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Sunday
Nov302008

Learning from the grandsons


The red hat with earflaps - the fashion acorn doesn't fall far from the tree.

After a busy but enjoyable four-day weekend, it's tough getting back in the blogging spirit. The LWW and I have fed the masses (27) on Thanksgiving, had a great visit with my mom, sister, brother and his family, and enjoyed the longer stay of my daughter, son-in-law and grandsons. And now it's just a quiet, snowy Sunday. Almost too quiet.

I am always somewhat astounded by the degree to which my grandsons, ages seven and three, are little mass-media tech-heads. This despite their parents being genuinely cautious about how much access the boys have to the computer, video games, and television. They can't seem to NOT be Net Genners from whom I always learn a good deal...

  • Part of the appeal of coming to this grandpa and grandma's house (beside the sugared cereal) is permission to play the Captain Underpants games on the Dave Pilkey website. Who knew?
  • One distinction between Boba Fett and Jango Fett from Star Wars is that one has two pistols and the other only has one. This but a scintilla of the encyclopedic information that both the seven-year-old and three-year-old have about the Star Wars mythos.I hope some day they will learn their world history as well.
  • There are 414 different products that appear in the Amazon.com toy area when the term "lego star wars" is searched. The boys are still missing one or two, it seems. And I thought reviewing these offerings would be an easy way to get Christmas gift ideas.
  • Grandpa's iPod was a hit. The battery doesn't last as long in the hands of kids. As the LWW observed, this, the iPod, is the computer that today's kids will always want.
  • Not having a DVR (like Tivo) makes me an pitiable antique. "We have to watch commercials?"
  • Despite being raised in an aggressively non-violent household (is that an oxymoron?), both boys delight in hand-held weaponry. Their uncle's old Nerf shooters are particularly prized. So many computer games involve blasting something, it isn't all that surprising, I suppose. That along with the that Y-chromosome.
  • The movie Bolt was a much better movie than I expected and great fun in 3-D. Well, it was fun for five of us - the three-year-old refused to wear the glasses and watched it in fuzzy 2-D. Depite the ready availablity of DVDs of lots of movies at home, it seems going to the theater is still special and desired. Must be the popcorn.
  • Even my small computer-loving grandsons still delight bookstores. And Grandpa is usually good for a couple of additions to the home library. The boys also still delight in reading. Thank goodness.
  • The movie Wall-E is even better the second viewing. And I felt the picture was better watching it in Blu-ray here at home than in the theater.
  • Why does McDonalds put video games in its playland areas? I don't mind the kids being too excited to eat wanting to go on the slides and such, but too excited wanting to play a Ronald McDonald video game? Uh, super-size that chance at childhood obesity, please.
  • Kids won't eat beets even when Grandpa makes them.
  • When Dad announced it was time to go home, the little grandson started to cry. Kind of how I felt too.

A recent MacArthur sponsored report, Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project, argues for youth access to online resources:

Many adults worry that children are wasting time online, texting, or playing video games. The researchers explain why youth find these activities compelling and important. The digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression. These activities have captured teens’ attention because they provide avenues for extending social worlds, self-directed learning, and independence.

I believe balance is needed. I am very glad my grandsons are still involved in Cub Scouts, swimming lessons, and other non-computerized activities. Very glad.

Raising children to be well-rounded, hard-working adults with a good value system has never been an easy job. Quite honestly, I don't envy my daughter and son-in-law this challenging task that seems more difficult today than ever. But my grandsons are delightful young men - smart, funny and beautiful - so their parents must be doing something right.

Objectively speaking.

Wednesday
Nov262008

Your holiday reading list

Everywhere we look, we see screens. The other day I watched clips from a movie as I pumped gas into my car. The other night I saw a movie on the backseat of a plane. We will watch anywhere. Screens playing video pop up in the most unexpected places — like A.T.M. machines and supermarket checkout lines and tiny phones; some movie fans watch entire films in between calls. These ever-present screens have created an audience for very short moving pictures, as brief as three minutes, while cheap digital creation tools have empowered a new generation of filmmakers, who are rapidly filling up those screens. We are headed toward screen ubiquity. Kevin Kelly, "Becoming Screen Literate"

Like many of you, I have a four-day weekend fast approaching. After feeding the 25 hungry Johnsons and Hansons descending on the house tomorrow, I expect to have a little time to read and relax. Oh wait, my daughter's family including the grandsons are staying on for a couple days. (I am NOT complaining, mind you.)

So let me rephrase that - you may have a little time to read and relax. Here are three interesting publications that you might want to spend a few minutes with.

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"Becoming Screen Literate" by Kevin Kelly appeared this week in the New York Times. As my friend John Dyer (who pointed this article out to me) suggests that Kelly's observations support my prediction of us becoming a post-literate society. My question is "What metamorphosis do libraries need to undertake when the primary means of communication, information, and culture moves from print to video? (Kim Cofino at Always Learning has some interesting comments about this article too.)

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A certain familiarity with what the Partnership for 21st Century Skills advocates in terms of, uh, 21st century skills is necessary to make much sense of this, but the organization's recently released Transition Brief: Policy Recommendations on Preparing Americans for the Global Skills Race is worth a look. (Joyce Valenza has a good summary and comments on the NeverEndingSearch.) Here is the scary bit that jumped out at me:

3. The United States faces two student achievement gaps. So far, the nation is only paying attention to one of them—inadequately. For the past decade, the United States has focused nationally on closing achievement gaps between the lowest- and highest-performing students, and between the poorest and most affluent. This is a legitimate and critical objective, and one that is putting proficiency in reading, mathematics and science within reach of millions more students.

Equally important, however, is the global achievement gap between U.S. students— including our top-performing students—and their international peers in competitor nations. U.S. students fare poorly compared to their counterparts on international assessments, such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). These results are economically significant. Countries that do well on PISA, which measures 21st century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, have demonstrated higher increases in GDP growth than countries that do not, according to a series of studies by Stanford researchers.

An unintended consequence of progress in closing national achievement gaps has been a lack of attention to the global achievement gap—and to the growing competitive demand for advanced skills. Going forward, the nation must redress these circumstances by redefining rigor as mastery of both academic subjects and 21st century skills. This is not an either–or agenda.

Where is your district putting its resources? Basic skills or 21st century skills?

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Did I say three recommendations? Oh, the heck with it. Go have a second piece of pumpkin pie and just one more little piece of turkey. Read something for fun - and get some cranberry sauce on the pages.

Think about how thankful we should all be for our problems and the people who create them. Without challenges, the world would be a very dull place and our brains would get no exercise.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Oh, this is how the Ovation gas pump pictured above is described on the manufacturer's website:

The Dresser Wayne Ovation2 iX fuel dispenser is an Internet-ready, WiFi-capable gas pump with a 15-inch touchscreen and speakers, which enables the transfer of media content to other WiFi-enabled devices. The demonstration at CES will feature a Microsoft Windows Automotive-enabled Alpine Electronics stereo and navigation system installed in a Lincoln Navigator. As part of the demo, audio files will be purchased and downloaded from the Dresser Wayne fuel dispenser to a compatible media device (cell phone or entertainment system) and then played through the Alpine IVA-W200 stereo system installed in the vehicle.

The Dresser Wayne fuel dispenser, Alpine Electronics stereo and navigation system, and cell phone all easily integrate via their common Microsoft Windows CE platform, .NET framework, and Bluetooth.

No mention of whether it actually dispenses gasoline.

 

Wednesday
Nov262008

Fair use scenario - Mr. Opus and the digital cameras

In a continuing series of scenarios that explore educational fair use issues.

Left Overshoe Elementary School is putting on the play Annie. The performance rights are for two live shows only. In the past the school has allowed parents to videotape during performances. Mr. Opus, the music director, is worried that parts of these homemade videos will wind up on YouTube or on Facebook pages. He has suggested to the principal that videotaping not be allowed. The principal sees such a ban as a public relations nightmare and decides to allow taping.

  1. What is the copyrighted material? Who owns it?
  2. Does the use of the work fall under fair use guidelines? Is the use transformational in nature? Can this be considered "educational" use?
  3. What is your level of comfort in helping create such a product? Are there any changes or limits you might like to see that would make you more comfortable with this project?

Your level of comfort with this use of copyrighted materials: High 5 4 3 2 1 Low

You comments are most welcome.

It's a hard knock life (especially for tech directors)...