More classroom 2.0

About six months ago I wrote a post about the bourgeoning field of web-applications I thought could be used in the classroom (or outside the classroom).

These days there are even more web-based applications available, and many are even designed with school in mind! I was wandering around the web looking at some of the applications and their uses when I came across Solution Watch, a website owned and authored by Brian Benzinger. On the site, Benzinger travels the web and reviews new products and services to tell his readers what may benefit them.

What’s better about Benzinger is that he’s only 19! Which is why I see a lot of understanding about school and the utility of the web-services he outlines in the first installment of a three-part series : Back to School with the Class of Web 2.0.

In part one you’ll find listings for both students and teachers :

  • Organizers
  • Gradebooks
  • Clubs and Management
  • Mathematics
  • Resume Building
  • To-Dos and Notetaking
  • Learning and Research
  • Media Sharing

Why do you teach ?

Instead of “collaboration” meetings, a co-worker and I have regular “cold-libation” meetings each Friday. Today (Wednesday) just happened to become a Friday. We’ve seen troublesome behaviors increase, and we’ve seen larger numbers of students checking out. By checking out, I mean a large number of students have refused to take their final exams. Those students who do take the final exams generally fail. A majority of students fail the classes as well.

During our cold-libation meeting, we discussed why students check out to such a degree:

  • Our district encourages failure:
    • No attendance policy.
    • No requirement for middle-school graduation (any student, as long as he/she shows up to school, may pass on to high school).
    • We’re required to give a final which encompasses the entirety of the class. The students can pass or fail, but ultimately it does not matter whether the students pass or fail.
    • The only thing that matters is the state test.
    • And the state test only matters for teachers — If a student fails the state test, he/she may move on. Teachers? That’s a different story.
    • most students see and understand these faults and therefore refuse to take a teacher’s test.

My co-worker was frustrated over this today and asked me: “Why do we do this? Why do we choose this profession when we have abilities which would make us more money in other fields?”

After a discussion, we came to the conclusion that we’re here for the greater good. We can’t accept that anyone else would place himself/herself in such a position — that a desire for money equals self-promotion.

We’re not here for self-promotion, and we’re not here to include ourselves in the focus of our work. We’re not here to chastise or placate, and we’re not here to fill any vacancy. We are here to contribute to the greater good. We do necessary work.

Any teacher could go on and on about the need for and utilty of teachers, but I’ll leave it up to you…

New best Lenovo convertible tablet business laptop

Aimed at business users, the rather expensive convertible tablet Lenovo ThinkPad X201T comes to the market with four models on April 29, according to the Chinese official web site of Lenovo. Now users can order online. But they still need to wait for a few weeks before finally receiving the new ThinkPad laptops.

Prices and Specification of Best Lenovo ThinkPad X201T Convertible Tablet Business Laptop

The four models of Lenovo ThinkPad X201T are priced at from 15,999 RMB yuan (around $2,400) to 25,999 yuan ($3,900) for Chinese buyers. This 12.1-inch and Convertible Tablet notebook is the competitor of HP TouchSmart TM2 Tablet laptop. It weighs 1.62kg (without battery) and fits easily inside a small bag.

In terms of specification, the cheapest model ThinkPad X201t (0053A11) uses Intel Core i7-620LM processor at from 2.0GHz to 2.8GHz, 1280 * 800 LED touch screen, 2GB of DDR3 RAM memory, Intel GMA video card, and 250GB 5400RPM hard drive. It comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Home Premium, Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Tools and Online Data Backup. This model is priced at 15,999 RMB yuan.

The second model ThinkPad X201t (3093AC8) uses Intel Core i7-620LM processor, Intel QM57, 1280 * 800 LED touch screen, 3GB of DDR3 RAM memory, and 320GB 5400RPM hard drive. It comes pre-installed with Windows 7 Professional. This model is priced at 17,999 yuan.

Other two models ThinkPad X201t(3093AH8) and ThinkPad X201t(3093AC9) use Intel Core i7-640LM processor and have other better specification. They are priced at 22,999 yuan and 25,999 yuan.

As the prices of Lenovo Laptops in the Chinese market are usually much higher than that in other nations, American users could expect a lower price for Lenovo ThinkPad X201t.

Lenovo acquired the former IBM PC division, which marketed the line of ThinkPad laptop, in 2005 at a price of $1.75 billion. Since then the sales of business laptops have become the main source of Lenovo’s income. In 2009, Lenovo became the fourth largest PC brand of personal computers in the world. The company is also the largest seller of PCs in China.

But the sales and profits of Lenovo ThinkPad laptops fell down significantly in 2009 due to the global financial crisis. Companies delayed the purchase of new business laptop PCs under the economic setback. As the economy recovering, Lenovo expects a jump in the sales and profits this year. As a result, the company launches many types of new laptops this year, including ThinkPad X201t, ThinkPad X100e, and Lenovo IdeaPad V460.

How to Compare PC Tablets 2

PC Tablet RAM

Inspect the computer for the amount of RAM. The more RAM installed the more programs (and more powerful programs) it is able to run smoothly. Having more RAM is nice when using graphic design software or high end video games and video editing programming. Often times, PC tablets are used to control image editing software, so having a large amount of RAM is incredibly important.

PC Tablet Processor Speed

Check out the processor speed. This determines how fast the computer loads and accesses information, which runs hand and hand with the RAM. Having a fast processor reduces the speed it takes for the computer to boot and load programming software.

Find out the operating system running on the PC. Some still use Windows XP, while others have moved on to the more advanced Windows Vista and Windows 7. You may have discovered you like the older version better than the upgraded Windows Vista/7, in which case you should look for a PC with XP installed. However, newer programs released may not function correctly (or at all) on the older Windows operating systems.

How to Compare PC Tablets

There are dozens of Windows based tablets on the market. If you are shopping for one it is important to pick out the best model of your money.

A PC tablet is similar to a laptop, only the main difference is the monitor is able to swivel and typically comes with a touch screen ability, allowing you to write directly on the screen with your finger (this is especially helpful for those individuals that work and design with their hands).

This allows you to display the information on the laptop to anyone in the area, without actually swinging the laptop around. PC tablets use the same hardware and operating systems, so comparing different tablets together only requires some knowledge about the hardware inside the specific computers.

PC Tablet Monitor

Check out how far the PC tablet’s monitor is able to swivel. Some only turn 180 degrees, while others allow you to close the monitor completely so the screen is facing up, over the keyboard. Having the monitor possess this option allows you to draw directly on the screen, without the keyboard getting in the way.

PC Tablet Touch Screen

Look for a touch screen interface. Many tablets allow you to touch the screen either with your fingers or with a provided stylus. This is helpful when creating artistic renditions on the tablet computer. Higher end tables allow you to use your fingers. This is done because the screen is heat sensitive from your fingertips, so other items, such as a pencil and other items is not going to adjust items or make selections.

Academic sociology : Why do we join groups ?

It seems that we are all a member of at least one group; most of us are a member of many. Although our membership within some of these groups is probably involuntary (e.g., family), we go out of our way to join other groups. We join book clubs, bowling leagues, congregations, and tag-football teams, just to name a few. Some of us even go so far as to join extremist groups such as terrorist cells or violent political movements. What draws us to seek membership within these varied groups? Why are we willing to sacrifice our own time, energy, and resources for the sake of the groups to which we belong ?

Hogg, Hohman, and Rivera (2008) examined these questions from a social-psychological perspective by contrasting three motivational accounts for group membership. These explanations originate from work on the sociometer model, terror management theory, and uncertainty-identity theory. The sociometer model argues that people have a need to be belong, and that self-esteem acts as a meter of successful group belonging. Greater feelings of inclusion within groups should equate to higher levels of self-esteem according to this model. Terror management theory argues that people are motivated to reduce fear of their own death, and that groups provide consensual belief-confirmation that drives their members to belong. It is comforting to share our world views with like-minded others and to hear them share similar views because it provides us with a sense of meaningful existence. Uncertainty-identity theory argues that people have a basic need to reduce uncertainty about themselves and their place in the world, and that group identification can reduce such uncertainty. Group membership may reduce this uncertainty through its associated norms that prescribe attitudes, feelings, and behaviors for us.

Hogg et al. (2008) conclude that the sociometer model, terror-management theory, and uncertainty-identity theory each play a role in explaining why people join groups. Yet, they argue that uncertainty-identity theory might provide an especially powerful explanation because of its wide generality to all groups and group contexts. What do you think ? Do these explanations account for why you joined the groups that you are a part of, or does some other framework better explain your reasons for group membership ?

Google+ Invitations : We all want one. Why ?

Those who pay attention to the online world will probably know that Google+ fever is sweeping the blogosphere. Everyone wants an invite to the “Facebook killer” and invites are pretty hard to come by. If you are lucky enough to have one, you can brag about being in the group early and if not, you are left wondering what is going on in there and will you ever get to be a part of it. Invites are in such demand they are even popping up for sale on ebay for as much as $100.

What is the rush and why are we all clamouring to jump on board the Google+ ship when we don’t even know what it’s all about? Well for one, we humans love to belong to groups. And what could be better than belonging to Google+, a group which is entirely based on the ability to form groups. Because Google+ is by invitation only, the boundaries are less permeable than Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and the other social networking sites; anyone can join those simply by signing up. Permeability of boundaries has been linked to group identification in numerous psychology studies. Members of groups with highly permeable boundaries have reduced ingroup identification. So a person who is on Facebook just won’t feel as passionate about being a “Facebook user” as someone who is part of Google+.  Google+ users on the other hand, feel strongly about their membership and are spreading their new ingroup love, which automatically makes Google+ seem pretty cool and exclusive.

We are now willing to buy our way into a group that four days ago didn’t even exist because if there is one thing people hate, it’s being excluded.  By releasing the new social networking site as invite only, Google has created something we want to be part of but most just can’t. In a review of research on social exclusion, Dewall and colleagues (2010) highlight how being left out can cause numerous behavioural and emotional problems. Social exclusion can lead to increased aggression, decrease pro-social behaviour, and even induce actual physical pain. Hopefully more invites will open up before those who are being excluded start suffering the negative effects of social exclusion.

And yes, I am still waiting for my invite too.