Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Past and Future Still Quite Tense

I spend a lot of time and energy thinking, reading and talking about technology. As I've often said however, KNOWING technology is not the same as really USING it. The landscape of education has dramatically altered from the 20th to the 21st century. Case in point: most of the major universities ( are now putting not just course outlines and reading lists online, but the entire course, including things such as tests and quizzes, lecture notes, textbooks and even streaming video of the professor teaching the course. The information content is no longer the main purpose of education. Information is available everywhere and any time, at the drop of a keystroke. Content alone is not proprietary. The key is learning how to find, filter and use that content effectively.

My high school age nephew said that he just can't function without My Space. Most adults, if they've even heard of My Space, manage to exist quite well without it. For kids, it is their social network. Previous generations have networked in everything from malt shops to Woodstock. This generation not only uses the Web for academic and job related skills, but it is also their preferred method of social communication. Since continued use of a tool increases the skill in which you use it, the sky is truly the limit for the next generation in terms of how effectively they will use the Web.

Web 2.0 addresses the interactivity of the Web. Instead of the static Web sites of the past, today's sites, Blogs and Wikis draw you into them, allowing for both input and feedback. Every day I run across new and amazing tools to make information easier and more accessible. And each builds on the information and skills learned in the past, even if the past is now measured in days and months, not decades.

Consider the number of codes and passwords you use to register and login to these wondrous sites. I realized many years ago that the single index card I kept in my wallet was woefully inadequate. Today I have the information on a Rolodex (how retro), and I am on my second set of Rolodex cards. Theoretically, keeping them on my PDA or cell phone would make sense, but I could lose one of those, or, as in the case of my cell phone, mistakenly throw it in the washing machine. That Rolodex isn't going anywhere. I remember a former colleague who kept notes on old punch cards. That always impressed me, mostly because I wondered where he was able to still find so many of the 'ancient' (in computer years) punch cards to use for that purpose. I suppose it was his link with the past. The old Rolodex is part of my past, but it is continually being populated with my links to the present and future. There's a nice rhythm to that, I think.

"If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one". John Galsworthy, Swan Song

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Review: Filamentality Filamentality

I really have to learn to be less excited when I find great new tools, but I get excited at the hardware store too, so...
Filamentality is an AT&T site that lets you create your own categorized lists of URLs in a Hotlist. And yes, it is a Web site which gives you a URL site that hosts your list. And it puts them in the categories of your choice. How can anyone NOT be excited by this?? It's very easy to do, and a sample site I put together within minutes can be viewed at:

However, since having all the cool tools means I can also use them, you can see the same hotlist address at: because the Tiny URL site was able to reduce the 56 characters to 25. I may need oxygen...

Also, you can use this site to create and host Webquest for your students. As if the Hotlist was not enough.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Review: Sony Reader ebook

Reading is one of life's most impressive pleasures. I love the smell of a brand new hardcover (a.k.a. the 'new book' smell) as I open it on a lazy summer afternoon. Reading on a computer is obviously possible, but has never 'felt' the same as reading from a real book. Scrolling makes me crazy, and you just can't get comfortable. The other issues are flicker, and general eye strain. And I can't see a thing when reading a screen in sunlight. So when I got a glimpse of the new Sony Reader, I my best 'I majored in Lit' snob attitude...ha! this is just not the real deal.

But, I may have spoken too soon. This device is a little smaller than the average hardcover, and light, about 9 ounces. Easier to fit into an average sized purse than a hardcover. Flicker? Nope. Able to be read by my quickly aging eyes? No problem, just increase the text size. Scrolling? Not that either, since it shows a page at a time, and you click a forward button to change to the next page. The reader accepts both Memory Stick and SD flash memory cards, so it will also play your photos. And there's a USB plug, so it could be used to download and read websites, JPEGs or PDF docs. And you can share your ebooks with several of your electonically equivalent friends. Ah, but battery life...that's always a concern with electronics said I. Not so. The battery life, as they are selling it, is equivalent to "7,500 page turns" between charges. Even with my love of reading, that's darned impressive. I wanted to hate it. Really I did. But...

Wow. That's it. All I have left to say is 'wow'. And if anyone is looking to buy me the perfect gift, I hope they read this review. And have about $349.99. I'm worth it.

Wikipedia on the Reader:

The Sony PRS-500 Reader is an ebook reader for the U.S. market. It uses an electronic paper display developed by E Ink Corporation, that has 166 dpi resolution, four levels of grayscale, is viewable in direct sunlight, requires no power to maintain the image, and is usable in portrait or landscape orientation. The $349.99 reader uses an iTunes Store-like interface to purchase books from Sony's Connect eBook store. It also can display Adobe PDFs, personal documents, blogs, RSS newsfeeds, JPEGs, and Sony's proprietary BBeB ("BroadBand eBook") format.
The digital rights management rules of the Reader allow any purchased eBook to be read on up to six devices (at least one of those 6 must be a PC). Although you cannot share purchased eBooks on other people’s devices and accounts, you will have the opportunity to register five Readers to your account and share your books accordingly. At this time Sony has no plans to introduce time-expiring books in the U.S.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bright Idea: Tiny URL's

Sometimes the smallest idea makes the biggest sense. Clipmarks and I-Lighters are tools we can use. Here is another that eases the pain of technology, at least a little. Tiny URL ( takes those incredibly long URL's and cuts them down to size. Their site says:

Are you sick of posting URLs in emails only to have it break when sent causing the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? Then you've come to the right place. By entering in a URL in the text field below, we will create a tiny URL that will not break in email postings and never expires.

You put in the long URL, and it makes a short one for you. How sweet is that!

Note: You can also add a link to your browser toolbar to make it even easier to use. Directions are on the site.