M.

Making Music at the Speed of Light

Everything that vibrates makes music. The music that is perceived by human beings is human music. For being able to perceive the music of atoms, stars, and animals, it has to be transformed. (Karlheinz Stockhausen 1975)

Sonification is the use of sounds to perceptualize data and information. It is an interesting complement or even an alternative to visualization techniques. Infographics have already become widespread and are considered as cool or even sexy.

Just imagine the huge potential of infosounds in the future.

“ATLAS is a music box” (c) Toya Walker.

One impressing example of sonification is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Switzerland. LHC was in the news recently when it broke its own energy world record on March 30, 2010. The high energy collision created an enormous quantity of data which inot only  a big challenge in the field of computing, but also may be one of the reasons why LHC made it’s way into the world of music and sounds.

Here is a visualization of what happened inside the LHC when two opposing particle beams collided with an energy of 7 000 000 000 000 eV:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EP0ouOgMuNY

Now a group of particle physicists, composers, software developers and artists in the UK started a project called LHCsound, turning real and simulated data from the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider into sounds.

The team members Lily Asquith, a particle physicist, Richard Dobson, a composer and music software developer, Archer Endrich, a composer, Toya Walker, an illustrator and painter, Ed Chocolate, a London-based producer and DJ and Sir Eddie Real, a percussionist, want to attract people to the results of the LHC experiments in a way that is novel, exciting and accessible.

Their “simplest” example of sonification is HiggsJetSimple. This sonification transforms properties of the particle jet to properties of sound: energy becomes volume, distance defines timing and the deflection of the beam is the pitch. In this example the sounds reduce in density very much towards the end, with isolated events separated by silences of several seconds:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrXqptn6qvo

By the way, Frank Zappa sonified the search for Higgs’ boson many years ago. You can find it on his album Trance-Fusion.
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lHixowXnlU

In principle any data can be sonified. NASA sonified the sun and the planets. Seismic data of earthquakes and volcanos has been sonified to great use. You can even sonify a painting, photograph or moving image which has enabled blind people to see with sound.

Sonification has a great potential and I am eager to see if it can make its way into popular culture like data visualization did with infographics.

(Thank you Toya Walker, CERN, Frank Zappa and LHCsound)

Share this article:
T.

The Globalization of Reading and Writing

Schools are in the middle of a transitional process. The future of literacy has already begun. Globish is replacing English as a lingua franca and Moore’s Law is not only an indicator for the long-term trend in the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit but also for the speed of change coming with technological progress. Are teachers, parents, students and policy makers keeping up with the times? Is there anything like change management for schools as learning organizations?

Dr Patricia Fioriello, an educator and administrator from San Francisco, recently published an e-book on new literacy proposing thoughtful ideas and suggestions for “the piece that is missing” in the transition from the current school curriculum to a world wide web based literacy approach. Her book is clearly written, insightful and fun to read illustrating the issue with a lot of good examples and historical background. Teachers, parents, policy makers and students alike may find it interesting.

Literacy for the 21st century. (c) www.drpfconsults.com

What does it mean to be a literate person today? According to Patricia Fioriello “Literacy needs to be thought of as the sum total of the skills that a student will need to have proficiency in so that they can become successful college students and workers.”

Chapter 1 of “Teaching Literacy: Keeping Up with the Times” is setting the stage with a historical overview on literacy, stating that “teachers today are using most of the same methods that have been used for the last half of the twentieth century with little upgrade.” This is sad but true and one of the reasons why I really suggest the reading of Patricia Fioriello’s book.

Chapter 2 about “Online Reading Comprehension and Writing” assembles plenty of good ideas to consider when it comes to reading and writing on the internet: technical vocabulary (www), shorthand (LOL), search engines use (limiting results) and navigation issues (hyperlinks). She also critically assesses the virtues and challenges of auto-correction tools in many word processor programs.

Chapter 3 on “Language and Communication” advocates the advantages of cultural diversity and multilingual learning environments when preparing students for a globalized world. The chapter deals not only with idiomatic expressions, translations or the ambiguity of written language but also with the ability to read logos and fonts. Just think of Captcha and the question “Are you human?”.

Chapter 4 deals with the “Paperless World” it and puts it clearly: Although many people are predicting a move towards a paperless world, the truth is quite the contrary: because of printers, fax machines and photocopiers “we are using more paper now than we have ever used before.” Nevertheless Patricia Fiorellio argues that this may be due to a time lag between the appearance of new technologies and the disappearance of older ones. Just think about the big shifts that new recording techniques and later MP3 brought to the way we listen to music. That is why schools today need to prepare students for a paperless future, including the use of digital textbooks, online testing and a changing approach to professional development of teachers.

Chapter 5 on “Different Cultures and Customs: A Global Audience” continues the argument of chapter 3 on language and communication, discussing Globish vs English and the ability of American readers to contribute to the global dialogue. Online readers and writers have to consider their audience, both locally and globally.

Chapter 6 is a follow up of Chapter 4 and discusses in depth the advantages and challenges of “Online Assessments” for students, teachers, parents and policy makers.

Finally, chapter 7 makes suggestions on “The Next Steps” not ignoring that money matters have to be considered. It is about funding and managing the transition process and on how to include the school community.

In my opinion Patricia Fiorellio’s book is an outstanding example for change management at schools!

You can download it at www.drpfconsults.com/Literacy

Share this article:
D.

Discover Great Literature with Google Earth

Googlelittrips.org is an engaging approach to reading and discovering great literature. Using Google Earth, readers undertake virtual expeditions created by teachers and students following and visualizing the travels of the characters.

Read the book, saw the film, hit the road on Lit Trips. (c) www.googlelittrips.org

Lit Trips’ developer and manager Jerome Burg “retired” after 38 years in public education teaching high school English. He now supports educators around the world in areas related to effective integration of technology into the curriculum. His brainchild Lit Trips was developed as part of the Google Certified Teachers program and is an effort to encourage engagement with the wisdom of great world literature through 21st century technologies. In my opinion, Lit Trips is “augmented imagination” at its best.

The list of Lit Trips is already impressing and ever growing. Visit, share, and build your own Lit Trips on www.googlelittrips.org!

The following video explains how you can start the trip.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-yMU3DJmwU

Share this article:
T.

Technologies in School: Just Ask the Students!

What is the future of technology in the classroom? We often ask this question to educators, policymakers and academic experts, but rarely to the ones really concerned: the students.

Katie Ash, Christopher Powers and Jennifer Neidenberg chose a different approach to bring in student perspectives to the decision making process. They made an insightful video asking three questions to US high school students from Maryland and Oregon.

  • What technologies do you use to communicate with your friends? – “Facebook, facebook, facebook, and my cell phone …”
  • What technologies do you use during school? – “We don’t really use technology …”
  • What technologies would you like to have in school? – “More wireless internet. More (really) accessible computers …”

The answers are far from unexpected but could help to adjust the debate on technology use in schools. I was especially surprised that even though the filmmakers asked “what”, students were more concerned about “how” technologies are used in school. Watch Edweek’s new video or read the full length article.

(Thank you edweek.org)

Share this article:
C.

CTRL+K: Wittgenstein and Hyperlinks

Wittgenstein portrait 1930
Would he have used hyperlinks?

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is the only book-length philosophical work published by the Austrian philosopher during his lifetime. It was an ambitious project, to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science concluding: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” Wittgenstein wrote the Tractatus while he was a soldier and prisoner of war during World War I.

Die Welt ist alles was der Fall ist. (Manuscript)

Some years ago, Jonathan Laventhol created a hypertext version of the bilingual edition of the Tractatus as a private study aid. According to him, the reader will have to make up his own mind about whether such a tool helps or hinders the appreciation of the book.

Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist.
Die Welt ist alles, was der Fall ist. (HTML)

Michele Pasin, a researcher in Humanities Computing at King’s College, London, created another visualization of the Tractatus, wich tries to give the text a novel visual representation using HTML and tabs. This is part of the PhiloSURFical project Pasin developed during his PhD studies at the Knowledge Media Institute.

Die Welt ist alles was der Fall ist. (Tabs)

Althought the full text is online for free (www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/5740), maybe the best way to understand the text is still the book.

Well, you could also do what Bryan Magee did and ask someone like John Searle to explain a little bit further.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qrmPq8pzG9Q

Finally, I am really not sure if Wittgenstein would have preferred hypertext to notebooks and papers. But I am convinced that different ways of exploring a text can enable the understanding.

Share this article: