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L. Ralston (Phoenix, AZ United States)

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Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine (William Patrick Book)
Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine (William Patrick Book)
von Norman
Preis: EUR 15,99

4.0 von 5 Sternen Machine-Centered vs. Human-Centered technology, 14. Februar 2000
I have often heard that "computers don't make mistakes, humans do." It is around this premise that Donald Norman centers his book. He agrees with this statement - that humans make the mistakes, but it is because the computers and software are poorly designed. We make mistakes because "the machine-centered tasks imposed upon us through our technology ask us to behave in ways incompatible with our fundamental capabilities." (p. 138) If computers and software were people-centered, that is designed from the humans point of view, there would be less mistakes, or at the very least, the technology would be able to make "fuzzy" judgments for corrections.
Norman takes us through a discovery of what is "right" and what is "wrong" with many of the objects we use everyday. He points out both good design (such as the genius of the filing cabinet) and bad design, while also wishing for a new and better way. The interesting part is to note that many of these wishes he made in 1994 have actually become reality. He wished for "computerized scheduling" that can be updated and shared (p. 216) - many of us have Palm Pilots from which we can down/upload calendar updates to and from our desktop computer or share our calendar to another Palm Pilot via "beaming." He also warns us that technologies take a long time to be accepted... and asks us to consider the present to ten years prior - that there isn't that much difference. (p. 192) In 1994, there wasn't much difference in the world from 10 years before, but in the six years since 1994 the world has undergone tremendous change, mostly due to the increased use of the Internet. I am very interested in reading his latest book to see how he addresses this.

The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High-tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
The Inmates are Running the Asylum: Why High-tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity
von Alan Cooper
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Tries to fight the insanity of bad user interface design, 13. Februar 2000
Many of the points that Alan Cooper makes about the poor design of many of " computers " that we use every day are valid. How many times have we all stood at an ATM while two or three people or more waited behind us, tapping their feet, looking in frustration at their watchs, while we inadvertently pushed the wrong button and have to start completely over? Haven't we all passed by cubicles or offices from which frustrated and angry screams are coming because a piece of software is not " user-friendly?"
In his book, Cooper gives his reasons for the failings of the software industry. Primarily he blames the software engineers. He believes that most engineers are given free rein on how software is developed and what features are added. In most software development companies, the user interface is developed after all the code for in the software itself is written. Thus, the software is written by programmers for programmers.
He thinks they get away with this because we, as a society, need technology. In our personal lives we use ATMs, cars with computerized systems, computerized alarm clocks and of course our personal computers at home. At work, we may use multiple programs on multiple machines in a variety of ways. In a lot of ways, many of us really could not do without technology. We are able to deal with the poor design of software and technology because we can put ourselves into two categories that Cooper calls "apologists " and " survivors." Apologists love the technology, even with its failings. Survivors, realizing that they must use the technology, do their best to learn just as much as the need to learn.
Once Cooper gets beyond his descriptions of how we struggle to use the technology, he tries to lay out a plan for a better way of designing technology. His belief is that the interaction of the software with the user is the first thing that should be considered, not the last. His concepts have merit, truly being a possibility for improvement on the process of development and on the end products. However, when reality hits, it is difficult to envision the software industry changing so radically.

Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do
Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do
von Laurence Steinberg
Preis: EUR 16,20

4.0 von 5 Sternen A new Perspective on why our public schools are in trouble, 23. Januar 2000
There is no doubt that our schools are living through tough times. The public school system was created with the premise that many students would not do well and would go on into blue-collar jobs. The schools were there to educated those who would go into college. Today, almost all parents want their kids to go to college, thus schools are expected to get all kids ready, using an old system.
The battle cry over the past few years has been "back to basics" and "tougher standards for students and teachers." Steinberg claims we need to refocus our attention away from reform of schools to changing students and parents attitudes about school and learning. He claims a way to do this is to make grades mean something - parents have to emphasize doing well in school as more important than socializing, sports or after-school work. Colleges have to create and enforce tougher admissions, and eliminate remedial college courses that simply bring freshman up to college-level expectations. Parents have to be involved in school. He even claims that standards can be useful, if they are uniform for every participant in the system, from K-12 to higher Ed. And lastly, students need to realize that not only the grades they earn, but what they learn, will have a huge impact on the rest of their lives.
As a parent of a 13-year old - soon-to-be HS freshman, this book has given me a new perspective on how to support her. As a K-8 educator, I see new ways of looking at standards and the back-to-basics push. I don't agree with all that Steinberg has said, but this book does speak of the public school systems difficulties in a fresh new manner.

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