technology

You’re not “addicted” to tech and why it’s dangerous to say you are

As a teacher from 2001-2006 and then from 2008-2012, I had the chance to work with dozens of young people and their parents at a time when so much we knew and thought about education and transmitting information was changing. There was a rapid cultural shift in that decade that was primarily driven by “technology” and the internet.

One theme that remained constant going back to the first time we set up a class blog in 2003 was the notion of “tech addiction”. It remained a constant question and concern of parents and education colleagues (particularly my administrators) over the years.

Since 2012 as a marketing and tech consultant primarily working with religious orgs, nonprofits, and community groups, I’ve encountered the same concerns about tech addiction and young people. From MySpace to Instant Messaging to World of Warcraft to Instagram to Facebook to Fortnite, the boogeyman of evil tech hellbent on ruining our children’s minds and attention and willingness to go outside and play stickball keeps a constant current over time.

However, tech addiction (in the mainstream cultural sense) is just that… a boogeyman. It’s much better to focus on our responsibilities and usage patterns… as adults and parents and community members… rather than blaming Zuckerberg for our lack of accepting personal agency and being responsible people with our choices.

Good piece here that says all this in a much nicer and more approachable way:

Nir says the idea that technology is “hijacking your brain” or that the general population is “addicted” to their phones is rubbish.“Yes, there’s a very small percentage of people that very much are addicted—which is a completely different conversation—but this ‘addiction to technology’ is not the generalized disorder the media and others would have you think it is.”

Source: You’re not “addicted” to tech (and why it’s dangerous to say so) – RescueTime

“Still discovering new things”

golden_record_cover

On board each Voyager is a golden record — and record player — that is built to last one billion years or more and contains key information about humanity and life on planet Earth, in case of an alien encounter.

The sounds include the calls of humpback whales, the Chuck Berry song “Johnny B. Goode,” Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a Japanese shakuhachi (a type of flute), a Pygmy girls’ initiation song, and greetings in 55 languages.

via Forty years on, Voyager still hurtles through space

Dogfooding

After two happy years as a WordPress self-hosted install, I’m moving our 8th grade science class site/home/hub, GriffinScience, to Blogger:

GriffinScience: “Because we’ll be using Blogger as a main platform of interaction with the 8th graders next year due to our school Google accounts making that a no-brainer, I’ve gone ahead and moved GriffinScience from a self-hosted WordPress install to Blogger.”

I don’t think the students will mind or notice much, and it does make a good deal of sense to eat my own dog food if I’m going to encourage students to make use of our school’s Google Apps accounts and use Blogger (or Google Sites) as their digital portfolio’s home (of course I don’t mind if they want to venture out into WordPress or Tumblr or Posterous land as well).

For some reason, this makes me sad in a “but I’m a real geek!” way. It’s not that Blogger isn’t a proper blogging engine or geeky enough site… but I’ve always encouraged folks to dive into code and make their own templates or sidebars. Those are possible in Blogger, but it’s a little too graphical and “easy” in my mind. I need to get over myself, clearly.

Nevertheless, here’s to another few good years of GriffinScience.

Engineering Creativity

So how do we as teachers cultivate and encourage creativity in a human existence that doesn’t require as many gigs of organic memory?

LRB · Jim Holt · Smarter, Happier, More Productive: “It’s not that the web is making us less intelligent; if anything, the evidence suggests it sharpens more cognitive skills than it dulls. It’s not that the web is making us less happy, although there are certainly those who, like Carr, feel enslaved by its rhythms and cheated by the quality of its pleasures. It’s that the web may be an enemy of creativity. Which is why Woody Allen might be wise in avoiding it altogether.”

Fascinating read.

Sweet Reader

One of my 8th Graders is blogging about dessert pictures she takes that remind her of books she reads (she’s an avid reader).

You should follow along…

Sweet Reader

Yes, it is awesome.

Headed to Apple Seminar at 1 to 1 iPad School

Four of us from Spartanburg Day School are headed to Savannah on Thursday/Friday to see how St. Andrew’s School is running their 1 to 1 iPad program…

Apple – Education Seminars & Events – Digital Learning Environments in Action!: “St. Andrew’s School is one of the only K through 12 independent schools that is currently implementing a 1 to 1 iPad program for all students, preK through 12, as part of their new digital learning environment. During your visit, you will see how iDiscover 21c has engaged students and allowed them to take more responsibility for their own learning. You will meet with faculty, students, and administrators who will discuss the planning stages, infrastructure changes, rollout, and the overall impact on student learning.”

I’m sure I’ll be sharing more reflections before and after the event as we process our next steps in (hopeful) iPad implementation (at least for Middle School or 8th graders).

Exciting times.

I’m Sure @Jangro Would Appreciate notes.pinboard.in

On my iPhone home-screen I now have a link to a “2 Do” file that is a Pinboard Note…

Pinboard Notes

Pinboard is the bookmarking service that fills the hole Delicious left in our hearts years ago by selling out and becoming too bloated.

However, Pinboard now has a notes function that allows for quick note jotting and has Markdown support.

Win.

I had kept my years-old “2Do.txt” file in Dropbox up to this point but for some reason this seems easier. We’ll see how it goes!

Why I’m Sticking with AT&T (and Glad to See BUMPzee Back)

My pal Scott Jangro had an amazing site in late ’06 and early ’07 called BUMPzee that I loved.

Basically, BUMPzee was an early hybrid of Delicious, Digg, and what would become the Facebook newsfeed. Scott and his team were a little ahead of the curve and the platform should have gone mainstream.

So, I’m glad to see BUMPzee back up and running as it allows for great conversations along the lines of this (my response to Scott’s question about staying on AT&T or jumping ship for Verizon for his new iPhone)…

Iphone 4: At&t Or Verizon? – Bumpzee: “I had the exact same thing happen with my 3GS and the mute button. It’s pretty annoying to be a teacher and not be able to mute your phone, btw.

However, beyond the concrete Faraday cage that is my school, I don’t have a problem with ATT. They actually have been improving things quite a bit here in the Western North Carolina region to the point that I get few interruptions in service. We don’t have 3G everywhere, but we chose to live in a pretty remote and non-metropolitan region of southern appalachia, so I can’t complain.

My contract was up on the 12th as well (how’s that for timing!). So, I went to the ATT store thinking I’d be treated like royalty for staying with them. Interestingly enough, the ATT stores here were all out of stock and playing catch up after the holidays. My 4 came in yesterday and it’s everything I imagined it would be.

So yeah… stay with ATT. The ability to browse the web while on a call has been a great feature (one I thought I would never use) and the wifi at airports or places like Starbucks is a great feature-add.

I think this has been a big learning opportunity for ATT as they continue to grow and scale their network, so hopefully the benefits will continue as some customers offload to Verizon. Truthfully, I think Verizon has behaved with too much hubris from their ‘Droid Does’ days to acting as if the iPhone is finally worthy of their great network.

The biggest plus out of all this is that iOS on Verizon will put a big dent in the Android market!”

Reality Shifts Aren’t Novelties

Fantastic post that answers many of the “iPad is a fad and has no place in our schools” critics…

TeachPaperless: Novelty, Huh?: “As for the specific case of the iPad, it’s hardly an ideal device if you are looking for a catch-all. I’m especially concerned about the closed nature of the system and the emphasis on sales at the app store and on iBooks. But it is a device that speaks to several of the important features of our time, most importantly: mobile and accessible instant Internet connectivity. And I would argue that to see the iPad as a fad is to miss the bigger picture: the iPad only exists within the context of a mobile-connected world. That mobile-connected world is not a novelty; that’s a paradigm and a reality.”

Go read the whole thing.

83 Lines

Trevor Turk put together a WordPress theme using only 83 lines of PHP and 75 lines of CSS. That’s pretty amazing.

And pretty.

I’m using it here as my theme for a very long time to come.

Yes, I love it.

iPads and Classroom Essentials

This is a wonderful walkthrough by Fraser Speirs on how his school (Cedars School of Excellence in the UK)implemented an “iPad for Every Student” initiative and some of the resulting reflections the school has made.

I’m prodding my beloved Spartanburg Day School to do the same (at an annoyingly daily rate, I’m sure).

However, I was arrested for a moment when I came to this passage in the post…

An iPad for every child | Tablets | Macworld: “We are now at the stage where the iPad is embedded in the way we do business at the school. When we first started, we thought we could guard against misuse by threatening to take away the child’s iPad for a day or so. It turns out that doing so would now completely break the school day for that child. We might as well make them sit in the hallway and face the wall for the entire day. I did not expect that we would reach that point so soon.”

I hadn’t really considered how integrated a tool like an iPad could become to a classroom or a school. I have a “class” iPad that we use but we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of its possibilities and being that there’s only one to go around, it’s more difficult for students to dig deeper than note taking or quick reference searches with the device (although more and more students are getting iPads and bringing them to school).

However, I’ve purposely gone half the year now without renting the “laptop carts” which carry 18 white Macbooks for class. I have a very liberal policy when it comes to technology in my classroom (allow iPods, earbuds, iPads, mobiles… and even Androids to be used at a student’s discretion), but I don’t want the students to feel as if the laptops are a crutch to fall back on when we need to find material, make a connection or prove a point.

I guess that’s the same reason I keep a “mimimalist” look to my classroom with as few things on the wall etc as possible. It’s a science lab, but we’re just meeting in that room temporarily. I don’t want my students (or myself) to get fooled by the notion that the room itself is where science happens. Instead, I want them to look out the window at the beautiful dogwood just outside my classroom and realize that is their true classroom where all the lab supplies lie.

Everything in my classroom is very modular and utilitarian. The laptops could certainly serve as part of that utilitarian design, but I’d rather let student discretion and need drive the decision to use the web or an IM or a text message rather than saying, “Today, we will use the internet!” for a lesson.

I’m moving to a larger room next year with proper lab tables, gas lines, a chemical closet (and even an office). It will be interesting to see if my thinking changes then.

Regardless, I wonder if/when my dream of having iPads deployed across our school happens if we’ll have the same sudden realization about their essential nature to our character as a school. I also wonder about the ramifications if that does happen?

Search is the Card Catalogue of the Web

I wrote this piece on April 25, 2007. I’m fishing through some old posts and had to revisit/repot this as I think we’re on the verge of a major shift in attention literacy and finding information on the web.

Enjoy…

Search is king.

We have conferences and we have an entire industry built around the idea that “search marketing” is the end all / be all of online marketing.

If you want to reach people and influence their buying habits, you include a large AdWords and keyword budget for search. If you want people to find your website in the vast chaos that are search results, you spend a great deal of time and money on optimizing your site (in some cases at the expense of user interface and aesthetics).

But what about discovery?

Why has “searching” for information outpaced “discovering” information online?

It’s simple… companies and platforms who monetize a user’s ability to find the information they want have found it easier to provide “search engines” rather than “discovery engines.”

This is not just semantics.

Instead, look ahead to the future and how the average web user’s experience has progressed so far. Finding information relevant to your query has forever been a struggle. We’ve made positive steps forward with the search engines, but users still complain about the amount of junk, garbage and irrelevant results they receive in a Google or Yahoo search on a particular topic.

However, as the price of user generated data continues to rise and the price of producing user generated data continues to fall, we see a market shift away from “search” and towards “discovery.”

Soon, we’ll all be paid by Amazon or Google to host our data with them as we do our daily web browsing on our computers, on our cell phones, in our cars and on our digital cameras. Instead of searching for information, you’ll be discovering information based on your user generated output.

Our children will laugh at us for how we sought out information online, just as we raise eyebrows at the thought of using a card catalogue to find a book in a library.

Flickr Says Thanks for All the Fish


It’s really not that big of a deal, but I’ve been a Pro member for the last three years… words like this lead me to think that maybe Yahoo isn’t putting that much long term investment in the Flickr service.


Thanks, Flickr


Why only until June 1?
We promised you access to your all time data, and we’re disappointed we’ve not been able to deliver on that. We’ve been trying for over a year to get the data ready for you and in the process we have found that it’s just not sustainable for us to offer this access over the long term. What’s available is what we have managed to generate so far, it’s offered as is with no guarantees. We know it’s missing some data but fixing the holes or offering the data for longer would require us to divert too much attention from making the rest of the site better which, as always, is our main goal.


Yikes.


Picasa maybe?


Great Review of @Posterous

Years of building and maintaining my WordPress blog have resulted in my learning a lot about WordPress and getting a lot of grease under my fingernails. Weeks of using Posterous has resulted in a media-rich blog with several posts per week. Tell me which service is more powerful.

via suntimes.com

I started using Posterous primarily as a photo-blog back in September of ’08.

However, it’s transitioned into my full time personal blog as I’ve changed up the samharrelson.com domain into a static landing (pointer) page.

Posterous solves so many problems for me.

Thanks to Andy Ihnatko for the great review affirming my love and thanks to the Posterous team for a fantastic product that has renewed my love of posting.

From Evernote Back to Backpack

I’ve been a longtime Evernote member going back to March ’08 (and then a paying Premium member since June ’08 shortly after they opened that functionality), but I just can’t figure out the best way to integrate the service into my workflow.  I’ve certainly tried because I do see so much potential in the product.

However, since I’ve been trying to do most everything using only web apps and my iPhone, I’ve had a tougher time using Evernote. The Mac desktop client is beautiful and easy to use. The Windows desktop client less so. But it’s the web interface that just isn’t working for me (and that is the most important one at this point since I can’t install the desktop client on my locked-down school Macbook).

So, I’m going back to Backpack (in the old days, I would have used my affiliate link for the program there with a little disclosure) for workflow management. The web interface is fantastic (and familiar), I can easily email in material, create seperate pages, feel secure, integrate easily with GMail, Google Calendar and be completely web-based. 

However, the killer app Backpack has going for it is the Journal feature:

http://www.viddler.com/player/a45407f8/

I’m using it for product management, status updates to myself and as a “private twitter” etc. It’s like the anti-social bookmarketing site Pinboard for micro-messaging.

The problem that has plagued Backpack (and the whole suite of 37Signals products such as Basecamp and Highrise) is the lack of iPhone apps or integration.  That’s been solved by a nifty app called Satchel.  Yes, it costs $10, but it’s well worth the price. Satchel is speedy, works “offline” (whatever that means anymore), and intuitive. I can also easily update my Journal through Satchel. Plus, there are hacks and apps for getting Backpack to work well as a web app (like GMail) on the iPhone if preferred.

So, between Backpack’s web apps and Satchel, I’m very happy (and productive).

I’ll explain more on today’s Thinking.FM podcast episode. 

FriendFeed Catchup in GMail

I absolutely love FriendFeed's GMail IM integration. It's how I consume most of my FriendFeed content as well as lots from my favorite folks on Twitter that I have piped into FF via the Imaginary Friends (now Rooms) feature.

So, if I miss a few hours and want to catch up on what is going on in the Valley or from the folks I follow (and left GMail open on my Macbook), I can just open up the "Chat with FF" message waiting on me in my GMail FriendFeed label and scan. Plus, I can go back and search topics or people I'm interested in after a few days.

Not completely practical for everyone, but I love the feature (and greatly miss the good old days when Twitter had the same IM integration with Track).

My Laptop’s Operating System

I have a school issued (white) MacBook 13′ that I’ve been using the last few weeks when I need a computer (besides my iPhone). It’s great that we have MacBooks for teachers and students. However, since we are also transitioning to Google Apps (thankfully) and everything I do is mostly cloud-based, I don’t see much of the shiny Mac OSX operating system.

Instead, this is what I see and use as my main operating system (Firefox).

Using MindMeister for Mind Mapping in the Classroom

MindMeister Academic Edition

The Academic Edition of MindMeister is a complete collaborative mind mapping solution for educational institutions such as schools, universities and learning centers. It helps teachers and instructors to apply essential thought mapping elements in the classroom and ensure that learning is an effective and memorable experience.

After doing some researching and testing, I’m going to be using MindMeister for our “mind mapping” classroom (and out-of-classroom) sessions in my 8th grade science and 6th grade robotics classes this year.

I’m hopeful this will be a great augment to our classroom learning.