Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Story of Stuff

If you have not seen this already, The Story of Stuff is a must-see amazing, entertaining, informative 20 minute animation video by Annie Leonard.

"From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever."

Here's a teaser from YouTube---

To F2F, or not to F2F,..or how much (or less)... that is the question...

As an educational technologist, my livelihood depends on spreading the gospel of the advantages of leveraging technology for better teaching and learning. "Technology as a means to an end...and not an end in itself" is of course, the mantra that I impress on teachers and schools, but I have spent a large part of the last couple of years touting the advantages of web 2.0 tools for communication, collaboration, and community experiences.

Every now and then, however, one is faced with a viewpoint that counters or questions the usefulness of the pervasive trends of 24X7 online interactions, and raises concerns of where things may be headed if they continue in the current vein, and cites the dangers of interaction that is only restricted to typing on a keyboard as opposed to talking - face to face (F2F) or over the phone.

One such viewpoint was offered by Greg Philo in the Guardian article titled "Let's take the digit out of digital" who writes "Facebook is not the same as face to face and, as our virtual skills increase, I wonder if our ability to communicate using speech is on the decline". The article unfortunately digresses into a condemnation of excessive use of Powerpoint and OHPs in conferences and inside classrooms, to support his assertion that "The ability to communicate face to face and hold the attention of others is a vital human skill. Beware of a technology in which the speed of our fingers is more important than the quality of our voices."

I found this observation particularly fascinating -

The great tragedy, of course, is that the phone was invented before the computer. If it had been the other way around, internet forums would now be buzzing with the exciting news: "Have you heard (type, type, type)? There is this amazing new gadget (type, type). Now you can talk directly with people (type, type, type). And they can, like, hear your voice. Without all this flipping typing."

Relentless marketing would do the rest and colleges would be rushing to develop new courses in telephone skills."


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

School Admissions Redux - Homeschooling an answer?

There has been a spate of articles in the international media in recent days about the sorry state of admissions to private schools in India and the attendant stress for the Indian parent due to an extremely warped demand-supply equation. Sample these 2 from the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

About a year ago, really early in the life of, Beena Babu wrote an elog that generated a lot of discussion among the members of this forum. It was titled Grey areas of school admission policy- A search for new assessment ideas and it took an educated look at the what/why/how schools should assess young children during the admissions process - if they should be "evaluated" at all!

A massive movement in the US and the West, homeschooling in India is still in a very nascent stage with numbers probably only in a few hundreds or thousands (not counting children with disabilities who are home schooled due to lack of educational institutions that cater to their needs). If issues with school admissions continue to grow at the current rate, I personally feel that a lot of educated parents may look to home schooling their children as a viable, even sensible alternative. Given the increasing violence in schools and the pressures of regular schooling today (I could list out several - just commuting to/from school in the metros has become a source of stress, fatigue and ill-health for many urban kids), homeschooling and alternative education may make sense for a variety of reasons for many urban families.