Why I teach – mind expansion


One of the reasons I teach is related to one of my goals for my own life. I try to make it a habit to learn new things, to change my point of view on various topics, to see the other side of a discussion, and to open myself up to new ideas, concepts, methods, and subject areas. I want the same for my students.

Currently I am teaching a course on wireless security, a technical course with many topics that we just lightly touch on to get an overview. One of the topics has to do with the certificates issued to secure websites to authenticate who they are and encrypt the communication on the site. Think things like filling out banking information, registration forms, or payment on any retail website.


Search engines, such as Google, have recently been securing their websites, and encrypting search terms. One way to see that is look in your browser address bar. If it says “https” instead of “http”, and if there is a lock icon, then it is a secure site. You can click on the lock and see the certificate information. Your experience in other browsers may be somewhat different.


I wanted to do more than just show the certificates to my class. So, I had them search for my blog, this blog, using the search term Byzantine Vectors or byzantinevectors. Then I showed them the WordPress statistics, which show the search engine used for the referral, and the search terms. Except that the search terms didn’t show because they were encrypted. (I was surprised to see that there wasn’t 100% consistency on this, and the search term came through sometimes.)

The students were actively engaged as they participated in making the searches. I think they were also energized because I revealed something of myself to them, my blog. I briefly discussed this blog, mentioned that I had a couple of others. I asked the nine students if any of them had blogs or were interested. One said he was interested. Most of these students are late 20s/early 30s, come to class after working all day, and generally wouldn’t think of blogging or even being wide awake and active in a Friday night class. But now I see something that might interest them. I am opening their minds to some new possibilities.

How can I capitalize on this experience? Well, like I’ve known all along: engage the students in activity, be open about my own life beyond the knowledge I’m trying to transfer, and bring in the technology that connections are made from. Though teaching in a pretty closed institution, I can open up my own classroom.



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Communities of Learning take many forms


Yesterday, I drove to Richmond, Virginia. It is about a two hour drive from my home. My goal was to attend the open house of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Academic Learning Transformation Lab. I am not a member of the VCU faculty or staff, but because of the open culture nurtured there, I do feel part of the VCU community. After all, I did play along with the recent Thought Vectors in Concept Space course (http://thoughtvectors.net/).

At the ALTLab, the three sessions that I participated in were the Photo Safari (walking the nearby streets with Tom Woodward taking pictures); Communities of Practice (discussions about how faculty and students create a greater community that transcends individual disciplines); and 3D Printing (using it for various types of courses). For me, there was the personal connection of meeting folks in person that I knew (to greater or lesser extent) online.

Two thoughts that are related to Connected Courses come to mind. First, sometimes connecting with other courses has to happen off-line. I could just interact with the VCU folks and their work online, but meeting in person, on their turf, deepens my appreciation of what they are doing, and may lead to future communication and collaboration now that personal IRL relationships are begun.

Secondly, as I was able to see and discuss with my table-mates in the Communities of Practice session, I am beginning to use what I’ve been learning and step out on my own. Blogging about education with other educators is one thing. Now I am taking the concepts to another aspect of my life. A church I am affiliated with is beginning a long-term study of a particular edition of the Bible. Though I am just a learner and not in the leadership, I have created a blog for my own reflections in this course, and will be encouraging others to comment, create their own blogs, etc. Probably most of the participants have never done such a thing as to express their learning online in a public way. As I break my own barriers, perhaps others will have their barriers broken. (If you are interested, the blog is at http://commentsbybill.wordpress.com/)



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Please Use Other Doors

Please Use Other Doors
When I saw this sign on a door to a department store, several thoughts crossed my mind. First, it would make a nice selfie. I snapped a couple of quick ones, and with some editing I think the one shown makes an interesting picture.

My second thought was more practical: why can’t I use this door? Why do I need to use particular doors? Why isn’t this store “open” from as many directions as possible?

To tell the truth, that was the extent of my thinking at the time. But once I registered for this Connected Courses course, and especially after the introductory hang-out, I began to expand the meaning of “Please Use Other Doors.” One thing discussed in the hang-out is that there are multiple ways to organize participation in an open online class, not just one right way.

Similarly, there is no one right way for our students to enter into learning of a particular subject or topic. There are Other Doors through which they enter. Those other doors might be related to the individual learning styles, or prior preparation, or lack of prior preparation, or level of literacy or numeracy, etc. These are things we as teachers generally can’t control but must work with and work around.

I think most in this Connected Courses environment would agree that we should use the technology available to enter through Other Doors into the content we teach. Blogs, textbooks, chats, forums, libraries, Twitter, movies, television, radio, video, audio, presentations, lectures, group work, role-play, drills, and many more doors are there. Are they open? Or are they labeled “Please Use Other Doors?”

I like to enter through other doors. Using the same door all the time is boring. Trying other doors, other ways of doing things, is mind-expanding and may lead to new relationships, new ways of viewing the world,  and new learning.

Please Use Other Doors

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and now…Connected Courses!

DSC_9123 As the assembled instructional team of Connected Courses have now directed me to do, I am updating this blog for use in the course. Feel free to read (and even comment on) the older posts from Thought Vectors.

 I am not creating anything fancy, just using a free web resource. As always, I continue to learn.

 More later….


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Glitching Danish Numbers

Edward Larsson's notes on Danish runes and numerals. Public Domain.

Edward Larsson’s notes on Danish runes and numerals. Public Domain.

Well, where have I been? As an “open online participant” I’ve been around, looking at blogs, commenting on some, watching the interviews, etc. I’ve actually ripped the audio of the Alan Kay and the Ted Nelson interviews and listened to them driving to and from work for the last couple of weeks.

What I have not done is actually create a formal inquiry statement and follow through with any significant research. I was looking into the influence of eleventh century Danish kings on England and English, but realize that could be a lifelong specialty. I did read a biography of King Canute (or Cnut or Knut), which helped place the Viking age in perspective. And I’ve been learning about the odd Danish number naming system, and a little bit about runes (the Norse writing of the Viking era).

I’ve had a long-term interest in number systems. Partly, it was influenced by my father who was a computer programmer from the 1950s to 1990s. When I was young, he sometimes brought me literature from IBM and I remember finding the binary and duodecimal number systems intriguing. In sixth grade I figured out the patterns for base 3, and other bases of number systems. [I still teach this stuff, especially binary, hexadecimal, sometimes octal.]

In English (and other Germanic languages), our numbers are influenced by duodecimal or base 12 numbering. The number names go from one through twelve with unique names before incorporating the tens values at thirteen. Then until nineteen, it is the unit first followed by teen. After that, it is the tens unit first then the ones unit (twenty-three, fifty-eight, etc.). There is no number oneteen or twoteen. From twenty to ninety, it is simply the tens digit followed by “ty” to represent ten (two-ten, three-ten, etc.).

In Danish, things are different. Through twenty, things are similar. Eleven and twelve have their own names (elleve and tolv), and then it is unit-ten like English (literally “ten” not “teen”). Then things are more like German, with the ones unit before the tens unit (one-and-twenty, two-and- twenty, etc) (in Danish, enogtyve, toogtyve). The tens are normal, except fifty through ninety are based on multiples of twenty. Fifty is two-and-a-half-times-twenty (halvtredsindstyve); sixty is three-times-twenty (tresindstyve); seventy is three-and-a-half-times-twenty (halvfjerdsindstyve); eighty is four-times-twenty (firsindstyve); and ninety is four-and-a-half-times-twenty (halvfemsindstyve).

By the way, the “halvtred”, “halvfjerd”, and “halvfem” indicate third, fourth, and fifth “halvs”. 1/2, 1 1/2, 2 1/2, 3 1/2, 4 1/2 is the sequence of “halvs”.

OK, that is as far as I’ve pursued it. I hope to learn more. Since I will be in Denmark in a couple of weeks, I’ll ask around. And see if I can learn some of the language beyond numbers.

Same document glitched in Audacity with echo.

Same document glitched in Audacity with echo.

And the new thing I’ve been stimulated by is glitch art. There is a certain appeal in editing visual data (images) with audio or text editors. The misinterpretation of the data leads to interesting, seemingly unpredictable changes. I suspect they aren’t really unpredictable, but when the data is examined and the file formats are understood, one can have more control over the results. In two days of trying, I’ve already come to found some methods to create semi-predictable results. I will be starting to use a hex editor to work directly on the data within the constraints of the file type. I’ll keep you informed, but probably not on this blog. For now I’ll use http://byzantiumbooksds106.wordpress.com, which is my ds106 experimentation blog. In the future I might make a blog specifically for the glitching and other data manipulation I envision myself becoming obsessed with.

Same image glitched in Audacity with wah-wah.

Same image glitched in Audacity with wah-wah.

Keep experimenting, keep learning, explore everything!

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Nugget of Hypertext Machine Dreaming

There it is, in Computer Lib/Dream Machines, on pages DM44 and DM45, just before the write-up of “Doug Engelbart and “The Augmentation of Intellect.”” There is Ted Nelson’s description of hypertext, of associative trails in concept space from his own vision and conceptualization. And he’s giving credit to Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think!”

And for several more pages he goes on about it, and describes his vision of Xanadu, his own proprietary concept space of intertwingularity.

While Ted Nelson is every bit a visionary as Douglas Engelbart and Vannevar Bush, might I suggest that hypertext-as-is isn’t so bad, and it isn’t so different from hypertext-as-envisioned? Here is a quote from Ted Nelson:

“Now the idea is this:

Make a link

Make a link
photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

To give you a screen in your home from
which you can see into the world’s hypertext

(The fact that the world doesn’t have
any hypertext libraries– yet– is a minor

To give you a screen system that will
offer high-performance computer graphics and
text services at a price anyone can afford.

To allow you to send and receive written messages
at the Engelbart level. To allow you to explore diagrams.
To eliminate the absurd distinction between “teacher” and “pupil.”

To make you a part of a new electronic literature and art,
where you can get all your questions answered and nobody will put you

And here’s the question you always ask Mom and Dad while in line at Disneyworld: Are we there yet?

Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?
photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

We have more than a screen system in our homes; we have computers. Our computers can compute, can act like screens, can store vast amounts of data, and (perhaps most importantly) interface via the Internet to all kinds of other computers with their vast amounts of data and computing capabilities. So what if “the world doesn’t have any hypertext libraries yet?” We are using search engines and hyperlinks in much the same way, vectoring down rabbit trails (I mean associative trails) with the click of a mouse or tap of a screen.

I know that as I work on my inquiry project, I will be finding documents, images, video, presentations, music, and more that I would not be able to find and access in the time given if I had to rely on pre-hypertext technologies. All of this thanks to the hypertextual system we currently have in place, and the augmentation of all that memory. What will the future give us?


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Inquiry: Byzantium goes to Denmarkian England


Cnut the Great's Domain of His Own

Cnut the Great’s Domain of His Own
Map from Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd, http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/historical/history_shepherd_1923.html.

Area of Inquiry
I am interested in learning more about the historical, cultural, and linguistic relationships between Denmark and the United Kingdom. The reasons for my interest are varied. For one thing, I have spent time reading history in various contexts (with a history concentration for my undergrad liberal arts degree), but have pretty much ignored northern Europe. I’m not totally devoid of knowledge in that area, but now might be a good time for further study for my second and third reasons. My youngest son lives in Denmark, in the outer edge of Copenhagen. A couple of years ago he married a Dane, and now has one of my granddaughters, with another one due by the end of the year. Coinciding with the end of this course, I will be flying with my wife and other parts of the family to Copenhagen to visit, then we all go off to London for a week.

Sweyn Forkbeard lives on as a Pub

Sweyn Forkbeard lives on as a Pub
Image CC-BY-SA by Brian, https://flic.kr/p/iHFTu.

Vector of Inquiry
Within the few weeks we have to complete this project, I will need to refine the direction and scope of inquiry. It could grow to an intensive and extensive study well beyond July 31. I am considering concentrating on two particular areas for now, areas that are related. The family that descended from Harald Bluetooth were the significant leaders in the Danish invasion, with son Sweyn Forkbeard becoming the first Danish King of England, and grandson Cnut occupying London in the early eleventh century. Two more were also King, and the mainline of the Danes ended a mere thirty years after it began. I’ll find out more details as I progress. The second strand is to learn what I can about the communication methods and technology of the time. How did Sweyn and Cnut coordinate their invasions? How did they communicate over their more extensive domain of Norway and Denmark? What was the written language like? Is there any trace of their language in English or Danish today?

Cnut the Great

Cnut the Great
Image from a medieval manuscript, http://www.dandebat.dk/eng-dan16.htm

This Project in Concept Space
I envision a web-space that uses graphics to show the geographical, familial, and linguistic movements in the region and time under study (Denmark and England, early eleventh century). In addition, I will seek out any examples of the written and spoken language, and means of communication, and provide images and sound, either directly or as links. One decision point will be where to host the project. One option is to create a WordPress blog using a theme that would allow me to incorporate what I want. Or I could create a wiki at a suitable free wiki provider. There are other options and the possibility of combining the options into an interlinked web.

Since this inquiry is of limited time scope (at least initially; it could turn into a years-long project), most of the research will be conducted from secondary sources found via the Internet. This would include web sites of academic historians, governments, tourism, and other; documents located in academic scholarly searches via my university library resources; and any available media. I will probably find images of source documents, but lacking language skills and time to pursue them I will need to rely on translations and interpretations.

Request for Comments
Anmodning om Bemærkninger
I intend to have fun with this project, learn some history and culture, and learn new ways of presenting information on the concept space we call the Internet. Your comments, suggestions, well-wishes, guidance, and critiques are welcome and encouraged.

I Dreamt Me a Dream Last Night

I Dreamt Me a Dream Last Night
From Runes in Denmark

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Word breaks, hyphens, and left justification

Alright, this isn’t really a response to some assignment. It has to do with style.

In my opinion, a paragraph of text that is left justified (lines up along the left margin with the right end of each line finishing where needed) should not break words at the end of lines. Since the right margin is not justified, there is no need to figure out where a hyphen should go. Just put the word on the next line.

What I'm Talking About

What I’m Talking About
from blog of Anonymous Octopus

It looks like the rampages default WordPress theme is Twenty Fourteen, so maybe it is the theme that I’m not liking so much. Sometimes, I don’t even see the hyphens, which really bothers me. Broken words that aren’t even joined with a little symbol.

Maybe there is a way to change the settings, probably something called word wrap, in the style sheet for this theme. Or maybe it is just the way it is.

The thought vectors for me on this have taken me down trails of settings for my own blog, and plans to experiment with different themes. I have five or six other blogs on WordPress (and can create as many as desired), so I might take some unused ones and change the themes to see what happens. Isn’t this how learning occurs: make changes and observe results?


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Delayed week two reflection

Warning on a computer equipment rack at Jefferson Lab, Newport News, Virginia

Warning on a computer equipment rack at Jefferson Lab, Newport News, Virginia
Photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

I’m glad to be an “open online participant” rather than a registered student. If I were an official student, I would have my work in on time! (side note: I’ve been an official student plenty of times, and find that a key to success is meeting deadlines, even if the work isn’t as ready as it should be.)

During the last week or so, I’ve been digging into the pioneers of networking we have been discussing and looking ahead. I found a complete pdf of Ted Nelson’s Computer Lib/Dream Machines, so am re-reading through that. I had a real copy back when he published it; it informed my thinking about computer technology and what it could do. (side note: I wonder if we will get Ted Nelson into a hangout?)
Also, I’ve been watching or listening to the media we have had. I try to tune in when the event is live, not to be the first to hear the news, but because I enjoy learning some of the behind-the-scenes goings-on that get it all working. Gardner Campbell doing a test hangout ahead of time; Alan Levine cross-casting the hangout on ds106radio; taking the Alan Kay You Tube video and ripping it to mp3 audio so I can listen during my commute time. The multitude of technology allows us to reformat the content to meet our needs and desires. (side note for research: does reformatting to change media types ever violate copyright or license?)

The associations that the Alan Kay interview bring up include linkages to Scott Lockman, a long-time audio- and radio-enthusiast, podcaster, and teacher of the thoughtvectors material. He noted comments of Kay’s on the stagnation in teaching content since the 17th century, and references to cargo cult thinking. Scottlo’s own posts indicate other trails to follow. In a blog post, he included an animated GIF of Blake’s print of Newton morphing into Paolozzi’s sculpture of Newton. Doing the research, I find that both are at the British Museum in London, and I will be there later this summer. So, the created image will lead me to see the original works. Maybe I can also search out places associated with Newton and Blake, and find more of Paolozzi’s works (mosaics in the Tube, for example). Here’s a thought for you: go to ScottLo’s blog at http://scottlo.com/, pick any random podcast from the past, and listen to it. The associative trails will likely lead you to discovery.

These associations for me go beyond computer and network technology, and they should for you also. The technology (interesting and important in its own right, especially for the technologists and engineers amongst us) is the connecting network for our thoughtvectors; it is the concept space were we move from one association to another; it is the augmentation to our intellect that keeps us free to wonder as we wander.

Some future investigations

Some future investigations
Photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

My own thoughts for an inquiry project go beyond the scope of this course. Unlike many in this course, I am at the other end of a career. I am looking to build on personal interests, use the tools of augmented intelligence, find new thought vectors, and move forward into “retirement” with various investigations, and share my research (however trivial to professionals) in concept space. Maybe this is a way that all of us can think about the technology: we pursue our various inquiries throughout our professional and personal lives, and we gather from others and share to others through the available technologies. The technology not only augments our ability to inquire and think, but it is the medium for returning the processes and results to the greater community.

Always Exploring!

Always Exploring!
Photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

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Obviously, the Map is Not the Territory

Analyzing the Obvious

Can't swim in this pool.

Can’t swim in this pool.
Photo from Google Maps Satellite View

The Map is not the Territory

So says Korzybski. Or so everyone thinks. His actual quote is “A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness”. And I am sure he restated it in the shorter form. He derived the concept and nearly the wording from Eric Temple Bell’s “the map is not the thing mapped.”

But the point is, it seems like an obvious statement that the map isn’t identical with the territory it represents. We even say that one thing maps to another if there is a relationship but not an identity.

This quote has been on my mind since I first heard or read it way back when (1960s probably). It is obvious, yet deeper than it seems.

Another statement with similar feel and similar thought vectors for me is:
This is not a pipe. (Rene Magritte’s painting of a tobacco pipe with the words in French under it. What is not a pipe? The painting of a visual representation of a pipe? The paint on canvas? The statement itself?)

Are they right?

Are they right?

The pipe/not a pipe statement has become a somewhat of a meme, especially in our time of image editing, remixing, and parody and satire. One of my favorite cartoons shows Rene holding his famous painting, and his brother Rodrigo the plumber holding what looks like a water pipe and saying “neither is this.” Is it meant that a real Rodrigo actually said this about a real pipe? Or that the drawing of the pipe is clearly not the pipe itself? Or the statement is a satire on his brother’s intellectualism?

How about numbers, data, words and how we represent them? Another Thought Vectors participant posted on the obvious statement that 2+2=4 is an absolute truth. Yet I would disagree, unless it is properly defined. We assume we are using the decimal number system and these symbols are valid in that system. Yet, if this represented a math problem in a base 3 number system, the statement would be meaningless, as there is no symbol “4”. Probably, the correct statement would be 2+2=11. (a 1 in the three’s position, and a 1 in the one’s position)

We could say “the number is not the quantity” or “the numbers aren’t the data”.

The Wikipedia article on Map-Territory Relation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map-territory_relation) discusses and has links for some of the items I’ve mentioned, and more. If I track down the references, I’ll be revisiting old friends like Gregory Bateson and Lewis Carroll, and finding more about some known to me but not deeply enough and some unknown to me.

There is so much to do in pursuit of how we represent reality, I may never get to finding out what reality actually is. Beginning to look like an inquiry project…

Here is a list of people, topics, and links that a quick look across the universe of ideas is leading me to vector off to:
Alford Korzybski and General Semantics
Eric Temple Bell, numerology
Rene Magritte, Surrealism, and the meme of “this is not a pipe”
Gregory Bateson (I think I have a copy of his Steps to an Ecology of Mind somewhere in the house.)
Jorge Luis Borges (again and again, I go back to Borges to find paradox.)
Direct and indirect realism, philosophy of mind, perception, etc.
Logical fallacies.

I’ll close with another statement, and a personal anecdote. “The flag is not the nation.” When I was a teenager and began to “think for myself”, we had a tradition during high school homeroom class of standing and reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. My viewpoint was contrary to this tradition, but I would stand silently with my hands to my sides. Occasionally, someone would question my action, but mostly it was a non-event. As an adult, during and after a career in the US Navy, I was and am still reluctant to salute a national flag, or pledge allegiance to it. The flag is not the nation. Actually, there is deeper motivation. My US citizenship is merely an accident of birth. I am happy to be here, and hope I would be happy if I were born elsewhere. Citizenship itself is a slippery subject, as is the concept of nationality.

Photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

Photo by Bill Smith CC-BY

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