Posts Tagged ‘iPad’

I’ve been making Primer jokes about the iPad ever since it appeared, but this beats all.

November 2, 2012 @ 5:23 pm | Filed under: Books, Links

We may not be living in the Diamond Age quite yet, but Neal Stephenson’s Primer is here. My friend Andy Diggle (who’s the reason I read The Diamond Age in the first place) sent me this link about a learn-as-you-go software project influenced by (and named in honor of) The Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, that amazing smart-book device from Stephenson’s nanotech masterwork:

Ethiopian kids hack OLPC in five months with no instruction

“We left the boxes in the village. Closed. Taped shut. No instruction, no human being. I thought, the kids will play with the boxes! Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, but found the on/off switch. He’d never seen an on/off switch. He powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs [in English] in the village. And within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera! And they figured out it had a camera, and they hacked Android.”

“OLPC” stands for One Laptop Per Child:

The One Laptop Per Child project started as a way of delivering technology and resources to schools in countries with little or no education infrastructure, using inexpensive computers to improve traditional curricula. What the OLPC Project has realized over the last five or six years, though, is that teaching kids stuff is really not that valuable. Yes, knowing all your state capitols how to spell “neighborhood” properly and whatnot isn’t a bad thing, but memorizing facts and procedures isn’t going to inspire kids to go out and learn by teaching themselves, which is the key to a good education. Instead, OLPC is trying to figure out a way to teach kids to learn, which is what this experiment is all about.

OLPC created special learning software for the tablets in this project, specifically modeled on the Primer.

If this all reminds you of a certain science fiction book by a certain well-known author, it’s not a coincidence: Nell’s Primer in Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age was a direct inspiration for much of the OLPC teaching software, which itself is named Nell. Here’s an example of how Nell uses an evolving, personalized narrative to help kids learn to learn without beating them over the head with standardized lessons and traditional teaching methods…

(Read the rest of the article to see how it works.)

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An excerpt from my 2010 booknotes on The Diamond Age:

Neo-Victorians, nanotech, and education: this novel had me at hello. Top-notch world-building; there’s a little dose of cyberpunk in the opening, with a ruffian named Bud getting himself fitted up with a skull gun that fires explosive bullets upon his mental command; and then we’re whisked off to New Atlantis/Shanghai, the home base of a thriving Neo-Victorian community, where the upper crust are Equity Lords (aristocrats by dint of their corporate ties) and the birthday entertainments involve creating fairylands that rise out of the sea for a day, thanks to the limitless possibilities of molecular manipulation. There is something delightful about this melding of Dickensian characters and futuristic tech.

One of the upper-crustiest of the Equity Lords is an elderly gent who, for all he esteems his phyle and works to protect and promote it, rues the loss of opportunity for young Neo-Victorians to experience character-building adversity. His adult children missed out on something important, he believes—after all, he himself grew up on an Idaho farm, was homeschooled until age fourteen, pulled himself up by his bootstraps and all that. He determines to offer his granddaughter an alternative to the soft Vicky upbringing, in which status and comforts are often taken for granted by those born and raised in the phyle. To this end, he hires a gifted techno-engineer, one John Hackworth, to create a sophisticated, interactive book-slash-computer, the Primer, which will provide his granddaughter with personalized instruction in academic subjects, ethics and morals, handcrafts, self-defense, computer programming—pretty much everything under the sun.

Hackworth rises to the challenge…Hackworth, who, as it happens, has a young daughter of his own. He attempts to procure a bootleg copy for four-year-old Fiona, and therein lies the tale. The illicit copy of the Primer goes astray and winds up in the hands of a young thete child—thetes belong to no phyle at all—named Nell. As in “little Nell”—a Dickensian waif full of pluck, growing up in dreadful circumstances in a cold, cruel world. If ever a child needed a Magic Book, it’s Nell. Well, and Pip, and David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist…but no, really, Nell’s in worse straits than all those lads (her mother, Tequila, has worse taste in men than David Copperfield’s mum), and we’re thrilled to see the Primer offer her some tools for digging her way out of the squalor.

Dear iPad, Please Don’t Move to Kent

February 2, 2010 @ 3:26 pm | Filed under: iPad

Dear iPad,

I know you’re really busy right now, so I went ahead and took the Which Jane Austen Character Are You quiz for both of us. Hope you don’t mind.

It came out that you are Charlotte Lucas and I am Elizabeth Bennet. Which wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but if you think about it, it makes a ton of sense.

Lizzie: skirts six inches deep in mud
Me: clothes constantly smeared with peanut butter and masticated goldfish crackers

Lizzie: marries sarcastic, sensitive man who dislikes mingling
Me: DITTO

Lizzie: enjoys reading letters
Me: enjoys reading blogs

(See what I mean? It’s chilling, really.)

And then there’s you and Charlotte Lucas.

Charlotte: possesses wide array of talents ranging from the practical to the entertaining
iPad: ditto, though can only apply them one at a time

Charlotte: believes “it is better to know as little as possible of the defects of the person with whom you are to pass your life.”
iPad: might appreciate this point of view

Charlotte: makes decisions based on reason, not emotions
iPad: is a computer

Charlotte: not flashy
iPad: no Flash Player

And Lizzie and Charlotte are dear friends who, while vastly different in temperament, derive much satisfaction from their relationship—at least until Charlotte marries a man neither one of them can particularly stand to be around.

So I guess what I’m saying, dear iPad, is: I think we’ll get along just fine as long as you don’t go marrying Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s remote control.

But, you know, I was sort of hoping you’d be the Mr. Darcy of gadgets.

Dear iPad, I Just Want to Say

January 29, 2010 @ 6:50 am | Filed under: iPad

I would totally climb the Empire State Building for you.

Dear iPad: Me Again

January 28, 2010 @ 2:02 pm | Filed under: iPad

Don’t worry, I’m not stalking you or anything. Well, okay, maybe a little. Maybe I’ve been scouring the interwebs for hints about you for months now. Maybe I had a little crush on you long before I ever saw your picture.

It’s just, you know, I think you and I would really hit it off. We’re so compatible.

I mean, your battery lets you run for ten hours without recharging? I have six kids—I can run for ten hours straight too!

And just look how fond I am of your little sister.

I know you’re busy basking in the spotlight right now, but I wanted to let you know that when the limelight gets old, I’m here for you.

Signed,

Your New BFF

Delicious Links for January 27, 2010

January 28, 2010 @ 6:17 am | Filed under: Links

iPad @ Publisher’s Weekly

“The device was demoed with newspaper content from the New York Times and supports video and audio embedded in the content. Most importantly, the iPad will support the ePub e-book standard and Apple has developed its own e-reader software, iBooks, and will also launch an iBookstore. E-book pricing is reported to be in the $15 range.”

Confused Texas Education Board bans kids’ author from curriculum | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Texas Regional News

“In its haste to sort out the state’s social studies curriculum standards this month, the State Board of Education tossed children’s author Martin, who died in 2004, from a proposal for the third-grade section. Board member Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford, who made the motion, cited books he had written for adults that contain “very strong critiques of capitalism and the American system.

“Trouble is, the Bill Martin Jr. who wrote the Brown Bear series never wrote anything political, unless you count a book that taught kids how to say the Pledge of Allegiance, his friends said. The book on Marxism was written by Bill Martin, a philosophy professor at DePaul University in Chicago. “

Cybils: REVIEW Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

“This absorbing story told from the viewpoint of Jason, a boy with autism, would appeal to readers who enjoyed The London Eye Mystery or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, says Abby.”

Dear iPad

January 27, 2010 @ 2:52 pm | Filed under: Computer stuff, iPad

You had me at hello.

Could we move my birthday to April this year?