Any Way – But Silence

I’m a Bad Facebook User and I sure don’t like Twitter either. Actually, social media – for the most part – gives me the creeps. So, in recent years, I have pretty much quit publishing anything but some education related stuff in this arena.

Now, things have changed. Russia’s so-called ‘president’, Vladimir Putin, is throwing in the total weight of his armed forces to completely destroy Ukraine and – when doing that – to kill as many Ukrainians as possible. It’s a mystery to me how it is possible that most leaders of the free world have been so extremely naive about Putin and the goal of his regime; he has definitely made no secret about his intentions.

The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, made a surprise video appearance at the 64th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on April 3rd. In his speech he made an appeal: “Support us in any way you can – any but silence.”

The Russian propaganda machine has been flooding the world with lies for many years, ruling almost supreme. I can’t do anything to to stop the genocide in Ukraine but, at least, there is one thing I can do: break my silence about what is going on. Any way I can.

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Putin’s deadly DNA

Putin’s DNA equals that of the cold war Soviet Union leadership and especially KGB; not surprising since he still is, in essence, a KGB officer through and through. This DNA can be described as follows: jailing, torturing, and killing any number of people – any number, any age and gender, any nationality including Russian – is always justified, in case it is necessary to secure the continued glory for Russia. Today, this translates to re-establishing and then improving on the Soviet Union of the past and – by doing that – destroying the democratic rule in as many countries as possible. Obviously, the countries bordering to the present day Russia will be hit first and hardest.

Russia’s huge scale attack on Ukraine has resulted in an outcry from many other countries and also in increased sanctions. All of this was, of course, not a surprise to Kreml – on the contrary. Sanctions do not have a major effect on Putin’s aggression and they will not halt his plans to build a brand new Great Soviet Union. Negotiations are to Putin never a possibility to create a peaceful solution to a conflict; instead they are a strategic move aiming to intimidate those on the other side of the table, or just winning time – or both. Putin’s Russia has no respect for anything but brute force.

So, does Putin hate NATO due to the military power and thereby a potential threat to Russia it represents? No, the real reason is that expanding NATO also means spreading the idea of democratic governance. Democracy is the real boogeyman to a completely ruthless authoritarian leader like Vladimir Putin – just like it is to Xi Jinping who can now rest assured that the cost of invading Taiwan would probably be negligible for China.  

Ukraine faced the overwhelming Russian military machine alone, just like any European country without the protection of NATO membership will. Who would, just from the kindness of their hearts, be willing to fight and die alongside my native Finland or Sweden, my country for more than 40 years, when 150.000 Russian troops are directed to cross the Nordic borders after Ukraine has been bombed into ruins? The obvious answer is the same as it was for Ukraine: no one.

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AI – Artificial and Intelligent?

Photo credit: https://www.epictop10.com/

It must have been way back in time when I previously (voluntarily) attended an intensive three-hour virtual conference – if it ever happened! – but the web meet on the evening of February 15 was definitely interesting. The EU‘Directorate-General EAC (Education, Youth, Sport and Culture) will, within three months, draw up guidelines for the field of education in Europe regarding the use of ‘Artificial Intelligence and data’. The purpose of the meeting was to gather views from European teachers for the job ahead. Thanks to Lidija Kralj who arranged the invitation to the meeting!

For my part, the concept of AI still feels pretty abstract and I think there might be many colleagues – and apparently also researchers! – who feel the same way. A quote from the Microsoft’s senior researcher and USC professor Kate Crawford, from the Guardian interview: “AI is neither artificial nor intelligent. It is made from natural resources and it is people who are performing the tasks to make the systems appear autonomous.

Yet AI is becoming increasingly embedded in almost everything that occurs in a modern society today, without us even being aware of what is happening behind the scenes. I mentioned during the Tuesday meeting that all AI variants have (at least) one thing in common: they must be fed – trained – with enormous amounts of data in order to function. Then it is, of course, a necessity to be aware of where all the data is taken from.

The most advanced AI development today takes place within a few giant tech companies and also by nation state actors; in many cases these two overlap or blend completely. In this context, it is also interesting to note the ownership and location of the servers that most often power the digital edu platforms in Sweden. A clue: these servers are rarely owned or run by European organizations. Considering this, it is extremely valuable that the EU thoroughly scrutinizes the suppliers of educational IT – and also draws up guidelines regarding the use of AI in education.

Please note: Call to Action for professional educators from EU Directorate-General EAC – the EU wide survey on AI and data use in education is now online. Give your input in order to improve the AI use in education by completing the survey!

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AI – artificiellt och intelligent?

[This post in English here]

Det måste vara bra länge sedan när jag sist var (frivilligt) med på en intensiv tretimmars virtuella konferens – om det ens har hänt! – men tisdagens 15. februari kvällstjänstgöring var klart intressant. EU ‘Directorate-General EAC‘ (Education, Youth, Sport and Culture) skall inom tre månader ta fram riktlinjer för utbildningsområdet i Europa beträffande användning av ‘Artificial Intelligence and data’. Syftet med tisdagens träff var att hämta in synpunkter från europeiska lärare inför jobbet. Tack till Lidija Kralj som fixade inbjudan till mötet!

För min del känns AI fortfarande hyfsat abstrakt och jag tror det finns många kollegor (och faktiskt också forskare) som känner likadant. Ändå blir AI alltmer inbäddad i det mesta som händer i ett modernt samhälle idag, utan att vi kanske ens är medvetna om det som sker ‘bakom kulisserna’. Det jag tog upp under tisdagens träff var att alla AI-varianter har (minst) en sak gemensamt: de måste matas med ofantliga mängder data för att kunna fungera. Då är det förstås högintressant att vara medveten om var all data hämtas ifrån.

Den mest avancerade AI-utvecklingen sker idag hos några få jättelika tech-bolag och också hos statliga aktörer; i många fall kan man sätta ett likhetstecken mellan dessa två. I det sammanhanget är det också intressant att notera i vilka servrar svenska skolans digitala plattformar oftast drivs. En ledtråd: ofta ägs dessa servrar inte av europeiska aktörer. Just med tanke på detta är det suveränt bra att EU synar leverantörer av pedagogisk IT i sömmarna – och också tar fram riktlinjer beträffande AI-användningen för utbildningsområdet.

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Ofattbart mod

Jag noterde att Nobels fredspris 2021 tilldelades två journalister – Maria Ressa i Filippinerna och Dmitry Muratov i Ryssland – som båda arbetar i länder som närmast kan beskrivas som diktaturer. I dessa två länder tystas regimkritiska journalister ofta genom lönnmord orkestrerade av makthavarna eller också får journalisterna hårresande långa fängelsestraff på fabricerade grunder.

Direkt när jag läste om årets fredspristagare tänkte jag: vänta nu, ingen journalist från Kina eller kanske Saudiarabien som skulle gjort sig förtjänt av utmärkelsen? Nästan i samma ögonblick insåg jag ändå det självklara: i dessa och i flera liknande länder finns det inga kritiska röster kvar. De som har vågat säga sin mening är redan döda eller tynar sakta bort i någon fruktansvärd fängelsehåla.

Det är ofattbart för mig hur journalister kan ha sådant mod att de fortsätter sitt arbete och rapporterar om missförhållanden, trots att de riskerar extrem förföljelse och inte sällan våldsam död. Intressant också att notera i DN-artikeln från 19. oktober vad Maria Ressa anser om Facebook: ”Facebook är som gödsel för demokratins kollaps“.

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DViSonAir: Bokprat med Per Nilsson

Andra halvan av vårt bokprat fokuserar definitivt på citronmeliss lika med Hjärtans fröjd!

Hur det nu kom sig så hade jag lagt undan Per Nilssons ungdomsklassiker, ‘Hjärtans fröjd‘, i klassrummet – men Jonathan och Hjalmar i min nia lyckades minsann hitta den! Inte nog med detta: killarna läste också boken ganska snabbt och gjorde sedan en riktigt schysst podcast-episod om sina tankar och funderingar kring boken.

Då kände jag att det vore riktigt kul om Per Nilsson själv skulle lyssna på killarnas funderingar på podden och möjligen också ställa upp på lite bokprat, Live på YouTube såklart, tillsammans med sina två nya läsare. Jag skrev ett gammaldags brev, klistrade på ett frimärke och iväg gick mina rader till Sölvesborg (jag var rätt säker på att jag hade hittat rätt Per Nilsson). Efter ett par dagar fick jag ett mejl: Per var med på tåget och skulle mycket gärna träffa killarna som hade fastnat för hans bok från anno 1992.

Det blev en suveränt intressant pratstund med Per Nilsson, Jonathan och Hjalmar. Bästa sortens ‘skarpt jobb’ i skolan – och det hela blev till mer eller mindre genom en slump! Fast i det här sammanhanget kommer jag också att tänka på en klassisk kommentar från Ingemar Stenmark, när det begav sig, när en journalist frågade honom något i stil med hur det kunde komma sig att han alltid hade sådan tur när det gällde som mest. Stenmark svarade ungefär så här: ‘ju mer jag tränar, desto mer tur har jag’. Det är helt klart en stor sanning i många sammanhang.

Klart det skall också gå bra att endast lyssna – då är det min On Air With Niilopodcast som gäller, bara att klicka här nedanför:

..eller gå vidare här

P.S. Per Nilsson har också skrivit en fortsättning på Hjärtans fröjd och – med lite tur – kan det bli en uppföljande bokprat Live On Air. Stay tuned!

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DViSonAir: Bokprat med Agnes

Min ‘studio’ kanske inte är riktigt så fin – i den krassa, fysiska verkligheten – som bakgrunden visar..!

Det var alltför länge sedan sist, konstaterade jag, när bokproffset Agnes Lindholm och jag återigen sammanstrålade Live på YouTube 28. oktober 2020. Jag skyller på flytt- och byggkarusellen under de senaste åren på Tunaskolan men nu har jag äntligen hittat en någorlunda lugn vrå som får duga som en mini-streaming-studio. Då var det självklart att höra om Agnes hade tid att prata med mig om böcker, plugget och livet – och det hade hon!

När Agnes tog studenten i våras hade världen redan blivit rejält annorlunda, trots att vi i Sverige inte alls har varit med om lika stenhårda restriktioner som i många andra länder. Det var skönt att höra att studentexamen ändå blev en trevlig avslutning på gymnasiet och att Agnes högskolestudier också har fått en bra start.

Läsning av skönlitteratur är fortfarande starkt i fokus för Agnes som också har ganska så tydlig målsättning: något med böcker och litteratur vill hon jobba med framöver. Med tanke på jobbet med bokbloggen sedan (mycket) unga år, boktipsen i radio och kontakterna bland författarna är jag rätt säker på att så kommer det också bli.

Jag hade fått ett gäng frågor till Agnes från 7a på Tunaskolan och såklart gick vi igenom många av dessa. Ett hett tips är en av Agnes stora favoritböcker: ‘Tio över ett‘ av Ann-Helén Laestadius; en bok som till stor del utspelar sig i Kiruna!

Som vanligt kan du också välja att endast lyssna på vår pratstund genom min OnAirWithNiilo-podcast; direktlänk till denna episod här.

Vi ses – och hörs – On Air!

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BeSmartOnAir #38: Calling Finland

A good laugh, or two – with some friends – is what it takes to lead a long, healthy life!

Somehow, it was a typical (late) afternoon at work: I was feeling really tired when I noticed that it was time to set up StreamYard YouTube Live streaming and get Tiina from Finland on board – it had been way too long since we connected last time. Getting together in the physical world, previously? Heavens, it must be many years but I think I do remember where I met Tiina the very first time – and we were speaking English! Weird, huh, us two Finns?! Somehow, strangely, that has kinda stuck.

Anyway, now when we got the distance-tech-stuff all set and said ‘hi’ I was all of a sudden fully awake again :) Works like magic, meeting with fellow-educator-friends! Tiina was using her iPad, I believe, and the microphones in those devices are not tailor-made specifically for video conferencing so our audio levels didn’t quite match. However, afterwards I ran the extracted mp3 audio through the completely phenomenal Auphonic web service and the result was way better than the YouTube version. Hear for yourself in this corresponding podcast episode.

Tiina has a very special viewpoint into education and the way teaching and learning works in an international context so it’s always extremely interesting to hear what she is up to. Lots of teacher training going on, it seems, so I’ll do my best to give her a proper advance warning later on when we’re planning to go On Air! It sure would be fun to run a roundtable edu discussion forum – a very international one, of course – in (almost) regular fashion. BSoA could do the trick for sure. Want to be a part of this, have some ideas? Do get in touch!

We got into the ‘EdTech weeds’ a bit as well, especially at the very end when Kim jumped in from southern Sweden – super fun! – using his cell phone. Congrats to your Google innovator certification, Kim! That’s not a piece of cake, I believe.. Did I get it right, Kim, you were connecting straight from the (Android) phone browser?! I’m impressed for sure, the way it works. Looking forward to trying this out with some other colleagues – and students!

See you guys On Air soon again!

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BeSmartOnAir #37: Long Distance

On Monday, October 12, it was time for another of our BeSmartOnAir Live YouTube sessions: I was lucky to get Zack Gilbert and Bjorn Behrendt to join me in the StreamYard studio. Both of these guys are definitely quite aways from my own, very Nordic European location but actually not very far from each other in the US.

It was super interesting to hear about the work – and, in general, life – situation of both Zack and Bjorn. So very different from Sweden! Zack has been doing the remote-education-thing full blast at the Thomas Metcalf School in Illinois and Bjorn is helping the teachers cope with the tech side of the pandemic situation at the Fair Heaven High in Vermont. The overall challenges in education are, of course, huge and sometimes the social part might be way more important than the formal curriculum.

Quite a few tech related tips whizzed by during our meeting and here are some quick web links:

https://nearpod.com/ – formative assessment made both effective and fun

https://zoom.us/ – one of the most talked-about video meeting platforms today; the local recording thingy supports separate audio tracks for each participant

https://discord.com/ – communities for gamers

https://anchor.fm/ – extremely easy podcast creation and publishing; you might not get the best support, stats or control (yup there is a bunch of negatives here) but you do get free service! Sometimes, of course, you get what you pay for.. A side note: Spotify paid USD 150 million for Anchor, if my memory serves me right. Congrats!

Towards the end of this episode we also got into discussing podcasting a bit; something that I find super interesting and rewarding. Both Zack and Bjorn are seasoned ‘indie podcasters’ so this part sure gave me additional food for thought. Podcasting – and especially the live stream & podcast combo – has definitely great potential in education.

You can find the audio-only podcast version (without my super cool and very visual green screen backdrop, unfortunately!) of our discussion here.

See you folks On Air!

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BeSmartOnAir #36: The (New) Normal

Hey Bjorn, hope you don’t mind me stealing your tagline :)

There has been lots of water under the bridges since the previous BSoA episode; however, the ongoing pandemic is still very much dictating the way we work, play and learn. Perhaps all these three now also overlap more than ever – a good thing for some and most probably completely the opposite for others.

It was super interesting to get the viewpoints from our friends both in the US, UK and Italy; the situation in Sweden is still obviously very much different from most other countries. At work, it’s basically been ‘business as usual’ all the way for me and my closest colleagues – with some modification in accordance with the social distancing guidelines.

As to the bright side of things: it was really great to hear the way virtual collaboration and sharing has almost become the norm – at long last! – in many areas within education. Somehow it seems that the whip can ge a great motivational force, especially for us old folks :)

One way of trying to wrap up our meeting would be something like this: there will perhaps never be anything called ‘back to normal’ – whatever lies ahead will be ‘the new normal’. Will that be better or worse? For the most part, I’d guess it’s up to us.

As usual, the whole shebang is also available as a audio-only podcast episode – now through the bought-by-Spotify-with-huge-money Anchor. Why did I change hosting from SoundCloud, is Anchor so much better? Well, I don’t think so – but, for better or worse (probably worse) – it’s free! You’ll find the podcast version here.

Tons of thanks to Marilina, Lisa (yay, at last, wonderful!) and especially Bjorn – time zones are notoriously very hard to beat – for joining in. Alastair has always valuable insights and the tech advice from Kim is what keeps my stream going. I must say that I had missed our ‘fireside chats’ a lot. Also very cool that my colleague on the home turf, Johan, jumped in with zero notice. Much appreciated!

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