About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for January 14th, 2009

Rural Broadband Initiative

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The Digital Policy Institute (DPI) is an independent think tank within the Ball State University (BSU) academic community is proposing the Obama administration fund a Rural Broadband Initiative infrastructure project to extend broadband telecommunications to 5.9 million access lines, creating more than 200,000 new jobs, while targeting rural communities that do not currently enjoy advanced telecommunications access.

White paper: The Rural Broadband Initiative: Deploying Next-Generation Broadband Service to Rural America (pdf)

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Informal Settings Can Boost Science Learning

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A report by the National Research Council concludes that experiences in informal settings can significantly improve science learning.

The report, written by a committee co-chaired by  Philip Bell and Bruce V. Lewenstein outlines six “strands” of science learning that can happen in informal settings, and these strands could help refine evaluations of how well people are learning in these environments.  For example, learners can experience excitement and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world.  They can come to understand and use concepts and facts related to science.  They can learn how scientists actually conduct their work using specialized tools and equipment.  And they can develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science.

Some of the conclusions are:

– There is strong evidence that educational television can help people learn about science, although few studies have been done on the effects of other media, including digital media, video games, and radio.

– There is also some evidence that participation in informal science learning — for example, volunteering in the collection of scientific data — can promote informed civic engagement on science-related issues such as local environmental concerns, says the report.

– Experiences in informal settings can significantly improve science learning outcomes for individuals from groups which are historically underrepresented in science, such as women and minorities.  Evaluations of museum-based and after-school programs suggest that these programs may also support academic gains for children and youth in these groups.

The report offers recommendations for people who design programs in these settings, such as the creators of museum exhibits.  The programs and environments should be interactive and designed with specific learning goals in mind.  They should provide multiple ways for learners to engage with concepts within a single setting.  And they should prompt visitors to interpret what they have learned in light of their prior experiences and interests.

Report: Museums, Zoos, After-School Programs Boost Science Learning

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Internet Safety Technical Task Force Report Released

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The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University today released the final report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, a group of 29 leading Internet businesses, non-profit organizations, academics, and technology companies that joined together for a year-long investigation of tools and technologies to create a safer environment on the Internet for youth.

The Task Force was created in February 2008 in accordance with the Joint Statement on Key Principles of Social Networking Safety announced in January 2008 by the Attorneys General Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking and MySpace. The report was delivered to the 52 Attorneys General in December, 2008.

The reports conclusions form the executive summary are:

– Sexual predation on minors by adults, both online and offline, remains a concern. Sexual predation in all its forms, including when it involves statutory rape, is an abhorrent crime. Much of the research based on law-enforcement cases involving Internet-related child exploitation predated the rise of social networks. This research found that cases typically involved post-pubescent youth who were aware that they were meeting an adult male for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity. The Task Force notes that more research specifically needs to be done concerning the activities of sex offenders in social network sites and other online environments, and encourages law enforcement to work with researchers to make more data available for this purpose. Youth report sexual solicitation of minors by minors more frequently, but these incidents, too, are understudied, underreported to law enforcement, and not part of most conversations about online safety.

– Bullying and harassment, most often by peers, are the most frequent threats that minors face, both online and offline.

– The Internet increases the availability of harmful, problematic and illegal content, but does not always increase minors’ exposure. Unwanted exposure to pornography does occur online, but those most likely to be exposed are those seeking it out, such as older male minors. Most research focuses on adult pornography and violent content, but there are also concerns about other content, including child pornography and the violent, pornographic, and other problematic content that youth themselves generate.

– The risk profile for the use of different genres of social media depends on the type of risk, common uses by minors, and the psychosocial makeup of minors who use them. Social network sites are not the most common space for solicitation and unwanted exposure to problematic content, but are frequently used in peer-to-peer harassment, most likely because they are broadly adopted by minors and are used primarily to reinforce pre-existing social relations.

-Minors are not equally at risk online. Those who are most at risk often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives. The psychosocial makeup of and  family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.

– Although much is known about these issues, many areas still require further research. For example, too little is known about the interplay among risks and the role that minors themselves play in contributing to unsafe environments.

Report download site: Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies

New York Times article reporting some of the Attorneys General reactions: Report Calls Online Threats to Children Overblown

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 5:50 pm

Technology Disparities in Wichita Falls Schools

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The stampede of technology is kicking up so much dust in Wichita Falls schools that a new inequity is quickly emerging. The fortunate schools that have and use their technology well, and those who can’t afford much and are quickly falling behind.

Article: High tech, no tech

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 5:29 pm

Online Education Reviewed in Science

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In the January 2 issue, as part of a special section on Technology and Education, Science published a review of online education.

The article authors,  A Frank Mayadas, John Bourne and Paul Bacsich assert that “The millennials [students born after 1980] are changing the way teaching and learning must be approached. Mobile learning with podcasts, text messaging, and virtual worlds will be the future norm, giving faculty new tools through which to extend and enhance the educational experience.”

The article limited discussion to online education in traditional, degree-granting institutions. They included “blended courses” that featured both online and face-to-face time. Points they make include: annual enrollment has increased by about 20% per year for the past six years; about half the enrollments are full-time students attracted to online-learning because of convenience or scheduling; most enrollments are at public institutions, all of which offer some online instruction; only about half of the traditional private institutions offer for-credit online courses; the 3.94 million students taught online represent about 22% of the estimated national student population; the adjunct/permanent faculty ratio teaching online courses mirrors the ratio found in face-to-face teaching; online instructors assert that preparing and teaching online courses is more time-intensive than for face-to-face courses; online enrollments are dominated by traditional institutions rather than  for-profit ones; institutions that have adopted online education are viewing it as a strategic asset.

Article: Online Education Today (subscription)

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 5:16 pm

The Prado in Google Earth

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Google Earth has added the technology to navigate reproductions of Spain’s Prado Museum masterpieces. The images of these works are about 14,000 million pixels, 1,400 times more detailed than the image a 10 megapixel digital camera would take. In addition, you’ll be able to see a  3D reproduction of the museum.

Google Earth Prado Webpage: The Prado in Google Earth

Written by Al Stevens

January 14th, 2009 at 1:06 pm