Archive for November, 2009
“The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010. . . [will not have existed] in 2004. . . We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist. . . using technologies that haven’t been invented. . . in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”
In 2006, high school math teacher and technology coordinator Karl Fisch made a slideshow for his fellow teachers and administrators inspired by the disruptive effect of technology—”cell phones, video games, social networking sites, the Wikipediazation of information, the reach of YouTube and Skype”—on education. The slideshow was called, “Did you know?” and featured provocative statistics, observations, and predictions about future demographics, jobs, and education opportunities. From a great HuffPo article that explains the “anatomy (and meaning) of the ‘Did you know?’ video series“:
New technologies have ushered a seismic shift in education: how our kids learn, how our teachers teach, how curriculum is shaped and presented, how individual students, powered by technology, process and experience what they’re learning.
After having shared the slideshow on his personal blog, Fisch was contacted by a university instructor named Scott McLeod. Together, they turned the slideshow into a short video, which McLeod then posted on his own blog. Someone at the design company XPLANE came across the “Did you know?” video and contacted the two educators, offering to produce a free animated version of their presentation. Within a year, it had been viewed more than 5 million times.
That was version 2.0 of the series, produced in 2006. Version 3.0 is here and 4.0 below.
Says McLeod, a former 8th grade teacher:
“When you show some version of the video to corporate people, like the folks at Sony, they nod their heads and say, ‘yeah, this is the challenge we’re dealing with.’ When you show it to kids, to students, they nod their nods and say, ‘yeah, we’ve been waiting for you to catch up, we’ve been living through all of this.’ When you show it to educators, as often as not, the predominant reaction is withdrawal. They retreat like a turtle to its shell. Not all of them. But a lot of them. It’s too much. It’s too overwhelming. They don’t know what to do with it. This is our challenge.”
HuffPo journalist Jose Antonio Vargas concludes his article on “Did you know?” with “a call to action”:
This is a time for innovation in education, and technology in general and the Internet in particular are central to that. As President Obama and Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education, continue to plan the future of our schools, Fisch and McLeod’s videos serve as resources—and, altogether, a call to action. Shift happens. It’s here. Lead.
Larry Sanger, the co-founder of Wikipedia, has launched a new educational venture for teachers, parent, and students aged 3-18 years-old — WatchKnow.org, which aspires to be the most accessible, intuitive, interactive, and easy-to-use website to discover and watch educational videos. Bonus: the website and all of its resources are free of charge.
Billed as “YouTube meets Wikipedia,” WatchKnow has so far organized more than 11,000 of the nearly 7 million education-related videos available on the Internet, and more resources are added every day. There are currently 2,000 categories that users can search to find content from providers like National Geographic, eHow, TeacherTube, SlideBoom, Google Videos, and SchoolTube.com.
From WatchKnow’s press release announcing the site’s launch:
Imagine collecting all the best free educational videos made for children, and making them findable and watchable on one website. Then imagine creating many, many more such videos.
Just think: millions of great short videos, and other watchable media, explaining every topic taught in schools, in every major language on Earth.
Finally, imagine them all deeply and usefully categorized according to subject, education level, and placed in the order in which topics are typically taught.
WatchKnow—as in, “You watch, you know”—has started building this resource.
WatchKnow is both a resource for users and also a non-profit, online community that encourages everyone to collect, create, and share free, innovative, educational videos.
The Atlantic has published a list of the 25 best books of the year. The top five:
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: A Life
By Michael Burlingame
“Measured, psychologically astute, authoritative when it can be, Michael Burlingame’s exhaustive narrative (2,024 pages!) is unafraid of ambiguity and indeterminacy. This is the life of Lincoln for our times.” [Read Christopher Hitchens's full review from the July/August Atlantic]
THE CHILDREN’S BOOK: A Novel
By A. S. Byatt
“Byatt has wrought a richly detailed, decade-spanning, at once Olympian and pointillist masterpiece. To read this gorgeous bolt of fiction is to fully enter a world.” [Read the full review from the October Atlantic]
THE THIRD REICH TRILOGY
(Concluding With The Third Reich at War)
By Richard J. Evans
“Evans’s cool, crisply argued three-volume chronicle will be for a generation the definitive general history of Nazi Germany in English.”
IT’S BEGINNING TO HURT: Stories
By James Lasdun
“This collection of short stories illuminates the everyday agonies of the mind, its anxieties, obsessions, doubts, and yearnings. Lasdun pins each observation to the page with grace and exactitude.” [Read the full review from the September Atlantic]
MRS. WOOLF AND THE SERVANTS:
An Intimate History of Domestic Life in Bloomsbury
By Alison Light
“In her elegant, sparkling book, Light marries social and literary criticism as she probes the deeply intimate, often sordid, always fraught relationship between women servants and their female employers.”
Related: Andrew Sullivan posts on “The Neuroscience of Reading,” excerpted below.
Stanislas Dehaene, chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology at the Collège de France, gives his view of the brain:
“What I am proposing is that the human brain is a much more constrained organ than we think, and that it places strong limits on the range of possible cultural forms. Essentially, the brain did not evolve for culture, but culture evolved to be learnable by the brain. Through its cultural inventions, humanity constantly searched for specific niches in the brain, wherever there is a space of plasticity that can be exploited to “recycle” a brain area and put it to a novel use. Reading, mathematics, tool use, music, religious systems — all might be viewed as instances of cortical recycling.”
On February 15, 2009, a dozen runners toed the starting line of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, a 430-miler across frozen tundra in the dead of winter. With 30-below temperatures and seven-hour windows of daylight, it’s said to be the toughest race in the world. Not a single woman had ever completed it. But, then, there is no woman like Diane Van Deren.
Twelve years ago Van Deren, a former pro tennis player, had a kiwi-size chunk of her brain removed to treat epileptic seizures. The lobectomy was successful, but since then she has noticed a strange side effect: She can run without pause for hours.
Diane’s complete National Georgraphic story can be read here — and below is the second part of a great video produced by Colorado Outdoors that explains the role of endurance running in her battle with epilepsy.
This past July, the NYT profiled Van Deren, as well: “Brain surgery frees runner, but raises barriers.”
Finally, here’s a 60-second glimpse of the Yukon Arctic Ultra, perhaps the hardest (certainly the coldest) endurance event in the world, and one that a runner in the video says “destroys your mind as well as your body.”
Lincoln University, the nation’s oldest historically black college and university (HBCU), mandates all undergraduate students to be tested for their Body Mass Index (BMI). Those who have a BMI greater than 30—i.e., students who are considered obese—are required to enroll in a weekly course called “Fitness for Life.” According to an AP news story, “the course involves walking, aerobics, weight training and other physical activities, as well as information on nutrition, stress and sleep.”
[University] officials said that the school is simply concerned about high rates of obesity and diabetes, especially in the African-American community.
“We know we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic,” said James L. DeBoy, chairman of Lincoln’s department of health, physical education and recreation. “We have an obligation to address this head on, knowing full well there’s going to be some fallout.”
The school’s student health policy, however, is causing an uproar on campus. In the university’s newspaper, for example, one student wrote, “I didn’t come to Lincoln to be told that my weight is not in an acceptable range. I came here to get an education.” In a follow-up interview, this student said she objected to the fact that certain people were being singled out for their weight and suggested that all students should have to take the Fitness for Life course—not just those with a BMI that places them in the “obese” category.
From the AP story:
Health experts applaud the school’s intent, if not its execution. Mark Rothstein, director of the bioethics institute at the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine, said being forced to disclose such health information is “at least awkward and often distasteful.”
And it doesn’t necessarily lead to the best outcomes, he said, noting that “when the (health) goals are imposed on people, they don’t do that well in meeting them.”
DeBoy stressed that students are not required to lose weight or lower their BMI; they must only pass the class through attendance and participation.
Also, students need more than exercise, said Marcia Costello, a registered dietitian in the Philadelphia area. The university should make sure its dining halls and vending machines offer healthy choices, she said.
Costello, an assistant professor of nursing at Villanova University, also noted that body mass index can be misleading. Since muscle weighs more than fat, “it is possible to be overweight and still be physically fit,” she said.
I wonder if Lincoln University may be one of the earlier examples of institutions and organizations that eventually mandate targeted interventions for their employees and members who are deemed unhealthy. And I wonder if this is actually effective public policy.
Researchers at Princeton University recently made a remarkable discovery about the brains of rats that exercise…
The “cells born from running,” the researchers concluded, appeared to have been “specifically buffered from exposure to a stressful experience.” The rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm.
From a great NYT story on “Why Exercise Makes You Less Anxious.”
Kottke highlights my favorite quote from this video of Milton Glaser reflecting on the relationship between drawing and thinking:
“It is only through drawing that I look at things carefully.”
The book Milton said he was working on is now available. “Based on the idea that all art is a form of meditation … the primary intent [of Drawing is Thinking] is to explore how the mind works in its attempt to create reality.”
Ashoka Fellow Jill Vialet is the President and Founder of Playworks (formerly Sports4Kids), a national nonprofit organization that supports learning by providing safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity to schools at recess and throughout the entire school day.
This past Tuesday, Jill gave a talk titled “Play and Unreasonable People” at a TEDxSF conference on Creativity and Reinvention, which got me digging deep on the Playworks website (especially the section that highlights studies on play)—and where I came across this video about the role and impact of a Playworks coach. I loved when one of the students in the video said, “I like grown-ups that run.”
Budget cuts to school systems nationwide have allowed educators, parents, and city planners to re-imagine otherwise taken-for-granted assumptions about certain practices and habits. In Fairfax County, VA, for example, “some members of the Board of Supervisors want the county’s schools to save money on buses by encouraging more kids to walk to school, perhaps by moving back the boundaries for bus-riding eligibility.”
I see this as a great opportunity to revive a once common practice: forty years ago, more than 4 out of every 10 students in American walked or biked to school; just five years ago, it was barely 1 in 10 (WaPo). Policies that increase rates of people-powered transportation may even improve the academic achievement of students.
Harvard professor John Ratey has written a fascinating book, titled Spark, that explores the “transformative effects of exercise on the brain.” In one chapter, he examines the physical education curriculum developed by PE4Life and employed in the Naperville School District outside of Chicago. Not only was it discovered that vigorous physical activity increase student academic achievement, but researchers have found that exercise facilitates neurogensis. Quite literally, activities like running, cycling, and even fast-paced walking (which can be done to and from school) both strengthen the connections between neurons and literally give birth to new nerve cells in the brain. “Exercise,” says Dr. Ratey, is ”Miracle-Gro for the brain.”
Walking to school, then, doesn’t seem like such a bad idea—it may help to strengthen students’ bodies and prime their brains for learning.
Parents, teachers, and students may want to check out walkingschoolbus.org to learn how to develop a walking school bus in your neighborhood, and at saferoutesinfo.org, there are tips about how to find and create the safest walking or cycling routes in your community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has a website dedicated to the KidsWalk-to-School program.
BONUS: Below is a video of Dr. John Ratey speaking about his book and research during an Authors@Google event.
The WaPo profiles Hard Training Club in the Adams Morgan district of Washington, D.C., which distinguishes itself from other gyms by the fact that “virtually everything in the place is homemade.” Take, for instance, the multi-purpose monkey bars constructed from salvaged parts, or the 20-lb medicine balls made from old basketballs. After cutting a slot to fill the basketball with sand, it is sealed with Liquid Nails (“It shuts it like a Band-Aid”) and bandaged with Duct Tape.
The end result is an improvement over most commercial brands because they don’t bounce, hence they can be used for an exercise called “slam ball,” which involves smacking a ball to the ground with all of your power, scooping it up and repeating. Plus, medicine balls are the first step toward making tornado balls, another project Schuler hopes to tackle. The idea is to enclose the ball in a basketball net and run a string from one side so you can whip it around.
Read more about workouts with DIY equipment here.
This past summer, in a sixth-grade math class, New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein piloted a small program in which individualized, technology-based learning takes the place of the old “let’s all proceed together” approach. Each day, students in the School of One are given a unique lesson plan — a “daily playlist” — tailored to their learning style and rate of progress that includes a mix of virtual tutoring, in-class instruction and educational video games. It’s learning for the Xbox generation.
I have not yet had a chance to read the entire report, but a recent analysis of the 2007 Risk Behavior Survey reveals some interesting associations between (a) participation in team sports and (b) drug and alcohol use among U.S. high school student athletes. According to a representative sample of 13,000 student responses:
- Roughly 60% of boys and 48% of girls reported being on one or more sports team in the prior year.
- For young males, team sport participation was associated with “decreased levels of depression and smoking, and an increased likelihood of fighting, drinking, and binge drinking.”
- “For white young women, sports team participation was associated with decreased levels of fighting, depression, cigarette smoking, marijuana use, and unhealthy weight loss practice.”
- “There was no association between sports team participation and drinking for white female students. However, for black high school girls, sports team participation was associated with increased levels of binge drinking.”
Researchers noted that the differences in risk behavior between White and Black students who participated on a sports team may have more to do with socioeconomic status than race. And while the survey of 13,000 students provides an awesomely large data-set, the questions on the Risk Behavior Survey were often be quite general. The survey does not, for example, solicit information from students about the type of sport they played, nor the level of competition—factors that could yield more interesting and useful data.
Source: Reuters Health
One of the strongest arguments for banning helmets comes from the Australian Football League. While it’s a similarly rough game, the AFL never added any of the body armor Americans wear. When comparing AFL research studies and official NFL injury reports, AFL players appear to get hurt more often on the whole with things like shoulder injuries and tweaked knees. But when it comes to head injuries, the helmeted NFL players are about 25% more likely to sustain one.
On a somewhat related note, graphic designer Ken Carbone updates the three ugliest team football helmets in the NFL. Teams with “Helmets in Need” include the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, “whose visually complicated logos become a graphic mess when televised and, I imagine, even if you’re sitting on the fifty-yard line.”
The New England Patriots, according to Carbone, are the team most in need of a helmet makeover. “The Patriots’ helmet is plastered with their logo, which comes dangerously close to looking like a wind-swept John Kerry dressed up like a Minute Man. If there was ever a time to go with the obvious this is it. Why not really play the patriotic card and star and stripe the helmet?”
The result (via kottke):