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Education

Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous 270

Posted by timothy
from the fallacy-of-the-excluded-middle dept.
HughPickens.com writes According to an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, if Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills, expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. "It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher." But according to Zakaria the dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.

As Steve Jobs once explained "it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." Zakaria says that no matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write and cites Jeff Bezos' insistence that writing a memo that makes sense is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," says Bezos. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." "This doesn't in any way detract from the need for training in technology," concludes Zakaria, "but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out — yet. And for those jobs, and that life, you could not do better than to follow your passion, engage with a breadth of material in both science and the humanities, and perhaps above all, study the human condition."
Education

No Film At 11: the Case For the Less-Video-Is-More MOOC 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-learning-through-animated-GIFs dept.
theodp writes: In Why My MOOC is Not Built on Video, GWU's Lorena Barba explains why the Practical Numerical Methods with Python course she and colleagues put together has but one video: "Why didn't we have more video? The short answer is budget and time: making good-quality videos is expensive & making simple yet effective educational videos is time consuming, if not necessarily costly. #NumericalMOOC was created on-the-fly, with little budget. But here's my point: expensive, high-production-value videos are not necessary to achieve a quality learning experience." When the cost of producing an MOOC can exceed $100,000 per course, Barba suggests educators pay heed to Donald Bligh's 1971 observation that "dazzling presentations do not necessarily result in learning." So what would Barba do? "We designed the central learning experience [of #NumericalMOOC] around a set of IPython Notebooks," she explains, "and meaningful yet achievable mini-projects for students. I guarantee learning results to any student that fully engages with these!"
The Almighty Buck

Poverty May Affect the Growth of Children's Brains 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the money-is-the-root-of-all dept.
sciencehabit writes: Stark and rising inequality plagues many countries, including the United States, and politicians, economists, and — fortunately — scientists, are debating its causes and solutions. But inequality's effects may go beyond simple access to opportunity: a new study finds that family differences in income and education are directly correlated with brain size in developing children and adolescents. The findings could have important policy implications and provide new arguments for early antipoverty interventions, researchers say.
Hardware Hacking

Hand-Drawn and Inkjet Printed Circuits for the Masses (Video) 32

Posted by Roblimo
from the give-your-kids-paper-plates-with-lights-that-tell-them-to-eat-their-veggies dept.
We started looking at ways to make instant hand-drawn or inkjet-printed circuit boards because Timothy met an engaging young man named Yuki Nishida at SXSW. Yuki is a co-founder of AgIC, a company that makes conductive ink pens and supplies special paper you can use to write or draw circuits or, if you have the right model of Brother printer, to print them with special inkjet inks. The AgIC people are agressvively putting the 'A' in STEAM by marketing their products to artists and craftspeople. Indeed the second line on their website's home page says, 'AgIC offers handy tools to light up your own art works.' This is an excellent niche, and now that AgIC has developed a circuit eraser (due to ship this April), it may lead to all kinds of creative designs. And as is typical with this kind of company these days, AgIC has been (at least partly) crowdfunded.

A little cursory Google searching will soon lead you to other companies selling into the home/prototype circuit board market, including Cartesian Co and their Argentum 3-D printer that does prototype and short-run PCBs and only costs $899 (on special at the time this was written) and Electroninks, which markets the Circuit Scribe pen and associated materials with an emphasis on education. There are others in this growing field, and a year from now there will probably be more of them, all working to replace the venerable breadboard the same way electronic calculators replaced slide rules.
Businesses

Millennial Tech Workers Losing Ground In US 400

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-work-for-you dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Millennial tech workers are entering the U.S. workforce at a comparable disadvantage to other tech workers throughout the industrialized world, according to study earlier this year from Educational Testing Services (PDF). How do U.S. millennials compare to their international peers, at least according to ETS? Those in the 90th percentile (i.e., the top-scoring) actually scored lower than top-scoring millennials in 15 of the 22 studied countries; low-scoring U.S. millennials ranked last (along with Italy and England/Northern Ireland). While some experts have blamed the nation's education system for the ultimate lack of STEM jobs, other studies have suggested that the problem isn't in the classroom; a 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau suggested that many of the people who earned STEM degrees didn't actually go into careers requiring them. In any case, the U.S. is clearly wrestling with an issue; how can it introduce more (qualified) STEM people into the market?
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives" 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-for-the-high-score dept.
Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.
Graphics

Pixar Releases Free Version of RenderMan 198

Posted by Soulskill
from the free-as-in-beer dept.
jones_supa writes: A year ago, animation studio Pixar promised its RenderMan animation and rendering suite would eventually become free for non-commercial use. This was originally scheduled to happen in the SIGGRAPH 2014 computer graphics conference, but things got delayed. Nevertheless, today Pixar is releasing the free version into the wild. Free, non-commercial RenderMan can be used for research, education, evaluation, plug-in development, and any personal projects that do not generate commercial profits. This version is fully featured, without a watermark or any kind of artificial limits. Featuring Pixar's new RIS technology, RenderMan delivers extremely fast global illumination and interactive shading and lighting for artists. The software is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows. In conjunction with the release, Pixar has also launched a new RenderMan Community site where users can exchange knowledge and resources, showcase their own work, share assets such as shaders and scripts, and learn about RenderMan from tutorials.
United States

Obama To Announce $240M In New Pledges For STEM Education 149

Posted by samzenpus
from the throw-some-money-at-it dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that President Obama is expected to announce more that $240 million in pledges to boost STEM educations at the White House Science Fair today. "President Barack Obama is highlighting private-sector efforts to encourage more students from underrepresented groups to pursue education in science, technology, engineering and math. At the White House Science Fair on Monday, Obama will announce more than $240 million in pledges to boost the study of those fields, known as STEM. This year's fair is focused on diversity. Obama will say the new commitments have brought total financial and material support for these programs to $1 billion. The pledges the president is announcing include a $150 million philanthropic effort to encourage promising early-career scientists to stay on track and a $90 million campaign to expand STEM opportunities to underrepresented youth, such as minorities and girls."
EU

Finland's Education System Supersedes "Subjects" With "Topics" 213

Posted by samzenpus
from the learning-time dept.
jones_supa writes Finland is about to embark on one of the most radical education reform programs ever undertaken by a nation state – scrapping traditional "teaching by subject" in favor of "teaching by topic". The motivation to do this is to prepare people better for working life. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take "cafeteria services" lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages, writing skills and communication skills. More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union — which would merge elements of economics, history, languages and geography. There will also be a more collaborative teaching approach, with pupils working in smaller groups to solve problems while improving their communication skills.
Crime

Hundreds Expelled, Many Arrested, For Cheating In India's School Exams 233

Posted by timothy
from the not-exactly-subtle-about-it dept.
Etherwalk writes Sources conflict, but it looks like as many as 300 people have been arrested for cheating in the Indian state of Bihar after the Hindustan Times published images of dozens of men climbing the walls of a test center to pass answers inside. 500-700+ students were expelled and police had been bribed to look the other way. Xinhau's version of the story omits any reference to police bribery, while The ABC's omits the fact that police fired guns into the air.
Education

Arkansas Is Now the First State To Require That High Schools Teach Coding 211

Posted by timothy
from the unexpected-locale dept.
SternisheFan writes Arkansas will be implementing a new law that requires public high schools to offer classes in computer science starting in the 2015-16 school year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill, believes it will provide "a workforce that's sure to attract businesses and jobs" to the state. $5 million of the governor's proposed budget will go towards this new program. For the districts incapable of of administering these classes due to lack of space or qualified teachers, the law has provisions for online courses to be offered through Virtual Arkansas. Although students will not be required to take computer science classes, the governor's goal is to give students the opportunity if they "want to take it." Presently, only one in 10 schools nationwide offer computer science classes. Not only will Arkansas teach these classes in every public high school and charter school serving upper grades, the courses will count towards the state's math graduation requirement as a further incentive for students. Training programs for teacher preparation will be available, but with the majority of the infrastructure already primed, the execution of this new law should hopefully be painless and seamless.
The Almighty Buck

Global Learning XPRIZE Senior Director Matt Keller Answers Your Questions 4

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-they-are dept.
A couple of weeks ago you had a chance to ask former Vice President of One Laptop per Child, and current Senior Director of the Global Learning XPRIZE Matt Keller about education and the competition. The XPRIZE challenges teams from around the world to develop open source software that will allow children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic with a Grand Prize of $10 million. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
Education

Zuckerberg and Gates-Backed Startup Seeks To Shake Up African Education 119

Posted by samzenpus
from the dropping-knowledge dept.
theodp writes The WSJ reports an army of teachers wielding Nook tablets and backed by investors including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg is on a mission to bring cheap [$6.50/month], internet-based, private education to millions of the world's poorest children in Africa and Asia. In Kenya, 126,000 students are enrolled at 400+ Bridge International Academies that have sprung up across the country since the company was founded in 2009. Bridge's founders are challenging the long-held assumption that governments rather than companies should lead mass education programs. The Nook tablets are used to deliver lesson plans used by teachers (aka "scripted instruction"), as well as to collect test results from students to monitor their progress."
Programming

Prison Program Aims To Turn Criminals Into Coders 305

Posted by Soulskill
from the hello-walls dept.
Press2ToContinue writes with news that San Quentin, a notorious California prison, has started a program to teach a class of inmates to write code. The first class will last for six months, and the inmates are learning about programming for eight hours a day. The hope is to give them the skills to find a good job after they leave prison, which in turn would reduce their chances of recidivism. Since the state's Dept. of Corrections prohibits internet access, the class only "pretends" to be online — they can't use internet-based resources, and nobody on the outside can see or use the software they create. One of the class's backers said, 'Almost every week there's epiphanies. And most of the guys in here, they've never touched a computer before. They are progressing beyond our expectations."
Social Networks

Education Company Monitors Social Media For Test References 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the learning-how-to-spy-via-standardized-tests dept.
theodp writes: As if people haven't found enough to hate about the new 11+ hour K-12 PARCC standardized testing, the Washington Post reports that Pearson, the world's largest education company, is monitoring social media during the administration of the PARCC Common Core test to detect any security breaches, saying it is "obligated" to alert authorities when any problems are discovered. The monitoring of social media was revealed in a message that a New Jersey School Superintendent sent to colleagues about a "Priority 1 Alert" initiated by Pearson in response to a student who referenced a PARCC test question in an after-school Tweet. The news was broken in a blog entry by former NJ Star-Ledger reporter Bob Braun, who also posted the Superintendent's message and called the monitoring of social media nothing less than "spying." Pearson has a contract of more than $100 million to administer the PARCC in New Jersey.
Education

BBC Returns To Making Computers For Schools 106

Posted by timothy
from the as-it-ever-was dept.
Raging Bool writes According to the BBC News website, the BBC is returning to producing comparatively inexpensive computers for schools. Readers of sufficient age will remember the BBC Model B with great affection. But won't this be in competition with other pre-existing devices such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi? The BBC says not: "The BBC does not see Micro Bit as a rival to similar devices such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Galileo and Kano, but rather hopes it will act as a 'springboard' to these more complex machines." I hope they're at least consulting with Eben Upton.
Education

edX Welcomes 'The University of Microsoft' Into Its Fold 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the mascot-is-the-fightin'-chairthrower dept.
theodp writes: "At edX," explains the upscale MOOC founded by MIT and Harvard, "we believe in offering the highest quality courses, created by schools and partners who share our commitment to excellence in teaching and learning, both online and in the classroom." You know, like Building Cloud Apps with Microsoft Azure (course trailer). On Tuesday, edX welcomed Microsoft as its first corporate member to offer MOOCs on edX.org. "Through this program," said edX, "Microsoft will offer the edX global learning community courses to acquire the core development skills needed to be successful in the cloud-first, mobile-first world." The new initiative, explained Microsoft, expands upon an existing Microsoft partnership with edX to create interactive online courses using Office Mix and PowerPoint 2013. Classes start March 31st.
Youtube

YouTube Video of Racist Chant Results In Fraternity Closure 606

Posted by samzenpus
from the watch-what-you-say dept.
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports that after a video was posted on YouTube that appeared to show members of the members Sigma Alpha Epsilon at University of Oklahoma singing a racist chant, the organization's board decided "with no mental reservation whatsoever that this chapter needed to be closed immediately." The video shows a group of young white people in formal wear riding a bus and singing a chant laden with antiblack slurs and at least one reference to lynching. A grinning young man wearing a tuxedo and standing in the aisle of the bus pumps his fist in the air as he chants, while a young woman seated nearby claps. The chant vows that African-Americans will "never" be allowed to join the campus chapter.

The nine-second video was uploaded to YouTube on Sunday by a student group, the Unheard Movement, that first identified the people in it as members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, although the group did not indicate how it obtained the video or when it was filmed. University president, David Boren, said in an emailed statement that the administration was also investigating the video. "I have just been informed of the video, which purports to show students to show students engaging in a racist chant. We are investigating to determine if the video involved OU students. If O.U. students are involved, this behavior will not be tolerated and will be addressed very quickly," said Boren. "This behavior is reprehensible and contrary to all of our values." Students marched on the campus of the University of Oklahoma on Monday to protest the video.
Social Networks

Yik Yak Raises Controversy On College Campuses 367

Posted by timothy
from the staples-and-bulletin-boards dept.
HughPickens.com writes Jonathan Mahler writes in the NYT that just as Facebook swept through the dorm rooms of America's college students a decade ago, the social app Yik Yak, which shows anonymous messages from users within a 1.5-mile radius is now taking college campuses by storm. "Think of it as a virtual community bulletin board — or maybe a virtual bathroom wall at the student union," writes Mahler. "It has become the go-to social feed for college students across the country to commiserate about finals, to find a party or to crack a joke about a rival school." While much of the chatter is harmless, some of it is not. "Yik Yak is the Wild West of anonymous social apps," says Danielle Keats Citron. "It is being increasingly used by young people in a really intimidating and destructive way." Since the app's introduction a little more than a year ago, Yik Yak has been used to issue threats of mass violence on more than a dozen college campuses, including the University of North Carolina, Michigan State University and Penn State. Racist, homophobic and misogynist "yaks" have generated controversy at many more, among them Clemson, Emory, Colgate and the University of Texas. At Kenyon College, a "yakker" proposed a gang rape at the school's women's center.

Colleges are largely powerless to deal with the havoc Yik Yak is wreaking. The app's privacy policy prevents schools from identifying users without a subpoena, court order or search warrant, or an emergency request from a law-enforcement official with a compelling claim of imminent harm. Esha Bhandari, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, argues that "banning Yik Yak on campuses might be unconstitutional," especially at public universities or private colleges in California where the so-called Leonard Law protects free speech. She said it would be like banning all bulletin boards in a school just because someone posted a racist comment on one of the boards. In one sense, the problem with Yik Yak is a familiar one. Anyone who has browsed the comments of an Internet post is familiar with the sorts of intolerant, impulsive rhetoric that the cover of anonymity tends to invite. But Yik Yak's particular design can produce especially harmful consequences, its critics say. "It's a problem with the Internet culture in general, but when you add this hyper-local dimension to it, it takes on a more disturbing dimension," says Elias Aboujaoude." "You don't know where the aggression is coming from, but you know it's very close to you."