Public universities and even the US Navy have sold hundreds of patents to America's most notorious troll


Researcher Yarden Katz scraped the database of Intellectual Ventures, a giant business that buys up patents, but produces nothing but lawsuits (previously), and discovered that IV claims ownership of nearly 500 patents that were created at public expense by researchers employed by public universities, and another 100 or so patents filed by the US Navy. Read the rest

Hard work and lower standards raise our national high school graduation rate


Nationally the High School graduation rate has been on the rise. NPR reports the rise is due to a combination of hard work that benefits students, and some states simply lowering standards so they earn passing grades.

Via NPR:

While the graduation rate continues to climb, the improvement comes at a time when the scores of high school students on the test known as the "Nation's Report Card," are essentially flat, and average scores on the ACT and SAT are down.

As we've reported, the rising graduation rate reflects genuine progress, such as closing high schools termed "dropout factories," but also questionable strategies by states and localities to increase their numbers.

"For many students, a high school diploma is not a passport to opportunity, it's a ticket to nowhere," says Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, a national nonprofit that's long advocated for higher standards and graduation requirements.

Cohen points out that roughly half of states now offer multiple diplomas. Some of those credentials are rigorous, some aren't. "You don't know how many students who were in that graduation rate actually completed a rigorous course of study. We're not transparent about that. We're concealing a problem."

In many places, the high school graduation exam is also a low bar, Cohen says, while some states have dropped it altogether.

Just last month, in a major school funding ruling, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher excoriated his state for watered down graduation standards that, he says, have already resulted "in unready children being sent to high school, handed degrees, and left, if they can scrape together the money, to buy basic skills at a community college."

It's difficult to know which states earned this uptick in graduation rates through high standards and hard work and which states achieved it through shortcuts and lowered expectations.

Read the rest

Think like a computer scientist: free, interactive textbook


Runestone's Interactive Python project has adapted 2012's classic How to Think Like a Computer Scientist textbook, updating it to cover recent programming advances, and creating a fully interactive version with quizzes, code examples, and coding challenges. Read the rest

French schools use 3D printed anatomical clitoris models in sex-ed classes


The amazing internal anatomy of the clitoris is a mystery that has surfaced and vanished in history, coming into focus in 2005 (!), when Royal Melbourne Hospital urologist Helen O'Connell published her groundbreaking MRI studies. Read the rest

Kid who found a knife in a used backpack suspended for turning it in at school


Kyler Davies is in the seventh grade in the Coldwater Community Schools district in Coldwater, MI; his mom buys her kids (whom she fosters) some of their school supplies used at Goodwill, including Kyler's backpack, which turned out to have a knife in it. Read the rest

A modern rebuild of the Radio Shack 150-in-One electronics kit

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While looking into the Kano snap-together learning computer kit (Kickstarted in 2013, reviewed here last January) I got to thinking about Radio Shack's classic, much-loved 150-in-One Electronics Kit, which occupied literal years of my time when I was a boy. Read the rest

How America abandoned the only policy that consistently closes the black-white educational gap


After 1954's landmark Brown v Board of Ed ruling, America's (largely racially segregated) cities began racially integrating their schools by busing black kids to white neighborhoods, a project that hit its stride at the start of the 1970s. It worked. Read the rest

UNH will spend $1M of librarian's bequest on a football scoreboard

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Robert Morin worked for 50 years as a cataloger at the University of New Hampshire library (he was also a UNH alum); he was thrifty, ate microwave dinners and drove a 1992 Plymouth, and saved $4M, which he gave to the university as an unrestricted gift, and so the university is giving $100K to the library he worked in and $1M to the football team to pay for a new scoreboard. Read the rest

Young Conservatives' "leadership seminar" featured food & water deprivation, sexist epithets, physical abuse


The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party has issued an apology to attendees at a 3-day, $300-400 Conservative Leadership Foundation seminar where attendees experienced sexist epithets, thrown shoes, and denial of food and drink. Read the rest

Nightwork: the extraordinary, exuberant history of rulebreaking at MIT

MIT has a complicated relationship with disobedience. On the one hand, the university has spent more than a century cultivating and celebrating a "hacker culture" that involves huge, ambitious, thoughtful and delightful pranks undertaken with the tacit approval of the university. On the other hand -- well, on the other hand: Star Simpson, Bunnie Huang, and Aaron Swartz. In Nightwork, first published in 2003 and updated in 2011, MIT Historian T. F. Peterson explores this contradictory relationship and celebrates the very best, while suggesting a path for getting rid of the very worst.

German free school teaches without grades, timetables or lesson plans


The Evangelical School Berlin Centre is a private "free" school -- that is, it costs money to go there, but the tuition is on a means-tested sliding scale, and the students enjoy enormous educational freedom -- that has drawn attention thanks to the exceptional performance of its graduating students. Read the rest

A law prof responds to students who anonymously complained about #blacklivesmatter tee

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This redacted pair of letters surfaced two months ago: the first one is a letter from an anonymous law student (or group of students) who wrote to a prof to object to their choice to wear a Black Lives Matter t-shirt in class; the second, a devastating takedown from the prof, is a tiny masterclass in legal thinking, persuasive writing, and the nature and character of a legal education. Read the rest

Claude Shannon, MOOCs, and nanoassembly: what 3D printing is really about


Neal Gershenfeld, founder of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, has been talking about making digital things physical and physical things digital longer than almost anyone, and his books -- notably FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop -- are visionary and inspirational ways to think about how information technology has changed our species' relationship with the universe; while the Fab Labs he helped invent represent the best and most thoughtful way that a makerspace can be built to suit local community needs. Read the rest



Gus the hacker puppeteer writes, "While looking for Google-autocompleted questions about the media to answer on The Media Show, we started typing 'how do cell phones...' and Google came back with '...distract students.'" Read the rest

What if school was out, forever?


Today a future without schools. Instead of gathering students into a room and teaching them, everybody learns on their own time, on tablets and guided by artificial intelligence.

Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon | Reddit

In this episode we talk to a computer scientist who developed an artificially intelligent TA, folks who build learning apps, and critics who wonder if all the promises being made are too good to be true. What do we gain when we let students choose their own paths? What do we lose when we get rid of schools?

Illustration by Matt Lubchansky.

▹▹ Full show notes Read the rest

Teach crypto with emoji: Codemoji!


Brett from Mozilla writes, "Codemoji, a game and learning tool that lets you encode secret messages in emoji and then send them to friends for deciphering." Read the rest

Rubber fingertips to use with fingerprint-based authentication systems


Mian Wei, a Chinese student at the Rhode Island School of Design, has created an experimental series of fake fingertips with randomly generated fingerprints that work with Apple and Android fingerprint authentication schemes, as well as many others. Read the rest

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