Sun(Fun)day Night: Lots O’ Links on the Future of Tech

Lots O Links-1

It’s another Sunday night and if you’re like me – YOU DON’T HAVE SCHOOL TOMORROW! Sorry to “shout” there, but it’s always nice to enjoy a Sunday night without the preoccupation of having to prepare to teach on Monday morning.

Rather than just offer one funny  or thought-provoking Sun(Fun)day Night link, I’m offering a whole list of them. I’ve been saving these up and now seems like as good a time as any to share them here.

Enjoy these links and take a look into the crystal ball to see the future of technology:

“Mechanical Trees Become ‘Power Plants’ When They Sway in the Breeze”

“3D Touch Opens a New Dimension of User Interaction”

“Battery Research Claims 10x Gain”

“This Samsung Patent Lets Smartwatches Recognize You by Your Veins”

“Insane Ways of Making Energy You May Not Know”

“The Mobile Phone of the Future Will Be Planted in Your Head”

“Dissolvable Devices Keep Tabs on The Brain”

“Autonomous Robots are Changing the Way We Build and Move Products Around the World”

“Hop, Skip, Drive: Uber, But For Kids”

“Scientists Can Now Predict Intelligence From Brain Activity”

“Fiction’s Newest Frontier: Literary Geocaching”

“Wearable Sensors Could Translate Sign Language Into English”

“New Foam Batteries Promise Fast Charging, Higher Capacity”

“Artificially Intelligent Software is Replacing the Textbook and Reshaping American Education”

“How Your Device Knows Your Life Through Images”

“Meet Kangaroo: A $99 Windows 10 Desktop PC as Small as a Smartphone”

“You Are Your Smartphone”

“Do Robots Need a Human-Like Sense of Touch”

“This Guy Wants Us to Commute in Autonomous On-Demand Pods” 

“Why Hearables May Be the Next Big Thing in Tech”

“Mind Controlled Robot Suits Help the Paralyzed Move Again”

“Salt-Based Batteries Could Make Your Next Mobile Device Cheaper and Greener”

“7 Unexpected Virtual Reality Use Cases”

“Microsoft’s 2016 Predictions: Expect the Year of Machine Aided Wit”

“Yahoo Labs Develops Biometric Authentication Method for Touchscreens”

“2016 Will Be the Year Wearables Disappear”

“Google Testing a Feature to Eliminate the Password”

“Future of Messaging Apps Spells the End of Google as We Know It”

“OrCam’s MyMe Wearable Will Watch and Decode the World For You”

 

 

Friday FunLink – The Barbie Commercial You Need to See

Barbie Video Photo

About a year ago the toy company GoldieBlox made headlines with clever ads showing how their products allow girls to do more than play with Barbie and her kin. And they even got in some trouble when the ad linked to above was originally released with an appropriately modified version of the Beastie Boys “Girls” as the soundtrack. 

Barbie strikes back as the Washington Post draws our attention to a funny and savvy marketing campaign which might persuade you as to how playing with Barbies can empower our daughters.

Take a couple of minutes to watch it and see what you think…

 

Does this “girl empowerment” Barbie make up for the unrealistic body image that Barbie portrays? Perhaps not. But I do think it’s a (previously) ridiculously high-angled footstep in the right direction.

The Conversation – What Makes Haunted Houses Creepy and What Motivates Students?

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Yes, those are two very different questions in the title of this post. I put them together here because they are both thoughtful, scholarly yet accessible recent articles at the remarkable site The Conversation.

I’ve written about The Conversation previously and the more I read it the more I’m impressed by the quality and especially the timeliness of the articles published by it. According to the home page, the mission of the site is for “academics and researchers [to] work with journalists to provide evidence-based, ethical and responsible information.”

The article entitled “Evolutionary Psychology Explains Why Haunted Houses Creep Us Out” answers the question: If I’m a reasonable, mature adult, why do I get the tar scared out of me if I visit a place like Ohio’s Haunted Hootchie? According to Frank T. McAndrew, Psychology professor at Knox College:

From a psychological point of view, the standard features of haunted houses trigger feelings of dread because they push buttons in our brains that evolved long before houses even existed. These alarm buttons warn us of potential danger and motivate us to proceed with caution.

McAndrew then describes the human “agent detection” mechanisms which provoke the creeping sense of anxiety and dread we feel when we are in haunted houses – real or made-up.

Another anxiety-producing question for teachers is: How do I motivate my students? Turns out, according to another excellent article at The Conversation, it isn’t money. You can read the details of the study the author conducted. Basically, his team wanted to see what would get a sample of 300 fifth to eighth graders in an urban district to attend free, after-school tutoring sessions. The study discovered:

 We found that the students who were offered up to $100 for regular attendance were no more likely to attend sessions than if they were offered nothing at all.

In other words, money made no difference.

Alternatively, when students received a certificate of recognition for attending tutoring sessions regularly, the differences were dramatic. The students in the certificate group attended 42.5% more of their allotted tutoring hours than those assigned to the control group.

Take a look at the article itself to discover the full conclusions and the suggested actions for teachers and policy-makers to implement. After reading this, I think I’ll go and find those Google Doc certificate templates…

Everyday Miracles: Water

Water and the Holy Spirit

Inspired by this wonderful song, I’m beginning a new feature – Everyday Miracles.

 

When we become more mindful and not distracted, we begin to truly see the amazing aspects of this creation the Creator has made. This feature will reflect upon those “everyday miracles” which are around and within us.

I was encouraged in today’s reflection by an article in The Conversation entitled “The Universe’s Most Miraculous Molecule.”  The author, a professor of medicine, thoughtfully shares some facts about water which we might often miss:

Even more remarkably, water is practically the only substance known to man that, as it cools from its liquid to solid state, actually expands. Virtually every other substance becomes denser as it “freezes,” but thanks to this remarkable property, ice cubes float in our drinks. More importantly for living organisms, lakes and other bodies of water freeze from the top down.

How about that form of water which will likely fall from the sky in a month or so?

The adage that no two snowflakes are alike seems hard to believe until you consider the fact that the patterns in which water molecules freeze vary depending on temperature and humidity. When you add the fact that the average snow crystal contains about 10 quintillion (10 followed by 18 zeroes) water molecules, it is easy to see why the number of possible combinations is unimaginably large.

Wow! That’s a ridiculous amount of H20 molecules in a snowflake! So how much total water is there on earth?

As a result, even though the Earth holds enough water to make a sphere about 860 miles in diameter, only a tiny percentage of this water is easily accessible to human beings, and increasing shortages loom in the future. Some scientists have predicted that, as some point in the 21st century, fresh water will become a more valuable commodity than petroleum.

For me, another miraculous aspect of water on earth is that it is constantly recycled. Although the origin of water itself on earth is not fully understood, we know that water is not added to the earth’s water cycle we learned about in elementary school. This means that the H2O molecules in the water composing the cold glass of herbal ice tea on my desk to my left has been cycled through rivers, reservoirs, taps, clouds, droplets of vapor, and even other living creatures – for millions if not billions of years!

The H2O I consume or inhale physically and intimately connects me to aspects of our planet, universe and countless living beings which existed long before me. And when I exhale, the H2O vapor in my breath, will be absorbed into the cycle elsewhere and recycled again and again long after I leave this part of creation. Is it any wonder that we use water in the foundational Christian Sacrament of Baptism? Much like the Holy Spirit which is in us and around us and connects, water does as much.

So, I’ll gratefully drink my tea and give thanks for water and the Holy Spirit for, as the author-doctor of the above article concludes:

A saying often misattributed to Albert Einstein claims there are two ways to lead a life. The first is as though nothing is a miracle, and the second is as though everything is a miracle. Water is entirely natural, hugely abundant and so necessary to life that our cells are bathed in it. Yet it is also so remarkable that, as a physician and scientist, I regard it as little short of miraculous.

Using Twitter For Your Classes and With Colleagues

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I’ll be honest – I was a late-adopter for Twitter.  I skipped MySpace.  Got on board facebook (of course) and LinkedIn for my professional life.  I’ve not jumped in to Instagram or some of the younger focused platforms.

The more I use Twitter personally, the more I think about how it could be used in the classroom – at least at the high school level.  Apparently, I’m not the only educator thinking along these lines.

Class Twitter Account: How Your Students Can Tweet

Trick for Creating a Class Twitter Account

26 Ways Educators Use Twitter (home of this excellent info-graphic):

Twitter 26 Ways

Here’s how to use it with colleagues:

A Teacher’s Guide to Creating a School Twitter Chat

And here’s some other educators to follow:

100+ Education Twitter Accounts to Follow

Here’s another, shorter list of educator tweets to follow. And another similar list.

Lastly, an interesting look at how Twitter is central in political debates, particularly over the Common Core and the “opt-out” movement.

 

 

 

History is a Process, Not a Pile of Flashcard Facts

Here’s the first of a trio of quick posts of interesting and valuable items that I discovered in the past few days.

In light of the uproar over the AP U.S. History curriculum in Oklahoma, this article from The Conversation by a professor in OK, succinctly states why those who are outraged don’t really understand history education.

My favorite line in the piece, which I try to remember as I teach Salvation History to my Freshmen:

History is a living process, not a ‘thing’ to be memorized.

Dinner, PARCC Testing and Intentionally Losing a HS Basketball Game

Last night I enjoyed a fantastic dinner with former colleagues from a major educational publisher with whom I worked a few years ago.  The woman whom I sat next to had a similar career path as me – teaching few a few years, working as a consultant in educational publishing, and now returning to the classroom.  For me it’s high school teaching.  For her it’s third graders.

The topic of standardized testing came up, specifically the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) Assessments which are linked to the controversial Common Core Standards which have their outspoken supporters and detractors.

This third grade teacher rattled off the laundry list of standardized tests she will give to her nine year olds, including the PARCC Assessment.  We talked about the websites which encourage the growing number of parents who are choosing to opt out of the exam.  I shared about the test anxiety that my bright fifth grade daughter is feeling right now as she is preparing to take it.  And we laughed at how this daughter of mine is telling people that “PARCC is CCRAP spelled backwards.”

The issue of the efficacy of standardized testing, especially for young elementary students was discussed today on The Conversation website.  Jennifer Keys Adair, Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Texas, writes:

“Over time, it was seen that testing was not the best measure. Researchers at Stanford have, in fact, found that testing is a terrible, stand-alone measure of accountability. Other evidence against testing has been mounting as well. Earlier in 2015, teachers testifying to Congress emphasized the effects of standardized testing on teaching and learning from NCLB…”

“Testing emphasizes learning as “right and wrong answers”, which is not the way most kids learn. Kids have been shown to learn through trial and error as well as discovery. Testing values directions and achievement over creativity and a range of learning experiences.”

“As an early childhood teacher educator, I find myself sympathizing with teachers who, under pressure from administrators and policymakers, have to prepare young children to be successful on tests that begin in third grade.”

Learning as “right and wrong answers” is much like saying that the only value to playing a competitive basketball game is to win.  Anyone who has coached youth knows that there are myriad benefits to competition in organized sports just as there are many benefits to learning besides getting “right and wrong answers.

Also today, I saw this article in the Washington Post. 

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Both high school teams were tied in the standings going into the game.  Which ever team lost, would be seeded in a more advantageous spot in the post-season tournament bracket.  In the story published by the local Tennessee newspaper an official says of one of the coaches: “He [the coach] said he talked to them about bracketology,” [TSSAA executive director Bernard] Childress said. “He told them, ‘This is where we will be if we win, this is where we will be if we lose.’ “ 

Apparently the players of this coach understood the message and took the court with the intention to lose.  Once this team intentionally missed free throws, sought to turn the ball over, and allowed their opponent to score easily, it was clear they were seeking to lose.  Then the other team adopted some of the same tactics and the refs stopped the game b/c it was obvious neither team was playing to win.

To these teams and coaches the only value of the competition was the outcome, in this case losing and not winning.  I wonder how many youth who take myriad standardized tests in their educational careers have come to view learning as simply about the score-based outcome.  I wonder how many test-jaded students take the rebellious tactic, like my then seventh grade son did last year, of intentionally doing poorly on a standardized test.

Most of all, I wonder if and when the pendulum will swing backwards from standardized testing to other, more holistic based assessments of student learning.

One thing I do suspect in light of this spate of ridiculously record cold in Columbus (-11 F yesterday morning) is that God doesn’t like the PARCC test either as tests have been postponed or canceled both last week and this week due to so many school closings!

“The Conversation” Website

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I stumbled across a website which I’d like to share.  As mentioned in a previous post, I believe educators should keep on top of what’s being posted about the events and ideas in the world. Obviously, this can take up much valuable time in an already busy educator’s life.  Thus, it’s important to find those quality sites which aggregate solid information.

The Conversation is an excellent site for this.  Their masthead states: “The Conversation is a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish.”

I receive their email every morning (along with many other less useful news/info updates) and consistently The Conversation has the most interesting, insightful, topical and useful articles.  The diversity of articles that are featured currently include:

A Melting Arctic and Weird Weather: The Plot Thickens

What Historic Megadroughts in the Western US Tell Us About Our Climate Future

How Russia is Building a Psychological Firewall Against the West

Why We Should Get Rid of Tipping (not a favorite article of mine as I work Saturdays in a wine tasting room)