Archive for ‘technology’

March 14, 2014

Is it okay to use cell phones at the dinner table?

by Grace

One of my pet peeves is the use of cell phones at the dinner table.  According to a recent Pew Survey I’m in the majority, even among Millenials.

20140313.COCPewCellPhones1

But norms are changing.

I can see the temptation to use cell phones in social situations.  If I’m with a group of friends but not actively participating in the conversation at that moment, I might find it handy to use that time to check the latest scores, news headlines, or emails on my phone.  This happens all the time, especially with young people, many of whom find it perfectly acceptable.  But it’s incredibly annoying when I find myself sitting next to someone who’s playing games or checking Facebook while I’m engaged in conversation with another person at the dinner table.  Maybe I feel snubbed?  Is it too much to ask everyone to listen with rapt attention to every word at the table?  Perhaps.

I might just have to get used to changing norms and attention spans.

20140313.COCGrumpOldWoman

Related:  Distracted by digital devices (Cost of College)

February 28, 2014

‘We have 500 cable channels and a one-size-fits all school system’

by Grace

Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic political strategist. has been a proponent of school choice ever since he was a kindergartener and his mother fought to allow him to attend a safer school outside his neighborhood.

Trippi was recently interviewed by Reason.tv at a National School Choice Week event.

“… The status quo is not working.  Let’s put everybody’s ideas on the table.  If you’re in support of current public school system the way it is let’s talk about it, but I don’t think it’s working….

The reason for School Choice Week is because technology is moving so fast that most government bureaucracies can’t keep up with it.  One of them is education….

We have 500 cable channels and a one-size-fits all school system.”

Not having school choice has “been wrong for 50 years”.

“…  we have more choice at a 7-Eleven them in the way we educate our children. That’s crazy….”

School choice is becoming more of a bipartisan movement.

Democrats and school choice have a long, tangled relationship. Few know better than Trippi. He’s been deep inside Democratic politics since the 1970s, and his firm, Trippi & Associates, has advised National School Choice Week since its inception in 2010. So what’s he seeing on the ground now? A lot of Democrats coming around on school choice, especially at the local level, especially in inner cities.

Along with the trend of increased support for school choice, Trippi sees a libertarian president in the near future.

… Four important changes in American politics are creating this opportunity: a socially tolerant public, the effective end of the two-party system, disruptive technologies, and the growing popularity of politicians such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

“The younger generation is probably the most libertarian and sort of tolerant, and has more libertarian values, I’d say, than any generation in American history” …

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February 27, 2014

Ready or not, K-12 is moving to increased online instruction

by Grace

It can be argued that K-12 online instruction in and of itself is no better or worse than traditional teaching.  Sometimes it works well, and sometimes it fails miserably.

In any case, the education industry is eagerly embracing online methods in yet another attempt to “innovate” K-12 education.

 … by the year 2019 half of all classes for grades K-12 will be taught online.

That’s the prediction from Clayton Christensen, author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Transform the Way the World Learns.  I will not be surprised to see this come true.

20140226.COCK-12OnlineGrowth1

There is very little good research on K-12 online learning.

… the results of meta-analyses of K-12 studies do not show a decided edge for students taking online courses or in virtual full-time schools performing even marginally above students who are in teacher-led classrooms.  More striking, however, is that only a few studies of virtual instruction in K-12 schools meet the minimum quality threshold for design, sampling, and methodologies….

Online instruction fills a need and is effective for some K-12 students.

“Some kids don’t have the discipline to sit down at a computer every day and do schoolwork with no one looking over their shoulder. … But for the right kid, the online approach offers benefits that traditional school doesn’t.”

Those benefits include flexibility and efficiency. Taking all or a few classes online gives students more opportunities than ever before. They have more opportunities to work while in school, gaining valuable job experience that economists show increases their ability to move up the ladder later in life. They can chase serious interests like athletics, music, or volunteering, and spend more time in the real world than preparing for it.

Any combination of lousy administration, inept teachers, and poor curriculum will produce poor results whether online or traditional methods are used.

Here are letters from Manhattan’s Murry Bergtraum high school students defending their fraudulent blended-learning program where one “social-studies teacher had a roster of 475 students in all grades and subjects”.

20140226.COCErrorLettersNYC1

A junior wrote that the program “made it less challenging and more understandable. We watched a video, answer a few questions, and took an online quiz/test. It was simple, and reasonable.” This helped him score 85 in chemistry, he said.

But professors at CUNY — where nearly 80 percent of New York City grads who attend must take remedial classes in math, reading or writing — said online instruction often leaves students ill-prepared.

No kidding.

February 14, 2014

Handwriting is better than typing when taking notes in class

by Grace

Laptops may offer some efficiency in classroom note-taking, but handwriting is better for learning because typing appears related to a “shallower kind of cognitive processing”.

Here is a story from HuffPost about two studies by UCLA psychologists concluding that students who take notes by hand learn better than those who take notes by computer, both in short-term and longer-term learning. They found that computer users tend to engage in “mindless transcription,” which gives them lots of notes, but did not learn as much, especially when testing focused on concepts rather than facts. In addition, at one point they specifically told laptop users not to simply transcribe what they were hearing, but it didn’t work–the computer users were unable to stop themselves from trying to get verbatim notes.

Another possible reason handwriting is better

I can see how it would be easier for a student’s mind to wander while typing as opposed to when he is writing.  On the other hand, did the study incorporate the effect of the many distractions that can easily pull a laptop user’s attention away from the lecture topic?  For example, one college student told me he always has his Twitter feed open so he can constantly check to make sure he doesn’t miss “important” news.  It seems that kind of multitasking could also be related to shallower cognitive processing.

Related:  Successful media multitasking teens are a myth (Cost of College)

January 23, 2014

Watching TV with our smartphones by our side

by Grace

It appears I am not alone in keeping my smart phone handy while watching television.

About 44 percent of Americans utilize another device while watching television — but among that group, only 13 percent say that it makes the program-viewing experience “much more enjoyable.” A significant 67 percent report that it makes their TV viewing “somewhat more enjoyable.”

Hungry for more information

I would say it makes my viewing experience more enjoyable.  Most of the time I use my phone to look up information about a particular person appearing on a news or reality show, which is mostly what I watch on TV.  So if an expert is opining on a particular topic, I might look up his background to consider how credible I consider his views.  Or if a starlet is embroiled in some scandal, I might Google her to see how many times she’s been married.

… 67 percent of those using a second screen while watching TV are searching for program-related content. And the most commonly used second-screen device is a smart phone. Those most likely to use their phones in this way are millennials (ages 13 to 34). Women are also more likely to be second-screen users than men.

Millennials are more likely to access Twitter for shows they are watching (22 percent) and mostly go to social network sites where they can interact with or track a community of other viewers.

The use of what the study calls “synchronized content” is most often done during reality shows (29 percent) and for participating in contests to win prizes (24 percent). An overwhelming 72 percent said such content is only appropriate for certain shows.

Too distracting?
Does this use of “synchronized content” create a negative distraction as much multitasking does in other areas?  I usually check my smart phone while pausing the program or during commercials, so I don’t consider it multitasking as much as “data-enhanced” viewing.

Social or anti-social viewing?
Checking Twitter or similar social media sites can make TV watching more of a social event at times.  For example, if I’m home alone watching the Super Bowl, I might want to check in with Facebook friends during the game to make it a more exciting event.  Or would that just make me feel lonely for not being invited to a Super Bowl party?

Related:  Distracted by digital devices (Cost of College)

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January 16, 2014

SUNY online program aims for 100,000 new students within five years

by Grace

“Open SUNY” is the new online system for New York state universities.

BUFFALO — New York state’s 64-campus university system is undertaking a major virtual expansion, adding new online degree programs and enhancing academic and technical support for students taking classes via computer.

In what it’s calling “Open SUNY,” the State University of New York goes live Tuesday with eight new online degree programs at six campuses and plans to add more in September. SUNY currently offers more than 12,000 courses and 150 degree programs online.

Students will be able to complete degrees online or through a combination of virtual and brick-and-mortar classes.

The goal is to make the online segment of the SUNY student body grow to about 15% of its total enrollment, with a particular focus on practical career preparation.

The new offerings will be aligned toward jobs in high demand. They include a clinical laboratory technologies degree program at SUNY Broome, an electrical engineering degree program from Stony Brook and an informations systems program through Empire State College.

Cost savings is another goal of Open SUNY.

  1. Are we trying to reduce costs for students through Open SUNY?

    Yes, we are looking to reduce costs for students. These savings can come in various forms such as reduction in text book costs to students through the adoption and creation of open education resources. If we can save each of our 469,000 plus students $30 in textbook costs, we will generate over $14,000,000 in savings. Online courses also allow students to save on costs associated with commuting and child care. During the Open SUNY development process costs and cost sharing will be reviewed with the goal of creating a rich, rewarding, and affordable experience for all students.

    Additionally, we will provide technical platforms and services so that campuses and faculty can openly share the materials and courses they create with learners throughout the world.  These open environments will provide free learning opportunities for anyone in the world.

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January 14, 2014

Best growth outlook is for low-paying jobs

by Grace

The outlook for jobs does not hold up much hope for some college graduates.

Elder care and other low-wage jobs will be among the fastest growing career fields over the next decade. Postal carriers and journalists might have a harder time finding work.

The fastest growing job for the next decade requires no formal education and pays an average annual income of $19,940.

Personal-care aide will be the fastest growing job from 2012 to 2022, among categories with more than 25,000 positions, the Labor Department said in a new report. The field will grow by nearly 50% to 1.8 million jobs.

The gloomy prospect for postal workers and reporters is directly tied to technology advances.  Email has replaced most paper letters, and the rise of robo-reporters has cut into the need for human writers.

Postal and media sectors are likely to shed jobs in the next decade.

Employment among U.S. Postal Service workers is expected to decline 28%.Reporter and correspondent jobs will contract nearly 14%.

Here’s a look at journalism jobs pulled from the Wall Street Journal “sortable table of the career fields that will grow and shrink in the next decade”

20140112.COCJournalismJobs1

Since my college kid is seeking a job in journalism, I had a brief panicked moment before I realized the job levels are reported in thousands!  Maybe I can find slight comfort in looking at jobs with even fewer projected job openings, such as film editors, high school history teachers, and chemical engineers.  However, in terms of expected percent changes for jobs requiring a college degree, journalists rank right at the bottom of the list.

December 19, 2013

Higher cell phone use linked to lower grades among college students

by Grace

Frequent Cell Phone Use Linked to Anxiety, Lower Grades and Reduced Happiness in Students, Kent State Research Shows

Results of the analysis showed that cell phone use was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety. Following this, GPA was positively related to happiness while anxiety was negatively related to happiness. Thus, for the population studied, high frequency cell phone users tended to have lower GPA, higher anxiety, and lower satisfaction with life (happiness) relative to their peers who used the cell phone less often. The statistical model illustrating these relationships was highly significant.

These findings are not surprising, but causation was not confirmed.

While it is plausible that spending a lot of time calling and texting affects academic performance, it could equally be argued that these results suggest students who are more anxious, perform less well in class, and are more unhappy are more likely to use cell phones.

Meanwhile, “Hispanic and African-American students lag behind white students in academic achievement, but surpass them in using smartphones for homework“.


Related:  Distractions, focus, and IQ (Cost of College)

December 13, 2013

More evidence that frequent testing enhances learning

by Grace

Daily quizzes enhance college learning, but unfortunately they are not a commonly used teaching technique.

Grading college students on quizzes given at the beginning of every class, rather than on midterms or a final exam, increases both attendance and overall performance, scientists reported Wednesday.

The findings — from an experiment in which 901 students in a popular introduction to psychology course at the University of Texas took their laptops to class and were quizzed online — demonstrate that the computers can act as an aid to teaching, not just a distraction.

Moreover, the study is the latest to show how tests can be used to enhance learning as well as measure it. The report, appearing in the journal PLoS One, found that this “testing effect” was particularly strong in students from lower-income households.

Other research has also found that study techniques such “taking a test — say, writing down all you can remember from a studied prose passage — can deepen the memory of that passage better than further study”.

The benefits of frequent testing:

  • Improved learning
  • Improved attendance
  • Reduced achievement gap

Improved attendance probably leads to improved learning.

Technology makes frequent testing easier to implement.

The study involved students bringing their laptops to class each day, but there are other ways that technology could be used in frequent testing.  Mobile devices, SMART Boards with clickers, and in-class computers could all be utilized.  For all their flowery talk about 21st century skills, many schools are missing out on some basic ways they could use digital devices to improve student achievement levels.

Related:  Do students get too much homework, or too little feedback? (Cost of College)

November 25, 2013

MOOCs have not lived up to expectations, at least so far.

by Grace

Online education continues to evolve after first-generation MOOCs falter.

After a year of setback after setback, the hype around MOOCs is settling down a bit. The latest evidence of this comes courtesy of an interesting profile piece at Fast Company of Udacidy CEO Sebastian Thrun, a man who is in many ways the godfather of the MOOC concept.

Instead of his original goal of offering a “Stanford-quality education to millions of students around the world”, Thrun is shifting to “more vocational-focused learning”.

MOOCs have been a “lousy product“.

… Thrun highlights his disappointments with MOOCs’ record: 90 percent drop-out rates with only half of the remaining 10 percent actually earning a passing grade; the student demographic overwhelmingly populated by well-educated, college-degreed professionals rather than the underprivileged students he had hoped to reach; the San Jose State University debacle, in which San Jose students taking Udacity-delivered MOOCs performed significantly worse than their peers in physical classrooms; and the unexpected failure of Thrun’s interventions intended to raise passing rates. Thrun tried adding mentors and TAs to provide personalized attention and interaction with students, incorporating immediate feedback and rewards in the forms of badges and progress meters, and partnering with schools such as San Jose to provide college credit, which Thrun expected to ramp up student interest. “We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished,” Thrun remarked. “We have a lousy product.

Online education will clearly continue to change higher education, and the first wave of MOOCs were only part of this evolution according to Walter Russell Mead.

Thrun’s change of focus may not be as big a shift as it appears on its face. It’s been apparent from the beginning that the format is better suited for some subjects than others. Math, science and business are easier to teach online than liberal-arts subjects like English and philosophy that rely more heavily on in-class discussions. And while a liberal arts education remains a good option for many people, the vast majority of American college students are choosing majors that are tightly linked to future careers: only 7 percent of all students major in the humanities. On the other hand, subjects like business, science, nursing and computer science are among the most common majors in the country. Even if MOOCs only impact the “vocational” side of the higher-ed world, this still amounts to a pretty sizable chunk of the industry.

Furthermore, while MOOCs as they’re currently offered may not be enough to upend the higher-ed system on their own, there’s lots of promise for “blended” courses in which the online material is supplemented by regular meetings with teachers or tutors who lead discussions and proctor exams. These meetings could be handled remotely using teleconferencing technology, or they could be done in person at local testing centers, in either case adding that human component that remains the weakest link in how these courses are offered today.

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