Sergio Juárez Correa teaches at José Urbina López Primary School in Matamoros, Mexico -- a violent, terribly impoverished border town. His school is often referred to as "a place of punishment." But when he encountered the educational ideas of Sugata Mitra (who famously installed computers in slums for illiterate street-kids to use, and found that they'd taught themselves to use them and were educating themselves), he rebuilt his teaching around leaving his kids alone as much as possible. His classroom became one of the highest-scoring groups in the Mexican educational system.
Moreover, one of Correa's students, a young girl named Paloma Noyola Bueno, demonstrated extraordinary talent and appears to be some kind of savant with incredible potential. That's pretty amazing and heart-warming, but what gets me as the parent of a school-aged kid (and as a sometime teacher) is the demonstrated efficacy of letting kids drive their own education with their own curiosity and passion.
I hate the way schools are focused on producing high test-scores. It scares me that if my kid walks into a classroom excited about reading and it's time to do math, she'll have to do math, because no one -- not the teacher, nor the school, nor even the kid -- can afford to have her blow the standardized test. Every important thing I know, I learned because I became passionate about it and then the adults around me let me pursue it.
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Bob Slade, a 65-year-old retired British dockworker who's served for four years as a beloved crossing guard ("lollipop man") has quit because his bosses ordered him to stop high-fiving the kids. The local authority -- which initially counselled him to make contact and socialise with the kids -- says that high-fiving kids means that his attention is taken off the road, and they complained that while he high-fives the kids, his hand is not being sternly held aloft, stopping cars. The lollipop lady we used to meet every morning on the way to my daughter's daycare knows the name of every kid who crosses at her street -- and she still recognises me, a year and a half later, and asks after my daughter by name. They're quite a remarkable bunch.
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American teachers are widely assessed on the basis of "value added measures," a statistical tool for analyzing the outcomes of their teaching. But as Jerry Genovese points out, this is statistically completely bankrupt -- unless you randomize your samples, you get no insight into the quality of the teaching. I asked my father, Gord Doctorow -- a mathematician, math teacher, and professor of education -- what he thought of Genovese's piece, and he sent me some great material, which you'll find after the jump.
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If you're the type of person who really needs some good visuals to make a concept stick in your head, this series of YouTube videos made by the British Psychological Society Media Centre will help you remember the meanings behind statistical concepts like "correlation", "frequency distributions", and "sampling error". There are four videos in the series so far, and they do a great job of painting pictures around abstract ideas. Bonus: Soothing music.
In Matot v. CH, et al, a middle school assistant principal named Adam Matot asked a court to find that two students who'd set up parody social media accounts mocking him had violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and when the court laughed that out the door, asked the court to find that the students had violated the RICO Act and were engaged in organized crime. Thankfully, the court understood that this was raw sewage disguised as legal theory [PDF] ("Congress did not intend to target the misguided attempts at retribution by juvenile middle school students against an assistant principal in enacting RICO.") and found for the kids. Here's some trenchant analysis from Venkat Balasubramani:
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Jane from Creative Commons sez, "It has come to our attention that the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and top internet service providers are drafting curriculum to teach kids in California elementary schools that copying is wrong, or as Wired.com puts it, 'Downloading is Mean!'
"This message is way too simple. In this digital age, the most important thing we should be teaching kids is to be creative and take full advantage of all the web has to offer. Copyright, asking permission, open licensing, and all the other legal nuances, should be seen as secondary (and even complementary) to this purpose. We should be starting with the things kids can do versus what they can't do."
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The MPAA, RIAA, and America's major ISPs have teamed up to produce a stilted, propagandistic copyright curriculum for California's public schools. The material does not mention fair use at all (it's not "age appropriate," apparently) and suggests that you may not build on others' ideas without explicit permission, something that is both legally and morally nonsensical. Here's the sixth grade curriculum [PDF], here's grade five [PDF], and here's grade two [PDF], and grade one [PDF]. The plan is to roll this out across America.
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LuAnne McNulty is an organic chemist. A few years ago, she developed severe asthma that's triggered by ... well ... organic chemistry. Not too long ago, that biological reaction would have put her out of a job. Today, she's able to conduct research (if not do it herself) and advise younger scientists with the help of really simple tech solutions
. — Maggie
Samantha Cook sez, "Hacker Scouts, a nonprofit organization based in Oakland CA, has launched a Kickstarter to fund a new hackerspace designed for kids and their families. Due to the increase in demand for their programs, Hacker Scouts is working with local partners to build a space that is practical and exciting where they can run classes and workshops, support outreach programs to Oakland's diverse community, and continue to prototype programs and activities that they release open source to the global community. Hacker Scouts has been successfully bringing STEAM Education and real, relevant skill building for over a year and have grown from one program in Oakland to over 30 programs all over the US. In order to continue the high level of individualized learning and mentorship, they need a space that matches their growth. Please support Hacker Scouts by donating and/or sharing this project. More information can be found on the Hacker Scouts website and on our Kickstarter page."
Hacker Scouts got written up here recently when the Boy Scouts of America threatened to sue them over the use of the word "scouts" in their name.
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Dungeons & Developers is a cute and useful "skill tree" in the style of an RPG levelling guide. It starts with basic HTML and works its way through various skills all the way to master Web developer. Each skill-box comes with links to free online tutorials and training materials, and the flowchart suggests a logical progression through all the varied topics.
Dungeons & Developers
(via Hacker News)
The University of California, Irvine is offering a free MOOC (massive open online course) about The Walking Dead. Titled “Society, Science, Survival: Lessons from AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead,’” it's a multidisciplinary course taught by instructors from public health, social sciences, physics, and math.
“As an educator, I’m always looking for ways to make scholarly ideas come alive for my students,” says public health lecturer Zuzana Bic. “‘The Walking Dead’ provides many poignant case studies related to the scholarly areas covered in the course, and it helps that it’s one of TV’s most popular shows. There will be something for everyone in this course, which will explore concepts as varied as post- disaster nutrition, the foundations of human survival and stereotypes in a Darwinian environment.”
"AMC, Instructure and UCI to offer multidisciplinary MOOC based on ‘The Walking Dead’"
Anthropologist Jennifer Raff offers this great guide, aimed at laypersons
, that will help you learn more from reading the scientific research papers you find online and prevent you from succumbing to common mistakes that often show up in Internet flame wars. Step 1: Don't rely on the abstract to tell you what's going on — read the introduction first, instead. — Maggie
It's not too early to plan for next semester. John Hawks
, a fantastic science blogger and professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is offering a Coursera class on Human Evolution: Past and Future
. Seems like just the thing for curious Happy Mutants! — Maggie
Did you know that Donald Trump operates an institution of higher education?
The New York State attorney general’s office filed a civil lawsuit on Saturday accusing Trump University, Donald J. Trump’s for-profit investment school, of engaging in illegal business practices.The lawsuit, which seeks restitution of at least $40 million, accused Mr. Trump, the Trump Organization and others involved with the school of running it as an unlicensed educational institution from 2005 to 2011 and making false claims about its classes in what was described as “an elaborate bait-and-switch.”
It had a logo with a classy serif font and a heraldic lion and everything. The lion, according to Wikipedia, traditionally symbolizes bravery, valor, strength, and royalty, as it is regarded as the king of beasts.
The Hacker Scouts is an organization "that focuses on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) education, skill building and community engagement with the aspiration to help our children develop skills in the areas they are truly interested in, abilities that would allow them to dream big and create big." They filed for a trademark on the name "Hacker Scouts" and got a legal threat from lawyers for the Boy Scouts of America. After a protracted back-and-forth by mail, the Hacker Scouts have gone public, because the BSA won't soften its position: call yourselves the ____________ Scouts, and we'll sue.
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