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), last.fm (+ 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.
Elements
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 last.fm 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 last.fm-style 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.

Copy-and-paste
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
Accelerometer
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.

tirsdag, september 02, 2008

Back to school

It's been a while since I've blogged, but I hope to come back stronger as the weeks progress. Summer has been fantastic with friends and family, home and abroad.




I was back at work three weeks ago and I feel it's good to be back in the swing of things, and I'm excited to continue building up a school as we are in our third year now. I will continue experimenting and exploring the opportunities of using digital media in my lessons. An increasing number of the students have laptops, digital cameras, smartphones and what not. We need to take advantage of this. Kids use these tools on a daily basis, and school has to become competitive using its first and foremost advantage - knowledge.

I am also happy to report that I've finally got my hands on an iPhone 3G, and I must admit I'll never go back to old school mobiles ever again. It's a different world altogether. Bless my Sony Ericsson K810i - it was a fantastic phone. Thing is, iPhone is just part phone, part everything else. Of course, it's not flawless, and some flaws are frustrating. I hope to write a post with a personal review after some more weeks of testing and working with it.

Now to sharpening pencils.

onsdag, mai 21, 2008

Run Me Scrobble Me Twitter Me Poke Me

The development of the social Internet has personally given me a richer social, creative and intellectual life. Here's some examples:

1. Running competitions with friends living other places using Nikeplus+iPod.
2. Realizing I was standing next to a close friend in a big crowd through pictures and videos at Flickr.
3. Discovering new music from friends and friends' friends on Last.fm.
4. Peeking into old friend's life on the other side of the globe through Flickr/Facebook.
5. Getting pictures published in Hungarian coffee table books on tea through Flickr.
6. Receiving pictures from a fellow traveller last summer thanks to mail.
7. Keeping track of people's birthdays on Facebook.
8. Discussing pedagogical matter with teachers in Vietnam and Norway using Twitter.
9. Follow a friend's arrival using GPS data and a mobile phone.
10. Walk around Madrid with a map in my palm using Google Maps and my mobile phone.

Exploring iPhone

Kristin Lowe and NRKbeta have recently discussed Douglas Adams' prediction in The Restoration that we would take the interactivity back after decades of passive cultural and intellectual consumption. One could say a lot of the bad effects of this, interactivity gives birth to the lesser positive sides of human nature as seen in hatred expressed in tabloid newspapers online editions' comment fields or a variety of blogs and discussion forums.

Nonetheless, I would share Adams' prediction that we have taken interactivity back - and in my daily life applications like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Delicious and Nikeplus helps me create a brilliant blend of physical and virtual connections in a social web stretching around the globe. It's quite a beautiful thing - and naturally also frustrating as I'm falling behind in the running challenge this spring...

mandag, april 28, 2008

information visualized

Jonathan Harris' and Daily Life's project Universe gives the net user a hint of what's in store for us. By a more interactive and socially intuitive approach and utilization of the metadata available out there he has created a fascinating modern take on 'constellations'. Mr. Harris believes that internet is in its infancy now, stumbling, drooling and learning the ways of the new world. There are so much gaps and undiscovered interrelations hidden and by draping it in an ancient metaphor of the night sky and its stars one suddenly discover new ways of reading and perceiving information.

For now, searching means googling and finding information means reading by scanning. It's words, traditional linear reading with the occasional picture accompanying it. By playing around with the variety of choices in how you want to view your searches in Mr. Harris Universe application tool it all becomes more visual and intuitive.

It's an indefinite play with information. Search for Norway in the past week and keywords from the digital sphere float across the night sky and touch F16 and you'll see other relevant keywords and key images flock around it (we just bought ourselves new jets from the Swedes today...). It's a great way to tap into the pulse of the world. And it gives me connotations of the future as portrayed in Minority Report and The Fifth Element. Cool.

tirsdag, april 08, 2008

What are you doing right now?

I have used Twitter for a while, and it's a neat little net app. Only a few of my friends use it, so it's a limited social networking device for me personally. It bears resemblance to the status field in Facebook, and what is fascinating is how 'short is the new loud'. Twitter restricts its answers to the 1000 $ question to 140 characters, 20 less than a conventional SMS.

So the idea is to tell your social network what you are doing, keep updated on what they are doing and do it short. It's useful for giving links and top-of-the-head whims to your friends in an easy interactive way, either using your mobile or the net.

Nonetheless, the question to be answered reminds me of my mother calling me on the phone and asking me what I'm up to and how my life is going. Of course, she does not have Twitter updates nor Facebook account, but she does swing by my Flickr photostream once in a while.



So why this need to egocast my life ongoings to my friends (and the world in principle) when I find the question rather haunting when posted by my parents? One thing which does ring true though would be if Twitter was around in the eighties - that would have saved my parents the question.

lørdag, mars 29, 2008

update

Easter holiday's over and it's back to work. Read up on books, can absolutely recommend Morten Strøksnes' Automobil as well as Davis Vise's The Google Story.

Preparing a presentation I'll be having on Monday for colleagues on digital learning tools after lectures and workshops on the ECIS conference in Madrid which I attended in November. That could be interesting. I will focus on the positive sides of Internet, ICT and digital tools in a learning environment. I'll be talking about the experiences I have made at the middle school.

Just discovered that NRKbeta has collected Norwegian (for the most part) twitterers on this site, and it's fascinating to see realtime updates on twittering across the nation. Check out twittervision too for a global take on the phenomenon.

Hoping to make the move to Wordpress soon, but not happy with the template and tweaks yet.

lørdag, mars 15, 2008

streaming in the classroom

On Thursday this week I had a lecture in Norwegian class on "Farlige Bøker", dangerous literature in regards to the freedom of speech and violating it in different contexts and how it has been challenged in Norwegian literary history as well as in world literary history. Names such as Agnar Mykle, Salman Rushdie and Anna Politkovskaya.

NRK, Norway's national broadcaster, has a massive archive of in-house programs available for streaming on their website. The program Bokprogrammet presents different thematic approaces to literature and society. I had a specific program in mind (Farlige Bøker, 06.02.2007) that would compliment and exemplify the lecture.

After a brief introduction I used a PC, projector and an online connection to stream the specific programme on the whiteboard. No asking around for a VHS cassette in case some teacher had taped the program a year ago.

virtual learning environments


The Norwegian daily Aftenposten writes that the Norwegian school is catching up on the digital revolution. Exemplified by VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) like It's Learning and Fronter (along with minor platforms (in Norway) such as Moodle, PedIT and Microsoft Learning Gateway) teachers, students and parents alike can keep up to date on assignments, projects, events, grades and feedback. Still, VLEs are mostly common in high schools and middle schools. In elementary schools communication still finds its way home to parents through the students' backpacks.

When I taught at Horten VGS a couple of years back we used It's Learning in a very easy and meaningful fashion. Assigments were turned in, corrected and returned within the digital learning environment. Communication with students was supplemented with the digital arena where other information like upcoming tests, teaching material, my lecture notes (available for downloading) as well as attendance records for students were available.

Now I teach at a small private school and we do not use any VLEs, but maybe in the future? I have previously blogged using blog as a teaching tool for the students and the teacher's communication through Yahoo Groups. We're still adapting as a team to find the best way to keep up to date on information, and personally I find that Yahoo Groups suffice, but it would be beneficial for our future students and teachers to facilitate a VLE in our working environment.

However, it does not eliminate the need for human interaction in the classroom or staff room of course, but helps with the workflow for students and teachers as well as giving the school a digital fundament for communication in a thriving learning environment.

lørdag, mars 08, 2008

literary hiatus

It's been a busy week with Ski Days and parent conferences and I haven't been able to post anything here in the past week. Saturday's here and I try to sort out some paperwork and get time to read up on the weekend newspapers while I hope to benefit from the glorious spring weather outside by taking a walk.

Saturdays are peculiar. I got up early this morning and I feel I have gotten lots done, but remembering back to younger days I kept up on my reading on weekends (sounds sorry, but it wasn't). For some puzzling reason I cannot find time to read books anymore. I almost stopped buying them. It's puzzling because I really do enjoy reading. I guess it's a question of priority. I recall a revelation many years ago after living in Italy, where I worked 24/7 for the most part, that I had to admit to a friend that I read too much - and expanding on this insight I realized I escaped the mundane reality (yes, Italy can be mundane) and read instead. In my case overconsumption of literature was a sign of unhappiness.

Does this mean that my life is so damn interesting now that I don't find time to escape into literary worlds? I'm not sure. It feels like it's a time issue. But that's not it either. When I do have time I do other things. Hang out with people for one, watch movies and surf the net and try to keep up with my penchant for photography.

Nonetheless, I still miss reading. At the moment I am trying to read a few books actually, alternating between three or four different reads. I'm not sure it that's a sign of information overload and the exhausting art of multitasking...

lørdag, mars 01, 2008

instant screen sharing

A cool, nifty and useful feature in Mac OSX Leopard is the Screen Sharing app. It's a bit hidden away for some reason, but a well known feature in iChat. Screen Sharing in Finder let's me access my stationary Mini Mac in my livingroom from my Macbook laptop. This is particularly useful when I need to print out, get or move files from one computer to another. I know I have the possibility to wirelessly print from Macbook over my local network using my Airport Express, but that has been slow and not very convenient the few times I have tried it. (With more persistence and patience perhaps..?)

I am a fond user of Leopard's Time Machine feature and by using a MyBook external drive I backup all my valuable files form both my Macbook and my Mini Mac and lost files are easily fond and restored by both using Time Machine and drag-and-drop form one computer, but accessing data on both. Screen Sharing is simple and a visual toolfor the slow-witted like myself.



Time Capsule and Airport Extreme Base Station would help me making these task even more streamlined and simple, but that's not within my budget yet.

Expert Village, a how-to-video website, has a good tutorial on how to use Screen Sharing.


More info on how to utilize Screen Sharing at Macworld.

lørdag, februar 23, 2008

online readability

I have been an avid newspaper buff since my early teens. My parents subscribed to Aftenposten and the local newspaper, and in my early years I read both tabloids VG and Dagbladet, as well as the montly popular science mag Illustrert Vitenskap. An naturally, as this is back in the modern stone age in terms of digital media I stuck to paper. I still read a lot of newspaper in print, I subscribe to Dagsavisen, a Norwegian Oslo-based newspaper, as well as buying the Friday edition of Aftenposten.

There has been a lot of talk and discussion on the "paper-less society" after the year 2000, and we still read paper-based media. But changes are often slow, and especially people's habits - like newspaper reading. Encyclopedias are contemplating ending issuing paper edition and only be available online like the mammoth German encyclopedia Brockhaus. The neverending debate over wether Wikipedia is less reliable than Brittanica continues. And this has been the case for news in print vs. news online. News in print are more reliable than news online... But is this the case though?

With possibilities to keep updated on current events and breaking news online newsrooms always have an edge on the newspapers in print. And there are no reason for them to nullify each other. In many instances news corporations master to utilize the best of their printed newspaper in therms of analysis, in-depth interviews and commentary as well as a great display of photographs while their online version stays on top of things with news in brief live and with the hypertextuality of links and reader's comments and debates.

Personally I have realized how important font is to my reading eye. Font and my screen's capabilities are essential for a pleasant reading experience. In Norwegian language I find tabloids like VG and Dagbladet horrendous to read, it's too noisy and therefore I skim and hardly ever read. Dagsavisen has revamped their site into close to perfection with a lot of "white space" and a readable font. Morgenbladet is not far behind, but has still potential to be better. Aftenposten has lost me in both their printed edition and online - it's messy, cluttered and close to unreadable. Even though the content is of high quality it suffers in form.

Of international media I've grown fond of sites like New York Times, BBC World News and The Guardian - they all have great readability, are extensive and use fonts, "white space", photos and links in a formative way.

torsdag, februar 21, 2008

the homework myth

In these times of grading fixation in education it is interesting to come across the outspoken critic and author Alfie Kohn. Mr. Kohn has written a number of books on the negative effects of rewards and punishments of grading. He is also skeptical of the traditional system of homework. In his book The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (2006) he questions the need and positive effects of homework. He believes that the school and its environment is the main focal point for learning and work.

Winterlong

The debate is timely in Norway too as I encounter parents who feel overwhelmed by their kids' homework, especially as they advance to higher levels. Every week they are given a homework plan with assignments in the main subjects. The assignments vary from reading, task solving, math calculus or research for a project or paper. Most parents feel that their kids should have homework as they did when they attended school. The problem for many families are time. The nuclear family is a minority in the Norwegian society (and other societies in the West) and a lot of time and organizational evolves around transport and logistics. How to make the proper priorities, and how to make homework meaningful?

I try to evaluate the way I give homework to my students, I try to reinvent, evolve and be original. It's not always easy, but I think Mr. Kohn has an interesting point when he questions the benefits of homework. It does not necessarily take up much time of the kids' sparetime, but could we try to break out of this and try to think in new ways about homework?

Double bill

At an end note I'd like to recommend a riveting comment from a Norwegian girl who's a high school student. She criticizes all the bad karma around the Norwegian school debates these days in the aftermath and hangover of the PISA-tests. She says Norwegians hate not to be on top in international rankings and that our politicians tend to panic. These tests are important, but they only measure a fraction of what schools teach their students. What about social and moral behavior, ethical values like respect, debating skills and skills to question - in essence - how to become decent people. Ms. Tømte writes:

Den norske skolen har altså utviklet seg fra å være en autoritær institusjon til å bli et lærested der voksne og barn snakker samme språk og har det samme fokus: Å gjøre folk av oss.


Thus has the Norwegian school developed from being an authoritarian institution to become a place of learning where adults and children speak the same language and have the same focus: To make us into decent people. (My translation).


And this relationship requires mutual respect - and authoritarian teachers don't easily acquire this in Norwegian schools, but teacher who do earn their students' respect have moral authority based upon a wide and substantial knowledge base.

tirsdag, februar 19, 2008

staying organized

A common New Years resolution is getting better organized, and I've been looking for many ways to keep my act together as a teacher and in private. But, in spite of all the calendars on my mobile, on my Macs and my physical organizers like my Teacher's organizer, I still find it hard to stay on top of things. The biggest problem is accessibility and usability.

In a perfect world I would come across an environment where all my jotting-downs of appointments, details, to-do-lists and deadlines could be easy to access and easy to alter if there are changes. It wouldn't matter if I was online/offline or home or at work. Previously, and particularly when traveling and living abroad I've had diaries and a numerous amount of notebooks and scrapbooks for notetaking on the run. Nowadays I try to use my mobile, but it still doesn't excel the notebook and it definitely does not work to its full potential like synching to my Macs, one laptop and a Mac Mini stationary.


So how to go about this? I tend to use iCal on my Macs with varied luck. It's neat and tidy, but it does not sync with my Sony Ericsson K810i (No, I do not have an iPhone...) and neither my Teacher's organizer book. I do use Google Calendar though, and I do import my iCal calendars into Google Calendar for easier access from work. I do sync my iCal calendars with my .Mac-account, but for convenience sake it's easier to use Google's alternative since I prefer using Gmail, Google Docs and Google-owned and compatible Blogger to my Mac-mail.

I crave simplicity. I started playing around with Tumblr, a simple utility to collect feeds from different social networks. In my case I collect Flickr- and Blogger-postings as well as my own videos form You Tube. They call it a lifestream and I like the idea. I like the idea to collect my online activities in one place in a simple way. Could this be done for my organizing needs as well?

I use Netvibes as well, and that's a tremendously simple starting page for online surfing. I know I could embed my calendar there, but it still has proved rather troublesome to have access and be able to change it quickly on the spot. I guess the key to this is mobility, and I got mobility in my hands - my mobile phone (be it an iPhone or a Sony Ericsson...). I came across GooSync - an app to sync my Google Calendar with my mobile, but I haven't made it work satisfactory yet, but it's a start.

Lars is doing his master on human interaction with machines and computers, and he had a project last semester where he had to find the best system for a family to use a planning utility on iPhones (the omnipresent...). Again, Lars argued for simplicity, usability, safety and omnipresent accessibility. A planning system for a family has to be simple or else it wouldn't be used by its members. But perhaps, we as humans would continue being disorganized and messy regardless of the means to help us to improve the clutter of loose papers and half-finished entries into our online and offline calendars. I'm still searching for a better way.

fredag, februar 15, 2008

bildschöne bücher

Journeys

Monocle has an interesting look at a different approach to book publishing this month on their stylish and informative online magazine. Instead of going large like Barnes & Noble, Amazon and the other giants the proprietor Bodo von Hodenberg has opened a book store in Berlin based upon the highly successful website 25books.com. The idea is that they want to publish beautiful books on photography, art and design - at least 25 copies. As Eric Idle would have said: "That's neat."

pangea day

The great thing about social networks is participation and interaction with other people's projects and initiatives. About twice a month or so I get contacted through Flickr because of someone who has taken interest in one of my photos. It ranges from a Hungarian coffee table book on tea (sic) and a Chinese travel book on the Middle East to an online Oslo guide and a Mexican sci-fi movie. Tonight I got a mail from a person making a film petitioning for taking part in Pangea Day who wanted to use this picture in an opening sequence of a film. Pangea Day is a great initiative to give the voice to people all over the world through the power of images, still and moving.



The documentary filmmaker and TED prize winner Jehane Noujaim is part of the initiative and the people behind the Pangea Day hopes to bring together millions of people from all over the world in a unique shared experience, use the power of film to create a better understanding of one another, and form a global community striving for a better future.

Quite impressive. It all happens on May 10th, 2008. Submissions closed on February 15th though...

parental guidance

Net safety, netiquette, online safety, websmartness etc. It has many names, but they all attempt to describe one thing: rules to go by when navigating the information highway (an ancient pre-2000 description of the internet..?). As I work in a school and work with kids a striking reality hits me when asked questions from the kids like: "Did you have a radio when you were young?" or "Is it true that you didn't have a mobile phone when you were at school?"

This generation grew up with the web around them, most of their parents didn't. Most of their parents use the web to check the tabloids, real estate prices and perhaps book a plane ticket, while a selected few use the web in a more extensive way, either through work or by personal interest.

This week we invited all parents to come to a information meeting on net safety run by Redd Barna, a Norwegian interest group working for children's rights. The meeting would address the concerns regarding children and net use as well as help the parents to gain a larger understanding of what their kids do online.

Out of 400 parents 8 showed up.

This is part of the problem. Generally parents tend to think they have control over what their kids do online. Kids and their parents have rules they say. Truth is that rules made by children and grown-ups together might not apply when peer pressure and friends' loyalty becomes more important. A great responsibility lies with both the school and with the parents. We have to acknowledge that children grow up with an unparalleled parallel world, sort of speak, to the physical one, namely the digital world. And as one parent put it:

"When I send my kids out to play I worry. I worry about wether they'll fall on the ice, wether they get run over by a car, get kidnapped, raped or if they get in a fight with friends or if they have had enough to eat. But I cannot worry about all these things, I have to pick my worries and prioritize them. Accordingly I feel good about sending them out because they get fresh air, they socialize and learn new things about the world."

The same thing could be said about children online. They play online games, they chat, they post pictures and videos and they do schoolwork. All of these activities have positive effects for the child's upbringing. Nevertheless, there are many dangers, as there are in the physical world. What we as parents and teachers need to do is to acknowledge our responsibility and dare to be advisors to our kids. We have to get engaged in our children's activities. It should become innate to ask our children over dinner how things went online today in the same way as we ask about their school day and their training.


We have to get engaged in order to see the dangers, but also the immense possibilities. We have to teach them that all actions have consequences, as they do in the physical world. Furthermore, we have to walk the walk and not only talk the talk. If we post pictures of friends and foes on Facebook without permission then we cannot expect our children to not do the same.

onsdag, februar 13, 2008

workflow

Lately I have found myself moving my workflow increasingly from my desktop to the web. I find Google Docs very handy. I work in two places, one of them has wireless internet access while the other one does not. At the latter I find it hard to do word processing like creating weekly plans, homework assignments and other necessary digital related work. Earlier I would make the weekly plans at home and then print it out. This year I am challenged with acquiring information from several subject teachers, usually Tuesday night. This does not always happen, and it needs to get done at school on Wednesday when plans have to go out.

Enter Google Docs: I have a weekly plan template online which I use a copy of for every week. This way I create an accessible library of weekly plans for future reference and an instant access to my work wherever I am. Coming to school on Wednesday I get the info I need from colleagues and put it into the document I prepared the night before at home online in the computer lab (without the wireless access). This makes the hassle of handwritten jumble on neat weekly plans unnecessary and my workflow easier.

When a colleague in the administration saw this he asked if this would be possible for the whole staff to create a pool of templates, forms, plans and other useful documents for everyone to edit, copy, paste and access. Now that would help everyone's workflow if people were keen on participating and sharing. I wonder.

Google Apps Team Edition aims to facilitate this. Questions do remain though, and a returning one from co-workers in particular, boils down to this: Is it safe? And how much do I want to be on Google's servers..?

mandag, februar 11, 2008

war stories



My grandfather sat in a work Nazi camp during World War II, and during that time he kept a diary. His widow kept all the correspondence, censored letters and then of course the diary.

My uncle has tried to transcribe it, but never completed it. I'm not quite sure if it was illegibility or lack of time, but it never came to be a closure to the endeavor. A year back I asked my grandmother to have a go, and as of now I have it in my possession. I have tried to transcribe it, and I've come a fair bit into it. Severe damage to the book (originally a calendar) caused by humidity and time makes it a time-consuming undertaking, and the problem is time. It's fascinating reading and in particular a strong feeling of time travel back to my grandfather's experiences and hardships during this time. I feel that I know so little.

I have an ambition to complete the transcription and hopefully publish it for family, perhaps even online and make it digitally accessible for interested. It would be quite a place for future generations to have a digital searchable database with diaries, letters, documents and photographs from World War II.

A connection between now and history in order for us to fight ignorance. I hope to do my bit.

digitally able

Last semester I experimented with digital learning tools in my Norwegian lessons and made some interesting discoveries. I set out to spur a greater initiative in the students' writing abilities and I sought out Blogger for this purpose. As of 2007 Kunnskapsløftet, a recent school reform (one of many in recent decades I might add...), five basic skills are embodied within all subjects. Writing, reading, listening, speaking are all obvious ones, but two new skills for the 21st century have been added: mathematical skills (in all subjects) and digital.

Being able to use digital tools in the Norwegian subject curriculum is necessary to master new text forms and ways of expressing oneself. This opens up new learning arenas and allows new possibilities in teaching reading and writing, as well as the production, composition and editing of texts. In this context it is vital to develop the ability to critically assess and use sources. Using digital tools may support and develop the pupils' communication and presentation skills.


Kunnskapsløftet, Norwegian curriculum

Most of the students thrived in the blogging environment, or web-publishing. Within a secured and closed network we opened for creative writing in a totally new and interactive way. And it gave me, as a teacher, a genuine access to their writing process and development of their writing skills. And not to forget, the students acquired new digital skills in simple html and blog editing through links and photo publishing.

Enter January and I embarked upon yet a digital challenge. By the means of digital cameras, multi-purpose mobile phones, Macs and PCs alike, iMovie and Movie Maker, Bluetooth and a small amount of paper and scissors the students made their own commercials. What the students ended up making was quite impressive. Through the process they had to learn one of the many unused programs on their shiny Macs like simple iMovie in the iLife suite and also use the curricular knowledge of denotations and connotations in order to explain their train of thought when planning an advertisement campaign.

With the kind permission from two of the students I have posted one of the commercials for Coca Cola Zero.

video

For Norwegian readers, or any possible readers at all, I'd like to recommend the eminent blog tenketing.net on interaction, peer-powered content, design and technology.

søndag, februar 10, 2008

swansong


Swansong
Originally uploaded by mortsan.

A friend of mine once said that one day there will be no need for men because women will be able to reproduce without us. A-magasinet had a feature article this weekend on how Norwegian men's sperm has an increasingly difficulty to deliver the goods sort of speak. It's sad, but true. Evolution is slowly wiping us out.

Let's enjoy the last years, boys.

sigh



Why do they close the neighborhood's nicest, most pleasant pub with a vast collection of vinyls from the seventees, cold beer, atmospheric fireplace and a general great vibe and then some schmuck decides to rent the localities to open yet a f#%king solarium joint?

Sigh.

fredag, februar 08, 2008

let love in

Time is up, it's a wrap, party's over. On Wednesday this week our exhibition came to a close. It was three weeks in the modest limelight - and a great experience.

I've made a short video on the exhibition, the setting up and the vernissage. Again, thanks a lot to David Shanks and other supporting friends who came by the vernissage and that later has stopped by Bakklandet Skydsstasjon to take a closer look. Even though the exhibition is over, please stop by the beautiful café to sample their excellent Jons Fiskesuppe.

onsdag, februar 06, 2008

bakhodet revisited

"Jeg har vært på kurs!", sier de. Lo alltid litt av disse typene som til stadighet dro på kurs. Men her er jeg altså full av verdifull kunnskap om konflikthåndtering, samhandling og kommunikasjon. En god del karamellpudding og litt smådvassen krepsehaleforrett ble meg til dels også. Som tillitsvalg-to-be går jeg gradene i Utdanningsforbundets kursrekke og var nå kommet til tredje stadium VOKS - videregående opplæroing i kommunikasjon og samhandling. Her var det forelesninger, gruppearbeid, dialoger og monologer samt vinneren rollespill.

Jaggu fikk jeg ikke bakhodet mitt på nett også (se bilde - meg til høyre). Det er jo en aldri så liten homage til første gangen undertegnede var på trykk i avisen - heimbygdas Gjengangeren - da jeg overvar et litt forvirrende dukketeater på Gannestad. Da fikk jeg bakhodet og en del av høyrearmen til seksåringen på trykk. Klart det var stas. Klart det var stas.

Min gode våpendrager, Jørn Lund, derimot har bedre grunner til å komme både på trykk og på nett etter sin innsats i NM i badminton. For en helt!

onsdag, januar 30, 2008

something's rotten



I have been walking a lot during this year's first month. It's nothing revolutionary, nothing new. It gives me time to listen to great music - and space and time to think. Recently I've been thinking about my profession.

I'm a teacher. Norway's prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, announced in his New Years speech that Norway has to put more emphasize on education since Norwegian students and pupils alike are falling behind in European tests like PISA. Media goes bananas and tells us that our kids are lazy, dumb and not motivated for school. Furthermore, school is a joke, a playground, a place to keep our children when we work and make our way up the career ladder. And even more importantly, society blames the politicians and politicians blame schools and their teachers. There is no more discipline, teachers are not well educated and they cannot handle our children in a responsible way... Reform panic has created mayhem, it's all chaos. Doom's day is here.

I agree, something IS definitely rotten in Norway.

We're too well off. We're a playground. We're the laughing stock of the new century. And why? We have the fatal impression that we're all well off because of our newfound wealth. This leads to the ill conclusion among many that they'll be okay whatever work they put into school. Look at our university system, it's easy to sleep through it and get by, and if you flunk? Well, you'll be okay. Of course, a handsome few make the best out of it and excel within their fields. It's not all bleak. But many, many kids lack motivation, they see the world of consumerism around them and they are fed up on new iPods and flatscreens every Christmas. What's the point of learning about history and science when you'll be a real estate agent like your father? Next, parents are shying away from their real responsibility here. Unfortunately, it's often the men. 3 out of 4 parents who are involved in their kids school are mothers... Where are the damn fathers? Are they really too busy for their own kids' education?

The responsibility is shared for the situation. It's society's problem, it's my problem and it's your problem. We're all in it knee deep. The irony is, we live in high times, salary is good and there's cash flow for most people - and when a country runs well, especially in Norway we doze off in the global race of educational excellence. Look at India and China, there it is a matter of life and death. A matter of happiness and desperation. If you don't succeed in your field you're out of the game.

In Norway, we have the impression that we're all in the game. Problem is, we're stuck on level 1 for now. And who will suffer? Our kids, and then our society.

I'll try to do my best, try a little harder everyday, teach our kids to excel, to be good citizens and above all - good human beings. And I'll keep on walking.

mandag, januar 28, 2008

in the press

Artikkelen Åpenbaringer i Transkaukasia kom på trykk i Dagsavisens søndagsutgave sist helg og ligger nå ute på nett.

Det er akkurat ganske nøyaktig ett år siden planleggingen av fjorårets tourcaucasus begynte og det er moro å se at artikkelen endelig fant et hjem. Sysler med noen nye idéer til andre reisereportasjer - jeg har funnet gleden i å skrive igjen ved siden av å ta bilder. Det er en fin kombinasjon og ikke minst... en åpenbaring.

God tur!

lørdag, januar 26, 2008

white spaces


winter's first alpine adventure in åre, sweden, tastes good - finding peace and enjoying life's good gifts

onsdag, januar 16, 2008

Pressemelding


... two days to go
Originally uploaded by mortsan.
Look Up, Look Out - en fotoutstilling om å løfte blikket
Fotografier av fotografene David Shanks og Morten Oddvik

Bakklandet Skydstasjon
Åpner Lørdag 19.01.2008


Utstillingen fokuserer på arbeidene til to Trondheimstilhørende herrer med fotografi som et stort kreativt fokus. Utstillingen inneholder fotografier fra Japan, Kina, Georgia, Egypt, Skottland, Frankrike og Trondheimsprovinsen Svartlamon samt andre Trondheimsbydeler.

Fotografiene er i hovedsak i svart-hvitt og utstillingens tittel henspiller på å løfte blikket for den observante vandrer, den som reiser i gjennom, den stundesløse, den rastløse, øyet bak kameraet. For den som evner å se forbi hverdagens og stereotypenes slør kan se de små glipene, hakkene, imperfeksjonene og alt det iboende vakre i nettopp det som unnslipper.

Samtidig har fotografiene en løs referanseramme rundt forholdet mellom subjekt og objekt, hvordan påvirker fotografens inntreden i scenen? I hvor stor grad forandres motivet med fotografens blikk og den som etterpå studerer fotografiet?

Fotografiske åpenbaringer på Baklandet Skydstasjon fra lørdag 19.01.2008.

tirsdag, januar 01, 2008

Happy New Year!


Goodbye 2007, welcome 2008! Feeling good. :-)