The Future of the Print Industry

By happenstance, I came across an interesting collection of articles and ideas about the future of publishing.

The first article I read, in my paper based but soon to be electronic Alumni Gazette, was titled Does the Print Industry Have a Future? Noting the emergence of e-readers such as the Kindle, author Jenni Dunning raises the issue of newspapers and other paper-based printing companies struggling in the economy, struggling to latch onto a secure vision of the future and in fact, struggling to know how best to survive. Other factors include moves to various electronic forums and our collective efforts to be ‘green’. In my mind, the key point she made was to stop focusing on the newspaper of the past and look at how journalism can be delivered in the most effective way. Read Does the Print Industry Have a Future?

Later in the day, I found a Twitter post that caught my eye called Textbook Deathwatch. The article looks at the use and cost of textbooks in the K-12 education arena. Noting the challenges of slow change in large systems, resistance to change, high cost, competing costs in school boards, shipping costs of print materials and the rapid rate at which books become outdated, the author puts key questions right on the table?

1. Are textbooks the best use of instructional funds?
2. Are their more effective ways to utilize available funding?
3. What would a system look like that was much more ‘e-based’?
4. If ‘e-based’ is the solution (in whole or in part), then how do we change more aggressively?

Read Textbook Deathwatch

Looking at this from the end user point of view (consumer, learner or worker), there are many possible solutions to moving to e-based content. We have been talking about this in my Board too, in particular about the use of iPods in this regard. Admittedly, this prompted me gather some updates on the current status of the various e-readers. The links below will provide fairly current information.

Wired’s eBook Reader Roundup
A Kindle and Sony comparison
Sony now offers 1,000,000 eBooks from Google books

Getting back to the original point, the future of publishing, I don’t have any doubts about the future of publishing. I think it is a case of what it likes like. We will always need excellent journalism, reporting, resources, instructional materials and ways to effectively prepare, deliver, read and use them.

To my way of thinking, if the e-readers are going to go anywhere, at least in the education systems, we have to avoid hardware, software and electronic rights management issues that really only serve to build islands of incompatibility. In turn, this would limit the possibilities for students and potentially make the move to e-readers (and e-content) more expensive than it needs to be. If this happens, then we would end up with the e-reader system that continues to challenge the funding questions identified earlier.

Ultimately, this falls into the same jungle of issues as content filtering and students & teachers using personal equipment on Board owned networks (network access control) etc. Lets hope that sanity and smart thinking lead us to useful and cost effective solutions within the education realm that allow for e-based reader solutions, more electronic content delivered in a way the is easily utilized by Board or personally owned devices all in support of better learning and teaching.

As I am writing, I recalled seeing an interesting podcast outlining a very innovative approach to publishing. I was able to locate the presentation by Richard Baraniuk from Rice University. In this presentation, he introduces Connexions, an open-access publishing system. This presentation is well worth the watch and provides an excellent example of the future of publishing. View Richard Baraniuk’s presentation (18 min.)

~ Mark

Social Networking in Education: Friend or Foe

Last night I read Joe Corbett’s post on ISTE Connects: Is Facebook the Enemy of Education? While looking for Facebook applications for education, he came across research indicating that Facebook could negatively impact studying. The general indication from the research was that Facebook is a distractor – Facebook users typically spend less time studying which in turn negatively impacts grades. Now, hold this thought!

Like Joe, this got me thinking and I decided to review some of my recent readings on the topic. The links below encompass a good selection of views on the subject.

 

Viewpoints

Social Network Access: available or blocked/content filtered
Classroom learning vs. socializing
Supported by teachers, not supported by administration
Social Networks are just tooks – can we use them in educationally effective ways?
Keep the issues separate
Social Networking is part of web 2.0 literacy and digital citizenship

 

Reference Articles/Blog Posts

Classroom 2.0: The Value of Social Networking

Sue Water’s Blog: Educational Networking and Staying Out of My Face

Cool Cat Teacher’s Blog: It Is About Educational Networking NOT Social Networking

Fran Smith, Edutopia: How to Use Social Networking Technology for Learning

Harold Rheingold: Attention Literacy

Mark Carbone: recent blog post re school content filtering and social network access

 

OK, you have been holding that thought …. I believe you will find Joe’s article interesting, and it includes a reader survey. His post and survey are at: Is Facebook the Enemy of Education by Joe Corbett, ISTE. Have you voted yet?

~ Mark

The WX5 as a MIDI input device

To date, my time with the WX5 MIDI wind controller has focused on the performance aspect. Last night I had a opportunity to explore some new territory. 

I have always enjoyed producing arrangements of music for use by students or my woodwind quintet.  One of the time consuming tasks that a music arranger or composer needs to deal with is data entry into notation software. There are a variety of methods to accomplish the data input: mouse, step time recording (one note at a time via a MIDI instrument), real time MIDI input, scanning (& following copyright requirements!), pitch recognition or use a public domain MIDI file. 

The mouse and step time entry methods are the most time consuming, but also the most accurate. This is of course cumbersome when working on a large score. The real time MIDI input method is much faster if you can achieve a level of accuracy that keeps the data clean up minimized. I have done lots of music entry with a MIDI keyboard, but certainly as an experienced clarinetist, being able to enter data through the WX5 would be even more efficient. 

I set out to do a little experimentation with the WX5 and Finale, a music notation package licensed for use in Ontario publicly funded school boards. The setup is fairly standard based on past experience with MIDI keyboard devices. (Note: references to this in the WX5 manual are sketchy).

Basic Setup

MIDI connection: Plug the WX5 into the MIDI in port on the MIDI device connected to your computer. In my case, I used a Roland USB module.

Software Setup: Use the MIDI set up function in the notation software (Finale in this case) to identify the ‘MIDI in’ device

Score setup: Prepare the music layout to receive the data. For this example, I used a single treble clef but you could just as easily work with a full music score. 

Set the recording parameters: 1. Set the tempo (beats per minute) 2. Set the number of ‘count in’ bars. 3. Set the quantizing. Quantizing is the music version of rounding off. Generally you set this to match the smallest note value in your piece. In my example, I set quantizing to an eighth note.

That’s it – you are ready to play data directly into the music software in real time. As an aside, I was pleasantly surprised to find the the WX5 sends dual data streams, so you can hear the sound form the VL70m module while sending the MIDI data to the software. Notational input depends on accuracy, so choosing a suitable tempo to maximize your results is important and easily done with a little experimenting. 

By way of example, I used the WX5 in  input the melody below into the Finale notation software. 

midi input sample

Now I am off and running with new scoring tools for arranging and composing!

~ Mark

Strategic Planning for 21st Century Learning

A typical Sunday morning for me includes catching up on blog reading, and this one was no different. While the reading is always interesting, what intrigues me is the way in which things link together and stimulate new thinking about things. Topics today made me think back to comments I made in a presentation to our trustees as part of my technology strategy update. 

There are many things you could do with technology in education. The real question is: what are the right things? Choices and decisions have to land on some key areas including: impact on student learning, investing in the future and a key one in my mind – sustainability and supportability in terms of both human and financial resources. This last point can not be overlooked, as I believe it is the fundamental reason many initiatives/projects fail. A final area looks at focus vs fragmentation. It is not possible to do everything, do it well, support it and sustain it. Strategic planning is about doing the right things for the long haul. 

Here are a few highlights from recent reading.

Angela Maiers – Mission to Transform
David Warlick – Teaching and Technology
Doug Peterson – A Plan Needed (netbooks, cloud computing)
Howard Rheingold – Attention Literacy
Will Richardson – If Every Student Had a Computer

The content covered in these articles embraces many of the significant issues in K-12 education today: technology available to every student, netbooks, cloud computing, student learning, literacy in the 21st century and teacher training (changing instructional practices). From my perspective as a K-12 CIO, these articles are all right on the money. I will throw IT infrastructure planning into the mix.

How do we best move ahead? Based on the validity of each of these key areas, none can be ignored – each one needs to be addressed. I believe the key to success and system level strength, is to work at these areas with an eye to alignment. Achieving major successes in some of these areas while others are excluded will not yield the best overall results. I believe the answer lies in alignment – the ability to drive each of these areas forward in a planned way at the same time. We are having these discussions in our Board. I am impressed with the dialogue, thinking and collaborative approach to date. It is early in the process, but I believe we are solidly headed in the right direction. We will keep dialoguing, learning and collaborating about best to move forward. I will continue to share thinking, dialogue and questions.

In the meantime, more thinking and learning to do.

~ Mark

Technology Supports Creativity

As I worked with the WX5 midi wind instrument this week, I was reflecting on the powerful change and impact that has occurred in the Arts with the use of technology. This impact includes professionals, amateurs and students.

I will date myself here, but I clearly remember those early pieces of music software – Deluxe Music Construction Set for the Commodore computers, Calkwalk for DOS in the early PC days, the Atari notator software …. Those programs were innovative and ahead of their time in many respects, but certainly light years away from where we are at now with online music stores, web based publishing, music videos,  satellite radio, mp3 players, powerful software available to home studios and education settings and of course, many professional level packages too. 

Use of traditional music skills is fully embraced with the new technologies, but one of the powerful changes that this technology has provided is bringing music creation to ‘the masses’ in a new way. Music is much easier to create and manipulate, whether you can read music or not. Graphical representations of music are sufficient to manipulate music on the fly. Loop based technologies used as the building blocks of your own creation allow you to work with no barriers in your way. Once familiar with a particular software package, you are off and running with your creative adventure. You can hear instantly what your creation sounds like, and start to manipulate it to your liking. In addition to music creation, these new powerful tools lend themselves nicely to teaching some of the formal aspects of music including form, structure, texture and balance to name a few. 

Earlier this year, I became aware of the work of Zoe Keating which I shared with my Facebook friends at the time. Upon further reflection though, I thought is was appropriate to mention Zoe’s work here, as she really uses technology to facilitate her creative processes and resulting performances and recordings. Zoe is a cellist, classically training, who creates music through a live recording and multi tracking session. The new age music created is stunning in many ways. I was really struck by the role technology plays in the creative and live performance process. Powerful to say the least. 

The links below will connect you to Zoe and her amazing creative process.
Avant-garde Cellist Zoe Keating (commentary and music)
Performance of Tetrishead
Performance of Escape Artist
Zoe Keating’s Website

Enjoy the creativity!

~ Mark

Virtualizing with OSX

I started down the path of virtualizing operating systems on my MacBook Pro with two interests in mind. First, how can I more effectively test out software, configurations etc. with a more streamlined approach, less gear (did I really say that?) and more mobility. Secondly, figuring out the best way to set up a laptop for my daughter (see earlier post).

My initial work was with Parallels 4.0. Based on my experience, it is certainly fair to say that I only achieved a moderate level of success (see earlier post). I had good success with Ubuntu Linux desktop and netbook versions, but to date, I have not achieved the results I needs in the Windows environment. Keeping my original goals in tact, it was time to change directions. I purchased a copy of VMWare Fusion to work with.

Based on the information posted on each vendor’s website, it was really difficult to make an initial selection. Each vendor predictably promotes the virtues of their own package and states their benefits relative to competing products. I was initially drawn towards Parallels based on performance stats. My decision to purchase VMWare Fusion turned out to be a good move.

An online purchase, download and install had me up and running quickly. In one days work, I had two major successes. First, I purchased a new copy of Windows Vista Ultimate, followed the VMWare new install process without any hitches. Vista loaded and ran fine, downloaded and installed the necessary patches and updates and I was operational – perfect!

I was interested in the product’s ability to import other virtualized systems and decided to give this a try. I was able able to import my ‘disabled’ XP OS from Parallels in fairly quick order. Best of all, VMWare Fusion picked up where Parallels got stuck and allowed me to download and install all of the necessary service packs and security patches. At this point, my XP OS is operational. I have a little more work to do with USB drivers – almost there.

Based on my personal experience, I would certainly recommend VMWare Fusion as an excellent product that delivers as advertised. I do plan to learn more about some of the advanced features as well.

Off to spend time in my newly virtualized space:-)

~ Mark

Links: Points of Interest

Sometimes you have to take a step back and really appreciate what is happening with the web 2.0 interactive tools. Every day people publish new information, articles, personal thoughts and observations and these are all at your fingertips to find. Wow! It was really not all that long ago that this was not possible. Talk about a great opportunity for life long learning.

Today I am sharing a few of the interesting sites I found this week through web searches, Facebook, Twitter and cruising the blogosphere. Enjoy!

1. Looking to host your own wiki setup on your own server?
One option available is at MediaWiki

2. A collection of SMART Board Resources: Quakertown

3. A collection of resources relevant to educational technology
integration: Web 2.0 Guru

4. Online OCR: Free, no registration, no email addresses recorded,
just upload your PDF, JPG, GIF, TIFF or BMP image files and convert! Free OCR

5. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the day
– resources to support teaching ESL, EFL and ELL. Larry Ferlazzo

6. CBC News Release: CRTC to release new rules for IPS’s re internet bandwidth throttling: see article

:::::

On the watch: Skype is releasing a client for iPhone & iPod touch. It appears to be available on the US iTunes store, but not available in Canada yet, at least as of yesterday.

~ Mark

Leadership Perspective: Reading and Reflections

From my July 14th blog post … I am reading What I Learned From Frogs in Texas by Jim Carroll which I picked up at the Leading Learning conference in May 2009. The first section of the book captured my interest with a couple of insightful thoughts. First, the notion of ‘aggressive indecision’ and secondly ‘lost momentum’…

I have finished reading the book and thought I would share a few comments. The core message in the book challenges us to look at the preparing for change and the future with the right approaches. While many of the examples are business oriented, it is not much of a stretch to see how these ideas can be mapped to many of our educational systems.

Every organization, business or educational, needs a strong long term plan to maintain strength, vibrance and critical function in today’s rapidly changing world. The long term plan must be clearly stated, sustainable, achievable and good for the long haul. There is nothing strategic about a plan that keeps changing every few weeks or months.

Highlights and Challenges

Culture – what is the culture of your organization? Do you have a culture that embraces change and explores new opportunities? Or perhaps you are stuck with indecision – no momentum, or perhaps the avoidance of decision making all together. Is risk taking minimized to the point of ineffectiveness?

Innovation – is critical to the future success of any organization. My translation to an educational setting: invest in strategies that keep enrollment up, produce meaningful results in student learning, prepare students (and staff) for the future and find efficiencies.

Gen Y workers/students – this group of people is used to change, and used to multitasking. After all, as Jim points out, they have lived through through 5 generations of gaming technology already. How do provide for them in a business environment? How do we keep them engaged and focused on their work? AND, before we get there, how do we keep them fully engaged in a learning setting? Big questions!, and important ones looking ahead to future success. Based on trends, the Gen Y group is poised to be a more mobile and transient work force where the focus will be more strategic than tactical.

Leadership – Organizations must sift through the management and/or/vs. leadership question. Bottom line – forward thinking leadership is critical for success. No organization can stay the same in today’s world and remain equally effective.

Lastly, tying back to organizational culture, it is important to make decisions. This is the way in which leadership teams send the signal about moving ahead, and is part of fostering a culture of innovation.

I found the book to be well worth the read. Jim made a lot of solid points which were illustrated with excellent examples. It certainly stimulated me to keep thinking about how to keep improving my skills as a leader and having a positive positive and future focused impact on my organization.

Enjoy the reading and thinking!

~ Mark

Web Brings Solar Eclipse ‘Alive’

I have always been fascinated with the eclipses. A major eclipse will happen tomorrow (July 22nd, 2009) and will be notable due to the length of time the event will take.  These eclipse events have become more tangible, and I would argue personalized, with the advances of web based technologies.  In particular, our ability to broadcast live events through streaming technologies is a significant step forward in bringing significant events to our global community.

I have pulled together a few links related to the eclipse event this week. I hope the web enhances your solar eclipse experience!

Backgrounder Mr. Eclipse

NASA TSE 2009

Wikipedia Article

Facebook repost from Mashable

Enjoy the eclipse!

~ Mark

WX5 – First Impressions

I finally had some time to sit down and spend a block of time with the Yamaha WX5 MIDI Wind Controller. There are some first time configuration tasks to complete before you can jump into make music mode. Most of the steps are fairly straight forward, but I did learn a few things about the device by actually reading the instructions (unlike me :-]).

 

WX5
WX5

 

 

Setup & Configuration Options:

Power – batteries or AC adaptor – I chose the AC adaptor. It is worthwhile noting that the unit does not come with the AC adapter when purchased. I was a bit surprised by this but did pick one up. I imagine that batteries may be best suited to a performance situation, but that will come farther down the road.

Mouthpiece – recorder or reed style – I choose the reed style as I anticipated this would be more like a clarinet/saxophone which is what I am used to playing.

Tone Generator – Yamaha VL70-m MIDI module or alternate MIDI module – The WX5 does not actually produce any sound on its own. It needs to send MIDI data to another device to create the actual sounds, much in the same manner as a number of MIDI keyboard controllers on the market. The VL70-m unit is designed to work with the WX5 and has a special connection port for the WX5 cable. The VL70-m unit comes pre-populated with 2 banks of 128 preset voices and has additional space for voice editing (6) and user created variations on internal voices (64). I will be using the VL70-m unit to start, but I do have other MIDI modules that would be interesting to try as well. 

Setting the sensors: The lip and wind sensors need to be adjusted to your own playing. The manual guides you through this process quite clearly. The factory default settings were quite accurate, so that minimized the work in this area. 

Fingering Mode Selection: There are 3 variations on saxophone fingering patterns and one flute option. I selected the saxophone ‘a’ setting which is similar to playing a tenor saxophone. 

There are other more advanced features which I decided to leave alone for now. Time to play!

Most of my first session was experimental to see what the unit could do and how it responded. Playing a few scales oriented my fingers to the note patterns on the unit fairly quickly. The air pressure required to produce a sound is quite light – certainly less than playing a clarinet or saxophone. There are additional adjustment in this area which I expect to explore as I think I would be more comfortable with a little more air resistance. Octave changes are executed through a series of 4 different left thumb buttons (-2, -1, +1, +2). This will take some getting used to, but many selections easily fit within a 2 octave range, so the current octave with a +1 option will handle these. I also experimented with many of the present sounds in the VL70-m unit – some very cool choices, and more to go.

So far, so good and FUN!  I am looking forward to trying some melodies played against some midi accompaniments done with Band in a Box (software). Stay tuned for a future update. Maybe I will record something simple and post a sample. 

Off for more WX5 time.

~ Mark