Monday, October 29, 2007

Apple iWorks

Really neat and user friendly! Take Adobe and MS Office and put into one package. Seems to me the best value of this software is in making presentations. Instead of 2D photos on web page or presentations, you now have animation. Adobe has wonderful products but you have to take a course to learn to use each software. This iWorks will take out the lower end of the Adobe market!

Question: Platform compatibility - when making professional presentations at client's site. Windows is the predominant platform and they don't have anything like iWorks. That means you have to bring the Mac iBook to connect to projectors instead of having presentations on a flash drive?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

21st Century Literacy

Great article.

NCLB (and the reauthorization) cativates the attention of all K-12 educators. Meanwhile, the reality of the 21st Century skills must also be addressed. Teachers can help by using technology in teaching and requiring students to use technology to do group projects and search for information. The points about getting kids to self-direct, be curious, be creative, take risks, perform higher-order thinking and exercise sound reasoning are easier said than done, however. Aside from the skills described, many of the desirable characteristics listed are ideals to work toward...nice to list as ideals and strive for them. It's one thing to say the ideal car goes from zero to 100 mpy in no time, use no fuel, environmental friendly, cost nothing to buy and maintain. It's quite another thing to make that happen. Nice thought process, though!

Monday, October 22, 2007


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Sunday, October 21, 2007

"Net Savvy" and "P21 Framework articles"

Much of the text of the "Net Savvy" article talks about the net-culture of today's students and the state-of-the-art of internet forums. I don't see the connection between these technology matters and learning other than more powerful tools of delivery. The author made a good point of embedding information literacy across the curriculum. I take it as a call for educators to force the students to learn how to use technology (ironically, the author began by saying the net-generation are experts in these modalities - natives, as compared to adults who are immigrants to the tech world). The "P21" article is better. Like the new food pyramid, this article prescribed the skills and knowledge domain for the 21st century. While it has a lot of common sense appeal and parallels some requirements (e.g. Criteria 3 of ABET 2000), it is a vision. Vision means no proof is needed and not responsible for damages if they are wrong. I am not knocking their idea but is this group, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a domain name? A virtual organization? Or a legitimate organization with qualified members putting out adjudicated material? Caveat emptor !!!

Berkeley Puts Full Courses on YouTube

I don't get it. On the one hand, this practice fits with my prior story on making prior lectures accessible to make it easy for students to catch up on missed lectures or review important concepts. On the other hand, what gives these professors the right to convert intellectual properties into public domain content? For the UC system, this should be approved at the Regent level. For such a policy to be enacted, the Regents need to explain to tax payers of California how it benefits the constitutents and their best interests are protected and assured.

Can Classroom Capture Boost Retention Rates?

On this webpage, dated 10/17/2007, an initial study by a professor at Coppin State University in Baltimore indicates that class capture technology that allows students to view lectures online after the fact can improve course retention rates and grades.

Like many colleges whose populations include working students, Coppin State would like to improve retention numbers for many classes; drop rates can average around 30 percent for some courses. In the study, Brittan-Powell found that his face to face classes with no recorded lectures offered after the fact averaged a 71 percent retention rate; when he offered lectures in class and online via Tegrity, that boosted the retention rate to 83 percent, in effect nearly cutting the drop rate in half.

While this study applies to higher ed instead of K-12 in my previous international student achievement accomplishments, I think it supports my hypothesis that the total time of engagement has a positive correlation with academic success. In this study, Tegrity's Campus software can make lectures available at any time to students by automatically capturing, storing and indexing each class for replay over the Internet. It is well known that review and repitition has definite value in learning and recall.

More thoughts on International comparisons

The top scoring countries in Science and Math typically are Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, and the likes. The TIMSS study compared the padagogy, etc. and Department of Education has many publications on TIMSS data. Instead of looking at what goes on INSIDE the classroom, my plea is that we should look at what goes on OUTSIDE!

In these Asian countries, majority of the students go to tutor school and spend another few hours on homework. It is a simple no pain, no gain formula. They don't have better schools, better curricula, better teachers, better text books, better technology, better special ed, better school lunches, better school transportation programs, or better athletics. Their students simply spend more time on academics. Until we know how to download knowledge in students' brains, the quantity and quality of the studying the students put in is one of the top decisive factors. We have lots of statistics on gender, SES, and race differences. I think they chose the wrong independent variables in the way they analyse and present the data. My bet is if one were to do a factor analysis with hours studied added, this one parameter would have the highest coefficient of variation.

Are these Asian countries the ones to emulate? My opinion is a resounding NO! While they develop work ethics, ability to focus with their hard work, they underdevelop in being creative and higher level thinking. On the other hand, as long as schools "distract" students with atheletics, clubs and activities, the price is paid in academics. It is totally not my intention to do away with these programs (i.e. follow the Asian education model). It is merely a statement that we have to make our choices with eyes wide open. Time spent on family vacations, atheletics, socializing with friends, playing video games simply means time not spent on academics. Make the selection and understand the consequence.

Is it realistic to expect schools to magically come up with something to compensate for the neglect or lack of commitment on the part of the parents and students? Our schools are expected to do a lot. Maybe the main contribution of NCLB is to redirect the focus of schools. If you can't do everything, what MUST you do well???

Acknowledgement: Thanks Karen for the chart on where the performace bar is set.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

World's Tallest Buildings

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were the world's tallest twin building until the end of 2004. Interestingly, one building was constructed by Japanese contractors while the other one by Korean contractors. Why, you ask? Simple. One is Government owned while the other one is privately held. PETRONAS, the acronym for Petroliam Nasional Berhad, was incorporated on 17 August 1974 under the Companies Act 1965. It is wholly-owned by the Malaysian government and is vested with the entire ownership and control of the petroleum resources in Malaysia through the Petroleum Development Act 1974, an Act of Parliament. Over the years, PETRONAS has grown to become a fully-integrated oil and gas corporation and is ranked among FORTUNE Global 500's largest corporations in the world.

The tallest building today is the 101 Building in Taipei, so named for it has 101 floors. It is also the Guinness Book of World Records holder of having the world's fastest elevator. From ground level to the observation deck takes 39 seconds (I timed it to take 41 seconds going down, proabably due to the braking when moving with gravity vs. against gravity).

Want to know which will be the world's tallest building by December 30, 2008? Click this link

We are losing to the rest of the world in many ways. The 2003 TIMSS ranking on 8th grade science are: Singapore, Taiwan, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Estonia, Japan, Hungary, Netherlands, United States... For 8th grade math, the rankings are: Singapore, S. Korea, Hong Kong, Taipei, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands, Estonia, Hungary, Malaysia, Latvia, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Australia, United States... . Another good source for education data is the OECD reports.,3343,en_2825_495609_39251550_1_1_1_1,00.html
Singapore, Taiwan, S. Korea - you've better keep improving if you want to keep your lead. China and India are closing in.

Should this be a surprise? NCEE published the A Nation at Risk report in April 1983. They've made a number of recommendations:

Recommendation A: Content
We recommend that State and local high school graduation requirements be strengthened and that, at a minimum, all students seeking a diploma be required to lay the foundations in the Five New Basics by taking the following curriculum during their 4 years of high school: (a) 4 years of English; (b) 3 years of mathematics; (c) 3 years of science; (d) 3 years of social studies; and (e) one-half year of computer science. For the college-bound, 2 years of foreign language in high school are strongly recommended in addition to those taken earlier.

Recommendation B: Standards and Expectations
We recommend that schools, colleges, and universities adopt more rigorous and measurable standards, and higher expectations, for academic performance and student conduct, and that 4-year colleges and universities raise their requirements for admission. This will help students do their best educationally with challenging materials in an environment that supports learning and authentic accomplishment.

Recommendation C: Time
We recommend that significantly more time be devoted to learning the New Basics. This will require more effective use of the existing school day, a longer school day, or a lengthened school year.

Recommendation D: Teaching
This recommendation consists of seven parts. Each is intended to improve the preparation of teachers or to make teaching a more rewarding and respected profession. Each of the seven stands on its own and should not be considered solely as an implementing recommendation.

Recommendation E: Leadership and Fiscal Support
We recommend that citizens across the Nation hold educators and elected officials responsible for providing the leadership necessary to achieve these reforms, and that citizens provide the fiscal support and stability required to bring about the reforms we propose.

To Parents
You know that you cannot confidently launch your children into today's world unless they are of strong character and well-educated in the use of language, science, and mathematics. They must possess a deep respect for intelligence, achievement, and learning, and the skills needed to use them; for setting goals; and for disciplined work. That respect must be accompanied by an intolerance for the shoddy and second-rate masquerading as "good enough."
You have the right to demand for your children the best our schools and colleges can provide. Your vigilance and your refusal to be satisfied with less than the best are the imperative first step. But your right to a proper education for your children carries a double responsibility. As surely as you are your child's first and most influential teacher, your child's ideas about education and its significance begin with you. You must be a living example of what you expect your children to honor and to emulate. Moreover, you bear a responsibility to participate actively in your child's education. You should encourage more diligent study and discourage satisfaction with mediocrity and the attitude that says "let it slide"; monitor your child's study; encourage good study habits; encourage your child to take more demanding rather than less demanding courses; nurture your child's curiosity, creativity, and confidence; and be an active participant in the work of the schools. Above all, exhibit a commitment to continued learning in your own life. Finally, help your children understand that excellence in education cannot be achieved without intellectual and moral integrity coupled with hard work and commitment. Children will look to their parents and teachers as models of such virtues.

To Students
You forfeit your chance for life at its fullest when you withhold your best effort in learning. When you give only the minimum to learning, you receive only the minimum in return. Even with your parents' best example and your teachers' best efforts, in the end it is your work that determines how much and how well you learn. When you work to your full capacity, you can hope to attain the knowledge and skills that will enable you to create your future and control your destiny. If you do not, you will have your future thrust upon you by others. Take hold of your life, apply your gifts and talents, work with dedication and self-discipline. Have high expectations for yourself and convert every challenge into an opportunity.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

More cool stuff this week

Last week we learned about productivity and efficiency. This week we learned some Physics. Oh, I also made some notes:

Horizon 2007 – 4th ed

Higher Ed teaching, learning, creative expression

Next 1-5 yrs: 6 trends

1. Higher Ed rapidly changing – cost up, budget down, enrollment down, working, commuting students. Competition from for-profit sector and instant access needs.
2. Increased globalization – competition form Asia. Wider perspective; new learning space.
3. Information literacy – not necessarily automatically improving.
4. Academic review & faculty rewards increasingly out of sync with new forms of scholarship – interdisciplinary and collaborative work vs. peer-reviewed papers. Traditional tenure/promotion constraints adoption of new scholarship modalities.
5. Collective intelligence and mass amateurization poses challenge to traditional authority of scholars. E.g. Wikipedia.
6. Students' view of tech differs from that of the faculty. Students use tech in greater breadth and depth.

Critical challenges:

* Assessment of new forms of work poses challenge to educators and peer reviewers. Learning in context rich environment such as games and simulations is still hard to evaluate. Portfolio now consists of blogs, podcasts and videos!
* Shifts in scholarship, research, creative expression and learning. Leaders not clear about what to do with it.
* Copy-right and intellectual property issues with digitized content.
Skills gap in using these tools
* Collaborative learning pushes academia to develop new forms of interaction and assessment
* Higher Ed expected to deliver content to mobile and personal devices.

Significant platforms:

- User-created content – blogs, wikibooks
- Social networking – myspace, facebook
- Mobile phones as mobile devices – data, music, i-phone stuff
- Virtual worlds – on-line communities
- New scholarships and publications – ??
- Multiplayer games - ???


Quick sharing of resources. Facilitated collaboration (and tool development toward this end). Collective wisdom through tagging causes information to float to the top. Low cost-low-risk ways to upload content. Ready connectivity with each other. Implications to learning:

Create collaborative, student-authored resources,
Enable synchronous public feedback on assignment
Give voice to communities and encourage idea sharing

Social networking:

+ Encourage community and self-expression
+ Immersion in foreign language environment
+ Extend impact and lifespan of conferences