Category Archives: Techno-Epistemology

Homepage – What does it mean?

Homepage. Home page. Home Page. In every variant of the spelling it is a singular noun. If one must go to the homepage of a corporation or institution you visit the homepage. However, for those of us that work day to day with websites, we often say something along the lines of, “that content is on the homepage.” The thing is, we don’t mean that it is literally on the homepage. We mean it is within the site that has a front door at ***.com.

There must be a better phrase, but those I’ve tried don’t seem to have traction. Home site, the collection of pages and posts, the company site. I believe that homepage is an anachronism of the early web and a better term is needed.

Now, I realize this position is rather thin, especially for small websites. However, as sites grow more complex or there are sites within sites within sites, this becomes important. I work at a university and if a department has a website, they refer to their homepage. That gets confusing as the department site is usually within a college site and homepage which is within the university homepage.

This has certainly been kicking around in my head for several months. Surprisingly, even Wikipedia has a lightweight discussion around the term. I don’t know what the answer is, maybe I just need to accept that homepage can mean many things but I am grasping for a concrete word or phrase that captures the idea of a main web property that exists for a brand.

Data and Goliath – Book Review

Data and Goliath is the newest book by Bruce Schneier. I have been following Mr. Schneier ever since reading Neal Stepheson’s Cryptonomicon. I have subscribed to his newsletter and seen him speak. With that stated, his new book is very accessible to a wide audience, much more so than his last book Liars and Outliers. It is not a book on cryptography as Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, and Source Code in C, is either. It is uniquely positioned to open societies eyes and a short list of actions society as a whole needs to take to reign in corporations and governments to allow us to take back control of our privacy.

The book is broken into three parts and ties a lot of what was revealed by Edward Snowden and the NSA PRISM project into a nice package of what is happening now and what will continue to happen if we don’t stand up and take action. Snowden revelations are sprinkled throughout the book. If the outrage most of the world expressed didn’t make sense to you after hearing about what the NSA, GHCQ, and other government organizations have been doing this book should make it clear. He also makes it clear that not just governments need the data, but the business model of the web is personalized data as well. The Lightbeam plugin is mentioned in the book, it makes browsing the web an adventure again, seeing just who is tracking you every time you go to a website.

Again and again Mr. Schneier presses the reader into thinking this is all doom and gloom but then pulls us back to show how good things can come of data and tracking, if we are allowed to be the ones who choose what to share. He points out early on that Angry Birds tracks our location, not because it is used in the game, but because they can then sell that data to a broker, who will then resell it to a buyer. I was not aware that Europe had stronger laws already on the books than the US that help citizens protect their privacy.

You will be hard pressed to find a more concise book on a defining issue of our internet generation. There are 121 pages of notes in the back of the hard copy as well allowing you to dig deeper into each topic. Many of the suggestions are high level policy changes that need to be made and citizens can have a big impact on that. The jacket reviews would lead on to think that if they read the book and follow some steps they can hide all of their data, that is not going to happen. It is a good book and well worth a few afternoons of reading.

Go buy it our get it at your local library.

Alfie Kohn at WCC – Spectacular

Copyright retrieved from
Copyright retrieved from

I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Alfie Kohn at Whatcom Community College this evening. I was pleased to see fellow MIT students and professors at WWU in attendance. After several digressions Mr. Kohn really got going.

Schools are instruments that sustain democracy and we need to address the public purpose of schools. Mr. Kohn underscored many of his points by asking all citizens to ask the radical questions. My quotes are paraphrased as I was trying my best to actively listen and take notes. “Do not smother a child’s intrinsic desire to learn!” His approach is based on the idea of constructivism and it is appealing. I hear these ideas echoing in the classes I attend and am thrilled to have been exposed to these concepts, ideas, and approaches in the MIT program at Western.

  • Democratic Classrooms – involve the students with the development of the class; what do you want to learn, how can we be a community of learning and not one of competition?
  • Transfer of knowledge – the core of backwards design and essential questions
  • Allow children to develop and discover ideas – the constructivist approach
  • Frame skills and facts in a context, this will increase the depth of understanding
  • Learn for a purpose -> connect with horizontal relevance- past questions and current events relate to the learning and understanding
  • Make the classroom one about thinking; not listening

A great challenge he posed to teachers designing units for the classroom is to ask, “What will the students take away from this ten years from now?”

During his talk he referenced the following chart, it is eye opening when entering a classroom to consider the factors below and their implications. The chart originally appeared in Educational Leadership, September 1996.



FURNITURE Chairs around tables to facilitate interaction

Comfortable areas for learning, including multiple “activity centers”

Open space for gathering

Chairs all facing forward or (even worse) desks in rows
ON THE WALLS Covered with students’ projects

Evidence of student collaboration

Signs, exhibits, or lists obviously created by students rather than by the teacher

Information about, and personal mementos of, the people who spend time together in this classroom


Commercial posters

Students’ assignments displayed, but they are (a) suspiciously flawless, (b) only from “the best” students, or (c) virtually all alike

List of rules created by an adult and/or list of punitive consequences for misbehavior

Sticker (or star) chart — or other evidence that students are rewarded or ranked

STUDENTS’ FACES Eager, engaged Blank, bored
SOUNDS Frequent hum of activity and ideas being exchanged Frequent periods of silence

The teacher’s voice is the loudest or most often heard

LOCATION OF TEACHER Typically working with students so it takes a few seconds to find her Typically front and center
TEACHER’S VOICE Respectful, genuine, warm Controlling and imperious

Condescending and saccharine-sweet

STUDENTS’ REACTION TO VISITOR Welcoming; eager to explain or demonstrate what they’re doing or to use visitor as a resource Either unresponsive or hoping to be distracted from what they’re doing
CLASS DISCUSSION Students often address one another directly

Emphasis on thoughtful exploration of complicated issues

Students ask questions at least as often as the teacher does

All exchanges involve (or are directed by) the teacher; students wait to be called on

Emphasis on facts and right answers

Students race to be first to answer teacher’s “Who can tell me…?” queries

STUFF Room overflowing with good books, art supplies, animals and plants, science apparatus; “sense of purposeful clutter” Textbooks, worksheets, and other packaged instructional materials predominate; sense of enforced orderliness
TASKS Different activities often take place simultaneously

Activities frequently completed by pairs or groups of students

All students usually doing the same thing

When students aren’t listening to the teacher, they’re working alone

AROUND THE SCHOOL Appealing atmosphere: a place where people would want to spend time

Students’ projects fill the hallways

Library well-stocked and comfortable

Bathrooms in good condition

Faculty lounge warm and inviting

Office staff welcoming toward visitors and students

Students helping in lunchroom, library, and with other school functions

Stark, institutional feel

Awards, trophies, and prizes displayed, suggesting an emphasis on triumph rather than community

Copyright © 1996, 1999 by Alfie Kohn.

His discussion leads me to further question approaches in the teaching of technology and how to do it in a constructivist method. It was refreshing to hear a teacher who truly gets it.

Linux Terminal Server, here I come!

The Linux Server
The Linux Server

The beauty on the left is the server that will be used for the Linux Terminal Server (LTS) project and research that I will be working on this year. Click the image to retrieve the original specifications for the machine. It is old, there is no way around it, but will serve well as a test case for the potential deployment in areas that have extremely limited resources. It is a Pentium II 400 MHZ, not 4 gigahertz, but megahertz. It has decent hard drives and most likely I will be using RAID 1 for initial deployment.

Using the latest Ubuntu server release, 9.04, I am hopeful that the install goes smoothly on the older hardware. I have to retrieve a network card for use as a LTS, but Monday, 10/05/09 is my hopeful install date. Once installation is completed and I have configured it for initial research purposes we will try to have it hooked up to a live network.

On top of Ubuntu I will install Edubuntu, a very popular education package that includes lots of software that is useful in schools. The application list included with the Ibex release, I have yet to examine the new release, can be found here: I am very curious to see how the server will handle the load of Xaos once I have clients connecting to the server. Xaos maps fractal images. In college I wrote the logic for a Mandelbrot fractal image drawing application and it consumed resources to say the least. I bet this program is written with efficiency in mind. If you are not familiar with fractal images, check this image out.

I am still formulating possible research goals, if you have ideas, post a comment.



Van Eijck, Michiel, Claxton, Nicholas Xumthoult. (2009). Rethinking the Notion of Technology in Education: Techno-Epistemology as a Feature Inherent to Human Praxis. Science Education. (93, 2), 218-232. doi: 10.1002/sce.20308

Summary: I honestly have a difficult time summarizing the authors work. It is a complex look at the interaction of science, technology, and epistemology. They define the two current camps in the technology education realm as, “Technology as a way of knowing, and Applied Science.” These two division have existed for quite some time. The authors work attempts to describe technology as dependent on one’s epistemological view of systems. They assert that technology can best be explained by a dialectical unit, Techno-Epistemology. To help the reader along they conduct a case-study of the Saanich first nation people’s reef net fishing practices.

Response: First off, a fascinating read. By using a Pacific NW Indian tribe as their case the authors had me hooked throughout the 15 page article. It is extremely well written and I was forced to pull out my dictionary a few times. I wish to highlight several key ideas I gleaned from the paper. The concept of Bricolage is quite interesting. The authors define it as,

“The usefulness of an artifact in the inherently dynamic sociocultural and material setting in which it is constructed rather than a certain predetermined and scientifically justified “truth” or “method” determines what is ultimately adopted as “good” technology.”

This of course occurs in many situations, for instance, chain-saws were “good” technology for capitalists, but poor for environmentalists. The perspective taken on technology is a critical factor that this paper examines. Recognizing the world view that tech is evaluated on is imperative. Page 223,

“…”all systems of knowledge about nature are embedded in the context of a cultural group; that all systems therefore are culture-laden; and that science (Western science) is the system of knowledge about nature that is predominant in Western
culture” (Lewis & Aikenhead, 2001, p. 3).”

An intriguing article that makes one wonder about the way things are currently done.