Apple issues

I am exploring whether or not I can do my work without a laptop. I am spending a good part of the winter in Kauai. My MacBook Pro has stopped starting or at least I cannot keep it going for very long. It also tries starting on its own, repeatedly and in the middle of the night. This is very weird, but it has been reported by others. I have my iPad Pro with me, but the keyboard does not work. I have not bothered to take the iPad in because I seldom write long pieces on the iPad.

I have a camera that has WiFi so I have figuired how to get individual photos off the camera. This is not an easy process, but I can at least post a few Hawaii photos. Using Blogger is an issue if you want to include an image, because Google discontinued its own app and blocked several others that used to work. I finally found an app Google seems to accept. Reading research PDFs is a problem. I have yet to determine how to download journal article pdfs to EndNote or  Mendeley. This is easy if you first add from a computer, but not easy from a mobile device.

I also have no alternative for Dreamweaver do the web site will have to remain as it is for a month. I understand starting from scratch some of these issues would not require a computer, but switching after becoming dependent is very challenging.

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Atkinson’s Photocard

If you are an iPad user, take a look at Bill Atkinson’s PhotoCard. This app allows you to take an image from your photo collection, have it printed, and then mailed. The cost per card is inferior $2 and the results are spectacular. If you are cheap, you can send the cards by email, but this kind of subverts Atkinson’s mission which was to create more images in a physical form. Atkinson is concerned we are losing these physical artifacts and postcards are one way to preserve images with a message.

For those who may be unfamiliar, Atkinson is a legend in the Apple community working on MacPaint and HyperCard. Both were key products in the young personal computer industry.

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Do features of Facebook contribute to depression?

I have been spending some time trying to understand the association between high levels of Facebook activity and depression IN SOME. I just finished reading (Steers – ‘It’s complicated’: Facebook’s relationship with the need to belong and depression. Current Opinion in Psychology.) This author notes that Facebook activity can have both positive and negative impacts on affect. It seems to me Facebook has a more negative impact on those most needing support. The mechanism might be described as failed expectations – putting yourself out there hoping for support but finding nothing.

Facebook may contribute to this negative feedback experience in unintended ways. Offering simple mechanisms for likes and sharing may create unwarranted expectations. All posts from friends do not end up in the news feed. What variables are used in Facebook making these choices and could this selection process contribute to the failed expectations of the more vulnerable? What does a like indicate – approval of the person or approval of the content and how are likes or the lack of a response interpreted?

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Technology, education, and psychopathology

Question: Should educators be expected to learn about possible connections among cell phone use, social media, anxiety, and depression and, if so, where should this happen.

I am putting together issues I want to address in a revision of our textbook. I have been reading a lot about cell phone use and depression. I am trying to decide whether to include a section on this topic in the revision.

This is an interesting call on several levels. First, this topic is far from resolved. It appears that these variables are related, but just how is yet to be resolved. Related questions are difficult to investigate in a way that provides clear conclusions. There have been a few attempts to manipulate one possible causal variable by asking volunteers to abstain from cell phone use for a few months and see if there are changes in other variables, but this seems a weak experimental method as volunteers may not be representative and such studies are of a very short duration. Because the observation of relationships do not allow causal attribution, workarounds are sometimes used. Among the most persuasive are longitudinal studies in which the same research participants are followed over lengthy periods of time. It may be possible to determine which of two variables that are related changes first and which follows. These studies are very expensive and time-consuming and few on the topic of cell phone use and psychopathology exist. Do we know enough about causes and consequences to take action?

Second, the topics that educators can address may realistically be limited and the impact schools have would have to be indirect. The problem of cell phones and psychopathology does not involve cell phone behaviors during the school day. There is an obvious parallel in cyberbullying. Unlike bullying which may occur at school or school-sponsored activities, few students are cyberbullied during the same times. Still, the cyberbully, the victim, and observers know each other because of school. School also provide a convenient setting to address such problems. A similar observation might be made about many explanations for connections between addicted cell phone use and psychopathology. For example, the response or recognition adolescents desire from social media may not develop and be associated with depression. The desired respondents may be peers because of school associations. Again, school represents a convenient opportunity for intervention and for identifying those who may be at risk.

When does the tool become part of a decision for who pays attention? If the book is about educational technology in classrooms is this where the topic should be addressed. Is this so just because such courses examine uses of the tool (technology). Should it be assumed teachers would receive relevant information in developmental or adolescent psychology and ed tech books should stick to technology and learning instead? Will those who teach “technology for teachers” courses be prepared to discuss depression and anxiety in students? They often teach coding without being programmers perhaps they can discuss depression without being clinicians. 

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Google ad blocking begins tomorrow

Google begins blocking ads (chrome browser). Here is a description from The  Verge.

On desktop, Google is planning to block pop-up ads, large sticky ads, auto-play video ads with sound, and ads that appear on a site with a countdown blocking you before the content loads. Google is being more aggressive about its mobile ad blocking, filtering out pop-up ads, ads that are displayed before content loads (with or without a countdown), auto-play video ads with sound, large sticky ads, flashing animated ads, fullscreen scroll over ads, and ads that are particularly dense.

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Chromebook data


Educators with students mainly on Chromebooks my find this report from GoGuardian of interest. GoGuardian has been able to aggregate data on 5 million student users and allows descriptive data frequency of use and trends.  The greatest amount of time is spend using wt he Google tools (69%) with 62% of this time using docs and about 21% using YouTube. Quizlet was the most commonly accessed site for middle and high school students. GoGuardian also lists the most popular sites by content area which is not something I will summarize here.

Data are also provided on the proportion of students allowed to use their Chromebooks at home with some information about how the devices are used outside of school. 27%, 53%, and 57% of elementary, middle school, and high school students take their devices home.  The report claims that 68% of home use is academic in nature.

It is interesting to review how these data have been evaluated.  For example, Andy Losik finds the data very disturbing noting that little data are present to demonstrate students are making active use of the devices (e.g., the sites that dominate student use). It is true that only 2% of Google use is devoted to Sites so students are not building web sites. I would classify writing as active processing, but others do not classify writing in this way.

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What happened to the tech dream?

This post is dedicated to the original technology dreamers and honors the unique contributions of John Perry Barlow – a dreamer.

More and more it seems the dream of technology as a positive agent for change and empowerment is slipping away. Maybe the problem is that the so-called digital natives were unaware that a dream ever existed and just accept what they have experienced as the way it was and is supposed to be.

I have written on this topic several times in recent years. Mostly, these posts were brought on by the rising power of fewer and fewer tech companies and the decline of opportunities for individuals. Net neutrality is just a continuation of this trend, but you see it everywhere. Fewer and fewer organizations dominate even as they claim to not be evil or to think different and enable the crazy ones. My most recent frustration is Google’s decision to limit YouTube ad revenue to the big players, but that is another post

This post from Medium on the failed tech dream suggests that innovations fall into three categories, those that matter, those that do not matter, and those that matter in a negative way. According to the argument from this post tech falls into the “negative mattering” category – it harms people. In general the author proposes that technology is based on the promise of a better economy, but it has ended up being co-opted by an old one – extreme capitalism. The tech version of extreme capitalism has turned the users of technology into share croppers – the large number of people who contribute and consume so that a tiny number of individuals can reap extreme profits.

It is far easier to document the problem than to propose effective solutions. I suggest that the root of all evil “is the money”. In this case, a major part of the problem is that people want free without recognizing that there is no free. They offer their personal information instead of their dollars. They are frustrated that offering their personal information allows them to be targeted and manipulated, but they can’t stop because they have become dependent on services they know are bad for them. They use online services hours a day and have little idea how they work. With a little money and a little effort they could reward quality content outlets (even online newspapers), offer their own content from services they control and do not require they mine the personal information of others, and find useful content offered by other like-minded individuals (who use of technology in a similar way, not necessarily hold the same few of the world) using something like RSS. I am not against YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., but I believe we are overly committed to these services which allows these companies to focus on their bottom line and not act to meet the actual needs of consumers.


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Try Guest access to fix Mac Pro login

I have just had the strangest experience with my Mac Pro. I could not get it to log me in. It would start and get to the login page showing me and guest and then would either shut down or allow me to enter my password and then shut down. I tried all of the traditional multi-key methods for fixing Mac login problems without success. I read something about one of these combinations logging into Guest mode and so I thought I would try guest mode directly. I was able to open guest mode without the machine shutting down. I restarted the Mac again and was able to login to my account.

I have no idea if this was some random event or there was some actual usefulness in this approach. All I can say is that it worked and I thought I should pass the technique on should others have difficulty getting their Macs to start. I will delete this post should this be a temporary fix.

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Audio book options

If you, like me, listen to a lot of audio books, this post from Forbes explains Google’s new effort to provide these resources and compares costs with Amazon. Short summary – Google is a bit less expensive if you purchase books individually. If you are willing to commit to a plan (12 or 24 per year), the cost per book is better from Amazon. Book from both sources can be listened to using your Echo (a big deal for me),

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Research does not become dated

The Atlantic recently included an article criticizing the educational version of personalization promoted and supported by Mark and Chan Zuckerberg because it relies on dated research.

And for good reason: The results from the 1984 study underlying it have essentially never been seen in modern research on public schools.

The “dated” research was described by B. Bloom as the two-sigma challenge and it sets as a challenge the search for instructional methods that could come close to matching the achievement of students working with a tutor. Individualized instruction with a dedicated result is proposed as the benchmark against which other instructional tactics could be prepared. Then as now, this optimal experience would be financially impractical for nearly all students. The personnel costs involved in education is another variable that has not changed with time. I cite Bloom and the educational tactics I see as related to this position (mastery learning) myself so I take some offense at the characterization of the notion of “aging research”. Scholars criticize research mainly for issues of methodology and not the date of publication. The article does remark on the content used in the research and the number of schools/participants involved in the research. Let me say that the value of tutors has been substantiated repeatedly (see Hattie data on most effective educational tactics). The connection between tutoring and other approaches to personalization does add some additional complexity, but there have been multiple large-scale reviews of mastery learning as well.

Personalization is hot in education. Unfortunately, it is an ambiguous term and it is easy to interpret it based on personal experiences. The kind of personalization emphasized by mastery advocates involves recognizing that individuals will learn at different rates based on aptitude and background knowledge. Pushing a group ahead at a fixed pace often fails to take these differences into account boring the more advanced students and frustrating the weaker students. With the weaker students, moving ahead without mastery further contributes to the limitations of existing knowledge increasing these students problems in the future. It makes some sense to me that because certain content is more hierarchical than other content areas, mastery before progress matters more in some situations than others.

Zuckerberg’s version of personalization takes advantage of technology to address individual differences. Some have a gut level reaction to this idea without investigating any further. When I advocate for similar ideas, I suggest that educators do not have sufficient time to work with individual students and certain uses of technology free them from certain traditional duties allowing them greater flexibility in how they spend “teacher time”. This basic idea shares some overlap with the popular and somehow more accepted idea of flipped classrooms. Why use class time for presentations when class time could be more productively spent working with students. In the case of mastery learning, why not allow technology to handle certain instructional tasks (presentation, practice) and apply these tasks at the level required by individual students and allow the teacher to rotate from individual spending his or her time with those students most needing assistance?

How such approaches are used can easily be mischaracterized. There is nothing to say that these tactics must be used in all content areas all of the time. This is basically the idea of a flexed approach.

I write more about these ideas in a discussion of mastery learning and the Kahn Academy.

Larry Ferlazzo comments on the same Atlantic article. I doubt that Bloom or any of the rest of us who have since conducted research on mastery concepts would suggest that this is a silver bullet. Mastery learning addresses a specific problem in educational practice – different students are at different points and would best be served if met at these different points. If providing this form of individualization is not possible for a teacher, it makes sense to search for other means.



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