there were multiple presentation options for each time slot. The streamed sessions took place in Dallas with a live audience and allowed virtual attendees to watch both the presenter and his or her slide presentation simultaneously. Members of the online group were able to interact with each other via text chat and ask questions of the presenter through an online session chairperson who relayed them in real-time. We also connected and exchanged thoughts and resources through our social media accounts.

Take a look at your schedule for the week and identify, in advance, the sessions you would like to attend. Add these sessions to your calendar. I was tripped up when logging into my first session (an hour early), before I realized I needed to calculate time zone differences. The website mentioned this, of course, but sometimes you have to learn on your own, and I instantly connected with other virtual attendees on Twitter who made the same mistake.  Continue reading

Tactile Learning: Italian and US Experiences

from left to right: Claude Almansi, Frank B. Withrow and Tiziana Castorinaby Claude Almansi, Frank B. Withrow, and Tiziana Castorina

[Note: I started writing about the project of Liceo Artistico De Fabris, then I asked for feedback from Frank B. Withrow, because he has written about his experience in enabling tactile learning in “Technology Can Help Deaf-Blind Infants” and from Roberta Ranzani, with whom I have collaborated in several subtitling and educational projects. Frank sent the text about tactile books and the American Printing House for the Blind. Roberta mentioned a tactile astronomy workshop for the blind that took place in Venice. A friend of hers, Tiziana Castorina, had attended, and Roberta asked her for a description. Thanks to Tizana and Frank for allowing me to post their texts here, and to Roberta for her suggestion and for the introduction to Tiziana – CA]

Claude Almansi: Tactile books — Liceo Artistico De Fabris

On June 29, 2011,  Roberto Ellero sent me the URL of a video he made about a project by Prof. Adriana Sasso and her students at the Liceo Artistico “De Fabris” (Nove, Vicenza, Italy — liceo means secondary school): creating tactile books for blind and sight-impaired children.

From the video, it seemed that this project could be relevant to previous discussions here about project-based  learning: for example, see “Project Based vs Problem Based Learning” by Jan Schwartz (June 26, 2011), in reply to Jim Shimabukuro’s “A Quick and Dirty Look at Project-Based Learning” (May 20, 2011). So I asked Roberto if it would be alright to subtitle it in English (well, in Italian and French too). He agreed, so here goes:

(LIBRI TATTILI – Liceo Artistico di Nove (Vicenza). Uploaded by rellero, June 29, 2011. More information, in Italian, about the project: LIBRI TATTILI – Creazione di una favola tattile per bambini non vedenti e ipovedenti.)

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Computers Can Help Language-Disabled Learners

Frank B. WithrowBy Frank B. Withrow

I worked with language-disabled children at one time. Many of them would probably be classified today as children with autism. Some identified more easily with computers than with humans. I developed a series of drills and lessons called PhonicPicks.com. The original work used HyperStudio, and it was hoped that teachers would develop additional lessons on their own.

The program developed vocabulary with nouns, included language activities with questions and answers, developed descriptive sentences, and included stories. I established a website to begin transferring a much larger DVD version of the program. The test website is still active with one story, “Eloise the Little Pink Elephant,” available in both English and Spanish.

Book cover with a nice but homely pink elephant right, some books bottom left and top left: Eloise the Little Pink Elephant - Frank B. Withrow ABLE COMPANY - 232 E Street, NE - Washington, DC 2002 - © 1999. Bottom right a green box with GO

I semiretired in 1992 and began working for the NASA Classroom of the Future. This turned my interest more to science and mathematics rather than language. I have a number of grandchildren and great grandchildren so I have kept the website active.

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Whither Writing Instruction in the 21st Century?


By Jason Ohler

[Note: This is the first in a series of articles, coordinated by Bonnie Bracey Sutton, ETCJ associate editor, featuring experts that she has come to know personally. The following excerpts are from Jason Ohler‘s Digital Community, Digital Citizen, published by Corwin Press, 2010. -Editor]

Should we consider students to have two separate lives — a relatively digital free life at school and a digitally saturated life away from school — or should we consider them to have one life that integrates their lives as students and digital citizens? [“Preamble,” 9]

[Note: The following is from a section titled “Value Writing, Now More Than Ever,” 207-208. -Editor]

Amidst the explosion of new media, writing has become more important than ever. There are new reasons for this that might not be immediately apparent.

First, while the essay form of writing is still very important, long narrative pieces don’t read well on the web, where they appear as walls of text to everyone except the few who are truly committed to their content. In contrast, a new kind of presentation is in wide use for effective blog or web writing that I call “visually differentiated text” (VDT), a kind of visual rhetoric that employs a number of writing conventions that are used to visually sculpt text. Paying more attention to the visual presentation of text has become important because reading words on screen is more difficult than reading them on paper. In addition, information overwhelment has produced a need for information that is more concise so that it can be scanned and referenced more easily. Typically, sculpting text requires using the 7Bs (breaks, bullets, boldface, boxes, beyond black and white, beginning, and banners). More about the 7Bs on my Digital Citizenship website (jasonOhler.com/dc).

Left, a crowded text page, black. Right, a web page full of colored ads. Between them, an arrow pointing right

From J. Ohler's "Beyond Words - New media literacy, fluency and assessment in education".

Rest assured that essay writing is still important. But, students need to be able to command multiple approaches to writing. While essays, such as the one you are reading right now, focus on detailed argument presentation, VDT is used to present text concisely — a combination of narrative and factoids. Bear in mind that while essays are generally written for an audience of instructors, web material is read by the general public. Thus, the pressure is on for web writers to write clearly and precisely for a wide audience. After all, while our eyes may skip paragraphs, readers tend to focus on bullets surrounded by white space. Continue reading

Infographics: Problems and Opportunities

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

There seems to be a new infographic craze, particularly about education and social media. I had been vaguely aware of the term as an annoying pseudo-nerdy buzz word  for a while, when the Swiss satirical weekly Vigousse started running an “Infographie imbécile” (Dumb Infographic) on the last page of each issue in January 2010. For instance:

Screenshot of the Infographie Imbécile in N. 46 issue of Vigousse, with a link to its textual PDF From Vigousse N. 46, January 21, 2011.
©2010 Vigousse Sàrl .Reused by kind permission of the Editorial Board.
While most of the words can be understood by English speakers,
in French, “gag” means “joke,” and “rire jaune” = “to laugh from the wrong side of the mouth.”

Shortly after that January 2011 issue, the “Infographies imbéciles” stopped: possibly because the targeted newspapers got the message and soft-pedaled on infographics. Or maybe the editorial team of Vigousse got bored with doing them. Continue reading

‘YouTube Copyright School’ – Remixed and Mixed Up

Claude AlmansiBy Claude Almansi
Editor, Accessibility Issues
ETCJ Associate Administrator

In his lecture, “The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge: Just How Badly We Have Messed This Up” (at CERN, Geneva, CH. April 18, 2011), Lawrence Lessig discussed YouTube’s new copyright school. (See 35:42 – 39:46 in the subtitled and transcribed video of his lecture.) The YouTube Copyright School video he showed and commented was uploaded by YouTube on March 24, 2011, then integrated into what looks like an  interactive tutorial, also entitled YouTube Copyright School, with a quiz on the side.

More information about this “school” was given on the YouTube Official Blog in “YouTube Copyright Education (Remixed)” (April 14, 2011):

If we receive a copyright notification for one of your videos, you’ll now be required to attend YouTube Copyright School, which involves watching a copyright tutorial and passing a quiz to show that you’ve paid attention and understood the content before uploading more content to YouTube.

YouTube has always had a policy to suspend users who have received three uncontested copyright notifications. This policy serves as a strong deterrent to copyright offenders. However, we’ve found that in some cases, a one-size-fits-all suspension rule doesn’t always lead to the right result. Consider, for example, a long-time YouTube user who received two copyright notifications four years ago but who’s uploaded thousands of legitimate videos since then without a further copyright notification. Until now, the four-year-old notifications would have stayed with the user forever despite a solid track record of good behavior, creating the risk that one new notification – possibly even a fraudulent notification – would result in the suspension of the account. We don’t think that’s reasonable. So, today we’ll begin removing copyright strikes from user’s accounts in certain limited circumstances, contingent upon the successful completion of YouTube Copyright School, as well as a solid demonstrated record of good behavior over time. Expiration of strikes is not guaranteed, and as always, YouTube may terminate an account at any time for violating our Terms of Service.

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