pickens writes: The Washington Post reports that President Obama repeatedly declared the imperative to "win the future," in his State of the Union address comparing the current need for innovation to the 1950s space race against the Soviet Union and calling for more dedication to research and technology as he raised the specter of a rapidly growing China and India, "This is our generation's Sputnik moment." Obama's proposals — some of them left over from last year's State of the Union address — ranged from increasing math and science teacher training to investing more in developing clean-energy technology. "Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't even there yet. NASA didn't exist," he said. "But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs."
Hugh Pickens writes: "Proctors and teachers can't watch everyone while they take tests — not when some students can text with their phones in their pockets, so with tests increasingly important in education — used to determine graduation, graduate school admission and, the latest, merit pay and tenure for teachers, Trip Gabriel writes that schools are turning to "data forensics" to catch cheaters, searching for data anomalies where the chances of random agreement are astronomical. In addition to looking for copying, statisticians hunt for illogical patterns, like test-takers who did better on harder questions than easy ones, a sign of advance knowledge of part of a test or look for unusually large score gains from a previous test by a student or class. Since Caveon Test Security, whose clients have included the College Board, the Law School Admission Council and more than a dozen states and big city school districts, began working for the state of Mississippi in 2006, cheating has declined about 70 percent, says James Mason, director of the State Department of Education's Office of Student Assessment. "People know that if you cheat there is an extremely high chance you're going to get caught," says Mason."
Pickens writes: "Jacques Steinberg writes in the NY Times that the sluggish economy and rising costs of college have only intensified questions about whether expensive, prestigious colleges make any difference. Do their graduates make more money? Get into better professional programs? Make better connections? And are they more satisfied with their lives, or at least with their work? Researchers say that alumni of the most selective colleges earn, on average, 40 percent more a year than those who graduated from the least selective public universities, as calculated 10 years after they graduated from and found that “attendance at an elite private college significantly increases the probability of attending graduate school, and more specifically graduate school at a major research university.” But other researchers say the extent to which one takes advantage of the educational offerings of an institution may be more important, in the long run, than how prominently and proudly that institution’s name is being displayed on the back windows of cars in the nation’s wealthiest enclaves. “Everything we know from studying college student experiences and outcomes tells us that there is more variability within schools than between them,” says Alexander C. McCormick. “The quality of that biology major offered at School No. 50? It may exceed that at School No. 5.”"
Ponca City writes: "Every year, millions of Americans pay needless penalties because they don’t file their taxes on time, forgone huge amounts of money in matching 401(k) contributions because they never get around to signing up for a retirement plan, and risk blindness from glaucoma because they don’t use their eyedrops regularly. Now James Surowiecki writes that procrastination is a basic human impulse, a peculiar irrationality stems from our relationship to time — in particular, from a tendency that economists call “hyperbolic discounting," the ability to make rational choices when they’re thinking about the future, but, where as the present gets closer, short-term considerations overwhelm their long-term goals. Game theorist Thomas Schelling proposes that we think of ourselves a collection of competing selves, jostling, contending, and bargaining for control where one represents your short-term interests (having fun, putting off work, and so on), while another represents your long-term goals while philosopher Mark Kingwell puts it in existential terms: “Procrastination most often arises from a sense that there is too much to do, and hence no single aspect of the to-do worth doing. . . . Underneath this rather antic form of action-as-inaction is the much more unsettling question whether anything is worth doing at all.” So before we rush to overcome procrastination we should consider whether it is sometimes an impulse we should heed and that it might be useful to think about two kinds of procrastination: the kind that is genuinely akratic, a weakness of will that allows us to act against our own benefit, and the kind that’s telling you that what you’re supposed to be doing has, deep down, no real point. The procrastinator’s challenge, and perhaps the philosopher’s, too, is to figure out which is which."
Pickens writes: "Medical corpsmen, who have been treating wounded sailors and Marines since the days of the Revolution, are under a lot of stress in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as Mark Thompson reports in Swampland for Time Magazine, the US Navy has found that it's hard to get youngsters used to video games and graphic novels to read the text-heavy, black-and-white training manuals their older siblings — and parents — ignored. That's why the Navy has spent $450,000 to publish 5,000 copies of a graphic novel called "The Docs," which will be distributed to medical corpsmen-in-training to give those yet to deploy to a war zone a preview of what they'll face. "Their dual roles as caregivers and combatants puts them at high risk for stress injuries," says Capt. Greg Utz, who as the commanding officer of the Naval Health Research Center is the publisher of the 200-page comic (PDF). "So we developed this graphic novel as an innovative way to help our sailors prepare for and interpret situations they may see in theater." It's not the first time comics have been used in the US military as a training aid. Legendary Will Eisner produced work for the US Army's "The Preventive Maintenance Monthly" between 1951 and 1972."
Pickens writes: "Do university bureaucracies still make sense in the era of networks? The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that in a session at the Educause conference called “The University as an Agile Organization,” David J. Staley, director of the Harvey Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching at Ohio State University, laid out the findings of a focus group he conducted asking educators what a college would look like if it ran like Wikipedia. The "Wiki-ized University" wouldn’t have formal admissions, says Staley, people could enter and exit as they wished and the university would consist of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students “not unlike the original idea for the university, in the Middle Ages." In addition the curriculum of the "Wiki-ized University" would be intellectually fluid, and instead of tenure, professors' longevity "would be determined by the community." Staley predicts that a new form of academic organization is emerging that will be driven by volunteerism. "We do see some idea today of how “volunteer teaching” might look: think of the faculty at a place like the University of Phoenix. Most teaching faculty have day jobs—and in fact are hired because they have day jobs—and teach at the university for a nominal stipend," writes Staley. "If something like the Phoenix model is what develops in a wiki-ized university setting, this would suggest that a new type of “professorate” will emerge, consisting of those who teach or publish or conduct research for their own personal or professional satisfaction or for some other nonmonetized benefit.""
Hugh Pickens writes: "The NY Times reports that 3,400 Americans who took a test with 32 questions about the Bible, Christianity and other world religions, famous religious figures and the constitutional principles governing religion in public life answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith. Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences. "Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey," says Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew. The researchers said that the questionnaire was designed to represent a breadth of knowledge about religion, but was not intended to be regarded as a list of the most essential facts about the subject."
Hugh Pickens writes: "Donna St. George writes in the Washington Post that the art of family discipline has begun to reflect our digital age, Not long ago teenagers lost their evenings out, maybe the keys to the family car — now parents seize cellphones, shut down Facebook pages, pull the plug on PlayStation. "It's a modern version of grounding," says Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist and author of "The Parents We Mean to Be." "It's like taking away a weekend or a couple of weekends. It's a deprivation of social connections in the same way." Experts point out that the word discipline actually means to teach and suggest it should be approached that way. Some go further, saying consequences should be related to the transgression: that taking away a cellphone makes sense for breaking rules about texting, but perhaps not for coming home late; in that case, the consequence might include curfew times. "The easiest thing to do is take away what your child values in hopes they'll correct their behavior to get it back, but that's going to feel like punishment, not like discipline," says Kenneth R. Ginsburg, author of "A Parent's Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens." But in a report earlier this year from the Pew Institute, 62 percent of parents said they had taken away a cellphone as punishment. Parents "know how important and vital it is to their teens' existence," says the report's co-author Amanda Lenhart. "They were getting them where it hurt.""
Hugh Pickens writes: "The Telegraph reports that the Booktrust Early Years Award has been bestowed on Chris Wormell for his children's book "One Smart Fish" that teaches the theory of evolution to under-fives by telling the story of a fish who yearns to walk. Wormell didn't set out to write about evolution but wanted to illustrate a book about fish "because they were one of my obsessions as a kid, when I collected fish in tanks. I had the idea of this very smart fish, and then I had the evolution idea — that the one thing this fish wants to do more than anything is walk on the land." Wormell adds it is important for young children to learn about evolution. "We have got to stand up for evolution. Lots of kids don't know about it, although there are quite a few who do, and when I do readings in schools a kid will always say, 'Are you telling me we all came from fish?' And it gets a great discussion going," says Wormell. "The kids are around five or six and it's really interesting having that conversation.""
Hugh Pickens writes: "CNN reports that in 2005 software engineer Ryan Jones created noslang.com and as more readers have submitted terms related to drugs and sex, what started out as a fun little lexicon of innocuous shortcuts has become a valuable educational tool for parents to learn about what their children are up to because Jones has now made it his mission to help parents detect when their children are discussing dangerous activities online. In his online dictionary, there are thousands of slang terms related to drugs and sex (there are 88 drug shortcuts beginning with the letter "a" alone). "A- boot," for example, means someone is under the influence of drugs, "cu46" means "see you for sex," and "gnoc" means "get naked on cam," meaning a webcam. "Whether you're a parent, teacher, law enforcement officer or simply a concerned friend — it's important to stay up to date on the latest drug-related slang terms," writes Jones. "Parents write me thank you notes all the time, and I occasionally get hate letters from teens.""
pickens writes: Maureen Dowd writes in the NY Times that at the University of Florida, a quarter of incoming freshmen have signed up for a Facebook application called RoomBug to seek out a roommate they think will be more compatible than a random selection while other students use URoomSurf to make matches with questions like: How often do you shower? How neat are you? What’s your study/party balance? But Dowd writes that while choosing roommates who are mirror images may fit with our narcissistic and microtargeted society, it retards creativity and social growth and this reluctance to mix it up has been reflected in the lack of full-throated political and cultural debates on campuses, replaced by a quiet P.C. acceptance of differing views or an obnoxious stereotyping of anyone different. "As you leave behind high school to redefine and even reinvent yourself as adult, you need exposure to an array of different ideas, backgrounds and perspectives — not a cordon of clones," writes Dowd. "College is not only where you hit the books. It also should be where you learn not to judge a book by its cover."
Hugh Pickens writes: "Kate Phillips reports on the NY Times that at the National Science Bowl competition on Monday, Michelle Obama told the winners that, for the first time, the White House would sponsor a science fair for students from around the country. “When you win the NCAA championship, the winners come to the White House,” Mrs. Obama quoted the president as saying. “And we think that budding inventors, scientists and mathematicians should be at the White House, too. So we’re going to be excited to host you there." Mrs. Obama asked 17 bonus questions of the two finalist teams covering multiple areas of science, including potential functions of the appendix, what the letters and numbers stand for in the H1N1 flu virus, the protein content of blood and studies on the San Andreas fault in California. Afterward she joked that she had to study just to properly read the questions but told the group after the two winning teams received their trophies that "we want young people energized in the way that you all are, because we know that American brainpower in science and math has always driven this country's prosperity. We are going to need you.""
Hugh Pickens writes: "The Washington Post reports that officials at George Mason University are quickly finding out that they have vastly underestimated interest in the school's new bachelor's degree in video game design. "We've been overwhelmed," says Scott M. Martin, assistant dean for technology, research and advancement at GMU. "Our anticipated enrollment for the fall is 500 percent higher than we expected." George Mason first offered the program last fall when officials anticipated that it would enroll about 30 full-time students but currently 200 students are enrolled and that number is increasing. Course titles under the program include "History of Computer Game Design " while other courses focus on computer programming, digital arts and graphics and motion capture. Although many colleges offer courses and degrees in computer gaming in the United States, GMU offers the only four-year program in the DC area, an important market for gaming because serious games — those used to train military and special operations, doctors and others who use simulators — are becoming a market force in the region because of the proximity to federal government centers. "Gaming has been shifting from Silicon Valley," says Eugene Evans, general manager of Bioware Mythic, part of Electronic Arts located in Fairfax, Virginia. "The team at GMU is putting a strong emphasis on a broad set of disciplines and instilling an entrepreneurial spirit, which could mean many new start-ups within a few years.""