Need for digital (media) literacy

I just recently stumbled across this link to the 'Heartland Institute' via a reference in an American Newspaper site citing their sources for an article about the US Economic Stimulus package. I initially was hoping this might be a satiric site such as CNNN, but after taking a closer look and checking out some references it appears these people are actually serious (and worse still seem to have a lot of funds at their disposal to spread their dubious view). Reading this rubbish got me thinking about how many kids would actually think this could be an authoritative source for information. I often see readers commenting on websites that are an obvious parody, taking the written word on these sites absolutely serious and literally. But the mentioned site above is written with the obvious intent to present the information as fact (no matter how ridiculous the claims are).  I don't actually want to get into the (mis-) information presented on this site, but more the danger posed by such sites if we don't teach digital literacy to our kids at school from a young age. Skills such as checking the sources and motivations behind certain 'news and information' sites. While some of these sites (such as the example above) are very secretive about their donors and sources of revenue it should be fairly obvious by trying to do a quick online check what their particular objective is. In the particular example used above the published donations from the Tobacco industry…

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Ubuntu – the ‘old man’ experiment

Recently my father, who has so far not wanted to have anything to do with computers, decided to change all of this with age 67. While initially surprised (and remembering the comments I got when sitting in front of computers as a teenager instead of working on the family farm), I quite liked the idea. It's a great to see him still wanting to explore and learn new things. Unfortunately since there is approximately 17.000km between us, there was a limited amount I could do to help him get set up. So my eldest sister (as she always has to do) ended up having to help out instead. Finding hardware was the easy part and very cheap these days (and since it was bought online I could help with the technical aspects). However the machines in that particular shop came as white-boxes without an Operating System (which is a good thing in my book). So rather than forking out another 90 or so Euro for Windows Vista, which I personally dislike with a passion, I suggested her to download Ubuntu and give it a try. If things did not work out you could always get it later. While I personally have a very pragmatic approach to OS selection and no particular 'religious' views when it comes to Linux, I do generally choose an Open Source alternative over a Proprietary system all other things being equal. I was a bit worried about people not being familiar with it, but in the…

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m-learn: Mobile evidence gathering using GoogleDocs

This one nearly escaped my attention yesterday. Google has just announced the ability to edit Google Docs on your mobile device via their Google Mobile Blog. Just point your mobile browser to m.google.com/docs and start editing. Along with the use of 2D barcodes this will open a few interesting m-learning possiblities for educators that would previously have required custom coding to achieve. I can see this being very useful in situations where you have students being in the field and allowing them to enter data gathered using a standard mobile phone. The barcodes could point students to the location of the spreadsheet (avoiding the need to type the information) The screenshot below shows a spreadsheet that I just made up for demonstration purposes. The data gathered can easily be used embedded into LMS course pages for review in the classroom. The (quite capable) graphing tools in Google Spreadsheets can be used to visualise the results gathered. For some of our clients that use Moodle and GoogleApps for Education this is a very interesting combination as would allow for the authenticated entering of mobile data into the LMS. It would be interesting to look at how you could easily geo-tag the information gathered for mapping purposes. But that's probably a topic for another post.

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Finding the ideal OS for (my) EEE PC

I have been a user of an EEE PC 900 for over 10 months now and in general very happy with the form-factor and it's portability. I has been very useful in public transport, waiting rooms, coffee shops,... However - in terms of Operating Systems I am now on my 3rd OS (despite initially telling myself that I will stick with the default and avoid tinkering) and it looks like I still have not found what I am looking for. With the XP version of the EEEPC not even on the list of choices because of the sluggish performance on models I tried I survived on the default Xandros install for about 1 month until it's 'Easy Interface' just got too painful in the number of clicks it took to get anywhere. So I changed the Xandros install to 'Advanced Mode' which made some things easier, however the lack of any locking mechanism and the fact that installing nearly anything that was not officially supported (via other Debian packages) broke something else, forced me to look for a more standard Linux distro. Eventually I chose Ubuntu for EEE (now called Easy Peasy - ???) As I have started to use Ubuntu on my VMWare desktops for some cloud-app development. The thought of having the same OS on the desktop and netbook had a lot of appeal. Next to CentOS (our Server platform of choice) I don't want to deal with more distros than absolutely necessary. However in hindsight this turned…

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Testing mobile Twitter clients

Being out and about a lot, I am a fairly heavy user of my mobile internet plan (currently with Hutchinson 3). One of the more common tasks when there is some down-time while in transit or waiting for coffee is checking out what's happening in the twittershere. Personally (being a web-app developer for years) I generally prefer browser-based apps over 'native apps'.  Dont even get me started about J2ME apps. One of the main reasons for this preference is that I tend to switch handsets fairly frequently. This makes installing software on phones a large waste of time. Just copying your bookmarks (in my case I have made up my own custom start page on the device) saves a lot of time. 1) Mobile twitter (http://m.twitter.com) Being Twitter's very own interface this is probably the one most people start off with. However the functionality of the mobile Twitter client is very limited and after starting to use Twitter more regularily I found the lack of functionality too limiting and started looking for alternatives. 2) Slandr (http://m.slandr.net) The Slandr interface looked very nice and functionality compared to mobile Twitter was excellent. I quite liked the 'Geo' function in Slandr, however the annoying adds embedded in content put me off this one. 3) Dabr (http://m.dabr.co.uk/) Shortly after trying out Slandr I found this client and this is the one I am now using as my default. I find the interface very clean,  the functionality is all I require on the mobile handset…

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BESPIN – another nice one from Mozilla.org

Getting excited about a new text editor of all things is not something I like to admit to easily, but in my line of work (although less and less is actually doing hands on coding) text editing is an important part. That's why I checked out the BESPIN project as soon as I heard of it. The prospect of being able to edit your files from anywhere is very appealing to me since I spend a lot of time away from the desk and on devices that not always have good text editor (let alone all the files necessary). The thought of being able to edit files from a netbook while on the run is coming to mind straight away. So far (even though this is a 0.1 'techo-preview') I really like what you see. Not something that the average word processor crowd would find appealing or easy to use, but for somebody that is familiar with (specially *NIX) text editors it is easy to pick up and I can definitely see lots of potential there. There are some important features still missing to make it truly useful in practical conditions, but I am sure they will be addressed in future revisions and it should be fairly easy to host your own since it's basically Javascript & HTML5 and an Open Source project. Great work by these guys: Keep it coming ! Soon ...

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Using Nokia Share Online to upload directly to Flickr

One of the nicest ways to get photos straight from your mobile to Flickr (without having to use e-mails) on Nokia devices is the Flickr Plugin for the Nokia Share Online application. Since a lot of my clients in the educational sector  are starting to use Flickr as part of their online teaching I decided to create a short HOWTO. The application itself comes with the phone on most recent Nokia S60 devices (with recent Firmware - check Nokia Software Updater for new firmware). To check if your particular phone is capable you can check the Nokia Share Online Support site. Nokia Share Online appears on the home screen of your device (screenshots are from a N95 8GB): First time only configuration On first use you will have to check the available services by choosing 'Options': On a new device you will be prompted for your Flickr Username / Password. Since I have used the Flickr Plugin on this particular phone previously the Username was already saved (which is a bit of a worry - since deleting the account should have also removed the credentials I would have hoped). Set the update frequency: NOTE: Be careful with this setting as there could be mobile data fees involved depending on the method you use to connect to the internet on your device. Consult with your network operator on the fees if you are using the wireless data network of your phone provider. After this step you are ready to connect to…

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QR code usage in Japan

Just came across this post about barcode tombstones in Japan. Shows very clearly how much public acceptance the 2D barcode technology has got in Japan. It allows visitors to the grave to access to the biography and photos of the deceased person and leave a personal message. This concept probably takes some time to get used to, but you can see that it could clearly add some value for people visiting cemeteries. There is not much info you can fit on tombstone. A good example of providing 'further information' for people that are interested.

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An accounting software that works like we do …

In running my businesses over the years I have been an unhappy user of MYOB for years. But due to time constraints I have always put off a change in accounting software as it is very disruptive and the alternatives were not too convincing (better the devil you know ...). However due to the fact that our business is growing and we were at the end of a financial year the pain of using MYOB became greater than the pain of switching. Meet SAASU NetAccounts.� We only became aware of this software through a couple of Google searches and found some forum threads with people that were using SAASU. After some checking of the company operating the ('software as a service' after all needs a fair amount of trust) and checking with our accountants we decided to give the free version a test run. The data transfer from MYOB went smooth and the main users of the software were very happy. The key deciding factors for us to choose SAASU: Web-based user interface (after all are running an online education and mobile/web-application development company) Intuitive user interface (for both myself as well as our office/accounting staff) Software as a service (no need to install outdated client-server apps running on datastores from the dark ages) Truly multi-user Web Service API (we will be using the SOAP API to integrate some of our e-commerce facilities) Ability to run multiple data files under one umrella So far (and we have been using SAASU…

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Working with Second Life in an educational sense

With the help of SL resident Moggs Oceanlane I was able to get our first Sloodle implementation off the ground. Being a bit new on the SL concepts (Moodle as such is my daily life) I found the technical process quite easy, but was struggling with SL terminology a little. Looking forward to getting some hands-on experience of the use of SL in an educational setting. I can see the practical applications - looking for some pilot projects to put them into 'reality' once we have got all the technical side tested thoroughly.

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