Sunday, March 30, 2014

Using tablets in school - pros and cons

There has been a move to use tablet computers in schools. Having been a tablet (android) user for the past year or so, for 5 plus hours a day,  I have given some serious thought as to the pros and cons of tablets. After some research I have yet to find a good evaluation of the tablet in schools. Anyway here are some thoughts on the subject. Note that this post applies also to the more capable smartphones.

Lower cost
Free or cheap apps
Wifi built-in
Good for browsing, multimedia
Good for reading ebooks and other content
Useful sensors (much potential here, see here)
Android OS also widely used in smart phones

Limited battery life and charging issues
Keyboard (pop up) inadequate for serious text entry
Copying and pasting not easy
Graphics creation limited
Designed for personal use by one user, not multiuser
Apps and environment not designed for group/corporate use
Repairs more difficult than for PC
Security issues

Some of the problems are due to hardware limitations such as battery life, pointing inaccuracies and limited processing power and will mostly resolve. Others are software issues and fixable. For example there could be special accounts at Google for android systems that are used by multiple users and belong to a school or business. May be these could use facial recognition or fingerprint to switch users and wipe user data. Apps could store work online in individual accounts.
The difficulty of composing text for reports or assignments is not easy to solve without resort to full size keyboards (e.g. using bluetooth). I do not think using voice to text is ready yet or appropriate for class use.

There is no doubt tablets/smartphones will be used in schools, it is a case of making the best use of them but I do not intend to get into that complex subject here. I would just add that the rate of technological change is high which makes it difficult for teachers to keep up and for institutions to get a return from the funds spent. Change has to be planned for.

Many of the articles and evaluations found on the net are already out-of-date. No doubt this post will be out-of-date soon too...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Global Forest Watch & our forests

Technology is catching up with deforestation. According to this BBC story, Global Forest Watch makes this possible through their website:
"A new global monitoring system has been launched that promises "near real time" information on deforestation around the world.
Global Forest Watch (GFW) is backed by Google and over 40 business and campaigning groups.
It uses information from hundreds of millions of satellite images as well as data from people on the ground.
Businesses have welcomed the new database as it could help them prove that their products are sustainable."
A quick look at the website shows Guyana with only scattered instances of deforestation - along the Demerara River for example. A variety of information can be had but the website responds somewhat slowly.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Weather forecasting in Guyana

Weather forecasting in Europe and North America has become routine and quite accurate over periods of a few days so why cannot our local forecasts be as good?
There are many factors involved here but the main difficulty is that, due to the tropical climate, weather comes about by different processes which are hard to forecast by computer simulation.
Singapore has a similar climate and similar problems though they have a much larger and better funded meteorological service. An explanation on the website of their National Environment Agency in answer to the question 'Why is it challenging to forecast the weather in Singapore?' says, in part:

'In the tropics, the weather systems are largely driven by prevailing winds whereby small changes in the wind speed and direction can result in significant changes in weather. The problem is compounded because winds near the equator are generally quite light and variable, and thus more difficult to predict.'

The item goes on to offer a more detailed explanation which I do not repeat here. But briefly we do not get frequent 'fronts' which bring much of the weather 'up north' but have instead many small local storms mainly generated by convection.
However, science is progressing and improvements in our forecasts can be expected once we have the human and technological resources. In recent times our meteorological service has been very short of the resources it needs to produce the best forecasts possible at present.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A letter to President Rouhani of Iran

A report from the Baha'i News Service states:
'The seven imprisoned Iranian Baha'i leaders have written a letter to President Hassan Rouhani, commenting on his proposed "Charter of Citizen's Rights."
During his campaign for election earlier this year, President Rouhani promised such a Charter, saying it would aim to end discrimination on the basis of race, sex or religion.'
Time will tell if actions will flow from these fine words.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Rupunini explorers

In October a team of scientists and students headed into the Rupunini. According to this report by Dr.
Andrew Short of the University of Kansas the aim was to:
'to conduct a rapid biological assessment of the Rupununi Savannah, a sprawling tropical grassland peppered with rock outcroppings and forested mountains.'
This first report describes their plans.

A followup report describes their trip inland and starting work. Dr Short comments:
'Over the next two weeks, we'll sample rivers, streams, and lakes across the southern Rupununi. Combined with the data gathered by the water quality and fish teams, we can generate a holistic picture of the health of the region's watershed.'
Hopefully there will be another report soon.