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Archive for the 'Content' Category

whining about children and technology

Jeremeanie started me thinking again with Too many topics, too little time. » This note’s for you » One Laptop Per Child? about the One Laptop Per Child issue, and then I found this on SlashDot below. I think what’s bugging me is that old standard of ‘what was good enough for me is good enough for everyone’ nonsense. When was our modern notion of the child invented. I’ve heard it variously put as post war, turn of the century, early 19th C or beginning of the industrial revolution. And this has nothing to do with whether we loved children or not. Point: how we see children is socially constructed and open to change. Secondly, technology for children is also not eternal, and will change, just look at the history of children’s books. Personally, I think TV was a bad thing because it opened up children to advertising, aside from the notions of what the CRT does to the brain. Point: children are already wedded to produced content and current technologies of the time.

As with most everything, people think that what they grew up with is the norm, and befores and afters are somehow unenlightened.

I don’t know if the OLPC project is a good thing. It definitely bugs me for its lack of transparency and inclusivity, and the hegemonic air about it. Perhaps I’m just out of the loop and everything’s kosher, but who knows.

I do know that there’s no validity in the status quo argument at all.

I’ll wait to see what happens.

Slashdot | OLPC’s UI To Be Kid-Tested In February
“The AP is reporting that kid testing of Negroponte’s ‘$100 Laptop’ starts in February. This article is some of the first mainstream coverage of just how different the user interface of the XO Computer is — it ditches the traditional office metaphors in favor of a ‘neighborhood’ and an activity-based journaling approach. Video of Sugar, as the UI is called, has been out on the net for a while, and Popular Science recently gave the color / monochrome display a ‘Grand Award’ in its 2006 technology roundup. What do you think of this new UI?”

Related links:
Low-cost laptop could transform learning - Yahoo! News

YouTube - Slightly better demo of the OLPC User Interface

PopSci’s Best of What’s New 2006

College Freshmen Struggle With Tech Literacy

Slashdot | College Freshmen Struggle With Tech Literacy

an article on the E-Commerce News site [E-Commerce News: Trends: Generation M’s Surprising Struggle With Tech Literacy] about techno-literacy problems with incoming college freshmen. Some schools, like CSU, are planning on including a technology comprehension test alongside their English and Math evaluations for new students.

From the article: “Not all of Generation M can synthesize the loads of information they’re accessing, educators say. ‘They’re geeky, but they don’t know what to do with their geekdom,’ said Barbara O’Connor, a Sacramento State communications studies professor involved in a nationwide effort to hone students’ computer-research skills. On a recent nationwide test to measure their technological ‘literacy’ — their ability to use the Internet to complete class assignments — only 49 percent of the test-takers correctly evaluated a set of Web sites for objectivity, authority and timeliness. Only 35 percent could correctly narrow an overly broad Internet search.”

I can’t wait to see how this plays out in my senior courses this winter on Children and Technology. I’ve had a running argument with anyone would didn’t run away on what it takes to have a useful level of technoliteracy since I was first a TA around 1990. Knowing how to set up the VCR is nothing in comparison to understanding how to subvert the proscribed functions of the VCR. Merely following a manual is to technoliteracy what phonics is to reading Proust.

Tom Waits - Children’s Story

I love tom waits. I love ’scary’ children’s stories. And here’s one altogether.

The Chronicle: 10/6/2006: E-Mail is for Old People

Rochelle sent me this article which is really interesting: The Chronicle: 10/6/2006: E-Mail is for Old People: “As students ignore their campus accounts, colleges try new ways of communicating….” While I’m very happy that people are thinking this through, they don’t seem to be thinking that wisely or deeply. I did post something recently about this and thin technologies but it also is an issue of appropriate technologies. When I’m the prof. and I want to communicate with students about formal matters, sending an IM is, well, stupid. And with Facebook and Myspace, the cognitive equivalent of social communication as dressing up to go to a disco in a stripmall, you’ve got to wonder how far out of touch the admin might be. I’ve used IM for communicating with students for years. The problem wtih that is that they don’t use any of the ‘good’ ones and I have to use MSN (I guess I’m old school prefering IRC (yes, I know I trash IRC but that’s for a diff reason), ICQ, AIM/iChat, MOOs or the like).

I use AIM/iChat mostly to communcate with colleagues. While I was working with my RA on the songchild project (http://songchild.org) I was IMing with Danny, who teaches part time at ECE, showing him how to use media wiki, and editing the CSS for his wiki. We were in text, but when he was trying things out we switched to audio (which is a function of iChat) so we could type while we talked. And of course I could have 2-3 other chats going on with other faculty. Facebook isn’t quite up to that level of communication, though it is good for the rather thin communication that perhaps is all students want to engage in.

I’d prefer a jabber server for our school though, then we could be sure that we had a record that messages were at least sent. That’s what I like about institutional email… we have proof that it got to a student’s account, and the reverse. You can lead a student to email, but you can’t ensure they read it… Hmmm… I’d even think that setting up a monastic learning environment in World of Warcraft would be better than just getting a school facebook account. Now that’s a thought.

Our job is to improve student’s ability to communicate, not bring the level down to what has been marketted at young people. I’ve yet to find anyone who can justify FB or MS as a more rich or sophisticated form of tech over whatever else is available… and there are so many other ways of keeping in touch… of course blogs and livejournal, or even MOOs.

As well, if students were ACTUALLY more sophisticated they could do what I do. My university email is forwarded to my gmail account, and the email I send out from Mail.app is configured such that anything I send out appears to come from my university. And they wouldn’t need to go to the unversity account at all, nor embarass their friends with a stupid email account name.

This is also funny. UofT and Ryerson both allow for firstname/[email protected] email accounts. My students who try (they stop after the first try) to email me from elsewhere as [email protected] are directed to try again from something slightly more appropriate.

The final interesting point is that I strongly suggest that students experiment with a more professional language register than they are used to.

Dear Jason;

I am sorry that I will not be in class today, as my new puppy ate my bus pass, and my student loans will not be in until next week, and there’s a meteor shower at the moment.

Ed the Horse

Most of my students want a job when they graduate, and they see the point of knowing how to communicate effectively and professionally with their future employers, and later on with their employees. If they just want to communicate with their friends, they’re more than welcome to, since education is all about the choices we make based on the opportunities available to us.

Professor Sells Lectures Online

Slashdot | Professor Sells Lectures Online

“Students at NCSU have the option of purchasing the lectures of a professor online. The Professor did this as a way to help those that missed class, didn’t take good notes, or from another country and have trouble understanding an English speaking Professor. The reactions on campus were mixed among the students as some saw it as a great way to keep up with things should real life interfere and others see it as something to pay for on top of the tuition cost at the university.

Each one cost $2.50 for the entire lecture. Some students feel it should be free or cost less. The professor brings up a point that doing this takes extra effort and it’s only fair that they should have to pay for that extra time and effort needed to put the lectures online for sale such as editing, recording equipment, etc. No one is forced to purchase the lectures, they are only an additional option that students will have.

Quote Dr. Schrag “Your tuition buys you access to the lectures in the classroom. If you want to hear one again, you can buy it. I guess you could see the service as a safety net designed to help the students get the content when life gets in the way of their getting to class.”

Any thoughts on this one?

Do I Need to Know This?

Do I Need to Know This?

You can survive without the things you learn in college. People survive scrounging out of dumpsters and sleeping in doorways. If you want to talk about quality of life, we need to be a bit more demanding.

Professor Dutch has this quote an others on an interesting page that Buridan shared with me; probably in the hopes that i’d blog it.

Top Ten No Sympathy Lines is a typical sort of rant that I’ve heard over the years by ‘old school’ profs who like to maintain the fiction that university is a rare and special place where students are afforded 4 years of an opportunity to grow and learn in a challenging ivory towered environment. He’s not like that, I’m just saying that this is where I’ve heard it in the past.

I’m someone who struggled to do well in university; working though most of high school and all of university (except the summer of 1985 when I went to school full time). I have sympathy for students who have to work, as well as sympathy for people with children to take care of, bills to pay, special needs that require extra support. I’m using the larger meaning of sympathy that is beyond mere pity.

I think that university has become more than an elite learning environment, just as it is a de facto requirement for anyone who wants to get ahead in life.

That said, Dutch’s page is full of intresting truisms and unproblematized statements, reflections and whatnot that are for me useful reminders of the challenges students and faculty face when sharing the experience of doing university.

All I Want is the Diploma

The work force is full of people who do the minimum necessary to get by… For people who want to get by on the minimum, there’s a reward already established. It’s called the minimum wage.

Ivan Illich Online

Preservenet has the FULL TEXT of many of Ivan Illich’s works including Deschooling Society which is, to me, the one book any one who pretends to be an educator must read.

AGO Exhibition: In Your Face

I was over at the AGO yesterday. A number of ECE faculty will be consulting with the AGO on some issues relating to learning. We saw a bit of this project which will be opening July 1, and it sounds really exciting. If you want to get your portrait in a gallery, here’s your chance… and since the project is ongoing, there’s no rush.

Exhibition: In Your Face

Open Source » Photography 2.0

Interesting article about Photography on the Open Source Blog that might be of interest for my course. I like how digital images are becoming a blogging language of their own, and how it comes down, in the end to what choices people make as to what is important to them to capture.

A group of teenagers sits in a loose cluster on the floor of an airport lounge photographing each other with cell phones and giggling over the results. A man takes a picture of everything he’s eaten that day and posts the results online.
In Bangalore and Portugal, in Boston and Maputo, Mozambique, “amateur” photographers are recording, documenting, and preserving the minutia of daily life like never before. Births and birthday parties, but also cloud patterns, garbage on a street corner, the blur of traffic or the neighbor’s dog. The result is an astounding collection of visual images, adding up to hundreds of thousands of pictures every day. Today alone, the 3,174,643 members of Fotolog posted over 201,000 images online.

This Essay Breaks the Law - New York Times

Michael Crichton writes:This Essay Breaks the Law - New York Times: “In addition, there is the rather bizarre question of whether simply thinking about a patented fact infringes the patent. The idea smacks of thought control, to say nothing of unenforceability. It seems like something out of a novel by Philip K. Dick — or Kafka. But it highlights the uncomfortable truth that the Patent Office and the courts have in recent decades ruled themselves into a corner from which they must somehow extricate themselves…. In addition, there is the rather bizarre question of whether simply thinking about a patented fact infringes the patent. The idea smacks of thought control, to say nothing of unenforceability. It seems like something out of a novel by Philip K. Dick — or Kafka. But it highlights the uncomfortable truth that the Patent Office and the courts have in recent decades ruled themselves into a corner from which they must somehow extricate themselves.”

More fodder for my course, though I think it may be for CLD121: Critical Thinking and the Reflective Practitioner. I find it staggering, not that organizations and individual are trying to take out a patent on reality and any subset thereof, but that there isn’t an insane public outcry… folks to busy looking for WMD, watching sports, playing ‘games’ or doing other related things that were designed, invented, and probably patented just to keep people’s attention occupied and uncritically absorbed.