Sunday seven: universities, notebooks, mobile and journalism

So perhaps I don’t reach the target of seven great tech articles to share with you today, but I spend pretty much all day yesterday at an amazing wedding and I have a hangover. It’s not so much that coherent thought is a problem this morning, it’s more that I can’t get the dance floor song “I Will Survive!” out of my head…

What happened to universities? – via the LA Review of Books

A powerful article describing the decreasing importance of knowledge and understanding, and the disservice this does to the students. A long read, but worth it.

“If you think I overstate the matter, consider this: I know of faculty members who have been summoned by student services staff members to “discuss” a grade with which one of their students was unhappy. Never mind that grades are not designed to make students happy but rather to encourage them to grow intellectually by setting goals just beyond their reach; and never mind also that in the university, students are considered adults who are required as a matter of policy to take their complaints directly to their professors. Partially educated student services staff members are able to intervene in academic matters for which they have no qualifications because the institution in which they work allows them to do so. As a result of their actions, your sons and daughters may well feel happy and empowered and valued in their programs. What they won’t be, however, is educated — the only true and lasting way really to experience these sentiments.”

I’ve heard professor friends say the same, although perhaps not quite so eloquently. That the reason most of their students are there is that they need to have somewhere to be. We all know that’s not right. That it’s not fair to students, teachers or society. That there is so much at stake. But, not much seems to be done to change the situation.

“Why was it impossible to educate my students, in any meaningful sense of the word, when we (me, my colleagues, even some administrators) knew perfectly well how to do so? It was like wondering why that sweaty, panting guy in the gym clothes standing next to the fountain with a cup in his hand refuses to drink.

But then I had an epiphany. It occurred one evening while I was giving a seminar to a small group of students from a large first-year course I was coordinating at the time. If all the financial, physical, and intellectual equipment necessary to educate these people were present, and yet they remained uneducated even after spending five or even six years in our classrooms, then the problem was not that we were unable to cultivate their intelligence but that we did not want to, and that participation in the world we had created for them somehow did not require it of them either.”

I was at a business lunch last week at which the table conversation revolved around everyone agreeing that our kids should leave Spain to go and study and/or work abroad if they possibly can. I am also guilty of encouraging my kids to do the same. But no-one could explain to me what was being done about this. Why we encouraged the young to leave is fairly obvious: “lack of opportunity”. But what would it take to change that? Why are we accepting that this is the situation, rather than fighting to change it? What do we need to do for Spain to become a brain magnet, rather than suffer from brain drain? How do we inject the opportunity back in to our society? No-one at the table had ever given this any thought.

“The worst fate for our children, yours and mine, is that because their education has been about little more than fun, self-affirmation, and “skills acquisition,” when the easy pleasures of youth run out and self-affirmation is all they’ve got left, because the student services cheerleaders aren’t around any longer to reinforce that particular illusion, what will remain for them is not just bad work, unappetizing fare, and the dreary distractions of the modern entertainment industry — all of which can be tolerated, as bad as they may be — but the absence of something to live for, the highest and most beautiful activity of their intelligence. To cheat them of that is the real crime, and the most profound way in which modern universities have betrayed the trust of an entire generation of young people.”

— x —

The whole-brain notebook – via Design Milk

I don’t subscribe to the right-brain/left-brain school of thought (he he, see what I did there?). But I do have two separate notebooks, one for tech-related stuff and one for mind wanderings. So you can understand why I covet this notebook.

via Design Milk

via Design Milk

And even more so, these (Moleskin notebooks covered in fabric! – on my Christmas list – if I’m going to have two Moleskins on the go, one has to be different, right?):

via Design Milk

via Design Milk

— x —

16 mobile theses – by Benedict Evans, via a16z

Benedict Evans’ thoughts on mobile technology are worth reading. He has a knack for putting things into perspective, for making far-reaching ideas seem obvious and for delivering complex opinions with a down-to-earth humour.

His walk-through of the mobile scene brings up such surprising nuggets as:

“We should stop talking about ‘mobile’ internet and ‘desktop’ internet –  it’s like talking about ‘colour’ TV, as opposed to black and white TV. We have a mental mode, left over from feature phones, that ‘mobile’ means limited devices that are only used walking around. But actually, smartphones are mostly used when you’re sitting down next to a laptop, not ‘mobile’, and their capabilities make them much more sophisticated as internet platforms than the PC. Really, it’s the PC that has the limited, cut-down version of the internet.”

“Mobile isn’t about small screens and PCs aren’t about keyboards – mobile means an ecosystem and that ecosystem will swallow ‘PCs’.”

“…talk of standards for IoT misses the point – ‘connected to a network’ is not any more a category’ than ‘contains a motor’, and there will be many different platforms and standards. More important is that, especially in the enterprise, this explosion in sensors means an explosion in data – we’ll know far more about far more, and that allows fundamental system redesign.”

What I most love about Benedict’s writing is that he shows you unexpected conclusions in a straightforward way that takes you back a bit, turns you around to face another way, gives you new ground to stand on, and makes you feel like you were there all along.

— x —

Dronestegram

A web for photos and videos taken by drones. Totally spectacular. Taking photography to new heights (sorry).

by Zayedh, via Dronestagram

by Zayedh, via Dronestagram

— x —

Predictions for journalism 2016 – via Nieman Lab

Nieman Lab’s usual annual round-up of predictions for journalism is an inspiring read at any time of year. I still dip into their 2015 version every now and then. This collection will also n o doubt become a classic.

The collection covers live journalism, platform wars, monetization, frictionless video, local news, distraction, indie publishers, virtual reality, design, comments, chat, measurement, empathy and much, much more…

— x —

Vertical dwellings inside test tubes – via Colossal

I’m not sure why I find these totally fascinating. The encapsulation of life? The working around nature? The freezing of time? Or the hypnosis of miniaturization?

by Rosa de Jong, via Colossal

by Rosa de Jong, via Colossal

— x —

Huge MIT Media Lab inventions that transformed our world – via Wired

The MIT Media Lab sounds like a pretty cool place to work. An inspirational video that leaves you wondering what they’re not telling us.

— x —

The rise of self-help tech – via TechCrunch

image via TechCrunch

image via TechCrunch

An overview of the growing market for and selection of self help apps for the on-demand user. Mental health guidance in your pocket. Wisdom at an affordable price. Technology as guru? How will this change our relationship with our mobile devices?

And, what about the data the ecosystem collects?

— x —

Drones in dance – via FastCoDesign

So that’s what else drones can be used for. This totally extraordinary ad for a fashion market in Japan relies on drones to keep it, um, safe for work. You have to admire the drones’ precision.

— x —

Two things I’m enjoying this week

(although it’s such a great time of year that the list could easily grow ten-fold):

1) While in Copenhagen a few weeks ago with my daughter, we bought what must be one of the craziest advent calendars ever: the Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar. And it is so much fun. Every day in December you open a little flap to extract a tiny Lego Star Wars character or accessory. You click the pieces together, you perch them on the edge of your bookshelf and you hope that the rambunctious dog doesn’t knock them over.

star wars lego advent calendar

star wars lego advent calendar 2

2) A friend of mine runs a game every Christmas. Anyone who wants to can play, the scoring is done on Facebook, and the winner is the last one to not hear the song “The Little Drummer Boy”. When you hear it, the honour system requires you to publicly disqualify yourself. Personally, I love the song, so I’m quite happy to lose. This is the best version I’ve heard: Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing a beautiful duet. Two amazing voices, two very different styles and a cosy Christmas setting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *