As Sal Khan admits in his book, One World Schoolhouse, that he has not proposed anything particularly new, but the popularity of his non-profit Khan Academy website has given him a prominent platform to advocate for educational change in the United States and around the world.
Ever since my high school aged son started using Khan Academy lessons to help him with the Physics class he was struggling with, I’ve been impressed with how helpful the web based lessons can be to helping students learn and master difficult mathematical concepts. Some students and teachers use the Kahn Academy for more than just remedial tutoring, and instead replace in-class lectures with the lessons, and then spend the majority of class time working through problems and related projects.
This teaching method struck a chord with me, so much so that I’ve created “flipped” or “blended” versions of two of guest lectures that I give at my University. I’m happy to report that the observed learning outcomes and student feedback from the new blended format lectures has been excellent.
In One World Schoolhouse, Sal talks about how the tutoring of one of his nieces was the impetus for him to begin tutoring part time, while working as a hedge fund manager. This snowballed, and turned into his passion, as he tutored more and more relatives and family friends. After a lot of positive feedback to both the lecture videos and online exercises, he took the plunge and started a one year experiment, to see if he could turn his passion into a career. After struggling for several months he, received one or two foundation grants to fund his little non-profit. With the publicity this garnered, he received several more large grants from the likes of Bill Gates and Google, and his organization was fully funded and in a position to hire some full time staff to help him.
Being the father of five children under the age of 16 years old, with a home that has three computers, four iPhones and three iPod Touches, I’ve been experimenting with software over the past few years to trying to reduce the likelihood of porn inadvertently showing up on their screens. After trying some commercial software for content filtering a couple of years ago, that ended up slowing down our old computer, I have found something that doesn’t kill our computer, and as an added bonus is FREE – OpenDNS.
OpenDNS allows you to filter web content and block adult websites on the internet by simply changing the DNS servers that your computer or router uses. While not full proof (no solution is), it quite works well. After you’ve setup an account, you can specify the kinds of web sites you want to block or allow. You can also specifically allow web sites that may be grouped in a category you have blocked. You have all the control that you could ask for. If you want you can install on one computer in your home to let OpenDNS know if your IP address changes, so that it can continue to filter based on the criteria you’ve set in their control panel.
If you want, you can also enable logging so that you can keep track of the websites computers in your house are visiting. This all happens transparently, without having to install any software on your computers, iPods or iPads.
The easiest way to protect all the computers and internet devices in hour home is to manually change the DNS servers that your internet router uses to the two OpenDNS servers. If you want to change your DNS settings now just use the following:
If you need help figuring out where to change the DNS settings for your router, OpenDNS has a great tutorial that shows you how on their website.
OpenDNS along with Dropbox and two services that every home should seriously consider using. OpenDNS is completely free, and Dropbox is free up to 2GB of data backed up. Enjoy!
The short answer is no… unless you earn less than $50,000 per year, a pay raise won’t make you happier. Once your basic needs are met, earning more money will not make you any happier.
Will becoming more attractive make you happier? Nope… plastic surgery or weight loss will give you an initial boost, but you get used to your new looks pretty quickly, and in the long run you won’t be any happier.
Will better health make you happier? Counter intuitively, no. Unless you’re at death’s door, you get used to your state of health, and being less or more healthy doen’t change your happiness level in the long run.
Will moving to a sunny warm city make you happer? Again, no. After the new car smell wears off, your level of happiness will move back to where it was when you were living in a cold northern city.
So, what are some things that make us happier?
- Connect… with family, friend and neighbours is the most important thing you can do to contribute to your overall happiness. The good news is that this will cost you little or no money to do!
- Be Active. Walk, run, bike, play games, play sports, dance yoga… these are all things that will improve your mood, especially if you’re in a bad one.
- Take Notice of the beauty in nature and in life.
- Keep Learning. Whether it’s new hobbies or a new skill at work. Be challenged and remember that most happiness comes in striving for goals, not in reaching them.
- Give. Do something nice. Join a community. Be selfless.
If you’d like to read more on this topic, I highly recommend reading Jonathan Haidt book, The Happiness Hypothesis, or if you’d like to read great eight page summary, you can read my brother Bob McCue’s book review and auto insurance guide,
Finally, here is Dan Gilbert’s entertaining TED Talk with his take on happiness. Enjoy!
David Pogue just wrote a great review in the NY Times for a new app for your iPod Touch, that turns your new iPod Touch into a iPhone (when in a wi-fi zone like your home) complete with a local phone number, unlimited US and Canadian phone calling, along with unlimited US and Canadian text messaging all for $9.99 US ($14.99 CDN). The app is called Line2, and from my perspective up here in Canada, the great news is that it works just as well here as it does in the US, complete with your choice of local Canadian phone numbers (are you listening Google? When will you offer Google Voice in Canada?). For my Canadian friends, here is the Canadian Line2 web page.
As David Pogue points out, this might be just what the doctor ordered for your tween, who wants a cell phone, but you’re not interested in signing a 2 or 3 year contract.
Another option in Canada is Koodo Mobility. Two of our teenage kids have no contract cell phones through Koodo, and the $20 monthly fee they each pay gives them unlimited texting and 50 talk minutes per month (we had to build our own plan to get the monthly fee down to $20). Given that they almost exclusively text, this works just fine for them.
If I did not have a year left on my cell phone contract what I would personally do is buy an unlocked iPhone from the Apple Store for $660 (yes we can buy unlocked iPhone in Canada). Get the smallest Data and Voice Plan I can find from a local carrier (about $25 per month with Koodo including 100MB of data), and then use a service like Line2 for $15 per month. My Monthly phone bill would drop to $40. For 500MB of data the cost would rise to about $55 per month. Lower cost, and unlimited voice in North America.
My first preference would be to use Google Voice, but as I mentioned it is not yet available in Canada yet. In any case this sort of competition should benefit all cell phone users as it will put pressure on them to lower their costs or risk loosing customers as their contracts expire.
Do we all “Fake It” ? I listended to a excellent Freakanomics podcast over lunch on “faking it” that makes a lot of sense. No, I’m not talking about “faking it” in the bedroom (although I’m sure some faking does go on there), but “faking it” in our day to day lives.
I think we all “fake it” on a fairly regular basis. Not only that, but we’re taught do so from an early age. Just think of when a parent “encourages” their child to apologize to their sibling or play mate. Do we really think that the apologizing child feels sorry for what they’ve done? Most of the time they don’t, but they are being taught how to get along, and perform socially acceptable acts that help make up the civilized portion of our society. Most people would agree that this sort of “faking it” is a good thing in that it reduces tension in groups, and helps them function more smoothly.
There are other kinds of faking it of course. John Edwards (the american politician) faked it at the end of the US presidencial campaign, pretending that things were going well in his life and marriage, until it came out that the woman he was having an affair with was close to giving birth to their child. I think that is the kind of faking it that most people cringe at.
Faking it goes on in religion as well. One example of this is in the Mormon religion I was raised in. As a teenager I was taught that if I told others that I “knew” certain religious “truths” were true, even when I didn’t actually know they were true or false, that I would come to know for myself that they were true. This could be described as the “fake it until you make it” method of learning. While this may be a useful tool for learning to do certain tasks, I don’t believe that it is effective in determining truth.
So the next time my wife asks me how I like the new dress she bought, should I “fake it” or be completely honest no matter what the consequences?
I never realized how much my dog Maggie could teach me about marriage. Much cheaper than counseling http://nyti.ms/crlK8h
I’m very excited that we’re getting Solar Hot Water installed at the house tomorrow. $3375 in Federal and Provincial grants defiantly helps! http://bit.ly/claYyR
Island Energy is doing the install of an Enerworks system. Photos and more information to follow!
How can you make your iPad more useful? Velco!
iPad + Velcro = Amazing
Skype makes my life easier once again, and does it for free! Most people know that it is a great tool for making free voice and video call from computer to computer, and that it allow people to make very inexpensive calls to land lines and cell phone around the world. What most people don’t know, and what I didn’t know until recently, is that Skype will also allow you to share the desktop of your computer with other people. So why is this so great? Let me explain.
As someone who ends up helping co-workers, family and friends with computer problems, there are few things more frustrating than trying to talk someone through a series of clicks and windows on a computer that you cannot see. Not only that, but I am also typically relying on rather sketchy description of a problem that more often than not is hazy at best. That is where Skype comes in. The person I am helping shares their desktop with me, and I can see what they are doing that triggers the problem. At that point I can tell the person exactly what to do to fix the problem, and then correct them if they make any mistakes. A win-win and time saver for everyone.
Here are some other potential uses for Skype Screen Sharing: