Category Archives: New Media

It’s settled then: There won’t be an oxymoron in the White House

For all the debate prep, no one could have contained Donald Trump as he hurtled toward the precipice, sliding on the rocks of loose talk. In the end, despite fancy slogans, websites, and stage props, something as basic as good communication skills makes or breaks a leader.

A free, seemingly easy-to-master, tool should be handed to someone of Donald Trump’s personality with a warning: “May cause user to implode.” Just like Twitter, a microphone could also be a dangerous tool. Indeed, many before him have been dispensed into the heap of disgraced leaders and also-rans because of a hot mic, or a video capture, or even a spool of tape.

Another interesting thing about Trump was his penchant for ‘truthful hyperbole’ – a term he used in his book, The Art of the Deal, which, to be fair was ghost-written.


But as is evident now, truthful hyperbole, a classic oxymoron, is the long fuse that led him to where he is, an outcast of the party he represents.

Citizens vote for leaders who articulate their hopes and needs. Thankfully voting for an oxymoron was not an option.

Footnote worth listening to: Nixon’s tape archive recording where he and his staff discuss ”lying to a base.’


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Multi-tasking could reduce performance. But how to turn back the clock?

What would you say about findings that say multi-tasking affects ‘memory creation?’

After all, we email and text while writing reports or watching a movie, don’t we? I just read a 2016 report by Common Sense Media that looked at recent literature of Technology Addiction. here are some alarming findings. Some are red flags, needing more research.

Here are just a few:

  • Media Multi-tasking creates cognitive fatigue, and makes it more difficult for someone to create memories that can be accurately retrieved.
  • Heavy multi-taskers have a harder time filtering out irrelevant information (2009 study of college students)
  • Students who multi-tasked using a laptop during a lecture performed worse on a test, compared to students who were not using a laptop. (2013 study of college students)
  • US ‘Tweens’ (8- to 12-year-olds) spend 5:55 hours outside of school and homework using media. Teens spend 8:56 hours (2015 survey)

The reference to media in media multi-tasking, refers to both digital and non-digital media: TV, video games,social media, using the Internet, reading, and listening to music.

What do we do about these findings? Many parents do not need research to tell them that they (and their kids) must cut back. I have met parents who have taken steps such as not have more than one device in the home, and those who have a ‘digital curfew’ after, say 8:00 pm. There are even those who do not allow mobile devices and tablets in children’s bedrooms – similar to the earlier trend of not having a TV in bedroom.

I teach computers and technology, making it a curious place to discuss this. I often require students to use paper and pencil, even though they come to my Lab to learn about such things as audio recordings (on a cloud-based digital console), QR codes, and search strategies. I often get asked if listening to music while working is OK (they know the answer but think it’s worth a shot!).

Could we turn back the clock, and get back to mono-tasking?


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From Abraham Zapruder to Diamond Reynolds – Cameras in public life sensitize us

It’s just three months since Facebook Live became a feature that anyone could use. But it took another accidental ‘reporter’ named Diamond Reynolds to put it to use in a way no one ever envisaged.

This came some 52 years after another accidental reporter named Abraham Zapruder captured sniper bullets hitting President John. F. Kennedy in Dallas.

That was a time when cameras were scarce, and there was no such thing as a live citizen journalist broadcast. Now cameras (and all manner of recording devices) are so ubiquitous, we’ve almost come to expect to see the raw footage or listen to soundtracks of terrible events. Technology has given us a way to piece together events. The hope is that events seen through multiple camera angles might help us NOT rush to judgement.

Facebook Live allows 90 minutes of video. Zapruder took just 26.6 seconds of footage.


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VoiceThread meets Ted Talks!

I wish I had heard of this earlier – Voicethread‘s answer to TedTalks. Just in time for the ISTE Conference starting Sunday.

It’s called ThreadTalk. Which is quite a neat play on TedTalk considering how VoiceThread is all about the Thread, more than the voice. They make the point that the quality of the conversation thread is just as important as the presentation.

In other words, it’s not about the fancy slides, but the content.

As the VoiceThread notes, we tend to stop using our voices and replace it with text communication because the Internet was not quote supportive of voice for a long time. It is now, as we know thanks to services such as Google Voice, Viber and other phone apps. But in education, we need to bring back the spoken word and student voices into the mix.

I’m waiting to see what evolves out of ThreadTalk, post ISTE2016.


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Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.

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The wisdom of Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a knack of breaking down complex ideas into simple concepts. He is the kind of teacher who makes you enjoy learning, without feeling you’re being lectured to!

Some of his statements (and tweets ) are legendary, as are his wide-sweeping statements about science, technology and life. Such as:

“To be genius is to be misunderstood, but to be misunderstood is not necessarily to be genius”In a Popular Magazine feature, August 2015)

“An informed opinion is never based on somebody else’s opinion, lest you empower others to do your thinking for you.”  @neiltyson  Aug 28, 201

But as much as I respect DeGrasse Tyson, I don’t agree with his stance on God and creation. But that’s another topic.

If you want to probe the big questions about science, or even current events seen through the eyes of a scientist, (as this one about the digital revolution) it’s worth tuning into his podcast.



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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Education, New Media, Radio, YouTube


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Balloons could add new flavors to the ‘Cloud’ and Digital Democracy

Most of you know how I dislike the word ‘cloud’ as a catchall for anything accessed online. So how about getting used to balloons? As in Google’sProject Loon that has been in the works for some two years, and now is supposed to be set to launch in Sri Lanka.

It’s a crazy, heady idea. Sri Lanka will be the first country to get ‘universal Internet access’ as TechCrunch put it.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, and did an extensive train and road trip with the family. I experienced first hand what connectivity is –and is not. The new, fast highways are obviously connecting more people to more opportunities. The Telcos are providing easy-to-get (via a scratch card) low-cost bandwidth for smart devices. There is growing free Wi-Fi presence in towns as diverse as Galle, Anuradhapura, Kandy and some places in Jaffna; even on a train we took to the hill country! Access does get spotty and sluggish at times, but the appetite for connectivity is growing in leaps and bounds.

And now balloons!

Here’s why I welcome this. Not for the obvious reasons, such as giving everyone including tuk-tuk drivers or election monitors the ability to tweet or upload pictures – which could be useful in and of itself.

Education: First sorely needed bandwidth to homes, schools and offices will change the game. I was at one outstation school, and the science teachers had to use a dongle to get online. ‘Universal access’ for schools would change the dimension of how learning takes place beyond the Google search. Young people could be empowered to create content and not just consume it. It’s about time schools got a better deal when it comes to connectivity. Why haven’t the telcos given schools a better deal? What will they do now?

Political participation. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that despite the dismal examples of governance, that democracy and citizen participation works. ICTA reported recently that “Sri Lanka has shot up to 74th position in the United Nations E-Government Survey of 2014, after climbing 41 places since 2012.” Nalaka Gunewardene goes into rich detail about how Digital Democracy is at work. Beyond elections, this will affect transparency and accountability, when everyone has an uplink, a camera and a voice.

There are obviously several more examples, which some of you might like to add. Please do!


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