As this year comes to a close, its hard not to realize all the amazing projects I’ve been lucky to be a part of, and continue to be. These past few months I’ve been entirely engrossed in my work, and my passion for open source education.

Soon to be posted is a quick-fire video presentation about open-sourcing education and how it revitalizes the importance of creativity. The fact that the education system itself is failing is not a new concept by any means. But rather than focus on that, I’ve been focusing on the specific issues: that students starting at a young age are bored and unenthusiastic by school, and that students have an average of 10-20 minutes of attention during a traditional lecture-style course.

By categorizing learning into closed systems: that history is only history or math is just math, we’ve forgotten the importance of creativity and the breath of impact it can have. We’ve assumed too much that creativity is only for the arts and that only specific gifted people are creative enough at the arts to be successful. We are taught to ostracize and categorize ourselves in a traditional educational system, that crossover is unnecessary, when in fact it is when opposing fields of study clash that true progress is made.

What has been frustrating is that there is a whole field of research on open source education in a digital landscape and how it will, one day, change our value system, when in fact these things are already occurring. Meanwhile there are the grassroots, loose organizations that are unaware of the academic perspective. We’ve tried top-down overtake of the system and grassroots, and neither have been successful. With luck and a bit of encouragement, it is possible to meet in the middle, thanks to the incredible digital progress that has already been made.

While at Maker Faire in New York this fall, I watched Phil McKinney of HP do a presentation on this topic. His observation was simple and incredibly powerful. He argued that if we focus on teaching critical thinking, that the desire to learn the skills will come. No longer is the world about finding the right answer, but about asking the right questions.

I watched Sir Ken Robinson‘s riveting 2006 TED talk a long time before I was seriously involved in this issue. In the past few months I’ve revisited that talk again and again to remind me why it is important. I hope that you will find the same resonance.

Glitch Alpha

November 23, 2010

Trailer for new browser-based multiplayer game Glitch predicted to launch Spring 2011.

[Via Laughing Squid]

Cloud-Computing Cautions

November 22, 2010

According to Mashable, experts argue that we’ll be working primarily with web and mobile cloud-based applications such as Google Docs or Facebook by 2020, boycotting the majority of desktop software. They argue:

The advantage of instant access to information regardless of device, operating system or location is a huge factor in the dominance of web apps over desktop apps. “The cloud” is accessible from work, from home, from any location with an Internet connection, and increasingly, from our ever-smarter mobile devices.

The term “cloud-computing” has become a vague, all-encompassing definition for the advantages of web 2.0. While it has its obvious advantages, like most technological systems it is important to be cautious. To arguments that we might one day be running soley off the cloud, there is still a long way to go to successfully run large applications on the cloud. While it may get there, there are privacy concerns that would need to be addressed to make it a possibility.

For now, cloud computing provides and excellent backup for files, and sharing. It has been already successful at making it possible to remove the portable USB storage device from daily life. For those of us who are constantly moving and already engrossed in the digital lifestyle, cloud computing in the sense of storage and accessibility means added benefits and ease of life to the everyday.

Incidental Media

November 18, 2010

[via The Jailbreak]

Contagious Creativity

November 17, 2010

[via The Jailbreak]

USB “Dead Drops”

November 16, 2010

Current Eyebeam resident Aram Bartholl’s new project ‘Dead Drops’ has been causing quite a swell in both the technology and arts. From his website, Aram describes the project as:

‘Dead Drops’ is an anonymous, offline, peer to peer file-sharing network in public space. USB flash drives are embedded into walls, buildings and curbs accessable to anybody in public space. Everyone is invited to drop or find files on a dead drop. Plug your laptop to a wall, house or pole to share your favorite files and data. Each dead drop is installed empty except a readme.txt file explaining the project.

Despite the possibility of viruses, malware, and booby-trapped USB drops, the project has been received worldwide as an exciting and experimental artistic statement. BoingBoing hailed the project, writing “The furtiveness of squeezing your laptop or mobile against a wall is rather intimate–these may be dead drops, but they’re also data glory holes.” The project has been made easily accessible with a dynamic map of locations of the drops, to the photo pool of installed drops, to tutorials on how and where to install drops.

The original ‘Dead Drops’ are located at:

87 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY (Makerbot)
Empire Fulton Ferry Park, Brooklyn, NY (Dumbo)
235 Bowery, NY (New Museum)
Union Square, NY (Subway Station 14th St)
540 West 21st Street, NY (Eyebeam)

Regardless of the actual security of practical purpose of this project, the fact that it is causing a stir has created a forum of discussion about privacy, connectivity and individualism. The hundreds of comments and amount of drops created is a testament to the viral quality of technology as an art form. Short of some physical damage to several dead drops, there has been little testament that anyone has successfully recreated the many security concerns at this date.

 

Not even a day after Facebook’s release of its new messaging system that left most critics indifferent and only mildly curious, problems have negatively trended the debut. A bug in the Facebook system started disabling user accounts, primarily female, with claims that they were “inauthentic”. This trend was first reported just after midnight PST ironically enough on the other social media powerhouse, Twitter.

Reporters at Read Write Web were able to get this announcement from a Facebook spokesperson:

Earlier today, we discovered a bug in a system designed to detect and disable likely fake accounts. The bug, which was live for a short period of time, caused a very small percentage of Facebook accounts to be mistakenly disabled. Upon discovering the bug, we immediately worked to resolve it. It’s now been fixed, and we’re in the process of reactivating and notifying the people who were affected.

Individuals who had their account disabled reported these suspicious instructions:

Please upload a government-issued ID to this report and make sure that your full name, date of birth, and photo are clear. You should also black out any personal information that is not needed to verify your identity (e.g., social security number).

If you do not have access to a scanner, a digital image of your photo ID will be accepted as well. Rest assured that we will permanently delete your ID from our servers once we have used it to verify the authenticity of your account.”

With so many consecutive Facebook security scares, it is obvious that this bug, though resolved, still has more havoc to reap. After a beautiful introduction to the new messaging concept, a la “Cisco: The Human Network”, it is quite possible the backlash from this bug could cause enough harm to make people all the more hesitant to use the new mail feature. Though it is hard to fathom this being enough to get people to boycott Facebook, as nothing has been successful enough so far, there is certainty a trend towards insecurity and hard questions about how Facebook handles privacy, and how it will up the ante with the advent of @facebook.com. With Facebook already being the fourth largest phishing target, topped only by Paypal, Ebay, and HSBC, consecutively. Reporters at Mashable are keen that the new Facebook messaging will only increase Facebook as a target. They ask several poignant questions:

  • How will Facebook deal with spam messages that are sent from a user you call a friend? As we’ve seen in the past, it’s not difficult for rogue apps to take over your message account and send malware links or spam to people on your friends list.
  • What types of attachments can be sent and received via Facebook.com e-mail addresses? Will these attachments be scanned for malware before being delivered to your inbox?

This is only several of the questions that need to be asked, and will continued to be asked as the new Facebook messaging continues to launch. While the new messaging system could have a lot of potential for those who spend a significant portion of time on Facebook, for the rest we eagerly await the developments and the downfalls as they progress. It is reassuring to see people asking the right questions about Facebook and seeing it more as the for-profit billion-dollar machine that they are, and learn how to adapt properly without risking their information and privacy.

Photo from XKCD under Creative Commons license.

Reinventing the Wheel

November 15, 2010

Lego Frog Dissection

November 10, 2010

[via Brothers Brick]