UltraMoblie PCs changing the way we learn

UMPCThere is no doubt that laptops computers have changed the way we think about learning.

Power of Simulations – JetBlue Landing

Today I had the opportunity to hear “the rest of [a] story” which reaffirmed my belief in the power of gaming and simulations for learning. Several months ago we all watched an amazingly perfect landing of a JetBlue flight landing in LAX with broken front landing gear. In fact the landing was smoother than many that I have seen with working front landing gear. When the pilot was questioned as to how he pulled off such a perfect landing he simply responded, “well, I’d done it 8 times before (and only crashed twice)”. The pilot was referring to the simulations he had performed previously to make the task so automatic that when the real event occurred he knew exactly how to land a plane, even under very strenuous circumstances.

For more information, visit our page on gaming and simulations

Gaming in Education

I have recently become very interested in the idea of gaming in education.

Usability.gov fails usability test…

This week a friend of mine showed me that the US Department of Health and Human Services has a site called “Usability.gov”. If you visit the site (http://usability.gov/accessibility/), you will notice the irony of an article called “best place for nav bars” on the *right* nav bar! Don’t worry, it gets better. You will then notice the word “accessibility” is actually an image making it completely not-accessible. Want more? Go to the main page and try to figure out what text is a link and what is not – no cheating, you have to tell me without just clicking on everything to see where you get lucky. I sure hope these aren’t the same people who manage emergency preparedness and food and drug regulations… oh wait, they are.

Windows on Mac

Well, I have officially created a dual-boot Mac! My MacBook Pro now runs both Windows XP and Mac OS X. I used software from onmac.net to do this, but Apple now provides an official release called Boot Camp. The best part about it was that we tested the fastest PC we could find at my office against the Mac and the Mac was significantly faster. I wonder what this will mean for the future of Apple?

Wikipedia for President

I have not been a very consistent blogger lately (partially due to the amount of spam that has been coming through my blog lately). However, I had an interesting opportunity last week that I couldn’t help blogging about.

Last week I had the opportunity to listen to US Senate candidate Pete Ashdown. Like other Democratic candidates, he expressed concern for the environment, education, lack of efficient public transportation in many parts of the country, etc. However, something he suggested, which I have never heard before, is the idea of “open source government”. This is geek terminology for using technology to make the government more accessible. For example, Ashdown has a wiki on this site that allows his constituents to actually create what they feel is good policy for key issues. Another example is his offer to provide free webspace from his web hosting company to any political candidate for the duration of the campaign.

While I’m not sure how much of a chance a young democrat will have in the state of Utah, I think this type of forward-thinking about integrating technology into government is an idea that I would hope other politicians would consider adopting. Could you immagine the improved efficiency if we were even able to get key members of the government using e-mail (see story on Rumsfeld).

Google Analytics

Watch out Omniture, Google Analytics now offers extremely detailed web analytics for free! All you have to do to sign up is go to Google’s Analytics site (www.google.com/analytics).

One important note to using Google Analytics is that their current terms and agreements says that it is “available for your personal, non-commercial use only. You may not use the Google Services to sell a product or service, or to increase traffic to your Web site for commercial reasons, such as advertising sales.”

However, on their features page it says “Learn how visitors interact with your website and identify the navigational bottlenecks that keep them from completing your conversion goals. Find out how profitable your keywords are across search engines and campaigns. Pinpoint where your best customers come from and which markets are most profitable to you.”

I asked Google about this apparent contradiction and received the following response…

Thank you for your email.

Please be assured that you may use Google Analytics on your commercial
sites. We are working to clarify this language in our Terms of Service and
appreciate your bringing this to our attention.

For additional questions, please visit the Analytics Help Center at
http://www.google.com/support/analytics. If you’re unable to find an
answer to your question on our site, please feel free to reply to this


Analytics Support

So it’s really true, Google has done it again with free web anylitics for all.

Relevancy of Google Search

A year ago I thought Google was the answer to all of the world’s problems, today I’m changing my mind. I have two major frustrations with Google. The first is that they do not release any of their products for Mac users. I would pay to have a copy of Picasa for Mac if they would just port it over. Perhaps they think that because Mac users have iPhoto they don’t need Picasa (probably because they’ve never actually tried using iPhoto). Anyway, there is no similar excuse for not releasing Google Earth and Talk for Macintosh.

My other issue is one that effects all users. Lately I’ve been noticing that search results seem to be increasingly less relevant than the other search engines. Back in the day Google blew MSN and Yahoo! out of the water when it came to search relevance, but on several searches that I have done lately I’ve found much more relevant results on Yahoo!. Has anyone else noticed this? If, like me, you hadn’t performed a search in Yahoo! in several years, you may want to give it a shot to compare the differences.

John Seely Brown on Serious Play

This week I had the opportunity to hear John Seely Brown speak at the University of Utah. He began by calling our attention to a chilling statistic:

Last year china and asia graduated 500,000 engineers. The US graduated 90,000, but 40,000 of them returned home to Asia.

He then provided some suggestions for how we should go about addressing the challenges of learning today.

  • We should rethink how today’s digital students learn
  • We should tap into the natural curiosities and passions of students
  • We should leverage peer-based learning communities
  • We should leverage the open resources of the net to re-conceive schooling and learning for and in the digital age

Brown concluded his discussion by cautioning that we are spending so much time addressing why “johnny can’t read” that we forgetting to address why “johnny can’t innovate”.

> More information on John Seely Brown

Technology in the Classroom

Interactive technology allows teachers to extend the reach of the classroom as well as allowing students in remote areas to participate in the learning environment. However, critics say that by interacting through technology, instead of face to face, an important part of the educational experience is lost. An interview with Pat Kertzer, teacher at the Florida Virtual School, provides another side to the argument. Kertzer says that teachers can actually have a “more personal relationship” with the students through virtual interaction than in the classroom. Through online and phone contact you can identify student’s weaknesses “much more quickly than in the regular classroom,” says Kertzer, “because I’m able to deal with them only when I’m working with them.” For other examples of effective technology integration, take a look at Highschool.com,
a documentary from Edutopia.org.