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Posts tagged: education

Calculus for Kindergarteners

Klint Finley

Luba Vangelova reports on a group that believes it may be better to introduce certain elements of, say, calculus to young kids before more route ideas like multiplication tables:

Finding an appropriate path hinges on appreciating an often-overlooked fact—that “the complexity of the idea and the difficulty of doing it are separate, independent dimensions,” she says. “Unfortunately a lot of what little children are offered is simple but hard—primitive ideas that are hard for humans to implement,” because they readily tax the limits of working memory, attention, precision and other cognitive functions. Examples of activities that fall into the “simple but hard” quadrant: Building a trench with a spoon (a military punishment that involves many small, repetitive tasks, akin to doing 100 two-digit addition problems on a typical worksheet, as Droujkova points out), or memorizing multiplication tables as individual facts rather than patterns.

Far better, she says, to start by creating rich and social mathematical experiences that are complex (allowing them to be taken in many different directions) yet easy (making them conducive to immediate play). Activities that fall into this quadrant: building a house with LEGO blocks, doing origami or snowflake cut-outs, or using a pretend “function box” that transforms objects (and can also be used in combination with a second machine to compose functions, or backwards to invert a function, and so on).

“You can take any branch of mathematics and find things that are both complex and easy in it,” Droujkova says. “My quest, with several colleagues around the world, is to take the treasure of mathematics and find the accessible ways into all of it.”

Full Story: The Atlantic: 5-Year-Olds Can Learn Calculus

(via Metafilter)

The book Moebius Noodles attempts to put these ideas into practice.

See also:

Punk Rock Mathematics

Computer-Based Math

How to Become a User Experience Designer

Klint Finley

Susan Farrell wrote a report based on a survey of nearly 1,000 user experience designers, including what they actually do, and their backgrounds and educations. It’s worth a look if you’ve ever thought about a career in usability.

From the summary:

When asked what characterizes good user experience professionals, one of our respondents said, “If you are a ‘lifelong learner’, in other words, if you are paying attention, you will be able to take previous experiences and apply lessons learned from them to your new situation. That is more important to me than specific skills you might learn in school.”

While most knowledge workers probably benefit from being lifelong learners, the point that this is more importantthan a specific education is rare and one of the defining characteristics of the user experience field.

Even though continual on-the-job learning is the most important, 90% of respondents had obtained a university degree. There’s no single degree to define the field: design, psychology, and communication were the most common major areas, sharply pursued by English and computer science. All of these fields make some sense as a partial educational background for UX professionals, but together those five disciplines accounted for only 45% of bachelor’s degrees. The majority of UX professionals hold degrees from an immense range of other disciplines, from history to chemistry, most of which don’t have a direct bearing on UX work.

The most common educational level was a master’s degree: 52% had at least one master’s degree (some had two, which seems like overkill). Only 6% of respondents were PhDs. Most of the remaining respondents with university diplomas held bachelor’s degrees and 1% had associate’s degrees.

Summary: Nielsen Norman Group: User Experience Career Advice.

Or: Download the full report.

Code Literacy Doesn’t Need To Come At The Expense Of Other Skills

Klint Finley

My latest piece for TechCrunch:

This week President Barack Obama rekindled a couple of the Internet’s favorite debates: whether it’s appropriate to take selfies at funerals, and whether everyone should learn to code.

As part of Computer Science Education Week, Obama delivered a YouTube address titled “President Obama calls on every American to learn code.” […]

But I think we can all agree that learning programming shouldn’t detract from other educational objectives, like reading, writing and math. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. In fact, it can be combined with other skills.

Full Story: TechCrunch: Code Literacy Doesn’t Need To Come At The Expense Of Other Skills

The 10 Stealth Trends That Rule the World Today

Klint Finley

Interesting. Here are the trends, the full article has more details:

1) Old Trend: Expensive solar, surviving only on subsidies.
New Trend: Cheap solar, disrupting old industries.

2. Old Trend: The Latinization of America.
New Trend: The Asiafication of America.

3. Old Trend: The Chinese population bomb.
New Trend: The Chinese population bust.

4. Old Trend: Soaring U.S. CO2 emissions.
New Trend: Plummeting U.S. CO2 emissions.

5. Old Trend: College is becoming more and more important.
New Trend: College is no more important than before.

6. Old Trend: Americans drive more and more.
New Trend: Americans drive less and less.

7. Old Trend: Skyrocketing health care costs, skyrocketing deficits.
New Trend: Creeping health care costs, creeping deficits.

8. Old Trend: The BRICs are conquering the world.
New Trend: China is the only BRIC in the wall.

9. Old Trend: Active management rules the finance universe.
New Trend: Passive investment rules the finance universe.

10) Old Trend: China is buying up all our debt.
New Trend: China is selling off our debt.

Full Story: The Atlantic: The 10 Stealth Economic Trends That Rule the World Today

(Thanks Tim)

ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC

Klint Finley

ds106 is an online learning project from the University of Mary Washington that goes beyond the usual “online course” format:

Looking for something different from the current hysteria of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)? A digital storytelling course started by Jim Groom at the University of Mary Washington (UMW), ds106 was set loose as an open course in January 2011. Yet the UMW catalog does not include such a course. Its actual course designation is CPSC 106 (Computer Science)—a small but telling example of how ds106 plays with and questions the norm.

Most classes in digital storytelling revolve around the personal video narrative form as popularized by the Center for Digital Storytelling. But ds106 storytelling explores the web as a culture, as a media source, and as a place to publish in the open. Not claiming to authoritatively define digital storytelling, ds106 is a constant process of questioning digital storytelling. Is an animated GIF a story? What does it mean to put “fast food” in the hands of Internet pioneers? Why would we mess with the MacGuffin? Is everything a remix? Though this is perhaps simply semantic wordplay, ds106 is not just “on” the web—it is “of” the web.

Characteristic of ds106 is its distributed structure, mimicking the Internet itself, and its open-source non-LMS platform. Students are charged with registering their own domain, managing their own personal cyberinfrastructure, and publishing to their own website. Via the WordPress plugin FeedWordPress, all content from students is automatically aggregated to the main ds106 site—but all links go back directly to the students’ sites.

Full Story: Educause Review: ds106: Not a Course, Not Like Any MOOC

(Thanks Audrey)

Here’s an essay question from a scholarship application to Eton, an elite boarding school in the UK:

Laurie Pennie weighs in:

questions like this – topics for debate designed to reward pupils for defending the morally indefensible in the name of maintaining “order” – crop up throughout the British elite education system, from prep schools to public schools like Eton to public speaking competitions right up to debating societies like the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, which are modelled on parliament for a reason.
This is how you’re meant to argue when you’re eventually in charge. You’re trained for it, and part of that training is regularly being presented with morally indefensible positions to defend anyway or risk losing whatever competition you’re engaged with. I have seen perfectly decent young men get carried away defending genocide and torture because that’s the only way to win. Those who are unable to do so are taught that they have no business having political opinions. The people assumed to be the future elite are not rewarded for getting the answer which is most correct, most compassionate or humane or even sensible – they’re rewarded for smashing the opposition. And that’s how you get politicians who will argue anything they’re told to, enact any policy they’re told to no matter how many how many people will get hurt, just so that their team can win.
Moreover, this isn’t just a standard homework question. It appears on a scholarship entrance exam, a test designed to be sat by young men seeking to join the ranks of the rich and powerful by virtue of merit and smarts rather than family money.

Full Story: New Statesmen: The Eton Scholarship Question: this is how the British elite are trained to think

Meanwhile, Tim Maly poses some alternate questions.

Here’s an essay question from a scholarship application to Eton, an elite boarding school in the UK:

Eton College exam question

Laurie Pennie weighs in:

questions like this – topics for debate designed to reward pupils for defending the morally indefensible in the name of maintaining “order” – crop up throughout the British elite education system, from prep schools to public schools like Eton to public speaking competitions right up to debating societies like the Oxford and Cambridge Unions, which are modelled on parliament for a reason.

This is how you’re meant to argue when you’re eventually in charge. You’re trained for it, and part of that training is regularly being presented with morally indefensible positions to defend anyway or risk losing whatever competition you’re engaged with. I have seen perfectly decent young men get carried away defending genocide and torture because that’s the only way to win. Those who are unable to do so are taught that they have no business having political opinions. The people assumed to be the future elite are not rewarded for getting the answer which is most correct, most compassionate or humane or even sensible – they’re rewarded for smashing the opposition. And that’s how you get politicians who will argue anything they’re told to, enact any policy they’re told to no matter how many how many people will get hurt, just so that their team can win.

Moreover, this isn’t just a standard homework question. It appears on a scholarship entrance exam, a test designed to be sat by young men seeking to join the ranks of the rich and powerful by virtue of merit and smarts rather than family money.

Full Story: New Statesmen: The Eton Scholarship Question: this is how the British elite are trained to think

Meanwhile, Tim Maly poses some alternate questions.

Kiera Wilmot Won’t Be Charged With Felony For School Yard Explosion

Klint Finley

Good news from the Orlando Sentinel:

Kiera, 16, was a student at Bartow High School until last month when she was arrested after she mixed toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil in a water bottle on school grounds, a police report stated. She was arrested and faced felony charges for possessing a weapon on campus and discharging a destructive device.

She also was suspended from school and told she faced expulsion, according to her attorney, Larry Hardaway. He said she served a 10-day suspension and is now attending classes at an alternative school.

Her case drew national attention and outrage on Twitter and other social media sites, with many arguing both school and police overreacted. An online petition on her behalf has more than 195,000 signatures.

The office of State Attorney Jerry Hill, whose jurisdiction includes Polk, said that it extended “an offer of diversion of prosecution to the child.” That typically means a probationary-like program that allows the youngster to perform community service or meet other conditions and then avoid a criminal record.

Full Story: Orlando Sentinel: Kiera Wilmot, student who caused small explosion, won’t face charges

Previously: Teen Girl Charged With Felony For Science Experiment Gone Wrong

Teen Girl Charged With Felony For Science Experiment Gone Wrong

Klint Finley

Kiera Wilmont

Koa Beck writes:

Given all the data that is out there regarding young girls and STEM fields, ladies who demonstrate an interest in science should be culturally supported. A quick peruse of certain popular culture guarantees that they certainly won’t be getting that support elsewhere. Yet when 16-year-old Kiera Wilmot, who reportedly “got good grades” and had “a perfect behavior record” had a science experiment go awry, she was slapped with felony charges. Way to support our young girls in the sciences.

Wtsp.com reports that the teen was arrested and charged with possession/discharge of a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device. At seven a.m. that morning at Bartow High School, Kiera allegedly mixed some “household chemicals” in an eight-ounce water bottle. The top reportedly popped off creating a “small explosion” complete with smoke. No one was hurt, according to reports.

In addition to her criminal charges, she has since been expelled from Bartow High School. It remains unclear whether there was any malice in the experiment. But even the young lady’s school principal, as well as her peers, believe that she didn’t possess any vicious motives:

Full Story: Mommyish: Teen Girl With A Penchant For Science Is Slapped With Felony Charges After Her Experiment Explodes

There’s no clarity as to what she was actually trying to accomplish, or exactly how big the explosion was. I can understand people being on edge after recent shooting and the Boston bombing, but the charges seem trumped up for a simple accident. There could be more to this than meets the eye, but it feels a lot like another example of the criminalization of curiosity.

Here’s the news clip:

See also:

Criminalizing science: chemistry student arrested for home lab

Students in ‘Weird Science’ Halloween party arrested under anti-terror laws

Drone Artists/Hackers Detained Held in London on Suspicion of Terrorism

Counterterrorism Agency: Urban Exploration Helps Terrorism

The Philosophy of Punk Rock Mathematics – Technoccult interviews Tom Henderson


Klint Finley: What does it mean to be a (or, rather THE) “mathpunk”?

Tom Henderson: Ha! Okay. When I was maybe 20 years old, my high school girlfriend was telling me about a punk band called “Green Dave.” I told her that I found punk to be totally unimpressive, because it was a musical genre that, near as I could tell, was founded upon not knowing how to play your instrument.

She set me straight. The point of punk, she said, was that ANYone could get the experience of being in a band, of performing in front of peers, of expressing yourself, without there being a prerequisite to participate.

This blew my mind, and it was that conversation that turned me from a nascent douchebag into a self-aware poser.

Later, a girlfriend who had honest-to-god Southern California punk credibility — this was the time that The Offspring was getting radio play so, what, she was probably most deep in the hardcore scene? — got me interested in the music, and explained to me that punks could be astronomers or Shakespeare devotees with no clash. (Pardon the pun.)

So, these things are tucked into my brain. Later, I move to Portland. I move to Portland with the extensive plan of “take math classes until head blows up, or degree achieved.”

This is the first serious long-term plan I’ve ever had. I figure, Shit, I’m a guy with long term plans now? I need to re-roll my character sheet. I start with appearance (self-aware poser), and ramp up the mathematical angle, to cobble together a philosophy of punk rock mathematics.

It is this:

1) People use the average Joe’s poor mathematics as a way to control, exploit, and numerically fuck him over.

2) Mathematics is the subject in which, regardless of what the authorities tell you is true, you can verify every last iota of truth, with a minimum of equipment.

Therefore, if you are concerned with the empowerment of everyday people, and you believe that it’s probably a good idea to be skeptical of authority you could do worse than to develop your skills at being able to talk math in such a way that anyone can ask questions, can express curiosity, can imagine applying it in the most weird-ass off-the-wall ways possible.

This does not entirely mesh well with the actual practice of learning mathematics, because that is mostly time spent alone or in small groups being very very confused almost all the time, but it’s still the bullseye I keep in mind.

You know, it dovetails with the improv comedy thing… In improv, I’m guided entirely by audience reaction. It’s possible to improvise toward interest in a mathematical discussion in roughly the same way.

Full Story: Technoccult: The Philosophy of Punk Rock Mathematics – Technoccult interviews Tom Henderson