The GIF Story

fox gif animation
The GIF is a file in the Graphics Interchange Format, a bitmap image format. Some people pronounce the abbreviation with a "G" sound (like gift without the t) and other use a "J" sound (like JIFfy). It was developed by US-based software writer Steve Wilhite while working at the internet service provider CompuServe in 1987. (He used the G sound.) Since then, it has gone into widespread usage due to its wide support and portability.
Originally, CompuServe wanted a lightweight color image format to replace their black and white only run-length encoding (RLE) format. The GIF had color and LZW data compression which allowed larger images to download faster. This being a time of very slow modem connections, it was common to see a big or detailed image appear line by line as you watched it load.
CompuServe released an enhanced version in 1989 (called 89a) which added support for animation delays, transparent background colors, and metadata. 
It wasn't until September 1995 when the early and very popular web browser Netscape Navigator 2.0 added animated GIF support that the animated GIF became popular. Perhaps, too popular, as early websites often featured many animated logos and decorative (and annoying) images. 
animated GIFIn 2012, the American wing of the Oxford University Press recognized GIF as a verb as well, meaning "to create a GIF file", and they voted it their word of the year, saying that GIFs have evolved into "a tool with serious applications including research and journalism."
Today they are often used to illustrate simple processes and also as mini-movie clips (although they are not true video files).
myosin
Molecules of the protein myosin dragging a ball of endorphins along an active filament into the inner part of the brain’s parietal cortex which produces feelings of happiness. via paradelle.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/what-happiness-looks-like/
 
3 amigos
animated GIF from the film The Three Amigos

A New Kind of Way to Read 'A New Kind of Science'

In 2002, computer scientist and physicist Stephen Wolfram published a bestselling book A New Kind of Science about fundamental problems in science, from the origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, to the development of complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the universe.
Wolfram’s blog post announced this online edition, he revisits the intellectual contributions he made with the book.
You can still buy the book, but now Wolfram has put his book online in its entirety. You can read it online for free and download it as PDFs.
The book is also part of a very good collection of free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices from openculture.com

LinkedIn Begins Recommending New Skills Training For Its Users

In 2015, LinkedIn acquired Lynda.com and last fall they launched LinkedIn Learning which offers training in an online platform that was mostly based on content from Lynda.com.
If you use LinkedIn Learning, it is connected to your LinkedIn account. Therefore, it is not surprising that recently recommended courses from LinkedIn Learning have started to appear on the sidebar of all LinkedIn members pages. Like Facebook ads in the sidebar, the selections are based on your profile - this the case of LinkedIn, it is using the skills you have listed.
On my profile today under the heading "Add new skills with these courses," three suggestions which were all related to teaching online. That is an accurate area to suggest for me, though the "courses" listed were not appropriate to my current work or my current skill levels. I'm sure they are refining their recommendation engine daily.
LinkedIn Learning is priced similarily to what Lynda.com charged ($24.99/month if paid annually).
LinkedIn announced that it has reached 500 million members, so that potential audience and the personal/professional data users generally give LinkedIn is a valuable combination.

Blockchain and Educational Credentials

In "Credentials, Reputation, and the Blockchain" by J. Philipp Schmidt, the use of blockchain in one educational context is examined. I first wrote about this blockchain synergy of technoloy and education earlier this year. This EDUCAUSE article looks at using blockchain and strong cryptography to create certifications and digital degrees with more control. Recipients can share a digital degree with an employer while providing trustworthy proof that the degree was in fact issued to the person presenting it. This raises interesting questions about the nature of recognizing and accrediting achievements.

                        Read the article at educause.edu/articles/2017/4/credentials-reputation-and-the-blockchain  

Autonomous Vehicles and Autonomous Learning

autonomous car

One of the newer categories on this blog is for VR, AR and AI. They were not topics of much concern in education when I started writing here in 2006. They are topics of interest now. 

The same may be true of autonomous vehicles and it is definitely true of what I'm calling autonomous learning

You are more likely to hear news about "autonomous vehicles" rather than "driverless cars" these days. They are pretty much interchangeable, but the former doesn't sound as scary. In the way that "global warming" was replaced with "climate change," the newer terms are not only better in public relations terms but also are more accurate.

An autonomous vehicle (AKA driverless, auto, self-driving, robotic) is one that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating without human input. Many such vehicles are being developed, but as of this writing vehicles on public roads are not yet fully autonomous.

Many of the experimental cars and trucks you might see on the road (or, more likely, on the news) have a human along for the ride and ready to take over if needed. Initially we all heard about this future where you would get in a car, tell it your destination and sit back and relax. It was a taxicab without a driver. But more and more we are hearing about the autonomous vehicle with no human in it that might be delivering packages to locations. (No word on how they are unloaded. I guess you meet the vehicle at the curb.)

I was talking to a friend who has no involvement in education about an online course I was teaching and how MOOCs are being used. He said, "So, it's like an autonomous vehicle."

My first response was "No, its not," but when I gave the idea a few moments, I saw his point.

You set up a good online course. It has AI elements and guided learning, predictive analytics and all the other tools. The student enters and goes along on their own. Autonomously. Teacherless.

Some archived MOOCs are already somewhat like this - though probably minus the AI and guidance systems.

I call this autonomous learning. If you search on that term today you are more likely to find articles about learner autonomy. This refers to a student's ability to set appropriate learning goals and take charge of his or her own learning. However, autonomous learners are dependent upon teachers to create and maintain learning environments that support the development of learner autonomy.

My friend and I took the vehicles:learner comparison further. The mixed or hybrid car will probably be with us for a few more decades. By hybrid I mean not only with its fuel but also with driver-assist features. Part of the redundancy there includes the passenger as backup driver - a guide on the side. The car can park itself, but you might need to help in some situations.

Hybrid or blended courses are also going to continue to be around for awhile. Like the vehicles, the fully-automated course will be the experimental exception for a decade or two. But those kids in the college Class of 2037 have a very good chance of taking autonomous classes.

I will feel safe on the road with autonomous vehicles when ALL the vehicles are autonomous. Throw a few human drivers in there and the reliability drops. Do I feel the same about autonomous learning? Too early to say.


OER: Downes Versus Wiley

Stephen Downes got news from David Wiley that he would be partnering with Follett, a company best known for managing college bookstores. But Follett is another company getting into courseware. In this case, they will make Lumen Learning’s OER courseware available to institutions. The Lumen course support is not free, but low-cost (($10 to $25) and meant to replace the more costly commercial textbook. Downes asks: "What if students don't want to pay money for these 'open' educational resources? Are they denied access? Isn't this exactly one of those closed marketplaces people said would never happen? This is why I defend the use of the non-commercial clause in open educational resources."

David Wiley has responded and the post is worth reading to anyone working with OER and those following the growing role that commercial vendors are playing in open resources and the further dilution of what "open" means in education.