Science Textbooks to Contain Illustrations by XKCD’s Randall Munroe

The popular webcomic XKCD has shown for years how well science, technology and humour can be mashed together through the medium of stick figures. Fans of the webcomic created by former NASA roboticist, Randall Munroe will be glad to find that his skills are going to be put towards more than just entertainment, with his artwork to feature in a number of textbooks in America published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH).

Munroe’s art will be taken from one of his books titled Thing Explainer, which contains simply drawn and annotated blueprints for objects varying from rockets to bombs and even household objects like pens. This art will feature in three of HMH’s 2017 textbooks, HMH Chemistry, HMH Biology, and HMH Physics and are known to include The Pieces Everything is Made of (aka The Periodic Table), Bags of Stuff Inside You (The Human Torso), and Heavy Metal Power Buildings (Nuclear Reactors).

It won’t all be reused assets either, as HMH have commissioned Munroe to provide a number of exclusive new illustrations and digital animations of some of the pieces featured in Thing Explainer. These new works will be part of a new series of science materials from HMH that will be utilized during the 2017-18 educational year.

“Randall’s wit, originality, and deep scientific knowledge elevate our curriculum and is a great way to engage students,” said Peggy Smith-Herbst, Senior Vice President, HMH Studios. “His sense of humor and ability to make science fun will encourage a love of scientific inquiry and creativity, both within and beyond the classroom, and we are proud to be bringing his engaging insight exclusively to our customers.”

Hopefully, Munroe may just be able to take the typical droll science textbook and make it into an interesting and entertaining piece that can help a new generation of students get interested in science. Now all I have to ask is where was this when I was growing up?

Amazon is Creating a Platform to Share Educational Materials

When you are a teacher, or anyone involved in training, you often spend more time creating resources and finding ways to reinforce a message rather than just hammering it home time and time again. In order to help with this Amazon are looking at creating a new site designed around being able to share educational materials around the world.

Amazon Education is still in its early stages but you can now sign up as part of their waitlist for the scheme here. The page states that the “future of education is open”, and with all signs pointing to the scheme working similar to Amazon’s retail site, users will be quickly and comfortably able to share resources around the world.

In recent years companies have made a big push on technologies and Amazon are one of the companies that have pushed the most in this regard. With the Kindle being accepted as a standard for eBooks, being able to share classroom text through kindle’s would save schools hundreds on replacing books and with systems like Whispersync already in place to share materials, Amazon seems keen on getting into the business of educational resource sharing.

Do you think that being able to download and access your textbooks, homework and research topics through a popular platform like Amazon would help schools or would it make them reliant on a technology they have no control over?

BBC Micro Bit Shipping Date Revealed

BBC’s Micro Bit pocket-sized and programmable computer is an amazing little piece of technology, but the best of all is that one million of them will be given free to any year 7 pupils across the UK. Originally the BBC Micro Bit should have started shipping out October last year, but there were issues with the power and the project release got pushed back. At first, it was said that teachers should have the new units in December last year with students receiving them early this year. But that didn’t happen and it got pushed once again. Last month we got another minor delay as teachers already should have had their units ahead of the February half term, but that didn’t happen either.

Enough with the old bad news, time for the good news. The Micro Bit is ready and broadcaster has confirmed a countrywide roll-out of the one million devices for pupils will begin before easter. Naturally they won’t send out all at once, but they will start to ship officially on March the 22nd. So mark your calendars if you got children of that age, you might have new toys to play with soon.

Sinead Rocks, head of BBC learning, said: “It has been a joy to see these micro:bits make their way to educators across the country over the last couple of weeks. It feels like this adventure into the world of coding is really gaining pace. And so it’s with great excitement that we will be starting our delivery to pupils on March 22.”

The Micro bit (micro:bit) is a handheld and fully-programmable computer that encourages children to get creative with technology. The 4cm by 5cm device is the successor to the popular 1980s home computer, BBC Micro, and includes a Bluetooth antenna, USB plug and a processor, linked to a printed circuit board with 25 red LED lights which flash messages.

The BBC is yet to announce when the Micro Bit will be available for the public to buy and how much it will cost us ordinary mortals.

eSports to Join the Curriculum in a Norwegian High School

It seems like such a great profession, being paid sums of money to play games all day. Much like being a real athlete, becoming an eSports player requires far more dedication and practice than many are willing to put in. Recognition of the skill and effort required to play at such a high level has allowed a number of considerations given to traditional athletes also offered to cyber athletes. Garnes Vidaregåande Skule plans to do something no other school has yet to try: add eSports classes to their core curriculum.

The school located in Bergen, Norway, won’t be making the subject mandatory yet, being only an elective subject, but it is a bold move. The course will contain at least 5 hours of study each week in the game specialisation of their choice. I’m sure plenty of people would be excited to play games at school for 5 hours a week, sadly for them, this is not the case. It has been confirmed that as well as playing and learning an eSports game, the classes will contain physical training to help concentration and reflexes as well as nutritional and lifestyle advice.

Some of the games planned to be on offer as part of the course are Dota 2, League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive as well as others, comprising a shortlist, with students able to suggest new games and vote on the list of those to be offered. At first, they will offer only two games as part of the course, for logistical reasons, but I’m sure that if it is a success that more will be made available. Petter Grahl Johnstad, Manager of the Science Department at the Garnes Vidaregåande Skule told Dotablast that they planned to work closely with the eSports community to be able to improve their courses, hoping to have both regular teachers for the subjects and Skype based seminars with professional eSports players. He hopes that the course will be about more than just gaming to the students, with crucial aspects being teamwork, motivation, cooperation and tactics, as well as skill in-game.

Garnes Vidaregåande Skule could lead the way for other schools, both in Norway and around the world to offer classes in eSports alongside those in traditional sports such as football. Whether it catches on, however, it is hard to tell, but at the rate the eSports scene is growing, it isn’t hard to imagine more and more young people entering it. At the very least, students studying this course get supplied top of the end hardware to play on, including Nvidia GeForce GTX 980Ti graphics cards. I’m jealous.

Kid Banned From Wearing Star Wars T-Shirt in School

A 7th grade school student has been banned from wearing his Star Wars: The Force Awakens T-shirt at his US school. Colton Southern was told by faculty at George Junior High School in Rosenberg, Texas that he was not permitted to have the graphic on the front of his Star Wars T-shirt exposed at school as the Stormtrooper on the front is carrying a gun (or, in Star Wars parlance, a blaster), the boy’s father revealed to abc13 News.

“It’s political correctness run amok. You’re talking about a Star Wars t-shirt, a week before the biggest movie of the year comes out. It has nothing to do with guns or making a stand. It’s just a Star Wars shirt,” said Joe Southern, Colton’s father. “He’s a Boy Scout, active in church, volunteers at Brazos Bend State Park. There’s not a violent bone in his body. He’s just an excited kid for the movie.”

According to a spokesperson from the Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, which is the jurisdiction George Junior High School falls within, the LCISD secondary school handbook lists “symbols oriented toward violence” as a violation of its dress code. The administrators add that Southern was not reprimanded, and was only advised to zip up his jacket.

Touch Screen Devices are ‘Eroding’ Digital Skills for Children

Hands up if you own a touch screen phone? How about a touch screen laptop/tablet? How many of your devices use a touch screen these days? It would seem that this may not be amazing news if you’re handing these devices to children as an Australian educational body noted that there was a ‘significant decline’ in what is classed as IT literacy among some students, in part due to the wide adoption of touch screens.

Think about how you open up a link or perform an action on your phone or your tablet compared to how you would do it on your computer, now think about how often do you use a touch screen for office work.

The report produced by Australia’s National Assessment Programme states that 16-year-olds have a lower than average IT proficiency than any other year. Among the tasks to complete were creating invitations using graphics software, setting up a tablet and installing apps and even promoting an event through social media.

The lower results could be due to the use of mobile technology, an area where skills are developed but are not commonly associated with ICT literacy. A new emphasis was put on teaching relevant knowledge and the skills and understanding to use this knowledge in both personal and professional environments.

Afghanistan To Open Coding School For Girls

Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for a lot of things. He has advertised science and technology to thousands and even found Krypton (okay he found a planet roughly where Krypton would be and got it named after Supermans home planet). This week though he presented a session at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting. He was joined by two speakers, Massachusetts Institute Of Technology’s (MIT) professor and biomedical engineer Sangeeta Bhatia and the founder and CEO of code to inspire Fereshteh Forough. Amongst their things to discuss was a school that is set to open in Afghanistan with a purpose.

Forough explained that they plan to open a programming lab that will be targeted at women aged between 15 and 25, with the hopes that it can be used to teach women in the middle east to code and program in a safe place.

She hopes that the school will be the first of many in middle eastern countries while Bhatia suggested that they could make changes closer to home to help increase the number of women that took part in computer science programs. This comes in the same week where Stanford has reported that it has 214 female students in its Computer Science major. This figure would make it the most popular major in the University for women.

With more and more people feeling safe and confident in Computer Science, the number of people taking up the subject could soon see an even greater boost as more governments and schools make programming a part of their standard curriculum.

Thank you Huggington Post and Engadget for the information.

Image courtesy of Code Condo.

School Student Arrested For Bringing Homemade Clock To School

The current world climate is one of placing people into narrow pre-perceived boxes which are based on current world stereotypes. A person is judged solely on their looks, dress sense and their social standing within society among others. Are these connotations correct? No, not really considering an individual could have 6 tattoos and a perception of being a wild character, yet could be kind and gentle.

This notion of stereotyping has sunk to a whole new level after a 14-year-old boy was arrested in Texas on suspicion of constructing a “hoax bomb.” Was it a real or counterfeit bomb? No… it was a clock. Officials at MacArthur High School in Irving alerted police because they thought the device was a threat to the education facility.

The teenager’s name was Ahmed Mohamed’s and below is an image of the homemade clock which was conveyed by Irving Police Department at a press conference. Perhaps it would have been better to ask the teenager concerning the device instead of ringing the police. The teen was subsequently placed in handcuffs and fingerprinted but later released after it was determined there was no threat.

To protest against this ludicrous situation a hashtag by the name #standwithAhmed was born and immediately garnered support from powerful individuals, these included NASA scientists, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and US President Barack Obama. Mr Ahmed’s family have arrived at the conclusion that his detainment was down to his name.

So, what is the response from the school? According to them, they have “always asked students and staff to immediately report if they observe any suspicious items”. MacArthur High School would argue that it’s better to be safe than sorry, but, in this instance could this not have been handled by someone asking him concerning this device? After all, Ahmed said that he had made a clock at home with the view to convey this to his engineering teacher.

I do feel suspicion has risen to the point of hysteria, yes there are many instances which have tragically occurred over the decades that have highlighted failures in legislation, but to roll out an overused phrase, would there have been the same reaction if this individual had been of a different ethnicity? It’s a shame that society has reached such a juncture to where even school goers are on the look out for potential terrorists and gun wielding people, one has to wonder as to how far this could go, the only thing I was afraid of at school was algebra, not suspected terrorists.

Thank you bbc for providing us with this information.

Family Sues School Amid Claims WiFi Made Son Ill

A family in Southboro, Massachusetts, is suing Fay School over accusations that its strong WiFi made their son ill. The plaintiffs, referred to only as “Mother” and “Father”, report that “G”, their 12-year-old son, suffers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome (EHS), the same condition that afflicts Chuck McGill, brother of Saul Goodman (née Jimmy McGill) in Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul.

G, who experiences headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, and other physical symptoms due to his condition, was exacerbated by the electromagnetic radiation from the School’s new WiFi set-up, the lawsuit claims. The suit seeks to force Fay School to either use Ethernet cables, disable the WiFi in G’s classroom, or shield the boy from the signals, while also seeking $250,000 in damages.

“We’re trying to work with the school,” said John J.E. Markham, II, the family’s lawyer of Boston law firm Markham & Read. “We’re still hoping to reach a resolution that will allow him to safely be in those classrooms.”

Whether EHS is a genuine medical condition, however, is a grey area. It is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation, but at present considers it as “not a medical diagnosis, nor is it clear that it represents a single medical problem.” More study into the mysterious condition is required before it can be truly acknowledged either way, but this could be key to the family’s lawsuit against Fay School.

Thank you for providing us with this information.

BBC Micro Bit Computer’s Finalized Design Revealed

The BBC has revealed the final design of the Micro Bit computer and it brings along a few changes over the earlier shown prototypes. The Micro Bit is a pocket-sized computer and that even goes for child-sized pockets and there is a reason for that.

The Micro Bit is not only designed for children, it will also be given away for free to them. It will be given away to every 11 and 12-year-old child in Year 7 or equivalent at school. This isn’t the first time BBC dipped their feet into the hardware learning pool, but the BBC Microcomputer System released in the 80s costs hundreds of pounds.

The Micro Bit features a programmable array of 25 LEDs, has two buttons and a variety of sensors and connection options. It has a built-in motion sensor, accelerometer, magnetometer, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity. Earlier models had a thin battery attached, but this one will require an add-on power pack fitted with AA batteries to be mobile.

You can program the Micro Bit from any system you’ll want, may it be Android, iOS, or PC based. It is also compatible with Raspberry Pi, Arduino, and Galileo to carry out more complex tasks.

The idea is to teach children at an early age what technology can do and get them started on the right path for a technological future. The possibilities are almost endless.

Thank You BBC for providing us with this information

Baby Formula? There’s a Cyber attack For that!

Hackers are portrayed as technical marvels who apparently, according to various media outlets sit in a dark room and infiltrate top-secret government networks in order to steal information or plunder vast financial institutions before running off, ok flying off, ok clicking a mouse button and pressing shut down, but still making off with their ill-gotten gains.

Well according to the Albuquerque Journal, no I haven’t made this name up, have reported that three teenage boys who attend V. Sue Cleveland High have allegedly orchestrated a Cyber Attack into the Enfamil baby formula website using a school computer and their own device. The synopsis of the story centres on the three boys who had a little bit of free time while attending their school’s robotics class, while looking at various websites they allegedly came across the Enfamil live chat site and in their wisdom, or lack of, decided to harass the forum members with various questions which started benignly but became more aggressive.

This continued from May 13 – 18 until Enfamil informed them they would be blocked, well that did not go down well as allegedly the three boys posted the website of Enfamil on a hacker website which in turn allegedly took the site down.

With the information presented so far, I do feel the three teenagers were only partly culpable for the alleged Cyber Attack; yes they posted the website on a Hacker forum but they did not undertake the Cyber Attack themselves but rather asked others to carry out the attack which does sound like a DDoS technique.

I also feel a comment by the district that Enfamil was not blocked by the Internet Filter because it did not fall into a banned category to be laughable. Many websites which are hacked are not prohibited or inappropriate i.e. Sony, although The Interview could have been blocked for being utter drivel. It also demonstrates the Internet can place people or in this case teenagers in an artificially powerful position where actions can result in real world consequences.

Thank You Albuquerque Journal for providing us with this information

Image Courtesy of ElectroKami

Elon Musk Revolutionizes Education for Children of SpaceX Employees

“If you want something done right, do it yourself” is something that Elon Musk, CEO and CTO and Founder of SpaceX, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla Motors and Chairman of SolarCity, strongly believes in. He announced that he did not like his kids’ school, so he started his own in an interview on Beijing Television. The school is named “Ad Astra” which means “To the stars” and it does not have its own landing page or a social media presence yet.

“It’s important to teach problem solving, or teach to the problem and not the tools,” Musk said. “Let’s say you’re trying to teach people about how engines work. A more traditional approach would be saying, ‘We’re going to teach all about screwdrivers and wrenches.’ This is a very difficult way to do it. A much better way would be, like, ‘Here’s the engine. Now let’s take it apart. How are we gonna take it apart? Oh you need a screwdriver!

He says that Ad Astra currently has 14 kids and will increase to 20 in September and it is in its first year after launch. The school does not have any grade levels such that there is no distinction between students in 1st grade and 3rd. He is “making all the children go through the same grade at the same time, like an assembly line,” he says in the interview.

“Some people love English or languages. Some people love math. Some people love music. Different abilities, different times,” he says. “It makes more sense to cater the education to match their aptitudes and abilities.”–oQo

The school program is small and experimental at the moment, but considering its approach, it shouldn’t for too long. This is a significant step taken in the direction to improve the teaching methods and education pattern overall. It is nice to see folks doing such advancements in the field of humanity. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know them in the comments section.

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of Business Insider.

Kids Do a Lot Better When Schools Ban Smartphone usage

Tap, Tap, Tap. Smartphones are rapidly taking over children’s free time and social life, but is it affecting them at school?

A recent study undertaken by the London School of Economics showed some very interesting results. Students that were banned from carrying phones showed a clear improvement in their test scores.

“We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days,” researchers Richard Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland said. That is quite a substantial figure, especially with the curriculum as vast as it currently is.

91 policies in regards to mobile phones have changed since 2001 and that data has been compared to exam results from national exams that students sat at the age of 16. In total, the study covered 130,000 pupils across the UK. It showed that after a ban was put in place, the students average test scores rose by 6.4%. It also showed that the impact on underachieving students was even more significant, a whopping 14% rise.

“There are, however, potential drawbacks to new technologies,” Murphy and Beland said, citing the temptation to text, play games or chat on social media.“Schools could significantly reduce the education achievement gap by prohibiting mobile phone use in schools, and so by allowing phones in schools, New York may unintentionally increase the inequalities of outcomes.”

Thank you to CNN for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Aol

Guy Makes Device Which Can Open Combination Locks in a Matter of Seconds

Not really what you were looking to hear if you have a locker at work or school that relies on combination locks to keep people from snooping through your personal belongings, huh? Well, someone was bound to do something like this sooner or later and it’s not like combination locks were the best security option on the planet anyway.

This new high-tech process looks to follow the manual process used by experienced crackers, but drastically reducing the process with the help of computerized algorithms. The device is made out of a stepper motor, a servo motor, a 3D printed harness and an Adruino to help with the AI/computerized side of things.

But now to the real question… how useful is the process? Well, not that useful. Experienced crackers can open these type of locks in a matter of seconds too (not as fast as a robot, but pretty fast nonetheless). So that’s why combination locks are made to keep out nosy people from snooping through your personal stuff and not keep your family values safe.

Still, this can be useful when you really have no experience and desire to learn how to crack these things and want to prank your friends. You can watch the video below to see how it is made and tested.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Amazon

The Pope’s iPad Sold for $30,500 at an Uruguay Charity Auction

It looks like technology brought some support for the poor over in Uruguay earlier this week. The Castells auction house reportedly hosted a charitable auction, having Pope Francis’ old iPad up for the taking. There are a lot of antique fanatics out there, and such an item was bound to attract some attention.

Reports state that a buyer, whose identity is not known, bid a large sum for the old iPad, having the device scoop up a sum of $30,500. The iPad is said to have inscribed “His Holiness Francisco. Servizio Internet Vatican, March 2013” on the back and comes with the Vatican’s signed certificate and a black Logitech keyboard.

Auctions such as this are perceived by a lot of people to be gatherings where rich people go and bid large sums of money, while sipping expensive champagne and eat caviar, in order to fill up their ego and other people’s pockets. This time around, all the money raised went to a local school for the poor.

This act proves yet again that Pope Francis’ is extremely open to technology and believes it is a “way to foster dialogue across different faiths”. Whether or not you believe the same thing, just think of this: what do you use to check in at your favourite coffee shop or friends on the other side of the world?

Thank you The Verge for providing us with this information
Images courtesy of The Verge

Smart Wearables Being Banned in Schools

With the ever-growing popularity of smart wearables, comes ever-growing uses for them. One latest trend is cheating during exams. Something that was once innocent has schools thinking twice about what a watch can do.

As reported by BuzzFeed, universities are simplifying this by banning all watches during exams. One London City University official stated it “wouldn’t be practical” to have professors checking each individual students watch, making sure it was analog and not a smartwatch.

Source: Tweaktown

New App Gives College Students Food For Not Using Their Phone

A new app, called Pocket Points, is offering free food and other prizes to students who defer from using their phones in lectures. The app measures the amount of time the phone is unlocked and offers points in return for prizes.

A number of US colleges have utilised the app which aims to increase concentration amongst students and prevent distractions. Every 20 minutes the app is running and while the phone is unlocked, a point is provided to such students. One such university using the app, Penn State, offers students a 15% discount on goods in its own store.

The app, which was developed by a student at California State University, Chico, has been praised by students and tutors alike, but it hasn’t been without criticism. Some say that it’s counterproductive by offering bribes to students who should really be responsible for their own academic success.

What do you think? Are you a student? Would this be good for you?

Source: The Verge

Meet the MeArm – A Kickstarter that Promises Robotics for Everybody

Meet MeArm – the robotic arm designed to teach anyone and everyone about robotics. Benjamin Gray from Nottingham, UK, has so far raised £13,966 for his small robot arm project that’s meant to make the science of robots accessible to all.

The product is simple – it’s a plastic arm that can be easily programmed to do pretty much whatever you want it to do. The guys behind it had already developed a successful but more complex variant and wanted to make it more accessible with this new version.

At the most basic level, the MeArm can be controlled with two supplied joysticks, while at the more advanced end it can be programmed using a programming language. I say advanced, but the designers have tried to make even that accessible to all – the MeArm can be controlled using Scratch, a very user-friendly language that utilises drag and drop procedures for its operation.

The MeArm currently has 256 backers amounting to £13,966 of funding – miles past their £5000 goal. The product looks like a pretty nifty way of teaching robotics and could work well in schools. See the source link to read more about it.

Source: Kickstarter

GCHQ Launches Kids Cryptography App

GCHQ, the Government Communications Headquarters of the UK, otherwise known as Britain’s NSA, has launched a an app targeted at kids with the intention of teaching them about cryptography.

The organisation that spends most of its time circumventing encryption has decided to teach kids the basics of scrambling data from prying eyes. Cryptoy, as it’s called, is an app for Android tablets (no iOS or Android phone support yet) that allows you to learn the basics of encryption, the history of cryptography and gives you the chance to encrypt your own messages with which your friends can then decrypt.

The Next Web points out that the app stems from a project created for Cheltenham Science Festival that had the intention of teaching school kids about encryption. This new app is meant for students at Key Stage 4 of the national curriculum and is to supplement their school studies on the subject.

Read more at GCHQ’s website.

Source: The Next Web

President Obama Writes His First Ever Line of Code

Barack Obama just finished his first ever line of code. The “Coder-in-Chief” wrote a line of Javascript with 20 middle school students as part of the Hour Of Code programme by and The Hour of Code was set up with the intention of teaching as many people as possible, especially children, how to write code. has the backing of a host of Silicon Valley luminaries, including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. The website features game-like apps that allow kids (and adults) to experience coding visually, before moving onto more challenging tasks.

The site and project is certainly a great initiative – it’s terrible how the use of computers and technology has grown so rapidly, but that so few of us know how to write software. It’s bizarre how computers and computer education was focused more on programming in the 70s and 80s, while today ICT lessons consist of how to use Microsoft Office and little else.

Source: readwrite 

Harvard Academics Build Robot That Teaches Kids How to Write Code

Harvard researchers have built a $10 robot that has been designed to teach children how to write code.

The small AERobot can be connected to a computer via USB and programmed in a specially modified language called minibloqs. The language is similar to Scratch, which allows kids to learn programming by dragging and dropping pictures into a sequence. The robot has been designed with school’s tight budgets in mind, as it uses simple manufacturing techniques and materials to keep costs down. Using its vibration motors, LEDs, sensors and actuators, the bot can be programmed to move along a particular course, switch lights on and off or avoid objects and obstacles.

The robot won the top prize in the software category at the 2014 AFRON Challenge – a competition held to help researchers develop low-cost robots to be used in education.

Source: Wired

Mobile Phones Dominate Tablet Sales, Here’s a Graph to Prove It

“The future is phones” – in this article we’ll go over some of the mobile device market changes including the rise of smart phones, app installations and the apparent demise of the tablet.

Smart phone sales and usage continue to rise year on year, with 2017 expecting to see a 70% penetration of mobiles into the population. On the flip side, Tablet sales are slowing down, represented majorly by the iPad suffering with a bleak outlook on continuation.

As the mobile market moves more towards larger screen models (iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy Note), we’re seeing less users adopt a larger screen tablet device – citing their mobile phone as reasonable for all activities. We covered a very similar story recently where we talked about iPad Mini sales plummeting and people wondering if small tablets, or tablets at all, still have a place in our market.

Tablets certainly still have a place in the professional field, with many schools across the world implementing iPad programs for Primary school students. In the island state of Tasmania, Australia many primary schools there have adopted a one-iPad-to-three students model within grades one to three classes and furthering this to a one-to-one iPad scheme for students in grades four, five and six.

This graph explains what the smart phone vs tablet distribution has been as of late. As you can see, after Q1 2014 there has been a steady and sharp decline in ratings. Apple iPad sales are said to make up a major part of these sales globally, still unable to use their fan-boys to carry them through to a sales growth year-on-year.

As we explained above, smart phone screen sizing is something that has seen improvements over recent technology releases. Compare Samsung’s Galaxy S3 with their S5 or Apples iPhone 4 with the iPhone 6 Plus to get a simple view on the topic. Localytics have put all of this information into another handy graph for us.

Finally, we’ll show you some proof that people are using their applications much more than seen previously. “Time in App” has seen an increase across the board, with some of the most popular applications being music, games and photography related.

We’ll continue to report on the tablet market decline as it develops. But to now let us leave you with a question – who will be the first to fold? Will Samsung or Apple ‘call it quits’ first, or will it be some smaller players?

Images courtesy of Chiphell

ASUS Debut Windows Laptop for $179 US

Quite often University or High School students are looking for a simple solution to type up their reports and complete various simple processing tasks to get them through the day-to-day grind.

ASUS have replied with their sub-$200 category laptop, the X205TA Signature Edition. Coming in at $179 US on the Microsoft stores (lower than the $199 announced RRP), this laptop should complete the task with ease.

Coming complete with Windows 8.1 displayed on an 11.6-inch panel at 1366×768 resolution, the Signature Edition utlizes Intel’s Z3735F Quad-Core processor running at 1.33 GHz. There’s also the standard turbo options up to 1.83 Ghz available and comes with a handy secondary cache of 2 MB. The laptop functions through 2GB of DDR3-1333 memory, built in eMMC storage and an expandable microSD card slot.

Given all of the specifications above and the overall look and ‘feel’ of the product, it seems that it will be $179 well-spent. We’d like to see it included with a little more ram however, as windows 8.1 might start to chug when running on only 2GB.

As for accessory and connection options, this model comes with two USB 2.0 ports, a 480p webcam, a combined audio and microphone port, HDMI output, 802.11n WiFi and Blutooth 4.0. Measuring at a total 11.25 x 7.61 x 0.68 inches at a weight of 2.11 pounds (0.96kg), this laptop will be small and light enough to carry around for days on end around campus.

This system is listed not only in the Microsoft shop, seeing an addition to the Amazon online store also.

Images courtesy of Chiphell

Social Media App Yik Yak Disabled Via Geofence On Wisconsin School Grounds

Phones in classrooms have been the bane of teachers for over a decade, further exacerbated by the advent of smartphones and social media, but a school in Wisconsin has taken a novel approach to curbing students’ online activity.

After Yik Yak – a social media app that allows user to anonymously share posts within a 1.5-mile radius – caused a stir amongst parents and teachers at Arrowhead High School, the school’s Principal, Gregg Wieczorek, ordered the app outlawed on school premises. In a letter to parents, Wieczorek wrote, “The technology support team at Arrowhead was able to create a “geofence” to disable the application within the defined borders of the school.”

Beyond that, school district Superintendant Craig Jefson is keen for online use to be policed outside of school grounds, too. “From our concern, we want to make sure parents are informed and aware,” Jefson said. “That they’re alert and looking at their child’s devices and what they’re accessing.”

The app has now been banned in numerous school districts and colleges across the US.

Source: Lake Country Now

Media Lobby Indoctrination Turns into Education

About a year ago it was reported that the MPAA and RIAA were building a curriculum, targeted at kids from kindergarten through sixth grade in California, to teach about copyright law. This was however highly criticized in the media for being very one sided, not surprisingly. While teaching kids at a young age about copyright is a good thing in it self, there was barely any mention of fair-use and free-to-share copyright licenses at all. Just a lot of ‘don’t do this and don’t do that’.

Behind the entire thing are the MPAA and RIAA together with the California School Libraries Association and iKeepSafe. Torrentfreak have now discovered the final version of this curriculum, and it looks like the public outcry and media attention a year ago paid off. The new version shows big improvements.

Back then everyone involved was quick to state that it was just a pilot and that the final materials would be more balanced, and the president of the California School Library Association acknowledged that it was very one-sided and that the early drafts came straight from the content industry. “We’re moving along trying to get things a little closer to sanity. That tone and language, that came from that side of the fence, so to speak,” said Glen Warren back then.

The old draft put the emphasis on what you can’t do with copyrighted content, now it instead emphasizes that sharing can be a good thing and describes the Creative Common licenses in detail. Every lesson plan informs the children about fair use, and a lot of mandatory teacher remarks have been completely removed or changed. For example it no longer reads “we recognize that it’s hard work to produce something, and we want to get paid for our work”. It now reads, “the projects they created are fun / informative / respectful, and so they may want to share them online,” instead.

The media files that are included in the curriculum, such as videos, have doubled in length to cover fair use and Creative Common licenses. It now also informs the students that it’s totally fine to use copyrighted images and music in the Power Point presentations, as long as it’s only showed in class. The old draft warned students against this, something that would make the homework a lot harder.

Above is the old purpose and key concepts and below the new. They clearly show the difference in the approach taken before and after the revision of the material. You can read up on the entire content at iKeepSafe, if interested.

If it wasn’t for fair-use and common creative licenses, the internet would be a boring place. Just take our news for example, or any news for that matter, or all the blogs out there. We report on things other people have created, done and accomplished. If we couldn’t show you the photos and videos, this would be an entire different site. That said, it’s great to see that kids will be taught all sides and options in the future, instead of being trained into lobby sheep.

Thank you torrentfreak for proving us with this information.

Images courtesy of torrentfreak and freevintagestamps.

Kickstarter Campaign ‘Reading Rainbow’ Most Successful Campaign To Date

Back in the 80’s, Reading Rainbow was one of the best known educational programs going, teaching kids of all ages how to read and when it came off air in 2006, many thought this would be the last we would see of one of the best educational programmes of recent times. This however has been far from the case as LeVar Burton has been busy working away behind the scenes to give it a more modern comeback. A couple of years back saw part of the homecoming with the launch of a mobile app for tablets and smartphones and whilst this is a great way to spread the tool out to the masses, Burton has wanted more so he turned to crowd funding site Kickstarter, asking for $1 Million to help him to develop Reading Rainbow for all platforms.

Compared to some of the most well know campaigns of recent times however, Burton could not have expected to get the amount of backing that he has had to date. In the space of 11 hours from the point of launch, Burton’s campaign hit its target and since then it has gone on to reach close to $5 million with only a couple of days left to go. Not only this, but the campaign has seen support from over 90,000 backers – more than any other campaign to date – working out at a rough bid of around $50 person.

Hi. LeVar Burton here. You may know me as Kunta Kinte, from ROOTS, or Geordi La Forge, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

You also may have grown up with me on Reading Rainbow.

It was my mother who taught me that, by picking up a book, I could “go anywhere” and “be anything.” Ever since Reading Rainbow began in 1983, I have dedicated myself to fostering a love of reading in children, just as my mother did for me.

Over the past year, I have watched Kickstarter bring communities together to support artists and inventors. Again and again, I have been inspired by watching like-minded people team up to accomplish impossible dreams, and to change the world.

Now, I am hoping you will join me on my mission: to bring Reading Rainbow back for every child, everywhere.

Together, we can change the lives of millions of children. But you don’t have to take my word for it: just keep reading!

With so much funding on tap, LeVar and his team are looking to push out the reading programme to as many schools and platforms as possible, with the aim to reduce the number of children that have difficulty in reading at their age levels.

If you want to find out more information on the Reading Rainbow Campaign or you want to help towards the eduction of children around the world (as that is effectively what you are doing, but on a massive scale) head over to its campaign page over on Kickstarter.

Microsoft Giving 10,000 Surface RT Tablets To Education Sector For Free

Microsoft’s Surface RT sales may have been slightly sluggish in the consumer market but they are still great products. In an attempt to do some good for society, or maybe just shamelessly self promote themselves, Microsoft are giving away 10,000 of their Surface RT tablets to educators for free.

The move is part of Microsoft’s “Windows in the Classroom Surface Experience Project” and they have teamed up with the International Society for Technology in Education to distribute these 10,000 tablets.

“This bold move is illustrative of Microsoft’s commitment to the effective use of technology in education. It’ll be fantastic to watch attendees take their conference learning experience to the next level through the power of their new Surfaces and to hear about the ways they use them with their students.” said Brian Lewis, CEO of the ISTE.

Online registration for the ISTE conference will end on June 18th so interested parties must register by then and that can be done at the following location. The event kicks off in San Antonio, USA, on June 23rd. As far as I can tell from the T&Cs this is a promotion for the whole world but naturally non-U.S educational establishments are disadvantaged as you are required to visit the San Antonio conference to redeem your free Surface RT tablet.

Image courtesy of Microsoft