22 October 2015

Google Cardboard, spherical photos and new creative potential

A day exploring beyond #lakemountain
A 2D view of a spherical image. View it in a spherical viewer

I was initially skeptical, but curious about Cardboard. I’m skeptical of immersive and virtual reality in education generally, but I do like the approach Google brings to many things. With a name like Cardboard, it undermines the techno wonderment of its competitors, and offers up a product that almost anyone can access and even copy and appropriate.

What excited me most though, was the Google Camera app and it's ability to take spherical photos, for viewing in Cardboard, Google Maps and Google+. I’d seen these photos and videos before, but it wasn’t until I shot my first spherical photo that I realised some creative potential. 

A 2D image exported from a spherical image
after composing it in the spherical image viewer, screen capturing it, 

and then passing it through an image filter

I could see the additions I would make to Google Streetview for example, loading spherical photos of my favourite lookouts, parks and buildings, even interiors. I could see useful applications in journalism, where a scene was no longer composed into a frame - being the first editorial decision, but captured in a spherical image that encompasses much more contextual information of a scene or event. Similarly, I could see applications in some forms of evidence gathering, monitoring and surveillance, body worn cameras, and traffic cameras, where the extra contextual information could be of use, or vision on a full environment is necessary. 

But for me, exporting 2D frames from a screen viewed spherical image has opened up new ways of composing 2D images.

A 2D image exported from a spherical image 
after composing it in the spherical image viewer on a mobile phone 
and then screen capturing it
These images capture scale, such as trees and waterfalls that a normal 2D struggles to represent. And interesting distortions in the exported image give new compositional potential, similar but different to fisheye effects. 

And finally, I enjoy bringing home spherical photos for the kids to look at through the Cardboard viewer - it’s brought back the long lost family slide night.

09 October 2015

Open Badges, Social Capital, Advertising and Extra Curricular Activity

I've been involved in a very interesting project investigating how open badges might work in the profession of advertising, so as to better position RMIT graduates seeking to enter the profession.

Our project has just completed its research phase, where we've been focused on discussions with people about the project, the concept of badges and how it might be applied. From this we're developing a concept to pilot.

Open Badges are a tool looking for a job

The slogan, "it's not about the technology" has never really sat well with me. In my experience, it has always been about the technology. The Internet, software and Internet enabled devices enter our space absent any apparent need, yet they're compelling enough for some of us to want to look for something to do with it. I guess this is what is meant by the phrase, "disruptive technology", or even "technological determinism". I realise their is a deeper layer to this, relating to the ideology in the technology.

Open Badges seem to be like this. It's a technology that carries with it a certain ideology and proposes a way of doing and thinking about things. It isn't immediately obvious how badges might be used, but they have a proposal in them that is compelling enough for us to look for ways to use them. The technology embodies an ideology, makes a conceptional proposal, which can then cause a functional disruption. With badges, we find ourselves wondering the corridors showing the tool, making the conceptual proposals, to the point of engaging in the functional disruption. It might be that we suddenly realise something that we hadn't recognised before. The tool found the job.

Social Capital needs some light

In the case of professional advertising and the formal education of it as an industry entry point, it has been a very interesting space to test the proposal of badging. Aside from the initial degree and some early career professional development courses, the profession is not negotiated so much by structured accreditation, but more with social capital. There is a crude concept of professional development described with terms like "junior, midweight and senior" or "foundational, advanced and expert", but what really counts is your record of achievement, typically expressed in a portfolio, and more by those you have worked with.

Our discussions with industry representatives and practitioners have all expressed an almost prejudicial attitude toward recent graduates of a degree in advertising, generally believing them to be not even junior or foundational in their status. When pressed to explain how they come to this general perception, these same people show that they are not entirely aware of the sorts of work and projects the graduates have done in their studies.

Take for example the course taught by Kerin Elsum: Advertising Professional Practice 2. Students effectively operate as professional advertisers, of real campaign projects, in real advertising agencies. Kerin has also established a number of extra curricular activities that her students take on, namely Pitch Night and Hungry Talks. These events involve activities that are essentially real-world professional practice, involving budgets and large audience. They have evolved into branded events in their own right, quite distinct from being simply an RMIT student activity.

It is curious to us, why these and other activities don't count as professional experience to the industry representatives we've spoken to. Perhaps if the detail and evidence of these activities were made more apparent, our emerging professionals would be better received into the industry than if they were to simply say, "I have a degree with transcript attached".

Advertising a symbiotic relationship

It becomes apparent to us that badging real professional activities should be thought of as a symbiotic advertising arrangement between the individual and the agency they have worked with.

To explain: an individual's profile that features the visual brand of a well known agency, and linking that listing to any examples of the work they did with that agency, is obviously a strong display of that individual's work experience. If that agency's brand is widely recognised, then all the more so for the individual claiming it as their work experience.

Likewise in the other direction. If an individual displays an agency's brand in their work experience, then that is a reinforcement of that agency's status in the profession. If the individual is widely recognised for their talent, then all the more for the agency that has associated with that individual.

The same can be said for specific projects, events or campaigns. Many people use LinkedIn exactly this way.

Think of Google's accreditation program. With an Adwords Certificate an individual is displaying the brand-verified skill they have with that brand's product. Likewise, Google's brand and product is gaining value as people display it and thus give it value.

Extra Curricular Activity and how we advertise social capital using badges

So this is how we're thinking badges would work in advertising, especially for those entering the profession. For those who do real work, inside a recognised agency, project, event or campaign, they will be given a badge that displays the branding of that agency, project, event or campaign. It won't come from their educational provider, as this must be recognised as real and legitimate work. By coming from the agency, project, event or campaign, we're aiming to support a symbiotic relationship around social capital.

But it's not as if we are wanting to leave this entirely up to the agency, project, event or campaign. We believe this system will need a broker, someone to manage the issuing and verification. And there is no better person in this instance than the teacher who coordinates the course in which the agency placements, projects, events and campaigns take place.

Our teacher is now working to convince the agencies and project coordinators that badging is a symbiotic advertising relationship between them and the individuals receiving the badges. For her students the value should be self evident - it is an opportunity to use the visual brand of the agency, project, event or campaign in their CVs, and to link to those symbols the evidence that shows exactly what it is they did and why it was of value. This will help to articulate in significantly more detail their professional experience over and beyond their degree and transcript. The goal is to foreground the real and valid professional work they have done.

By making herself the broker, Kerin will evidence the significant social capital she herself has accumulated - having been able to bring all these agencies and events together so as to offer her students the opportunities that her courses provide. By issuing badges on behalf of the agencies, projects, events and campaigns, she is building a database of professional talent, complete with a record of their achievements and the evidence of that. There is potential here for her role to develop into something additional to teacher... and here we have a motivation to engage in Massive Open Online Course development.

14 September 2015

Displaying ONPhD badges

I've spent a few hours today revisiting badges. I wanted to work out how to display badges on my LinkedIn profile.

To date, I've used Credly to issue, receive and manage badges. Turns out it's simple to link Credly badges to LinkedIn, as well as embed Credly badges on any website with the supplied iFrame code.

Below is an embed of the Credly badges I have received for work toward an Open and Networked PhD. These same badges are now on my LinkedIn profile (in the form of a graphic link) in the Education section. Credly does support a more direct way of Add to Profile on LinkedIn, but only when the badges are issued from a verified Credly account. 

Will we stay with OBI?

As services like LinkedIn enter the badge space it will be important but difficult to remind people to try and avoid lock in to any particular platform or service. The Mozilla Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) is an open standard set up early, and all services entering the Badge space should be adhering to that standard so that people can easily move their badges across future services. Credly is one such service, and it is therefore easy to send your Credly badges through to another platform that supports the OBI. Here are my ONPhD badges displaying in the Mozilla Backpack for example. Like all good things digital, keeping commercial services adhering to this standard will be difficult. They'll all be trying to knock out their competition, and corner their markets. 

Some commentary on Badges

While badges as a concept have generated a bit of excitement in the online learning world over recent years, it is fare to say that there appears to be some reluctance in their use. Some of this could be attributed to the name "badges" evoking a not-so-serious feeling around them, but this informal usefulness is precisely what attracts me to them. Badges conceivably support a more open and networked (authentic) practice of teaching and learning. 
Here's a lovely little graphic by Grainne Hamilton and Doug Belshaw explaining some of the potential of badges to support a broader range of learning.
Others feel that badges may already be superfluous, arguing that social capital, in the age of social media and networking, already serves the function of badges for some professions. 
Some see (hope) for an end of the monopoly of degrees, opting instead for a diverse range of badge types, some formal, many informal, to illustrate a person's educational achievements and connect them up to work and networks. 

A Badge Project at RMIT

I'm involved in a small project to explore, develop and pilot a badge project here at RMIT (link forthcoming). This blog post has been some notes of some initial review research on the topic before we get going with it.

28 August 2015

Mark Smithers' 20 years on

In response to Mark Smithers' post, 20 Years in eLearning, where he laments the wrongs and rights of eLearning as generally implemented in universities, and proposes that we place less emphasis on a teaching academic doing 'it' for themsleves, and surround them with designers and specialists to carry them into a world of new practice...

I'm going to attempt a usual left-of-field response, but first let me say I'm very impressed you've held out 20 years, and that after all that time you're still optimistic and energetic enough to put yourself out there. I'm a little over half your time and I'm just about spent!
I certainly agree with your summary of what 'we' did wrong. But I pause at your use of it to lobby for more educational designers and specialists.
I'm going to use that wonderful quote against your proposal: 
Perfection (in design) is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
What if we did that, seriously. Took away The LMS, the institutional email, the lecture capture, the IT support, the educational designers and developers, the layers and layers of admin and managers, the obsessive codification, hell! At least 2/3rds of the modern university - especially if networks of teachers and learners have formed beyond any institution (such as in our field). Basically get rid of anything and everything that stands between someone who can teach and someone who wants to learn. All that would remain would be some buildings, some labs and special equipment, WiFi, teachers and students and very simple administration.

But there would be design:
We'd put down some compelling principles that guide practice. Not a "strategic plan" like all the other university strategic plans I've seen out there, but a manifesto of sorts, compelling, relevant, editable, and supported by logical and fresh policies. I like "Free access to the sum of all human knowledge" for example, but that's been taken. Oh look! We might have found a leading partner...

I think we all agree that openness be a principle... I would hope that those principles be shaped by what we discover in how people learn outside the institutions. Very very little research goes on there. Maybe we could collect what little there is and use it in the Wikipedia article for Networked Learning. An an example of policy inspired by these new principles, you might check out the Proposed Policy on Intellectual Property I helped develop while at Uni of Canberra. The NTEU glowingly endorsed it.. I'm very proud of this work, I'm sad it has not been recognised.
We'll also need to accept that the vast majority of practice will be 'poor'. As it always has been. I think our anxiety over the problem of successfully scaling online practice is unwarranted. I'm sure the same ratio existed before the Internet, it was just less obvious. The problem is systemic, if you take an Illich frame of mind. Universities are autocratic societies with almost no free agency, no democratic process, utterly disenfranchising, and arguably more like a medium of social control than of intellectual freedom and development. Even more so now that 70% of the workforce is casual, precarious and directed. This would be an interesting field of research to pursue. I'm convinced that institutionalised education has bureaucratised teaching and learning right out of people, and that we can work to undo a great deal of that.
I realise that such a change process seems far outside our reach. Such are the layers of hierarchy, payscales and control that systematically cause us to think so low. But perhaps your proposed solution could be used to create that change. But I would suggest that more of 'us' start teaching in the mainstream, and/or make evident to the mainstream our various ways of teaching and learning - after we better articulate the principles we generally embody, freed from the institutional constraints. Let's try and resist interfering with other teachers via managerial mandates. Let's offer to teach with them, in a friendly kind of way, to demonstrate or lead by example, and withdraw if our principles are compromised. I had the opportunity to do it once, at the University of Canberra, teaching a subject I knew little about, with a co-teacher who did . We networked that course. If you search "BPS2011" you'll see the online footprint we left in one single instance of the course. Assessments were multilingual, student generated content. The exam was a spectacular event! It was a remarkable success in taking a failing course and turning it around using those same principles we have not yet articulated, and all without triggering any of the bureaucracy of the host university. Sadly, the main teacher came back from holidays and went back to their old ways, but the students and other staff saw the difference. We inspired a change in imagining of what was possible, but the university system eventually crushed all hope of it scaling, as the casuals moved on and the full timers quit...

10 August 2015

Controlling the Social Construct

Nearly 100 years ago, Edward Bernays conceived of an advertising campaign that leveraged the Suffragette movement to compel women to smoke cigarettes. That campaign was called Torches of Freedom. We can only imagine the extent of public relations today!


Social constructs of learning theory

With that in mind, why hasn't the main theoretical framework that shapes education been seriously challenged? In fact, so granted is the constructivist world view that few feel the need to articulate or discuss it.

The Vygostky derived ideas of Social Constructivism, or the Piaget derived ideas of a more individualised constructivism, lead many of us to believe activities like group work, discussion forums, debates, open access, replication and reinterpretation, online networked learning etc, are appropriate ways for education to be conducted. Perhaps they are not, if all that we think is a managed message bouncing against a controlled opposition.

The antisocial construct

Anyone who has spent any time outside Western social constructs knows that the constructivist world view is limited and problematic. Chet Bowers touches on the problems in his (unfinished, in my view) book, False Promises of Constructivism. I've skirted around the edges of them with posts tagged neocolonialism.

Those intercultural problems included, I want to question the premise of social constructivism, in these days. It's been nearly 100 since it was shaped from a peasant and aristocratic society struggling through industrialisation toward modernity. A similar amount of time since Edward Bernays fired up his "torches of freedom".

I'm wondering if individuals and their societies really do freely construct their knowledge and understanding, or is it more likely constructed for them, through the professions, their educative curricula, marketing, media, public relations, controlled opposition, psychological operations and worse? And if this is so, what then of social constructivism as a learning theory?

Poster sourced from a Facebook stream, author unknown

It is surely common knowledge that powerfully resourced people pay institutions, organisations and others to work tirelessly at constructing messages aimed at shaping and limiting public opinion, market demand, consumer behaviour, student motivation, research outputs, and so on. To what degree these efforts dominate? How much do those efforts shape our individual and collective world view, knowledge and understanding?

You might say that those powerfully resourced message makers are still within the social frame of social constructivism, but my questions ask if their is anything other than their domination. Is there anything in the way of free social construction going on? Is it all designed and controlled? Even perhaps my questions? Certainly at least, they're prepared for my questions.

The Fourth Estate

We hope that a Fourth Estate exists to check and balance the power of rulers. If we thought it was found in the Media, we should take a look over its history and think again.

Perhaps it's found in the universities then, with the corruption of research and academic integrityacademic capitalismmanagerialism and crass performance measures that restrict intellectual freedoms. I'd like to see Adam Curtis deal with universities, much like he did with The Trap.

I'm inclined to think of universities much in the same way as the media, and increasingly so. They both orchestrate a curriculum of sorts - a managed message of curricula, confined to the limits of controlled opposition. Both have overt and covert objectives and measured outcomes. Their directions and plans are controlled and managed by a narrowing professional type, with not-so-mysterious links to corporate elites and oligarchical power. The salaries of Australian university Vice Chancellors speaks volumes.

What is left of intellectual freedom (if there ever was such thing) has been marshaled to the logic of academic capitalism. Social scientists and anthropologists now teach business, marketing and human resource management. Everything is pushed to a determined vocational outcome and "employability" is the strange choral sung across the sector this year. Who does this serve most of all?

Plato's Allegory of the cave by Jan Saenredam in 1604

The Internet

So with the Fourth Estate looking like a figment of our imagination, or a fig leaf over privatisation, we look to the Internet and the idea that free thought and association can exist there, at enough scale to be the defacto Fourth Estate. But rest assured, the powerful are never going to be far away. They just need a little more time to conceive of today's "torches of freedom".

As we watch a consolidation of Internet services to just a few corporate giants, they're privately collecting our massive data for exclusive insights into population behavior patterns with zoom functionality right in on an individual. Combine this power with the resources to test, stimulate and react to those insights... they must be dizzy with the possibilities. Even the universities are in on it.

So we see, via leaks, 'illegal' disclosure, and agitational propaganda, outrageous world trade agreements being signed; black-op wars being waged toward planned conclusions (See 7B); private collection of detailed demographic data; governments passing laws that intrude on people's privacy, who does not think it fascism?

Efforts to realise a more equitable distribution of access to the means of digital production - such as Free Software, Free Media, Open Data, Open Access, Crowd Source and Open Source, are largely ignored by those same governments and public services. All this in an era of an apparently free thinking and vocal Internet! Either the power of the Internet is an illusion, or its power is inconsequential to the oligarchs who are very much in control.

Random Acts of Gentle Anarchy

You might call 'Arab Spring' for the Internet, as though such things take place in an ideal bubble of human righteousness. Why not pause to consider the possibility of it being swiftly and mostly a managed message and controlled opposition, to enable a larger plan of geopolitical power grabbing, financed through resource theft and a myriad of private interests in war economies. It's the way it always has been!

Russell Brand, EXPOSED... The Fabian Society connection, and the white dog trews logo!

So if there is no Fourth Estate with any semblance of power, then what is left to be said of the idea of social constructivism, or democracy?

And then to begin, The Story of Your Enslavement

26 June 2015

Online identity, work spaces and folios – a celebration of awareness

This post was originally published on the Teaching Tom Tom.

This sign welcomes visitors to the main building of the Googleplex (Google’s company headquarters) at 
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway in Mountain View, California. Source: Coolcaesar on Wikimedia Common

Who are you?

Shall we start with a quick Google search on your name? Web, image, video, news, and scholar.

I do it as a matter of course when considering new people to work with, or in preparation for applying for work. I want to know what a person looks like; to gain some insight into how they work online (or not); to get an overview on the sorts of things they have done in the past; and to get a sense for what their identity is, online. There is a significance to me, in what is revealed in such a search and what is not.

Is it too simple to say that an online folio is a search result for a person’s or project’s name, and an online workspace is the Internet as a whole? This online workspace is not a single publishing platform or content management system – the Internet is the platform. Some of us might be a bit stuck on this, but this perspective becoming mainstream is probably inevitable if it’s not already a reality.

Cover of International Multimedia School Magazine
“trait d’union” n° 03-2003.
Topic: “our identity. Creator of the mask:
Antonia Lent, German School of Toulouse (2003).
Photographer: Lothar Thiel. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Most people who do a search on their name come to realise that the search result is essentially the first page of their online identity – their folio. It could be personal, it could be professional, often it’s both. Their next realisation might be that the way they work online, the processes, platforms, linkages and associations in the data that they generate, all has an impact on their portfolio-as-a-search-result. Their search terms and saved bookmarks, the media they upload and download, their playlists, click-through history, viewing times, purchase history, GPS location, and strength of linkage to other people, collaborators and projects. All this data is built up around us as we work online, and can be used to create, shape and grow a personalised and professional workspace. It can be harnessed to improve the quality and efficiency of our work. Our search results on topics of inquiry can become more targeted, or recommendations and linkages can be made more relevant. This includes advertisers and surveillance agencies of course, which at this point in time at least, we might consider as our symbiotic relationship.

You’re a machine

In 2004, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson created a video about this future that we now live in. They called it the Evolving Personalised Information Construct (EPIC2014). Their video starts in black, with a flickering light in the distance. A narrator reads, “it is the best of times, it is the worst of times…”

In 2007 Dr Michael Wesch expanded on this topic and published the incredibly popular video, The Machine is Using Us, now at nearly one million seven hundred thousand views. This video explained an EPIC hypertext reality, 7 years before Sloan and Thompson thought it would come to pass.

While we’re talking about Michael, check out his online folio. As you do that, it’s worth considering how the strength of Michael’s online identity impacts on those that link to him, such as his students at Kansas State University.

Goshen College Choir 1958-1974
Source: Mennonite Church USA Archives on Wikimedia Commons

A cog in a wheel

In the College of Design and Social Context at RMIT University, a range of educational development projects are interested in this line of inquiry, and in the kinds of operating principles that might inform the design of learning activities and assessment tasks. Tasks that ask people to manage their online workspaces, professional identities and portfolios.

At RMIT though, like many other universities, a specified workspace is provided that impacts on this conception of a professional identity, precisely because it has become a central and major entity of the Internet – Google.

To some, Google is a good platform choice. It is a very relevant and effective toolset in a university that needs to show ‘industry relevance’, productivity gains and expenditure savings. To some others though, they think that RMIT should be more concerned about data sovereignty and maintaining local IT skills. They would ask, “should an offshore advertising company with questionable links to surveillance agencies be getting intimate access to data about a large population base, especially a university one?

Who are you tomorrow?

As we ask people to use the Internet in their work, and in RMIT’s case – Google in particular, we’re asking people to shape their online workspace into a personalised space with professional relevance. Their connection to us is recorded, their connection to each other is recorded, what they do with their online identity all combines to teach “The Machine” to use them, and be used by them.

What happens to these online identities when the people leave though? Their accounts are disabled! They’re effectively deleted, or held in limbo until that person comes back into the organisation.

What about people who have already built themselves an online workspace, a professional identity and folio? Should they stop with that and rebuild another one? Won’t they dilute their online identities, especially students, casuals, contractors and other transients?

Additionally, if RMIT continues to limit the functionality of an RMIT/Google account by not enabling Youtube accounts, Maps, Classroom or the use of Addons for instance, what impact is that decision having on the account holder’s development of a professional workspace and online folio?

All this seems at considerable odds with RMIT’s graduate capabilities around Lifelong Learning.

A temporary role

I’ve raised these RMIT/Google account issues with anyone willing to talk about them, on behalf of the projects I’m assisting with, in the hope of better understanding RMIT’s position and conceiving a workable solution. I’ve had a few things pointed out to me so far:

  1. Perhaps managing multiple online identities is a critical literacy, and a student account is a ‘practice’ space before developing their real workspace. Related to this is the reality that industry workspaces are also going to prescribe an account that contributes to the complexity around a person’s online identity and workspace.
  2. RMIT is a large and international organisation and needs to implement a system that can work consistently across that organisation. Our partners in Vietnam for example, have not agreed to the full use of a product like Google, citing performance and other issues.
  3. An account with @rmit.edu.au is branded RMIT, and what a person does with that account impacts the RMIT brand and RMIT’s liability.
  4. There are legal implications for RMIT accounts using Youtube channels or Addons, relating to Intellectual Property.

Practically though, when a staff member or a student needs or wants a Youtube account, or to turn on an Addon, or to Create a Map, they simply work around the limitations and use their own Google accounts. I’ve been advised that there is no policy or procedure in RMIT that would regulate or prevent such practice.

Youtube for instance, the third or fourth most used website by Australians, and not just for watching funny cat videos either, has long been sociologically important, a media phenomenon over the past 10 years with significant cultural impact. RMIT’s teachers, researchers, students and administrators should have by-now developed deep critical awareness around this. But they have not on the whole, not while their RMIT accounts can’t engage it. RMIT remains technically disengaged.

Mummified Nile catfish (Middle Kingdom) placed in a tomb for the deceased to eat in the afterlife on display at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, California. RC 2182. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Retain something of yourself

With all these realities, issues and workarounds in mind, we might then consider the idea of advising people to primarily use their own accounts over their RMIT provided ones, because the development of online workspaces and folios are long term projects starting now, and continuing well beyond their life as students and staff members.

To most, this suggestion will appear too subversive, “taking a long walk off the reservation”, as a good colleague puts it. But in another light it might only be a minor conceptual shift. It is certainly inline with the practical realities at universities that are not deploying Google accounts. The staff and students at those universities simply use Google like any other external web service when required. One that is not limited by the University-wide settings or legalities over an account that in reality is on loan to them and never really ‘owned’ by the user who’s identity it actually is!

A BYO account has longer term benefits for transient people in the university, such as students, casual and part time staff – which I hear is most of us now.

“There’s nothing casual about casual employment. The working conditions experienced by tens of thousands of casual academics in Australia’s public and private universities demonstrate that casualisation, as an employment strategy, is both widespread and systemic.” Source: NTEU Website

Celebrate the awareness

To conclude this never ending libertarian dilemma then, if it is deemed inappropriate that an offshore advertising corporation with links to foreign surveillance agencies has deep ties to the research data and communications within a university; and if the university that is using that service does not enable the full features of that service anyway – thereby impacting on the productivity, professional identity and portfolio of its staff and graduates, it might be better to do away with the limited service and make arrangements for services that do better in terms of data sovereignty and personal responsibility and control (if that exists, look to the open source, open data and hacker communities for committed innovation in this space).

So, the university drops Google so that we can use Google. Better still, the university seeks out a partnership and invests in communication and documentation services that genuinely give us some options outside the profit and surveillance driven motives. In the meantime, we might make it our responsibility to raise awareness around all of this. We’ll design learning activities and assessment tasks that help people manage their online identities and establish life-long learning efficacy. And we’ll celebrate the readiness of our staff and graduates by citing the confidence of their online work practices and the self evident strength of their portfolios…

25 May 2015

How to create a website using Google Drive (Drivesite)

Here's a Youtube playlist on how to create a website using Google Drive, from total beginner, through to most advanced.

The Drivesite concept

If you're working in a team with varying abilities all collaborating on producing content, and/or if that content needs to feature on more than one site and you'd like to cut down on the time it takes to update those sites, then consider using Google Drive to create a site that can be embedded in another site, such as Blackboard. You or your team need only update the documents in Google Drive, and those updates will automatically take place everywhere you have embedded your "Drivesite".

How does it work?

Embedding is a word used for taking content from one site and displaying it inside another site. Embedding is a well known feature of Youtube, and many other 'Web2' services. It's not making a copy of the content, it is simply displaying the content from it's original location in a different location. It's a fancy way of linking.

Embedding uses the iFrame HTML tag. It's a tag worth getting to know because you can easily reuse it to embed other forms of content, any content that has a URL or web address. Here's an example iFrame tag:

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/videoseries?list=PLhJG80urSiFhyWZpBswRRXoJSZ7G6CePX" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

You paste that code in your website's editor box, in HTML editing mode. This code is displaying a Youtube video at 560 pixels wide by 315 pixels high. Notice that "frameboarder is 0? This means the embedded content is set to have no boarder, but if you change the "frameboarder" to 1, you'll create a thin 1 pixel thick black line for a boarder. And this iFrame allows a viewer to click the video to make it full screen.

Reusing iFrames

Now, you can reuse this code to embed content from other websites, or whole websites if you like. Just swap out the Youtube URL https://www.youtube.com/embed/Z5N0Oy6hzGY for the URL of the content you'd prefer. For example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMIT_University - the Wikipedia entry for RMIT University. Sometimes, you might know the URL for that website's mobile version, and using a mobile version of a website to embed can be a good way of reducing the graphic noise when embedding sites within sites. In Wikipedia's case it's https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMIT_University (notice the m. added into the URL).

It's important to note that iFrames don't always work on some browsers, especially when embedding a mobile view of a site. Some browsers get confused when you're trying to force a mobile display version of a site on a non-mobile device, like a desktop. So test your work on the common browsers.