Apple's iPhone, the power of infinite thinking, and what teens reveal on MySpace. Plus: Florida Educational Technology Conference
Macworld in Brief
When Apple's iPhone becomes available in June, consumers will get a threefer: a phone, an iPod, and an Internet device. Two-and-a-half years in the making, the iPhone was unveiled at last month's Macworld conference by CEO Steve Jobs, who modestly called it "a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone." Features include a 2-megapixel camera; a touch-screen interface; rich HTML e-mail; Safari Web browsing; and support for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. One catch: the phone, which starts at $499, operates exclusively on Cingular's data network.
Believe it or not, the iPhone wasn't the only draw. Educators assembled at Macworld's K12 Market Symposium to hear how blogging, gaming, podcasting, and other apps can have a place in the classroom. (Note: Technology & Learning served as media sponsor for the event, which was hosted by California's Computer Using Educators.) On hand was WestEd's Chris Walsh, who was shooting footage for the Infinite Thinking Machine, a new site featuring quirky video podcasts that parse out fun "use-it-tomorrow" ideas. "We think it's a nice vehicle to reach the average classroom teacher," Walsh told the audience. —Amy Poftak
"Blog is not an evil four-letter word,"
—Wesley Fryer, speaking at Macworld's K12 Market Symposium hosted by CUE. Fryer's presentation, "Safe Classroom Blogging," can be accessed at www.speedofcreativity.org/2007/01/10/perspectives-on-classroom-blogging-video-final.
Postcard from FETC
At last month's Florida Educational Technology Conference, one tech category dominated: clickers. There appeared to be no shortage of teachers taking demos of personal response systems from eInstruction, Qwizdom, InterWrite Learning (formerly GTCO CalComp), Learning Soft, and Turning Technologies. Hoping to join the crowded field is H-ITT, which provides clicker systems to 300 colleges and is looking to expand to K–12.
Another FETC newcomer was GXB Interactive, a startup that develops educational games for Nintendo Gameboys. The company's titles, which include Beat the SAT and Passport to English ESL, are due out this summer.
Also, literacy-based curriculum maker In2Books and school-safe e-mail provider ePals have merged to become ePals. One of the new company's aims is to push subject-specific content to the ePals community—for example, says ePals cofounder Tim DiScipio, it piloted a project at a Washington, D.C., elementary school where science modules were sent to students' ePals accounts. A much bigger merger that's generating buzz: Houghton Mifflin and Riverdeep. It will be interesting to track how the textbook publisher and software maker integrate their products. —AP
In January, the price and grade for PreschoolFirst was listed incorrectly. The grade range is pre-kindergarten; pricing varies on level of service.
$15 Million Fun
In an uncharacteristic investment in creative education, the U.S. DOE is ponying up $15 million for a pioneering pre-algebra and literacy simulation to be deployed in Maryland. Key partners making it happen include FableVision, Maryland Public Television, and MIT, which brings to the party veteran game experts, theorist Henry Jenkins, and Zoombinis math software creator Scot Osterweil. The Learning Games to Go initiative will expose a new generation of students to the challenging mazes, mythical creatures, rich graphics, and compelling storyline that made Zoombinis a classroom classic. Perhaps even more exciting is the notion that teaching to the state and national standards might again involve the digital fun of yesteryear. —Susan McLester
What Kids Do on MySpace
New research shows that teenagers are more responsible social networkers than most give them credit for. Justin Patchin, assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, and Sameer Hinduja, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University, analyzed 1,500 MySpace profiles for such red flags as personally identifying information and evidence of alcohol and drug use.
"The media and many parents have demonized MySpace, but we found that an overwhelming majority of adolescents are using the site responsibly," said Patchin in a statement. Among the researchers' findings:
• Almost 57 percent of the profiles included at least one photo of the teen, often of themselves with family, friends, or people they met at a social gathering. Many others provided detailed descriptions of their personal appearance.
• Almost 40 percent of the profiles included the youth's first name, and about 9 percent included their full name.
• About 81 percent of the youth included the name of the city in which they live, and another 28 percent named the school they attend.
• About 4 percent included their instant messaging name, and 1 percent included their e-mail address.
• Less than 1 percent included their telephone number. But when extrapolated to all teens on MySpace, nearly 75,000 youth may be including this private information.
• About 18 percent of the sites included evidence of alcohol use, 7 percent included evidence of tobacco use, and 2 percent included evidence of marijuana use.