Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Technology is the most important School Investment

Important-Investment

But educators in poorer schools also need basic supplies. Teachers want more technology in their classrooms — and fast.

A new study from DonorsChoose.com, a nonprofit organization that lets teachers request items for their classes so donors can fulfill their requests, found that teachers rank technology as the most important expenditure for schools, followed by school supplies and books.

In recent years, DonorsChoose says, teachers’ requests for tablets have increased dramatically on the site — and educators say they’re the piece of technology they need the most.

However, not all teachers request technology products to the same degree. Those who work in schools with more affluent students are more likely to request help with bringing technology to their students. Teachers who work in lower-income schools are more desperate for basic school supplies.

After books, tablets are the next most-requested item in low-poverty school districts, while paper and “paper crafts” are the next most-requested item. The disparity in student access to technology could have dire consequences, contributing to the achievement gap and widening digital divide between rich and poor students.

Overall, only about 6 percent of teachers have a tablet for every student, and only about 5 percent have a desktop computer for every student. Forty-five percent of teachers say their school is outfitted with technology that is too outdated to be helpful, the report found.

Exposure to technology in school can be especially important for students without access to computers or the internet at home. In 2013, about 75 percent of households reported internet use, according to the U.S. Census.

The most affluent schools are being outfitted with the fastest internet connections. About 39 percent of schools with an affluent student population have high-speed internet, compared to 14 percent of schools with a low-income student population.

Since 2000, over 600,000 teachers have made requests for help with classroom projects and items on DonorsChoose.org.

In March, Iowa educator Tera Sperfslage said she raised $3,500 through the site to buy classroom supplies, including reading games and number charts, for her first-grade class.

“Our students are hungry. They come hungry for food, and hungry for love and affection, and hungry to learn,” Sperfslage told The Huffington Post at the time. “They need us to make school entertaining for them and engaging. They have so many other things on their minds and plates.”

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

Clearly, the efforts of volunteers, family or friends and whoever, to teach others to use high-tech mobile devices and the Internet, have only slowed the growth of the digital divide. But it’s still growing and we will keep asking for your help in addressing this growing issue.

For some odd reason, many are under the delusion that the divide is miraculously closing or are just in denial. But the sooner this is addressed the easier it will be to contend with the millions left behind.

A mobile device and the Internet are capable of so much more than just communication and entertainment.

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Is the CFAA Masking Systematic Discrimination?

Masking-Discrimination

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging a key computer crime law, arguing that it violates the Constitution and specifically prevents researchers from identifying systemic discrimination, such as those related to housing and job searches.

The group is backing several anti-discrimination researchers and First Look Media — publishers of the Intercept — in a legal challenge filed Wednesday. At issue is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). This law, among other things, makes it a jailable offense to break the terms of service of any Internet company. (That means that, technically, using a pseudonym on Facebook or lying to let a 12-year-old create a Google account breaks the law.)

The researchers and journalists say that breaking those rules can be necessary for research, and argue that simply violating websites' rules shouldn't carry such a heavy penalty. In particular, the lawsuit says that those looking to investigate whether housing and job sites discriminate against applicants often must create several fake accounts to test how sites' algorithms view similar candidates.

"The law has long protected such socially useful misrepresentation in the offline world," the complaint reads.  "In the online world, however, conducting the same kind of audit testing generally violates websites’ terms of service," the filing notes, which in turn violates the CFAA.

The complaint also argues that researchers must be able to scrape sites — using tools to pull massive amounts of information from them — to collect the datasets they need to conduct their research. Companies tend not to like this, as it pulls what they may consider proprietary data from the businesses they've built.

The researchers and the ACLU argue that the CFAA, as written, violates the First and Fifth amendments by preventing news organizations and researchers from conducting their investigations without fear of harsh punishment. They also argue that the law puts too much power in the hands of companies, which can change their terms at any time — and, in doing so, criminalize any number of behaviors.

The CFAA has been sharply criticized in the past for being overly broad, poorly defined and disproportionately harsh. The debate came to the fore after the 2013 suicide of noted programmer Aaron Swartz, who was facing jail time for scraping information from the academic site JSTOR.

A reform law, called Aaron's Law, was introduced some months later, and proposed that those who violate terms of service should be punished for any damage caused, rather than simply for breaking the rules. The bill has languished in Congress ever since.

By highlighting how the CFAA specifically prevents further research into housing and job discrimination, the ACLU and researchers have found a way to use the government's own priorities against itself. The Obama administration has repeatedly called for close study of whether companies use big data in a discriminatory way. The Federal Trade Commission, for example, asked explicitly whether the use of big data is inclusive or exclusive. And the White House itself released a major report last month cautioning that, used poorly, big data can perpetuate damaging stereotypes.

"Without deliberate care, these innovations can easily hardwire discrimination, reinforce bias, and mask opportunity," the report's authors — including U.S. chief technology officer Megan Smith — said in a blog post.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

Agreements or contracts are binding to both parties. But it appears that companies are exempt from penalties of violating said agreements or contracts. To quote a comment of the article: “If breaking the terms of service is a crime, then when an Internet company does not fulfill their 'unlimited speed' or bandwidth agreement, their CEO should also go to jail.”

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Ineffective EHRs and Inaccurate Wearable Gadgets

Ineffective-Health-Records

If there was a wearable that could alert you and your doctor if you were in danger of having a heart attack, would you want it? I sure would. But apparently, not everyone feels the same way, just because most current wearables are not accurate enough.

Take Dr. James Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association, for example. Earlier this month, he took time to explain how inaccurate wearable devices are overrunning healthcare in his speech at the AMA annual meeting in Chicago.

“From ineffective electronic health records (EHR), to an explosion of direct-to-consumer digital health products, to apps of mixed quality,” said Madara, according to his prepared remarks, "this is the digital snake oil of the early 21st century.”

Certainly, much of the U.S. healthcare system now has electronic health records. And it’s largely ineffective.

According to a survey released early this year by HIMSS, a health IT trade group, only 29% of physicians report positive benefits from electronic health records. And an AMA survey found that nearly one-half of physician’s report implementing the technology has resulted in a higher cost, lower productivity and reduced efficiency.

So it’s not hard to understand why many healthcare providers have a jaundiced view of the technology, and why they bristle at the notion of funneling oceans of remote patient monitoring data into the system.

Caregivers resist

To the extent that electronic health records have been ineffective, I believe it’s due more to a failure of our system of care than it is of the technology. Because while most facilities met their obligation to install electronic health records, few have embraced it.

I can tell you that from personal experience.

Recently, I got an email from an outpatient facility asking me to input my medical data into their system. This was weeks ahead of a planned arthroscopic procedure. I dutifully took the time to gather the information and enter it into the portal. So I was surprised a couple weeks later when, during my pre-op appointment, the doctor asked me what meds I was taking. And then, just after surgery, he gave me pictures from the procedure and told me to bring them to my follow-up appointment so they could explain to me what they did.

So much data. So little access. I’d have to agree, that’s pretty ineffective. It’s also pretty common.

I do understand why some healthcare providers resist electronic health records. Change is difficult. And time consuming. They already have taxing jobs. They’re busy, stressed. And they may have a bad taste in their mouths from previous forays into technology.

But guess what? Sooner or later, they will have to take the plunge, and incorporate the technology into their workflow. And they will have to incorporate remote patient monitoring devices into the records. Because wearables, connected scales, glucometers and blood-pressure cuffs will be what give healthcare professionals the insight they need to make better decisions.

The practice of medicine urgently needs to make better decisions. Because the $3 trillion US healthcare system is beginning to bow under the weight of an aging population that needs increasing care and attention. It will only get worse if they don’t get better.

Think about this: the meteorologist on the Weather Channel has far better tools at her disposal to forecast whether it will rain on your upcoming trip to Boston than your doctor does to assess whether you might need medical attention while you’re away.

Let that sink in for a second. The meteorologist has sophisticated, self-adjusting computer models, fed by streams of data from satellites, weather balloons and weather stations that detail temperatures, atmospheric pressure and the state of approaching systems.

And your doctor? All she has to go on are a few bloodwork reports, a few sets of vital signs recorded during your office visits and some insight you’ve chosen to share in the examination room – accurate or no. In climatic terms, it would be like forecasting rain armed with little more than yesterday’s highs and lows.

To make the best medical decisions, physicians need insight gleaned during the eleven months, 29 days and 22 hours you’re not in their office each year. Insight akin to what meteorologists have. Fortunately, that’s starting to come.

It’s coming in the form of stick-on patches, injectable biosensors and smart clothing, They’re typically paired with companion hardware, smartphones apps and cloud services to monitor the steady stream of data, make suggestions for improving the results and notify caregivers at the first hint of a problem.

In the past few weeks alone:

  • Medtronic and Qualcomm announced they are partnering on next-generation continuous glucose monitors, or CGMs. A CGM pairs a monitoring patch with a device that constantly records blood sugar levels, giving diabetics and their caregivers much finer control over their condition.
  • Startup VitalConnect unveiled VitalPatch, a stick-able device that continuously monitors heart patients’ condition. The device has been tested in Europe and is beginning trials in the US this summer.
  • Startup Profusa announced the Lumee, an injectable biosensor that sits in the tissue just underneath the skin and a companion reader to collect measurements from the device. The first product is called the Lumee Oxygen Sensing System, which will be available in Europe later this year to help monitor recovery after vascular surgery.

Devices like these, I believe, will prove to be the Doppler Radar of medicine. Because what they bring to the practice of healthcare is a healthy injection of insight.

That’s not snake oil. It’s science. And it’s long overdue.

Read Article (name | domain | 03/11/2016)

First, let’s set the record straight about these devices the marketing strategist author talks about. There are two groups of medical devices available, one group has been through trial testing with proven published results. The other group has not gone through trail testing and has no proven published results. (Snake oil)

Meteorologist use devices from the first group, proven electronics with published results. It’s no secret that unproven devices are not accurate enough for doctors to rely upon their data, yet. Some manufacturers are finally starting to provide the needed testing results that will garner that trust, which is needed to accurately diagnose a person’s health.

Many of the devices from these startups will go down the same path as lumosity and for the same reason, unproven technology.

Wearables have many downsides other than accuracy such as limited functions or no cellular connection.

A paid lobbyist is no substitute for trial testing and published results.

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Why This Year’s iPhone May be Kinda Lame

Kinda-Lame

Rumor has it that Apple’s going to seriously shake up the way it updates the iPhone — and you probably won’t like it that much.

For nearly a decade, Apple has alternated between releasing big overhauls and smaller upgrades to its phones. Citing a top Apple analyst, the Wall Street Journal reported that the firm will follow up last year’s incremental upgrades to the iPhone with even more incremental upgrades — breaking its established update schedule.

That means consumers waiting to upgrade until this year’s expected major revamp will have to either bite the bullet and get the iPhone 6s or 6s Plus, or wait an extra year and hope that rumors of a really big revamp for 2017 are true.

The reported decision — Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment — comes as the company faces mounting questions about slowing iPhone sales. The iPhone is at the heart of Apple’s revenue, but sales numbers have started falling. That’s bad news for the Cupertino company.

The smartphone market as a whole has slowed down a bit, with more consumers saying they’re happy to hang on to their phones for a little longer than they have in the past. It’s hard to say what, exactly, is causing that shift. But one theory is that companies aren’t able to offer the same scale of advances that they used to because the technology isn’t there yet.

“Look at it from the vantage point of innovation,” said IDC analyst William Stofega. “Part of the slowdown of the industry is there’s just very incremental updates and upgrades. The technology to really push the smartphone forward isn’t quite developed yet.”

In other words, Apple may have an innovation problem, but it’s not alone. Companies are continually making phones thinner and lighter for their power levels, but at a certain point consumers will be looking for breakthrough battery technology, flexible screens or something more drastic to reinvent the smartphone. And those advances, while in the works at various companies, aren’t yet ready for prime time.

Furthermore, changes in the way that mobile carriers have designed their contracts could also be changing the mental calculus for consumers considering whether to upgrade their phones. Today’s plans separate the cost of a phone from the cost of wireless service, which gives customers the option to upgrade their device every year. But, Stofega said, the new payment scheme encourages people to hold onto their phones longer, especially once the devices are paid off.

A change in how Apple manages its upgrade cycle would be acknowledging that its next big developments are still in the research and development lab. While the firm still has its eye on creating markets for its phones in places such as China and India, it’s also clearly looking to pull back its dependence on hardware. Focusing on services — Apple Music, iCloud, Siri — and other products such as the Apple Watch has been a big trend out of Apple in the past year. And Apple has been letting rumors about even crazier projects, such as the Apple Car, circulate unchecked.

At the end of the day, Apple may be betting that it is better to release a truly innovative smartphone later and disappoint some fans now, even if such a strategy could open the door for Samsung as well as budget-friendly firms such as Xiaomi and Huawei to grab market share.

Stofega thinks this approach could work in the long run, if properly executed. “People may start looking for a slower cycle,” he said. “And, in thinking about it, that could get all the fanboys and fangirls a better boom for their buck.”

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | washingtonpost.com | 06/22/2016)

Smartphone innovation seems to have stalled or reached some kind of standstill. New releases look very much like their predecessor or some other device with not much difference in features or originality.

HTC One M9 really looks like a make-over of an M7, M8. Sure, it comes with a new paint job, camera, processor, RAM and interface but they all look basically the same.

From a distance the Samsung Galaxy S6 could be mistaken for an iPhone 6, with the rounded silver border, antenna markers on the bottom, the drilled speaker holes, even the Touch ID fingerprint scanner appears replicated.

Concept Video: Here

This overview does beg the question, has the hyper-activity of smartphone innovation and design finally burnt itself out?

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Tesla Offers $2.79b for SolarCity & Shares Drop

Tesla-Shares-Drop

Elon Musk called the proposed marriage of Tesla Motors Inc. and SolarCity Corp. a “no brainer,” saying his $2.86 billion plan to combine the companies would benefit both.  Tesla investors didn’t seem so sure. While SolarCity shares rose as much as 29 percent in extended trading, Tesla fell as much as 14 percent.

Oppenheimer & Co. analysts including Colin Rusch downgraded Tesla to perform from outperform in a research note published late Tuesday, saying they expect “a robust shareholder fight over this acquisition centered on corporate governance.”

“We believe investors are likely to view this transaction as a bailout for SCTY and a distraction to Tesla’s own production hurdles,” said Rusch in the note.

Credit Suisse Group AG analysts including Patrick Jobin said in a separate note that they expect “resistance from Tesla shareholders” and warned of “many corporate governance challenges.”

“Investors expect Tesla to keep all its focus on completing the gigafactory and on quickly ramping up production of Model 3 in 2018,” said Salim Morsy, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Both of these goals are existential for Tesla. A SolarCity acquisition doesn’t help execute these critical milestones.”

Musk -- who is chief executive officer of Tesla, chairman of solar-panel maker SolarCity and the largest shareholder of each -- was upbeat. “In my personal opinion, this is obviously something that should happen,” the billionaire said on a conference call Tuesday.

Tesla plans to hold a conference at 7:30 a.m. New York time to discuss the rationale surrounding the offer to acquire SolarCity.

Tesla announced its bid for SolarCity in a blog post, saying the acquisition would “complete the picture.” The move comes as Tesla prepares for production of the Model 3, its more affordable electric car late next year and completes construction of its battery-manufacturing gigafactory east of Reno, Nevada.

If the deal is approved, SolarCity would become a part of Tesla. It’s already part of the family: SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive and co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Peter Rive are Musk’s first cousins. The idea for SolarCity was hatched during a trip the three made to the Burning Man arts festival in the Nevada desert over a decade ago.

According to Tesla, the all-stock deal is worth $26.50 to $28.50 for each SolarCity share. That calculates to a premium of as much as 35 percent from Tuesday’s closing price. The average 12-month price target among analysts surveyed by Bloomberg is $29.82.

‘Room for a Deal’

“It’s clearly not a ‘done deal,’ but rather just an offer for now,” said Pavel Molchanov, an analyst at Raymond James. “I think there is room for a deal, but likely at a higher level, maybe in the $30s.”

With 100.2 million SolarCity shares outstanding, the proposal is worth as much as $2.86 billion.

Musk said he and Antonio Gracias -- a member of both boards -- would recuse themselves from voting on the takeover offer. JB Straubel, Tesla’s CTO, is also a SolarCity director.

Tesla shareholders will likely look askance at taking on more debt by combining the money-losing companies, said Morsy, the BNEF analyst.

“The company just raised $1.4 billion from an equity issuance in May to finance an accelerated production ramp of Model 3,” he said in an e-mail. “Investors will have trouble looking past the $3.2 billion in debt that Tesla moves on to its own balance sheet for a SolarCity enterprise value of just $5.8 billion.”

Musk owns 22 percent of SolarCity and 21 percent of Tesla, the youngest and smallest publicly held U.S. automaker. The two companies work closely together: SolarCity picked batteries made by Tesla to provide 13 megawatts of electric storage for an array of solar panels to be built on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

“Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun,” Musk said in the blog post.

“Most of our customers have an interest in solar,” he said on the conference call. “But a small percentage actually have it.”

Read Article (Dana Hull | Bloomberg.com | 06/21/2016)

Merging these two seems to be a very logical move. Everyone will benefit, including technology. We are still looking for that leap in energy storage and this may signal something big on the horizon.

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