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Steve Jobs Vs Maria Montessori – Who Won?

I envision a debate between the late founders of two institutions that have impacted hundreds of thousands of children.

Steve Jobs is at his podium with a sleek tablet (downloading material from the Cloud, so to speak).

Maria Montessori is holding up a handful of sand-paper letters.

The debate begins, and Dr. Montessori, who doesn’t care to introduce herself, begins handing out rectangles of sand-paper, and pink blocks to anyone who cares to listen. Jobs is tap-tapping away on an iPad with retina display and fingerprint recognition.

But seriously, I have been fascinated to see how often modern educators, and people from all areas of student involvement invoke Maria Montessori today. I just came across an article by Dale Dougherty, the founder of MAKE magazine and creator of Maker Faire, among other things. He goes on to talk of her “education of the senses”

Montessori describes other exercises that encourage children to explore the sense of touch: setting out metal containers of water heated at six degree intervals; tablets made of three different woods that differ in weight by six grams; other tablets that have alternating strips of smooth paper and sandpaper.

Now you know why I was temped to compare the world’s best-known tablet promoter, and user of old-fashioned tablets!

 

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Education, Mobile, Technology

 

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Are hand-helds making kids dumber?

Besides being a technology writer, I am also the husband of a Montessori teacher, and we are truly concerned about the effect of tablets and smart phones.

My wife has taught very young children for about 27 years, and we have begun to observe disturbing real-time effects in kids for whom hand-delds have become proxy toys and baby-sitters. These screens are being outsourced by parents to take on the other aspects of parenting – stimulating thought-processes, imagination, language development etc.

Perhaps she will not say it in so many words, so as co-director of her Montessori school, I think it is time I did.

You may hate what I have to say, but for all of you young parents who start your day by giving your kid a screen at breakfast “just to keep her quiet,” or let a child ‘play’ with a smart phone on the way to school, you are damaging or impairing his/her development. This is not just our opinion. This is based on ongoing observations, and there is plenty of new research on the subject.

Pediatricians and brain researchers have been telling us for years that real life not its digital approximation is essential to neuron development. Issues such as attention, cognitive delays, and “decreased ability to self-regulation” aka tantrums, are common problems parents seem to face. Research is pointing to these being related to over-stimulation by technology. Many call for urgent ‘media diets’ with kids.

Check with your pediatrician, or do some research. Don’t just Google “toddlers and smart screens” but observe a child’s social behaviors when there are no screens, vs soon after a child has spent an hour on one.

Below is a quick summary of some of the arguments.

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Education, Technology

 

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My school profiled on US Dept. of Interior website

When Sec. Sally Jewell visited our school last week, little did we know how it would figure in the grander scheme of things. It was much more than a simple ‘air drop’ of a dignitary.

Turned out it was to kick off something bigger – a Listening Tour, of Native youth.

Yesterday we noticed that apart from the previous media coverage of this visit, the folks managing the communication for Secretary Jewell’s department had featured a lot of great shots of her engaging with our students. Two of the students featured are potential podcasters in my class on audio. Three are in robotics.

Here’s the video:

And below are some of my pictures taken at the event – also covered here on this blog.

This, taken in my class. Student Council president and robotics student explains how they approach a mission, program and document their work.

More pictures from my class blog, here

We often complain that government is tone deaf to much of what goes on in our communities.Speaking to Sec. Jewell, I could tell that this was much more than a token visit so as to report to the boss she’s been on the road.

We spoke of science. A lot! I mentioned that in the midst of so many changes in education, government seems to be not doing enough to promote science and technology.I mentioned that the State of the Union this year barely touched on STEM, despite Obama’s otherwise talking the talk on why we need more investment and more STEM teachers in science in schools. She was a good listener.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2015 in Education, Events, Robotics

 

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War of the Worlds, fought in Zeros and Ones

Cyber War is a hot topic once again. It has been covered by the BBC (“Silent War’), and even by TR (Russia Today) which cites Edward Snowden, and Defon. Also CNN, has covered it –scary CNN style!– about attacks on individuals via social media.

Last month, I was asked to cover this topic for an upcoming special feature in LMD Magazine. I found out some disturbing activities, and reality-checks that the public doesn’t seem concerned about. After all, we are busy worrying about how corporations’ databases are being attacked, and personal information stolen, because that’s what the popular news networks latch onto.

“But make no mistake: America is under attack by digital bombs,” noted Senator Michael McCaul last year when calling for cybersecurity legislation.

In his book “@War: The rise of the military-internet complex.” Shane Harris gives us one example of how governments fight a War of the Worlds scenario. The Chinese have been hacking sensitive US databases for some time, but in one such attack, the government initially withheld this information. Possibly so as not to tip-off the Chinese hackers, he says.

This was a de-facto military assault on a military target. And the target? The design plans for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet in 2007, the so-called ‘fighter to end all fighters,’ that had a price tag of $400 million. It’s well reported today that more than 100 of the world’s militaries indulge in some sort of cyber war tactics. For more on this see Peter Singer’s excellent article in Popular Science.

For this article I interviewed Cornel Ruston, a Sri Lankan-born, California-based network security consultant, who talks about how why all organizations, not just government agencies need to protect their ‘crown jewels’.

The problem is, despite all the fancy communication technologies in our arsenal, we have become sluggish, in the way we communicate with all those who might help thwart cyber war-styled attacks. We tend to put more emphasis on the locks instead. But for every lock, there are a hundred lock-pickers.

If you like a sneak preview of the article, it will be released on Feb 26th.

 

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Visit by US Secretary of Interior to my class

Exciting morning yesterday with the visit of Secretary of Interior, Sally Jewell to our school.

Sec. Jewell was kicking off to the Obama administration’s ‘Listening Tour’ in Arizona, visiting Native American schools and communities. She devoted a good part of her talk to stress the importance of science, in the four STEM areas. “I am the ‘E’ in STEM,” she said.

As part of her tour she stopped by my class to hear about the robotics program.

One of my students in robotics, who happens to be the president of the student council, explained our program and research projects.

Some media coverage, below.

 

Cronkite News, ASU

KJZZ Story – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell Begins Native Youth Listening

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Arizona, Education, Robotics

 

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Plans for more Collaboration at Digital Learning Day

In a time when pre-teens have Instagram accounts, and tablets readers have become the 4th screen (after TV, laptops, and smart phones), digital learning takes on new meaning.

For next month’s Digital learning Day, I plan to introduce students to some tools and processes that would prepare them for college and careers.

  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Book Trailers
  • Wikis
  • Content Aggregation

Building on last year’s #DLDAY activities, adding more collaboration this year, means showing students the opportunities of collaborating with even those outside the walls of a school. I am thinking of technology experts, and students in another school –even in another country!

Yes, most schools have walled gardens, for good reason. Occasionally we pierce these walls, and #DLDay is that time of year when we could try out new things.

Suggestions are welcome!

Some useful background here:

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Ed-Tech, Education, Social Media

 

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Cool or Creepy, the ‘Internet of Things’ is here

The Internet of Things,’ a buzz phrase slung around for some years now –now known by its equally fancy acronym IoT —  is deeper and broader than shaving mirrors that display the weather, or activity trackers worn as wrist bands, and tethered to a mobile device.

I just wrote an article on this for a magazine, and used as my working definition this from a Gartner report: A network of physical objects that could communicate and sense or interact with their internal states or the external environment. 

Hooking up these ‘things,’ small enough to lie beneath the skin of a plastic toy or shell of a small appliance makes manufacturers and retailers salivate. They could use the data from these devices to ‘inform’ them as to how we make our purchasing decisions, or even interact socially. An internet of people, and an Internet of things, in one continuous happy loop.

Here’s a fascinating example of how it is being used. I once spoke to a young entrepreneur whose business model was based on the ‘data’ retrieved from towels and linen in a hotel room. Fluffy stuff, mind you, not hard objects, wired to the cloud! Here’s how it works. Ultra High Frequency (UHF) tags are sewn into sheets, towels, and pillowcases,

I was tempted to make light of the surveillance possibilities of fluffed pillows – Wiki Leaks for dirty sheets. But really, there are places where data gathering could help in such inventory control. Tracking the path of soiled, laundered, lost and replaced linen like FedEx packages!

Whatever next?

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2015 in Disruptive, Technology

 

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