This Week in Tech
So we are IT / CAT teachers. By definition we encourage the use of screens and tech. How ambivalent does that make us feel when countless headlines from the media scream out reminders that 'screen time' is bad for kids and should controlled / limited / eradicated completely? I know that I have felt the inner conflict at times. Surely so many pundits and experts can't be wrong? Is what I am doing actually bad for the children under my care?
(Here are some examples of the dire 'screen time is the apocalypse and is turning our kids brains to mush' warnings out there: New York Times "I am convinced the devil lives in our phones." and here (Oct 2018); Business Insider; Quartz; The Guardian; IOL; and many, many, many more.)
To add to this I want to / have taken things a step further. I believe that an online, interactive textbook is a better tool for our learners than a traditional textbook - and I have gone ahead and "put my money where my mouth is" to create just such a thing (check it out at LearningOpportuinities.co.za).
And yet I still have this nagging question inside me about whether I am only making things worse....
But, here's the thing. Deep inside me I know that this hysteria about screen time is wrong. Screen time is not the problem. It's how the screen is used and what is on the screen that are the cores of the problem.
Screen time is often used as a nanny / pacifier (dummy) by adults too busy and caught up in their own lives to become involved with their children on a meaningful level. The screen keeps the kids quiet and out of your hair for hours at a time. It's a miracle of modern technology! Give it to the kids and they go away and don't bother you.
The screen time most known and feared by concerned adults (parents, teachers, researchers and especially sensationalist media) is the passive, vegetative watching of meaningless video (YouTube), hours of gaming and other isolating, unproductive activities (which to my thinking should include use of social media).
Screens, especially the small screens we carry around with us all the time - smartphones and tablets) are technological incarnations of the Dr Jeckyl / Mr Hyde (free ebook here at Gutenberg.org) dichotomy. They are not all bad (and not all good). They can be used for reading (as an avid ebook reader since before the advent of the iPhone and tablet I can and do sing the praises of the wonder of a library in my pocket). Not all videos are bad (there are many useful tutorial videos on YouTube as well as the mindless gunk). Some games are really great (if you have not tried - and made your learners play - Human Resource Machine then you need to stop reading this article now and do so; it's a great way to understand how a CPU works!).
So what do we do when confronted by people telling us that screen time is bad?
My response is to ask how the screen is being used.
Is the kid given a screen and expected to go away, shut up and keep themselves busy in an unsupervised way? Yes. That kind of screen time is bad.
Do you spend meaningful time with kids doing all sorts of activities (including outdoors activities, chores, sports, games and screen time) and so naturally keep a balance in their lives? Do you share screen time with them, discuss what is on the screen - and make sure that the things available on their screen are not all mindless drek? Do you encourage the use of the screen to discover, explore and create new things? Do you encourage and foster independence and self reliance by showing how the screen can be used to find solutions to problems?
These questions direct to a realisation that handling the screen differently can transform what could be bad into something good.
It's about time we protagonists of tech took a stand and said that IT doesn't have to be this way!
This rant is prompted by finally seeing an article "In defence of screen time" on Tech Crunch, reading it and feeling that it does not go far enough.....
This weeks news links:
First, the right to have personal data minimized. Companies should challenge themselves to strip identifying information from customer data or avoid collecting it in the first place. Second, the right to knowledge—to know what data is being collected and why. Third, the right to access. Companies should make it easy for you to access, correct and delete your personal data. And fourth, the right to data security, without which trust is impossible.
One of the biggest challenges in protecting privacy is that many of the violations are invisible. For example, you might have bought a product from an online retailer—something most of us have done. But what the retailer doesn’t tell you is that it then turned around and sold or transferred information about your purchase to a “data broker”—a company that exists purely to collect your information, package it and sell it to yet another buyer.
The trail disappears before you even know there is a trail. Right now, all of these secondary markets for your information exist in a shadow economy that’s largely unchecked—out of sight of consumers, regulators and lawmakers.
Let’s be clear: you never signed up for that. We think every user should have the chance to say, “Wait a minute. That’s my information that you’re selling, and I didn’t consent.”
VR seems to be going the way of 3D TVs. You saw a lot of hype about it for a while but are seeing less and less as time goes on. Why?
That's it for this week. Happy teaching!
Blockchain. It's the new buzzword in tech. Everybody is talking about it. Everybody wants to use it. In some ways it feels like a solution in need of a problem. But boy, when that problem is identified... we might see block chain add some order and accountability to the otherwise unruly wild-wild west of cyberspace.
What is blockchain?
When you hear the word blockchain you probably immediately think about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum. Whilst blockchain is part of the technology that makes these currencies possible - it is not a currency itself. It is easier to understand what blockchain is if you get the idea of cryptocurrencies out of your head when trying to understand it.
Blockchain is a public distributed way of tracking transactions secured by cryptography. Let's break this down:
Other resources and explanations:
The blockchain stuff in the news this week:
|In 2014, Maersk followed a refrigerated container filled with roses and avocados from Kenya to the Netherlands. The company found that almost 30 people and organisations were involved in processing the box on its journey to Europe. The shipment took about 34 days to get from the farm to the retailers, including 10 days waiting for documents to be processed. One of the critical documents went missing, only to be found later amid a pile of paper.|
A dose of reality amidst the hype:
Blockchain is designed to record transactions. That is all.
More data added to each transaction (e.g. note, images, other fields in the record) makes the calculation of the secure hash far more complicated and requires additional computing resources. Also, each transaction is only valid when 'accepted' by more than 50% of the network, which can make validating a transaction much slower. As the list of transactions or 'blocks' grows, so does the computing power needed to manage the blockchain. It also makes each transaction slower to process. What incentive is there for people to keep on running their part of the distributed network with no reward but considerable cost?
|"...last year it was claimed that the computing power required to keep the [Bitcoin} network running consumes as much energy as was used by 159 of the world’s nations"|
Here are some people raining on the parade...
|“Right now, Ethereum can process 17 transactions per second. Facebook can handle 175,000 requests per second. Visa, 44,000 transactions per second. So, if we really want to use cryptocurrencies as currencies, it would not be possible as of this moment.”|
|Justas Pikelis, co-founder of blockchain Ecommerce platform, Monetha|
|As of late 2016, it [Bitcoin] can only process about seven transactions per second, and each transaction costs about $0.20 and can only store 80 bytes of data.|
Hacks and Cracks
Robots and Robotics
Social media & social implications
That's it for this week. Hope you have a much better understanding of blockchain and are no longer stymied when the learners ask tricky questions about it!
Welcome back.. Lots of news to catch up on...
Social media and Privacy
Hacks and scams
Wow. That's a lot to catch up on!
Welcome back & happy teaching....
It finally happened. It was only a matter of time. A self-driving car has collided with and killed a pedestrian. The car belonged to Uber and Uber has pulled all of its self-driving cars off the road whilst the incident is being investigated.
Motherboard has a fascinating article on the hard decisions that have to be made when planning and coding the decisions that a self driving car has to make regarding safety and who gets hurt / who dies. This is a great read - and a really great topic for a class discussion / debate. This is an issue which is going to feature prominently in your learner's lives.
You can read about the incident itself here.
The Facebook drama continues...
Facebook is dealing with a massive backlash from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal mentioned in last week's blog. There is a concerted DeleteFacebook campaign complete with hashtag and all. Elon Musk removed the Tesla and SpaceX presence from Facebook. Vox has an interesting article that details 'The Case against Facebook' - taking it far beyond data breaches. CNN AMP points out that no matter how much he promises and how much he wants to, Zuckerberg cannot control or fix Facebook (and he knows it). It's become a monster beyond its creator's control.
It's so bad even their own investors are suing them.
Meanwhile Boing Boing says : Facebook, ShmaisBook --- you should see what your ISP is doing with your data!
This week the SA Post Office web presence did not exist - because someone did not pay the R125 domain renewal fee....!!!!
What's really special about Siren is that she is rendered in real time from a motion captured human using the Unreal gaming engine - and a PC with multiple graphics cards.
The video below shows a fish-man (actually Andy Serkis) created with the same technology.
This shows where 3D graphics and video are headed. Soon you will really not be able to distinguish virtual from reality.
World's smallest computer.
The older ones amongst you (those who saw the first PCs in the 90's) pay attention. That clunking desktop computer that you paid an arm and a leg for.. well it is now the size of a grain of salt and cost $0.20. IBM just announced the product and sees it as the ideal way to embed computing power in everything.
Mashable has the details.
That's it for this week. Holidays soon!
Welcome back to another weekly news round up.
A short while ago we got news of the Spectre and Meltdown hacks on Intel CPUs. AMD claimed that the chip design flaw that made these hacks possible did not apply to their CPUs and so they were soooo much better than Intel. Buy AMD instead! Well.... The shoe is now on the other foot. Researchers have found that anyone with 'Root' (administrator) level access to a computer or a network can get malware to run on the protected secure enclave of the CPU, making that malware impossible to detect or eliminate.
A disturbing part of the discovery is that it appears that the Israeli firm that published the report breaking news of these flaws seemed to be trying to use its findings to affect the stock price of AMD and other companies (i.e. trying to make money from the flaws by messing with the markets).
The fact remains that the flaws are real though - and are yet to be patched.
Facebook just kicked Cambridge Analytica off the system - for pulling private information from more than 50 000 000 users. To help Trump win his election (Ouch!! That's adding insult to injury!). They claim the event is not a hack or breach because no passwords were stolen - only personal and private information...
The New York Times has a detailed piece on this.
Here's Facebook's official explanation of what happened.
Here's Joy of Tech cartoon's take on it - Mark Zuckerberg Vs Wonder Woman!
BUT WAIT.... Here's more...
The Next Web has a piece showing what data Facebook has on you - and how you can check it out for yourself...
|Every time you open Facebook, the time, location, IP address, browser & device have been recorded. If you’re part of the 1.4B people that use Facebook on a daily basis, they have enough data points to determine your everyday life patterns with great accuracy: home and work address, daily commute, wake up & bedtime, travel duration & destination, etc.|
Video games don't create mass killers
One of President Trump's reactions to the recent school shooting in Florida (besides suggesting that teachers be armed) was to say that video games are responsible for creating a mindset that makes mass killings possible.
Luckily for us, science proves otherwise - and Gizmodo has the details.
Passwords Out, Biometrics In
CNN Money has a segment on how quickly the US is moving away from passwords and resorting to biometrics for security. I'd take the statistics with a grain of salt, but interesting nonetheless.
Tourism & The Selfie
The Citizen has a great in-depth article on how selfie culture is affecting tourism. Great for broadening your view and gaining insight.
Android - with malware pre-installed
The Hacker News has an article detailing how 5 million Android devices have been found with some particularly nasty malware pre-installed.
Climb into a taxi - and find there's no driver...
Waymo is trialling driverless cars in its service in the US. Digital Trends has an article on how people are reacting. Video below.
Digital Trends explains:
Criminal using drone to scout target in JHB
The Citizen has the details.
That's it for this week. Happy teaching!
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