It’s interesting to look back and see the past attitudes people held towards computers, especially in the educational space.  People actually actively feared that computers would replace the teacher.  While some of that holds true today (some people can earn college degrees online), there are still teachers.  We just use computers as educational aides.  I was shocked to hear that my high school had given all the students an iPad!  I couldn’t believe it.

In the early 1980′s, the advent of microcomputers made increased computational power available at a cost the schools could afford. More than a million personal computers were estimated to be in use in the schools by 1985. Applications had not stood still. The boundaries of computer-aided instruction have expanded beyond drill and practice. Software is now available for a variety of games and simulations designed to advance teaching, particularly in math and science.

Although an estimated 10,000 educational software items are available, their quality is acknowledged to vary wildly. Most school districts lack personnel with the expertise to discriminate among the products on the market. In the case of the better software programs, evaluations may indicate that such software enhances instruction, but by and large cannot show convincingly that the improvement is more than marginal.

When AI-influenced systems become available, the attitudes of teachers and teacher organizations will be germane. Resistance could arise from reasons ranging from computer fear to predictions that the computer will replace the teacher. And despite the likelihood that hardware costs will continue their incredible shrinking pattern, the investment required will daunt many school districts.

AI applications in business and the military have outpaced those in education in part because such organizations have the resources to invest in systems that are often designed specifically for them and that they see as cost effective. Many of the new AI systems being used in business for a variety of troubleshooting and decision-making tasks are based on AI research on building expert systems, a way of organizing the knowledge of experts to enable nonexperts to solve particular technical problems. A prototypical application was in medical diagnosis.

Excerpt:  Walsh, John. “Computers in class at the awkward age.” Science 233 (1986): 713+

It will be interesting to see how computers will alter education in the future.  Our partner website at No More Sad Computer has a few great articles on this subject.  We definitely think that the best way to influence the decisions made by our educators is to look back and see the advantages that increasing technology has brought us in the educational sphere, and that we should not fear nor fight the future.

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If you’re looking to update your global awareness, then consider learning a new language.  Studies have shown that learning a new language can improve mental power and even offset deterioration of old age.  Also, learning a new language can open up your viewpoints to new things.

Different languages have different ways of expressing certain things.  This is called linguistic relativity, and can have a sometimes profound effect on the way we see the world around us.  For example, certain tribal languages do not have “relativistic” words for things such as behind, in front of, to the left, etc.  All of their location words are based on cardinal directions – and not just the directions relative to the person but relative to where the person is.  So no matter what way the person is facing, they will describe the location of objects as “to the northwest of your foot” or “to the south of the tree”.  The funny thing is, when recounting the same story but in a different place facing a different direction, the hand signals and directions change according to the direction that the person is sitting.

Other differences in languages are color, gender expression, and more.  Studies have shown that people who speak a gendered language often view inanimate objects as having either more feminine or masculine characteristics (based on whatever gender the object is assigned in their native language).

So if you’re looking to learn a new language, get ready to embrace these unusual and fun differences.  Spanish is a great language for English speakers to start out with thanks to the proliferation of Spanish in the USA as well as the similarities between the two languages.  There are a few great language learning programs out there, including the Rocket Languages series (check out a good Rocket Spanish review here).

However, the best way to learn a new language properly (and get the culture with it) is to actually go to where the language is spoken natively and immerse yourself.  If you can’t make that happen (and honestly, who can make that happen anyway?) then a classroom setting is best.  If you happen to still be in college, get involved in a language club.  There are so many opportunities to speak with native speakers while you’re in college.

Lastly, an audio program like the one mentioned above is a great tool in the interim, or if you’re just looking for a quick and dirty way to learn some vocabulary and phrases for a vacation.



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What is the point of global awareness?  Is it to simply make us feel better about ourselves?  Or is it to truly open eyes to what’s really going on outside our doorstep?  The global blindness of Americans is quite stunning.  Many of my friends have no idea what is going on around the world, and they could care less.  They’d much rather be home watching “Honey Boo Boo” or some ridiculous nonsense on television.

I was having a conversation with my friend last night about the decline of our education system, and how many Americans are growing soft.  We are quickly being surpassed by other countries that have the hunger to better themselves and get ahead.  Americans have a false idea of entitlement, and that they are ‘already’ ahead.

There are so many things that we need to be aware of around the world, and it can become quite overwhelming and depressing – so I do understand the tendency for people to ‘ignore’ it and retreat into their own world where all they have to worry about is downloading the latest apps for their iPhone.  It can be rather stressful to learn about the crazy stuff that’s occurring around the world, and the stress and pain that many people are going through.

For example: the drone war in Pakistan.  What is going on here?  It’s a remote controlled killing spree and it’s killing many innocent people.  Whether or not this is a good or bad decision on the United State’s part is a topic for another discussion, but the point is that it’s actually going on and we need to be aware of the actions as well as the causation.  We can then come to conclusions for ourselves as more globally aware citizens who can more fully direct the country in the direction that it needs to go.

Pollution In China

What else should we be aware of?  How about the pollution in rising nations such as China and India.  These countries are absolutely booming with industrial production, not to mention the production of new humans because of their booming populations.  However, how are pollution controls in these countries?  China may advertise that it is “green” in certain areas, but it’s such a large country and their media is so controlled that it’s difficult to get a clear picture of what’s really going on out there.   So the point is – we need to be aware of the risks of all this pollution and perhaps choose to buy goods that are made by either more green industries or countries.