Back to the future – Viewing the original 30-year old World Wide Web!

Want to check out what the early Web looked like? This is almost like being able to tune a transistor radio to listen to an oldies station. As the Web celebrates its 30th anniversary today, there’s a way to see what Tim Berners-Lee envisioned in March 1989. Built by CERN, the organization where Berners-Lee worked, it’s possible to look at the original web pages. Here’s how they explain it:

“The WWW Project merges the techniques of information retrieval and ‘hypertext’ to make an easy but powerful global information system.”

Berners-Lee’s  philosophy was that academic information should be freely available to anyone. This recreation includes a link to another information retrieval device that has gone the way of floppy discs and library cards –the phone book (for CERN).

As for his original brainchild, you can browse through his March 1989 proposal for the Web, and marvel at the details he outlined. His boss, who looked at his proposal, famously called it ‘vague but exciting.

[Interesting how I can ‘hyperlink’ that document above from 30 years ago, because of what he made possible. Equally interesting is that while Berners-Lee put hypertext into use, a fellow named Doug Engelbart (the inventor of the mouse) explained it –as ‘hypermedia‘.]

As we peel back the curtain and see how it all began, let’s appreciate those humble beginnings, and work toward a cleaner, more responsibly hyperlinked world. Social media has made a mockery of much of his vision, and we all have a part to play in how it evolves.

What should schools really teach?

With schools in session, tests and test preps take up a lot of time. From AP test registration, PSATs and benchmark testing. A necessary evil?

Peter DeWitt, a school principal who blogs about leadership issues, (in Education Week), talks about Social & Emotional learning that gets downplayed as a result. He believes that schools should not lose sight of what’s as critical as the ‘data’ they are after. “For too many years, the focus has been on standardized testing and international comparisons of student performance with little attention given to helping students deal with the trauma they experience,” he writes.

Others take a different approach – that education is not something you do from the neck up. In the trend to prime students for colleges and careers, schools are driven toward short term results. just to have a scorecard to brag about, after all. Social and emotional learning doesn’t have a rating scale.

My principal, Mark McAfee, puts it this way:

The richness of a classical education…does not show up on a standardized test or that which is impossible to test. Namely, and among other things, works of literature for the sake of their beauty and effect on the heart of students; rhetorical skills; the soul-shaping effect of the arts on our youth; the physical courage, teamwork, trust, and hard work learned by our athletes on the field of play; the teaching of virtues, a thorough understanding of the chronology of ideas and the history of Western Civilization and our country’s founding.

For this reason at Benjamin Franklin High School, we have a daily school assembly, an ‘Opening Ceremony,’ during which students hear about anyone from C.S. Lewis to Machiavelli. The study of leadership and character through great men and women, and things such as music, art, philosophy, dance, are (at the heart of) our school curriculum, and pays great dividends.

Dan Wool’s ‘Cubicle Podcast’

Podcasting just keeps evolving!  Whenever I bring up the topic, either in class or is a media discussion, I find the old definitions are inadequate. The production quality, and the platforms have changed. The content creators have certainly got more comfortable with the format.

So this week I like to showcase a podcast from an old friend, Dan Wool. A solid communications and PR pro (he co-taught a webinar with me in 2010), Dan is now on his way to becoming a doctor!  His podcast focuses on –what else?- health issues. His website, cubicleclinic.com is filled with his take on health and lifestyle issues cubicle dwellers face.

If this topic interests you, please click on this link, or the icon on the right and give it a listen.

 

 

‘Wall’ of illfame lands Arizona Republic and USA Today a Pulitzer

Funny how much a wall can do – even in its absence. The Pulitzer prize board awarded the Arizona Republic one of the most prestigious journalism awards, for reporting on Trump’s attempt to build that wall. Not one story, it was a series of stories in multi-media – newspaper articles, video, podcasts and even VR.

Here’s the story in VR, in 4 chapters.  And if that’s not enough, it’s the basis of a documentary, The Wall.

 

Facebook, just like nicotine, has no good patch

About eight years ago, I would begin a workshop with an opening line that went something like this: Facebook is the greatest, most irresistible social network ever designed.by the CIA. Not factual, or course, but it got attendees to ponder how surveillance had become so easy, with no need for wiretaps, or laws such as FISA or ECPA.

Well, it’s now normal for journalists to talk of Facebook as being the great harvesting ground of big data organizations that use it to surveil and/or target users. That includes our friends and family in our networks. Social media addiction feeds the algorithm. Here’s what Mashable’s Damon Beres just wrote that it’s time to protect yourself -and your friends –from Facebook:

“The photos you post are interpreted by Facebook’s programs to automatically recognize your face; the interests you communicate via text are collated and cross-examined by algorithms to serve you advertising. Our virtual social connections enrich this marketing web and make advertisers more powerful. And many of us open the app to scroll without really knowing why. Facebook literally presents us with a “feed.” We are users the way drug addicts are users, and we’re used like a focus group is used to vet shades of red in a new can of Coca-Cola.”

He uses the analogy of the Marlboro Man, and the rugged cowboy appeal that continued to lure ‘users’ into a deadly nicotine habit, despite the truth which tobacco companies hid, and were reluctantly forced to admit.

So what to do? Some of my friends have quit Facebook. I haven’t yet. But I do recommend limiting data that algorithms could vacuum up: birthdays, business information, opinions related to our social causes, political rants and things we purchase online. No public displays of affection for family birthdays, anniversaries and such. (Birthday cards and letters were invented for this; despite claims to the contrary they haven’t gone out of style.) And Selfies! –unless you don’t mind feeding facial recognition algorithms now being used in many, many locations.

Deleting some of this now is a bit too late, but like the nicotine patch, it’s better than the alternatives. Unless your family and friends don’t mind the creepy second-hand smoke…

Still publishing Newsletters? We do!

I’ve often said I still read newsletters. From the quirky Trader Joes’ black-and-white ‘Fearless Flyer,‘ to those that come in the mail, often unsolicited. A good friend, a realtor, publishes and mails us an information-filled newsletter that is a delight to read each month. And there are many more – we just don’t give them enough credit in an everything’s-on-Facebook kind of era.

What’s your favorite newsletter? Does it still get printed or has it turned digital? I’m curious.

The case for newsletters has been debated ad nauseam. Most tend to get into the print vs email debate. But I don’t think it’s an either/or. It could be both. Sure, the reading habit is on life-support in some places. But we’re not going to pull the plug.

And so in school, some of us continue this tradition as a way to communicate with parents and the community as to what goes on in our classes in Music, Art, Library and Media Center, PE, and Computers & Tech. Here’s our latest Specials Newsletter – the March 2018 issue.

Radio days! Podcasts back with a vengeance!

In case you’ve not noticed the podcast landscape had changed. I’m so glad this genre – audio story-telling –has survived in a digital age that at one time seemed to gravitate toward video, slapstick entertainment, and uninformed opinions.

These are highly-researched, well-produced shows – not just opinionated rants. 

Here are a few:

Code Switch – Fascinating takes on race and identity

Rough Translation – A great way to escape the echo-chamber!

The Hidden Brain – Shankar Vedantam’s insight into human behavior

The Tip-Off – Peeling back investigative journalism, by Maeve McClenaghan of London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism

 

Some older podcasts still give the newbies a run for their money. Those such as:

  • This American Life – Ira Glass’ extremely topical take on all things social, political, personal
  • Invisiblia – Gripping tales and insights about the forces that shape us.

 

Filters needed now, says Isura Silva!

My friend Isura Silva, writes about topics similar to what you find here. One of his recent posts touches on the death of attention, as a result of our proximity to screens. You should read his post to get his slant on it.

The issues we face as parents and teachers is not just screen addiction, but device distraction. Attention spans are in a serious free-fall. I flippantly wrote about this in an article on ‘FOMO’ (for LMD magazine). But it’s a lot more serious than this.

Which brings me back to Isura. He was on a UNICEF panel on Tuesday, discussing child safety online. The panel discussed the study just released, on how adolescents in Sri Lanka use the Internet. To give you a snapshot of it, the press release states that:

“While digital access exposes children to a wealth of benefits and opportunities, it can also unlock a host of risks including the misuse of their private information, access to harmful content, and cyberbullying …whilst children and adolescents are increasingly going online, they are doing so without adult oversight or supervision.”

Next week is Digital Learning Day across the world. Here at my school, I’m bringing in two speakers to address this dire need for digital literacy. Different cultures, different demographics, all feeling the same need.

While you weren’t watching Amazon CEO is in the space race

Jeff Bezos was once known for books, when Amazon was the world’s largest online book store. That was in 1994.

He had been recently investing in robotics, and also acquired Whole Foods. But flying under the radar has been his space company, Blue Origin, building and testing rockets. It is  what they call a rocket system, with a reusable, stage-one booster. It can take up to 100,000 pounds into space. This Apollo-sized rocket (much taller the Falcon rockets from SpaceX) is one of the few contenders in the space tourism business. Possibly a moon landing soon!

It may be a space race, but Bezos is taking it slow for now, to get it right.

Typos aside, should they ignore his tweets?

Have you wondered if the media is unable or unwilling to ignore Donald Trump’s puerile tweets?

I’m willing to bet that if the major news organizations had stopped covering the ridiculous things he unloads in a Twitter storm, he wouldn’t have got to this point. Of course he’s gaming the system, knowing they are gleefully waiting each morning for a ‘story’ or controversy.

His latest blunder, addressing the wrong Twitter handle of Theresa May is just another one that will be drowned by others in a few weeks.

Remember the last time they messed up the British PM’s name? Thought so! In January when she visited the US, the White House misspelled her name as ‘Teresa’ several times – it was spelled without the ‘h’ in the introduction to the daily guidance.

I suppose it’s impossible to not find a story in his tweets, when it causes a diplomatic flare-up. In response to his broadside against her, the right Theresa was blunt in her rebuke. (Jeremy Corbyn, Britain’s Labour leader put it best, when he advised Trump to “hold yourself back” and “restrict yourself to two or three tweets a day”.)

Many years ago, probably before the president stumbled upon micro-blogging, people actually conducted training programs for those in governance and management. It’s too late to send someone back to social media 101 classes. Itchy fingers will continue to produce clumsy tweets  as I have said before.

But perhaps a temporary blackout might help the poor chap. And our republic.