mm229: Writer’s diarrhea, continued

December 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

(… the opposite of writer’s block, right?)

Our wonderful host, WordPress.com, lets us know on its Statistics page what were the leading posts on one’s site for the day, and the day just past. They even provide a link that allows one to learn how many cumulative hits a particular post on one’s site has received over its life.

We mention this because for the first time someone actually was listed as having read post “mm167: Writer’s diarrhea” from 11-October-2007.

So I reread it; damn! I’m good! 😉

Odd that this popped up when it did; it’s the rare post on the topic of blogging; now that WordPress can show how in the Categories listing on the sidebar many times “blogging” has been used as a category, one can learn that it’s been called out here in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© only 15 times in 240+ posts. And of course, I’m certain that constant reader knows that clicking on any category will bring up all of the posts for which the category has been invoked.

So, I reread the entire category; damn! I’m consistently good! 😉

Most days we try not to be too self-referential or navel-gazing, within the constraints of course of the entire concept of blogging, which is built on self-reference and navel-gazing, and the often much too intimate sharing of one’s quotidian banalities.

Ahem. So here we try not to spend too much time in such pursuits, attempting rather to peg the day’s post on one or more external hooks, external being the zillion page world wide web. Once pegged, then one is permitted to be self-referential and navel-gazing, because it’s now in an external context.

No secret that among the zillion blogs out there (WordPress.com says that as of this writing it has 2,020,627 blogs with 71,011 new posts today, and they’re just one good sized corner of the ‘sphere, and I do mean good — love you guys!), there are predictable concentrations of subject matter: religion, politics, the politics of religion, the religion of politicians, etc. This nanocorner has even been known to indulge its political side once or twice (hence the name of the place, (Left-Handed Complement, you know) one supposes).

So yesterday I was harvesting promising stories for potential future posts, and I found this one, on a site that MUDGE is distinctly undercredentialed to be reading, The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Fascinating to me that before I even went to look for my own entries on the topic of why we blog, and why we choose to read certain others’ blogs, someone came to WordPress’s notice, and mm167 showed up in the stats. Meant to be, I guess.

chroniclehighered

The Polarization of Extremes

By CASS R. SUNSTEIN

In 1995 the technology specialist Nicholas Negroponte predicted the emergence of “the Daily Me” — a newspaper that you design person-ally, with each component carefully screened and chosen in advance. For many of us, Negroponte’s prediction is coming true. As a result of the Internet, personalization is everywhere. If you want to read essays arguing that climate change is a fraud and a hoax, or that the American economy is about to collapse, the technology is available to allow you to do exactly that. If you are bored and upset by the topic of genocide, or by recent events in Iraq or Pakistan, you can avoid those subjects entirely. With just a few clicks, you can find dozens of Web sites that show you are quite right to like what you already like and think what you already think.

Actually you don’t even need to create a Daily Me. With the Internet, it is increasingly easy for others to create one for you. If people know a little bit about you, they can discover, and tell you, what “people like you” tend to like — and they can create a Daily Me, just for you, in a matter of seconds. If your reading habits suggest that you believe that climate change is a fraud, the process of “collaborative filtering” can be used to find a lot of other material that you are inclined to like. Every year filtering and niche marketing become more sophisticated and refined. Studies show that on Amazon, many purchasers can be divided into “red-state camps” and “blue-state camps,” and those who are in one or another camp receive suitable recommendations, ensuring that people will have plenty of materials that cater to, and support, their predilections.

Credit for finding this article goes to the consistently phenomenal and charter member of the blogroll blogroll2 Arts & Letters Daily, a regular read long before we ventured into the scary practice of creating content (derivative though it may be frownie_thumb[1] ) rather than simply consuming it.

Of course, Cass Sunstein’s focus is on those Web 2.0 sites that tailor content to the scourings of past choices; Amazon.com still represents the ultimate commercial application: you bought this, other folks who bought this bought that, we think you might like the other.

There are news aggregation sites that do the same, picking up on what you click on, and presenting you with more of the same. Thoof.com is an extreme example, and Mixx.com an even more recent and slightly more high minded one.

In Sunstein’s observation, backed by the Colorado experiment cited, once one finds oneself with like-minded people in such sites, reading like-minded bloggers, that mass of like-mindedness tilts one further toward the extreme end of whatever spectrum is on the table.

The Internet makes it exceedingly easy for people to replicate the Colorado experiment online, whether or not that is what they are trying to do. Those who think that affirmative action is a good idea can, and often do, read reams of material that support their view; they can, and often do, exclude any and all material that argues the other way. Those who dislike carbon taxes can find plenty of arguments to that effect. Many liberals jump from one liberal blog to another, and many conservatives restrict their reading to points of view that they find congenial. In short, those who want to find support for what they already think, and to insulate themselves from disturbing topics and contrary points of view, can do that far more easily than they can if they skim through a decent newspaper or weekly newsmagazine.

And the person with moderate views leaning in one direction continues to read, the leaning’s become a tilt, which reinforced by continual one-sided content, becomes polarization.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Polarization of Extremes – ChronicleReview.com

Thus far, 7½ months in, we don’t feel too polarized, except maybe on a few choice topics: Bloomberg for President, One Laptop Per Child, UAVs, web conferencing (boy am I overdue there!).

Covers a spectrum, one hopes, of interests and political positions, nothing too middle of the road, but nothing extremely polarizing either.

We’ll endeavor to remain open minded. Tell us if we’re not, won’t you?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm219: One Laptop per Child — Harvard speaks

December 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Previous entries on this topic:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word
mm212: Cheap computing…

olpc7926

It’s a topic that just won’t quit: One Laptop Per Child. MUDGE‘s older son (the term “MUDGElet No. 2″ isn’t sufficiently dignified for the rarefied confines of Harvard, donchaknow) is a 2005 masters graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and obviously stays in touch.

He forwarded us a link to this story from Harvard Business School (HBS), aware as he is (hmmm, must be faithful reader! Loyalty hasn’t disappeared! Or at least, polite indulgence for the old man…) of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s interest in Nicholas Negroponte’s intriguing initiative.

So, though we came late to the story, this past summer, as the PR machinery geared up in preparation for first deliveries, it’s been brewing, as any ambitious project would be, for several years. Thus there are already lessons to be learned, especially marketing lessons, and HBS would like to teach them to us.

harvardbusinessschool

HBS Cases: One Laptop per Child

Q&A with: John A. Quelch  |  Published: December 10, 2007

Author: Martha Lagace

Drop it on the ground. Sprinkle water on its surface. Let it sit in the sun and expose it to swarms of dust—the XO laptop is designed to handle most any abuse from a child. But the journey of the XO laptop from concept to the educational tool for the world’s poorest children is turning out to be a bit more complicated than originally anticipated.

A new Harvard Business School case study called “Marketing the ‘$100 PC'” spells out these opportunities, problems, and challenges from a marketing point of view. As the case asks, can the laptop move out of the realm of “great idea, great gadget” and improve the educational possibilities for children in impoverished environments?

The concept explored is “action pricing,” where a product is developed, as an immense stretch, to meet a very low price, definitely the strategy pursued by OLPC.

The technological challenge was complex: create a tool that would be useful yet attractive to school children, with the strength to stand up to careless and primitive environments, with a screen visible in bright light, a battery capable of receiving power through multiple inexpensive means (a pull cord, a detachable solar panel), and with networking capabilities to teach cooperation and collaboration, all for $100.

So, $188 is not $100, but let’s face it, $100 isn’t $100 any more (try $109.21, and that doesn’t factor in the price of gasoline), so that’s hardly a knock.

The marketing challenge remains difficult:

“While on the surface it is a laudable vision to get one laptop to each child, and the motives are pristine, there are stumbling blocks in implementation,” observes Quelch.

The conservative nature of governments, complex bureaucracy, and decision-making hurdles can all interfere with early public sector adoption of even the most worthy innovation, he says. This slower-than-expected adoption and diffusion may have surprised the leaders of OLPC.

And finally, OLPC faces what has to be gut-wrenching competition from the fiercely competitive computer industry, who, never letting “not invented here” bother them ever, have leapt into the fray. Guess what, you don’t have to be a non-profit to sell computers for $200 — imagine what they really must cost to manufacture!

So, while I’ve cherry-picked the article, it’s still worth a visit. You even get the opportunity to purchase the case itself, if you’re interested in adding the subject to your own marketing/business curriculum.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

HBS Cases: One Laptop per Child — HBS Working Knowledge

Give One Get One is still running, and remains a worthy cause, especially if you follow Left-Handed Complement’s  suggestion to “Give One, Give One”, with the second one directed toward a third world nation closer to home, Mississippi, for example.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm212: Cheap computing in the news

December 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention_thumb2

We’ve appreciatively quoted John C. Dvorak here at Left-Handed Complement. First, because he writes about computer-based topics that interest me. Second, he writes quite well. Third, because his curmudgeonly chops put a guy named MUDGE to shame.

Today he weighs in on a familiar topic to L-HC reader, One Laptop Per Child. Dvorak, the curmudgeon’s curmudgeon, takes a pretty good swat at a program that we’ve enthusiastically followed for the past few months. For a history of our posts on this topic, you may peruse the links here:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!
mm203: OLPC: News; discouraging word

pcmag

One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Change the World

Does anyone but me see the OLPC XO-1 as an insulting “let them eat cake” sort of message to the world’s poor?

by John C. Dvorak

Hands Across America, Live AID, the Concert for Bangladesh, and so on. The American (and world) public has witnessed one feel-good event (and the ensuing scandals) after another. Each one manages to assuage our guilt about the world’s problems, at least a little. Now these folks think that any sort of participation in these events, or even their good thoughts about world poverty and starvation, actually help. Now they can sleep at night. It doesn’t matter that nothing has really changed.

This is how I view the cute, little One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO-1 computer, technology designed for the impoverished children of Africa and Alabama. This machine, which is the brainchild of onetime MIT media lab honcho Nick Negroponte, will save the world. His vision is to supply every child with what amounts to an advertising delivery mechanism. Hence the boys at Google are big investors.

Dvorak’s point: this program is a little like Marie Antoinette: “They’re starving, let them eat little green computers!”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

One Laptop Per Child Doesn’t Change the World – Columns by PC Magazine

Whew, John! That emperor really is stumbling down the parade route starkers!

He does make a strong point, but I still like the initiative. Yes large swaths of the globe are starving, thirsty, and ignorant that there is anything better out there and how to get it. Yes, we need to send those folks food, pharmaceuticals, water purifiers.

But John, we can also send them practical educational devices, in the form of cute, green computers.

Maybe OLPC will help teach that world to feed, clothe and sustain themselves.

shortattention_thumb2[6]

We actually found Dvorak when researching this next item. The folks at Zonbu have also struck again. We actually linked to our original post in the list above, here it is again. Never let it be said we at L-HC don’t deliver on the promise of Sequitur Service©.

Zonbu Launches ‘Green’ Laptop

by Tony Hoffman

zonbunotebook

Zonbu, maker of the Zonbu Mini desktop PC, has announced a notebook computer along the same lines, to be manufactured by Everex.

The Zonbu Notebook is designed to be environmentally friendly, with lower power usage and less hazardous material than normal laptops, and proper recycling techniques.

We wrote about the original desktop Zonbu, and compared it to OLPC. They both represent a reasonably clean sheet of paper as far as their attempts to reinvent computing in a basic, efficient, manifestly less costly way.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Zonbu Launches ‘Green’ Laptop – News and Analysis by PC Magazine

Have a guy on our blogroll2 who has been talking up Zonbu; check him out if you like. I am always a fan of paying less, but I hardly think any of these devices are meant for the likes of yr humble svt. But, as I wrote previously,

Maybe someday, even MUDGE will pay less than $1200 for a PC. Never happened yet, since as prices per component go down, the sheer number of additional must-have components seems to have kept the price level, or growing. Maybe this paradigm shift will finally break that pattern.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm203: One Laptop Per Child — News, and a discouraging word

November 23, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

One of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©‘s favorite topics for the past few months, the One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicolas Negroponte and his non-proft spin-off from MIT, is back in the news today. Here are many of our previous posts:

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …
mm179: OLPC for India after all?
mm189: OLPC cranks up!

Today, the “Give One, Get One” “civilian” donation program has been extended.

By RODRIQUE NGOWI | The Associated Press

12:10 AM CST, November 23, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A promotion in which a customer buying a $188 computer in the U.S. and Canada automatically donates a second one to a child in a developing country was extended until year’s end, organizers said Thursday.
The “Give One, Get One” program will now run through Dec. 31, instead of ending on Nov. 26, according to the One Laptop Per Child Program, a nonprofit spinoff from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Always felt that two weeks was artificially short — after all the end of year gift/donation period lasts all the way to the end of the year.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

One Laptop Per Child extends promotion until year’s end — chicagotribune.com

Of course, Newton’s law makes mandatory an equal and opposite reaction to the mostly positive news generated by this program.

From a site not before encountered comes the following two recent curmudgeonly observations, and we always make room for a fellow contrarian:

techdirt

from the soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations dept

The One-Laptop-per-Child project, which the press is still referring to as the “$100 laptop” despite the fact that it now costs twice that, finally began rolling off the assembly line this week. What’s most striking about the effort is how dramatically Nicholas Negroponte has had to scale back his formerly lofty ambitions to get the project off the ground. He initially said that they’d need 3 million orders before they started production.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Techdirt: Dramatically Scaled-Back OLPC Begins Production

from the isn’t-technology-supposed-to-get-cheaper? dept

I’ll admit it. I’ve never quite understood the rationale behind the $100 laptop (or OLPC or whatever it’s being called these days). Yes, it’s a noble goal to get technology into the hands of people around the world with the hope that they can do something productive with it — but a big top down attempt to build something without much actual user feedback seems destined to fail.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Techdirt: Price Of The $100 Laptop Going In The Wrong Direction

Many a time, lofty goals founder on the shoals of the real world. Okay, $100 became $188, but one wonders what exactly has happened to the dollar itself in the several years since this project was born.

We know what happened to the dollar: it has lost much ground vs. the rest of the world, thanks to our kill-taxes-but-spend-stupendously administration of George III. One might imagine that had the project been denominated in Euros that its final cost might well have stayed closer to its initial target. So that feels like petty and carping argument.

MUDGE is still prepared to give OLPC the benefit of the doubt — the lofty goals thing deserves at least that.

And as we’ve been suggesting in this space,

I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season is well upon us, why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1″ to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm189: OLPC cranks up!

November 10, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Time to play catch up with the good stuff that has been piling up in the drafts section of MUDGE‘s Windows Live Writer.

Today, the latest on one of our most intriguing ongoing stories, that of One Laptop Per Child. Some previous posts, which go all the way back to mm088, can be found here and here.

giveonegetone

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN
AP Technology Writer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — The One Laptop Per Child Program, which hopes to spread sub-$200 computers to schoolchildren in developing countries, has reached a milestone with the start of mass production.

The nonprofit spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said assembly lines for its “XO” laptops were fired up Tuesday at a Chinese factory run by manufacturer Quanta Computer Inc. That means children should begin getting the green-and-white computers this month.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Wired News – AP News

olpc7926_thumb2

The OLPC Give One Get One program, which, as they remind us, will be the only time the XO will be available to the public, begins Monday, 12-November-2007 and runs through 26-November.

And, remember L-HC’s take:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond.

If this promotion serves to prime the production pump, so as to assure economic deliveries to the nations like Peru and Mexico and Italy (for Ethiopia — now that’s fitting!) that have committed to the project, then it’s absolutely worthwhile.

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

The world is all too full of extraordinarily worthy causes. This one works like planting a tree (two, actually): this initiative could make our world a smarter place. And smart is a quality in all too short supply.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm179: Short Attention Span Blogging 29-Oct-2007 edition

October 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

shortattention

We do this every so often here at L-HC, when the press of that darned pesky real life intrudes on quality blogging time.

Here are three recent stories that grabbed MUDGE‘s interest, and we hope it will pique yours.

First: What Global Warming?

greenland

nytimes

By SARAH LYALL

NARSARSUAQ, Greenland — A strange thing is happening at the edge of Poul Bjerge’s forest, a place so minute and unexpected that it brings to mind the teeny plot of land Woody Allen’s father carries around in the film “Love and Death.”

Its four oldest trees — in fact, the four oldest pine trees in Greenland, named Rosenvinge’s trees after the Dutch botanist who planted them in a mad experiment in 1893 — are waking up. After lapsing into stately, sleepy old age, they are exhibiting new sprinklings of green at their tops, as if someone had glued on fresh needles.

“The old ones, they’re having a second youth,” said Mr. Bjerge, 78, who has watched the forest, called Qanasiassat, come to life, in fits and starts, since planting most of the trees in it 50 years ago. He beamed like a proud grandson. “They’re growing again.”

When using the words “growing” in connection with Greenland in the same sentence, it is important to remember that although Greenland is the size of Europe, it has only nine conifer forests like Mr. Bjerge’s, all of them cultivated. It has only 51 farms. (They are all sheep farms, although one man is trying to raise cattle. He has 22 cows.) Except for potatoes, the only vegetables most Greenlanders ever eat — to the extent that they eat vegetables at all — are imported, mostly from Denmark.

Everybody knows that global warming is a nefarious invention of Al Gore and every other lefty in the world.

I’m sure that this story is totally fabricated.

Everybody knows Iceland is green, and Greenland is icy.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Warming Revives Flora and Fauna in Greenland – New York Times

shortattention

Next: To the moon, China!

nytimes

BEIJING, Oct. 24 — With a regional space race heating up in Asia, China launched its first lunar probe on Wednesday as the Communist Party moved a step closer to fulfilling its ambitions of one day reaching the moon.

Andy Wong/Associated Press

An animated image of the launch of China’s lunar orbiter broadcast on a large screen today in Beijing.

The Chang’e-1 satellite, named after a Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, lifted off at 6:05 p.m. Officials and tourists watched the launching at a site in Sichuan Province, while state television provided coverage to the rest of the nation.

Next thing you know, we’ll be reading that China’s banks are buying into U.S. banks. Oh, wait…

bw_255x65

Bear’s Chinese Pal
It may not be a lifeline, but at least it’s a vote of confidence. On Oct. 23, state-owned Chinese brokerage Citic Securities agreed to invest $1 billion in beleaguered investment bank Bear Stearns (BSC ). Citic will buy 40-year convertible trust preferred securities equal to 6% of Bear’s shares, with the option to boost the stake to 9.9%. In return, Bear will pay $1 billion for six-year convertible debt representing a 2% stake in Citic, with an option to go to 5%. Citic isn’t the only cash-flush foreign institution taking advantage of U.S. bank stocks that have been whacked by the subprime crisis and stagnant earnings. Expect more deals in the months ahead.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

China Sends Its First Probe for the Moon Into Space – New York Times

shortattention

Finally: One Laptop Per Child for India after all?

As noted before, an entire brochure could be developed around our posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission
mm170: Technology and Ed …

Here’s the latest wrinkle. India, who originally dissed OLPC (intending, apparently, to adopt a home grown product), has taken a new look, now that OLPC is no longer vaporware.

cnncomtechnology

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (AP) — The so-called $100 laptops for children may make it to India after all.

art.100.dollar.laptop.jpg

Children in a rural, one-room school in the Indian state of Maharashtra are using the computers.

Last year,India rebuffed One Laptop Per Child, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology spinoff that created rugged little computers for kids in the developing world.

…. a pilot test began recently in which 22 children in first through fourth grades in a rural, one-room school in the Indian state of Maharashtra are using the computers.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

$100 laptop program still eyes India – CNN.com

This program deserves our support. I’ll repeat my polite request for your attention:

It’s real people. And I’ll repeat my proposal from last time we discussed this initiative:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond….

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are almost sold out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm170: Technology and Education — A Debate!

October 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Left-Handed Complement didn’t start as an education weblog, although we reserve the right to comment on any subject any time.

In retrospect, no special expectation for education topics was probably unrealistic on my part.

While under-credentialed, MUDGE has done more than his share of instruction in corporate environments over the past bunch of years, and indeed, earns a living doing a lot of training.

Under-credentialed. Highly successful. Go figure.

So it’s probably not an accident that education, especially as enhanced by technology, has been featured multiple times in this space over the past more than five months of its active existence.

For example, an entire brochure could be developed around our posts on the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

mm088: Meet the XO
mm089: Amateur mapmaking…
mm099: A $99 Desktop…
mm149: India’s take…
mm153: By a Laptop, Get one…
mm162: Laptop with a Mission

And the topic of education in general has not been ignored.

mm067.1: Why I love…
mm106: Are we failing.. geniuses?
mm110: Grading mayoral control…
mm160: UC Berkeley first to post..

All this is prelude to the point of this post: The Economist, the best magazine on the planet, is sponsoring a debate this week on their website, www.economist.com/debate:

economist

Technology and Education — This house believes that the introduction of new technologies and new media adds little to the quality of most education.

Now, an Economist debate is not your League of Women Voters or CNN haphazardly posturing beauty contest.

Traditional Oxford-style debate

Oxford-style debate is most famously practised by the Oxford Union, the debating society of Oxford University. The Oxford Union’s invigorating debating chamber has yielded generations of British parliamentarians, lawyers, journalists and other accomplished advocates.

The Oxford style of debate is characterised by its formality and structure. Debates are hosted by a moderator and take place between two teams, the “proposition” and the “opposition”.

It began Monday October 15th (today for MUDGE as this is written, yesterday in the UK) with erudite opening statements from the highly credentialed proponent and his equally qualified opposition. Readers can register to vote (and change their vote as the debate progresses — how cool is that?) during the course of the eight days of the debate.

My instincts are that technology can only help education.

But, I’ve always believed this, where education (and almost any other field of human endeavor) is concerned.

After all, at heart, I am a technologist, fascinated even by the history of technology.

A personal story comes to mind, bubbling up after nearly 30 years.

It’s the late ’70s, and your future correspondent / education expert is, of course, under-credentialed but always creative (at least in his own mind).

His two (at the time) children are just beginning elementary school, and through the Parent Teachers Association, future-MUDGE is invited to a curriculum review session held for interested parents under the auspices of the school district administration.

This was (and is) a community that took (takes) immense pride in its efforts to provide high quality education to its students. How successful the effort is, is a matter of constant controversy, which seems, sorry to say for a community prideful of its integration record, to line up on racial boundaries.

Digression aside, this discussion is arithmetic and mathematics for the early grades. Remember it’s the late ’70s, portable calculators are coming down in price every moment, but still seem exotic, especially in a school environment.

I suggest, “How about issuing every child a calculator? This way, their understanding of higher order math problems won’t get hung up by concern over errors of simple arithmetic.”

The answer: Interesting idea. Of course we have no budget for calculators. It’s all we can do to make sure we have sufficient books for our students.

Here’s the gold-plated (for 1978) suggestion:

Talk to a text book publisher (and this is a town influential with publishers):

Suggest that they bind a calculator (they’re coming down in price every day!) into the arithmetic/mathematics text book.

This way, the district would be purchasing books, satisfying all statutory requirements, and our children could learn math without tripping over rote arithmetic.

Of course the over-credentialed functionaries never took the suggestion seriously. After all, what did future-MUDGE, a mere civilian, know about EDUCATION?

So one wonders what use is actually gotten out of computers in today’s thirty years on elementary school classrooms.

A curmudgeon might guess: not very much.

Read the Proposition in the Economist debate, and the statistics seem to favor that depressing observation.

Oddly, for MUDGE, I remain optimistic about the application of technology to education, and a fervent supporter of One Laptop Per Child.

Just the way the cellular telephone leapfrogged more than 100 years of ferociously expensive and painfully achieved infrastructure development to provide cheap and instant communications to even the remotest developing world village, so in the same paradigm shifting way can OLPC do the same for that village’s schoolhouse, and all this planet’s schoolhouses.

But, follow that debate this week in The Economist (and isn’t this a useful and most timely discussion for them to sponsor?). Go over to www.economist.com/debate and check it out.

You could even tell them MUDGE sent you (not that they’d ask, or care!).

And remember, as the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm167: Writer’s Diarrhea

October 11, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

… is the opposite of writer’s block, right?

So another blog about blogging. Why bother? Take two Imodium and call me in the morning.

There’s never a lack of news and features to write about. Although, today…

There are frequently referenced topics in this space that could stand another post, MUDGE: web conferencing, our latest profession.

Or, the odd current interest (some of you must feel) in UAVs: unmanned aerial vehicles or, robot aircraft.

Or, politics: impeachment (first Cheney, then Bush); Michael Bloomberg; this horribly mismanaged war.

Or, air travel, probably our most popular topic (thanks, Patrick Smith [who actually noticed and commented on one of our several references to his wonderful column — talk about finding a plankton in the Pacific]!).

Or, technology, especially One Laptop Per Child, a wonderful initiative deserving of everyone’s support.

But not today.

Spent spare time today reading about blogs and blogging. As I evaluate my efforts according to some of the experts, I give myself a grade of B+. Ignoring the experts, who probably would hold their noses and call L-HC a D+.

Because, of course, there are so few readers. And of course, there’s no monetization going on (just as well, since there are so few readers). So, why bother?

It doesn’t take much reflection to realize that the millions of bloggers out there are primarily, with some gaudy exceptions, keeping personal journals. A custom, and habit, recently revived from the eighteenth and 19th centuries.

The difference is that what used to be kept locked up in a desk or closet is now published to the world in a technological tour de force unprecedented in history. And no quill pens, ink wells and blotters required.

Quantitatively, even with billions of potential readers out there, most of the millions of blogs and bloggers will go unnoticed.

Qualitatively, most of us deserve the lack of notice.

But, this newly awakened urge to write, for most of us, is probably not about notice. It’s about expression.

After scores of years passively accepting written and broadcast news and entertainment, we’re once again entertaining ourselves, by writing.

And our diaries, no longer locked away in desk drawers, hang out as strings of electronic plankton just waiting for an admiring public to suck them in through the baleen called Firefox.

For most of us a few people pop in occasionally, and once in a while a small fraction of those take the trouble to comment about what they’ve read.

Thanks for noticing!

And, thanks, also, to the experts, whose blogs about blogging make for interesting reading.

A few who made an impression (in no particular sequence), a couple of whom have today earned a spot in the L-HC blogroll blogroll2 :

Any of these are worthy of some time and attention, should you be interested in improving your game, or joining this phenomenon of the Naughts: the electronic diary.

And yes, I’m an easy grader. The B+ is because I enjoy reading what I write.

A hobby that gives one pleasure (and prevents one’s brains leaking out due to any exposure to “Are you smarter than a fifth grader?”) seems like a worthy end in itself, regardless of its infinitesimal interest outside this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©.

And if this hobby fills a few moments of a few intrepid readers’ spare time, sparing them from “CSI Omaha,” how bad can it be?

Not bad at all. B+ for sure.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm162: Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience

October 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

olpc7926

As the November launch date for the XO approaches, the news, save for the price, keeps getting better.

The XO, as regular reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© no doubt recalls (and such links as this, this and this will help jog the memory), is the long-awaited One Laptop Per Child initiative of Nicholas Negroponte come to fruition.

And now, the respected David Pogue of the NYTimes weighs in with his advance report.

And here’s the essence:

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

It’s a rave review.

nytimes

By DAVID POGUE

Published: October 4, 2007

In November, you’ll be able to buy a new laptop that’s spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It’s fanless, it’s silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.

And this laptop will cost $200.

The computer, if you hadn’t already guessed, is the fabled “$100 laptop” that’s been igniting hype and controversy for three years. It’s an effort by One Laptop Per Child (laptop.org) to develop a very low-cost, high-potential, extremely rugged computer for the two billion educationally underserved children in poor countries.

The concept: if a machine is designed smartly enough, without the bloat of standard laptops, and sold in large enough quantities, the price can be brought way, way down. Maybe not down to $100, as O.L.P.C. originally hoped, but low enough for developing countries to afford millions of them — one per child.

XO is a technological tour de force.

The truth is, the XO laptop, now in final testing, is absolutely amazing, and in my limited tests, a total kid magnet. Both the hardware and the software exhibit breakthrough after breakthrough — some of them not available on any other laptop, for $400 or $4,000.

Of course, XO has its detractors. Gearheads complain that it’s underpowered and fully functioning laptops can be purchased for $400 today. As Pogue points out, missing the point entirely. It’s not for you, guys.

And, ministers of education (and their superiors, I’m betting) in many developing nations apparently feel threatened by the implications of such an interconnected, and Internet-connected, resource in so many millions of hands.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Laptop With a Mission Widens Its Audience – New York Times

I hope that every child in the developing world get’s a chance to use the XO — and as I’ve stated here before, a lot of U.S. kids live in developing world conditions as far as housing and education are concerned.

And, based on what we’ve all seen of the value of the dollar lately, $188 is the new $100. So, don’t beat up OLPC on price — ramp up production and watch what happens. And if it doesn’t, based on Pogue’s evaluation, it’s a dazzler even at today’s price.

And imagine some of the older children tuning into UC Berkeley’s YouTube courses. This all can’t happen soon enough. And, you can help!

It’s real people. And I’ll repeat my proposal from last time we discussed this initiative:

This is a wonderful cause, and I would think that people who would find a $399 purchase with a 50% charitable component affordable might also wish, as the story suggests, to donate the PC they’re entitled to a (not third world, but certainly third rate) school in this country.

God knows that there are pockets of the third world within these preciously regarded borders of ours, many within our biggest cities. Then it becomes a $399 charitable contribution, serving to further education among the deserving needy in our own country as well as beyond….

As the giving season looms (the pumpkins are out, after all!), why not add OLPC’s “Give 1, Get 1” to your planning (orders to be taken Nov. 12–26); and as MUDGE recommends, just make that slight adjustment and you can call it “Give 1 (there), Give 1 (here).”

And we’ll give the eloquent David Pogue the last word:

… Despite all the obstacles and doubters, O.L.P.C. has come up with a laptop that’s tough and simple enough for hot, humid, dusty locales; cool enough to keep young minds engaged, both at school and at home; and open, flexible and collaborative enough to support a million different teaching and learning styles.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm160: UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube

October 3, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Lots of children have been left behind, in this country where that Bush administration typical Potemkin Village of an initiative has dashed more hopes than fulfilled them; and around the world, where surviving to age 18 is a challenge, much less becoming minimally educated.

But when every child does get that laptop, UC Berkeley will be ready for them (at least when they get a little more learning under their belts!).

cnet

YouTube is now an important teaching tool at UC Berkeley.

The school announced on Wednesday that it has begun posting entire course lectures on the Web’s No.1 video-sharing site.

Berkeley officials claimed in a statement that the university is the first to make full course lectures available on YouTube. The school said that over 300 hours of videotaped courses will be available at youtube.com/ucberkeley.

Berkeley said it will continue to expand the offering. The topics of study found on YouTube included chemistry, physics, biology and even a lecture on search-engine technology given in 2005 by Google cofounder Sergey Brin.

And, all YouTube content is free to the viewer, right?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

UC Berkeley first to post full lectures to YouTube | Tech news blog – CNET News.com

Click one of the links, and enjoy some higher ed.

In the dark, dark ages of MUDGE‘s youth, the gold standard of information for the home was Encyclopaedia Britannica. In the ’50s, owning such a set was as aspirational as the filled two car garage, and represented a considerable expense for many families.

Now, Wikipedia and its like has democratized the encyclopedia, perhaps to the detriment of nano-accuracy, but it’s brilliant and self correcting in the main, and it’s free to all. All with PC and Internet access, of course, where OLPC comes in.

Today, UC Berkeley is showing the way toward liberating higher education.

Some days even a curmudgeon can’t help but smile.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE