Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Project-based learning not particularly new

The snail's pace that education uses to transform the learning process with technology never ceases to amaze me. This week an article in the New York Times touts technology-supported "project-based learning" as the new "silver bullet" that will finally revolutionize education. "Project-based learning has been around for decades. The only thing technology really adds to the process is collaborative support through a social networking portal. Once again, the computer's true strength, simulation, is left out of the equation.

The project example given is designed around a letter from the White House bemoaning high oil prices, a faltering economy, and falling popularity polls:

"The new Web education networks can open the door to broader changes. Parents become more engaged because they can monitor their children’s attendance, punctuality, homework and performance, and can get tips for helping them at home. Teachers can share methods, lesson plans and online curriculum materials.

In the classroom, the emphasis can shift to project-based learning, a real break with the textbook-and-lecture model of education. In a high school class, a project might begin with a hypothetical letter from the White House that says oil prices are spiking, the economy is faltering and the president’s poll numbers are falling. The assignment would be to devise a new energy policy in two weeks. The shared Web space for the project, for example, would include the White House letter, the sources the students must consult, their work plan and timetable, assignments for each student, the assessment criteria for their grades and, eventually, the paper the team delivers. Oral presentations would be required."

But where is the program that can take solutions offered by the students and project the historical outcomes - the fertile soil in which many fruitful discussions can take root?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Steve Jobs not ALWAYS a marketing genius!

I noticed this quote on one of my discussion groups:

"When asked about the new Amazon Kindle product, Steve Jobs CEO of Apple computer had this to say:

“It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” he said. “Forty percent of the people in the U.S. read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”

Apparently there must be some other reason my eyes are so tired when I get home from work!!

This reminds me of the ridiculous comment he made a number of years ago about his colorful new line of Macs (when they came out with the lime green, etc.) saying essentially that it doesn't matter what's under the hood - what matters is how cool your computer looks! Give me a break!!!

Dragon Naturally Speaking Enhances Road Trips for the Deaf

I saw this very innovative application of Naturally Speaking in David Pogue's column highlighting some of the email he has received:

"My wife and I discovered Dragon NaturallySpeaking about 8 years ago, and have been using it successfully ever since-- not for dictation, but as a communication aid. My wife is deaf; her hearing loss began about 25 years ago (we are in our late 60's) and she has become a skillful lip reader to compensate. That works pretty well in face-to-face communication, but is not helpful in many other situations, such as when we are driving; when I drive, I give her a side view, which isn't clear enough.

I've made brackets to hold a laptop both in our car and motor home. I use a lapel mike to speak; NaturallySpeaking transcribes what I say. She reads what I'm saying, and then responds by voice. When we got this working, it was the first time in 15 years that we could converse on the road. We are now using version 9, having upgraded several times, and based on your report, we will watch for version 11!"

This is an excellent example of "thinking outside the box" when trying to develop adaptive technology applications for the physically challenged. I join David in saying "Holy cow. That is truly an ingenious solution! Congratulations, and best wishes to you both!"