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Comment Re:A few things (Score 4, Interesting) 326

I think you're sort of on the right track. The problem is how much do we respect the students' ability and right to informed consent? Do the students' have a voice at all, do they deserve one, and for that matter, how informed are the parents going into these experiments? This is true of both large and small project, and solutions are hard to come by, which is part of the issue with the snails pace of educational reform.

NCLB isn't a new idea, in fact, that isn't even the real name. It is actually a set of additional rules for Title 1 funding from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act from 1965. Title 1 federal funds have had various stipulations through the years, and the current AYP goals on annual tests are just the latest. There are other sections, also, like Title 3, which deals with funds for language learners. The federal government can't influence educational policy directly, so they gather up as much money as they can, and then attach as many strings as they can, so that eventually federal policy becomes mandated at the local level. Who does this affect the most? The least funded schools in low socioeconomic areas. Wealthy school districts don't need Title 1 money, and have always been able to just tell the feds to screw off.

But since not all schools are funded the same way (in California, look at the "Basic aid" vs. "Revenue Limited" issue which ensures the disparity) the federal money is very, very important to some districts. In fact, my current position is funded entirely through federal funding sources. Some here (actually many, having read through the comments) would say I'm exactly the kind of person who is part of the problem with public education and spending. I work out of the district office as a technology coach for integration with curriculum and teacher training, as well as a bulk of the data collection and analysis for student performance. Here's a quick hint: if you make test scores and data more and more important to schools, they will hire more and more statisticians and administrative analysts.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I get that people all over aren't happy with what schools are doing and how much they cost, but I also don't think people understand how complicated it all is, and how impossible it is to deliver on all the expectations with a fraction of the money. It wears me out a bit.

Comment Re:That's the point (Score 3, Insightful) 256

I was just talking with my boss about microsoft support and found out that for our exchange problems, a tech support call is $250. If they tell you where to find a setting, $250. If they spend 2 weeks and have multiple techs on a call, $250. I came to a realization that it wasn't so much about the fact that MS wanted to nickle and dime for tech support as much as they want to impose a penalty for not RTFM. This sounds like it's sort of in the same spirit.

Comment Re:A brave new world...Indeed (Score 4, Insightful) 42

It's funny you chose that title, as Huxley would very much disapprove of what is going on here. Thousands of students planted in front of machines getting the knowledge they need placed inside of them... which is admittedly an exaggeration for effect, but one that I believe in.

I took Thurn and Norvig's into to AI class and was pretty thoroughly disappointed. But I am also disappointed in most of what went on in my undergraduate school, and equally disappointed with myself when I was yapping in front of calculus students at the UC when I was lecturing there. The problem is that lecturing is really crappy for actually learning anything. However, it's the easiest thing to do, and scales remarkably well. Furthermore, adult learners love it. Especially those who have already learned something about the subject. The process usually goes: student learns something marginally well, hears a concise explanation/lecture on the subject later, things connect and click into place, and then the learner says "well why the hell didn't they just do that in the first place?!?". The answer is that it wouldn't have worked in the first place. It works now because of the scaffolding afforded by your earlier education (re your HS courses being blown out of the water).

It was best said at a paper presentation I went to recently that "we need to get out of this mode of believing that if we can just find someone to explain things better than anyone else then we can record it, package it, and solve all of our educational problems." Students need to do, experience, build knowledge and skills. Sure, lecture can be a part of it, but I think most people find that exercises, study groups (especially the more collaborative ones), labs and other more constructivistic experiences are what made the content from lectures stick. So the answer isn't in the content, but rather the glue that does the blending you speak of above.

Comment Re:Collaboration is a skill too (Score 1) 330

It matters who the students are collaborating with. Collaboration with peers is good (I think), even if they aren't in the class. "Collaboration" using paid help (sites exist all over the place in pay for homework type arrangements) is extremely harmful. I had it easy as a HS math teacher. My rule for take-home portions was "Use any resource you wish to. Only rule is no consulting someone who get's paid to do these types of problems". At the HS level professional help, whether it be tutors or relatives who are teachers/mathematicians, is very easy to spot from the format and language of the solution. For the OP, I'm not sure you can do this effectively at the undergraduate level.

Comment "best" companies to work for? (Score 5, Interesting) 360

It's funny that this drops the same day as the Fortune list of best companies to work for. I see many name here at the top of that list. Not quite sure what to think... I dislike secret corporate agreements, especially to keep salaries down, but I had a fellowship at Intel and found it to be a really good environment, and my colleagues thought so too. At the same time one couldn't help but to notice the incredible number of green badges (contractors) used while Intel posts record quarters. I suppose when you are as big as Intel, it's nearly impossible to be all good, or all evil.

Comment Not going to work for K-12 (Score 2) 416

While having slick creation tools is a cool thing, this won't end up working for public K-12 schools, at least in California. There's this thing called the Williams Case which requires all schools to have one copy of a textbook for each student in a class. Sure, the case was decided before digital textbooks were a possibility, but this has caused significant problems already with digital textbooks. Schwarzenegger tried with the digital textbook initiative to get things started, and there are even free, CC licensed, editable books out there already (disclaimer: I am an author for CK12). Nobody is using them because of the problems surrounding Williams compliance.

So while tools are nice, the problem is infrastructure and law. Which are, unfortunately, most of the problems those of us in education face when trying to make things better.

Comment Re:DRM overtop DRM? (Score 1) 473

I don't think that will happen. The way that secondary DRM is handled in Steam makes it clear that it isn't about Steam. When you launch titles with secondary DRM (EA, Bethesda, Ubi... etc.) you get a special overlay notification saying "This game may require special activiation. Here is your CD code: " All the different parts of Steam still work the same. I think the only way that someone might be confused is if they *never* play any game that doesn't require special activiation. Anyone who has played a Valve game will very likely know exactly who's at fault here.

Comment Re:Fixed since last time? (Score 1) 193

I'm an author of one of the digital textbooks out there (I did the teacher's guide for Prob&Stats and Calculus), but maybe not the ones you looked at. I don't have any idea why, but they insisted that the manuscript be done in MS Word. My options were to use equation editor, or use eps output from LaTeX for each individual piece of math. The whole thing kind of made my head bleed, and I have no understanding of why it was all done that way. Maybe something about the backend that they use... I know that many of them encourage you to arrange and organize your own "books" out of the source material. But, yeah, ouch.

Comment Re:Amazing, what statements you can get out of dat (Score 1) 472

Maybe you can help outline exactly what "plainly supports" what you say? See, I rather thought that when evaluating a hypothesis you looked at p-values rather than inferences from means, with "outliers" (hint, that doesn't mean what you think it does) removed. The section shows p-values of less than .05 and .01 for their two tests, which meet the general acceptability for rejecting the null hypothesis. Is there something missing here?

Comment Re:The Foundations of this argument are absurd any (Score 2) 472

You're right. However, I must say that as a public school math teacher I chafe a little at the "inside public schools" comment, only because most of us inside really, really want to change, but it's mostly not inside factors stopping us, but outside influences (things like the math wars in the 1990s).

I have a colleague here who is a veteran top-notch math teacher who did his masters thesis on gender segregating his 5-7th grade math classes at a prestigious secular private school. Not only did the attitudes and engagement of the female student improve, but the male students also showed higher satisfaction and achievement.

The people who didn't like it? The parents. After the study concluded they couldn't keep doing it because parents fought to keep them from segregating the classrooms, facts be damned

Comment Maybe it looks different (Score 1) 392

I loved hypercard, and am sad that it is gone, especially as an educator. It's sad that most student's interaction with computers these days is web surfing, word and powerpoint. Some people have mentioned the failures of hypercard like software, and I don't think that's fair. When I tried supercard it felt like it was trying to clone hypercard... just as it was years ago, not accounting for advancements in the world.

The thing that feels most like hypercard to me today is game development engines, like Unity3D. Basing navigation around hyperlinking is downplayed (as it is everywhere these days) but the idea that you can have graphic and text elements, in 2D or 3D, and then interactions facilitated through simple scripting (use javascript, C# or Boo) makes it feel like the spiritual successor to hypercard. NASA has done some awesome stuff using Unity. I think Unity might be missing out by calling it a game engine--it can do much more.

Comment Kids is too broad (Score 5, Interesting) 240

Researchers have known for years that there are certain windows of brain development where learning is best supported, and how other activities aren't so helpful. Language acquisition and music have their sweet spot right around 3-6 years of age. It is likely that the skills that using tech best supports are much later in the development of childrens' minds (like logic, problem solving). It shouldn't be surprising that early childhood subjects only use tech as entertainment, and learn little from it. But children, of age 10 or so, can benefit greatly from having exposure to tech in an interactive manner. This is supported by places like Finland, where they don't teach "hard" subjects or tech in early childhood, but rather stress movement, creative play and social interaction at school, leaving other subjects for when they are most appropriate.

Comment Maybe not calories (Score 1) 170

Recent work and research seems to indicate that, no, it's not just an issue of thermodynamics through caloric content. Unfortunately, many of the top proponents and researchers are of the sensationalist and inflammatory type. (Like the UCSF dude who proclaims "Sugar is Poison!". 95% of the science and research is exactly correct, and very well done, but I just wish he would shut up because I think he hurts his own cause.)

Think of it this way-- you know what has lots of calories? Petrol. Will drinking hydrocarbons make you fat? So who cares if a burning doughnut changes water temperature the same amount as a crunchy shrimp roll (both around 500 kcal)? Eating each will have a different impact on metabolic reaction, and energy storage.

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