The “Engelbart” App

Last week I promised my peers I would write about the two supplemental readings we used in our New Media seminar here at USC Upstate.  Seminar leader Cindy Jennings sent us this blog post by Jon Udell, Fear not, book lovers. The future of marginalia is bright!  After reading his post I also read the instigating NY Times article, Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins.

The NY Times article is about marginalia and how useful margin notes have been for researchers handling the actual texts owned by authors, scholars, and others.  Margin notes can be seen as a conversation between author and reader that the modern scholar gets to overhear.  They are a useful scholarly resource.  The article bemoans the difficulty of making and saving “marginal” notes on electornic texts.  As we increasingly move away from printed on paper texts we may be losing a valuable resource for future scholars.

Jon Udell responds to this article by recommending a “network of cloud-based personal data stores.”  Jon comments on the problems of old style marginalia, i.e., only accesible to person holding the book.  if you lose the book, then you lose the comment, etc. He notes the “long” tradition of intra-work citation available through the web.  He notes some of the earlier tools used and also describes their drawbacks.

As we discussed this in our seminar we noted how Doug Engelbart’s dreams included ways for this accessibility and intra-work and multiple work linking to take place.  My idea, and I am not a coder, is for someone to create an “Engelbart” App.  A web-based app that would work on any OS that would always be on that could be instantly used to link an article or post with current comments and citations and immediately save it to one or more locations.  One location would be cloud based and another could be the readers/commenters computer, and another might be an institutional server (if a university or corporation).  This would be good Knowkedge Management practice and a way of logging the creative process and output in at least a skeletal format.

Interested coders take note!  This idea is available and the market for an app like this should be huge!

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Spring 2011 New Media Faculty Seminar

Welcome to the home of the Upstate New Media Faculty Seminar 

Spring 2011!

About the spring seminar:

This seminar is a continuing conversation about origins of digital media and consideration of possible meanings for education brought forward from the Networked Faculty Seminar hosted by Baylor University and the New Media Consortium last fall.  The spring 2011 seminar offering is being jointly sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence and the Department of Instructional Technology.

When & Where?

The session meet this semester most Thursday afternoons at 4:00 p.m. in the IT Conference Room, Admin. 102.




January 27 -
Introduction to the Seminar – Why? Reflections and Conversations & How? Process and Format Agreements
First readings:
a. The New Media Reader, A User’s Manual – Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Nick Montfort, pp. xi-xiv
b. Inventing the Medium – Janet H. Murray, pp. 3-11.

February 3 -
Held over from session 1:
a. The New Media Reader, A User’s Manual – Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Nick Montfort, pp. xi-xiv
b. Inventing the Medium – Janet H. Murray, pp. 3-11.

February 10
As We May Think – Vannevar Bush, pp. 35-47 in the New Media Reader
Also available via The Atlantic Monthly online:

February 17
Visit the Doug Englebart Institute:
Video: The Mother of All Demos:
Optional: Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework, pp. 93-108 in the New Media Reader

February 24
Jon Udell: Fear Not Book Lovers, The Future of Marginalia is Bright:

March 3
TED Talks/Best of the Web (2010), Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

March 17
Donna Haraway: A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, pp. 515-541 in the New Media Reader

March 24
Langdon Winner: Mythinformation, pp. 587 – 598.

March 31
William S. Burroughs: The Cut-Up Method of Brion Gysin. pp. 89-91 in the New Media Reader.
Homework for this session is to apply the method to a selection of your own and bring to share.

April 7

April 14

April 21

April 28

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Lurking to learn or why I can’t/won’t buy a domain for full buy-in #ds106

Well, I had good intentions when I commented pledging my participation over at bavatuesdays way back in early December as I caught the early conversation about the whirling dervish that is – unfolding now right before our very eyes.  What with all those storytelling masters congregating in one place, who could resist?

Well, the realities of January 2011 are setting in. (And honestly, I don’t even know why I am posting about this – as there are upwards of 200-some-odd highly motivated story crafters already in there. I am quite sure I will not be missed). I feel a need to explain nonetheless. You see, it is all about hats – not for sale, but hats I wear. Here goes my list:
Hat #1 – the ‘wifely’ hat. I have been married upwards of 30 years. Mr. odnett expects a certain amount of time on a daily basis. I think I’ll keep working on making sure that happens.
Hat #2 – the ‘motherly’ hat. I have 2 children in college. One is about to graduate…is DEEPLY in the throes of what to do next. She is applying to grad schools all over the place, trying for a Fulbright – a driven young woman. Very high maintenance. One is a freshman barely finding his way. He is in danger of losing his scholarships. Need I say more?
Hat #3 – the ‘teacherly’ hat. I am teaching an online course in information literacy for nurses. This is a regular assignment. It is one I really, really like. Because I like it – a LOT – it takes a good bit of time.
Hat #4 – the ‘student’ hat. I am actually enrolled in course work for credit towards another master’s degree. I know, don’t say it. But…I like that too. BEING a student/on the receiving end is a good experience to inform the teacherly hat.
Hat #5 – the ‘geekytech’ hat. I DO have a job. I work daily bringing opportunities to colleagues to learn about teaching and learning with technology at my institution. I REALLY, REALLY like this hat too. It is another one that takes a lot of time and energy to balance on my head.
There are some others – these are the main ones.
Now…full participation in #ds106 starts off with the acquiring of a domain. I just can’t. I just can’t take on something else that will require care and feeding. I already have sites all over the place to support all of the various things I  do above. Some of them are nearly orphans as it is (like this blog, for instance). I just will not add to my guilt load one more thing that needs regular attention. I know, if I were a better ‘manager’ of my ‘personal cyberinfrastructure’ maybe I wouldn’t be writing this. But there it is.
So, I’ll opt for lurking and learning – something that I am a master at. I won’t apologize for it. Someday, when my neck is not breaking from the weight of the above, maybe I’ll be more apt to share. For now, I’ll content myself with watching the happenings and learning vicariously. But, hey – vicarious/observational learning is quite legit.

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Personal Dynamic Media, the Notebook, and Alan Kay

I really enjoyed this reading from the New Media Reader.  “…Kay thought computers could be used even by children, and could be used creatively.”   The idea that small portable computers would become general-purpose tools for everyone was very forward thinking in the mid-1970′s.  Even the idea of personal desktop computers was an advanced concept–let alone making those computers portable.  All of his ideas seem centered around using computers creatively with user designed software.

I was taken with the concept of children creatively using computers for play.  The Dynabook concept of the dynamic manipulation of information in creating it and editing it via drawing, painting, animation, and music and that these things could be done by children.  The creation of the Smalltalk programming language made it possible for anyone to create tools that would allow them to do more creative things.  This encouraged a process where users (of any age) could build on their previous work and improve tools for greater creativity and higher levels of usefulness.

I got intrigued by Smalltalk and began doing some research and found this history written by Alan Kay.  I discovered that there are very active Smalltalk user and development groups still working internationaly on this language and that it was included in the OLPC (One Laptop per Child) computers. It is open source and available in several places including Squeak, here, and the link above.  Smalltalk is where the GUI (graphical user interface) was first developed.

Alan Kay is still working creatively and challenging us all.  He demonstrates some Smalltalk in this 2007 TED presentation.  I think I’ve become an Alan Kay fan which is not a bad thing.

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Gaining Clarity

Just in case I have been unclear by being brief and just implying the connections and meanings that I intend I will make another effort.  I find the material we are reading to be incredibly interesting in light of times in which they were written.  If I had read these things in 1973 and 1974 when I took the only two computer programming classes that I have ever taken, I might have immediately gone to graduate school or a working situation where I could learn more.

Reading them now still encourages and inspires me about the possibilities for education and creativity to be extended as the ideas, theories, and dreams of the authors of these works are still being developed and implemented.  The impact of Bush, Engelbart, and Nelson have inspired a generation of creative artists, writers, academics, coders, and hackers (hacker in the sense of creative innovation [see mashup]).   Now there are new leaders, thinkers, and technologies with much to offer.  Consider immersive technology as a way to learn and teach which is part of Gardner’s student’s dreams, Jill Walker Rettberg’s writing and teaching about electronic/hypertext literature, and Lilia Efimova’s writing about blogs.  These scholars would not be dreaming the dreams and doing the work they are doing today without the work that has gone before.  This list of those to whom we are indebted is not comprehensive.

So thanks to you Gardner and Alan for extending the invitation to us in outlying areas to learn along with you and all your other students.

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Computer Lib/Dream Machines and Gardner’s Young Colleagues

Computer Lib/Dream Machines speaks to me.  The message I hear from Ted Nelson is that computers are a versatile creative tool accessible (in the sense of graspable) to anyone who is willing to learn, experiment, and play with them.  It is that sense of creative play that energizes me when I read Computer Lib/Dream Machines.  Nelson clearly advocates computer knowledge/access for everyone.  Also, that computers are tools for the creation, sharing, and display of media.  Nelson’s thoughts on education are also worth considering, especially letting students have more control over their learning.  This wasn’t to radical since Summerhill has been around since 1921.  Nelson is visionary and has lots of ideas, though not all easily achievable.  Hypertext is one of those ideas that has changed the world.

Yesterday, after finishing the Computer Lib/Dream Machines reading I was thinking about what I might write for this blog.  It was then that I read Gardner’s blog about his undergraduate students and the work Gardner was participating in in Barcelona.  I began to get fired up thinking about his students contributions to OpenEdTech 2010.  I liked his students ideas about creating learning environments that are MMO games.  Where students help create and extend the environment while learning through the completion of quests.  Some quests might be solo and some require small groups or the whole class to achieve.  Students could toggle between the MMO and resources available in another browser window.  I think their ideas could enhance learning for many students.  Thanks Gardner for sharing their thoughts with us.

These ideas are extensions of the creative dreams that Ted Nelson was having 30 plus years ago.

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About A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect

I found our latest reading to be more understandable, i.e., less dense.  It is rich in its implications as well as the applications it describes.  The applications can readily be seen in the Mother of All Demos series of video segments.  The hardware innovations are pretty amazing for 1968, but are not the most important part of the work that Engelbart was doing.

I think the most important part of what Engelbart was doing has to be the process he was creating and refining for working in groups. It is the way he took the “bootstrapping” aspect of the ARC and ran with it.  Here is a statement from the introduction to the essay.

“ARC worked on a “bootstrapping” principle—in which users would use their tools both for their work and for the creation of better tools.  Engelbart envisioned users creating tools, sharing tools, and altering the tools of others.”

In 2d3 Engelbart and English write and I’ll paraphrase it, “…the evolving system itself is designed to augment the system-development team.”  Then in 2e, “This “bootstrap” group has the interesting (recursive) assignment of developing tools and techniques to make it more effective at carrying out its assignment.”  And that they did.

Thierry Bardini says in Bootstrapping (2000), “But Douglas Engelbart never really gets credit for the larger contribution that he worked to create: an integrative and comprehensive framework that ties together the technological and social aspects of personal computing technology.”  Bardini was seeking to give Douglas Engelbart the credit he deserves as are we who continue to study and learn from his work and his vision.

Thinking about Engelbart’s research process and the learning that was taking place in that inspirational cauldron brought to mind a contemporary of his in the field of instructional design.  Robert Gagne wrote, The Conditions of Learning in 1965.  His “Nine Events of Instruction” mesh pretty well with the process that Engelbart was using.

It seems to me that the ubiquity of computers and the internet of today go well beyond what Engelbart was imagining in the late 60′s.  We use computers for entertainment, routine work, communication, and problem solving.  But the great problem solving and enhancing of human intellect that Engelbart had hoped for seems only to be a small part of what computers get used for today.  Nevertheless we owe a great deal to Engelbart’s vision and creativity.

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Another Leg of the Journey

I had some trouble making my way through Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect.  What helped me most to follow and comprehend his writing was to mentally come at his work, not as the computer literate person I am now, but the novice I was 37 years ago when I first learned to program BASIC.  When I did that, I could more easily see how Engelbart’s terms and descriptions fit the practices that did not include a GUI.  It helped that I could remember the frustration of typing code on a teletype keyboard (and saving it on paper tape) and then trying to run the program and figure out what I did or didn’t do that kept the program from running properly.  Engelbart was already ahead of where many computer classes were at that time.

The beauty of what Engelbart suggested was a more intuitive way of handling our thought processes and using a computer to do it faster and organize it in ways that could quickly assemble and reassemble our thinking (research).  I think associative thought trails are ways of doing this and for some may not be as intuitive a process as it is for others, but what he was invisioning was flexible enough to be used by anyone regardless of their preferred learning process or thinking style. 

I think the difficulty of following Engelbart’s thinking is his using linear text to describe what is clearly a non-linear process.  He was already using his augmented process with some ease, but in this report he was limited to a description of the process he was using.  I think all the video’s of his work and the examples he used communicate so much more completely his ideas.

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Wordle of the Day

Now that I’ve read Vanevar Bush’s As We May Think and Douglas Engelbart’s Augmenting Human Intellect (my textbook finally came) I have all these terms running through my mind and somewhat jumbled together.  So, I created this Wordle with the key terms and ideas that I gleaned from them.  These will need to percolate a while as I think about where they were then and where we are now.

This word grouping seems pretty expressive to me.  I am looking forward to our next class!

Note:  I tried pasting the Wordle code in, but I could not get it to work.  Those who are more tech savvy feel free to offer assistance.

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An attempt to explain my experience of ‘pullulating’ (read that ‘networked’) learning….

Tap, tap tap…..*is this thing on*??? Tap, tap, tap… *testing one, two, three*…

Okay, seems my blog sits here expectantly …ready to be tuned up any time while I mostly ignore it. Here I am back again at last – because of joining in the “Awakening the Digital Imagination…Networked Faculty Seminar via Gardner Campbell at Baylor and Alan Levine at NMC. Details are published elsewhere. This post will serve as my first reflection on this experience and one of the first readings for the seminar.

To get to where I want to go in this first post, I need to back up a little to when it was my good fortune to be given the opportunity to form a new ‘instructional technology’ department on my campus as its first director – just a little over 2 short years ago. Details of what I did in higher education before that and how this appointment happened do play a part – I have been around for a LONG time! But, they are not as important as what happened to me as I began to shepherd my little area and ‘learn the ropes’ in IT after having been faculty or administrator for a long time. My (quite visionary) department head did something extraordinarily wise in my first month on the job….and that was to send me to the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting.

That is where the sprouts started. I listened to Mike Wesch there. I listened to George Siemens there. I sat in a session with Gardner Campbell (he probably does not even know I was in the room) and got a little dose of Gardo magic as he helped our (rather large) session assemble ourselves into a circle to better enable our conversation. There were many more important moments at that conference – too numerous to recount here. One of the striking things about this whole conference experience was the extent to which this group of people treated each other as colleagues and were willing to share (heaven forbid) – well, just about everything. Ideas, suggestions, experiences, – the whole thing was wide (and gloriously) ‘open’. I heard about Twitter for the first time there.  I came home, set up an RSS reader and dived in. (Twitter cam a little later – another story).  I subscribed to blogs of all of these people and ‘followed’ them and followed trails to other people and….well….I opened up that reader headline page everyday to find more ‘personal learning’ opportunity than I  could have ever imagined possible. The links took me to people and places I would never have been able to know about before. I read blogs, I subscribed to newsfeeds, I drank it all in.  A ‘network’ began to emerge as I noticed how a lot of these folks were already connected and conversing with one another.

Now I am joining in a distributed conversation (that includes colleagues from my own institution). This conversation is a real and tangible outcome of those connections begun at ELI. Let me try to explain.

This post is about the connections/roots/networks/rhizomes (hat tip to Dave Cormier who writes about rhizomatic learning- I learned that following one such root)/sprouts/buds (or even rabbit holes ‘cause sometimes when I step back to marvel at some of the things that happen as the result of sheer serendipity (I’ve written about that before) it really is ‘curious-er’ and ‘curious-e’r…and happen without warning or advanced planning).  Yes, I really am approaching a point about the seminar readings.  My ‘nugget’ to share is from the Murray essay (p. 8-9 of the New Media Reader)….where in setting the table for us to dine on the essays in the volume she talks about a “…new idea form…the rhizome” and “…a root system that offered a metaphor of growth and connection…”(from the Deleuze and Guattari essay).  Here’s a gem from that section:  “The potato root system has no beginning, no end, and grows outward and inward at the same time. It forms a pattern familiar to computer scientists a network with discrete interconnected nodes. Here was a way out of the pullulating paralysis…” Yes, I have taken these snips a bit out of context, and I encourage reading the entire piece. What I am after is illustrating how these readings resonate with me given my experience of what Murray calls the ‘pullulating consciousness’.  I have to admit here that ‘pullulating’ is not a word I often use in conversation. I had to whip out the trusty dictionary …well online….to look it up. And POW….there it was – perfectly beautiful and elegantly expressing an idea so difficult to name with words.  Murray calls the root metaphor a gift. Indeed.

This post is growing long, but I’ll try to share just a snippet of my recent experience of being rooted in a network – that I build myself. The networked faculty seminar is an amazing example in itself.  Me connected to the first seminar iteration in spring connected to a group of colleagues here on campus now who are connecting themselves to the fall seminar because I happenstance chose Gardner’s session at ELI 2 years ago and then came home and read his blog and found Alan Levine’s 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story online when I was looking for something else and then subscribed to his blog…..You can’t make this stuff up.

Just yesterday Gardner shared a link to this article from the NYT. I followed an amazing educator Christian Long (@ChristianLong on Twitter) all year last year as he shared his wonderfully creative teaching on Twitter (I started following him because Alec Couros (@courosa followed him). Christian shared about his move to Ohio and his new endeavors and his new blog Be Playful…(his blog is in my reader). I mentioned on Twitter that the essay on Learning by Playing made me think of Christian and his work. He saw the tweet and passed it on to his network….

What I am trying to describe here – as a reality…as MY reality with the ‘pullulating consciousness’ – is how sharing begets connecting & learning begets more sharing begets more connecting & more learning. It’s the whole idea that the essence of ‘new media’ is the connecting part. Putting that into words – even one word – like pullulating – is tricky. Forgive me a rather crude and simplistic example:  It’s like way back in a past nursing life when I tried to teach little kids how to swallow pills….with words. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.

Anyway, what fun to read the visions of folks who helped to make connections and networks and all this pullulating possible!

More to come…..

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