by Stephen Downes
Aug 21, 2014
Four-day week will cut absences, superintendent says
District Administration: Education News,
I have long believed we should adopt what amounts to a 3.5 day week - that is, 28 hours. This allows us to have what amounts to 7-day coverage of any position with two staff, with the work divided between them. It allows for 7-day use of facilities and resources. And, best of all, it addresses the issue of unemployment head on with the recognition that people are far more productive that they were when the 40-hour week was first implemented. I'm not sure, though, that the political will exists to return to workers a fair share of that increased productivity. Maybe something like this is the start of that.
Expert performance and training: what we really know
Sometimes I don't agree with Daniel Lemire at all - this post on the culture of envy, for example, is wrong in so many ways - but in this post he nails it. Expertise isn't simply inherited, and isn't acquired overnight; while it does require some predisposition, it is primarily the result of practice, and not just any practice, but reasonably guided and reflective practice. "As far as we know," he writes, "if you are a world-class surgeon or programmer, you have had to work hard for many years." Results are not guaranteed; this is a necessary condition, not a sufficient condition.
Robo-readers aren’t as good as human readers — they’re better
Annie Murphy Paul,
The Hechinger Report,
When I read that robots are "unable to discern meaning" my first thought is to wonder what the critic thinks it is for a human to discern meaning. Yes, you can fool computers with nonsense - but you can also fool human referees of academic journals with nonsense as well. And - interestingly - it seems that it is becoming less and less easy to fool the computers, while humans remain as fallible as ever. So infallibility is not a criterion for being able to discern meaning.
This article suggests that computers may be better markers because they create a 'disinhibition effect' among students. "A non-judgmental computer may motivate students to try, to fail and to improve more than almost any human." But this isn't a criterion either - indeed, the author would not recommend allowing a computer to give grades. So what, then, is it to 'discern meaning' - and correspondingly, what is it to 'demonstrate meaning'.
I've discussed this in the past. Most writers believe that meaning (and truth) are based in representations, and that learning is essentially the creation (or construction) of these representations in the mind. So demonstration of meaning is a demonstration of the presentation and use of those representations. But this leaves the discernment criteria unfulfilled. Discerning is, I argue, a process of recognition. And computers can and do perform quite well at recognition tasks.
Why The Education Economy Is The Next Big Thing For The American Workforce
The author, Brandon Busteed, is executive director of education at Gallup. He argues that there should be a tighter commection between education and the economy to create what we calls the educonomy. The article is largely about how education is failing the economy:
- "no correlation between the grades and test scores of its employees and their success on the job"
- "we’re more likely to see kids with entrepreneurial talent diagnosed as underperforming troublemakers"
- "seven in 10 K-12 teachers are not engaged in their work (69%)"
All very well, but is increased involvement of the commercial sector in education likely to change this? Busteed calls for "paid and unpaid internships to high school and college students" and for ways to engage teachers and instructors. That sounds good for business - it gives them cheap labour (think of the adjunct professor model applies across the economy). But it's very bad for students and workers, who are already underpaid. Here's a better plan: hire people at full wages, then take steps to enable access to learning while on the job. Oh, but that might cost the commercial sector money. My take: if the economy is not willing to pay the freight, there's no good reason to integrate education and economy.
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