Friday, March 26, 2010

A better use of free time

As if on cue, the WSJ has a good article on kids and what they should be doing.with their cellphones- and spending more time in school could be a good idea for some.  Of particular interest is in the technological advances that are going to make the time in school more useful- and the instruction more individualized.


Over the long run, technology holds much potential to boost student learning time in flexible ways and at modest cost. We can stipulate that kids are addicted to it; that "virtual" instruction can happen at very nearly any time or place; and that well-designed distance-learning programs (and suitable hardware) enable greater individualization of learning, with each child moving at his/her own pace, diving deeper when warranted, and going back over things they didn't quite understand the first time. This already happens in the best online schools, of which the U.S. already has several dozen, often operating statewide, such as the Florida Virtual School and Ohio Virtual Academy. 

It also happens in "hybrids" that make astute and economical use of computer-delivered instruction, testing and such within brick-and-mortar schools that also have flesh-and-blood teachers. Rocketship Education, a small but growing network of elementary charter schools in San Jose, Calif., is such a creation, skillfully blending online lessons, practice and testing with a small but terrific team of instructors.

With continuing advances in hardware and software, the boundaries among "learning in school," "learning in other settings" and "learning on your own" will gradually disappear, with potent implications for time spent learning, which need no longer be confined to the classroom hours stipulated in the teachers' union (or custodians' union) contract or the 180-day year prescribed in state law (and, in some jurisdictions, not allowed to start before Labor Day).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nutter not a Nutter

Mobs Are Born as Word Grows by Text Message

Roaming gangs of kids beating up people in streets. What is the response the NY Times chooses to include? Adults that want more money for their own groups, Luddite fear of text messaging, and then at the very end some information that belies the shocking headline.

"“We definitely need more jobs for kids, we need more summer jobs for kids, we need more after-school programming, and we need more parent support,” said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a children’s advocacy group in Philadelphia."
Well, at least she did say they need more parent support. Maybe they need to be studying?

"Clay Yeager, a juvenile justice consultant and former director of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in Pennsylvania, said he believed the flash mobs were partly a result of a decline in state money for youth violence prevention programs."

And then some sense from the mayor:
“I don’t think people should be finding excuses for inappropriate behavior,” Mr. Nutter said. “There is no racial component to stupid behavior, and parents should not be looking to the government to provide entertainment for their children.” 
That's a perfect way of putting it. The list of things people are looking to the government to provide is a bit too long.

 Violent crime in Philadelphia has dropped 12 percent and homicides have fallen 23 percent since 2008.
And how did that happen? Seems like a significant story! Maybe they should report on it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Global Warming

Read this bit on Global Warming today that made me laugh...

"The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in December that 2000-2009 was the hottest decade since records began in 1850"

Wow, there's only a 1/16 chance of that happening if the second hottest was 1990-1999, third hottest was 1980-1989, we might have a trend. "Fooled by Randomness"

In the same blog post... "'Last November was the hottest November we’ve ever seen, November-January as a whole is the hottest November-January the world has seen,' he said of the satellite data record since 1979."

A little better odds of that being relevant... 1/30, but it still makes you wonder if anyone is capable of rational thought on this subject any more, or if everyone has just made up their minds and decided to shout at one another in perpetuity.

It is obvious that humans are having an effect on the environment. I've been to Beijing, Los Angeles and West Virginia and tried to breathe, but that's what we should be trying to fix, the real problems. For the "Skpetics" to claim that we are not having a significant effect is to deny reality. On the other hand, for the warmers to claim that all human progress is leading to warming also seems insane. I am also not convinced that warming is all bad, it seems like it would make more arable land in the world. Farm Canada. Also, the solutions bandied about are all so anti-progress and complex. The last chapter of Freakonomics is a much more likely path to success, if more serious problems develop.

Current positions (subject to continuous change):

  • Cap and Trade is an Enron-like scam, in fact, they had some guy named Paul Krugman pushing it. A Pigovian carbon tax is a better option.
  • The air sucks in a lot of places, and we should do we can to avoid that, as long as the costs do not exceed the benefits.
  • We should plant more plants, apparently they can turn carbon dioxide into oxygen
  • We may reach a point where there is a non-optimal number of people on Earth. I have a list of nominations for those we can eliminate, in case we have too many.
  • People who claim to know exactly what is going on do not.