• 20Feb
    Author: Katherine Pisana Categories: Technology Comments Off on Ba.cking Up and Own.ing U.p

    Backing up.

    How does that make you feel? Are you comfortable with the process or does it make you roll your eyes way into the back of your head and actively avoid walking anywhere near the IT department in case any one of those ‘IT guys’ should ask you, “So, when was the last time you backed up your work?”

    Lots of us have come to find comfort in the growing number of online services that store our information for us. In fact, I just saw an advertisement recently (while watching a show online) in which a smiley blond lady proudly boasted the benefits of a service offering that provides you with a helpful and convenient way of storing the information in your computer on their servers, so that if anything should happen to your machine, they’ve got you covered. Isn’t that generous? They mention nothing of having your information shared with others (and note that in this case, ‘your information’ goes far beyond name and email address and enters into the secret coves and private places of your filing system) nor do they clarify why anyone would want to use their del.icio.usservice when they could just get an external hard drive or go all out and dive into Time Machine. But, I digress.

    Let’s take bookmarking as another, perhaps more relatable example. Are you one of the many who have entered in the world of social technoratibookmarking? There are services like del.icio.us or Technorati or Digg to name but a few. Any Ma.gnolia users out there by the way? ‘Not anymore,’ you say? diggHmm….then I suppose you’ve heard that the service’s database crash of January 30 2009 rendered all data (that means all of Ma.gnolia users’ bookmarks) gone. Poof!

    Slashdot | Ma.gnolia User Data Is Gone For Good

    Ma.gnolia founder Larry Halff recently discussed the crash and the lessons to be learned from Ma.gnolia’s experience. A lesson for users: don’t assume online services have lots of staff and servers, and always keep backup copies of your data. Ma.gnolia was a one-man operation running on two Mac OS X servers and four Mac minis.

    Reflecting upon the ‘situation’, Halff has learned that it’s better not to do everything yourself. Ok. That’s pretty. I would say that an even bigger lesson for anyone at all engaged in the global information ecosystem is that it’s probably a good idea to remember to at least do some of it yourself.

    So tell me, when was the last time you backed up your data? Because the people who are supposed to be backing up your backups don’t always get it right.

  • 10Feb
    Author: Katherine Pisana Categories: Education, Technology Comments Off on Enhancing Education Through Technology

    As a follow-up from a post I wrote last week on the impact of the proposed education stimulus package in the US, I wanted to make note today of what Dave Nagel writes about the progress of the discussions taking place between the House and the Senate.

    Senate, House Look To Reconcile Stimulus Packages; School Modernization up in the Air

    The Senate’s version of the stimulus package introduced compromises that reduced the original bill’s allocations targeted toward education-related programs; nevertheless, education technology came out ahead, with an increase in funding that brings EETT [Enhancing Education Through Technology] to its highest level ever.

    T.H.E. Journal, 2/10/2009

    Seems that instead of making ed tech the target of budget cuts (thank you mr. bush), we may soon see some huge resource injections. Although ed tech will likely see funding come its way, the actual modernization of schools is very much under debate. The question of how much sense it makes to install fiber optic cables into leaky buildings with outdated electrical systems isn’t for me to judge. I’m just waiting to learn about the details of the plans for the training and development of the teachers…

  • 08Feb
    Author: Katherine Pisana Categories: Education, Technology Comments Off on You can’t see the painting if you’re standing in the frame…


    I just read a short article by John Naughton entitled, Thanks, Gutenberg – but we’re too pressed for time to read and this concept of the ‘First Law of Technology’ made me think.

    I see the point of the argument (that the short-term impact of new technologies is overestimated while the long-term effects are underestimated). In fact, I’ve personally experienced its truth in my adventures as a learning technologist. Take the virtual learning environment (VLE) for example. Imagine a university that is just introducing it into its teaching infrastructure. Budgets have been allocated and money’s been spent. The VLE is anticipated to change the way the whole institution operates. Everyone is going to start using it right away, at least 50% of all modules with be delivered in blended learning using the VLE within 6 months. Sound familiar? I know!

    As a result of the overestimation of the potentials of the VLE, interest drops to near zero adoption, and although training and development staff are hired to support the integration of the VLE, there is little hope that any use will be made of it. The new appointments are really just political moves.

    Now imagine it’s one year later. Predictions of VLE extinction were wrong. It isn’t a raging fad, but pockets of users have mushroomed and a new realisation has surfaced:

    ‘Perhaps the VLE wasn’t used from the beginning by everyone because no one (except a few tech savants – closeted, of course) knew how to use it or even understood what it was in the first place.’

    The long term effects of the technology were vastly underestimated – the integration of a VLE had the potential to stimulate the develop of technology-based skills that tutors never used because the skills were never needed. The VLE changed teacher’s perspectives of technology – how it works, what it can be used for (in the classroom as well as in their personal lives) and the implications of its evolution and scaling. A tool that was intended to streamline the online storage and delivery of information (cringe) turned into a teaching tool about technology that broadened and deepened teachers’ views of technology.

    Something else struck me as I was going through this article. As I was reading about the birth of the printing press, and books (I vaguely remember what those are…) I found myself thinking about the different ways in which we read print-based text vs. online text. Has the Internet fundamentally changed the way we read? Has it redefined literacy skills? Should reading be taught differently in schools? Should ‘power browsing’ be added to the curriculum? If so, at what age should we start teaching it?

    Any ideas?

    And I know, I know what you’re asking yourself now. “How does all of this digital information processing affect the development and functioning of the human brain?” Well, no need to worry. The answer may soon come from this research conducted by Gary Small, a neuroscientist at UCLA.