Saturday, October 25, 2014

Wikipedia solves the knowledge gap

As a teacher in the 90's one of the new digital tools that I used was a digital  encyclopedia on a CD. Encarta, from Microsoft, was one of the most popular multimedia encyclopedias (1993-2009)
"The standard edition of Microsoft Encarta included over 50.000 articles of information, which includes images, video and sound; the premium edition contained over 62000 articles, along with over 25000 images and over 300 videos. Microsoft Encarta also included an interactive Atlas, where users could view and see information from nearly 2 million different locations. The later versions of the Microsoft Encarta electronic encyclopedia included more complex multimedia content and a range of other features."

There may be many reasons why Encarta and other digital encyclopedias no longer exist, but one reason is the development of Wikipedia. 

Wikipedia has long been the bane of educators as students by the million use it as resource material for writing papers. As Wikipedia has mature over the last 15 years it has gained more respect and should not be shunned by educators. 

In this TEDx talk Andrew Lih (The Wikipedia Revolution) invites a new generation to become editors of and contributors to Wikipedia. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What should we really be worried about.

Ebola is a terrible disease and thousands of people have and will die from the virus. Health professions all over the world are and should be worried about the virus spreading and infecting new populations.  So does this mean that we in the USA need to be obsessed with Ebola and call for closing the borders and blaming the President for not doing enough? Well, thanks to quick action by Nigerian and Senegal health officials both of these countries are free of Ebola. And, both countries have much closer contact with Liberia and a less robust health care system then the USA. It seems that a rational person would see Ebola as a remote health threat to the USA mainland and an even more remote threat to themselves.
But, being the flawed humans that we are we see the newest and most novel threat as the greatest. While we are obsessed with Ebola we continue engage in real threats to our health. We eat too much of the wrong foods and exercise too little. We pass laws that make it easier to carry a gun with us anywhere we want.
The Center for Disease Control reports for 2010 death do to:
  •  Heart Disease 596,577
  • Cancer: 576,691
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 142,943
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,932
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 126,438
  • Alzheimer's disease: 84,974
  • Diabetes: 73,831
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 53,826
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 45,591
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 39,518 
  • Motor vehicle traffic deaths 33,783 
  • All firearm deaths 32,351 
Could we reduce some of these deaths if we were as obsessed about them as we are about Ebola?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The eye of a photographer

I went to the University of New Mexico in the 70's and majored in photography. I was lucky to be able to work with some great photographers and start to learn to see the world in light and shadow. Back then it was mainly black and white film. I had a Canon SLR and was able to use the schools large format cameras. We learned to develop our own film and then print in the darkroom. I bought an enlarger and other equipment and turned bathrooms into darkrooms.

When we moved to Pennsylvania I sold my darkroom equipment hoping that I would find a new place to start another darkroom. Of course that never happened. But, I still kept my film camera and continued to shoot with it until it started to show its age and needed repaired; which never happened.

Over time the digital age arrived and the day of the film camera came to an end. I purchased a small point and shoot Nikon digital camera which has served me well, but I have missed the creative ability of a good SLR. So, recently I purchased a Canon T5i, which is not a pro-camera, but a very good one. I now find myself looking a the world like a photographer again even when I don't have my camera. I notice light, color, texture and shadow. Digital SLR's are very sophisticated computers with a lens and it will take me awhile to learn the intricacies of the camera, but I sure am having fun doing it. 

When I have something to share I will put it in my Flcikr account.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Obsolete schools?

Over the past 40 years the development of digital technologies has changed the way we play, work, travel and communicate. Big and small companies all over the world have has to change or die. The music and publishing industries has seen many big companies down size or go under, ie. Tower Records,  Sam Goody, Blockbuster, Border Books, and B. Dalton. Will the education system be the next industry to have major sectors of it collapse?
There are many people in the education world that are working very hard to make changes in the education system so that when the crash comes it will not be too harmful. One of these forward thinking educators is Will Richardson. In the keynote he gave at a conference in Indiana, his theme is that in a networked world we can learn from thousands of teachers, from anywhere, at anytime. If the education establishment does not figure out how it fits into this new learning milieu forces beyond its control will make the changes.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Where are the historical connections?

My mother passed away recently and, as happens in many families, when going through her stuff I found boxes of old photographs, letters, and other family history items. As my wife and I started to make sense of it all it occurred to me that this may be the last generation that will be able to connect to their family history through images and words.
I now have photos of my great-grand parents from the late 1800's and photos of family gatherings from 60 years ago in frames on the bookshelf. Yet, I don't have one printed digital photo I have taken of family members at my mothers funeral. They are all stored safely in Google+, other cloud storage or on the hard drive of my computer. I  have shared a few with family members, but I do worry that they will be forgotten and languish in a digital nether world never to be seen.
Remember photo albums? These are chronicles of our lives that in a digital age may be dieing.
And it is not just photographs. My mom kept a letter from a great-aunt that about how difficult the American civil war was on children. She also kept a letter I send her when we moved to Pennsylvania. How many of use will keep emails or text messages to mark important events in our lives? 
So I guess it is up to me to make sure that this does not happen. Sharing photos digitally is great, but there is a connection that happens when you have a framed photo on you bookshelf or desk that you can look at everyday. So I will make sure that when I have an important photo I get it printed on quality paper and frame it or put it in a photo album.
The above photo is my mother, Dorothy, and me at 18 months.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The New RTTT


The Sochi Olympics are completed and the results are in. Total medal count:
  1. Russia - 33
  2. U.S. - 28
  3. Norway - 26
  4. Canada - 25
Everyone should be proud of all their athletes, but winning is what really counts. The top 3 countries can celebrate their success, but a closer look at the results tells a different story. Which countries are getting the greatest value per medal?

In this blog post from Karl Fisch he makes a comparison between Olympic expectations and educational expectations.  When medals/10 million population is ranked the U.S. is 22nd at 0.5 and Norway is 1 st at 27.9. So who is really the better country? What if Olympic results were held to the same standards as educational results?

Friday, February 14, 2014

It's Complicated

Whenever danah boyd has something to say I listen. So I watched a webinar with her as she discusses her new book It's Complicated .
It's Complicated - A Conversation with danah boyd - Come join us  for a special conversation with EdTechTeacher Co-Founder, Justin Reich, and author, danah boyd to discuss her new book, It's Complicated, a landmark ten year study based on hundreds of interviews with teenagers about their lives, online and in the physical world. In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens' use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity. boyd's new book provides important new insights for parents and educators looking to better understand how social media plays into young people's lives and learning. Come join us to discuss this important new book.
I am sure I will watch this video several time because danah and Justin have so much food for thought, but for right now the theme I want to work with is "literacy for life". The recording of the webinar is here for your viewing pleasure.