Monday, March 19, 2012

Here are my thoughts about using Prezi for Teaching a Class

Using Prezi for Classroom Teaching

For several years I have taught and presented in conferences and meetings using MS powerpoint or some form of powerpoint type linear digital slide presentation tool (inlcuding PDF slides) and/or using the whiteboard and board markers.  Recently I started using  Prezi an online non-linear presentation creation and demonstration tool. I downloaded the presentation after creation to my notebook computer for presentation but this was not necessary. Prezi is a different implementation of a show and tell environment and I will be using this more frequently in my presentations.
In a sense, Prezi is more like a dynamic poster presentation than a presentation software that runs linearly through the slides. It is a flash based and browser dependent application, so that it can be shown nearly everywhere, and no additional hardware needs to be installed. In that sense, a prezi presentation is quite a nice and hassle free application; besides it is possible to embed images, videos, audio clips (I think through the sound bytes), and of course texts and images that then become dynamic entities that gain focus.
It takes a while to get used to create presentations in Prezi. Basically you need to start with an outline, and I found that you cannot think while you work on Prezi. Think about your presentation beforehand, lay it out on a mind map (which is what I usually do for any writing), then either transfer that mind map as it is on a word processor or text document (use textedit/textwrangler on mac or any other word processor/text processor on other platforms) and then work from there, i.e., copy and paste or write on the prezi template.
Basically the way it works is this:
  1. You develop the idea of the presentation first
  2. Populate Prezi using word boxes, add pictures, add voice or other files, video, etc
  3. Link the “units” using a path selector
The combination of your own boxes/text/image/multimedia and paths creates a unique pathway based or learning pathway based implementation of what you want to show and when. On screen the elements will keep on being exhibited according to the magnification you want them (in turn depending on what you want to highlight). You can highlight individual words or phrases, and you can play on them. Or you can dynamically link individual elements within picture units. They are not “slides”, as nothing really slides anywhere but display units glide around and it creates quite a unique effect. I am not sure how learners may interact (coming to it).
The first couple of times I tried to use the Prezi templates that were prebuilt, it did not work. First of all, the templates were somewhat complicated for me to use for a first timer, and second, it was a pain to identify and select the path. Second, understanding this path structure is quite complex. It seems that it is suited to edit and modify paths after creation, but it was quite difficult to do this in the first shot. So I ended up adding to the path component after every two to three element creation. There is a panel that will let you reorder your panels to show.
Did I like it? I think I did. It has almost all the interactivity and elements of powerpoint, but the paradigm is different. It is more of a dynamic story telling. You got to have a story first and then build the elements around the story. Some people may not like the way the screen rotates and refreshes (may make people dizzy). One of my students got confused in setting up the iPad in the middle of the presentation as it asked her to log in. She just downloaded the app on her iPad without registration. These need to be fixed.
Overall, good tool to work with. I quite like it. Need to figure out some more productive ways to use it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Test post

This is a post to test 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Criticism of Ashok Mitra's "An honorary century"

The veteran Indian economist and columnist, Ashok Mitra, wrote an opinion piece in today's The Telegraph, titled, "An honorary century". In his column (linked here) he, I think mercilessly criticized Sachin Tendulkar - the Indian cricketer, for not voluntarily retiring from test cricket (perhaps all forms of cricket).
I think this essay was uncalled for and rather rude. Sachin lately may not have scored his "elusive" hundredth hundred in Australia (or for that matter in some matches hosted in India and elsewhere as well), but let this not take away from our attention that he has been examples of outstanding batting under really difficult conditions, particularly in Australia as well as having faced some fierce attacks against other bowlers from other test playing countries while playing in India. He is not getting any younger; besides, a bowler can be quite motivated to bowl his best when knows he is going to bowl at Tendulkar.
Why should he made to retire now or why should he be dropped? It'd be inconsistent on part of the selectors to rest him based on his performance alone. After all, his scores in his latest outings were not all that low or awkward either. Not that everyone of his team-mates outplayed him. Besides, test cricket is as much a game of strategy as it is a game of individual performances, and presence of Tendulkar in the team serves as an inspiration for young cricketers in the team. Besides, Tendulkar is hardly blocking the way of a younger cricketer; in contrary, his presence in the team itself can be an inspiration for a youngster to do his best to play along side the master for the country.

As it shows, Tendulkar is surely fit enough to continue as long as he can, and as long as he has to show for it (hopefully his scores in the seventies and eighties are not trivial), one wonders why one would be judgemental, compare Tendulkar with dotard academics at Santiniketan ready to kick the bucket? The insinuations at how much money he made or how much he means fiscally for the BCCI are non sequitur. Sad to see a senior, widely respected intellectual such as Mitra should take such cheap pot shots at one of our cricketing geniuses.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Guy Kawasaki writes a great manual on Google Plus titled, "What the Plus!"

Just finished reading +Guy Kawasaki ’s latest book on Google plus, “What the Plus!”

I tend to keep a manual at hand. To that extent, it’s a much needed manual for Google+, and I guess there’s something to learn from this book for everyone. Besides, the book is very readable. Easy, fast, sharp.Some lessons I got out of the book from my first read:

  1. Participate, and take it for a spin (aim for like five posts a day). Get a good profile (he suggests what features to consider for mugshots like forehead and chin)
  2. Write often, write clearly, must embed figures and links in your post.
  3. Comment on other people’s posts and provide helpful advice, and remain positive.
  4. He cites several ways to find meaningful posts and people including using google’s social search (I leave you to read the book to find out what they are, nitfy tricks like “circles shared with me” in the search boxes)
  5. When writing long posts, break up and use bullet points.

I think he could have expanded on the hangout section. Perhaps more will come in the next iterations. There are also other tricks and shortcuts that he could have listed (he has listed several shortcuts). A nifty feature in this book is how he has described features in Google plus that stack up with Twitter and Facebook.

I know google+ keeps on changing all the time. Social web is powerful, and I feel that at least I need a strategy to negotiate with the plethora of information. Lately (and quite significantly), we had quite a few books coming out, one of the best to my mind is +Clay Johnson ’s book “Information Diet” (I think it’s really well written, another must read for anyone interested in information management).

Some people complain about sparseness of Google+ interactions, perhaps it is, but it’s a different ecosystem that needs some handholding (which this book does eminently). But it’s also true that it’s largely built around what we are interested in and how to find and interact with contents, much more than intereacting with people in our immediate social networks.

It’d be good to have some insights in these processes, but I guess this was not the book’s purpose. As Guy writes in this book, that fine grained differentiation between perspective (twitter), people (facebook), and passions (google+) is important. I quite liked this typology. There are overlaps on all three, but this is perhaps as good a way to think about what people do on social media as it gets.

Overall, good job, +Guy Kawasaki .

(This was also posted on my google+ here:

Watch this moving video on the ethical dilemma of robotics

Quantic dream's KARA is a very moving video on the ethical dilemma of
the robotics. Surreal and but it moves you in the end where they are
going to disassemble the robot because "it/she" wants to "live":


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Converting a PDF to a readable format on small devices

It's a pain to convert a pdf to an epub for reading and optimizing on
a tablet device, and unfortunately there are no reliable programs that
can get the work done. Note the steps:

1. First of all, the pdf has to be truncated to remove white spaces.
Fortunately, there are programs such as briss that helps to get the
job done. Nothing else quite works.
2. Next, use Calibre to convert the pdf to ePub format
3. Edit the epub in sigil because in 99 out of 100 cases calibre does
a sloppy job in the conversion process.
4. Finally, reconvert it back to mobi fomat
5. Upload to the device for reading decently.

Who cares? Way too much work.

Much better to plug in iPad and use iannotate to read the damn pdf.

I am quite disappointed with amazon kindle touch.