Monday, November 01, 2004

Education vs. Xbox

My generation was the first to grow up playing video games. When I was a kid, one of the neighbors had an Atari 2600 game machine at his house with Asteriods, Space Invaders, and yes... Pong. We would all ride our bikes over to his house and play these seemingly simple games for hours. Over the years, the games just kept getting better and more realistic.

Now, when I fire up Madden 2005 on the Xbox, the software is so realistic, and the AI (Artificial Intelligence) so convincing, you actually need a strategy to win the game. My 8 year old son was appalled the other day when we were playing together as a team and I ran a draw play on third down and goal. "Papa!! How come you ran on third down? You know these guys are tough against the run in the red zone!" A long way from Asteroids.

I have seen kids who are diagnosed as ADD and can't sit still for 30 seconds in the classroom play for 2 or 3 hours and not move an inch. Why ADD in the classroom and Zen Master concentration on the Xbox? Motivation.

If teachers are the sole source of motivation in the classroom, they will surely run out of energy before the kids run out of apathy. Eventually an equilibrium develops, the teachers don't push too hard, and the kids don't expect too much. There is not a lot of breakthrough learning going on when this is the status quo.

What would happen if we could capture the excitement and the motivation of the Xbox, and use it in education. What would happen if kids approached learning the same way the approach playing video games. Amazing things.

This is my next project. I want to put together a team of people to harness technology, story telling, and great teaching techniques to develop learning that is as exciting as playing Xbox. I will post occasionally to let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Central Education Center

This model school was visited by the US DOE and told CEC has caught the eye of educators around the county. In March 2004, on a visit to CEC, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Susan Sclafani toured the school and said its model is one that should be replicated around the country. "We believe very strongly in what you're doing," she told Coweta County school officials. "We're thinking others could benefit from the model you've created here."

The school model looks very close to the existing model of the 27 Maine Career and Technical Education High Schools.

Central Education Center

Sony Hands PDA Market a Defeat (TechNews.com)

An in depth article from the Washington Post that quotes a number of industry analysts and their common views that the PDA market is flat and declining. The discussion is sparked because Sony has announced it will be leaving the PDA market worldwide with the exception of Japan. The general consensus is that increasingly capable smart phones are snapping up market share because consumers only want to carry one device.

It will be interesting to see how this plays in the education market as there are a lot of vendors who have major investments in this platform. I think schools who have not invested in laptop or PDA technology yet may have an opportunity to experiment with smart phone technology in their schools. Smart phones have the potential to be the ultimate communication tool with access to both voice and data, home and school, and friends. It is not hard to imagine students getting excited about the idea of smart phones being used in school either.

You may need to register to view the Washington Post article.

Sony Hands PDA Market a Defeat (TechNews.com)

Some additional information about the windows version of the smart phone.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Professor Seymour Papert

Someone worth meeting.

Professor Seymour Papert

Examining the Society of Mind

An interesting paper that highlights some of the major concepts of Minsky's Society of Mind theory. There is so much work to do in this fascinating field I wonder why we don't hear more about it. Interestingly when I googled 'A Framework for Representing Knowledge' which was a precursor paper to some of the ideas in Society of Mind, the only google adword box to come up was a link to their open software engineering positions. Perhaps Google has hired all the brilliant cognitive scientists and that is why we don't see much commercial work in this area.

Another book if this topic interests you is 'Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought' By Douglas Hofstadter. It deals with some specific programming architectures to try and mimic intelligence.


Examining the Society of Mind

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: This Time the Actor Is a Pol

Who would have thought that Schwarzenegger would have the political subtly to pull off this list of accomplishments?

The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Contributor: This Time the Actor Is a Pol

Thirty Years With Computers (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

This is a good article on the importance of useability in computer interface design.

Thirty Years With Computers (Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox)

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties - Book Review - by Shih-Hsiang Wang, et al

After doing some work around the house this morning I was taking a break in the living room. It was one of the only rooms not torn apart by half finished projects and so provided an area of relative peace. I was enjoying the breeze blowing in, and the sun (it has been rare so far this spring), and looking at an old table. One of our few nice pieces of furniture is an antique Chinese table that would be classified as a tiaoan or 'long narrow recessed leg table'. We really couldn't afford it when I found it, but it was so beautiful that I bought it anyway. I have thoroughly enjoyed it ever since. The construction of the table suggests that it may be from the Qing dynasty.

I sometimes wonder about the life of the craftsman who built the table. Our lives would be completely alien to each other and yet they are connected by this table. In those days it would have taken quite a while to build this table and I wonder what he thought about while working.

After he was finished with the table it would have been displayed in a fairly wealthy (ancient Chinese standards) home. It may spent hundreds of years sitting in a hallway watching many lives go by. (The entry hall was the traditional place for a table of this type, usually with flowers on the side and a scroll of a welcome message above.) That is one of the things that are appealing about antiques I think, they provide a touchstone to the past - a way for us to think about how we relate to the rest of the world in time and space.

The craftsmanship is another reason to admire some antiques, including this table. It makes me feel good when I see something so finely constructed. It makes me see what is possible and strive to do better.

If you want to learn more about the amazing furniture craftsmanship and design during the Ming and Qing dynasties you can check out the book on this link.


Connoisseurship of Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing Dynasties - Book Review - by Shih-Hsiang Wang, et al

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Hello World

Blog test post.