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WISE Learning and Technology Blog: January 2015

Karl Hakkarainen, WISE Technology Advisor

What we see is who we are

Microsoft researcher danah boyd recently provided a respectful rebuttal to 19-year-old Andrew Watts's assessment of social networking as practiced by actual teenagers. boyd points to her own research to show that Watts is reporting on his world which is both wider and narrower that the worlds of other teens in the US and worldwide. boyd summarizes her research."Teens’ use of social media is significantly shaped by race and class, geography and cultural background.
Watts is a white, male US college student and so represents a portion of the population that is pretty much a rounding error. His reporting may be, and probably is, true, as far as it goes.
What we post on social media and what we see and hear is a reflection of our personal connections. Under normal circumstances, a photo is not visible "for all the world to see." It's visible, for the most part, to those with whom we want to have a relationship. Typically, these are family and friends and, occasionally, work and school colleagues. They are a lot like us. 
Stuff can escape and be seen by others, but that's rare and usually intentional on the part of someone in the personal network. 
This is what teens, even Watts, have known for a long time. They can have online conversations that are private even as they appear to be in the open.
This is also what seniors are discovering. According to the most recent Pew Research survey, 58 percent of online seniors use Facebook. This represents more than 30 percent of all seniors. In many cases, teens who are staying on Facebook are there not for themselves, but to stay in touch with their grandparents. 
We see our friends and family online and ride the bumpy road of those relationships. It's our world, made larger because we can find out who's sick, what's had a birthday, and who's gone off the rails on some political issue. It's Thanksgiving dinner all year long. 

Bring us your tired and poor, ...

We are restarting our Study Group on Mondays, starting on February 4, giving you a chance to learn how to manage that wretched refuse of passwords and apps and other bits of befuddlement. We meet in Charlie's in Hagan Hall from 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM. 
If you would like to participate, either seeking or offering help, please reply to this message with a general description of what you'd like to cover.


Learning and Technology: Back to the Future

In the late 1960s, my mother went to graduate school at Clark. She was in her 40s, having endured a late return to undergraduate studies at Fitchburg State, where she donned gym shorts and played volleyball with women decades her junior. 
Among her professors at Clark was one Robert Barakat. He taught English and was an early adopter of the use of computers in his research and writing. She was doubtful that computers would prove to be useful as a teaching tool. He wrote, "I hope that you will develop a more positive attitude towards the computer. It is only a time and labor saving device that can do nothing more than gather the data we ask it to, no more!"  (Here's a link to Barakat's letter. As far as I've been able to tell, Barakat didn't continue with research on computers and writing.)
By the end of her life, 30 years later, computers and the Internet had no greater fan than my mother. She loved Google, Amazon, and other nascent web services. What changed? In the ensuing 30 years, computers became networks of computers and, ultimately, networks of people doing and sharing very interesting stuff. 
A computer, by itself, is about as exciting as a drill press. A computer that lets us communicate with others, well, that's exciting.

App of the month

Google Translate has updated its mobile apps as well as its website to provide real-time translation. You can now speak the words in English and have it translate into dozens of languages. Not only will it give you the text, but it will also speak the phrase.

Using the camera, you can point the camera at a sign or newspaper headline and have it translate the text. 
This capability has been around for a while on the web and Android, but it's now available on its iPhone and iPad apps. For more details, see Google's blog page.

Help wanted

If you'd like to help WISE members make best use of laptops, tablets, and smartphones and learn a lot in the process, let's be in touch.
Note: Often, we provide links to external web pages. The advertisements and other content shown on those pages do not necessarily represent the views of yours truly or the WISE Communications Committee.
Further, the product reviews and commentary reflect the opinion of yours truly and not necessarily of WISE, the Communications Committee, or others. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. e=mc2. Semper ube sub ube. 

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