For the past six months, if you could work or learn from home, your home has doubled as your office or school. Teachers had to rethink lesson plans, living rooms became classrooms, and we all became our own satellite IT teams. Virtual learning, which used to be a portion of a college curriculum or an option for those who physically couldn’t make it to a classroom, is now the norm for all grade levels and personal circumstances.With this shift come questions. Is the internet we have in our homes strong enough to support multiple daylong users? How much time in front of a computer is too much, for children and for adults? How do we stay engaged when we can’t be near one another? Should we worry about our children’s safety on the internet?To answer some of these questions, the Harvard Ed Portal partnered with Harvard University IT (HUIT) on a free public event, hosted on Zoom on Sept. 23. Attendees used the opportunity to engage with and ask questions of Harvard’s IT security experts, including a leader in the field of media and technology in education, Harvard Graduate School of Education senior lecturer Joe Blatt.“With Boston Public Schools starting remotely this week, we thought it was important to offer an online security event for educators and families,” said Leah Dodell, Ed Portal program manager, Digital Learning and HarvardX for Allston. “This event was an opportunity for us to bring together experts who could speak to digital safety practices, like making sure students create strong passwords, as well as digital well-being practices, like encouraging students to take breaks and play when learning online. It’s essential for us to keep both types of practices in mind to maintain our security and our sanity in this world of remote learning.”Topics ranged from the practical, with questions about internet security, to the philosophical, like how best to educate students virtually. Ways to stay safe online, what being in front of a screen all day does to us, and how we learn today were central to the conversation. The diversity of topics showcased how complex this new reality is, for teachers, for students, and for parents.Blatt started by asking who in the audience had a child at home attending school remotely. Nearly half the attendees indicated they did, either by raising their hands or using Zoom’s reaction capabilities.“If anyone told me I had to be on Zoom for [seven-plus hours], I’d probably quit,” Blatt said, echoing a participant concern about how long kids are asked to spend online. He said trying to replicate a typical school day on a computer is not the best way to teach online. “[Most often] accounts are compromised not because of some technical hack, but [because] the person who owns the account is manipulated into divulging [account] secrets.” — Louw Smith, HUIT Blatt said lessons must be designed and executed in a variety of ways to be effective. A mix of mental and physical activity is important, he said, and “Play is such an important learning medium for kids.”Many of the participants said they were worried about their children burning out after days in front of a computer. Blatt agreed, adding that more time does not necessarily indicate more learning is happening. Burnout from looking at a screen is real, for children and adults, and he recommended breaks.“It’s not a good idea to push yourself to the limit [using digital platforms],” Blatt said.On the technical side, most questions focused on internet safety, both how to keep children safe online and the safety of applications, including the platform on which the event was hosted, Zoom.“[Most often] accounts are compromised not because of some technical hack, but [because] the person who owns the account is manipulated into divulging [account] secrets,” said Louw Smith, an HUIT security operations staffer. Smith stressed that online security is the same for children and adults: strong passwords and knowing the risks of sharing information are key.About halfway through the event, Blatt asked if any of the participating teachers wanted to contribute to the discussion. He said that learning, especially now, is more than just curricula; interactions between children and parents are essential to determining not only if students are getting the right types of screen time, but that they understand and can process what they’re taught.Rosalyn Lake, a high school Spanish teacher who works in Washington, D.C., said she believes the first step to educating virtually is understanding.“I’m building my relationship with my students — I’m focused on social and emotional [education in addition to a curriculum],” said Lake. “How can we push a curriculum when we don’t know our families, and don’t know our students?”Blatt said what we don’t know about online teaching and learning is as important as what we do know.“It’s impossible to say much and claim research support [in this area] — there has not been enough time to say that there has been reliable research on all these good questions people are asking.”
It was just days before Election Day when a group of powerhouse women leaders gathered to discuss the importance of civic engagement, local participation, and why voting matters.“Why should I bother? Why should I make the effort to get to the polls or get my ballot in the mail? What do you say to the skeptics?” These questions were posited by Danielle Allen, James Bryant Conant University Professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.Allen led the Oct. 29 discussion, which included Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui; Michelle Tassinari, director and legal counsel for the Office of the Secretary of the commonwealth’s Elections Division; Eneida Tavares, the interim commissioner for the city of Boston’s Elections Department; and Tova Wang, a Democracy Visiting Fellow at the Ash Center at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.Siddiqui explained that whenever she discusses the importance of voting, she always raises voter suppression, and how the very act of voting is “an act of survival. Elections have consequences … Our vote is our power,” she said.Tavares said Boston voters need only to look back to the 2019 City Council race, “when we had a citywide recount and it came down to one vote,” she said.And it’s not just about candidates. “Ballot questions [also] have a huge impact on us — whether they’re statewide ballot questions this year, or questions we’ve had in the past,” said Tassinari. “It’s important to create a pattern of civic pride and to be able to participate in all elections … even if it’s local elections, voting for your board of selectmen or your city council — people who are doing things in your city or town and making decisions that are important. This election is certainly important because it’s a presidential election, but every election is important.”Wang said her work focuses on voters, particularly young voters, having their voices and power be heard. “It’s quite clear to me that young people … know what they want in their public officials and they’re very intent on holding them accountable. This is their moment to stand up and have the youth vote recognized as a force to be reckoned with,” said Wang.Process too, the panelists argued, can be as important as the act of voting itself.“It’s important to go through the petition process and collect signatures of registered voters to get those questions on the ballot,” Tassinari continued.“I’ve been deeply impressed with the work that we’ve been seeing with young people — their understanding of voting being important, but it not being the only thing. They understand that it’s part of an array of tools in the toolbox of things that that need to happen in order to really see the change you want to see in the world,” said Wang.The panelists discussed how they were implementing additional safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how they’re planning to handle the expected record turnouts — both at the polls, and with mail-in ballots.The commonwealth is working very hard to set “realistic expectations” in everything from registration questions to voting lines to even the post-election process, Tassinari said.“What’s going to happen on election night? Are we going to have results? And the answer is no. And I can tell you very clearly that the answer has always been no — we don’t have results on election night. There may be unofficial results — but no place in the country has ever had official election results on election night. Making sure that every vote is counted is important, so we have to make sure that people realize its taking longer because we are doing it right,” she said.The very nature of any election, Allen reminded attendees, is that when someone wins, someone else loses. She asked the panelists to share their advice on how some voters, post-election, should handle the news that their preferred candidate may not have won.“I think no matter the outcome of an election, it’s about being civically engaged and exercising that right and that privilege that so many have worked give us,” said Siddiqui. “When there’s a loss, it’s difficult. You can become apathetic and despondent … but I think you need to remember that there are still people that need help. There are still people worth fighting for. So, you need to keep fighting and keep trying, and get behind candidates who are preaching to those values that you have. The more we have people engaged who come from different backgrounds — engaged in this political process — the better it is for everyone.”“Civic engagement,” Allen said, “is not a one-off, one-day thing. Civic engagement is a way of life.” Allen has long been a champion of the importance of civic engagement. One of her more recent projects included working with the Cambridge Public Schools on a new yearlong civics curriculum for eighth-graders.The panelists agreed. It’s about helping shape the conversation and agenda at all levels of government, joining the discussion, holding politicians up and down the ballot accountable, insuring voter participation, expanding voter opportunities, and continuing to actively stay informed and engaged, they said.“The best counsel I’ve gotten,” said Allen, “is from one of my favorite authors and novelists, Ralph Ellison. He said, ‘Democracy is not winner take all.’ Losers and winners are part of the same team. That’s one of the hardest things about democracy. For winners to understand the limits of victory, and that that they continue to be responsible to the people who didn’t vote for them.“But why do we do it,” she continued. “What’s the reward? It is literally the only way to be free and self-governing people. That is why we do this work together, so that we can make decisions together as a whole people. That’s what has to motivate us, and that’s what we have to stay committed to.”
Garrett Sharp ’24 can’t wait to play football for Harvard, but these days the first-year is just happy to be able to get to know and work out with teammates.“All the guys bring great energy to every workout that contributes to an environment in which we can get better,” said the defensive back, who was among the student-athletes on campus to begin team workouts in late October. The teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo, and tennis, focused on strength and conditioning.,Sharp, who is from Carmel, Ind., said COVID rules, such as mandatory masks and social distancing, don’t hinder the exercise regimens.“The workouts are great every single day. While it is not normal times, I do not really notice the regulations anymore as they have just become the norm,” he said. “The team has adapted to the constraints and still finds a way to improve. Everyone still actively gets better.”Throughout Sundays in November, the network NESN will showcase classic Crimson games from the past four years. At 5 p.m. Nov. 8, it’s women’s basketball, Crimson vs. Princeton, Feb. 24, 2018. For a complete listing, visit the website.— Jill Radsken
Today, communication is instant and information is ubiquitous, making it both easy and challenging for IT professionals to stay on top of the best business practices for converged infrastructure. How does an IT professional efficiently filter through the noise to discover the key informational nuggets without getting overwhelmed? How does an IT department with only one or two people gain the same experience and knowledge as a large organization? A thriving user group can provide that essential value.I’m excited to introduce the new VCE User Group (VUG), a fully independent entity of VCE customers and partners strategically aligned to increase the value of the VCE Experience. A thriving user group is vital for helping customers and partners build relationships with their peers, exchange knowledge and challenge conventions with productive and creative ideas. Establishing an independent VCE User Group is an important milestone for VCE, further validating customer demand for converged infrastructure with the need for an independent forum of VCE practitioners that can actively influence industry direction.“Independent user groups as a concept have been around for many years, but their importance has increased alongside the pace of technology. For customers, user groups are an essential mechanism for gaining access to proven, successful strategies that help ensure maximum efficiency and optimal return from their IT deployments. Active user communities act as an invaluable collective customer voice—giving them a competitive advantage on customer needs and emerging trends” – Victor Bohnert, Executive Director of VUG and Executive Director of the VMware User Group, a $10M organization with more than 100,000 members globally.ShareThe VCE User Group has existed in some form since 2011, when a group of Vblock System owners and operators sat down to discuss their successful deployments as well as how VCE and its users could work together to drive more transformational IT value. Over the past year the VCE User Group has accelerated its growth and momentum to become a truly independent – for users, by users – organization dedicated to maximizing the benefits of VCE products and solutions for its members.The focus of the VUG is to add value to members by facilitating meetings where experts can share best practices for deploying and operating VCE products and solutions. Experts can explore new ideas, and newcomers can build their knowledge base and professional network. With this strong community of people discussing and sharing ideas, best practices can bubble up for everyone’s benefit. We know that VCE products and solutions help customers get the most out of their converged infrastructures, and now the VUG can help VCE customers and partners get even more out of their Vblock System investments.For the first time, the VUG will meet as its own independent entity at VMworld on Monday, Aug. 25 from 2:00 – 6:00 p.m. PT. The event will feature a moderated customer panel discussion, titled: “Automation, How Much?” then the VCE Vision Intelligent Operations team will explain how VCE Vision helps enable Vblock Systems automation.“To join the VCE User Group (VUG) or learn more, please visit: www.vceusergroup.comShare
A discussion with architect Sebastian LauffSebastian Lauff is an architect, building consultant, and the founder of archimag.de. He’s based in Germany and has recently written a book about Hugo Junkers and his work in the field of metal architecture. As a #DellInsideCircle member, Sebastian uses a Precision 5750 mobile workstation in his day-to-day work. We recently spoke with him about all things technology and architecture.Dell: Thanks so much for joining us Mr Lauff. You’re an experienced architect – what role does IT play in your industry?Sebastian: We were using pens and pencils when I began my studies in the 1990s, and we were all eager to move towards computers and CAD tools. Things are completely different now, and IT plays an extremely important role in architecture today. The developments in building information modeling (BIM) would never have been possible without IT. However, it is important that technology doesn’t restrict our capabilities. In the early days, IT and CAD led to simpler designs that were very orthogonal because people were pushing the technology to its limits. Nowadays, we are only limited by our own imagination, thanks to powerful technology and tools like touchscreens and styluses. What key technologies in the architecture industry have changed tremendously in the last years? Nothing has changed that drastically in recent years. The applications for single-family home building permits made using pencil and paper in the 1960s and the 1970s have now been replaced with those using computers and printers in 2020. And, of course, materials have improved. We are slowly moving towards BIM; we desperately need digital building applications and 3D printing. Hopefully, materials currently under development will improve a lot in the coming years.Technologies like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) have been fascinating developments and I have been watching them closely. The ability to see real-time developments through a headset could be useful, but that’s not been widely adopted yet. In the future, we’ll likely see VR and AR used at construction sites, where the workers and architects will be able to see the plans superimposed onto the specific stage of construction. You’ve been using Dell Precision workstations for a while. Have mobile workstations changed the way you work? Ultimately, a mobile workstation has to perform at least as well as a desktop computer. You become quicker and more independent. Touchscreen and stylus features allow you to enter notes and sketches directly into the productive system. This cuts out at least one step of the process and reduces paper use! It’s also very important to have an outstanding screen. Personally, color accuracy is not as important to me as having a bright screen because I want to always be able to see every single detail.I have found that the Precision 5750 operates smoothly, and it also looks great. As it is powerful and portable, I can be productive freely and independently anywhere. You don’t have to worry about the IT side of things and you get a tool that opens up new possibilities. What advice would you give to creators looking to invest in technology? I think I speak for a lot of creative people when I say that working with pencil and paper brings out the highest amount of creativity. These techniques can now be reproduced using technology, to the extent that sketches can be made directly where the creative reworking takes place. Take advantage of the touchscreen capabilities on your devices – whether it’s your phone or a laptop. In my opinion, the combination of a mobile workstation with a large secondary screen is a real powerhouse. With that kind of solution, you’re flexible and equipped for every situation.Finally, which three technological devices could you not live without?My phone ranks at the top of the list since it is by far my most used technological device. After that, a nice and high-performance workstation. However, we all too quickly forget home appliances, heating, refrigerators etc. – and preferably smart devices with wireless connectivity. They are often not mentioned within this context because they have become a part of our everyday lives.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesting farmers have marched, rode horses and drove long lines of tractors into India’s capital, breaking through police barricades to storm the historic Red Fort. It was a deeply symbolic act that revealed the scale of their challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. They waved farm union and religious flags from the ramparts of the fort, where prime ministers annually hoist the national flag on the country’s August independence day holiday. Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons and set up barricades in attempt to hold back the protesters Tuesday. The farmers have been demanding the withdrawal of new laws that they say will favor large corporate farms and devastate the earnings of smaller scale farmers.
MADRID (AP) — Political parties in Spain’s Catalonia region are scheduled to start campaigning for an election set to be held in two weeks The northeastern region has loosened a ban on traveling between municipalities to allow for political rallies with reduced attendance and mask-wearing and social distancing requirements.. That the vote will take place on Feb. 14 as scheduled is not 100% confirmed. The election taking place as scheduled on Feb. 14 is not 100% certain. Catalonia’s High Court needs to confirm its preliminary decision earlier this month to overturn a regional government order to delay the vote for nearly three months due to health concerns.
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian opposition activist say a car bomb has killed at least four people in a rebel-held town in northern Syria. Saturday’s explosion in Afrin took place during the afternoon rush hour on the first working day of the week, wounding over a dozen others. Explosions in northern regions controlled by Turkey-backed fighters have left scores of people dead or wounded over the past months. Turkey and allied Syrian fighters took control of Afrin in 2018 in a military operation that expelled local U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters and displaced tens of thousands of Kurdish residents.
Christian Unity Week, a series of events hosted by Campus Ministry and the Department of Theology, works to help students and staff embark on a communal journey to come together in the Body of Christ through conversation and prayer. “About 2.1 billion people claim the name Christian, but these followers of Christ are divided into a wide variety of denominations,” Karen Kirner, associate director of the Folk and Celebration Choirs, said. “Different ways we can work towards unity include prayer, common work, witness and open dialogue.” Events for the week begin tonight with an Ecumenical Lecture concerning Eastern Catholics and their relationship with the Orthodox Church at 7 p.m. in the Coleman-Morse Lounge. A talk sponsored by Four:7 Catholic Fellowship about unification of all Christians through the Body of Christ will take place Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. in the Cavanaugh Hall Chapel. History professors Mark Noll and Brad Gregory will lecture on the relationship between Evangelicals and Catholics Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Oak Room of South Dining Hall. Though there will be a prayer service at 8 p.m. Friday in the Keenan-Stanford Chapel, the pinnacle of the week will be the Christian Unity Prayer Service Thursday night at 10 p.m. in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Kirner said. Kirner has helped organize several choirs for the Prayer Service. Five choirs from across campus will be leading the music, including the Celebration Choir, Voices of Faith Gospel Choir, Totus Tuus Band of Four: 7 Catholic Fellowship, musicians from Iron Sharpens Iron Interdenominational Fellowship and Coro Primavera. “Each group will be highlighted individually, and we’ll also sing several joint pieces together,” she said. It’s important that members of the Notre Dame community share in all the similarities of Christian faith, have a chance to dialogue about differences with others and appreciate the nuances that each has to offer, Kirner said. An easy way to participate is to attend the Thursday night prayer service in the Basilica, she said. The organizers of Christian Unity Week hope, that with the time spent examining beliefs, all Christians can unite as one people. “We want students to realize that Christian Unity is something worth celebrating and working toward, even though we probably won’t see it brought completely to fruition in our lifetimes,” Kirner said. “We want students to appreciate the validity of a wide variety of Christian expression, to be inspired by fellow students of different Christian expressions, to learn from each other, and primarily to realize that we are all one in Christ.”