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  "In Quotes"
"Grown Up Digital is a must read for baby boomers and virtually anyone else born before 1977. As Mr. Tapscott observes, 'The bottom line is this: if you understand the Net Generation, you will understand the future.' And as my son often reminds me, the future is now."

The New York Times, Book Review, Sunday, December 21, 2008
 
   
   
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Bill Gillies - Editor

Profiting from the college selection process


There are a number of reasons why the actual spending by teens and young adults for online goods and services drastically understates the importance of the Internet in the total volume of young consumer purchases.  Many young consumers research products online but make the purchase at a regular store because they don’t have a credit card. Often the product they research simply isn’t sold by regular online merchants.

A good example of the latter is universities, which gather hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition every year.  Choosing a college is a daunting decision, and if advertisers could reach this young demographic and help them in their decision-making process, it could form the basis of a long and trusting relationship.

That’s the premise of YOUniversityTV.com, which was founded last year.  It is designed to help students in the college-selection process by providing videos and educational resources for colleges across the U.S. – more than 400 to date.  The site’s social networking component (YOULife) allows students, alumni, fans and friends to leave messages on each others corkboards, post on blogs, comment on photos, exchange music, and so on.

The site’s co-founder, Angelo Kotzamanis, says that with the teen demographic huddled so densely online and with this space becoming highly saturated by advertising, marketers need to be savvy and swift in how they reach teens and convert them into advocates of their brands/products. Universities themselves are using social networking tools to attract, recruit and research prospective students. Sites offering virtual campus tours and admissions information are helping teens explore and compare schools and narrow down their options before applying.

“This new niche provides an untapped opportunity for marketers, who should look for ways to reach the college-bound demographic — a group that is brand-conscious, educated, motivated and serious about where and how they spend their cash.”

It’s a demographic that advertisers lust over.  If YOUniversityTV.com gains traction, it could be a golden goose.

4 Comments | Tags: Brand, School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Youth respond favourably to public health campaign


It’s official – South African youth love to Scrutinize! An animated public health campaign called “Scrutinize HIV” has been chosen by children and young adults as one of the best media campaigns in the country.

All seven television commercials in the campaign can be viewed here.

The Scrutinize campaign aims to raise awareness of HIV among young people and encourage them to scrutinize and take responsibility for their own potentially risky behavior – and already, its catchphrases such as “Flip HIV to HI-Victory” are being incorporated into popular culture.

“In my 20 years of global advertising work, I’ve never heard of a social marketing campaign featuring in a people’s choice marketing/brand awards and certainly never in one polled amongst teens,” said Cal Bruns, director of the commercials. “That Scrutinize was featured in the same breath as Coke, Pepsi and Volkswagen is utterly amazing and even more so in South Africa, where aspiration and the cool factor count for everything.”

Surveys revealed that young South African urbanites love humorous commercials, and that television advertising is the best way to connect with teenagers and young adults. In addition, the Scrutinize campaign was found to have a high ‘talkability’ factor among young South Africans.

The animated commercial was also selected as a finalist in the prestigious International Animation Festival, which was held in France earlier in June.

3 Comments | Tags: Family, Government

Bill Gillies - Editor

Interview posted on the District Leader’s Podcast


Don was recently interviewed by Arthur Griffin, Jr. of the District Leader’s Podcast. The 16-minute audio interview can be downloaded or streamed here.  Don discusses the world of ‘digital natives’ and how the explosion of the Internet into mainstream society has necessarily and completely changed the process of k-12 education.

The District Leader’s Podcast and website is sponsored by McGraw-Hill Education’s Urban Advisory Resource comprising former education leaders and other experts with extensive experience in managing large school districts. The podcast co-hosts are educational experts who have been on the “front line” either as a former superintendent or as a school board member.

The podcast programs are comprehensive, covering:

Well worth visiting, with new content added regularly.

1 Comment | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

NetFlix rental model cuts the cost of textbooks


After paying hefty amounts for tuition and room and board, many university students feel their financial spirits are completely crushed when confronted by sky-high textbook prices.  While ebooks are often cited as a promising solution, a Silicon Valley company is successfully applying the NetFlix model of renting products by mail to help students slash their textbook costs.

Profiled in the New York Times, Chegg.com says that students can save 65-85 percent of the cost of buying a book by renting it instead. The company calculates that it has saved students more than $40 million since it began renting books in 2007.

As an added bonus for N-Gen eco-sensitive students, for every book that is rented, bought or sold, Chegg will plant a tree through a partnership with American Forests Global ReLeaf® Program. “More than 20 million trees a year are destroyed to make books. By planting these trees, together we’re helping to use the earth’s resources more efficiently. So far, we’ve funded over 750 acres – that’s over 500 football fields- or 300 city blocks!”

As the Times notes, there is plenty of secret sauce to Chegg’s business, including logistics and software to determine the pricing and sourcing of books, as well as how many times a given book can be rented. The savings can vary from book to book. A macroeconomics textbook that retails for $122 was available on Chegg for $65 for one semester; an organic chemistry title retailing for $123 was offered for $33. (Round-trip shipping can add $4 to a book.)

The Times spoke to Alan Bradford, a senior at Arizona State University, who read about Chegg in a campus newspaper in 2008 and calculated that his bill for books that semester would have been $334 with Chegg, far less than the $657 he paid. Since then, he has ordered about a dozen textbooks from Chegg. “Nobody likes paying for textbooks,” he said.

No Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Ad campaign for jeans targets youth’s patriotism and optimism


Levi Strauss & Company has launched a new ad campaign for its flagship Levi’s brand, hoping to appeal to young adults with an ambitious call to arms: “Go forth.”

According to the New York Times, the campaign will include commercials on television, online and in movie theaters; print advertisements; outdoor and transit signs and posters; social media sites like Facebook; event marketing; and a contest on a section of the brand’s own Web site (levi.com/goforth).

The campaign is replete with Americana imagery, in keeping with research indicating that teenagers and 20-somethings are patriotic and optimistic about the United States. Those elements include the poetry of Walt Whitman, flags, paeans to the pioneering spirit, declarations of independence, salutes to hard work and, in the star-spangled tradition of Madison Avenue, copious amounts of nubile flesh.

Doug Sweeny, vice president for Levi’s brand marketing, said the battle cry was to determine “how do we connect this 150-year-old brand with what is happening in the youth culture today.”  The answer was to invoke the heritage of the brand, which dates to the California gold rush, by describing 501 jeans as “the uniform of common sense,” while celebrating the images and voices of contemporary youth.

The target audience for the campaign is young men ages 18 to 34, he added, with “the sweet spot the 22-year-old guys getting their first jobs out of college” – or not getting those jobs, because of the economy.

“They’re realists; they understand the challenge,” Sweeny says of young Americans now. “They’re optimistic about the future, they can project forward,” he added. “We found that really powerful and tried to evoke it in the campaign.”

And the contest that is part of the campaign is called The New Americans: A Portrait of a Country. Consumers will be invited to upload “Your words. Your pictures. Your stories of today’s America.”

2 Comments | Tags: Brand

Bill Gillies - Editor

CoSN and nGenera announce partnership


This week at the National Educational Computing Conference, the Consortium for School Networking (or CoSN) and nGenera Corporation, led by Don Tapscott – chairman of its nGenera Insight thought leadership group and best-selling author – announced a partnership between their organizations, based on common interests in aligning the power of Web 2.0 with the enterprise needs of school districts and their communities. Through the partnership, CoSN and its members will participate in thought leadership webinars, join original research projects, and receive Web 2.0 and collaborative advisory services from nGenera. For its part, nGenera will participate in CoSN conferences, CTO Clinics, and Forums; join key CoSN leadership initiatives; and contribute to CoSN professional development resources such as its EdTechNext mini-reports series.

“We are thrilled to have Don Tapscott and nGenera join CoSN as a major sponsor through this partnership,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “Our mission is to empower K-12 school district technology leaders to use technology strategically to improve teaching and learning. Clearly, Web 2.0 technologies and tools have transformative potential in and outside of the classroom. With its deep background in collaborative initiatives and Web 2.0 working with the world’s largest enterprises, we look forward to having an organization like nGenera lending its experience and resources to our membership.”

“In my research and writing of Grown Up Digital, I spoke with educational leaders around the world,” said Tapscott. “They see the profound impact of digital technologies in the private sector, and want to be equally innovative in their schools. They want to move away from a one-size-fits-all broadcast model of education with the teacher being seen as the ‘sage on the stage.’ Instead, much of the curriculum could be built around Web 2.0 technologies that would let students develop at their own pace. Teachers could then spend more one-on-one time with each student and focus on their specific needs. There is tremendous pent-up demand for such creativity. I look forward to working with the Consortium in bringing the digital classroom to life.”

Among the first collaborations between the organizations under the partnership will be joint work on “Web 2.0 Success and Failure Factors,” a research project being conducted by nGenera’s Insight group. Likewise, the organizations will collaborate on a CoSN-exclusive webinar for CIOs/CTOs led by Tapscott and sharing early research going into his next major book, for release in 2010, not yet titled.

No Comments | Tags: World

Creativity: a collaborative effort as opposed to an individual feat? Learning from Pixar…


As you may be aware, Toy Story 3 will be in theatres by this time next year, more than 10 years since the release of its popular prequel, Toy Story 2. Here’s a preview.

Now you may wonder how a computer animated Disney film is relevant to your enterprise? More than you think.

Pixar studios may as well be the poster child for internal collaboration. Over the years, its community of artists have collectively generated a series of stories, plots, and unforgettable characters. Do you remember watching Finding NemoMonster Inc, or A Bug’s Life? What about Wall-E and more recently, Up? these titles must ring a bell. Most of the studio’s releases have grossed well over $200 Million at the box office and have become household names launching a new revenue stream composed of franchised toys and goods.

2 Comments | Tags: World

Mike Dover

Catcher in the Rye doesn’t translate for the Net Gen


We’ve already seen a twitter version “Dad dead. Mom slut. Uncle sux. Talking emo 2 self: 2B? Not? Revenge? GF all wet. Her dad a rat” and Facebook version of Hamlet.

The New York Times posted an interesting article about another high school standard. The author attests that Gen Y readers don’t identify with Holden Caulfield. From the article:

The alienated teenager has lost much of his novelty, said Ariel Levenson, an English teacher at the Dalton School on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, Holden’s home turf. She added that even the students who liked the book tend to find the language — “phony,” “her hands were lousy with rocks,” the relentless “goddams” — grating and dated.

“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things,” Ms. Levenson said, summarizing a typical response. At the publiccharter school where she used to teach, she said, “I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’ ”

Julie Johnson, who taught Mr. Salinger’s novel over three decades at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., cited similar reactions. “Holden’s passivity is especially galling and perplexing to many present-day students,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “In general, they do not have much sympathy for alienated antiheroes; they are more focused on distinguishing themselves in society as it is presently constituted than in trying to change it.”

In other news about Wikinomics and the Classics, this post brilliantly features customer reviews of products considered by all normal accounts to be spectacular. Some of my favourites:

The Godfather:

When’s an editor when you need one? This movie is so long that I played it on my TV, drove across the state, and when I came back, it was still playing. Since when is a movie this long? Movies are supposed to be 1:30-2:00 hours long. Plus this movie is as boring as a trip to the doctor’s. No good violence, no hot sex scenes, and furthermore, it stereotypes Italians. The only decent movie in this series is The Godfather III.

This is Spinal Tap:

If you’re going to make such an excellent documentary, why make it about about a band that nobody has ever heard of?

Getting similar behind-the-scenes footage on the Who, The Stones, or Genesis would have been a monumental achievment in documentary cinema.

But Spinal Pap?

The Princess Bride

I have no idea what this is. This can’t be a movie because movies are supposed to be good. The story is assanine and unbelievable. The title makes no sense. What exactly is a princess bride who is named after a buttercup. I was made to watch this movie in school and it was torture. Thank you.

Moby Dick

This book is HORRIBLE! Classic, my eye! I would love to know what’s so great about this book. I have seen better writing in a Hallmark card! Boring! Give me a good ole copy of Elvis and Me! A true story that really tugs at your heart strings! I sleep with that one under my pillow! Keep Moby Dick away from my bed!

No Comments | Tags: School/College, World

Bill Gillies - Editor

Building relationships should be top corporate objective


Don was recently interviewed on BigThink.com, which is an online forum connecting people and ideas. In the short video above, Don discusses why traditional marketing strategies no longer work, and why relationship building with customers should be a company’s top goal. This is particularly true of N-Gen customers, who want to have a relationship with companies and help them co-innovate great products.

Here is some background about the BigThink.com website: “Through an ever-expanding platform of knowledge content, including in-depth interviews with the world’s leading experts, Big Think is a vital hub for important information to help you function, and succeed, in a rapidly changing world. In keeping with our belief that crucial information should be freely shared, discussed and debated, we have developed a full menu of tools to engage, disseminate, and subscribe to uniquely powerful content. Whether you use Twitter, Facebook, Digg.com, Delicious, Google Reader, Vimeo, YouTube, a personal blog, Tumblr, or any application with an RSS feed, Big Think allows you to share bright ideas with the wider Big Think audience as well as your personal cadre of lively thinkers—quickly and easily.”

1 Comment | Tags: Brand

Bill Gillies - Editor

Nothing odd about teachers being graded by students


An Agence France Press story reports that a German teacher who had sued to shut down a website where pupils rank their instructors according to competence and “coolness” lost her battle yesterday in the German Federal Supreme Court.

The teacher, Astrid Czubayko-Reiss, claimed that her privacy was being violated by the site spickmich.de, which loosely translates to checkmeout.de.  She had received a mediocre “D” rating from students.

“The right of students to exchange opinions and communicate freely outweighs the right of the teacher suing to determine information available about her,” the court ruled.

The website allows students to turn the tables on teachers by anonymously grading them in categories including “cool and funny”, “popular”, “motivated”, “relaxed” and “teaches well”.

The German Teachers’ Association criticised the ruling. “It is inexplicable that the [court] values the personal rights of teachers less than an anonymous assessment of teachers by students on the Internet,” Association president Josef Kraus said, referring to the federal court.

Germany is just catching up with the times.  Teacher-rating websites in other countries are well-established.  The U.S.-based RateMyTeachers.com is an increasingly popular site for students and parents to share reviews and ratings of middle and high school teachers. Online since 2000, more than 10,000,000 people visited the site in 2008.  Ratemyteachers.com currently offers over 10 million ratings of over 1 million teachers. About 60 percent of comments are positive.  Countries covered by the service include the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

RateMyProfessors.com is the largest listing of collegiate professor ratings, with more than 6.8 million student-generated ratings of over 1 million professors. The site says that “each year, millions of college students use the site to help plan their class schedules and rate current and past professors on attributes such as helpfulness and clarity.” Online since 1999, RateMyProfessors.com currently offers ratings on college and university professors from over 6,000 schools across the United States, Canada, England, Scotland and Wales.

Some educators suggest the anonymous rating system can be unfair and simply invite retaliation if a professor gives a student a deservedly poor mark.  But in a world where virtually any web site that sells products asks its customers to rate their satisfaction with the product or purchasing process, it’s natural for students to expect they can pass judgement on their teacher or professor.  It’s equally natural for them to seek out the views of their peers.

1 Comment | Tags: School/College

Don Tapscott

Obama should look to Portugal on how to fix schools


President Obama already knows that the nation’s schools are failing a large number of young Americans. One-third of all students drop out before finishing high school. It’s a terrible record, and it’s even worse in inner city public schools, where only half of blacks and Hispanics graduate from school. This is not a legacy that would make anyone proud: More young Americans on a proportionate basis drop out of school today than at any other time in our history.

This problem is undoubtedly complicated, but one of the reasons why many American youth are unmotivated and not learning well is that they’re bored in school. They’re grown up in a fast paced, challenging digital world, with the Internet, mobile devices, video games and other gadgets. They watch less television than their parents did and TV is typically a background activity. They are a generation doesn’t like to be broadcast to and they love to interact, multi-task and collaborate. Yet, when they get into the classroom, they’re faced with stale textbooks and lectures from teachers who are still using a nineteenth century innovation, chalk and blackboard.

American classrooms need to enter the 21st century. Thousands of teachers agree. Earlier this year, several important educational groups urged the president and Congress to spend nearly $10 billion to improve technology in the classroom, and ensure teachers know how to use computers most effectively.

To show the way, I suggest the president take a look at a modest country across the Atlantic that’s turning into the world leader in rethinking education for the 21st century.

That country is Portugal. Its economy in early 2005 was sagging, and it was running out of the usual economic fixes. It also scored some of the lowest educational achievement results in western Europe.

So President Jose Socrates took a courageous step. He decided to invest heavily in a “technological shock” to jolt his country into the 21st century. This meant, among other things, that he’d make sure everyone in the workforce could handle a computer and use the Internet effectively.

This could transform Portuguese society by giving people immediate access to world. It would open up huge opportunities that could make Portugal a richer and more competitive place. But it wouldn’t happen unless people had a computer in their hands.

In 2005, only 31% of the Portuguese households had access to the Internet. To improve this penetration, the logical place to start was in school, where there was only one computer for five kids. The aim was to have one computer for every two students by 2010.

So Portugal launched the biggest program in the world to equip every child in the country with a laptop and access to the web and the world of collaborative learning. To pay for it, Portugal tapped into both government funds and money from mobile operators who were granted 3G licenses. That subsidized the sale of one million ultra-cheap laptops to teachers, school children, and adult learners.

Here’s how it works: If you’re a teacher or a student, you can buy a laptop for 150 euros (U.S. $207). You also get a discounted rate for broadband Internet access, wired or wireless. Low income students get an even bigger discount, and connected laptops are free or virtually free for the poorest kids. For the youngest students in Grades 1 to 4, the laptop/Internet access deal is even cheaper — 50 euros for those who can pay; free for those who can’t.

That’s only the start: Portugal has invested 400 million euros to makes sure each classroom has access to the Internet. Just about every classroom in the public system now has an interactive smart board, instead of the old fashioned blackboard.

This means that nearly nine out of 10 students in Grades 1 to 4 have a laptop on their desk. The impact on the classroom is tremendous, as I saw this spring when I toured a classroom of seven-year-olds in a public school in Lisbon. It was the most exciting, noisy, collaborative classroom I have seen in the world.

The teacher directed the kids to an astronomy blog with a beautiful color image of a rotating solar system on the screen. “Now,” said the teacher, “Who knows what the equinox is?”

Nobody knew.

“Alright, why don’t you find out?”

The chattering began, as the children clustered together to figure out what an equinox was. Then one group lept up and waved their hands. They found it! They then proceeded to explain the idea to their classmates.

This, I thought, was the exact opposite of everything that is wrong with the classroom system in the United States.

The children in this Portuguese classroom were loving learning about astronomy. They were collaborating. They were working at their own pace. They barely noticed the technology, the much-vaunted laptop. It was like air to them. But it changed the relationship they had with their teacher. Instead of fidgeting in their chairs while the teacher lectures and scrawls some notes on the blackboard, they were the explorers, the discoverers, and the teacher was their helpful guide.

Yet too often, in the U.S. school system, teachers still rely on an Industrial Model of education. They deliver a lecture, the same one to all students. It’s a one-way lecture. The teacher is the expert; the students are expected to absorb what the teacher says and repeat. And students are supposed to learn alone.

Teachers often feel that this is the only way to teach a large classroom of kids, and yet the classroom in Portugal shows that giving kids laptops can free the teacher to introduce a new way of learning that’s more natural for kids who have grown up digital at home.

First, it allows teachers to step off the stage and start listening and conversing instead of just lecturing. Second, the teacher can encourage students to discover for themselves, and learn a process of discovery and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the teacher’s information. Third, the teacher can encourage students to collaborate among themselves and with others outside the school. Finally, the teacher can tailor the style of education to their students’ individual learning styles.

It’s not easy to change the model of teaching. In fact, this is the hard part. It’s far easier to spend money, as Portugal did, to put Internet into the classroom and equip the kids with laptops. ( By now, half of high school students now have them, as do four in 10 middle school students.)

Yet Portugal has been careful to invest in teacher training to capitalize on the possibilities of the laptops in schools. They’re also thinking of creating a new online platform to allow teachers to work together to create new lessons and course materials that take advantage of the interactive technology. Through this collaboration, the Portuguese school system will create exciting new online materials to educate children. Lots of ideas are already making their way into Portuguese classrooms, says Mario Franco, chair of the Foundation for Mobile Communication, which is managing the e-school program. There are 50 different educational programs and games inside the laptops the youngest children use. The laptops are even equipped with a control to encourage kids to finish their homework and score high marks. If they do, they get more time to play.

It’s too early to assess the impact on learning in Portuguese schools. Studies of the impact of computers in schools elsewhere have been inconclusive, or mixed. One key problem is that simply providing computers in schools is not enough. Teachers facing a classroom of kids with laptops need to learn that they are no longer the expert in their domain; the Internet is.

Yet Portugal is on a campaign to reinvent learning for the 21st century. The technology is only one part of that campaign. The real work is creating a new model of learning.

I believe this could help the U.S. revive students’ interest in school and perhaps keep them in school long enough to graduate, and even go to college. It would be a substantial investment. It’s estimated that the total cost of giving a computer to each student, including connection to networks, training, and maintenance, is over $1,000 per year.

Yet after seeing the promise of the exciting classrooms in Portugal, I’m convinced it is worth it. Your child should be so fortunate.


12 Comments | Tags: School/College

Don Tapscott

Writing in the age of composition


Today’s university students are doing more writing in more varied forms outside of their classes than ever before.  They are texting, writing on Facebook walls, sending e-mails, posting or responding to blogs, and generally using the keyboard as the principal means of communicating online.  While it is easy to see they are the most prolific student writers ever, does this mean they are better writers?

This hotly debated question is explored by Josh Keller in the Chronicle of Higher Education in an article entitled “Studies Explore Whether the Internet Makes Students Better Writers.” “Some scholars say that this new writing is more engaged and more connected to an audience, and that colleges should encourage students to bring lessons from that writing into the classroom.  Others argue that tweets and blog posts enforce bad writing habits and have little relevance to the kind of sustained, focused argument that academic work demands,” writes Keller.

I’m firmly of the former school, and the article cites good reasons why.

Kathleen Blake Yancey, a professor of English at Florida State University and a former president of the National Council of Teachers of English, calls the current period “the age of composition” because new technologies are causing more people to compose with words and other media than ever before.

“This is a new kind of composing because it’s so variegated and because it’s so intentionally social,” says Yancey. It has a strong influence on how students learn to write.  “We ignore it at our own peril.”

Jeffrey Grabill, director of the Writing in Digital Environments Research Center at Michigan State, says college writing instruction should have two goals: to help students become better academic writers, and to help them become better writers in the outside world. The second, broader goal is often lost, he says, either because it is seen as not the college’s responsibility, or because it seems unnecessary.

“The unstated assumption there is that if you can write a good essay for your literature professor, you can write anything,” Mr. Grabill says. “That’s utter nonsense.”

The writing done outside of class is, in some ways, the opposite of a traditional academic paper, he says. Much out-of-class writing, he says, is for a broad audience instead of a single professor, tries to solve real-world problems rather than accomplish academic goals, and resembles a conversation more than an argument.

Rather than being seen as an impoverished, secondary form, online writing should be seen as “the new normal,” he says, and treated in the curriculum as such: “The writing that students do in their lives is a tremendous resource.”

Ms. Yancey, at Florida State, says out-of-class writing can be used in a classroom setting to help students draw connections among disparate types of writing. In one exercise she uses, students are asked to trace the spread of a claim from an academic journal to less prestigious forms of media, like magazines and newspapers, in order to see how arguments are diluted. In another, students are asked to pursue the answer to a research question using only blogs, and to create a map showing how they know if certain information is trustworthy or not.

The idea, she says, is to avoid creating a “fire wall” between in-class and out-of-class writing.

“If we don’t invite students to figure out the lessons they’ve learned from that writing outside of school and bring those inside of school, what will happen is only the very bright students” will do it themselves, Ms. Yancey says. “It’s the rest of the population that we’re worried about.”

If we agree that the new purpose of universities is to educate students on how to be lifelong learners, it only makes sense that we equip to do their best at all forms of communication.

I encourage readers to comment.

5 Comments | Tags: School/College

Bill Gillies - Editor

Technology as thin edge


Liberating Learning is a sure-to-be controversial book that argues that technology will be the key to bringing quality education to students across the U.S., largely by sidestepping restrictions that the authors say teachers unions have put in place to block reform.

In a review in today’s Wall Street Journal, James Glassman says the book by Terry M. Moe and John E. Chubb picks up on an issue raised by the two authors in their 1990 book, “Politics, Markets and America’s Schools.” In the first book, the authors argued that the poor showing of American schools compared to other industrialized countries was largely the result of special-interest groups – mainly teachers unions.

But Glassman writes that Messrs. Moe and Chubb believe that technology can be the magic bullet.

Teachers unions, of course, are appalled. They know that “the new computer-based approaches to learning simply require far fewer teachers per student — perhaps half as many, and possibly fewer than that,” Messrs. Moe and Chubb write. Online charter schools employ two or three teachers per 100 students; the average public school employs 6.8 per 100. Technology also disperses teachers geographically (making them elusive for union organizers); lets in private-sector players who aren’t members of the guild; and enables outsourcing to foreign countries. For unions, technology is poison…

The authors also believe that, by allowing the door to be cracked open with online schools, the unions won’t be able to shut it. With the encouragement of students’ parents, millions of children will rush in, overcoming current union-imposed enrollment caps. Since labor costs keep rising, school districts, hard-pressed for funds, will naturally turn to technology as a way to get more for less. Mostly, though, Messrs. Moe and Chubb are determinists who believe that the political problem will be solved because it has to be. They make a good case, but hardly an air-tight one. “Technology,” they write, “is transforming nearly every aspect of American social life, and will keep transforming it in the decades ahead.”

I’m keen to hear readers’ responses to their argument.

17 Comments | Tags: School/College

Don Tapscott

Iran’s youth are calling to us


Events in Iran continue to unfold at a breakneck pace.  There are calls for a nation-wide strike tomorrow. I believe this is another example of the Net Generation striving for the type of government it wants:  As open and as democratic as possible.  Iran’s teenagers and young adults make up a higher percentage of the country’s population than any other country.  (see graphic)  These young people are connected to the world courtesy of the Internet, and they like what they see in countries that have greater freedom and democratic structures.  It’s time for other governments to lend their weight to the protests calling for an election that isn’t rigged.  The Web is alive with text, photos and videos from the streets of Tehran.  See some gripping material here. These are a people crying for assistance, and it’s time to show them we hear them.

2 Comments | Tags: Government, World

Bill Gillies - Editor

Microsoft’s remarkable Project Natal and Milo


At the recent E3 conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft unveiled technology it called Project Natal.  Watch the embedded video on this post for a demonstration.  Microsoft has eliminated the controller for interacting with video games.  Want to play a game of soccer?  Then stand up, start moving your feet, and score a goal.  It’s WII on steroids.  The system uses a video camera, microphone, and a scanner.  You can talk, walk, sing and the computer knows what you are doing.  You no longer need a game controller, or as Don Mattrick, the senior VP of Xbox, puts it, “We’re using the best controller ever invented: you.”

At the end of the video you’re given a link to another video which presents Milo. Be sure to watch it. He’s a young animated character that can interact with a human.  You can speak with Milo and he answers your questions responds to your movements.

At the conference Microsoft positioned Project Natal as the next very-large step in video games.  It doesn’t take much imagination to see what an extraordinary tool could be in classrooms.  The virtual reality can replicate any environment, such as sitting in a spacecraft or walking through Roman ruins.  Milo can accompany you wherever you are, answering questions and posing questions of his own.  Imagine Milo teaching biology or math to a grade six student.  You would have a personal cyber teacher dedicated to helping you acquire knowledge. The potential is remarkable.

21 Comments | Tags: School/College

   
 
 
   

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