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Comment Administration by Brochure (Score 1) 511

I work in IT for a large school district. We are deluged by vendors hustling their product as the One True Magic Bullet that will lift our standardized test scores above the next No Child Left Behind target. These products with exception involve a big investment of time, money and hardware, plus roll out and training at our school sites.

Our principals, running scared ahead of the advancing and ultimately unreachable targets of NCLB, will eagerly embrace any Shiny Thing that promises them even a little edge. (Not unlike golf enthusiasts or audiophiles, but more desperate.)

One thing I've noticed about these vendors: they all make it very, very difficult to pull data out of their products so that it can be analyzed in tandem with actual test results. You might almost imagine that they didn't want us to look at actual outcomes to verify that their product is actually effective.

Here is my perspective: parental involvement, economic prosperity and English as the student's primary language are the best predictors of a child's academic success. And there is little to nothing that a school district can do to affect these factors. Job growth, a strong middle class, and a culture that values scholarship will do more to promote learning that any number of shiny widgets, no matter how much money Bill and Melinda want to throw at the problem.

Comment Re:I don't get it... (Score 1) 118

Not so. IIRC, the young Richard Feynman (tool-using primate and smarter than the average bear) solved the problem of cutting string beans by jamming the knife in the kitchen table and pushing the beans against the stationary blade, rather than laboriously holding the beans with one hand and cutting with the other.

Comment The Lurking Fear (Score 1) 293

This is what scares people: maybe intelligence isn't so hard after all.

This is my opinion: a great deal of what passes for "intelligence" in the world is just language processing and memory. Not so much "figuring things out" as much as knowing where to look for answers and applying the result. Not creative thinking, but the use of what we already know, or, with language, what some other bloke already knows.

I see a lot of comments trying to downplay this event but, look: if Watson could beat you at this game, how smart are you, really?

Comment Good news / Bad news (Score 4, Interesting) 68

The great thing about Pandora is that you will hear a lot of music you have not heard before and will probably like.

The problem with Pandora is that you will hear a lot of music you have not heard before and will probably like and want to buy.

I have subscribed to Pandora for one year. In that year, I have purchased more music than in the previous ten. This is not an exaggeration.

If I was a music producer, I would happily give baskets of cash to Pandora, out of sheer self interest.

Comment Those who have not used Usenet... (Score 1) 356

... are condemned to repeat it.

I understand the problem. At work and at home, I use my homebrew hierarchy to manage my files. But looking at this thread, I felt a wave of nostalgia for Usenet's alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die.

The worst "hierarchies" I've encountered at my work are:

1. Save everything on the Desktop. (Good Heavens, woman! Do you even have wallpaper?!)

2. New Folder. New Folder2. New Folder3. Etc.


Ubuntu 9.04 Is As Slick As Win7, Mac OS X 871

An anonymous reader writes in with an opinion piece from ZDNet Australia. "Here's what the official press release won't tell you about Ubuntu 9.04, which formally hit the streets yesterday: its designers have polished the hell out of its user interface since the last release in October. Just like Microsoft has taken the blowtorch to Vista to produce the lightning-quick Windows 7, which so far runs well even on older hardware, Ubuntu has picked up its own game."

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