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A #Kinect, an #N900 mobile and a #Windows7 tablet: all I need to work (for now ;))

December 5, 2010

I am definitely not one to go with the very latest technological fashion wagon. Don’t get me wrong, I love some of the latest developments, but it strikes me that nowadays most of the designers’ and manufacturers’ efforts go into making things ‘easy’. Call me a kill-joy, but I am genuinely worried about where we’ll end up if we keep going this way… will we be like the humans in Wall-E (round, lazy … blobs?)

As a result, I don’t have an iPod, iPhone, iPad or anything else that millions of people have (lots due to peer pressure or because a Porsche would have been too clear a sign of a mid-life crisis :)). I also openly admit that, by some people’s standards, I don’t have much of a life, either ;). Whatever! 🙂 However, what I certainly like is to think I can do just about anything I set my mind on. It’s worked for me in high-school and definitely through my PhD, where I reckoned there was no reason why I shouldn’t be able to learn to write Perl code on the fly. I did and so created a multilingual online environment where people would learn to read in a foreign language by building on existing linguistic knowledge and by reading topical stuff that actually interests them (I didn’t actually mean to plug that, really, but since I mentioned it I thought I may as well explain it properly in case people want to check it out).

Where was I? Ah, yes, doing things I want and actually need rather than sticking to what smb. thinks I should be clever/dumb enough able to handle and no more. I therefore have a Nokia N900 mobile which allows me to test Flash products, augmented reality, QR codes, shoot very good images and video, blog, keep in touch with my Twitter friends, catch up with my podcasts, show other people what I’m doing by connecting to a TV or projector, take over networked computers with VPN, use the mobile as a remote mouse, run proper Office editing applications, learn proper Linux programming and even run my own FM radio station (to name just a few). Aaaah, you didn’t think people may actually enjoy a challenge now and again, did you, Mr. Rather-Limited-Jobs? What can I say? Surprise! 🙂

I also don’t have an iPad, as I mentioned. I personally find it very amusing reading about teachers trying to be cool by buying loads of this stuff and shoving them in front of their students and then doing a serious amount of beard-stroking to make them fit into the classroom. Apart from @anafxfz’s very sensible use of the kit to showcase her portfolio (not to mention her brilliantly fun and witty way of expressing it), I am still to be persuaded… Instead, I use a Toshiba M780 tablet which does … wait for it, wait for it… everything (except hold a battery charge for too long if you’re doing some serious editing work :)). OK, it was double the price, but seeing how much my iPad-using mates suffer from being stuck with a shiny and slippery tool that only does what it wants, I think I’m doing really well 😉 (btw, do you know of the ridiculous and outrageous treatment Ellen got after her parody from some ridiculous Apple marketing employee?).

The big news for me is that, since yesterday, I also have a Microsoft Kinect!!! Yey!!! My big project now is to learn to write for it (yeah, I know, I don’t do things by halves :)). I bought it for work, you see, because I have been looking for ways to get people to engage more with online learning (no word of a lie, I am like that :)).

My head is now full of great advice from Nancy Duarte (about creating clear and beautifully designed presentations), the #Articulate community (about building engaging and interactive training scenarios), Sugata Mitra (about the wanders of groupwork – though admittedly with children rather than adults), Jay Cross (about the massive benefits of informal learning), and various neuroscience and technology podcasts that I occasionally get to listen to (about how the brain works, how people learn and how technology can help with that).

I still have lots to learn, but what I want to do straightaway is get people to interact properly with online learning. No more training scenarios for people to click through (or worse, leave on autoplay), get a certificate, and shortly forget all about. I want to get groups of people to collaborate to solve tasks, do physical exercise in the process, and create memorable situations while doing training. I’ve been sat in front of compliance training myself – aaargh!. Now, if companies are willing to pay loads for – frankly – dire stuff like that sold to them as black magic e-learning (oh, yes, some e-learning companies like to keep it all under wraps and convince their clients they’re way too incompetent to understand the extraordinarily difficult job the ‘specialists’ are doing), there should also be cash for  proper immersive training that people will tell their kids about.

How far away is that, you may ask? Frankly, I don’t know yet but I am on it now. I also take comfort from the fact that there are clever people out there hacking, sharing and creating very cool interfaces between Kinect and computers. The first hack was done in a few hours. The OpenKinect gallery is already full of very cool examples created within weeks of the hardware becoming available. Moreover, it seems to me that the roles have changed a bit now and Microsoft is no longer the evil player in the big boys’ game… wouldn’t be surprised if they came up with something very cool themselves…

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