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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Perhaps Our Kids Really Are Smarter Than We Were: Technology and E-Learning

Podcast / downloadable mp3 file.

I had an interesting conversation with my son about e-learning and social networking. He described the way the Internet makes one think and behave differently. I have to admit that I was just sort of nodding in agreement, when he started to describe how and why adolescents of today do not feel the need to succumb to peer pressure when it comes to experimenting with drugs.

“We’re smarter than your generation, Mom,” he said. “We’ve moved beyond that. We evolved.”

I have to say I disagree with him that teens are not affected by peer pressure. I see peer pressure as a part of social learning and group conditioning, both from a behavioral standpoint and a cognitive one.

Nevertheless, my son’s rationale made me pause for a moment and reflect my beliefs and attitudes about the knowledge and skills bases of today’s (and tomorrow’s) learners.

Could my son be right? Are kids today smarter than my generation when we were kids? Part of me agrees, for the following reasons:

1. Tech-savvy kids are adept at managing large amounts of data with technology. They are also used to teaching themselves how to solve problems in an interactive environment. As James Paul Gee has described in his book, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Teaching and Learning (2004), when playing a video game, the average child learns quickly how to do effective task analysis in a “real-time” setting and to obtain the necessary information which is available on-demand in order to achieve the goal. This is a perfect example of situated, outcomes-oriented learning, and children of this generation are extremely skilled at it by age 6 or 7, depending on how long they’ve been playing video games.

2. Today’s generation of youth are exposed to vast quantities of information, and they learn to manage, classify, use, and dismiss what is not useful to them. While this is an excellent skill it also may result in distressingly extensive lacunae, that is to say, gigantic gaps in knowledge. If the information is not immediately applicable and relevant to one’s life, it is ignored or dismissed. The positive aspect of this approach is that the average tech-savvy kid will have encyclopedic knowledge in areas that interest him or her. This might include audio files, “cheats” for games, movies on DVD. On the other hand, he or she may know little or nothing about world geography.

3. With the new social networking sites, tech-savvy kids are becoming adept at social development learning, which has been described by Vygotsky and others. According to this theory, people learn through social interaction, and it does not matter whether or not it is face-to-face or virtual. It follows, then, that kids who spend hours instant-messaging or interacting with social networking spaces such as,, and others, will have experienced an accelerated pace of learning.

4. Comfort with searching and finding information that helps them achieve their objectives in a short period of time is something to marvel at when seeing it in action. Teen-agers are creating web-based businesses of all sorts, and have been extremely effective at generating traffic and revenues. They are also adept at using the internet to solve logistical problems, and they use Mapquest, Google-earth, UPS tracking, US Postal service (create your own stamps, etc.) with great success.

5. Image manipulation is not only easy for tech-savvy kids, it is also accompanied by the awareness that each digital image is manipulated, resulting in a worldview that does not necessarily trust appearances.

When one considers how kids have been spending their free time with information technology, it is no wonder that they are bored by school. You don’t have to be an “Indigo Child” ( to find a 50-minute traditional class where students sit dutifully in hard chairs behind desks, listening to the teacher, taking notes, then taking tests, to be utterly stultifying. It is enough to convince a parent that homeschool or “unschooling” ( could actually be better than a structured classroom experience.

Thinking about my son’s words, I try to imagine how the current generation of teen-agers might view their Generation X and Baby Boomer parents. The words “narcissistic” and “self-absorbed” occur to me immediately, as I think of the high divorce rates, the “me generation,” the “yuppies,” and bizarre custody battles in which more concern was given to the family cat and rights to the time-share than to the kids. I do believe that my son has a point. Boomer generations can been seen as resisting the notion that everything is always in flux, and that nothing is permanent; thus one can never be smug or complacent. A failure to embrace the notion of constant technological change and upgrades sets up internal resistance to new ideas and structures. I can see how this could lead to a failure to communicate in any meaningful way about process and procedures.

It occurs to me that Boomer and Gen-X parents do not quite realize that the Internet, watching media (including films and television), and playing video games are not the same passive activities that they were during Leave It to Beaver or Pong days. Video games are massively multi-player, so playing them requires a great deal more range, skill, and communication ability. When they download and edit movies and music, play games, and communicate with friends, tech-savvy kids are problem-solving, recognizing patterns, increasing hand-eye coordination, cataloguing events, determining cause-effect relationships, predicting sequences, and more.

Further, as they download music and film, they develop extreme film and music literacy. Granted, it’s not in a form that is easily tested, and the knowledge gained here won’t make anyone a wunderkind in the local No Child Left Behind test battery. Nevertheless, they do know how to get the information. The trick is to turn it into knowledge, and knowledge that can be used.

While a great deal of effort is expended in creating online courses and education programs that will appeal to adults, operating under the assumption that the adult learner needs to have the course content presented in a certain way for learning to take place, perhaps it is not too far-fetched to say that the same principles apply to tech-savvy kids.

The specific activities required in the lessons will be different, and the way the material is used will vary. However, the following three learning outcomes can accommodate both generations. Upon successful completion of the course, the student should be able to

1. Make connections between unrelated and/or related items and to support the connections with a rationale based on close analysis of the items;

2. Solve problems using the material and concepts presented in the learning module;

3. Engage in metacognitive tasks and develop skills such as generalization, classification, and abstraction that can transfer from one course to another.

In the meantime, it probably would not be a bad idea to start putting a renewed emphasis on ethics and ethical behavior. After all, this generation and the one after it will be taking care of us one day.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Great New Program: Turn Your Image Files Into a PowerPoint - Instantly!

downloadable mp3 file/podcast

GLTImager, which I like to call the "Dog and Pony Bot," is an amazing time-saving program for anyone who has to make a presentation that includes lots of graphics. It takes your image files, and in a one-click process, populates a PowerPoint presentation. The graphic files do not have to be the kinds you'd use on a web page (jpg or gif). GLTImager is much more flexible and can use the files that engineers, scientists, doctors, nurses, health professionals, designers, architects, accountants, strategic planners, marketing consultants use in business, education, technology, medicine, and more. This program has other powerful features as well. It can organize image files, catalogue them, and either import or extract from Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, or Powerpoint.

For a limited time, the program is available for download. Please contact

The GLTImager is perfect for use with social networking groups and communities that share images such a Flickr (,, and Live Journal. (

Presentation for Conference or Work: You can upload all the charts and graphs that represent your unit's financial data, marketing and demographics, financial performance, human resources breakdown, and more. Create great charts and graphs, put them in a separate folder, organize them in the order you'd like them to appear in the presentation, and boom! You're in business. Expect a raise and a promotion.

Selling Your Car: Ever wish you could show more of what you're trying to sell than just a collection of flat images? Take great shots of your car, then create a powerpoint instantly. Add text, even music. You'll be amazed at how effective your presentation is.

Victoria's Wedding: If your social network community (, livejournal, yahoo360, myspace) allows sharing, you can save your new files into a separate folder, and then with one click, create a powerpoint! Here is specifically what to do if you want to send your family members a digital keepsake of your cousin Victoria's wedding. Download your cousin Victoria's wedding pictures from Flickr or Yahoo360 ( into a file folder on your desktop, hard drive, or on your flash drive, then with one click, presto! you've got a powerpoint presentation. Then, you can even write captions, add animations, and add music.

School Presentations with Stunning and Provocative Photos: Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone from YahooNews is one example. You may wish to make a presentation for your class and incorporate photojournalism and nature photography. For example, if you're doing a paper and a presentation on Nepal, or the Hindu death rituals, you may wish to use his photos from Nepal. For example, this one is of an elderly woman in Nepal who works at a crematorium. Behind her are bodies burning in a pyre.

Nepal on Flickr:

Here are features of the GLTImager program.

Features - What GLTImager currently does...
) Reads native image formats of JPG, GIF, WMF, EMF, BMP.
) Reads application COM images using Corel Draw 10 & 12, Adobe Illustrator 10, MS-Powerpoint 2000 & XP & 2003 if said applications are installed
) Has a Library of Images
) Has a Project of Images
) Create a Project from the Library
) Always creates a 200 pixel resolution image (JPG or GIF) for each image for both the Library and Project.
) Can view Image Properties
) Can import and save caches of the images at specified sizes and types
) Can set a Rotation flag (90, 180, 270 degrees) for an Image (of type JPG, BMP or GIF) in either the Library or Project and that setting is applied for each cache loaded
) Can set a Flip flag (top to bottom, left to right) for an Image (of type JPG, BMP or GIF) in either the Library or Project and that setting is applied for each cache loaded
) Internal support for exporting a Project of images to MS-Powerpoint
) Printing of an Index of images (either from Library or Project)
) Exporting a set of Images (either from Library or Project) to PDF format without use of external drivers
) Open an image (if original is available) in the image's native application
) Viewing the Library or Project of images as a multi-column list
) Viewing the Library or Project of images as a full-screen multi-column list
) Saving a Library or Project of images to a single compressed file (.GLI file) with samples and cached images (if used) for opening on other systems with GLTImager
) Opening of a GLT Imager file format to the Library or Project.
) History of opened GLT Imager (.GLI) files for the Library and Project
) Fully integrated Help System with text, images, animated images and links (requires Internet Explorer 4.0 and above to function)
) "Search for Images" capability along with advanced options for caching different versions of an image
) "Drag and Drop" capability to quickly and easily load images into the application

For a limited time, the program is available for download. Please contact The GLTImager program was developed by Andrew Slatt.
All rights reserved.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Leadership in Machiavelli for an Online Course

Downloadable mp3 file / Podcast.

Rather than simply providing a synopsis of Machiavelli's The Prince, or providing historical contexts, which can be found in many places, it can be more useful to look at leadership in Machiavelli from the point of view of guiding questions. Many have commented that Machiavelli meant The Prince as an ironic tour-de-force in which he satirized leaders and leadership qualities.

Instead of slavishly adhering to the prevailing philosophy that princes enjoy the divine right of kings, and that their birth into the monarchy reflected God's choice as a leader, Machiavelli portrayed the Prince as a fairly arrogant manipulator who was successful precisely because of his deeply flawed humanity (rather than any potential divinity). It is useful to keep in mind that the medieval order of the universe, or cosmology, expressed by Dante in The Divine Comedy was also that of Machiavelli.

The "great chain of being" placed the king at the top of the hierarchy, then the other members of the aristocracy, then peasants. Leadership required one to demonstrate one's true right to the throne, which could be done by means of trickery of all kinds, ranging from birthmarks to behaviors that would echo what might be expected of a capricious, yet righteous and omnipotent God.

Here are a few typical questions to help one look at leadership in Machiavelli's The Prince:

Does Machiavelli think humans are innately good and virtuous? Explain your response and use quotes from the text to support your position.

When Machiavelli wrote The Prince in 1513, what were the dominant characteristics of the political and economic environment?

What are three elements that Machiavelli believes are necessary to be a good and effective prince?

Select two sections that you find most thought-provoking and possibly perplexing. What gives you pause when you read the passages? Why? How does reading the passages make you reflect on your own experiences?

Machiavelli and The Art of War. I think that Machiavelli wrote one of the first psy-ops manuals, when he put together the writings that were collected as the Art of War. As in The Prince, it is deeply psychological and is based on an understanding of human needs, desires, and motivation. The basic truth is that Machiavelli, like many other writers who followed him, believed that people were inherently brutish, greedy, hungry, and vicious. Without a higher calling to keep them focused on the divine, Machiavelli's Prince and all his subjects would find good company in Dante's rounds of purgatory and the inferno, where their fleshly desires caused them to act against the laws of God and nature.

The Art of War contains interesting passages in which he discusses the efficacy of tactics that rely on deception. For example, in the Sixth Book of The Art of War, Machiavelli discusses how to give false signals and to use disguises to deceive the enemy:

Sometimes it helps to deceive the enemy by changing one of your habits, relying on which, he is ruined: as a Captain had already done, who, when he wanted to have a signal made to his men indicating the coming of the enemy, at night with fire and in the daytime with smoke, commanded that both smoke and flame be made without any intermission; so that when the enemy came, he should remain in the belief that he came without being seen, as he did not see the signals (usually) made to indicate his discovery, made ((because of his going disorganized)) the victory of his adversary easier. Menno Rodius, when he wanted to draw the enemy from the strong places, sent one in the disguise of a fugitive, who affirmed that his army was full of discord, and that the greater part were deserting, and to give proof of the matter, had certain tumults started among the quarters: whence to the enemy, thinking he was able to break him, assaulted him and was routed.

Among other things, this further reinforces Machiavelli's estimation of humans - that they are easily deceived, as well as being deceptive. In other passages, he discusses the need for self control, and the fact that soldiers and others are more likely to fall into drunkenness and licentiousness unless motivated and/or strongly guided not to do so.

In a world of individuals who, when push comes to shove, favor their weaker, brutish selves, rather than gravitating toward virtue, what does Machiavelli think the ideal leader should be? Clearly, it's not a charismatic leader. Machiavelli's leader is a transactional leader who sagely considers actions and their consequences.

The Prince.

JiffyNotes - The Prince.

Seven Books on the Art of War.

History Guide -- Machiavelli.

Aphorisms from The Art of War.

WebMuseum on the Renaissance.

Machiavelli: The Board Game by Avalon Hill.

The Art of War.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

E-Learning Activity for a Multi-Cultural Environment: Ramadan Office Etiquette


Please write as many memos as you believe necessary for all your staff at all locations worldwide in which you explain the meaning of Ramadan and the need to be respectful of beliefs, customs, and practices. You are in charge of operations for a company that provides engineering services and chemicals needed for enhanced oil recovery for the oil industry.

Your company has operations and offices in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Brazil, Houston, Lafayette (Louisiana), Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, The Hague (Netherlands), London, and Baku, Azerbaijan.

Would you write the same memo for all your offices? Please draft the memo (250 words or less) that you will send and explain where each memo will go. Please explain your rationale in 250 words or less. In business memos, less is more.

What is Ramadan? What are the purposes of it?


Why do people fast during Ramadan? How long do they fast? What kinds of activities occur after sundown? What is "iftar"?

Randy's Travel Tips:

Why Muslims Fast

Ramadan on the Net:

If someone invites you to "eid," what does that mean? How is Eid al-Fitr celebrated? Should I bring gifts?

Ramadan etiquette:

Should one decorate the office for Ramadan? What are the symbols of Ramadan?

Crescent moon -- the beginning of Ramadan:

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