Friday, October 31, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The Internet is amazing: this project is, at best, semi public and within seven days someone outside gets wind of it.
Ira will be in the country next year and I am hoping to ask him to come along to the OU to give us a talk. I am also hoping that I can interest the Milton Keynes Gallery to put on a computer art exhibition with, possibly, some of your efforts being displayed. Watch for more news on both these fronts in the next two months.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
It is worth noting that I have described three programs rather than the one I keep mentioning to you in various emails and pdf documents. There are some topics which would be suited by some smaller programs (the early topics) and there are some suited by a large program; I leave the choice up to you.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Well, I can see the end of the CD coming. I have around 600 of them in my study, the product of 27 years of buying. They have all been copied to a hard disk (if you are going to do this also use a backup disk, the copying was a numbing experience and I really don't want to repeat it). I now use an MP3 player (the excellent Sony Walkman) and play CDs on my laptop using a relatively inexpensive external sound card and a pair of Bose speakers. I am close to storing all the discs somewhere and emptying my study: I just don't need metal any more. The only reason for having them is vanity: they are a testament to my catholic tastes in music--Mozart sits uneasily next to Abba, for example.
The young do not buy CD players; they use MP3 players and docking stations. I find that the only CD players I see are more than four years old and owned by my generation.
The same will happen to books eventually. I tried out the Sony e-reader the other day. It has its faults: black and white and gray scale and no ability to play dynamic content. However, functionality will get better. In six to eight years time I would not be surprised to see the book in the same state as the CD is now. This whole process will also be accelerated by the increasing cheapness of small light laptops such as the Eee PC (click here for a review).
So I shall be taking your text, your programs and my podcasts and developing what I think might be the book of the future. It will probably be done in OpenOffice which has facilities for inserting applets and other media. Again, as with the book, there will be full author attribution to you all.
When I have done my first podcast I will let you know where it is and how you can download it.
There is also another reason for doing this project. I have managed academics for a long time and I have two principles that I use in my day-to-day management that can be applied anywhere. The first is that I always expect more from someone than they expect from themselves. This almost always works out. I think that we all have a natural diffidence about what we are capable of doing and this often shows at work. The second principle is to allow failure. If I expect more from my colleagues I have to give them the lifeline of believing that failure will occur and is a natural consequence of my approach to their working life.
So, this project involves my applying this principle to myself. Managing 85 authors and then editing the result of their work so that it forms a coherent whole is mightily ambitious. One of my colleagues told me that it is the closest that he has ever come to a bibliographic Titanic (he is also one of the two Walton Hall OU academics writing so he's joined the crew and is on the lookout for the icebergs).
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
- There's a good introduction to Processing (taken from Chapter 2 of the Greenberg book), click here
- There are a number of code examples that can be found by clicking here.
- There are also three tutorials. Click here to access them.
The volunteers for this project are beginning to come in: both students and ALs. I made the mistake of saying in my Sesame article that we were looking for students. In truth anyone with a knowledge of Java would do. This coming week I will be:
- Processing the offers of help.
- Writing a sample 2.5 k of words, probably of a section around 20-30.
- Developing some podcasts. I have recently bought some glitzy podcast equipment for my department and am keen to use it.
- An online book incorporating text, computer art and podcasts.
- A series of computer programs which can be used for illustrative purposes.
- An e-learning course.
So far, few problems. The only one that I had not anticipated was that a number of mainland Europe students are keen to get involved. The book token that we are sending out is for Waterstones. I am not sure that Waterstones cover mainland Europe so I am offering these students two options:
- We buy the book and ship it by parcel post
- They buy it and we send them the money.
That’s all for now. I will be updating this blog on a near weekly basis.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
I am a professor at the Open University. This is the largest government-supported university in the United Kingdom. It differs from other universities in that its students (over a million) study with us from their home. If you are interested in this unique British institution then click here.
During the summer I read a lot about Web 2.0 and became convinced that there might be some mileage in asking our students to help develop materials for teaching. I set up two projects: the first is the mass book writing project that this blog covers and the other is a course in e-learning. This course has an end assessment which asks the students to deliver 15 hours of e-learning materials. The material for the course has been developed and we hope to release it early in 2010 (The OU timescales are quite long!).
The book writing project involves OU students, and anyone else who wants to volunteer, writing a book about the Java-based computer-art system known as Processing.
A student who wants to contribute 2500 words to the project will carry out the following tasks:
- Email an offer to write to the OU.
- We will send them a voucher that will buy them a copy of a recently published book by Greenberg.
- They will then read the first 3 chapters of the book.
- We will give them access to a blog which contains a specification of 85 chunks of text about 2500 words in length.
- The student will then write it and also develop two sample computer programs
- The student will then send the final text and the two programs to the OU.