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Marketing “Junk Education” – to sell teaching software of dubious worth, don’t talk to faculty experts, talk to their bosses… June 15, 2007

Posted by Jim Booth in Uncategorized.
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Want to know how the academy, the bastion of learning and thought, works these days? Read on:

A top administrator goes to a conference – often hosted by – and certainly feted by – companies in the business of selling “educational materials” – textbooks, computer software, etc. The administrator is shown a piece of educational software designed to “improve efficiency” in teaching one of his institution’s thorniest skills – lets say, writing instruction. The administrator, whose academic/professional training is in say, finance or accounting, is impressed with the vendor’s claims for the software software – it will streamline writing instruction and save money.

So the top administrator returns to his/her university and the word goes down – from provost to vice-provost to dean – there’s technology to teach writing that will streamline instruction and save money.

Finally the word reaches the university’s faculty – and particularly writing program directors – experts in writing instruction whose academic/professional training is in – writing instruction.

And the struggle to save the university from itself begins anew…. (more…)

China to stress economic growth over arresting global heating June 4, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in 2008 Campaign, Energy & the Environment, Environment, Foreign Policy, Global warming.
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According to Deutsche Welle this morning, the official Chinese position on economic growth and global heating is that economic growth trumps global heating.

“There is especially no research that details the economic impact of a two-degree restriction, nor what kind of influence such a target would bring on the development of each nation.” (Ma Kai, the minister of China’s key Reform and Development Commission, quoted from Deutsche Welle’s article above)

According to the IPCC report that China signed last month, the cost in global economic growth is expected to be approximately 0.12 percent growth in GDP. Note that this simply a slowdown in the current rate of growth, not an actual shrinkage in GDP.

Ma is either misinformed or is outright lying. (more…)

Hybrid cars are at the intersection of nanotechnology and battery technology research June 1, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in Energy & the Environment, Environment, technology.

Nanotechnology isn’t a technology in and of itself so much as it’s an enabling technology. What this means is that the science and technology of the very, very small (aka nanotechnology) enables radical changes across a massive number of other technologies and fields. For example, nano-scale particles of gold can be combined with a chemical marker to turn from red to blue (or vice-versa) in the presence of toxins.

However, as PBS’ NewsHour program reports, another application of nanotechnology is dramatically improved batteries and electronic components called “ultra-capacitors.” (more…)

Global warming and Smithsonian chilling May 21, 2007

Posted by winterSmith in corruption, democracy, Education, Environment, George Bush, Global warming, Politics, religious extremists, Republicans, Research, science, Smithsonian Institution.
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To some extent, science has always been more shaped by political realities and pressures than we usually admit. After all, science is “objective,” done properly, and when we look at a scientific study we like to think we’re looking at the best approximation of fact and truth possible at the present moment.

Of course, this is hardly so. Say you get a government grant to study Alzheimer’s and do an absolutely textbook, brilliant, landmark study that moves the field ahead ten years. You’re published in a premier journal, win awards, get quoted left and right, lock up tenure, etc. Nothing biased at all about it.

Except that government funds are not infinite, and back when that grant was being reviewed somebody decided to fund research into Alzheimer’s instead of research into something else, like maybe AIDS or HPV or Parkinson’s or whatever. (more…)

Best of the Web May 16, 2007

Posted by winterSmith in Blogger's Choice Awards, blogging, Education, education blogs, political blogs.

My site was nominated for Best Education Blog!

We’ve been nominated for Best Education Blog as well as Best Political Blog. If you like what we’re doing, please click the image and cast a vote for us.


Media, markets and education May 11, 2007

Posted by winterSmith in culture of learning, Education, educational reform, Libertarian, Scholars & Rogues.
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There’s a discussion in a comment thread over at Scholars & Rogues that may interest you, assuming you didn’t see it already. Gavin Chait is promoting the strength of global media (in particular talking about the health of newspapers) and I’m poking hard at a lot of the assumptions underlying the free market argument being made.

Predictably, it circles back around to education. Have a look.

May 7, 2007

Posted by winterSmith in Uncategorized.
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In a Technopoly, no one can hear you think… May 7, 2007

Posted by Jim Booth in culture of learning, Education, educational reform, technology.
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XPOST: Scholars and Rogues

“Nobody’s right, if everybody’s wrong…”

Stephen Stills

The New York Times reported Friday that the Liverpool (NY) school district will begin phasing out student individual use laptop computers beginning next year. Citing problems such as students using their computers to cheat on tests, to surf porn sites, and to hack into local businesses as well as nightmarish problems with network security, laptop hardware/software problems and system crashes caused by large numbers of students surfing the Net when they were supposed to be studying, Liverpool, like an increasing number of school districts, has decided to give up on the grand experiment of having a computer for every child:

“After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none,” said Mark Lawson, the school board president here in Liverpool, one of the first districts in New York State to experiment with putting technology directly into students’ hands. “The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”


Money, speech, and corporate personhood April 26, 2007

Posted by Brian Angliss in Domestic Policy, Foreign Policy.
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Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the latest challenge to the McCain-Feingold Act, the act that set stringent limits on the ability of unions and corporations to air ads that specifically mention a candidates name within 60 days of the election. Wisconsin Right to Life (a corporation under federal law) sued, claiming that this restriction violated their right to free speech under the First Amendment. And, judging by the questions of the Supreme Court Justices during yesterday’s arguments, it looks like there’s a decent chance that the Roberts court will overturn this portion of the McCain-Feingold Act when it releases its decision sometime before June. (more…)

Of Virginia Tech and video games: will somebody please do the math? April 25, 2007

Posted by winterSmith in Blacksburg, Counter-Strike, Jack Thompson, Seung-hui Cho, Video Games, Virginia Tech.

Video games killed those kids at Virginia Tech!!! So said self-credentialed media scholar Jack Thompson, whose uninformed hissy fit commenced roughly eight seconds after the shooting ended. Of course, FAUX News was happy to hand him a mic and point a camera at him.

If only they’d taught math at Jack Thompson’s school. (more…)