A Plausible Promise of Abundant Educational Resources

John Graves jg07024 at gmail.com
Tue Mar 13 05:08:50 CET 2012

OK. Do you have an presentation prepared?

I've put the one with the

On Tue, Mar 13, 2012 at 5:06 PM, John Graves <jg07024 at gmail.com> wrote:

> The warning from Google should be fixed by now. A server outside my
> control had been infected with malware, so I shifted servers, but the
> warning message remained attached to the domain name. The address
> http://slidespeech.org leads to http://code.google.com/p/slidespeech/ the
> source code repository.
> On Sat, Mar 10, 2012 at 3:11 AM, John Graves <jg07024 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear Python-List:
>> If you find Wikipedia useful and can see the value of collaborating on a
>> project which could make learning material as freely and spectacularly
>> available as Wikipedia does reference material[1], please read on.
>> Background:
>> In November 2009, I began learning Python with the objective of trying to
>> understand the following research question in my PhD research study of open
>> source software development: "We have built Wikipedia and other big,
>> successful open source projects. How can we do it again (and again)?" The
>> critical issue for me was how to start a project which would grow to
>> self-sustainability. So for over two years now, my research method has been
>> to try to actually start such a project. I failed. Over and over. The data
>> collection period for my study ended.
>> Before I could start writing up my PhD, however, I saw an answer provided
>> in February 2012 by the founder of Craigslist, on Quora. When asked, "How
>> did Craigslist gain its initial traction?"[2], Craig Newmark, Customer
>> Service Rep & Founder wrote:
>> - from beginning, did something simple and useful
>> - from beginning, began cycle:
>>   -- asked for community feedback
>>   -- did something about it
>>   -- repeat, forever
>> -- got lucky with simple site design
>> So I have now tried to take what started as a horribly over ambitious
>> desktop application[3], combined with an equally inept Android mobile
>> application (done in Java)[4] and boiled down the core text-to-speech
>> functionality into something "simple and useful" which runs on the web. The
>> project is now called SlideSpeech[5] and it does a couple of pretty
>> interesting things. Interesting enough to attract venture capital.
>> The Future:
>> As of 23 February 2012, SlideSpeech Limited is a company. But it is still
>> an open source software development research project with a Pythonic heart.
>> I can now pay for development of some professional quality software by
>> people who know much more Java and Python than I do. Perhaps this will help
>> the project reach self-sustainability, although, as Derek Sivers points out
>> in a memorable TED talk[6], just initiating or leading a project like this
>> is not what makes it a success: there must be joiners and followers for a
>> project with a plausible promise to grow to realise its potential. The
>> followers are the real heroes.
>> Now Peter Diamandis just gave a TED talk entitled, "Abundance is our
>> future"[7] which everyone should watch. He talks of 3 billion people coming
>> on-line this decade. I want SlideSpeech to be useful and helpful to those
>> people. Not to make money from them but to help foster a global
>> conversation and global distribution of knowledge. We should all share in
>> Educational Abundance. Diamandis says, "we're going to hit 70 percent
>> penetration of cellphones in the developing world by the end of 2013."
>> SlideSpeech can plausibly promise to deliver free, interactive learning
>> material to smart phones anywhere on the planet this year. The current
>> working prototype does this today.
>> In its simplest form, the system works like this:
>> 1) you start in your presentation software, adding a voice over script in
>> the speaker notes of each slide
>> 2) you upload your presentation to SlideSpeech
>> 3) on the SlideSpeech server (which can be your own PC, running Python,
>> made viewable to the world using PageKite[8]), the presentation is
>> "decomposed" into slide images and text scripts. The scripts are fed into a
>> text-to-speech engine. The resulting audio files are wrapped in HTML with
>> their corresponding slide image files. Finally, a link to access the HTML
>> is e-mailed back to you
>> 4) you open the link on your mobile phone's web browser and the
>> presentation you were writing just moments before "delivers itself" on your
>> phone ... or on any smart phone, tablet or web browser, anywhere. No need
>> to organise a venue, send invitations or get people to actually physically
>> show up to see and hear your talk. You can just forward the e-mail.
>> Cooler still,
>> 5) if you have a native application play the script using the phone's
>> text-to-speech engine, you don't have to download audio (or video), so you
>> save 75% of the bandwidth. Multiplied by billions of people, multiplied by
>> the number of downloads[9], that is a huge savings.
>> The compression of content into the simple combination of images and
>> text-to-speech scripts allows SlideSpeech to realise part of the One Laptop
>> Per Child vision using "talking" smart phones and tablets. Students can
>> learn on their own. Current prices on the cheapest Android 2.2 gear which
>> can deliver SlideSpeech content here in Auckland, New Zealand are under
>> NZ$150.
>> A Revolution in Learning:
>> Think of SlideSpeech as a platform like Khan Academy[10] with the
>> exercises integrated into the presentation. The scripts can be created and
>> improved collaboratively, like Wikipedia articles, or cloned and customised
>> for particular audiences. Unlike Khan Academy videos, the text of
>> SlideSpeech presentations is search-able and machine-translatable.
>> With presentation feedback built into the system[11], a newly created
>> presentation can be distributed and then dynamically critiqued and revised,
>> so later viewers see the corrected and improved version. It is remarkable
>> how quickly changes can be made, especially in contrast to the feedback
>> cycle a typical instructor goes through to improve their teaching.
>> These ideas and technologies are not new. Text-to-speech, in particular,
>> has been around for a long time. Lately, however, the voices have become
>> "Avatar-quality"[12].
>> These ideas are disruptive. The current working prototypes of SlideSpeech
>> may appear to work poorly, underperforming relative to established
>> products, but as Clayton Christensen explains[13], having the ability to
>> meet an underlying need in a radically different way transforms industries.
>> I like to make an analogy with trains and cars. Current educational systems
>> are like trains: everyone has to go between the same fixed destinations at
>> the same fixed times, like it or not. SlideSpeech-based learning is like
>> having a car: you get to go learn whatever you want, whenever you want,
>> wherever you are, at your own pace (which is sometimes very, very fast!).
>> Content is King:
>> Having lots of content available will accelerate the adoption of
>> SlideSpeech above all else. Over the coming weeks, as the system matures,
>> you can start preparing by authoring presentations with speaker notes. Once
>> the system is fully available on-line, or downloadable to your PC, you can
>> drop your presentations in and get out "self-delivering" talks in HTML or
>> even video format, voiced by a wide selection of computer voices in English
>> and in many other languages.
>> Please feel free to jump in with suggestions, contributions or forks of
>> the code repositories listed below.
>> Let's make Educational Abundance happen with Python this year.
>> Exponentially yours,
>> John Graves
>> PhD Student
>> AUT University
>> Auckland, New Zealand
>> Founder and CEO
>> SlideSpeech
>> [1] The English language version of Wikipedia has 50 times as many words
>> as *Encyclopædia Britannica<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica>
>> * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Size_comparisons
>> [2] http://www.quora.com/How-did-Craigslist-gain-its-initial-traction
>> [3] http://code.google.com/p/open-allure-ds/
>> [4] http://code.google.com/p/wiki-to-speech/
>> [5] http://code.google.com/p/slidespeech/
>> [6] http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement.html
>> [7] http://www.ted.com/talks/peter_diamandis_abundance_is_our_future.html
>> [8] http://pagekite.net
>> [9] average for Wikipedia is about one article per person per day (18.1
>> billion pages / 482 million unique visitors in January 2012)
>> http://stats.wikimedia.org/reportcard/
>> [10] http://khanacademy.org
>> [11] http://code.google.com/p/slidespeech/wiki/WorkflowDiagrams
>> [12] I particularly like Loquendo's Veena, Indian English voice
>> http://www.loquendo.com/en/demo-center/tts-demo/english/
>> [13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology
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