Category Archives: education

Astronomy study proves mathematics theorem

From New Scientist, Astronomy study proves mathematics theorem. As an astronomy and maths geek and teacher, this is the kind of story that makes me smile. The research concerns gravitational lens. This phenomenon occurs when the light from a very distant object is bent by the gravitational field of some objects between the distant object and the observer. This was a prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Depending on the mass and shape of the objects who’s gravitational field results in the lensing effect, multiple image of the distant object can be observed, this is where the mathematics comes in. It turns out that for a lens made of n stars, 5n – 5 is the maximum number images. It is not every day that The fundamental theorem of algebra is mentioned in the media, even in New Scientist πŸ™‚ This is an example of how Pure Mathematics that is developed without any direct practical application can be vital to work at some later time. Another example is the applications of number theory to cryptography.

NSW education downgrades Microsoft

via Jeff Waugh’s Be the signal. The Australian Financial Review reports NSW education downgrades Microsoft.

β€œThe NSW Department of Education has put Microsoft on notice after it agreed to extend its software licensing agreement for just one year instead of renegotiating a new three-year contract.” β€” Prepares to deploy OpenOffice.org on 41000 PCs by end of 2008

Very interesting, I am big supported of the use of open source and open standards in education. The purpose of education should not be to teacher kids particular commercial software, it should be to teach kids how to use technology to empower them to learn. I look forward to further developments.

note: I am a casual employee of the NSW DET, my comments do not represent my employers, past. present or future.

Negroponte on why OLPC needed to be non-profit

The Science Show (Radio National, ABC Australia) recently broadcast Nicholas Negroponte’s address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston. He spoke about the OLPC, One Laptop Per Child, being interested in both education and technology I have followed the OLPC project for some time, but this talk made me appreciate the project more from an educational and social perceptive rather than just a technological one. In my view then most important point of the whole talks concerned the economics of OLCP.

Negroponte:

“Then the biggest decision in retrospect that we made was to do it as a non-profit and everybody advised me the opposite.”

I see this as an example of how in a purely capitalist system some great things will never eventuate, I can see parallels with FLOSS here. Negroponte also speaks of how on the OLPC they used the rapid pace of technology advancement not to make a product with more feature but one at a lower price.

A transcript and mp3 (for a limited time) of the talk are available from the Science Show site, I highly recommend reading/listening. It is people who work on things like OLPC who change the world for the better.

Google celebrates Australia Day

Today is Australia Day and as is often the case on days of significances, Google (AU) has a special header for the day.

au_doodle4google071.gif

This is the result of Doodle 4 Google My Australia a competition for school students.

Social Networks, Web 2.0 and Schools

Schoolboards: net dangers over-rated; bring social networks to school By David Cassel

The internet isn’t as dangerous as people think, and teachers should let students use social networks at school.

link

This article was posted on an education mailing list that I’m part of. I think it brings up many issues.

I can see the issue from two perspectives: I am, relatively, young and am part of the social networking generation and I am embarking on a career as a teacher, so feel I can see parts of these issues from both perspectives.

First off, this is based on a new study funded by Microsoft, News Corporation, and Verizon; all corporations who have a vested interest in promoting social networking.

Internet access in schools has always been an issue, I was in high school during the 90s when schools first got internet access, it was, and still is, protected by filtering software. This filtering software is never perfect, for example students were unable to access asx.com.au, the site of the Australian Stock Exchange, for the schools network. Teachers have a duty of care over their students, so I fully understand why schools and the authorities that run them have been so reluctant and cautious about internet access within schools. Within the physical bounds of the school, the kids are students who have to obey the school rules and the teachers have legal responsibility over them, I would include the schools network as part of the school. The school is accountable for what is in the school. Social network sites like myspace and facebook are obviously not part of the school’s network so the school have no jurisdiction over how students communicate.

I am personally a big fan of this whole web 2.0 thing. I check facebook (many times) every day. Do I think schools should be giving students access to likes myspace and facebook during school time? … may be not. Within a year in many, but not all, school students will be access these kinds of sites via mobile phone any way. I do think that web technologies need to play a part in schools. The most valuable web technology, I can see are wikis, I can see wikis being used as very effective collaborative tools and making students aware of these web tools. The use of wikis, blogs etc, within or outside, schools by young people will make them more web savvy, and I think that is what we want for people for whom the web is playing large part in their lives, so that they will act sensibly online as well as offline and it seems that most young people are.

Since I started this blog post, over a week ago, I have found two other related posts