Monday, May 31, 2010

Take a Tech Test Drive at Mount Royal University

Collaborative learning is not new but with the wide range of Internet applications that support this way of teaching and learning, it makes the efforts more fun and easier to facilitate. As students are tuned in to social media Web site and mobile devices, it makes sense to use these avenues in order to educate them. Besides Facebook and Twitter, there are a host of dedicate collaborating tools on the Internet that need to be explored by educators for suitability to their subject matter and teaching style.

On Wednesday, June 2, 2010 between the hours of 10am to 2pm, Mount Royal University is hosting a Tech Test Drive on their campus. The program features a host of collaborative learning ideas, tools and techniques used and presented by MRU faculty. There will be lightening presentation of 5 minutes each, 20 minute presentations as well as booth set up when you can explore and discuss collaborative learning applications.

For more information, you are welcome to contact me.

Quit Facebook Day

Facebook has been hit hard lately with criticisms of its privacy controls. As customers need to vote with their feet, there is a movement to quit Facebook. Quit Facebook Day is the brainchild of two Canadians, Joseph Dee and Matthew Milan and, at the time of this writing, over 27,000 users have pledged to leaving the social networking Web site. Although this number is quite small, representing less than 0.006% of the 500 million users, it sends a message to the social media giant that people are taking their privacy seriously, as they should.

Here are some Facebook policies:
  • "We may use information about you that we collect from other sources, including but not limited to newspapers and Internet sources such as blogs, instant messaging services and other users of Facebook, to supplement your profile." They are going to augment your profile with items that you have not sanctioned to be part of your profile.
  • "We may share your information with third parties, including responsible companies with which we have a relationship." They are going to give your information to organizations that they deem responsible (guess that's the way they make money.
Are you okay with the above? I'm not and that it why I left Facebook several months ago. I came across a good article about protecting privacy on Facebook. I would urge all Facebookers to read it - Symantec Tips For Guarding Facebook Privacy.

Facebook has taken notice of the issue of privacy and is trying to address concerns about consolidating privacy controls onto one page, the ability to block others from seeing your profile, and the ability to opt-out of using Facebook platform which delivers games, quizzes and other activities to Facebook users. 

Obviously, "Quit Facebook Day"is not going to bring down Facebook as most users are happy with its privacy settings. Facebook does provide a fun way to stay connected with family and friends but awareness of this issue is important to all Facebook users. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The iPad - What is it?

Computer have been grouped in categories. The categories have obviously evolved with the size of the computer and their technology. First there was the mainframe, followed by the mini-computer, then the desktop. The next set of categories referred to smaller and portable devices like laptops, netbooks, tablets, PDA's, smart phones, gaming devices and mobile gaming devices. I own an iPod Touch and have considered that to be a cross between a PDA and a gaming device.

Then came the iPad. I'm not sure how to categorize this device. I think it's too big to be a PDA and does not have sufficient functionality that could make it a computer or a smart phone. That leads me to think that it is a gaming device, or not. Or maybe it's trying to be everything to all users. It certainly can be versatile depending on the apps loaded. I have tried one and I cannot figure out what is trying to be.

Maybe that the genius of the iPad. It cannot be categorized or maybe it needs to be in its own category. Either way, it is an expensive device and I could not justify its hefty price tag as any kind of productivity tool or gaming device, and therefore, I'm not going to buy one.

The BIG Answer - Maybe!

The Learning Circuits Blog's Big Question of the Month for May is “What will workplace learning technology look like in 2015?”
Accurately predicting the future is a skill I wish I could have. If I knew that the stock market was going to do or the outcome of a sporting event, I could be writing this blog post from a Caribbean island. Trying to predict technological future is even more difficult.  Using todays' technology to predict the future is not the right approach as seen in a 1949 article in Popular Mechanics - "where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and weigh only 1.5 tons".  Even people in the know have difficulties predicting the future of technology. In 1977, Ken Olson, president of Digital Equipment Corporation, a manufacturer of mainframe computers said "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home".

Would anyone have predicted that Google would be bigger than Yahoo, the social media boom, and that Apple would overtake Microsoft in market capitalization. The theory of technological singularity speaks to the notion that the progress of technology will become extremely fast, and consequently, will make the future unpredictable and qualitatively different from today. This unpredictability  is compounded by Buckminster Fuller’s 1982 theory of the “Knowledge Doubling Curve”:
  • The more we know, the faster we know more. 
  • Knowledge volume undergoes exponential growth, doubling and redoubling over time.
  • Up until the 1900, it was said that the accumulation of knowledge doubled every century.
  • In 1945, it was said that the accumulation of knowledge doubled every 25 years.

Today, depending on the scientific realm, knowledge double anywhere from 1 to 2 years (nanotechnology knowledge doubles every 2 years, clinical knowledge doubles every 1.5 years). IBM has predicted that, in the next few years, information will double every 11 hours!
Five years does not seems like a very long time but in terms of technology, it is eons. After saying that it is nearly impossible to predict the future of technology, I'm going to go out on a limit and put forward some ideas of where I see e-learning technologies heading:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

This Generation's Y2K!

STOP THE PRESSES - The Internet Ceases to Grow!! 

Although not completely factual, there is some truth to that headline. When the Internet was developing, back in the 1970's, a numbering system was devised to uniquely identify every device on the Internet. This number is known as an Internet Protocol, or IP, address. (To determine the IP address of your computer, visit http:/ The general form of an IP address is a maximum of three digits followed by a period, followed by three more digits, followed by a period, followed by three more digits, followed by a period, followed by three more digits. This notation is known as IPv4. For example 44.444.444.4 could be a valid IP address. (Because of this known form, IP address is also what hackers use to bring into your computer. Firewalls help stop that activity).  This numbering system allows for around four billion addresses. Problem is that they are running out, as the people who devised IPv4 could not predict the rapid growth of the Internet and the amount of mobile and portable devices that are  attached to the Internet. IPv4 numbers are expected to run out by September 2011. (Oh no, not a 9/11 conspiracy to halt Internet growth!!).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Turn on Your AMBER Light

Most of the press you hear about technology is bad. You hear about the tons of porn, the predators trying to get your child, hackers poisoning your computer and thieves stealing your identity. Now there is a way to use technology for the good. The Canadian federal government and the wireless providers have teamed up to send AMBER Alert signals to mobile phones. AMBER Alerts are sent when a child is suspected to be in danger. To register your phone to be part of the Amber Alert network, go to Wireless AMBER Alert Web site and enter your cell phone number as well as the region in which you live. You will then get a confirmation code sent to you phone; enter the code and you are all set.

Thanks for turning on your AMBER light. Your participation may help a child in distress.

Outlawing Snow in Winter

SPAM! SPAM! SPAM! We hate it and we all get it. From the emails offering us millions of dollars to the one promising enhancements to that particular part of the male body, spam is not only annoying but it also uses a large amount of bandwidth. The numbers are staggering. Some estimate that spam is responsible for 90% of worldwide email traffic, costing US organizations over $13 billion dollars with an estimated 6.6 TRILLION spam messages in 2009.

It has been said that trying to legislate spam is like trying to outlaw snow in winter, but the Canadian government is finally trying to do something about it. Because of lax spam laws, Canada has been a haven for spammers, responsible for the 4th largest originators of spam in the world. Following the lead of the US and Australia, Canada has introduced legislation that would impose stiff fines on spammers. The proposed Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam law, or FISA, would enable the CRTC to impose fines of up to $1 million per violation for individuals and $10 million for businesses. The Canadian government also intends to create a spam reporting centre that will work with the three enforcement agencies (the CRTC, Competition Bureau Canada and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner), engage in public awareness, identify and analyze trends in online threats and engage in public awareness.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Cell Phone Business Heats Up

First there were a few .... then more entered the market ... and soon, there will be many more! The cell phone business has been a virtual monopoly in Canada, allowing cell phone providers to charge what ever they want, raising the prices with add-ons like system access charges and forcing us into ridiculously long contracts. Because of the large amount of cell providers in the US and Europe, those citizens pay a fraction of what we pay in Canada. But the good thing is - the Canadian landscape is changing. We see it with smaller cell phone subsidiaries of large companies, like Fido and Mike, offering services at reduced rate plans. We see it with new entrants into the market like Virgin, Wind, Mobilicity and soon, Shaw.

Nokia, which dominants the European market, has just announced a partnership with Yahoo. They will be providing mapping services to Yahoo and Yahoo will be providing email and chat functionality to Nokia phones. This is a direct competitive answer to Google and their location services.

With mergers like this and new players in the market, Canadians should see a drop in prices, more availability of pricing packages, and hopefully, the removal of nonsensical user fees and long term contracts.

E-Business is BIG Business

Bought something from Amazon? Put a bid in on an eBay auction? Paid your bills online? These are all examples of e-commerce known as B2C, or business-to-consumer, Internet transactions. In the case of eBay, the transaction is going from consumer-to-consumer, or C2C. Most people who use the Internet have probably had some experience with e-commerce, but a much larger set of transactions are occurring across the Internet known as B2B, or business-to-business.  These types of transactions are larger in volume and in dollar amount. According to Statistic Canada, 75% of Internet transactions can be classified as B2B.

When organizations link their buying and selling systems, they are automating transactions between them and therefore shipments of raw materials can arrive at the manufacturer's plant just in time to be used in the production cycle. For example, if a tire manufacturer ships tires before they are needed by the car producers, the tires would have to be doubled handled and warehoused until the assembly line is ready for them. On the other hand, if the tire manufacturer and the car producer had a B2B link, facilitated by the Internet, the car producer's system could alert the tire manufacturer's system when the tires would be needed and therefore they could be shipped just in time to be placed on the cars at the right time during the assemble process.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Beam Me Up, Scotty - One Last Time

Tonight's episode of TV's Fringe will mark the last time that Leonard Nimoy will be seen as an actor. The 79 year old TV legend is retiring from his TV and movie career. Although an accomplished writer, director and photographer, Nimoy will be known forever as the emotionless Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series, repeating the role in many movies including the 2009 version.

In 1997, thinking he would be type-cast as Spock forever, he wrote a book entitled "I Am Not Spock". Rethinking his position and acknowledging the role that made him famous, in 1995, he penned a sequel entitled "I Am Spock" (which was a line he used in the latest movie).

Even though he will not be acting, I hope he will remain in the public eye and still make appearances at events like ComicCon where he is a big draw. After many years of lobbying, he recently visited a town near Calgary, Alberta called Vulcan which has been marketing itself as Spock's earthly home town. It was a great and fun event for the town. Before the latest Star Trek movie debuted, Nimoy suggested that it should be premiered in Vulcan. Although that did not happen, the producers of the movie bussed many Vulcan residents to Calgary for its initial showing.

Reigning in Google

I've had a couple of blog post about Google and by now, you probably think I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet giant. You are right! They provide a lot of great services to the Internet community but it seems that the US government is taking notice of what appears to be Google trying to take over the Internet (Web Giant Google: Is so big so bad?). Back in the 90's when Microsoft was the dominant force in the computing world, many people tried to stop their monopoly.  One of these ways was to stop Microsoft' from automatically installing their browser during the installation of their operating system. Looks like the same people who were successful in that endeavor are trying to take on Google. 

Google is huge and getting bigger every day. I heard a statistic that said that one third of all pages browsed on the Internet start off as a Google search. Look what they have announced just in the past couple of days:
  1. US Approves Google's AdMob Purchase ($750 million for a mobile ad service)
  2. Google unveils Web-ready TVs
  3. Google buys Norwegian audio-provider ($68 million - 27.5% higher that closing price)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Academic Social Networking

The Social Networking Environment

The latest set of Web technologies, commonly known as Web 2.0, has given Web users the ability to create and modify live Web content without the need to know Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) and without having the technology to access Web servers. Constructing live Web content is now as easy as creating a word processed document. The ease of building live Web content by the lay-public is one reason the use of social networking sites ((SNS) have been increasing exponentially. FaceBook, MySpace, and Twitter have enrolled millions of users, many of whom have become dedicated followers. This concept has not escaped the business world. LinkedIn, PartnerUp and MeetTheBoss focus on the business user and entrepreneur. SNS’s have been in the news, used by law enforcement, caused national and international privacy debates, and have made it into the dictionary and achieved pop culture status.

Trolling for your Information

Two stories caught my eye this week that I found very alarming. The first was about Google intercepting WiFi signals with its Street View cars. Apparently Google was doing more than just taking pictures of your house for its Street View version of Google Maps (see Google Wi-Fi Breach Spurs Calls For Investigation). They gathered network names and computer information from unsecured wireless networks as they drove by. Shame on Google!! For this and many other reasons, you should encrypt your wireless signal. If you don't know how, contact the people who sold you your router or contact your Internet Service Provider.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Twitter's Flatline

Twitter's not growing. It peaked in July of 2009 to 29.2 million users and then dropped to 23.6 million unique users by the end of last year. I've tried to understand the Twitter rage but I just don't. I guess others are losing the need to tweet as well. Although it can be used as a marketing tools, the posts I've seen have had more to do with useless information. Do I really care if you are enjoying a cup of coffee? Do I really care that you like to have all kinds of bowel movements? (I did not make that up).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Message to Google - STOP!!!

The behemoth that Google has become is staggering. A company that started as a search engine in March of 1996 made a net income of $6.5 billion for the year 2009. They contributed to the decline of Yahoo and have added to modern pop culture as well as adding another verb to the dictionary.

My problem with Google is their rapid expansion. There are many, many Google apps (including the one I'm using for this blog). Their apps are useful but there are so many of them, I wish that Google would devote the  resources to develop any of them into a complete application.. They must be accepted and used as is with the hope that they will be continued and be supported. Most of their products are still in beta to reminder of this fact. Case in point is Google Pages and Google Gears which are no longer available.

Cloud Computing and Privacy

Cloud computing is using applications that are located on remote computers called servers. Some common examples of cloud computing would be Google Apps, DropBox and Microsoft's Workspace. Cloud computing is very convenient as is allow the user to access program and data as long as they have an Internet connection. One issue with cloud computing is privacy. As your data is stored on remote computers, you have no control over who accesses the data. Hopefully, cloud computing suppliers have strict privacy laws and very strong security. Even so, they can still read your data. For example, if you are a Gmail user, you should notice that the nature of the ads appearing on the right hand side of your Gmail screen  is based upon your email content.

My recommendation is not to put anything of a sensitive  nature on the cloud. Data security breaches happen regularly (for example, see Alberta health records hacked and Email security breach exposes customers credit care details) - more than is reported in the press. Companies do not like to admit that they have been breached because it reduces their clients' confidence as well as advertising the fact that their information center has been compromised.  I have a feeling that one day we will hear about the security breach at at cloud computing supplier.

Before using cloud computing, understand the terms and conditions and only use it for data that would not harm you or your company. Think about it this way - only use cloud computing for data that you would not mind seeing on the front page of a national newspaper.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Cell Phone Brain Cancer and Statistics

A recent Globe and Mail article reported about a study called Interphone. It sampled 5,100 people, the supposed largest study of its kind, and claims that heavy use of cell phone may increase the risk of tumors. The point made by the study is that frequent cell phone users have a 40% higher chance of glioma, which is a type of tumor that starts in the brain or spine. Forty percent!!! That’s huge! Don’t you think that that size of increase would cause a noticeable number of people in your circle succumbing to this disease? Have you observed that to be true? After all, almost everyone and their kid has a cell phone.  To make the article scarier, it brings up the death of Edward Kennedy and asks the question whether his brain cancer was caused by excessive cell phone use.  
I’m sure you have heard of many similar studies with conflicting results. I am not a brain tumor expert and I’m not going to dispute the finding of this study but I want to put it into perspective as a statistics instructor. 

Statistical reports are created by researchers who make claims about the population using a analysis of a sample. For example, during elections campaigns, the public receives almost daily polls citing the  proportion of the voting population will vote for a particular political party. Do you realize that pollster base their numbers on a sample size of about 1000 people? Next time you see an election poll in print, look at the fine print to see the sample size. Statistically speaking, the larger the sample, the more sure the statisticians can be about their generalization with regard to the population. Due to lack of time, money or manpower, extremely large samples cannot be gathered but are always desired.

Getting back to the cell phone and brain cancer study, I want to alert you to another similar study.  You can read about this study at Scandinavian Study Finds No Cell Phone-Brain Cancer Link Over 9-Year Period. This study tracked 16 million people in Finland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden over a people of 29 years. This group of researchers found no evidence that increased use of cell phones over a nine-year period led to more cases of brain cancer. Statistician or not, you know that a study using 16 million subjects would be a better than one that involved a sample size of 5,100. 

Why did the Interphone study claim that it was the largest study when there was one that was much larger? Maybe they were not aware of the other one? Maybe the two studies are so different from each other they cannot be compared. Maybe this is an example of selective journalism? Reporting on a study that does not scare people would not selling papers.

Here's what I want you to take away from this post:
  1. Question statistics you read. (How large was the sample? What was the study's limitations? What was the conditions of the study?
  2. Find a similar study for comparison purposes.
  3. Refer to multiple sources for new reports.
  You can read both studies for yourself and decide which one you believe.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Cellular Milestone

In a recent article in the Globe and Mail entitled "Less talk, more extra on US cellphones" claimed that, "for the first time in the U.S., the amount of data in text, e-mails, streaming video, music and other services on mobile devices in 2009 surpassed the amount of voice data in cellphone calls". I find this to be an very interested milestone as this marks the day when the cell phone transitions as a device for voice communication to one of data communication. I think this has huge implications for us as a society. The fundamental way we now communicate with a cell phone is by using data streams. One of the implications of this shift is that more people are reading cell text then talking to someone. Does that mean we need to be teaching young people how to properly text as well as properly writing?

As the number of cell providers increases in Canada, each looking for a market share, maybe they should be offering data only packages just as now they offer voice only. The smart phones are becoming more of a hand held computer rather than a voice transmission device.

This is a trend that needs to be closely monitored because this milestone may be the tipping point in the history of communications.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I Don't Tweet and Therefore I Live!

I came across a recent online article by Brian Solis entitled "I Tweet Therefore I Am". Does that imply that because I don't tweet, I am not? I doubt it. I can assure you that I live my life rather nicely, thank you very much. I still don't get it. I have tried to understand the Twitter phenomenon but I just can't. Maybe it's the people I follow. Maybe it's the lack in social relevance I see in Tweets such as "I'm home now" or "I enjoyed my shower". According to Solis, "Twitter users reveal the state of all things captivating attention and inspiring action" - can someone tell me how? Certainly I can see how Twitter can be used as a marketing channel but for me, for someone to capture my attention requires more that 140 characters. Twitter is more like sign graffiti or a protest sign or a sandwich board. To propel me to action would require to hear a position statement longer than a few characters. The statistics listed in the article are interesting but the one that stood out for me was 7% of Americans use Twitter; granted that translates to 17 million people in the US, but I would not call it a social movement.

As a colleague once told me - "I don't waste my time Tweeting about my life, I live it". If some can help me understand how Twitter can enlighten my life, I would very much appreciate it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Digital Reading

The way we write and read has changed over the centuries. From people carving on stone to writing hieroglyphics to scrolls. Those methods are now gone. The revolutionary invention of the printing press,again changed the way we communicate. these technique have evolved over time and as technology allowed. Printed material has been a part of our lives for centuries and now we are faces with a new technology and a new way to read. The Internet has played a dominant factor in the way we receive materials. We can see that as newspapers are trying to stay alive and print material is available to us online in electronic format. Because of the rapid growth of the Internet and online reading, it was simply easier to take what was printed and duplicate it in an electronic format. But Web browser are not designed for the reading of large volume of text and portray it in a much different way than the printed page. Also, when people are using Web browsers they have intentions or are lured away to other tempting things to do on the Web. Recently, book readers like Kindle and the Sony reader have given those who wish to read electronically, the ability to do so offline. Still, there is a lot of material online that we wish to consume because it is at our finger tips but as the Web is a much different animal than the printer page, it must be digested in a different way.

Just as we were taught to read books and we had outing to the library to learn how to use the Dewey Decimal system effectively (even the first course in my PhD studies was a course in effective and proper research technique), we must teach student how to properly find, read, digest and critically analyze what they read on the Web. Some will say that we need to encourage student to read real books. That is true but they also need to be taught on how to use new media.

After all, if we don't teach them how to use the new electronic reading media, what will they do when the printed book is gone.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Should we Get Rid of the "E"?

What's with all this "E" stuff? e-learning, e-commerce, e-books, e-business! I know that it's a relatively new way of doing things but haven't we done it all in this way long enough to get rid of the "E". After all, when you go shopping, you don't say - "I'm going m-shopping (for mall) or if you are going to the bookstore to buy a book or magazine, you don't say - I'm going to the r-store (real). You just say - I'm going shopping or I'm going to the book store with no qualifiers. The "E" is just a method of delivery. Sure, it's using high tech and very different from the way things were done for decades. I think that in the not so distance future, the "E" prefix will be gone. Why don't we help it along??

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

MS versus Google?

Microsoft targets Google with free online version of Office 2010

Battle of the giants?? I must admit that I have been a faithful user of Google Docs but have had some frustrations with using it, namely the lack of features in the editors and the rough export features in converting to MS Office.

This news excites me. Finally, I'll be able to edit and share documents that are compatible with MS Office. The fact that is ti free is a huge bonus. Seems to me that, although Google Docs are handy, the lack of full editing tools was a downside. Is Microsoft targeting Google? Could be! They are definitely trying to get into the cloud computing market and frankly speaking, I think they will win. Their Office products have been a staple in productivity tools for years. This new feature will certainly caused me to try it out.

Now ... will there be an App for that??

Welcome to my Blog

Okay! I have succumb. There is a wealth of information on the Internet and you can find and focus on anything your heart desires. My area if interest in the E world - Whether it is e-business, e-learning, e-commerce, c-collaboration - Everything E.

So why have I decided to add to this plethora of information? Well, you see, I have an opinion and I have some knowledge and if you are interested in what I am interested in, maybe you will read this and pick up some interesting tidbit of information. As I am a teacher, I find it is my duty to educate, enlighten and stimulate my students. Why limit my passions to my class? I have a potential classroom of the world.

So, I decided to blog. I see a blog as a medium by which I can share what I thing is interesting, newsworthy or controversial. If you have something to say about my posts, please comment, especially if you disagree about what I have to say or if you have an opinion on any article I may post here.

If you are interested in the world of E, please follow and participate in this blog. I welcome you not only to read but also to participate. That is the real power of this medium.

Looking forward to you help in making this spot an interesting place to visit!