torsdag, juni 04, 2009

søndag, november 02, 2008

Democracy Online

It has been fascinating following the US Presidential campaign this year and in particular this fall. There are two days remaining before the big day, and I have, along with others, noted how the net has been used in a totally new way than four years ago. The Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama has been particularly good at utilizing the Internet's vast opportunities to communicate the message. This have lead to what Michael Moore humorously has refered to as the great Slacker Uprising - in other words - the young generation - first-time voters - are getting involved and are active online to recruit others to vote. Some observers have noted that this might turn the election to Obama's advantage. Obama has an informative and media-savvy homepage, is present on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc. McCain is trying to do the same, but does not get the same attention. If this is due to his voters lack of interest in these channels or his campaign ignorance to its opportunities is hard to know.

What would be interesting to see is if next year's upcoming Norwegian election will utilize the net's obvious democratic potential to wake up potenial voters and perhaps regenerate the political interest in an increasing tech literate generation who live a lot of their life online.

For the record: If I had a vote - I'd give it to Sen. Barack Obama.

fredag, oktober 31, 2008

Project Runeberg

I am currently taking a course in Nordic literature through online studies with the University in Bergen, Nordisk. This semester we are reading and studying Nordic literature from the Viking Age and up to 1900, from Snorre Sturlasson to Henrik Ibsen. There's lots to read and books are heavy as well as expensive. Of course there is the library, but I have discovered a great resource online, Project Runeberg, a sister project to Project Gutenberg, were they aim to digitalize and make older Swedish, Norwegian and Danish literature available online. It's a great initiative.

So far it's mostly Swedish and Danish literature, but some Norwegian editions are available. The romantic writer and poet Henrik Wergeland's "Digte" has recently been publihsed on this site, and it's a remarkable feeling to flip through the 1853 edition of Digte with famous poems like "Jødinden" (The Jewish Girl) and others. Some books are scanned by the Google Book Search while others are scanned on private initiative.

Imagine having these Scandinavian clenodiums at our fingertips on our laptops? And it makes my reading easier.

mandag, oktober 27, 2008

Double Talkin' Jive

This blog of mine has been up and running, on and off, for nearly three years. I have written in both English and Norwegian - and I keep asking myself why I write English as Norwegian is my native tongue.

Since 2005 I have become quite an avid user of online content, social networks such as Flickr (my first one), (+ hypemachine this past week - fantastic combo), beloved Twitter, love-to-hate-but-a-necessity Facebook and in recent months iPhone compatible sites/apps such as Brightkite, Nearby, Evernote, Aroundme and others which I have soon forgot. Some a bare necessity for an active online life and others not so much.
Language of preference in all of these places are naturally; English. I don't mind that, and considering 1 follower and perhaps the occasional friend or stranger swinging by, it does not really matter if I write English, Norwegian or Italian.

I teach and work with English everyday, but yet Norwegian is greatly dear to my heart and tongue. This blog has developed into a digital tools/education blog, but I hope to increase the posting frequency by allowing myself to post Norwegian scribbles as well in the near future.

The main reason for this is an increasing intellectual, if you can call it that, urge to express and explore different aspects of my own life and what surrounds it. We'll see how it will turn out. One thing is for sure, Norwegian won't die just yet here.

søndag, oktober 19, 2008

No more boring data

This past week we started our topic on Population Contrasts as we are working on Globalization in Social Studies. I used Hans Rosling's Gapminder as a topic starter. I set up projector and a big whiteboard - and had the bubblecharts speak for themselves before I complimented it with a lecture and follow-up questions.

Gapminder uses statistics to generate so-called bubblecharts to visualize developments and trends over time. This gives us a chance to see geo-political differences and sparks interest and debate. My class enjoyed this way of viewing statistics on population growth, birth rates, death rates and migration patterns. During and after the presentations of the various bubblegraphs and looking at particular countries and comparing them all students in the class had lots of questions and educated guesses.

Gapminder is a great tool to display human development patterns around the world and through history. It definitely created both curiosity and interest in my class.

onsdag, september 24, 2008

Safety does not mean bureaucracy

Today we conducted our national tests in English. These tests are the government's attempt to monitor the qualitative progress of schools and their students. State of affairs. There are testing in three subjects; Maths, Norwegian and English. The latter is an online test with reading comprehension with point-and-click multiple choices as well as interactive texts accompanied by visual pictures.

The test in itself is okay, it aims to test the students' ability to read, reflect and define. Since we are an international school we did fairly well, and the students thought it easy enough.

There has been much debate on these national tests in the media and among politicians in the past few years. Some have argued that it produces "winning" and "loosing" schools, others have added that results can be fixed and that the system is not reliable.

Safety does not mean bureaucracy. There is an excessive amount of paperwork coming out of the Utdanningsdirektoratet, Diractorate of Education and the Ministry of Knowledge (Kunnskapsdepartementet) and, to me, an unnecessary amount of passwords and usernames in order to conduct the test itself. Why is this? And why does not the Ministry of Knowledge, of all (along with Fornyings- og arbeidsdepartementet, earlier Moderniseringsdepartementet - the Ministry of Modernization... puh) have a user-friendly and easy to use website..?

There is an excess of information on these webpages, and it could easily be revitalized and revamped, make it more presentable and readability could be better, not to forget navigation, which is illogical and often looped and irrelevant. It's simply not good enough.

So how can they be better? Look at what the innovative small companies are doing in terms of design and content, readability and usability. The national test in itself could also include moving images, podcasts, web search (even university students are struggling with research methods and ciatation standards) and generally more interactive challenges for the students. They live in a visual age where intertextuality is omnipresent, but increasinly harder for us to decipher. The Ministry of Knowledge can simultanously make it more visually user-friendly as well as more challenging in the digital age.

tirsdag, september 23, 2008

Genius with a purpose

Couple of weeks back Apple released their iTunes version 8.0 update, and I have had some time playing around with it. There are good news and bad news, well perhaps not bad, but definitely quite intrusive.

What's good? Genius - automatically generated playlists. I have been a keen user for a couple of years and now finally iTunes has incorporated a similar feature akin to Amazon's "You might also like...". You choose a song you fancy and press the Genius symbol in the bottom right corner and boom you got yourself a playlist based upon that song. So far I'm guite pleased with the results. Possibility of saving the playlist adds to the joy of it. The same feature exist in the latest iPhone update as well which gives you the possibility to create Genius playlists on the fly. Sweet.

What's bad (or at least intrusive)? Apple logs your listening habits in order to create more accurate playlists. I'm naively fine by that as I hardly can think of any reasons why Apple would blackmail me based upon my musical fancies on a late Saturday evening. But hold on! It's not exactly blackmailing, but more similar to a friend pushing cd's for sale on a party (which can be annoying). The Genius bar on the right in the iTunes app window forces "Buy" arrows in your face. Buy, buy, buy! This could easily been done less intrusive and annoying. I like the "Reccomendations" feature and get ideas of other similar artists, even though this often can be rather off as music is a matter of taste and not always necassarily genre and tag words.

So, Apple: Fancy the automatic iTunes' Genius feature, but tone down the preassure of purchase please. P for peace.

iPhone - the first month

I fought the hopeless war for many years. Not until 2001, when I realised I had survived the omnious Y2K and found myself in Tokyo, I bought my first mobile. I cannot say I haven't looked back since, because I have. Mobiles have been bought with various user experiences. My very first phone was a Japanese KDDI black clamshell phone with color screen and the thrill of receiving my first text is a bit embarrasing today. The vivid memory of a vibrating phone on my desk in that student's dorm still rings true to a lost soul of modern communication technology.

Sony Ericcson has been my preferred choice of mobiles after returning to Norway and the 21st century. Even though I did not keep a mobile in my expat year in Italy which brought misery to my employer. Enter iPhone last month.

When I first read about the iPhone first generation when it was released in the States I wasn't truly convinced. I felt skeptical of having my iPod turned into a mobile and having all my stuff in one place. I'm not too forgetful, but I'm skeptical - that's all. My SE k810i almost had it all, it didn't take the place of my iPod, but there was no real reason why it couldn't even though the interface was a bit cumbersome.

Nevertheless, I received my much anticipated iPhone 3G one month ago and now I feel I can review it properly. First of all, it's a good telephone. Calling works fine. But there are so much more. Rave reviews aside, my disappointments are few and far between and they add to the list already mentioned by others.

Forwarding and sending SMS to more than one recipient
MMS (not a big deal really)
Video (my SE k810i was fabulous at this and I can no longer produce my documentaries)
Battery time (greatly improved with the latest update)
Add telephone numbers from 1881 directly to the Address book.
Play music using Airport wirelessly to my home stereo (very strange...)

That's about it, and as others have pointed out and which has been proved to some extent with the battery issue, all of the issues can be fixed with an update.

So, what good about it?

App Store and all the apps (Shazam, Evernote, Nearby, 1881 etc.)
Interface and usability
Safari in my hand - fast online experience
Photo viewer - slick and extremely userfriendly
iPod (especially Cover Flow and Genius playlists)
Drag-and-drop desktop items
GPS - not state of the art, but great for my treks where I live
Mobile Me synchronization - no more trouble syncing mobile/laptop/web

All the different apps are both very useful and fun. The main thing is that it does not feel like a mobile, but rather a pocket browser with mobile and iPod capabilities. I can definitly live with that, and it's hard to think that I would ever return to a different phone anytime soon.