Internet-based technology long ago figured out how to revolutionize and democratize everything from retail to auctions to maps. So what took so long to disrupt perhaps the largest, most dysfunctional field of all? With education several things were needed that until this decade hadn’t materialized: widespread broadband, low content costs (both creation and distribution) and rapidly proliferating mobile devices. And just as critically, a shift in social norms that accepts the efficacy of online learning coupled with a generation of digital natives willing to wholeheartedly embrace it.
But the grand prize in this week’s unexpectedly heated competition for most creative use of government to stifle innovation has to go to Minnesota.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the state has decided to crack down on free education, notifying California-based startup Coursera that it is not allowed to offer its online courses to the state’s residents. Coursera, founded by Stanford computer science professors Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng, partners with top-tier universities around the world to offer certain classes online for free to anyone who wants to take them. You know, unless they happen to be from Minnesota.
What a bunch of knuckleheads. One, this can’t really be enforced. Two, aren’t we all dumb enough already without their help?!
A recent study involving three separate experiments has shown that men who shear the hair off their heads are perceived as being more dominant, taller, and even stronger. But the increased perception of masculinity comes at a price: namely, diminished attractiveness.
I agree strongly with precisely one half of this assertion.
Clive Thompson on the importance of video in e-learning, and the importance of doing it right:
But I’m not completely stupid. I know that e-learning and video are very different media and, as a result, work in different circumstances. Most e-learning is aimed at imparting knowledge or, to a lesser degree, cognitive skills. On the other hand, while video can be used to put across more general principles as well as to deliver presentations, discussions and documentaries, it’s at its best when it’s showing you how to do something.
So have we really got to the point at which just about anyone can produce a watchable learning video for next to nothing? Unfortunately, not really. Yes, the barriers to entry have been considerably removed, at least in terms of cost. But, as we’ve found over the years with desktop publishing and e-learning authoring tools, having the right hardware and software is only the start; there is still a lot to learn.
At age 14, in my sophomore year of college, my barber found a dime-sized patch of hair missing during a routine haircut. He suggested to my mother that she take me to a dermatologist. It turns out that his suspicions were correct – I was exhibiting the initial signs of alopecia, “a medical condition in which hair is lost from some or all areas of the body, usually from the scalp” (Wikipedia). By the time I was 16, I had lost all the hair on my head. Now, many years later, I point to this experience as one of the best things that could have happened to me. Alopecia isn’t life-threatening; the only real symptom is hair loss. Traumatic in high school, yes, but also character-building.
I also realize that I went through a much more awkward version (to say the least) of what many men go through later in life. And do you know what else? Women get alopecia and have to deal with this too. Think about how hard that has to be.
And so, I have to agree with the following research:
MALE hair loss-related anxiety can be cured by growing a pair of balls and getting on with it, it has emerged.
If you never fail, you never learn. If you never learn, you never progress. It’s difficult to move forward in life if you don’t know both what does and does not work. Taking risks and making mistakes help you acquire that information. This isn’t a new idea, but what might surprise you is that you’re actually less likely to make a mistake if you afford yourself the right to make one.
Slate podcasts have ballooned not only in number but in length. The Gabfest was originally 15 minutes, the longest Bowers thought listeners could take. But listeners kept writing in and asking for the podcasts to be longer, then longer still. Now most programs are about 45 minutes long.
“Where else on the Internet do people go and seek out something that’s 45 minutes long and listen to it week after week after week, year after year?” Bowers said. “That kind of engagement is pretty extraordinary.”
To ignore this medium is to ignore a huge opportunity.
If you haven’t given podcasts a chance yet, or you’re looking for something new to listen to, here are my current favorites:
- 99% Invisible
- Arrogant Healthcare Marketing Bastards
- Here’s the Thing
- WNYC’s Radiolab
- Daddy on Board
- MacBreak Weekly
- This Week in Tech
- Roderick on the Line
- The Talk Show with John Gruber
All listened to with Downcast for iOS.
“One day I was watching a documentary about the production of the first jumbo jet–and an engineer on the team had said that when everyone tells him that what he is doing is impossible–it makes it even clearer to him that he is progressing in the right direction. That saying motivated me to experiment with different materials on cardboard, to find what produces the desired strength and durability.”
Even better than the article is the video. What he built is truly amazing. That he built it in the face of everyone telling him it couldn’t be done is even more powerful.
As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
For Sahlberg what matters is that in Finland all teachers and administrators are given prestige, decent pay, and a lot of responsibility. A master’s degree is required to enter the profession, and teacher training programs are among the most selective professional schools in the country. If a teacher is bad, it is the principal’s responsibility to notice and deal with it.