Are Google’s cheap smartphones a strategy for world domination?

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Time for an upgrade.  sarahaminaCC BY-NC    

Google launched its Android One initiative this summer, with the aim of bringing smartphones, apps and the whole mobile internet to the five billion people around the world who do not yet have access to a smartphone. The program targets worlds’ most populous areas, especially in Asia, and the first devices have just recently been announced in India.

Google will not manufacture or sell the phones itself. The company provides a reference design for an affordable Android device to its partners in the developing world, and software tailored to its target users, such as an offline version of the YouTube app in order to save its users from racking up data transfer bills. Manufacturing partners can modify the reference design to differentiate their products from one another’s. All… click here to read whole article and make comments



Does flunking grammar make a student less adept at new technologies? Maybe.

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Paul Budra, a dean at Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada), got on the wrong side of a lot of people when he identified a problem with the way students are taught to write today. Fronting a storm of abuse, he said it is not due to social media—or not particularly anyway.

Here is his side of the story in Canada Education (Fall 2014):

Students are asked to generate ideas, plan their writing, do the actual writing, get feedback (often from peers), and then “publish”. This is in accord with what my own children experienced in grade school: they regularly produced little “books”. They were charming and creative but, like much of the work my university students are doing, full of grammatical errors.
This “process” method became the standard after a seismic shift in the philosophy of writing instruction. In 1966, at a conference at… click here to read whole article and make comments



If the Internet is a well-travelled sea, then Internet trolls are its brigands

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DoNotFeedTroll/Sam Fentress

Digg, a site that tips articles of interest to possible readers, offers a look at one example of trolls taking over:

The general awfulness of YouTube comments is well-established, forever exceeding our expectations of what "rock bottom" could mean in terms of reasonable discourse. But if you've felt that popular videos — particularly those boosted by Reddit's nearly 6 million strong r/Videos community — have reached a fresh hell of trollerly as of late, you're absolutely correct.

Much of what follows is hard to understand because gentle readers have had many more useful things to do than follow new media fads.

But the gist seems to be that “the sharpest tip of a particularly ugly iceberg” is “Berta Lovejoy” (possibly a man and not a feminist), who has a talent for staying at the top of comments on YouTube peak videos. This is… click here to read whole article and make comments



What did students learn before 24/7 distraction was invented?

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Front Cover

Dull, isn’t it? If you can’t see the text on the front cover, it says

Authorized by the Minister of Education  
Price 6 cents    
The T. Eaton Cy Limited  
Toronto Canada

My copy, found at a thrift, is clothbound and published by a historic but now defunct department store (Eaton’s), possibly at cost and/or on a subsidy, for use in the schools (1923–1938). It is printed in a largish typeface with black and white illustrations every few pages.

It was published in a mostly rural, post-wilderness, pre-World War II environment. Few had heard of nihilist philosophies or the moral duty to indulge oneself.

I used to work in textbook publishing, and here are a few of the differences that struck me, between the Ontario Reader and the books I worked on, for what they are… click here to read whole article and make comments



Students: Get more value from online reading

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Internet map 1024 - transparent/The Opte Project

Recently, we noted that many executives at high tech companies limit the time their children spend on new media, and that too much new media use can prevent the deep attention required for transferring information from short term to long term memory.

This is a serious issue for young people because some things—the alphabet, the times tables, the capitals of countries, key dates, etc., are not intuitive. They are committed to long term memory so that one can learn a great many other things through them. Eventually, we learn enough that we can use intuition and reflection.

For example, if a student learns that the American Civil War took place between 1861 and 1865, and that women gained the right to vote in that country in 1920, she can assume that women did not vote… click here to read whole article and make comments



Hi tech parents know that overuse of Internet media changes thinking patterns

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Image result for facebook

Facebook – an example of a social-media site – had over one billion active users in October 2012.


Changes them in ways that don’t help kids. Recently, we looked at why Steve Jobs was a low tech parent, and why it isn’t really all that surprising. One thing that high tech parents know is that the type of mental activity that social media encourage makes long-term learning difficult.

Not everyone has grasped the issues clearly, and that includes some major cultural figures: Canada’s Globe and Mail reported at the end of 2011,

Last week, Canadian author Margaret Atwood thrilled her 285,000-plus Twitter followers by defending their kind as “dedicated readers” who are boldly exploring new frontiers in literacy. Calling the Internet in general “a great… click here to read whole article and make comments



Why Steve Jobs was a low tech parent

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In an announcement that coincides with the release of the Apple iPhone 6 Plus—a predicted preteen must-have—New York Times tech columnist Nick Bilton tells us that Steve Jobs (1955–2011), Apple co-founder and pioneer of the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad, restricted his four children’s use of technology:

I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.
Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.
Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.

What, Bilton wonders, do the high tech whizzes know that the rest of… click here to read whole article and make comments



The TV audience is graying fast. What does that mean?

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Braun HF 1 TV receiver, 1958/Wikimedia Commons Note how the appearance of the set underscores the passivity of the viewer.

Last month, we noted that the kids are moving on from Facebook to immediate messaging. Well, in another major shift, the TV audience is going gray.

The Financial Times tells us that the big ad buyers are no longer in hot pursuit of TV: “The US television industry has just suffered the first decline in early advertising-buying since the recession [2009].” Down 7.7% for broadcast spending.

Ad buyers have more options now, including smartphones and tablet. The biggest ad buyers, automotive and personal care goods, are cutting back.

It is true that TV still commands the biggest share of advertising spending (38 per cent), mainly due to live shows like the World Cup final viewed live by 26.5 million Americans, for example.… click here to read whole article and make comments



If you think only you know your pin number, let us hope you are right

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Would you know if this ATM has been rigged to steal your data? Actually, you probably wouldn’t. /Rfc1394, Awyong Jeffrey, Mordecai Salleh

Further to assaults on privacy on the Internet, the people who steal our identity at ATMs and use it to raid our bank accounts have become much more sophisticated in the past decade.

Gizmodo freaks out a bit on the subject, but not without some justification, as we shall see:

In a little over a decade, ATM skimmers have gone from urban myth to a wildly complex, ever-evolving suite of technologies that has the potential to be the worst nightmare of anyone with a bank account.

Maybe, but in any event, a quick potted history, in five points:

- At first, many doubted that a technology for capturing data while the card was in use really existed. Then in December 2002, a… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is social media creating a “spiral of silence”? Polarizing our society?

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Growth in social networks, patents 2003–2010 Mark Nowotarski

I like social media as much as anyone. But liking something shouldn’t blind one to its limitations and flaws. A recent study from Pew Research Center and Rutgers, focusing on the United States, looks at whether social media promote or stifle new viewpoints.

A survey of 1,801 American adults reported their willingness to discuss the Snowden leaks in person or online. The benchmark was an earlier Pew survey which showed that the American public was divided on the question, with 49% saying the leaks served the public interest and 44% saying they didn’t. So how did online discussion stack up against in person discussion, in terms of participants’ willingness to give their view?

In “How Social Media Silences Debate” (New York Times) Claire Cain Miller explains,

The researchers set out to investigate the effect of… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist. 

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