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Hangouts are now a bit more useful.

November 20th, 2015 by Cameron

“Starting today, we’re making this feature even more useful by removing the requirement that guests have a Google account in order to join a Hangouts video call. Here’s how it works: guests without a Google account who have been provided with the video call link by the organizer will be asked to provide their name and then request to join the call.”

Weekend funny – 6 second tutorial on how to use a selfie stick

October 31st, 2015 by Cameron

There are many uses for selfie sticks and this video is certainly one.

selfie break

It’s interesting how polarizing these (it has to be said, quite useful) items have become.

I’m trying to think of other recent items that have been used (usually unfairly) as indicators of a persons personality and values.

So here’s my list so far :)

  1. Hummers
  2. Over priced Polo shirts (LaCoste, Hilfigger insert your brand bias here)
  3. Blue Ribbon beer (and fixed wheel bikes – seriously guys, get some gears).
  4. Ponytails (on men), Mullets (either sex)
  5. Hats of any description (except on the beach)
  6. Persistent Bloggers (how 2006!)
  7. Emoji over users

Weekend Funny – 27 Professors Who Got The Last Laugh

October 24th, 2015 by Cameron

I’m a big believer in using humour in our teaching.  Buzzfeed has collected a few examples.

This teacher's very effective anti-cheating method.

Shove Chrome extension – good for practical jokes but maybe also lectures.

October 15th, 2015 by Cameron


There’s an insane new Chrome extension called “Shove” that we’re sure nobody’s going to misuse. As spotted by Wired, it lets you drop a web page onto your friend’s browser, and vice-versa.  … however, it’s strictly opt-in. Once both parties agree, they can open up links in each others’ browsers anytime.”

First, I would not use this app with my sons or either brother.  My younger brother occasionally calls friends during church or in the cinema just to see if they have left their ringtone on.  It’s funny when it’s not you.

But imagine you are running a live Q&A event.  It could be very useful to have an off-sider quickly hunting up answers or resources and posting them straight to your screen or the projector.

Tech enhanced narcissism is now more dangerous than sharks

October 5th, 2015 by Cameron

The death toll of officially recorded selfie-related deaths currently stands at 12, shark deaths are currently at 8.

Previous incidents this year include a man who was gored to death taking a picture during a bull run in a Spanish town, and two men who accidentally blew themselves up in the Russian Ural mountains when posing with a live grenade. The picture was discovered saved to the camera roll on one of the men’s phones.”

It may be that the Darwin Awards will need a whole separate category for Selfie related deaths.  For those who aren’t aware of the Darwin Awards

“the Darwin Awards commemorate individuals who protect our gene pool by making the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives.   Darwin Award winners eliminate themselves in an extraordinarily idiotic manner, thereby improving our species’ chances of long-term survival.”

Something to think about before you buy a selfie stick.

Weekend Funny – MTV awards feud explained in emojis

September 5th, 2015 by Cameron

First – I could care less about pop stars feuding.

emoji feud

Second – While this is a gag, it is a reflection on how our language is evolving.   As the current young generation of tech users disperse into the workforce (if they ever leave home and learn how to wash their own clothes) it’s not hard to see  communication via emojis, animated gifs and txt abbreviations become established as the unofficial  universal language.  Unlike top down universal languages like Esparanto, this is an evolutionary  grassroots change.

It is conceivable that the “Queens English” becomes the isolated language of the bureaucracy, much like Latin in the  medieval Catholic Church.

Or, it could be that emojis are rejected by the next generation as symbols of oppression by the smart phone obsessed old fogey millennials who are keeping them out of jobs and don’t how to use washing machines.

Tech giants stab at Flash with pointy sticks

September 2nd, 2015 by Cameron

Actually that’s not really the headline.   Some of the big players (Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix, but not Apple or FB) are coming together to create an open source video format for internet video that they don’t have to pay royalties to use.

flash stick

They are actually poking at  H.265 (the successor to H.264)  put together by  ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group and ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG).

I’m not sure what this means for us in education?  Backwards compatibility is paramount for us.  Will Firefox and Chrome bail on the older H.264 video (e.g. MP4) .  How easy will it be to convert our current resources to the new format?

Here’s a basic report from Wired

Those with a technical bent might want to read this

The Streaming Industry Gangs up on HEVC with the Alliance for Open Video

Weekend funny – selfie fails

August 29th, 2015 by Cameron

selfie fail

(you know this isn’t going to end well)

Robot tutor – not as cool as it sounds (but it’s free)

August 27th, 2015 by Cameron

Actually only Wired magazine called it a robot.  It’s actually’s adaptive learning platform.

Basically,  students enter some info about learning preferences and the system hunts though it’s collection of resources for something that matches it.  If the student gets a question wrong the system finds a simpler resource.

It’s not that ground breaking, but what it does have is a large collection to resources that anyone can add to, and it’s now free (it was previously available via publishers like Pearson). figures out what each student knows and how each student learns best, to pinpoint the type of content, level of difficulty, and which media format each student needs. Its technology can take any free open content, algorithmically calibrate it, and bundle it into a uniquely personalized lesson for each student at any moment.

Anyone who wants to learn or teach a subject can use helps teachers, tutors and parents provide more personalized lessons. Students at any level can reach their academic goals at their own pace, and get extra help or more advanced lessons.

Upmarket Hangouts get supersized at Harvard

August 26th, 2015 by Cameron

Harvard Business School’s HBX digital learning initiative today launched a virtual classroom designed to reproduce the intimacy and synchronous interaction of the case method in a digital environment.

Built to mimic the amphitheater-style seating of an HBS classroom, the HBX Live Studio features a high-resolution video wall that can display up to 60 participants. Additional students can audit sessions via an observer model. An array of stationary and roaming cameras capture the action, allowing viewers to see both the professor and fellow students.

hbx live 2

hbx live

My first impression is this looks very cool.  A slick digital performance space that allows student interaction.

My second thought is where did they get the cash to build it and fund the ongoing running costs (3 people in the booth?!?).  There is no way this is feasible unless you have insane levels of external funding (like maybe Harvard)

My third thought is what is it actually achieving?  Isn’t it just a big shiny Hangout?   It seems to be designed to replicate an environment that is familiar to the academic.  The students are still just looking at a (very well filmed) person on a computer monitor.

My fourth is it’s still dependent on the one thing we are short of which is good facilitator/presenters.  Actually if we want to do this  via a screen we probably need people with TV/drama training.

In a select entry MBA like Darden you could probably pull this off, but I suspect in an undergrad setting you’d have half the students on the video wall, reading Facebook and checking to see if the person on the third screen over is on Tinder.

Still, I like the idea.

I could be a good option if you are running a TV production company and looking for a side business in Distance Ed.  Maybe it’s something to think about if you are rebuilding your Performing Arts/Journalism facilities.

Thinking about it, I reckon I could probably pull of something similar for about $6K upfront (not including the laptop).  And there’d be no ongoing costs

  • Streaming hdmi video camera
  • Lapel mic or shot gun mic
  • Streaming Box (Magewell USB3 to HMDI converter)
  • Data projector to project the Hangout student view
  • Swyvl tracking camera stand.
  • Cheap set of studio lights from ebay

I’ve got some gear on order and I might have a go at doing this later in the year.  I’ll post it on YouTube when it’s done.