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Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom

Preparing elementary school students for active citizenship in an increasingly digital world requires introducing them to the latest technologies, but engaging those same kids in the classroom and involving their parents and caregivers in the process is more than a matter of providing children with access to the latest electronic devices.

Tablets and laptops have their educational virtues, according to Annahita Ball, an assistant professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work, but her research suggests they have limitations as well.

"You can't simply throw technology at kids and expect positive outcomes," says Ball, an expert in educational justice and school social work whose new study shows a decrease in academic motivation for students who participated in a technology-based intervention.

Students' attitudes toward school, how they respond to the challenges of learning, their confidence about managing assignments and whether they work hard and try their best are all a part of academic motivation—or the degree to which a student cares about school.

Though several factors other than the presence or absence of tablets might influence that motivation, Ball says the results of her study point to the need for looking more closely at how technology fits into the early-learning environment.

"The critical piece for me is not about being anti-technology, but to emphasize that even with, or especially with, technology, schools must work on the interpersonal things that happen in schools," she says. "Schools are communities and we should find ways to help teachers understand how technology plays into the classroom; help kids use it in ways that facilitates their learning; and then help parents understand how to work with their kids."

Ball's study, published in the journal Children & Schools, sought to close the broadband gap by giving tablets and home Wi-Fi to students in an urban New York State school district to see how it would affect classroom and parental engagement.

About one in three children from low-income families are without a high-speed internet connection at home, compared to higher-income families where one in 1,200 children are without such a connection.

Previous research has shown that relationship building between families and their children's schools, known as family engagement, predicts strong student motivation.

"My focus is family engagement research, so I'm always interested in the ways that families engage with schools and how schools try to engage with families," Ball says. "I'm also interested in changing classroom dynamics to help student-teacher relationships and positive youth development."

Over the course of four months, Ball studied two fourth-grade and two fifth-grade classrooms. Each student had a tablet for use in the classroom, but students in a randomly selected class in each grade also received a take-home tablet and free broadband access at home. Teachers were interviewed about their students' participation, and the students' parents completed surveys.

Ball says this latest work is a pilot study that she hopes will help guide further research.

"These technology programs are being rolled out massively and the evidence on their effects is mixed," says Ball. "Context plays a role, because teachers reported seeing more collaboration among the kids, so there is something that can be leveraged within the learning context to help kids benefit from these tools.

"We need to do more work to determine what that specifically might be."

More information: Annahita Ball et al, Closing the Broadband Gap: A Technology-Based Student and Family Engagement Program, Children & Schools (2019). DOI: 10.1093/cs/cdz015

Citation: Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom (2019, October 22) retrieved 22 October 2019 from

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Source: Rethinking the role of technology in the classroom

Gartner Says Companies Must "Win in the Turns" in Technology, Society

Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo

Orlando, FL – Opening its annual IT Symposium/Xpo conference this morning, Gartner researchers told its audience of CIOs and IT executives that they need to "win in the turns" coming in politics, economics, and technology. They said enterprises need to find an equilibrium between traditional and digital processes, urged the executives to take a leadership role in their organizations and in "digital society."

Val Sribar- Gartner 19

Gartner senior research vice president Valentin Sribar said the next five years may bring as much change to technology and society as in the last 50 years, specifically referencing changes in geopolitics, economics, and the emergence of digital giants.

In geopolitics, he said politics and regulations will directly impact firms, particularly multi-national firms who often will need clouds for different geographies. In economics, he said many economists believe we are heading for another economic downturn. He said that companies that invested smartly during the last downturn became the leaders now. And that just as traditional companies are investing heavily in digital technologies, the digital giants are themselves investing heavily in traditional processes, such as logistics. Over the next few years, Sribar said the distinction between traditional and technology company will disappear.

This, Sribar said, will involve handling "and dilemmas" where organizations are expected to deliver on goals that seem contradictory, such as cutting costs while investing in future technologies, or defending the existing business while entering new ones.

To deal with this organizations will have to find their individual "TechQuilibrium," a balance of traditional and new technology to deal with changes in all three areas. He noted that each industry will have different points of this equilibrium. For instance, an oil pipeline company may not need to be as digital as a government agency or a bank. Industry incumbents and digital giants will approach this from different positions, but will eventually get closer together; he said neither necessarily has an advantage.

Techquilibrium Gartner 19

Sribar said there are were two major components of this digital transformation involving digitizing your internal operations and your external value proposition. He said such a transformation usually takes about seven years but shifts because of societal and technological shifts. Today, the average company gets about 20 percent of its revenues from digital processes, while 39 percent of internal operations have been made more efficient through digital technology, according to a recent Gartner CIO survey. But he noted that top-performing CIOs said over half their operations are digitalized and a third of their value propositions are digital. This varies by industry, but the further along you are in your industry's point equilibrium, the more likely you are to be disrupted.

To help their organizations reach this equilibrium, Sribar said CIOs should focus on enterprise decision-making, leadership, customer experience, and digital society.

Good decisions are essential to the success of every part of every organization and to society, Sribar said. But as enterprises incorporate more technology, and more decisions are automated in a digital society, it can be difficult for human leadership to keep up, noting that Gartner predicts that by 2022, 40 percent of employees will consult an AI agent for decision support.

Decision Intelligence Model Gartner 19

He talked about finding the right balance of human and machine decision-making, with people able to overrule AIs, particularly for ethical concerns, and discussed the firm's model for decision intelligence.

Tina Nunno Gartner 19


Gartner Fellow and VP Tina Nunno, Distinguished VP Analyst, talked about leadership, repeating a long-time Gartner theme that CIOs must stop being looked at a service provider, but instead be seeing as a strategic leader.

She referenced a Board of Directors study that said 67 percent of board members are worried by digital disruption, and 83 percent believe digital giants will have an impact. More importantly, over half of directors say digital initiatives will be a top business priority, but only 18 percent view CIOs as a trusted advisor.

"CIOs must embrace going on the offensive" to help the business, rather than being defensive about protecting existing teams and processes. Nunno said they should reset the terms of engagement with the business, pushing for "fusion teams" with technology, product, and business people. CIOs should improve board communication, by framing everything through the lenses of revenue, cost, and risk. "When CIOs go on the offensive," she said, "We generate power, and the entire enterprise wins."

Don Scheibenreif Gartner 19

Customer Experience

Gartner VP Don Scheibenreif talked about customer experience, saying that poorly designed experiences push us apart from our customers, but well-designed experiences bring us together. He said we need to be designing our experiences for "the everything customer" who expects it all, including functionality and ease of use, and privacy and convenience. He discussed the importance of identity, particularly to Gen Z, and about how more machines than people will be able to buy things—such as HP printers reordering the ink they need.

CIOs need to think like a designer, he said, and hire designers to create the customer experience and map expected and unexpected customer journeys.

Multiexperience development platform Gartner 19

"Multi-experience is the key," Scheibenreif said, saying the experience needs to encompass not just your website or your mobile app, but all sorts of interactions, including a variety of platforms, "fit-for-purpose" apps, and a consistent user experience. For instance, he talked about how Commonwealth Bank, United Airlines, and Domino's Pizza have all created experiences that span a lot of touchpoints, including, in-person, telephone, website, mobile apps, and social media.

Scheibenreif said by 2021, Gartner predicts that one-third of enterprises will have developed a multi-experience development platform and went on to describe how that might look.

Mbula Schoen Gartner 19

Digital Society

"We are all citizens in the emerging digital society," Gartner senior principal analyst Mbula Schoen said, noting that the choices your organization makes on societal issues impacts your ability to "win in the turns."

She said it was important to understand how technology can be misused, citing as an example how drones shut down Gatwick Airport for two days.

It is important for companies to understand the moral and ethical risks in AI systems, as well as potential bias. Gartner predicts that by 2022, 30 percent of companies will use explainable AI models in order to build trust with their clients. She expects that regulations will eventually require this in many industries.

But despite all this, Schoen said, we need to recognize that "the digital society will never be risk-free." She noted that we accept that physical banks will be robbed occasionally but expect that digital banks will be perfect. That won't happen. Instead, she agreed with a statement by a UK regulator saying that organizations should be judged not by how much damage is done in an attack, but rather by whether the organization has adequate, reasonable, and consistent controls.

On data and privacy, she noted that we have seen more privacy regulations in the last 18 months than in the previous 50 years, "but yet, we have less privacy than ever." Companies want to get the most out of their data and still use data responsibly. This will require solid information governance; making sure you are providing real value, so people can see how sharing data can benefit them, such as through personalization; and providing more transparency and control to gain customer trust, such as by creating a privacy portal.

For the bigger picture, she said that 70 percent of stakeholders expect companies to take a public position on social issues relevant to their business. Every industry has societal topics that you can turn into business success, by framing products or services as a societal good.

Concluding, she said organizations must manage security and risk to protect all stakeholders, be a responsible custodian of customer data, and identify and build a "societal value proposition."

"Your choices influence digital society," she told the audience, "Make yours a positive influence."

Gartner 19 keynote conclusion


Sribar returned to wrap up the keynote, saying that attendees need to design, decide, and drive their organizations in dealing with decision-making, leadership, customer experience, and the digital society.

He said that "and dilemmas" can also provide "and opportunities" suggested that successful IT leaders will embrace traditional and digital business, human and artificial intelligence, defense and offense, new and existing customers, and having a business proposition and societal value, all at the same time.

Source: Gartner Says Companies Must "Win in the Turns" in Technology, Society

We Could Go to Venus with Today's Technology, Scientists Say

We could go to Venus tomorrow with the technology we have today, urged a NASA scientific advisory group, and the group's members would like to get a mission off the ground as soon as possible.

Representatives from the Venus Exploration Analysis Group (VEXAG) made a presentation to NASA's planetary science advisory committee on Sept. 24, recommending that the agency prioritize a mission to Venus, the second-closest planet to the sun. 

Mars is a popular destination for NASA missions, both due to the possibility of life on the planet and because the agency may send astronauts there as soon as the 2030s. That said, NASA does have separate calls for proposals to send missions to other solar system locations. Excluding flybys, Venus hasn't been visited by a dedicated NASA spacecraft in 25 years, even though scientists subsequently sent several mission proposals to the agency.

Related: The Strange Case of Missing Lightning at Venus

"The Mars program has 'followed the water' and continued to look for evidence of life, but Mars only had liquid water present on its surface for a few hundred million years, [about] three billion years ago," said Darby Dyar, who made the VEXAG presentation and who is chair of astronomy at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts, in an email to 

"Moreover, the Mars program has long united around a single goal," Dyar added, "which is to bring samples back from Mars. NASA Headquarters is supporting that goal with planning now. So my feeling is that although many outstanding science questions about Mars remain, they are second order compared to the dire state of knowledge about Venus."

So VEXAG hopes that NASA's current call for smaller Discovery missions will bear some fruit. The announcement of opportunity, which closed July 1, includes at least three Venus proposals. The Step-1 selections should be announced around January 2020. 

The Venus proposals include DAVINCI (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging) to measure the chemical composition of Venus during a descent; the VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) orbiter to examine the surface of Venus in high resolution; and Hyperspectral Observer for Venus Reconnaissance (HOVER) to examine Venus' clouds, chemistry, dynamics and surface to better understand its climate.

A pressing question for the Venus community involves finding out how similar the planet may have been to Earth in the planets' early histories. Venus' size is similar to Earth's and its distance to the sun would have put the planet in the "habitable zone" — the location where liquid water could exist on the surface — when the sun was younger and dimmer. Although Venus is now a raging inferno, the story for life billions of years ago could be more optimistic.

Venus scientists want to know whether (as some suspect) the planet had liquid water for 3 billion years, what kind of surface geology and rock types it has, the nature of its dormant plate tectonics (which might be key to sustaining life) and how similar Venus might be to rocky exoplanets very close to their parent stars.

No NASA spacecraft has studied Venus in detail since the Magellan mission mapped it 25 years ago.

No NASA spacecraft has studied Venus in detail since the Magellan mission mapped it 25 years ago.

(Image credit: NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory-Caltech)

Tech advancements

Temperatures at the surface of Venus can melt lead under normal circumstances and would cook a lander in moments. Highly shielded Soviet Venera spacecraft made it to the surface in the 1970s and 1980s, generally lasting anywhere from a few minutes to around an hour. But advancements in technology, the VEXAG group said, make it possible for a reasonably priced mission to survive longer today.

VEXAG's 15th meeting in 2017, for example, pointed to NASA's High Operating Temperature Technology (HOTTech) program, which aims to create components in environments that are roughly 900 degrees Fahrenheit (500 degrees Celsius) or higher. A call for proposals cited at that time (in 2017) funded research in technology for solar cells, power generation, electronics (which can be quite sensitive to temperature fluctuations) and batteries. The individual projects were expected to complete their current phase of funding between 2018 and 2020, so results are still being analyzed in some cases.

Some other technologies are close to maturity, such as NASA's Heatshield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology (HEEET) project, which is designed for environments including Venus. It includes a high-density, all-carbon layer for the entry interface and a lower-density insulating layer to protect delicate spacecraft components. HEEET was testedat NASA's Ames Research Center and is listed at technology readiness level (TRL) 6. (A component reaches TRL 7 when it is tested in space, and TRL 8 following tests on the ground and in space.)

Another team at NASA's Glenn Research Center is working on high-temperature electronics designed for Venusian temperatures. These are based on silicon-carbide semiconductors that could last up to 4,000 hours on the surface. In 2016, engineers tested some of the circuits in the Glenn Extreme Environments Rig (GEER), which simulates the conditions of Venus, for nearly 22 days. (The test was ended at that time only for scheduling reasons, according to NASA; similar oscillator circuits have worked for thousands of hours.)

VEXAG's recent technology road map (released along with a technology plan) indicates that the community could respond to a variety of different NASA opportunities today with viable missions, ranging from orbiters to small satellites to atmospheric entry probes and skimmers. Another possible option could be a short-lived surface platform or some sort of an aerial platform floating in a more temperate climate on Venus, which is to be found at an altitude of 34 miles (55 km). Longer-lived surface platforms could be ready in the medium term, before 2032, the community suggested. 

Many ideas, few opportunities

But VEXAG must also be responsive to available funding, which happens when NASA makes calls for proposals for cheaper Discovery missions, more expensive New Frontiers missions, and ride-along or international opportunities. In its report, the community recommends responding to the predicted proposal cadence before 2022 with orbiters or an atmospheric entry probe. And between 2023 and 2032, VEXAG recommended adding surface platforms (long- and short-lived) and aerial platforms to the wish list.

NASA's last Discovery call for proposals was in 2014, which generated five finalists — including two Venus missions: DAVINCI and VERITAS. According to Dyar, neither Venus mission was selected "for unclear reasons," although both were deemed selectable — meaning that they could have flown immediately. The proposals lost out to Psyche and Lucy, two missions that will study asteroids.

The last New Frontiers opportunity was in 2016, and the community submitted a Venus mission called VOX (Venus Origins Explorer), which would focus on high-resolution topography or altitude maps of the surface. While VOX was deemed selectable, NASA did not choose it as a finalist; the winner of that opportunity is Dragonfly, which will fly on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.

NASA's last dedicated mission to Venus was Magellan, which entered orbit in October 1990 and was deorbited four years later. The agency has flown by the planet since with Galileo, Cassini and MESSENGER en route to other planets. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency operated Venus Express at Venus between 2006 and 2014, and Japan's Akatsuki mission successfully entered orbit there in 2015 on its second attempt. Akatsuki is the only operational mission at Venus right now.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

Source: We Could Go to Venus with Today's Technology, Scientists Say

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