Sunday 6 October 2013

I'm using an iTunes Store SA account. Should I terminate my account with the iTunes Store US ?

Written for SA iTunes users with US iTunes Store accounts.

With the release of iTunes version 11, the iTunes Store was officially launched to South Africans in December, 2012. The entertaining shopping experience it provides is impressive. This begs the question for locals with iTunes US accounts, should we close the latter?

In making this decision, I suggest you weigh up the benefits of having two accounts against the inconvenience (and added risks) of managing accounts for multiple territories:

Under benefits, account holders of more than one iTunes Store can benefit from being able to select the best one for; i. speediest access and easiest browsing; ii. a wider product range or one better suiting their tastes, iii. lower prices and iv. quicker delivery. In my case, as a local iTunes Store and iTunes US customer (who predominately shops for music), my experience of these benefits has been:

i. Ease of access and browsing.
Accessing the SA store via iTunes is speedy and I seem to have less difficult being interrupted for  repeat logins which the US service requires when I'm purchasing music on my laptop or via other devices. Overall, the local service is better.

ii. Product range.
An important reason for accessing the latter is to get the latest US entertainment content, which are unlikely to be available in the local store at the time it is released in the States. As for TV shows, these are currently not offered in South Africa; nor are free games or iTunes radio.

iii. Pricing
A disadvantage of using the US store is the premium that South Africans pay organizing vouchers in terms of purchasing dollars and the associated exchange rate and service provider fees. While purchasing songs en-mass may still be cheaper via the US store (at $ 0.69 to $1.29, compared to R 6.99 to R 8.99), album prices for purchases are often cheaper on the SA store (or local music specialists).

iv. Purchase and delivery process
The local payment system is credit card-based and far more efficient that redeeming vouchers on the iTunes US Store. A further challenge is that songs downloaded with a US account may have a 90-day waiting period before they can be played from your computer, if it is associated with a South African account.

Having used the SA store since its opening, I now rarely log-in to use my US account. However, I will keep the latter until the range of formats and content offered locally approximates that of the iTunes Store US. I believe the advantages of this approach outweighs the minor inconvenience and small risks associated with holding two accounts.

Let us know your approach by adding a comment, thanks?

Saturday 7 September 2013

Four Learners Responses to an Emergent ‘Visual Arts Showcase e-Portfolio' Meta-Genre

Written for Visual Arts educators and researchers interested in the electronic learning portfolio design choices that learners make.

I presented at the South African Visual Arts Conference 2013 today on a cross-section of four independent school Visual Arts learners' e-portfolio design choices. Since I spoke in its pedagogical stream', I chose to prepare a paper that focused on learners' design choices and how they varied in reflecting different aspects of the e-portfolio's significance to the learners. This was used as a basis for a pedagogical reflection, which suggested three avenues for future research into teaching approaches:

A Social Semiotic approach to Multimodal Communication (SSMC) was used to explain the significance of designed ‘texts’ (such as an e-portfolio), which learners described in their interviews and profiles. Kress (2000) proposed that textual significance can be explained by using the the three key questions of an SSMC approach; ‘Who produced it?’, ‘For whom was it produced?’ and ‘In what context and under what constraints was it produced?’. Bateman's Genre and Multimodality {GeM} framework (2008) was used to describe learners' varied page design choices using its layout, content and rhetorical structural layers. My presentation features screen grabs from the four case studies and examples of choices that reproduced, extended, replaced or undercut (Yoshioka and Herman, 2000) their educator's guidelines. His instructions constitute a meta-genre (Giltrow, 2002), which one learner complied with very closely and extended, two reproduced, replaced and extended slightly and one completely undercut. These choices are explained in context of the e-portfolio's significance to each learner and my paper concluded with a pedagogic reflection that advised Visual Arts educators to teach these aspects when teaching e-portfolio curricula.

The ‘Visual Arts Showcase e-portfolio’ meta-genre has changed and matured since 2010 to become one that assists learners by providing in-depth guidance on each design choice. This approach resonates with the compositional approach of Linguistics, where learners create meaning from the “bottom up” through specific modal choices. Although this proved successful in encouraging compliance for particular choices, it is unlikely to help learners in appreciating how different combinations of choices can be used to create successful examples within the ‘Visual Arts Showcase e-portfolio’ sub-genre.

They should encourage learners to think about the cultural and social significance that the e-portfolio may have to them; at their school, in their professional life and in hobbies, the relevant curricular and extra-mural disciplines they want to feature, who they want to involve in its development and their orientation to potential audiences. In addition to supporting coherence, this should also give more freedom to learners to develop their emergent identities and voice.

The results of following this pedagogical curriculum design recommendation are an avenue for future research. Two other important avenues are pedagogical strategies to address time constraints and design choices with e-portfolios supporting social networking: The number of lessons allocated under ‘Self-management and Presentation’ is insufficient for educators to address important issues of self-curation and publication. The effectiveness of strategies (such as ‘flipping the class’) for helping educate learners about these issues should be investigated. An important criteria for Carbonmade being used at the independent school was that it did not afford social networking functionality (Noakes, 2011). It would be interesting to explore the design choices that learners make when their e-portfolios also afford social networking affordances.

The references for the citations in this post are included in my article. I have provided its source data (such as its interviews) under at

Monday 11 March 2013

Extramural creative production by two students featuring indicators for #connectedlearning. An #ICEL2013 research article.

Written for researchers and educators interested in the Connected Learning framework and extramural, online creative production by university students in the Global South.

The conference paper 'Students as Creative Producers' written by Laura Czerniewicz, Cheryl Brown and I, has recently been accepted for the International Conference on e-Learning 2013. As lead author, it developed from my research assistant work on the fourth phase (2010-11) of the Centre for Educational Technology’s ‘Students Information Communication Technology Access and Use’ project. It reflects my interest in the use of online media for creative production; it dovetails with my PhD focus on the e-portfolio design choices of Visual Arts learners.

In reviewing the evidence from 24 first-year university subjects, we found that four use online services predominately to pursue extra-mural creative production activities. These include: fiction and non- fiction writing; songwriting and singing; and film-making.  In drafting case studies it became evident that the use of online services from 2010 to 2013 by students enabled them to experience indicators from the Connected Learning learning framework (Ito et al, 2013). The Connected Learning (CL) framework was produced by the Digital Media and Learning Hub. It argues that learners flourish and achieve their potential when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunity. Our paper shows how the varied online publication services used by two students, 'Odette' and 'Vince', provided them with inter-connected and relevant extramural experiences. As an approach to learning and design, research on the CL framework originally centered on secondary school learners in the U.S. and Great Britain. This paper reveals that a CL framework is also relevant for the extramural, online creative production activities of university students elsewhere in the world:

Both student examples featured the core properties of the CL framework in taking advantage of openly networked, online publication services to produce presences that fostered self-expression. Their extramural use of these new media services also expanded the potential social support for their extramural or co-curricular interests with online peers. Through this, the students could experience learning experiences and build their capabilities.

Their examples also demonstrated CL design principles despite being student-led: the well-resourced students learnt through doing, faced continual challenges and could connect different domains. The extent of this varied by student; Vince had socially- embedded, interest-driven, educational experiences across varied domains. Odette had legitimate copyright and feedback concerns that resulted in a more nuanced use of online presences, although fewer indicators were present.

Further, these case studies suggest that interest-powered, online creative production can have important benefits for students: feedback from online peers helped students to improve their creative skills and helped build their confidence; by serving as a space for students to reflect on, and define, their interests, the students experienced personal growth; and in using online publication services to bridge academic, civic and career domains, the students had opportunities to reflect on their roles within, and across, these domains.

To meet an ICEL2013 submission requirement that our article be less than 5,000 words (including its references and appendices), we chose to focus on two students. We are currently investigating journal opportunities to publish an 8,000 word article featuring three cases studies (adding the case of a student journalist and broadcaster, 'Jake').

Our research was funded by the International Development Research Center and the ICEL2013 article is available on Google Drive as a public good. Please read the article and email the authors your feedback. Or add your comment below. Thanks.

Saturday 9 March 2013

Did you know your printer has a limit on the number of pages it can possibly print?

Written for printer purchasers and users.

If you spend a fair amount on printer cartridges, you should read the UK Daily Mail's recent article on 'The great printer rip off: Ink costs more than vintage champers - and devious new tricks mean you constantly have to buy refills'. This article reveals that printer manufacturers make it as hard as possible for you to have competing choices when purchasing cartridges. They also deploy a range of tricks to make you use ink faster than you need to.

Although this article mentions how manufacturers prevent consumers from using cartridges 'low on link', it did not raise the point that printer lifespans are themselves also controlled by a limit on printable pages. I recently experienced this with my Canon Pixma iP5000 when it displayed the following, seemingly innocuous 'Support Code : 1700' error message:

I took it to a licensed service provider who informed me that most printers track the number of pages printed. Once a page limit is reached, your printer displays an error message and you will be unable to print. They advised that this can be fixed by replacing the printer's main board, but warned that this only has a 50% chance of working. After authorizing this, the error message disappeared and I could print again... for a brief while until the print quality become erratic and several varieties of error message were displayed. The service provider informed that although my print head required replacement, this was impossible as that part was no longer in production. As a result, I was given a newer refurbished model for free after my "old" one was recycled.

I would like my printer to work until it literally 'falls apart' and wonder whether there is any printer manufacturer which produces a printer that; is designed to last longer than five years, has no limits on printable pages and a reliable supply of spares? (If you know, please let my readers know in the comment box below, thanks!) Given the growing market for environmentally responsible products,  there could be a market niche for such a green printer.

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