How to Instruct 3000 College Students at the Same Time (Well)

This story comes from Hokie country, the hills of Blacksburg, home to Virginia Tech.

In case you’ve missed it, higher education is in the midst of a revolution. From the Khan Academy to technology leaders such as the professor featured in the attached piece college is changing fast.

One has to wonder how the immense cost of college education will hold up as these technologies fundamentally undermine the old ways of learning.

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Will Automated Cars Save the Future?

Given the amount of time I see people talking on cell phones (and God help us texting) while driving this probably makes total sense in a busier and busier world if for no other reason than safety. Still, I do love driving my little Mazda at high rates of speed, with a manual clutch, and completely under my control.

On the fuel issue, it’s pretty obvious how this could reduce fuel use. If traffic was more staggered and consistently so across the grid, fuel consuming stop and go traffic could be a thing of the past. But I’m not holding my breath.

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Internet Freedom Is Under Direct Assault

Google co-founder Sergey Brin says that governments are forcing the “genie back in the bottle” to some extent. China Saudi Arabia, Russia, and sadly even the United States are seeing unprecidented efforts to limit the communication of citizens.

And that what this is all about-communication. Governments fear the ability of ordinary citizens to actually affect the world around them. The gate keepers would prefer to remain at the gates (with the keys) even if it means crippling freedom and commerce.

Efforts such as SOPA, PIPA, and now CISPA are explicit efforts to rein in the unwieldy force that is the internet.

Gutenberg’s printing press was feared by the establishment too.

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Don’t Know Code? You Can Still Build an App for the iPhone

This is an important stage in programming. About 12 years ago websites were liberated from the coders when more intuitive point and click ways of building sites became used widely. I would never have been able to build my first website, (it wasn’t very good) had I needed to know even simple HTML.

Now the same kind of thinking may change how applications are developed and who is doing the developing.

Apple is about to open a program to the world where everyday folks will be able to intuitively put functions together without knowing CSS. We’ll see what happens but every time programming becomes more simple and the tools of creation become less tedious there is a burst of interesting developments in the tech world.

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And BTW it happened to music in the late 90s and I was a full participant in that revoltion of simplification. I actually wrote, produced, and performed an entire “album.” – Monteverde which I wrote over a decade or so ago after visiting Costa Rica. The only way I was able to make this music was because what had once been inpenatrable and expensive became relatively simple and nearly free with a powerful enough computer.

Are American Courts Dangerously Behind the Times with Regard to Social Media?

In the attached article the author makes the case that the tendency of courts to limit social media and other forms of communication is concerning given how technological issues will see only more and more time in the nation’s courtrooms in the future.

The judiciary in the United States prides itself in it’s Luddite tendencies, largely because it has the power to remain in the dark ages of technology, or at least social technology.

Don’t get me wrong. There are probably many good reasons to limit social media in the courtroom. But my fear is that courts are operating at a 1980s pace when an early 21st century pace is needed.

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Google sets sights on slavery battle

Google has taken a strong stance against modern-day slavery as part of the company’s wide-ranging CSR efforts. The Internet giant recently donated $11.5 million in grants across ten organizations to help fight against “an existence that is almost unfathomable in its degradation and inhumanity” that “millions of human beings are subjected to” daily.

From debt bondage and forced labor to sexual exploitation and organ removal, activists, analysts and policymakers estimate between 10 million and 30 million people worldwide are directly impacted by human trafficking and related crimes. The broader associated costs to development and human rights as much as triple the numbers affected by the scourge.

According to Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, “these are among the manifestations of slavery today. All are crimes and egregious violations of human rights.”

“To eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, we need new strategies and measures that can unite all actors. While Governments bear the primary responsibility, the private sector has an integral role to play,” Ban said recently.

Ban Ki-moon has appealed to governments, NGOs, the private business sector and others “to demonstrate their commitment” by making contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. UN.Gift—a multi-agency UN effort to combat human trafficking—and the corporate sustainability effort, the UN Global Compact, have made combatting modern forms of slavery a focus of their efforts.

Ban has characterized the battle as a key part of the UN’s “Protect, Respect and Remedy” framework on business and human rights, saying: ”The corporate responsibility to respect includes ensuring that their activities do not cause or contribute to contemporary forms of slavery in the workplace, and taking steps to stop it from happening in supply chains and elsewhere.”

Google announced the $11.5 million grant on its website as part of a total of $40 million it gave in charitable donations last holiday season.

While human trafficking and slavery are one of the most clear-cut human rights issues from a legal standpoint they are also one of the most difficult to combat. The trade in flesh operates almost exclusively behind a carefully crafted veil of secrecy on the black market despite law enforcement, NGO and government efforts. By engaging with a variety of stakeholders working on the issue and promoting efforts to address the causes that contribute to the trade, Google has adopted a leadership position on a challenge common to all multinationals.

Washington-based human rights agency International Justice Mission (IJM) is one of the ten recipients to receive grant funding from Google. President and CEO of IJM, Gary Haugen said Google’s move was a “game-changing investment.” IJM “works to rescue victims of slavery and sexual exploitation in about a dozen countries.”

“This is the largest corporate step up to the challenge that is beginning to apply direct resources to the fight against slavery,” Haugen said.

It’s estimated that 12,000 people will be freed from slavery with Google’s support, and the grant recipients claim that millions more could be prevented from being victimized.

Jacquelline Fuller, Google’s director of charitable giving, said that “the company chose to spotlight the issue of slavery because the topic of freedom—’the most basic of human rights,’ as she puts it—resonated with company employees around the world.”

“Many people are surprised to learn there are more people trapped in slavery today than any time in history,” Fuller said. “The good news is that there are solutions. Google is supporting organizations that have a proven track record and a plan to make a difference at scale.”

IJM in India leads two coalitions that received $8 million, the majority of the $11.5 million donation, with “about half going toward direct intervention and government-led rescue operations, and half toward advocacy and awareness projects.” The Polaris Project, which operates a hotline called the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, and Slavery Footprint, which is an “interactive website and mobile app that estimates how much of a user’s lifestyle relies on forced labor,” and IJM will receive $1.8 million. Both projects are part of the US Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

Most of IJM’s funding is from private donations, and in 2010, less than 1 percent “of its funding came from major corporations or corporate foundations.”

“It gives us a sense of what’s possible,” said Haugen. “We can actually change the whole balance of resources between those who are the criminals, hurting human beings and those who are on the side of those who need freedom today.”