Monash Home | Blog Home | eLearning Meanderings Home

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.

Some tips for buying a teaching video camera

August 25th, 2015 by Cameron

The first thing to say is dollar for dollar, any current camera is better than the 5 year old one you may be using now.   I’m not going to provide an exhaustive list of features, just a few things that could trip up.

Panasonic HC-X920 3D Ready HD 3MOS Digital Camcorder with Wi-fi (black)

My basic premise is you want a camera that the average academic can use to record an event in a lecture theatre.   Best quality for the minimum effort.

  • Records in MP4 format – Staff should be able to put a compressed file straight into Moodle or YouTube with out doing any conversion.  Most cameras do this, but not all, and some of their formats don’t work well in some programs e.g. Camtasia is finicky about audio codecs (AC3) and Windows Movie Maker can’t handle the High Definition format MTS used in most major brands.
  • Fold out view finder that turns 180 degrees so people ca see themselves – this is pretty much standard now but check for it anyway
  • Has a physical remote control – This removes the need to clip the start and finish of your recording.  Staff can sit down, get their hair right, and take a deep breath before pushing the record button.  It turns out this is probably the main thing that will limit your options.    Many cameras now use OS and Android apps, which is fine if you are lending out a smart phone with each camera, and providing instructions on how to sync up the devices.

And don’t forget a tripod.  You don’t need a top of the range item, but don’t go too cheap.  Aluminum tripods are fairly rugged and cheap.  Personally I prefer having a mid level spreader for more stability.  Make sure the head doesn’t make any noise when you move it around.

If you have you own tips, let me know.

Audio is also important but I’ll deal with that later.

Weekend funny – Back school sales that were hopefully mislabeled.

August 22nd, 2015 by Cameron

See the rest on

Peer review of online news articles

August 21st, 2015 by Cameron

This group climate ( ) focuses on climate change articles but any group could do something similar, using the same platform *

“With so much information available online, trying to figure out which information is credible — and what is not — is a real challenge. When so much of what we read falls outside of our own expertise, how can we know which headlines and news articles are consistent with science?”

“Using the Hypothesis annotation platform, our community of scientists go through a variety of online media articles and provide ‘feedback’ on the scientific accuracy of the information presented. Readers can view these annotations directly alongside the original texts and see exactly where the article’s information is consistent — or inconsistent — with scientific thinking and state-of-the-art knowledge in the field.”

While I support the intent and effort, I’m a bit unsure of the  effectiveness of Climatefeedback approach.  It is useful for people looking for accurate science based information, but if you already lean in the other direction you are unlikely to use it.  Pseudo-science groups with opposing views could set up their own service, entrenching an alternative view.  Then again, that could be useful to teachers teaching critical thinking in schools.  You could have an article and two or three different “authoritative” commentaries.

They certainly picked apart an article by our current government’s climate darling.


The platform is worth exploring.  It might be a way for university academics to raise their profiles by providing timely critiques of current events.

* is  “building an open platform for discussion on the web. It leverages annotation to enable sentence-level critique or note-taking on top of news, blogs, scientific articles, books, terms of service, ballot initiatives, legislation and more. Everything we build is guided by our principles. In particular that it be free, open, non-profit, neutral and lasting to name a few.”

Ghost tour of Second Life campuses

August 20th, 2015 by Cameron

I like the idea of Second Life but for me, it is still a solution looking for a problem.  Some people in Design in the VET sector did some interesting things with virtual display spaces, but largely it was just universities recreating slightly lame versions of their existing campuses.

Patrick Hogan on had a hunt around of some of the remaining SL campuses and found decade old, abandoned relics.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 1.53.18 PM

I found this via Stephen Downes OLD daily

We had a crack at it at Monash, but despite some interesting research results, enthusiasm had largely petered out by 2009.  An exciting project called Pharmatopia was originally on SL but switched Unity

The new idea for Second Life is to pair it VR headsets like Oculus Rift to create a more immersive environment.

Linden Lab is prepping Project Sansar, a VR world.

The project is progressing.  Here is a press release from 2 days ago (20/8/2015)

This could be quite exciting but like the original Second Life, I’m not sure it will make studying Accounting any more interesting.  I think if you could create photo-realistic spaces for virtual open days , Second Life could be useful, but on a day to day basis it’s a lot of work for virtual meeting and presentation spaces.