Class Dismissed: Even good students don’t always want to learn

Last week we heard from my new hero Steve, an electrical engineer turned high school math teacher, with his reservations about technology as a motivator for student success. Notice this week I can use Steve’s first name, though not his last name or the name of the school where he teaches. This alone says volumes about the prickly state of teaching today where saying the truth out loud can hurt a career. And I understand why Steve might be concerned, because this time he’s talking not about how technology doesn’t often enable better learning, but how it actually gets in the way.

“Now, consider what happens if you inject into this scenario an iPad into […]

Hello, Mr. Chips

I received an e-mail last week from someone who is sure to become one of my heroes — an electrical engineer turned high school math teacher. He was concerned about the proper use of technology, especially iPads, in the classroom, and had quite specific suggestions for what to do. We’ll probably get to that in my next column but here I’d like to consider his more fundamental idea, which is that technology in schools can be, in many ways, more a distraction than a solution.

“The problem is that I’ve found that all these things that are purported to improve student learning ignore the number one factor in student success, which is the student’s […]

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and other weird thoughts

How many times yesterday did you do a web search that led you to a Wikipedia page that then didn’t load because of that site’s SOPA protest?  I didn’t notice the effect immediately but once I did I was later able to go back through my browser history and see that I tried and failed to open a total of 13 Wikipedia pages so far.  Whether you give a damn about SOPA or public protest, this experience has given me a whole new respect for the role Wikipedia has come to play in my life and probably yours.

As a result I made a small donation to Wikipedia around lunchtime then cursed it the rest of […]

Siri may infringe old Excite patents

I was watching this Bloomberg video the other day featuring Shawn Carolan, the venture capitalist who backed the Siri electronic personal assistant startup then sold it to Apple. His was the closest I’d heard to a technical explanation of how Siri works and it surprised me because it sounded a lot like technology I remembered from years ago at Excite, the long-defunct search engine.  Please look at the video and then meet me in the next paragraph.  The part that excited me (no pun intended) is about four minutes in.

Okay, he said they used linguistic techniques to map blocks of words against 10 possible domains of expertise to figure out what the heck you are asking Siri to do, with the real […]

Mamas don't let your babies grow up to see trade shows

Richard Alley, a geoscience professor at Penn State, drilled into the Antarctic a few years ago removing a half-mile ice core documenting the last Ice Age, which Alley determined had lasted 10,000 years then came to an abrupt end in only three years. That may seem an odd analogy for this week’s Consumer Electronics Show but it’s what came to mind when I saw story after story suggesting CES, too, might be winding down.  I think it is.  And I further think that maybe the only thing that might yet save CES in some form is Willie Nelson, or maybe Taylor Swift.


CES never used to matter much in my world.  The show to attend was […]