Monday, September 24, 2007

digital storytelling: Will it catch on?

A wet weekend provided me with the time catch up on organising my photos from the tramps over the last couple of summers! Sorting through the photos got me reflecting on how technology is changing the way we do things in so many small but life changing ways. One of the quaint customs members of my tramping group indulge in, is to have a reunion a few weeks after we have completed a long tramp together. It’s a way to share, as a group, the good & bad times of our tramp.

The usual ritual is to have a shared tea (evening meal), chat about the highlights of the tramp & share photos that some of us have taken of the trip. In the past, we will have slides and hard copy to view. Orders would be taken of various photos, so that the owners would be able to reprint the chosen photos and post them to the people who have selected them. The most organised of us would arrive at the reunion with stamped / addressed envelopes and enough small change to pay the various photographers for a copy of the photos selected.

In the reunion for my January Stewart Island trip, all the photographers had used digital cameras. We were a group of tail-end baby boomers, with most of us working in non-techy jobs. However, when it came time to viewing the photos, out came a couple of laptops & the photos were viewed on laptop screens. Sharing of the photos involved transferring the photos on to CD or in my case, on to my memory stick. I could also have used my mp3 player for storage. So, the more organised of us now come with post-it notes with our email addresses on them, blank writable CDs or memory sticks.

One of our group archives all her photos on to scrap book based photo albums. She is working on album number 40 plus. She printed out digital photos that she thought worthy of inclusion & organised them as usual, into her photo album. As for the rest of us, most of us transferred the photos on to our computer’s hard disk where they formed the basis of our screen saver display.

Like it or not, we are witnessing the change over from hard copy into a digital environment. The above is but one example of many small but important changes in the way we do things that lead on to a ‘tipping point’.

The next stage is to move on to a digital story telling format. I am awaiting this development to see how long becomes this becomes mainstream within our tramping group. As such, no one in the group blogs on their myriad tramping trips. Time is usually the excuse. We all have busy lives revolving around work, studies and family. However, as more of our tramping memories are collected in digital form, then more of us will eventually be recording our trips for posterity in digital format.

Monday, September 17, 2007

youth hostels and learning about the use of technology by young travellers

Since receiving the nice amount of money as part of my award for tertiary excellence, I have had some light hearted ribbing from my colleagues about my predilection for staying at backpacker type accommodation when I travel out of town for work related conferences (in NZ & overseas). So this is a good place to explain my fondness for youth hostels.

The major reason I enjoy staying in youth hostels, is the opportunity to indulge in some serious people watching. It is too good an opportunity not to make use of as a mLearning researcher! The majority of people who turn up at backpackers are young travellers, usually in their twenties. Over the last five years, I have noted the increase in and a change in the types of technology that young travellers carry with them. Digital cameras used to be standard, but now, not everyone carries a digital camera, instead mobile phones and an mp3 players seem to be the de riguer. There is also an increase in young travellers who travel with a laptop.

Asking questions about a young person’s mobile phone, or mp3 player is a good conversational starter. From my travels, I have found that NZ is not mobile phone friendly for the foreign visitor. However, most young Asian travellers now use their mobile phone as a camera, so loosing the use of the mobile phone as a communicator is not too much of an inconvenience. I have also seen the mobile phone used as a calculator, currency converter, translator / dictionary, memo pad, map, torch etc.

Internet linked computers at most youth hostels are in use 24/7. Many young travellers make use of computers to organise all of their travel, completing their bookings for transport, accommodation and activities via online bookings. Savvy backpacker entrepreneurs have websites not only in English but in Spanish & Japanese. YHA’s that I have used in NZ, Australia & Canada all have computers that run off a standard cash card so that travellers can use these cards to pay for the time used on youth hostel computers within each country.

Travellers keep in touch with friends (& family) via email but many I have met recently (especially North Americans & Europeans) maintain their own blogs or social websites. One page on my memo pad in my Treo is filled with hotmail / gmail , blogger / facebook & myspace addresses (plus their Japanese / Korean versions) of people I have struck up conversations with at backpackers. Social site addresses have increased over the last couple of years. The use of moblogging is rare (due to mobile phones being linked to the travellers' home telecommunications provider).

I suppose I might be able to observe similar things if I stayed in a hotel as business ‘road warriors’ are now a common sight in hotel lobbies with their wireless laptops and mobile phones. However, the culture, architecture and organisation of the average backpacker’s, encourages the solo traveller to interact with their fellow travellers. A nosy middle aged woman who asks questions about what sort of mobile phone one uses does not seem too out of place :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pageflakes – more thoughts on using as PLE and ePortfolio portal

Last year, I recieved a nice email from Ole Brandenburg from Pageflakes, encouraging me to set up an account and have a look.

Since then, I have been keeping an eye on Pageflakes. The site has been upgraded with the options for adding many more ‘flakes’. There are now thousands of flakes and they include many more options for RSS type feeds and various utilities like clocks, language translators, calendars, games etc.

Of importance in using the Pageflakes portal as an eportfolio type repository is the ability to add an ‘Anything flake’. This provides a WYSIWYG editor to add text, photos, audio or video to the page. There is also an improved ‘page casting’ facility that allows better sharing of your page contents with others.

This means that a Pageflakes page could work in a dual role as a personal learning environment area plus also be used as an archive for documenting your own learning.
I have added it to the list of tools we will evaluate for the mlearning pilot.