Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Thursday, June 28, 2007

100 Blogs We Love

100 Blogs We Love
By the Editors of PC World
Here are our favorite stops in the blogosphere, covering everything from high tech to low comedy and all manner of pursuits in between.
Some of the blogs listed include:
SlashdotThe granddaddy of the tech news blogs, and the virtual water cooler of the geek cognoscenti. To be "slashdotted"--that is, to be noticed by CmdrTaco, ScuttleMonkey, or one of the other regulars--is in some circles the Net equivalent of above-the-fold placement on the front page of the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal.
Engadget and GizmodoThe Bobbsey Twins of the techie gadget universe. If there's a cool new phone, PDA, game console, DVR, or other device brewing, you'll hear about it first from these guys. We only wish we had their inside sources.
TechCrunchFounder Michael Arrington worked as a lawyer to tech startups and has started a few Web entities of his own. Thanks to those contacts, he often has news of an interesting new Web service before the rest of the world does.
ReadWriteWebThis site may not have TechCrunch's buzz, but it's at least as good a source for news on the latest Web 2.0 developments.
GigaOMBusiness 2.0 reporter Om Malik made news when he quit to blog full-time; now he and his team cover the Web, broadband, and more.
Download SquadIf you read only one blog each day for news about software and Web services, this one--a sibling of Engadget--would be a smart choice.
TechBlogHouston Chronicle reporter Dwight Silverman's technology blog is one of the best ones associated with a newspaper.
Tech_SpaceAngela Gunn, former co-host of PC World's Digital Duo, now presides over a surprisingly idiosyncratic and entertaining blog on tech and science--especially surprising considering that it lives on USA Today's site.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Canon S5 IS

Marty Katz reports in the NY Times review An Economical Alternative to a Higher-End Canon reports about Canon's new S5 IS camera.

I bought 2 S3 IS Canons for my school early this year and have considered it to be the best camera on the market for under $500. It has a great zoom, image stabilizer which means pictures are rarely blurry, and takes bright pictures even indoors without a flash. The 6 megapixels seems less than the smaller pocket cameras but don't be fooled. Megapixels are not nearly as important for picture quality as the size of the sensors and lens as David Pogue pointed out in a February 8, 2007 installment of his blog called Breaking the Myth of Megapixels and in his follow-up Deconstructing the Megapixel Myth. In these articles David Pogue took identical pictures with the same camera but with 7, 10, and 16.7 megapixels and only 3 out of 50 people interviewed could tell the difference.

The new S5 (it seems that Canon skipped an S4 model) seems to be a similar camera but with more megapixels, better image stabilization, and many exciting new features.

This camera is reviewed in an article from Digital Photography Review. This article states:

The new compact inherits optical Image Stabilizer (IS) technology, professional-grade optics and extensive movie functions while introducing a host of new features designed to increase the photographer’s success rate. Powered by Canon’s DIGIC III image processor, Face Detection Technology improves focus, exposure and flash output for people shots while the new Red-Eye Correction feature effectively solves red-eye problems in captured photos. An increased sensitivity range of ISO 80-1600 complements the optical IS system for extended low light performance.

Other key advancements include a larger, higher resolution 2.5” vari-angle LCD, additional shooting modes and extended video recording. The compact design incorporates a new hot shoe that provides compatibility with selected Canon EX Speedlite external flashes, adding to an accessory list that includes Wide, Tele and Close-up converter lenses.

I think I have found my new favorite camera under $500. I cannot wait to buy one for my school and test it out.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Blogging in the Classroom

I found this article from ed-tech insider about blogging in the classroom. I will devote a separate post to my views on the matter.

"Blogging in the Classroom

By Anne Davis on April 19, 2007 in Classroom Life. Discuss it below

I still continue to get so many questions about opportunities that blogging can bring into the classroom that I decided to address this once again. The most recent request is in a comment here from Kevin. I think a post might be better than a comment back. First, check the previous posts on this blog: Blogging and Pedagogy Blogging in the Classroom Ways to Use Weblogs in Education Also take a look at my wiki on Improving Instruction Through the Use of Weblogs I have also posted my Rationale for Educational Blogging I believe blogs offer great potential to transform learning and teaching. It is about new literacies appropriate for this time. I am currently working on a year long research project with fifth graders to explore what happens when 5th graders blog and converse about literacies in class and beyond."

Israel Discovers Oil

In an op-ed piece in today's NY Times (June 10, 2007) Thomas Friedman describe's Israel's "oil"; their imagination and innovation which helps them to be so succesful in luring venture capilatlists to technology startups. I will cite the article verbatum below. As an educational technologist in a Yeshiva day school, I wonder if we are following Israel's model. Are we celebrating innovation and imagination frm our students so that they can dream the dreams to create great new technologies? Are we rewarding innovation as well in their approach to Torah so that they can become the next Gedolei Yisrael?

Here is the article which I found on:

"Israel Discovers Oil
Op-Ed Columnist
The New York Times
June 10, 2007

Lucien Bronicki is one of Israel’s foremost experts in geothermal power, but when I ran into him last week at Ben Gurion University, in Israel’s Negev Desert, all he wanted to talk about was oil wells. Israel, he told me, had discovered oil.

Pointing to a room full of young Israeli high-tech college seniors, Mr. Bronicki remarked: “These are our oil wells.”It was quite a scene. Once a year Ben Gurion students in biomedical engineering, software, electrical engineering and computing create elaborate displays of their senior projects or — as in the case of a student-made robot that sidled up to me — demonstrate devices they’ve invented.

On this occasion, Yossi Vardi, the godfather of Israeli venture capitalism — ever since he backed the four young Israelis who invented the first Internetwide instant messaging system, Mirabilis, which was sold to AOL for $400 million in 1998 — brought some of his venture capital pals, like Mr. Bronicki, down to Ben Gurion to scout out potential start-ups and to mentor the grads.

The first student exhibit I visited was by Yuval Sharoni, 26, an electrical engineering senior, whose project was titled an “Innovative Covariance Matrix for Point Target Detection in Hyperspectral Images” (which has to do with military targeting). When I told him I was from The Times, he declared: “This project is going to make the front page, I’m telling you.” The cover of Popular Mechanics, maybe, but it could one day make the Nasdaq, where Israel now has the most companies listed of any nation outside of the United States.“Today, every Israeli Jewish mother wants her son to be a dropout and go create a start-up,” said Mr. Vardi, who is currently invested in 38 different ones.

Which gets to the point of this column: If you want to know why Israel’s stock market and car sales are at record highs — while Israel’s government is paralyzed by scandals and war with Hamas and doesn’t even have a finance minister — it’s because of this ecosystem of young innovators and venture capitalists. Last year, VCs poured about $1.4 billion into Israeli start-ups, which puts Israel in a league with India and China.

Israel is Exhibit A of an economic phenomenon I see a lot these days. Of course, competition between countries and between companies still matters. But when the world becomes this flat — with so many distributed tools of innovation and connectivity empowering individuals from anywhere to compete, connect and collaborate — the most important competition is between you and your own imagination, because energetic, innovative and connected individuals can now act on their imaginations farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before.

Those countries and companies that empower their individuals to imagine and act quickly on their imagination are going to thrive. So while there are reasons to be pessimistic about Israel these days, there is one huge reason for optimism: this country has a culture that nurtures and rewards individual imagination — one with no respect for limits or hierarchies, or fear of failure. It’s a perfect fit with this era of globalization.“We are not investing in products or business plans today, but in people who have the ability to imagine and connect dots,” said Nimrod Kozlovski, a top Israeli expert on Internet law who also works with start-ups. Israel is not good at building big companies, he explained, but it is very good at producing people who say, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this ...,” then create a start-up to do it — which is later bought out and expanded by an Intel, Microsoft or Google.

“The motto here is not work hard but dream hard,” Mr. Kozlovski added. “I had some guy come see me the other day and say, ‘You know Google? They make a lot of money, very famous, right? They’re not that good. We have a much better system that correlates to the cognitive process of searching. Google is worth $50 billion? Probably we can match their numbers.’ He was dead serious.”My guess is that the flatter the world becomes, the wider the economic gap we will see between those countries that empower individual imagination and those that don’t. High oil prices can temporarily disguise that gap, but it’s growing.

Iran’s ignorant president, who keeps babbling about how Israel is going to disappear, ought to pay a visit to Ben Gurion and see these rooms buzzing with student innovators, with projects called “Integration Points for IP Multimedia Subsystems” and “Algorithms for Obstacle Detection and Avoidance.” These are oil wells that don’t run dry."

Friday, June 08, 2007

‘omg my mom joined facebook!!’

‘omg my mom joined facebook!!’
A nosy parent goes where the kids are and learns more than just what her kid is up to.

In this NY Times piece from June 7, a mother describes how she joined facebook so that she could find out more about her daughter. I too have had the "yetzer hara" to join facebook to find out more about my students. I have hesitated (mostly, I currently have an account but no facebook page). The reason for my hesitation is that I think it would be unethical for me to go undercover and snoop on my students. Even if I found something that was obscene or dangerous I would be communicating the wrong message to my students if I found it by pretending like I was someone that I am not.

I do encourage my students to come forward and report dangerous or hurtful items that they find on facebook and then I deal with the issue with the students, parents, and administration on a case by case basis. I believe that in addition to disciplining students they should be educated about healthy and unhealthy behaviors online so that they can learn how to behave approproately in ceyberspace in the future. Isn't that what education is about? To teach our students how to act in different situations?

Back to facebook. I guess I could get a page without going undercover. I might even get some of my students to become my friend. But I think it would be very time consuming and I would rather blog than facebook.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Mac Vs. PC

Recently, the decision on whether to use a Personal Computer with a Windows Operating System or an Apple Computer with a Mac Operating System has gotten much easier. While the new Windows Vista Operating System looks like a poor imitation of the Mac, the Mac loaded with the Intel chip can run Windows as well if not better than any personal computer. This can be done either with Boot Camp which is a program that comes with the Mac. With this program, you choose at the beginning of your session whether you wish to log into the Windows or Mac OS. The advantage here is it is simpler in that you are only running one operating system and it runs Windows as well as any PC.
Another third Party program Parallels actually allows you to run Windows and Mac at the same time in different Windows. You can copy and paste between Windows and Mac and with the latest version of the program even drag and drop. It is like combining Windows and Mac in one operating system. David Pogue describes this in detail in Breaking Down the Walls Between Mac OS X and Windows. He concludes:
I recommend Parallels highly. Whether you’re a Mac person or a Windows person,
the point is that you can now run 100 percent of the world’s computer software
on a single machine, faster and more easily than ever.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Doll Web Sites Drive Girls to Stay Home and Play

Doll Web Sites Drive Girls to Stay Home and Play
Millions of girls are fueling the growth of interactive sites that offer virtual versions of traditional play activities.

Is this a Myspace for the kiddie set? Mr. Merrifield says no:

To make Club Penguin safe for children, the site uses a powerful filter
that limits the kinds of messages users can type to one another. It is not
possible, Mr. Merrifield said, to slip in a phone number or geographic
location, or to use phrases or words that would be explicit or suggestive.
Other sites are also set up to minimize the threat of troublesome
interactions or limit what users can say to one another.

One danger is that these sites can be incredibly addictive as kids create their own virtual world.

Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who studies the social aspects of technology, said that the participants on these sites are slipping into virtual worlds more easily than their parents or older siblings.
“For young people, there is rather a kind of fluid boundary between the real and virtual world, and they can easily pass through it,” she said.

I believe that, while these sites may not be as dangerous as MySpace and Facebook if they have strict filtering, they prepare kids for these virtual worlds. If parents allow their children to be active on these sites it should be with strict limits on time spent online so that kids don't get addicted. Also, parents should explain to children what they can write online and what information should remain private so that they can use this to create a learning experience on Internet Safety for their children.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Rules of email

2 recent pieces in the Star Ledger indicate the importance of email etiquette

1. E-mail has its own etiquette

Here are the 15 rules mentioned

1. Always use a subject line.

2. Write meaningful subject lines.

3. Never write an e-mail entirely in ALL CAPS, no matter how much you want
someone's attention.

4. Do not send attachments unless you know the recipient wants what you're sending.
5. Check your spelling.
6. Be brief.
7. Use short paragraphs, separating each paragraph with a blank line.
8. Send mass e-mails only when necessary.
9. Do not use colors, graphics and unusual fonts.
10. Think before you send.
11. Avoid excessive informality.
12. Don't use e-mail when a phone call would be preferable.
13. Be wary of the "Reply all" option.
14. Respond in a timely fashion.
15. Avoid composing e-mails entirely in lowercase.

(Yes, rules get broken.)

2. Amid the glut of e-mail, firms try teaching brevity

This article discusses ways that businesses are trying to limit the time employees spend on email. The article notes:

Companies are training their work forces to send fewer e-mails,
put entire messages in the headline field,
let recipients know no reply is necessary...

Melachim Bet

Melachim Bet This is a really interesting blog a teacher in Israel used to continue his class in Sefer Melachim Bet (Kings II) when his students went back to America.