Archive for the ‘COM530’ Category

Asians and Westerners Think Differently…there’s proof!

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

This is a good read especially if you want to learn about how Westerners think differently than Asians: The Geography of Thought by Richard E. Nisbett, a social psychologist teaching at the University of Michigan.

The author’s fascination with this topic got its kick-start when a Chinese student said to him, “You know, the difference between you and me is that I think the world is a circle, and you think it’s a line.” Though Nisbett was skeptical he was definitely intrigued. He had been a lifelong Universalist and believed that all human groups perceive and reason in the same way. Now he needed to find the evidence to prove it one way or another.

Nisbett conducted many psychological experiments, often with the assistance of Asian colleagues, which revealed that, in fact, European/American analytic and perceptual modes differ from those of Asians (specifically Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans).

Westerners, he found, focus on objects and their control, Asians on context and harmony; Westerners are linear and rhetorical, while Asians are holistic and relational; where Westerners see simplicity, logic, and stability, Asians find complexity, paradox, and change.

His work is the first to offer solid research and theory to back it up.

While we Westerners are cognitive descendants of Aristotle and Greek thinking, Asians think differently and more holistically.

For instance, I liked his comparison of early childhood learn-to-read books. In the West, we see a single child depicted running across the lawn and the text is “See Dick run. See Dick play.” It’s all about me. While in Asia in the same era, the first page of a primer shows a little boy sitting on the shoulders of a bigger boy. “Big brother takes care of little brother. Big brother loves little brother.” It’s all about us.

Backed up with many experiments, Nisbett provides convincing evidence that “Human cognition is not everywhere the same”. Such a contention pits his work squarely against evolutionary psychology and cognitive science, which assume all appreciable human characteristics are “hard wired.” This has implications today as China gains such a world presence and influence.

In this conceptual age of globalization, can the world villagers really learn to understand each other? Are we headed towards convergence or continued divergence? Nisbett claims we all will have to make some compromises so that an equitable blending can really happen.

But, if change and adaptation are inevitable it’s quite possible that the new world culture that emerges could be the best one of all!

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Thank you World Bank! You’re the best.

November 12, 2009 Leave a comment


Here’s a screen grab of a very cool interactive data visualizer now available to all of us compliments of World Bank. Thank you very much. I haven’t had this much fun exploring data in, well, let’s see? How about never. So, enjoy it while it’s free, ok?

Here’s what it does. It dramatically shows the change of data through time. The time series used in this Data Visualizer is a subset of 2009 World Development Indicators database. It contains 49 indicators for 209 countries and 18 aggregates from 1960-2007. Data includes social, economic, financial, information & technology, and environmental indicators. Think about it…that’s like a gazillion possible combinations. But, wait there’s more!

You establish what you want to appear on the x-Axis and the y-Axis. For instance, you select “Life Expectancy” on the y-axis and the GNI (Gross National Income) on the x-axis and hit the start button. Wow! These color bubbles representing all the countries of the world move and change through time from the 60’s right up to today. Go give this a try…you’ll be hooked, I’m sure of it.

I remember the TED presentations where Hans Rosling demonstrated this magic data visualizer. Now, thanks to the folks at Google and World Bank, we get to play with it, too.

Hey, and by the way…check out all the very cool things that the World Bank is doing to free the world of poverty. Awesome!

Let’s read a book and talk about it, ok?

November 7, 2009 1 comment

Dr. Mike Schmoker, educational consultant, has just published another book:  RESULTS NOW: How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning.” Schmoker’s plea is in sharp contrast to those educators wanting to infuse all kinds of technology into classrooms.

Schmoker states right up front that the priorities should be what we teach and how we teach. “The simplicity of this approach could have a profound impact on providing a rich education, not for some, but for all students,” he writes.

On the idea of simplifying 21st century education, Schmoker comments that “history is not on the movement’s side. … The tendency to run after every ‘shiny new idea’ often leads to faddishness. … American schools still are not delivering a content-rich curriculum for all students.”

Success hinges on simplicity in priorities, Schmoker explained. And it doesn’t even have to be done perfectly, just reasonably well. “Students need to be able to read something, talk to each other about it, and write about it,” Schmoker stated. “This is mostly old stuff from the 19th and 20th centuries, not unique to the 21st century.”

How can a high-quality education be achieved by all students? “Get rid of the silly stuff in pursuit of some new fad,” Schmoker said. Instead, teach kids to read slowly, turn to one another to talk about it, and then write about it. Amazingly, Schmoker stated, only 25 percent of schools adhere to these seemingly mundane things.

Have you taken the time to read a good book lately?

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Split Screen Website-Interesting Idea!

November 5, 2009 1 comment


Website with Nice Split Screen Effect

Cadbury’s is currently running their One For You, One For Me charity contest in Canada that features a website divided into two sides, where everything visitors interact with on one side affects the other side as well.

Every week 15-20 new prizes are up for grabs, each paired to a charitable contribution on the other side of the screen that Cadbury will match monetarily. Entering the contest with UPC codes from Cadbury products, users select from a variety of prize/charity contributions. For instance, you could win a bookstore gift certificate on the left side of the screen for yourself and if you win donations are made to a Literacy foundation on the right.

This is not only one of those ‘feel good’ contests that helps charities but also it’s done in a clever, interactive way.

It’s also interesting to consider what other applications this split screen concept might have in the world of website development. Check it out.

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November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Watch uses video and online technologies to open the eyes of the world to human rights violations. Here’s the deal. This group trains Human Rights Organizations how to use the power of video to report on rights violations.

See it - Share it - Take Action

The story of WITNESS is one of both vision and evolution. It began in 1988, the year musician and activist Peter Gabriel traveled with Amnesty International ’s Human Rights Now! Tour. Peter brought along a Sony Handycam, one of the first small camcorders marketed to consumers, to record the stories he heard. In 1991, a bystander captured on videotape the brutal beating of Rodney King, Jr. by Los Angeles police. The footage, flashed on TV screens around the globe, initiated an international conversation about police brutality and racial discrimination. Those images demonstrated the immense power of video to capture the world’s attention and viscerally communicate human rights abuses.

WITNESS has worked in over 70 countries to advance human rights through the use of video for change.

WITNESS empowers people to transform personal stories of abuse into powerful tools for justice, promoting public engagement and policy change.

Their slogan is See it – Film it – Change it

Using Interactive Media to Change the world!

Categories: COM530

160 Million Reasons Why I Hate Top Ten Lists

October 29, 2009 3 comments

Top Ten lists drive me crazy.

Who likes them? Come on, you can’t be serious?  Who really, really likes lists? “Everyone loves lists, you just have to do lists,” they say.

I’m sorry. I must be hanging with the wrong people because I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation that begins with “Wow, did you see that Top Ten list the other day?” Wait a minute. I HAVE had that conversation. But, it has always been about the most famous Top Ten list of Late Night Television. Now that is some funny stuff, so I was warming up to this format du jour.

Top ten lists are popular because they’re funny, right? No silly, not at all. Lists are serious business, mister, because they draw BIG traffic to your site! Get with it, will ya?

So, I did my homework and googled “Top Ten Things”. Sure enough, I got 160 million hits! Now, there’s an idea that will get some attention because only 160 million people have thought of this before me. Mmm?

They say that ‘Top Lists’ make for simple headlines that grab attention. If everyone’s doing it how does that make it unique? I say headlines are hard to write; common things do not get noticed.

They say people love lists. I searched “I hate lists” and found 71 million folks that are my people!

They say lists are easy to skim quickly so people can move on to something else. I say Wal-Mart wouldn’t define that as a very good customer. “Hey, come on over to my store, you can find stuff you don’t want to buy and get out of here quicker.”

They say, lists are a great way to generate conversation. I say we’ve already covered this topic. My people only want to talk about Letterman’s Top Ten.

You now have 160 million reasons why I say, “No, PLEASE, not another Top Whatever List.”
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Wikis in the classroom- an interactive textbook?

October 23, 2009 2 comments

“I think that books will become obsolete within a few years,” said an eight-grader during a recent class ‘conversation’. This statement wasn’t spoken aloud in a traditional classroom but rather typed into a class wiki, an online space where people can edit and contribute to content.

A wiki – Hawaiian for quick – is “basically a group writing space,” said David Peloff, program director for emerging technologies at the Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Technology in Education.

Kids love using technology and it seems they love using the technology to talk about technology. With experience, teachers are learning that students who are able to see each other’s comments are encouraged to write more themselves.

The other bonus to this format for sharing is that wiki content can be put up for the world to see. These middle school wikis are garnering hits from India and Australia so, students not only take their statements and efforts seriously, they can experience the global effects of their work.

Even higher education is finding advantages to the use of wikis. A University of Iowa law professor, Lea VanderVelde, has no problem with her students using Wikipedia. In fact, she hopes others use the information her students have posted in their own research.

Law professors across the country have struggled with how they can use technology in their classes and teaching to their advantage. Some professors have banned laptops in their classes, saying they can just be a distraction.

When Ms. VanderVelde was preparing to teach a class on employment law last semester, she was trying to think of a new way to teach the complex differences among states’ laws. She decided to divide the states up and give a few to each student to research extensively, and to post their work on a custom wiki site.

Ms. VanderVelde monitored and approved all posts. Students’ grades were based on how much time they had spent on the site working and on the quality of their work.

“It just struck me that this would be a better way for the information to be organized,” she said. “There is no adequate textbook available on this topic”

By the end of the semester, her class had created a 1,300 page wiki, the largest of any wiki created for use by the university. “You couldn’t expect students to read a 1,300 page book, but you could encourage them to produce one collectively,” she said.

Wow, the new interactive ‘textbook’! Pretty cool, eh?

Categories: COM530