Please, nobody tell Michael Gove about this…

November 3rd, 2013

Professor Ruediger Frank's review of a North Korean tablet computer (NB: PDF file) is almost as long as a John Siracusa Mac OS X review, but for very different reasons. Specifically, Professor Frank's survey of the enormous amount of DPRK-approved educational literature/propaganda that is loaded onto every machine.

Utility is obviously in the eye of the beholder. I find it unlikely that somebody without a certain interest in North Korea would ever purchase a Samjiyon. For non-Korean speakers, the main treasures of this tablet will remain hidden, except perhaps the dictionary.

For experts and those who want to join this illustrious group, the Samjiyon can easily develop into one of their major research tools. The DPRK-specific dictionaries and the encyclopedia are tremendously useful as reference works. It does not take much imagination to see all the future Ph.D. theses written about the North Korean educational system based just on the textbooks available on a single Samjiyon (don't forget to give credit to the one who provided you with this idea).

[Via ongoing by Tim Bray]

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Maths problems

August 3rd, 2013

A classmate was caught using his phone in maths. The teacher took his phone and set a passcode. He gave him this back with his phone and said good luck unlocking it.

My first thought upon seeing the above-linked image was 'I hope nobody forwards this link to Michael Gove.'1

My second thought was that unless someone comes up with a better solution than passwords for logging in to web sites2 then one day CAPTCHAs will evolve into something like this and I'll have to give up using the web.

[Via Flowing Data]

  1. For non-UK readers: Michael Gove is the current Secretary of State for Education in the UK. Within a week his department would be announcing that schools would have to produce returns demonstrating that 75% of pupils could solve such problems in a below-average time..
  2. Speaking of which, in theory Tim Bray has a point. In practice, Rui Carmo has a much better one.

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December 30th, 2012

Teachers, The Web Series:

[Via MetaFilter]

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Support Ada Lovelace Day

September 11th, 2012

Suw Charman-Anderson wants to put Ada Lovelace Day on a firmer footing:

This year, it has become really clear to me that there's a lot more that I could do with Ada Lovelace Day, if only we had a bit of cash to pay for it. Since its inception, Ada Lovelace Day has been run entirely by volunteers and by partnering with organisations like the Women's Engineering Society, Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, London Games Festival and BCS Women. We have managed a huge amount through the kindness and generosity of our volunteers and partners, but there is more we could do.

I now want to create a formal charitable organisation to support women in STEM, not just on one day of the year, but all year round. Some of our goals include creating educational materials about iconic women, providing media training, and building a directory of expert speakers.

There's an Indiegogo appeal up and running if you'd like to help make this happen.

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Sexy A-Levels, 2009 – 2011

August 16th, 2012

Why Sexy A-Levels must die:

2) We're all fabulously important people now. Seriously you guys. we're like the 1% these days and this shit does not look good on golf club applications. Or we're just busy.

[Via flashboy dot org]

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Freezing woman

January 30th, 2012

Reflections by danah boyd on her first visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos:

Comparing WEF to any other event is hard, but I cracked a smile when Nick Bilton remarked that WEF is a lot like Burning Man. In so many ways, he's right. A lot of people overwhelm one extreme weather location and battle non-normative conditions (Davos is crowded, covered in ice, and extremely difficult to navigate) to interact with others. In both events, there are so many different kinds of communities colliding – sometimes interacting and sometimes not. And both cost gobs of money to attend, thereby excluding all sorts of people.

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'John, by the grace of God king of England, lord of Ireland, duke of Normandy, Aquitaine and Hazzard, and count of Anjou.'

January 3rd, 2012

Back in 2005 I did an evil, evil thing.

[Via Links]

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Which fields in your neighbourhood have the best rabbit hunting?

December 13th, 2011

Theodore W. Gray of Wolfram Research, Inc. on technology:

Technology's greatest contribution is to permit people to be incompetent at a larger and larger range of things.  Only by embracing such incompetence is the human race able to progress.

[Via Memex 1.1]

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Watch the skies

November 4th, 2011

From the Department of What Could Go Wrong:

Police in Montgomery County, Texas reportedly plan to deploy drones capable of carrying "less lethal" weapons:

[Michael Buscher, CEO of Vanguard Defense Industries said that their drones …] are designed to carry weapons for local law enforcement. "The aircraft has the capability to have a number of different systems on board. Mostly, for law enforcement, we focus on what we call less lethal systems," he said, including Tazers that can send a jolt to a criminal on the ground or a gun that fires bean bags known as a "stun baton."

From the Department of Cargo Cults:

Nicholas Negroponte appears to have decided that the way to revive the One Laptop Per Child project is to resort to desperate measures:

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has devised a bizarre plan for deploying its new XO-3 tablet. The organization plans to drop the touchscreen computers from helicopters near remote villages in developing countries. The devices will then be abandoned and left for the villagers to find, distribute, support, and use on their own.

OLPC founder Nicholas Negroponte is optimistic that the portable devices – which will be stocked with electronic books – will empower children to learn to read without any external support or instruction.

[Drone story via Bruce Schneier, OLPC story via MetaFilter]

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iPad as whiteboard

March 31st, 2011

Fraser Speirs' ongoing series of posts on his iPad Project – a 1:1 deployment of iPads to pupils in the independent school where he teaches IT – has made for fascinating reading for some time now.1 Not just for the techie stuff about how to manage, configure and backup all the pupil data and all those applications, but for the insights into the way that supplying enough tablet computers is changing how teachers teach and how pupils learn.

The latest post in the series is a good example. With a little help from a simple drawing application, the iPad – when plugged in to an external display via the VGA port – doubles as a digital whiteboard that is much more versatile than a regular whiteboard.

The point isn't that schools should replace their whiteboards with iPads, but that once you have a school where every teacher and pupil has access to a lightweight, flexible tablet computer there are all sorts of things you'll end up being able to use the tablet for that you might not have envisaged beforehand.

  1. Of course, this sort of experiment is easier to carry off when the school in question is a smallish fee-paying institution rather than a state-funded comprehensive. Scaling this sort of project up is a very different challenge, but that doesn't in any sense invalidate the lessons learned from the project about the uses to which you can apply a tablet computer.

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