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Writing with 8pen

Producing a character is easy, fast, and feels like hand-writing. Once familiar with the position of the letters, writing can even be done without viewing.

[yframe url=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3OuCR0EpGo’]

Putting the old keyboard on small touch screens is a typical locked-in-phenomenon when hardware evolves but the underlying ideas don’t follow. This may produce really frustrating experiences; remember Ellen’s iPhone parody?

[yframe url=’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulN_Xuoxzg4′]

Fortunately a touch enabled device is by definition a quite flexible user interface. Now the people at 8pen came up with a great idea. Forget the concept of pressing buttons on a keyboard to type in your thoughts. 8pen is reinventing keyboards and handwriting at once, combining gestures, 4 sectors and 1 button to produce a character on a touch screen.

It’s not your fingers that are too big, it’s the keyboard that is out of date.

Thank you 8pen for putting it correctly!

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T.

The Comeback of Handwriting

In an earlier blog post I wrote that with new technology, literacy evolves.  I was questioning the need to teach penmanship in schools drawing analogies between Braille code for the blind and teaching new literacy.

However, when talking to a blind friend of mine I was quite impressed when he told me that he still prefers handwriting for personal communication and therefore bought a special device with rubber straps representing the top and bottom boarders of a line.

Indeed, handwriting is an important part of human identity and I understand why we still stick to it in the digital age. It makes us unique.

That is exactly the big idea behind a small web application called PilotHandwriting. This easy to use app allows you to turn your own handwriting into a digital font and to send emails to your friends in your own, unique, personal style.

Maybe this is the comeback of handwritten communication in the digital age.

Have a look and try out! www.pilothandwriting.com

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T.

Tesla, Wi-Fi, and Electronic Music – Literally

A Tesla coil is a resonant transformer circuit invented by Nikola Tesla at the end of the 19th century. It is used to produce high voltage, relatively high current, high frequency AC electricity. Some people make music out of it.

“What you hear is audio modulated thunder”, Joe DiPrima of Arcattack, a band from Austin, Texas, explains. During their shows Arcattack’s MC and stunt man Patric Brown walks and dances through half a million Volt sparks wearing a Faraday suit.

One of Tesla’s early stuntmen was Mark Twain. The writer and the engineer were close friends and spent much time together in Tesla’s laboratory. Obviously Mark Twain survived the experiments and wrote some great novels later on. High voltage AC electricity is less dangerous for human beings than DC electricity. One explanation is that under AC electricity the ions in the human body are rather oscillating within the cells than moving between them. It might hurt anyway; and remember: a real thunder is DC! So please don’t try this at home, unless you are a stuntman wearing a Faraday suit or a great writer looking for inspiration.

Mark Twain in Tesla's Lab (1894): Suddenly the lights came on.

Today the main use of Tesla coils is entertainment and educational displays. Neverless the underlying ideas on wireless communication seem visionary in the era of the internet. In 1915 Tesla declared that “wireless wonders” may solve some of the world’s greatest problems. With wireless communication “we might decrease the cost of the dissemination of useful information that every citizen of this country, resident no matter how remotely from the populated centres, could be kept continually in touch with the outer world occurences, weather prospects, and all that helpfull information which the Government already gathers, or might gather if it had at hand the means by which to make it public”, the New York Times reported on August 1, 1915. Let’s solve the problems, we have got the tools!

Wi-Fi 100 years ago: Tesla's tower on Long Island.

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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

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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

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