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Mónica Guzmán

Stories at the intersection of tech and life from a boldly connected city.

Category: Education
November 2, 2013 at 8:03 PM

Four digital divides: Where do you stand?

photo

Maybe you’ve heard of the “digital divide.”

It’s a term coined in the ’90s to refer to the mostly socioeconomic gap between people who can access information technologies and those who can’t. The concept gave thinkers and policymakers a grasp on a new problem: For more people to prosper, the digital divide would need to be closed.

I’ve been thinking about digital divides a lot lately, but rarely in this traditional sense. Tech has come a long way in 20 years, and it’s raised all kinds of sticky new issues. It’s made me think: If we take a fresh look at what divides us in our use of tech, we might get a better grip on whether we’re headed somewhere we want to be.

So here goes: I think there are four digital divides that matter. As we consider them, ask yourself: Where am i on these divides? And do they all demand to be resolved, or in some ways, protected?

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0 Comments | More in Code, Column, Conversation, Education, Identity, People, Privacy, Security, Tech Devotion

September 28, 2013 at 8:00 PM

4,000 and counting: The handwritten letters of Shoreline’s Charles Morrison

Teacher Charles Morrison pens letters from the back yard of his Shoreline home every day of the year. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

Teacher Charles Morrison pens letters from the back yard of his Shoreline home every day of the year. (GREG GILBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES)

When was the last time you wrote a letter?

Charles Morrison will write four today. He wrote four yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that. All told he’s penned 4,000 letters to about 110 people in the past 11 years, hardly ever missing a day. They’re nothing grand. Just “letters by a guy of modest intelligence who likes to write,” as the 71-year-old put it. He mailed 150 of them at his Shoreline post office two weeks ago. Each was written with one of 36 calligraphy pens, and each is about something completely different.

I have no idea when I wrote my last letter. I told Morrison as much at Caffe Umbria in Pioneer Square last week. Most of the people walking by on Occidental Avenue South, I guessed out loud, probably wouldn’t know either.

Morrison laughed.

“It’s so easy to get information, give information, dash off an email. The very ease of it makes it so convenient,” he said.

“Convenient,” he added, is not one of his favorite words.

“When everything needs to be convenient, you lose sight of the process, how important the process is,” he said. “It’s just: Get it done.”

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0 Comments | More in Art, Column, Education, Nostalgia, Seattle, Social

September 11, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Seattle dad strikes gold with board game that teaches basics of code

Kids "program" turtle game pieces in Robot Turtles, a game that teaches the fundamentals of programming.

Kids “program” turtle game pieces in Robot Turtles, a game that teaches the fundamentals of programming.

Seattle entrepreneur Dan Shapiro thought parents might dig a board game that taught pre-schoolers the basics of coding, and boy was he right. He put it on Kickstarter Sept. 3, and it hit its funding goal in five hours.

Shapiro designed the game, Robot Turtles, for his 4-year-old twins, and took time off his job as CEO of Google Comparison to share it with the world.

“Teaching [my kids] to program a computer is the single greatest superpower I can give them,” Shapiro wrote. “I made Robot Turtles so that my kids could learn programming basics without needing a computer. In fact, they don’t even need to be able to read.”

Shapiro first told me about the game last month, and nothing about its success surprises me. More and more of our world is built in code, and parents, particularly those who work in tech themselves, want their kids to get an early introduction. Shapiro’s game came at just the right time.

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0 Comments | More in Code, Education, Family, Seattle

August 31, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Want to learn the world’s most powerful language?

Hadi Partovi

Hadi Partovi

“Fill in the blank with the biggest thing you feel is true,” I asked Hadi Partovi, reading off my notebook in a small downtown conference room. “ ‘Learning how to code is as important as learning … ’”

Partovi put his head in his hands and thought for a long moment.

“I would say it’s as important as learning the basics of science,” he said. “Anything you learn in sixth grade, learning to code is as important as that.”

Partovi, a Seattle investor and entrepreneur who’s sold companies to Microsoft and MySpace, is easily the strongest, most passionate advocate anywhere for the importance of learning how to code. In eight months his nonprofit, Code.org, has ignited a push from its small Second Avenue office to see coding taught in every American school. In China, students must learn code to graduate.

Here, 90 percent of schools don’t teach it. And in most states, taking a coding class doesn’t even count toward graduation.

But to me the most compelling argument for learning how to code is not about schools or even jobs, mighty as those motivators are, and should be. It’s about these basics. On Earth, atoms make things up, and gravity makes things fall. On digital, instructions code behaviors that build systems that every day run more and more of our lives. How we talk. How we move. How we exchange goods and services and information.

Code isn’t how a world works. It’s how the world works.

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0 Comments | More in Code, Column, Education, Habits, People, Seattle, Tech Devotion

July 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Does texting make teens better writers?

Texting

(Flickr / Creative Commons)

Today’s teens are tapping out more words to more people than any generation has before.

But does that make them better writers?

That depends in part on whether communications like texting and posting on Facebook can even count as writing, according to some of the more than 2,000 middle and high school teachers surveyed in the latest study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

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0 Comments | More in Education