Archive | October, 2011

Learning With Technology: What Works?

24 Oct

In 2003-04, I’d researched the Web sites of master’s and PhD programs at over 200 US universities in the field of technology-based learning. I was particularly impressed with the Cognitive Tutor research program at Carnegie Mellon University, and applied to their PhD program. I was not surprised to learn that I was not accepted to the program. I was, however, accepted to a prestigious PhD program in educational psychology at another university but eventually decided to not go there.

A few days ago, I read an article in The New York Times, “Inflating the Software Report Card“, about Cognitive Tutor, the very same program that had attracted me to CMU. The Cognitive Tutor is a product of Carnegie Learning, which was acquired by University of Phoenix. What surprised me was the mention of a report that says the Cognitive Tutor is not as effective as it is made out to be. The evaluation appeared on What Works Clearinghouse, a federal institution.

The Cognitive Tutor helps students learn math by showing a problem. If the student gets it wrong, the program shows some hints, and eventually helps and guides the student to the solution. This is adaptive learning at its best. The program is based on years of research on cognition and computer science. How could it not work effectively? The article took some time to sink in, and my opinion is that adaptive/computer-based learning works best when we have an engaged student, who would sit in front of a computer and work diligently, without getting frustrated and giving up. In absence of engagement and the motivation to learn, no amount of computer-generated content and algorithms are going to work. The failure of this program might also have resulted from an absence of the perfect conditions for its success and the way it’s implemented.

“This is what every parent and teacher dreams of – a turned on child” – movie “Dolphin Tale”. What are we doing to turn on our children? Giving them more and more technology without any evidence that technology actually supports learning. Meanwhile, the technology experiments go on.

Related readings:
Why Education Startups Do Not Succeed
A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute

Secrets Of Success

11 Oct

TED talk by Richard St. John.
Author of The 8 Traits Successful People Have in Common: 8 to Be Great

Related readings:
The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives

The Crazy Ones

6 Oct

The essence of Steve Jobs, captured in this video (narrated by him).

Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address, 1995

… and a creative visual design.

Related articles

25 Steve Jobs Quote You Should Stick (NOW) On Your Office Wall

Kindle Fire

4 Oct

Amazon launched its much anticipated Kindle Fire tablet last week. The initial preorder numbers are breaking iPad’s sales record. I didn’t buy the iPad. Will I buy Kindle Fire?

iPad is a great device. It’s ultra-portable, ultra-fast, and has more than 100,000 apps. I didn’t buy an iPad because I didn’t want to spend $500 on something I didn’t need or want.

  • I always have a laptop handy, one in the office and three at home.
  • I don’t play computer games. I don’t have time or interest.
  • I read a lot, but prefer a print book. I do have a Kindle but I don’t use it. I bought it because I wanted to buy one. And it was cheap ($116).
  • My Windows 7 laptop wakes up in about 2-4 seconds, which works fine for Internet surfing.
  • I take a physical notebook to office meetings for taking notes.
  • In office meetings, I use my iPhone to read emails. I hate writing emails on virtual keyboard.
  • I don’t need to carry a laptop or tablet anywhere. The iPhone does the job very well.

I didn’t have any plans to buy Kindle Fire … until I heard the price, $199, which is $300 less than the cheapest iPad. It doesn’t have a camera, accelerometer, and thousands of apps, and it’s smaller (7″ screen). But I think it would do most of the work an iPad does and do it equally well. For a lot less money. It’s definitely not an iPad killer, but I think it’s going to hurt iPad sales a lot. Apple created the iPad mainly as a consumption device with more features, and Amazon took this one step further and created a consumption-only device, which is a lot cheaper. Apple makes money on hardware. Amazon plans to make money on software.

My kids love the iPhone, and they use it more than I do. That’s why I call it the most expensive toy I’ve ever bought or will buy. I can imagine them getting something bigger than the iPhone and going crazy. And I won’t have to pay for it every month.

Kindle Fire – I still don’t need it, but I’d love to have it. I think my kids are getting it this Christmas.

Related articles
India launches “world’s cheapest” tablet computer