Sometimes our desire to find the technological solution(s) to our problems exceeds the reality of what technology really can do. Let’s go back to Africa where I spent some time earlier this month. Park rangers in Kenya, as well as other African countries, play a critical role in preventing poaching (killing for sport or profit) of endangered species living on these governmental preserves. Sometimes, however, investments in high-tech solutions get in the way of needed financial support for the manpower needed to patrol and protect the endangered animals living on these lands.
Despite the critical role that rangers play in the poaching crisis, conservation organizations tend to overlook the need for everyday resources. Donors outside of Africa want to see sexy, high-tech solutions like drones and ground sensors and not hear about the need for warm clothing, boots and better food for rangers. Large nongovernmental groups spend huge amounts, yet there are rangers needing socks. “Our rangers were herders, but now they’re effectively soldiers,” said David Powrie, a preserve game warden. And the enemy are the poachers who have been known to attack and kill the rangers.
When rangers are well taken care of and receive appropriate training, poaching rates tend to drop. Technology can certainly help, but it is still only a tool that has to be used wisely in the hands of well-trained and financially supported rangers.
So what’s missing in political discourse in the early twenty-first century? Some say it’s the corner saloon where patrons could freely debate (and drink, with moderation of course), and hopefully form well-reasoned political opinions about most everything. If the historians are right, this is how our fore-fathers, probably not mothers, were able to form political identities and voting blocs. What a simpler time it was, and I am not suggesting that Americans were more politically astute back then, but let’s just reminisce a bit and look at where we are now.
Jon Grinspan writes: “Beinging back the saloon will not solve America’s problems. And there are, of course, major substance abuse concerns today. But the point of the saloon was never the lager. It was the shared institution. Today it often feels as if the only shared spaces are big-box checkout lines and fast-food parking lots. What we need, more than tweets or memes, is the kind of civic life that transpires when men and women gather face to face and, as a fan of old saloons put it, ‘political matters ebb and flow as froth on the beer’.”
Technology obviously plays a bigger role today, and we all get to choose what news stories we want to find, believe, or just make up (see blog of November 23). And contrary to the title of this block, I don’t really think drinking will help us make better political choices .
Who really wants to read a factual news story any more? I guess we have come to a time when Americans would rather read fiction over fact, but we are talking about news reporters, not novelists. Just make it up and see who buys it? The “reporters” at the Liberty Writers News are doing exactly that, and being paid handsomely for it. They are making the average American’s yearly salary in one month. Why not fake it. Is the truth really that important? Well after the recent Presidential election here in the States, I am starting to wonder myself.
Don’t trust the mainstream media. Just read what you like or want to hear. It’s more entertaining and you can make up your own stories, and make money doing it while print newspapers keep losing readership and revenue. The news media now encompasses the digital news that doesn’t seem to need facts as much as a vivid imagination. This explosion of fake news has further eroded the media landscape.
Even Mark Zuckerberg is perplexed. Facebook is trying to find the “right place” between censorship and propagating dangerous untruths. My advice is to work hard on finding those dangerous untruths. I wouldn’t call it censorship. Let’s say “fact checking.”
Or as Deborah Hersman put it: “It’s the cognitive workload on your brain that’s the problem.” Hersman, president of the nonprofit National Safety Council and a former chairwoman of the federal National Transportation Safety Board, said it was not clear how much those various technologies (hands-free) reduced distraction — or, instead, encouraged people to use even more functions on their phones while driving. And freeing the drivers’ hands does not necessarily clear their heads.”
After steady declines over the last four decades, highway fatalities last year recorded the largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. And the numbers so far this year are even worse. In the first six months of 2016, highway deaths jumped 10.4 percent, to 17,775, from the comparable period of 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This cognitive workload “overload” is not a safe way to drive. I have trouble listening to the radio and not being distracted when I’m behind the wheel. And, of course, with my wife in the car, I also have a reliable “co-pilot.”
Please drive safely over this holiday weekend. It may even be a good time to turn off your “cruise-control?”
I will be leaving Nairobi today. I have already posted some commentary on the launch of the African Digital School Initiative (ADSI) earlier this week. ASDI is actually part of Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GESCI) broader efforts in the area of ICT in Teacher Development.
GESCI has recognized the need is for a radical shift in teacher preparation towards school based professional learning and collaborative design approaches that are timely and relevant to teacher professional learning needs. The requirement to reform and transform teacher education as on-going life-long engagement will be a critical challenge in post 2016 educational programming efforts.
Quality ICT-enabled teaching and learning can only occur in school environments which enjoy a positive ICT culture, has a basic level of digital equipment and where ICT use and integration is championed by the principal and senior staff.
GESCI’s focus of work for the period 2017-20 GESCI will work with governments, ministries of education partners and national institutions linked to teacher professional development. Find out more about GESCI’s work in this area at: http://gesci.org/our-work/ict-in-teacher-development/
I will be on travel the next few days, and will resume blogging on Monday, November 21.
On November 11, the African Digital Schools Initiative (ADSI) was launched here in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the Globel e-Schools and Communities Initiatives (GESCI), far away from the political aftershocks of the Presidential election in the United States. ADSI is a comprehensive program to implement digital school development in secondary schools to transform secondary schools into digital schools of distinctiIt is designed specifically to build secondary-level student 21st century skills and teachers’ innovative practice in a way that is responsive to the needs of the market place and to the emerging knowledge economies and societies.
Earlier this year, ADSI began reaching out to 140 schools in Kenya, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire. 4200 teachers will be trained through the project, including 1400 teachers in science technology, English and mathematics (STEM) as well as 210,000 students, including 70,000 STEM students. More information about ADSI can be found at: http://gesci.org/our-work/ict-in-stem-education/african-digital-school-inititiative/. Also please see earlier blog of October 10, concerning GESCI’s work with the African Knowledge Exchange.
GESCI founded by the UN, has worked since its inception in 2004 to provide capacity building, technical and strategic advice to countries seeking to harness the potential of ICTs in order to increase access to, and to improve the quality and effectiveness of education. GESCI currently works with 16 African governments.
Ain’t democracy great? You too can become President of the United States. Just get yourself a Twitter account and start hurling insults at whomever you like, and if you are running for President, just direct most of them at your opponents and see what happens. If you saw my Twitter/blog post of October 26th, you may remember my commentary on the two pages of the “A” section of The NY Times that was devoted to cataloging some of Mr. Trump’s insults/lies directed at political opponents. Of course, Hillary was his primary target, almost exclusively during the last two months of the campaign. Why spend all that money on political campaigning? Twitter can help you “reach out” to all of your eager followers. Tech has made it so.
Is this what technology is all about? The ability to say anything you want in 140 characters, and not worry about the accuracy or veracity of what you say. Someone else can do that if they want, but maybe that is the most dangerous part of all. Why take the time? Tell your followers what they want to hear, and make it quick. And the more you tweet, the more I want to hear. I also think it has a very addictive appeal. They can take a glance at their mobile devices, and get a quick fix of pithy put-downs of any opposing view or person. In this case, go on the attack against your political rival who is trying to explain her future plans and priorities as President of the United States in a more comprehensive (traditional) way.
May we never see a campaign like this again. But maybe it’s all about free speech, but I don’t think so. We all have a reponsibilty to be truthful in whatever communication mode we choose. And that includes messages of 140 characters on you Twitters account.
Please don’t mistake this blog for an endorsement. This online intervention just seemed to strike a chord about how web-based technology tools could be valuable resources to a wider variety of students who do not have access to individual tutoring opportunities. Based on some preliminary research conducted at Stanford and The University of Texas, one of the most significant findings was that the greatest impact/improvement was greatest among black and Latino students.
Brain work will make you smarter, and perhaps one reason for the more positive results for minority students (surprisingly?) is that their classroom teachers are not directly involved. These students are far more inclined to see teachers as prejudiced and school as a hostile environment. In the virtual world of online tutoring, this perception, or reality, can be mitigated in the online environment. Perhaps even more enhancing for these students is that these simple interventions can help remedy toxic self-doubt. The most significant finding may be that intelligence is malleable, not fixed, and that the brain is a muscle that can grow stronger with effort.
For more information about how the Growth-Mind-Set initiative is being implemented in one county in the U.S., please go to https://ydekc.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/strategies-growth-mindset.pdf
Over the next few days, I will be traveling to Africa to participate in an Advisory Board meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. In a blog post last month I mentioned this organization and its pioneering work in empowering youth in Africa, and around the world, with the digital tools and skills needed in the Twenty-first Century: the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (www.gesci.org). I will be posting my next blog from there on Friday, and into the following week.
Just as the Internet has changed most Americans shopping habits, i.e., stay at home and shop online, it now seems that you can now shop for your news and take your pick of what you like. Recent polls show that many of us have burrowed into our own echo chambers of information where we can “shop” for the news that will confirm our own opinions. For years, technologists and other utopians have argued that the online news would be a boon for our democracy. That has not been the case.
If you study the dynamics of how information moves online today, pretty much everything conspires against the truth. Let’s take the traditional standard of documentary proof. Thanks to Photoshop, for example, any digital image can be doctored. Any bit of inconvenient documentary evidence can be freely dismissed as having been somehow altered. Of course, our own behavioral standards play a role in all this. Surveys show that people who liked Mr. Trump saw the Access Hollywood tape where he casually referenced groping women as mere “locker room talk”; those who didn’t like him considered it the worst thing in the world.
Research has has shown that we all tend to filter documentary evidence through our own biases. I think the Internet just makes it easier for us to select only the news with which we agree, or “fits” our definition of the truth.
President Obama, in fact, will be leaving office with far more digital content to archive than any previous president. Not very surprising, you might say, considering the years of his presidency and the rise of social media during his term. He will have attracted 11.1 million Twitter followers, not to mention the numbers who follow him on Facebook and Instagram. Obama’s tweets will move over to a new handle, @POTUS44, maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration. Maybe the Archives and Records Administration could be a helpful agency to Hillary Clinton in maintaining a repository of all her digital communications (on both government and personal servers) during her term as Secretary of State. Or at least I think that is all that the FBI is really interested in?
Just archive them and then make them all available whenever she finishes any future government assignment she may have, like President of the United States? Okay, if she doesn’t win, I guess it’s all fair game, but how much time does Congress or any other “aggrieved party” want to spend on all this mess. Anthony Weiner’s sextexting emails included. Really? Unfortunately, we don’t have any Donald Trump sexual harassment activities on videotape, but we certainly have enough testimony from women who have been harassed by him. Let’s face it. If you have been a star on reality TV, you must be now qualified to be President.
Please! Let’s stop the madness before it is too late. Think about your own and your children’s future. Obama has brought us back from a financial disaster that he inherited in 2008. I think he truly made America a better country in more ways than economically. Don’t turn back the clock on this progress. It’s not really all about Twitter and social media, but Obama used it to unite us, not divide us.