10 Things Our Kids WILL Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution

Dec 20, 2011 by

After reading this list of “10 Things our Kids will Never Worry About Thanks to the Information Revolution” from Forbes, I was inspired to remind people that technology usually creates just as many problems as it solves.  So here’s my list of the new worries created by the Information Revolution.

1. [Will never have to worry about Taking a Typing Class] They will have to worry about … Mastering multiple input methods and keeping track of which ones autocorrect which words badly.  Now you have to master typing on a keyboard, typing on a tablet device, sliding over touch-keys on a Smartphone, using a numeric-only keyboard on a cellphone, using the voice-input from Apple, using the voice-input from Google, or using the voice-input from Microsoft. Each one of these uses different AutoCorrect features and has different oddities.  That’s plenty to worry about.  One bad autocorrect could lose you a job if you’re not careful.

2. [Will never have to worry about Paying Bills by Writing Countless Checks]  They will have to worry about … Losing control of finances because it’s too easy to make impulse purchases.   When all it takes to make an impulse buy is one click on your phone, tablet, or computer, it’s pretty easy to overspend your income.  And, while $0.99 or $4.99 is a pretty inexpensive purchase, those small impulse App purchases add up pretty quickly.

3. [Will never have to worry about Buying an Expensive Set of Encylopedias] They will have to worry about …  Evaluating the Source of their Information.  I’m sure you know an educator or parent who has “banned” Wikipedia.  Now information comes from Twitter, Facebook, Internet Search, online journals, firewalled “scholarly” research journals, Wikipedia, and more.  Is it good information or bad information?  Well, now you have to make that determination too.

4. [Will never have to worry about Using a Pay Phone or Racking Up a Long Distance Bill]  They will have to worry about … Racking Up a Roaming Charge or Data Overage Bill.  The last time I roamed on my phone in Canada (for about 30 minutes), it cost me $27.  The current overage on a wifi hotspot on Sprint is $50 per GB (after you surpass 5 GB a month).   And, for the record, most phone plans DO come with a limitation on certain types of minutes, and the overages on those are NOT cheap.

5. [Will never have to worry about Having to Pay Somebody Else to Develop Photographs]  They will have worry about Managing the Storage and Rights on their Digital Photos and Videos.  Now they need to decide on their photo- and video-sharing strategy.  Where will they store their photos?  On a hard-drive only? (better have a backup system in case the computer is stolen or lost)  In the cloud? (Flickr, Facebook, Picasa, Vimeo, YouTube …)  What kind of access do you want to give to your photos?  Should they be private or public? Private to specific groups or all your friends?  Do you want to copyright the photos?  If so, which copyright should you use? Oh, and did you still want hard copies of some photos? Then you’ll have to purchase and maintain a printer that is capable of printing color photos (together with proper toner or ink + special photo paper).

6. [Will never have to worry about Driving to a Store to Rent a Movie]   They will have to worry about … Violating Copyright by Accident when they Make their own Videos.  The U.S. Copyright laws have become so complex and confusing that you can accidentally violate them when you make a home movie in your living room while some copyrighted song plays on the radio in the background.  One can imagine a future when being sued for copyright infringement is an almost daily occurrence for the average person.

7. [Will never have to worry about  Buying or storing music, movies, or games on physical media.]  They will have to worry about … Being Locked in to a Single Media Device (and Format) Forever.  Kindle books won’t work on Nooks, Nook books won’t work on Kindle, and iTunes songs won’t play on Android.  Once you make your choice of digital format for books, music, and note-taking, you are either locking yourself in forever, or facing a very expensive switch to a new provider at some point.  The choice of media network not only locks you in to a format, but might lock you out of a sharing network with some of your friends.

8. [Will never have to worry about Having to Endlessly Search to Find Unique Content.]  They will have to worry about … Managing the flow from the firehose of information. When I was a kid, you could write a research paper after consulting your school library and your set of Encylopedias.  With the information now available (and having recently written a dissertation) I can say that having too much access to information can make it incredibly difficult to know whether you’ve thoroughly researched your topic.  How much searching is “enough” to say you’re done?

9. [Will never have to worry about Sending Letters.] They will have to worry about … Responding to Communication on a Multitude of Platforms and Networks.  A professional will have to communicate with their colleagues through email, several social networks, texts, and synchronous communication systems.  Not only is this a lot to manage, but each medium requires different etiquette. If you screw up the etiquette of the medium (for example, you use text-speak in an email) you’ll look like an idiot to the receiver.

10. [Will never have to worry about Being without the Internet & instant, ubiquitous connectivity.]  They will have to worry about … Getting enough Sleep and Managing Stress.  In an always-on world, you have to be able to disconnect to stay sane.  Many youth go to sleep with their cell phone on their pillow, unable to disconnect from their social network for even one minute.  As these sleep-deprived teenagers become adults and parents, one can only imagine the damage to their psychological well-being if they are unable to learn to disconnect.

So, yes, there are some things that our kids will not have to worry about thanks to the Information Revolution.  However, I don’t think technology has exactly made it less worrisome to grow up in today’s world.


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Remembering What You’ve Read

Aug 18, 2011 by

While trying to get all my Kindle devices in re-sync (iPad, Kindle, Android, Laptop, and Desktop), I discovered a feature of the browser-based Kindle app that I wasn’t aware of.

Remember the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve?  In 1885, Ebbinghaus showed that we need repeated exposure to information to store it in biological memory … and pretty much we’ve been forgetting things ever since.

I try to build reflection into my learning routines (to take advantage of the Ebbinghouse curve) by doing things like rereading my tweets and the end of the week, organizing ideas into mindmaps, and composing blog posts that bring together ideas.  This Kindle Browser feature helps with that (at least, it will if you remember to use it).

“Daily Review is a tool to help you review and remember the most significant ideas from your books.  It shows you flashcards with either your highlights and notes or the popular highlights from one of your books.  Only books that you have marked as “read” are eligible for review, and Daily Review will take you through all of your read books, one per day.”

The Kindle Daily Reader is getting closer to what I would want Socrait to do, but it’s missing the recall portion.  This app provides the highlights or notes that you have marked important, but you only process them as recognition items.  I still think a forced recall from memory would be more powerful.  Nonetheless, kudos to Kindle for building in this feature … now when can I have it on my Android App?  🙂

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RSS is a “Really Simple Solution”

Nov 12, 2010 by

I am really pleased to announce I’ll be writing a column for MAA Focus called Teaching with Tech.  You can read the first (official) column on the MAA website … RSS is a “Really Simple Solution” to Information Overload.  My goal is to try to alternate between computer technology and classroom technology for as long as I can.  So the next column will be on a technology that many of us find in our classrooms right now.  I’ll leave it as a surprise.

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Agonizing eBook Reader Choice

Aug 16, 2010 by

I have actually stopped buying all books because I’m so torn on this eBook vs regular book thing.  If I’m going to cave and buy an eBook reader, I figure I should stop wasting my money on traditional books.  Why haven’t I taken the plunge? My main worry is that I will accumulate lots of books, notes, and tags in some eBook format, only to have that format go dead on me.  I also have this fear that if I can’t physically SEE the books in my virtual library (like I can on my bookshelves), I’ll forget about the great stuff that is in them.  Despite all the concerns, with the latest price drops from Kindle and Nook, I thought I would ask my tweeps for some help and got several tips that helped me make a decision.
  • If you’d actually like to play with a Kindle, you can physically hold one at Target. [via @bschaaf]  You can play with a Nook at any Barnes & Noble (they are a bit hard-to-miss right now).
  • Amazon’s Kindle platform also works on iPad, iPod Touch, Android, and Blackberry and has a technology called Whispersync which allows you to read simultaneously across platforms.  In other words, start reading the book on your Android phone, pick up where you left off on the Kindle by your bed, and finish the book on your Android.  Whispersync simply tracks where you are in each book so you can always pick up where you left off.  [via @ricetopher, who made a great pitch for Kindle last Sunday]
  • I was also concerned about the inability to “tag” on the Kindle.  I tend to use tags instead of notes (learned how valuable this was in A.nnotate).  So I want to be able to highlight some text and add a tag, but the eBook readers will only let you highlight text and take notes.  I thought this was a dealbreaker for using any eBook reader until @mrch0mp3rs pointed out that a note can become a tag if you use something (like the # symbol) to make sure it will be unique in a search.  So, in my notes, I could simply write my “tags” like this: #faculty #math #change #brainresearch … and then a search for these “hashtags” would function like tagging.
  • The 6″ Kindle will not provide a great experience for PDF reading, the DX would be better, but not on par with tablets or iPads. [via @ricetopher]
  • You can actually surf the web on a Kindle (it’s got an experimental browser window), but it will be in black & white. Not sure how desirable that is.  People were quite curious why I would even want to surf the web on a Kindle in B&W, but you have to remember that not everyone has good Internet at home and the 3G option might be the best option if the only other option is dial-up.
  • Apparently, I’m not the only one struggling with this issue, because at the end of our twitter conversation, we discovered that The New York Times was speculating about the same kind of things in its articleE-Book Wars: The Specialist vs The Multitasker. [via @mrch0mp3rs]

Once you decide to buy something (for me, it was a Kindle), you’ll have to struggle with choosing a size (6″ vs 9″) and a delivery option (WiFi vs 3G).  In the end, I settled with WiFi, since my HTC EVO provides me with WiFi pretty much anywhere there is 3G.  In the end, I just couldn’t resist the $139 pricetag.  If I want a bigger screen, I’ll read on my PC Tablet.  If I want more portability, I’ll read on my Android.  Why am I buying a Kindle?  For the storage space, notetaking, and battery life.  Of course, as soon as I made my purchase, I became immediately annoyed when books don’t appear in the Kindle format, so prepare yourself for that little drawback.

Now I just have to wait for my new Kindle to arrive in the mail, which might take a while – they are a bit back-ordered.

[Update: While I am using Kindle as my eBook reader, I rarely, if ever, use the Kindle device … I use my Android phone or my iPad as the device 99% of the time.]

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Extensions to Make Chrome Work for You

Jun 14, 2010 by

If you’re like me, you eagerly tried out Google Chrome right when it came out, but the lack of Flash support was an absolute killer.  So now I wander back every once in a while (especially when Firefox is crashing).  I like Chrome, and it does seem to run faster (a big concern of mine since I function without broadband Internet at home).  However, the fact that Google Bookmarks did not work with Chrome was a game-stopper.  I use my Google Bookmarks as a “to do” list of sorts, marking links with various labels for the sole purpose of adding them to digital maps or looking them up for articles later.  These are not public collections, nor do I want them to be and I plan to start using it regularly now.

To make a longer blog post short, I just discovered that the extension ecosystem around Google Chrome is now far more robust than it used to be.  Some of these Chrome add-ons (called extensions) are essentially beta (use at your own risk), but Chrome is now a viable option for me.

  • Google Bookmarks can be synced with Chrome using this GBX Google Bookmarks Extension, but Chrome bookmarks (if you have them) cannot be backwards synced.  Yes, there is one for Delicious too.
  • Add a Readability button using this extension.  In one click of the Readability button, you can turn an article with text, ads, and pictures to nothing but easy-to-read text in the default size, color, and background that you choose.
  • If you regularly tweet, like, or email webpages to friends, you might like the ease of Shareaholic, and it too has an  extension for Chrome.  I tried the bit.ly extension, but it seems to be a bit buggy and I wasn’t impressed.
  • Not so long ago, someone told me about AdBlock, which is when I realized that not everyone was being forced to look at the poorly-designed graphic images and animations in Facebook.  There is some ethical quandry about whether it is morally right to block the ads, which are, in fact, keeping the websites funded.  Take it or leave it, I like AdBlock and here’s the extension for Chrome.
  • It used to be that you could only get the cool 3-D wall view of images from Cool Iris in Firefox, but (yay!) this extension is also available in Chrome now.
  • For a totally, indulgence-only extension, try Turn Off the Lights, which you can click to darken the rest of the screen when you’re going to show a video, just like you’re in the movie theater (find this here).
  • Many a time I have been working on a blog post or a conference proposal submission when something causes the browser to crash.  When that happens, you can lose all the carefully worded thoughts you’ve typed in the text boxes.  Well, not if you’re using Lazarus: Form Recovery (not recommended for Mac/Linux yet), which autosaves all those important thoughts.  Here’s the Lazarus extension.

Honestly, I don’t see anything else that is must-have, but maybe you know of some Chrome extension that we should check out?

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SmartBook of the Future

Jan 2, 2009 by

Buzzing from my thoughts about Kindle yesterday, here’s a little glimpse into what the near future might look like …

I am making dinner while listening to a SmartBook on my Google Universal Player. I have a great insight about how what I’ve just heard applies to a course I will be teaching, so I speak into the microphone that is part of my earpiece and tell the book to pause. After I clean my hands, I pull out the device and can see the text of what I just listened to on the screen. Using the touch features of the device, I highlight the part that inspired my thought and then use the microphone to create a voice annotation at that spot (which the player converts to text for the “margin” of the book).

I resume listening, and after a few minutes I hear the small “ding” that signals there is video available related to the material I just heard. I speak into the microphone again, telling the player to go ahead and show me – I hear the question “Screen or Player” and I speak “Screen.” The player uses GPS and the wireless network to determine the nearest screen to its location and the TV that is nearest to me flickers to life and in a few moments, plays the 3-minute Internet video about the content I have just listened to (pulling the content from the Wi-Fi network in my house). When it is finished, the player asks me if I would like to make any additional notes before it continues.

Several hours later, after dinner, I sit down at the computer and pull up the book I am currently learning using the widget on my screen. I have now finished 72% of the book, and I can choose to access my notes alone or the text and notes that I have made. Toggling between these options, I write some new essay questions for a course I will be teaching next semester. Then I tag the notes that I think will be interesting to my friends or students who are also reading/listening to the book, and they are loaded to the Internet. When they reach these passages in the book, they will hear a subtle ding that indicates that someone they are sharing with has added comments there.

The widget also lists some words that I encountered in my reading that it thinks I may not know. I’ve been working to increase my vocabulary and the program uses simple AI and grade-level difficulty of words to make intelligent guesses about words I may not know. I take a few minutes to read through the new words in the context of the book I was just listening to. Using the context, I guess at the definitions and indicate my confidence level about each word from a short list of definitions and get immediate feedback. I knew one of them, but the other four words were new. These will be added to my morning word practice routine – something I do from my player while I am on the treadmill at the gym.

Is this scenario all that far fetched? We have earpieces that double as microphone and headphones. We have handheld devices with touch screens. We have programs that will take your audio instructions and translate them to text via your mobile device. We have mobile devices with built-in GPS. We have programs that assess your learning and prescribe a course of action for you to take to learn more. We have earpieces that double as microphone and headphones. We have devices for your TV that hook into your home’s wireless network and stream movies from the Internet. We have programs that allow us to share bookmarks, comments, and annotations on websites with our chosen friends.

All that’s left is for someone to put it all together.

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