Computers and School: An unhappy relationship.

I’ve never been a great transcriber, and from middle school through my first semester at college, I’ve needed to do a lot of note-taking. This trend doesn’t show signs of stopping, and I’ve always longed for an easier way to express my ideas, or more likely, the ideas of my professor.

Back in my freshman year of high school I bought an HP iPAQ Pocket PC (no relation to the iPod) which for those who don’t know is a Palm Pilot style device that ran Windows Mobile 5, a dialect of Windows CE optimized for such devices. Before the smartphone revolution, Pocket PCs were all the rage, and they came with cool little accessories such as a folding keyboard and a stylus. Seeing as the keyboard was full-size, the iPAQ seemed an ideal device to take into class and use to help me jot down the multitude of notes that were thrown at me each day.

As soon as I unfolded the keyboard and turned on the screen during my English class, all my classmates descended upon me with over-the-top enthusiasm. “What’s that?! A computer in class! What’s its processing power? I bet it has a whole giga-byte of storage. You using it to play GAMES?! I tried to dissolve the imminent fiasco by downplaying the machine’s capabilities; by telling my friends that it was simply a note-taking machine. I couldn’t hold, however, and the next thing I knew the teacher was asking me to put away the “distraction.” Fair enough.

Later in the year, I actually found one class which I could use the iPAQ in without drawing so much of a distraction. Our world history teacher left in search of a better job in the beginning of 9th grade, and thus we were without an actual teacher until the next semester. The interim teacher we got for the first semester had never taught before, and knew entirely zilch about world history. His tests were entirely book-based to the point of which he’d open to a random page, copy a sentence from the book, delete some words, and have us fill in the blanks. His “lectures” were open readings of the text, and thus I could sit in the back of the class where the sound of the keyboard wouldn’t distract anyone. I built a 50 page study guide (single spaced!) of every definition and random fact in our textbook, and proceeded to achieve high marks in a class most people couldn’t manage a C in. (Of course I can’t remember anything except that the guy who was murdered in his bathtub in France was none other than Jean-Paul Marat.)

That year in 9th grade was the last time I used that Pocket PC to any advantage, though. Every year after, tech was banned in class or severely discouraged in school. Even during my first semester in college and the first few weeks of the second semester, it seems that the only place I can use my laptop to take notes is in my computer classes. Although it wouldn’t do me any good to type up notes in a seminar, regular non-computer class professors don’t like students bringing laptops to class either, in the name of “class participation” and “avoiding distractions.” Of course, I am at a smaller University with smaller class sizes, but it’s the volume of notes that would make me prefer typing instead of handwriting!

With new tech being released such as the Android tablets and the iPad 2, not to mention the predictions that e-readers will be huge this year, I feel that professors should realize the advantages these devices give to students and not assume they’ll simply be another distraction.

Testing Windows 7′s Voice Dictation

Hello everybody!  This is going to be a different type of blog post, as it’s going to be entirely based on the input of my voice.  You see, I am using Microsoft Windows 7′s voice recognition technology to write the entire thing.  I’m thinking about getting dragon naturally speaking 11, but since this is free, I might as well test it out.  Perhaps I’m not speaking very clearly, as it’s taken about 5 minutes to write these few sentences.  In the next paragraph, I’m going to be reading Lincoln’s famous speech without editing anything.  Let’s give it a go.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, we’re a nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that the nation might live.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -we cannot consecrate -we cannot hello -this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, a far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world a little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forgot what they did here.  It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they’ll find your having thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead retake increase devotion to that cause for which they gave the last measure of devotion -that we here are highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -that this nation, under god, show of a new birth of freedom of -and the governments of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from your.

That took about 10 minutes to read.  Overall I’d say the qualities pretty good, but it’s not without its flaws.  (I’m still recording, by the way, and I’m still not editing.)
I feel if somebody was just talking into the computer, and pouring all their thoughts into a pool which they could search later, this might be a very valuable tool for them.  When cool thing about it is that you can start a program just by using your voice.  For somebody like me who is not used to dictation, however, dictating everything makes me think more about the dictation part of what I’m writing than actually writing it.
Let’s try something else in terms of testing this out.  I’m going to read the beginning of the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted – one moment
Would you capture it were just let it slip?

His poems are sweaty, Newsweek, arms are heavy
There’s a madonna sweater already, ma’am spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface it looks Colman ready to drop bombs,
But he keeps on forgetting what he wrote down,
The hope road crew was so loud
He opens his mouth, but the words will come out
He’s joking now everybody’s joking now
The clocks run out, time is up over, well!
Snap back to reality, though there’s a goes gravity
O, there goes rabbit, he’s choked
The so mad, but he won’t give up that
Easy, no
He won’t have it, he knows that his goal backs to these ropes
It don’t matter, he’s dope
He knows that, bodies broke
The so stagnant body knows
When he goes back to his mobile home, that’s when it’s
Back to the lab and inyo
This this whole rhapsody
He better go capture this moment and hope it doesn’t pass and

You better lose yourself in the music, the moment
You want it, I you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo

In conclusion, except for the fact that this post took about 30 minutes to right, I would say that dictating documents as a lot more difficult than typing, especially because you need to think about what you’re saying so much, as opposed two typing and then deleting and then typing some more or typing and then editing later.  You kinda get the feeling that what you’re doing is timed and cinder pressure and it needs to be right in the first tape.  As for the accuracy I was fairly impressed considering that Microsoft gives this out for free.  Programs like dragon costs 99 U.S. dollars, and while the accuracy appears to be better, I would expect it out of $100 product.  If you just want to start a few programs by your voice, take a serious look at windows 7′s offering.  If you want to do any serious dictation, I doubt that windows seven’s built in dictation will get the job done.

Should Food Advertising to Youths be Regulated?

“Make your buck go further at McDonalds!” Weighing in at 19 grams of fat and 390 calories, the $1 McDouble cheeseburger aims to fill you up without emptying your wallet. Fast food advertisements appear everywhere, from billboards on the side of the highway to children’s TV shows, and brand recognition can make all the difference. In fact, in a 2007 study by Stanford University, researchers found that young children perceived burgers in McDonalds packaging to taste better than identical food in unbranded packaging, showing that children are certainly influenced by advertising (Robinson, et al. par. 7). Psychological influences are also known to adversely affect one’s opinion of food. Consider the movie “Super Size Me,” which drove society into outrage about the perceived unhealthiness of McDonalds’ food, setting the stage for the company to introduce healthier menu items such as salads and for court rulings that required fast food restaurants to publish nutrition facts for all of their entrees. Indeed, a company’s public image can make or break its bottom-line, and although advertising has a strong effect on many people, the decision to buy a product rests with the consumer. Advertising to children in the food industry should not be further regulated, as it is the job of good parenting to instill the value of moderation.

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