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22 December 2010 @ 02:00 am
 Research with some surprises summarized in this article from The Economist "Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic."

Once again, I point a finger at government money which has encouraged a ridiculous amount of degree inflation. Do you ever wonder how Borders, Starbucks, and Whole Foods manage to have so many intelligent and highly educated people working for them?

Hattip to Stephen Hicks.
19 November 2010 @ 04:02 pm
Do you believe that violence in media promotes violence in real life? Does media reflect cultural values or can it actively reshape them?

16 November 2010 @ 01:15 pm
 Interesting study of charter high schools in Chicago by the Illinois Public Policy Institute here.

"Waiting for Superman" has put the spotlight on charter schools as an innovation tool. I'd love to see what goes on at some of them myself.
13 November 2010 @ 03:21 pm
 The Chicago Tribune found 8 of 10 public high school juniors in Illinois scoring below the college readiness measures of the ACT test, reported in this article. "The nonprofit ACT company stands by its readiness scores: at least 18 in English, 21 in reading, 22 in math and 24 in science. The top possible score is 36."

This includes students from high schools of high repute, like New Trier, where 94% go to college. Even there, 38% of juniors fell short of the readiness scores.

"In Lincolnshire and Naperville [posh and highly-regarded programs], more than half of juniors scored too low to reach the targets in English, reading, science, and math, though several hundred met three of four benchmarks, usually missing in science."


11 November 2010 @ 06:30 pm
Lead research anthropologist for the Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries Andrew Ascher found that students are highly unskilled in performing searches.

“Student overuse of simple search leads to problems of having too much information or not enough information … both stemming from a lack of sufficient conceptual understanding of how information is organized,” he said. Even computer science students!

Read about his study of their use of Google and other tools in this Inside Higher Ed article.

"“they’re not getting adequate training as they’re going through the curriculum,” he said.

"Asher moved swiftly through a few slides featuring excerpts from interviews with students, each eliciting both chuckles and gasps from the audience of librarians and technologists. “I’m just trusting Google to know what are the good resources,” responded one sophomore biology student."

This alarming result--even among students who are academic achievers is what you get when education focuses on information and testing at the expense of cognitive development and independent thinking. 

Another researcher suggested they get instruction on how to do searches. But the real problem lies in the fact that their minds are not conceptually organized--they don't know what is relevant or connected to a topic or idea and what is not. This is the serious deficit of education.

Much maligned in education and by teachers everywhere, read about a new study metastudy examining 65 studies and over 6,000 videogame trainees which finds that people learn better with videogames.

"A University of Colorado Denver Business School study found those trained on video games do their jobs better, have higher skills and retain information longer than workers learning in less interactive, more passive environments."

"games work best when they engage the user, rather than instruct them passively. She found 16 percent of the games she studied were too passive and no more effective than other teaching methods," said researcher Traci Sitzman.

Active engagement is key to the success of the Montessori Method also, using learning materials and self-directed activities.

To give teachers critical of videogames their due, students sometimes play these games so much that they miss important opportunities for real-world exploration and social interaction.

On the other hand, I've seen plenty of children work closely together on strategy and logical implications while playing videogames as a group, or online together. 

Videogames can enable a person to engage in complex, multi-faceted, and/or exciting, dangerous activities, developing important cognitive and physical skills while remaining safe. They can develop skills through games that would be much more difficult to gain in the real world as a child or adolescent.

Bottom line: technology can result in good or ill, depending on how you use it.
28 October 2010 @ 08:34 am
When will colleges be accountable to the market? In the midst of our major recession, they're hiking tuition fees again. As I reported in a previous post, if you want to see how out-of-whack college tuition is, compare it to inflation:

When I went to Northwestern University in the '70's, the tuition was a very high $3,000 a year;using 2 inflation calculators, I estimated that,last year, if tuition rose with inflation, if should have been between $12,000 and $16,000 a year. What's current NU tuition?


Here's a story from the Chicago Tribune that names what's going on: "Tuition, Pell Grants Rise in Tandem."

The "free" money of Pell grants drives their uneconomical use, and thus increases prices.
25 October 2010 @ 12:09 pm
Valuable article from The Virginia Gazette about the research of William and Mary Psychology professor Kyung Hee Kim on creativity.  It has good suggestions for how to foster children's creativity - one's all parents should try to implement.

Read this and then listen to the Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, talk about their experience in Montessori school:

Hattip to Bert Loan.
20 October 2010 @ 11:32 am

I recently saw the movie "Waiting for Superman" about public education.  It's by Davis Guggenheim, director of "An Inconvenient Truth." Consequently, you'll understand that it's quite artfully done, and it's loaded with information. 

Families desperate to get their children into lottery-selected charter schools scream and cry - when they win a place, or lose. It's pathetic and depressing. The message is powerful: children in public schools are being robbed of a good education by the system. The New York Public schools, the DC Schools, the Milwaukee schools, and the teachers' unions are featured.

Although not strident, the director seems to lay the blame on teachers' unions. And it's astonishing to hear that the DC union leadership did not even allow the members to vote on maverick DC Superintendent (recently resigned) Michelle Rhee's proposal to give merit pay. I'm surprised the membership didn't rebel - but then, what does that say?

However, I'm of two minds about this movie: the movie won a Sundance Film Festival award, and, apparently, the New York Times , the Washington Post, and other mainstream media outlets have taken an interest in it - unlike other worthy film attempts on the same topic, such "The Cartel." It's getting the problem to the attention of more people.

But the director makes NO MENTION WHATSOEVER of the school choice movement, i.e. vouchers or credits allowing students to go to private school. 

This, while Guggenheim admits at the beginning of the movie that his own kids attend private school

This, while he interviews the superintendent of the Milwaukee schools, which have a very successful voucher program!

This, while ignoring the successful voucher program in DC!

Within the world of his movie, it's public schools or charter schools for those who can't afford an alternative.

He can't be that ignorant. So why is he ignoring school choice? "Don't bother to examine a folly, ask yourself what it accomplishes."

Read about the "Flocabulary" history program which Oklahoma implemented with federal tax money.  

And example of the text: "White men getting richer than Enron. They stepping on Indians, women and blacks. Era of Good Feeling doesn’t come with the facts."

Flocabulary’s CEO and co-founder Alex Rappaport told FoxNews.com: “Without engagement and motivation it’s very difficult to learn, so our main purpose is to create materials that will motivate the students that are least likely to succeed with traditional methods.” 

More leftist indoctrination under the guise of an "edgy" curriculum which will get the attention of the students!

Hattip to Bob Meier