Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ustream, iStream (so on and so forth)

Ugh... haven't been able to write in a while. Many ideas are floating in my brain folds, but I can't seem to find the words to express them in the time I've been allotted here on P. Earth. Please point me to the killer app that gives me more time in the day...

Things I've been internally pontificating about, lately:

1. Chatroulette: What a rich sociological gem this one is! Developed by a 17 year old student from Moscow and brilliantly re-appropriated by piano chat improve guy (Ben Folds??), the real Ben Folds (Live), and hundreds of dudes who lost their pants or just forgot to put them on, Chatroulette is a Website that randomly pairs up two users who can see each other and talk through their webcams.

What I really like about Chatroulette is what it reveals about the state of the Internet. We've been jamming away on the "social Web" for the last few years, but there is still something very uncomfortable or foreign about the social web + strangers + Webcam combo. "I'd never show my real face on that thing," a friend of mine said after telling me about his late-night sessions on Chatroulette wearing a giraffe mask and playing guitar (if you see him, tell him I say hi!). That we are totally ok with carefully constructing our Web identities through asynchronous, text-based interactions but not quite ready to fully attach these interactions with our facial identities in real-time is significant. I think we've seen a similar phenomenon with location-aware social networking, which may be wearing off.

And if you've been living under a digital or physical rock and haven't seen this yet, just.... watch it:

2. The "digital divide"
: I've had a post drafted about this for, like, weeks. It's still not done. Maybe I will post it someday.

3. Graduate School: I'm in it. I just got done writing a literature review about "authentic tasks" in education, and so I've been thinking a lot about "school culture" and how to use technology to extend beyond it. The efficiency of the academic factory model has grouped learners into a bland simulacrum of the lived world instead of creating a safe space for exploring their intellectual boundaries in situated, authentic tasks. Simply put, operating within the norms of exams, grades, detention and recess just doesn't jive with the culture found outside of school in the "real" world, and therefore new knowledge and learning is cognitively filed under the "school" category rather than the "everything else" category.

One really interesting tool I've been seeing recently that extends the traditional classroom into reality is Ustream, a free service that let's users stream live video over the Internet. Last month, Karl Fisch used the website to facilitate a conversation between his 9th grade class and Cory Doctorow to talk about his book, Little Brother:

I would have loved the chance to talk to a real author about a real book while I read it in high school, it just makes the concept of literature seem so much more salient.

Also, an elementary school class got to chat with the owner of Molly, a barn owl who has recently hatched baby owls live on Ustream:

I fondly remember every pet I ever had in my classrooms, and by observing someone else's pet via the Internet, you never have to clean its cage! (Which, if you watch the above video long enough, you will learn that Molly is sitting on about two inches of her own vomit, thus making any cage cleaning empirically gross).

Anyway, there are tons of other ways to facilitate authentic tasks or experiences with technology, some of which I cover in my paper. If you are interested, I would be happy to send along a pdf.

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