The 3 Tiny Habits programme is a way of looking at how people form habits. As I am both a serial procrastinator and someone who finds it hard to stick to routines, I thought I’d give it a go. So I signed up and found out yesterday that I got accepted on the programme. The instructions are simply, very simple, but that’s the point.
Pick something simple & easy to do in very little time.
Decide when to do it.
There’s more to it than that but I’ll wait until after the programme to describe more. In the meantime, writing down the 3 habits I will try to form over the coming week is a way of declaring publicly my commitment. Mine are:
After I finish my breakfast, I will write down on an index card 3 things that I want to do during the day.
After I eat my lunch, I will take my vitamin tablets.
After I have cleared up after dinner I will post a single Tweet describing one thing that I have learnt during the day.
See, I said they were simple. Of course with some willpower you wouldn’t need to join a programme to create such simple habits. But that would miss the point I think. Doing things in a group like this strengthens the behaviour. The really fun and rewarding part will be building bigger habits in the future. From little acorns to great oak trees grow.
Like many, I’ve been watching the development of the semantic web with interest but also with a degree of scepticism. Interest, because it just makes sense that expressing in a machine-readable way what we humans already know – why one piece of information is linked to another – is a good thing to do (the arguments in favour being so apparent and well articulated elsewhere that I don’t need to state them again here), but also scepticism because most methods of doing this to date are just too darned difficult for the majority of us. To me at least it has seemed that the semantic web and it’s underlying language, RDF, is one spoken only by the initiated few.
Well that was until my 2-day workshop at Talis this week. My brain is now full of graphs and triples with their subjects, properties and values. The trouble is, this little insight into how linked data is helping to shape the semantic web has made it even more frustrating for me. I left the workshop fired up to add machine-friendly meaning to all my information in future, only to get back home, fire up my blog, and realise that if I want to add RDFa, the in-line annotated version of RDF that can be embedded in any web-based document, then I’d have to add it by hand by editing the source code of my post. Ok. Maybe I just haven’t looked hard enough. But no, after a couple of days of searching I can’t find an easy way of adding RDFa to a WordPress post. No matter, this is still, ahem, early days of the semantic web and maybe the user-friendly tools are coming RSN (real soon now). But at least if I accept the pain of adding RDFa by hand, it’ll be worth it, my posts will enter the web of linked data. The only trouble is, I’m not sure if that is true. I can’t find how my RDFa-enabled posts can be used to extract their meaning. Am I simply adding this meaning now for future consumption by a semantically-aware search engine, or have I missed something?
By the way I tried to add valid RDFa inside this post but WordPress kept changing it, I guess out of the box it doesn’t like RDFa, or perhaps I was just doing it wrong.
My institution has just gone live on iTunesU. It’s a good site, and I know a lot of effort has gone into creating the site and its content. For example take a look at Ian Stewart’s Math Challenges. Although I am no doubt biased, Warwick’s is one of the better iTunesU sites out there.
I’m curious to know who looks at iTunesU sites and whether they find the content there useful (as opposed to simply ‘peering over the garden fence’ to have a look at what the neighbours are doing). I’ve looked at lots of iTunesU sites and viewed lots of content but I wouldn’t say I was a consumer of iTunesU content, merely curious to see what’s there. But then again I’m probably not part of the target audience.
So what is the target audience? Is it prospective students, wanting to find out what they can expect if they choose a particular educational establishment? Or current students perhaps, trawling for useful learning resources? Then again maybe iTunesU is just a digital market place, where institutions set out samples of their wares, and where turning up and being seen is as important as what you have to show (there is some shockingly awful content on some sites). Perhaps it’s all of these things, and more.
One less good aspect of iTunesU is that it seems to enforce content silos. Although it’s early days (for us) it doesn’t seem to encourage or provide a mechanism for collaboration between content providers. The platform, and I use that term loosely at least in the edtech sense of the word, is simply a smart looking aggregator of channels of content, and limited content types it has to be said, where channels are institutions rather than topics, themes or cross-institutional content areas. I will however acknowledge that the search engine in iTunes is quite good, although you apparently can’t subscribe to an RSS feed of search results but I might have missed that.
It’s hard to deny that iTunesU has an appeal to many content providers (marketing and comms departments?) as there’s a growing list of institutional members. But as for who’s using the content, I guess after a little while we’ll find out, or at least find out who’s been looking at our stuff.
This is a terrific short video of Johnny Lee’s Nintendo Wii remote controller hacks. The head tracking VR display screen application is particularly amazing and could have some powerful uses in educational games. I know of groups that are using complex technologies to achieve the same effect as this elegantly simple approach. Be sure to check out Johnny’s projects web site.
I’ve just discovered Wordle, a web application that creates word clouds from any body of text. Word clouds, like tag clouds, are a collection of individual words whose text size reflects the frequency of occurrence in a given body of text. Wordle has some nice layout tools to help you create beautiful word clouds. It’s easy to make your own. Here’s a word map from my weblog’s RSS feed. It’s easy to see the emphasis of words in my recent blog posts (click on the picture to see the whole word cloud).
In the past I’ve used a more formal version of this kind of approach in the battle against plagiarism. For my module’s assessment I get students to write a dissertation and occasionally one student tries to pass someone else’s work off as their own. There are a number of applications that compare text from one source against another to look for blatant copying, but another approach is to use textural analysis that compares the linguistic style and word count of one section of a piece of work with that of another section. If you suspect a student of incorporating someone else’s work you can use this approach to spot a change a style from one chapter to another. This is a useful approach when the plagiarised source cannot be identified.
Anyway, for fun I thought I’d use Wordle to compare the word maps from the recent blog posts of three leading learning technologists. It’s interesting to see the different word emphasis. Can you guess which map belongs to Josie Fraser, Scott Wilson and Stephen Downes?
Firefly allows visitors to a web site to point and chat. Basically a Flash overlay movie with transparent background allows contemporaneous web site visitors to point at content on the site and instant chat with each other. Chat messages are currently anonymous but I expect that will change. Messages are also transient so unless you’re there to see them posted you won’t see them although a chat history is recorded.
Dave was one of the first users to demo in public but they’re now taking beta signups so you could add the app to your site too. What will you use it for?
Critics will ask ‘what’s the point?’. Sure, being able to comment on a web site so that subsequent visitors can share comments is not new, but there’s something kinda cool about being able to do this in real time. Of course if you have a high traffic site like Dave’s you’ll get several people online at once, but for my site and I suspect many others you may be chatting alone for a while :)