Tag Archives: Mac

Timeline / Handmade Books

Facebook continues to fascinate me as a researcher. I know I need to stay the course, and I will (in other words, I won’t be adding another arm to my dissertation project that involves researching Facebook in addition to blogs — I love grad school, but I do want to finish), but I can’t stop thinking about what it’ll be like to look back on our timelines twenty years from now. Of course that depends on whether or not Facebook endures, but everyone who participates on the site is currently building some version of a digital scrapbook of their life.

Speaking of books, I’ve been making them for as long as I can remember — scrapbooks, photo books, address books, journals — you name it, I’ve made it. I’ve even got an awl, boning tool, and screw posts, and cut my own binder’s board for hardcover albums. But as digital communication has accelerated, I’ve found myself sending iPhoto books off to be printed by Apple instead. I still occasionally make little notebooks like this one, out of old academic journal covers and the remains of old articles I’ve read or manuscripts I’ve written and discarded. I like carrying them around with me to jot my thoughts when something with a screen isn’t available. I recently ran out of paper to use though — all the printing at the Graduate Center is double-sided now (which is a good thing), but! A few weekends ago, I acquired a huge stack of beautiful waste paper from the Bushwick Print Lab (thanks Ray!). I’ll be making small books again soon.

But I digress. I wonder how our digital memories will make our interactions as we grow older different than generations that have come before us. We’ll have the ability to remember things in far more detail than ever before. Even if people documented their lives extremely well with photographs before the internet existed, the captions and comments and interactive content on Facebook creates a living, breathing narrative in a way that pictures alone cannot.

So what does/could this mean for research? How does the capacity to know and understand each other grow as our digital footprints expand, and how does that capacity impact the process of collecting data?

ASDF ;LKJ

If I took typewriting as a class in high school, it didn’t stick. I remember spending hours in front of my Commodore 64 at home, waiting for the blinking cursor to appear, indicating it was time to start typing what appeared on the screen. It was a fun game, but I lost interest quickly. I guess learning to type is kind of like learning a language–if you don’t use it, you lose it. Since I had little cause to type outside of final papers for English class in high school, I  still used the hunt-and-peck method on my mother’s typewriter until I got to college, at which point it was clear that learning how to type would be a necessity. Computers–not Commodores–seemed to appear everywhere I looked on campus, and I refused to be that girl in the computer lab. Everyone seemed to have learned how to type in high school, so I just stopped looking at the keyboard. It took a few months, but I eventually learned how to type. What did other people do? What do people do today? Are skills taught for typing on cell phones? Will there be instruction for iPads and other touch-screen devices?

When I started teaching elementary school in 2001, there was a lot of talk about handwriting and how it wasn’t being taught anymore. Indeed, I remember spending hours carefully tracing the cursive alphabet over and over again in the first grade. But we didn’t have enough time in the day to teach something that was clearly becoming obsolete with the surge in digital communication that began with the start of the internet. At the time, the authorization of No Child Left Behind ignited a nationwide panic about test scores, and every extra minute in the day was devoted to test-taking. Neither keyboard skills nor handwriting were taught as part of the curriculum in our school. Now that computers are part of everyday life for so many people, I wonder if keyboard/typing skills are taught, and if so, at what grade level. Are there national standards attached to these skills?

I recently purchased a typewriter (made by Packard, before they were joined by Hewlett), and took it out this morning in an attempt to figure out what to get from Staples to make it work again (I was told, hopefully accurately, that there are really only a few types of typewriter ribbons). I was struck by how beautiful it is, and how odd, set on the table next to a MacBook. There’s a story to be told about these machines that isn’t finished yet, and I wonder how touch screens will continue to catalyze whatever iteration of the keyboard comes next.

iPad State of Mind

In a little less than an hour, at 10am ET, Apple plans to make an education-related announcement, and I’m not gonna lie: I’m excited to hear what’s on deck. There’s been speculation on blogs and such about what will be revealed, and in particular, what the role of the iPad will be. I have a lot of thoughts on iPads and e-readers (you can get a better sense for that thinking here if you’re interested) — especially how they fracture (in a good way, I think) how we think about time/space/communication/learning/teaching, etc. I snapped this picture during one of the initial protests of the Occupy movement in Zuccotti Park back in September, and keep thinking about it.

As I shot the photo, I was participating in a protest while watching the same protest on a device as it unfolded. What does that do for a learner, the act of participating-while-observing? What benefits are there to being able to participate in something in real time while also capturing it for, ostensibly, future learning, on a device that doubles as a book (among many other things)? How will note-taking and field trips evolve into non-linear projects that no longer involve notebooks and pencils or being in one place at one time?

Before I start asking more questions, I have to run to a meeting. But I wanted to start this strand of thinking and hopefully pick it up again later. I have a feeling 2012 — and today’s announcement in particular — is going to shape much of what is to come in digital education. It’s unclear as of yet how that innovation will change education in schools that don’t have enough dollars, period, but I’m hopeful that as the excitement builds around possibility that this dilemma is also considered.

Using Blogs as Data Collectors

When I started graduate school, web-based reference tools were only just being developed. At the time, I was using Endnote to keep track of my citations.  That is, until I clumsily tripped over the cord attached to my iBook. This was before the cord was magnetic, and I watched in stop-action as all of my work came crashing down. Little screws and bits of plastic spewed out from the sides. I hadn’t backed up in a while, and have not made that mistake since.

Today, it seems like everyone I talk to is using Zotero.  I was, too, until I realized about halfway through last year that someone else was using my Zotero library (and adding to and reorganizing it), too, in the adjunct office where I spent the bulk of my time last year. I hadn’t completely understood how Zotero works, and although I managed to get through defending my dissertation proposal by using it, I gave up and have been wavering ever since on where to take my library of citations next. And it dawned on me: why not just use a blog?

Has anyone had experience doing this? If I set up categories for authors and subjects, would it be easy enough for me to aggregate the appropriate data when necessary? I wonder if it would be possible to develop a WordPress plug-in (or if there already is one) to export bibliographic information as Zotero does. In the meantime, I am considering using a blog to organize my data by using categories and tags as codes. Obviously, the blog would need to be private; however, I wonder what other institutional requirements might be necessary for such a project. If my data is housed in a private site on the internet, is that as good as a locked file cabinet in an office?

Meanwhile, I have a Google Scholar alert set up for “teachers and blogging,” and have for almost a year now, and I’m fascinated by what comes up every time I receive a new digest. This morning, there was a paper about students “phlogging,” the practice of blogging from your phone, to complete assignments. And something else dawned on me: I have witnessed a 180-degree turn when it comes to technology and gadgets in the classroom.

I have probably already mentioned how when I started teaching at an elementary school, if we had to look something up on Google, we felt guilty; like somehow we weren’t good teachers if we didn’t have all the knowledge we were trying to impart to our students stored away in neat little virtual folders in our brains.  The fact of the matter is, I don’t remember all the capitals to all fifty states anymore (and probably haven’t since I memorized them for an in-class quiz about twenty-five years ago now), not to mention all of the conversion rules for ounces/cups/quarts, etc.  It’s not that I had to sit there with my laptop open, Googling things every moment of every day in order to teach; however, I admit that there were times when students asked questions that stumped me, and my colleagues and I made good use of the technological tools within reach. (A note on laptop use as a teacher: when our school was initially wired, teachers were not permitted to use the wireless network.  This is another example of the policy-practice gap I’m examining in my research.)

I’m getting a little off-topic here, but it’s hard not to think about how things have changed, while trying to figure out how to make technology work for a project right here, right now.  I have a feeling that in ten years, blogs will be even more sophisticated, and there will in fact be a more universally available option for keeping reference information and research data in blogs.  In the meantime, I’ll be developing my own system and will keep you updated on that project in future blog posts.

In other news, I went down to the Occupy Wall Street protests again yesterday with a group of colleagues, and was overwhelmed (in an inspiring way!) by how huge the crowd had gotten by the time we got there.  Thousands of people came from all over, and union representation was enormous.  At one point, we stretched all the way from Foley Square to Wall Street.  You can see photos here if you’re interested:

Occupy Wall Street 10/5/11

Lastly, RIP Steve Jobs.  Apple technology = awesome.

In Like A Lion

So yesterday marked the official start of my new fellowship, in which I’ll be working with students and faculty via technology.  More on what that means as it unfolds…

In the meantime, we got students set up with their new Macs, and part of that required familiarizing ourselves with Apple’s new operating system, Lion.  My observation so far is that the differences are subtle but powerful.  A number of us spent more than a few minutes talking about how the “natural” setting of the trackpad actually mimics that of the movement of your hand on the screen of a smartphone.  It was uncomfortable at first, but the scrolling pattern feels intuitive now.  Soon, rumor has it, scroll bars are going to disappear, too.

There will be some inevitable adjusting to differences in operating systems, hardware, and platforms, as I travel around between various computers researching, supporting, and facilitating communication and learning via technology.  But whoa.  I feel like I’m starting to speak a new language finally, and it feels good.  That little girl who’d completely dissected every discoverable keystroke of her Commodore 64 back in 1980-something is back and ready to learn more.  People who know me know I’m not the biggest fan of corporations, but I have to say: I thank you, Apple.