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Category Archives: Communications

Analog Yearbook data embarrasses. Imagine life after Facebook for public officials in 2048

I’m sure everyone in public office must be paranoid what someone might pull from their Yearbook entries thirty years ago. Now imagine what students of today might have to face in, say, 2048!

Anyone challenging a public official thirty years from now would have access to troves of data, not just on Facebook, but through deep searches using anything from selfies on Instagram, to SnapChat and Twitter that could reveal ‘background’ information. This could involve the precise location where someone was, and corroborated information gleaned from friend’s tagged photos and posts on other platforms. Would it be possible for a court to subpoena  backed-up photos on a Cloud service –just to establish a timeline?

When we teach digital literacy, we tell students to consider the digital trails they leave behind. Brett Kanaugh’s Yearbook entries being parsed by the media, investigators, and late night TV hosts are a lesson for anyone.

 

 

Jeff Bezos’ anecdote of Sri Lankan way back at Princeton

No comment. Just worth watching!

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2018 in Communications, Education

 

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Google’s ProjectX, balloons, kites and PowerPoint

As a PowerPoint assignment last week I asked my Junior High students to look up Google’s ProjectX, and build a presentation around the theme, “The Future is Now.” They loved it!

No shortage of radical ideas at GoogleX –also called a Top Secret Project Lab. (At least on Wikipedia)

So they have picked material such as Project Loon, the ambition idea to deliver Internet connectivity to dark spots around the world using balloons. There is another called Makani which involves very large kites that act as wind turbines. That’s right weird looking ‘kites’! Then there’s Foghorn, a sea water project to produce a hydrocarbon alternative; Verily a life science idea involving contact lenses and machine learning. And many more. But not to be limited to Google labs, they can chose other developing technologies.

Their presentation should not just describe the state of R&D, but to explain it as an Impact Statement. This requires them to discuss it with someone at home or with a friend. Which is what makes a presentation more interesting than the typical ‘effects’ in PowerPoint.

Oh, and there’s also question time, when they must hear from their audience.

 

 
 

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Google’s 20th anniversary today. How did you survive before?

What were you doing on September 4th, 1998?

I know I was just getting the hang of email, with Hotmail – the ‘revolutionary’ web-based email service that a fellow called Sabeer Bhatia created. It was soon folded into Microsoft’s Hotmail, and became very clunky. MP3 players were just coming into circulation. Apple was more in the news with the iMac; John Glenn went back into space.

But Sergei Brin and Larry Page started something that would turn information into data, and data into advertising that would make them some of the richest young guys. They also dreamed big with moonshot ideas, some of which withered on the vine, but others took off. Literally.

Despite the problems and controversies Google faces, its ‘Moonshot factory’ is still changing how we communicate, learn, and advertise. Google says it intends to have a “10x impact on the world’s most intractable problems.” It means crazy ideas (that’s what ‘moonshot’ implies, after all) such as ‘kite-electricity,’ and fighting disease.

I’m still quite annoyed at the sight of, and concept of autonomous cars, so thank you very much, Google. I’m no Luddite but I’m happy to own and operate an invention that worked fine in 1998, and still does. But twenty years from now imagine how we would look back at today.

 
 

Abraham, Martin, John, and… John

As the larger than life Arizona senator John McCain is laid to rest yesterday, some things about him stood out. And it’s not because of the eloquent eulogies of his daughter and two former presidents.

The one I remember most is his 2008 response to a question in a town hall meeting when he was running against Barack Obama. I showed this video to my communications class at the community college last week. Not because it happened to be the week of the funeral, but to analyze the ‘Transactional model‘ of communications. The audience, can and will talk back to the speaker, so it’s important to plan for it. Do watch the clip below, and notice how McCain responds instinctively.

One of my students pointed out to the reaction of a lady in the audience on the top left of the screen – a reflection of our reaction too, as a television audience.

McCain spread a culture of decency and integrity as if a counter to our disillusionment with government and those who represent some of its branches.

Recall that 1968 song, Abraham, Martin and John? Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy embodied something that larger than themselves, as John McCain did for our times. One of the much repeated quotes of his was about standing up for “a cause greater than our self interest.”

 

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Inside the Classical Education model. Latin, robotics, and…podcasting

In our middle-school years at St. Peter’s College, Latin was a subject. We didn’t know why we had to study a ‘dead language’ or how it fit alongside biology and geometry. But it later transpired when the seeds of a classical language began to sprout. Our love for theater (whether it was Oliver Twist, or Hamlet), our appetite for reading, debating, linguistics, and history could be traced back to learning what seemed like tedious (read: boring) declensions and the likes.

This school year I joined a classical High School, and now see the internal architecture of a classical education. The three-part structure of ‘grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics’ is just the start. Music and the fine arts, science and athletics are key elements. And of course technology.

A few months ago in teaching communication to my college level students, we looked at how rhetoric mattered; the underpinning of public speaking, ‘Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.’ So I was delighted to see how my High School’s monthly themes are structured on classical Roman virtues such as Gravitas, Humanitas, and Comitas.

You’re probably wondering what does this do for learning, and students’ character? I can only say this. After a month of teaching with this model in place (teaching computers and tech, mind you!), students come to class eager and prepped to learn; respectful, inquisitive, thoughtful.  This week, looking at inventors and inventions we did thought experiments (a.k.a. Bell work) on social norms and expectations when Thomas Edison messed around with filaments and early audio. Next week they will see parallels with someone like Douglas Engelbart, the prolific Edison-like chap who gave us the mouse, among other things. They were philosophers in their own time, who embodied, and fit, the classical model.

At the end of the week two students approached me to sponsor clubs. One was a Robotics club, and the other was for Podcasting. I had to catch my breath – podcasting! What would 12-year olds want to do with podcasts? It comes down to the classical model which feeds the need for young people to engage in much, much more than Fortnite, or memes. If we only let them.

 

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Goodbye to a dear friend – Chanaka Goonewardene

The network went down on Saturday the 16th June. It was more like a system malfunction when our dear friend Chanaka Goonewardene left us. Each of us – and our spouses, and our children, and our parents – have stories to tell of Chanaka. Not just Peterite stories but tales of banking, of spontaneous trips on trains and buses, of backstage events at the Lionel Wendt, of birthday parties, rugger matches, and job placements for school leavers…. the chapters about Chanaka and his involvement in people’s lives would fill a small library.

To say Chanaka was a doer is an understatement. He juggled so many projects the word multi-tasking was coined with him in mind. He never failed to call us on birthdays, or remind us of important days, to shuttle people around to events. If we wanted to know something or plan something we didn’t need Siri or Alexa – we would first ask Chanaka. When I met him a week before, he managed to say, “Machang, you have my mobile. Call me!” I said I would; Like most of us, I needed to figure out so much, but could not make that call.


And on top of all his accomplishments, he was a truly faithful Catholic, supporting every church and priest he came into contact with. I like to think he formed his own ministry. God loaned him to us as an evangelist, an example of what but means to love our neighbour, and as an unassuming friend. The lending terms were short and seemingly unfair. But in his short span of time, the dividends snowballed. Chanaka accomplished what would otherwise take several lifetimes.


Today as I write this, soon after we laid him to rest, I am sure St. Peter must have been thrilled to have Chanaka back home – to set up and manage that eternal network we could all plug into.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in Communications