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Ed Tech Thoughts on the Space Coast

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Each Choice We Make, Leads Us to the Future

I am often stimulated to deeper thought about the implications of the use of technology by Leo Laporte and his guests at one of my favorite podcasts, This Week in Technology
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In last week’s episode, Leo used one of those inflammatory types of expressions that cause a gut reaction: REDLINING the INTERNET.

Redlining from Wikipedia: It describes the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest; later the term was applied to discrimination against a particular group of people (usually by race or sex) no matter the geography.

Now this may be a bit of exaggeration used to make a point. But it certainly got me thinking!

He said that the effect of our social graphs and digital footprints have become a sort of Social Redlining – how it works is this…
  1. We search for certain things (cookies record this)
  2. We click on certain links (cookies record this)
  3. Then when we load in a new webpage, the web server ‘serves up’ advertisements that correspond with the ‘profile’ or social graph that you have subconsciously created.

Anyone that has shopped for bird feeders on Amazon, for instance, has gotten the email: “
Customers who have shown an interest in bird feeders might be interested in the following products: (numerous related products follow).

For most of us, this is a good thing. It is a given that websites are going to serve up ads. That is how they pay the expenses of gathering content, hosting it, etc. Most of us would rather see ads for stuff we are interested in, so even the consumer benefits.

What was interesting about this though is it has an amplifying, steering affect, which may become a drawback. It may narrow your choices and restrict your experience in a bad way. If you click on one style of music several times, you may never be exposed to other styles. The marketers are making an assumption about you, which may or may not be completely true and like a self-fulfilling prophecy you become more ingrained in the things that were once only a part of the whole picture of who you are.

I am not suggesting that we explicitly teach students to change the way they click and search the internet. But I do thing there is value in discussing this as we talk about modern economics, marketing, consumer behavior and technology (media) literacy.

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image found in Wikipedia article • originally from the National Archives

Reviewing an article
Reviewing an article about Google’s unifying their multitude of services has particular relevance to this idea. One of the results of this recent change in policy is to unite the data they generate to create what will certainly be one of the biggest databases of human activity and interests ever created. What can be done with that information? "The more data and the more signals that you know about any particular cookie or users, the more predictive you can be," said Mr. Wheeler, who expects to see Google release advertising products that tap into the social and interest graph the privacy policy is enabling it to build. "Their data set is being stitched together in a way that I think can bring tremendous value to advertisers." So can your social graph turn into a sort of Redlining of the Internet? What do your clicks and searches say about you?

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Another: What's Wrong With This Picture? Obama & The Space Program

I must say... I am kind of in shock. Though I might have expected it, it still seems so wrong and perverse.

I just watched a June 30th, 2010 Al Jazeera (Arabic World’s News Agency) interview with Charles Bolden- President Obama’s appointee in charge of our nation’s National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA). In this video interview, NASA Director Bolden says “...before I became the NASA administrator, he (President Obama) charged me with three things, one- he wanted me to help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math, (two) he wanted me to expand our international relationships, and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.”

I understand that this might be a message specifically designed for the Muslim interviewer and his Muslim audience, but even if it is a ‘people pleaser’ statement, it causes me to question our elected and appointed leaders. I have previously blogged concerns about closing down manned space flight, and I wonder why the person in charge of our government’s space agency doesn’t have any immediate direction or goal to explore space. The idea of moving forward with space exploration and science is not even on his radar apparently – the ’Next Big Thing in Science’ doesn’t make his top three goals in any clear formulation.

All of this administraton’s goals are ‘feel good type goals’, although feeling good about things is important, how about some immediate, technology outcomes? Beyond the affective domain, where will human space flight be when you leave office, Mr. President? Are we moving forward or backward?

How do we expect ‘children to want to get into science and math’ when we are telling them that the US will be paying other countries to transport our astronauts to the space station while we close down the income of over 8,000 households?!!! Yes, that’s right kids, you go ahead and study math and science while our tax dollars pay Russia about $56 million dollars a seat for a round trip ticket to the International Space Station.

I guess that covers the 2nd goal that Director Bolden stated - the Obama plan is definitely expanding our international relationships!

”and third, and perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations, to help them feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering.”

NASA Director Charles Bolden

So that leaves me to comment on the third goal. Yes, our numaric system is Aramaic. But should our once proud Space Exploration Agency hold up it’s foremost goal to “make them (Muslims) feel good about their historic contributions to science, math and engineering”??!! Please!!!!

Talk about taking your eye off the ball! The agency that was once the embodiment of the modern American pioneering spirit, the international expert of technological innovation and application, the epitome of scientific endeavor now (under President Obama’s mandate) has as it’s
foremost goal to try and make Muslims feel good about their contributions...

I did listen to the rest of the interview, but honestly feel a great deal of cynicsm based on the opening statements. I would probably not have been as upset if
even one of the 3 goals that Director Bolden had provided had something to do with the United States showing some immediate leadership in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) instead of just trying to make people feel good.

How different this President is compared to the President that kicked off this national endeavor...

The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it--we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding.

Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves as well as others, all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation.

“We Choose to Go to the Moon”
President John F. Kennedy, 1962


What do you think?
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Culture & Identity- "On the SpaceCoast of Florida"

When my students were asked to participate in Rock Our World last fall, one of the first things I did with them was discuss branding. We spent a bit of time discussing what a brand is and how important it was to differentiate yourself from everyone else. I thought that this would be an easy exercise as I asked them,

What is the one thing that makes our school system different from every other school in the world?

They couldn’t come up with anything significant.

Maybe it was just the fact that I was born in Melbourne Hospital, the son of a space engineer who had begun working on the SpaceCoast in the early 1950’s. The first thing that leaps to my mind was that WE WERE THE SPACECOAST! And I got to stay up late to see Neil Armstrong on the moon.

or

Maybe as a nation we have had so many things that our media tells us we should be ashamed of, that we have forgotten what we should be proud of.
or
Maybe our entertainment / virtual reality movies, games, tv shows have become so good that we have lost a sense of being amazed when solid rocket boosters hurl living beings several hundred miles above the earth.
or
Our sense of adventure in space was seared by the last two shuttle accidents.
or
The many benefits of Space Exploration and the
inventions of space related-technologies (velcro, metal alloys used in sporting events, insulating blankets, etc.) have virtual no popular association with the Space Program.
or
Our culture’s heros have changed. We no longer honor our astronauts as explorers and hero’s, we only see them in the news when they are part of a scandalous love triangle.


I don’t really know what it is... or maybe it is all of those reasons and more. All I know is that the students never identified the brand of their school with the location of being on the SpaceCoast. And now we are down to a very uncertain future as the SpaceCoast. Two more launches of the Space Shuttle are scheduled and there is no manned launch program in the plans. In fact, the once proud US of A is going to rent seats on a Russian space craft whenever have a need to get to the Space Station or the Hubble.

What seemed like a futuristic, high tech name for a blog has become a historical reference of antiquity. Maybe I need to reexamine my brand...

Ed Tech Thoughts from the Spacecoast

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