March 30, 2007

Yet another reason to use Firefox

or anything other than IE, really. According to the BBC,
Animated cursors could prove risky for Windows users, Microsoft has warned.

The software giant is investigating reports that the way Windows handles alternatives to the traditional arrow cursor can leave PCs open to attack.

By booby-trapping a website or e-mail attachment with code that exploits the flaw, malicious hackers could hijack a Windows PC.


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Global Information Technology Report

The Global Information Technology Report (via Harold Jarche):
Since it was first launched in 2001, The Global Information Technology Report has become a valuable and unique benchmarking tool to determine national ICT strengths and weaknesses, and to evaluate progress. It also highlights the continuing importance of ICT application and development for economic growth.

The Report uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) to measure the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT developments. The NRI is composed of three component indexes which assess:
- environment for ICT offered by a country or community
- readiness of the community's key stakeholders (individuals, business and governments)
- usage of ICT among these stakeholders.

Denmark tops the list, with the UK 9th, and Japan 14th. Now I need to read the report to find out what this ranking means.

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March 28, 2007

iMacs + iSight + Skype = classroom international video conferencing

Via NextGenTeachers blog -
Kimberly Cofino, who teaches in Kuala Lumpur, linked up her IT class with students in NZ, and everyone was very excited about it.

Thanks to our lovely new iMacs (with iSight built in), and Skype, we were able to video conference with our new partner class in NZ this morning.

For many of our students this was the first time they had ever participated in a video conference - and certainly the first time they have ever done so as part of a school project.

This group will be collaborating together to create a multimedia presentation - here in KL we will be using iMovie, the students in NZ will be using Movie Maker. Part of their responsibility will be to teach each other how to use the software they are learning about. I love the idea that students in an all Mac school can learn how to use Movie Maker, and vice versa!


I can't recall how I found NextGenTeachers (probably it found me), but I'm subscribed via Google Reader. When I click on the "show original item" link, I always get taken, not to the NextGenTeachers blog site which is what I expect, but straight to the contributor's blog where the original entry was written. For a while, I had the odd sensation that the NextGenTeachers blog site doesn't actually exist, but is merely the name of the RSS feed. (NextGenTeachers does exist here). Still...

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Homeschool carnival

David St Lawrence, ex-Silicon Valley "riches to rags" story, author of Danger Quicksand Have a Nice Day, has an entry about homeschooling:
We have a lot of home schooled students in Floyd County and I am always impressed with their maturity and creativity.

In my opinion, one of the absolute killer benefits of homeschooling is that children can easily get more education in a couple of hours of homeschooling than they can get from a full day of public school.

No two and a half hour commute, no endless waiting between moments of real activity.

Home schooled kids probably get 4 to 5 extra hours a day to be creative and to help out around the home or participate in the family business. That can be a serious advantage to them and their parents in today's high-pressure world.




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March 27, 2007

Ning

From Quentin D'Souza to Classroom 2.0 to Ning, via Steve Dembo's review of Ning. Check it out.

Though not everyone is so ecstatic.

March 23, 2007

Teens face £50 fines for not attending class

The [UK] government wants to introduce "education Asbos" and fixed penalty fines for teenagers who refuse to stay in education or training until the age of 18, the education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced today.


Sometimes I think there are two fundamental attitudes towards human nature: 1 says, humans are basically weak and evil and need to be whipped or otherwise forced to do what is right; the other says humans are basically good and need to be allowed to act in accordance with their own integrity and inner clocks. I'm more or less a believer in the latter philosophy, thought sometimes I think it would make life simpler if I just forced people to do what I think to be right.

Those who believe people need to be herded and forced tend to be in favour of policies and behaviours that control others. My big problem with this is that not with the philosophy per se but rather with its vulnerability to subversion. What's the difference between insisting that those in your charge meet the goals you have set for them, and putting surveillance cameras everywhere so you can "catch the bastards"?

Which side of the line is this new British government policy? Is it really for the young people's own good? Or is it to ensure that government pays its dues to industry and guarantee a certain number of trained potential employees?



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March 18, 2007

Help with simple Mac graphic

Can anyone give me a pointer? I'm looking for a simple, preferably free, Mac graphic software that will allow me to add arrows, lines, circles, etc on a map. I just wasted 20 minutes looking for one, downloaded ImageWell, but discovered it doesn't do what it said it would.

(iBook, G4, Mac OS10.3.9)

March 17, 2007

A teacher assesses Elgg, Drupal, et al...

Dan Meyer is checking out Elgg, Drupal, and others. Dan works fast, and thinks fast. He scribbles notes to himself and lets us read them. Watch Dan go. Go, Dan, go!

March 14, 2007

When public education, isn't

The situation in the US just boggles my mind. My first recent brush with it came after reading this post, then after reading Savage Inequalities and Doc, and again after reading this post.

Now, after reading this exchange between Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch on the blog Bridging Differences (HT to Borderland for the link), I understand the situation a little better, although it still boggles my mind: the gap between the rhetoric ("land of the free, home of the brave, best country in the world, if you don't like it - leave!") and the reality is so wide that "gap" doesn't cover it. It's more like the reality is the opposite of the rhetoric.

March 11, 2007

Broad Prosperity vs zero-sum games

I blogged earlier some of my responses to reading Kozol's Savage Inequalities. My biggest impression was the "zero-sum game" mentality of almost all of those who either justify the inequalities or argue against any real attempts to rectify the situation.

I have a feeling that, while there are strong human, Christian (and I'm not excluding other religions of course), and emotional arguments in favour of doing something about these terrible inequities and injustices, there are also strong economic or other arguments to be made. Wouldn't society be even more prosperous if a much greater effort was made to prevent these kinds of injustices? All of society, not just the poor, because I do not believe that human life is a zero-sum game.

Kozol quotes a Bronx school principal if they do not give these children a sufficient education to lead healthy and productive lives, we will be their victims later on. We'll pay the price someday - in violence, in economic costs.

Common sense would suggest that this is true, however I would make a stronger argument: namely, that not only will society have to pay later in some way, but that the potential future benefits (even sticking to purely economic ones) far outway the costs of doing something now. In other words, these inequities and injustices should be dealt with now, despite the costs, not just to avoid higher costs further down the road, but to help create more wealth down the road than would be obtained by ignoring the problems and putting the lid on them.
“For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known.
Only ten years ago the ‘more with less’ technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option to become enduringly successful.”

R. Buckminster Fuller, 1980

The zero-sum mentality is holding us back.
Here's a challenge:
Buckminster Fuller challenged us with a bold vision: "To make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."


The title for this post came from this review of an article by economist James K. Galbraith in Mother Jones. According to the Wikipedia entry, Galbraith argues that modern America has fallen prey to a wealthy, government-controlling "predatory class".

I'm not sure I fully understand what that means, but it seems to be compatible with the zero-sum game thinking exhibited by those in Kozol's book who argue against making any real changes that would benefit the poor.

The review brings in the concept of Broad Prosperity, apparently originating with George Lakoff in a book called Don't Think of an Elephant!
In Chapter 8 of George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant!, we can recognize why broad prosperity, rather than merely individual opportunity, should be our goal. Let's see how the concept of broad prosperity emerges from our values and principles. First, note the connections between the values freedom, opportunity, and prosperity:
"There is no fulfillment without freedom, no freedom without opportunity, and no opportunity without prosperity."


If we share any of these values, then we should seek a prosperity of which all can partake. (As Rockridge guest scholar Delwin Brown notes, this understanding has deep roots in religious traditions as well.) This is why we would not be content with an extreme case in which the average income of a society rises, but most of its people toil in dire poverty while a few wealthy families grow richer.

These values lead to an important progressive principle, equity:

"If you work hard; play by the rules; and serve your family, community, and nation, then the nation should provide a decent standard of living, as well as freedom, security, and opportunity."

Most Americans surely share this understanding, which is fundamentally at odds with the views of conservative market idolaters, who argue, for instance, that the minimum wage should be zero.

Continuing from Chapter 8 of Elephant!, the principle of equity then leads us to the concept of broad prosperity:

"An economy centered on innovation that creates millions of good-paying jobs and provides every American with a fair opportunity to prosper."

Broad prosperity also recognizes that markets are "constructed for someone's benefit." They are the products of the laws of people, not nature. As such, we can and should choose to ensure that they are constructed to serve the broadest possible prosperity.
The concept of broad prosperity is one that Kozol would probably agree with. It seems to match what he is calling for in his book. The concept also highlights a broader context: the inequities that Kozol describes are not limited to schools (Kozol also describes hospitals which are obscenely under-equipped), and I feel that a solution to these inequities cannot be limited to addressing concerns of schools or education, in the same way that AIDS cannot be considered merely a medical problem. (And, no, that doesn't mean we can give up trying to find a medical cure.)

The Dream Deferred... again

I'm nearing the end of Savage Inequalities. As I am not affected in the slightest by what happens in US schools, I was mainly reading it in order to gain some understanding of the mindsets of the people involved. The first third or half of the book is mainly descriptions of schools Kozol visits, starting with the horrific East St Louis schools. The latter half of the book has more facts and figures, including quotes from court cases, and tries to explain why the horrors not only came about but also why they are allowed to persist, and (even worse), why they are being exacerbated.

When I first came across Pissed Off (Teacher)'s blog, I couldn't believe my eyes. This is NYC???!!? After reading Kozol's book, I can now well believe it (he describes much more horrific schools), tho I can't accept it. I asked, as does Pissed Off Teacher, how can people tolerate this injustice as acceptable?
Nationwide, black children are three times as likely as white children to be placed in classes for the mentally retarded but only half as likely to be placed in classes for the gifted: a well-known statistic that should long since have aroused a sense of utter shame in our society. Most shameful is the fact that no such outrage can be stirred in New York City...Even the most thorough exposition of the facts within the major organs of the press is neutralized too frequently by context and a predilection for the type of grayish language that denies the possibilities for indignation. Facts are cited. Editorials are written. Five years later, the same facts are cited once again. There is no sense of moral urgency; and nothing changes.
In an earlier post, I quoted Kozol's description of the complicated system by which schools in the US are financed. But why no outrage?

There seems to be a deeply-rooted belief amongst US citizens that "equality" is a dirty word because it involves taking away from those who have and giving it to those who have not and that this is unacceptable. One newspaper derided this policy as that of "Robin Hood". I always thought Robin Hood was the good guy, but he is not in the US, apparently. To justify this justification of inequality, people go through amazing mental and semantic gymnastics. Big budgets don't boost achievement trumpets the Wall Street Journal. It is not money spent by parents, but the value system that impels them to spend money, which is the decisive cause of high achievement in [the affluent districts'] schools. The Journal does not explain how it distinguishes between a parent's values and the cash expenditures that they allegedly inspire.... In disparaging the value of reducing class size in the cities, the newspaper makes this interesting detour: "If deep cuts can be made - reducing large classes by perhaps half - solid benefits may accrue, and research suggests that even smaller cuts can help the performance of young children in particular. But, as a universal principle, the idea that smaller classes automatically mean more learning doesn't hold water." Huh?

There seems to be a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality.
According to our textbook rhetoric, Americans abhor the notion of a social order in which economic privilege and political power are determined by hereditary class. Officially, we have a more enlightened goal in sight...
Officially.
The crowding of children into insufficient, often squalid spaces seems an inexplicable anomaly in the United States. Images of spaciousness and majesty, of endless plains and soaring mountains, fill our folklore and our music and the anthems that our children sing... It is a betrayal of the best things that we value when poor children are obliged to sing these songs in storerooms and coat closets.


Kozol refers to the profoundly rooted American ideas about the right and moral worth of individual advancement at whatever cost to others who may be less favored by the accident of birth. Perhaps as a kind of explanation, Kozol points out how, while reading is measured against a standard, most other tests are norm-referenced, meaning that for some to do well, some must not do well. This seems symptomatic of a majority of people's thinking.
If Americans had to discriminate directly against other people's children, I believe most citizens would find this morally abhorrent. Denial, in an active sense, of other people's children is, however, rarely necessary in this nation. Inequality is mediated for us by a taxing system that most people not fully understand and seldom scrutinize.


Another common theme that comes up in the book is the thinking that welfare, charity, or simple human compassion are somehow bad. Kozol asks some NY school children if they can explain the [appalling] physical condition of the school. Hey, it's like a welfare hospital! You're getting if for free... You have no power to complain, says one boy.

The quotations Kozol uses from newspapers, governors, politicians, etc, to justify the continuation of the injustices are fully of generalities, talking of "principles" and concepts. They never speak in terms of specifics; it's all lost in generalities. It is hard to imagine these people speaking with such confidence if they were taken to the schools and places Kozol visited, brought face to face with the children and teachers there, and required to explain to them face to face why they will be denied basic materials and safe environments.
Frequently, says a teacher at another crowded high school in NY, a student may be in the wrong class for a term and never know it. With only one counselor to 700 students system-wide in NYC, there is little help available to those who feel confused. It is not surprising, says the teacher, that many find the experience so cold, impersonal and disheartening that they decide to stay home by the sad warmth of the TV set.... Listening to children who drop out of school, we often hear an awful note of anonymity. I hated the school... I never knew who my counselor was, a former NYC student says. He wasn't available for me... I saw him once. One ten-minute interview.. That was all.
We have children, says one grade-school principal,who just disappear from the face of the earth. This information strikes one as astonishing. How does a child simply disappear in NYC? Efficiency in information transfer - when it comes to stock transactions, for example - is one of the city's best developed skills. Why is it so difficult to keep track of poor children?
The unspoken answer is obviously, because people don't care; the poor children don't matter. Who cares if they come and go?

Janice, who is soft-spoken and black, speaks about the overcrowding of the school. I make it my business to know my fellow students. But it isn't easy when the classes are so large. I had 45 children in my fifth grade class. The teacher sometimes didn't know you. She would ask you, 'What's your name?'
You want the teacher to know your name,
says Rosie, who is Puerto Rican. The teacher asks me, 'Are you really in this class?' 'Yes, I've been here all semester.' But she doesn't know my name.

This shines a different light on the conversation about care and its importance for teachers (a conversation going on over here). Quite clearly, the message being given (and received) in many inner-city and other poor schools is You don't matter, you're not important, we don't care about you, there's no reason why we should because you don't have much value. So it's ok if you have no gym, if the doors don't hang straight or close properly, if you have to share your textbooks with 3 other classes, if there aren't enough chairs to go round, if your school has 6 computers for 600 children.

I read that Philadelphia School District is facing $67 million in cuts.

The critical reviews on Amazon for this book are enlightening.

March 09, 2007

The rigging of the game

Well, I'm hanging in there and learning a few things.


The answer [to the gross inequalities] is found, at least in part, in the arcane machinery by which we finance public education. Most public schools in the US depend for their initial funding on a tax on local property. (p 54)


I didn't know that.


There are wonderful teachers such as Corla Hawkins almost everywhere in urban schools, and sometimes a number of such teachers in a single school. It is tempting to focus on these teachers and, by doing this, to paint a hopeful portrait of the good things that go on under adverse condition. There is, indeed, a growing body of such writing; and these books are sometimes very popular, because they are consoling. (p 51)


This is what I dislike about those "uplifting" movies about schools that the US seems to produce in such quantities, although I have enjoyed some of those movies as movies: Stand & Deliver, Dead Poets Society, etc. These movies focus on individuals and help propagate the myth that the solution is individuals with character and determination; at the same time, they mask the economic, political, and racial factors which underpin the school environment, but are much harder to see and therefore less exciting to make a movie about. Kozol continues,

The rationale behind much of this writing is that pedagogic problems in our cities are not chiefly matters of injustice, inequality or segregation, but of insufficient information about teaching strategies: If we could simply learn "what works" in Corla Hawkins's room, we'd then be in a position to repeat this all over Chicago and in every other system. But what is unique in Mrs. Hawkins's classroom is not what she does but who she is. Warmth and humor and contagious energy cannot be replicated and cannot be written into any standardized curriculum. If they could, it would have happened long ago... (p 51)


It took an extraordinary combination of greed, racism, political cowardice and public apathy," writes James D. Squires, the former editor of the Chicago Tribune, "to let the public schools in Chicago get so bad." (p 72)
"Equal opportunity across the board" will not automatically "produce equality" in school performance. Still, "one doesn't force a losing baseball team to play with seven men." Not surprisingly, when parents of poor children or their advocates raise their voices to protest the rigging of the game, they ask initially for things that seem like fairly obvious improvements: larger library collections, a reduction in the size of classes, or a better ratio of children to school counselors. (p 77)

Chapter 2 is entitled "Other People's Children" which reminded me of this book . I wonder which came first, or if the phrase is an echo of something older?

March 08, 2007

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Not sure why I read this stuff, as I have no connection whatever to education in the US, but a couple of posts recently caught my eye, one on the Freakanomics blog, and the other on Pissed Off (Teacher).

Stephen Dubner of Freakanomics, dips into the mailbag and quotes this correspondent:
Hi guys. I know you guys have railed against confusing correlation with causality, and also discussed various statistical problems, but you do not seem to have addressed one that affects many real world decisions. I have noticed what appears to be an increase in decisions based on single variant analysis and averaging, often ignoring consequences of those decisions and/or the context of the analysis. It seems you ought to address these, as they are right up your alley. Some simple common examples...
He gives 3: Post Office boxes, schools and testing, and global warming. Here's an excerpt from the schools and testing example:
Another example happening in the SF Bay Area involves schools. The District looks at average standardized test scores of each school and closes the ones with the lowest average. They do not consider whether these ones which are lower have the poorest kids with least parent involvement and most transience and the like. But, by closing the school and moving them to a much larger school, these low performing kids continue to be low performers, they just do not pull down the average as much. Worse, these low performing kids often do worse (at least according to a recent study at Stanford) and/or drop out. Dropping out helps the averages, so you could argue it is a good policy (Texas allegedly uses that to improve their scores), but the consequences are likely dire for society (more crime or welfare or both). The problem is that the poor performing school may in fact have those particular kids doing much better than they would in another school (due to extra attention, etc), but decision makers are taught that “statistics do not lie”. This is the opposite of some of your situations (where statistics show “common sense” to be wrong).


Pissed Off steals a parody of NCLB:
My dentist is great! He sends me reminders so I don't forget checkups He uses the latest techniques based on research. He never hurts me, and I've got all my teeth.
When I ran into him the other day, I was eager to see if he'd heard about the new state program. I knew he'd think it was great.
"Did you hear about the new state program to measure effectiveness of dentists with their young patients?" I said.
"No," he said. He didn't seem too thrilled. "How will they do that?" "It's quite simple," I said. "They will just count the number of cavities each patient has at age 10, 14, and 18 and average that to determine a dentist's rating. Dentists will be rated as excellent, good, average, below average, and unsatisfactory. That way parents will know which are the best dentists. The plan will also encourage the less effective dentists to get better," I said. "Poor dentists who don't improve could lose their licenses to practice."
"That's terrible," he said.
"What? That's not a good attitude," I said. "Don't you think we should try to improve children's dental health in this state?"
"Sure I do," he said, "but that's not a fair way to determine who is practicing good dentistry."
"Why not?" I said. "It makes perfect sense to me."
"Well, it's so obvious," he said. "Don't you see that dentists don't all work with the same clientele, and that much depends on things we can't control? For example, I work in a rural area with a high percentage of patients from deprived homes, while some of my colleagues work in upper middle-class neighborhoods. Many of the parents I work with don't bring their children to see me until there is some kind of problem, and I don't get to do much preventive work. Also, many of the parents I serve let their kids eat way too much candy from an early age, unlike more educated parents who understand the relationship between sugar and decay. To top it all off, so many of my clients have well waterwhich is untreated and has no fluoride in it. Do you have any idea how much difference early use of fluoride can make?"
"It sounds like you're making excuses," I said. "I can't believe that you, my dentist, would be so defensive. After all, you do a great job, and you needn't fear a little accountability."

There's more. Go read the whole thing.

When people turn against people...

Human beings killed three other human beings on Wednesday northwest of Baghdad.

In Iraq on Wednesday, major violence continued against human beings and the human beings guarding them. Human beings detonated a car bomb in the southern Baghdad district of Saidiya, which killed eight human beings, and wounded 27. In Iskandariya south of Baghdad, human beings lobbed mortar shells at other human beings, killing 6 and wounding 13.

In the small city of Baladruz northeast of Baghdad, human beings bombed a cafe, killing 30 and wounding 25.

Altogether, the wire services reported 90 dead human beings in violence for Wednesday.

(from Informed Comment )


Savage Inequalities


Words fail me. I'm not sure I can finish this , it's making me sick. I feel like I'm in a time warp, reading about Dickens' London.

I looked up East St Louis on Wikipedia but apart from the crime statistics, the entry gives little hint as to the horrors depicted in Kozol's book. Maybe he made it up. I remember reading about Buckminster Fuller's ambitious and creative plan for the city. Too bad it never happened. That looked like fun.

These photos and commentary give a somewhat more detailed description. The photos were taken about 10 years after Kozol's book was published. The commentary bears out some of Kozol's descriptions

Over here are more photos and comments and questions to and from people who have some connection to the place, who were born there, live there now or went to school there. Someone asks if the city is really as bad as Kozol paints in Savage Inequalities, and someone writes back, " Unfortunately, the situation deteriorated further after that publication...." Whoah! Altho at least a couple of commenters (including that one quoted) point out that things are looking up, apparently. I pray they are, and stay that way.

An amazon.com commenter
wrote, "Don't read this at night ~ This book will turn you into an activist".

I sometimes get a feeling like Kozol has a deep sense of guilt about what he observes, mixed in there with the genuine compassion:

But if one knows the future that awaits them, it is terrible to see their eyes look up to you with friendliness and trust - to see this and to know what is in store for them." (p 45)

Dang! Even the pathos is Dickensian.

March 06, 2007

As I was saying

Not exactly the point I was making just the other day...but close, although I think I said it better!

Read the whole thing at Vanity Press.

March 03, 2007

Blogging to broaden your perspective


Karl Fisch responded to my post on his impressive presentation "Did You Know?" and it raised an issue I've been wanting to write about.

But first, go see the Doonesbury cartoon for Sunday, March 4th 2007. Are you back? OK.

Karl writes
As far as the "nationalistic" piece, that was not the intent - please follow the link and note the original context of this presentation. It has a U.S. flavor because it was created for my teachers and students at my school which does happen to be in the U.S., therefore it was designed to capture their attention. If I had known it was going to spread like this . . .
I'm not criticizing Karl; his comment gave me food for thought.

If you put something up on a blog, it can be read by anyone anywhere in the world, regardless of the writer's intended audience. As Uncle Duke says, "Only a couple million people have seen it. I justed posted it!" You are putting your communication, deliberately, on a global stage for all the world (with a browser and Internet connection) to see. Maybe in your little head, your audience is your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, whatever, but that may not correspond to reality. As Karl wrote, "If I had known it was going to spread like this..."

A friend of mine goes running. Recently, he took part in his first big marathon race. Why? To raise his game. A personal challenge. To run with a different calibre of runners than he normally runs with, and by doing so raise his game.

Putting your thoughts on the Internet, as opposed to a Yahoo!Group or some other mailing list, or into a printed faculty or neigbourhood newsletter, I would suggest, has the same kind of purpose: to challenge yourself, to run with a different calibre of people than you normally run with, and by doing raising your game. As English-teacher -in-Hawaii Bruce Schauble writes about blogging,
It's been a terrific learning experience, not only because of the writing itself but because of the feedback that I have gotten from the emerging community of readers that have stumbled upon or found their way to the blog.


I blog in order to broaden my community, to open myself to communication with people I would not and could not otherwise communicate with, and to get perspectives which are different from mine, to raise my game.

This brings a benefit and a responsibility: you get the benefit of (potentially) all kinds of varied input, but also you need to raise your game: you are now writing (potentially) for people who do not share your values, your background, your experience, your view of things.

There are few truly global citizens (I mean people with a global view, not just people who travel a lot), and many of us are still trapped in our parochial thinking, me included. But when we put something up on a blog, we are writing for a global audience, whether we are aware of that or not, whether that's our intent or not.

It's kinda like being married: you think you know why you married your spouse, but life (or your subconscious) has its own reasons: to challenge you to be the best person that you can be, to push you beyond what you think your limits are.

A student of mine wrote to me that he came to university because he wanted to become more intelligent. What if that wasn't just a personal wish? What if the planet right now was really hoping all of us would become as intelligent as we can, real fast? OK, that's kinda freaky, forget I said that.

"How many people have seen this?"
"Only a couple million. I just posted it!" (Doonesbury, March 4th, 2007).

We're not in Kansas anymore. None of us.

(The graphic above comes from the Buckminster Fuller Institute. Buckminster Fuller created the Dymaxion map to show the people of the world that we are not living in separate countries in separate continents, but on one world island in a one world ocean. Searching for a graphic for this post, I found lots of globes and pictures of the earth, but many of them were US or Euro-centric, with the US or Europe in the middle of the globe. (Guess which country is centre-stage in world maps in Japan?). I wanted a graphic that matched what I wrote: something suitable for a global stage.) Spaceship earth, Fuller called it.

No comment ... with links on

My insightful, hugely important comments have recently been gobbled up by software at a couple of sites recently. In Dan's case , my comment was tagged as spam, probably due to all the links in it. I like linking and tagging, so this is really cramping my style. I shall have to resort to blogging on my own blog instead of leaving comments. Drag. That is so last year.

Whine - performancing won't work

Performancing is a great tool. Want to blog about a web-page you're looking at? Just right-click to bring up the Performancing Firefox add-on interface and start typing.

Only problem is... it doesn't work! Not with the new Google Blogger. Some problem with the fonts, I dunno. Anyway, I'm dumping it for the time being. More trouble than it's worth. Now, will WriteToMyBlog play ball?

A 16-year-old with a laptop


Here's a story with several interesting themes: an enterprising young lady, someone who doesn't fit in with the crowd, the power of the blogosphere and of web-connected PCs, virtual communities, and the courage to speak up for peace.

It's a nuanced, complex story. As I'm reading, I can feel my mind badgering me, begging me to let it make a snap judgement: "is she a good guy or a bad guy? Is home-schooling good or bad? Is the Internet and freedom of speech good or bad? Is this activism or propaganda?" The article raises questions as well as informs. And for me, never lived in the US, it's a "slice-of-life" look at a part of America today. Fascinating.

Meet Ava Lowery, the Southern homeschooler whose antiwar videos get 30,000 hits a day.

Read more.
I was going to attend a birthday party for Ava Lowery, a homeschooled teen activist who posts professional-quality antiwar video shorts on her website, peacetakescourage.com, from her bedroom in a small town about an hour's drive from Montgomery. Ava, whose videos have a worldwide following thanks to the blogosphere, had decided to throw her Sweet Sixteen party on the steps of the Capitol to protest the war in Iraq.

A decade earlier, a teenage girl out of the local political mainstream might have held her tongue until she could leave Alabama. But these days the Internet provides a means out—a community of like-minded people, albeit a virtual one. Ava's website averages 30,000 hits a day and is recommended by Michael Moore's. It remains to be seen, however, whether such virtual, viral efforts can serve as a replacement, or even a stimulus, for face-to-face networks such as church groups or labor unions. Ava's rally/birthday party was a small test of what Internet activism can look like on the ground. And it was a particularly ambitious test...

As Ava's website was linked to by high-profile sites such as CrooksandLiars and Daily Kos, its viewership grew. After Yearly Kos kicked off its 2006 convention in Las Vegas with one of Ava's videos as a rallying cry, a New York Times editorial asked: "Could a 15-Year-Old With a Laptop Be the New Campaign Media Guru?" More recently, United for Peace and Justice solicited her to produce a video promoting its January 2007 march on Washington...If the innovation of cable news shaped the representation of the first Gulf War, then this war is partly being defined by another new form of media, one practiced by amateur diarists and commentators.
(link from DailyKos).

Acting White and the achievement gap

Distraction. Stephen Levitt is co-author of a popular book Freakanomics, and also co-authors the always interesting Freaknomics blog. The most recent blog entry there points to some interesting research done by Levitt and Fry on why blacks don't do as well as whites in the job market. If you're interested in the "achievement gap", take a peek at the Forbes article.

March 02, 2007

Did you know? A presentation

FarrFeed » Blog Archive » “Shift Happens” Presentation

I saw Karl Fisch's fascinating presentation a while back, but was amazed to see its slick new look. I discovered this thanks to John Farr's excellent blog. Karl's presentation and Scott McCleod's movie have really gone viral, because John Farr is not an edtech blogger and lives far from the madding crowd in beautiful New Mexico.

Here's a comment I posted to John's blog entry:
FYI, the movie in its final form was edited and posted by Scott McLeod, and the original was created by educator Karl Fisch at Arapoahoe High School (wherever that is) as a presentation for his school's start-of-the-year faculty meeting. History and background are at Karl's blog The Fischbowl here and here.

The music apparently comes from the movie Last of the Mohicans (starring one of my favourite actors, who has an equally interesting father). The content comes from a number of educators and writers who write about this shrinking world and the role the Internet is playing in that.

The movie is well made and thought-provoking, but it rings a little US-based nationalistic to me. Unlike much of the (US) edtech blogosphere, I'm not a Friedman fan. I am excited about the possibility of a world grass-roots community linked by optic fibre, getting themselves informed and making their voices heard, because global warming and peace are global issues and it's been blindingly obvious for the past 10 years that our leaders are both unwilling and incapable of leading us where we humans on this beautiful blue planet urgently need to go. (A panel of top scientists were on TV recently debating Prof Lovelock's Gaia theory on which there were many differing views. On one issue only were these scientists unanimously agreed: governments and political leaders will not make the right decisions in time to save the planet.)

I think we will survive as a species, but that it will be touch and go right up to the last minute. And that minute may come sooner than we think.

March 01, 2007

No more bath-tub races, and how to fold a shirt

Distraction -


Adur Bath Tub Race on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
that’s the way world is moving these days


and how to fold a shirt: if you think you know how, watch this 10-second video, preferably in slow motion.

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