A Top 10 List to Make You Think


As the year comes to an end, there are top 10 lists all over the place.

  • Top 10 New Blogs;
  • Top 10 Educational Blogs;
  • Some people are even identifying the top 10 blog entries in their blog; (geesh)
  • Top 10 Educational Twitterers;
  • and so on.

You get the idea.  I don’t typically read these types of posts.  They tend to be written in an egotistical manner or as the result of a popularity contest.  But, that’s just me.  I think everyone’s blog is great.  If someone has taken the time to put their thoughts to a post and then share it with the world, they’re aces with me.  I don’t care if they have three or three thousand readers.

But, there was a top list that I did spend some time reading and thinking about.  Beyond the list, there are some things to really ponder.  First of all, it’s not really a popularity contest – it’s based on verifiable numbers.  Secondly, it’s an eye opener as to the state of being online and sheds some light on ethics.  When we think about the lawmakers that want to legislate against piracy, a common argument made is that these people wouldn’t know the difference between a mouse and a joystick.

The list I’m referring to is “Top 10 Most Pirated Games of 2011“.  In the post, you’ll find the top five pirated titles by machine type – PC Games, Wii, and Xbox 360.  Each of the titles are ranked by the estimated number of downloads via BitTorrent.

The number one title in the category of PC Games is Crysis 2 by EA.  If I was interested in a purchase, I’d run out to BestBuy and lay down $39.99.  According to the chart, this title has been downloaded approximately 3 920 000 times through BitTorrent.  Doing the mathematics, this results in revenue lost of $156 760 800.  That’s a lot of money for software vendors and software developers to be interested in recovering.  Factor in sales taxes, and that’s a lot of money for governments to be interested in recovering.

That’s for just one title.

Extend that logic to the dollar figures for all of the software and it gets to be a pretty impressive number.  Then, let’s throw in productivity titles.  Then, let’s throw in movies.  It helps me understand at least part of one side of the SOPA discussion.  This isn’t the place to get into that – I would need to understand all sides better.

In these days when we’re reading the “best of” lists, or in my case not reading, I found this one to be particularly significant in terms of making me think.  Shouldn’t that really be the purpose of a “Top 10 List”?

This represents the last post that I’m planning for the year 2011.  It was a wonderful year for me on a personal level.  I got to meet so many new people online; I was fortunate enough to meet many of you face to face; and I was so fortunate to be able to work and plan and talk and just think with so many others.  My profound appreciation goes out to all of you.  I wish everyone a wonderful 2012, full of learning and discovery and full of health and happiness.

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OTR Links 12/31/2011


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Welcome back, JLB…


One of the things that I do on my Friday posts is poke around the list of Ontario Educators’ Blogs looking for interesting blog entries to help promote them on my blog.  I was fearful that it might be slim pickings for this entry as it’s a holiday for the Christmas season and many folks have put the keyboards away to enjoy the time with family and friends.

But, as I was reading the latest entries from people, I happened upon @jeanbont‘s latest entry.  JLB and I go back in our online and professional connections further than either of us would care to mention.  I was taken aback by the content in the first paragraph.  I had no idea.

As I continued to read, it really confirmed the sorts of things that I’ve always felt about social media, education, and those educators who see the light and jump in.  It’s a terrific and a neverending stream of opportunities to learn and make connections.  To walk away from from it would take a great deal of willpower.

But, he’s back.  I now have someone to forward the corny puns that he uses with his classes regularly.  It’s great to see that he’s jumped back in, is blogging again, and adding to his Delicious account.  He even hopped in and got one of the Ontario Educator Blog badges that I offered to create for anyone.

I like reading about his effort to rejoin us and certainly am happy that he made the decision that he did.  Welcome back, JLB.

If you have a moment, how about posting a welcome back message on his blog or retweet this entry?

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OTR Links 12/30/2011


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Free Textbooks


In the world of open and free resources, it can be pretty intimidating as you start to look around at the wealth of what all is available.  For me, in the beginning, Open resources often meant disjointed learning objects or animations that I would bring into my classes for a specific task.  It was a different way of doing things, often were highly engaging, and students typically could access them from at home.  It was, in fact, the impetus for me to start to get serious about wikis.  Generally, you would link to a learning object or the more flexible ones would allow you to embed themselves into your wiki page so that students didn’t leave the environment to use them.  It worked nicely.

If you’re following the change in the way that Open Resources are evolving, contributors are thinking bigger picture now.  Instead of a simple little interactive object to teach a bubble sort, we’re now seeing entire modules devoted to teaching the concepts of sorting.  Once you identify the object, evaluate it, and test it, finding it to be appropriate, it becomes part of your teaching.  It really is a great concept and you see more and more developed and repositories opening on a regular basis.

While there are people that write and develop these things just for the love of it, they have to be hosted somewhere.  In repositories, you’ll often see good collections but the realities of hosting the resources is evident.  You may see a walled garden around your “free” resources with admittance restricting access based upon a set of rules written by the host.  In a completely free and open system, you’ll find it sponsored by some entity who is paying the bills or it’s supported by advertising.  It’s the advertising that can be particularly annoying and frustrating with errant clicks taking the student away from the task at hand.

With the growth of these resources, the ultimate would be the textbook.  It’s an infamous concept because of some jurisdictions claiming that they’ll go paperless as we’re now starting to see textbooks for free.  A friend asked me what I thought about Bookboon, a free textbook dispensing site claiming to have 1000 books available for download.  There is indeed a wide selection of books by subject area in addition to business books and travel guides.  The textbooks claim to be written for university / college level but, at least in the area of computer science, that division can blur with secondary schools.  And, it never hurts as an instructor to have your bookshelves full of books with differing ways to explain concepts or problems to be solved.

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The list is quite impressive.  Not an advertisement in sight.  I decided to grab a book on Java to take a look around.

Hmmm.  There’s a first area of concern.  In exchange for a textbook, the site wants to have you subscribe to a mailing list.  That’s fair enough for me but I can already start to hear the naysayers now.

The book is in PDF format so nothing terribly innovative there.  I started to flip through the textbook and got to Page 3 with the Table of Contents where I saw my first advertisement embedded in the PDF file.  Uh oh.  Well, it’s in the TOC – nobody reads those anyway.  But, as I got into the books, the advertising continued.  I found it very intrusive.  It wasn’t just a little banner on the side of a page; it was literally half a page when it was there.  To make matters worse, mousing over it reveals that it’s a link – and while I don’t like clicking links in PDF files for security reasons, I decided to find one from a company that I knew and try it.  My Acrobat did its job popping up a window asking if I knew what I was doing.  Grudgingly, I said yes and watched what happened.

First, we made a quick visit to Bookboon where I’m sure a counter reflected the fact that someone clicked on an advertisement.  Then, it sailed through to the company that had inserted the ad.  I can hear those voices a little louder now.

But, to me as the end user, there was no cost.  I download it and used it.  If I can restrain myself from the advertising, I could use it mostly like a textbook (actually if you have full-blown Acrobat or equivalent, you can even write in the margins, post stickies, etc.) but specifically I could use it as a PDF file limited only by the functionality of my PDF reader.

The interesting value add to the Bookboon service is a Facebook application so that the books are available through the popular social networking service.

It’s not a slam against the host.  It costs money to host a server, pay for bandwidth, pay authors, etc.  It’s the business model that has been selected for operation.

So, in the realm of “free”, is this the price to be paid?  Are there other options?  Would you use a textbook with embedded, interactive advertising?  Is this the future?  The irony that the advertising issue goes away if we just print the PDF is not lost on this author…

OTR Links 12/29/2011


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Things I Learned from a Broken iPad


Recently, I had a problem with my iPad.  It was the worst of all problems – intermittent.  You know the kind; you’ve got this really irritating problem that plagues you everywhere except when you take it in for repairs and then it refuses to act up.  In my case, my iPad had an intermittent problem with the home button – the physical button on the bottom of the machine.  I never realized how much I used it until I couldn’t exit from programs.  I ended up having to do the four finger gesture to bring up the applications currently open to move to a different app.  It was driving me crazy so I called the support line where it actually started working properly for a bit while on the phone but then eventually acted up again.  

Apple was really good about it and shipped me an empty box so that I could send the intermittent machine in for exchange for a new one, the one I’m currently using.  In the meantime, I had started poking around on settings to see if I could find a setting to reset the home button.  But, I couldn’t.  However, what I found instead was something even better.  I didn’t know this was even there but I’m glad that I found and played around with it.  

Under Settings, there’s an option for Accessibility and then AssistiveTouch which is defined as “allows you to use iPad if you have difficulty touching the screen or if you require an adaptive accessory.”

The effect is visible the moment that you turn this setting on – a virtual home button appears on the screen.  By default, it wants to be in the bottom right corner of the screen but you can drag it around.  I’ve tried a number of locations and the top right seems to be the least intrusive of all the places.

Now comes the cool part (and, of course the important part if you need the accessibility feature).  Just tap on the button and a menu flies to attention on the screen.

There are four options available from a tap on the screen.  Tap home and it has the same effect as the physical home button.  Quits an application, etc.  At first blush, I wondered why this was going to be any better.  After all, I had to tap the screen twice just to get the effect of the home button.  But, after using it for just five minutes, I could see where this would be really useful.  It’s always in the same location regardless of orientation and so easy to use.  By itself, this was enough, but I poked around some more with the other options and I had one of those wow! moments.

Select Gestures and you’ve got a chance to easily use multiple finger combinations.

Select one and you see the finger tips on the screen.  Then just tap the screen and drag and you can get the effect and also visual how it works.  I’m thinking that it would also be a great visual to demonstrate the process to someone else.

If you need to cancel, just tap the virtual home button.

How many times have you fumbled for the side switch or need to change the orientation or adjust the volume or want to shake the iPad but don’t want to take a chance on dropping it?  You’re covered now.  Just select “Device”.

They’re all there.

The last option, I’m still looking for a purpose.  It lets you record your own custom gestures and create a library of favourites.  Maybe it’s a skill I need to work at.  Could I be more productive with custom gestures?  I’d be interested in suggestions.

As you can see, there’s room to grow in my learning.

The story ends with a replacement iPad that’s fully functional but, even at that, I’ve kept the above turned on.  I like the functionality that it adds to my use of the iPad.  I don’t see it being turned off any time soon.  If you’re on your Christmas Break and looking for something new to learn/experience, why not try this and see what you think?