Archive for November, 2013

Weekend funny – The worst toys of the year

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

In the main I like this list, although I do think there are worse toys out there than a  dinosaur with the rocket launcher (I would have loved that).

“Each year, the Toy Industry Association gathers to present its TOTY (Toy Of The Year) Awards. In honor of the industry that has led the way in commercializing childhood, CCFC will present its TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award for the worst toy of the year. From thousands of toys that promote precocious sexuality to children and push branded and screen-based entertainment at the expense of children’s play, CCFC has selected five exceptional finalists.”


I like the iPad potty.  What better way to prepare kids for the inappropriate dependency on recreational technology that will be an important part of their adult lives.

For example,

(This is a real product, but don’t buy a new one, you should be able to pick up one second hand from any wrecker’s yard)

Has Google just opened a loophole to make pirating legal?

Friday, November 29th, 2013

As you’ve probably heard Google won it’s case make copies of any books it wants.

“Google’s massive book-scanning project that makes complete copies of books without an author’s permission is perfectly legal under U.S. copyright law, a federal judge ruled today, deciding an 8-year-old legal battle.

In a 30-page decision (.pdf) Judge Denny Chin of New York ruled that Google’s move to digitize millions of university and commercially available books is on its face a violation of the owners’ copyrights. But Google’s limited use of the work makes the scanning “fair use” under copyright law, Chin ruled.”

The Authors Guild is appealing the decision.

Surely authors have the right to determine how their material is promoted and distributed.   If a commercial third party decides to increase the value of it’s brand by illegally copying someone’s IP surely that’s something they should have a say in.

Surely authors should have the choice to opt in, and if they do decide to help out the Google shareholders, where’s their cut.

Now, I’m not qualified to give legal advice, but it appears from this ruling that it could now be legal (fair use) to pirate all the books you want as long as you make them searchable and provide limited snippets online.

Nice loop hole. There will be an app for that by next week.  No one need ever buy a book again.

Given the new understanding of fair use, Google would probably be within their rights to do the same thing with movies, that court case would be interesting to watch.

If you want the opinion of an author/lawyer listen to this.

Good collection of engaging educational videos

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

These videos are done by a professional media group, and realistically not a standard the average academic can meet, but you there’s lot’s to be gained by looking at how they construct the message and provide the information.

Something to think about when you’re considering a blended/flipped/hybrid/MOOC element in your teaching.


Working memory – something to think about when we plan lectures

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

This TED talk worth a watch.   It’s fairly short.

Peter Doolittle: How your “working memory” makes sense of the world

“we remember about 4 things for about 10 to 20 seconds unless we do something with it.  Unless we process it, unless we apply it to something, unless we talk to somebody about it.”

Here’s a rough summary of the strategies:

  • Repeat and practice.  Write it down and discuss it.
  • Think about the information immediately e.g how does it relate to me , do I agree.
  • Look for meaning and connections.
  • Use imagery.
  • Organisation the the information you present
  • Provide supportive resources

Weekend Funny- More Inforgraphic fun

Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

You know I like a well done infographic, with that in mind I offer this with no further comment.


See Zach Weiner’s other comics on Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Tricks for using still images in video

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

All these require some familiarity with basic video editing software and a fair bit of time

Ken Burns Effect

The panning across a still image (the Ken Burns effect) is probably the most common ‘animated’ effect.  All video editing software can do this.

You can do it fairly easily in Windows Live Movie Maker preset effects


5 Ways to Use Still Photos in Movies That Are Not the Ken Burns Effect

This shows some examples of panning , fly through and layering effects (not much in the way of tutorials)



Making a video slide show

This tutorial focuses on Easy Vid (free) but the principle is the same for any software



Create a time lapse video from still images



The Parallax Effect

If you are feeling a bit ambitious (and have access to some higher end software) you can try using the parallax effect.

Joe Fellows of Make Productions explained in this The Creators Project post how he and his team created stunning “slow motion” animated shots out of still photos from the WWF.  Have a look at the WWF video first.

“Through a process known as the parallax effect, in which single frame photos are layered to create the illusion of third-dimensionality (3D), UK-based motion graphics artist and director Joe Fellows is able to turn a static shot into a multidimensional image.”

More dodgey copyright behaviour by the entertainment industry

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

Warner Bros: we issued takedowns for files we never saw, didn’t own copyright to

“The studio also “admits that it did not (and did not need to) download every file it believed to be infringing prior to submitting the file’s URL” to the Hotfile takedown tool. That’s because “given the volume and pace of new infringements on Hotfile, Warner could not practically download and view the contents of each file prior to requesting that it be taken down.”

This is interesting because the DMCA requires a copyright holder issuing a takedown notice to state that it has a “good faith belief that the use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.” It’s hard to see how anyone at Warner Brothers could have formed any beliefs—good faith or otherwise—about files it admits that no human being at Warner had even looked at.”

This what I’m talking about when I reference Back to the Future.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

I like Carnegie Mellon because of their Open Leaning Initiative, and they have done cool things with robots, but this doesn’t make much sense.

Link to the Universal site

Link to the Universal site

“Carnegie Mellon University is convening a high-powered consortium of educators, researchers, and technology-company executives that will spearhead efforts to develop standards and promote best practices in online education.

The Global Learning Council—to be led by Carnegie Mellon’s president, Subra Suresh—will also look for ways to leverage education-technology resources and disseminate data in an education landscape that some think is being turned on its head.

“In the last few years there has been a lot of discussion thanks to the development of technology about the delivery of education in a scalable way to large numbers of students across national borders,” Mr. Suresh says. “The missing piece is how much are students learning amid all this technology? The other piece is what are the metrics, best practices, and eventually standards, if you will, that are collectively developed and acceptable for those who engage?””

It sounds very impressive but I suspect they could achieve 95% of their aims by employing a research assistant from their Education faculty to do a Lit Review.

I’ll let you make up your own mind on the personnel on the (U.S. only) Global Learning Council.

Udacity finally figures out they had the wrong business model?

Monday, November 18th, 2013

Fast Company have put a out a ‘puff piece’  on the founder of Udacity, Sebastian Thrun.   (Imagine an article in the  ‘The Australian’ on Rupert Murdoch with perhaps a little additional fawning).

The key relevant point (about halfway through the article) is a change in the direction of the business.

Udacity has recruited a dozen or so companies, including Autodesk, Intuit, Cloudera, Nvidia, 23andMe, and, which had sent a couple of reps to discuss a forthcoming course on how to best use its application programming interface, or API. The companies pay to produce the classes and pledge to accept the certificates awarded by Udacity for purposes of employment.”

I won’t comment further, smarter people than I have already done that.

George Siemens

Audrey Watters

Mike Caulfield

Google attempts to gazump iPads in schools

Friday, November 15th, 2013

At an enterprise level (not a personal level) iPads have been a pain to manage, largely thanks to the way iTunes and the Apps Store do business.  They are such a pain that the solution is generally not to attempt to manage them all.

Schools have different levels of accountability and don’t really have that option, so we have seen work arounds a plenty.   Apple have (far too) slowly made various remedial steps to improve the situation but they are still a square (albeit slightly rounded) peg that we persist in trying to bang into a square hole.  Recent security problems in school role outs in Los Angeles and Indiana haven’t helped

It looks like Google have decided the time is right to have a crack at the U.S schools market

“Google is taking this familiar, two-pronged approach, combining hardware and software. This starts by offering schools the ability to choose one of three “classroom ready” Android tablets. First is the Nexus 7, Google’s 7-inch Android tablet, which will be available to K-12 schools beginning today at a cost of around $229 (plus a $30 management fee for those who want to get more Google assistance). Beginning next year, Google will be adding to its roster of education-focused tablets with a 10-inch ASUS Transformer Pad and an 8-inch HP Slate 8 Pro, though pricing is not yet clear for the latter two.”

“Google is tying in Google Play and a few other things to sweeten the deal, like offering bulk purchasing with purchase orders and instant distribution of educational apps, videos and other content to their Android tablets via the cloud.”With Google Play for Education, teachers can discover apps “approved by teachers for teachers,” the company says, as well as videos and books. Teachers can search for approved apps by grade, subject, by price — and, most importantly — by Common Core standards. In fact, the company will even be paying some teachers to review apps for them, marking those reviews with a yellow badge. As of launch, there will be “thousands” of “edu-approved” apps, through which Google will be offering the standard 30/70 split with developers.”

“Another key element: When teachers find an app they want to use, they can proceed to check out, where they’ll now have the option to make a purchase order rather than having to use their own credit card and get reimbursed by the school.”

“On the other side, schools and IT administrators can now set up a classroom of tablets in a few simple steps. Once they set up the first device, admins will be able to load a class list from a local spreadsheet, the company said, and provision additional tablets simply by bumping a new device with the administrator’s tablet. The idea, Google Play for Education product manager Rick Borovoy told EdSurge today, was to enable classrooms to “provision a class in under 10 minutes.””

This is one to watch.  It seems well thought out but I’d want to know more about the security aspects.

As someone who has managed an iPad role out, if you are a school looking to go down the mobile device path I would seriously recommend looking at the Google offering before making any decisions.