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Hacking Kinect

I never really thought much about Microsoft’s Kinect until I saw what hackers were doing with it.  A story in the New York Times outlines how a designer and senior editor at Make magazine posted a $3000 bounty for the first person to post an open-source hack of the Kinect interface.  Huzzah!  In fact, I’m still not that impressed with it — 3D drawings are cool, but will they help me teach English? — but I’m thrilled that hackers big and small are poking around under the hood.

Interestingly, Johnny Chung Lee, who became famous for his TED talk where he described hacking a Wiimote to act like an interactive whiteboard, is involved in the development of Kinect.  Microsoft were so impressed with his skills on the Wii-based IWB and other projects they hired him.  He is reportedly very happy to see hackers taking on Kinect in the way he took on Wii a couple of years ago.  If a hacker can squeeze an interactive whiteboard out of a $40 Wiimote, what will come out of the $150 Kinect system?

Will this technology help us teach ESL and EFL?  It’s not easy to see how, at least not immediately.  But prepare for a giant step forward in how we interface with computers in the next few years.  Interactive whiteboards are just the beginning.  You can always show your students this video and ask them to predict the future (in English).

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Helicopter Parents in ESL?

helicopters

How often do you see these?

I read an interesting article in Time magazine this week called Can These Parents Be Saved? It’s about helicopter parents, parents that hover over their children, and the growing backlash against this style of parenting.

My wife and I, parents of two girls under 4, have discussed our parenting strategies for longer than our kids have been alive and lean heavily towards the backlash side of the debate.  We intend to avoid scheduling dance classes, and soccer leagues, and art classes, and piano lessons (at least all at the same time) so that our kids will have some time to be bored, to daydream, to create their own games.  As the article points out, this down time can help brain development and be useful for developing “leadership, sociability, flexibility, resilience” and more.  Anecdotally, the recent generation of over-scheduled kids now entering college tend to lack problem-solving skills and creativity, possibly as a result of their parents making too many decisions for them.

I think helicopter parents are well documented and widely discussed, particularly in higher education in North America, but I wonder how widespread this phenomenon is in ESL and EFL?  Of course, the answer likely varies as much as the field does.  For example, I teach in an intensive ESL program at a major research university.  Most of the students in my classes are over 18 years old and live without their parents.  If the parents want to be helicopters, they have to do it via email across an ocean, and it doesn’t typically affect teachers in our program directly.

Although I don’t yet feel the need to brace for an influx of helicopter parents and their precious offspring, I wonder if my colleagues in other areas of ESL and EFL do. Do other ESL teachers encounter helicopter parents, or is this parenting style a product of U.S. (or perhaps Western) culture?  Where do parents of generation 1.5 students fall on the helicopter spectrum?  What kinds of parents to EFL teachers in other countries typically encounter?

Communication technologies such as cell phones and webcams have been blamed for the rise in this behavior, or at least enabling it, because before these technologies, it simply wasn’t possible for parents to keep such close tabs on their children.  As these technologies spread around the world, will helicopter parenting follow?

Care to leave a comment?  I’d like to read it.  If not, I hope you enjoy the Time article.

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