Monday, February 28, 2005

I've now enabled trackback

As David prompted me, it really was time to enable trackback on this blog. Unfortunately, Blogger does not offer this service, so I had to install HaloScan, a free commenting and trackback service. It's easy to do, but when you comment on this blog, it will pop up their window, instead of blogger's with some annoying advertising underneath the commenting window. At least one of these ads, I felt, was offensive. So ignore that, please.

I really do need to get my blog hosted somewhere where I can use Wordpress ... I just need to get around to doing it.
Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Schools: What we're doing isn't working

And it's not me saying it:

Virginia Governor Mark Warner:
""We can't keep explaining to our nation's parents or business leaders or college faculties why these kids can't do the work,"

Bill Gates
""America's high schools are obsolete," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools _ even when they're working as designed _ cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."

Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:
""This is an issue that transcends all those typical things that cause people to split in different directions"

These quotes are from an AP story published by Yahoo! News. Schools aren't ready to prepare today's students for tomorrow's workplace. But the biggest problem is so few people realize this, so most are content with just trying to patch the current system. What I think is particularly funny is that everyone's answer for improving schools is to give them more money--where is the data that money equates better instruction? It's helpful to have money, of course, but this is a false assumption of causality. The reason this happens is because it's easier to simply tax and spend than actually think about what good instruction means, what the world is becoming and what our children need to learn, and then having the guts to suggest the kind of radical overhaul needed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Google's secret: Save time for innovation

This is something I've been wanting to blog about but have been pretty busy lately. You know, that thesis thing that everyone says is important ...

Recently there's been some buzz about Google's allocation of employee time, the "70/20/10" split as reported by EWeek. Basically, employees spend 70% of their time working on main projects, 20% of their time working on adjacent projects (like Froogle, Google News, and other beta projects), and 10% of their time working on personal pet projects that may or may not pan out, may or may not be useful, but that are sure fun to play around with.

How brilliant! At other businesses, spending time off-project working on things you like would be called "wasting your time" or "being distracted at work." But Google calls it "innovation." THAT'S why Google is the hottest company out there right now, and will stay that way for a while. As Paul Allen put it:

"Most companies operate from the top-down. Managers tell employees what to do. Executives make all the resource allocation decisions. But Google has embraced a philosophy which I think can revolutionize the business world--if other companies are smart enough to adopt it. While the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial people leave companies like Microsoft in frustration in order to start their own enterprises, Google has created an environment where the most talented, creative, and entrepreneurial employees can play in their own sandbox, attract attention and support from top management, and have their pet projected funded within the company. I understand that Larry and Sergei keep a list of the top 100 pet projects in the company. Many of the existing services which Google offers (including Orkut and Google News) were developed by employees. I expect to see hundreds more innovating and exciting free services coming from Google in the coming years. I see more innovation here than from almost all the other top internet companies combined."

Top 100 gadgets of all time

Mobile PC magazine just released their list of the top 100 gadgets of all time. Of course, like all top 100 lists (don't we have too many of those now a days?) the decisions are completely arbitrary and subjective. But like other lists, it's also fun to see where your favorite gadget stacks up. Included on the list is the abacus, iPod, walkman, pez dispenser, scissors, stapler, TiVo, and others. The prestigious number 1 position goes to the Apple Powerbook 100 of 1991. Here's why:

"Never mind the Apple versus PC debate: Until Apple unveiled this 5.1-pound machine, most "portable" computers were curiosities for technophiles with superior upper-body strength. But the PowerBook 100's greatest and most lasting innovation was to move the keyboard toward the screen, leaving natural wrist rests up front, as well as providing an obvious place for a trackball. It seems like the natural layout now, but that's because the entire industry aped Apple within months. The first PowerBooks captured an astounding 40 percent of the market, but more important, they turned notebook computers into mainstream products and ushered in the era of mobile computing that we're still living in today."

Seeing Apple on top made me smile.

Of course, like all lists, some gadgets turned up missing. Everyone has their favorites. Among mine on the DNA ("did not appear") list are: flashlights, cell phones, digital voice recorders, eyeglasses, and DVD players. I know I'm forgetting others--the hardest thing is to think explicitly about gadgets so transparent that we forget about them, but couldn't live without them if they were taken away.

Any favorites not on the list? I'd love to hear them!

Friday, February 18, 2005

Sold on Google

Well, Google's done it again! I'm already a huge fan of their search engine, scholarly search, news alerts, email service, and other innovations.

Add Google maps to that now.

I've always been loyal to Mapquest, but I tried out Google maps for the first time today and I'm never going back. Here's why:
- If you type in the city a little wrong, Google searches for what you might have meant. I've gotten really annoyed lately that Mapquest will reject any search if you don't have it exactly right (S. for "South" and so on)
- zooming in on Mapquest maps takes way too long, so I usually don't do it. With Google's service, it's as easy as a scroll bar and immediately resizes the map without the wait!
- I thought this was slick: When I printed out my directions, the map printed on one page, and the directions printed on a second page. There was no extra stuff usually associated with printing from internet sites. Cool!

Can Google ever go wrong? Is it too late to put my retirement in Google stock :-)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

View your Flickr Networks

Ever wondered how your tangle of contacts/thoughts/ideas related to each other? Now there's a tool called Flickr Graph that dynamically showsLink you how your Flickr images relate to each other. To quote:

" Flickr Graph is an application that explores the social relationships inside It makes use of the classic attraction-repulsion algorithm for graphs."

This is really quite wild. You click on any node, and it becomes the center of the graph with all relationships dynamically linked. I'm not sure exactly how I'd use this ... or when I'd find time to use it ... but this is cool.

Here's an image of the tool from cogdogblog, and try it out yourself at

Monday, February 07, 2005

Now this is what we need ... (Edugadget Blog)

There is a lot of blogging out there about new technologies, written for information technologists. There is also a lot of blogging for teachers about how to integrate technologies that are already known. Finally it seems that somebody has put together a blog geared towards reviewing the latest, most cutting-edge tools available for teachers, with some discussion about application. The site is Edugadget, and you can access it here, or get the rss feed here. The site looks fairly new now, so it's hard to say how good it will be. But I like the idea and will add it to my Bloglines account for a little while to see what they put out. Hopefully it will not be overkill on blogging/podcasting technologies (which it has quite a few posts on right now) but on many different tools coming out for teachers.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

IPods popular among Microsoft employees

I thought this was funny. Wired magazine reports that iPods are wildly popular among Microsoft employees -- and that as much as 80 percent of the employees who use mp3 players (which is most of them) use iPods.

And Mr. Gates and the administration hate it.
"So popular is the iPod, executives are increasingly sending out memos frowning on its use."
iPods have also taken over our campus here at BYU - I swear everyone got one for Christmas. Last semester, they were rare ... now they are almost as prevalent, it seems, as cell phones, as people walk to class with distinguishable white earbuds poking out of their ears. Our campus newspaper reported yesterday about this phenomenon.

It's really not any surprise. What a cool gadget. Being the audiobook addict that I am, I'm loving my iPod. I don't have time to read, even though I enjoy a good book ... but I do have time to listen to something on my way to school or while exercising. MP3 players are only going to grow in popularity as the competition gets more intense, and prices drop.

The future in technology is to allow people instant access to any media or information on demand, as evidenced by iPods, TIVO, and rss. The iPod is one step in that direction, and eventually I hope to see devices, continuously connected to the Internet that allow instant access to anything audio, video, or text-based. Then you can personalize your own learning, listening, viewing, or reading WHAT you want, WHEN you want, and maximizing your free time for something useful instead of just listening to whatever's on the radio, or viewing whatever's on the TV.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

What if a home PC cost $100?

Well it does ... or it can. Red Herring announced the other day that MIT Media Lab says they can build a home PC for $100. To quote:
The low-cost computer will have a 14-inch color screen, AMD chips, and will run Linux software, Mr. Negroponte said during an interview Friday with Red Herring at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. AMD is separately working on a cheap desktop computer for emerging markets. It will be sold to governments for wide distribution.

Someday, we'll be able to go to Wal-mart and buy a decent computer for the price of yesterday's VCRs. What kind of implications will that have for education? I have taught preservice teachers for the past year and a half how to use educational technologies, and I was constantly amazed and frustrated with their constant pessimism. If I had a dollar for every time I heard or could see in their eyes, "Well, we won't have technology in the school where I will teach" -- then I'd be going to Vancouver in April to the ISPI conference. They struggled to understand that while they may not have sufficient technology tools when they first start teaching (although I don't agree with that necessarily either), but give it five years, and they will.

When computers cost $100, and we can give one to every student, how will education change? When you can pick up wireless internet in any building in the developed world, and can have instant access to anything you want to know, will we still pretend that as teachers we are the only way students will gain any piece of information? When will we realize that we need to get ready for a new age, a new time when we'll need to teach very differently than we have in the past. Information Age? I get the feeling that we have no idea just how easy, available, and ubiquitous information will be in a few short years.

Starving Student Software

Want some cool software on a student (i.e. nonexistent) budget? I just heard that some good folks at my university (BYU) have put together a starving student software collection of free, but useful, software programs. You can download it at