Girlfriend 6.0 vs. Wife 1.0

While we’re looking at the overlap of technology and relationships, I bumped into this on a blog the other day. It seems there are lots of variations on the theme and unclear authorship, but the wit and analogies are cutting. How about this one as an example:

Wife 1.0 is a great program, but very high-maintenance. Consider buying additional software to improve the performance of Wife 1.0. I recommend Flowers 3.1 and Diamonds 2K. Do not, under any circumstances, install Secretary with Short Skirt 3.3. This is not a supported application for Wife 1.0 and is likely to cause irreversible damage to the operating system.

Internet undermining marriage

According to the article Internet undermining marriage in theage.com.au, “new university research shows as many as 50 per cent of people dabbling in online romances are already in relationships and many are having multiple affairs.” A poignant remark:

Spouses generally strayed online when intimacy and communication broke down in their off-line relationships.

Notice the human need for intimacy and communication, but then opting for an easy virtual replacement. Also interesting is the reference to “off-line relationships” as if they are on par with cyber flings. As technology brings “opportunity,” humanity, perhaps, needs extra exercise in “character.” I think it was Shakespeare’s Macbeth who said, “I dare do all that may become a man. Who dares more is none.” A tricky time to be alive.

Blogging in Schools & a Call for Focus

Flat Earth Roo

Some great press today about Blogging in Schools. I caught wind of it from ASCD’s Smart Brief who drew attention to an article in our very own Melbourne Age: The World Wide Classroom (April 17, 2006, The Age). The article features educator Jo McLeay points to a couple emerging directories of blog-using educators. One is a PB wiki set up by McLeay (Australian Edubloggers) and the other is a Google Maps Mashup of Education Bloggers worldwide. This comes amid great interest when I presented on ClassAct Portals recently at the ASCD annual conference and the Delaware Instructional Technology Conference.
Let’s link this excitement and buzz with some interesting points David Warlick is making recently about “The Flat Classroom.” My interest is in how teaching and learning can and will change in a Flat World, but David is looking at the learners and identifies some great traits of some digital learners:

  • Curious
  • Self Directed Learners
  • Intrinsic need to communicate
  • Intrinsic need to influence
  • Future Oriented
  • Heritage Grounded

To this mix, I’d like to contribute my perspective from having worked for ten years with educators interested in developing constructivist learning experiences through WebQuests. Reviewing the contents of the WebQuest Page’s matrix and coming up with 200 true BestWebQuests proved what most of us thought all along: lots of WebQuests “aren’t.” Well the same can be said for class Blogs. I have spent a lot of time looking and most of what I find are less than compelling uses of Weblogs. It’s like the folks who used class Web pages for posting homework and class rules. Now we get it more easily thanks to WordPress. That’s not really fair, what we tend to get are really excellent and insightful reflections from some really terrific educators. The trick is that this is the kind of use we’d love the students to engage in. So what I’ve seen is two extremes and I’d like to make a Call for Action for a different approach. First, as mentioned, many terrific educators use a blog to process, highlight and frame the learning a class of students get into. A second approach sees a class of students each with their own blogs. These latter strike me mostly as bowdlerized versions of myspaces pages (just as fluffy, but not as spicy).

Neither of these approaches impress me as sustainable or terribly interesting from a student-centered learning perspective. Now a certainly have an axe to grind here, because I think the better approach is to have groups of students create ClassAct Portals: Weblogs that:

  • Focus on one compelling topic
  • Is of passionate interest to the teacher (and thus the students 😉
  • Ticks along in the background of the class drawing attention when something in the real world provokes it
  • Is a natural use for things like blogs, podcasts, photo galleries, data collection and wikis.

The kernal for this idea comes from sites like the Child Slave Labor News.

C’mon all you great blogging educators, prove me wrong and show your site to the world.

Travel Travails heading to Chicago

Standing five customers from the check-in counter at Sydney’s International terminal – crackle, poof, out go the lights. As reported in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Airport blackout leaves passengers grounded. After an hour standing in place, a few of us got hand-written boarding passes and moved into the line for customs – fully two football fields long by this time. Eventually we were airborne by 1:45 PM – two hours late. This was just the two hours needed to make the connection to Chicago. Oops. I thought things were looking up when I was able to get a flght later in the day instead of the promised flight the next afternoon. This meant re-routing through Austin, Texas. Now the 6:37 PM is expected to be grounded until 10:00PM because of high winds in Chicago. I suppose a lot of ASCD attendees will be arriving weary from unexpected travel delays. Did someone say, “April Fools!” If only…. Did I tell mention that two ours ago – waiting in Austin – I realized that my hotel booking printout said “preview” where it should shown a nice bold confirmation number. Oops, my turn… Thanks to a wi-fi connection and some quick Internet surfing, I won’t have to join the homeless souls at Union Station.

Outsourcing Is Climbing Skills Ladder

Further confirmation that the “World is Flat”: According to the New York Times’ Steve Lohr, Outsourcing Is Climbing Skills Ladder.

The globalization of work tends to start from the bottom up. The first jobs to be moved abroad are typically simple assembly tasks, followed by manufacturing, and later, skilled work like computer programming. At the end of this progression is the work done by scientists and engineers in research and development laboratories.

The implications for students in “The West” are profound. Forget competing with a handful of classmates for admission to the best universities. You are actually competing with literally millions of other students who are just as bright and – because they hunger for what we take for granted – probably more determined to succeed. The error is to think of these “best and brightest” from India and China as our competition. They are actually our colleagues and co-workers.

Still, more companies in the survey said they planned to decrease research and development employment in the United States and Europe than planned to increase employment.

Rather than moan about the inevitable, one real positive is that we can forget the lie that we are educating students for the workforce. We can focus on the Truth of Learning and Education: can’t our job be to help students reach for their own individual fulfillment? Isn’t an inspired, enthusiastic and engaged country of learners the best we can offer? Why don’t we test them on this every year? 😉

BBC NEWS Primer: The world is flat

A globe Asking the question: “Globalisation may be unavoidable, but what impact will it have on our lives?” BBC NEWS presents the ideas of Tom Friedman as related to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As Bill Gates said:

It doesn’t matter whether you sit in Boston, Beijing or Bangalore, if you are smart you can now compete directly with the rest of the world “on a level playing field” – in a world that is flat.

To make the point clearly, Mr Gates said that when he recently met his firm’s ten best-performing employees, nine of them “had names I couldn’t pronounce”.

According to David Arkless of Manpower, four million people will see their jobs transferred over the next five years. “On a macro level,” says BT’s Ben Verwaayen, “it is easy to see the win-win.” But if your job goes overseas it is difficult to be positive, he warns. The fate of the victims of globalisation worried many Davos participants. was a much debated question.

“How can workers in the West hang on to their jobs?” The “Bottomline” for education may be:

  1. Make your job, your work, your knowledge ever more valuable.
  2. “Be flexible and don’t specialise too much,” said Jagdish Bhagwati of Columbia University.
  3. Lifelong learning.

Daily Snapshots

A daily sampling of unique images from The Sydney Morning Herald‘s award-winning photographers. These are not “what’s in the news” kinds of photos, but more artistic ones that do involve current happenings, but more in the lifestyle line than hard news. Consider using hypothetical questions with students: if you were from another world and saw only these sample images of earthlings, what would you think about them?

Video games & brain’s response

The New Scientist reported recently on a new study of links between playing viloent video games and subsequent agression. Quoting from the article, “A brain mechanism that may link violent computer games with aggression has been discovered by researchers in the US.The New Scientist The work goes some way towards demonstrating a causal link between the two – rather than a simple association.” Of particular interest are the findings related to EEG measurements after compensation for participants’ pre-existing tendency to violence. According to lead researcher, psychologist Bruce Bartholow from the University of Missouri-Columbia,

“As far as I’m aware, this is the first study to show that exposure to violent games has effects on the brain that predict aggressive behaviour.”

The point is not to “just say no” to video games but to empower children to do the hard work of making choices. Another, comprehensive analysis of related research is in the aNew3Rs.com database (or go to it directly: Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions).

Wikipedia vs. Britannica

WikipediaIn its article Internet encyclopaedias go head to head, Nature magazine’s online version compared 50 entries from the websites of Wikipedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica. They chose subjects that represented a broad range of scientific disciplines. All entries were chosen to be approximately the same length in both encyclopaedias. Each pair of entries was sent to an expert for peer review. The reviewers, who were not told which article was which, were asked to look for three types of inaccuracy: factual errors, critical omissions and misleading statements.

Of eight “serious errors�? the reviewers found – including misinterpretations of important concepts – four came from each source, the journal reported.

A list of the peer-reviewed encyclopedia entries reveals 162 and 123 flaws in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.

Who goes to Wikipedia for “the right answer�? anyway? Aren’t we interested in seeing what the current thinking is on a subject, not the “Truth?�?

The New Age of the Music Video

MTV as iTunes VideoThe New York Times ran an article today (I Screen, You Screen…) stating how music videos have evolved from the exclusive domain of MTV to a more suitable delivery method on the Internet. This is essentially recapping how things like YAHOO – Launch, myspace.com and iTunes Music store now allow music lovers to watch “Whateverâ€? videos they want “Whenever, Wherever.â€? A few choice quotes:

“Online, you can superserve the audience,â€? he says.

I couldn’t resist the “SuperSize Meâ€? analogy to this new phrase: “superserve.â€? See if it becomes a buzzword.

Another little quote tossed in :

Dave Goldberg, general manager of Yahoo! Music, adds, “Not counting porn, music video is clearly the most popular video content online.â€?

Like, “Oh, by the way…â€? And then there are the staggering number of music video viewers: “Visitors to the Yahoo site watch more than 350 million videos per month.â€? And so porn would be MORE popular than this? And we will all get it Whenever, Wherever we want? On phones? On mp3 players? PSPs? Does anyone feel that our red-blooded, appropriately hormone-charged teens are at risk? And of course, music videos never use sexual imagery or inuendo to entice youth into the Candy Shop…

The best alternative to “Amusing ourselves to deathâ€? is the “Joy of Learning.â€? And this is where we come in.

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