It used to be quite common for people to draw a distinction between the online world and what they called “the real world”. Indeed, judging by the way some people put just about every aspect of their private lives on social media, not everyone understands even today that that distinction is a false one.
If you harbour any doubts about this, consider the so-called “sharing economy”. Armed with just a smartphone and a few well-chosen apps, you can arrange to have your home cleaned, a meal delivered, a place to stay on vacation and a car to take you to the airport.
The most famous examples of such services are, of course, Airbnb and Uber, but there are many others. I’ve always had my doubts about such services because of the horror stories one sometimes reads about in the newspapers, such as cab passengers being sexually assaulted and poor attention to health and safety in holiday accommodation.
But, as this well-researched book makes clear, these are not the only costs. The providers of such services, by which I mean the people actually driving the cabs or delivering the meals, often make less than the minimum wage. To add insult to injury, they have no workers’ entitlements such as sick pay, holiday pay or pension schemes.
There are often community costs as well — costs that have led Berlin to ban whole-property rental on Airbnb.
This book is good at digging out the connections between people and corporations that are by no means obvious. Also, it doesn’t deal only with the big players, but smaller ones too, and other, related, aspects of this phenomenon. A case in point is open source software, which is promoted as a great community enterprise in which everyone contributes their labour free of charge, for the greater good, but which in fact turns out to be quite lucrative for some.
I think the book is required reading if one is to guard oneself against what the author calls “the naiveté of twenty-six year old CEOs [and] the hubris of their venture capital advisers.” It is also useful to be able to help your pupils see beyond the world of apps, and to appreciate that there are often unintended and unforeseen consequences of innovation. You may think that the sharing economy is entirely beneficial, but as a great economist once said, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
My only criticisms of the book are as follows. First, that it seems one-sided. After all, many people, consumers and providers alike, benefit enormously from the sharing economy. Secondly, that the author offers no solution to the problems he identifies beyond a bit of wishful thinking.
Nevertheless, a book that is filled with facts, and eminently readable, What’s Yours Is Mine is highly recommended.
You can buy the book from here: OR Books.
This review was first published in the Digital Education newsletter, which has amazing content, and is free -- what's not to like?!
Please note that I was sent a copy of the book to review.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have access to a time machine? Forget all that stuff about going back and accidentally killing your grandfather and snuffing yourself out of existence, or changing the course of history by squishing a butterfly. Imagine being able to check out what Julius Caesar was doing at the Rubicon, or dropping in to one of Hitler's early rallies.
Don't even think about filling in the health & safety forms for THIS school trip...
Unfortunately, nobody has invented a time machine yet as far as we know, so we have to make do with the next best thing. Have a look at this very short and succinct video by Niel McLean, over on the Learning Foundation's website (click on Pause for Thought):
What teachers want to know
Having waxed lyrical about the joys of reading PDF documents on my Kindle instead of having to lug around a load of paper (see 5 reasons that educators should use a Kindle), I had a rude awakening today. I downloaded a PDF research report and fired it off to my Kindle, with the intention of reading it on the train. Unfortunately, it proved to be unreadable on my Kindle, and trying to read it on my phone was not exactly an unequivocal success either.
Here are the reasons, which I suggest ought to be addressed by anyone who decides to create a PDF. Google penalises websites that are not mobile-friendly. PDFs that are not mobile friendly will be penalised simply by virtue of the fact that people won't read them or pass them on to others. So thinking mobile is important if you want your stuff to be read.
Font is too small
One of the drawbacks of reading a PDF on the kindle is that you can't alter the font size. So if the font is too small to start with, that's a big disadvantage. On a phone you can expand the text, but at the cost of having to scroll horizontally as well as vertically. It's not a great experience.
Poorly contrasting colours
Trying to read orange text on a white background is challenging at the best of times. Trying to do so on a Kindle that displays only in black and white is next to impossible.
White text on a black background
It might look good, but it's much harder to read than black text on a white background.
IT'S PRETTY HARD TO READ TEXT THAT IS ALL UPPER CASE (ESPECIALLY IF THE TEXT IS SMALL, AND EVEN MORE SO WHEN THE COLOUR SCHEME IS POOR). WHY DO YOU THINK ROAD SIGNS TEND TO BE IN LOWER CASE? LOWER CASE AIDS READING BECAUSE BY SEEING THE SHAPES OF THE WORDS YOU CAN READ THEM MORE QUICKLY, AND IT'S LESS STRAIN ON THE EYES.
These days, a huge number of people access web-based content on a mobile device. According to a recent report, by 2017 mobile devices will generate 68% of internet traffic.
Unreadable PDFs, in which form is considered more important than function, really ought to be relegated to the dustbin of digital history.
I've been using the Kindle ebook reader for a while now, and have come to rely on it for a lot of things I do in my work. I thought I'd outline why I now regard it as essential. Now, before we go any further, I'd like to say that I'm not being paid by Amazon to promote their stuff. If you decide to buy a KIndle yourself via the link I'll provide, I'll earn 5% of the price in affiliate income, but that's as far as any financial relationship goes.
Also, for all I know, other ebook readers may be even better. I originally bought myself a Nook, which I really liked. But the customer support and the ebook bargains were nowhere near as good as the Kindle's.
Anyway, here's how I get the most out of my Kindle. By the way, it's a Kindle Paperwhite with wi-fi and free 3g. Oh, and that's the affiliate link I was telling you about.
I used to either print off PDFs to read them on my travels, or cart a laptop around with me. I don't like doing the latter, because I don't fancy being mugged. Unfortunately, if I have to read research reports or white papers, the print-out can run to a couple of hundred pages. Keeping them together is a nightmare, they weigh a lot, and it's not exactly environmentally-friendly.
Fortunately, you can read PDFs on the Kindle. All you have to do is find your Kindle's email address, and then send the PDFs by email to your KIndle with the word "convert" in the subject line. (You can find the Kindle's email address by logging in to your Amazon account and then click on Your Account and then click on Manage your content and devices. Then click on the tab labelled Your devices. Your device and its email address will be listed there.)
Read book samples
Even if you prefer printed books, it can be quite handy to read a sample of the Kindle version. Kind of like try before you buy. Note that you don't need an actual Kindle to take advantage of this facility; all you need is the Kindle app.
I tend to use this to obtain samples of education books that look promising.
You can highlight passages and make notes about them on the Kindle. In fact, you can even share them on social media.
Another thing you can do is go to www.kindle.amazon.com, log in using your Amazon credentials, then go to the tab labelled Your highlights. There you will see all the sections you annotated or highlighted, so you can copy and paste them into a document or presentation.
I subscribe to the New York Review of Books on the Kindle, not least because it is much cheaper than buying the print version in the UK. Some blogs can be subscribed to as well -- mine for instance!
Here is the link for people in Europe: UK subscription site
And here's the link for people who buy from Amazon.com: USA subscription site.
I also have a writing blog called Write!, at www.writersknowhow.org, where I write about technology for writers and writing, and review books about writing. That's available on the Kindle too. Same price as the other one. Here are the links:
I'm not sure where the subscriptions are available from apart from Europe and the USA, so if you live somewhere else I'd suggest trying the one that fits in with where you usually buy stuff from Amazon. (I did try to find this out, honest!) I'd be interested to hear your experiences.
There's a two week free trial if you're not sure.
Carry your library around
Finally, I always have a book with me wherever I go. Having a Kindle means I can carry quite a few around without killing myself in the process. The benefit of having a 3g version is that if you forget to download the book you want to read before leaving home (which I frequently do), it doesn't matter because you're not dependent on their being a wi-fi connection. (All the books etc are stored in the cloud of course, but you can download them to individual devices and apps.)
I think the argument between print vs digital books is dead as far as the reader is concerned. Why not have both. Printed books offer particular advantages, especially ones that contain coloured diagrams and tables. Digital books offer other advantages.
Also, I realise that Apple's iBooks can be very colorful and multimedia -- but most of the books I buy are available in Kindle format, but not iBook format.
Amazon is a company that many people, including authors, like to hate. But it does get quite a few things right, and the Kindle is one of those things. It's easy to use, light, and you can acquire a lot of content for it. As an educator, what's not to like?
I received the following article from ICT Direct, the company that advertises on this website. Like other commentaries I've read about the effects of the UK's leaving the EU (Brexit) will have on the education technology, it's worth reading -- not least because of the comments about the possible price changes of solid state drives.
With all the uncertainty around Brexit and the impact this will have on UK businesses and residents, ICT Direct can reassure schools throughout the UK that it will be business as usual.
The supplier of refurbished ICT hardware to schools will see minimal impact, certainly in the near future. Stocks of PCs, laptops, printers, etc are purchased from corporate businesses across the UK, therefore, there aren’t any implications on imports or exports of products.
John Graham, Head of Public Sector Sales at ICT Direct, commented, “ICT Direct is a UK business which supplies UK schools. Therefore, schools across the UK can purchase their computer equipment and have it delivered free of charge, quickly and efficiently.”
With summer holidays looming, schools are keen to order their equipment for the new school year and ICT Direct have seen a major spike in orders coming through.
John continued, “It’s a great time of year to assess ICT equipment and invest in new kit, so schools have everything installed and ready to go at the start of the new academic year.”
The most popular products for schools currently are the HP8200 Elite, the Dell E6420 and the HP 8300 all-in-one PCs, which all offer excellent value for money, as well as being reliable and robust.
John does provide a word of caution though, “Some peripheral items such as Solid State Drives, which are proving extremely popular with schools to increase the speed of their machines, are often purchased from overseas. Therefore, the impact of sterling against the dollar could result in a hike in prices for these type of products.”
Even though suppliers such as ICT Direct will see little if any price rises, the advice to schools is certainly to invest in ICT equipment now rather than wait and potentially face an increase in costs.
Contact John Graham on 01254 820980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information. Website: www.ict-direct.co.uk
If you'd like to read more about the possible effects of Brexit on the ed tech industry, and my cogitations on what schools and website/blog publishers need to be thinking about, with ideas on how to approach these subjects in school, sign up to my newsletter Digital Education. Then go to the July 2016 issue, the link for which will be given to you in your welcome email.
You may be gratified to learn that I've only published informed opinions, not political rants or diatribes.
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