Archive for the ‘Educational Technologies’ Category

E-readers are good news for bookworms

Monday, September 13th, 2010

PETALING JAYA: Good news for bookworms – you can now read up to 2,000 books or more at any one time.

This is made possible through the availability of many brands of electronic e-readers which are not only environmentially-friendly but space-saving too.

MPH Bookstores Sdn Bhd chief operating officer Donald Kee said e-readers could help resolve the problem of students having to lug heavy school bags.

“E-readers are popular in many advanced countries. It is common to see people reading them on public transport,” he told The Star.

In Malaysia, most buyers are urbanites aged between 25 and 35 years.

Malaysian Nature Society president Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Nor however said it is a misconception that e-readers protect forests because books are usually made from trees grown on plantations,

“We support e-readers as it’s good to use less paper.

“However, many older people might prefer reading from a traditional book,” he said.

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Gainful gaming

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Computer games need not be just an after-school activity — it could also motivate students to learn.

The past decade has been the decade of online social networks, where Internet users could connect with each other, wherever they are.

The next decade will see the rise of what is called game dynamics.

Game dynamics has always been a part of our lives and for a long time, has been determining many of our actions that we assumed were independently and consciously made to suit our own purposes.

Petrol stations attract repeat customers by giving prizes and rewards to those who accumulate points to a certain level, using an aspect of game dynamics called Progression Dynamics.

Bars and hotels control your movements so that you are present at a certain time and at their premises in order to enjoy the benefits of happy hour, banking on Appointment Dynamics.

How can we apply game dynamics to subtlely infuse new ideas and motivations that will transform our education system?

Let’s start playing with game dynamics and discover how it could change the way students view and interact with education.

Appointment Dynamics can be used by teachers to ensure students actually revise and look through material that had been learnt in the classroom.

For example, a small window of a few hours can be given after school, during which students could SMS or email with answers to specific questions that are sent during that window.

Students will need to have access to their learning material at home in order to answer these questions.

The points derived from just participating could lead to a chance to further improve their standing on a class or school achievers list.

This is based on Collective Intelligence (CI), which harnesses the collective brain power of team members to solve problems and create novel knowledge.

This coming decade will see very innovative software taking over the roles of consultants and advisors, and providing real time, just-in-time intelligence for decision makers, based on automated CI software.

In other words, what I am talking about is not just games as an after-hours activity for students. With the right support, this powerful brain and learning-shaping tool could be brought directly into the classroom.

Just imagine, instead of teachers chasing after students and punishing, bribing, rewarding, scolding them to learn, students will be chasing after teachers to explain lesson modules that they need to understand in order to solve quests.

From a neuroscientific point of view, learning occurs best when the brain is not trying to learn.

The focus becomes the game itself, and the content mastery becomes a tool that has to be utilised for one to progress to the next level.

Even though this will sound very fishy to old-timers — who will say, “I studied with no technology and I turned out fine!” — remember, this is the 21st century.

by Dr. Theva Nithy.

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How Internet habits can change the brain

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

DOES the medium massage your brain or is your head just changing shape?

There’s a growing debate about the Internet, how it shapes or doesn’t shape your brain. This concern has been growing since research shows that the Internet opens new pathways in your head. And what is it actually doing to it?

This is a serious question now that we are so constantly glued to the screen, even if it’s a tiny one. People are constantly twittering, and constantly pulling over to the lay-bys of conversations without as much as a by your leave vis-a-vis the person he or she is talking to in order to answer a text message, and the younger ones are deep into something on their newfangled all-connecting mobile phones when they are out lunching with adults, perhaps they are checking ingredients on Wikipedia, perhaps they are interconnecting on their Facebook. Last Friday I caught a man stealing furtive glances at his silenced mobile phone while the imam was sermonising in the mosque; he was probably expecting a message from God.

Of the fears expressed by those who have looked at the Internet’s effects on the mind — Nicholas Carr most notably, in his book The Shallows — the one most often expressed is the loss of our ability for deep thought. Our brain is a neuroplastic blob, we have long been aware of this, its hundred billion cells are constantly sending charges through synapses that become strengthened through constant exercise. Take London cab drivers for instance, they have to do what they call in their parlance the Knowledge, and this means taking into their minds a complete road map of London, knowing every shortcut, every landmark and prominent place. No surprise then when Eleanor Maguire, professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of London, discovered that they have all developed a bulge in the saptial memory department of their hippocampus.

The Internet leads to a new way of looking up information, with its lures and sidetracks and hyperlinks that take you from A to Z and then back to D. It may develop new pathways in the user’s brain, for instance the ability to look at many things at once. But if you cast your eyes — and mind — over a wide range of things all at once, how many things can you really look at in depth?

Carr’s concern about the Internet is exactly that: that it turns its users into shallow thinkers. By jumping from one topic to another, from one link to the next, the user’s mind is often entangled in unconnected thoughts, multitasking, not focusing. You do not multitask in that way when you are reading a book. Carr said in an interview that he was “connected” while writing the book, but it made his work very hard.

“So, I abandoned my Facebook and Twitter accounts and throttled back on email so I was only checking a couple of times a day rather than every 45 seconds. I found those types of things really did make a difference,” he told Mark Egan of Reuters.

Many people will be familiar with the withdrawal symptoms from doing just that. Carr said that his mind became “befuddled” after he disconnected, but fighting it gave him back the ability to stay focused for a sustained period and finish his work.

The Internet is not an entirely bad thing, of course. It has given us short cuts to many of life’s work, quick access to instant knowledge. Dr Gary Small who conducted some research with a team of psychiatrists at the UCLA found that even in old people the brain responds to stimulation to this new technology. And then he says (as quoted in last Friday’s Guardian) something that may well be the nub of Carr’s argument: “If you have repeated stimuli, your neural circuits will be excited. But if you neglect the other stimuli, other neural circuits will be weakened.”

by Wan A. Hulaimi.

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Of phones and privacy

Monday, August 16th, 2010

HAS the mobile-phone made life simpler, or more complex? On the plus side, the mobile phone makes it possible to make and receive calls and messages from a moving position and cuts people free from land lines. Smartphones like the iPhone and BlackBerry take the mobile communication scenario even further by making it possible to email, tweet, blog, update Facebook accounts, watch videos and surf the Internet. This means a person does not have to be near a desktop computer or lug around a laptop or netbook to do all of the above any more — one can do all of that wherever one happens to be, including while pushing a trolley down a supermarket aisle, riding in a lift, or while waiting for the traffic lights to change.

Yet, though the world may have become smaller, it has also become more fragmented. While these phones certainly allow for multi-tasking communication, they also allow for even greater intrusion into normal face-to-face communication. Instead of socialising in real time and real space with family and friends, a person’s attention is split between his real life and his cyber life.

These days, it is quite impossible to sit at the breakfast/lunch/dinner/conference table without having conversations interrupted by a phone call, SMS, BBM, or email/Twitter/Facebook update. Even worse, the act of accepting such communication during meals and meetings, or placing the phone on the table, has become so commonplace that some don’t even recognise it as a faux pas.

There is a need to set limits. Just because a person has become accessible all the time does not mean that that accessibility should be abused. For instance, a person still has a private life and private time, and that should be respected. Bosses and co-workers must resist disturbing a person outside of workhours; and if they must interrupt, it must be with apologies. The owner of the telephone must also respect himself and realise that just because there is a call, it does not mean that it must be answered—calls can be returned at a more convenient time. And if life and how we socialise have changed, then new rules need to be set.

NST Editorial.

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Internet junkie children have parents worried

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

PETALING JAYA: Parents and teachers have been left in a quandary as the onslaught of Internet games and social networking sites are bringing out a rebellious streak in many children.

“Why are you controlling my life?” – is the question often thrown back by children to their parents or teachers when they are confronted with their obsession with the Internet.

Norton, an Internet security company, produced a family report in 2010 which stated that Malaysian children spent an average of 64 hours online every month.

National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary general Lok Yim Pheng described the students’ obsession with the Internet as a silent killer which was “killing off” the interest of students in class.

There had been reported cases of students falling asleep in class after a whole night of playing Internet games and on-line chatting.

Lok had been ringing the alarm bells over this issue for the last five years.

She said there were also students who starved themselves during recess time because they wanted to save up for trips to cyber cafes.

“There have also been cases where stealing is involved,” she said.

by Joshua Foong.

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Discipline yourself

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

TECHNOLOGY has made possible so much that was previously science fiction. We can see in real time what someone thousands of kilometres away is doing and hear what they have to say. We can connect with anyone we want to.

Social networking platforms and instant messaging (IM), even more accessible now via new gizmos — iPhones and BlackBerrys, among others — allow us to do all that and much more from within the confines of home. Everything is instantaneous, fast and frenzied. People are connected every second, 24/7. But are we all better off because of it?

In a study in the United States, a third of the people surveyed said their relationships had been adversely affected by digital technology — they “talk less”. With the explosion of email, text and IM, there are fewer face-to-face meet-ups and phone calls.
People communicate more, but through means disembodied and impersonal. “Pokes” lack the warmth of a robust hug, firm handshake or cheery “hi”. The establishment of a human bond can these days be achieved by clicking, “Add as Friend”. Etiquette and social niceties are hardly important either, in the fast and furious technological world.

At the same time, however, popular social networking site Facebook has been blamed for everything from murderous rampages to illicit sex. It has caused declining academic achievement, say studies. It is also rife with status updates of criticisms and complaints as people appear to be unconcerned over who might see their posts on so public a medium. And now there is also this condition called Facebook Addiction Disorder. Psychologists in the United States have labelled it a new mental health disorder. The number of Malaysian youths exhibiting similar symptoms is apparently on the increase. Teens are so absorbed with virtual activities that they are willing to let go of their meals, sleep, responsibilities and leisure activities.

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Why networking sites can be addictive

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

HUNDREDS of online social networking sites (SNS) are available these days catering to various interests — friendship, dating, business networking, among others.

Sites like Facebook, MySpace, Urkut, hi5, Bebo and Friendster are very popular.

Almost 85 per cent of Malaysia’s online population belongs to one or more of these sites. Of the many SNS, Malaysians have taken a liking to Facebook which has a 77.5 per cent reach of the web population. This phenomenon, states a report on social networking activities by comScore Inc, is common in most Asia Pacific countries such as the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Singapore.

What drives online users to Facebook?

The ability to establish and maintain relationships is the primary drive, says Dr Adrian M. Budiman, a senior lecturer at Universiti Utara Malaysia. It could be real contacts (established in real life), virtual contacts (established online), or old relationships. Adrian, who conducts research in new media and culture, says there are several interesting reasons why Facebook appeals to the online population.

“It is a tool for members to boost their self-esteem. The more friends they have, the more popular they feel. They receive feedback for the content they publish though the site.

“There is a sense of constantly being surrounded by a circle of friends.”
Another reason, he says, is the voyeuristic tendency to view other people’s information in private.

“People want to explore other people’s personal lives without suffering negative social consequences. It also provides a platform to rekindle old relationships.

“The ability to search for old friends and colleagues, former romantic partners, and discover their current status is quite appealing for some members.”

He says the majority of the younger generation (21 years and below) embrace social networks more comfortably than the older generation, and tend to be more liberal in revealing personal information through the site.

While younger people are interested in making new friends, the older generation is more interested in maintaining existing friendships through this medium.

“For younger people, it is their primary method of communication in some cases. In my study, I have discovered that the older generation still has a tendency to value human communication as superior and have greater respect for traditional values and morality,” says Adrian.

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Do you have Facebook Addiction Disorder?

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Many people are setting up profiles, uploading photos and adding friends on social networking sites. For some, it is a means to keep in touch and share events with friends. But there are those who are addicted to such sites, especially Facebook, writes CHANDRA DEVI RENGANAYAR

NOT taking their bath for days, forgetting to eat and not getting enough sleep are some of the signs of being addicted to Facebook.

It has become so widespread that psychologists in the United States have labelled it as a new mental health disorder known ominously as Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD).
The number of Malaysian youths exhibiting similar symptoms is on the increase, says Professor Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil, director of Universiti Malaya Centre of Addictive Sciences (UMCAS).

“It is similar to Internet addiction. It is a type of behavioural addiction similar to pathological gambling, sexual and shopping addiction. It is a brain disorder as a result of neurochemical dysfunction where normal behaviour becomes abnormal.”

Besides teenagers and young adults, he says Internet addiction is also common among working adults. Although the problem is not as serious as it is in China where the government has taken measures to prevent Internet addiction, Dr Hussain says Malaysia will see the effect soon.
He says the centre has seen an increase in the number of such “patients” over the years.

Dr Hussain says parents have brought their teenage children to the centre thinking that they were under the influence of drugs.

“When they noticed their teenagers performing poorly in school and not interacting as usual, the parents assumed their children were addicted to drugs. The fact was these children were addicted to the Internet.
“These teens were so obsessed with their virtual activities that they were willing to forego their meals, sleep, responsibilities and leisure activities. They felt life was not complete without online connections.

“There was a constant craving and they did not care when they went online. Some even had sleep disorders because they stayed up late at night to go online to avoid their parents.”

by Chandra Devi Renganayar.

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Malaysia to tie up with S. Korea in education.

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

MALAYSIA hopes to cooperate more with South Korea in education and an agreement on technical assistance in the field is on the cards.

Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-Chan, whom he met yesterday, had reacted positively to a Malaysian proposal for such an agreement.

“We are to sign a significant memorandum of understanding on education, hopefully before the official visit of South Korean president (Lee Myung-bak) later this year,” he said at the end of his working visit here. Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, stressed it was important for Malaysia to learn from successful South Korean education initiatives such as its National Education Information System (NEIS).

NEIS is an integrated computer system where information on students are stored and could be accessed and utilised through the Internet by the teachers, parents and education authorities.

All schools in South Korea have been connected to the Net since 10 years ago, while almost all households have the same access. Muhyiddin said the pending agreement on cooperation between the education authorities of the two countries would also include matters such as co-curriculum, teachers’ training, vocational education, sports and the use of information and communication technology in education.

He said Chung had indicated that South Korea had always been keen to enhance its bilateral ties with Malaysia and promote interaction between the leaders, peoples and businesses of both countries.

Earlier, during his visit to South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group at Samsung City near here, Muhyiddin said Kuala Lumpur would continue to make it easier for foreigners to plan and operate their investments in Malaysia by cutting red tape and coordinating investment administration between the federal and state governments. He said he told the Samsung management that the government was very supportive and appreciative of its investments in Malaysia.

“We will do our best to make it easier for Samsung to operate in our country and expand its investments.”

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The new ‘free’ turns us into a spoilt lot .

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

“FREE” used to mean something else entirely. Because it never really was, you see. It used to be a marketing strategy. A ploy. Give something away first, only to make money from it later. Get the consumer hooked, then make them pay. Make yourself indispensable and then charge for it.

It was genius. It was how Woodward and Humelbaugh would make Jell-O a household name. It was how King Gillette would sell billions of blades.

It was the “loss leader”, that radical little notion, that cunning concept, which successfully put forward a new, indirect, path from product to profit. So much so that it became an entirely new economic model. It would be reshaped a hundred different ways. It would be adopted by everyone from cellphone service providers to computer game manufacturers to micro-loan disbursers. “Free” or “so close to free that it’s practically free” would be the most powerful marketing strategy of the 20th century.

This new century, however, would see the propagation of an entirely new concept. “Free” that actually is. “Free” that is genuinely so. There would be no strings. There would be no conditions. It would quickly become our everyday. We could read the news. We could email. We could upload hundreds of thousands of photos into the ether. We could Facebook and Twitter and YouTube and Flicker. We could run that search engine ragged. We could do all of it without ever reaching for our credit cards. Not once.

This new “free” is good. For the most part. The democratisation of information has created a more well-informed society. It has proven to be a great leveller. It has bridged social gaps. It has been instrumental in the proliferation of liberty, and independence, and self-determination.
This new “free” has been the gateway to a multi-billion dollar economy. Just look at Google. Just look at Linux.

This new “free”, this real “free”, however, has had one tragic side effect. And for that, you need look no further than just what is going on in the newspaper industry.

Navigate your web browser to the Times website and you will be greeted with a wonderful new design. It is crisp. It is clear. It is colourful. Its layout flows, from top to bottom, like the modern rendition of an old-fashioned broadsheet. Like some attempt to recapture, digitally, some of that nostalgia that was forever lost when the analogue version of the Times — after 216 years — went tabloid only in 2004.

The new website looks and feels like the Times should. Engaging. Enduring. Contemporary without losing any of its time-honoured sensibilities. It feels familiar. At least until you start clicking.

by Umapagan Ampikaipan.

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