D.

Digital Divide 2.0

The first digital divide has faded in schools but a second one is emerging, a study of the OECD, a rich-country think-tank, concludes.

Digital Divide 1.0 (c) www.toby-ng.com

The term digital divide came up in the 1990s when the internet made its way into public consciousness. It describes the gap between people with effective access to digital and information technology and those with very limited or no access at all. Digital divide in the first place was about the gap between those 7 people in our global village of 100 that have computers and the rest. The OECD study found that someone living in a rich country would probably be amongst those 7 people having access to computers. Regarding the students in particular, the picture is even brighter: in almost all OECD countries all students attend schools equipped with computers. 88% of computers at schools are connected to the Internet.

But the issue is far from closed. According to the study computer use can make a difference in educational performance if the student is duly equipped with the right set of competences, skills and attitudes. In their absence, no matter how intense the computer use is the expected benefits are going to be lost.

If policy making would be finished by putting computers and hardware into schools it would be like saying: Here is a book. Here is a paper. Here is a pen. Now you can read and write! No one would really argue, that this is the right approach to address illiteracy. Surprisingly and on the contrary, many policy makers still tend to use the paper-and-pen-approach in their decision making process on ICT use in schools. Therefore Michael Trucano of the World Bank recently assembled an insightful list of Worst practice in ICT use in education.

If you agree that you can’t fight illiteracy with a paper and a pen alone, than you would probably agree that fighting the first digital divide by putting computers in classrooms is only a precondition to fighting the real digital divide. The OECD study thus identified a “new” second form of digital divide between those who have the right competences and skills to benefit from computer use, and those who have not. For me and for many others this isn’t news, because there has always been a digital divide between my grandparents and me for instance, from the very beginning of the information age.

The OECD study may not be noteworthy in 2010 for its newness, but it could facilitate additional discussions and debates amongst policy makers and educators about digital literacy. And this is what really lies at the core of the educational challenge faced by many countries today.

(c) 1962 St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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B.

Being admitted to college is not always easy for an iPad

A reader without connectivity problems

The iPad is facing difficulty being accepted at Princeton University and others because of network stability issues, connectivity problems and concerns about bandwidth overload. This could be quite a setback for Apple’s strategy to go after the higher education market by highlighting the iPad’s portability and availability of electronic books. Indeed, those features aren’t worth a lot if students are unable to connect to the internet to check emails or course assignments.

But acceptance is not only about connectivity issues. As for now the volume of educational content available via the iBookstore is far to small to eliminate expensive physical textbooks. This would be another argument to seriously reconsider putting an iPad on your wishlist before Christmas. According to industry analysts and professors, schools won’t fully embrace iPads until textbook publishers offer more digital resources that go beyond electronic versions of hard copy books. It could take several months, before such content will be available. “We’re not just turning a book into a PDF,” Josh Koppel of ScrollMotion said. Educational books are usually more difficult to translate into e-books because they often include mathematical formulas, graphs and other non-standard-text material. And students demand note-taking or highlighting functionality, features often unavailable on today’s e-reader-formats, such as Amazon’s Kindle or others.

Being an early adopter has its ups and downs. And sometimes it can be quite frustrating. George Washington said its wireless network’s security features don’t support the iPad. Princeton said it has proactively blocked about 20% of the devices from its network after noticing malfunctions within the school’s computer system. Cornell’s information-technology director Steve Schuster said that the school is seeing networking and connectivity issues. The colleges all say they are trying to find fixes to the problems.

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N.

No need for paper

(c) Staff photo by Fritz Busch (www.nujournal.com)

Do you remember the era of the writing slate? Maybe your Grandma does. Paper was too expensive and too rare to be used in schools. Well, that changed over time and everyone who left school in the last 50 years should be aware of the amount of paper used in classrooms. While it’s hard to say that all paper is wasted, every single school can certainly cut down on the volume. Much of the paper that is carried home in students’ backpacks ends up unread in the recycle bin.

Now comes the iPad and with it new ways of thinking about paperless schools. One example is the purchase of 320 iPads in one Minnesota high school. The school district allocated $267,748 to its technology fund to become what is believed to be the first school in the country to have the devices at a cost of $479 each. The money will be used to buy 320 iPads with extended, two-year warranties for students and staff, create Wi-Fi infrastructure and provide staff training. According to an article on NUjournal.com Students like using iPads in school.

“One of the first things we have to do is determine what iPad applications best fit classroom curriculum.” said High School Principal Jeff Bertrang. “Students won’t have to buy $100 calculators anymore either,” he added. Imagine the paper savings over time, not to mention the cost savings as textbooks will be digitized in future.

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S.

Solar Beat feat. Kepler’s Music of the Spheres

Harmonices MundiWhat is the sound of the universe? In 1619, Johannes Kepler published his book Harmonices Mundi (Latin for Harmony of the world) a description of the music of the spheres. He attempted to explain the proportions of the natural world in terms of music. Those “harmonies” had been studied before by Pythagoras, Ptolemy and many others. Kepler gave each planet its own tone. Although from a scientific point of view Kepler is considered the discoverer of the laws of planetary motion, his ideas for the music of the spheres were never really taken seriously.

Today, the designers of White vinyl put the idea on a virtual turntable using the ordered the orbital periods to make music. Listen to the result at the website of White Vinyl Design. It’s contemplative, interactive – in a word, a very impressing update of an old idea!

(c) www.whitevinyldesign.com/solarbeat/
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i.

iPad – a new school slate?

Was the old writing slate an inspiration for Apple’s iPad?

People were speculating about something called the iSlate long before the product’s presentation in January 2010. From the very beginning I had the strong impression, that the iPad could be far more than another gadget for geeks, but THE next learning device for all students from primary level to university. What worked in schools 100 years ago should work tomorrow as schools didn’t change a lot since then.

Nostalgic Apple-fans can already order the nice wood case from versaudio for about $80. Maybe that is why the iPad will gain new markets especially in the area of lifelong learning. A journalist put it like that: “Here are some reasons why I will buy an iPad for my Grandma (and not for myself)”.

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