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Auditorium

Posted by: | 11/08/2009 | No Comment |

I thought this game had neat graphics. Coming to iPhone soon, but the Flash version is here in the meantime: http://www.playauditorium.com/

under: Games

Taking Risks

Posted by: | 11/05/2009 | No Comment |

I passed by some boys playing baseball on my way home from the station today. They were in the street, and people were passing by behind them. As I walked by, there were other people walking toward me, unaware of the potential of being hit by a baseball.

My first thought was “I wonder if the kids know the risk of hitting someone?” But then I started to think about kids and risks, and how we’re all born completely unaware of them.

From the youngest age, we want to stick our hands into fire, run with scissors or sharp sticks in our hands, play in the street, talk back to our parents, and do a host of other things which we later find out to be dangerous. But what do we know of danger when we know nothing of risks? Is something risky because it’s dangerous, or dangerous because it’s risky? These may seem like silly questions, but ultimately I think we are all born with no sense of risk, and that this very lack of “common sense” is what allows us the freedom to be children.

It seems that knowledge of risk results in three general responses: limiting our actions, enticing us to go against the warning, and completely disregarding its guidance. Each of these have pros and cons:

1) Limiting our actions – if we’re unaware of a danger that would most definitely befall us, such as burning our hand in a fire, we’re certainly in a position of being harmed without the awareness of such risks; thus, knowledge of those risks saves us from a lot of pain and physical suffering, which is, of course, a good thing. But then again, what about all the cases where we learn not to do something in order to avoid supposed risks of such unpredictable results as failure, physical danger, and entering unknown territory. I believe it’s the unawareness of this type of risk that allows children to act so freely and “creatively” – they simply don’t know how to act within “normal” bounds of risk management.

2) Completely disregarding the guidance of risks – people who do extreme sports engage in this type of risk-taking experience every day. Then again, so do many teenagers. It’s often the case that the risk itself drives people to go against that risk purposely for whatever reason. This can certainly be beneficial when the risk is more of an obstacle to be overcome which may lead to some positive result, yet harmful when it means going against what wise people know about the basic principles of life.

3) Ignoring the risk – I can attest to the fact that this is potentially the most foolish of them all. Yes, even more foolish than going against a risk on purpose. A recent and on-going dental episode has taught me the foolishness of not visiting one in ten years. What was I thinking, you ask? Nothing – and that’s exactly the problem. I had ignored the risk, and had counted myself immune to its effects. Then again, this is really very close  to the behavior that I had initially admired in the boys playing baseball – the lack of knowledge of risk. The only difference is whether such lack of knowledge was intentional or not. On the one hand not acting within the guidance of risks brings freedom of movement and thinking, yet with that freedom comes the potential for disaster.

In the end, we probably all need to heed some risks more often, and other less often, and maybe even forget a few now and then. Children are free in many ways – I hope to lose more of what I’ve gained as an adult by learning to unlearn some of the unnecessary worries and risks. Finding a balance – knowing which ones it’s safe to forget – is probably the biggest challenge of it all.

under: Uncategorized

Reading in the Wild

Posted by: | 10/30/2009 | No Comment |

Having found a book as my only available companion for the day, I headed off on my bike to a forest about 20 minutes from my house. It’s such a change being in the midst of fresh air, and it really makes you feel like you’re not in the city. There were plenty of birds around (audible, though mostly hidden from sight.) I found a bench to sit and read a bit.

DSCF0553

Chapter three, which I finished during my second reading session later on in the day (below), was the best chapter yet in the book. There were several paragraphs I just wanted to copy and paste right here!

It went over how scribes were threatened both professionally and personally by the printing press, and how they strongly defended their role in society. However, it wasn’t so much their role as it helped society, but rather their role as it helped them to maintain their own lifestyle and profession.

DSCF0556

That might have sounded redundant, but the idea running throughout the chapter was the fact that scarcity defines professionalism. If everyone can do something without barriers, then the people who were formerly the gatekeepers to the activity are going to defend their position as “important” and “necessary” to exist (because they don’t want to become obsolete.) The specific example used was that of journalism – are bloggers considered journalists?According to definitions of journalists twenty years ago, yes – because they are publishers. (Formerly, according to the chapter, people who wrote and worked for publishers were considered to be journalists. However, now anyone can really publish because publishing has gone from being relatively scarce to being ubiquitous.) This is especially important when it comes to confidentiality of sources – at this point, who is really eligible, and who is ineligible, to be protected by such laws? These were all open questions, yet to be solved. Just as the printing press disrupted the state of the world, so the unlimited, free ability to publish your own work online has already begun to disrupt the previous state of both news and traditional publishing.

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After finishing, I went by the bike shop on my way home. My front brakes have had problems for a while, so I wanted to replace my disk brakes. After the guy spent an hour looking at them (or so it seemed) it turns out they’re pretty cheap brakes. In the end I went with a whole new set of brakes/disks rather than putting money into lousy brakes. My new Shimanos should arrive at the shop by next week – finally it’ll be safe to go downhill again without hurting my hands squeezing on the brake handles!

under: Books, Outdoors

The book I’m currently reading, “Here Comes Everybody” (see below) has got me intrigued to try inviting people to go do something on short notice. But rather than invite a specific person, it would be an open invitation to a specific place at a particular time (or time of day). I suppose this isn’t such a vastly different concept from large group meetings like BarCamp – it’s just on a much smaller scale and in a more spontaneous timeframe.

Chapter two or three of the book has really got me to thinking about why it’s so difficult to coordinate with even a single person, let alone with a group of people, due to their differing schedules and desires. I struggle with frustration over my own inability to set up a day or a meeting with specific people and have it work out, hence my interest in trying to say for example “I’m going to be at a certain place at a certain time for lunch, if anyone would care to join me” on Twitter, asking for a RT of the message.

Random, but related, note: I just realized that the people on the front of the book are arranged in the shape of an arrow. Somehow, until now I’ve only seen them as a random collection of people. Sort of cool though, and fits the whole mindset shift from the unorganized group to the group with a common interest or goal. Bottom line, it’s much more difficult to start with a group of people and to change their motivations to fit one another’s (or to find a group of people who already have identical motivations in the first place) than it is to start with a topic and have people who are interested gather around that topic. I think I’m starting to understand the magnetism and the resulting level of focus that can emerge from voluntary groups, versus coerced groups.

under: Web 2.0

Yokohama Weather Day

Posted by: | 10/27/2009 | No Comment |

After heavy rain or storms we sure do get rewarded with some amazing weather, skies, and clouds. Today was no exception!

Yokohama Weather

under: Worth Smiling

Here Comes Everybody

Posted by: | 10/26/2009 | No Comment |

Been sitting on the shelf for a while. I think it’s finally time to start this one.

Here Comes Everybody

Click for Amazon.com

Chapter 1:

The book starts out with a story about someone who lost their mobile phone, and how someone else was able to leverage the power of web 2.0 software and the emerging social structures surrounding it to get the phone back and the criminal caught. It then went on to stress how in the past (and still today), organizations needed to have a lot of resources to manage groups, to manage the managers, etc., but how the internet now enables people to form groups spontaneously to accomplish specific tasks – be it short-term or long-term – without the traditional overhead. This is a fundamental societal change which has taken the power of influence and group-forming away from a relatively small group (such as the media) and placed it into the hands of the former audience.

Chapter 2:

This chapter covers how much the cost of “doing business” has changed. Traditionally management styles were put in place to allow a company to organize the actions of people – to gain peoples’ obedience in return for a pay check. However, this style of management has always cost the company something, and therefore limited the total possible size to which it could grow and still remain profitable.

In addition, prior to the recent developments in internet group culture and behavior (enabled by new “social” sites and web services), companies or news media really had no way to assemble specific groups of people who were dedicated to a particular cause. Photos of a particular parade were used as an example. However, as websites like flickr.com have emerged – never even hoping to manage the actions of the people who use the site in the traditional top-down sense – it has become possible for people to gather around a cause without any outside force coercing them to do so. In addition, tagging images which are then also used by others who wish to be a part of the same “circle” has enabled groups to emerge where there previously were no groups, and thus share opinions with others who were of like minds (or not).

Also included in chapter 2 is the role that this effortless, zero-cost group formation has played in the reporting of first-hand news by amateurs who weren’t even trying to be reporters, but rather were simply telling people what was going on around them. This type of posting has enabled groups to form around a particular cause or tragedy, sometimes lasting for a long time, and often eventually disbanding once the urgency of the matter dissipates. It’s also given others the chance to witness events in a particular area even when no official news reporting or discussion of opinions with others was allowed.

Chapter 3:

See post, “Reading in the Wild”

Chapter 4:

[Currently Reading]

under: Books

No Mobile Phones

Posted by: | 10/26/2009 | No Comment |

The concept of allowing or disallowing the use of “mobile phones” in the classroom came across as funny to me when I read it for some reason. Sometimes devices are around for so long that they continue to be called by name when their function has actually merged (or morphed) into something which is simultaneously being called by a different name!

If you break it down to the most basic level, a phone is a device that allows data communication. Traditionally it just happens to have been used for voice communication most frequently. The only difference between a phone and a computer connected to the internet is how the data is encoded, routed, and decoded (well, that, and the entity which controls, regulates, and charges for such functionality.)

As history has shown, you can’s fight new technology. Things change, and the more radical the change, the more time it’s traditionally taken for education to adjust. But what happens now that the change is accelerating at such a rapid pace – not simply a change in the technology, but also a resulting change in the students’ way of thinking? How will education re-configure itself (slow, gradual shifts are no longer effective) to meet the new demand of the learners?  Funny how the new technology generation knows – not more, but rather “something entirely different” – than the people in the same culture from whom they are entrusted to learn about the future from. It’s such an exciting time for all educators as they face challenges like never before in re-thinking many things they once took for granted – starting with the definition of a telephone.

under: Education

Experience vs Assessment

Posted by: | 10/26/2009 | No Comment |

After reading a lot today on the 2009 Horizon Report (K12 Edition), the word “assessment” kept coming up so often as it related to the use of online collaborative tools. One of the main points was that having a record of the collaboration made assessment easier than live group activities or discussions which were often transient and therefore difficult to evaluate.

But it got me to thinking about what happens when you look for a job – they ask you about your experience mainly, so why is it that the word “experience” is a buzzword in the business world, but not so much so in the academic world that is supposedly preparing students to enter that world? I can’t remember one time in school where a teacher said to me “that was very good experience for you. You’ve earned the right to do such-and-such, based on your experience.” Not once. I can remember plenty of “this isn’t right” or “you could have done better” “this isn’t good enough,” but be tangibly rewarded for experience? Never.

So why is this? Why must students go through the first, most formative years of their lives, being taught that being “right” or being “correct” is more important than the experience that got them there? Skills are necessary, don’t get me wrong. But why can’t the experience of being able to do something, or solve something, or create something – why can’t those sorts of things be rewarded in the same way that businesses reward experience and performance?

Thankfully, some schools have taken a step forward, and are now using such programs as IB/PYP, which focuses more on developing the skills of the whole student, rather than strictly focusing on answering canned questions somehow expected to bring about a sense of curiosity. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come.

under: Education

I’ve spent most of the day so far going through site after site, trying to get up to speed on what’s happening in elementary/middle/high school education these days. It’s amazing how much the whole landscape of education, itself, changes from the time you go to school to the time you’re old enough to look back at school as an experience of the past. What I’m realizing is not only how much more computers and technology have changed the way we think about education than I’d previously realized, but also how much of a catch-up game the educational methods of the last century are still playing.

What amazes me is not that young people are able to pick up technology as a something that exists and is matter-of-fact instead of something that needs to be learned, but rather the fact that it amazes other people. It never even occurred to me, growing up, that I should “learn” how to use a computer. Using one seemed as obvious and simplistic as combing your hair or brushing your teeth. So I wonder now, is it really that young people are able to learn such things more quickly that allows them to take advantage of the emerging social spaces of the web, or is it rather the attitude they have – one of natural curiosity rather than distant “academics,” an approach of “this is easy” rather than “this looks hard so it must be,” an expectation of success rather than a fear of failure – which gives them the ability to surpass the technical fluency many adults?

In fact, at this point I believe even my own use of the word “technical” is almost entirely misplaced, as a large number of the activities done online by young people are only technical in the sense that highly-complex and interconnected electronics enable them to occur. In contrast, the way computers and other technology is used today is no more “technical” in the geeky sense than writing a letter, making a telephone call, or turning on a television was just a few decades ago. It’s simply a new way of doing, being, communicating, and discovering the world.

under: Education

Google Wave

Posted by: | 10/25/2009 | No Comment |

I’m about a third of the way through this hour and 20 minute video. So far it seems like quite a change in the way we think about communication, and specifically website content. It’s so assumed right now that whatever we see is static – except for within isolated, relatively closed 2.0 sites like facebook. Apparently, Wave will let us edit information on many sites and yet be able to see the result of all of our edits, combined with the edits of others, in one place. The cool thing is that those people can also see the same content on their own “wave” page.

Here’s the video if you haven’t seen it already:

under: Web 2.0

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