As some of you may know, the phrase “hello world” has a long history in the field of computer science and the story of the internet. The “hello world” program is traditionally the first program that most novices learn when faced with an unfamiliar programming language. “Hello World” is an iconic cultural meme, symbolizing two fundamental applications for networked computing: computation and communication. It is in the spirit of these modes of connecting that I write you today.
This year a small group of faculty members at the Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, NJ (a 9-12 co-ed boarding school)(K. Ostrem, L. Miller, E. Montes, C. Cunningham, M. Campbell, S. Burns, E. Duffy, and W. Freitas) participated in a sustained conversation on the positives and negatives of technology and the role we can see it playing at Lawrenceville in the 21st century. Our discussions tended to revolve around the interplay between Lawrenceville’s tradition of Harkness teaching and learning and the possibilities for collaboration and sharing (both synchronous and asynchronous) inherent in the new tools of the internet.
Each of us learned a great deal from the experience, and as part of our “action research project”, we recently made a presentation to the ADVIS participants about our journey and what we’ve learned by examining Harkness through the lens of technology. Tonight (Mary 24) at 8pm, along with six other groups from across North America, we will be presenting at a webinar:
Presenters: Kari Ostrem, Sheamus Burns (ME), Matt Campbell, Chris Cunningham, Len Miller, Eli (Elizabeth) Montes from The Lawrenceville School in Princeton, New Jersey.
The Lawrenceville School is an independent boarding school celebrating the 75th anniversary of Harkness teaching, a student-centered, discussion-based teaching method in which teacher and students learn collaboratively around a table. Our team experimented with how we might use web 2.0 technologies to complement and enhance traditional Harkness teaching. Our presentation will explore both the strengths and weaknesses of both old and new.
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, once told colleagues that “a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” At Facebook, “relevance” is virtually the sole criterion that determines what users see. Focusing on the most personally relevant news — the squirrel — is a great business strategy. But it leaves us staring at our front yard instead of reading about suffering, genocide and revolution.
There’s no going back to the old system of gatekeepers, nor should there be. But if algorithms are taking over the editing function and determining what we see, we need to make sure they weigh variables beyond a narrow “relevance.” They need to show us Afghanistan and Libya as well as Apple and Kanye.
Companies that make use of these algorithms must take this curative responsibility far more seriously than they have to date. They need to give us control over what we see — making it clear when they are personalizing, and allowing us to shape and adjust our own filters. We citizens need to uphold our end, too — developing the “filter literacy” needed to use these tools well and demanding content that broadens our horizons even when it’s uncomfortable.
It is in our collective interest to ensure that the Internet lives up to its potential as a revolutionary connective medium. This won’t happen if we’re all sealed off in our own personalized online worlds.
A 13 year old girl posts a message on Facebook, in which she intends to joke and gets suspended. The mother thinks it was not in the schools right to suspend the girl. Others think that the schools have the right.
Firstly, the thing she said is just unnerving. Watch the video — interesting.
Jaron Lanier, a partner architect at Microsoft Research, has had a long and varied career in technology. Mr. Lanier popularized the term “virtual reality” in the 1980s and has worked for decades on computer science, physics and music. The Times’ Michiko Kakutani chose Mr. Lanier’s book, “You Are Not a Gadget,” as one of her 10 best books of 2010. He is currently working on a follow-up. The following is an edited transcript of an interview with Mr. Lanier.
For Apple fans, the brand triggers a reaction in the brain that’s not unlike that of religious devotees, according to a BBC documentary series that cites neurological research.
The neuroscientists ran a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test on an Apple fanatic and discovered that images of the technology company’s gadgets lit up the same parts of the brain as images of a deity do for religious people, the report says.
The first episode of the documentary shows Apple employees “whipped up into some sort of crazy, evangelical frenzy” at the recent opening of an Apple store in London.
Observers and Apple critics have long accused fans of the tech company of taking their infatuation to an extreme.
People have gone to great lengths to prove their love of Apple with tattoos, bumper stickers and home shrines to outmoded Mac computers. Apple’s cult-like following was highlighted in a 2009 documentary called “Macheads.”
A blog, aptly titled Cult of Mac, wrote on Thursday about Oakland, California, resident Gary Allen’s cross-country pilgrimage to Apple’s first store in Virginia to celebrate the retail chain’s 10th anniversarythis week.
In speeches, Pope Benedict XVI has said technology consumption poses a threat to religion and the Roman Catholic church. The holy leader told a Palm Sunday crowd last month that technology cannot replace God.
However, apparently it may inspire god-like devotion.
“In a new study of crowd wisdom — the statistical phenomenon by which individual biases cancel each other out, distilling hundreds or thousands of individual guesses into uncannily accurate average answers — researchers told test participants about their peers’ guesses. As a result, their group insight went awry.” You can see this effect in any viral social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Certain things take off while the right answers get lost because of human herd mentality.
These two kinds of curricula are often pitted against one another as a zero-sum game: If you want to protect your daughter’s childhood, so the argument goes, choose a play-based program; but if you want her to get into Harvard, you’d better make sure you’re brushing up on the ABC flashcards every night before bed.
We think it is quite the reverse. Or, in any case, if you want your child to succeed in college, the play-based curriculum is the way to go.
In fact, we wonder why play is not encouraged in educational periods later in the developmental life of young people — giving kids more practice as they get closer to the ages of our students.
Why do this? One of the best predictors of school success is the ability to control impulses. Children who can control their impulse to be the center of the universe, and — relatedly — who can assume the perspective of another person, are better equipped to learn.
Psychologists calls this the “theory of mind”: the ability to recognize that our own ideas, beliefs, and desires are distinct from those of the people around us. When a four-year-old destroys someone’s carefully constructed block castle or a 20-year-old belligerently monopolizes the class discussion on a routine basis, we might conclude that they are unaware of the feelings of the people around them.
The beauty of a play-based curriculum is that very young children can routinely observe and learn from others’ emotions and experiences. Skills-based curricula, on the other hand, are sometimes derisively known as “drill and kill” programs because most teachers understand that young children can’t learn meaningfully in the social isolation required for such an approach.
"Every single student is getting an individualized education," said Hodgkins Principal Sarah Gould, who helped usher in the reform at her school two years ago. "We are giving our kids exactly what they need when they need it."
Children work at their own level in each subject and must demonstrate proficiency in various learning targets, achieving a score of 75% or higher before they’re allowed to move on to the next level.
During a recent visit to Jennifer Gregg’s literacy class, students ranging in age from 8 to 10 were gathered in small groups or working on their own to hit their learning targets. Each table had a basket with books separated into four different reading levels.
Gregg says when she first heard about standards-based learning, she wondered, “How do you juggle that many levels in one classroom?”
Now, she sees the benefits, since students aren’t frustrated by work that’s too hard, nor bored with assignments that are too easy.
"The kids know exactly what they’re working on … and what they need to do, so it’s very empowering for them," she said.
Gregg’s students come to her when they’re ready to take the proficiency test to move to the next level.
Education is at a crossroads. It is the prime social space where our cultural and economic capital are created. People are credentialed and stamped with “approval” in the educational realm. Yet, this all-important arena where a process of “social alchemy” (in Pierre Bourdieu’s words) is supposed to transform people, is actually stagnating and our students and society are suffering. We need inspiration and a new direction.
One place to look is the design thinking movement that is currently influencing educators. It comes down to having students realize that they can create their own future and take frameworks from other areas — including video games — which allow them to design their own participation and experiences. It’s an optimistic, proactive approach.
Instead of being a distraction — an electronic version of note-passing — the chatter echoed and fed into the main discourse, said Mrs. Olson, who monitored the stream and tried to absorb it into the lesson. She and others say social media, once kept outside the school door, can entice students who rarely raise a hand to express themselves via a medium they find as natural as breathing.
“When we have class discussions, I don’t really feel the need to speak up or anything,” said one of her students, Justin Lansink, 17. “When you type something down, it’s a lot easier to say what I feel.”
With Twitter and other microblogging platforms, teachers from elementary schools to universities are setting up what is known as a “backchannel” in their classes. The real-time digital streams allow students to comment, pose questions (answered either by one another or the teacher) and shed inhibitions about voicing opinions. Perhaps most importantly, if they are texting on-task, they are less likely to be texting about something else.
Nicholas Provenzano, an English teacher at Grosse Pointe South High School, outside Detroit, said that in a class of 30, only about 12 usually carried the conversation, but that eight more might pipe up on a backchannel. “Another eight kids entering a discussion is huge,” he noted.
Skeptics — and at this stage they far outnumber enthusiasts — fear introducing backchannels into classrooms will distract students and teachers, and lead to off-topic, inappropriate or even bullying remarks. A national survey released last month found that 2 percent of college faculty members had used Twitter in class, and nearly half thought that doing so would negatively affect learning. When Derek Bruff, a math lecturer and assistant director of the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University, suggests fellow professors try backchannels, “Most look at me like I’m coming from another planet,” he said.
“The word on the street about laptops in class,” Dr. Bruff added, is that students use them to tune out, checking e-mail or shopping. He said professors could reduce such activity by giving students something class-related to do on their mobile devices.
Each of these strategies plays a different role in designing learning environments. When considered/used, they increase the chances students are actively and meaningfully involved in complex forms of thinking and communicating during a lesson. The strategies place the learning in the hands and…