Command-Tab to switch between application


One of my most often used key commands is the Command-Tab combination. Holding down the Command Key and pressing the tab key will display all of the applications you are currently running on your computer.

Here is a short video describing the utility of this trick.

Key CommandsThere are a plethora of keyboard commands listed at MacRumors. If you find yourself repeatedly doing some operation that requires clicking your mouse often, you will save time by locating (and practicing) these commands.


Antonio Damasio – On Consciousness

Here is a wonderful and concise description of consciousness and the self. I am listening/reading by Antonio Damasio‘s book “Self Comes to Mind” and then found this video. I’d recommend the book. The video is a good preview.

The following text comes from the TED transcript of his talk. Thanks to TED for the multi-modal presentation. It helps me learn and I think you will find it helpful as well. Look for the transcript button just below the video screen for more.

You could rightly ask, why care about this?… First, curiosity. Primates are extremely curious — and humans most of all… why should we not be interested in what is going on inside of human beings?

Second, understanding society and culture. We should look at how society and culture in this socio-cultural regulation are a work in progress. And finally, medicine. Let’s not forget that some of the worst diseases of humankind are diseases such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, drug addiction. Think of strokes that can devastate your mind or render you unconscious. You have no prayer of treating those diseases effectively and in a non-serendipitous way if you do not know how this works. So that’s a very good reason beyond curiosity to justify what we’re doing, and to justify having some interest in what is going on in our brains.

And we could take a very simple view and say, well, it [consciousness] is that which we lose when we fall into deep sleep without dreams, or when we go under anesthesia, and it is what we regain when we recover from sleep or from anesthesia. But what is exactly that stuff that we lose under anesthesia, or when we are in deep, dreamless sleep? Well first of all, it is a mind, which is a flow of mental images.

But what about the self? The self is really the elusive problem. And for a long time, people did not even want to touch it, because they’d say, “How can you have this reference point, this stability, that is required to maintain the continuity of selves day after day?”

So let me tell you just a little bit about how I came to this. I came to this because, if you’re going to have a reference that we know as self — the Me, the I in our own processing — we need to have something that is stable, something that does not deviate much from day to day. Well it so happens that we have a singular body. We have one body, not two, not three. And so that is a beginning. There is just one reference point, which is the body.

Brain Stem-Cortex-Body connection

So what is the picture that we get here? Look at “cerebral cortex,” look at “brain stem,” look at “body,” and you get the picture of the inter connectivity in which you have the brain stem providing the grounding for the self in a very tight interconnection with the body. And you have the cerebral cortex providing the great spectacle of our minds with the profusion of images that are, in fact, the contents of our minds and that we normally pay most attention to, as we should, because that’s really the film that is rolling in our minds. But look at the arrows. They’re not there for looks. They’re there because there’s this very close interaction. You cannot have a conscious mind if you don’t have the interaction between cerebral cortex and brain stem. You cannot have a conscious mind if you don’t have the interaction between the brain stem and the body.

Google+ a la Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki gives us a great tour of Google+ and it’s facility for sharing the gems we might find on the web. His approach is as a entrepenuer promoting his brand but the tips are useful no matter what your intent. As a side line he provides some interesting observations of Facebook and how it manages your posts.

Always entertaining and fun, Guy shoots straight from the heart.

We Are Tools – With Due Respect

Fisher's Net
As I listen to people describe tools of various kinds, I am reminded that none of these inventions would be possible without the power and facility of the tool of all tools – the human mind. Kevin Kelly has done a very thorough job of documenting the connection between the maker (human kind) and the tool (from stone, to steel, to wheel, and so on) in “What Technology Wants“.

It is a bit confounding to look upon our selves as a tool building tools (mirrors with mirrors) but this is just what we are. It isn’t just a turn of phrase, but a recognition of our responsibility for managing our selves. The tool of our consciousness is evolving and extending itself through physical and mental constructions. In the Christian tradition we are described as “tools of God”. While I don’t grasp the external God part, I accept that “I” (whether led by God or guided by my own ethical choices) am an opportunity for doing good or evil. We can and should weigh our actions with the gravity of a god without assuming such status. Humble in what we assume, careful of how we behave, and what we create.

What is it that affords us the power to decide, adapt, choose, give, take, and reflect on the whole affair? Certainly it is tied to meta-cognition, but what does this mean. In “Beyond Religion“, HH the 14th Dalai Lama describes the characteristics that distinguish the human mind from the mind of other beings. He lists our capacity:

  • for remembering. We can project our thoughts into the future.
  • for imagining in detail.
  • for communication through symbolic representation – language.
  • for rational thought, the ability to critically evaluate and compare different outcomes, in real and imagined situations.
  • for empathy. We instinctively respond to other’s suffering, to their joy, and other emotions.

While HH is directing his investigations at the welfare of all sentient beings, his questions fit well with other investigators with more theoretical motivations. Other observers of mind highlight the dual importance of looking forward and remembering for human functioning. While asking what brains do, Jeff Hawkins‘ theory emphasizes memory and prediction. Much of our awareness seems to require the anticipation of known and novel situations. His theory helps tease out the physiological features and philosophical issues underlying our success. Hawkins and many others have inspired me to look deeper to puzzle about our evolution, our perception and consciousness.

Taken together, these theories describe a path from language adoption to symbol manipulation. It appears as though we have taken our cave paintings and internalized them within our minds. We continue to build systems of representation that afford new and extended combinations of ideas symbols.

I am fascinated with developments in cognitive neuroscience in large part because I am fascinated with the development of tools that we grow with and for of our minds; that extend our thinking, organizing, and doing. I am a pragmatic optimist in that I believe in the basic goodness of human nature and realize that technology (the extensions of our bodies that we create) have unintended consequences. I believe we will develop more humane and constructive tools if and when we pay attention to our intentions. If we want our species to survive in a civilized and peaceful way, we need to understand the creator.


“What Technology Wants” … “Net Smart”

It is technology planning season here in the school district. This yearly process pushes us to question how and what we are accomplishing in our quest for the perfect learning tool. I’ve been watching and participating in this “event” for over 10 years now, so I have developed some theories. Recently I have been reading (listening) to Kevin Kelly’s book, “What Technology Wants” and Howard Rheingold’s new book, “Net Smart”.  These books, combined with my experience of how the humans around me choose has given me much food for thought. Writing always helps me formalize my theories and helps me make connections. So here goes…

“What Technology Wants” is a very, very, in-depth journey into the evolution of technology; it’s parallels to evolution in biology and human evolution and the ensuing creation of tools by homo sapiens. While the idea that technology could want something sounds whacky at first, Kelly provides a wealth of examples and some very compelling arguments for the comparison. Whether you buy the entire idea or not, in reading the book you will learn much about evolution in general, evolution of humans in particular, human invention and the gradual but steady evolution of our tools. Kelly brings many years of experience and thought to this subject. His description of the adoption of technology within the Amish community is especially thought provoking. What is instructive is not that they are 50 years behind in the adoption of technology but their process for choosing and rejecting. Key to this is their evaluation process which is continuous and includes the observation of the impact of a tool. They are willing to go back to the drawing board when something doesn’t fit with their culture.

While it doesn’t reach back into prehistory like Kelly’s book, “Net Smart” provides a history of the fast evolving tools of the Internet; a detailed view of the current state of communication, learning, online communities and collaboration. “Net Smart” is a user’s guide for anyone who would like to drive safely and effectively on the “information highway”.  As a seasoned participant in virtual communities (a term he coined) Howard steers us to the practical potentials and pitfalls of participation. While he avoids prescriptions, he provides a concise guide for focusing our attention, sorting fact from fiction, associating with people of like interests, and making a difference through community effort and knowledge building.

What do these books have to say about the adoption of technology for schools? Perhaps most important, they provide insight into where we have come from and where we can go. While, both Kelly and Rheingold are optimistic about the potentials of online learning and collaboration, both provide a realistic and sober assessment of the pitfalls and dangers. Both enjoin us to take responsibility and shape our personal and community practice with online tools.

The trends that Rheingold and Kelly describe have critical implications for schools who (for the time being) have an opportunity to influence the choices made by our children. As Mimi Ito points out in her “Digital Youth Research“, our youth are learning to use the web in informal ways, outside the walls of school. It is time that we adults move out of our comfort zone and face the emerging forms of communication. It is time to get informed and organize our learning with them. We have an opportunity to emphasize technological literacy over technological consumption. This isn’t about control but education and it starts with an informed pedagogy. It is reflected in the “stuff” (tools) that we choose for/with students.

Re-thinking technology adoption is not an event but a mindset. As such, I would like to find new and continuous ways to engage students, administrators, teachers and parents on this subject. A Net Smart curriculum could form as a touch stone for this conversation. It could inform both informal adoption (personal expenditures) and formal adoptions (with public money). As I convene with school principals this spring I hope to bring this spirit to the table. I realize that the industrial model of learning (fact and memory driven) is the elephant in the room. Such a model lends itself to a strict adoption of technology that looks like a textbook or a workbook. I would like to broaden our concept of learning to include constructivist models, as described by Ito, Kelly, Rheingold, Jenkins, Hargadon, Warlick and many others. I hope the conversations we have will generate avenues for learning that are generative, relevant and rich for our students.