Digital Self-control


Yes, the constant arrival of information packets can be distracting or addictive, especially to people with attention deficit disorder. But distraction is not a new phenomenon. The solution is not to bemoan technology but to develop strategies of self-control, as we do with every other temptation in life.

Steven Pinker writes in The New York Times op-ed “Mind Over Mass Media”


Technology Alone is Not Enough

In my conversation during the 20/20 Symposium with Matt Crowley, who works in the Manufacturing Design department at Apple, I was most interested in how he echoed Steve Job’s sentiments that technology alone wasn’t enough.

When introducing the iPad 2 Steve Job’s said, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough—it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” He seemed to being saying the best ideas and most innovative products emerge from the intersection of technology and the humanities.

When I asked Matt in what capacity the liberal arts and humanities have impacted his role as a designer, he said that it’s been essential. From his experience, you can’t design technology for people unless you understand the unique culture and history of the people you are designing something for. One needs to start out taking an anthropological approach by asking questions and observing. An anthropological perspective, combined with training in the humanities, create a synergy that isn’t possible by technological training alone.

With all the talk about the importance coding, and the decline in the arts and humanities majors, it seems vital to reiterate that one of the most iconic technology companies is a result of the convergence of technology and art. So, are there merits to learning coding? Absolutely. But your coding will be taken to new heights if it’s immersed in art history, literature, philosophy and performing arts.

In “Flipped” Classrooms, a Method for Mastery

A recent New York Times article provides a good overview of how flipped teaching can, if given the right framework, provide the conditions for developing mastery.  The crux of the approach can be distilled down to this pedagogical switch, “In traditional schooling, time is a constant and understanding is a variable…But there is another way to look at schooling — through the lens of a method called “mastery learning,” in which the student’s understanding of a subject is a constant and time is a variable.”

Your Digital Trail: Does The Fourth Amendement Protect Us?

The Fourth Amendment 564px-Bill_of_Rights_Pg1of1_ACof the Bill Rights has traditionally been Americans’ constitutional protection against government spying, but, as an recent NPR article revealed, “since the 1960s and 1970s, the Supreme Court and other courts have issued a series of rulings declaring that the government does not need a search warrant to obtain your personal documents if you have already shared them with somebody else. For instance, since you allow your bank and credit card company to know what you buy, and since you let your phone company know whom you call, you can’t claim that information is private. It’s the legal version of the lesson you learned when you were 12 years old: If you don’t want everyone else to read your diary, then don’t show it to anybody.”

Flipping the Classroom

Flipping the classroom has received a lot of press, thanks, in part, to the popularity of Khan Academy. The basic premise of flip teaching is simple: video lectures are watched at home and homework is done during class time.  Proponents of flip teaching say the advantage of this model is that students can apply the knowledge they learned during the video lesson in class by solving problems in an interactive group environment. The teacher has the opportunity to work with differentiated groups and can more easily tutor students at their own pace and level.  This interactive pedagogy converts learners from passive note-takers into active teachers who have to explain their understanding and ideas to their group and the teacher. By some estimates interactive learning can triple students gains in knowledge.

Check out a flip video one of our science teachers, Vivian Byun, created below.

Letting go of paper


One of the difficulties for me in going paper less (meaning using less paper, as opposed to paperless, using no paper) has been my desire to take notes by hand. Nothing beats reaching for a Moleskine notebook, opening up, and scribbling away! That said, when I got my iPad I tried out a few handwriting apps. The Moleskine still came out on top. Then I met Noteshelf. Smooth as silk Noteshelf replicated my handwriting. It has lots of nifty features including Dropbox and Evernote synchronization, export as PDF, and the ability to organize and re-organize. Let me introduce you through this short video:

Learning Computer Code

In a recent CNN article Douglas Rushkoff wrote about the value of learning computer code.  We are living in a world that is increasingly being defined by computer programs. “Code is the stuff that makes computer programs work — the list of commands that tells a word processor, a website, a video game, or an airplane navigation system what to do.”

Computer code is a cornerstone of our information ecosystem. By learning to code we are developing an aspect of digital literacy and increasing our job prospects.

At CodeYear over 300,000 people, including New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, have signed up to receive free interactive coding lessons each week from the web-based tutorial, Codeacademy.

Another way to way to learn computer coding is with the iPad app Codea. Codea is remarkable code editing app that lets you create interactive simulations, games and just about any visual ideas you have.

“If you know how to code,” in Rushkoff’s words, “you can get a high-paying job right now, or make valuable stuff right now. You will understand more about how the world works, and become a participating member in the digital society unfolding before us.”


MIT Interactive Simulation Tools

The MIT Sloan School of Management offers a variety of free interactive management simulation tools designed to help students learn about commodity pricing, the solar photovoltaic industry, sustainability issues, and the video game industry. These simulators have participants leading the respective industries. The goal of all simulations is to bring an experiential aspect to learning about complex systems.  Sloan Professors state that these simulations have more impact than simply listening to lectures or engaging in a case study discussion because these tools require applying knowledge in a dynamic environment.

The Human Brain in the Digital Age

Cathy N. Davidson’s book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way we Live, Work, and Learn, is about the human brain and human potential in the digital age.

The heart of the book focuses on how the phenomena of “attention blindness” shapes our lives. In order to focus and pay attention to any one task we filter out many other things that are happening around us.  As a result we have blind spots. But we don’t all filter in the same way.  Our focus is idiosyncratic.  While attention blindness pigeonholes our perspective, Davidson argues that the digital age is providing new ways of seeing and learning that’s based on multitasking our attention.  Social media is allowing us to aggregate perspectives and generate a bigger and more accurate picture by seeing together.

While digital tools offer ways to mitigate the problem of attention blindness, our institutions of learning and work are still designed to meet the social and economic needs of last century. How do we prepare students for the challenges and workplaces of tomorrow? Now You See It provides glimpses of the future by highlighting visionaries and pioneers who are helping to shape the nature and direction of education and work.

Customize Your Own Textbooks

Academic Pub is an application that let’s you make custom books for your students. It features real-time copy-right clearance and an ever-expanding content library along with the ability to add your own materials and articles from the web.

Your custom book can then be distributed to your students instantly to their iPad, computer, mobile device or in a softcover print edition.