Blog Entry 5: e-Learning

Back when I was in primary school, every Friday was “com lab day”, or computer lab day. It being the late 90s to early 2000s, when most of us students did not have a computer or fully-functional internet (dial-up sounds, till this day, remain a source of trauma, not nostalgia for me), this was a real treat for us. Looking back, I think we were too busy having fun that we never realized we were actually engaging in e-learning. Somehow, even though our thought and problem-solving processes were the same, writing just seemed much more of a chore than typing on a keyboard and clicking the buttons on a mouse.

Something like this, but we had chairs with wheels. And color.

So what exactly is e-learning? According to Wikipedia, our very best friend, “E-Learning includes all forms of electronically supported learning and teaching, including EdTech (Educational Technology).” It refers to both out-of-classroom and in-classroom educational experiences via technology, can be self- or instructor-led, and includes media in the forms of text, image, animation, streaming video and audio.

Back in those computer labs, we were playing educational flash games and answering questions of language, math and science. We were enthusiastically obtaining knowledge, without the prerequisite grumbles and groans. Sensing the potential of e-learning, the administration and faculty quickly developed an online portal for us. Using the portal, we students could email both each other and our teachers, and tests and assignments could be administered even while we were not in the classroom. Eventually, this culminated in a TLTM, or “Teach Less to Teach More” week, during which students would stay home and do all of our work over the e-Portal, a project that would provoke much confusion from parents, who always believed that computer-based learning was more suited towards older students, such as those in college, or at least those of pre-university level.

People in stock images always look so happy, no matter what they’re doing!

Now that I’m actually in college, and most work has to be done over the computer, both online and offline, e-learning has lost much of its fun and evolved into a mere method of improving efficiency; I work on the computer because it is faster to type than write my notes, not because it is more enjoyable.

Ultimately, I would say that e-learning, while convenient and effective in its own right, should not become a complete replacement for traditional learning. Rather, it should be a complement to it, helping teachers and students improve on their teaching and learning. After all, call me old-fashioned, but nothing can replace the feeling of flipping the pages of real books, writing with real stationery and getting annoyed at background noise by real people.

Advertisements

,

Leave a comment

Blog Entry 4: e-Businesses

According to this article on the website “Quick Online Tips”, there are a few factors that determine one’s success or failure in running an e-Business. One thing, in my opinion, to note, is that e-businesses tend to have needs that vary from traditional businesses, and these differences should be taken into account when working on an online entrepreneurship project.

Tip 1: Be properly informed. Indeed, for anyone to do well in anything, extensive research and detailed information are necessities. As in the words of the article’s author Karo Itoje, “If you want to succeed in e-business, you have to be ready to sacrifice some time and money”.

Tip 2: Ensure that there has been thorough preparation. After all, every endeavor begins with a strong foundation, and building on a shaky one will only result in eventual collapse. To quote the author, “If it will take you 2 years to save some money, buy some products, learn, plan and start right. It’s better (that) you wait till then, than jump into it now with your eyes blindfolded (and) not having any particular purpose you’re serving online.”

Tip 3: Organize topics well. One should decide on whether their focus is horizontal or vertical, and link to related pages accordingly. Potential customers should not have to be subjected to frantic searching when seeking related topics.

Tip 4: Using search engines to your advantage. Pages should be arranged in a manner that will make it easy for search engines to index them, and therefore effortless for readers to find them.

Tip 5: Properly monetizing visitors. One should decide on what monetization model(s) to use way before their site is getting a sizeable number of visitors – the decision should be made during the preparation stage. Another thing to note is that every topic has a model that suits it well, and Ms. Itoje cautions us against “implement(ing) a monetization model because (a) pro-blogger is making good money implementing such (a) model on his site”.

,

Leave a comment

Blog Entry 3: Social Networking – Facebook Addiction

“I can stop anytime I want.”

That’s what every junkie or addict says, when the people around them express concern regarding their obsession with alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or… Facebook?

That’s actually a really nice blue.

It’s true – social networking addiction, while not a recognized clinical disorder (yet), is now a legitimate issue for many people, despite their adamant denials of its impact. But what exactly is it about social networking websites like Twitter, Google+ and Facebook that makes them so addictive? TechAddiction.ca, a website which offers help for video game and computer addiction, created an article exploring the reasons for which Facebook is so potentially addictive.

“Take one pill twice a day, once immediately after waking, and once again just before sleeping, with copious amounts of coffee, Mountain Dew or vodka.”

Here are a couple of reasons listed by TechAddiction that I found particularly interesting:

  1. Facebook Feeds Our Naturally Voyeuristic Natures: Humans are social animals and natural voyeurs, and therefore have the tendency to be curious about what others are doing and saying. Facebook has made this curiosity much easier to satisfy, by making typically private information public. So for example, you may have heard that your ex-classmate, with whom you were never that close, had become engaged. In the past, to confirm it, you would have had to ask around and risk being labeled a snoop. Now, you can simply click to his or her Facebook page and the information would be displayed there for all to see.
  2. Facebook Makes Us Feel Part of an Expansive Exciting World: Most of us have a routine that we follow in our daily lives. We wake up, wash up, go to work or school, come home, do more work, dine, sleep, and repeat everything again the next day. The only things that break our monotony are weekends and holidays, and those don’t come around all that often. That is why we join groups on Facebook to feel like a part of something greater and extraordinary. In these groups, we’re no longer just “John from Accounting” or “Sally the receptionist”. We’re one of Lady Gaga’s friends and one of her “Little Monsters”, or one of President Obama’s avid political supporters to whom he is able to communicate with directly.
  3. Facebook Creates a Fear of Missing Out: Although the degree may vary, most everyone is somewhat averse to missing out on social interaction opportunities. Not being on Facebook would not only mean being excluded from information shared over the social networking site, but also real world events planned and publicized over Facebook.

    “I wish this was a laptop so I could bring it to the bathroom and the kitchen with me.”

All that said, Facebook in itself is not entirely negative. I mean, sure, I personally find the constant changes in privacy settings and interface quite annoying and tiresome to keep up with (Timeline still makes me sad), and I also think it’s a little bit creepy that Mark Zuckerberg cannot be blocked on the site (although the company has since issued an explanation for this), but I do like that Facebook has become somewhat of a muse or a source of inspiration for those striving to join the ranks of contemporary artists. Many video creators have created short films and clips based on Facebook, and I shall end this post with my favorite: A Life on Facebook by Alex Droner.

, , ,

Leave a comment

Blog Entry 2: Social Media – Instant Messaging, VoIP and Video Chatting Services

The advent of instant messaging services, such as MSN Messenger, Facebook Chat and GChat, and VoIP and video chatting programs, such as Skype, Omegle and Tinychat, has certainly greatly impacted the nature of our social connections and relations. Such is the case, whether with those we hold closer, like our romantic partners, friends and family, or with those we see more casually, like our colleagues, acquaintances and even strangers. Effects generated by these services have been varied in nature, being neither entirely positive nor negative.

 

While some may complain that instant messaging services have taken away the human touch in our interactions with others, due to the lack of immediacy, eye contact, tone, gestures and touch, others have flourished precisely of this – for the socially awkward and chronically shy, expressing one’s feelings through text is infinitely easier than doing so in person. One no longer has to suffer the embarrassment of becoming tongue-tied while trying to come up with a response on the spot – delayed (and therefore often better thought out) responses are, unlike in face-to-face interactions, considered part of accepted behavior when instant messaging.

Where VoIP and video chatting programs are concerned, similar arguments exist. Despite the fact that participants are now able to hear and see one another in real time, and therefore can detect tones and inflections in voices, and notice facial expressions and gestures, such programs still lack the inherent truthfulness of encounters in the real world. The malleable nature of video chatting programs often allow for one to appear more polished than one really is, sometimes leading to unintentional deception. Need to pass gas or let out an expletive? Just hit the mute button. Trying to avoid an argument, or annoyed by what someone said? Close the program and blame it on a connection problem. Have a pimple? Hold the video conversation in a darkened room and angle the web camera.

A cat recognizes its owner over video chat and promptly becomes entranced.

Of course, to this “con” is also a “pro”, and that is that relationships begun over the internet can now receive a greater level of verification than that offered by exchange of mere photographs. For the layman, falsifying video chats is often much more difficult than manipulating photographs and exchanging those over email. It should be noted, however, that it is not entirely unheard of – many a girl on a video-chatting site that allows random strangers to interact has screamed in excitement upon being matched to someone that appeared to be Justin Bieber, only to be sorely disappointed when they realize that it was only a pre-recorded video piped into the chat.

I think he might be a little too busy for video chatting.

Ultimately, I feel that the effect of such programs, as well as other forms of social media, is dependent on how users employ them. No technology is inherently evil – what appears to be their orientation is merely a reflection of its users’ intentions. If one sets out using instant messaging and video chatting programs to create trouble and hurt others, then such programs will be a bane. However, if one is constant in remembering to conduct oneself with grace and honesty while using these services, then said services can only be a boon to society.

IT’S ALIVE!

, ,

Leave a comment

Blog Entry 1: Web Browsers – Google Chrome

To the average Internet user, “Google” has become such a ubiquitous term, used so often that in the June and July of 2006, it was, as a transitive verb, added respectively to the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary. Much to the displeasure of the corporation, the word(s) “Googling” or “to Google” were now used in colloquial language to mean obtaining information from the Web through not only Google.com, but also any other search engine.

The pervasiveness of “Google” simply cannot be ignored; when the word is mentioned, what’s brought to mind is not only the search engine, but also Google Maps and Google Earth, and their controversial technology Google Street View, which provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world; Gmail, its popular email service; Google+, its slightly less popular social networking website; and of course, Google Chrome, its widely-used Internet browser.

A Google Street View Car

Google Chrome has quickly surpassed several other Web browsers available, in terms of global usage share – in May 2012, Chrome held more than 30% of market share. And who could fault users for being attracted to this particular Web browser? Not only is it designed with minimalism and sleekness in mind, a look that appeals to many teenagers, young adults and professionals, Chrome is also free, user-friendly, customizable, and armed with a whole arsenal of themes and Web applications, all available through the Chrome Web Store.

A rather cute guy declaring his love for Google with a shirt designed by NerdyShirts.com

Like that of many others who discovered Chrome for the first time, my eyes instantly lit up. I instinctively hit the download button, enthusiastically setting it as my default browser in place of Internet Explorer by Microsoft, which had been giving me quite a few problems during that period. I then spent the next ten minutes consecutively customizing Chrome to my preference, reading an article on the pros and cons of using the browser, and feeling horrified enough to consider uninstalling it.

As it turns out, Google Chrome has a particular feature that other Web browsers do not, and that is the amalgamation of the search bar and the URL bar into one, where users will type anything – whether a search term, or part of a URL – and instantly receive suggestions and results provided only by the Google search engine, right at Chrome. There is no longer a need to think where you want to go – Google Chrome will tell you that typing the letters “f-a-c” means you want to visit “Facebook”, so just hit “enter” or click on the link that pops up. As in the words of blogger Daniel Tsadok, this essentially means that “Google is setting itself up as a proxy for the rest of the internet”. He continues to caution that “(G)iven a certain critical mass of Chrome usage, Google can simply “disappear” a website it doesn’t like, and Chrome users would have no way to get to it.  Even if you entered the site’s URL directly into the box, it would still be going through Google.  Your access to information will be completely dependent on what Google wants you to see”, though adding that this potentially frightening phenomenon will not take place for the next few years, as Chrome is yet to have the market share required to exercise such power.

So does this mean that Google actually introduced “glasses” to its users long before Project Glass?

Many have read George Orwell’s famed novel, entitled “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, which tells of the dystopic world of Oceania, where war is perpetual, government surveillance is omnipresent, and individualism is punishable by law. More have dismissed it as merely a work of fiction by a genius mind, believing that something so fantastic could never happen in our democratic society.  And while I am inclined to agree that things may not ever reach such massive proportions in our real world, I have to admit that Big Brother is still watching you, even if he keeps in mind to “Don’t Be Evil”.

Google 2084

Ironically enough, all of my research for this blog post was done through Google Chrome, which I never got around to uninstalling for lack of one that works better for me. And I’m glad to say that I was able to access all of the required links without trouble, despite most of them being less than complimentary of the browser, showing that Tsadok was right; we don’t have to worry about a digital 1984.

At least not yet.

, , ,

Leave a comment