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Category Archives: Technology

While you weren’t watching Amazon CEO is in the space race

Jeff Bezos was once known for books, when Amazon was the world’s largest online book store. That was in 1994.

He had been recently investing in robotics, and also acquired Whole Foods. But flying under the radar has been his space company, Blue Origin, building and testing rockets. It is  what they call a rocket system, with a reusable, stage-one booster. It can take up to 100,000 pounds into space. This Apollo-sized rocket (much taller the Falcon rockets from SpaceX) is one of the few contenders in the space tourism business. Possibly a moon landing soon!

It may be a space race, but Bezos is taking it slow for now, to get it right.

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Posted by on December 14, 2017 in Best Practices, STEM, Technology

 

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Fake news – Old model recycled for digital age

Before we called it Fake News, it was called propaganda. Or just plain dirt.

The New York Times has a great story on the roots of Fake News. (I’ve always disliked the term; it suggests there is such a thing as ‘authentic news.’) When information is manipulated, and planted, and spread, it is not just fake but spurious. The Rand Corporation calls this the ‘Firehose of Falsehood‘ propaganda model.

It’s features are:

  • High-volume and multichannel
  • Rapid, continuous, and repetitive
  • Lacks commitment to objective reality
  • Lacks commitment to consistency.

The firehose brings in information from so many sources that it tends to consume and compromise the bandwidth of attention we have to process the information.

But while we pay attention to malicious actors who spread falsehoods, let’s not be blinded to other ways fake news, falsehoods and propaganda spread. In a much older analysis of news and propaganda (Manufacturing of Consent, 1998) Noam Chomsky revealed how systemic propaganda is part of the business model of newsmaking. He identified ‘filters’ in the media embed propaganda and bias.

Fake news is just a new digital iteration of what we’ve had, and blissfully ignored before. Everything old is new again!

 

 

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Social media warning – This time from former Facebook exec

Didn’t you suspect the backlash was coming? Is Chamath Palihapitiya right?

The former Facebooker (someone I’ve featured before) gets to the heart of the matter. Calling out the addictive nature of social media –what he calls the “dopamine-driven feedback loops.” He doesn’t mince his words. Listen to his interview and see what you think.

A few days ago I expressed my disgust:

Indeed, we need to call out social media when it is not social, and in fact becoming thoroughly anti-social. We need to aggressively educate our younger generation before they climb on board this seductive train.

Or as Chamath says, we need a ‘hard break‘ from these tools.

 

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Targeting 6-year olds. Facebook, how low could you go?

It’s shocking –but no surprise– to see how young children are being sought after as social media customers.

“Today, in the US, we’re rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”

Sure Facebook’s release is sprinkled with words like ‘safer,’ ‘standalone’ and ‘controlled.’ It probably went through many, many iterations to make sure it addressed the hot-button issues. But let’s not be fooled as to what the real deal is: To groom younger customers to expand and dominate the base.
We like to see the research that they lean on, which they say led them to fill the need to allow kids to connect.
Facebook, if you want to have ‘thought-provoking conversations’ with parents, talk to any Montessori school, and they will tell you how and why their kids are becoming disconnected. (I am cross posting this from my wife’s Montessori school website.)

Gifs, masks, drawing tools, and stickers don’t constitute social media. Nor do they nurture connections!

C’mon, Facebook!

Read what others have to say:
 

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‘Hour of Code’ and Digital Natives

During Hour of Codea global event to promote coding skills this week, we strive to ramp up digital literacy.

But what constitutes digital literacy? There are many definitions.

Microsoft looks at it through an ICT lens – where ICT means ‘Information Communication Technology.’ But evidently there is much more it encompasses. How about building ‘digitally inclusive communities’ as is defined by the Institute of Museum and Library Services?

It goes beyond simply learning how to be safe online, or managing one’s Instagram page. It’s about teaching young people, beginning in elementary school, the ‘literacy’ for being successful in civic or economic spaces. It’s a mistake to assume that ‘Digital Natives’ are automatically, or inherently competent in these areas.

I have previously cited Common Sense Media writer, Jessica Laura who makes the point that just as anyone who has grown up speaking English, still takes English classes, those growing up digital, still need to learn about digital literacy.

The folks behind Hour of Code often talk about the need for foundation skills related to problem-solving, logic and creativity. Similar to how all students learn about photosynthesis, they ought to also understand how algorithms and coding underpins how their world works – or does not. There are 500,000 current job openings in the US that require computer skills, they say.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2017 in Arizona, Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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Google’s drag-and-drop ‘Scratch’ doodle

As Google doodles become more interactive it’s fitting to see it launch Hour of Code with a drag-and-drop doodle. It’s their first Coding-based doodle. Have you tried it? It’s on today’s Google landing page.

Worth reading: A description by MIT’s Champika Fernando, who was on one of the 3 teams that built this doodle.

Hour of Code runs through this week, which is also Computer Science Education week, and the anniversary of 50 years of programming languages. Scratch was developed at MIT.

 
 

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Cut through the spin on Net Neutrality

I don’t blame you if the term ‘Net neutrality‘ make your eyes glaze. However as a battle royale is being waged these weeks, it’s good for us to all get to know the definition of Net neutrality, and what’s at stake.

Before bureaucrats put their spin on it.

Definition – by the ACLU.

Network neutrality means applying well-established “common carrier” rules to the internet in order to preserve its freedom and openness. In other words, the network should discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data

(Older) Definitionby WIRED

Today, privileged companies—including Google, Facebook, and Netflix—already benefit from what are essentially internet fast lanes, and this has been the case for years. Such web giants—and others—now have direct connections to big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon, and they run dedicated computer servers deep inside these ISPs.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s Statement

He proposes a return to a Telco as a Title I information service. One with “light-touch regulation”  The wording of the rest of the document looks specious, since it supports the rolling back of regulation with the talk of jobs, competition and privacy.

Firefox (Mozilla) cuts through the legaleseWorth a Read

Under Pai’s proposal, ISPs would be allowed to block, throttle and prioritize (or deprioritize) internet access for Americans. Companies like Comcast and AT&T could selectively slow down or speed up access to online journalism, blogs, films, apps, and other services. This would undo 2015’s hard-won net neutrality protections that took years of hard work.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2017 in Activism, Communications, Technology

 

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