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Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

Why the fuss about the @POTUS handle?

Hasn’t the White House cheering squad got the memo that the number of ‘Followers’ one has on Twitter is not a big deal anymore?

In the early days of micro-blogging, when so many so-called social media experts were bragging about hitting some magic number in Followers, this was excusable – although pathetic.

So it befuddles me why so many stories are showing up about president Obama’s Followers on his @POTUS handle.

It is a fun acronym, I know. But it’s just a stand-in for a real person. Caitlyn Dewey put it best, when she said (in a Washington Post column) that “On the modern Internet, impressions of anonymity and ephemerality are, well … usually fake.”

Translated: POTUS is just that – a handle. By handlers.

 

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Technology in schools. Love it or hate it?

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Touch screens and Robotics. My classroom this yea

In my upcoming July technology column I analyze the pros and the cons of Technology in Education. A few in my network have asked me about my thoughts on this ever-changing topic. (In Oct 2014 I did cover it – “Disrupting Education)

Here’s a summary of what’s to come. As you and I witness the discomforting transition from text books to tablets, from hand-outs to videos-as-homework, from sequential ‘lectures’ to disruptive (noisy) small group activity, it’s easy to fold our hands across our chests and fight it. But there are some compelling arguments on both sides. The Wall Street Journal, and the International Association of Technology in Education almost in the same week ran Pro and Con arguments about Ed-Tech. I get both sides! In my classes I argue against the inane use of social media for the sake of ‘publicity’, but I encourage thought use of digital media with real, and real-time audience participation.

‘Hall and Stevens’ Vs Khan Academy. In my younger days, I had to thumb through Hall and Stevens, the geometry ‘bible.’ Today’s kids are learning geometry from a guy called Salman Khan, founder the free online learning portal for mathematics and science. (Fun sidebar: ‘Hall and Stevens’ is available as an eBook; flip the pages as if it was a real book, here: https://archive.org/details/schoolgeometry00hall

Screen Time vs Think Time. I am a big proponent of virtual and augmented reality, especially if it could bring in ‘distant’ experiences (Civil War, 3D models of engineering, space science etc), but I also aggressively advocate limited screen time. Odd isn’t it? That’s the dilemma we educators and parents face. Augmented Reality

Your son or daughter probably goes to school with a device in her backpack with more processing power than the rocket that took men to the moon, and this child wants to be… an astronaut? You’ve forgotten how to log into your son’s school website to download his missed homework, but… he’s found a way to ‘jailbreak’ your cell phone? There are ‘teaching moments’ in all of these.

Sal Khan speaks of the “fundamentally dehumanizing experience” in education. And he was not talking about teenagers and even pre-teens staring at their phones and not talking to one another. A real, ‘digital citizenship’ crisis, right now! He was referring to children packed in a classroom! Hmm!

Love it or hate it, technology is gate crashing our class rooms, just like ball-point pens or calculators once did. Are you ready for it?

 

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When science works, machines break, and coffee cups burn

In teaching technology we like to say that it’s OK mess up the first time. This is counter to how we like things to run smoothly – neat transitions, good closures etc. A formula, in other words. Even when doing a demo, you probably want your audience to see the end result.

earthquake-simulatorBut I’ve realized that in many lessons – life lessons, not class lessons– the worst thing you could do is to have something perform flawlessly.

Take this ‘Earthquake ‘simulator’ we built here. The plan was to simulate tectonic plate movement that brings down buildings. This was for our STEM Night, which happened on 21st April. A rickety contraption that would shake-rattle-and-roll using a power drill. We quickly ran into a few issues. The wheel you see here was cracking.With two hours to go to the ‘earthquake challenge’ we implemented Plan D – Duct tape. Which looked messy, but it worked. In a sense, I loved that uncertainty; an opportunity to tell students that this ‘problem-solving’ stuff we go on about, is real, even for us.

The next day, FOX 10 News showed up. More issues, with the weather guy and a camera pointing at our ‘machine’.

  • Problem #1: The drill that drove the wheel, had been taken home!
  • Problem #2: Reporter Cory McClousky wanted to repeat the ‘quake’ and of course, it failed. On camera. Nice!
  • Unrelated issue. Behind the earthquake simulator was the solar oven we used the previous day. I had left my coffee cup inside while we were waiting. A solar oven, in case you haven’t heard can reach up to 250 degrees in 30 minutes. So does the plastic cap, as you can see here, which warped out of shape.

You cannot plan these things. What looks bad, actually informs the story. McClusky’s parting line about the solar oven was: “We’re burning coffee cups in here…” Indeed. You can’t touch this.
STEM Night 2nd Red Camera (12) Solar baking After

FOX 10 News | fox10phoenix.com

 Cory Goes Back to School

 

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Messy Learning Labs. Just what our screen-obsessed kids need

If you’ve ever complained about classrooms being stuck in the industrial age, here’s a glimpse of a different kind of class. It’s Hi-Tech space with a factory-floor setting. Perfect for digital natives, huh?

I took my robotics students here last Tuesday, to a place called HeatSync Labs in Mesa, Arizona. Not the kind of ‘lab’ they had in mind – but in a shocking way! It is what’s known as aMaker Space’ where kids come to ‘learn by doing’. They didn’t want to leave!

You see, a Maker Space like this is more like a mad scientist’s garage, than a classroom, with a variety of machines, tools and material just begging to be used. If you recall how HP began in a humble garage, you’ll see why a tinkerer’s tool-shed like this is what classrooms ought to be like if we are to motivate the next generation of inventors, astronomers and mad scientists like Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard. Or the next Thomas Edison (who barely went to school, please note).

Having worked with 6-12 year olds for four years now, I know how hungry they are for science. Especially science that comes to them in unexpected packages. OK, so in one corner of the lab there was a 3-D printer, an artifact from our all-too-digital present. But someone had used it to produce intriguing pieces such as this plastic cube (right), with gears!

In 75 minutes my students probably got more about science that any slick PowerPoint presentation. This was about experimenting, making mistakes, and asking ‘what-if’ questions. This was about rummaging through bins, and peering through scopes, working with laser-cut stamps they mounted on blocks of wood. And not a tablet in site!

Shelves

Machine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At one point, Eric Ose who works there took me aside and told me, awkwardly, “I am not used to young people here asking permission to do things.” Meaning, this was a space that people came and just tried things out, used material lying around, and worked on their own pace. Of course there are guidelines – especially safety guidelines, as when watching laser cutting, or operating the 3-D printer.

But the real house rules are this: Try something out. Make things. Break things. Revise. Start from scratch. Discover. Build something impossible!

Note: If your students have never been to one I urge you to make it your next field trip. Many cities have these community run spaces. (Map)

HeatSync

 

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From ‘FLOTUS’ to ‘POTUS.’ Waiting for the Clinton Reset button

Hillary Clinton will be in our news feed, whether we like it or not. She is under scrutiny by conservative newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal, and more liberal writers. That’s par for the course, of course, when one announces an application for the top job in the country – an application tendered this early in the race.

I know it’s not quite a race yet. It’s a photo-op here, a downplayed event there, and lots of conspiracy theories running behind her.

So scrutiny she gets, in my latest editorial column for LMD this month, titled From FLOTUS to POTUS :

Hillary has important credentials. As the then secretary of state, she did a long ‘internship’ in world affairs, but needs to learn the simpler arts, in domestic affairs, for instance. We also want to see her being more accessible, more forthright and transparent. She once presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov an unusual gift – a ‘reset button.’ As the race heats up, she may need to borrow that button, since citizens need to know what the former first lady (FLOTUS, in White House speak) might do for them should she become POTUS.

Read From FLOTUS to POTUS here. (pdf)

 

 

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Triva floods our media while real news slips by

I don’t know if this is an age thing, but commercial radio and TV ads irritate me. They seem to be eager to drown us in triva –not to mention groan-worthy humor. (have you seen that latest McDonald’s ad about French Fries and chicken something? If not, avoid it like the plague!)

Why is it that a British baby that’s 4th or fifth in line for a ‘crown’ that nobody quite cares about fills our channels? Or why the obsession with the other royal family over on this side of the pond? I’m not talking about the Clintons, but the Kardashians. So many important local and global events are unfolding, but we get non-stop coverage of trivia.

Here’s a glimpse of what went unreported last week.

  • NASA tested a 10-engine aircraft capable of vertical take-off, that could change idea of unmanned vehicles. Interesting, since Amazon seems to think the ‘delivery drones’ are actually becoming more possible.
  • Speaking of books, there’s the Arthur C. Clarke Science Fiction award in the UK, to a young writer, Emily St. John Mandel. It’s been described a novel about the ‘hyper-globalized’ future. Perhaps John Kerry, and Jeff Bezos are reading it right now, while ignoring the Clintons-in-waiting, and the princess of Cambridge, or whatever she is called.

 

 

 

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Great reporters don’t wither (when temperature rises)

I’m not talking of reporters coming under fire on dangerous missions. I’m talking about keeping up the communication when all hell breaks loose in front of you, and you’re on camera.

Take a look at how Phoenix-based Fox 10 News reporter Cory McCloskey handled an arguably hot situation. Cory is a weather reporter on the field. Apparently, in this instance in-studio, the weather map went berserk. The data on the map I mean. I won’t give it away – watch!

By chance I met Cory last week, when he came to my school to do a live weather report, and yes, the man has a great sense of humor. (It involves coffee and solar energy, if you’re interested.)

The above video clip (viewed more than 4 million times as of today) is the stuff that ought to be used in Journalism school. I’m sure my friends in Ahwatukee might not laugh so hard, because we folk in the Chandler area were not subject to his satire.

Mr. McCloskey: I wish there was a sub-category in the Pulitzers (under ‘Explanatory Reporting’ maybe?) that is awarded for humor, and not missing a beat.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Arizona, Journalism, Media

 

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