Thursday, April 30, 2009

iPhone to Your TV or Data Projector? Yes.

Walt Mossberg (of the Wall Street Journal) apparently doesn't know about this (WJS 4/30/09 p. D2).

Or maybe it's his minions who didn't google right. (Sometimes other people publish under their own byline but with Walt's name up top. Is that like a movie being produced by one person but directed by another?)

In any case, it must be pretty hard to figure out if Walt can't figure it out, because he's a hepcat. (And if you know what hepcat means, you're too old to be reading this blog. I bet Walt knows. I love teasing Walt, because there are so few things to tease him about. Also, he's kinda cute.)

So let me give you the lowdown.

Buy yourself some Apple iPhone component AV cables. Or Apple composite AV cables. Which you use depends on the inputs on your TV or data project: composite are more backwards-compatible, component more up-to-date.

Yes, they're a tad dear, these cables: nearly fifty bucks. But they get the job done.

With these cables (and the included power supply) you can output some iPhone (and iPod) stuff to a TV, display or video projector.

Yes, only some.

Basically, you can show a video file or play a photo slideshow.

The original Steve Jobs sales pitch for iPhone in which he projected the whole interface--well, that suggests the capacity is in there somewhere but is normally disabled. Maybe a jailbroken iPhone could do it? With the right app? Or maybe Jobs didn't want the iPhone to cannibalize his own laptop business. In any event, this is one particular cat I wish they'd let out of its software-dis-enabled bag.

But the photos slideshow option means you can convert Powerpoint to jpeg's or tiff's, store them on your mobile device, and then give a presentation entirely from your phone. Forget bringing your laptop, just bring the phone and cables.

Yes, you'll need big font for this--so don't overcrowd your slides. And the normal Powerpoint jpegs are too small: in Windows I print to tiffs using Zan Image Printer (another $50--it adds up).

Or you can make a slideshow into a movie (using iPhoto or iMovie, for instance) and let that run in the background as you give your presentation.

(My Stanford handout, replete with details for students about how to check out equipment, is here and has some additional tips.)

I've done this in presentations at Stanford for over a year now--and trained students to do the same. (Yes, college undergraduates are ahead of Walt Mossberg in some ways--it's just a generational thing, we'll have to get used to it.)

And I gave a professional conference at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies in Philadelphia in 2008 using this setup. In-the-know techies swooned afterwards like it was a parlor magic trick: "How did you do that?" (Kind of like when in 2001 I gave a talk at the same conference that I then streamed to the web. I love me some toys.)

With this approach, you have simplicity, lightweightness and sexiness going for you. It's a conversation-starter--or a distraction, depending on the topic. So use these tools wisely--as always.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Forget Bookmarks.

That's in the imperative.

I mean:  don't collect bookmarks in your browser.

Doing so means a browser synch tool, and they're mostly browser-specific and unwieldy, I find.
Instead, make most of your bookmarks public.

I use delicious.  You add a link to your browser that takes you from any web page to a delicious page that adds the prior page to your delicious bookmarks.

You tag the pages with whatever's relevant for you or others--"learningtechnology," "instructionaldesign," "xml," the like.

Now you can find all your tagged pages anywhere you have a web connection.

AND anyone else can browse your tags or see those tags when tagging a page themselves.

Saving and sharing become the same thing.

Want students to collect and share bookmarks?  Create a class account--it's free, and have everyone tag pages.  

Want to send someone your links about javascript?

Tagged with javascript and API?


No more browser plug-ins or bookmark synching.  No more sorting bookmarks into a tree structure.  Just click, tag, be done.

Your bookmarks:  anywhere.

(Yes, you can make private ones, too.)  

--Edward R. O'Neill

Friday, April 10, 2009

Positive and Negative Educations.

How often in higher education we fail our brightest students.

I had dinner tonight with a friend.  He dropped out of a rather prestigious private university--after several years.  (He gave it a good go.)

He loves technology.  He programs now.  He has his own startup.  And he wants to write educational applications that are also social media--or vice-versa.  

He knows the universe of social media.  He's insightful.

The fact that he wants to help higher education is rather surprising--given that he left formal education some time ago.

I asked him what his best educational experiences in college were.
  • I had learned, for instance, in my senior thesis how to explore my own ideas and to write them with pleasure and some degree of art.
  • I had learned in my junior theater project how to make decisions to communicate with an audience--and how the failure to make decisions damns your work to muteness.  
The exact stories are probably more interesting than the conclusions.  But I learned what was interesting and meaningful to me, how to develop my own thoughts and work, what my criteria for success and failure were.  

He was hard pressed.
  • He said that he took classes thinking he would be interested and ultimately learned that he was not.
  • Or he learned that a professor's statements undermined their own authority:  he was disabused with authority, and that was what he learned.
These are important lessons.

You could call them negative education:  learning what you don't like or want, what is not the case, what is not to be believed.

Positive education, by contrast, is represented by growth towards personal goals of self-fulfillment through engagement with others and with a pre-existing body of thought.  

Whether with technology or without it, positive education is difficult to foster.

And when we fail to attend to students' needs, they get an education alright, but not the one for which we might have hoped.

--E. R. O'Neill

Friday, February 27, 2009

Learning Really Does Happen.

Sometimes it's refreshing to remind oneself.

I even manage to learn myself sometimes.

Perhaps it's not true of everyone who works in fields where learning is the core activity, but it's true of me:  I love learning new things.
As much as I'm a creature of habit--I drink the same coffee every day, eat the same salad, will drink the same wine night after night, just different vineyards to appreciate the differences--I also like to feel I'm growing.
So when I decided to do a thorough re-design of my distance learning courses (screenwriting, film history, the horror genre), Ireally did some research.

The attrition rate had been high.  And I thought the learning was slow.  Students tended to type something and run--like an email, an IM or a tweet.  I didn't see careful reflection, real grasping of underlying issues and ides.
  • How could I keep students involved, doing the work?
  • How could I allow them to deepen their learning?
So I did some reading.  My two major resources were:
Ken Bain, What the Best College Teachers Do (2004) and

National Research Council, How People Learn:  Brain, Mind, Experience and School (Expanded Edition, 2000).
In the film history class, for instance:
  • I started by inviting students to discussion an exciting, juicy question, and to bring in their current-day, real-world experiences.
E.g., "Do you have a favorite Youtube video?  What makes it enjoyable to watch?  Why watch an internet video rather than TV or a movie?  What kind of pleasure do you get from each?  How are you similar to or different from your peers in this respect?"
  • Students earned points just for discussing, apart from any evaluation of quality--so as not to instill fear which might inhibit them.
  • The discussion experience has some inherent pleasure, because students are familiar with gossiping online about semi-hot-button topics.
People can start by sharing opinions that are ready-formed, then begin to question their standing ideas, as the discussion assignment asks them to compare and contrast themselves to their peers.
  • There's little possibility of failure.  There's no prerequisite knowledge--no first step of doing any reading.  There's the opportunity to excel.  And there's a social motivation.
  • Simultaneously, study questions and a quiz guided students to relevant facts in the reading and to online screenings, clips, or videos students watch at the library or at home.
  • Factual knowledge is tested not just as sheer facts but as implications.  It's not just "when did Edison invent such-and-such?" but "how was Edison's approach to film exhibition wrong?":  knowing the answer involves connecting the facts in a larger story and complex of related implications.
  • Students then come back later in the week and connect their discussion of current topics to reading about the past.  ("How was watching cinema using Edison's or Lumiere's technologies different or similar from watching a Youtube video?")
The results were generally good.  This quarter is still unfolding, but I'm generally pleased so far--though there is still room to improve the course design.

Recently, when re-shelving my books, I looked at How People Learn again.

I went to the dog-eared pages to see what I had learned.
  • Substantial curiosity-arousing questions can motivate learners more than points or grades (46).
  • Pre-existing knowledge crucially structures what kind of new information and concepts learners will adopt--and what they won't (10-15).
  • Experts have a body of facts and experiences at their fingertips, but this body is not an end in itself, it's an initial step that allows the experts to recognize patterns or gestalts (32-36).
  • Some learners are motivated by a desire to avoid failure, some by a desire to excel, some by a desire to connect socially with others (60-61).
In short, I actually took what I learned and applied it.
By structuring student discussion, study questions, quizzes and assignments along certain lines, I was encouraging the kind of learning I wanted based on what research had shown.
In Bloom's famous taxonymy, learning must 
  • start with listing, organizing, arranging and recalling facts,
  • move on to expressing these facts in their own understanding, grasping inner relationships, abstracting laws and concepts,
  • move then to applying concepts, seeing how similar ideas work in different concepts,
  • ascend to quetioning assumptions, comparing and contrasting ideas, reasoning from assumptions to conclusions, tinkering with arguments,
  • graduate to sythesizing original, personal ideas that could be tested, and 
  • terminate in drawing conclusions and evaluating ideas and arguments based on specific criteria.
So in theory, perhaps one should master all factual matters, then move forward to understanding the relationships among these facts.

But if learners acquire facts within a framework which is inappropriate, which doesn't match the historical circumstances, for instance, then the damage is already done.  

Indeed, it was one of my first learning experiences about teaching that learners can't easily reach back into the past and re-order their perceptions within new frameworks:  they need to get the framework, then practice using it to sort facts and experiences, then practice more.

Perhaps one wants learners to end by drawing conclusions.  
But adult learners habitually draw conclusions--and they arrive with conclusions pre-formed.  You can't reasonably ask an adult to become a tabula rasa, to resist drawing any and all conclusions until they have mastered a new discipline--ten weeks later.
So instead, I decided to elicit prior knowledge and conclusions, then ask students to debate those.
 Once they were prepared to have their assumptions challenged, they had 'loosened up' their cognitive frameworks.

They could sort new information into the existing framework, while also seeing that framework challenged.

And then they could re-order the new information and their existing beliefs at the same time.
This was a much more pleasurable experience for them--and for me.

And more pleasure for them meant higher student retention, more intrinsic involvement in the material, and thus better learning outcomes.

But I may still yet learn more and better in the future.  

--Edward R. O'Neill

Friday, February 20, 2009

O Brave New World!

It's not been so long since Steven Soderbergh released Bubble in theaters and DVD nearly simultaneously.

Now a fascinating new documentary entitled Must Read After My Death (just written up glowingly in the Wall Street Journal) is showing in New York, LA and also online.

For us non-New Yorker, non-Angelino cinephiles, this is good news.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Don't Move Your Lips!

As Amazon introduces a new version of the Kindle Reader that will read the text aloud to you, the Authors' Guild claims that reading aloud is a reserved right!

So all of you who've been reading books aloud for all these years--you're all due for some whopper fines.

--E. R. O'Neill

Friday, February 6, 2009

Simple Tools, Multiple Uses.

An open letter to Walter Mossberg.


I saw your recent column on Foxmarks.

Saving your solitary bookmarks, keeping them private, sorting them in a tree-and-folder structure, worrying about moving them around--that is so adorable, so web 1.0.  As if they're mp3's you bought that you can't legally share.  

Dude--get social!  It's the Age of Obama.  
  • SHARE your bookmarks.  
  • TAG them, don't put them in folders.  
  • LEARN from the wisdom of crowds what's up-and-coming.

Use Delicious!  

Tag sites with your OWN tags--whatever you like.  Forget folders--where a page is in one folder OR another.  Tags let you imagine each website page as an intersection or multiple properties.  They're your own tags--so you can use your own folksonomy. (Google it).

Add comments. Give your HO (humble opinion). Ballyhoo a site, or just set yourself a reminder.

Your links are shared with everyone--and you can search to see what other people are finding, tagging and sharing.

Or make your tags private. It's your choice.

The web is a social medium. You should use it that way.

Edward O'Neill, Ph.D.
Instructional Media Specialist
Stanford University

P.S.  I'm normally skeptical of the pro-social media rhetoric.  But the point I think is always right is:  a general use tool that's simple is almost always better than a tool dedicated to ONE function.  

Saving and syncing bookmarks--that's one function.  Tagging, sharing, publishing--that's a general use.  

Look at Twitter.  It publishes SMS-size tidbits.  But people can use it as email, microblogging, marketing, brand management, citizen journalism, trend monitoring--you name it.  

In Web 2.0 the specialized tool is almost never as powerful as the simple tool with a hundred uses.  

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Your Calendar Can Remind You.

So you have calendaring software.  

And IF your computer is on, and IF the software is running, and IF you are there at your desk and looking at your computer, THEN you can get reminders in advance.

That's a lot of IF's.

Enter Google calendars.

They have a ton of neat features:  for instance, you can set up multiple calendars and publish any of them for all the world to see.  (Think:   course paper deadlines, softball team schedules, the like.)

Now the calendars will also remind you any number of times in any amount of time in advance--via email or SMS.

That's right.  You set click on the event to enter its details.  Then under "Options," you add a reminder.  You can add more than one--I've not found the upper limit--and then you "Save."

Voila!  I get text messages on my phone warning me of upcoming meetings, to call people, to send things in the mail, homework, whatever.

Thank you, Google!

--E. R. O'Neill

Monday, January 19, 2009

Small Is Beautiful.

A computer in your wireless keyboard that streams HD to your TV?  Possibly.

--E. R. O'Neill

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Visualizing Hope.

Hopes for the new administration--visualized as an interactive word cloud.

--E. R. O'Neill

Powerpoint on the Web without Paying Microsoft?


If you're comfortable hand-coding html or using a tool that can be massaged to take the stylesheet of your choice, there's a completely XHTML/CSS solution.

You make some rudimentary pages.  When they're linked to a document definition, styleshseet and javascript, you get ordered slides--even with click-and-unfold outlines.

The reflexive demonstrations is here:

--E. R. O'Neill

Monday, January 12, 2009

Turn your Google search into an RSS feed.

Turns any Google search into an rss feed--atom or whatever flavor you like.

Add the feed to your feed reader--Google, or any other.

--E. R. O'Neill

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Old LP's to New Mp3's.

This actually rather nice--so far.  

It's made by TEAC, so you expect a certain level of competence.

It records LP's to mp3's at 96, 128 or 156kbps--no other choices--and puts them on a USB drive or SD memory card.

From thence you can move them to your computer, and edit at will.

No, it's not recording to a 'raw' format like a .wav file.  But it's useful.

I did have a portable turntable I could jack into my Windows box and record to .wav or .mp3.  

But there was no auto-return function on the tone arm, so you had to be there when the record ended--not out of the room for five seconds.  That added to the inconvenience.

This promises to be simpler.

I was put off at first because the one warm won't move if the box isn't powered on and in PHONO mode!  

But now my 1952 Metropolitan Opera recording of Salome and Elektra on LP with Welitsch and Varney, respectively, is sounding good.

You won't find a better price than here:

--E. R. O'Neill

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You have no idea... hard it is to find a title for this blog that isn't taken yet.

And most of the titles are taken--but the blogs are empty.


Then again, does Blogger even have a way to reqlinquish a site name?

--E. R. O'Neill