Uncategorized

Education in the Age of Digital Distraction

As the technological whirlwind encompasses the entire world, the manner in which we process information is changing. This alteration is found is inherent in the newer generation which is growing up with the ability to process multiple things at once. This is due to their adaptability to change in their younger years where their minds are much more impressionable. While there are strong links between procrastination and adults when it comes to use of technology, it is not as pronounced as that in younger users. Matt Richtel of the New York Times takes into account the life and behavior of a high school senior Vishal Singh who seems to be faced with the technological conundrum. While Richter is able to paint an accurate picture of the current situation, it seems that he has managed to maintain a neutral stance when it comes to the use of technology in education. As we progress towards the end however this stance is suddenly abandoned as he provides evidence of Vishal’s neglect towards his homework.

In a world where the newer generation is being born distracted, everyone is faced with a choice. They can either receive immediate gratification through a video or a prolonged exposure to a non-responsive piece of paper. According to Vishal the lack of interactivity and responsiveness when it comes to traditional homework methods is what causes them to choose technological entertainment over traditional learning every time. While efforts are being made towards the introduction of technology in classrooms in order to find a balance between learning and casual technological use, the efforts seem to be going in the wrong direction. It seems that it is not really technology or interactivity that is a cause for concern but rather the topic at hand. The two subjects in comparison in the article were that of Latin and an Audio Class. As Vishal states at one point, the students were more interested in subjects that were important for their future. Perhaps the choice of subject for comparison, even if iPads were being used to assist learning was not quite effective.

 

In a world where the newer generation is predisposed to absorbing information through screens and displays, school books provide a bleak contrast looking more and more like a chore every day. The sample on which the study was based also seems a little faulty. While the school itself did have a diverse sample of students, the ones in question belonged to the same faculty, studying the same subjects and of the same social class. The access to technology, be it only in an education al framework may be the only one available to students such as those receiving discounted or free lunches in the school.

At some points, the writer seems to jump towards clichés which may have been valid arguments perhaps 15 years ago but fail to deliver the same effect today. This refers to the dichotomous behaviors of the principal and the Latin teacher towards technology; one comparing it to a passing fad and the other as the end all and be all of the educational system in the future.

Technology in education is by no means a passing trend such as “Rock & Roll” but it is also not a crutch that the educational system can rely on. There is a great need for an integration of the two through which educators can facilitate effective and interactive learning methods.

 

 

Richtel, M. (2004). Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. In S. Blau & K. Burak (Eds),

Writing in the Works (pp. 349). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

Advertisements

The Life of a First Generation Muslim Teenager in the Western Culture

In a post 9/11 world, the perspectives of people regarding minorities; especially Muslims have drastically changed. As the world focuses on the bigger picture, it seems to lose focus on the smaller details of how religious and cultural differences affect the daily lives of people living in a culture that does not belong to them. Matthai’s work focuses on the life of a first generation Muslim teenager trying to maintain the balance between religious values and western culture. The story follows Mohamed Ahmed; a university student through his daily life and activities.

 

The writer begins by drawing a picture of a seemingly perfect individual that stays away from alcohol, is a football star, and still manages to make it on the honor roll. As the story progresses the underlying layers of his internal struggles are revealed. As Mohamed lives in a split world he is in a constant battle between what he was taught as a child and what he is experiencing in his college years. Small things that American teenagers take for granted become difficult decisions for Mohammad. Since the writer presents unbiased details of events, the reader has the opportunity to form their own opinions by drawing on their own experiences. In many ways it brings to light issues that many American teenagers would not have considered as evident by the behaviors of Mohamed’s friends who don’t really seem to realize the dilemma that he is faced with. On some occasions they were found trivializing his beliefs where he was given alcohol under false pretense and was asked whether he had “hooked up” with someone.

The pressure on Mohamed however is not only from one direction. While his teenage peers show a lack of understanding, his parents present an absolute 180 degree shift and restrict him from any social interactions. At this point it needs to be understood just how much of the control over Mohamed’s behavior stems from religion and how much is derived from cultural influences. As Mohamed’s friend reveals, first generation American Muslims are subject to stricter control by their parents who are afraid that their children will deviate from their culture and will be subject to western influences.

 

It is astonishing to understand that something as little as contact with the opposite sex is a matter of debate within Mohamed’s household. This not only makes us privy to the view from the inside but also reveals how large the differences between the two cultures are.

Although Mathai manages to convey the internal struggle of Mohamed by focusing not only on his words but his body language he fails to draw a complete picture of the situation. In a three sided debate he has only managed to reveal the opinions of two and a description of the social life that Mohamed was exposed to at the Mosque and among Muslim friends is left wanting. He also fails to consider the cultural factors in play here. Most restrictions on Mohamed don’t seem to be of a religious nature but rather a cultural one stemming from parental fear.

Mathai does however succeed in providing a picture of Mohamed and the transitions that took place in his personality through the years. We see Mohamed as he moves from his strictly academic life towards a more social one through his football friends and then in College where he struggled to become like his peers. Another factor which must be understood is that Mohamed is living in a place where he has no exposure to others facing the same situation as him. This lack of support from similar individuals does not provide him with a second opinion that could help him through. 

 

 

Matthai, T. (2004). A Fine Balance: The Life of a Muslim Teenager. In S. Blau & K. Burak (Eds),

Writing in the Works (pp. 197). Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.

Tech 14′ Will iPhone run Android?

Tech 14′ Will iPhone run Android?

 PODCAST 

Tech 14′ Will iPhone run Android?

Overview:

               The man has said it, so why couldn’t it happen. Apple iPhones may consider having Android Operating Systems as suggested by Steve Wozniak. In this episode of Tech’14, I share the reasons why Apple could actually adopt another mobile operating system along with the iOS. Would Apple have a new smartphone for the Android OS? Would Apple have to come in terms with Google for Android? And how the company would pursue along with other competitors whose platform they would share.

Links and Resources:

Music:

Licensed under Creative Commons License (Free to share and adapt)

Retrieved from: https://soundcloud.com/news-feed/news-feed-wall-post-slot

 

Contact Information of Ajwad Rauf: ajwadrauf@gmail.com

Social Activism in the Digital Age

   As the digital revolution rages on, the distance that separates people from each other is lessening at an astonishing rate. The term revolution, used to describe the social activism in the digital age though vehemently opposed by Gladwell (2010) still serves the purposes of this study. While Gladwell may not prefer the use of the term, he too does accept that although weak, a movement has been brought bout through the use of social media.

 

   The problem with Gladwell’s opposition to the use of social media as an activist tool however is not quite clear. As he starts of the article with an account of the 1960s movement for racial equality, he seems predisposed to dislike modern methods of activism. In fact his article reads somewhat reminiscent of the ‘good ol’days with a disdain for new methods. According to Gladwell, social networks fail to create strong bonds as those between real-life friends, which does not allow passion and commitment to flow through communities as it would traditionally. He is of the view that social media is only capable of creating weak ties and a network that can stir up noise but no substantial action. He takes the example of the Iran twitter revolution into consideration citing that twitter was falsely credited with the role of being a catalyst in the movement since most of the accounts sharing news of the revolution were located in the west and wrote it off as lazy western journalism.

 

   According to Gladwell such ‘High Risk’ activism can only be brought about by deeply rooted passions and strong personal ties which cannot be facilitated through social media networks. While the role of twitter in the revolution may have been hyped a little too much in the Iranian revolution, Gladwell gravely undermines the movement by clinging to the other extreme. He forgets that there is power in numbers and that twitter did not work as a recruiting tool in the movement but rather one for increasing awareness and facilitating the free flow of uncontrolled information.Twitter gave the power to the people of Iran and even globally to share not only the events but also personal opinions on what was occurring. It allowed images to be shared on social networks which spurred global support for events that people could not quite reach. This awareness was perhaps what garnered support for the movement. He cites his support for a centralized power for the start of a movement such as that of the NAACP and Martin Luther King. What Gladwell must understand, however, is that perhaps it is time to deviate from such centralized powers in order to reach the masses.  Causes such as the racial equality movement of the 1960s could have benefited had they been able to garner global support and international pressure such as that facilitated by the Twitter revolution which forced international leaders to look at the scenario rather than ignore it. The age of the internet as a social activist tool is still new and we’re still in the trial and error phase. Up until now networks have been effective at promoting outreach. What Gladwell must accept is that social networks are not a replacement for social activism but a tool that must be used in conjunction with it.

 

Orwell’s bargain on Politics and Language

Orwell’s most famous Essay “Politics and the English Language” has been often celebrated for its directness and harshness, whereas many others have felt quite the opposite considering it similar to an attack on the English language. While Orwell’s passionate words do seem to qualify the essay as an attack, the validity of such claims still remains under debate. Orwell has accused writers of being unimaginative in the use of the English language, choosing to opt for metaphors which are widely known rather than creating new ones. Orwell simply describes this as lazy behavior on part of the writer.

Another complaint he has against the English language is the use of meaningless words. He calls for a return to simplicity. He rejects the use of verbose sentences and is particularly averse to the use of foreign words which have trickled into the English language. He also rejects the use of words which have lost all meaning and do not direct the reader to an idea. His six rules of writing have become the battle cry of many writers who agree with his suggestions. Others, however, are of the view that the entire essay reads like an angry tirade. While he does accuse the English language of becoming too comfortable with certain ideas with a shocking vehemence, he forgets where such behavior may actually be functional. As he rejects the use of verbosity and encourages using simpler words, he overlooks poetry which would be quite dead if stripped down to the use of functional terms.

Orwell may be one of the greatest writers to have lived and his writing preferences and style were quite definitely beyond par, but his writing, as beautiful as it may be, does not quite serve as a standard for all English language use. In fact, it may be observed in his works that he breaks the very rules he has so vehemently set in his essay. While he rejects the use of passive in lieu of active, he has done so in his texts on many occasions. In addition when he confronts the English language or its use of foreign terminology, he fails to see that not all words have exact English synonyms. While a word may retain a similar meaning it will lose its essence. The most egregious crime in his opinion however is that of political literature. He accuses politics of pulling English downwards as it descends itself and deems political pamphlets and documents to be particularly incriminating. As Orwell sets down these rules, he does not take the time to explain to the reader why these particular rules are set or how they will serve the English language in a better manner. No other reason for his disdain of the current common use of the English language has been provided. The last rule that he sets out in his essay, however, redeems him of any accusations that he has set forth.

“Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”

Here he states that there can’t be any rules applied to the English language rendering the above redundant. On this front, we cannot further oppose Orwell.

Image

Source of Image: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/may/10/1984-george-orwell

Main Source: http://orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit

Lavish Worlds, and the Headwear to Match

“She’s mad but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire.” A phenomenon in her own, Lady Gaga came out of nowhere in 2008 and took the world of entertainment by storm with her debut album, “The Fame.” At the Radio City Music Hall, the mega star urged her fans to take her picture, saying, ‘I want to be a star.’ To an addition to her talent in arts, the author improvises on ‘her fascination over dressing up’ considering it a sort of “freaky”. However, the message has been bluntly delivered with quotations in brackets which indeed has an implied meaning to the author’s behavior. “The Fame”, insists the audiences that Lady Gaga is personally engaged towards her reputation by using fashion as a tool.

“As the author claims, ‘She is (A star) a combination of well-planned outlandishness media exposure and catchy, stuttering choruses — “pa-pa-pa-pa-paparazzi,” “p-p-p-poker face” — has made Lady Gaga a multimillionaire selling, Grammy-nominated star in less than a year and a half since the release of her debut album.” She has a larger than life persona, with actual musical gift behind the glitz of her extravagant stage presence and dressing. With back to back hits, her much talked about stage antics, dressing, and charity offerings, she seemingly has the author under her mystic spell just like everybody else.

The author endeavors with a banging expression “larger than-life style”; an aspiration to parallel Lady Gaga to other great stars, ‘Madonna and David Bownie’. The comparison is an implication compelling the general audience to accept that she is a better performer in music and art. Affirmed, with excitement to finer musicians, the reference to a female Elton John puts forward the authenticity and talent of Lady Gaga, and the author’s familiarity on the subject. Regardless of those not involved in the specific genre, associating the above popular artists illuminates the content to be comprehended by a greater audience. “The Egyptian-deity golden armor”, “the exoskeleton like helmet” and “the red chauffeur’s hat” blurs the author making the connections “cryptic” between Lady Gaga’s performance of music and fashion after the comparison he had made with dedicated musicians and artists. Pareles ends with hesitancy to the fiction consideration of Lady Gaga to be “Tinker Bell”, now isn’t that desperation “needing applause to live”?

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/arts/music/22gaga.html