Teachers Will Not be Replaced by Robots!

Just a quick note for all of those who might be getting worried that computerization is going too far.  Researchers have calculated the likelihood of various professions being computerized.  Teachers have been rated as one of the top two professions with the lowest probability of being computerized.  The other is physician/surgeon.  Both jobs require a high degree of social intelligence, and for teachers I am confident that much of this could would include the ability to use the right (e.g., tech) tools in “assisting and caring” for their students.  Just like their medical colleagues, they also need a sense of social perceptiveness and an ability to care for others.

This should be very welcome news for all the participants at the International Society for Technology in Education convention in Philadelphia this week (#ISTE2015).  Sounds like things are off to a good start after the opening sessions on Sunday.

All the best for a great convention for the ISTE attendees, and please continue to advance the professional dialogue on the best uses of educational technology in our schools for all students.

Ray Myers

Privacy Wars in Europe – In Your Face(book)!

I guess there are technology boundaries after all.  The European Union has announced draft data protection legislation for its twenty-eight member states.  This draft legislation contains thirty-five different rules.  So let’s all get ready for these states to interpret all these different rules differently!  Facebook has already dealt with one of their apps, Moments, being identified as a potential violation of individual’s privacy.  Europeans now have the choice of opting-in to this facial recognition technology.

Perhaps the larger question in terms of regulating the plethora of new apps and technology features that will evolve in the U.S. and made available globally, is how and who will monitor them for their privacy protections?  Can twenty-eight EU member states maintain a united front in their application of new protective legislation.  How will this effect the development of innovative technologies within Europe.  Will they be spending most of their time ensuring that their application meet new (proposed) regulations?

Some will say that the tech business has a corporate responsibility to manage data responsibly.  This all has a familiar ring, “I don’t know what pornography is, but I know it when I see it.”

Ray Myers

To Be or Not to Be: Tech Support in Higher Ed

In the world of academia some faculty may have the comparative luxury of debating the merits on the use of technology in their course presentations.  I am not referring here to the increase in online offerings that are available, or to the MOOCs that any learner at any age may choose to join, or that faculty may choose to teach.  The pivotal question that academia still continues to grapple with is what kind of “tech” partnership will work best so as to improve instruction and create more value in the faculty/student relationship?   The obvious conclusion is that faculty and technologists both need each other in order to successfully address current challenges for higher education: access, cost, and quality.

At the same time, the primacy of the educator should be at the core of edtech ethics.  Just as the  American Library Association has established strong ethical standards for the academic library world, it is imperative that edtech professionals and faculty in higher education find common cause.  This may be the only way that the edtech profession is going to make a strategic impact on higher education.

The ultimate goal should always be to arm educators with the best set of tools they may need.  By definition, this does not mean learning only how to teach online!

Ray Myers

Free Distance Ed in India for Visually Challenged

There are a lot of challenges in this government-led initiative in southern India.  Bangalore University in Karnataka is now offering free undergraduate and graduate courses to the visually impaired, as well as widows, jail inmates, and transgenders.  Unfortunately, the biggest hurdle seems to be the requirement that these visually challenged students (and other eligible groups’ members) must have completed pre-university level training, or have participated in the Open University program and have reached 18 years of age.  While government officials tout that they have created a distance or open learning mode, there still seem to be many layers of bureaucratic prerequisites creating challenges themselves.  I lived and worked in Karnataka for two years as Peace Corps Volunteer in the late sixties, and returned to Bangalore in 2006 to attend an international conference on educational technology for the disabled.  And for the month of July 2008, I returned to the Karnataka town where I had worked as a Peace Corps  Volunteer to assist the Deshpande Foundation in its inaugural work there.  

I have been very fortunate to have had these opportunities to work in India over the course of my career.  From my perspective as a recently retired federal employee, which included many conversations with other countries’ representatives as they explored the appropriate uses of technology within their educational systems, I believe that technology empowers learners of all different levels of abilities to create options for learning that works best for them.  Government bureaucracies can help, but sometimes I think they can get in the way.  For individuals with disabilities, however, governments should still continue to play a role in supporting their citizens’ access to the most appropriate learning tools they may need.

One program funded by the federal government that works domestically and internationally to provide such support is Bookshare (www.bookshare.org).   They are very actively involved in India as part of their international outreach.  Please take some time to visit their website and find out more about their initiatives for learners with print disabilities.

Ray Myers

Tech to Reduce Car Collisions

There are a lot of features on a new car I bought last year that I have yet to use or know how to use? Perhaps my problem is that I do not buy a new car that often. The one before this was in 2001. It does seem that a lot of people do like all the new features and get many of them, e.g., in-car WiFi, back-up cameras, heated steering wheels and seats, etc. Seems like car safety, however, is not one of them.

Unfortunately, most car manufactures do not include life-saving features in the vehicle’s base price. For example, automatic emergency brakes will probably increase a car’s price by about $3,500. Having such crash prevention technology in American cars could reduce rear-end collisions, which account for about half of two-car accidents that kill 1,700 people a year. In a recent poll about a third of prospective car buyers said they would rather wait until the crash prevention technology becomes standard, rather than pay for it as part of a “tech package.”

So it seems that it’s all about the sales “packaging,” and not driver and passenger safety. Another case of “you get what you pay for,” but why should car safety be one of those things?

Ray Myers

Scoop! Encyclicals on the Internet

I guess it was only a matter of time.  Gone are the days when the leader of the Roman Catholic Church could prepare a message for worldwide release within the privacy of the Vatican walls.  Now we can thank (or not) the Internet for early access to these Papal declarations on moral priorities for our times.  The controversy over this press release should not be allowed to overshadow the importance of the message itself about environmental degradation.

The “leaking” of important governmental or ecclesiastical documents is not a recent phenomenon, but certainly can be accelerated with the accesibility to online resources.   At the same time, whatever is released before it is declared “final” can lead to many more semantic revisions, but I worry that such editorial discussions becomes the “news” of the day, not the importance of the message itself.

I am content to wait for whatever may finally be released in the days to come.  Perhaps the fact that it  is an important enough issue to be “scooped” on the Internet will help it get the political attention it deserves.

Ray Myers

Internet Slang – a New Code

It all started with YouTube and an abbreviated use of English to create a new jargon that only a few million followers would understand. Of course, you can now begin using this new vocabularly on the Internet and become much more popular more rapidly, transcending space and time to become much cooler (not sure what the right term might be now?) much faster. Born too long ago I guess to be part of this new phenomenon? But wait, there is always Twitter!

Now that is something I can usually keep up with as long as the abbreviations and hashtags don’t get too truncated. At the same time the “social media” nature of Twitter Can also be co-opted into a more “commercial media” for those clever enough to use the new Internet slang in its Twitter advertising. Just take a look at some of the tweets you might be getting from MYV, Cap’n Crunch, Pepsi, Taco Bell, just to name a few.

I think that in the advertising world this is called “partnering with brands.” Some older social media users may call this “selling out.”

Ray Myers

Viva Fidel! Viva el Internet!

Fidel liberated Cuba over a half century ago. Many young Cubans now believe that their source of economic liberation may lie in the Internet, at least if they are able to improve its speed and connectivity so as to help an emerging private business sector. This may be the hard part. Under the new trade guidelines between Cuba and the U.S., many aspiring Cuban entrepreneurs see their business horizons expanding a s far as the Internet can take them.

But it may not be able to take them as far or as fast enough as they need to compete successfully internationally. There is still a Communications Ministry to contend with, and they allegedly have plans to connect fifty percent of Cubans to broadband by 2020. The anticipated speed, however, would be too slow to stream video or play games online. Somehow, “transitioning” to the age of the Internet may work in the sense of how governments do business, but eager Cuban tech entrepreneurs would like to have more support in building a business sector that may help the Cuban economy improve more rapidly.

Viva la revolucion technologica!

Ray Myers

Social Media Laureates?

So I was just reading about the awarding of the U.S. Poet laureate award to Juan Felipe Herrara, a very well-deserved honor to the first Latino to attain this prestigious position. Certainly well-deserved recognition for a man who has also worked as an actor, playwright and musician, in addition to receiving awards for fiction and nonfiction for young children and adults.

Now this makes me wonder if there will someday be awards given to social media commentators? Maybe the real question is whether this type of media is really literature after all. Probably not in the sense of traditional publications in print form, but the media of expression in the virtual world is much more an open platform.

Who will eventually decide what is worthy of national or international distribution when we all can become publishers of what we express through digital media?

Ray Myers

Pardon my French, Parlez-vois le Twitter

Bonjour, mes amis!  Okay, that may be enough French for purposes of this posting.  But it seems as if the new French ambassador to the U.S. likes to tweet!  C’est vrai . . . enough already! While we still may have the overused, overclassified diplomatic cables bouncing across the Atlantic, this ambassador has decided to join the twenty-first century and let his “bon mots” (last time, I promise!) fly into cyber space. His name is Gerard Araud.

Quite a new day in international diplomacy, but I am sure M. Arauc is very much the exception to the rule. Who else would you have expected to lead the way – the Russians? once again the French have started a revolution in the name of individual liberty, just as they did a few centuries ago. N’est-ce pas, sorry.

Speaking of Twitter, I hope everyone reading this will continue, or begin, to follow TechtoExpress on Twitter: @RaymondMyers. Merci, fini!

Ray Myers

Yahoo! Free Live Global Football Webcast!

Soon you will be able to watch your favorite pro football team play live on your computer or any other digital device wherever you may be. No more cozy Sunday afternoons with family and friends huddled around the rec room TV. You can have it all in the palm of your hand, if you want it that way?

What’s not to like? Better yet, you can watch one game on your favorite hand-held device and then keep another eye on the TV screen(s) in the comfort of your own home or wherever you may be. No more bothersome conversations about local or national news or, who did what to whom over the past week. I never thought that I might miss those annoying conversational distractions from the business of watching football on live TV, now available on wide-screen digital TV.

Thank you, Yahoo and the Natonal Football League. You have made this all possible, and you will now be able to gauge if there is an audience for watching American football in the rest of the world. You may be able to build an empire like the British once had, where the sun never set (and now, where they have the Internet).

Ray Myers

Instagram Democratizes Fashion

Don’t worry, I am not going to make “TechtoExpress” an online forum for fashion commentary or sartorial updates. I am just not that kind of guy, or maybe I’m just too old. Don’t get me wrong, I know we live in a world of first impressions and a very important part of that is how one dresses and presents oneself publicly. But if we can all become “fashionistas” thanks to Instagram, then how am I going to know when, and if, I am “dressed for success” or not?

Fortunately, I may be just too old to really worry too much about this. I think I can stick with the standard dress code for someone my age. Then again maybe I should be more conscious about how the senior citizen set dresses, but this may be a very variable standard depending on where one lives, e.g., Florida or Maine?

Maybe we have entered a new age of what it means to be fashionable. I am not really worried. I do have Instagram and can study the latest trends from afar and not worry too much about having the latest look.

Ray Myers

Texting While NOT Driving

Whoever thought that the Internet would have such an impact that American teenagers would settle for less time driving in exchange for more time online? Fortunately, this phenomenon has also resulted in fewer deaths and injuries for teenagers involved in car crashes. The number of young people getting a driver’s license has also declined dramatically. Safety factors such as air bags may also be a factor, but the fact that many teenagers are no longer in a rush to get a license may also play a role.

The greatest decreases were among drivers in their late teens and early twenties. Near constant contact via devices may have reduced the need for young people to socialize face to face. Is this a case of something lost, yet something gained? More technology brings more opportunities to be “in touch” at the expense of more real time “in person” exchanges?

At the same time, the net effect of fewer deaths and injuries for American teenage driver and riders is some of the best news for us all. Stronger driver licensing laws in some states have also played a role. Some states have already reduced their rate of teen crash deaths by a half and they are to be commended: Montana North and South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas and Idaho.

Ray Myers