Organisational micro-blogging for all

Having seen more and more articles on the use of micro-blogging tools in educational and corporates settings, I am constantly surprised that one of the most useful options from my point-of-view seems to be constantly overlooked. Micro-blogging is like Twitter, but private to your organisation. It is a great way to capture those more informal internal discussions. It can help distribute useful information (such as links) throughout your organisation or help kick-start conversations.

StatusNet poster

The major advantages of StatusNet as a platform over competing proprietary systems (such as Jammer) are:

  • Ownership of information: you can host StatusNet yourself and StatusNet fully supports DataPortability.org to get your data exported from StatusNet as well.
  • Customisation: since you can host Status.net yourself it is possible to fully customise it to suit your needs.
  • Integration potential: since StatusNet is Open Source software you can easily integrate and build upon it.

To download Status.net head to http://gitorious.org/statusnet/ or try a personal account with Identi.ca. You can also use a cloud-hosted version provided by StatusNet http://status.net/cloud. A Yammer import tool is also available for users looking for a Yammer Alternative.

However being a tool that is private to your organisation does not mean your users will be isolated. There is the ability for your user to connect StatusNet with with their Twitter account should they wish to post messages outside.

Note: this is a cross-posting from my work blog at http://www.brightcookie.com/blog

Mobile sensors and the “Internet of Things” in learning

With the Internet of Things slowly becoming mainstream the potential uses of this technology can also be seen in the Education sector. This blogpost is the first installment of a series of posts that highlights practical examples that can be used in teaching and training.

Part 1 – Environmental Noise Monitoring

WideNoise by leeander, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  leeander 

Noise pollution has been a serious problem in many large cities all over the world and with the help of common mobile devices (smartphones) this can be easily measured, monitored and compared with a large quantity of samples from other cities/regions.

Some of the skills taught in these projects are:

  • Environmental science
  • Citizen science (collaborative data gathering)
  • Measurement / sensing
  • Data visualisation
  • Data comparison
Here are two very useful pieces of software to undertake this type of project:

WideNoise

With WideNoise users can monitor the noise levels around them using an App downloadable from Android Market or Apple AppStore. It has geo-location capabilities allowing users to also check the online map to see the average sound level of the area around them.

The project has made it’s source code available via an Open Source license allowing further customisation.

http://www.widetag.com/widenoise/

NoiseTube

A project developed by Sony Computer Science Laboratory Paris & VUB BrusSense group allows a user to measure the level of noise in dB(A) (with a precision a bit lower than a sound level meter), and contribute to collective noise mapping effort by annotating it (tagging, e.g. subjective level of annoyance). This information can be automatically published on this website (3G/GPRS or manual upload on any PC).

http://www.noisetube.net/

These two projects provide an excellent starting point for educators to become involved on the ‘Internet of Things. A copy of this can be seen on my work blog as well.

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.

Digital literacy
Image by: Dr. Joolz (http://www.flickr.com/photos/drjoolz/)

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 and obvious links to the Oil industry both in the people employed by the organisation as well as direct contributions should give a very clear indication.

Sources to check the facts:

Sources to check the background

Now I am certainly not advocating to take the information from the sites above as automatically correct. Sites such as these might have their own motivations and can also skew their information to suit their own objectives. My point is more making the next generation aware of the need to check and balance their information sources and in the end use their own brain to weigh up the different sources in terms of their validity.

However seeing the browsing habits of my own children and their friends I fear that this particular skill-set has not been given a lot of attention in schools so far. I very much hope this is going to change with age and I will try my best to make them aware of the need to check.