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Comment Re:Followed by a CSB (Score 1) 274

With a little time, expense, and staff education, the computer can be a fantastic tool for teaching and learning. I can appreciate that without that time and expense, the tool isn't nearly as useful.

Unfortunately, a lot of educational managers/rule makers don't understand that point. Every few months or so, we get a missive to use computers more in class, and to try out this and that wonderful toy.Usually those toys turn out to be incredibly buggy and don't do much beyond frustrate students because they're dumbed down and limited. A lot of my colleagues never had any sort of IT education, so it doesn't exactly foster confidence.

Add to that the sad fact that educational software in general seems to be more about cute design and "encouraging" animations to hide their lack of usability, and it's no longer a mystery that teachers try not to rely on the stuff.

Comment Re:Teacher's perspective (Score 1) 274

If you want laptops to be used in school, they need to be useful in the lessons. OLPC fails in that regard. It's something that is highly frustrating for teachers - they're expected/forced to use tools which aren't ideal for the job, and then get beaten up when the results aren't the optimum. If you want OLPC to promote freedom of information, then you can't push it into schools without also providing the educational tools to actually use them in class. Teachers need to meet their educational goals first, and they aren't usually free to set them individually. So if laptops don't help you get there, you'll ignore them.

Perhaps OLPC would have been more successful if it had been implemented independent of the educational system.

Comment Re:The problem is the education level of the teach (Score 3, Insightful) 274

You need the balance, just like with calculators. Give them calculators. But also make sure they're able to estimate whether the result of their calculation/research/query is correct. If you train them solely by using a specific sort of tool, they become dependent on that. Show them a few alternatives to get to a result, then let them choose.

It may depend on student age, but the amount of times I run into teenage students who blindly trust their calculators and don't pause to think whether 4% of 200 really can be 500 is startling. I'm not a fan of deprieving them of the technology, but they need to realise that they'd better do a rough mental double-check as well.

Comment Re:Teacher's perspective (Score 5, Informative) 274

Giving them access to wikipedia won't solve anything, though. They need to know how to use the information they find, and for that they need to know basic technologies, models and methods to apply this. It's something we struggle with in our laptop-equipped classes - they're amazing at first glance, but once you actually look for comprehension, you discover that they copy-paste and don't question or even understand what they've found.

It all needs balance. Show them that the information is out there, and give them the means to get to that info. But right now, there are a lot of areas where you simply can't use laptops consistently because it takes more time to get things running than to sit students down and simply run them through the matter the old-fashioned way.

Also, I'll commit murder if I ever meet the designers of some of the educational software platforms out there. The software aspect is absolutely lacking at the moment when it comes to educational stuff. If the software doesn't exist, then good luck at getting it down to a reasonable price. I'm still stunned that Moodle currently gets promoted as the best solution.

Comment Teacher's perspective (Score 5, Insightful) 274

The concept of needing laptops at all for good education is questionable, I think. I'm a teacher in a business college for 15-19-year-olds (Austrian education system has these sorts of schools), and we run some student groups with laptops, while others only use computers for IT classes.

There is a difference in how you need to teach the students, depending on their equipment. But there's no absolute need for laptops, or technology beyond a calculator. For business concepts or for accounting, it's actually better to run things via pen and paper because the students are less tempted to copy and paste, and because it slows down the pace so they have time to think about what they're doing. There is a time and place for internet research, use of spreadsheets for complex accounting or finance calculations, and for plenty of other areas. Get them computer literate, definitely, because a lot of our students end up working in offices and they need the knowledge to use the tools available. But there's no need to get them addicted/dependent on technology to a point where they can't perform simple calculations without Excel anymore, or use their brains without prompting from Google.

The OLPC project is worthy, that's for sure. But I can't say that the results surprise me, they mirror the experiences we're making in a completely different environment. You can run lessons without laptops, and depending on the subject, it's often the more effective way of teaching.

Submission + - Julian Assange Arrested in London (

Orome1 writes: WikiLeaks' founder and director Julian Assange has been arrested this Tuesday morning at 9.30am (GMT) at a police station in London. According to a statement by the Metropolitan police, he has been arrested based on a Swedish arrest warrant, and is scheduled to appear at City of Westminster magistrates court later today. Assange's British lawyers are claiming that he has still not been informed by the Swedish police of the full allegations against him, and that they will fight to stop the extradition process, since they believe the whole situation is the result of a smear campaign conducted by the US and are worried that somehow Assange could end up extradited to that country because US politicians are clamoring for getting him indicted for various charges — including terrorism.

Submission + - Julian Assange Arrested in UK (

AndGodSed writes: Jullian Assange has been arrested on behalf of Swedish police for the rape charges he is due to face in that country. Wikileaks say that they will continue releasing documents in spite of Assange's arrest.

Comment Re-inventing the wheel (Score 5, Insightful) 165

The idea of a will has existed for quite a while now. And your loved ones will, in all likeliness, find it a lot more useful if you leave them a dead-tree folder with all the collected information on insurances, people to notify, financial information etc. Much less creepy than postmortem emails, and less likely to end up in the spam filter. Not to mention that such a folder is useful in other situations too, such as if you have an accident and end up incapable of taking care of your affairs.

Comment Re:Well done Germany (Score 2, Informative) 246

I'm as big a fan of Germany and European democracy as the next man. But Roman democracy was hardly the same thing as modern democracy.

*cough* Greek democracy came first...

And the Romans weren't that different, really. You were a citizen, you got a vote. And their tribus system for voting (you vote in your district, then the district gives one collective vote) is no different from the current US system. The only real difference I can see is that voting rights weren't universal, but when you think that Switzerland didn't allow women to vote until well into the 1970s, that's not that "unmodern" either. Personal wealth as a factor of how much your vote counts for was still around in the 1900s too.

The constitution worked as well for them. They had the mos maiorum, and enough of a legal system that laws were well published, could be changed and abolished. In the late republic, legal representation was available too, and while bribes were involved, it also worked along the principles of proof. There's a reason why Roman Law is the basis of European legal systems. They had the senate to function as a parliament, the consuls, praetors etc. as the elected government, and the tribunes of the plebs as the checks and balance system who could even call all citizens in to vote for major issues.

The Romans actually had a very modern approach to elections, too. You could buy votes, bribe other candidates, lobby your way into getting the support of parts of the elite, spread rumours, marry a woman of an influential family... and if it all didn't help, you claimed a god told you it was okay. You tell me where that's different from what happens in modern democracies.

Comment Re:Wait... (Score 1) 299

American labour law is shocking. I had a choice a few years ago between contracts based on American and German law. The American contract had a considerably better salary, but only a third of the annual vacation time, minimal health insurance, could be terminated within two weeks rather than two months, and of course no paid sick leave...

I took the German contract, and I've never regretted it. The salary may have been lower, but I was safe when I broke my leg, didn't have to limp into the office on the first day out of hospital, and it didn't hit me financially because it was all covered by state insurance.

Given the choice, I'd never work under an American contract.

Comment Re:Wait... (Score 1) 299

From what I understand, in some countries you can take indefinite "sick" leave, without doctor's note nor explanation. After your regular leave is up, you then earn 50%. After a period, the gov't pays it. When you're "better", you can just show back up to work, and they're obliged to give you either your original position back, or a comparable one.

In Austria you can take indefinite sick leave, but you need a doctor's note. After three days it's mandatory, but your employer can demand it on the first day. However, the doctor's visit is paid for so you don't incur any costs there.

Typically the doctor will write you a slip that covers the time he expects the illness will take to be cured. If it's not over by then, you come in for another visit and get it prolongued.

The employer has to cover the salary for the first week, after that the full salary is paid for by the government health insurance. Theoretically indefinitely, as long as your employer doesn't fire you and your doc still agrees that you're ill. There is no thing such as sick days or unpaid sick leave here. When you're ill, you stay at home until you're better.

Comment Why bother? (Score 1) 1365

The whole idea of having an OS is that it's supposed to give me a platform on which I can run programs with no extra fuss required. Windows does that. MacOS X does that. Linux does too, but it takes a lot more effort. I'm not at a computer to tinker with the OS, I'm here to get something done.

Comment Re:That's ok... (Score 1) 168

The papers here in Austria say that according to the minister of science/research, part of the funds will be allocated, but not necessarily all of them. They aren't saying anything about specific new projects yet, only that it frees up 20 million Euros a year.

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