Machine Learning

I listened to the Khan Institute TED talk the other day, and can see how a system like that could be flexible enough to adapt to each individual learner while giving the teacher fantastically accurate feedback on where problems lie and how to address them. A future like that looks bright indeed. Teachers would be free to focus on resolving problems and offering enrichment to basic skill sets, rather than standing in front of a crowd reciting facts. For skills based learning in languages and mathematics, this is revolutionary. This is technology used to differentiate a system that has developed some very habitual and static tendencies.
So, things are looking up, right? Education is slowly adapting to the technology wave and integrating it into a more flexible and responsive form of teaching. Then why do I think that once in place, this would allow governments to automate classrooms and drastically reduce the number of teachers in schools? Why do I think that, ultimately, this will dehumanize education?
I watched Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation recently (one of the top rated documentaries of all time, I highly recommend it). This has to be one of the smartest men I’ve ever listened to pulling no punches on a broad spectrum of Western history. This part (starting at 35:35), in particular, resonated with me about the times in which we live.
I think he’s ultimately right; machines do work slavishly for their owners, and those owners tend to be social powers in their own rights. Whether we’re talking the technology companies themselves, multi-nationals or governments, technology in general, and computers in particular, do as much (or more) to dictate our responses than they do to free us from conventions. If anything, computers are a more invasive and totalitarian convention than any art medium or the written word ever were. Digital natives aren’t people with a magical understanding of computers, they are human beings who have been taught to interface with them on a subconscious level. The industrial revolution started in the physical world and now continues its romp through the mental world, redefining human abilities in terms of how accurately and completely we can relate to digital technology.
Watching my poor grade 10s struggling through the standardized literacy test (in which they are identified by numbers and bar codes) today without their cyborg implants is reminding me just how pervasive cybernetics have become. They looked like ghosts without their constant media streams of video, sound and social connection. Watching them try to deal with 10 minutes of unneeded time at the end of the test without an onslaught of media was astonishing. They looked like they were in rehab.
Perhaps, as we grow through technological adolescence, it will become obvious that, at best, we will have a brave new world, at worst, a 1984. Digital technology will, ultimately, create a more manageable population, one that becomes easier to monitor while also becoming instinctively tuned to the needs of the machines that ‘serve’ them. A population that knows how to write (as long as it’s on WORD), or make music (as long as it’s on Garageband). Anyone who has watched a herd of high schools staring at Facebook can speak to its effectiveness as a herding tool.
More worrying is the sameness you tend to get out of student work based on the particular technology they used (we didn’t all used to self-identify through the editable parts of our facebook pages). Hand written documents are original in many ways that the boiler plate WORD DOC is not, but you ask students to hand write anything now (or draw anything – why bother when I can google it?) and they immediately ask, ‘what’s the point?’ Presentations have become powerpoints, then prezis, templates replace design, we find ourselves in a spiraling web of more intellectually focused (and limiting) applications; we start to develop an app mentality.
Machines will always favor efficiency over aesthetics, or ease of management over originality, or clear direction over multiple options. Their ones and zeros, by necessity, simplify the world their biological fore bearers created them from.
A few years ago I saw EPIC2014. It made some of my sharpest grade 12 media students cry. Here you have the concept of an individualized media feed, that gives you what you want, and nothing else. For the brightest, it becomes a nuanced, deep information tool, but for most of the population it feeds them what they want to hear: lies and gossip, while reinforcing their prejudices (sort of like Fox News). There might be some truth in that. If you’ve ever seen how students make use of social media, you can see how the stronger students reign it in, make use of it and control it, while weaker students are ruled by it.
I think that this will be the ultimate deciding factor: will clever people make use of technology to dominate, or will they use it to free us from conventions and allow us to think as optimally as we can? Looking at human history, the answer isn’t very flattering, but I hope for the freedom.

Summer/Fall 2020 Imaging

 A wide range of imaging from the summer of 2020 into the autumn stretches out beneath you.  On-bike photos usually taken with a Ricoh ThetaV firing automatically and attached to the bike with a tripod.  Close-up/macros usually done with a Canon T6i DSLR with a macro lens.  Drone shots taken with a DJI Phantom4Pro drone.  Other shots taken with a OnePlus5 smartphone when I had no other choice (the best camera is the one you have with you).  Most are touched up in Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom depending on where I am and how much time I’ve go for post processing.  Some of them are very post processing heavy verging on digital illustration rather than photography.

 The stop motion video was hundreds of photos taken with the 360 camera on bike and then composited into a stop-motion film in Premier Pro.  It’s a tricky process you can learn more about here if curious.  The SMART Adventures videos are using a waterproof/shockproof action camera from Ricoh.

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Courtesies & Confused Responsibility

Responsibility & Liability

I’m going to try and not sound like a grumpy old man in talking about this.

I had a chat with a friend the other week who is teaching in a private school in the GTA.  He had an interesting observation around how students do (and mostly don’t) accept responsibility for their actions.  He argued that the libelous nature of the adult world has placed everyone in the position of not being able to own up to honest errors.  Rather than being able to apologize and move on, we must instead deny any wrong doing, even when it becomes absurd.

A clear example of this happened in class the other week.  Three students were filming, and in the process of setting up the green screen studio they found Nerf guns and began fooling around with them.  This resulted in the camera they set up on the tripod getting knocked over and broken; a $400 new camera.  The response?  “It’s not our fault, we didn’t mean to break it.”  These two ideas are tied together in a student’s mind.  You can’t be held responsible for your actions if your actions weren’t intentionally about breaking the camera.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t ill-intent that led to the camera, it was incompetence, and they are responsible for their incompetence, especially when they willfully engaged in it.

This caused a great deal of confusion.  Students don’t feel responsible for their actions unless they are willfully vindictive, and even then, they won’t admit to wrong doing because they never see adults doing it for fear of liability.  Because of this poisoned moral environment, students also don’t understand what an accident is and how they can still be complicit in it without ill intent.  Fooling around with Nerf guns is not why you were in the studio; your choice to do this led to grievous damage, for which you are responsible.

Slogging through the muddy moral world of our schools can get tiresome quickly.  Incompetence cannot be considered a factor in student performance any more.  I have a number of students with weeks of absences and we are only just at the half way mark of the semester.  Many students will finish this semester in our school with over a month of absences, and they will still be expected to earn a credit.  In many cases these absences involve family holidays during classes.  Parental competence must also never be called into question either.  When those students are in class, they tend to do nothing anyway, but once again, the pressure is on the teacher to ‘find a way’ to ignore incompetence, even if it is simply willful neglect, and pass students.  Our idea of success has become one of pass-rates rather than teaching humans how to be responsible people.

What Manners Do For You

In the past week I’ve had a series of senior students walking into the media arts lab and asking to use equipment during class – while the students in the class needed to use it.  Whenever possible I try to accommodate these requests; media arts fluency leads to greater technological fluency.

I became less willing to accommodate these requests when the students involved ignored directions, started using student computers without permission and interrupted class to demand more equipment or space.  Offering open access to expensive equipment and resources is a nice thing to do, demanding it without so much as a please or thank you won’t get you very far.

This sense of belligerence isn’t unique to this generation of digital natives, though their constant split attention between the world around them and the insinuated cyber-world they also inhabit doesn’t help.  Teens have always been known for socially awkward, often rude, behavior; it’s a fun part of their stereotype.  The ironic thing is that in my experience this is human nature, not just a teen one.  People in general tend toward rudeness, a mannered response is usually a pleasant surprise.

The post modern view of courtesy or manners is one of an anachronistic, inefficient time waster.  Just look at our modern success stories (Zuckerberg, Jobs, Gates, Eminem) for an idea of how we value individualized competitiveness, intellectual superiority and financial success as mutually exclusive from polite, collaborative interaction; we love despotism and see the rudeness inherent in it as a strength.

What politeness does is make explicit what is happening between people.  When you inconvenience someone by putting your own needs first, you can say things like “excuse me” or “sorry to bother you, but…”, and everyone involved knows that you are aware of the interruption you have caused.  When you thank someone for their efforts, you’re acknowledging how they put your interests before their own.  Courtesies are focused on verbalizing the necessity of supporting each other in a collaborative manner.

Polite Responsibility

We throw all that out when we start to mix the nasty habits developed around liability law with how we interact with each other.  For fear of financial penalty, those students couldn’t simply say the truth: “we’re sorry, we should have known better than to screw around under those circumstances.”  They don’t enjoy the release of pent up guilt that comes with apologizing honestly for an unintended outcome.  They also haven’t verbalized wrong action and have missed out on the meta-cognitive reinforcement that happens when you describe what you’ve done in honest terms.  They carry all that negativity forward.

I was watching soccer yesterday and an obvious handball occurred inside the goalie crease.  In my perfect world the offender it happened to would go to the ref and opposing player and say, “yes, it hit my arm.  It was a sudden, hard shot and I couldn’t have gotten my arm out of the way in time anyway.”  The shooter would then be given the penalty shot and he would have kicked it wide on purpose.  Instead, the player stood there stony faced, and said nothing as he knew the rules of the game had been broken, but could not afford the liability of admitting truth.

We do this in our games, our businesses are founded on this concept of non-admittance of wrong doing, and our governments don’t know how to operate any other way.  It’s no wonder that we should do it in our schools if we’re going to get our students ready for the adult world waiting for them.

The moral order of operations we need to train our students in to prepare for adulthood:

  • It’s best to say nothing than admit wrong doing or incompetence. 
  • It’s best to lie than to admit wrong doing or incompetence.  
  • It’s best to accept punishment but still admit to no wrong doing, or incompetence.
  • Ignore courtesies, they are a sign of dependence and weakness.

Conformity is happiness

Having a son a lot like myself, I’m watching in dismay as the school system does to him what it tried to do to me. A quiet, shy boy who likes to do his own thing, my son gets very anxious in group situations and tends to shut down, go off into his own head. I suspect that when this happens his teachers think that nothing is happening, that he’s just standing there blank, but I know this isn’t the case, because I do the same thing.

When people are too much with me (which happens in large groups or very loud situations), I daydream to give my mind some place to play. Standing in a large, noisy group of grade ones repetitively voicing lyrics for the Christmas concert would have lost me quickly, as they did my son. Somehow, his music teacher believes this means he is a failure in music. I’m not sure how group choral singing and dancing is the sum total means of assessing musical skill, but I suppose in some people’s minds it is.
Ultimately, it seems that, to an elementary teacher, an unresponsive child is somehow blank. I teach myself, so I recognize the challenges of trying to get an accurate assessment of skills in a classroom full of students, but a lot of this can be mitigated by differentiating instruction and differentiating evaluation. Many opportunities to demonstrate a skill in different contexts is, again, a challenge, but if we’re not there to try and create circumstances in which a student can show their best selves, why are we there?
Last year I was at a PD in which the instructor said that he was astonished to see so many secondary teachers out, because usually they don’t care anything for PD, differentiating instruction, collaborative assessment or technology in education. My department head and I looked at each other and asked the obvious question, “why would you want to antagonize your audience in the first five minutes?”
He went on to (admiringly) describe elementary teachers as paragons of modern educational philosophy, masters of DI, experts in assessment, the very flowers of the education system. He was then frustrated that his room full of secondary teachers appeared unwilling to interact and ask questions during his presentation.
So here I am, looking at the system as a parent for the first time. In my view, the elementary system is designed around standardized testing. The curriculum is so tightly prescribed and detailed that teachers have little latitude in how they can present it and how long they have to assess it. As a result, they are approaching the education of younger students in a very mechanical, statistical manner. This is something that somehow proves to those in charge that elementary teachers are superior – working within a coherent system that produces students who all think similarly and demonstrate the same skills at the same skill level. Administrators must love this; what a great opportunity to produce STATISTICS.
I have no doubt that there are secondary teachers who love this kind of order (most become administrators). A wonderful world of easily organizable human beings who all do the same things, the same way at the same level. It’s the stuff curriculums are made of. But in my experience, especially in the humanities and the arts (and increasingly in science and even math), secondary teachers are actually more interested in trying to arrange conditions for success with their students, rather than comparing them to an artificial and arbitrary set of standards being designed by a MINISTRY somewhere.
One way this happens is by recognizing that teaching and learning are a biological process, and that they happen for students at different times in different ways. This isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be expectations of what a human being is capable of, the last thing I’d advocate for is a lowest common denominator approach to human being, but an education system that is overly prescribed is probably serving its own bureaucracy rather than its students.
The board keeps showing us Sir Ken’s mighty speech: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U You’ve probably seen it. Watching it at this last PD through the lens of a frustrated parent of a grade one boy born in October, I was most struck by his comments on our infatuation with date of manufacture. We have built one of the largest public institutions around this idea, mainly for the convenience of the bureaucracy that runs it. (I live in hope that peak oil will break this tyranny: docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0AZ3Xb3MP_t-cZGRnM2o2bXBfMjZkaGZndmNoaA&hl=en&authkey=CLqOsqIN )
In the meantime, I’ve been talking to colleagues who have atypical children and their only advice is cry long, cry loud and never let them become complacent. It makes me feel sorry for all those kids whose parents are too intimidated, or uncaring, or too busy to advocate as loudly.
There has to be a better way, for everyone involved.

stupid is as stupid does

Digital technology has gotten this reputation for curing all our ills as far as student engagement goes. The logic you hear often sounds like, “give the digital natives the technology and sit back! Prepare to be amazed!”

I happened to see “Chalkboard Jungle” on the weekend before my first year teaching in 2004. In the (1955) film the new English teacher is desperately trying to engage his angry and disenfranchised inner city students. He eventually finds that the ‘new’ film projectors catch their attention. He has a talk with one of the older teachers who asks hopefully if the new technology will cure their students’ lack of interest. The young teacher shrugs, but he’s not about to put down the one thing he’s found that takes the heat off.

The frantic grasping at technology hasn’t changed. This week someone kindly tweeted this:


… and she’s right, it’s not the technology. It won’t make the teaching work, it won’t make people wiser or smarter than they are. Our unwillingness to adapt to change is certainly causing chaos, but what might be worse is our belief that technology will somehow make better people.

In 2006 one of my students brought an Orwellian piece of media futurism into our media studies class:


The part that stuck with me was:

“At it’s best, edited for the most savvy readers, EPIC is a summary of the world, deeper, broader, and more nuanced than anything ever available before. But at it’s worst, and for too many, EPIC is merely a collection of trivia, much of it untrue, all of it narrow, shallow, and sensational.”

Pretty good description of modern media use, eh? This piece of speculation was originally written in 2004, and whether or not we end up in a Googlezon meganopoly or not, the simple truth that the internet and digital technology looks to empower its user with access to information remains true. Given great access to information, ignorant people will do ignorant things. Stupid people will enable their stupidity in new, interesting and more encompassing ways; digital media gives you what you ask for.

Believe it or not, technology will not magically cure idiocy, or make all students eager, insightful or, in some cases, even vaguely useful. Technology, be it cell phones, computers or even just internet access, has no inherent ability to improve character, or intelligence. While being morally ambiguous it also tends to hand over information with minimal effort, negating attempts to build self discipline and improve mental stamina around task completion. In the process academic skills, especially complex skills that require long developmental times (literacy, logic, etc), become a foreign concept to a mind that has trained itself around short term narcissistic social media navel gazing.

The brain is a very flexible organ. If we train it with asinine navel gazing, it will end up in a feedback loop that develops a very inaccurate sense of our abilities and self value; social media and technology focused around our wants and needs will kill humility stone dead.

The idea that teaching needs to change into facilitation only seems to feed this vacuum. The act of teaching involves a great deal more than making sure students know how to get to information and providing them with technology to do it. Teachers don’t just model learning, they also model civil behavior, intelligence in action, and many other traits you hope students will notice and eventually emulate. Left to their own devices (pun intended), many of the digital natives develop habits that make the digital tools we are developing look more like lobotomy instruments rather than tools to maximize human awareness and learning.

Burying your head in the sand at the onslaught of change doesn’t help; ignoring this will just make you irrelevant very quickly.

Adopting a pie in the sky belief in some kind of intuitive magic power children have over technology is ludicrous, actually quite akin to the burying your head in the sand (you’re really just transferring responsibility to the magic children).

As mentioned in Davidson’s article, we need to start recognizing that people are the prime movers and the technology just amplifies the activity, whatever it is. Until we start rationally looking at what is happening in our rapidly evolving mediascape and assigning responsibility to people’s choices, we are going to find ourselves creating fictions and blaming gadgets. In rough seas like these, we need to appreciate some hard truths.

Digital Footprint 2.0

SOURCES

The source(s) of this post (and a good example of the richness of thinking you can get out of an online PLN):

@MzMollyTL’s Digital Footprint discussion from ECOO last year that stirred up the new teachers in my AQ.


@melaniemcbride’s comment on the sweatshop mentality of the always on teacher:

twitter.com/melaniemcbride/status/230841214180683779

@dougpete’s blog on edublogging:
dougpete.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/this-week-in-ontario-edublogs-27/

…which led to some interesting questions about online presence:

dougpete.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/dont-hurt-yourself-with-social-media/

Phew!  That is a lot of build up!  Here I go…


DIGITAL FOOTPRINT 2.0

I think we’re ready for an evolution in what our expectations are around this.  Diana’s original presentation suggested that teachers need to familiarize themselves with online media, and that is still true.  However, since that presentation there have been political upheavals supported by social media, underground poltical movements powered by social media, and I’m currently watching the  ‘Twitter Olympics’: the first really social media powered Olympic games.  Even the forth estate is grudgingly trying to manage the tidal wave of social media.  Merely familiarizing yourself isn’t going to cut it anymore.  Ignoring it will make you irrelevant to your students with astonishing speed.

Social media is becoming mainstream and there are increasing expectations that people know how to use it.  Only in extremely staid, conservative situations (educational administration) is social media being shunned.  Even the very conservative family reunion I attended recently wanted to start making use of social media to keep in touch, and these were people who play banjos.  Social media is becoming ubiquitous, even unhooking the Ontario government’s ability to manipulate media into justifying its agenda.  This is a powerful force, not something to be trifled with or poked at tentatively.  If you’re going to do it, do it honestly, and be yourself.  You’ll find the ability to expand your interests online empowering if you don’t try and game it.

POCKET NETWORKS

The social networks we see spring up like mushrooms in the rain are being prompted by the miniaturization of computer hardware.  Smartphones are increasingly common, and since 2010, the vast majority of ‘phone’ use has been in data, not voice.  We use our mobile computers as interconnected computers, not as phones.  Our students do it, we do it, even boomers are doing it.  Like the telegraph, then the telephone after it, this is a revolution in how we communicate with each other, and almost everyone is carrying around the means in their pockets.

Our classrooms have more processing power in the pockets of students than desktop labs did ten years ago.  Their ability to communicate is unparalleled in history, and disregards geography like no other telecommunications system before it.  Just hoping that everyone considers doing something with their online presence is no longer enough, and ignoring or banning the hardware that is causing this is turning a blind eye to a profound shift in social communications.  Schools that ban smartphones should be banning other new inventions, like electricity, telephones, televisions… which very quickly starts to look backward.

GENUINE ONLINE PRESENCE

Being online offers you an opportunity to be anonymous, but this requires a great deal of work on your part.  The nature of the internet means you’re always leaving digital bread crumbs about how and where you’re communicating from.  Anti-web types will use this as an excuse to harp on privacy issues, but when have we ever been able to communicate privately?  Gossip has always been and always will, and what you say has always followed you, it just follows you in an amplified manner now.  Social media allows you to broadcast gossip.  If you were a gossip before, you’re a digitally enhanced gossip now.  It’s never been more important to be the best person you are in public; there is a record now, and I’ve seen students constantly bitten by this as their Facebook updates land them in the VP’s office.

Trying to be someone else is exhausting!

The genuine self as an online presence offers an opportunity to meet others beyond your geographic situation that share your interests.  You quickly find yourself a part of an online community that reflects your predilections and offers you a sense of collaborative discourse that might be missing in your workplace, or your immediate geography.  If you’re genuine in expressing your interests, you’ll create a genuinely satisfying social media ecosystem.  If you fabricate yourself, or limit yourself to specific identities (your teacher self comes to mind here), you won’t be exploring the actual usefulness of this new medium.

The other advantage of being genuine online is that you attract meaningful dialogue.  If you’re one dimensional, you tend to attract n00bs, marketing interests and bots (who are also one dimensional).  If you’re genuine and human in your presentation of self, you’ll attract a richer class of connection, one that offers powerful insights regardless of where you are in relation to each other on the planet.  You’re harnessing the true potential of social media when you are multi-dimensional and human in your approach to it.

Developing a digital footprint is no longer about simply participating, or creating a cardboard cutout of your professional self, it’s about honestly expressing your own views in a genuine manner.  The myriad of apps and means of communicating in a social network allow you to express yourself in simple (twitter), complex (blog) or focused interests (Google+, Facebook) ways.  Knowing how to use the tools effectively is key.

If you’re fabricating a professional appearance, well, that’s just work, and doing it all summer, 24/7 is not going to do you any real good.  Ultimately, you’re doing an awful lot of work and not exploring this new medium effectively, probably because you’re scared of it.

School Leadership 2.0

Several school administrators made comments in Doug’s blog about the need for restraint.  In a leadership role, you’re not free to fly off the handle whenever you have an opinion.  You always need to consider the working relationship you have to foster.  Having said that, George’s comment about social media being a useful tool in fostering a team based on real knowledge of each other suggests that social media can be a means of allowing people who might not otherwise to know each other better.

The tendency has been for management (union, board, ministry, and any other ed-based management you can suggest) to shy away from social media.  They fear the de-centralization of power, and see it as a threat to their dominance.  It’s nice to know some administrators are fighting this tendency, but I’ve heard of many more who don’t hire the best candidates because their online presence creates unease, and in worst cases not considering hiring a teacher at all because they are familiar with the social web that most students spend their lives in.  Why they think that hiring belligerent, intentionally irrelevant teachers is a good idea is beyond me.

What I love about social media is that it is democratizing information.  No longer do we have to succumb to the broadcast media’s idea of what is true.  Twitter told me about Bin Laden hours before broadcast media would, or could.  As a social media-ist, I’m responsible for vetting my own information feed, and broadcasting my own truth.  As both a leader, and a professional, this means not being a jackass, but being a meaningful social mediaist requires this from the get go.  If you’re going to do social media well, being a gossip, spreading untruths, will eventually turn the crowd on you.  Generating drama and controlling spin doesn’t work very well in a democratized information medium; the truth just bypasses you.

Social media is an opportunity to build a more ideal information medium, one without favoritism or fabrication, one that does not favor the status quo in order to maintain it; the crowdsourced truth is dangerously unmanageable… and free from spin.  

As a member of that tribe I try not to let invective and one-up-man-ship dictate my actions, I try to be collaboratively engaging.  This isn’t contrary to any professional or leadership role I may have; in fact, it should enhance those roles.  When you broadcast your actions, it behooves you to it well.

CONCLUSION: THE REVOLUTION IS HAPPENING, REGARDLESS

The social media revolution has harnessed mobile electronics and the internet to produce a democratized media frenzy.  Old-school, forth estate media is floundering, trying to manage their loss of broadcasting monopoly, but still seeing it as an immanent threat.  Other power structures are also frustrated by this decentralization of voice.  Where once a hierarchy could dictate the message, now social media swirls around these old-school broadcasting roadblocks.  

Unions are watching members broadcast their opinions directly, without being able to dictate a unified response.  Governments and corporations are finding that the dictatorial control they once had over traditional media is weakening, because traditional media matters less.  As social media responses bypass traditional censorship, we once again see the many assert their power.

There is no doubt that these changes will force a fundamental shift in how we work with each other.  This kind of radical, data driven transparency gives control freaks a nervous breakdown, but in the end, I can’t believe that freeing the signal from the self-involved interests of the powerful isn’t better for everyone; that it will result in fairer, transparent, more effective organizations.

As educators, we have to try and get a grip on this ourselves, and then be ready to try and (usefully) assist our students in effectively navigating this exciting, historical change.  It’s no longer enough to pay some attention to what your digital footprint is.  It’s no longer enough to do the minimum necessary.  If we’re going to teach future generations how to survive in the rough sea of democratized data we’ve made for them, we need to adapt and master the waves ourselves.

A relevant educator is recognizing the radical nature of these changes and is doing their best to create a genuine online persona, one that accurately reflects the public persona they demonstrate in their physical life.  What’s private isn’t at issue here, but our public selves are changing, and it doesn’t do anyone any good to try and game social media by making cardboard cutouts of themselves online.


Some things to consider:
Dancing in the Datasphere: a philosophical look at where we are going
The Singularity: an inside look at what Silicon Valley believes is coming

Don’t kid yourself, you’re living in the middle of a revolution!


Canadian/Ontario Summer Nature Photography

Photography from around Ontario, Canada over the past ten years. Includes wildlife in Algonquin Park, time at the family cottage near Bobcaygeon and photos everywhere from Tobermory to Ottawa.

Older photos taken with the long gone Fujifilm 9100s superzoom camera, the up until early 2017 Olympus Pen mini-SLR and most recent photos with the latest Canon T6i (I have no preference for cameras. A good photographer can take a good picture with just about any camera, especially any higher quality SLR. Any underwater shots were taken with an ancient but still working Fujifilm waterproof point and shoot.

Algonquin Park moose.

Garter snake in the Haliburton woods.

Freezing the wings on a hummingbird.
Bass in Bass Lake near Bobcaygeon, ON.

Flowerpot Island boat trips off the tip of the Bruce Peninsula near Tobermory, ON.

Summer time camp fire on Bass Lake.

A Canadian childhood.

The ferry in Tobermory.

Belted kingfisher over Bass Lake, ON.

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Tough Durable Tech

Tough tech!

This is one of my favorite bits of digital technology:  A Casio Pathfinder wrist watch.  What’s so cool about a watch you ask?  They’re SOOO 20th Century!

Well this one is also an altimeter, barometer, compass and thermometer.  It’s also a stop watch, alarm clock and just plain old watch.

But none of that is what makes it cool.

What makes this piece of tech one of my favorites is that it isn’t tethered to anything; it’s one of the few pieces of digital technology that I own that is entirely self-contained, and that’s somewhere that I want all my hardware to go.

This watch is fantastically accurate, but what makes it even better is that it picks up a signal and keeps itself atomically accurate.  It’s a watch that never has to be set.

It’s also a watch that never has to be wound or have the battery replaced.  The face is also a solar panel that recovers enough charge out of even a well lit room to recharge itself.

On top of all that, it’s virtually indestructible.  It’s encased in a rugged body that can withstand a car driving over it, it’s freeze proof to well below zero, waterproof to diving depths and probably bullet proof as well.

Fragile energy vampire!

What I’ve got here is a tough, self-reliant piece of technology that always works no matter where I am.  When I look at my choices for computers, tablets or even smartphones, I’m looking at fragile, energy vampires that are lucky to work a day in regular use without the need to draw from a socket.

Faster is nice, but I’m also looking for tough and self contained.  Until I can lay in the bath with my e-reader or turn to my phone without seeing red low battery warning lights, the digital tech isn’t nearly as tough and self contained as I need it to be.

The edtech question to ask is should we be putting fragile tech into the slippery hands of teens and children?  The repair/replacement rate of these fragile little digital flowers are going to be much higher than they are in the steadier hands of adults.

Until digital tech is as tough as the analog it’s replacing, it’s an edgy proposition to push it as the main focus in instructional tools.

In the meantime, Casio keeps evolving the tough tech.  Soon enough I’ll have a watch PC that will communicate wirelessly with peripherals and power itself (hope hope).

Casio is also heading into something other than watches!  If there’s a phone, perhaps a gshock tablet can’t be far behind!  That’d take on those slippery student fingers, and look tough while doing it!

Chromatic Sunsets on two wheels in 360°

360° motorcycle photos taken with a Ricoh Theta attached to the windshield with an octopus mount (see how to take photos like these here).  They were cleaned up in Adobe Lightroom.  Various digital edits to abstract the images done in Paperartist and touched up in Lightroom.

 

 

 

 



Photos first:  the Theta photos came out dark, but Lightroom was able to make them look HDR with a click of the auto setting:

 

 

 You can see the shutter struggling to catch enough light there…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then took the Lightroom edits and ran them through PaperArtist beforre touching them up again.  So the workflow here is photo in the Theta, download to desktop, edit in Lightroom, upload to phone for PaperArtist edit, download back to desktop for final lightroom touch up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sunset the next night was another stunner, but I was on the deck with the Oneplus5 smartphone for these ones…

 

 

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