Moodle at kevinryan

Moodle at kevinryan Moodle at kevinryan


October 2015
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Disconnecting Europe

modem-145529_640Today showed me again why I both hate and love Spain, with a little Ireland thrown in. At the end of a vacation visiting friends in Barcelona, and family in Ireland, I returned to Barcelona for one night at a hotel near the airport to rest and prep for the return to Tokyo. I had ordered and used a portable wifi service in Ireland, and this is the story of my attempts to return the device.

Travel Wifi sent the device to my hotel in Barcelona, after I had canceled that order and reset it to my hotel in Dublin, just before I picked up the lads, after my week in Barcelona visiting friends. They advertised that it was as easy as pie, get the device by FedEx, return it the same way.

So I tell them of their mistake, and they say OK, just bring it to Ireland. I do, and use it all week. It is indispensable as Google Maps guide, replacing the Garmin, as well as allowing all of us to communicate from anyplace. Invaluable as it was, the hardest part was returning the damn thing.

In the FedEx envelope, instruction say I am supposed to set a pick-up for the device at my last hotel. Problem is, Central Hotel to the Airport, or driving anywhere in downtown Dublin is a nightmare without Google Maps. So I keep the device to guide us to the airport. No FedEx office at the airport. I have 6 hours, and find an office near the airport, but it is really difficult to get to. I try to buy stamps and an envelope, but am stymied by the envelope. No advice on regular mailing. I still have 6 days on my contract, so I wait for Barcelona.

The flight is delayed so I arrive after business hours. When I check in, nobody knows anything about FedEx at the hotel, so I go online. They ask me to drop it off at a center, or schedule a pickup. The FedEx website requires an account number for the pickup, and none is on the label. Travel Wifi is cryptic in their messages, and the only instructions look like they have been copied and pasted from the website. I figure I have a few hours after checking out at noon, and before my 10pm departure. A Drop-off is listed on the website about 2 km from the airport. The idea is to drop it off. This is the story.

After arriving at the airport, I try to drop off my suitcase and check in at Qatar Airlines. No can do. So I go to the Consigna, Left Luggage, where I can leave my luggage to get to the FedEx. No schlepping. 10 euros.

I discover that the left luggage company deals with FedEd, and the guy tells me if I leave a 10 euro deposit, they will make sure it gets to the FedEx people. But then the other guy calls Lisa The Boss, who says it is too much of a hassle, and that it is not possible. So I check the suitcase and set off for FedEx. Taxi has a minimum 20 euro fee from the airport. The bus that goes to the other terminal passes by FedEx in the cargo park, but does not stop. The driver, though is really helpful and points me to a local bus. Another 2.15 euros gets me on a bus with another extremely helpful driver. He drops be between stops near the FedEx. I can taste success.

The FedEx has lots of trucks hanging around, and not much action. I arrive just before 2pm lunch. The door has a buzzer. Once, twice, thrice. It says if there is no response, call a number. With what? I write down the number after a half-hour hopeful wait, and wander over to the DHL and another shipping company.They tell me today is a holiday (duh, September 11 is Independence Day for Catalunya), and thus the lack of action. You really need a phone to get things done in Spain. I ask to borrow one from 3 workers at the next place over, and they all hem and haw. One says she can’t do that for the competition. I leave in disgust. FedEx takes holidays in Spain. Typical. And everyone is dog eat. Typical.

So instead of spending another 2.15 and with time on my hands, I hoof it back to the airport, about 2km. Why not. Plan B is to get stamps and an envelope, available in the Tabacalera, but the lady assures me the slot is too small to accept my wifi device.

So after spending about 6 hours spread over 2 airports, I realize that I should have just left the device at the hotel in Barcelona and gotten THEM to schedule the pickup. Instead, they will get it from Tokyo. The soaring and crashing that came from trying to return it both in Dublin and Barcelona were lessons in thinking and planning. At least my family got to the airport. Time to go check in. And no time to worry about it in Qatar.

A sad day at school for kissing

During break time, between classes, I like to play interesting videos, mostly with visual content, to get students focused on topics that may come up in one of my classes. Here is the one from this week.

A videographer for WREN Studios paid 20 models to kiss another model on film. Beautiful to look at. Then VICE, a documentary company, did the same thing with normal people. Here is another one, much longer, using people from New York.

Normally, I only show one video between classes. In my Digital Media class, however, this has developed into a good chunk of a lesson on differences between YouTube and TV. I play the first video, and as two questions: 1)What video is this? and 2) How does it make you feel? They jot down notes, some key words, collect their thoughts and then discuss. Question one is intended to devolve into a critical thinking activity, when students want to know what kind of video this is. Who made it? Why did they make it? Who is the intended audience. Today, I had to explain that this first video was a viral video, an immediately very popular video last year. It was billed as a video from a creation agency, and featured 20 strangers kissing. Turns out, though, that the “strangers” are all actors. Wren is a women’s clothing company. This viral video was just a new kind of commercial.

The student reaction was slight discomfort, and in a few cases more than that, when two of the 10 “couples” kissing were gay. Vice Studios, makers of those new style documentaries, did another version, this time with real people, not actors. The same two questions elicited very different answers. One student pointed out that the second video above, by Vice, had more realistic camera work, showing off the reality of the “couples” kissing. But most felt even more uncomfortable, as there were unusual mixes, with a very tall guy and a short woman, mixed races, and people that did not look at all like actors. And some gay people as well. The sentiment I got from the class was that these people were not “normal”.

The third linked video is another about kissing, and I used it to contrast with the first two, in that it was filmed in New York, instead of London, where the second one was filmed. (Not sure where the first one was filmed.) The people recruited for this third were an even more unusual assemblage, but all came as volunteers through word of mouth to help the director with her project.

There was a lot more talking in the third video, and students picked up on the commentary, mostly light banter. Again the same two questions. Why would a director in New York with a Korean name make a video of people kissing. And ask her boyfriend to stand in for one missing volunteer.

Asked whether this kind of video would appear on TV, there was a resounding “no!”, followed by a couple students saying “especially not here in Japan.” We went through some of the reasons why this would only work on YouTube. At the end of class, I asked students to wrap up their thoughts about all three videos in a short post to our online discussion area. And two of these (done off the bat) made me sad.

“I prefer the first video. because, all of them are actors or actress. So, they kissed naturally.”

And the other…”The first video was better than the others. I laughed at first, but gradually  it made me disgusted to watch.”

Intolerance pops up in places I would not have thought. This will be an interesting semester.

Review: Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

OR Book Going RougeJust finished one of the most important books of this year. I had heard about Douglas Rushkoff”s book, and read some of his articles. I realized he was a real thinker, but not the extent until reading this book.

I had heard that this book was about how coding is a necessary skill in this day and age, and the reasons behind it. I was completely unprepared for the content.

There are ten chapters in this book, and not one single line of code. The tenth and least compelling of the chapters is the title of the book.

The tenth argues that learning programming changes the way you view the world, and changes the way the world interacts with you.

The other nine chapters are all examples of this concept. He looks at how digital technology have changed our perception and activities in the dimensions of time, place, choice, complexity, scale, identity, social, facts, and openness.

I cannot recommend this more highly. It is a 152-page book that turns a programmer’s lens on the digital world itself, with surprising results and insights. I highlighted more of this book than the last 3 combined, and one of those was 700 pages. And yes, there are suggestions at the end for places to start learning to code.

I plan to use excerpts of this in my IT Seminar class. I may even base a whole semester on the ideas included. I have also just downloaded his new book Present Shock.

Connected Courses

This looks at first blush like a MOOC about how to make a MOOC, without ever mentioning MOOC. The line-up is stellar and the format looks very well thought out. Sign me up! As a member of CCK08, the first Connectivist MOOC in 2008, followed by many others, I am looking forward to this new course as a redefinition of shared courses online. Sign up now for Connected Courses.


Weekly Break Time 16

The joy of books. What you don’t know can be very surprising.


Weekly Break Time 15

A little social commentary about using phones.


Weekly Break Time 14

The Sound of Taste is so visual, and again about food. I can’t resist.


The Sound of Taste from Grey London on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 13

I ride bicycles. Tokyo needs to pay attention to bicycles like NY City. Here they show how cars, pedestrians (people walking) and bicyclists interact.


3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 12

One of my favorites. I really like this group of women who go up into the mountains above Madrid, and ride their skateboards down the roads, having a great time. Better than TV! They look so independent, but form a great group together.

Carving the Mountains from Juan Rayos on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 11

There are so many amazing things you can do with video. This one is called SplitScreen, where you take half of the screen and match it to another half. This is a Love Story.

Splitscreen: A Love Story from James W Griffiths on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 10

Are you hungry? Here, from the video page: “3 guys, 44 days, 11 countries, 18 flights, 38 thousand miles, an exploding volcano, 2 cameras and almost a terabyte of footage…” They make a short video about food, called, simply, EAT.  Another is called MOVE. and a third LEARN.


EAT from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 9

A murmuration is when a whole flock of birds flies together so they look like one big bird, or something else. It is amazing. Nature is amazing.


Murmuration from Islands & Rivers on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 8

Man, this guy can really dance. Not sure what kind of dance you call this, but he is really flexible. I like the music too.

Break ton Neck from Alex Yde on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 7

Collaboration. Crowdsourcing. A videographer asked people to make 1-second videos and send them in. Then he took 60 of them and put them together into a very interesting One minute of beauty.

Seconds Of Beauty – 1st round compilation from The Beauty Of A Second on Vimeo.

Moral Issues

MoralIssuesPew Reports of Global Moral issues. The page itself is a wonderful interface. You can use it to look at how your country compares with others, or use it to focus in on one of the 40 countries that are represented here. Japan, for example, is the most morally accepting of drinking alcohol.


On Looking: Reading slowly and carefully

Andrew Sullivan at The Dish asked Maria Popova at Brain Pickings to choose the new book for the second installment of a big Book Club discussion.

As a long time reader of Brain Pickings, I ordered whatever she picked. On Looking: Eleven walks with expert eyes is all it is purported to be in Maria’s review.

The book is so well written that it is hard to believe it is non fiction. The main focus of Attention is only a vehicle to explore, well, eleven different viewpoints of the same city block, where the author lives. Making the banal interesting and exciting is the goal achieved.

It is one of those books that you want to savor. Read a chapter, turn it over in your head, look at it closely, enjoy the taste and all the other sesations, and ponder before moving on. I hope to finish before the Book Club begins next week. join me?

Weekly Break Time 6

This video of Dogs in Cars is really well made. The music is good and it is wonderful to watch how much these dogs are enjoying life. It makes me a little jealous.

Dogs in Cars from keith on Vimeo.

Kevin and Frank need your help

Indiegogo search results

If you search for Myanmar at Indiegogo, this is what you get.

Kevin and his good friend of many years are returning to Myanmar (Burma) to train English teachers. This time they are going under the auspices of the NLD (National League for Democracy), the party founded by Nobel winner Aung San Suu Kyi. She also founded the Education Network, to promote education, in a remarkably prescient move while still under military rule. The huge need for English as the country opens up to both tourism and business needs to be met.

Kevin and Frank went with a group of volunteers in January, for a week, and it was, in Frank’s words, “A life-changing event.” I concur.

Kevin and Frank will go for a month this time, in the rainy hot month of September. The NLD/EN will provide accommodations. What we need now is to cover transportation costs, mostly airfare from Tokyo to Yangon.

See our Indiegogo campaign to make a small donation to become part of this project. If we go over our goal, we will use any additional donations to buy textbooks and educational materials to distribute to the teachers there. If you are a publisher or distributor of books, contact me to get books into the hands of teachers there. If you have a large donation (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), contact us directly so we can eliminate the middleman at indiegogo.

Weekly Break Time 5

This stop-action animation of a waveform of music made by records on a pipe is magic. It must have taken a LONG time to make. There were 960 records used. Benga.



Benga – I Will Never Change from Us on Vimeo.

Weekly Break Time 4

This is my body. Women talk about how laws in the USA are taking away the freedoms they have to take care of their own bodies.

This Is My Body (English Subtitles) from Jason Stefaniak on Vimeo.