Archive for ‘technology’

February 24, 2015

Students resist attempts to prevent cheating during online tests

by Grace

Students object to software designed to prevent cheating during online exams.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Students at Rutgers University are balking at a new biometric software used in online classes that requires them to record their facial features, knuckles and photo ID.

ProctorTrack, implemented for online courses this year, requires students to record their face, knuckle and personal identification details to verify their identity. The software then tracks students’ monitor, browser, webcam and microphone activity during the session to prevent cheating on exams, according to The Daily Targum – Rutgers’ student newspaper.

Students are mainly concerned about privacy issues, although the unexpected activation fee is also considered a problem.

The software and its implementation – which went largely unnoticed because the university did not notify students of the change until after the add-drop period ended – are now raising serious privacy concerns among some students. Others started a Change.org petition to stop the use of ProctorTrack over a $32 activation fee imposed on unwitting students taking classes online.

“Emails about mandating the use of ProctorTrack were sent out during the THIRD WEEK of classes,” School of Arts and Sciences senior Betsy Chao wrote on the Change.org petition. “It was already too late to drop classes and so, students essentially have NO choice but to pay the fee.”

That failure to notify student could be a violation of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, according to media reports.

The biggest concerns, however, seem to center on apparent privacy and security risks.

According to The Daily Targum, “many students are unsure if the ProctorTrack system efficiently secures recorded student data.

“The system’s security measures are not particularly clear. Combined with ProctorTrack’s young age — the system was literally patented several weeks ago — potential security vulnerabilities within the ProctorTrack system remain an open question.

Other proctoring software such as Examity and ExamGuard monitor test-takers by video taping and/or locking parts of their browser functions.

As expected, ways to evade this monitoring software have been posted online.

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Victor Skinner, “Students object to online courses recording facial features, knuckles, voice”, EAGnews.org, February 20, 2015.

February 17, 2015

Online master’s degrees in education have gone mainstream

by Grace

… As online programs have grown in popularity, online master’s in education degrees have become more acceptable, experts say….

In some cases, Horn says, ​schools don’t even indicate the mode of instruction on degrees and transcripts, which means school officials only see the program or school name anyway.​

Even in cases where an online degree is obvious, it rarely matters in public school districts, experts say. In the K-12 world, at least, online master’s degrees in education are so common that employers don’t think of them much at all​, Horn says. Those in hiring positions who have been to school recently have taken a blended or fully online course, so they know the classes can be just as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts.

Of course, students must cover the basics in selecting their online provider, making sure the school is accredited and that the program will lead to the desired state license.

Best Online Graduate Education Programs — U.S. News & World Report

  1. University of Houston — Houston, TX
  2. Florida State University — Tallahassee, FL
  3. Northern Illinois University — DeKalb, IL
  4. Pennsylvania State University—World Campus — University Park, PA

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Devon Haynie, “What Employers Think of Your Online Master’s in Education”, US News & World Report, Feb. 13, 2015.

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January 9, 2015

Education issues of 2015

by Grace

Among NPR’s “provocative predictions” for K-12 education in 2015:

Interest in school choice will grow.

I predict that in 2015, recognition will grow for the idea that “public” education means publicly financing K-12 education, but means providing instruction in a wide-variety of settings: charters, private schools, online options and more.

Lindsey Burke
Fellow, Heritage Foundation

Blended learning in public schools is here to stay.

…  Blended learning — coupling technology based-instruction with live instruction — is evolving from an idea that was mostly hype to a daily practice for students in all kinds of public schools.

Andrew Rotherham
Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit consultancy

Game-based learning will expand.

… A simple example would be a game like Jeopardy [where teachers can write their own answers and questions] — but a smarter version of that….

Jordan Shapiro
Professor at Temple University and an expert on game-based learning

No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is back, and The Daily Caller has some predictions.

The law, passed with bipartisan support in 2001, is now almost universally seen as broken thanks to mandating standards, such as universal proficiency in math and reading, that have proven impossible to reach. Dissatisfaction is so high that Arne Duncan’s Education Department has virtually suspended much of the law by handing out legally dubious waivers from its tougher requirements.

In 2015, however, there are promising signs that the partisan gridlock that prevented any update to the law may finally be breaking down. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who will be taking over the Senate’s education committee, has declared an NCLB update his top priority, and he wants to attack the issue fast, potentially having a bill up for debate before the end of January.

The most obvious change Alexander could pursue against NCLB is the scaling back or elimination of the “adequate yearly progress” requirement, which severely sanctions schools that aren’t quickly progressing towards universal proficiency. …

Another change Alexander could pursue is a major reform to NCLB’s oft-criticized standardized testing requirements. …  If they do, they’ll face initial opposition from President Obama, who has defended annual testing as an essential accountability measure. Even if Obama is opposed, though, Republicans will have an unlikely ally in strongly-Democratic teachers unions such as the American Federation of Teachers, which have loudly called for testing requirements to be changed.

From the right, Alexander will be pressured to take things further, and reform NCLB in order to substantially reduce the federal government’s role and influence over public education (some have proposed letting states opt out of federal control entirely)….

Cynicism compels me to agree with this prediction that we’ll see more of the same tired rhetoric, but not much improvement.

I suspect that with the rumored reauthorization of ESEA that we will see an anti-testing narrative, but the entire system will still be tied to testing. [Politicians] will talk about teacher quality, but we will see a renewed emphasis on sending the least qualified candidates (such as Teach For America) to teach primarily poor children. They will talk about local control and will tweak accountability formulas, but the educational system will likely still be controlled in a top-down fashion instead of a bottom-up approach like California recently introduced for school finance. They will talk about turning around 1,000 schools, when in fact very few of the schools stay “turned around” because the poverty in the communities and special learning needs of the students are not being addressed. In essence, our politicians will give us more of the same failed education policy in 2015, while calling it a new direction and/or reform.

Julian Vasquez Heilig
Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, California State University, Sacramento

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“Kindergarten Entry Tests And More Education Predictions for 2015″, NPR, January 3, 2015.

Blake Neff, “These Will Be The Five Biggest Education Issues Of 2015″, Daily Caller, January 1, 2015.

December 22, 2014

Will a nurse soon replace your general practitioner doctor?

by Grace

According to Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writing in The Week, some types of doctors will soon become as rare as the “dodo bird”.

… look at the future of the general practitioner of medicine. This is considered the epitome of the high-skilled, secure, remunerative job. Four years of college! Four years of medical school! Internship! Residency! Government-protected cartel membership!

And yet, this profession is going the way of the dodo bird.

To understand why, the first thing you need to understand is that multiple studies have shown that software is better able to diagnose illnesses, with fewer misdiagnoses. Health wonks love this trend, known as evidence-based diagnosis, and medical doctors loathe it, because who cares about saving lives when you can avoid the humiliation of having a computer tell you what to do.

Then you need to look at companies like Theranos, which allow you to get a blood test cheaply and easily at Walgreens, and get more information about your health than you’d get in a typical doctor’s visit.

A nurse and a computer will replace the “general practitioner”.

But, you say, we won’t be able to get rid of the human general practitioner absolutely. People will still need human judgment, and the human touch.

You are right — absolutely right. But the human we need is someone with training closer to a nurse’s than a doctor’s, and augmented by the right software, would be both cheaper and more effective than a doctor. You might pay a monthly subscription to be able to treat this person as your family “doctor” — although most of your interaction would be with software via an app. They’d be better than a doctor, too — trained in general wellness and prevention, and being able to refer you to specialists if need be.

Related:  ‘Nurse practitioners are projected to nearly double in number by 2025′

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Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, “How computers will replace your doctor”, The Week, December 15, 2014.

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November 27, 2014

Poor economy and technology are causing millennials to drive less

by Grace

Although Thanksgiving auto travel this year is expected to be the heaviest since 2007, overall, driving is on a downward trend.

This chart shows that per-capita vehicle miles peaked in 2007, and the correlation of vehicle travel with economic growth is weakening.

Trends in Per-Capita Vehicle-Miles Traveled and Real Gross Domestic Product

20141124.COCDrivingTrendsDown2

For decades, economic growth and vehicle travel were closely correlated. Since the beginning of the 21st century, however, economic growth and vehicle travel have diverged, suggesting a weakening link between the state of the economy and the number of miles Americans drive.

Millenials are driving less.

No age group has experienced a greater change in its driving habits than young Americans.

According to the National Household Travel Survey, from 2001 and 2009, the annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by 16 to 34 year-olds (a group that included a mix of Millennials and younger members of Generation X) decreased from 10,300 miles to 7,900 miles per capita—a drop of 23 percent…

The percentage of young people with a driver’s license has been dropping for years. In 2011, the percentage of 16 to 24 year-olds with driver’s licenses dipped to 67 percent—the lowest percentage since at least 1963.

Percentage of 16 to 24-Year-Olds with Driver’s Licenses

20141124.COCMillDriversLicenseTrendsDown2

Technology has affected driving habits.

The recent recession no doubt reduced the number of miles young Americans drove, but the economy is clearly not the only factor at play. Members of the Millennial generation have expressed a greater willingness to pursue less auto-oriented lifestyles than previous generations, and have been the first to grow up with access to the mobile Internet-connected technologies that are reshaping society and how people connect with one another. These changes could be playing a role in the dramatic reduction in driving among young Americans.

Drive safely this Thanksgiving weekend.

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Tony Dutzik, Frontier Group, Phineas Baxandall, U.S. PIRG Education Fund, A New Direction Our Changing Relationship with Driving and the Implications for America’s Future, Spring 2013.

November 7, 2014

Artificial intelligence software is getting better at taking tests

by Grace

Artificial Intelligence Outperforms Average High School Senior

Artificial intelligence in Japan is getting closer to entering college. AI software scored higher on the English section of Japan’s standardized college entrance test than the average Japanese high school senior, its developers said.

The software is getting better.

The software, known as To-Robo, almost doubled its score on a multiple choice test from its performance a year ago, indicating progress toward a goal set by its developers to eventually pass the entrance exam for Tokyo University, Japan’s most prestigious college.

I hear those exams are not easy.

T0-Robo answered multiple choice questions, and it “still needs to improve at understanding more complex exchanges and comprehending the emotions of speakers”.

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Jun Hongon, “Artificial Intelligence Outperforms Average High School Senior”, Wall Street Journal, Nov 4, 2014.

October 14, 2014

It looks like ‘the demand for lawyers will keep shrinking’

by Grace

The surplus of lawyers looking for jobs has been apparent for several years now, “and the number of jobs is apt to shrink further as technology sinks its teeth into legal work”.

In his recent City Journal article Machines v. Lawyers, Northwestern Law School professor John O. McGinnis explained why the demand for lawyers will keep shrinking. “Law is, in effect, an information technology – a code that regulates social life. And as the machinery of information technology grows exponentially in power, the legal profession faces a great disruption not unlike that already experienced by journalism, which has seen employment drop by about a third….”

Throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, law was a growth industry and a great many people (especially students who had taken “soft” majors in college) figured that earning a JD was an attractive option. Naturally, law schools expanded to accommodate the throngs of degree seekers, who were aided by federal student loan programs. Going to law school both delayed the need to start repaying undergraduate loans and appeared to be the pathway into a bright and lucrative career.

That’s not true anymore.

McGinnis gives details on how technology is disrupting the legal profession.

Discovering information, finding precedents, drafting documents and briefs, and predicting the outcomes of lawsuits—these tasks encompass the bulk of legal practice. The rise of machine intelligence will therefore disrupt and transform the legal profession.

Fewer lawyers will be needed, but superstar lawyers will prosper.

A relatively small number of very talented lawyers will benefit from the coming changes. These superstars will prosper by using the new technology to extend their reach and influence. For instance, the best lawyers will need fewer associates; they can use computers to enhance the value that they offer their clients. Already, the ratio of associates to partners in big law firms appears to be declining. In complex cases, lawyers will continue to add value to machine intelligence through uniquely human judgment. Even now, when computers regularly beat the best chess grandmaster, a good chess player and a good computer combined can often beat the best computers. Thus, for important cases and transactions, good lawyers will still add substantial value, even if computers do more of the work.

As McGinnis noted, journalism is another profession severely impacted by technology, possibly pointing to a future where computers will be handling many of today’s white-collar jobs.

———

George Leef, “The Canary in the Law School Coal Mine?”, Minding The Campus, October 9, 2014.

John, O. McGinnis, “Machines v. Lawyers”, City Journal, Spring 2014.

September 24, 2014

Negative consequences of believing the STEM shortage myth

by Grace

In his book Falling Behind: Boom, Bust & the Global Race for Scientific Talent, author Michael Teitelbaum challenges the commonly held belief that the United States suffers from a shortage of STEM workers.

The truth is that there is little credible evidence of the claimed widespread shortages in the U.S. science and engineering workforce….

A compelling body of research is now available, from many leading academic researchers and from respected research organizations such as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the RAND Corporation, and the Urban Institute. No one has been able to find any evidence indicating current widespread labor market shortages or hiring difficulties in science and engineering occupations that require bachelors degrees or higher, although some are forecasting high growth in occupations that require post-high school training but not a bachelors degree. All have concluded that U.S. higher education produces far more science and engineering graduates annually than there are S&E job openings—the only disagreement is whether it is 100 percent or 200 percent more. Were there to be a genuine shortage at present, there would be evidence of employers raising wage offers to attract the scientists and engineers they want. But the evidence points in the other direction: Most studies report that real wages in many—but not all—science and engineering occupations have been flat or slow-growing, and unemployment as high or higher than in many comparably-skilled occupations.

Although some STEM fields are booming and employers find it difficult to fill professional positions, by no means is that true across the board.

Teitelbaum lists five episodes of STEM ‘“alarm/boom/bust” cycles since World War II’ where in all cases government policies intended to address false claims of shortages only exacerbated the problem.

… Each lasted about 10 to 15 years, and was initiated by alarms of “shortages,” followed by policies to increase the supply of scientists and engineers. Unfortunately most were followed by painful busts—mass layoffs, hiring freezes, and funding cuts that inflicted severe damage to careers of both mature professionals and the booming numbers of emerging graduates, while also discouraging new entrants to these fields.

The current administration has fallen into the same trap, pushing for more STEM graduates who may actually find jobs in short supply.  This year New York began allocating taxpayer funds to encourage college students to pursue STEM majors.

Ignoring “science-based evidence” produces “large unintended costs”.

Ironically the vigorous claims of shortages concern occupations in science and engineering, yet manage to ignore or reject most of the science-based evidence on the subject. The repeated past cycles of “alarm/boom/bust” have misallocated public and private resources by periodically expanding higher education in science and engineering beyond levels for which there were attractive career opportunities. In so doing they produced large unintended costs for those talented students who devoted many years of advanced education to prepare for careers that turned out to be unattractive by the time they graduated, or who later experienced massive layoffs in mid-career with few prospects to be rehired.

George Leef is another critic of these government interventions.

… Strong business and educational groups lobby for nice-sounding policies that benefit themselves, frequently employing dubious arguments and misleading claims. The costs of the resulting pro-STEM policies are dispersed among the public, and fall particularly hard on the unfortunate individuals who invest a lot of money and years of their lives in pursuit of credentials that are apt to become almost worthless.

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Michael S. Teitelbaum, “The Myth of the Science and Engineering Shortage”, The Atlantic, March 19 2014.

George Leef, “True Or False: America Desperately Needs More STEM Workers”, Forbes, June 6, 2014.

September 17, 2014

GoFundMe can help pay your college tuition bills

by Grace

Education is the second-most-popular category on GoFundMe.

It’s easy to do.

… GoFundMe and other sites, like Crowdrise, let individuals pursue personal fund-raising. You create a profile, including a photo and an explanation of what you’re seeking the money for, and then spread the word on networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The rules are loose.

Unlike Kickstarter, which requires its users to meet a goal to get the money, GoFundMe and Crowdrise allow individuals to keep the donations whether or not the goal is met.

Crowdrise’s chief executive, Robert Wolfe, said his site had recently added an option for individuals — rather than recognized charities — to raise funds and that the educational category is growing….

Neither GoFundMe nor Crowdrise independently verifies the claims made in profiles.

Since most donors are friends and family, low-income students often find it challenging to raise substantial funds.  Another barrier is that contributions to individuals are not eligible for tax deductions.

Other similar sites, like ScholarMatch, use more stringent criteria and do not allow donations to specific individuals.

A dramatic story helps raise more money.

Heart-rending stories tend to gain the most attention and donations from beyond a student’s circle of friends. A Vanderbilt University student whose profile told of her mother’s suicide shortly before her freshman year raised $50,000, double her goal. And GoFundMe says its most successful campaign raised more than a million dollars for a child with a rare genetic disease.

For students who are willing to share their stories, crowdfunding seems like a no-brainer.  Given that young people seem eager to share many details of their personal lives online, I can see how this idea will continue to grow.

———

Ann Carrnssept, “That Selfie Is So Good, It Could Help You Pay for College”, New York Times, Sept. 11, 2014.

September 3, 2014

Michigan governor celebrated Labor Day accompanied by a robot

by Grace

Do robots celebrate Labor Day?

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in the Labor Day walk across the Mackinac Bridge and they were joined by one robot.

Gov. Rick Snyder led the annual trek Monday across the 5-mile-long bridge linking Michigan’s two peninsulas. He walked with a robot constructed for the occasion by the FIRST robotics team from Macomb International Academy in the town of Armada.

20140902.COCRobotGovernorMichigan1

Governor Snyder signed Michigan’s right to work law earlier this year, leading this comment by the Daily Kos:

Maybe after right-to-work he couldn’t find any real people to walk with.

The question of how robots will affect job growth remains unsettled.

… Optimists say that more robots will lead to greater productivity and economic growth, while pessimists complain that huge swaths of the labor force will see their employment options automated out of existence.

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