Authoring Tools

Since I am currently visiting a home where high speed internet is essentially hobbled I have been doing a bit of offline reading today. I have been working my way through Paul Ford‘s review of outliners and authoring tools, As We May Type, in the December 2013 issue of the MIT Technology Review. Ford discusses the following:

I am intrigued by these tools and cannot wait to return home where my reliable high-speed internet access will give me an opportunity to explore each. I have seen or heard of most the tools but have not explored their features. I did download Ghost a few weeks ago. Even so, I  have yet to do anything with it.

Source: Ford, P. (2013). Reviews: As We May Type. MIT Technology Review, 116(6), 89-91.

Crawling Back

I’m trying to get back into the habit of blogging.

I know I can do it. I just have to keep at it.

In a way, this experience is somewhat humorous to me. I find it funny that I am having to make myself take what spare minutes I can scavenge out of the day and write. There was a point in my life when composing a few lines for a blog was easy. In fact, at one point (about seven years ago), I was something of a blogging maniac. Of course, back then, I was in a magical place, a Camelot of sorts, where all manner of magical content seemed to appear before me and I had time to write.

These days, I have so many commitments vying for my attention that I feel guilty about stepping away to blog. Even so, I am going to do it. I know that reflecting upon what I am discovering and learning matters. Writing like this is akin to coming back to exercise after an absence from physical activity. Initially, there’s little pleasure in the process but over time that will change.

In addition to blogging again, I am also using of Twitter. As I am reading and re-reading Classroom Instruction That Works : Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement (2nd Edition) by Ceri B. Dean, Elizabeth Ross Hubbell, and Howard Pitler, I am delving deeper into the research cited by the authors and tweeting what I find to be most enlightening. I am hoping that anyone who follows my tweets will benefit as well. Having to condense my thoughts down to 140 character summaries is maddening and, strangely enough, addictive.

Blog Action Day: Free to Combat Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. It’s a day when bloggers, podcasters and other digital communicators come together to examine, discuss, and post on a single issue. By uniting, we hope to draw attention to an important topic and ultimately generate a global discussion. Last year, the blogosphere addressed the Environment.

This year the theme is Poverty. In an effort to heighten awareness of this issue within the context of education and instructional technology, I’d like to suggest that administrators, media specialists, teachers, paraprofessionals, pupils, parents, and community members use free resources to help the impoverished. Why?

First of all, free resources cost nothing. To struggling learners who have little or no money to invest in expensive software packages, free is a godsend. Not having to make choices between learning 21st Century skills and going hungry is a blessing. Being able to do word processing, use spreadsheets, and create digital presentations for the purpose of education without the necessity of parting with funds that can be allocated toward shelter, health care, and food is helpful to those in need. There are so many ways students can learn using free software.

Secondly, free resources promote liberty as much as they do financial freedom. Using free software allows everyone–not just the poor–to make political and ethical choices affirming one’s right to learn. When users have that ability they are more able and apt to share what’s being learned. The Free Software Foundation underscores this sentiment in its work.

Note: Free software–truly free software (according to Richard Stallman)–should give users the ability to:

  • run an application for any purpose,
  • study and modify a program,
  • copy a program so one can help others and,
  • improve a program, and release improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits from the enhancements.

Next, there are many, many free, high quality digital learning tools available. For school systems who want to help the poor, there are a number of excellent resources that can easily be made accessible to those who desperately need them. Rather than invest an inordinate amount of funding for commercial, machine-based, suite software, school districts can receive Google Apps Education Edition services without paying a penny. If access to the internet is a problem, Open Office can be used instead. Money that might have been spent on commercial products could be redirected to other, more powerful ways to assist pupils from impoverished homes. Rather than continually paying high fees for operating systems, schools can use resources like Edubuntu.

Finally, free resources extend the potential for learning. Schools can take computers that may have otherwise been surplussed or sent a landfill, wipe the harddrive, install a free Linux-based operating system like Ubuntu, Edubuntu, Puppy Linux, or the like and loan (or give) poor students hardware that can be used outside of school. Outdated laptops and desktops can find new life by way of free resources and help needy young men and women hone 21st Century skills in the bargain!

What are your ideas for alleviating poverty? Please post a comment here and share your insights with the world.

Related resources: