Saturday, October 17, 2015

Enhanced Card Catalog or Massive Copyright Violation?

In 2004, Google began what it calls "an enhanced card catalog of the world's books." The Google Books Library Project is an attempt to provide an easy way for people to find books that are relevant to the research or current reading interests. Google states that it's ultimate goal is to:
". . . work with publishers and libraries to create a comprehensive, searchable, virtual card catalog of all books in all languages that helps users discover new books and publishers discover new readers." 
The Author's Guild says this is a violation of copyright. After this week's Court of Appeals ruling in favor of Google, the Guild plans to take Google to the Supreme Court.

On the one hand it might seem like Google is off base and the idea of creating a "card catalog of all books" is an unwanted idea that could cost writers and publishers money and market share in the world of ideas. On the other hand it might seem like writers and publishers are limiting the opportunity to get their ideas seen around the world.

Is it all about money? This question of copyright and the publication of content is more about how we use our technology to publish and access information. Access to digital data is growing so fast it's impossible for anyone to consume it all. And, digital libraries are popping up all over the place.

One example is the Digtial Public Library of America:

As Luis Herrera, City Librarian for the San Francisco Public Library says "think of it as a virtual library of Americana that's free and accessible to all."

The DPLA is just the latest effort in this area. The Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and California Digital Library (CDL) all provide free and open access to digital materials.

The University of California began the CDL in 1997 and has "assembled one of the world's largest digital research libraries and changed the ways that faculty, students, and researchers discover and access information." In fact, the California Digital Library mass digitization program is directly involved with the Google Books Library Project and with the Internet Archive.

If libraries are doing this, why then does the Writer's Guild want to stop Google? The Guild says the ruling will ultimately reduce the amount of produced content as writers lose interest in working in a field where they won't be able to make a living.

The Internet Archive believes that:
"Libraries exist to preserve society's cultural artifacts and to provide access to them. If libraries are to continue to foster education and scholarship in this era of digital technology, it's essential for them to extend those functions into the digital world."
As we've seen with the music industry, the film industry, news media, and almost any area of content, technology has allowed us to go beyond the traditional ways of communicating our ideas. These communication industries must continue to forge ahead with both the creation of new content and ways to compensate their writers, directors, producers, actors, and anyone else involved in the creative process.

If we do that then more information will be available to more people on earth. That would be a good thing.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Digital World Unveils The Art Of Traditional Photography

I've been taking pictures since 1972. My first camera was a Kodak Instamatic. In the summer of 1974 I took my first photography class at my local high school.

Between 1963 and 1975 Kodak produced more than 75 million Instamatic cameras helping to popularize a new mode of visual communication for the average consumer.

At about that same time Kodak also introduced the world's first digital camera. It took about 20 years before there was an "affordable" digital camera for the consumer.

For a short time in the 1990s savvy technology experts used software and either a scanner or video camera connected to a computer to capture digital video and still images.

Scanners create a digital copy of a printed photograph or other document while video capture allows you to create new digital imagery on your computer. Here's an example of a still frame from video I captured in December, 1995.

Using the latest QuickTime software available at the time I could capture a relatively sharp 320 x 240 pixel image. It was the first time I was able to easily post images on the Internet for family in friends.

*Note: Another historic moment in digital imagery came when a camera focused on a coffee pot was connected to a computer. The computer was programmed to capture still images and post them on the Internet.

Today digital imagery and video is so ubiquitous it's become part of the daily fabric of life. We now store and share our images and video on phones or various cloud and social media sites.

In the "olden days" it was common practice to order extra prints of our favorite pictures to distribute to family and friends. One-hour photo shops were created in an early marketing effort to instill a sense of instant gratification in consumers. Most offered a special two prints for the price of one deal which helped people share their images.

Today our digital images almost never get printed whereas our old photos are almost never available for viewing beyond the home. There are millions of people all around the world who have prints, slides, and negatives but we almost never see or share these images. Typically any digitized images are captured and shared via mobile phone.

In my personal photo archive I have tens of thousands of images captured over the past 40 plus years. I have maybe two or three thousand shot on film. Over the past 15 years I've used a variety of scanners to digitize some of these images but I doubt I will ever scan them all.

Recently I purchased a small, inexpensive scanner to quickly and easily capture images from my negatives and slides. It comes with a low resolution screen and allows me to scan 5472 × 3648 resolution images directly to an SD card.

Recently I captured a set of images from a series of color slides I created in my high school photography class.

No Photoshop or other image editing tools were used to colorize these pictures. These are scans of the actual slides as they were originally captured in my film camera.

Because we learned photography was an art our teacher taught us to use filters and other photographic tricks to manipulate images beyond traditional photographic methods. In this case we used infrared filters on our lens to create this effect.

Today we might think there is no art of photography because images like this can be easily created using digital photo enhancement and editing tools.

Some have argued all the digital tools and online sharing have caused the "end of photography." I don't think so.

I see big differences between photography as an art, as social media, as tools for marketing and branding, as journalistic and documentary resources, and as family history.

Photography as an art form will only grow as digital tools become more available to consumers. Photographers who are or want to be artists just need to find their passion and express it. There are more places to do this than ever before.

I'm happy to have had the opportunity to learn photography as an art form before the digital age. I'm also glad I was able to capture this image from my negative archives of Waldo Larson -- my first photography teacher. It was an honor to learn from him.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Book Report on Peter Rabbitt

In 1985 Charlie Brown and his Peanuts gang made it to TV with a wonderful animated tale called You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. At age 25, I probably didn't even watch the show which, like all the Peanuts TV shows, was a musical created for young children.

Charles Schultz was an innovative cartoonist who brought the average everyday world of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and Snoopy, to life for all to see and enjoy.

Lessons learned were a continuing theme of the comic strip and the animated TV shows. The Peanuts gang taught us about friendship, trust, bravery, good sportsmanship, community, fairness, teamwork and many more important ideas.

In the late 1990's I was fortunate enough to come across a copy of You're A Good Man Charlie Brown which I was excited to show to my young children. 

Midway through the show I was stunned to see this segment, or "song," which is essentially a mini-docudrama that explored our educational system and the different learning styles students bring with them to school.

Amazingly, it also predicted the classroom of the future.

In this segment Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown are each working on an assignment to write a book report on Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

One of the first things you see in the segment are the different learning styles each character brings to the task. Lucy pays little attention to the information she writes and is busy counting the words to ensure she meets the minimum requirements of the assignment.

Linus reads volumes of other texts and delves deep in his report to explore the history, psychology, and comparative literature of Peter Rabbit while paying absolutely no attention to how much time and effort he puts into the assignment.

Charlie Brown daydreams and worries that he didn't get enough sleep so he might not do a good job. He procrastinates, looks outside and feels like he really should be playing with his friends. He makes a sandwich and finally begins long after the two others are finished.

The brilliance of the depiction of these different learning styles is amazing enough for educators to see. But when you begin to see how Schultz portrays Linus using a personal computer to compose his paper then you realize that he really understood learning and our educational system long before many educators were asking questions about concepts like differentiated instruction and classroom technology.

And, while Linus is still doing his research in books, the way he uses the computer to simply edit his text is incredible.

This new tool allows him to erase and "do over" his writing to get just the right words for his thesis.

No need for pencils, papers, or erasers.

But wait, that's not all, because before you know it Linus is actually creating his own animation. Creatively typing away at the computer like the virtuoso pianist he is, Linus begins to make the words of his paper come alive in short animated clips that help him make his point.

This cartoon within a cartoon leaps out of the screen to the viewer who quickly understands that this kid is brilliant not only because he knows his information but also because he knows how to present it back in this amazing animated production.

I have used this short video many times in teacher professional development programs. My goal is primarily to engage teachers with the idea of using media and technology with their students and to encourage teachers to learn the tools themselves.

Using technology and media production in Project Based Learning has certainly come a long way since You're A Good Man Charlie Brown. I believe there is still a long way to go for this kind of learning to be ubiquitous in schools.

I haven't truly explored the different learning styles in this blog having mostly focused on the technology integration. That's my expertise and, to me, the excitement and engagement in learning demonstrated in this segment is the key point. 

While Linus may be pre-disposed to go further than his classmates with his education, we do not know how his experience may help teachers engage other students to expand their interest and improve their learning.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How to Find a Job From Ideas (and Some Surprising Government Technology)

Implementing a career change and getting the right job in the digital age is a complicated task. I am meeting with placement specialists, updating my resume and social media profiles, scouring career opportunity websites, and talking with everyone I know to get myself out there.

I am fortunate to have so many colleagues and friends who know me well and want to help.

Last week my friend Scott Landress asked me how the career change process was going. After I went over the whole story he looked at me and said, "Brad, so far I know what you don't want to do, but you haven't told me what you do want to do."

In reflecting on his point I told him it's difficult to imagine myself doing something different from what I've done professionally for so long. This was reinforced by placement people who told me I would have plenty of opportunity to apply for technology and IT related jobs, particularly positions similar to my recent experience in education.

Getting options and offers to do something else is going to be a bit more challenging. I'm going to have to sell myself.

With that understanding I set out to identify exactly what I wanted to do in this next chapter of my working life. I decided to begin back in the early days of high school when I took aptitude tests to help me figure out what I was good at and what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Job Title Search circa 1976
I still recall the three job titles that came to the top of the list after I took the career search surveys in high school: Architect, Occupational Therapist, and Photographer.

There were a few other interesting options in my search at the time including: Commercial ArtistPerforming Artist, Public
Relations Worker, and Recreation Worker.

Looking back at these job titles today (nearly 40 years later) it's amazing to think of the many skills it takes to do any one of these jobs well and the preparation needed to develop those skills.

Job Title Search circa 1976
What's not surprising are the job titles that existed then versus those that exist today. Which brings me back to that question of articulating what I want to do when I grow up.

With all the different resources available to HR directors and job seekers today I was stunned to find a set of powerful career development technology tools that help workers identify their skills and abilities. It also helps them find the titles of jobs they may be qualified for and interested in pursuing.

Where is this tool? You can find it online with the California Employment Development Department's "CalJobs" website.

I won't go through all the details but there are two very specific tools in this system that are fabulously helpful for anyone thinking about their work and wanting to improve their career.

Things Brad Can Do!
At CalJobs users build their resume using online tools that have 19 different steps. It may seem unnecessary for people who already have a resume, but once the process is complete this system magically presents jobseekers with a list of their likely skills.

These are very specific abilities that, for me, included: public speaking techniques; work as a team member; write administrative procedures services manual; use project management techniques; use computer networking technology; provide technical computer training; prepare cost estimates; plan meetings and conferences; make decisions; distinguish details in graphic arts material; edit video scenes; and another 116 possible skills.

Wow! Who knew that there were 127 specific things I could do for someone looking for a skilled professional?

Granted this is just a list, it doesn't say how much experience I have with any of these skills or how well I might do any of these activities. However, as someone looking to identify the job I want this was crucial information. This tool also gives me a strong set of words to use as I describe for people what I want to do and where I am focusing my search for a new career.

Occupation listing
The other powerful tool in the CalJobs system is the database of "Occupation Listings." Part of the process requires users to choose an occupation they are seeking. The list is fascinating when compared to the one I was required to use back in 1976. The CalJobs list is also fascinating for what job titles it does NOT include.

I've spent a good amount of time in my career teaching students, parents, educators, and administrators about the fact that we are often preparing students for jobs that haven't even been invented yet. Using CalJobs I've learned that my job for the past 17 years (Director of Technology) doesn't exist in their list of possible occupations.

Obviously not a lot of people have had this job yet.

I suppose I can feel fortunate in that I've been on the cutting edge of technology in education but I do know it can be problematic to tell someone you were a Director of Technology and their response is "what is that?"

Thankfully, the system provided an occupation I could use: "Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School." Seems like that occupation type combined with the actual title (Director of Technology) should get me past the initial confusion some people may have about my previous work.

So the process continues and I get closer to knowing what I want to do and what's out there as a possible career. The truth is there are many jobs I would do well in and the real questions are: what will make me happy, and what will allow me to earn enough money to provide for myself and my family?

One of the most astonishing items on my list of skills was "create art from ideas." While I absolutely love this phrase and wonder how I can find a job doing THAT, I am also realistic that there are even fewer people getting paid to create art from ideas then there are people doing technology administration in schools.

Trying to create a job from ideas is a great challenge. I am happy to know that the State of California has developed these powerful tools for job seekers. To me this is one of the best examples of our tax dollars well spent.

Now, if I can only get someone to speak with me about changing the time of this "notification of benefits eligibility interview . . . "

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