Designing Learning Technology
Tue, 10 Dec 2002
Radio post #142
A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life project examines email at work.
Mon, 09 Dec 2002
Radio post #141
In the midst of California's state budget crisis comes news that the Oakland school district is broke and is asking for a $100M bailout. The article touches on several reasons for the crisis, including the loss of students to charter schools and distant suburbs, fiscal mismanagement, and the expense of implementing reforms by hiring experienced teachers and reducing class sizes.
Radio post #140
Business Week reports that the software industry is taking usability more seriously.
Tue, 03 Dec 2002
Radio post #139
Ken Hay's Virtual Reality Solar System project makes the local news. Ken's been working on the use of VR in education for years, and is also doing some interesting work on how to best use digital video to support educational research.
Radio post #138
Ed Week notes a new report recommending that the government promote randomized trials methodologies within education research. Randomized trials may work well for medicine, where treatments and outcomes are fairly simply defined, but presuming that the only means to achieve "scientific-based" research is this clinical model is missing much of what is hard, interesting, and important about educational research. The latest issue of Educational Researcher has several related articles about the nature of scientific research in education. David Berliner's piece in particular (available as a PDF) is worth reading; he does a good job of explaining why science is more than one method and how the nature of educational research limits the usefulness of randomized trials.
Sat, 23 Nov 2002
Radio post #137
In a cost-saving move (and under pressure from commercial interests), the Department of Energy has shut down PubScience, a site that provided free access to a huge archive of publicly funded science research.
Wed, 20 Nov 2002
Radio post #136
Ed Week reports that the Bush adminstration will push for math and science education reform early in 2003. In all likelihood, the adminstration will argue for a basic skills approach in math, despite established "NCTM" recommendations. Their stance on science education is less clear. (The article includes links to more information about basic skills and progressive approaches to math ed.)
Tue, 19 Nov 2002
Radio post #135
FileMaker has an education page. It's mostly focused on administrative uses for the database product. It would be nice to see an emphasis on ways to leverage databases for student learning. Finding patterns in data and making sense of data are very challenging tasks.
Mon, 18 Nov 2002
Radio post #134
Congress Approves 'Dot-Kids' Measure (TechNews.com). This will lead to the use of "*.kids.us"-type domain names -- not as general as a top-level .kids domain, but still of use to ensure a safe space online. What defines a safe space? Currently, that would mean no chat, no IM, and no linking to any site outside of the kids.us domain.
Sat, 16 Nov 2002
Radio post #133
Scholastic has released two reports on the state of technology in schools. Among the notes: among the current installed base of computers, roughly two thirds are Windows-based; the remaining third is Macintosh. For planned purchases, however, Macs constitute only 21% of new machines. Internet connectivity is at 99% (although this may be a per-school figure, not per-classroom). The reports also note the rapid increase in wireless networking equipment.
Fri, 15 Nov 2002
Radio post #132
The National Association for Science, Technology and Society has an upcoming conference in Baltimore, Feb 20-22, 2003.
Tue, 12 Nov 2002
Radio post #131
Revolution 2.0, a cross-platform development tool that is in many ways the successor to Hypercard, ships this month.
Radio post #130
Another piece by the Times looking at a range of whole-school reform models. One interesting tidbit from this article: the programs that yield the best evidence for success on those that look most like direct instruction. Other programs suggest great promise but, because they offer educators more leeway in how the program is implemented, produce less reliable research data because there is greater variation. So more direct reform looks better in large-scale studies because it's more directly replicable; advocates of progressive reforms need to figure out how to bridge this methodology/implementation gap. (This was a major theme at "ICLS2002".)
Radio post #129
The NY Times discusses No Child Left Behind and the current administrative push towards more "scientific" educational research. The takehome? Perhaps we will simply have to accept the fact that research will help us decide what is best but will never make those decisions for us.
Thu, 31 Oct 2002
Radio post #128
Happy Halloween! Here are some interesting jack-o-lanterns, along with instructions for how to make your own fancy-schmancy designs.
Radio post #127
I've started to use NetNewsWire Lite to more easily track breaking news. It's great for handling sites that support RSS syndication, but doesn't help me handle sites that don't, like Ed Week and the Chronicle. It's be nice to see NetNewsWire let me package both frequently read URLs and RSS feeds in one place.
Radio post #126
Hey, Arts and Letters Daily is back! Kudos to the Chronicle for rescuing a great resource for thought-provoking writing.
Tue, 22 Oct 2002
Radio post #125
LESTER (Learning Science and Technology Repository) is an online community and information space focused on innovations in learning science and technology. It's somewhat similar in intent to the CILT Knowledge Network.
Radio post #124
Apple is offering any K-12 teacher a free copy of Mac OS X 10.2.
Tue, 15 Oct 2002
Radio post #123
Conference announcement: Designing for User Experiences (DUX) 2003, San Francisco, 5-7 June 2003. ACM SIGCHI, ACM SIGGRAPH, and AIGA Experience Design are pleased and excited to offer an unprecedented joint conference: DUX2003. DUX2003 will gather together designers of all kinds from our intersecting communities who deliver user-centered designs for the digital age. (Submissions due 1 Feb 2003.)
Radio post #122
ISTE publishes Palm(TM) Handheld Computers -- A Complete Resource for Classroom Teachers.
Tue, 08 Oct 2002
Radio post #121
Massachusetts Sued Over Graduation Tests. Education Week reports on the suit, on behalf of students who did not pass the state's high stakes graduation tests, that attacks the validity of the assessments.
Radio post #120
New Palm handhelds break the $100 price point.. This means you can get a Palm (albeit with only 2M of RAM, and probably not upgradeable) for slightly more than the cost of a TI-82 graphing calculator, and significantly less than a TI-92.
Radio post #119
Webcams in space! The upcoming Atlantis flight will include a live video feed.
Tue, 01 Oct 2002
Radio post #118
NY Times: Teacher Shortages Vanish When the Price Is Right. It's pretty simple when you get right down to it.
Radio post #117
The next round of solicitations for MSPs is up at the NSF web site. "The Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program supports innovative partnership-driven projects developed to improve K-12 student achievement in mathematics and science. As overall student achievement rises, MSP projects are expected to significantly reduce achievement gaps in the mathematics and science performance of diverse student populations. Successful MSP projects will serve as models that can be widely replicated in educational practice to improve the mathematics and science achievement of all the Nation's students."
Mon, 30 Sep 2002
Radio post #116
An article in the Boston Globe raises questions about Maine's huge investment in laptops for every seventh and eighth grader, pointing to a study that claims that a similar technology investment in Israel led to a decline in mathematics performance. The article makes a good point that when assessing the impact of large investments in technology, we should consider the opportunity cost of spending the money on other things. The researchers cited in the piece suggest that the money spent in Israel, and also in Maine, would have been better spent on a proven benefit like reduced class sizes. That's a legitimate attack; here in the Seattle area, there have been several teachers strikes this fall, and one of the (many) issues that arose was that teachers saw their district spending lots of money to replace two- to three- year old laptops -- which still worked just fine -- instead of raising teacher salaries. However, I have two major concerns with studies that try to assess technology impact on this scale. First, evaluating the impact of technology investment without looking closely at how it is used makes no sense. Unless we know how the computers were used (or not used), we can't really understand whether the investment made sense. Was suitable software available? Did teachers have the opportunity to learn about effective ways to use the computers? Any study of the impact of technology really needs to look closely at these issues, rather than making blanket statements about the impact of computers. Second, technology changes of this scope need time before they are evaluated. Often it's assumed that as long as we give teachers an inservice day to learn about computers, we've provided enough training, and we can look at what teachers do during that academic year as the litmus test for the impact of technology. That's ridiculous. Researchers who work closely with teachers on innovative uses of technology have documented that it often takes two to three years for teachers to reach a comfort level with technology, and that learning continues to improve over that period. Even if teachers receive suitable up-front training with the technology, everything they do that first year is going to be new to them -- throughout the year, they will be figuring out how the technology relates to where they are in the curriculum right now. It is only in their second year that they have sufficient experience to start integrating technology use into their teaching practice more effectively. This suggests that any examination of the role of technology in learning needs to look closely at the specific nature of its use, and to study that use for more than one year.
Fri, 27 Sep 2002
Radio post #115
Ed Week has a good summary of the implications of the No Child Left Behind Act, including several links of further analysis and news stories.
Wed, 25 Sep 2002
Radio post #114
Wired has a story about a project that's making geographic map data available to the blind. A clever use of non-visual feedback to support spatial reasoning.
Tue, 24 Sep 2002
Radio post #113
Looking for information about internet use in schools? Check out the NCES report Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2001.
Radio post #112
Ed Week reports that the Department of Education is planning to remove years of research from its web site, in part to better align the site with the current administration's political stance.
Mon, 23 Sep 2002
Radio post #111
The Departments of Commerce and Education, and the NSF, have compiled a series of visions, published as 2020 Visions: Transforming Education and Training Through Advanced Technologies, that provide a diverse array of views on how students, workers and life-long learners may learn in the future. The visions are solicited from a broad range of backgrounds (update: while backgrounds may vary, it's also worth noting that all but one author are male and there is virtually no ethnic diversity among the authors). The last vision (of the Last Teacher) presents a cautionary tale to remind us not to take the bubbly optimism of the collection -- many of which are highly techno-centric -- too seriously. Technology alone won't fix education. Didn't we know that already? Press release here; downloadable report here.
Radio post #110
Sometimes small, well-focused applications can make a big difference. I'm recently started to use Consistency, a small application for Mac OS X that's designed to help you keep track of regularly recurring tasks that don't have fixed deadlines. In my case, that includes things like updating this blog. I don't have the time or energy to maintain to update this daily, and since it's not a daily habit, it's easy to forget to add pointers to interesting items that come across my desk. Consistency does a great job of helping me track tasks like these and reminding me when I'm overdue.
Radio post #109
It's offical: A study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that more U.S. college students use the Internet for academic work than use the campus library.
Tue, 17 Sep 2002
Radio post #108
The ESCOT project, an ambitious NSF-funded effort to design interoperable software components for math education, is now giving way to a new project called TRAILS, which is, among other things, trying to leverage undergraduate software design for K-12 education. The full press release on TRAILS can be found here.
Radio post #107
Extreme measures: New Scientist reports that record companies are now sending out advance copies of some CDs enclosed inside sealed portable CD players, as a means to prevent piracy.
Mon, 16 Sep 2002
Radio post #106
A lengthy Wired article on how Dartmouth College has moved to a completely wireless campus, and some of the impacts, both social and academic, of the move.
Radio post #105
More ICLS news: online registration is now open! Early registration ends October 9. Here's the full conference description.
Learning sciences research explores the nature and conditions of learning as it occurs in educational environments, broadly construed. The learning sciences field draws upon multiple theoretical perspectives and research paradigms in order to understand the complexities associated with human learning, cognition, and development. The next international conference of the learning sciences will be held October 23-26, 2002 in Seattle, Washington (USA). A representative, although not exhaustive, list of the kinds of research studies to be presented at the upcoming ICLS 2002 conference includes:
A full conference schedule is available at the conference web site. To register to attend the ICLS 2002 conference please visit: http://depts.washington.edu/cogstudy/ICLS.
- orchestration and study of complex learning environments
- design and study of new learning technologies or the appropriation and use of technology by a learning community
- theory-building and/or empirical study of fundamental aspects of learning, cognition, and development
- examining the nature of disciplinary practices and knowledge
- documentation of learning as it occurs in various natural contexts including schools, homes & communities, museums, after-school clubs, and professional work settings
- studies of social interaction and collaboration as they relate to learning
- critical examination of research methods and related issues associated with the study of human learning
- research on the processes of organizational change within educational institutions or policy studies as they intersect specifically with issues of learning
Radio post #104
Ricky Tang points me towards a fairly comprehensive collection of electronic journals within education research. The list is maintained by the AERA Communication of Research SIG.
Fri, 06 Sep 2002
Radio post #103
The tentative schedule for ICLS 2002 is online. Early registration ends October 8. (The International Conference of the Learning Sciences, or ICLS, is a lively conference that draws researchers from cognitive science, education, computer science, and other domains.)
Thu, 05 Sep 2002
Radio post #102
Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater: Greek officials can't distinguish between gambling software and video games, so carrying or playing any kind of video game in Greece is now illegal.
Wed, 28 Aug 2002
Radio post #101
By now, most everyone knows Mac OS X 10.2 is out. But it was pretty funny to hear a story on NPR yesterday about the demise of the 'happy mac' startup icon. (Update: it didn't take long for someone to figure out how to bring the icon back.)
Radio post #100
Horizon Research, Inc. (HRI) has just released the newest report in a series based on the 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education. The report--Trends from 1977 to 2000--focuses on trends in science and mathematics education, in most cases between 1993 and 2000, but in some instances dating back to 1977 or 1985. Areas addressed include: teacher backgrounds and beliefs, teachers as professionals, science and mathematics courses, instructional objectives and activities, instructional resources, and factors affecting instruction.
Mon, 12 Aug 2002
Radio post #99
The NY Times reports on why web-based peer-reviewed journals may be poised for a breakthrough.
Radio post #98
Technology Source is hosting several live web events this month covering topics such as Britian e-Learning Centre, online music instruction, and faculty development. Participation is free, and a full list of times and topics is available.
Radio post #97
From Federal Computer Week: K12NECTS, which stands for K-12 Networking Education Community Teachers and Students, is a three-year experiment to test how handheld devices can be integrated into the curriculum. The district expects to have an instructional model developed by 2005 that other schools can follow.
Thu, 25 Jul 2002
Radio post #96
The NY Times talks about the loss of privacy as search engines get better and better. The article raises an interesting question: should K-12 students' work be posted on public web pages, if ten years later those students, now in their 20s, learn that their schoolwork constitutes a significant portion of the web hits on their name? Of course, this is only an issue for students with fairly distinctive names, which raises another interesting question: is it wise to give your newborn child a distinctive name, or is it better, and more private, to blend with the crowd?
Wed, 24 Jul 2002
Radio post #95
RealBasic 4.5, the latest version of the solid cross-platform development tool, was released last week.
Fri, 19 Jul 2002
Radio post #93
Joel on Software rants about how misguided measurement policies lead to terrible business practice. Similar issues arise in educational accountability. We know teachers will teach to the test if the test becomes the main criteria by which their work is evaluated. Unfortunately, these tests often emphasize easily quantified outcome measures. The point of Joel's discussion is that these kinds of accountability measures only make sense when you can actively monitor what workers are doing and ensure that the way they work aligns with the intent of the measure. But as long as you're going to do that, let's look at how teachers teach, not just a limited set of outcomes from their teaching. This way, we can learn more about what works in classrooms, and we can help teachers think about alternative approaches that can help their students.
Radio post #92
Mary Beth Rosson and John Carroll have published a new undergraduate-level text on Usability Engineering. The press release features praise from Don Norman, Andrew Dillon, and Terry Winograd.
Fri, 12 Jul 2002
Radio post #91
The early registration deadline for the upcoming American Zoo and Aquarium Association conference (Fort Worth, Sept 10-14) is August 1. I'll be there representing Inquirium and talking about our work with the Brookfield Zoo.
Sun, 07 Jul 2002
Radio post #90
Educational research is often attacked for not being 'scientific' enough, with critics offering the clinical trials model from medical research as an example of what educators should be doing. But even within medicine, the clinical trials approach is not suitable for all research efforts. Here's an excerpt from a New York Times story on the controversy over the role of fat in our diet.
Scientists are still arguing about fat, despite a century of research, because the regulation of appetite and weight in the human body happens to be almost inconceivably complex, and the experimental tools we have to study it are still remarkably inadequate. This combination leaves researchers in an awkward position. To study the entire physiological system involves feeding real food to real human subjects for months or years on end, which is prohibitively expensive, ethically questionable (if you're trying to measure the effects of foods that might cause heart disease) and virtually impossible to do in any kind of rigorously controlled scientific manner. But if researchers seek to study something less costly and more controllable, they end up studying experimental situations so oversimplified that their results may have nothing to do with reality. This then leads to a research literature so vast that it's possible to find at least some published research to support virtually any theory.
These issues pop up in educational research all the time. Tightly controlled studies are attacked as irrelevent to the real needs of the classroom, while studies that lack such control are attacked as 'not scientific enough'. The problem with educational research isn't a lack of rigor on the part of researchers. It's that educational researchers are trying to understand extremely complex phenomena.
Tue, 02 Jul 2002
Radio post #89
Researchers have explored alternative publishing venues before, but these efforts have in my experience been centered around a specific field or scholarly community. But print journals are still the main game in town. The Chronicle reports on recent trends away from this, citing a computer science study showing an overwhelming shift towards citing online works over offline works. The report describes recent institutional efforts to develop 'superarchives' of scholarly work. (It will be very cool when, instead of looking for the reverse citation index, you can just check your Google rank to see how influential your research is.)
Radio post #88
BBC: One billion computers and counting.
Mon, 01 Jul 2002
Radio post #87
The upcoming International Conference of the Learning Sciences has posted its call for workshop proposals and dissertation consortium applications. Both are due July 31. (ICLS is October 23-26 in Seattle.)
Radio post #86
TAPPED IN, a real-time meeting space for teachers and educators, is hosting a Summer Carnival on July 17. This is a clever way to learn more about TAPPED IN and the resources it provides.
Radio post #85
I've been looking for public encryption libraries for Inquirium's software development efforts. (We use encryption in our registration process.) The best resource I've found so far is Crypto++. Bruce Schneier's Applied Cryptography is recommended companion reading.
Radio post #84
Last week, the Supreme Court shifted the debate over school vouchers back to states, opening the door to much wider use of vouchers to support public funding of private and religious schools. The NYTimes discusses the pragmatic implications of this ruling. I'm particularly interested to see what kind of accountability measures are put in place. Given the current focus on assessing the heck out of public school students, will private schools accepting public vouchers be held to the same standards?
Tue, 18 Jun 2002
Radio post #83
Macintouch has a series of reader reports about challenges to using Mac OS X in education settings, including compatibility, security, and vendor support.
Sat, 15 Jun 2002
Radio post #82
Richard Muller argues that improvements in energy and resource conservation may offset the looming population bomb.
Fri, 14 Jun 2002
Radio post #81
I don't like to get drawn into platform wars, but here's an interesting article that compares total cost of ownership for Macs and Windows machines for one Austrailian university. Total cost of ownership takes into account support costs over the lifetime of the computer, and it a better measure to use that initial cost, particularly for institutions that have to support the machines over time. The article has links to a variety of other reports assessing lifetime costs. All of these links point to Macs being cheaper to own in the long run, but take it with a grain of salt: these are predominantly Mac-biased sites. If there are studies showing the Windows machines are cheaper in the long run, I'd be happy to point to them.
Radio post #80
This year, we waited until nearly Memorial Day to start planting outdoors. Next year, we want to start earlier, and I found a nice description of how to build a cloche to extend the growing season.
Tue, 11 Jun 2002
Radio post #79
The Chronicle reports that Dartmouth College is transitioning from Macs to Windows machines for both administration and students. I worked at Dartmouth in the late 80s and early 90s, back in the heyday of HyperCard and the use of videodiscs to support interaction video applications. Macs were visible throught the campus, and it was fascinating to see how students integrated Macs into their social and academic life. Some great software came out of that time, including the Dartmouth XCMDs, Fetch, Internews, and BlitzMail (an IMAP-ish email client that was years ahead of its time). Ah, well. Times change.
Radio post #78
Apple overhauls its education group.
Tue, 04 Jun 2002
Radio post #77
Interesting: the EPA is planning to revise its designation of old computer equipment from "waste" to "reusable equipment". Theoretically this will create a greater incentive to reuse or recycle old technology. One small step for sustainability in the high-tech sector...
Fri, 31 May 2002
Radio post #76
NECC 2002 is just around in corner -- June 17-19 in San Antonio. Lots going on at this showcase for educational technologies. I won't be going, but Intel is running a workshop on Seeing Reason, a causal mapping tool based on my work with CILT.
Wed, 29 May 2002
Radio post #75
Time to close up this spinoff weblog. Tidepool.org does a great job of covering environmental news for the Pacific Northwest, and it makes more sense for me to weave specific sustainability items into my general blog.
Radio post #74
The proposed Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) is certainly not in the interests of consumers. Check here for more information about the restrictions this proposed legislation would place on consumer fair use rights.
Fri, 24 May 2002
Radio post #73
John Markoff on the ongoing video game boom. "As game software and hardware become more elaborate and the profit potential grows, the development budgets of hit software titles are swelling as well. Costs now routinely fall from $3 million to $6 million, and $10 million is no longer unusual. The development team for the latest Laura Croft game, which is being produced in England, has jumped to 50 from 15." This just underlines the growing divide between educational technology, often produced at a tenth to a hundreth of these budgets, and entertainment titles. I don't see the market for educational titles changing fast enough to close this divide, and I worry that the expectations for educational technology -- in the eyes of students, teachers, and designers -- will become more and more driven by the state of the art in entertainment. Where's the middle way?
Radio post #72
Sorry for the extended break -- travel and some personal business kept me from posting recently. I think it's interesting how inherently fragile weblogs are, subject as they are to the time and energy of one, or maybe two, people. The energy and insight of those individuals is what makes weblogs so interesting to me, but the other side of the coin is that a variety of events, good and bad, can throw a weblog off its stride. (Am I just making excuses? Maybe -- but there are plenty of weblogs I follow that go on hiatus for various reasons.)
Tue, 07 May 2002
Radio post #71
Here's a good piece in the Times that discusses the challenges states face in creating tests that accurately align with their own standards.
Radio post #70
Bob Cringley finds meaning in SIDS. Is this the moment of truth for wearable computing?
Fri, 03 May 2002
Radio post #69
Cool beans! Intel has rolled out Seeing Reason, their version of the Causal Mapping Tool I developed while a postdoc at CILT. It's available for teachers to use for free on Intel's Education web site.
Mon, 29 Apr 2002
Radio post #68
Seattle struggles to deal with diversity in the schools. The principal of Ballard High School recently resigned in protest over the decision to remove race as a tiebreaker in deciding which school students will attend. He argues that learning to interact with people different from yourself is an essential life skill.
Radio post #67
UW screened Davis Guggenheim's The First Year last week. Lots of interest and energy in the room -- people were sitting in the aisles and lined up against the walls. After that film ended, Guggenheim was introduced: loud ovation. Then Maurice Rabb, one of the teachers from the film, was introduced: deafening cheers. TFY is a good documentary portraying the first year of teaching for five LA teachers. If you haven't been in a classroom since your own schooling, it's a wonderful glimpse of challenges and rewards of the teaching profession. For those of us who spend time in classrooms, as teachers or researchers, it's a reminder that the issues faced by education all come down, eventually, to individuals. The subtext of TFY is to raise the status of teachers in the community and inspire new teachers to join the profession. PBS' web site for the film contains more information about this outreach effort.
Radio post #66
Apple announces the eMac, a new flavor of iMac targeted at education. It's nice to see Apple bring back a sub-$1000 machine. However, their description of the "learning" software that comes with the machine is, as Ben Loh points out, rather absurd. iMovie, iTunes, and iPhoto are fine applications, but what about them supports or contributes to learning?
Wed, 24 Apr 2002
Radio post #65
Mass transit and the West: Vegas builds a monorail.
Tue, 23 Apr 2002
Radio post #64
NYTimes: Towards a national plan for computer recycling. It's important to make manufacturers responsible for this, so that the true cost of technology becomes more apparant. On a related note, don't forget that recycle comes after reduce (do you really need to upgrade now?) and reuse (you can buy or sell a PIII 500MHz desktop for around US$300 on eBay).
Radio post #63
NYTimes: E-Books: An Idea Whose Time Hasn't Come. Real books don't need power, don't crash, travel well, blah blah blah. Where e-books may be useful is to read older texts that are out of copyright or no longer available, like those published by Project Gutenberg, or for ephemeral, time-sensitive data (e.g. using Palms to read news). But when e-books compete against real books, it's no contest.
Radio post #62
Measuring what matters. In the northwest, "residents consume, on average, their body weight in natural resources each day."
Mon, 22 Apr 2002
Radio post #61
Happy Earth Day!
Radio post #60
Today is the day Washington state students begin taking the WASL: our state's standardized test for 4th, 7th, and 10th graders. There is an interesting dip in past performance for 7th graders, particularly around reading, that suggests that the "standard" established via the test needs to be refined; otherwise, it's hard to argue why over 60% of 4th and 10th grade students pass the test, but only 40% of 7th graders pass. It's important to remember that these standards are often set in a somewhat arbitrary way, and that simply raising expectations isn't a viable strategy for educational reform. Expectations must be attainable, and significant support structures need to be in place to help students, teachers, and parents to achieve these standards. EdWeek reports on some successes with raised standards, where these supports have been put into place.
Mon, 15 Apr 2002
Radio post #59
Here's a nice article in the Atlantic about how scientific modeling is driving research in the social sciences. There's been some interesting research around bringing these modeling techniques into K-12 classrooms and allowing kids to conduct these kinds of investigations. Good pointers to see the learning technology efforts are the Center for Connected Learning and Computer-based Modeling at Northwestern, Mitch Resnick's work at MIT, and AgentSheets, a commercial effort to provide a general-purpose programmable modeling environment for learning.
Sat, 13 Apr 2002
Radio post #58
Mozilla rumbles towards 1.0. Do we care? I think the days of do-everything web browsers are over. There's no user interface continuity, maintaining user state is a hassle, undo and intermediate saving are virtually impossible, and when your net connection goes down, you have absolutely no recourse. (Try working with a teacher using a web-based curriculum and watch the net connection drop. In many cases like this, you simply cannot risk hanging users out to dry.) Much more interesting to me is watching how applications have been growing more and more web-enabled over time. It used to be an app might have a link to its company's web site. Then, apps started being able to check to see if newer versions were available. Now, we're seeing applications that are designed to harvest data off the web -- news feeds, webcam images, real-time data, etc. -- and present the information is ways that offer the user far more flexibility and control than they would have within a web browser. And the flow's moving both directions: weblog software sits in the middle of the flow, offering broadcasting as well as consumption, and new standards like SOAP are making it possible for a variety of web services to make themselves available to anything that can talk XML and HTTP. This is exciting. I'm looking forward to seeing more and more web-enabled applications that integrate the user interface and representational affordances of desktop apps with the rich and dynamic nature of the web.
Radio post #57
Portals or services? The Chronicle reports that the University of Michigan is shutting down my.umich.edu, its ongoing effort to provide its students with a customized portal to University information and services. U of M cites the extensive cost of development and maintenance as the main factor. I find it interesting that at the same time we see centralized portal development waning, interest and availability of weblogs is on the rise, and there's a lot of effort being placed on finding ways to allow bloggers to integrate content from other sources. Now, not everyone wants to broadcast a weblog, but many of the technologies for harvesting information from web services are being developed within the weblog community. Perhaps we'll see institutions like U of M starting to provide discrete, maintainable web services to their students, who choose themselves what to subscribe to. For example, I wonder what would happen if U of M, or another university, adopted a model more like the Radio Community Server. This would maintain the central, always-available nature of the portal approach, but distribute customization (and add significant broadcast capability) to the students. The down side is that right now, the learning curve for a tool like Radio is a bit higher than a portal site, and (of course) it's not free. But in two to five years, as web services and personal blogging environments mature, this could become the dominant model. And universities could be interesting community testbeds.
Thu, 11 Apr 2002
Radio post #56
One of the effective strategies socially responsible mutual funds can employ is to seek change from within companies via shareholder resolutions. USA Today reports on Calvert's efforts to do just this to encourage computer makers to study how used computer materials can be better recycled.
Radio post #55
The Senate's considering arctic drilling -- talk to your Senator while there's still time.
Radio post #54
Derek Reiber on the promise of cradle-to-cradle innovation: how we can design products that will not generate waste.
Mon, 08 Apr 2002
Radio post #53
I'm back from a busy week at AERA. Summing up AERA is always difficult -- it's just too large of a conference to really pick up on trends that cut across the entire field. For me, the most interesting session happened Wednesday morning, and summed up the challenges that I see within the field: how can educational research speak to public policy and how can researchers move from small, one-classroom studies to broader interventions that have a greater impact. The session was organized by the Design-based Research Collective (I'm a member); the discussants critiqued the work for alternatively not being scientific enough (a need for principled design of learning materials) and claiming to be overly scientific (from a statistician's perspective, the small-N studies done via this work are too susceptible to error to make strong claims about educational practice). There's a lot at stake here. On the one hand, proponents of design-based research argue that educational change happens when educators and researchers on the ground iteratively refine innovations based on specific classroom studies. On the other hand, advocates of widespread reform efforts see the results of design-based research as too idiosyncratic to be the basis for broader reform, and advocate a methodological approach more similar to the medical field's clinical trials model as a means to decide "what works" for learning. This debate is likely to go on for some time. What's exciting about this AERA session is that the debate went public and has begun to engage the broader educational community.
Wed, 27 Mar 2002
Radio post #51
MSNBC: What digital divide? The argument is that the gap between computer haves and have nots is closing rapidly, so the rhetoric over the digital divide as a national crisis is overblown. Here's the numbers they cite (showing the change in percentage of people that used computers at home or at work from 1997 to 2001): Annual income from 15-25k: 37% (in 1997) to 47% (in 2001); income over 75k: 81-88%. Asian-Americans: 58-71%; whites: 58-70%; blacks: 44-56%; Hispanics: 38-49%.
Radio post #50
This week, Frontline takes a look at the increased role of high-stakes testing in American schools. Such testing is expensive, and if you're going to do anything other than multiple choice testing, it gets even more expensive. So there's a bias to easily quantified kinds of questions, which themselves tend to focus on regurgitation of knowledge, rather than the ability to think and reason about issues and ideas. It's particularly interesting to note that the SAT is planning to move away from a multiple choice format, in part because that the University of California has decided that it is not a good predictor of performance. So why will K-12 testing be any better?
Mon, 25 Mar 2002
Radio post #49
Cringely on opportunities for small business technology development. There are niche markets within education; that's what Inquirium targets. We're excited about the possibilities!
Radio post #48
A List Apart: Accessibility and Authoring Tools. How web development tools are evolving to better support accessibility standards.
Radio post #47
NY Times: Senate Votes to Require Increase in Use of Wind and Solar Power. "The Senate gave environmentalists a modest victory on wind and solar power, but put off conclusive votes on broader energy policy until next month."
Radio post #46
Wired: Anti-Copy Bill Slams Coders. This bill would be a disaster. In addition to trying to embed copy-protection in everything, this bill would require all software developers to bake copy-protection into their products within three years. Even open source and freeware! I understand that the entertainment industry is scared to death of a post-Napster, high-bandwidth world, but this kind of heavy-handed approach is completely off-base. Look, the problem's not new -- the software industry has dealt with piracy and copying for years. Has anyone in Hollywood noticed that after a flurry of activity in the 80s and early 90s, nobody in the software business uses copy protection anymore? Consumers don't buy broken stuff.
Radio post #45
Tide Pool is a great resource for tracking issues related to the Northwest coast, from California to British Columbia.
Fri, 22 Mar 2002
Radio post #44
A listing of Western Washington CSAs, courtesy of Seattle Tilth. Community-supported agriculture provides you with great produce, while you support farms directly.
Radio post #43
Gates to Create 70 Schools for Disadvantaged. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is putting up more than $40 million to create high schools that will give disadvantaged students college-level work. By Karen W. Arenson.
Radio post #42
U.S. Acts to Shrink Endangered Species Habitats. The decision itself might be defensible if there were an alternative plan. But if there is no other plan (beyond "studying the situation") and irreversible development occurs, what are we left with?
Radio post #41
Here's a nice collection of interaction patterns for the web, graphical interfaces, and mobile technologies. Another case where a community adopts a design pattern approach to community knowledge.
Wed, 20 Mar 2002
Radio post #40
Next-generation robots: for entertainment or for work?
Radio post #39
RealBasic 4.0.2 is a maintenance release from Real Software. (For the daring, alpha versions of RealBasic 4.5 are also available; Real Software makes developmental versions available as a general rule.
Radio post #38
Use AIM? Did you know that there's a fairly smart automated buddy that can tell you lots of things about current events, movies, etc? Try adding "smarterchild" to your Buddy List and ask it some questions. This is interesting since AIM scales well to cell phones and other mobile tech. So rather than trying to build a web browser into a phone in order to use something like Ask Jeeves, someone built a clever 'bot and hooked it directly into AIM. Cute.
Mon, 18 Mar 2002
Radio post #37
Come to Seattle for the Fifth International Conference of the Learning Sciences! ICLS 2002 will be October 23-26; paper submissions are due May 6.
Radio post #36
Last week, the Senate voted not to raise CAFE standards. Instead, they copped out and dumped the issue onto the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a couple of years of study. Doesn't dumping this on a safety agenda immediately bias the debate away from energy efficiency and our national dependence on oil? See how your senator voted on this.
Radio post #35
Tech Review talks about handhelds of the future. Supposedly, we'll all end up with two devices: one for communication, and one for handling rich media. Not surprisingly, the emphasis on these consumer-targeted devices is a bit different from how researchers think about the use of handheld devices in education.
Wed, 13 Mar 2002
Radio post #34
It's funny. A guy goes off, does statistical research, and argues that the current state of the environment is better than we think -- not great, mind you, but not so bad -- and he gets hammered by environmentalists. The positive story here is that he's calling bullshit on a few numbers that the environmental community has trumpeted for years, but that lack real data. On the other hand, looking primarily at global statistics may mask very real problems. A good rebuttal is Peter Gleick's, which attacks The Skeptical Environmentalist not on its data, but on its interpretation (and selective omission) of data. Grist also does a good job dissecting the arguments of the book.
Radio post #33
Salon: Why do we buy? The article focuses more on why we spend in a recessed economy, but one could just as well ask why we buy stuff we don't need.
Tue, 12 Mar 2002
Radio post #32
The NY Times on the changing economics of recycling.
Radio post #31
Slow news day (9/11 retrospectives notwithstanding), so let's go take a look at the online program for the upcoming AERA conference. A search for all sessions with the descriptor "technology" results in 123 hits -- more than enough to keep someone busy for a week in New Orleans. (As if there aren't enough ways to stay busy in the Big Easy, but that's another story.) What's interesting to me is the diversity of those 123 sessions. Basically, technology is pervasive enough that it's no longer really useful as a search tag. To some extent, that's a success -- it suggests that the educational research community has moved beyond technology for technology's sake, and is focusing on its use within specific domains. (Unfortunately, the site doesn't let you search using two distinct descriptors, like "technology" and "science education".)
Thu, 07 Mar 2002
Radio post #30
Wind power grows by 45% in 2001.
Radio post #29
The Chronicle reviews a new book on the pragmatics of online learning. The ASTD E-Learning Handbook includes case studies of corporate e-learning as well as academic work, and targets learning settings from universities to business to government.
Wed, 06 Mar 2002
Radio post #28
Rita Lauria reviews Brenda Laurel's Utopian Entrepreneur. A nice discussion of the nature of design research, interdisciplinary work, and the process of turning good ideas into successful businesses.
Tue, 05 Mar 2002
Radio post #27
Global Ideas Bank: Cutting edge social innovations. Go. Read. Do.
Radio post #26
Interested in how handheld devices -- particularly wireless devices -- can be used in education? Jeremy Roschelle has written a nice overview (PDF).
Radio post #25
OERI's Education Technology Expert Panel reports on two exemplary and five promising technology programs within the Department of Education. Information about the members of the panel and the criteria that they used is provided.
Radio post #24
InfoWorld identifies its top ten tech innovators. There are several related articles that provide an overview of where tech is going in 2002.
Mon, 04 Mar 2002
Radio post #23
The Chronicle interviews Nishikant Sonwalkar from MIT on distance learning. The takehome is that distance education, and learning technologies in general, need to account for individuals' personal learning styles. I agree up to a point: you don't want to force students to always learn through means that they aren't comfortable with. On the other hand, always letting someone learn through their preferred style means that they'll never have a chance to get better using other methods. Providing support for a range of learning styles splits the difference.
Radio post #22
A quick pitch for Project Gutenburg, which has been around for years working on digitizing texts that are no longer copyrighted: works by Shakespeare, Lewis Carroll, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as well as works by lesser known authors. It's up to volunteers to decide which books should be added to the archive, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that a book by my great-great-grandfather, America through the spectacles of an Oriental diplomat, was on the list. Project Gutenburg texts can be read on handhelds, converted to PDFs, printed... there are lots of ways to read them.
Sun, 03 Mar 2002
Radio post #21
BYU is planning an online community to support instructional designers, and has posted a short survey form to help them understand what the ID community wants. If you're a designer, or would use such a resource, let them know what you want.
Radio post #20
The Chronicle: 2 Canadian Colleges to Test the Effectiveness of Wireless Learning. Freshmen will use handhelds from Compaq (iPaqs, I assume) and wireless internet. The focus seems to be on supporting communication and providing electronic course materials, fairly pedestrian uses on a wireless net. Of course, the interesting thing is how having iPaqs 24/7 changes what students do. Folks on the University of Michigan have also been exploring the use of handhelds in middle school science classrooms, and have some papers that discuss their use.
Fri, 01 Mar 2002
Radio post #19
What to do with old cell phones? The New York Times discusses a Japanese effort to reclaim materials from old cell phones. (Is it just me, or are cell phone going obsolete even faster than computers?) If you're in the US, check out Funding Factory and Collective Good, two organizations that will accept and recycle (or reuse) old cell phones.
Tue, 26 Feb 2002
Radio post #18
More upcoming CILT events: two workshops will be held in parallel on the Monday of AERA, so if you're already planning to be in New Orleans, it's easy to attend. The first will focus on assessments for learning; the second, which doesn't have a web page yet, will focus on the design and use of tools for learning communities. The CILT workshops are fairly unusual in that there is a real effort to develop and sustain new collaborations that cut across academic, school, and industry lines. Typically, the workshops start with a few general talks that sketch the current state of the field -- both the good and the bad -- and then move into small group discussion around key issues that must be addressed for the field to move forward. CILT also funds small grants to allow collaborations begun at its workshops to continue.
Fri, 15 Feb 2002
Radio post #17
CILT hosts a workshop on handheld technology's role in education in Portland, OR next week.
Thu, 07 Feb 2002
Radio post #16
Google announces a programming contest: come up with something clever to do with Google's vast web archive. I wonder if there's enough archaelogical data in there to construct a history of the web.
Tue, 05 Feb 2002
Radio post #15
E. O. Wilson: "The relative indifference to the environment springs, I believe, from deep within human nature. The human brain evidently evolved to commit itself emotionally only to a small piece of geography, a limited band of kinsmen, and two or three generations into the future. To look neither far ahead nor far afield is elemental in a Darwinian sense." Wilson goes on to discuss why a strong stance on sustainabillity is crucial for the new century, in spite of our evolved shortsightedness.
Radio post #14
The Nation discusses Bill Moyer's special tonight on PBS. Moyer addresses the impact of NAFTA and free trade and how large corporations are using NAFTA to undermine local environmental restrictions.
Radio post #13
LTSeek is shutting down after a nearly four year run tracking news related to learning technologies. Congratulations to John Rakestraw for persevering for so long.
Radio post #12
BBC: Europe prepares to launch world's largest environmental satellite.
Radio post #9
Wired: John Bailey, former Directory of Educational Technology at Penn, named to head Office of Educational Technology.
Radio post #8
NPR ran a nice piece tonight about how isolating teaching can be. There's very little time in the day to interact with your peers. This isolation is also one reason why designing technologies for schools is, in some ways, harder than designing technologies for business settings. Educational technology has to be robust and easy to use, because there's rarely an IT department to install software and handle troubleshooting. Troubleshooting is particularly problematic because it happens in real time -- kids are waiting while you try to figure out what's wrong, and you can't turn around and ask a co-worker for help.
Mon, 04 Feb 2002
Radio post #7
NY Times: Chips speeds will continue to accelerate, possibly even outpacing Moore's Law. Which means the rate of computing obsolesence will continue to increase as well, likely keeping schools and non-profits firmly in the trailing edge of technological 'progress'.
Fri, 18 Jan 2002
Radio post #4
I've posted a first pass at a file upstream driver that will allow you to direct rendered files to any folder on your local machine (or connected file server).
Wed, 16 Jan 2002
Radio post #3
I'm in the process of moving a weblog on the design of learning technology over to Radio from Blogger. I prefer Radio for several reasons, but primarily because it means I'll own my own data again, instead of relying on Blogger's servers. I'll also have more control over how I upstream data from Radio to my web sites. One of the main things I miss is Blogger's bookmarklet that made it easy to fire up a logging window with the URL of the a page already entered into the editing field. Hopefully there's an equivalent that I haven't found yet.
Sat, 12 Jan 2002
Radio post #2
Yee-haw, first interesting side effect of my Radio daze! I copied the upstream.xml file to a subfolder of the website -- I wanted to see if I can get Radio to upstream to an ftp directory on a different server. But Radio got a hold of the file before I could edit it, and replaced my main radio weblog with the content of the subfolder! Learned lesson #1: be careful what you put inside of "live" folders.
Radio post #1
Hey, look -- visible futzing! Radio looks pretty deep, and I'm mostly just trying to figure out what all it can do (having been away from the Frontier/Manila/Radio developmental arc for a few years). But I just realized that there's a public side to my poking around. Uh-oh, am I in trouble for not posting within 10 minutes of installing Radio?? Better get a post up, quick! It's a little creepy to know that there's a public face to my current wanderings through the ins and outs of Radio, so I'll just close my eyes and imagine a kindly grandfather keeping watch.