Perpetually Fascinated (or Singing the Praises of the Cloud)

Neil Young’s autobiography, Waging Heavy Peace, was released in September 2012 and I only purchased it a few days ago.  It was at the top of my reading list since before its release, but other technology related books muscled their way to the top of my list and pleasure reading slipped down the priority chart.   The book is written in a scattered, conversational tone that runs all over the map of Young’s exceptional journey, covering his early days with the Squires, his experiments with new energy, his life-long love affair with automobiles, his obsession with bringing quality sound to the digital age (and not a moment too soon), his overwhelming love and admiration of his family, and the music… it always comes back to the music.  I’m only about 120 pages into this 500 page chronicle, and I’ve been learning a lot more about a man whose work I’ve admired for decades.

I’m not reading the dead tree version of the book.  I’ve actually abandoned the practice of purchasing dead tree books when an electronic version is available, and the Amazon’s Whispersync technology is one of the big reasons why.  With Whispersync, I can be reading a book on my laptop, or iPad, or desktop, or Android phone, and the Whispersync synchronizes the book throughout the locations so that I can read on my laptop during the evening, pick up my smartphone the next day and read a few pages on my lunch break, picking up right where I left off the night before.  That, my friends, is just plain awesome.

Then there’s Spotify.  Whenever I read books about musicians, I always like to have the music they’re discussing as I read.  The soundtrack completes the experience for me, but if I’m carrying around a hard copy version of a book, I can’t do it very easily.  I just can’t carry my record collection around everywhere I go, waiting for the appropriate point in the book to put on the right song.  And this is where Spotify comes in.  I’ve created a Waging Heavy Peace playlist on Spotify, and as I read the book, each time Neil brings up a recording, I add it to the playlist.  So far, it includes some great Neil Young songs, but also a little bit of Rosemary Clooney, some Bob Dylan, a touch of Beach Boys, and more.  The full experience is thoroughly rewarding, and I’m feeling a much deeper understanding of the artist and the art though this technological extravaganza.  Oh, and yes, I have Spotify Premium so I can listen to my playlists from anywhere, including my mobile devices.  So, if I’m reading a few pages during lunch, I can pull up the playlist on my phone’s Spotify app and read the book through the Kindle app.

Since this IS an edtech blog, I better say something about instructional technology…  So here goes…  Think about it.  How can you use cross-platform apps to create materials that fully immerse your learners in the experience?  Sure, publishers have all sorts of bells and whistles tied to e-books, but most e-books are tied to a single workstation or platform and cannot be accessed from any device at any location.  It’s one thing to create a PowerPoint with audio narration and embedded video clips.  It’s something entirely different to use varied techniques to create an experience which will allow the student to incorporate related resources into their reading and studying….  Can we do it without touching the LavaFloor?  Can we create solutions that are truly device and location agnostic and function equally well for students regardless of their accessibility needs?

Can we record Oh Suzanna and make it sound like a brand new song??


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