Snap to it! When assessment goes viral…….

Right, for the last two weeks I’ve become really interested in Snapchat. I have to admit I struggled with it, the whole issue of impermanency really bothered me. I couldn’t take an image and send on to others, once I’d snapped it and sent it “poof” if was gone. It took me ages to get used to that, I’d take a picture of video and then fail to add text, so my friends were getting these random, disconnected images all of the time – once I worked out how to add text – I was off and flying. Its a great tool for fun chats or lazy ones……sort of like the Tumblr of instant messaging. snapchat2I decided to go have a look online for some info on this app – I was staggered to learn that on average 700million snaps were being sent per day. Huge numbers of messages that once sent were being deleted. I’m going to accept the whole “deleted off the server” thing as being true, but part of me thinks nothing is ever deleted on the internet so where are all these possibly being stored and for what purpose. I tend to slip into conspiracy theories pretty easily…….anyway I read a few interviews with Evan Spiegel one of the founders of Snapchat and its CEO, an interesting guy who essentially developed the app with Bobbie Murphy and Reggie Brown, all Standford University students, as a project for one of their design classes. Interesting – one of the most popular apps started out as a university assessment. Maybe we should do that in our program? Set a “design an app” task for students – design an app that could be used in teaching or learning? Pretty challenging, and considering Reggie Brown was brought in to work with them since he is an expert coder, well……it kind of puts this type of assessment task out of the realm of the normal type of skills needed. Got me thinking though, assessment needs to be real and for us in pre-service teacher program, that means it needs to be teachable content or teaching related. I think I try to keep that as a core skill in the assessment tasks I set, but I wonder if I manage to do that all of the time? Authentic assessment has been a buzz word for the last few years, some people were concerned that if we focused on authenticity, then the emphasis shifts to processes and skills, not content knowledge or theoretical knowledge. I disagree, I think if we carefully plan an assessment task we can hit all of these aspects equally. Assessment needs to be meaningful, real and achieve a balance between content/theory and processes/skills. Snapchat is the perfect example of this, there is a strong design focus sitting behind the fun and usability – it is a communication tool, that is private and linked to friends (as opposed to public messages) and is enabled to use video or images. The disposability of the messages is smart, your device will not be consumed with copies of your messages sitting there taking up space, and since its images or video, this could be potentially a huge memory-eater. So I will perservere, keep on perfecting my Snapchat-skills. I always admire ideas that take off, so you never know……an app assessment task might appear one day in my units!

To Apple Watch or not to Apple Watch – that is the question! Wearable technologies have been disappointing up to now.

OK I realise this is my second post on wearable technologies but I’m starting to rethink my love of these devices. I’m focusing on health devices here, and I have been a huge supporter of them as they make me a much more health-concious person. My constant checking either on the device itself or via an app the number of steps I’ve done; the calories burnt; the accumulated number of kilometres per week is making me compete with myself – and this is impacting positively on my health. But they just don’t work like they should and this is a problem. My Fitbit – stopped charging or more precisely, the little ‘prongs’ in the charging dock bent and hence I couldn’t charge it. This was only 7months into our relationship. Disappointment number 1. Don’t suggest calling or trying to contact Fitbit, did that, got ignored, did it again, was ignored again. Nuff said, the device is now gathering dust on my bookshelf. Shame, as I really liked it. Moved on to a Polar Loop, OK this made sense as I have a Polar watch and heart strap – so everything will sync right? Nope. Turn again, no matter what I do, they don’t. Disappointment number 2. So I’ve given up and treat them all as separate devices. Don’t get me started on the battery charge, I usually only get 3 days before the ‘Battery Low’ message appears, not the 7 days it is supposed to last. My dream of have a fully synchronised health device system is once again in tatters. I gave my partner a Garmin Vivofit for Christmas, thinking he could possibly achieve the level of synchronisity that I can only dream of – our issue here? The dratted thing won’t sync with the software program, it is always 7-10days ‘behind’. Disappointment number 3. I’ve also tried apps on my smartphone, with some success, but then you have to carry your phone with you whilst you exercise, not ideal.

apple-watch-0So in this general fug of disappointment I’m looking at the Apple watch with both excitement and a growing sense that it probably won’t measure up to what I imagine it could do. The idea of replacing all my other devices, and even my smartphone, for one wearable device – SUPER appealing. But I will wait, I will sit back and watch and see. The reviews have been quite mixed, largely the criticism seem to be around the interface and the fact that it is confusing. Maybe its because it is different to other Apple devices and we have been trained to use them one way and now we have to change? Not sure, but as with all new Apple products the reviews are often mixed, yet the market remains strong. They look great, they look really nice and I imagine they are going to be as fashionable as the old Swatch watch when it first came out – you never had just one, you always had multiples and each year there were new ‘must have’ designs. So am I going to stop pursuing wearable technologies, no, as an idea I really like them but I don think they need to slow down on the production of new models and fix some of these issues. Don’t loose users through bad experiences its really hard to get market share back.

Dodgy downloading……apparently we are experts!

As I was driving to work today I heard a rather interesting statistic – Australia is one of the top countries for dodgy downloading on the internet. I’m not surprised, because if I mention Torrents or downloading, most people I know have either tried it, do it or know about it.torrent   That is pretty impressive. I had thought with new programs such as iPlayer or iTunes, the need for these kinds of behaviors might have dwindled. Apple TV made a huge impact on me, I loved it as I didn’t need to sign up to Foxtel or some other cable provider and I could pay for shows I wanted to watch, nothing else. YouTube fills the gaps for me, if I cannot find it on Apple TV, then watch it there. So the need for dodgy downloads was starting to diminish…..or so I thought. Apparently we are still hard at it here in Australia, lagging behind countries like China, Japan and Korea. So what triggered all of this? netflixThe launch of Netflix on 24th March. Netflix is a much whispered about, much anticipated online “cable tv” offering and I think its largely due to the fact that its web-based (so everyone can access it, not just those who subscribe, get a cable box, pay for installation etc) and because of the success of some of its shows (House of Cards? Orange is the new Black?). This got me thinking, is the internet slowly replacing one-by-one each of the different technologies in our lives? Are we going to be totally web-based in the near future? Will television and cable disappear?netflix2 All of this is exciting on one hand, as our mobile devices are internet ready, so there is no limit to what we do, where we do it or when. But imagine if the internet went down………imagine a world with no alternative. I know that when I have left my phone at home, or if the battery goes flat (horror of horrors) I barely cope, but its usually only for a short period of time. Imagine an extended period of no internet……..worrying. So are we overly reliant on it? Yes. Should we be wary of committing 100% of our lives to it? Yes.