Monday, September 14, 2009

 

Introducing DataLiberation.org: Liberate your data!

Today, the leader of Google's Data Liberation Front announced his team's efforts to "allow users to transfer their personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions." As explained in the blog entry,
... a liberated product is one which has built-in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you'd like to take it elsewhere....

We've already liberated over half of all Google products, from our popular blogging platform Blogger, to our email service Gmail, and Google developer tools including App Engine. In the upcoming months, we also plan to liberate Google Sites and Google Docs (batch-export).
This feature has huge implications for using Google tools for ePortfolio development.  Just as they announced last month that you could transfer a Google Site from a GoogleApps for Education domain to another Google account you own, this looks like a systemic approach to data portability, to transfer data out of Google, should you so choose.  This is an open standards approach which will be interesting to watch. The only thing is... where else would I put that data? Are other cloud computing companies going to follow suit?

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

 

Video Sharing Website

I've been exploring new video sharing services, since Google Video is now limiting uploads to either Business or Education GoogleApps accounts. I don't want to upload my videos to YouTube, partly because the site is often blocked in schools, and partly because uploaded videos are limited to ten minutes. Over a year ago, I created my own branded eportfolios.blip.tv site, which doesn't have the size limitations, but the movies didn't always play back in full screen mode. I haven't yet set up a TeacherTube or SchoolTube account, but I think they have some of the same limitations as YouTube.

For another website project that I am developing, with a lot of webinar videos that we want to embed, we found Motionbox.com. The site allows longer videos, which can be viewed in full screen mode, and allows 750 MB of movies stored for free. However, for $29.95 per year, the Premium service allows unlimited video storage, maintains the original video file, and also allows the video to be downloaded into iPod/iPhone format. When logged in, the web page includes the code for embedding the video clip into another web page, such as this blog. The digital story below was developed at a workshop in 2005, focusing on the importance of developing digital family stories. We need online spaces to store these "legacy" stories!


I set up a Premium account to share all our family videos, with a privacy setting for family only to view. The system allows setting up folders to hold the videos. My first folder was for the videos which I uploaded directly from my Flip camera. The service has a basic video editor for files stored there. If you can take movies with your cell phone, you can email them directly to: youraccountname.specialcode@motionbox.tv
Maybe when I upgrade my iPhone, I'll be able to record videos, too!!!

I've been concerned about finding online spaces to store full quality video, not the low quality videos I see on YouTube. Premium Motionbox accounts also allow storage and downloading HD videos (just requires a high speed Internet connection). The normal playback is High-Quality, Low-Bandwidth (SD). I hope their business model is profitable enough to make this service viable for years to come. It meets a real need for families to store their video memorabilia.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

 

More Online Storage services explored

While watching the day-long John Adams marathon on HBO (an incredible series!), I used the time to explore more of the online storage services that I started exploring last month (and that attracted many comments). Here are the services that I explored today:
I think I have found a couple of sites that meet my requirements: I've used Microsoft's SkyDrive in the last couple of weeks to transfer files between platforms, but I am most impressed with the capabilities of allmydata.com and divshare.com. The mediamax service is in the middle of migrating to a new name, thelinkup.com, and I received an email that told me they were not migrating files uploaded to its free accounts.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

 

Portfolios in the Cloud

In my last two blog entries, I have focused on different online storage systems that could be used to store the artifacts for an electronic portfolio. As I researched further into this category of online services, I found the concept of "cloud" computing: a globe-spanning network of servers (the leader in cloud computing is Google, with Yahoo, Microsoft, IBM, and Amazon close behind). Another way to understand "computing in the cloud": dividing up work and distributing it out across the Internet. That is the model that I discussed more than a year ago as an ePortfolio Mash-up: different elements of my portfolio saved in different places in the Internet cloud.

In my reading, I found a new and interesting provider of personal digital document storage: Wells Fargo Bank! Their vSafe service will provide their customers online space to store and organize copies of important documents. "By protecting information in an electronically secure and centralized location, customers can easily access and recover copies of critical documents in the event of a natural disaster, theft or hard drive crash, or while traveling." I had not anticipated that online document storage would be provided by a financial institution, but security and privacy is a basic requirement of that industry. In the digital age, they could provide a digital safe deposit box for our important personal information. [I wonder if they would also allow hyperlinks to selected files? I have often compared financial portfolios (documenting the accumulation of fiscal capital) with portfolios in education (documenting the development of human capital).] But at $4.95 a month for 1 gigabyte, $9.95 a month for 3 gigabytes and $14.95 for 6 gigabytes of storage, it is fairly pricey for the increased security.

According to another article in Backup Review, another company in the Education market, School Web Lockers, is offering online storage of student and teacher work, accessible from home as well as school. "All School Web Lockers are backed up daily and preserved from year-to-year to allow students to easily create a portfolio of work." Again, I wonder if they allow hyperlinks to selected files from one of the many e-portfolio authoring tools.

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Online Storage Videos

Some of these companies offering online storage have posted videos online (source: Online Backup and Storage blog):
Rather than fill my blog with more reviews of online storage sites, I have set up a web page on my website to organize my ongoing study of these online storage systems, and will post the most promising discoveries in my blog.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

Online File Storage Research

I'm beginning a review of online file storage, building on my prior blog entry. I'm looking for online space to store artifacts for an electronic portfolio, not a standard file backup service. I found the following resources that either listed or reviewed the different services:Based on this work and a chart that I downloaded, from an article called The Online Storage Gang, I am exploring the following services. I pulled together a couple of PDF files and one MP3 file to upload as a test of the system. Here are my requirements: free storage of at least 1 GB of any type of data (including audio files) and able to share files in two ways (email with link to a file and permanent URI that can be added as a link to a web page).

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

 

Digital Archive for Life Diagram

Digital Archive (for Life) Supports Lifelong & Life-wide Learning (click to see full size image)
I developed this diagram as part of my presentations on e-portfolios for lifelong/life-wide learning. As shown here, a "digital archive for life" can follow an individual from informal learning in the family (and the popular development of scrapbooks), into formal education and professional development, and serve as a "memory enhancer" as we reach our post-retirement years.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

 

Google Announces Medical Records Online

An interesting news announcement yesterday:
According to the Computerworld article:
...the company became interested in entering the personal health records (PHR) business when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and countless paper-based medical records were lost in the aftermath of the storm.
Even more people lost a lot of personal memorabilia during that storm, which I referenced in a blog entry at the time. Although not as life-critical as medical records, our personal and professional documents are part of the legacy that we leave for later generations. Having a personal online archive of a variety of digital media, for use in a variety of contexts, is a natural extension of these personal health records. Just as medical records primarily document the development and change in our physical bodies, a digital archive/ePortfolio can document the development and change in our cognitive domain. Medical records are primarily developed by medical professionals and confidentiality is required by law; a digital archive/ePortfolio is created by the individual, often within a social environment, and confidentiality should be under individual control.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

 

Web 2.0 Tools & Online Storage

I received a notice that the Online Education Database has published a new article: e-Learning Reloaded: Top 50 Web 2.0 Tools for Info Junkies, Researchers & Students. Here is also an excellent list of 15 Websites to Learn Web 2.0 written by educator Vicki Davis and published by 21st Century Connections. Vicki is well known for her use of Wikispaces with her students (her #1 link). Her #2 link is Google and its many services.

I have also been doing some research on the different tools that can be used for online storage, as I found Google's March 2006 vision of "a place for users to store 100% of their data online.”The big question is, WHEN??? I am experimenting with a third party addition to my Firefox browser, called GSpace, which lets me use 2 GB of my GMail/Picasa web space, being able to transfer files into folders within a browser window. I have already paid $20 (annual fee) to upgrade my online Picasa Storage so that I could upload more than the 1 GB limit for images. As of today, GMail storage has increased to more than 6 GB per account (and keeps growing).

To effectively use any of these virtual storage solutions as the digital archive for any e-portfolio system (or "lifetime personal web space"), they need to have the capability of OmniDrive and Box.net to "share files by creating a Web address that others can access." If I were to make a wish, I'd like an interface like YouTube or Picasa, that provides the HTML or URL to easily embed or copy/paste a hyperlink. I'm also hoping that the new interface allows more seamless integration between the different Google Apps (dare I hope "drag and drop" within a single window?). Now I have to switch between multiple windows to copy URLs for links to different documents. I hope the Google virtual storage service becomes available soon, and I hope it also works seamlessly with a Mac (not just Windows).

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

 

CARPE Research and MyLifeBits

I just came across some research being conducted at Microsoft: Jim Gemmell's research project called MyLifeBits Project, which is exploring "lifetime store of everything" using Gordon Bell's life work (the "official guinea pig" for the project). This work has been written up in Scientific American (A Digital Life, March 2007) and a New Yorker Article (Remember This? - May 2007). CARPE (Capture, Archival & Retrieval of Personal Experiences) is a research area of the ACM's SIGMM (Special Interest Group Multimedia). It seems that the time is right to explore these ideas, but not just in the context of later adulthood. I am interested in how we can begin this process early in life, but be more selective in what we save, as we advocate in the portfolio process (Collection, SELECTION, Reflection, Direction). I think there is a lot that the portfolio community can learn from this project... and vice versa.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

 

My Vision of a Digital Archive for Life

I recently had a meeting at the Center for Advanced Technology in Education, part of the Teacher Education Department at the University of Oregon. As a result of that meeting, I have started to expand on an earlier blog entry (Digital Archive for Life). Here is the executive summary of the paper, which is posted as a GoogleDoc. Comments are welcome. If anyone would like to collaborate on these ideas, send me an email. I intend to publish a polished version of this article in On The Horizon, a journal on Futures and Education.
In this article, I have outlined my vision for digital stories of development, or Online Personal Learning Environments which may eventually replace what we currently call “electronic portfolios” in education. Based on the concept of “lifetime personal web space,” this online archive of a life’s collection of artifacts and memorabilia, both personal and professional, has the potential to change the current paradigm of electronic portfolios, mostly institution-bound, and focus instead on the individual or the family as the center for creating the digital archive, which can be used in a variety of contexts across the lifespan, from schools to universities to the workplace. Finally, this archive can be used to develop personal histories and reflective narratives to preserve our stories for future generations. A possible scenario is followed by the challenges faced when developing this service for widespread dissemination.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

 

Digital Preservation of ePortfolios

I just received an eMail raising this question (his discussion of the power of the portfolio to prepare for job interviews was very well done):
I've recently become interested in the durability of ePortfolios -- as I describe in this piece here (ePortfolios, Durability, and the Black Binder Test). I was wondering if you've heard of any attempts to decouple the interface and presentation of ePortfolios from the storage of the artifacts (and optionally the reflections) -- say through using Amazon S3 or some other 3rd party space that could be truly owned by the student or faculty member regardless of where they wind up. Is anyone moving in this direction?
My first e-portfolio was created in 1997 (10 years ago), using Adobe Acrobat and pressed to a CD. I still have a copy of that portfolio (on my hard drive) and I assume the original would be readable, if I could find the CD. Most of the systems that you mentioned in your blog entry all allow exporting the portfolio into an HTML archive that can be stored on any online system that the learner "owns". So the solution to the problem that you pose is to store these portfolios in an online system. The challenge is finding systems that will be around for a while. I pay an annual fee for my online storage, and I am exploring GoogleApps. Yahoo is too small for portfolios, and I don't know if I should trust some of the online storage systems like box.net. There are other free systems out there, like ourmedia.org, but I don't think they handle entire HTML archives.

I think if portfolios are stored in HTML (ASCII text) or PDF formats, those are the two formats approved by the Library of Congress for digital preservation. There are other issues for preserving audio and video, but WWW-compatible universal formats should be safe for the next ten years. The next step would be XML formats, which the European ePortfolio community is trying to address. There are also now IMS ePortfolio standards, but I'm not sure that the commercial providers in the U.S. all conform to that standard. But virtually all of them allow exporting a portfolio to disk archive.

You can look at my study of online portfolios (I am up to 25 versions of my portfolio). If I was able to download a copy, I posted it on my web server and created a link to it. You will also notice that all of my artifacts are web links to artifacts that are posted on one of my web servers. So, I am modeling the concept of "lifetime personal web space" which Cohn & Hibbits advocated in their 2004 Educause article. The issue of digital preservation is real, but has been solved, at least in the short term (10 years). The real question becomes whether these portfolios can last as long as their paper versions (50+ years).

This is not just an issue with ePortfolios. What about all of the digital photographs and other digital documents that we collect? Some historians are concerned that we may have a "hole in history" because so much of our data is now stored in digital formats, which are one hard drive crash away from extinction. So, backing up our data to online servers becomes more critical. I try to model that process, but at a cost. I hope I have instilled those same values in my children. Of course, I wrote in an earlier blog entry about the tragedy of New Orleans and the loss of memories and physical memorabilia that happens in these type of disasters. So, establishing digital archives online becomes even more important.

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

 

Digital Archive for Life

I must admit it: I'm a CNN junkie! The news in the last three weeks has been riveting! I was in a hotel room in Minneapolis with CNN on all last night, and I woke up around 3 AM as Hurricane Rita was making landfall. The reporters all seemed to be saying the same thing, but they were in the middle of the action, although I often tire of the repetition of CNN's schedule (in the evening, wait three hours, and you'll hear Larry King, again!). But still, when reporting a live event, I'm hooked... even at 3 AM. I am relieved that Rita was not as destructive as Katrina. But with the triple blows to Florida last year, and the devastation so far this year, it makes you wonder about the impact of global warming... but that is a discussion for someone else's blog.

I mourned for the devastation of New Orleans. I have many fond memories of that city: my first trip there for ISTE's last Tel-Ed conference in 1998, over a Halloween weekend, where we gaped at the antics on Bourbon Street; the two weekends that my husband and I spent there before and after a Caribbean cruise that left from the dock behind the RiverCenter Mall; the NECC conference in 2004, held in that infamous convention center; my PT3 visit to the University of New Orleans to talk about ePortfolios on their Lake Pontchartrain campus; another PT3 keynote address to another group of student teachers at a conference at Loyola University; and at least one AERA conference held there. It was such a good conference city; I hope New Orleans returns to its vibrancy. I've heard of several education conferences that were scheduled in New Orleans that are being moved to other locations. It makes me sad. The city needs the revenue more than ever!

But on a less personal note (for me), what I found especially poignant about the Katrina news stories were the pictures of the "lost" children that CNN showed last week. They say that showing those pictures resulted in at least a dozen solved cases. But I was also concerned about the devastation that the citizens of Louisiana endured. In addition to the tragic loss of lives and homes, hurricanes also wipe out family artifacts, physical memorabilia including family photographs and videos. I remember the story of the man who kept a diary every day of his adult life, only to have it wiped out when his New Orleans home was flooded. I remember all of the silhouettes on CNN after Hurricane Katrina, where families no longer had the photographs of their missing children to post online. However, in a few instances, teachers who saw student names listed on TV, sent in their photos to the CNN website. This anecdote illustrates the central role that schools can play in the preservation of these artifacts. How can schools help families to preserve these artifacts in multimedia formats, and post them online in free websites like OurMedia.org?

There is a movement in Canada and Europe to establish an electronic portfolio for every citizen by 2010. As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, the potential of e-portfolios to support lifelong and life wide learning is limited only by our current technologies, limited experience, and narrow vision. Instead of an e-portfolio, a concept that is not widely understood, what would happen if every citizen was issued personal web server space that they would own for a lifetime? Like a virtual indexed filing cabinet, this Digital Archive for Life (DAL) would provide space to store the raw materials for e-portfolios, archives of family records, genealogy and digital stories, autobiographies, child development data (such as digital versions of New Zealand's "Plunket books"), evidence of personal and professional accomplishments, and all kinds of personal information. From cradle to grave, we could store and celebrate the results of lifelong and life wide learning. And in cases of tragedies, like hurricanes or floods or the isolated cases of home fires, or the more likely catastrophic hard drive crash, we would have our memories preserved.

The other issue that the victims of Katrina faced was the loss of personal records: health records, financial records, the documentation of our lives that we all take for granted... until it is destroyed. I remember the stories of the doctors who had to use their best professional guesses as to prior health history while practicing what they said was worse than 3rd World medicine! Who knows if they would have access to the Internet in a disaster, but what if we had a smart card that we could carry in our purses or wallets, just as we usually never leave home without our credit cards, where our medical history could be stored for just these types of emergencies. I understand that these cards are used in Germany to store medical history and health care information. In the richest country in the world, why don't we have access to this type of information? This subject was briefly mentioned tonight on CNN, of having more electronic medical records. Perhaps that is a deficit of our decentralized health care system, but that is also a topic for someone else's blog!

But the point of this blog entry is not to advocate for more cards to carry in my purse. This information needs to be stored online, in a server bank that is built like the Internet, to be able to withstand a catastrophic event, with redundancies and security, as a place to store our personal information, artifacts, memories. I pay $7.77 a month for 5 GB of server space to store my electronicportfolios.org website (and I don't use 20% of it!). I just received notice that .Mac accounts have increased storage space to 1 GB for $99 a year (it's about time!). This is not a lot of money out of my pocket. But I'm a techie... it's what I do. Where is the easy-to-use webspace for the average citizen to store their essential information? Yahoo only gives 15 MB. The Gmail service from Google offers 2.5GB of e-mail storage! They also host the Blogger service, that I use to create this blog. That is all a good start. But what we need is that Digital Archive for Life, where we can store our most important information... so that we won't lose our favorite digital photographs due to a hard drive crash. Backups to CD-Recordable discs or even DVD aren't the long-term answer. Who knows how long that media will last, or can be read, and physical media can be destroyed in a disaster? We need reasonable online storage space, with a transparent, idiot-proof content management to organize it... our own personal archivist!

I used to advocate for portfolios stored to CD-ROM (or now DVD). I realize now that is an interim solution. Just in the last week, I've experienced the weaknesses of online portfolio systems that go down for technical reasons; I've also been frustrated when the network in a school is down, making training nearly impossible. But that is no reason not to move in this direction. What we really need are online repositories for high quality content (including DVD-quality video, not the emaciated versions of movies that individuals can stream today). Some day, we will have the bandwidth to handle that type of data, as corporations and cable companies are able to do today. But what do families do with their precious family memorabilia? That is our challenge! Anyone want to join me in this pursuit?

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