Category Archives: google

Still Predicting

change

So where are the flying cars, the silver jumpsuits and video phones which were going to be part of everyday life in the 21st Century?

Making predictions about the future of technology is easy. However accurately predicting the future is not easy and to put it bluntly everyone gets it wrong. Either they try and push an existing process and technology and extrapolate and “miss” out on any future potential inventions that make the existing processes redundant. The other mistake that people make is assume that the process of adoption of new technologies will happen faster than it actually does. So whilst fashion is still quite conservative and cars clog the roads and don’t fly, we through technologies such as Skype and Facetime are able to not just video phone, but we can instant message, present and share our computer desktops at the same time, using the same tool!

The one constant in life is change, we have social change, technological change, political change. This makes predicting change and the impact of change a real challenge.

Predicting how life will change for the university student of the future is fraught with difficulties and challenges and no doubt it is easy to get it wrong… However it’s an interesting thought experiment to try, which is why I think that people do it.

There are many people out there predicting the end of formal education and the radical change to university life for students. This, here I go predicting the future, however in my opinion, is a nice idea, but isn’t going to happen. The culture within education and academics is so embedded and rigid that changes in technology are only flexing and tweaking education, not breaking it or resulting in a radical metamorphosis.

The university students who will start their studies in September 2016 would have been born in 1998 On September 4th 1998 was the day that Google was founded.

1998 Google Logo

A year later in 1999, the term Web 2.0 was first used in an article. These students do not know a world without the internet, within their primary and secondary schools they probably had ICT suites and depending on which FE College they went to they have used tablets, netbooks, mobile devices and wifi enabled laptops to support their learning. These students have mobile phones that in the main are more likely to be used for things other than phone calls. The students of 2016 are very different to the students of 2006 and 1996, or are they?

How different are the educational institutions of 2016 to those ten or twenty years ago? Yes of course they are different, libraries have changed, classroom technologies have changed, but has education changed that much? If not why? There are many factors to take into account the inertia that you find in education. The main one appears to be is culture and a preference for what has been done before. The introduction of technology either falls into the depths of the pilot pit or is used sparingly at the edges of what has been done before and always.

So with all this technology savviness and awareness, you will hear phrases such as the Google Generation and Digital Natives been banded about in the media and in education. The assumption is that as these learners have grown up in a world with technology immersed into their world, grown up with the internet, Web 2.0, social media, tablets, smartphones and other new technologies; that these learners are able to skilfully use these technologies to support, enhance and enrich their learning. A pretty poor assumption in many respects, as learners have also grown up with books and magazines, but often lack study skills to utilise academic books and journals to enhance and enrich their learning. Learners may be using technology and the internet on a regular basis, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the study skills to use these same technologies for learning. Study and information skills need to take into account the changes in technology and access to information that the internet allows.

The dependence on written assessment in education is a result of the high cost and time required for oral assessment. As a result there was a shift from oral to written testing and the end result is no longer do we have a questioning and probing assessment, no we have the challenge of writing four essays in three hours. So assessment has changed in the past, but can it make such a radical change in the future? Students can now carry thousands of books in a single device, can access journals when and wherever they have an internet connection, communicate with the world. This quick and easy access to content in likelihood probably changes how learners learn. However when it comes to much assessment, we turn off this access, restrict what learners can use, apart from that, which can be remembered. Often other forms of assessment are seen as having less value. If we are to take advantage of the access that new technologies bring to learners, we need to rethink the ways and medium of assessment.

Part of the problem for planning for the future using the same processes and protocols we have used for change in the past, is that the pace of technological change can be faster than the pace of change. For example just as we get round to the idea of students using their laptops in lectures and thinking we should therefore equip lecture theatres with power sockets and overcome the challenges put in place by over zealous health and safety officers with learners using their own devices within an institution. We find that the devices our learners are now using and will be using have batteries that allow the device to be used all day without needing to be charged up. The new power sockets are now redundant before they have been used.

The same can be said with connectivity, a single wireless router was probably more than ample where there were a small number of devices using small amounts of bandwidth. Now with students having multiple devices and accessing a range of high bandwidth content, wireless networks need to be robust, scalable and capable of handling large numbers of devices and provide sufficient bandwidth. Look in your own pockets and bags, how many wireless devices do you have?

The question that we do need to ask is are we using technology to extend and improve an existing process, or can we use technology to radically change processes? Expectations are that we can use technology to lever radical change in education. This has never happened before, it would be surprising if it happened now. A simple example, when the internet had limited bandwidth, it wasn’t possible to use video or even audio across the web, so people resorted to textual communication. Bulletin boards, usenet and discussions forums allowed asynchronous conversations. The depth of discussion and learning that can take place with such tools certainly outweighed the disadvantages of textual conversations. However these were challenging tools for learning as it required a change in thinking and culture. Many academics and learners found them difficult to use and challenging to change the way in which they delivered learning. As bandwidth improved and new synchronous tools arrived, we have seen how virtual classroom and webinar tools allow for live teaching. These tools have proved popular with academics and learners alike. We have to question why is this, part of the reason has to be that webinar tools are digitising a traditional lesson or lecture format. Academics and learners are comfortable with this format, so a virtual version is easy to grasp and understand. This affinity with traditional approaches, means when given a choice, they will choose a virtual version of something they understand rather than try a different possibly better process. It is this aversion to the new and preference for the comfortable means that radical change is highly unlikely.

Cynicism and resistance to technological change in education has been part of education as long as people have tried to introduce new technologies. Paper was seen as wasteful and extravagant when it replaced slates. Pen and ink was an expensive luxury and shouldn’t be used by education. Likewise there was widespread resistance to the introduction of calculators. Some of today’s academics are cynical and resistant to the use of the web and mobile devices, just as their predecessors were to the new technologies of their time. Some academics are not, just as some of their predecessors, they embrace and see the opportunities that new technologies bring to learning.

Changing technologies is only one factor that impacts and affects education, a look at the newspapers and news websites, as well as glancing at Twitter will show how changes in policy and funding can have a much greater impact than a change in technology.

Change is happening, and the one constant in life is change, but it is happening very slowly. One thing is certain though, things change and academics and institutions that see change as an opportunity and a challenge will probably thrive better than those that ignore or encounter resistance to change.

Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

There wasn’t a FOTE conference in 2015, which was a pity as it was one of my favourite annual events. I spoke at many of the conferences, most recently in 2014 when I spoke about the conflict between the light and the dark and used a Star Wars theme.

I remember reflecting on the conference on the way home that it would be a lot of fun to do a Back the Future themed talk for 2015.

Back to the Future

Alas it was never to be…

However I thought it might be a little fun to explore what might have been…

Continue reading Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

Top Ten Technologies of 2015

Old workshop

These are technologies that I actually use, they exclude web tools and services which I do a separate top ten for. They are generally tools that make my life easier, more efficient and more productive. So though I liked Apple Watch, Google Glass and Oculus Rift, these weren’t the types of technologies I used regualarly.

Having changed roles in 2015, this has made the list a little more interesting as the technologies I used over the year did change quite a bit.

Here are my previous top tens from 2008, 2009, 2010, 201120122013 and 2014.

The tenth technology is my current workhorse computer is a Dell Latitude E7250 laptop running Windows 7, which is reasonably reliable, has a decent battery life.

For the first half of the year I had an iPad Air 2, and this is number nine in my top ten, and found it a great piece of kit. It’s smaller and lighter than previous models. Certainly much more powerful and has a better camera. The reason it’s dropped from third to tenth place in my top ten, was that having not had an iPad for most of 2015, I am not really missing it and has been generally replaced in terms of functionality by the iPhone 6S Plus.

Number one in 2014, the 11” MacBook Air drops to number eight, leaving my last job in May meant returning the MacBook Air. I really liked that computer and one day hope to get another one. I prefer it over the newer 2015 Macbook, though that one does have a retina screen.

Having spent a fair bit of time in the top ten, and now at number seven is the 2008 era Google Nexus One. I eventually retired this in November.

At number six is the iPhone 5S, having replaced the one I had in 2014, with an iPhone 6 Plus, when I changed roles, I was given an iPhone 5S which I have been using since June. It’s a powerful phone, but having the 16GB model is somewhat restrictive in terms of apps and what you can do with it.

At number five is the Apple TV, this is great for streaming video and showing photographs from my iMac on the family TV. I now have the fourth generation model which has apps and it now has BBC iPlayer, yay!

Apple TV

The tech in fourth place is the Polaroid Pogo Printer. This I bought back in 2009 and at the time didn’t think too much of it and was in many ways slightly disappointed. However trying a new methodology for making notes and planning, using a combination of a notebook, coloured pens and prints from the Pogo, the device has really come into its own this year and I have been using it much more than ever before. I am looking at replacing it though, as the battery is unreliable and I wouldn’t mind something compatiable with iOS.

iMac is my number three technology. A powerful workhorse with a great screen. I really like the design and power of the Apple iMac. I have the 27” model which has a beautiful screen and lots of real estate to do lots of different things.

Interestingly I have placed 4G as my number two technology. I have been using Vodafone 4G since about 2013, but it was only on buying an iPhone 6S Plus and changing contracts from an old grandfathered unlimited 3G T-Mobile contract to a new unlimited data 4G contract with Three that I really started to take advantage of what 4G can offer. It’s faster than my home broadband so I use the phone to stream video and connect it to my TV. Out and about, the speeds are really impressive, making it much easier to access stuff and information. I have been totally impressed with it.

So my top technology is really two things the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6S Plus. My main work phone for the first half of the year was the iPhone 6 Plus, and I replaced my dependable Google Nexus One with an iPhone 6S Plus in November. This is one big phone, but has replaced much of the functionality of my iPad. Best feature for me is the camera, which is incredible for a phone camera. It’s very powerful phone and combined with the 4G connection I find it perfect for so much of what I need to do.

So what are you top technologies for 2015?

Top Ten Web Tools of 2015

oldtools1

This is the eighth time I have compiled a list of the top ten web tools I have used during the year. I am finding it interesting looking back over 2008, 2009, 2010201120122013 and 2014 which tools I still use and which have fallen by the wayside.

Out of the top ten are Chrome, Safari and Google+. I still like the positive aspects of Chrome and Safari, I like the fact that I can move between devices and take up where I left off and having a common history regardless of device. Though using a Dell has meant Safari integration is less useful. Google+ probably would have made the top ten, but the community I am part of is using it less and less, so there is less engagement and less conversation.

Instagram is number ten for 2015, I have found that the community I engaged with has shrunk over the last twelve months. I still like it as a tool and as a community.

Dropbox was my number one technology in 2014 and I used it in a similar way for some of 2015. However when I started using a Dell as my main workhorse, the benefits of working on a single Pages document across multiple Macs disappeared and though I still like Dropbox, I now use it more for remote online storage than as a synced cloud solution for working on files across multiple machines. As a result it drops to ninth place in the top ten.

Evernote in a similar vein to Dropbox was well used in the earlier part of 2015, but less so in the latter half, so drops to number eight. I mainly use Evernote to make notes and planning. One feature I started using extensively in November and December was to use the Evernote app on the iPhone to capture post-its and flipcharts from meetings and workshops. The auto-capture feature was a chance discovery and I found it perfect for quickly capturing hand-written information and sharing it with others.

At number seven is Flickr. I use Flickr to both store and find photographs. I used it a lot to find images for presentations.

At number six is Google Docs (and Google Drive), from a collaboration perspective it is one of the best tools I have used. I like the fact that a team can work on a document all at the same time.

The fifth tool in the top ten is Tweetdeck. Using a consistent hashtag for projects means that Tweetdeck is a faster way to find out who is talking about the project and what they are talking about on the Twitter. I like how I can use it to schedule tweets in advance, this proved particularly useful for a Tweetchat I did for the ALT Winter Conference.

At number four is Yammer, this Enterprise “social network” has allowed me to internally update Jisc on the project work and keep people across the organisation informed on what we are doing and where we are at.

Third place is Skype and Skype for Business. I used Skype for many years for external online conversations, but when I moved jobs in 2013, I stopped using it. Now at Jisc I use it on a daily basis for online meetings, conferences and instant messaging.

Climbing up to number two for 2015 is WordPress. Having not used it much in 2014, it became much more integral to the way I worked. As well as my personal blogs such as this one, I also use it for my work blog and have also been using it to prototype an online delivery platform, as a kind of dynamic connectivist VLE.

Twitter is my number one technology for 2015, after limited use in the first part of 2015, it really became an indispensable tool for me for the rest of 2015. I use it much more for broadcasting, conversations and engagement.

So that’s my top ten web tools for 2015, what were yours?

Emerged Technologies

oldtools

Four years is a long time in technology, but how much has happened since 2011?

Back in November 2011 I was asked by the AoC to present at a conference with Donald Taylor on emerging technologies and how FE Colleges should be preparing for them.

My slides and Donald’s are in this slidedeck.

My notes from that presentation are here, but how much has changed since then and had education really embraced and started to embed these emerging technologies.

Continue reading Emerged Technologies