Ed-Media 96 Review

Boston, Mass. June 17-22, 1996

Reviewer: Peter J. Scott, Knowledge Media Institute, Open University, UK


Some big building in Boston ...The conference had quite a few interesting papers, some of which I have made notes upon below. We are looking here at a proceedings that contains 900 or so pages of papers which were presented in very many parallel streams - so one had to be pretty choosy.

You should check out the proceedings - which the AACE who run EdMedia have put together pretty well.

Also you should check out the next show (EdMedia 97) in Calgary which offers a mean rodeo! This university-based conference promises to knock the technical socks off a hotel based one (such as the 96 conference discussed here), plagued by bandwith problems etc.
Critical dates are June 14-19 in 1997 for the show itself.

It also goes without saying that my own talks - on my student welfare project WISH [audio commentary accompanies the web site] and on the KMi Java Stadium work - were fairly well received.

My notes here are in chronological order, and illustrated with a few snaps from my Casio QV-10.

The rest of my time in Boston was spent in searching the computer shops for roadwarrior toys.




Kay, Alan. (Keynote)

Alan started with a short video shot at a graduation ceremony showing cute examples of how Harvard graduates don't understand basic science questions, like the causes of the seasons. He joked that the main the key course at harvard was Confidence 101. Regardless of their qualifications they all started talking about the earth being closer to the sun in its orbit during summer. It even took a wee while for some to click that the prompt *when it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the southern hemisphere* was inconsistent with this theory. Alan noted that these folk are in the top percentile of a low acheiving scientific population (all relative of course). Alan argues that science is learnt by people via stories. He is concerned about the illiteracy of the general population. He noted that Socrates hated writing because it makes you follow an argument rather than participate in it!

It wasnt until 1516 that page numbers were put in a book, when folk like Erasmus realised that a manuscript was rather more complex than oral tradition. He thinks that the page number equivalent in multimedia aint happened yet. He then presented what I felt was a rather exaggerated analogy of foveal vision with leading into a critique of reading text from a monitor. (Throughout he was clearly very keen on Tom Paynes "common sense" and the US constitution as his ideal web documents).
Boston scene 2 He had a rather nice tirade against asking people what they want! (market research). And presented some stories to promote powerful ideas via prototyping. Then a nice trot through history of media (illustrated by returning to his manuscript theme): institutional phase (where the only places with books are a very few select libraries); pc phase (this little item is expensive but you can have-one if you can afford it); then the intimate phase (the widespread access to the novel or pamphlet). On this analysis maybe even the book revolution hasnt happened yet!
He had one rather good joke : *a consultant is someone who knows 69 ways to make love but has no girlfriend*.

Resnick, (Paper)

Talking about *worlds in the computer and computers in the world*. Isnt it always ironic when you are talking about new media empowerment (!) when the technology you need to use (projection etc) wont work!! He had to use slides from his old talks!
Resnick He started off by contrasting the modern view of thinking as interactive and distributed with the classical view typified by Rodin's statue. He then introduced some of the new types of construction kits for folk to create stuff!

  • First a short chat about lego logo (used in 20K US schools - but use is uneven - some is heavily instructional).
  • Then crickets - neat video of kids learning via a lights on/off though door opening example (they had to build this control system) - a great argument for learning through the act of creation. Hugeley motivating - engineering via feedback and control.
  • Then creatures.

A video of cute kids playing with wee creaturs and then exploring anthropomorphic word points.: the robot as obsessive, insecure, paranoid defined by its actions. Very nice piece of video of a kid playing with creature at a picnic to try to figure out how it works - excellent! The key point here was how simple rules can lead to very complex belaviours. He sees a growing interest in decentralised models of all sorts (including cognition): from economics to literature (meaning of a book in readers head and in the world). NB he says: bird flocks do not follow leader - they all act on simple rules in the flock - with the one at front for moment just having an important role in this ruleset. The he presented a very nice model for the kids to play with of a very simple ant colony - they then did a cars and speed trap model for traffic jams. Very nice point about leverage with the media.

Panel on synch/asynchronous learning. (Panel)

Chaired by Stephen Ehrmann. Robin Mason kicked off the panel with an assertion about the value of flexibility in asynchronous distance education as a feature promoting higher quality, (personally, this is why I prefer email to the phone, if I can do it). Betty Collis then suggested that the good teacher being there (adaptive, body language, mixed modalities . . . ) provided an important time sensitive quality. (she also like the discipline of the moment). Paul Bacsich ran through an anecdotal first class chat. Comforting telepresence aspect - who else is there just now? He suggested that any modern course will need to be on the web. The culture does need to push up the charges to make more money.William Lynch from GMU - talked about courses in collaboration with Mind Extension University (charges $600 for a 3 Credit course - 2K students over last couple of years - Bill says this educational medium actually costs more and makes rather less money).

McGreal, Rory. (Paper)

Rory McGreal New Brunswick chap looking at cyberspace design. Rory noted that learning and training is (after tourism) the largest of the worlds industries. He was very strong on his economic stuff. A cute polemic *if you are not confused then you dont understand whats going on*. In an effective sales pitch for New Brunswick, Rory noted that it has a 100% Digital Fibre Optic Ring to their communities All their courses must be bilingual, (somewhat easier than the Open University rule about *open for all*, but hard enough). Looks like a pretty neat infrastructure they have there and a strong view of where the future is at.

Laurillard, Diana. (Keynote)

Diana Laurillard Says that academic learning is difficult than other sorts of learning. Diana presented a *conversational* model for said academic learning. She then gave a critique of lecture, discourse, discovery and guided discovery as progressively better. Then a neat sales pitch for the Open University moving through the Archeology and Homer project. A very interesting slide on the story stages in a segment of the course. Wait a moment, she says, narrative is actually pretty cognitively useful and yet all these innovations like user control de-stabilise the storyline, and hyper-leaps totally disrupt it! Then she showed an analysis of some TV programs in which the more the students saw the key narrative arg on the screen the better they were at spotting it via their own summaries. So should we be moving back to narratives!?

Dianas framework: discuss, act, adapt and reflect.

Maybury, Mark. (Paper)

Mark is from Mitre Corp. and was talking about information access. Quite nice links to his paper and other stuff. Mark had a video marked up with a simple representation notation that linked it to some text. Simple markup of a video of Macintosh assembly to the manual. Then a video about a WAIS search engine using the Phoenix parser for a bit of natural language and colour to help pick out good matches. Something on visualising data links - colour, cute icons etc. Mark saw education as moving from american football to soccer - didnt really get the analogy ... something to do with teams?

Nkambou, Roger. (Paper)

Roger Nkambou Roger was from the Univeristy of Quebec, in Montreal, working on ITS and www. Intro chat about different models of Intelligent Tutoring Systems, then different resources. He presented an object-oriented system which represents html documents and does a little reasoning. I am not sure how they will handle the relation to java or even javascript? But it does have a basic browser representation - so they can no doubt hack it. He showed an example in traffic signs, via the Quebec highway code. Then a medical example, some sort of intravenous pump thing?

Mcgregor, Jim. (Paper)

Jim Mcgregor Jim is from the University of Sheffield and is working on medical Intelligent Tutoring Systems. He has a huge medical database, via the Welcom Trust Tropical Medicine Museum - stored in their own representation. His program Simple Linctus was then described (though Jim couldnt recall what the acronym stood for). No formal evaluation of the system - but used for 4 Years. No natrual language interface just a set of menus to explore issues like symptoms : functional problems : nervous system : sleep being *do you have any problem sleeping*. Also a menu driven rule editor for the simple reasoning stuff. eg common sense rules for drug interaction or limits on appropriate management interventions.

Abouttime. (Poster)

Robert Hinks and his team are working on a SuperCard based suite of Engineering multimedia. It is certainly worth a look, I think they have a long way to go on their model, but have started well.

Bloom, Kristana M. (Poster)

Kristana had an interesting poster on her work on neural nets/artificial life stuff. If you are interested in this growing field you should take a look at the cyberprof system and her paper. The password for access to cyberprof is guest, by the way.

Selinger, Michelle. (Paper)

Michelle is working at the Open University in the UK. She presented her experience of Post Graduate Certificate for Education via conferencing using First Class. Sounded like a very useful sharing of resource and experiences of mature folks training to be teachers.

Jacobson, Susan. (Paper)

Susan Jacobson and 2 others. Susan is at New York University and works on experiments in video and audio for arts education. Remote violin teaching lost out, because the audio missed out some key features and the teacher wanted to move and even touch the student. eg. how tense was the students jaw is very hard to do remotely! She spoke about a nice Jazz jamming project looking at building emotional bonds with the student. (Someone suggested brainOp - brain opera - a hyperinstrument project out of the MIT Medialab to be worth a look see).

McMullen, Barbara. (Paper)

Barbara McMullen Barbara is director of academic computing from Marist County College. She talked about how she struggled to get money into the support of academic computing - becoming a commercial earner. Her project service has grown from 2 students to 40 working for 10 to 20 dollars per hour for non-profit or commercial web development. Should look at her S390 for Java at $40 per hour! She has an Excel spread-sheet detailing her cost model on the web. She finished off with some chat about an intranet project (accessing data that is secure locally - to better mangage copyrights etc) that she is doing with ibm.

Barek, William. (Paper)

William Barek Bill is from the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus, and works on comparing www and traditional multimedia authoring enironments in course projects.

Bill is worried that web designers often forget who their audience is! He ran thro the pros and cons of a variety of authoring platforms: hypercard, supercard, director, authorware, apple media tool, ScriptX,mTropolis, oracle media objects, toolbook, iconauthor. He was hugely fond of Kaleidas scriptx. He showed their only shipped product "ragtime" - neat and fun. Looking forward to biscotti the kaleida classes exported to Java. Get v1.5 free.

PS. It is interesting to see (Cf my report from ACM MM not 6 months previous) how much has happened to poor old Kalieda!

Lee, In-sook. (Paper)

From Korea looking at constructive learning environments at KEDI (Korean Educational Development Institute) In-sook spoke about her experiences in getting mulimedia networks into Korean schools and what systems need to be in place for this to succeed. Interesting problems in cross cultural interaction with international schools recognised in particular the policy level requirements for teacher training and support.

Durval, Eric. (Paper)

Eric Duval and others? Eric, from Belgium, is interested in the reuse of mulimedia resources. Eric ran through the issues in reusing large or small chunks, eg. Maurers hm-card. Presented CHM - Contained Hyper Media in the home environment - an oracle dbms system, but ported to Hyper-G.

Sivan, Yesha. (Paper)

Yesha spoke very fluently about professional virtual communities, which he is setting up in Israel. His thought that community is about having power over those outside the community was pretty interesting. As was his view of the phases in any virtual community membership: expectation, frustration, surfing, boredom, smart use, flooding, and finally - continuing learning.




Toy Report

Right. Now for the important stuff.

I searched at least half a dozen mac computer stores - remember that this is the city of MacExpo, where Apple often does its unveiling. Now, the Newton 130 has been out for a month or so. BUT I could only find two stores that had it in stock (or even intended to) and it was real hard to get one out of the box. Anyway I liked it, want one, but will wait a moment to see if Apple get the message that it is clearly overpriced (fat chance).

Boston 3 Alternatives to Newton: Palm computing and US Robotics have taken the brilliant Graffiti shorthand writing software and built a stripped-down Newton based upon it. The USR Pilot was on display in only one of the stores. It is impressively small and light and with graffiti intead of any handwriting recognition - a good call - all of this text was written in transit with the aid of graffiti. Emphasis on straight filofax functions - very light, but pc first of course. Use with a mac comes with a bolt on MacPac which was not available yet in Boston when I was there. Really, I must say I am worried - I love my Newton, but this cheap, plastic box seems to do 90% of the important things I love my newt for, is genuinely pocket sized and promises to be much better synchronised. The much heralded Newton 2000 better be as nice as its specification and a lot cheaper. Palm Pilot

The colour QuickCam is quite nice - small element of focus (twiddle the ring around the lens) but now needs to draw power from the Apple Desktop Bus as well as use up a valuable serial port. Frankly, I dont think that colour adds much to the display of a talking screen head that the truly excellent and cheap greyscale QuickCam gives, and couldn't get it working with my older CU-SeeMe.

Now's UpToDate/Contacts filofax software is getting more web literate in a variety of useful ways - the most fun being an extra program which exports diary pages as a web pages on-the-fly. We have an experiment running here. (Oh, and it synchonises with the pilot as well as the Newt now).

Boston 4




PS: if you are surprised that my notes above are so slim compared with, say, my Nov 95 review of ACM Multimedia in San Fransisco recently then this is cos the ACM folk had the CD burnt with the proceedings - so I had all those nice abstracts for you - and it was thereby much easier to get the links linked! It is a lot easier (and faster) to clean up ones notes with the papers etc at ones electronic fingertips! Also, the ACM MM shows were pretty technologically huge!


©1996 PJS