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Archive for July, 2009

The vision of the web as a site of history may not be old or far-fetched. Check out the Wayback machine at www.archive.org. They even have a K-12 Web Archiving Program!

We all know that content on the web changes constantly. How do we maintain a track of that content change? How do we play back history? Zoetrope points the way.

The Web is ephemeral. Pages change frequently, and it is nearly impossible to find data or follow a link after the underlying page evolves. We present Zoetrope, a system that enables interaction with the historical Web (pages, links, and embedded data) that would otherwise be lost to time.

Zoetrope uses technology to search and analyze data in an Internet archive. The search can be on a specific section of a web page (say, for example, a news headline section on a web page).

A zoetrope is a device that produces an illusion of action from a rapid succession of static pictures. The term zoetrope is from the Greek words zoe, “life” and trope, “turn”. It may be taken to mean “wheel of life” or “living wheel.” (Wikipedia)

The search can be then correlated with other contemporary (to the original search) searches and a picture of the search domain at that point of time becomes available.

Of course, this picture is as fallible or accurate as the web content can be.

What does this kind of technology imply for education? There could be multiple applications. I could trace the way the world political map has evolved or how a city’s traffic system has evolved by simply playing back such images from the Zoetrope system. I could investigate multiple factors affecting a certain economic situation which occurred 20 years ago. The possibilities are enormous. The technology then becomes a guide through digital memory and the playback a conversation that the “guide” could have with a student.

Interestingly, this is the second time in a few weeks that the term “playback” has crossed boundaries for me. First it was Google Wave that played back email conversations temporally, now Zoetrope.

What would be lovely is to have digital visual immersion into the past as well (or sensory at some point!). The context for the learner would be considerably enhanced by virtualizing the past rather than reading it from a book/online or listening about it from a teacher. This in turn would create vastly more effective learning environments. (Add Project Natal and we could even “be” in that world!)

The power of this technology may also manifest itself in forecasting. When engines become powerful enough to traverse this huge database and generate many more relationships/variables hitherto unavailable in research, temporal data could be modelled to generate predictions of future behavior using time series or other advanced analyses.

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It’s nice to hear of a new operating system coming up. The central idea here is to use a lightweight Linux based kernel and the Google Chrome browser (that is built over the WebKit engine) to offer “speed, simplicity and security” to the end user.

The OS is targeted at initially at netbooks and eventually will power high end desktop systems. Of course, all applications on this OS will then be Web applications. Google Gears will be an important component for offline applications.

MS is incubating Gazelle, a possible next version of the browser. Gazelle uses Windows as the backend.

HTML 5 (“the second coming of the web”) is another standard on its way although it may take many more years from now to release. Boasting impressive capabilities and blurring the lines between online and desktop apps, some features of HTML 5 have already made its way into Firefox, Chrome and IE8. What is interesting to watch out for is that it brings 2D drawing and video capabilities to the browser, potentially threatening proprietary frameworks like Flash, Java FX and Silverlight! 

All in all, the thought that the browser be at the center of the new operating system is an interesting thought. As is the thought that browser capabilities may enhance to a point that traditional operating systems may become obsolete.

What does this augur for learning? For one, it lays the basis of a more connected world – the web at the center of the learning experience. Secondly, training developers will need to be aware of the power that these new technologies can bring on, reshaping how we create and deploy online learning today.  Thirdly, LMS/LCMS providers, if they live to see that day (sorry, could not resist taking that dig!), will need to adjust their systems to take advantage of these new standards and technologies.

If we thought Web X.0 was it, think again. These new standards and technologies have the power to reshape the Web and users’ experiences on it drastically.

On the other hand, I have written previously about the Sugar OS. This one is a different approach altogether, combining HCI with technology to achieve a new OS experience altogether. I would daresay that this is the more genuine claimant to a new operating system than Chrome OS would be.

By the way, the moniker for this blog – learnos – stands really for Learn OS – an operating system for the learner just as the standard OS today is today for the computer user. The thought is that we need something that reshapes, personalizes, connects and empowers us to learn and teach, but that something needs to be an environment by itself.

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You have got to see this! MS is working on a new technology that promises to revolutionize the human computer interface. Project Natal is a hands-free motion sensitive controller integrated with the Xbox system. You definitely want to check out the videos – here and here.

The ability for a person to use physical movements and immersively interact with the digital medium brings a live experience to us like never before. It boggles the mind to think how much learning and training would get influenced by the availability of technology like this. Now the only thing that remains, I guess, is the fourth dimensional simulated experience (feel the cool breeze, the ground shaking under your feet, the smells of the desert)!

What is incredible is the amazingly enhanced potential for live collaboration that you should see in the videos. This simply beats everything I have seen so far in terms of the possibilities it opens up. Wow!

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