Dump Your Keyboard!

I can’t wait ’till this idea hits the shelves: it’s a keyboard-in-a-glove.

The following podcast by Robert Scoble features the inventor of the mouse, Doug Engelbart. He’s showing off a keyboard replacement that uses a glove and a binary letter-coding system.

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2008/01/PID_013327/Podtech_DougEngelbart2.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/4864/meeting-the-user-input-visionary&totalTime=1806000&breadcrumb=9509f63cf2134c8e83725bb018c9f2b7]

I teach keyboarding now and my middle school students always struggle with proper finger position. Imagine the day when a twitch of a few fingers creates letters on screen. Sure, in the far off future we’ll all be talking to or thinking to our computers…but this idea can be used now. And it’ll be inexpensive to build!

Valerie Landau, who’s partnered with Engelbart, speaks about academic implications of the glove. She describes taking notes in class, text messaging, and playing games with physical feedback.

I’m definitely interested in being an early adopter of Engelbart & Landau’s invention!

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“Do Stuff” Mashups Courtesy Radio Shack

Radio Shack’s new campaign, “Do Stuff” caught my eye tonight with a TV spot that combined a remote control truck, digital camera, and video iPod. RadioShack.com even has the project outlined under Caroling 2.0 howto on their website.

What I like about this campaign:

  1. Cheeky (I think) use of the “2.0″ tag.
  2. Clever mashup.
  3. Instructions for the step-by-step replication.

Gizmodo was less generous to the ‘Shack:

“With our help at Radio Shack, you don’t just buy stuff,” the narrator declares during the outro. “You do stuff.” Wait, is the Shack really trying to pitch itself as a customer-service mecca?

Radio Shack is trying to mimic Home Depot’s strategy—that is, portraying itself as a project-solving center rather than just another off-the-shelf retailer. I guess they’ve come to realize that the cellphone game isn’t the future

But, seriously, do they really want to emphasize the part of their business—customer service—that is notoriously abysmal? Perhaps if the current “Do Stuff” campaign was accompanied by a true reinvention of the Shack’s approach to sales—say, by doing away with commissions, or not trying so hard to push cellphone plans above all else—then there’d be something there.

When I first saw the ad, though, I thought of MAKE: Magazine. This notion of high-tech craftiness is beginning to make its way into the mainstream and the Radio Shack ad is a great example. The Texas Startup Blog also made the Radio Shack / MAKE connection:

Imagine if Radio Shack could coordinate their stock with the release of the magazine? They could have all of the parts needed to build various projects in the magazine to coinside with the release of each issue. I love Make and have always enjoyed browsing through the parts at Radio Shack (i just needed an excuse to buy a resitor or transciever ~ MAKE might just be that excuse).

Mashups like the Radio Shack commercial I saw tonight are exactly the way I see my own students working with technology. I think the more that MAKE and campaigns like “Do Stuff” get into the public conscious, the more creative use of technology we’ll see.

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Why I Now Leave Web Design to Others

On the EDTECH mailing list, I recently offered the following advice to someone asking for a free hosting service for teachers:

Any chance wikispaces or any of the free blogging sites would work? Unless the point is learning HTML, I find that either of these free options are excellent choices. They let the site builder focus on getting a product done rather than the process of producing a site.

That’s because I don’t think you should have to speak HTML to publish to the web.

Not that I always felt this way

I distinctly remember my first website, written about the time inline graphics were all the rage and Mosaic was the web browser. Websites were something for people who wanted to share information. There wasn’t a lot to HTML in those days, so putting a page up was fairly simple. You mostly could create paragraphs, headings, and links.

The early 90s were a lot like today — the learning curve to publishing on the web was relatively flat. I thought you needed to speak HTML, but — and this is important — there was far less to learn.

Somewhere in the late 90s, coding HTML became difficult. CSS styling is way cool, but it makes publishing a nice looking web page something a relative few people can do.

I continued to run my own web server at home and write all my HTML by hand in a text editor. I spent way too much time making the site look nice instead of publishing.

That’s when I gave it up and learned to love the hosted blog.

I realized recently that the point was what I was publishing, not how it was done. (And chances were that someone else could do a better looking job than me, anyhow.)

The problem now is that…

I merely fiddle with different technologies

Technorati tags, RSS readers, and blogrolls are my new HTML, CSS, and div.

So it seems I’ve come full circle, only the acronyms have changed :)