Category Archives: Trends

Everybody should read this: The Silicon Valley Billionaires Remaking America’s Schools

This is a truly must-read article in the NY Times. Do you remember the letter by Bill Gates acknowledging that his impact on education was a bit dubious to say the least? It didn’t stop him from having a new idea for educationalthough personalized learning hasn’t much evidence backing it up yet (no, not really).

And the experiences by Bill Gates didn’t stop other Silicon Valley Billionaires for trying their own piece of solutionism for education. If you wonder what solutionism is:

  • The belief that all difficulties have benign solutions, often of a technocratic nature. (source)

So we have Hastings from Netflix trying to use algorithms in education, Marc Zuckerberg aiming at education with less emphasis on the teacher but rather having pupils teach themselves, … Stuff that they probably think:

  • that it will work,
  • that it hasn’t been done before.

Take the example of the present emphasis on coding in education to learn e.g. general problem solving skills. The sad thing is: a lot of this actually has been done before and often failed. We bought the t-shirt and it didn’t fit.

The sole reason these people have their big influence is not because they are smarter than anybody else. Or that they have newer insights. It’s because of two things: a) they have a lot of money and b) they want to do something for the community. Oh, and often you can add a third thing: they are parents and want the best for their own kid(s) and all the other kids. Nothing wrong with these reasons and I have nothing against billionaires, but it can be both undemocratic (my opinion is more important because I’m wealthy) and dangerous (by reinventing square wheels).

In the article in the NY Times you’ll find more info and there is one paragraph I really needed to share, quoting Larry Cuban:

Captains of American industry have long used their private wealth to remake public education, with lasting and not always beneficial results.

What is different today is that some technology giants have begun pitching their ideas directly to students, teachers and parents — using social media to rally people behind their ideas. Some companies also cultivate teachers to spread the word about their products.

Such strategies help companies and philanthropists alike influence public schools far more quickly than in the past, by creating legions of supporters who can sway legislators and education officials.

Another difference: Some tech moguls are taking a hands-on role in nearly every step of the education supply chain by financing campaigns to alter policy, building learning apps to advance their aims and subsidizing teacher training. This end-to-end influence represents an “almost monopolistic approach to education reform,” said Larry Cuban, an emeritus professor of education at Stanford University. “That is starkly different to earlier generations of philanthropists.”

These efforts coincide with a larger Silicon Valley push to sell computers and software to American schools, a lucrative market projected to reach $21 billion by 2020. Already, more than half of the primary- and secondary-school students in the United States use Google services like Gmail in school.

But many parents and educators said in interviews that they were unaware of the Silicon Valley personalities and money influencing their schools.

Hence the undemocratic…

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Funny on Sunday: what is Grand Theft Auto like in Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality is great, but maybe some games can become a bit too real…

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What PokemonGo could learn from education

Hypes come and go and while I do hope to remember this summer as also the summer of PokemonGo – besides the summer of terror -, it seems that this popular game is already losing a lot of its appeal. At first the servers couldn’t handle the success, but now even the biggest fans seem to get more and more disappointed. And as those users have the feeling that every single update makes the game worse, the same users have suggestions to make things better for Niantic, the company behind PokemonGo. But that will probably be in vain as a user notes on Reddit:

I see a lot of very interesting suggestions constantly popping up in this sub and it breaks my heart to think that Niantic will probably thoroughly ignore them. At least if they keep behaving like they did with us Ingress players.

As you already know, Niantic is very bad at communication as well as interacting with the fans. They follow their own agenda and don’t really give a shit about what the players really want. When they were developing Ingress, it always felt as if nobody in their team was actually playing the game seriously; for example it took them about a year to give us a simple item count in the inventory.

Oh, but wait. I recognize this. That’s called bad education. Great teachers never ignore their students. It doesn’t mean that they only do what their students want – no please -, but that they explain why if they won’t. We call this interaction and communication. Or to put it more blunt: they care about their students. And yes, I know there are still teachers around who don’t act like this, but they are seldom used as a good example for others in education. PokemonGo was used several times as a great example for education.

Maybe Yang Lui is correct when he thinks Niantic and PokemonGo is all about profit and money, and I want to add: it’s also probably all about the quick win.

Anybody surprised? Didn’t you see the stock exchange when the hype started, incorrectly booming because people thought Nintendo would make huge profits straightaway because of the game?

It’s great that it made people move (literally), but…

Education is never about the quick win. Education is not a hype.

We’ll never see or think back about a ‘summer of education’.

We are still growing in the consecutive decades of education for all.

Maybe this makes education sound a bit boring, but that’s because education is meant to last.

PokemonGo probably isn’t.

But if Niantic wants to be in it for the long run, maybe they could have a look at education…

 

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Funny on Sunday: try to catch the PokemonGo-catchers

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Funny on Sunday: what if Bart Simpson and other famous cartoons were hipsters?

Hipsters, those coffee drinking, Macbook using, living subculture icons have been the inspiration for Illustrator Matt Lassen to adapt some famous cartoon characters:

Check more here, but this is my favorite:

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No, it’s not swag or yolo after all: teenagers’ role in language change is overstated

The idea that teenagers have an important influence on our language – with new words popping up every now and then – is not wrong as such, but youngsters are not solely causing language change. A new study by Mary Kohn et al shows that language changes occur throughout a lifetime and not just during the teenage years. In fact, teenagers may not be causing language change the way that we typically think…

From the press release:

If you’re too “basic” to “YOLO” or think that slang is never “on fleek,” fear not: How teenagers speak IRL is not ruining the English language, according to Kansas State University linguistics research.

In fact, teenagers may not be causing language change the way that we typically think, said Mary Kohn, assistant professor of English. Kohn studies language variation and how language changes over time.

Kohn’s latest research found that teenagers are not solely causing language change. Rather, language changes occur throughout a lifetime and not just during the teenage years.

“Our research has shown teens are being dynamic with language, but not necessarily in a consistent way,” Kohn said. “We aren’t eliminating the possibility that teenagers are driving sound change, but we might be grossly overstating the role of teenagers.”

Kohn found there was not a consistent language path that a person took from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Language change is more individualistic and varies for each person, she said.

“Very commonly, people think that teenagers are ruining language because they are texting or using shorthand or slang,” Kohn said. “But our language is constantly developing and changing and becoming what it needs to be for the generation who is speaking it. As a linguist, I find this really exciting because it shows me that our language is alive.”

Kohn used the Frank Porter Graham project, which is a database that followed 67 children from infancy to their early 20s. The database includes audio and interview recordings from nearly every year of the children’s lives and also has recordings of family members, friends and teachers — all valuable information for understanding how language changes as individuals grow up, Kohn said.

Using this database, Kohn studied sound waves — a precise measurement of how people pronounce words. She focused on 20 individuals during four different time periods: fourth grade, eighth grade, 10th grade and post-high school at age 20. Kohn measured pronunciations to see if the participants dramatically changed during the teenage years. Her longitudinal approach offered a before and after look at linguistic pronunciation during the teenage years.

The teenager subgroup did not stand out as a group from the rest of the subgroups, meaning there was nothing special about being a teenager,” Kohn said. “Just because you are a teenager doesn’t mean you will change your language. Perhaps our stereotypes about how teenagers speak are often based on subgroups of teenagers that stand out to us as most distinct. We notice the kids who make bold fashion statements, so we also might notice the kids who are making dramatic linguistic changes.”

Other subgroups experience language change, Kohn said, and she suggests that sources of language change may happen in younger children. Children turn away from adult influence when they get to school, which may be the crucial point when language starts to shift.

During high school, teenagers often explore their own identities and may again choose to change their pronunciations and use language as a part of their identities. When these teens grow up and graduate from college or get a job, they may change their language again to sound more professional and meet the demands of their jobs and pressures of the workplace, Kohn said.

“All languages, throughout history, change as generations grow up and move through life,” Kohn said. “As long as there are people who are living and breathing and speaking, we’re going to invent new words. We’re going to invent new ways of speaking.”

Kohn recently published the research in a monograph, “The way I communicate changes but how I speak don’t.” The research was a collaboration with researchers at North Carolina State University, including Walt Wolfrom, Janneke Van Hofwegen, Charlie Farington and Jennifer Renn.

Read more at http://pads.dukejournals.org/content/99/1

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My 2 pence: Japanese government asks universities to close social sciences and humanities faculties

I just discovered this news item from September via @F3lixDeClerck but it’s quite shocking:

  • Japan’s Minister of Education has asked all national universities to close their social sciences and humanities departments
  • 26 universities have so far confirmed plans to close affected faculties or convert them to “areas that better meet society’s needs”

 

And I checked other sources, but it does seem to be true.

Sorry, but how foolish can a policy be. Some reasons:

More? Check this post by Curt Rice.

But to be clear: we don’t have to blame Japan for something that’s happening throughout the world.

The strange thing is: I’ve been to many conferences this year on technology and innovation and something has changed. While these conferences used to be the place to find new tools and gadgets – sorry for people who hate the word -, now the main topic was ethics. We have all these inventions and other “disruptions” – and that’s a word I hate – but what are we going to do with it? How are we going to live together?

At the same time we are confronted with problems that technology have troubles solving. There isn’t an app to solve the refugee crisis, although an app as Firechat can help the refugees.

Getting back to Japan, a country that wants to have more children as it’s getting more grey really fast, I do think this part of Abenomics isn’t really the answer.

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Interesting: The Changing Face of Family Life: Responsibilities, Rules, and Repercussions

Most of the time I’m bringing scientific reports and studies, but once in a while I make an exception by sharing some of the results of e.g. commercial research done by Viacom, as it sometimes shows interesting insights, such as these stats on family life:

With more Millennials having children, a recent Nickelodeon Kids and Family GPS project sought to find out more about the experiences of kids today–and to identify any contrasts in Millennial and Gen X parenting approaches.
This study consisted of online interviews of kids ages 8 to 14 and their parents, covering nearly 4,000 households in 19 countries.

Here are key findings from this project on the subjects of responsibilities, rules and repercussions:

Around the house, kids are more helpful than not—sometimes surprisingly so.

  • 60% of all parents surveyed say their child is a great help around the house
  • 2 out of 3 parents are often surprised by how helpful their kids can be
  • Girls 8-9 are most helpful—and parents are more surprised by their helpfulness than by 10-14s

Most kids have some duties at home, but not a lot.

  • More than 9 out of 10 kids are responsible for at least one chore
  • Cleaning their room is by far the most common household job (80%)
  • The next most common duties are pet care (40%), taking out trash (39%), washing dishes (33%), house cleaning (24%), babysitting siblings (20%), and packing school lunches (20%)
  • Gender stereotypes still apply—boys 10-14 do more outside work (trash/yardwork), girls 10-14 do more household work (cleaning/dishes/laundry), and boys 8-9 are least expected to do chores

Compared with Gen X parents, Millennial parents say they expect less from their kids—and that their kids do more.

  • 75% of Gen X parents say they expect a lot from their kids, compared with 65% of Millennial parents
  • However, Millennial parents are more likely to report that their kids are great at helping around the house (70% of Millennial parents, 60% of Gen X parents)

For most kids, breaking the rules isn’t cool.

  • Only 20% think it’s cool to break the rules
  • 7 in 10 kids agree that getting punished for breaking their parents’ rules makes them less likely to break them again

Explaining to the child what he/she did wrong is the most common repercussion for rule-breaking.

  • 63% of parents explain what the child did wrong or give them a “talking-to”
  • 52% of parents make their child apologize
  • Taking away electronics is a common punishment: 39% of parents don’t allow computer/tablet use, 29% don’t let the child go online, 28% don’t allow TV, 15% take his/her phone away
  • 26% of parents forbid the child from doing something they looked forward to, and 21% don’t let him/her hang out with friends
  • 25% of parents yell at the child for rule-breaking; 22% ground him/her

Millennial parents are stricter and more concerned about kids’ rule-breaking than Gen X parents.

  • Millennial parents are stricter with punishments than Gen X parents (41% vs. 36%)
  • Millennials’ children are more likely than Gen Xers’ kids to agree that getting punished makes them less likely to break the rules again (74% vs. 68%)
  • Millennial parents are more likely than Gen X parents to think kids get away with a lot (42% vs. 33%)
  • 41% of Millennial parents believe kids break rules just to see if they can get away with it (vs. 36% of Gen X parents)
  • However, Millennials’ fears are unfounded: Millennials’ and Gen Xers’ children are equally likely to say they sometimes go against their parents’ rules just to see if they can get away with it (43% vs. 42%)

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Creepy advice for parents: how to let your kid become a social media superstar

To be clear, this is a parody, still makes you think…

“With the help of trained professionals, parents can help their children build a social ecosystem that will effect millions and maybe billions of people—and hopefully make millions and maybe someday even billions of dollars.” [Jessi Smiles, Vine-superster]

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Education is key to climate adaptation (study)

Past week some well known celebrities sued our government because it’s lacking behind in it’s effort to save the climate. Given that some climate change is already unavoidable–as just confirmed by the new IPCC report–investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation efforts, which so far focus mostly in engineering projects, according to a new study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) published in the journal Science.

From the press release:

The article draws upon extensive analysis of natural disaster data for 167 countries over the past four decades as well as a number of studies carried out in individual countries and regions, published last year in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society.

The research shows that in many cases–particularly where the exact consequences of climate change are still unclear–educational expansion could be a better investment in protecting people from the impacts than conventional investments such as building sea walls, dams, irrigation systems, and other infrastructure.

“Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity,” says Wolfgang Lutz, Director of IIASA’s World Population Program and Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, a collaboration of IIASA, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the Vienna University of Economics, who wrote the article together with IIASA researchers Raya Muttarak and Erich Striessnig, who have dual affiliations with the Vienna Institute of Demography and the Vienna University of Economics and Business, respectively.

“Our research shows that education is more important than GDP in reducing mortality from natural disasters. We also demonstrated that under rapid development and educational expansion across the globe, disaster fatalities will be reduced substantially,” says Muttarak.

Climate models project that extreme weather events such as hurricanes are likely to increase with climate change. And with rising sea levels, floods will become a greater danger in low-lying coastal areas. So researchers from IIASA’s World Population Program launched a major research project to explore the connections between fatality rates in such disasters, education levels, and other potential factors that could contribute to resilience such as wealth and health.

Previous research had shown that education plays a major role in development, including poverty alleviation and economic growth. In regard to climate change adaption, “Education directly improves knowledge, the ability to understand and process information, and risk perception. It also indirectly enhances socioeconomic status and social capital. These are qualities and skills useful for surviving and coping with disasters”, says Muttarak.

The new study shows that education is the key factor in enhancing adaptive capacity to already unavoidable climate change. This insight is also reflected in the new generation of IPCC-related scenarios, the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) which were developed by IIASA researchers in collaboration with other leading global change research institutes to jointly capture different future socioeconomic challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Using these SSPs, the new study illustrates how alternative future trajectories in education lead to greatly differing numbers of expected deaths due to climate change. Therefore, says Striessnig, “Investment in human capital not only empowers people to achieve desirable socioeconomic outcomes, but it also has a protective function against diverse impacts climate change may have over the coming decades”.

With 100 billion dollars currently pledged per year for climate funding through the Green Climate Fund, the researchers say it is vital to examine where the money would have the greatest impact.

Striessnig says, “We need to think about how to best allocate the funds raised for the adaptation to future climate change. Currently many of these funds are destined to support less flexible engineering projects or agricultural strategies. Such efforts are also vitally important, but in light of the major uncertainties about climate change impacts, it makes sense to invest some of the funds in mechanisms that will empower people to flexibly adapt to whatever changes might occur.”

Abstract of the study:

Over the coming years, enormous amounts of money will likely be spent on adaptation to climate change. The international community recently made pledges of up to $100 billion per year by 2020 for the Green Climate Fund. Judging from such climate finance to date, funding for large projects overwhelmingly goes to engineers to build seawalls, dams, or irrigation systems (1). But with specific projections of future changes in climate in specific locations still highly uncertain, such heavy concrete (in both meanings) and immobile investments that can lock countries into certain paths may not be the best way to go (2). Our new study suggests that it may be efficient and effective to give part of this fund to educators rather than engineers. Public investment in universal education in poor countries in the near future should be seen as a top priority for enhancing societies’ adaptive capacity vis-à-vis future climate change.

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