Israeli Blogger hit with a SLAPP suit

Shai Tubali is a some-what familiar name in the media, because unlike other nutty cult leaders, he published a successful book, and his name is also known from the time he served in Galey Tzahal almost two decades ago. His cult is quite small, reported to be under 30 followers these days, but several news sources (Yediot, Channel 2) have published worrying stories about the way he abuses his flock. One of the people who also wrote about him several times is reporter, blogger and newage academic Tomer Persico. Of all the publications, Tubali decided to skip the national media and pick on Persico and hit him with a 220K NIS libel suit. More Info (also in Hebrew) in NRG.

I myself have been threatened to be sued three different times after posts in this blog, and by lawyers, no less. All for legitimate criticism, and in all three cases I managed to shut them up with an email or two. Two other friends of mine (Guy and Hetz) are awaiting trials and have spent thousands of Shekels on attorneys. This is becoming a serious threat to freedom of speech in Israel, and specifically for bloggers. I find this very worrying.

I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter, and if you're finding this latest story important enough to support, please hit the link to read further, and maybe pledge a few NIS for Persico's defense

(No, I don't know him personally, I don't even read his blog regularly, and this post is unsolicited)

Marketing idea: Better Place Software to estimate/simulate driver experience

This just sent via email to Better Place:

Dear Sir/Madam

I would venture a guess that many of your early adopters (or switch-registrants for now) are also gadget lovers or at least tech savvy. Most of them walk around with a smartphone with a GPS or at least have a GPS in their cars. The idea is that by submitting you their GPS data from driving their gas cars they could get your estimates on car usage and maintenance patterns, and have a better idea on the EV experience ahead. Better Place can use this as a market research as well as active marketing tool, of course.

The problem: many would-be early adopters wonder what is the real range of your EV. With rush hours being as bad as they are in Israel, and the heat rising every summer, some people fear that changing battery packs every 80 KM is inevitable. This software tool will allow them to have a better idea about the severity of the problem, and help them decide before making the switch.

As for Better Place – I have no doubt that you are already equipping people with recording equipment to learn their driving habits, but you can always use more data.

The basic idea: owners of popular platforms like Android and iPhone already like to run apps like Waze, that record and report their speed and location. Better Place can be using that software (it's Open source) or offering the service via the existing Waze platform:

If a user chooses to participate, Better place would get details of time on the road, parking locations, speed and location, which can then be crossed with GIS data (or free via Google Earth) to get elevation data, producing very good estimates of energy use, battery drain and recharge based on speed and road inclines.

Better place benefits by getting the usage pattern data of drivers who are eager to try the new system, and the users will receive signals emulating their experiance, such as SMS reports with "if you had an EV, your battery would have finished recharging about now", or more importantly "If you had an EV, you would have had to make a battery change stop about now". Naturally, a cost calculator comparing the gas-vs-EV costs along the way will be an excellent feedback.

Variations: Waze is an Israeli company and I have no idea if it's popular enough abroad, also for people like me who own an unsupported smartphone (Linux-based Nokia N900) Waze is not an option. Still I can record my travels and produce a GPX file and submit it. Ideally you could spare some change on porting the application to Maemo and Meego and make a few more people happy :-)

Ideally: I am also a privacy minded guy, I would prefer if there was an option of getting estimates on usage and costs by calculating them locally on my smartphone or PC, without submitting the data to your servers. And yes, I AM aware that by driving your cars this privacy would probably not be an option (though I'd be very happy to know if it were!).


Copies: My Blog

The idea, as you see, is a boon for both Better Place and the would-be switchers. I have no idea what's going on on Facebook, but I have a feeling Better Place could start some more "social media" buzz to help their goals. I guess if people are buying into foursquare silliness, they must buy into an application that will actually give them useful information.

Choice of learning style

This post is in English for several reasons. Mostly it's because it was originally posted in English on "Metacognition: Learning to Learn" on Linked-in and I care not retype the whole thing, much less translate it (most of it was pasted without editing). For more about English posts in my predominantly Hebrew blog see my new page about this.

I'm a beginner in the field of education, but I want to become a better teacher. Here's one of the issues that bugs me the most – Is there a widely agreed-upon taxonomy of teaching/learning styles, accompanied by tools to figure out which approach is needed by each student?

Quoting from Debra Franciosi on another thread in that forum:

This worked in my classroom, and now I incorporate it into my adult training activities:

Provide learners with opportunities to learn in different modes — so they can work from their strengths, shore up weaker areas, and possibly discover new areas of strength. Once they have had this introduction, if you clearly identify your learning goals, then give the learners a menu of choices — how they get there CAN be up to them — as long as they get there. In K-12 classroom situations, it can take a while (months) to train them in the different options. I found that they were much more willing to try things when they understood the master plan — they would get to choose the best methods for their learning styles once everyone tried everything.

So there it is. One student gets confused or shut off if you show them the target before you embark on the journey. Others need to know that goal, so it's easier for them to put the stepping stones in place (putting the information available in context, if you will, to build it into knowledge at their own pace). Another class of learners can't grasp new ideas if you don't keep relating it to a subject they already know – throwing the burdain of finding parables for every unit of the subject. Other students will find it key to figure out those connections themselves and not have them spoon-fed.

The problem is that many of these approaches might contradict, most learners use more than one technique to handle different types of knowledge buildings (One example of the difference was given in the "Metacognition" forum by JM Ivler: "Math: Hierarchy ; Science: Helix ; Languages: Immersion"). I suggest that we try Franciosi's suggestion at some age (10-13, depending on the learner's levels of "self awareness", if you could suggest a test for evaluating that). At that point, somewhere at the upper two classes of elementary, we tell the kids – "these are the 6 common learning styles we see, there are also these other 41. Do you recognize yourself in 2 or more of these categories? maybe try to think about this during classes and see which is your style in terms of liking/comfort or efficiency of understanding the information. Can you recognize the different teaching styles and be able to figure out if you prefer subjects because the teachers that teach them are conforming with the ways you are most likely to learn better or be more engaged? do you think you'd like lit/math/history/whatnot better if it was taught in a style more like that of that teacher or another?

Someone asked how is metacognition related to "learning to learn", so there's metacognition in the learning process for you. Sadly nobody ever approached me to give me this choice. In highschool we were grouped for certain subjects like math and physics based on our grades, which determined whether we would be taking 3, 4 or 5 unit matriculation tests come senior year.

I'm thinking: If a certain teacher simply can't give all the students what they need in a specific class, maybe it's time for students to pick the teacher by style and not have the school pick one for them by grades? How much better of a student could I be if at the 5th or 6th grade I was given to the tools to figure out what learning styles are better or worse for me and allow me to try the adjustments and be able to give feedback on what's not working right. rather than just thinking I hate the subject or the teacher or both without having the vocabulary to explain why.

A moment of metacognition then: As any of you can read from this post, I'm the kind of person who needs to understand the goal, try to break down its meaning to the needed secondary goals, and then attempt to plot the shortest "route" of stepping stones to reach them all with efficiency. not sure it's a good strategy, pretty sure most students don't try to get down this kind of a road at all, and most teachers thought I was a pain in the #$%, which in turn caused my school years to seem mostly as an attempt to pull the breaks rather than try to keep up with the teacher. I hope to start a project where learners of all ages and styles could find their path to learning even when sharing the same environment. More on that in a different post.

  1. I'm not sure if there's an official taxonomy of 4 or 6 or 10 learning styles, this is just an uneducated guess[^]