Category Archives: Technology

Educators Are Using Video Games To Enhance Learning In Class

“History has long served as a backdrop in the Assassin’s Creed video games, whose story lines center on pivotal times in history — from the Third Crusade to Imperial China and beyond…Following last year’s release of Assassin’s Creed Origins, set in Ptolemaic Egypt, the team behind it decided that allowing players to learn more about life in ancient Egypt might make for a pretty cool teaching aid. So they traded in the quests and violence for antiquities and history lessons, and created a mode with a series of Discovery Tours. By putting history front and center, the game may give teachers a new way to connect with some students.” J. Porter, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Learning History through video games. Visions of Education

Excerpt: Assassin’s Creed Has a New Mission: Working in the Classroom, By Justin Porter, The New York Times

“Edyeli Marku, a middle-school teacher at Intermediate School 230 in Jackson Heights, Queens, said there could be ‘tremendous value in it,’ for both students and educators — particularly for students who might test as primarily visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. For those students, she added, ‘exposing them to a different learning vehicle is always beneficial.’   

Ms. Marku said she understands the importance of games to her students and has even used Oregon Trail as a teaching tool…Maxime Durand, who has been the lead researcher and history consultant for the Assassin’s Creed franchise since 2010, and Jean Guesdon, the creative director on Origins, said they had often heard from educators who saw the potential of using the games. Some had even used small portions in their lessons.

This class is playing video games and learning. Photo-The Day

But so much of Assassin’s Creed, given its violence and fictional narrative, is problematic in a school setting. Even Ms. Marku said the violent content could hamper the franchise’s acceptance for education purposes, especially for parents reacting to the name of the series or those familiar with its subject matter.

In this version of the game, though, players guide their chosen avatar. It can be the sheriff-like character Bayek, the original protagonist of Assassin’s Creed Origins, or one of 25 possible others…A voice-over details the objects on view, including artifacts like pottery, scrolls, farm tools and baking ovens. At some locations, non-playable characters are seen performing tasks like baking bread, tilling a field or inscribing scrolls.

Image: Fenix Bazaar

Here players can elect to have their chosen avatar perform the activity. Maybe Cleopatra and Caesar never knelt before a bread oven to remove a hot loaf from the coals, but here players can have that experience…To make the games accessible to broader range of schools, which typically have computers or tablets rather than game consoles, Ubisoft released a stand-alone version of the Discovery Tour for computers, even those with aging hardware.”

 

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Photo courtesy of ABC15 Arizona

“John McCain was a warrior, a patriot, and a man of immeasurable courage. What a privilege it was to know him.-Victoria Reggie Kennedy, The Boston Globe

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ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. History has long served as a backdrop in the Assassin’s Creed video games.
  2. The story lines center on pivotal times in history.
  3. Exposing students to a different learning vehicle is always beneficial.
  4. Many educators saw the potential of using  video games.
  5. In this version of the game players guide their chosen avatar.
  6. A voice-over details the objects on view.
  7. Some characters are seen performing tasks like baking bread, tilling a field or inscribing scrolls.
  8. Professor  Éthier was intrigued by the game.
  9. Today the Sphinx and the the pyramids are bleached white  by the sun.
  10. Once these monuments were once vividly colored.

 

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Marc-André Éthier, a professor at the ___of Montreal who ___materials that are being used to___ high school history, noticed that ___tools like ___were being used less. When he ___about the Discovery Tour, he said, ‘I was___ and I prepared a ___to test if Discovery Tour could ___someone as much as a lecture.’

WORD LIST: teach, traditional, University, teach, intrigued, studies,textbooks,study, heard,

 

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. They traded in the quests and violence for antiquities and history.
  2. Teachers has a new way to connect with students.
  3. Ms. Marku said she understands the importance of games.

II

  1. They can spend hours in front of the computer.
  2. Durand has been the lead researcher since 2010.
  3. A avatar  can be any character the students choose.

III

  1. The 75 available tours cover daily life.
  2. A lot of history’s secret are lost to time.
  3. Students learn how games are created and the way stories are told.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

Finding The Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

  1. In your opinion do you think that certain video games can enhance learning in the classroom? Explain why or why not.
  2. Have you ever used video games in your class? If yes, describe the experience. If no, would you like to try one?
  3. Review the descriptions of the following video games. Choose one and explain why you think it would be beneficial for your class.

Suggestions For Video Games For The Classroom From Rubicon:

Elegy for a Dead World — The premise of this game is that students visit alien planets and act as the storyteller of that world, creating stories of the possible people and cultures that lived there.  These words are inspired by poets Byron, Keats, and Shelley, providing an easy connection to English curriculum.

Never Alone — This game has set a precedent for the respectful representation of indigenous people.  Co-developed by native Alaskans, it shares Inupiat stories, themes, and values, in addition to making cooperation a critical part of success in the gameplay.  Best of all, it features documentary-style videos on of the Inupiat people who provide context for the sights, sounds, and stories found in gameplay.

Valiant Hearts — A major complaint I have with popular war games is that they can, to some audiences, glorify war while downplaying the intricacies of cause and effect.  The beauty of Valiant Hearts is that it doesn’t attempt to glorify war, and it doesn’t  focus on the guns and battles.

The Republica Times: For older students, there are a wide variety of games addressing social and political issues available for use and analysis.  Games, like The Republica Times, essentially play the role of interactive social commentary.  In the game, your students are tasked with organizing the headlines for each day’s paper in the game.

Enercities: Science teachers, don’t fret!  There are games addressing science topics, like the balance between economy, ecology, population growth, and quality of life found in the free online game Enercities.  A more focused Sim-style game, Enercities provides a sandbox for students to create a city with the goal of keeping a balance between all of the aforementioned categories.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

The Hidden Dangers On School Websites

“The home page of Pinellas County Schools in Florida is brimming with information for families, students, staff members and the public: Facebook page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel. But Pinellas’s home page has been supplying information to another audience, an unseen one, as well this year. An array of tracking scripts were embedded in the site, designed to install snippets of computer code into the browsers of anyone clicking on it, to report their visits or track their movements as they traveled around the web. The trackers were detected last winter during a study by Douglas Levin, a Washington-based expert on educational technology. Asked about them in April, the district expressed surprise and said it would have them removed. But Mr. Levin found 22 trackers when he checked back last month.” E.K. Moore, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo- The New York Times

Excerpt:  The Information on School Websites Is Not as Safe as You Think By E.K. Moore, The New York Times

“Trackers are as common on public school websites these days as microbes on a restroom door, to judge by Mr. Levin’s examination of 159 public school websites from among the nation’s largest and most tech-savvy districts. At least some form of ad tracking or online surveillance technology was embedded in all but one of them, he found. Their use is an ‘industry-accepted practice,’ said Lisa Wolf, the public information officer for Pinellas County Schools, echoing comments by school officials elsewhere. 

Most trackers are used to help websites work better, by counting page visits or catching problems with broken links. Some are used for promotions, as in Pinellas County, where Ms. Wolf said the trackers spotted in April had been left behind after a school-choice campaign, and others were later added to boost enrollment at a technical college.

Photo- pcrevue.sk

But some trackers are also designed to recognize visitors by the I.P. address of their device and to embed cookies in their browsers for the advertising practice known as behavioral targeting. And knowingly or otherwise, many school sites are hosting software from third-party companies whose primary business is buying and selling data for the detailed dossiers of personal information on finances, lifestyle and buying habits that advertisers prize…’The price of getting information about your child’s school should not be losing your privacy to online ad brokers,’ said Mr. Levin, founder of EdTech Strategies, which conducts research and advises nonprofits and government agencies on using technology to improve schools.

Photo- cssd.ab.ca

Many people who use the internet are familiar with cookies and aware that their movements are tracked, especially after the Cambridge Analytica scandal put a spotlight on Facebook’s business model this year. But the unseen, commercial tracking of visitors to school websites — including students — raises issues that go beyond tracking on other kinds of sites, other experts agree… The companies offer school districts incentives to use ‘freemium’ services, free or discounted products for which, Mr. Russell says, ‘you’re paying with your personal information.’

The presence of trackers from data brokers such as BlueKai, AddThis or DataLogix on school sites should be viewed as a ‘smoking gun’ that demands an explanation, Mr. Polonetsky said, because those companies commonly engage in the buying, selling and linking of user data. Mr. Levin found all three on the websites of the Huntsville, Ala., schools on one recent day.  He found AddThis on public school sites in Cleveland; Springfield, Mo.; Washington, D.C.; and Albuquerque.

valleybreeze.com

BlueKai was among the 22 trackers Mr. Levin found on the Pinellas County, Fla., schools site. Ms. Wolf said she did not know how it got there. ‘It is the district’s expectation that our partners do not sell or misuse web visitor information,’ she said.

Some limits exist on how far trackers can intrude. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, known as Coppa, bars unauthorized collection of children’s personal information, including I.P. addresses, on sites aimed at children under 13.

School pages accessible to the public are mostly for adults, but ad trackers shouldn’t be allowed on the pages students visit to do homework or check grades, said Linnette Attai, founder of PlayWell, who advises companies on compliance issues related to privacy, online safety and marketing aimed at children and teens.

But Ms. Attai said even the most sophisticated companies were having trouble keeping up with rapidly changing online ad technology and the laws that governed it. Amelia Vance, director of the education privacy project at the Future of Privacy Forum, called this a problem for schools as well.

Google’s DoubleClick ad trackers, for instance, are commonly found on school pages that host YouTube videos, like the Community Website Introduction video on a school site in Massapequa, on New York’s Long Island. The trackers tee up videos containing advertising on the school page, once its own video finishes playing.

This year, after the Cambridge Analytica scandal cast a harsh light on the way Facebook harvests personal information for its advertising sales, the National Education Policy Center in Boulder, Colo., announced it was deleting its own Facebook page, citing what it called Facebook’s ‘invasive data mining and the third-party targeting of users inherent in its business model.’ ‘I don’t think we realized how much information we were giving out, or where else it could be used,’ 

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

Colorful Brainstorming chart from Live It Magazine.

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Trackers are common on public school websites.
  2. Ad tracking was embedded in all but one homepage.
  3. The trackers were detected last winter.
  4. Many people who use the internet are familiar with cookies.
  5. “There’s a continuum of data collectors.
  6. School pages accessible to the public are mostly for adults.
  7. The companies offer school districts incentives such as discounted products.
  8. Some limits exist on how far trackers can intrude.
  9. Integration of free social media into many school websites still provide a subtle entry point for commercial ads.
  10. This year, the Cambridge Analytica scandal cast a harsh light on the way Facebook harvests personal information for its advertising sales.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Student ___are now available for___on the basis of___ affluence, ___lifestyle, awkwardness and even a predicted need for ___services, according to a study released in June by___ Center on Law and Information Policy. Where that ___was drawn from is mostly___ the study found.

WORD LIST: undisclosed, ethnicity, Fordham University’s,purchase, information, lists, family planning, religion,

 

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. Since 2013, we’ve had 125 new student privacy laws.
  2. We have almost no funding.
  3. Google’s DoubleClick ad trackers, for instance, is commonly found on school pages.

II

  1. Most trackers are used to help websites work better.
  2. Some trackers is also designed to recognize visitors.
  3. Google’s DoubleClick ad trackers, for instance, are commonly found on school pages that host YouTube videos.

III

  1. Many school sites are hosting software from third-party companies.
  2. Schools shouldn’t be selling and marketing there kids’ data.
  3. With many of these sites you’re paying with your personal information.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.

Note: The following questions are samples from the site Internet Safety and Pitfalls The site provides great discussion questions with answers.

  1. What is the main downside of social network sites?
  2. How do dangerous criminals use social network sites?
  3. What can you do to prevent criminals from using a social network site to target you? (Choose a site that allows you to control who can see your page.)
  4. What should you never reveal when posting a blog, using a chat room, sending an I-M or email to an online acquaintance?
  5. Why should you always think twice about posting words and pictures online?

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Space: The Final Frontier…For The Rich!

“In an era in which privileged individuals search constantly for the next experience to obsess over and post about on social media, space truly remains the final frontier, a luxury that only the one percent of the one percent can afford. Brad Pitt and Katy Perry are among those who have reportedly plunked down $250,000 for a ride on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceships… Now a company called Axiom Space is giving those with piles of money and an adventuresome spirit something new to lust after: the prospect of an eight-day trip to space that is plush, if not entirely comfortable, and with a bit of the luster of NASA as well.”  S. Marikar, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Astronaut Gardner Holds A For Sale Sign Photograph by Everett

 

Excerpt: The Rich Are Planning To Leave This Wretched Planet By Sheila Marikar, The New York Times

“Circumambulating the floor of his gray carpeted office on a recent Wednesday, Mike Suffredini — NASA veteran, Houston native and the chief executive officer of Axiom Space — stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.

‘It’s no New York hotel room,’ he said with a shrug, as if apologizing for its size. ‘It pretty much is, actually!’ said Gabrielle Rein, Axiom’s marketing director. 

A rendering that screams open the pod bay doors. Credit: Axiom Space

It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station, among the first of its kind, that Axiom is building: a mash-up of boutique hotel, adult space camp, and NASA-grade research facility designed to hover approximately 250 miles above the earth. Axiom hired Philippe Starck, the French designer who has lent panache to everything from high-end hotel rooms to mass-market baby monitors, to outfit the interior of its cabins. Mr. Starck lined the walls with a padded, quilted, cream-colored, suede-like fabric and hundreds of tiny LED lights that glow in varying hues depending on the time of day and where the space station is floating in relation to the earth.

Mike Suffredini, left, with designer Philippe Starck, with their mockup.CreditTodd Spoth for The New York Times

‘My vision is to create a comfortable egg, friendly, where walls are so soft and in harmony with the movements of the human body in zero gravity,’ Mr. Starck wrote in an email, calling his intended effect ‘a first approach to infinity. The traveler should physically and mentally feel his or her action of floating in the universe.’

The Starck-designed station will supposedly open in 2022, but Axiom says they can start sending curious travelers into orbit as early as 2020. (Note: nearly everything space-related is delayed by years, sometimes decades.) They’ll just have to make do with the comparatively rugged accommodations of the International Space Station, which is working with Axiom in addition to other commercial space station outfits…Axiom’s station can house eight passengers, including a professional astronaut.

Photo- Veranda

Each will pay $55 million for the adventure, which includes 15 weeks of training, much of it at the Johnson Space Center, a 10-minute drive from Axiom’s headquarters, and possibly a trip on one of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets. Thus far, three entities have signed up for on-the-ground training, which starts at $1 million, Mr. Suffredini said, though he declined to name them. The inaugural trip will be only $50 million. ‘It’s a bargain!’ he said.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Many call the stay at Axiom glamping at 1,320,000 feet.
  2. Circumambulating the floor of his office Mike Suffredini stopped in front of a wood compartment about as big as a telephone booth.
  3. It was an early mock-up of a cabin that will reside inside a commercial space station.
  4. Some may suffer from Claustrophobia.
  5. They’re putting big inflatable space pods into orbit.
  6. These habitat and outpost companies are great.
  7. Passengers  take a medical exam, administered before the rest of training begins.
  8. The exam includes tests of mind and mettle.
  9. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard bathroom as a potty.
  10. He believes that Axiom is crucial to the survival of our species.

Color Vocabulary Map by Enchanted Learning

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space from the word list  or make up your own words.

Axiom ___will be ___to ___a NASA-grade ___for the rocket ride to and ___the station. (Features include a fiberglass___ and a___ tube for ___small sips of water. Also, a diaper.)

WORD LIST:  consuming, spacesuit,  torso,  required,  from, drink, wear,  guests,

Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

To understand/understood the grand/great  scale/scales of Axiom’s plants/plans, it helps to know that astronauts have, thus far, largely been roughing/rough it up there. The Johnson Space Center contains/contain a life-size mock-up of the ISS, whose drab, beige interior is lined with drab/dribble, gray/grey handholds to tether down things and people, necessary given the lack of gravity/gravy. A tour guide quaintly referred to the onboard/outboard bathroom as a ‘potty.’ There are no showers.

 

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions.

  1. Would you like to travel in a space ship? Provide reason why or why not.
  2. Do you think it’s fair that only very rich people can afford this experience?
  3. Compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

 

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Science, Technology | Tags:

Smart Devices Can Hear Hidden Messages That We Can’t

“Researchers can now send secret audio instructions undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant.” C. Smith, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

PCMag UK

 

Excerpt: Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t. Craig Smith, The New York Times

“Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Photo- Hypegram

Over the past two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website. This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text.

Image- youtube

‘We wanted to see if we could make it even more stealthy,’ said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors. Mr. Carlini added that while there was no evidence that these techniques have left the lab, it may only be a matter of time before someone starts exploiting them. ‘My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,’ he said. These deceptions illustrate how artificial intelligence — even as it is making great strides — can still be tricked and manipulated. Computers can be fooled into identifying an airplane as a cat just by changing a few pixels of a digital image, while researchers can make a self-driving car swerve or speed up simply by pasting small stickers on road signs and confusing the vehicle’s computer vision system.

The proliferation of voice-activated gadgets amplifies the implications of such tricks. Smartphones and smart speakers that use digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri are set to outnumber people by 2021, according to the research firm Ovum. And more than half of all American households will have at least one smart speaker by then, according to Juniper Research…There is already a history of smart devices being exploited for commercial gains through spoken commands.

Last year, Burger King caused a stir with an online ad that purposely asked ‘O.K., Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Android devices with voice-enabled search would respond by reading from the Whopper’s Wikipedia page. The ad was canceled after viewers started editing the Wikipedia page to comic effect.

A few months later, the animated series South Park followed up with an entire episode built around voice commands that caused viewers’ voice-recognition assistants to parrot adolescent obscenities. There is no American law against broadcasting subliminal messages to humans, let alone machines…Courts have ruled that subliminal messages may constitute an invasion of privacy, but the law has not extended the concept of privacy to machines.

Now the technology is racing even further ahead of the law. Last year, researchers at Princeton University and China’s Zhejiang University demonstrated that voice-recognition systems could be activated by using frequencies inaudible to the human ear. The attack first muted the phone so the owner wouldn’t hear the system’s responses, either.

The technique, which the Chinese researchers called DolphinAttack, can instruct smart devices to visit malicious websites, initiate phone calls, take a picture or send text messages. While DolphinAttack has its limitations — the transmitter must be close to the receiving device — experts warned that more powerful ultrasonic systems were possible…Mr. Carlini said he was confident that in time he and his colleagues could mount successful adversarial attacks against any smart device system on the market. ‘We want to demonstrate that it’s possible,’ he said, ‘and then hope that other people will say, ‘O.K. this is possible, now let’s try and fix it.’”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. People have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices.
  2. Researchers can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear.
  3. A group of students showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers.
  4. The students wanted to see if  they could make it even more stealthy.
  5. Malicious people already employ people to give secret commands to phones.
  6. These deceptions illustrate how artificial intelligence  can be manipulated.
  7. With audio attacks, the researchers are exploiting the gap between human and machine speech recognition.
  8. There is already a history of smart devices being exploited for commercial gains.
  9. There is no American law against broadcasting subliminal messages to humans.
  10. Courts have ruled that subliminal messages may constitute an invasion of privacy.

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. Researchers in Japan and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands.
  2. Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant are the three major devices listed.
  3. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online.
  4. Harvard researchers published a research paper  saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text.
  5. Nicholas Carlini is a  security  guard at U.C. Berkeley.
  6. Mr. Carlini believes that malicious people already employ people to give hidden commands.
  7. The bottom line is that artificial intelligence can be tricked and manipulated.
  8. Smartphones and smart speakers that use digital assistants  will not outnumber people by 2021.
  9. Amazon said it has taken steps to ensure its Echo smart speaker is secure.
  10. There is already a history of smart devices being exploited for commercial gains through spoken commands.

Grammar Focus:

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

This month, some of those ___researchers published a research ___that went further, saying they could ___commands directly into recordings of ___or spoken text. So while a ___listener hears someone talking or an ___playing, Amazon’s Echo ___might hear an instruction to add something to your ___list.

WORD LIST: shopping, embed, Berkeley, speaker,  orchestra, paper, human,  music,

III. Post Reading Activities

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Do you use Siri, Alexa and Google’s Assistant regularly?
  2. Do you feel secure about your information?
  3. After reading this article how do you feel about your smart devices? Do you trust them?
  4. Think of ways you can deter malicious outsiders from interfering with your iPhones and other devices.

 

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Technology

SpaceX Falcon: A Roar of Thunder… A Serious Milestone!

“From the same pad where NASA launched rockets that carried astronauts to the moon, a big, new American rocket arced into space on Tuesday. But this time, NASA was not involved. The rocket, the Falcon Heavy, was built by SpaceX, the company founded and run by the billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk. The launch of this turbocharged version of the workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, which has been carrying cargo to space for years, marks an important milestone in spaceflight, the first time a rocket this powerful has been sent into space by a private company rather than a government space agency.” K. Chang, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Excerpt: Falcon Heavy, in a Roar of Thunder, Carries SpaceX’s Ambition Into Orbit-By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times

“The rocket carried a playful payload: Mr. Musk’s red Roadster, an electric sports car built by his other company, Tesla. Strapped inside the car is a mannequin wearing one of SpaceX’s spacesuits. They are expected to orbit the sun for hundreds of millions of years.

Front view from Tesla Roadster on Falcon X Heavy. Credit Daily Express

Side view a Tesla Sports Car Flying Through Space Credit- PetaPixel

The success gives SpaceX momentum to begin developing even larger rockets, which could help fulfill Mr. Musk’s dream of sending people to Mars. To do that, he has described a new-generation rocket called B.F.R. (the B stands for big; the R for rocket) that might be ready to launch in the mid-2020s. The Falcon Heavy’s maiden flight makes pursuit of the goal more plausible.

Elon Musk’s space company launched the most powerful rocket in operation.Credit-Todd Anderson for The New York Times

Mr. Musk’s visions include humans living both on Earth and Mars. He’s part of a new generation of entrepreneurial space pioneers that includes Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who has said one of the goals driving his rocket company, Blue Origin, is the prospect of millions of people living in space. Planetary Resources, an American company with a large investment from Luxembourg, hopes to mine asteroids for profit. Moon Express, based in Florida, sees a business in providing regular transportation to and from the moon.

For now, the Heavy will enable SpaceX to compete for contracts to launch larger spy satellites, and some experts in spaceflight are encouraging NASA to use private rockets like the Heavy instead of the gigantic and more expensive rocket, the Space Launch System, that is currently being developed in part to take astronauts back to the moon… Just over three minutes after it blasted off, the most suspenseful part of the flight was over, as the boosters dropped off and the second stage continued into Earth orbit.

Two of the boosters land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after the launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. Photo- Space.com

Some eight minutes after launch, a pair of sonic booms rocked the area as the two side boosters set down in near synchrony on two landing pads at Cape Canaveral…Once in orbit, the rocket sent back video of the spacesuit-wearing mannequin in the car, with a hand on the steering wheel…In the past year, SpaceX has tabled many of the plans for future development of the Heavy. The company had intended to use the rocket launch one of SpaceX’s capsules, known as the Dragon, without people, on a mission to land on Mars. That was scrapped last summer. Last year, Mr. Musk also said two space tourists would be launched by a Falcon Heavy on an around-the-moon trip this year.

On Monday, he said that for now the company had no immediate plans to make the improvements needed before putting people aboard. Instead, SpaceX is focusing its efforts on the B.F.R. It would be a two-stage rocket: a powerful booster to provide lift out of Earth’s gravity and then a spaceship on top for interplanetary missions.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. NASA has launched rockets in the past.
  2. Astronauts have already been to the moon.
  3. Elon Musk, a well known entrepreneur founded Space X.
  4. Strapped inside the car was  a mannequin wearing one of SpaceX’s spacesuits.
  5. Mr. Musk’s visions include humans living both on Earth and Mars.
  6. Some eight minutes after launch, a pair of sonic booms rocked the area.
  7. The success of the Heavy could quell criticism that followed SpaceX’s first launch of the year.
  8. SpaceX officials vociferously asserted that the Falcon 9 performed as expected.
  9. The development of the Heavy took years longer than anticipated.
  10. Mr. Musk said he had aspirational hopes to begin suborbital tests of the spaceship portion next year.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

The Falcon___is capable of___140,000___ to low-Earth orbit, more than any othertoday. Because all three ___are to be recovered to fly again, a Falcon Heavy launch costs not much more than one by the company’s___rocket, Mr. Musk said. ___lists a price of $90___for a Falcon Heavy flight, compared with $62 million for one by Falcon 9, a bargain in the context of spaceflight. ___has booked ___Heavy flights for Arabsat, a Saudi Arabian communications company, and the United States Air Force.

WORD LIST: upcoming, SpaceX,  existing, rocket, million,  lifting, SpaceX, Heavy, boosters,  pounds,

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off,

Although delayed___ high-altitude winds, the countdown proceeded smoothly,___ any ___the glitches that have bedeviled other maiden launches___new rockets.

The Heavy roared ___life, a plume___smoke and steam shooting sideways ___the launchpad. It rose___the pad, with an impossibly bright glare ___27 engines___ it. Then a thunderous roar, traveling___the speed___sound, rolled ___ the spectators.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions

Directions: Place students in groups Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class and try to answer them.

Group Project

How to Make a Water Rocket Launcher From NASA

Students can use simple tools to construct a soda bottle rocket launcher using  hardware and wood. Go to  Nasa.gov

ANSWER KEY

Category: Technology | Tags: ,