Of That

Brandt Redd on Education, Technology, Energy, and Trust

31 January 2012

FETC Reminds Me How Hard it is to Change

Last week I attended the FETC conference. This picture from the show floor inadvertantly captures the de facto theme: "21st Century Technology that does not change the way you work.

The audience was composed of about 50% classroom teachers, 25% other school officials the the balance of technologists, vendors, district and state people and so forth. This an education technology conference and the teachers who attend are tech savvy and forward thinking. But the framework remains a conventional classroom and the attitude seems to be "Take school, add technology, mix well and serve."

In my presentation I argued for a different perspective. Digital abundance is nice but we've been adding technology to classrooms for decades with little impact on student learning. In order to the big improvements that society is demanding of schools, we have to change our education systems. Teachers will be more important than ever -- i'm under no illusions that computers can replace them. But just as the practice of business had to change to take advantage of new technology, so must the practice of education.

25 January 2012

Resources for Today's Speech at FETC

I'm speaking today at the FETC conference. Here are links to some of the resources I reference in my talk:
These previous posts on this blog discuss some of the same subjects:

18 January 2012

Blackout: SOPA, PIPA

In solidarity with Wikipedia, ReddIt and others I'm posting a black message on my blog today in protest of SOPA and PIPA. For more information, Wikipedia has an excellent writeup.

05 January 2012

Was Lou Gehrig’s ALS Caused by Tap Water?

My good friend (and sometimes mentor) Paul Cox has been researching ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease). His theory, that ALS is caused by a non-protein amino acid called BMAA, was at first viewed with skepticism. But now his Institute for EthnoMedicine coordinates research at more than 21 universities worldwide. Collectively they've published numerous papers in peer-reviewed journals.

This new article offers an excellent introduction to his work:
Was Lou Gehrig’s ALS Caused by Tap Water?

Here's a quick summary: Cyanobacteria, also known as blue green algae, create BMAA which can contaminate water and food. Some plants, such as the Cycad Tree concentrate BMAA. The Flying Fox bat, which eats the nuts of the Cycad tree, concentrates it more. The Chamorro, natives of Guam, consider the flying fox to be a delicacy and they suffer from ALS and related diseases at a much higher rate than other populations.

The trail was difficult to follow and prove because BMAA gets incorporated into the body's proteins, possibly substituting for L-Serine, a protein amino acid. When incorporated into protein, BMAA is undetectable using normal methods. To find it, they had to break up proteins using enzymes and then test. It can also take many years from the time that a person is exposed to BMAA before symptoms appear. Cox theorizes that this is because BMAA can get bound up into proteins in the body's tissues and delay symptoms until those tissues are broken down and replaced many years later. There was also skepticism about the substitution theory -- that BMAA might be used place of another amino acid. But evidence is building that substitution does occur.

BMAA is also being implicated in Parkinson's Disease and Alzheimer's Disease. Most exciting is the potential that this research may result in effective treatments for these terrible diseases.

Update 26 July 2013:

For those who are dealing with ALS, here are links to current research and clinical trials of promising therapies:
 My heart goes out to all those who suffer from this terrible disease.