Have you heard about the growing "NoFap" movement in which men are choosing not to masturbate? Essentially, NoFap is a reaction by young males to the fact that some of them -- thanks mostly to omnipresent digital porn -- are losing interest in finding and engaging real-world sex partners. In essence, the movement is less about not masturbating than it is about not engaging with "sexnology" to the exclusion of in-the-flesh intimate encounters. In other words, these young men are rebelling against tech-sex; they are stepping away from their laptops and into the real world.
So... digital natives don't love technology? When did that happen? And when will somebody drop that memo to corporate America, because big-money marketing gurus clearly think millennials dig tech the way bunny rabbits dig vegetables. In fact, corporate America dangles the proverbial techno-carrot in almost every new commercial aimed at this free-spending demographic. Ads for music feature iPods; ads for minivans feature DVD players and HD viewing screens; ads for macaroni and cheese feature calls to dinner via smartphone. No matter what you're selling, if you want to sell it to kids and young adults, you've got to sell it with a side order of digital devices. Or so it seems.
And who can blame corporate American for thinking this? Let's face it. If you see a kid walking down the street, it's more likely than not that he or she is listening to an iPod and/or tapping away at a smartphone -- texting, surfing the Net, gaming, watching YouTube, posting to social media, etc. If you see a group of young people hanging out at the mall, they are often, both individually and collectively, as involved with their digital devices as with each other.
Fed Up With Tech
Apparently, however, not all digital natives are as capitated by technology as one might think. NoFap is merely the tip of the iceberg. Many young women are also eschewing digital interactions, sharing less (sometimes not at all) on Facebook and other social media sites. Perhaps these women are heeding the cautionary tale of Diane O'Meara, who was unwittingly thrust into the national spotlight as part of the Manti Te'o catfishing scandal.
O'Meara wrote about her experience in a widely reprinted article.
As someone in my mid-20s, I am of the generation that uses social media to connect with friends, family and business associates. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: These are the ways we communicate. And like most of my generation, I didn't give a lot of thought to the word "friend" in the social media sphere. If someone sent me a friend request, more often than not, I accepted it. As a result, I found myself with a lot of friends, including some I barely knew. One of them was a guy I had only a passing acquaintance with, but who had gone to my high school ... Many details remain unclear, but it now appears that the casual high school acquaintance whose "friend" request I accepted took my pictures, and they were used to create the fictitious persona [presented to Manti Te'o] ... In the last week, I've shut down all my social media accounts. But I realize that's not a long-term solution. I use social media to connect with a network of friends and family, and with business associates. Giving this up is unrealistic ... Eventually, I'll go back to using social media. But I'll take a more cautious approach.
This tech backlash is also evident in pop culture, appearing as a theme in numerous young adult novels and movies such as The Hunger Games, in which The Capitol uses technology to control and sometimes even torment the population. (This leitmotif is nothing new, of course. See: Orwell, George.) Even advertisers are catching on, albeit slowly. In one recently released commercial, a young professional is shown walking down the street, studiously engaged with his smartphone. As he taps at his phone, "digital people" pop up to remind him about meetings for work, car repairs, getting his dry cleaning, whatever. Finally he enters a bar, sees his friends, puts his smartphone away, orders a beer, and starts to have a good time. The message: disengage and relax.
Are Gadgets No Longer Cool?
Young people like to be ahead of the curve. That's why they have bad haircuts and wear awful clothing. Essentially, they don't want to look (or act) like their parents. Don't believe me? Then think back to your childhood. When I was a kid, I let my hair grow long and wore bell-bottomed jeans and paisley shirts with enormous collars. I did this because it was cool and my parents hated it. And the first time I saw someone over the age of 30 wearing a paisley shirt, mine went straight into the trash.
Similar things are happening today. Ray, a 65-year-old attorney, recently purchased an iPhone. Proud of being a "with it" grandpa, he showed it to his 17-year-old granddaughter and asked her for tips on how to use it. In response, she turned a shade of light green and said, "You're not going to start texting me, are you?" Now, when he sees her out with her friends, he gleefully sends her a text or two just to watch her squirm. So a guy who once "turned on, tuned in, and dropped out," whose mantra was "Don't trust anyone over 30," now embarrasses his granddaughter. He used to be cool; now he's a fossil.
Technology is much like people in this respect. Remember that smartphone you just had to have six months ago, how unbelievably excited you were when it was released? Now it's coyote ugly and -- admit it -- you're thinking about "accidentally" dropping it in the toilet or running over it with your car so you can buy something new.
So will all forms of digital technology eventually become so uncool that people will avoid the digital universe altogether? Probably not. Tech changes too fast to ever go out of style. There is always something new and shiny to catch our eye.
Perhaps we should look at toddlers to get a better feel for the long-term future of digital technology and its role in our lives. The iPad provides a great testing ground. The device is a favorite of preschoolers because they can swipe at it, meaning they are using their hands digitally the same way they're using their hands in real life. But how long do you let your child engage with this device? Hanna Rosin decided to let her youngest son, Gideon, play with her old iPad as much as he wanted, hoping he might eventually tire of it. She writes of her experience in the Atlantic.
Gideon tested me the very first day. He saw the iPad in his space and asked if he could play. It was 8 a.m. and we had to get ready for school. I said yes. For 45 minutes he sat on a chair and played as I got him dressed, got his backpack ready, and failed to feed him breakfast. This was extremely annoying and obviously untenable. The week went on like this -- Gideon grabbing the iPad for two-hour stretches, in the morning, after school, at bedtime. Then, after about 10 days, the iPad fell out of his rotation, just like every other toy does. He dropped it under the bed and never looked for it. It was completely forgotten for about six weeks. Now he picks it up every once in a while, but not all that often.
For little Gideon, the iPad was a hot ticket for several weeks -- until another toy captured his fancy. This experience seems to mirror how most emotionally healthy people treat just about everything. When something is new, it may well fascinate us. In the digital world, a new device or an exciting new app can easily capture and captivate -- for a period of time. Eventually, however, it becomes old hat and we either integrate it into our lives in a healthy way, picking it up and using it occasionally, or we move onto something newer and shinier. Apparently, this "moving on" process has begun for some millennials in relation to certain temporarily all-consuming technologies like digital porn and social media. That doesn't mean hardcore and Facebook are about to disappear forever. Just that a few people are "over it" and moving on to something new.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is senior vice president of clinical development with Elements Behavioral Health. An author and subject expert on the relationship between digital technology and human sexuality, Mr. Weiss has served as a media specialist for CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Today Show, among many others. Mr. Weiss is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships, along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and PsychCentral.com, writing primarily about the intersection of technology with sex and intimacy. He has provided clinical multi-addiction training and behavioral health program development for the U.S. military and treatment centers throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia.
Before he was charged in July 2011 with aiding the hacker group Anonymous, Josh Covelli lived what he considered the life of an ordinary 26-year-old. He spent countless hours on the Internet. He had a girlfriend. He was a student and employee at Devry University in Dayton, Ohio.
But after federal authorities accused him and 13 other people of helping launch a cyberattack against the online payment service PayPal, Covelli faced potentially 15 years in prison, and his life began to unravel.
His girlfriend broke up with him. He struggled to find an employer willing to hire an accused computer hacker. His friends "wanted nothing to do with me," he said, and he suffered from bouts of paranoia -- "looking out windows, not sure who to trust" -- before checking into a behavioral health center for three days.
"It was as if I got kicked off a cliff," Covelli, now 28, told The Huffington Post in an interview.
Nearly two years after the charges made headlines, the case remains an anxiety-provoking daily reality for Covelli and his 13 co-defendants. Though they come from disparate worlds -- drawn from different points on the map and stages in their lives -- the defendants collectively share a sense of unsettling uncertainty, their plans and aspirations stuck in a limbo of indeterminate duration as they await a resolution of their case.
Their wait may be nearing a conclusion. This week, the defendants -- known collectively as the "PayPal 14" -- attended a closed-door hearing in federal court in San Francisco in hopes of negotiating a settlement that could keep them out of prison. Lawyers for both sides declined to discuss the negotiations, but a joint court filing called the meeting "productive."
"We're at a delicate point," one defense attorney said in an interview.
Such a deal would mark the final chapter in a case that has been seen as one of the first major salvos in the federal government's war on Anonymous, a loose collective of hackers who say they are motivated by ideological beliefs, not financial gain. It would also bring to a close months of legal uncertainty that the defendants say has caused them both financial and emotional strain. One defendant in the case told The Huffington Post that she would "jump off the Hoover Dam" if convicted.
While the PayPal case has largely faded from public view, the law under which the 14 defendants were charged -- the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- has come under increased scrutiny. The government used the same anti-hacking law to prosecute Internet activist Aaron Swartz, charging him with illegally downloading millions of articles from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer archive. Facing the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence, Swartz committed suicide, provoking claims of prosecutorial overreach and calls to reform the law. Critics say it is overly broad and excessively punitive, meting out stiff prison terms for some computer-related crimes they deem relatively innocuous.
The PayPal arrests appeared to have done little to deter Anonymous. Six months after the indictment was unsealed, in January 2012, Anonymous launched one of its largest attacks, knocking offline the Justice Department's website in protest of the U.S. government's arrest of leaders of Megaupload.com, a file-sharing site that allegedly facilitates Internet piracy. Since then, the group has taken credit for numerous other attacks on corporate and government websites.
But the charges in the PayPal case had one noticeable impact on the hacker group -- its members became more careful. They began circulating manuals online on how to use virtual private networks, or VPNs, to shield their IP addresses from the watchful eye of law enforcement, said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who has studied Anonymous. "The arrests led to a kind of moment of education," she said.
The case against Covelli and the 13 other defendants stems from a series of cyberattacks in December 2010. In response to PayPal's decision to cut off donations to the whistleblower site Wikileaks, Anonymous encouraged supporters to download software that bombards websites with traffic, causing them to crash. The resulting "denial of service attack," which brought down PayPal's site intermittently over four days, was nicknamed "Operation Avenge Assange" in reference to the Wikileaks founder.
On Jan. 27, 2011, the FBI executed 27 search warrants and seized more than 100 computers in 12 states in connection with the PayPal attack. That day, Covelli said he was awoken at 6 a.m. by FBI agents knocking at his door. "The FBI is here," he recalled telling his girlfriend at the time. He opened the door and "got a pistol put to my face," he said.
Six months later, authorities filed charges against 14 people, some of whom belie the stereotype of the teenage male hacker. The defendants are men and women ranging from 22 to 44 years old and living in small towns and big cities stretching from California to Florida. They include a real estate broker, a military veteran, a massage therapist and a single mother with two children.
Some knew each other before the indictment, but only by online nicknames such as "Anthrophobic" and "Reaper." They had never met in person until Sept. 1, 2011, when they made their initial court appearance together.
One defendant, Tracy Ann Valenzuela, a single mother and massage therapist, told a local ABC station in 2011 that she got involved in the PayPal attack while reading the news online.
"I saw something about PayPal shutting down payments to Wikileaks, and I clicked on some other site and joined a protest," she said. "And next thing I knew, my house was surrounded by guns."
Although 14 people were charged, PayPal collected about 1,000 IP addresses of computers involved in the attack, according to an FBI affidavit. Some observers have questioned whether those arrested in the case were high-level members of Anonymous or merely unsophisticated activists who wanted to be associated with the group and were unaware of the consequences of their actions.
"There were a handful who were core participants and a handful who were there because they were outraged that day and didn't know the consequences," said Coleman, the McGill professor.
She said the nature of the PayPal attack made it seem innocent to the untrained eye. "They were just sitting there firing requests with a piece of software from their computers," she said. "It doesn't feel all that criminal. It doesn't feel like you're causing harm."
But Mark Rasch, a former federal cybercrime prosecutor, said the Anonymous attack on PayPal should be considered a serious crime. He compared it to chaining a lock to the entrance of a store to prevent customers from entering. "If you do something illegal, the essence of civil disobedience is you run the risk of arrest and prosecution," he said.
Still, Rasch said the 14 PayPal defendants should be considered individually. "You need to look at the nature of their participation. Were they leaders or not?" he said. "It may be appropriate for some of these people to not be prosecuted or be given probation."
In interviews with The Huffington Post, defendants in the PayPal case said they have spent the past two years burdened by pre-trial conditions that restricted their Internet usage. Many also struggled to secure employment.
"When you're applying for a job and someone Googles you, you have a lot of explaining to do when you want to point out that you were standing up for free speech and a worthy cause and the government says you're a cyber terrorist," said Graham E. Archer, an attorney who represents Ethan Miles, one of the defendants.
Archer said being on pre-trial release has been "extraordinarily stressful" for Miles. Court records note that he spent time at a mental health facility.
"You have a pre-trial services officer who is in your life constantly," Archer said. "It's a form of out-of-custody incarceration for a lot of people."
Covelli, who went by the online aliases "Absolem" and "Toxic," said a brief stretch in which he was barred from using the Internet was "like a muzzle." A court-appointed officer routinely inspects his computer to ensure he is complying with pre-trial conditions that bar him from Internet chat rooms and knowingly communicating with other members of Anonymous.
Covelli said he has gone through various periods over the past two years during which "everything seemed dark and dim." He has been diagnosed with depression that is "exacerbated by the threat of prison that hangs over him," his attorney said in court filings.
"At first it was soul-crushing," Covelli told The Huffington Post. "I was like, 'Holy crap, everything is going to end. What am I going to do?'"
Today, Covelli is unemployed, living with his parents and volunteering 35 hours a week at a food pantry in Sidney, Ohio. He attended a drug treatment facility after violating pre-trial conditions by smoking marijuana, according to court records.
He now faces potentially 30 years in prison -- much longer than his co-defendants -- because he also has been charged in connection with a separate hacking case. Authorities say Covelli helped bring down Santa Cruz County's website in December 2010 in protest of a local ordinance that barred people from sleeping outdoors.
Covelli said his only possessions are a laptop and an Xbox that he received as a gift. The U.S. Marshall's Service pays for his flights to court hearings because his attorney has told the court that Covelli is indigent. "I ran out of money fast and have been living on almost nothing or from the generosity of my family," he said in an interview.
He found some work painting in Ohio but said he missed out on other job opportunities because of the charges against him. He briefly worked at a McDonald's restaurant, a gig he called "the best job I've had in two years." He lost one job because he was forced to request time off to attend a court hearing, his attorney said in court filings.
Another defendant in the PayPal case, Mercedes Renee Haefer, a 22-year-old sociology major at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, told The Huffington Post that after the indictment was made public, one of her professors barred her from using her laptop in class, citing security concerns.
She said she didn't speak to her sister or father for several months and was fired from her job at a Sony retail store because of the charges. She said she has been unable to find jobs beyond part-time paralegal work for her lawyer and IT work for nonprofits. "No one will hire me," she said.
Haefer, a brunette who wears glasses and used the online aliases "No" and "MMMM," said she still believes in Anonymous, especially when the hacker group organizes attacks in defense of freedom of speech or freedom of information. "Some things they do I agree with and some things they do I don't agree with," she said.
She spoke to The Huffington Post by phone while riding her bike in Las Vegas. When a reporter suggested that activity might not be safe, she replied, "Safety is for losers."
Haefer said the case has brought her a small measure of fame, including an appearance in a recent documentary about Anonymous. "The day my indictment went public my name trended on Twitter," she recalled.
Before Monday's court hearing, she used the social media service to write: "Really excited that people are coming out to support us for court on the 13th. Makes the whole thing a little less dehumanizing. #paypal14"
In an interview, Haefer declined to discuss the PayPal attack beyond saying, "I was speaking out about an issue I feel passionate about."
She said she tries not to think about the possibility of going to prison.
"If I wake up every day thinking about 15 years in prison, I'm not really going to live my life," she said. "You can't sit and wait on your hands for three years."
On May 15, Abdul Latif Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, the most senior religious authority in Saudi Arabia, declared that Saudi citizens who use Twitter are risking damnation, according to a report from the BCC. A Saudi who tweets "has lost this world and his afterlife," he said.
As the BBC elaborates, Abdul Aziz al ash-Shaikh's comments are just latest in a concerted effort from the kingdom's authorities in attacking the U.S.-based microblogging service. While Saudi establishment leaders frequently use technology like television and radio to broadcast their religious and political messages, Twitter and other digitally-based social media sites have Saudi leaders worried about government dissidents speaking out in the religiously conservative nation. "The government cannot follow everybody's Twitter user name," Saudi protestor Abu Zaki told NPR, explaining why activists have come to favor the microblogging media. "The authorities have to be selective and, hopefully, they don't select my name."
Unlike some other social networks, Twitter allows people to maintain multiple accounts and maintain them anonymously. That protection has allowed the site to become a veritable haven for Saudi dissent, according to the New York Times. On Twitter, "even the king has come under attack."
Over the past two years, Twitter usage has skyrocketed in Saudi Arabia, company CEO Dick Costolo said. And with 70 percent of Arab Twitter users classified as "youths", according one social media report, it's no wonder Saudi authorities fear a disgruntled -- and possibly more progressive -- younger population speaking up. The desire to discourage Twitter users in Saudi Arabia is probably exacerbated by the recent history of youth-led "Arab Spring" revolutions in the Middle East.
The religious clerics comments aside, Saudi Arabia's Twitter users have far more to worry about than their immortal souls. Al Jazeera reports that Saudi government are looking into way of ending anonymity on Twitter, and have recently begun arresting human rights activists who use Twitter as their platform.
New research out of UC Berkeley reveals some interesting tidbits about how the human brain reacts to music.
According to a study headed by scientist Stephen Palmer, we are hardwired to associate anything from Mozart to Mumford & Sons with a particular hue from the color spectrum. Whether it's a classical composition or an indie pop ballad, we automatically make music-color connections based on how the various melodies make us feel.
Not surprised by the findings? The study -- which prompted 100 participants from the U.S. and Mexico to match classical songs with a list of 37 colors -- goes on to state that subjects tended to link the same classical compositions with the same colors regardless of their native country, insinuating that humans might share a "common emotional palette" that can cross cultural barriers. Examples of popular music-color matchings were Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G major with bright yellow and orange and his (less cheery) Requiem in D Minor with dark, bluish gray.
There are many, many variables that could account for the color-music connections (check out the full study for details), but we're excited to see scientists delving into the synesthesia pursuits of artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Let us know which tunes make you see the rainbow in the comments.
DoSomething.org wants to make it easier for high school students to understand just how hard it is to be a teen parent -- and they're doing it through asking teens to adopt a "text baby."
How it works: Using their phones, teens can text the word “BABY” to 38383, respond "yes" and then expect to receive baby-related demands in the form of text messages (like, "I'm hungry" or "poopie diaper").
“It wakes you up at 6:30 in the morning to tell you that it’s awake and you need to be, too," Alyssa Ruderman from DoSomething.org told Fox 40 News. "It tells you when it’s hungry, when it needs to be changed, when it’s tired or crying when it doesn’t know how to tell you what it wants… it simulates that situation."
Watch the video above for more on "Pregnancy Text."
Earlier in March, New York City initiated a different kind of campaign to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies. The city paid for advertisements on subways and buses meant to discourage young people from getting pregnant. One advertisement shows a crying toddler with the accompanying words: “I’m twice as likely not to graduate high school because you had me as a teen."
The ads have not been well-received by all New Yorkers. MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry said on her show: That is the kind of misleading statistic that might lead some people to, you know, blame young mothers for America’s deepening poverty crisis rather than putting the blame where it belongs, on a financial system that concentrates wealth at the top and public policies that entrench it there.
Tell us, what do you think about the pregnancy text program -- and the New York City campaign? Sound off in the comments or tweet at @HuffPostTeen.
Los Angeles magazine is pleased to announce a new groundbreaking video series, "BIG SHOTS with Giselle Fernandez." This premiere episode features telecom titan Carlos Slim, whose $73 billion fortune had him at the top of Forbes' annual world's-richest list. Slim spoke candidly with Fernandez about the digital future, how he thinks technology is shaping society today, why philanthropy is the key to a happy life, and what he likes most about L.A. Take a look:
It's the last week of school in Nashville, Tenn., and I am trying to keep my sanity. Students are passing in forms every day for dozens of different things: athletic banquets, field trips to colleges, permission slips for roller skating during P.E., doctor's notes, progress reports, pieces of paper I never even handed to them that they are just passing in, signatures askew. I have 16 different windows on my computer open: one website for attendance, a tab for my school email, a tab with a Google doc for tracking all these papers students hand me, another tab to track student behavior, and four Word documents. School is almost over for the year, but feels like it's just beginning.
As a teacher at a low-income middle school, I am in the midst of students' favorite time of year and teachers' least favorite: the start of summer. Now, don't get me wrong, teachers love the start of summer as well -- it means a break from incessant questions and hormonal inconsistencies and, of course, an opportunity to bronze by the pool for a couple of months. But it also means the most chaotic weeks of the entire school year -- in a profession that is already unavoidably frenetic. As I reflect on the year in the last days of the school year, I realize that as a state and a country, we need to start better equipping ourselves with technology that controls this chaos and improves the culture of high achievement for students.
In a state where education reform is a hot-button issue, Tennessee teachers and students are fortunate to be on the forefront of innovation. Tennessee was granted $501 million (cash money!) from the Race to the Top funds in 2010, allowing the state to turn around some of its desperately failing schools. It is also home to two base camps of Teach For America teachers, Vanderbilt's top-ranked Peabody Education School, and some of the most renowned names in education serving in its leadership roles like Chris Barbic, Kevin Huffman, and Elissa Kim.
Still, just over three-quarters of economically disadvantaged students graduate from Tennessee schools, and many of these students are nowhere near prepared for college. Obviously, more must be done to see our students successful. So, what do teachers need in order to do this? And how will this ever happen?
Teachers, for students' sake, need innumerable supplies to make a classroom function: dry erase markers, books, pencils, inspirational posters -- you name it. It's easy to argue that the best teacher could teach with nothing but a chalkboard and a piece of chalk, but we're not all Michelle Pfeiffer. And, considering it is 2013 and our country revolves around computers, it is nearly impossible to prepare teachers and students for the future without access to technology.
We need our students to have access to computers, to typing classes, to Internet connections and Google searches and online research and all the ups and downs that come with putting a student in front of a computer and trying to keep him off of Pandora for an hour. If our students cannot understand how to send an e-mail attachment, how will they survive in this ruthless world? The progression of technology is inexorable, and our students need to be prepared for it.
And, certainly, teachers need this technology too. Sure, we can make a classroom work without it, but its presence and can be imperative to teacher success, which ultimately leads to student success.
Take Nashville's own ed-tech start-up, Live School, for example: a behavior management software that allows teachers to track student behavior in real time, and teaches students financial literacy by awarding them a "paycheck" each week based on their behavior. This kind of tool can revolutionize a classroom by creating a school culture focused on results rather than poor behavior choices. Plus, it makes incentives sexy. Take it from an expert: there's nothing kids like more than getting paid.
And, this software teaches students how to handle this faux currency by using their behavior as a way to earn and lose "money." Students can then use this money to purchase rewards, or save it for a rainy day.
There are also ingenious new grading systems like Active Grade available to teachers that allow them to grade students based on what they've actually mastered, not just on what they've turned in. Imagine! Being able to identify what students know as opposed to what they left at home! Or, consider other places around town who leverage social media and other technology to raise awareness and funds for their causes like Ride For Reading, the W.O. Smith School, and the not-so-local juggernaut: 826 National.
Yes, it's true; a lot of schools now have a 1:1 program, where students all have iPads or tablets or robots that they use throughout the day. In fact, Nashville's Harpeth Hall launched its 1:1 program in 1999, and Montgomery Bell Academy has more than 75 percent of its students with laptops registered to use around the school. And yet, just down the road, there are still schools throughout Davidson County (Nashville proper) that have less than 100 computers for approximately 400 students to use. Even in charter schools, technology is often less available than it is in public schools in neighboring suburban schools. Private schools, in particular, are overhauling their curricula across the country to incorporate technology, but what about our low-income schools? Where many students don't even have computers at home, let alone at school? These are the students who need this access; these are the schools where teachers need to be able to utilize technology so that the students can understand it.
If we're not equipping our teachers and our students for the future, then we're not equipping them for anything. It's true: education reform is a behemoth. It is a gargantuan monster that seems difficult to tame. But it's not impossible, and it has to start somewhere. Technology, while hardly the whole piece to this otherwise daunting puzzle, is, at least, a start.
When Bill Gates talks, people listen. When Bill Gates talks education, people get serious about listening. Last week, TED launched a new series of talks focused on education. We heard from teachers, from researchers, from prominent thinkers and then we heard Bill Gates offer a slightly different proposition for helping teachers to get better: rather than only focusing on evaluation, look at growth models where video is in the center of self-reflection.
As I listened to his platform, I was reminded of an ECS (Education Commission of the States) conference last July where we shared a stage to discuss teacher evaluation and whether or not that system alone can help teachers nurture the kinds of dispositions needed to always improve. While the merits of current evaluation systems can be debated, what Mr. Gates suggested in his latest talk is undisputed: teachers can't get better as long as they are in isolation. Then he suggested that the fastest way out of isolation is with the lens of a camera perched in every classroom. That's when he cued up a video of my classroom, courtesy of Teaching Channel, featuring the way I use a simple video system to improve my practice.
Elevating the Practice
Sometimes people hear the phrase "video cameras in classrooms" and automatically start thinking about other places we have perched cameras, like parking garages or day care centers. It's just this kind of thinking, where video is about surveillance, that we get confused notions of why having classroom cameras can make a difference for teachers. First, let's get clear on why these aren't "surveillance" cameras in either the literal or figurative sense.
• They aren't there to "catch" teachers making missteps
• They aren't there to judge
• They aren't there to feed into an evaluation system
However, cameras are there to help teachers ground their self-reflection in empirical evidence. See, this is one of the toughest facets of growing as a teacher: getting past our natural filters that can prevent us from seeing what really defines our practice. Since the earliest days of my career, I've used video to help me see the difference between what I thought happened and what really happened. And seeing the difference helps to know what getting better is going to look like.
If there's one thing I could change for teachers, it's the inherent isolation of the profession. Sure, we have great colleagues - who often also work behind their closed doors. Certainly we form teams and committees, where we can collaborate. But collaboration generally happens in the abstract part of the teaching process: where we plan, imagine, envision what it will be like. The teaching is where the rubber meets the road, where we must shift and improvise, recalculate and riff. And this ability to pay close enough attention to the students in order to make those shifts comprises the most invisible work of all. Yet, it's the very work that we need to make most visible to each other.
When we use video to anchor conversations and generate thoughtful questions about our practice, we contribute to a culture grounded in continuous growth. Instead of keeping our most intricate work behind closed doors, video helps it emerge as the most important way we can learn to get better by watching others. In other words, teachers get better by watching themselves and other teachers do the work that requires both precision and fluctuation.
Garnering Teacher Enthusiasm
Even given all of the reasons to engage in video-centered reflection, many teachers still are hesitant, nervous, even resistant to an initiative like this. Unlike what some outside of the profession might think, this hesitancy comes not from a stoic sense of professional growth or an unwillingness to look closely at strengths and weakness. Rather, this mentality grows out of environments where evaluation systems create fear and unease.
If we want video to be an effective tool for teacher growth, here are some ways to help shore up enthusiasm.
• Keep evaluation and exercises for growth separate. As soon as evaluation becomes part of this process, the process changes. Teachers are far more likely to go into compliance mode, fearful of making mistakes. And when fear prevails, authenticity loses. So, instead, make the purpose of using video very clear: for self-reflection and growth.
• Cultivate trust. I see it in my students' faces when I ask them to share their writing for the first time. Their eyes shift quickly back and forth, they start looking at their work and mumbling something about, "Well, it isn't very good" or "I didn't spend enough time on it." Perhaps what I tell them is helpful for all of us putting our work out there: "All I care about right now is that you learn something about your writing from sharing it. We can always be better or spend more time. Today we don't worry what the work isn't, we care what it is."
And if you are an administrator, team leader or facilitator: go first and not with your best stuff. Be vulnerable; be willing to show how this process isn't about being perfect, it's about getting better.
• Empower teachers in the process. There are some important ways to help teachers grow trust in this process. One way is by empowering them with some choice in this process. Maybe they can choose the lesson or the class period. Have them determine the kind of feedback they want to receive from their video. Do they want feedback on strategy, on questioning, or on classroom management?
• Observations not judgments. Once you've established a learning purpose behind the videos, cultivated trust and empowered teachers, be sure to also prepare the discussion team. Because it could all be undone if colleagues inadvertently start judging rather than reporting and making observations. Let the observations spur questions and dialogue. More than anything, the filmed teacher needs to learn how to think about her video, not to be critiqued.
In the end, getting better is never about a silver bullet or a panacea. Getting better is about the gritty work of looking at the difference between what we perceive about our teaching and what actually happened. What I learn from the lens in the back of my classroom isn't always what I'd hoped, but it most certainly helps me navigate the never predictable, always changing landscape of learning.
Can't start your day without a cup of coffee? Your morning routine may soon get a whole lot easier.
Colgate-Palmolive filed a patent application for a toothbrush capable of delivering a dose of chemicals to the user with every brush. While a number of medicines could conceivably be distributed, the idea appears to have taken off in a singular direction: a toothbrush with caffeine.
In the application, which was made public recently, the company describes several variations of an oral care implement that would "invoke a sensory response" during use. Illustrations of the concept show speciality-shaped patches on the back of the brush's head that would designate what type of chemical or medicine the toothbrush contains.
Proposed additives range from flavors, such as apple or lemon, to medications, including pain killers or appetite suppressants. According to the proposal, the chemically infused toothbrush would be viable for daily use up to three months -- about the same amount of time as the American Dental Association's recommendation for the typical toothbrush.
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Colgate-Palmolive included several diagrams of the proposed product in its patent application. Each illustration includes a distinctive shape on the head of the brush, which would contain the chemicals. (Images via USPTO/Google)
But don't get too excited just yet, caffeine addicts.
Even if this patent is approved and Colgate-Palmolive goes on to release the product, the company is likely to run into some issues with the Food and Drug Administration over its plans to infuse a toothbrush with caffeine, as noted by Vice's Motherboard blog.
In late April, the FDA announced plans to investigate the safety of added caffeine, particularly the impact of "new and easy sources" of the food additive on the health of adolescents and children.
Last week, Wrigley's Alert Energy Caffeine Gum was pulled from shelves after less than one month on the market. The Associated Press reports that the halt in production is temporary, "out of respect" for the FDA while it conducts its investigation into the safety of the caffeine additive.
Since Colgate-Palmolive's caffeinated toothbrush is likely to face a similar inquiry from the FDA before it could be approved, you'll just have to stick with your brush-while-you-make-coffee routine, for now.
A spokesperson for Colgate-Palmolive was not immediately available for comment.
ICANN forecasts 646 applications will be withdrawn, mostly after the initial evaluation period.
66 applications for new top level domain names have been withdrawn as of today. For budgeting purposes, ICANN projects that number will explode to 646 before everything is said and done.
The number was disclosed in ICANN’s proposed operating plan and budget for the 2014 financial year, which begins in July 2013. The number is up from a previously budgeted 545 applications withdrawn.
ICANN expects 105 applications will be withdrawn before they pass through the initial evaluation phase. Applicants get a 70% refund of their $185,000 application fee in this case.
A further 390 applications are projected to be withdrawn after initial evaluation but before string contention resolutions, dispute resolution is completed, or extended evaluation. ICANN is betting that many applicants in contention sets will withdraw as applicants strike deals with each other. These applicants will get a 35% refund.
The forecast shows a further 150 applications withdrawn after string contention resolution, dispute resolution, and extended evaluation. These applicants will get 20% of their money back.
This is a reverse of the prior forecast, which predicted most withdraws would come only after final contention resolution. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if more companies settle their contention sets privately before initial evaluation results are posted.
One application was withdrawn within 21 days of getting a GAC Early Warning. That applicant received an 80% refund.
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