Posted Sunday, January 09, 2005 11:20:11 PM by Tom Green
This past May I was sitting at a local restuarant patio with Ray Miller, Macromedia's Canadian "Kahuna", prior to a monthly gathering of the Toronto "Flashies" at FlashinTO. This was one of our infrequent opportunities to get caught up with each other and he was curious as to what was I was "evangalizing." Considering I had gone public through Community MX and the MX Developers Journal with my contention that "QuickTime is dead. Long live Flash", I filled him in on the reaction I was getting at various Conferences where I had done sessions on the subject. Those reactions ranged ranged from outright skepticism to "dead straight brother." As I explained to Ray, "I am amazed at the number of people that don't 'get it', but this thing is going to hit and it is going to hit big."
About five weeks later I am in New York at FlashForward and Mike Downey, Macromedia's Flash Product Manager, delivered a "barn burner" of a presentation that essentially said, "Video on the web has arrived and you can either get in the game or get dead". The interesting thing about that keynote was the fact that considering what Mike had said, the profile of video at the Conference was relatively understated.
Three weeks later, I get yanked into the Digital Design World Conference in Seattle to talk about Flash Video. Considering the fact the conference chair was Jim Heid, MacWorld Editor and "Uber Mac Head", I was a bit nervous with the subject of my presentation: "Quicktime is dead. Get over it." Jim laid a couple of really good natured shots into me when he introduced me and you would not believe the number of Mac portables visible when you are at the front of the rooom. That was also the session that told me Mike Downey and I may just be on to something.
There is a "death slot" at Conferences. It is the last presentation of the last day and that was my slot in Seattle. I was scheduled for the Friday afternoon, 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. slot for a Conference that kicked off Wednesday morning at 9:00 a.m. I had been kidding Jim about the slot and told him I would be lucky if 50 people showed up. Just before Jim introduced me, we both looked out on a "packed house" and had the same same "Holy smoke" reaction.
Since then, I have spoken about web video at gatherings ranging from local user groups to Web Design World in Boston and I have yet to not have the audience's full attention when they discover how easy it is to implement and deploy video in a web page without a reliance on QuickTime, Windows Media or Real. In Boston, considering I was dealing with a hard core web dev crowd, I even wore a polo shirt during the presentation just to make it clear to them that "Really, there is nothing up my sleeves". When I demonstrated the Macromedia Video Kit there was an audible murmer in the crowd when it sunk in that video is no longer a novelty and is seriously affordable and, more important, accessible.
In November, even my CMX colleague, Paul Newman "got religion" when he wrote in his CMX Blog: "OK, I'm convinced. After spending the last month on a Flash video project, I'm never using QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or RealPlayer on a web site again. I created a single FLV file using Sorenson Squeeze 4.0, built a custom Flash video player, and the darn thing works on every browser and platform I can get my hands on. So far, I've tested it on IE6, Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape, and Opera. On OS X, it works on Firefox, IE, Netscape, and Safari."
"Prior to this, I was using a ColdFusion page that sniffs the user's browser and platform and generates the appropriate code to embed QuickTime, Windows Media, or RealPlayer (assuming the user already has one of the plug-ins installed). That's so 20th century!"
It isn't only Paul that seems to be "getting religion".
Amazon.com is running an "irregular" Flash video series on its Home Page. CNet runs a daily video on its site. JCT Jeans has an extremely well-presented site that makes extensive use of Flash video. Macromedia tosses it into banners on its home page and has a whole section of its Flash Developer Center devoted to the subject. Red Bull's Air Race and SuperMoto sites are stunning examples of the technology pushed to its limit. Northeastern University is using it to orient new students to the capus facilities. American Airlines uses it to let us know "Why we fly" and both Vodaphone and Panasonic are using Flash Video to give us a look at where they see the technologies in their industries are heading.
The fascinating thing about all of this is: This is the infancy of Flash Video. When I first wrote "Bye Bye QuickTime" for Community MX in October 2003, I had no idea this technology would hit so fast and so broadly. Then again, maybe all it needed was a couple of "Evangelists" out there spreading the "old time Flash Video religion."
Category tags: On the Personal Side
Posted Wednesday, December 29, 2004 9:54:22 AM by Tom Green
I have been doing a lot of thinking about eLearning these days.It started about five years ago when I worked with with a close friend of mine,Tom Auger to develop an online Photoshop course for the College and I really haven't stopped being fascinated with the subject. The experience was that profound.
When we developed the course we looked at what a number of institutions were doing and rejected their model. In many respects, most of the courses were nothing more than "Digital In-Baskets". The student hits a web page, downloads the material and submits completed exercises, or papers, back to the institution via email. When one University told me how proud they were of doing online courses, they were not exactly happy with my response which was: "You could have saved yourself a ton of money if you had forgotten "online" and sent the student a bunch of envelopes and stamps."
Colleges and universities are rapidly hitting the point where they either have to get the course delivery digital or get dead. It is that stark. My College is a fairly typical example. There is pressure to grow but we are rapidly running out of parking lots where buildings can be constructed. In rather blunt terms, we need to put "bums in seats" but don't have the space for the seats. eLearning may just be the solution to that issue.
That view is the sledgehammer view of the situation. A more refined view is the facilitation of learning. Our students grew up digital. They are untethered. They are just as comfortable using their cell phones to message each other as they are surfing a web page on a computer. Though I jokingly say that many of them appear "glued to their devices", it isn't that far from the truth. What really catches my attention though, is when I mention to them that they will be among the wireless pioneers, how interested they become. Which brings me to eLearning.
Just as computers are becoming untethered from their networks, so too, are bums becoming untethered from their seats. Learning can now be done anywhere, and at anytime. In fact, I am hearing a lot of students wonder why their courses can't be done online. Interestingly enough, I don't hear this from educators. This is a rather interesting "disconnect". Just as the bums are preparing to leave the seats, the institutional chatter increases around how to glue the bums into the seats, or how to tighten the bolts even further. Maybe the time has arrived to make use of some bolt cutters.
How my "deal became sealed" came about through a conversation I had with Juha Christensen, Macromedia's President, Mobile and Devices, just after his Max presentation. We were talking about the mobile and wireless market in North America and what I was looking at doing at the College regarding eLearning and wireless devices. He made a rather pointed observation that should resonate with anybody thinking of getting into eLearning. "What you might really want to think about", he said, "is how to provide learning to your students using a variety of media. The question is not how to provide the elearning. The question is how do you get your students to use their devices and cell phones for five minutes of learning."
This is "facilitation". The learning is geared to the medium and facilitates on demand learning - learning that occurs when and where you choose - rather than putting a bum in a seat for a 3-hour class. This is a fascinating concept and it isn't surprising that Macromedia sees a link between mobile (phones) and devices (PocketPC) and eLearning. It should also come as no surprise that many of their products - Flash, Captivate and Authorware, for example - are ready for eLearning.
Though the products are ready, I really don't know if educators are ready.
In order to facilitate on demand learning, the traditional education mindset has to change. This means it is no longer sufficient to regard learning as taking place in a controlled setting at specific times. On demand learning throws class schedules out the window. Attendance is a thing of the past and learning is provided in a virtual, not a physical, space. Books will be added to with Rich Media. Content will have to be tailored to the medium - viewing a one-hour video lecture on a cell phone just isn't going to work - and teachers will have to learn to master an entirely new set of tools and a very foreign, virtual space.
This should throw the private sector institutions for a loop. They are used to delivering courses over a three or four-day period. The classes usually run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and a lot of information is tossed at the student during that time frame. The more bums they can put in the seats, the more courses they can run and the more money they can make. The eLearning model, is the exact opposite. Students will learn at a time and place of their choosing and will move through the material at a pace best suited to their learning style. If it is three days, fine. If it is fifteen days, so what?
The public sector institutions that provide the education are also going to have to do some serious navel-gazing as well. It is no longer sufficient to provide a digital in-basket. Technologically savvy students simply won't stand for it. They live in a digital space that delivers content - from streaming video to text messaging - on demand. They will expect no less from their learning providers: subject matter that is rich, indulgent and an experience. That is just for starters.
Paul Clothier delivered a rather important session at the Macromedia Max Conference in November which dealt with the subject of "Blended Learning". Before private and public sector institutions go out and "get some eLearning" he suggests they carefully consider their efforts from the following angles:
- What are the learning objectives?
- What is the budget?
- Who is the audience?
- How much time is to be available for knowledge transfer?
- What resources are available to the institution and the learner?
- Who are the Subject Matter Experts?
- Is the course scalable?
These are extremely important questions and, what struck me, was the fact that technology really doesn't enter the equation until you reach the resources question. Yet many institutions, both in the private and public sectors, go right to the technology and build from there. According to Clothier, that would be a fatal error.
We are in for a few very interesting years as digital media technologies are applied to eLearning. It is going to be fascinating to watch how public and private educational institutions adapt to the "new" way of doing things and how they grapple with the very real issue of faciliating learning through a variety of digital mediums.
Most important of all is how they deal with the fact that the days of putting bums in seats are starting to disappear.
Category tags: Using the Web
Posted Wednesday, August 11, 2004 10:49:41 PM by Tom Green
I have never really understood why Macromedia doesn't really talk about how all of its products work together. For example, last month I was working on a RoboDemo project and thought,"What would happen if I stuck a .swf with a camera object into a RoboDemo frame?" So I created the .swf, stuck it in the frame and had me waving into the camera in the RoboDemo frame.
Last week I was swapping emails with one of the RoboDemo "kahunas" at the mothership and was asked if it was possible to run live video in a RoboDemo frame. I just happened to have a screen shot of me waving and sent it off with a "Been there. Seen it. Done it." The response was "Holy smokes, didn't know you could do that."
Just once I wish they would look at the totality of what they have, rather than focus on the individual tools. If RoboDemo can take a .swf, it just makes sense that I can create something in Flash and insert it into Robodemo.
The same mentality holds true for Fireworks. If they were to position the app as the content creation tool for the Studio, that app would take off. If people knew how Freehand, Fireworks and Flash actually make nice with each other - big time - there wouldn't be a lot of hand-wringing at the mothership when apps just don't get used as much.
How can they get used if the company that makes them just doesn't "get it".
Category tags: On the Personal Side
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