Tuesday, April 28, 2015

[Cartoon] Indiscretion: Bad taste coupled with bad judgment!

Often, we find ourselves saying or doing things that we’d regret later. When an act or speech is not acceptable in relationships, business contracts, religious gatherings etc because it or they run counter to what is acceptable by society, it is generally classed as an indiscretion.

Indiscretion in life is generally used as examples easily rather than in other areas. For example, we can all quickly remember when we young that thoughtless remark made in front of our parents or people older than we are etc. Indiscretion in other areas like business could be costlier though than any in life.

The cartoon below is one. The indiscretion could cost a marriage and relationship, including trust, respect and love.

What can you say about it? Add your suggestions and notes in the comments box below, or join me on a Facebook group, mypallys. You can join on Whatsapp by writing your phone number on the comments box below!

Monday, April 27, 2015

[Video] Top youtube video for week of April 25: It's all about The Calbuco Volcano in Chile

On Wednesday, April 22, Calbuco Volcano in Chile erupted. The last time it did so was in 1972, about 42 years ago. Thousands of people have been evacuated from Ensenada, a town in the foothills of the volcano both on the first day of its eruption and also on Thursday, when Calbuco erupted a second time.

Youtube videos was rife with Chileans posting videos of the eruption. Smoke and ash were sent to the air like a scene from an apocalyptic film. It’s so wonderful, although the catastrophe isn’t. News reports that the immediate concerns are that the ash could contaminate nearby water sources and also cause respiratory problems.

I picked one of the trending videos from youtube, this, with 5,604,176 viewers, 12,158 likes and 622 dislikes. As you watch, you’ll be left pondering what power and secrets lie beneath the depths of the earth. I was whoops! This is my mythical!

Explosión volcán calbuco by Rodrigo Barrera

Friday, April 24, 2015

Integrating Educational Technology 2:Considerations parents and educators should make before going virtual.

Education should provoke critical thought for the learning process to win. Technology should enhance teacher proficiency for easy adoption. Education should be an active process. Technology should make the activation cheap in both time and money.

The value of educational technology is enormous but the risks when handled badly is much more. So, what are the considerations before going the way of integrating educational technology?

  1. How comfortable is the teacher with the said technology?

  2. Parents should consider this question before allowing their children to be part of any virtual education program. The teacher or institution involved should be ready to show proof that they are well trained in the use of technology and the use is accepted in current educational pedagogy.

    We want our children to be digital natives
    Credit: Juan Cristóbal Cobo on Flickr
  3. What skills will the use of technology introduce that the traditional classroom does not already?

  4. Or, in brief, what does the teacher or school belief technology will add in way of learning and skills acquisition that their current traditional classroom based settings does not? The parents should also consider the cost of such benefits before making a decision.

  5. Will the school or teacher be consistent in his practice?

  6. When the integration of technology in teaching is not consistent, it demonstrates a lack of preparedness. Preparedness involves taking notice of network access, software, learning management systems, lesson plans, assessments and systems of administration, in such a practice. When all these resources are not harmonized and in place, integrating technology into learning becomes a stop-go affair and impacts on students’ learning.

  7. How much experience does the teacher or institution have?

  8. It will be beneficial if the touted experience is validated by a certificate. Experienced teachers are more creative in the use of technology. They can adapt to student changing needs better, as well as adapt their teaching resources when necessary.

  9. Will the computers come cheap?

  10. This is the question of the cost of the integration. Parents and teachers should count the cost of resources to be used: devices, software, licensing, intellectual property etc and make sure that none of these should serve as a hindrance to the implementation of technology as a method or platform for teaching. It is expected though that an experienced teacher or institution should have taken these into its business plans before launch.

  11. Will it be a fulltime affair or blended learning environment?

  12. Blended learning environment is where some of the teaching and learning previously carried out in the classroom is now done online or using technology, while learning also takes place in the classroom simultaneously. A parent should consider if his/her child is ready for fulltime online learning or if not, whether blended learning will be better. This decision most times depends on the policies of the education authority that covers the district, the ability to pass tests and exams, especially state-wide tests and exams, as well as if the child will be carrying out such learning alone or with other students.

  13. How much support will the parent or institution offer?

  14. Online learning is a novel experience for many students, although in western countries it is slowly becoming the norm. Parents and educators who are thinking of integrating technology into their children’s learning should be ready to give them needed support. They should access the child’s records regularly, tracking his/her progress and the teacher’s teaching methods. They should also apply for a sit-in to a teaching session when the time permits.

Attitudes, beliefs and perceptions about integrating technology into education varies. One point every stakeholder should keep in mind is – student outcomes. How much of student learning will be enhanced? How can this be verified? That should be at the mind of all parents and educators whenever a decision is made for technology in education.

Previous: Integrating Educational Technology 1: Making sense of the promise of educational technology.

Integrating Educational Technology 1: Making sense of the promise of educational technology.

Digital technology such as smartphones, Blackberrys, iPads, iPhones and Web 2.0 technologies have changed the way information is accessed and viewed. It has also changed the way education is conducted. As student population increases faster than teachers with expertise in pedagogy and practice, it is expected that education will face budget constraints in the near future. One proffered solution to this problem is integrating technology into education. Examining and accessing the now familiar cliché that education should be able to enhance student learning and teacher training and expertise is then pertinent.

In a recent paper on the “technology effect”, authors Clark, Robert and Hampton state that people have been influenced to believe technology will work when in particular they do not understand how it will work, or how to make it work. This could lead to flaws in decision making.

Education is a serious issue both in government and private quarters. The budget for education is worth hundreds of billions of dollars globally; private spending for education show how much importance it is placed in society. When one considers educational technology, you’ll realize that the promise of technology is its potential for liberating teaching from the constraints of place and time. Hence, virtual education, online learning or e-learning is being put forward with the intent of influencing both parents and educators that integrating technology in education is a cure-all for many ills that afflict current practices in education.

The question remains: can technology solve all the problems in education?

Anywhere, Anytime - Technology's edge
Credit: Jeff Peterson on Flickr
The marriage between education and technology has its roots at conception. The aim and objective of education is to enhance learning and teaching and in doing so, creating channels for information access and provision. Technology is a tool for adding value to those channels.

Technology can transform a classroom into a dynamic, active learning environment. Outdated models of teaching and learning placed the teacher as the “star” of the classroom; current models of teaching place the student at the center of learning. For teaching and learning to be equivalent, students must be active participants in their own education. The goal should be student engagement, not rote learning. Yes, technology has the potential for that. I am subscribed to www.edmondo.com, an online professional teacher learning community. The site has tools for enhancing student active learning like polls, forums, quizzes, games etc.

Technology also offers economies of scale and mass customization. An example in point is www.khanacademy.org. Maths and science learning can be delivered, instantaneously or by schedule, to literally thousands of students at the click of a mouse. Web 2.0 tools, such as Instant Messaging, have also been developed that support and enhance student-instructor communication, as well as creating communities of students for interaction and collaboration.

One key component of any educational method is the ability to encourage differentiation, or the support for diverse needs and capacities of students, through teaching and assessment, so that students are given more control and potential to deeply understand the information being presented.

There are so many web-based collaboration tools that can increase cooperation and teamwork amongst students and teachers, therefore, making teaching and learning more efficient and productive. A recent study concluded that when children play games that enhance synchrony, it makes them more collaborative and empathic. If you visit game sites like www.abcya.com as well as www.bitstripsforschools.com, a cartoon network for classrooms, you will find lots of opportunities for such.

Technology is not a cure-all to end all the ills of inexpert teaching and pedagogical practice. Without adequate teacher training in the use of technology, access to technology tools does not provide any value. That is why parents have to be careful when being sold on the idea of virtual education or e-learning.

It has been found that technology could create obsession in children, especially the use of smartphones and iPads. Rather than generating positive attitudes and enhancing the self-efficacy of students, it could end up creating a lonely, withdrawn student, who sees educational technology as a diversion from daily living. Powerpoint is a case in point. It has been denounced for its detrimental impact on “dialogue, interaction and thoughtful consideration of ideas.”

Another criticism leveled against online learning is that it makes cheating and passing easy. Answering a quiz without a teacher looking behind your shoulders, it is asserted, encourages a culture of cheating. It is also claimed that only motivated and mature students are fit for online learning, or it is possible for students in need of remediation, not for high achieving students.

Whatever the pros and cons are when making decisions on virtual education, parents and educators intending on integrating technology in their children’s learning should first of all consider what their basic objectives are. On a casual Google search, one can find lots of sites offering virtual education through learning platforms called learning management systems (LMS). The focus should be on increasing student outcomes, and not on any perceived benefits.

That brings this discussion to the second part: Integrating Educational Technology 2:Considerations parents and educators should make before going virtual.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What can social insect colony parasite, Maculinea species, learn from illegal immigrants?

The life of an illegal immigrant is fraught with apprehension. When caught, he/she will be imprisoned and thereafter extradited. So much time, money and effort seeking for greener pastures gone down the drain. Some have even died in the process. To survive and succeed, illegal immigrants have allowed themselves to be exploited financially, mentally and physically. The same fate could be faced by a species of Maculinea butterflies, a predatory parasite on ant colonies, the Maculinea arion.

Ants are social insects. They live in colonies with a queen ant that ensures the generational continuation of the species by giving birth to young ones, a group of worker ants who are sterile females that produce the food for the colony, defend the colony and the young. Then, there are the unfortunate male ants whose only purpose is to mate with the queen and die after a mating ritual. An ant colony is one of the most organized social structures in insects of order Hymenoptera.

There is another group of winged insects, butterflies, order Lepidoptera, who produce larva like the ants. Like I said unlike ants they are winged. One family, the Maculinea butterflies have learnt how to depend on or parasitize the ants. How does the Maculinea do this?

Maculinea can't do this, or they'll be caught!
Credit: latimesblogs.latimes.com
A Maculinea lays its eggs on plants where you are likely to find an ant colony. These eggs later mature to the larval stage. When the larva falls off, it looks to the ant colonies for nutrition by corrupting the communication signals which the ants use to organize their social life in order to gain access to the colony.

The butterfly larvae hack so perfectly at the gates of the ant colony to be accepted. There are two types of larvae. Those that are socially accepted, or what are called cuckoo parasites, and those that when they have been accepted into the ants colony, go into hiding and look for opportunities to feed on the young ants, or broods, when no one is looking, the predatory parasites.

What is most interesting about these butterfly hackers is that the successful hackers are the cuckoo parasites. They emit a sound like the queen ants and become accepted by the ant colony, are treated and feted like queen ants. In brief, they achieve a high social status in the ant colony. One such butterfly is M. alcon. The predatory parasite butterflies cannot achieve this because the sound they have hacked into can only give them a gate pass into the ant colony and not social acceptance.

So, how does the predatory parasitic butterfly, M. arion, survive? Possibly by subterfuge - sneaking on broods at inopportune moments or conniving with defense worker ants to be exploited – notably, living off its wits. That wouldn’t be for long though. When found out, they would possibly be eaten or killed.

A predatory parasitic butterfly like M. arion can learn so much from illegal immigrants who have known how to evade the police. Who will do the teaching is the unanswered question.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

[Cartoon] The Limits of love, or What are the boundaries of Loving?

What are the limits of love, in order words, what are those things that could happen, you or your loved one could do, that would kill love or dampen it?

I cracked my brain and the first answer that came up was infidelity. I think that's the major killer of love. Infidelity includes adultery, unfaithfulness, and betrayal.

Another, as the cartoon below portrays is attaching too much meaning to physical appearance. When that mortal flesh starts to show signs of aging, most persons start looking, which is wrong, somewhere else.

Can you add to the list? The comment box is below, or you can join the facebook group or join my group on whatsapp by writing your phone number on the comment box below.

Monday, April 20, 2015

[Video] Week of April 18 top 3 youtube videos: Hillary Clinton, David Hasselhoff, Casey Neistat, filmmaker

Last week ended April 18, amongst the top three youtube trending videos, the first position belongs to – a political video. Guess who? Hillary Clinton.

David Hasselhoff’s "True Survivor" comes second and is absolutely stunning. Third place was prominent filmmaker’s vlog, Casey Neistat, whose story is not only inspiring but motivationg.

The videos start from the third. I hope you do enjoy them.

No 3: Intensity by Casey Neistat

   At 26 after a devastating accident, he was told by his doctors that he wouldn’t be able to "run" again. According to Casey: "This is what matters…[the brain] and the body is there to keep it running." Two years later, 28, he ran a marathon and 21 other marathons after that with several hundred triathlons.
   In this vlog, he ran 21 miles for more than 2½ hours. Astonishing, the intensity!
   This is the 19th vlog from filmmaker, Casey Neistat. He recently announced that he’ll be starting a daily vlog that will allow his viewers a window into his life.
   Viewers: 447,959
   Likes: 12,514
   Dislikes: 233

Thursday, April 16, 2015

4 tips for learning and memory recall

Every day we interact with different persons, learn different things and encounter different situations. Hours, days, and weeks from that encounter, can you properly recall what happened?

These are some useful suggestions about memory and recalling events.

  1. Our memory glosses over general details of a matter or subject.

  2. When I was working for a bank, I used to take the company bus. At end of the first day, it struck me that the company buses were of the same model and same color. So, how did I make out the bus for my route? The drivers realized one truth: people are interested in taking the gist of a matter and would rather gloss over the details. The buses were parked on the same spot at the same time every day.

    If they had not done that, I’d take the pain and an inconvenient one, of recalling license plates, driver faces, bumps on the body etcetera.

    Could you make out these faces one hour hence?
    Credit: Wikipedia.org

    When faced with daily items, our memory is poor. But given specific details, one can easily recall those items. 

  3. Our memory is much poorer than we can imagine.

  4. Close your eyes for one second. Can you recall all the items that were in front of you? Zillions, not so, but can you recall just fifty of them? Most persons don’t. Hours after an email was answered, one forgets what the email subject was especially if it was not replied. I was reading my email this week when a company wrote me that my annual subscription was renewed and extended for free. I sent a “thank you” message. If I had stopped receiving the company newsletter, I would surely have recalled that and re-subscribed.

    So, never trust your memory. Make it a habit of jotting down important details.

  5. Increased exposure does not affect memory recall.

  6. Increased exposure to a matter or subject increases familiarity but does not determine future recall. When I was a bachelor living alone, I used to meet a friend to write me recipes for a favorite African dish. I never stored that recipe in my memory. I can’t even recall that recipe if you asked me! 

  7. Distinguishing attractive details is better than learning everything.

  8. For effective learning, students and teachers need to have an idea of how every part of the subject matter are connected. For easier recall, students should concentrate on the easy parts of the subjects, the areas that attracts them most, before moving on to the difficult zones. It is the same with recalling information. Start with your zone of confidence about a subject if you want to be able to remember details about it later. An argument that you had with someone, what really piqued you about it? Make sure you make a note of that. It could be the only thing you might be able to recall weeks or months after.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Champions league quarter-final, PSG Vs Barcelona: Luis Suarez set to shine again in Paris

Luis Suarez, loyal for club and country.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Luis Suarez, 28, will be man to watch in the quarter-final game between Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona on Wednesday, April 15.

The Uruguayan has impressed me on and off the pitch. Oh, forget the match biting incident. We know he did it twice and deserved to be punished. He has, hasn’t he? I agree with the views of this news story that he brought it upon himself.

Now, he’s back and to prove it just after the round of 16 victory over Manchester City (he scored in the first leg), he sealed Barca’s dominance over Real Madrid by scoring the 56th minute goal that made it 2-1, bringing his goals tally for this season to 14.

After scoring a goal at the World Cup in South Africa, 2010.
Credit: Lightscripture on Flickr

Suarez started his career with Nacional, Uruguay, at age 11, and played his first game there in 2005. He later moved to the Netherlands to play for FC Groningen and then Ajax FC. He got his first taste of continental football with Groningen in a match that was lost 2-4 to Partizan at the first round. He led Ajax to win the 2009/10 Dutch Cup and was voted Netherlands' Footballer of the Year for 2010. He joined Barcelona last summer, in August 2014.

I like his spirit of determination and of team work.

This is what he said when asked about playing alongside superstars like Neymar and Messi:
"It's about adapting to the way they play and the moves they make, trying to make things easier for them and help them.

"They are incredible players, you don't have to work hard to do the dirty job but to really support the team as a whole, regardless of who is playing that day and who isn't.”

Luis Suarez is my pick for Wednesday’s match.

See you at Parc des Princes stadium - Paris, France, on Wednesday. Kickoff time: 19:45 hrs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

[Cartoon] Rumors: Half truths, half lies.

Rumors are stories or reports which truth or accuracy is doubtful or uncertain. Sometimes also, those stories are not even verified before people start labeling them as facts.

Rumors are enjoyed by people because they are information that are usually entertaining, juicy or stimulating to the ears. But because their truth value is debatable, rumors are usually thought of as stories used for casting reputations, institutions and truths in bad light.

Some people enjoy rumors; some detest it. Some spread it like wildfire; some don’t want to hear about it. Rumors though are a fact of our lives.

So, how do you react to a rumor about you?

As the cartoon below shows, the rumor in question was replied quickly. But, which, the reply or the first story, is the truth, is what makes it more intriguing

There are people who can make money or friendships from spreading rumors. Do you enjoy listening to rumors?

Monday, April 13, 2015

[Video] The best three youtube videos last week - wiz khalifa, sketchMe and Sia.

Between Sunday, April 5, to Saturday, April 11, 2015, 2300 hrs GMT+1, West African Time, millions of videos on Youtube were watched, liked, disliked and shared on the Internet.

Some were funny, some musicals and others soccer shows, dramas, and news.

Three of them all had the most viewership. The data was collected on Saturday, April 11.

Watch the videos below, starting from the third. I hope you do enjoy them.

Number 3: Big Girls Cry by Sia(Official Video)

   "Big girls cry," by Sia. In the video, a young muse is sitting, displaying several emotions like pain, despair, joy and amazement. I think I liked the video after pausing and viewing it again.
   I'm not the only one because there were 5 million views of the video in less than 24 hours after it was released. You should listen to the music. It really is mesmerizing.
   Viewers: 16,787,699
   Likes: 233539
   Dislikes: 19677;

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Claim of IQ and parental education association proved with adopted siblings

If you take a child from his/her biological parents and place him/her in an adoptive care, a most permanent kind of environmental change, if the adopting parents are more educated and have better socioeconomic circumstances than the biological parents, that child will be more intelligent than his/her siblings.

Siblings and IQ have environmental association
Credit: Wikimedia Commons
This is the result of a study by some researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Virginia and Lund University in Sweden. It places high authority to the claim that environmental circumstances such as educational level of the parents as well as their socioeconomic status has a high impact on the cognitive abilities of children even down to their early adulthood.

This also rends credence to the claim that DNA or one’s genes has influence on intelligence. So, factors influencing IQ resides both within and outside the person.

Neuroscience - brain associates sense from nonsense in learning new word forms

Take a look at these two words: HAPPINESS and SADNESS. They are supposed to be opposites. Some people have the latter and desire the former, or vice versa. What you’ve not yet been told is that your brain does not form visual images of those words, or any word, by taking them alphabet by alphabet, or by alphabet groups. Your brain forms images of any word, interesting or nonsense, meaningful or casual, based on its interpretation of the word as a complete whole.

Words are learned by visual imagery.
Credit: Steve Jurvetson on Flickr
Jerome Bruner, a well-known educational theorist, posited the theory that people learn based on three leaning modes: doing or enactive, image association or iconic, and by abstraction or symbolic mode of learning. Adults are associated more with abstract learning.

Well, in a ground breaking work published in the Journal of Neuroscience by Maximilian Riesenhuber, PhD, along with other authors, from the Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) Laboratory for Computational Cognitive Neuroscience, it can be established that abstract or symbolic learning of new words, whether nonsense or meaningful , occurs in the left side of the brain, what is called the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) while at the right brain, a Fusiform Face Area (FFA) is associated with learning of new faces.

The Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) is selective in picking out words, especially new words. It can distinguish between sensible words like turf in contraposition to turt which is meaningless in English dictionaries. This selectivity demonstrates the plasticity of the brain. Before this, Stan Dehaene, has demonstrated that neurons at the VWFA distinguishes over case while other researchers have shown a division over font.

This study is instructive because it can be used to great use. Teachers who used to think that word recognition by children and adults could be enhanced by improving spelling would have to make a rethink, and also using partial word groupings would not help matters, especially for children with learning difficulties. New word learning and retention can best be enhanced by visual learning techniques.

The advertising industry is also wont to play with fonts, case, color and words of brands in order for consumers to retain the brand image. Better understanding of this information could help them in brand image marketing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

[Cartoon] Support : giving help to the weak

We live in an uncertain world. Acts of God, even when foreseen, like a cyclone striking where we live, cannot be stopped. Last month, it happened in Vanuatu. I felt for that poor Island country and decided to post some pictures on this blog. Climate change has exacerbated storms, floods, natural catastrophes that it could happen anywhere anytime.

Although there is nothing you can do about stopping their onslaught, you can do much for yourself by responding positively.

But, what if you are strong and someone is weaker? You can help yourself by giving them support. Support, helping others to get up when they are fallen, to see the good and the best in them, is good for the community as much as for the person.

That is the theme of this week’s cartoon: support.

Think of ways you can give support to someone close to you who is weak: your work colleague, your brother or sister, your neighbor, a stranger you met on the road…

You could end up giving yourself a needed boot indirectly.

[Photos] Vanuatu - before and after Tropical Cyclone Pam

On the 14th and 15th of March last month, a category 5 storm, named Tropical cyclone Pam hit the Island nation of Vanuatu. The speed of the storm was measured at 155 mph. Days later, about 11 persons were reported killed, 70% of the population displaced.

Before the storm, Vanuatu was a tourist destination. Its people were subsistence farmers. It exported copra to New Zealand and Australia. Port Vila, the capital, was one of the poorest places in the South Pacific. Weeks after, the people are beginning to settle down to usual life. But, they need help. Tourism has to be revived by people spreading the word that Vanuatu is going to return to its usual beauty.

This is my contribution to helping Vanuatuans. This series of pictures, Vanuatu – Before and After, were creative commons photographs compiled from image repositories on the web, especially Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.

Dry coconut is used to make copra, a Vanuatuan export.
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Friday, April 3, 2015

Study finds network operators wrong about customer bill shock assistance

When Pasteur advocated rigorous washing in hospitals by doctors and nurses as a way to fight off infections, particularly during surgical operations, he was scorned. In the nineteenth century, many health professionals believed diseases were spontaneously generated, possibly influenced by the theory of evolution. Later, when it was proved that germs enter living organisms from the environment, hygiene and attention to washing and cleanliness took its position in medical practice.

That was a case where practice and concept (or theory) were mismatched. In such cases, education and public awareness campaigns are powerful tools for bridging the gap.

When the fact and idea doesn't match.
Credit: Charlotte on Flickr
In a similar vein, bill shock prevention could be falling into that class. If you read this Syniverse bill shock prevention document, bill shock prevention has the mobile subscriber in mind. It enables subscribers to set spending and/or usage thresholds based on pre-established policies.

Unfortunately, a recent study has called its economic value into question. The study conducted by Mathew Osborne, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and Michael Grubb, an assistant professor of economics of Boston College, argues that the practice might be going contrary to the claims.

Bill shock prevention might be costing subscribers.

By sending timely SMS or email alerts to customers when plan threshold is about to be breached, mobile network operators hope to save their customers' money, make them happier and increase company revenue while protecting themselves against customer churn. It seems that is but a concept.

In reality, such SMS or email alerts induces a secondary behavior on the subscribers. It makes them to decrease their network usage, stop using the plan or switch to a wrong plan. All these makes the cost of usage more expensive for the subscriber.

It is estimated that the average subscriber cost increment when network operators implement bill shock prevention strategies is about $33. Calculate this by the subscriber base of each mobile operator and you’ll understand why this is possibly an externality the society might have to address.

To bridge the gap, subscribers have to be more educated on their plan usage details. They should have access to summaries of past usage, to weekly and monthly usage histories. "Perhaps a better avenue is policy that helps consumers do a better job of forecasting their usage," they posit.

Whatever the case, this externality is not common to network operators only. Utility companies, banking overdrafts and health insurance do fall into this category of mismatches which might have to be addressed.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Smartphone malware protection using computing security similar to captcha

Are you human or a bot?
Credit: Phil Whitehouse on Flickr
Mobile phones are ubiquitous. One of the allures of mobile phones is that they are personal. A smartphone can store zillion details about its owner in ways never imagined before. Furthermore, mobile phones have extended their use to virtually every aspect of our lives - from making calls to financial transactions. It is then imperative that we take the security of mobile devices as much as important as desktops and laptops. Protecting mobile devices against malware or malicious software implies preserving our privacy.

A research team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have devised a malware detection technique that is simple and akin to captcha verification on computers. The technique involves the detection of hand gestures common with three primary smartphone services like calling, tapping and snapping using motion, position and ambient sensors to give the phone protection against attacks by malware.

Captcha was invented to prevent bots from adding urls to search engines. It is a test used in computing to determine whether the user is a human or not. Malware cannot perform common user gestures which is a familiarity on mobile devices or smartphones, such as tapping, dragging the screen etc; this distinction was used as a security advantage for identifying malware from human gestures whenever a phone attempts making calls, or is performing tasks that involve human gestures.

By the way, the user gesture is one of the weak security points of smartphones. They put themselves at risk by downloading apps that are insecure, or they just click “yes” to an ad without extensive verification. The research team is using this weakness to advantage.

In the future we could see secured gesture techniques extended to commercial grade smartphones and also to other areas of smartphone use, such as sending SMS or email.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An educational test tool for school, teacher and class engagement for greater learning

When a prepared teacher walks into a classroom his aim is to make the students active participants in the learning process. That is what engagement is about. Engagement of students in active learning brings about predictable outcomes – increased achievement in standardized test scores and assessment, reduced dropout rates and enrollment in challenging courses. Student engagement should cut across the three dimensions of learning, hence, affective, behavioral and cognitive, whether at the classroom or school level.

Active student participation is a learning good.
Credit: Woodleywonderworks on flickr
How does a school, administrator or teacher measure the frequency of his/her students’ engagement?

According to research from student motivation and psychology, when students participate in class, they could be driven by many factors. One of them is the desire to cooperate in the process and learning, so that the teacher, the oppressor, should not bother them. This is what a teacher wants to avoid. Another is to put the maximal effort without any external compulsive force to show exemplary academic behavior. This latter is a good in a class.

Another reason why an engagement measuring tool is important is that children learn across different developmental stages. The learning predisposition of kindergartens, elementary school, middle high and senior high school students are different. It is known that elementary and kindergarten school pupils are more attuned to affective or emotional learning styles more than high school students.

To fill this knowledge gap in measuring engagement, Ze Wang, associate professor of educational, school and counseling psychology in the College of Education at Missouri University, MU, along with other colleagues produced a classroom engagement inventory (CEI) tool.

The classroom engagement inventory or CEI tool measures student engagement in both the classroom and school level. School level engagement is a prompt for teachers and educators to test why students chose or exempt themselves from out-of-school learning; it measures their interest in schooling at a holistic level. Classroom level engagement would answer questions such as: what can teachers do to make their students participate more in class activities, how can a teacher’s teaching effectiveness be evaluated, how can teachers know and understand how their students perceive them, and understand the relationship between engagement and learning.

The CEI tool has been shown by studies to be consistent and validated. It has been consistent whether the students or pupils have variable characteristics such as ethnicity, income of the family, age, subject and gender. According to Ze Wang, the goal of a tool like CEI is to lead the teacher and students to greater learning.

You can download a copy of the research.