Thursday, January 20, 2011

Stunning Android Phone Concept

"That is one lovely triangle." Check this out.

When teaching restrains discovery

When the children finally got their hands on the toy, they were more likely to explore its other features if they had seen Bonawitz showing it to adults or playing with it herself. If she had talked to them directly or to another child, they focused more strongly on the squeaker at the expense of exploring the toy for themselves.

One camp believes that children learn mostly through teaching and direct instruction. The other says that children learn mostly by exploring and figuring things out for themselves. To them, formal instruction is too passive, and makes for children that receive knowledge without engaging with it. On the other hand, people who favour more direct teaching argue that children need more guidance. Leaving them to explore on their own, through so-called “discovery learning”, is inefficient and ineffective. These are, of course, extreme positions and the debate is more subtle. Both approaches have their merits and good teachers face the challenge of finding a happy medium.

That’s never been clearer than in a new study by Elizabeth Bonawitz from University of California, Berkeley. Through two experiments with pre-schoolers, Bonawitz has found that teaching can be a “double-edge sword”. When teachers provided specific instructions about a new toy, children learned how to play with it more efficiently. But the lessons also curtailed their exploratory streak. They were less likely to play with the toy in new ways. Ultimately, they failed to find all of its secrets.

Bonawitz used brightly coloured PVC tubes to create her own toy, with four interactive features. Children could pull a yellow “squeaker” tube out of a large purple one to make a funny noise. With other tubes, they could turn on a light, play music or see an upside-down image of their own face.

Eighty-five children, aged 4-6, got the chance to play with the toy, one at a time. For some of them, Bonawitz simply unveiled the contraption and said, “Wow, see this toy? Look at this!’’, before leaving them to play. For others, she provided more instruction. “Look at my toy! I’m going to show you how my toy works. Watch this!’’  she said, before pulling on the squeaker.

When the children got their hands on the toy, those who had seen how the squeaker works focused on that feature at the expense of exploration (even though all of them were encouraged to explore for themselves). Compared to the other group, they played with the toy for less time, they tried doing fewer things with it, and they discovered fewer features.

This isn’t to say that teaching is an automatic anathema to discovery. Bonawitz found that it all boils down to style. In some cases, she showed the children how the speaker works before suddenly leaving to take care of something she forgot. Sometimes, she pretended that she had just discovered the toy and acted with surprise when she pulled the squeaker. In both scenarios, the children explored the toy more thoroughly than the ones who experienced an uninterrupted and more obvious lesson.

Context clearly matters. When the apparently knowledgeable teachers in the experiments provide a seemingly complete lesson about the toy, the children deduce that there is a no more to learn. If the lesson is interrupted, or if the instructor seems like a novice, the child deduces that there is more to discover. Bonawitz thinks that these abilities start from a very early age, when children are still in pre-school or kindergarten.

Children can also make these inferences when they watch their peers. In a second experiment, Bonawitz worked with the same toy and 64 new preschoolers. She showed every child how the squeaker works but in one of subtly different ways. She spoke to one group of children directly. The second group watched while she demonstrated the toy to another child. The third watched her show the toy to their parents. And the fourth watched as she played with the squeaker on her own, while talking to herself.

When the children finally got their hands on the toy, they were more likely to explore its other features if they had seen Bonawitz showing it to adults or playing with it herself. If she had talked to them directly or to another child, they focused more strongly on the squeaker at the expense of exploring the toy for themselves.

These results couldn’t be more important for science, where there is always more to discover. Bonawitz quotes the famous child researchers Jean Piaget, who said that the “principal goal of education” was to create people “who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done”. If we’re going to do that ,we’ll need to find ways of encouraging that natural instinct to investigate, play and explore, rather than suppressing it (as in this wonderful example).

Reference: Bonawitz, Shafto, Gweon, Goodman, Spelke & Schulz. 2011. The double-edged sword of pedagogy: Instruction limits spontaneous exploration and discovery. Cognition


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Have They No Shame?

Devious criminals who prey on the poor have stolen the concept of microcredit and twisted it into a way to wring money out of the poor, while leaving them destitute. Dr. Yunus has defined the current problem, now it's time for us to urge our leaders to help end this misuse of micro-lending through careful regulation.

Amplify’d from
Sacrificing Microcredit for Megaprofits

Published: January 14, 2011

Dhaka, Bangladesh

IN the 1970s, when I began working here on what would eventually be called “microcredit,” one of my goals was to eliminate the presence of loan sharks who grow rich by preying on the poor. In 1983, I founded Grameen Bank to provide small loans that people, especially poor women, could use to bring themselves out of poverty. At that time, I never imagined that one day microcredit would give rise to its own breed of loan sharks.

But it has. And as a result, many borrowers in India have been defaulting on their microloans, which could then result in lenders being driven out of business. India’s crisis points to a clear need to get microcredit back on track.

There are always people eager to take advantage of the vulnerable. But credit programs that seek to profit from the suffering of the poor should not be described as “microcredit,” and investors who own such programs should not be allowed to benefit from the trust and respect that microcredit banks have rightly earned.

Governments are responsible for preventing such abuse. In 1997, then First Lady Hillary Clinton and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh met with other world leaders to commit to providing 100 million poor people with microloans and other financial services by 2005. At the time, it looked like an utterly impossible task, but by 2006 we had achieved it. World leaders should come together again to provide the powerful and visionary leadership to help steer microcredit back on course.

Muhammad Yunus, the founder of Grameen Bank, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.

AppMakr Works for Amateur and Pro Mobile App Designers, Available for Android SOON

This is great. Amateurs, please remember not to suck up tons of data...or people won't use your app.

Behold! Announced at CES 2011! That ever-so-simple app creation service will soon be adding not only support for Windows Phone 7, but for Android as well. This service has been active for iOS for some time now (3,500 apps made on it so far,) and allows everyone from the well-versed to the complete newb designers to create pro-apps that they can then release on their own for FREE! Sounds too good to be true? It’s really sort of not!

Until now, you’ve only been able to sign up as an Apple Developer. This costs $99, and is paid to Apple. You’d have to do this no matter what system you were using to develop apps if you planned on sending them to Apple. We assume that the $25 regular fee for signing up as an Android developer will end up having to be payed down the road as well. One of the biggest reasons, let me tell you, that this whole system is exciting, is that this is reportedly the ONLY DIY application creation platform that requires NO CODING to develop mobile apps. It’s been wildly popular for developing for Apple, now it’s going to be on Android and WP7 – that’s big.


Restrain Yourself!

In my opinion, this is the best essay that David Brooks has ever written. Everyone could benefit from reading the complete text.

Amplify’d from
Op-Ed Columnist
Tree of Failure

Published: January 13, 2011
President Obama gave a wonderful speech in Tucson on Wednesday night. He didn’t try to explain the rampage that occurred there. Instead, he used the occasion as a national Sabbath — as a chance to step out of the torrent of events and reflect
resident Obama gave a wonderful speech in Tucson on Wednesday night. He didn’t try to explain the rampage that occurred there. Instead, he used the occasion as a national Sabbath — as a chance to step out of the torrent of events and reflect.

Of course, even a great speech won’t usher in a period of civility.
Speeches about civility will be taken to heart most by those people whose good character renders them unnecessary. Meanwhile, those who are inclined to intellectual thuggery and partisan one-sidedness will temporarily resolve to do better but then slip back to old habits the next time their pride feels threatened.

Civility is a tree with deep roots, and without the roots, it can’t last

The problem is that over the past 40 years or so we have gone from a culture that reminds people of their own limitations to a culture that encourages people to think highly of themselves.
The nation’s founders had a modest but realistic opinion of themselves and of the voters. They erected all sorts of institutional and social restraints to protect Americans from themselves. They admired George Washington because of the way he kept himself in check.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Science In the Know Now 01/10/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Yummy Smorrebrod

These open-faced sandwiches look scrumptious. The flavor is quite light and bright.

Amplify’d from

The Art Of The Danish Open-Face Sandwich

by Lynda Balslev

An assortment of Danish open-face sandwiches, or smorrebrod, on a white platter
Homemade Remoulade

Makes 1 1/4 cup

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2/3 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

2 tablespoons finely diced cornichons

1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon curry powder

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Smiles, Sales and Leadership = Management Excellence

Articles about the practical use of metacognition, common sense thinking about how our minds think and respond remain valuable no matter how modern we think we are. This was a great pick by a fellow Amplifier.

"...Employees mirror the treatment they receive from their leaders. Surprise, well not really right?

The fascinating and emerging field of social neuroscience is often common sense.

Hope this brings you value! If it did like it and share with your connections...."

Amplify’d from

Management Excellence

Ideas and approaches in business performance excellence.

Smiles, Sales and Leadership

The smile may be the single most powerful sales tool ever

I enjoy observing how the help in stores engage with their customers. What you see and hear speaks volumes about the leaders they work for.

Want to know how people feel about their jobs and their bosses? It’s on their faces. Employees mirror the treatment they receive from their leaders.
While this theme begs some additional reading in the emerging field of social neuroscience (Goleman et. al), it really comes down to common sense.
My Experience in the Big Box: Welcome to Zombieland!

Walk into some big box stores and spend a few minutes observing people. The cashiers don’t make eye contact with their customers and a smile is a rare sighting. The few available floor clerks seem to head the other way when a customer with a puzzled look on his face enters the area.  You get the impression that some transformation has taken place, sucking the joy of life out of the employees.

Seriously, for people to be so socially cold, they truly must hate their work, their boss or whatever fate brought them there.  Evidence wasn’t far away during a recent, rare visit, as I was able to observe someone in a suit (probably corporate) dressing down a small team of employees (in front of customers) for clearly not following some arcane procedure somewhere. The employees were staring at their shoes, while this creepy, arrogant little reject from leader school attempted to showcase his authority.

I couldn’t wait to get of out that store, and I wondered why it was that compelled me to walk through the doors in the first place. The bosses own responsibility for creating that hell-like, night of the living dead atmosphere.

A Little Honey, A Little Vinegar on Main Street

Once I recovered from the big box experience, I continued my holiday rounds on our community’s Main Street, where I experienced both the good and the bad from small business leadership.

I visited one of my wife’s favorite shops and shop owners, where I was greeted with a handshake and personally walked through the process of selecting items that I have no qualifications to select. I spent at least twice as much as I intended and left feeling great.

The treatment was fantastic, and it appeared to be the de facto standard for everyone who walked in the door. The employees dealt with customers in the same happy, respectful and helpful fashion as their boss, and the cash register was clearly ringing.

Now,  I needed one more item, and this great shop owner sent me down the block to another Main street merchant, where once again, I was back in retail leadership hell.

I walked into the brightly colored store (good) and observed the owner and an employee huddled over something that must have been really important. I said “hello” and received two clearly annoyed stares followed by a curt and unsmiling greeting.  Intrigued, I mentioned the shop owner that had sent me this way, and this time was met with silence. I milled around a little, found what I was looking for, and decided that the lack of interest on their part was mutual. I set the item down, went home and ordered it on-line.  No smile, no interest, no sale.

As an aside, all of you sales and marketing pros, contemplate what just happened in this last incident. A customer with need and money (highly qualified), was sent to the store (a referral) by a store owner (high credibility, high probability of making a purchase) , and all of that hard work was flushed down the toilet of indifference. Repeat that a few times over every month and one might bet (hope) this store is no longer around next year. A qualified lead and a valued referral…all retail road kill due to indifference.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

The greatest selling technique ever, might just be direct eye contact and a smile. Leaders, send someone out to shop in your stores or visit your place of business and observe how employees are dealing with customers.  The results might truly frighten you. And then do something about it!

And leaders, in what parallel universe do you come from where “not giving a crap” about your customers is a good plan? I don’t care if you’re the general manager of a Big Box or, the owner of a small retailer, know that one of the unarguable rules of the universe is that happy employees make happy customers.

Give your employees a reason to smile, and they’ll make you smile at the top and bottom lines.


Pay Attention!

The more deeply you pay attention, the more effective your insights on the topic and the more satisfying the experience of the critical review.

Amplify’d from
Up Front: Why Criticism Matters
We live in the age of opinion­ — offered instantly, effusively and in increasingly strident tones. Much of it goes by the name of criticism, and in the most superficial sense this is accurate.

But where does it leave the serious critic, one not interested, say, in tabulating the number of “Brooklyn novelists” who receive attention each year in publications like this one (data possibly more useful to real estate agents and sociologists than to readers)? Where does it leave the critic interested in larger implications — aesthetic, cultural, moral? This question prompted us to approach six accomplished critics, each well versed in the idioms of the moment but also steeped in the older traditions of literature and criticism. We asked the six to explain what it is they do, why they do it and why it matters. We asked them, additionally, to undertake the assignment in the spirit Alfred Kazin did half a century ago in his ambitious statement of purpose “The Function of Criticism Today.” (Not that Kazin was the first critic to reflect on the “function” and value of his craft. See our essay “Masters of the Form” for other examples, some dating back to the 19th century.)