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Category Archives: Technology

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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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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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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Easy Content Curation Tools for Teachers

Content curation. It was a phrase slung around a lot about 5 years ago.

I wrote a lot about it then, in my IABC tech column etc. But today I have had to do some of this curation business when working on a lesson plan that has to be much more than links and words.

I began testing out a service called Lino (www.linoit.comto create a new ‘wall’ to support lessons in my class. It’s a bit like Padlet which I began testing last year.

The first test is to use it for a class on Book Trailers – a way to combine script writing, and microphone use with creating a promotional ‘trailer’ for a book. Also collecting facts, pictures, sounds, music tracks, video and slide decks in one convenient place. This is what one page looks like:

Lino_BookTrailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curation could become a lesson in itself, to help students understand how embed codes work, respecting copyright, crediting sources etc.

If you want to check them out try both.

 
 

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Permanent home for Mars Day

One of my other hats is to build content for my school website. This gives me a chance to dabble in some of the areas I used to, in my previous life :-)

I work with our Web person, Lori Diab, who created this marvelous spot on our website. Lori just happens to be a former IABC Member, so we kinda speak the same language.

It’s a work in progress, but contains:

  • Links to past activities
  • Scientists with whom we have connected
  • Winners of competitions
  • Organizations supporting Mars Day
  • Media reports
  • Interviews – upcoming 
The idea for the page title, ‘Next Stop, Mars’ was from Lori. Which is timely, considering so much being discussed –NASA, and aerospace companies — about humankind’s next planetary home. Astronaut, Scott Kelly, who is the twin brother of astronaut Mark Kelly, is on a mission that begins in March 2015.
Kody Ensley - Tim Olson

Kody Ensley, working on Robonaut-2 at Johnson Space Center. Kody spoke to our students in Oct. 2012.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2015 in Education, Media, Technology

 

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“This is Salt River Radio!”

Audio is a powerful medium. Overlooked, but extremely powerful.

While video gets all the attention, audio programs –basically podcasts — have been steadily growing recently. This week, I began the new semester by upping the ante for 5th and 6th grade students, showing them how to become producers of content. To start off, I got them to think of themselves as owning their own radio show. A news show, a sports show, or a show about events in the community.

How do they plan and create content? What are the elements of a good show? Good information? A nice pace? A strong personality? Music? Sound Effects?

I plan to use some of my prior radio experience to get students to create their ‘shows.’
Audacity-2.0.png
The software we will be using is Audacity, which is really powerful software. All computers in the Computer and Technology Lab are now loaded with Audacity, and we just got started understanding how  tracks and buttons work, and how to export an editable audio file, to work on it as we move along.

I’m sure you’re wondering: how could digital natives get so excited about ‘old media’? You would be surprised!

‘Salt River Radio’ is the tip of the spear of something bigger I have in mind. I am also looking for input from anyone with radio experience, who would like to be a part of this project, either as a guest instructor, or otherwise.

Stay tuned, if you’ll pardon the pun.

 

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