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Category Archives: Communications

Is It True? Or Is It Photoshop? Students Tweak TIME Cover

For my Photoshop class last week I tried to bring home to my 6th graders the importance of scrutinizing the media they consume – whether it is a billboard, a news photo in a newspaper, an album cover, celebrity photos, a food label etc.

Time-Magazine-Scott-Kelly-CoverThis is the exercise: Could you put a teacher’s face on the cover of TIME? This recent cover is of one of the twin astronauts, Scott Kelly, (whose brother, Mark is married to former Arizona congresswoman, Gabby Giffords) will be part of a one-year NASA study which I am following.

The local connection and space angle  makes it a fascinating topic that will stay relevant until this time next year. The teacher in question is very supportive of this.

 

This week too, the 6th graders continue to work on their covers. For more details, and to track their progress, check in here…

TruthorPhotoshop

 
 

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What Arthur C Clarke foresaw, still amazes

It’s been 7 years since Arthur C. Clarke passed away. Most people remember him for the movie he is associated with: 2001: A space Odyssey, since he co-wrote the screenplay with Stanley Kubrick.

Every time I pick up one of his books I am amazed at what he envisioned. My favorite book, a heavy tome, titled “Greetings, carbon-based bipeds!” is chock-full of his essays. Take this statement:

“The breaching of the barrier between brain and machine is perhaps one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of human thought.” (Page 218) 

Notwithstanding my interest in robotics, I don’t agree entirely with him when he says “To put it bluntly and brutally, the machine is going to take over.” He probably envisioned when we humans would outsource our memory to the ‘machine’ we unthinkingly call the Cloud. Or when it would be quite OK to hold a conversation with Siri.

Arthur C. Clarke was blunt, and obstinate, but he was also very humble. He insisted that he did not “discover” the geostationary orbit. Why? Because he says, “Its theoretical existence was perfectly obvious to anyone…” (Page 443)

Today we have satellites conducting all manner of business, from espionage, to knitting together a much fragmented world.

Aren’t we glad he pointed out the latter possibility to us?

1983 photo of Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and Arthur C Clarke.   Linked to via http://nalakagunawardene.com. Photo owned by Arthur Clarke Estate

 

Worth reproducing here a comment he made in 1974, cited in Wikipedia.Speaking of how a young person’s life would be impacted by a computer, he said:

“He will have, in his own house, not a computer as big as this, [points to nearby computer], but at least, a console through which he can talk, through his local computer and get all the information he needs, for his everyday life, like his bank statements, hisc reservations, all the information you need in the course of living in our complex modern society, this will be in a compact form in his own house … and he will take it as much for granted as we take the telephone.”

Listen to the last question about man’s “social life”. 

He didn’t foresee some of the addictions that would come with the ‘compact’ screen he anticipated.

 

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Podcasting is hot stuff. Again!

There seems to be a growth spurt for podcasting.

I love the fact that the audio format has been on the upswing, even despite the explosion of screen-based communication options. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you video didn’t assassinate the radio star for various reasons. Such as

  • Podcasts is immensely portable, and does is perfect for multi-tasking
  • Podcasts capture the ‘authentic’ voice of the person or the moment being represented – no fake ‘DJ voice’ required
  • Podcasts have in their DNA something akin to long-form journalism – deep dives into content, rather than skimming a topic

  • Podcasts lend themselves to drama, even while being authentic. The nearest thing to the documentary.

My recent favorites are Snap Judgement, Serial, Invisibilia (former radio Lab producers), and Star Talk.

Apart from the usual line up of This American Life, For Immediate Release, and EdReach, an education podcast for Ed-tech matters I now dabble in.

 

Interestingly this year will be six years since I first got into podcasting. And this year may be the year we begin podcasts at my school. More on this in a later post!

 

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Speaking like Jobs – Presentation tips from 10 years ago

Exactly 10 years ago this week, Steve Jobs took to the stage –a technique he would go on to perfect — to launch the iPod Shuffle.

That was Jan 11th, 2005.

I often do ‘anniversary’ events in my class, to get young people to think about where we are now, in relation to where we and the technologies we take for granted were once at. After all, this is a Computer and Technology Lab, and I don’t want to get into the trap of always featuring today’s shiny new object, or the hottest new parlor trick in digital media. We often need context, and it tends to fly by when we refresh our feeds, doesn’t it?

Back to Jobs. His presentation trick was to use insanely simple devices. Well rehearsed, and well timed but simple. Which made him very different from his tech contemporaries, who revel in Silicon Valley argot. (Yes, I listen to ‘This Week in Tech, to catch up with the other kind of tech-talk!)

Listen to how he works up the crowd, and keeps them hanging on for that characteristic”One more thing.”  Fast forward to 1:35, and see what I mean.

  • He uses words like ‘noodled’ (He “noodled on it” not “researched it”)
  • He uses unexpected pauses, and slows down and speeds up suddenly
  • He uses home-spun images – comparing the iPod Shuffle to a pack of gum, and contrasting it with four quarters

Notice how he also stays away from big words, using words like “easy”, “simple,” “thing,” etc. (And yet, peppering his presentation with keywords!)

Even if there was no YouTube, I bet we would still listen to it.

 

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“This is Salt River Radio!”

Audio is a powerful medium. Overlooked, but extremely powerful.

While video gets all the attention, audio programs –basically podcasts — have been steadily growing recently. This week, I began the new semester by upping the ante for 5th and 6th grade students, showing them how to become producers of content. To start off, I got them to think of themselves as owning their own radio show. A news show, a sports show, or a show about events in the community.

How do they plan and create content? What are the elements of a good show? Good information? A nice pace? A strong personality? Music? Sound Effects?

I plan to use some of my prior radio experience to get students to create their ‘shows.’
Audacity-2.0.png
The software we will be using is Audacity, which is really powerful software. All computers in the Computer and Technology Lab are now loaded with Audacity, and we just got started understanding how  tracks and buttons work, and how to export an editable audio file, to work on it as we move along.

I’m sure you’re wondering: how could digital natives get so excited about ‘old media’? You would be surprised!

‘Salt River Radio’ is the tip of the spear of something bigger I have in mind. I am also looking for input from anyone with radio experience, who would like to be a part of this project, either as a guest instructor, or otherwise.

Stay tuned, if you’ll pardon the pun.

 

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Texting Vs Talking – Another View

My son was home for a few days, and his cell phone died.

The world didn’t evaporate into a mushroom cloud. You see, not being connected doesn’t faze him. “My friends all know that I don’t respond to texts immediately,” he replied when I asked him if it found  that not having a phone for a week caused him any problems. It made me wonder if Milennials have reached the turning point of incessant texting.

Just a few years ago, this was what we were hearing about 18 – 24 year olds.

  • 43% of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone (2010 eMarketer report)
  • More Millennials (than members of any other generation) use their phone for texting. (Pew Research)

What if people stopped staring at their phones and actually spoke to you? Would that creep you out?

What if people stopped sending you links to stupid cat (or anti-whatever) videos, and actually called you to chat?

 

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Phone calls are cool, once again

Are phone calls back in business?

After all the texting, WhatsApping and refusing to pick up the phone (because you wanted the caller to not waste your time, when a SMS would suffice), it appears that people are returning to real conversations.

Or am I just being optimistic?

Here’s a shocker: In 2013, Skype carried an estimated 214 billion minutes of international “on-net” calls (that’s defined as calls made from one Skype app to another).

That’s in spite of the rise of Viber and Line, and even Google Hangouts which do the same job, or better. There’s also an emerging standard known as VoLTE, that’s supposedly about to deliver ‘infallible voice service’ that’s different from the VOIP standard. It’s too technical to go into this here. But the big picture is that soon, when voice calls become cheaper, and more high def, it’s going to make us want to return to those conversations.

For my Mum’s 90th birthday, last week, I was able to speak to her, and get some half-decent face-time with cousins, thanks to Skype. To me Skype is the trusty service, in the same way that land-lines were some 20 years ago, never mind the poor quality of the line. I still use these ‘over-the-top (OTT) applications, but whenever I yearn for close encounters, there’s nothing like a phone call!

 
 

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