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Category Archives: Technology

Why learn to use sextants in age of GPS?

Very interesting story on how, after a generation of naval recruits not being taught ‘celestial navigation’ the Navy is now bringing it back.

Why you wonder?

It’s akin to that discussion why do we need pencils when we have keyboards.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2016 in Technology

 

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In the age of Shodan, cars aren’t the only targets in the Internet of Things

IOT of the Internet of Things may sound like an overblown idea. But it’s becoming a reality, despite the buzz phrase. Consider the millions of controllers in homes that are connected to common appliances such as baby monitors, security cameras, garage doors etc.

I brought this up in a class on Internet Safety, and it’s fun getting students to brainstorm what steps one could take to play it safe when you are connected to the Internet. It opens to door to discussions broader than not clicking on links and pop-ups, or using hard-to-crack passwords. There are software fixes, and there is common sense. Consider how FBI director, says he placed a piece of tape over his laptop camera, to prevent someone hacking into it.

Not many have heard about Shodan. It’s considered a search engine for connected devices – such ‘things’ devices connected to Linksys, Netgear, or Cisco boxes.

This true-life hack of a Jeep is a good way to discuss what ‘things’ might entail in the Internet of Things.

 
 

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Should schools go completely digital?

Odd question. Perhaps a few years too late, but…

Would you want your children to be in a school that’s all digital? Let me paint a few scenarios.

  • Should teachers stop using handouts and publish lessons to be read, watched or listed to on digital devices?
  • Should schools have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy?

There is no shortage of  wonderful, free technologies that stimulate collaboration, and empathy. I have even used some of them in my classes! However, I also know that young people are perfectly capable of learning, creativity, discourse and group work without the help of a shiny object. We hear that ‘Digital Natives’ are wired for learning differently. But are they?

And then there’s the brain development side.

  • There are also the unintended consequences of too much screen time, warns Dr. Aric Sigman. He warns of “permanent damage to (children’s) still-developing brains”. Dr. Sigman is an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Read this piece published in April this year by Psychology TodayThis Is What Screen Time Really Does to Kids’ Brains.

A new book about digital natives, Screenwise, calls for more mentoring not monitoring. But we tend to assume too much about digital natives. I like the point made by Jessica Laura (in a blog post at CommonSense.Org) that calls for ongoing, explicit training of digital literacy – and not just ‘screens.’ She says:

People say, “The child’s a digital native,” but that has nothing to do with whether or not they know how to use technology well; that just means they’ve grown up with it. Just because I grew up speaking English doesn’t know I mean everything about English; we still go to English class for 13 years of our lives. 

Digital Citizenship and digital literacy is a fast-updating field. What people in their forties and fifties ‘know’ about digital is probably ancient wisdom. It may not happen in the next school year, but here’s a question for parents and teachers: What would you do if your school goes digital?

My wife runs a school that will probably never go digital. For good reason – it is a Montessori school, a place where, happily, you can’t replace such tools as sandpaper letters, sound boxes and pink towers. But before we know it, toddlers may be needing to know a thing or too about what it means to be a digital citizen – when they get home to their parents’ smart devices!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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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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Is ‘word-processing’ a misnomer? Or old-school?

Sometimes I wish we could delete update the term ‘word-processing’ from our vocabulary. It has been ingrained in taken up permanent residence in the cortex of our brains, and needs to be dispatched to the storage unit reserved for vintage-tech such as ‘typewriting’ and ‘facsimile.’

It’s not that we don’t ‘process‘ words anymore. It’s just that we use the software to more than highlight, punctuate, or cut-and-paste. Food processors continue to grind and chop things for us, but word processors? We can use them to embedded videos in docs, or create blog posts for heaven’s sake! As far as words go, we could use Word to translate content into, say Hungarian (‘Word processing’ turns out to be Szövegszerkesztés in Hungarian.)

In my computer class at Salt River Elementary, since keyboarding and document creation are often the starting blocks, I try to inject concepts that refer to creativity and publishing in addition to content creation, when dealing with Microsoft Word.

But what else to call it? Any suggestions? 

‘Word,’ which is still listed as ‘document and word processing software’ started out as ‘Multi-Tool Word’ in the same year that Flashdance, and Never Say Never Again was released – in 1983! Today there are many more choices – niche software such as Nitro Pro, and for authors, there’s Scrivener.

So is Word-processing just old-school?

 

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Robotics 2016 challenge guessing game begins

Each year, as we wait for details of the FLL Robotics challenge, some teams begin speculating what the specific challenges might be on the tournament table.

FLL had announced the theme, ANIMAL ALLIES. If we were to look into the crystal ball, there could be ‘missions’ around animal rescues, conservation and human-animal bonding.

Previous themes have been: Conservation, Education, Health, Ageing populations, Food, and Catastrophic Events.

Animals will certainly fire up elementary school students, especially in the research project. As for the missions, here is how one team speculates what the table-top missions could be, with detailed builds!

AS the FLL puts it, ANIMAL ALLIES season will be all about young people collaborating to solve a real-world problems. That’s the part I like about the FLL. It creates a rich, evolving context for students who could see bots as part of society they inherit and –most importantly, will influence.

 
 

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A Lesson from the conflicting ‘birthdays’ of the World Wide Web!

Yesterday, (August 23rd) was one of the birthdays of the Web. At least it is the day when non geeks got access to the ‘global hyperlinked information system’ that Tim Berners-Lee designed.

I began using this 25th Anniversary milestone this week in classes that introduce students to how to find and discern information on the wild and woolly Web.

When I posed this question to my 4th grade students: “What is the Internet? And where could you find out about it?” one of them responded without missing a beat, “On the Internet!”

“But,” I responded, “What if the Internet was wrong about the Internet? How would you know?”

Note I said today was one of the birthdays of the Web. Oddly, while media outlets, including the likes of Huff Post, ran features, claiming Aug 23rd as the date

So if the real birthday August 23rd, August 6th, or March 12th? Should we go to the ‘Mesh‘ to find out? Are our trusted sources wrong? Now there’s a lesson for my students far greater than helping them ‘research’ a few factoids.

 
 

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