Archive for April, 2012

Does handwriting have a place in today’s tech-driven classrooms? – Technology & Science – CBC News

April 30, 2012 2 comments

The practice of students endlessly copying letters and sentences from a chalkboard is a thing of the past. Teaching perfect strokes and proper curves in cursive writing is no longer at the top of a teacher’s lesson plan.

With the advent of new technologies like tablets and smartphones, writing by hand has become something of a nostalgic skill.

However, while today’s educators are incorporating more and more technology into their teaching, many believe basic handwriting skills are still necessary for students to be successful — both in school and in life.

Virginia Berninger, professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says it’s important to help children acquire the skill of writing by hand almost as they would a second language.

“I think it is wise to continue teaching handwriting,” Berninger said. “We need to continue to help kids be ‘bilingual’ by hand.”

The old way

In the past, the ability to accurately form all the upper- and lowercase letters of the alphabet and connect them together to make words was seen as a highly valued skill that was the foundation of a child’s education.

Marianne McTavish, a professor of language and literacy education at the University of British Columbia, recalls her early days as a teacher and the writing exercises she went through with her students.

“We spent hours a week teaching young students how to correctly form letters, doing stroke work, proper formation and a lot of printing practice,” she said. “It was very much something that was assessed and valued.”

via Does handwriting have a place in today’s tech-driven classrooms? – Technology & Science – CBC News.

Strange Random Handwriting Quote:

“You may not be able to read a doctor’s handwriting and prescription, but you’ll notice his bills are neatly typewritten.” – Earl Wilson


BBC – Travel – Colombia’s prison turned paradise : National Parks

Our boat departed on a cloudy morning, shortly after sunrise. We were 45km from mainland Colombia when the first humpback whale breached the surface, exposing its massive white underside before splashing back down with an impressive display of power and grace.

Behind us, the sun showed itself for the first time, but an ominous cloud still hovered above the island in the distance. Clouds always seemed to loom overhead, our driver explained, and I imagine that the darkened skies served as the final harbinger of doom for the condemned souls sent to Isla Gorgona’s inescapable jungle prison between 1959 and 1982, before the government closed it and turned it into a national park in 1985.

Dozens of fresh water streams spread across Gorgona like arteries, the lifeblood of an island teeming with flora and fauna. Stand somewhere for a few minutes and it is difficult to avoid seeing something move. Crabs sprint across the beach before crawling back into small holes in the sand. Lizards drop down from trees. Sloths lumber in the branches high above. Eagle rays, turtles and reef sharks whirl around in the sapphire sea.

But before it was a wildlife mecca, this 24sqkm volcanic island served as a formidable fortress that housed Colombia’s most violent criminals, with stone walls, barbed wire and prison guards acting as only the first line of defence. The 56km of rough, shark-infested waters and the venomous snakes for which the island is named usually put an end to any hope of escape.

Like the gorgons – the demons in Greek mythology whose hair of venomous snakes turned witnesses to stone – the serpents that slither on land and sea can be deadly (it is still forbidden to go anywhere on the island alone or after dark, and visitors are given gumboots to walk around). Still, the conditions in this zoo, where the humans were caged and the animals ran wild, were so miserable that there are stories of desperate prisoners seeking poisonous bites just to receive some tender nurse care and a short reprieve from the overcrowded cells and torture chambers.

The nurses, along with scuba divers who long ago discovered the island’s world-class marine life, helped transform the penal colony into a national park by spreading word of its atrocious conditions.

via BBC – Travel – Colombia’s prison turned paradise : National Parks.

Strange Random Wildlife Quote:

Nothing exists for itself alone, but only in relation to other forms of life. – Charles Darwin

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Travel Postcard: 48 hours in and around Cognac, France | Reuters

Cognac 1

(Reuters) – In the 18th century, one Richard Hennessy fled his native County Cork in Ireland to serve in the armies of Louis XV of France before settling in the southwestern town of Cognac.

Once the alarums of battle had faded, he shipped a few barrels of the local tipple home. The rest is history and the Cognac house still bearing the Hennessy name is a world leader.

For visitors to the region, discovering the secrets of its famous double-distilled spirit aged in oak casks is essential to the Cognac experience, but there are other charms.

Following are some tips from a correspondent with local knowledge.


From Paris, Cognac is a roughly three-hour train journey via Angouleme, around 20 miles from Cognac. You might want to hire a car either from Angouleme, to cut out the slow-train section, or on arrival in Cognac.

From Cognac station, it’s a brisk walk or a short drive to the old town centre.

10:30 a.m. – Drop off your bags and restore yourself with a coffee and perhaps a “pain au chocolate”, known as a “chocolatine” in the Cognacais strain of French.

The Cognacais themselves are affectionately nicknamed cagouillards after the juicy snails that patrol the vineyards.

The main square Place Francois I, named after the French Renaissance king born in Cognac, has a cluster of cafes. It also houses the grand, newly restored Hotel Francois I and a statue of the mighty monarch on horseback.

11 a.m. – Walk down the cobbled streets to the sleepy Charente, the river once used to ship Cognac. Some of the main cognac houses, Hennessy included, line the banks.

Take your pick of which one or ones you would like to visit.

Hennessy has a state-of-the-art visitor centre and throws in a short boat trip, Remy Martin offers a train ride and Otard is housed in the chateau, where Francois I was born at the end of the 15th-century.

All give seductive accounts of the rich history and romance woven around one of France’s most prized products.

France’s luxury conglomerates now dominate ownership, but generations after they were founded, members of the original families still work in the cognac houses and are proud, aristocratic ambassadors of their brands.

via Travel Postcard: 48 hours in and around Cognac, France | Reuters.

Strange Random Cognac Quote:

“The great thing about making cognac is that it teaches you above everything else to wait-man proposes, but time and God and the seasons have got to be on your side.” – Jean Monnet


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Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds –

April 27, 2012 1 comment

Religion?Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.

The study, published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.

The cognitive origins of belief — and disbelief — traditionally haven’t been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

“There’s been a long-standing intellectual tradition of treating science as one thing and religion as separate, and never the twain shall meet,” he said. But in recent years, he added, there has been a push “to understand religion and why our species has the capacity for religion.”

According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses — a gut instinct, if you will — to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.

Both systems are useful and can run in parallel, the theory goes. But when called upon, analytic thinking can override intuition.

Studies suggest that religious beliefs are rooted in this intuitive processing, Gervais said. So, he wondered, would thinking analytically undermine religious belief as it overrides intuitive thought?

via Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds –

Strange Random Thinking Quote:

“As you begin changing your thinking, start immediately to change your behaviour. Begin to act the part of the person you would like to become. Take action on your behaviour. Too many people want to feel, then take action. This never works.” John Maxwell (American Author and motivational speaker)

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Who owns your stuff in the cloud? –

As more people look to the cloud for digital storage, such as the recently unveiled Google Drive, the era of being able to mindlessly click “OK” or “Agree” may be over.

When your stuff is stored on your computer at home, you alone are responsible for keeping it safe, secure and backed up. Your roof, your rules. But when you shift from local storage to remote, you live by terms set by someone else — and it’s best to read them.

This is true for any cloud service, not just Google’s.

First, there are two sets of word-dense documents you need to read before marrying yourself to a cloud-service: the privacy policy and the terms of service. Yes, the words will bleed together from all the legal jargon, but they’re important.

Every service has its own terms, and what’s in there and how it’s written vary widely.

Remember that when you upload content, you are essentially publishing it — even if it’s just for your eyes. For any cloud service to work as designed, you give the service permission to store and make copies of the content you upload — that’s how your stuff ends up everywhere you want it. The cloud copy is the master.

Google, for instance, clearly states in its terms of service that apply to all things Google: “You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”

But where the Google policy may read a bit murky is what you entitle Google to do with your stuff: “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

via Who owns your stuff in the cloud? –

Strange Random Property Quote:

Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. – G.K. Chesterton

Enhanced by Zemanta Entertainment – Kermit the Frog makes illegal move on German television

Kermit has run afoul of Germany‘s media authorities. ZAK, the federal commission charged with regulating the German airwaves, found Kermit guilty of illegal product placement in an appearance last year on commercial network Pro7.

The channel used the famous frog to present its so-called Disney Day of programming, which featured several family-friendly films. But Kermit also mentioned the theatrical release of Disney’s “The Muppets.” Because the promo was not marked on screen as an ad, Pro7 violated German media law, which bans product placement unless clearly identified as such. Pro7 has admitted the error.

via Entertainment – Kermit the Frog makes illegal move on German television.

Strange Random Muppets Quote:

“What happened was that because my dad had made ‘Sesame Street‘ and it was a huge hit, everyone said, ‘Oh, (‘The Muppet Show’) is for kids. We don’t want something that’s feeling extra silly.’ It was never intended to be for kids. My dad was a very determined salesman. He always had faith that his work would be successful. He never stopped trying to sell The Muppets.” – Brian Henson


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Haka opens Shakespeare festival with a roar – Entertainment (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

A rousing haka war cry by Maori actors kicked off a marathon program of 37 Shakespeare plays in 37 languages as a cultural curtain-raiser for the 2012 London Olympics.

The Ngakau Toa theatre company, who launch the festival with their performance of Troilus And Cressida, shook London’s Globe Theatre with the rhythmic stamping and cries made famous by New Zealand’s rugby team.

The actors’ tattooed thighs were an unusual sight at the Globe Theatre, a replica of the 16th century playhouse on the south bank of the River Thames that presented many of of Shakespeare’s plays during his own lifetime.

Other highlights of the Shakespeare festival will include a South Sudanese version of Cymbeline, a performance of The Comedy Of Errors by Afghan actors, and Richard III by the National Theatre of China.

Deaf actors will also present Love’s Labours Lost in sign language.The festival runs until June 9 as part of cultural celebrations leading up to the Olympics, which begin on July 27.

“It’s probably one of the most ambitious festivals of all time,” director Tom Bird said, adding that a key aim was to attract London’s many linguistic communities to the theatre.

“The other thing is to show that Shakespeare isn’t really an English poet,” he said.

“He’s become a part of world culture.”

via Haka opens Shakespeare festival with a roar – Entertainment (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Strange Random Maori Quote:

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” – Maori Proverb

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