Archive for October, 2008

Several news agencies are reporting that a stock plunge for Apple was caused by a teenage prank.

The teenager posted that Steve Jobs had suffered a massive heart attack on iReport.com.  The report caused Apple stock to drop $4.8 billion dollars until Apple released a statement denying the report.

iReport is a website setup by CNN where anyone can post news items.  The site is essentially a news based blog.  Still, investors believed a posting, not bothering to check their facts with any credible source including Apple itself.  Information illiteracy, not a teenage prank, caused this financial debacle.


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We are already familiar with open-source software (e.g., OpenOffice, iTunes) but what about open-source hardware? Kate Greene writes about its emergence in the November/December issue of MIT’s Technology Review:

…open-source hardware actually predates open-source software by centuries: people have always shared blueprints and sketches for such things as furniture and machinery. But the visibility of the open-source-software community “has created a new awareness of what has long been the historical practice in hardware,” he says.

What’s different about today’s open hardware is that the Web and new types of design software are making it easier to build, share, distribute, and modify hardware designs. “Most products are designed in software first,” says von Hippel. “So you’re designing and simulating on the computer, and in the last step you turn it into hardware. If you think of open-source software as an information good, then open-source hardware is also an information good until the very last stage.” Hardware designs can be shared and improved and reshared as easily as software designs.

Read the rest of the article here.

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Christine Greenhow, a postdoc at the Social Networks Research & Creative Collaborative at the University of Minnesota, has done some very interesting research on the educational benefits of social networking sites.  Check out the Media Release and the Video Release.

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In the early days of educational technology reform, programming was en vogue and Logo was taught in many classrooms.  Over time we have found that fluency in a programming language was not neccessary for students to survive in the 21st century.  Programming in schools has fallen out of favor and multi-media skills have become more prevalent.  Part of this is probably to blame on the prevalence of fast and elegant user interfaces.  Still, I would argue that there is still a place for programming languages in education, though maybe a less traditional language such as Scratch.

The Generalized Lessons of Programming

  1. Cause and effect are not always direct. Often the effect is emergent.  The science fiction term for this is The Ghost in the Machine; the common term is often a bug.
  2. Outlining and ordering thoughts. A good programmer has a plan of action before beginning any project of length.  The amount of code and troubleshooting requires a clear program outline.
  3. Research skills. One of Gee’s (2003) Learning Principles is the Just-in-Time Principle.  Programmers do not just memorize all the code in a language.  They have the ability to peruse online help files, databases, and the internet in general to find the answers they need to accomplish their goals.
  4. Language Skills. Knowledge of translating your thoughts so that another person/machine can understand them is a useful skill in perspective.  Programming requires similar metacognitition as learning any language.
  5. Problem solving and mathematics.
  6. Programming skills. I started this article by discussing the rise of the user interface leading to the fall in programming being essential.  I would turn that on its head now and point out that programming is still a useful skill for productivity and analysis.  Excel and word each make use of Macros which are programming languages.  Statistics software, wikis, websites, and a host of other applications make use of some programming.  Which leads me to my last point:
  7. Communication. IT professionals have become the backbone of modern companies.  Joining administrative personnel, custodial workers, and human resources in their employment across all industries.  The jargon of this profession is useful for all productive employees.

Gee, JPaul. (2003). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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In case you missed this, US Congress has approved a National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies.  Initial funding is only $50 million, but this could potentially be a very important initiative in the long run.  The goal is to bring the same focused, sustained research funding to technology and learning that the federal government has funded for years in technology for health care at the National Institutes of Health and technology for energy at the Department of Energy.

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Ever considered how much of our vocabulary is here as a result of technology? “Rewrite,” “unzip,” and “surf” have all been assimilated into our everyday lexicon. French electronica group Daft Punk often experiment with the idea of humanity and technology (they perform concerts while dressed in robot helmets) and released the single “Technologic” in 2005. The single’s lyrics are repetitive, robotic read alouds of these technology terms (their original music video is here – a bit creepy). YouTube animator hungning played around with the first verse of Technologic and came up with this:

And along the same lines, here’s Norwegian music group Royksopp’s take on everyday technologies in their 2002 infographic music video “Remind Me”:

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Is the notion of the scientific method taught in schools and colleges wrong?  Does scientific genius stem more from the ability to creatively detect patterns from a few observations rather than from classic experimentation? Robert Root-Bernstein thinks so.  And, if he’s right, what does that say about approaches to research currently supported by the U.S. Department of Education?

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