Ramblings from the Warrior's Den
Saturday, January 11, 2003
I have now been using my Axim for a week now. I'm still using the Transcriber to write stuff with, including to take notes in my various classes. So far, I've only needed to even open my backpack once in a week of classes. I've been able to take notes quite effectively with this thing. I don't see myself ever trying to use it to write code or any other thing where typos can be a matter of life or death, but I can take notes with it in class pretty well.

It's amazing just how much stuff I can use this for. One thread that I read recently On the Axim board asks the question if one of these is more than just a fancy technotoy.
The vast majority of the responses seem to suggest that o of these can be used quite effectively as a productivity tool. Sure, I have to admit that I bought this partially for the overall gee-whiz factor, but I'm actually surprised at how much I've used the various "productivity" features for keeping track of stuff. I'll eventually post a more thorough review of this.

At the end of my last Blog entry, I made a comment about the age we live in of "Information At Your Fingertips." One of the TV shows that is watched frequently in our house is 'Iron Chef' Oh Food Network. For reasons not fully explained by anyone, we even manage to watch it during dinner. I suppose that much of what is prepared on that show is probably considered incredibly fancy gourmet cuisine, but here in the western world, most of what is prepared would probably be considered unfit for human consumption. Even so, it's an interesting show to spend a spare hour on. Somehow, I managed to pick up a reputation for being something of an expert on the show (read: knowing more about it than most sane individuals generally would.) In reality, more than any individual, sane or otherwise, would ever need to know about the show can be found at a couple of different Websites: Ironchef.com or Ironfans.com.

Questions regarding my sanity aside, it occurs to me that we live in a time where just about any subject one might ever need to know anything about can be found by spending five minutes on the Internet. With sites such as Google, we have the ability to type in just about any keyword or topic we desire, and instantly have all the info we'd ever need sitting on our monitor. Usually one has the added step of sorting through thirteen thousand useless results to find the three useful ones, but that's just an accepted fact of life on the Internet. It's the small price that we pay to have all the useless information we could ever possibly need at our fingertips.

This ability to find information this readily has made changes to the way students research a topic for a report or project. It would seem that Academia would be among the most willing to embrace this new paradigm for research, but in the last year of school, I've seen what seems to be something of a reluctance to accept the Internet as a source of material for students to use. I can understand this reluctance to some extent, given the sometimes questionable validity of the material generally found on the net, but to me, it seems almost as if teachers want to downplay the significance of the Internet as a research tool.

For example, one class I had last year focused on Professional report writing. The major project for the class was a Comparative Feasibility Study which required a minimum of eight different sources, including at least two sources from periodicals and two others from books. For my study, I chose a topic with which I was quite familiar: buying (or building) a PC. I ended up not using a lot of sources because I was so familiar with the topic. In the end, I found myself having to search through a copy of PCs for Dummies to find something to use to satisfy the requirement to have one token book source in a 45-page report. In this case, the requirement to use books as sources seems arbitrary and ended up being more of an inconvenience than anything.

I can appreciate the fact that students need to be able to use a variety of different sources when they research a topic, but I seem to get an impression that teachers think the Internet is making research too easy. Because of this, they try to complicate things by telling students to not use the Net. Most of then do anyway. And somehow I don't think that teachers realize that.

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