Category Archives: Sri Lanka

Derrick Mains on Augmented Reality

Could a pair of cardboard goggles become a critical student engagement tool?

Derrick_1I invited Derrick Mains to my computer lab yesterday to explain Augmented Reality, and what doors it might open for us educators, and of course students. I think I am sold!

Many students have heard of AR and VR, and you would be surprised how curious they are about this. Just as they are more interested in photography today because of disruptive devices such as the GoPro, they are more interested in Apps like these because of what it could do “seeing things differently.”

Cardboard_tnAs Derrick explained, this is another way to use Apps in education. Not just to stare at a screen but to ignore the screen (which disappears, the moment you put these goggles on) and engage and explore new worlds. We are not talking about fictitious virtual worlds, but uncharted territories whether it is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, or to observe an eco-system in a rain forest.

Some of you might remember Derrick Mains from his work in social media. He was one of my co-presenters in a workshop on Digital Citizenship. The reason he’s on camera again, is because he will be in one of the several videos I am producing with my Salt River Pima-Maricopa TV team for another upcoming workshop.


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Learning to avoid cameras – from TV reporters

I love cameras. I hate cameras. Are you like me?

I take a lot of pictures, and often avoid being in them (a photo-catcher’s prerogative!). But sometimes we can’t avoid being in them. (photo-radar, group shots…)

This week, I have to be part of a series of STEM videos that I am putting together. I was looking for ways to not be on camera 90 percent of the time. Ergo, the table-top presentation.

In the TV news business, it’s called Continuity and Cutaways.‘  A well-practiced art we are oblivious to. It works like this:

  1. Anchor introduces story, and station ‘cuts away’ to reporter.
  2. Reporter on camera takes over for a few seconds.
  3. Video cuts away to scene of story – the so-called B-roll footage. The reporters voice (arguably on ‘A-roll’) runs over the video and maintains continuity
  4. Studio cuts back to reporter, who wraps up story in a few seconds.

In total the reporter is on camera for a fraction of the time. Our brains fill in the gaps, and make us believe we were being addressed face-to-face. I hope to really shrink that fraction. Let’s see.

Note: For a good understanding of the cutaway and B-roll, read Steve Johnson’s explanation here.


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Photography (and Ed-Tech) lessons from the Blood Moon


Sometimes the cheapest camera does the trick.

This evening’s Blood Moon, and the lunar eclipse, was a spectacular show in our southern skies.

Not as stunning as these, however, but it could be a great lesson in photography, about how to frame a slow-moving event, and compensate for lighting. The camera was a Nikon Coolpix, which was less expensive than the lens of an older SLR. (It’s become my ‘better’ camera, especially on my recent trip to Sri Lanka, where I shot close-ups of rural life, and in the wilds. Easier to pack to the beach and on mountains hikes.)

Which brings me to the point about technology. How often does the technology get in the way of what you are experiencing or working on in the moment? Just as how we often get trapped in the software just to make a great presentation, a microphone or camera can become a distraction.

In Ed-Tech, which is what I teach, I like the focus to be more on the ‘Ed’ and less on the ‘Tech.’


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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, Sri Lanka, Technology


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Sri Lankans “consolidate the January 8 revolution” in landmark elections

Pardon for my dredging up the cliché about how “the people have spoken.”

As Sri Lanka sees the results of a peaceful general election today, the real revolution has been in the making for a few years.

We now take for granted that most journalists provide results and news in real-time. Even providing clarity today, amid the euphoria, and contradictory ‘reports’.

We aren’t surprised anymore that the Deputy Minister of Policy Planning and Economic Affairs, Harsha de Silva uses his Twitter handle, as if he was texting you personally (and bilingually, too).  He’s not alone in this digital democracy of 20.8 million people.

One of the 5 trends in Sri Lanka, as outlined by Anna Bruce-Lockhart at the World Economic Forumis the gains in digitization. (The Full report is here.)

I welcome the maturity of an informed digital democracy in our Chat Republic.


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Balloons could add new flavors to the ‘Cloud’ and Digital Democracy

Most of you know how I dislike the word ‘cloud’ as a catchall for anything accessed online. So how about getting used to balloons? As in Google’sProject Loon that has been in the works for some two years, and now is supposed to be set to launch in Sri Lanka.

It’s a crazy, heady idea. Sri Lanka will be the first country to get ‘universal Internet access’ as TechCrunch put it.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, and did an extensive train and road trip with the family. I experienced first hand what connectivity is –and is not. The new, fast highways are obviously connecting more people to more opportunities. The Telcos are providing easy-to-get (via a scratch card) low-cost bandwidth for smart devices. There is growing free Wi-Fi presence in towns as diverse as Galle, Anuradhapura, Kandy and some places in Jaffna; even on a train we took to the hill country! Access does get spotty and sluggish at times, but the appetite for connectivity is growing in leaps and bounds.

And now balloons!

Here’s why I welcome this. Not for the obvious reasons, such as giving everyone including tuk-tuk drivers or election monitors the ability to tweet or upload pictures – which could be useful in and of itself.

Education: First sorely needed bandwidth to homes, schools and offices will change the game. I was at one outstation school, and the science teachers had to use a dongle to get online. ‘Universal access’ for schools would change the dimension of how learning takes place beyond the Google search. Young people could be empowered to create content and not just consume it. It’s about time schools got a better deal when it comes to connectivity. Why haven’t the telcos given schools a better deal? What will they do now?

Political participation. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that despite the dismal examples of governance, that democracy and citizen participation works. ICTA reported recently that “Sri Lanka has shot up to 74th position in the United Nations E-Government Survey of 2014, after climbing 41 places since 2012.” Nalaka Gunewardene goes into rich detail about how Digital Democracy is at work. Beyond elections, this will affect transparency and accountability, when everyone has an uplink, a camera and a voice.

There are obviously several more examples, which some of you might like to add. Please do!


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What social media was like five years ago

I came across these pictures taken during a series of webinars on social media I conducted in late 2010, and it made me realize how far we have come. Or what we have left behind.

The series was called Passport to Digital Citizenship.

I have met some of these ‘students’ who have subsequently gone on to do amazing work in the digital space in Sri Lanka.

But now that I teach a different age and demographic of students, it is interesting to see how some major concerns of digital citizenship, have been over-ridden by new ones. Then there was no WhatsApp, and Instagram or Snapchat to think about. At that time, it was almost inconceivable that these new digital channels would practically revise the political spectrum in Sri Lanka – as Nalaka Gunewardene has well documented.

Webinar students - Passport to Digital Citizenship 2010














Thank you for the experience all of you who attended.

What are the most important tools you use in your work today? More importantly what are your biggest challenges?  Privacy? Information overload? Earning trust? PR?


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Uncle Ben

It’s spring break for me. I’m taking time out here to talk about someone who defies everything we tend to believe about the Internet as a communications tool, and how social networks have become the quintessential (essential?) glue.

Uncle Ben just turned 78 today. You would not have seen it pop up on LinkedIn, you won’t see glowing wishes and purple prose about him on Facebook, WhatsApp, or for that matter an email thread. And yet I’m willing to bet that Uncle Ben has more friends than you. Lower-case friends, I mean.

People call on him every day to talk to him (not simply to ‘Like’ him); those who stop by his apartment don’t tale selfies with him because deep down they realize that a few hours spent together is all about him, not ‘all about me.’

When his sugar level goes up the whole world doesn’t know about it. When he’s spending a few weeks harvesting a bumper crop of beans in Bandarawela (his second home that he has freely opened out to anyone in the extended family) you don’t see close-ups of the pods in time-release photos. (Indeed they would make great Vine videos!) AS you may guess, Uncle Ben does not crave or entertain self-promotion. He’s a single man with dozens of nephews and nieces, and grand-nieces and grand nephews, and hundreds and hundreds of fans – down the street, at the market, the three-wheel taxi drivers, at the tennis clubs… I could go on.

I once attempted to show him how to use text messaging (stupid me: I thought, since most of us nephews and nieces would love to stay in touch, he would dig this). He gave up. But he loves chatting – the authentic kind of chat –and always gives us a call whether we are 30 miles away of 10,000.

As some of you know, I often write about curious or marvelous technology trends, and big shifts in how people communicate, collaborate or become more productive. Today, I am so glad Uncle Ben never reads my column, or never does any of these things. He’s the happiest guy I know, who lives entirely offline.

Happy Birthday, Uncle Ben!

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Posted by on March 14, 2015 in Sri Lanka


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