Occasional Thoughts on Educational Technology and Life by Judy Brophy

Friday, December 14, 2012

There's No App for That

I first noticed it walking down the street toward my hotel in a strange city. On the corner across from my hotel was a nice looking Italian restaurant… maybe a place for dinner? I could see that the menu was posted at the front door.  Instead of walking over to look at the menu I went back to my hotel and looked it up on the IPad.

Eating breakfast by the kitchen window, the one with the outside thermometer attached, I open the weather app on my iPad to see what the temperature is.

I started keeping track: 
How many things do I do online that I don’t NEED to do online?  Things, that if I didn’t do online would give me, at a minimum, more human contact or more exercise.

And it's not only with computers and the internet. A friend told me he wanted a Super Remote for Christmas. It replaces all your remotes; you need never go looking for the “right remote” again.  So now, you not only don't have to get up to change the TV channel, but you don't even have to get up to look for the right remote.

Mobile devices can surely make you more efficient.  But aren’t there times when being efficient is not and should not be the primary goal?

Yes, of course. Which means that we each have to think about and set boundaries on what should be done with electronics and what is better done by moving an object through space and time.

So I’ve been trying to be aware of what I am doing when I open the computer. What is the task that I went here for? what  type of task is it? Fact finding, communicating, time wasting?  I  just name it.

I ask, is this the best way to complete this task? Is there a way to do this that would connect me with people more? Give me more exercise? Make me more focused?  It’s not much but it’s a start.

Here is an ode to movement done with technology: the best of both worlds.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November view

November brings me a lesson each year. And each year I have to re-learn it.

It’s that there is a world behind the leafy-green boundary that suddenly disappears when the leaves fall.  Ponds appear. Distant hills jump closer. Houses tucked back in the woods stand up. The effect is magnified by the sideways light, throwing a spotlight through the trees. It is a startling and humbling experience.

The November view and the July view are of the same landscape, yet completely different.  Can I remember this when talking with someone with whom I don’t agree? That we may very well be looking at the same landscape and seeing different things?

Monday, November 12, 2012

How Beautiful Are the Feet

Statue of Statue of Peace Leader Sri Chinmoy along Burke-Gilman Trail, Fremont, WA
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things. Isiah 52:7

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


When we use the concept of "interactive media" exclusively in relation to computer-based media, there is the danger that we will interpret "interaction" literally, equating it with physical interaction between a user and a media object ... at the expense of psychological interaction.

The psychological processes of filling-in, hypothesis formation, recall, and identification, which are required for us to comprehend any text or image at all, are mistakenly identified with an objectively existing structure of interactive links.

Lev Manovich Language of New Media p 57

Photo by WadeB under Creative Commons License

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Those Heineken Beer Songs

Those Heineken beer folks have a great way of picking out the odd tune, one that makes you look up from ignoring the ads and just grabs you.

Recently they resurrected a BollyWood extravaganza song from a 1965 movie, Jaan Pehechaan Ho. While not an unknown quantity (the YouTube video has more than 1,700,000 view) it was probably new to most Heineken
imbibers and to many other Western audiences as well.

In their most recent ad the music is Love Letter by Clairy Browne & The Bangin' Rackettes
A rockin,  bruising deepthroated Clairy belts out “I’m gonna write what I want you to do to me in a letter”  The group got together in 2009. So this has to be a huge bump for them. In fact, under the video one fan comments:
Heineken is horrible beer but their commercial did lead to me buying this album :) So it's not a total loss.
And they are good.

Looking forward to the next Heineken discovery.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Joy of Books

Definitely  watch this in full screen mode.
Bookstore owner's notes:
After organizing our bookshelf almost a year ago (http://youtu.be/zhRT-PM7vpA), my wife and I (Sean Ohlenkamp) decided to take it to the next level. We spent many sleepless nights moving, stacking, and animating books at Type bookstore in Toronto (883 Queen Street West, (416) 366-8973). 
Everything you see here can be purchased at Type Books.
Grayson Matthews (http://www.graysonmatthews.com/) generously composed the beautiful, custom music. You can download it here: http://itunes.apple.com/album/awakenings-single/id496796623
But none of it could have been done without all the volunteer hands who shelved and reshelved books all night, every night.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Underground NY Public Library

‎"Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind the Veil", by Deborah Rodriguez"Urban Economics", by Arthur O'Sullivan"Mishnah: Seder Zeraim: Maasros/Sheni", Edited by A. J. Rosenberg and G. Finkel"Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants ", by Kathleen Barry"One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn"Siddur" (Daily Prayer Book)
on the right he's reading "The Golden Compass", by Philip Pullman. on the right he's reading "101 Things Everyone Should Know About Judaism: Beliefs, Practices, Customs, And Traditions", by Richard D. Bank"Whatever You Love", by Louise Doughty"The Tommy Good Story III: Life After Death", by Leondrei Prince"True Grit", by Charles Portis

Underground NY Public Library, a gallery on Flickr.
The Photographer SheSaidUnPrintableThings takes these wonderful pictures of readers on the subway. And because it matters she carefully notes what book each person is reading. Her blog is at http://undergroundnewyorkpubliclibrary.com/
A wonderful read on Reading is at Someone Reading A Book is a Sign of Order in the World  I believe that.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Digital Free Day

It was Friday night when I saw the tweet: Join the Digital Free Day tomorrow.  I decided to take up the challenge.  How hard could this be? No, seriously. I wanted an answer. How hard would it be to have no internet access for a whole day? Here's my answer:

Earring holder
Product of my Digital Free Day
7am – Early rise. What’s the weather going to be today? Can’t look it up and don’t want to listen the radio so I’ll have to take a guess and just change my clothes if they aren’t right. Hm-m-m. Right off things don’t seem to be under my control as they “usually” are.
What to read with my coffee instead of email and tweets? Nothing. I take the coffee outside and listen to the (real) birds.

Planning my day: Can’t work on the church newsletter that I edit. All the pieces are online.  I could do some writing for my blog I’ve been meaning to do, except the quotes that are integral to the article are online.

Did Indiana U win the game last night? Don’t know. Can’t find out.

8am - Hungry for breakfast now and the phantom thought in the back of my mind is “I can’t eat. I’m on a diet.” Strange. I CAN eat. I’m not on a nutritional diet, only a digital one but the feeling of being denied something lingers. 

There’s some personal research I’ve been meaning to do on a health issue… have to wait.
9am-  I start a written list of things I am going to send or tell people when my Digital Free day is up.

Taking the compost out I notice my spring flowers blooming and think about getting my Ipad and taking a picture to share with family. Nope. Can’t. I could use my digital camera (can I use a digital camera on a digital free day?) but that would involve finding a cable and downloading the picture (tomorrow).

Noon: I need to create some menus for next week, but I can’t go online to check for recipes. Pull out the old recipe box.

Are the Sox on TV today? Don’t know and I don’t have a printed schedule yet.

I need to pay some bills. Woops. Can’t. Well, I could write a check and find a stamp, but I think I’ll just wait till tomorrow and do it in 30 seconds.

I need to check my work schedule online and update the family wall calendar.  The paper – digital chasm yawns.

We are thinking about buying a new kayak rack for the car. OMG! Shopping. I never do store to store shopping. I find exactly what I want online and either order it online or find a local store that carries it.

3pm -Time for a break. How about a round of scrabble with friends and family? Not available. Luckily my current book is paper so I can read.

I need to plan a trip to Indianapolis in July but avoid the weekend of a big race there. Where would I find what that date is without the internet? And I can’t make flight reservations without the internet anyway. 

So what can I do?
  • Projects using my own hands (I actually follow through on an idea I had to make an earring holder from a cookie rack-pictured above)
  • Yard work, gardening
  • Walks, hikes, outdoor activities
This list makes me think that a smart phone is NOT a way for me to go.

8pm – My husband downloads a new app for his Ipad and wants some advice. I tell him I can help him tomorrow and realize that troubleshooting computers is one of the ways we connect.

So what did I learn from this short experiment? 
  • Many of the quick reference things that  I use the internet for I could get other ways, if I stocked reference materials in the house the way I used to—schedules, magazines with recipes, newspapers with weather etc. But those ways often involve more “work”, more looking, more finding and more calling.

  • I definitely feel less connected with my extended family when I can’t send them an email at the drop of a hat.
  • My real world is so integrated with the digital that it’s hard to know where one stops and the other begins.  I hardly know when I think of something I want to do whether it will lead to the internet or not.
  • The good news: My secret fear that I waste hours surfing the net is unrealized. I do turn to the internet for lots of functions, but I don’t just surf.   That said, I make a note to myself:  Stay conscious of exactly what job I am doing and  when done, stop. Close the lid.
This was an experiment worth doing.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to check my email.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Things You Shouldn’t Do with an IPad

There are many things you can do with an ipad. There are also many things that you shouldn’t do with an Ipad. 

An IPad is not a full service computer. Trying to make it one will be a frustrating, labor intensive waste of time. It will probably also make it an immobile mobile device.

Here’s a few things you should not do with your IPad.
  • Don’t try to fully format a document up to and including footnotes. (Even if you have an app that will do that, getting it out of the IPad will probably destroy part of the formatting.)
  • Don’t try to do track changes in a word document. (If you need this much of the functionality of Word, use a laptop or desktop computer.)

  • Don’t lug a keyboard twice the size and weight of the Ipad unless you know you will be
    a) typing a lotb) in a space where you’ll have a table to set up on. (It’s supposed to be mobile device.)
  • Don’t expect to find one app that will handle all your writing requirements - ability to take both stylus and typing input, lots of formatting ability, multiple options for importing and exporting documents. Different apps excel at different parts of the writing process. No app does it all.

  • Don’t try to use Numbers to create Excel spreadsheets. Don’t go from one spreadsheet to another. Pick one and stay with it.
The right tool for the right job, I always say. An IPad is not a computer.

Previous rant on the same topic is here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Motel Cabins

Abandoned Motel and CabinsWagon Wheel Lodge (3 of 4)Wagon Wheel Lodge (4 of 4)Sunset Court motel cabinsJohn's Modern Cabins Rt. 66Tip Top Motel (cabins) (2 of 2)
Row of abandoned motel cabinslittle pink cabinsDay Inns CabinsNine Mile Motel CabinsDCP_1029tiny beach cabins
Town n' Country Motel (#2 in a series)Outpost cabinsTroy's Cabin Camp aka Troy's Motor Court, New Hill, NCSeattle WA: Motor Inn cabins, Aurora Avenue, 1993Independence, CA, Mt. Williamson MotelNew Hampshire_20091126_081
Motel Cabins, a gallery on Flickr.

It was while working for the Census a number of years ago that I began to realize that many of the old motor courts and roadside cabins were in fact residences. Homes. That people actually lived in these re-purposed dwellings. 

I was trying to deliver census forms to places that might be used as living quarters, mostly to people who did not particularly want to be found. I discovered living in my midst were people in this substandard housing.

Were they glad to have this roof over their head or were they ashamed?
I feel profoundly conflicted about these places. Part of me says, “No one should have to live in these places.” But part of me knows that if I were penniless, I’d prefer to live in this kind of place than in a city tenement.

The gallery of images above was chosen from Flickr to illustrate this type of living situation, though I have no information about whether these units have been re-purposed for full time living. Thank you to all the Flickr photographers that allowed me to include their images here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Experiencing Art and Architecture Close Up

In what has become an ongoing series with me, here is another amazing animation of a building or art work, Frank Lloyd Wright's house Fallingwater.

Fallingwater from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

Thanks again to that amazing blog Open Culture.

You may also be interested in:
Seeing Art Better
More Art to Experience