New York Times



For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall
Jason DeParleJason DeParle, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/12/24

It bears repeating: enrolling in university isn't a ticket out of poverty because the fact of being poor itself undermines a person's ability to succeed. Hence this NY Times article describing several inpoverished students who ended up with large studen loan debts, but little else. "Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net." People in poverty need more than free or low-cost earning, though it helps, and it takes some of the risk out of study. They need a broader array of social supports, and most of all, a society determined to help them out of poverty, rather than blame them for being in it. But I see no sign higher education as a sector has any real interest in that.

Today: Total:105 [Comment] [Direct Link]
The Year of the MOOC
Laura PappanoLaura Pappano, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/11/05

The New York Times ran a large spread on the MOOC over the weeke-end which I suppose I should mention here, though I don't know why I bother. After all, the main point of this article is to tell us that "Coursera, Udacity and edX are defining the form as they develop their brands." I don't think they are. I see them commercializing and playing the media, but I don't see them defining anything new. Perhaps that's just my perspective; no doubt what is commonplace to me amazes NY Times readers.

But I'll say it here and leave it for now: "Almost 3K words in this NYT piece on MOOCs, but couldn’t spare a single one to mention Siemens, Downes, Couros, Cormier… Did you recognize any of those names? They’re the people who actually invented massive open online courses (MOOCs)". So why rewrite the history of MOOCs? Greg Wilson writes that it's because we, the inventors of MOOCs, "take the 'open' part of 'MOOC' seriously [and] actually want to let the people who are learning decide what to learn... That makes their experiments a lot less interesting to 'the World’s Business Leaders' than the Khan Academy, Coursera, Udacity, and other pseudo-MOOCs that let you watch professors chosen by someone else." Yeah, I'd be upset, but these days, I'm simply happy to be employed.

Today: Total:108 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Why These Kids Get a Free Ride to College
Ted C. FishmanTed C. Fishman, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/09/14

While our city government here in Moncton can't even keep buses on the road, those in Kalamazoo, Michigan, are stewards of 'The Promise' - free post-secondary education for any student who graduates high school in the city. "After the Promise was announced on the 11 o’clock news, the kids were up celebrating until 2 or 3 in the morning," Ron Cunliffe, a Kalamazoo dad with three children eligible for the Promise, says. "We kept waiting for someone to say it was a joke." There are, of course, detractors. One commenter says "Kalamazoo is still dwindling despite the Promise. What, like promising college to everyone is going to magically change everything and make kids stay in the state?" Of course not. Life intervenes, the students still must make sacrifices, and not everything is perfect. But the promise has had an impact. "High-school test scores in Kalamazoo have improved four years in a row. A higher percentage of African-American girls graduate from the district than they do in the rest of the state, and 85 percent of those go on to college. Overall, more than 90 percent of Kalamazoo’s graduates today go on to higher education." Something for our civic leaders to consider.

Today: Total:76 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Criminalizing Photography
James EstrinJames Estrin, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/08/27

Something worth remembering: "If you’re out in public, you can take pictures. And you can report to your heart’s content... If you’re in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. That’s the difference between what is public and what is private. It’s the reason that all those security cameras that are on every city street are allowed to photograph us." I take photos a lot and this comes up from time to time. 

Today: Total:65 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Free Online Course Will Rely on Multiple Sites
Tamar LewinTamar Lewin, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/08/21

The New York Times covers a new type of MOOC that looks a lot more like the connectivist MOOCs. "The new course, “A Gentle Introduction to Python,” will blend content from M.I.T.’s OpenCourseWare, instant-feedback exercises and quizzes from Codecademy, and study groups organized by OpenStudy, and will be coordinated through an e-mail list operated by Peer 2 Peer University."

Today: Total:122 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Common Core Standards Boon to E-Learning Industry
Hiten SamtaniHiten Samtani, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/08/13

I love how the effect of the Common Core program - "a windfall for e-learning companies" - is depicted in this NY Times article as a byproduct of a program with entirely different aims, rather than (as it actually was) the primary intent of the program. Just saying.

Today: Total:67 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Universities Reshaping Education on the Web
Tamar LewinTamar Lewin, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/07/18

Ongoing coverage of the MOOC revolution "This is the tsunami," said Richard A. DeMillo, the director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech. "It’s all so new that everyone’s feeling their way around, but the potential upside for this experiment is so big that it’s hard for me to imagine any large research university that wouldn’t want to be involved." Remember when that was a term used only on this blog and a couple others, and nobody imagined it would be in the New York Times? See also more from Audrey Watters, the Chronicle, the Globe and Mail and this from TED. Image from CogDogBlog.

Today: Total:110 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Harvard and M.I.T. Team Up to Offer Free Online Courses
Tamar LewinTamar Lewin, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/05/02

George Siemens - a "a MOOC pioneer who teaches at Athabasca University, a publicly-supported online Canadian university" - is quoted in this New York Times article that describes the rise of MOOCs. It's nice to see someone other than the Stanford professors cited in this context. But the way they phased it raises another thought in my mind - the fact that MOOCs were developed and implemented and proven in public institutions for several years before being adopted by the private sector. I think this happens a lot - but people don't realize it, because the private sector pays a lot more attention to messaging and marketing.

Today: Total:142 [Comment] [Direct Link]
Demystifying Conducting: The Connection Between Gesture and Music
Alan GilbertAlan Gilbert, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/04/06

This is really interesting - it's too bad it's at the New York Times and will be unavailable to some people (those whop have followed too many links to the Times this week). Now despite what the title says, it won't really demystify the art of orchestra conducting one whit. If anything, it deepens the mystery. On the other hand, it's worth watching simply to see the conductor attempt to put into words phenomena that are ineffable, that cannot be expressed, only experienced. The video graphics help a bit, but not nearly enough. It should be clear that a conversation takes place during a performance between conductor and musician, but what they're saying, well, we can only watch and listen. Via eLearning examples. Today: Total:102 [Comment] [Direct Link]

The Reproduction of Privilege
Thomas B. EdsallThomas B. Edsall, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/03/14

It's ironic. Efforts to increase access to education opened the doors just wide enough to create a significant barrier to lower income people trying to get ahead. Now that most jobs require a degree, a degree has become a virtual necessity. But for the most part, it is the wealthier sector of society that obtains a degree. The university has become (as it always was, perhaps) a mechanism for preserving the status and position of the rich. Yes, the poor can still get a degree - and 8.3 percent of them do. But this pales in comparison to the 82.4 percent of the wealthy who access a university education. Today: Total:81 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Instruction for Masses Knocks Down Campus Walls
Tamar LewinTamar Lewin, New York TimesNew York Times, 2012/03/05

None of us receive any credit for having invented the form - it all goes to Stanford and MIT - but it's still nice to see the MOOC make the pages of the New York Times. Today: Total:137 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Vast and Fertile Ground in Africa for Science to Take Root
G. Pascal ZacharyG. Pascal Zachary, New York TimesNew York Times, 2011/12/06

I'll read this article as hopeful and think that perhaps one day information technology can be the equalizer in Africa that it has proven to be elsewhere in the world, and for more than just the elite. "The potential for Africans trained in Africa to conduct science attuned to the realities of Africa is not limited to computing. 'There’s a growing interest in research, and science generally, in the region,' said Calestous Juma... The rapid spread of cellphones has fueled an appreciation among Africans for the practical uses of science and technology. And the children of the African elite are also seeing career possibilities in computing science and engineering, beyond the traditional disciplines of medicine, law and finance or the more typical scientific callings of crop and soil science." Today: Total:70 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Schools for Tomorrow
Various AuthorsVarious authors, New York TimesNew York Times, 2011/09/23

I've spent a couple hours this morning listening to panel discussions from yesterday's New York Times Schools for Tomorrow conference. The conversation is very high level and - if I may say - empty. The moderators talk far too much, acting more as television interviewers than hosts, interjecting their own views and dominating the discussion. Huffington Post review and summary of the Summers talk. Today: Total:87 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Virtual and Artificial, but 58,000 Want Course
John MarkoffJohn Markoff, New York TimesNew York Times, 2011/08/17

The Stanford 'open' AI course has attracted some 58,000 students and an article in the New York Times. So now the MOOC will be deemed to have been officially 'invented' by Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun. Credit? No, not a chance. "The Stanford scientists said they were focused on going beyond early Internet education efforts, which frequently involved uploading online videos of lectures given by professors and did little to motivate students to do the coursework required to master subjects... 'The idea that you could put up open content at all was risky 10 years ago, and we decided to be very conservative,' he said. 'Now the question is how do you move into something that is more interactive and collaborative, and we will see lots and lots of models over the next four or five years.'" Today: Total:114 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade
Virginia HeffernanVirginia Heffernan, New York TimesNew York Times, 2011/08/09

Commentary on Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson. The book makes many of the points made here over the years. She summarizes, "When we criticize students for making digital videos instead of reading 'Gravity’s Rainbow,' or squabbling on instead of watching 'The Candidate,' we are blinding ourselves to the world as it is. And then we’re punishing students for our blindness." Fair enough, and also: "The new classroom should teach the huge array of complex skills that come under the heading of digital literacy. And it should make students accountable on the Web, where they should regularly be aiming, from grade-school on, to contribute to a wide range of wiki projects." Learning by doing; how about that. Davidson has a blog, but it defaults to displaying only the most recent post, so you'll need her RSS feed (you'll have to copy the URL and read it in Google Reader or some such thing, as there's an XML coding error that prevents browsers from displaying it). More reviews from Reyn Bowman, Will Boisvert, Serena Golden, Anya Kamenetz. Today: Total:62 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Poker Bots Invade Online Gambling
Gabriel DanceGabriel Dance, New York TimesNew York Times, 2011/03/15

I know, I've sworn off the New York Times more times than you can count. But you won't want to miss this item about automated online poker players that outsmart the humans. It identifies what may be a new field of employment - identifying and shutting down robot accounts. I certainly spend enough time doing that on my web site. Today: Total:94 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Telling Right From Wrong
James RyersonJames Ryerson, New York TimesNew York Times, 2011/01/04

Sitting here today trying to write a short essay on critical literacies, I am sympathetic with the view that the writing of a book ought to proceed slowly. Thus I am publishing at the same rate as Philippa Foot, who released her first and only at the age of 80. It's hard to say some things just right. What Philippa Foot said was that you can indeed derive an 'ought' from an 'is'. But this is going to depend a lot on which 'ought', which 'is', and even on what you mean by 'derive'. Foot developed a theory of 'natural goodness" to the effect that that vice is a defect in humans in the same way that poor roots are a defect in an oak tree or poor vision a defect in an owl. I would want to be careful with my wording, but it's the same sort of reasoning to say that an improperly constructed network is 'wrong', that it leads to 'poor' (if not knowably false) conclusions. Via Leiter. Today: Total:78 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt
Julie ZhuoJulie Zhuo, New York TimesNew York Times, 2010/11/30

I love the irony in this: this article discussing the impact of trolls on the internet is itself a troll, lovingly disguised as New York Times article but no less trollish than a one-line comment like "These guys are frauds" posted after a YouTube video.Trolling is "the act of posting inflammatory, derogatory or provocative messages in public forums." I thought it odd that the author didn't comment on the proliferation of signed trolls as well, or raise the subject of paid trolls, shills employed by a political or advertising agency to harass or intimidate. But the discussion went another way. The proposition is, first, that trolling has become a major problem on the internet, and second, that anonymity promotes trollish behaviour. And in any case, anonymity is relatively recent; "when someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking." Thus, the author argues, web sites should stop posting anonymous comments. "Content providers, stop allowing anonymous comments. Moderate your comments and forums." Or consider, he says, "using comment services to improve the quality of engagement on your site." That's why his company, Facebook, has designed a public commenting widget "to replicate real-world social norms by emphasizing the human qualities of conversation." Troll! Today: Total:102 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Plagiarism Is Not a Big Moral Deal
Stanley FishStanley Fish, New York TimesNew York Times, 2010/08/10

I know I'm not supposed to like Stanley Fish, but I can't help myself. Though he and I may come from very different perspectives, he routinely turns to arguments so simple and yet elegant it's hard not to be appreciative. Today's column in the New York Times is a case in point. "Plagiarism is an idea that makes sense only in the precincts of certain specialized practices and is not a normative philosophical notion," he argues, neatly cutting off all debate about whether ideas can be original, whether people can own words, whether it is moral to cite these words, whether computers make the whole issue moot. That's all irrelevant. "If it is wrong to plagiarize in some context of practice, it is not because the idea of originality has been affirmed by deep philosophical reasoning, but because the ensemble of activities that take place in the practice would be unintelligible if the possibility of being original were not presupposed." Lovely. Today: Total:118 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Building a Better Teacher
Elizabeth GreenElizabeth Green, New York TimesNew York Times,

A longish article in last Tuesday's New York Times argues that great teaching can be taught. The basis for this proposition is a study by a former teacher named Doug Lemov who, we are told, conducted a study of the techniques used by successful teachers (as determined, in part, by standardized test scores). The advice, summed up as the eponymous "Lemov Taxonomy", a non-school of thought (I found zero scholarly references to it) that incorporates unsurprising techniques to hold the attention of students and to give them clear directions. Even supposing this produces a better teacher, I am left wondering whether this produces a better education.

The New York Times will soon put articles like this behind a subscription paywall, which will raise some issues in some quarters. This article, though ostensibly journalism, is in reality breathless promotion for Lemov's book, Teach Like a Champion, which in turn is promotion for Lemov's consulting service, Uncommon Schools, which in turn promotes aspects of the charter school and core content movements and the oublishing industry that supports those. When the Times is behind a paywall, these promoters will have to publish their articles elsewhere, because the stories will no longer receive wide distribution. Which, for the Times, raises the question of where it will get its stories from in the future. Today: Total:155 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Boy, 4, Chooses Long Locks and Is Suspended From Class
James McKinley Jr.James McKinley Jr., New York TimesNew York Times,

A 4-year old, banned from school for long hair, reminds us the objective of school is conformity. "The boy's parents, Delton Pugh and Elizabeth Taylor, have argued that it is unfair to punish Taylor for his longish locks; it suggests, they s">Russo. Today: Total:88 [Comment] [Direct Link]

As Honor Students Multiply, Who Really Is One?
Winnie HuWinnie Hu, New York TimesNew York Times,

A story like this strikes me as mean-spirited. The gist is there is this school that has too many honor societies, membership in which is supposed to be exclusive. It has attracted the attention of the educational lobby groups. "This cheapens the currency," "said Chester E. Finn Jr., president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit educational policy group in Washington. "Once everyone's wearing rhinestones, you might not notice someone wearing diamonds." The idea that some club designed to recognize achievement must inherently be exclusive seems wrongheaded to me. Achievement is not a property of the elite; it is a property of the empowered. Today: Total:97 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Selling Lessons Online Raises Cash and Questions
Winnie HuWinnie Hu, New York TimesNew York Times,

We've seen the same sort of thing enough times in other areas to know how this is going to pan out, mostly.

A few teachers will make some money selling lesson plans and such. School boards will get into the act, claiming they own the rights to this work. There will be a lot of debate, and an attempt to formalize the marketplace. Large providers will express interest. meanwhile, others will be sharing lesson plans and such for free, which the providers will say is undercutting the market. There will be a push toward standardization and quality assurance. The marketplace will be formalized. Then, research will find that teachers are not, in fact, reusing the lesson plans that have been shared. Attempts will be made to formalize usage, to ensure that teachers use only the commercially available lesson plans. An alternative, open source, provider will spring up, offering the same resources, with the standards and certifications, for free. But by this time, the use of predefined lesson plans will have become irrelevant, as teacher practices and technology takes them in another direction. Sceptics will lament the millions wasted on lesson plans that were never used.

So - does that sound about right? We now return you to your New York Times article, that breathlessly announces the creation of this new market, and a response from an outraged Apple author. Today: Total:78 [Comment] [Direct Link]

What Should Colleges Teach?
Stanley FishStanley Fish, New York TimesNew York Times,

I don't exactly agree with Stanley Fish, but I don't exactly disagree with him either. He writes, "As I learned more about the world of composition studies, I came to the conclusion that unless writing courses focus exclusively on writing they are a sham, and I advised administrators to insist that all courses listed as courses in composition teach grammar and rhetoric and nothing else." I agree that composition courses should teach composition. But I don't agree that the core of composition consists entirely of grammar and rhetoric. I would include logic and reason as constituents of such a core (among other things). Moreover, I cannot think of a better way to teach all of these - grammar, rhetoric, logic and reason - than by teaching using examples of such work, and that would require teaching (contra Fish) "everything under the Sun".
Today: Total:85 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Medical Papers by Ghostwriters Pushed Therapy
Natash SingerNatash Singer, New York TimesNew York Times,

Another black eye for traditional academic journals. "Ghostwriters paid by a pharmaceutical company played a major role in producing 26 scientific papers backing the use of hormone replacement therapy in women, suggesting that the level of hidden industry influence on medical literature is broader than previously known." My own reaction is that this sort of thing is to be expected in a centralized and secretive article selection process. Via Inside Higher Ed. Today: Total:82 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Democratic Group's Proposal: Give Each Student a Kindle
Brad StoneBrad Stone, New York TimesNew York Times,

The Democratic Leadership Council, identified by the NY Times as "a left-leaning think tank" (which it isn't really) has proposed "that government should furnish each student in the country with a digital reading device, which would allow textbooks to be cheaply distributed and updated." One wonders, why not put actual netbook computers into the hands of students, something that would be cheaper and would free them from Amazon's proprietary format and restrictive APIs. Today: Total:82 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Connecticut District Tosses Algebra Textbooks and Goes Online
Winnie HuWinnie Hu, New York TimesNew York Times,

When it's cheaper (and better) to develop a new curriculum from scratch, the economics of online learning begin to make sense. "Frank Corbo, the head of Staples' math department, said the district spent about $70,000 to develop the new math curriculum - half to pay two dozen teachers to work on it over the summer, and the other half to pay HeyMath!, whose Web server in Singapore gives students 24-hour, 7-day-a-week access to class lessons, tutorials and homework assignments. He said that the district will soon save at least $25,000 a year on textbooks." Today: Total:65 [Comment] [Direct Link]

End the University As We Know It
Mark C. TaylorMark C. Taylor, New York TimesNew York Times,

Following close on the heels of the David Wiley's 'end of the university' interview comes a less-informed but more widely circulated (isn't that always the way?) copycat article from the New York Times. But while Wiley goes in one direction, speaking of a muich more distributed and learner-centered world, Mark Taylor takes a much more managerial approach: "If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities, like Wall Street and Detroit, must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured." It`s an interesting argument - but the problems facing education are more like the problems facing newspapers and broadcasting, not the problems facing finance and manufacturing. There's a lot more commentary on this, including posts from John Connell, Dan Coleman, Crooked Timber, Daniel Lemire. Today: Total:79 [Comment] [Direct Link]

European Newspapers Find Creative Ways to Thrive in the Internet Age
Eric PfannerEric Pfanner, New York TimesNew York Times,

The internet doesn't necessarily mean death to newspapers publishers, though it seems clear from the European response that they will have to depend on more than subscriptions and advertising. This accords with Marc Canter's breakdown of future internet revenue streams. And I think his estimates of 20 percent for each of advertising and on-demand content are high. Today: Total:74 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Teaching Economics and Pizza Equations
William YardleyWilliam Yardley, New York TimesNew York Times,

Mitch Weisburgh sends me this, an item in which a pizza company buys a school's paper in exchange for running an advertisement on it. "So far," notes the NY Times article, "no one has accused him or Mr. Harrison of exploiting students." Of course, if you don't ask anyone what they think, you won't hear any objections. My question would focus on the other pizza joints in town: why didn't they get a chance at this deal? Do you have to know a schoolteacher to get ahead in this town? One pizza ad on a test paper might turn into a lifetime of pizza sales. A direct line into impressionable minds - that's gotta be worth something, you know. Why do you think people bid so hard to put this or that content into textbooks? So if you're going to sell parts of a kid's education to the highest bidder, you'd better be prepared for some kind of tendering process and fair competition. After all, I have a few ads that I'd like to run for a mere $315. Today: Total:82 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Students Stand When Called Upon, and When Not
Susan SaulnySusan Saulny, New York TimesNew York Times,

What I like about this approach isn't the stand-up desks, particularly, but that students have the option to stand up, sit down, or whatever. I know that when I work, I stand up, sit down, move around, and am generally constantly in motion. "Teachers in Minnesota and Wisconsin say they know from experience that the desks help give children the flexibility they need to expend energy and, at the same time, focus better on their work rather than focusing on how to keep still." Link via Norm Friesen. Today: Total:95 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Time to Reboot America
Thomas L. FriedmanThomas L. Friedman, New York TimesNew York Times,

Thomas L. Friedman asks and answers his own question - unintentionally. He asks, "What has become of our infrastructure, which is so crucial to productivity?" He answers, "I'd like to see fewer government dollars shoveled out and more creative tax incentives to stimulate the private sector to catalyze new industries and new markets." When was the last time you saw tax incentives produce infrastructure? Right: never. Friedman articulates the problem quite well, but the advances the tired old solutions that have been failing for the last decade and more. Today: Total:73 [Comment] [Direct Link]

College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.
Tamar LewinTamar Lewin, New York TimesNew York Times,

I have always been involved in online learning because of the potential it offered tenable those who could not afford it access to an education. Now it is beginning to appear (as I have always thought it wood) that providing this alternative access will become a necessity, as the majority of the population will not be able to afford college tuition and expenses. Karl Fisch comments, "if we stop "preparing them for college" and actually make their education meaningful and relevant right now, a by-product will be they will actually be better prepared for college and the world of work." See also Mike Klonsky. Today: Total:101 [Comment] [Direct Link]

When Academia Puts Profit Ahead of Wonder
Janet Rae-DupreeJanet Rae-Dupree, New York TimesNew York Times,

This article in the New York Times points to the distortion of the educational mission that has occurred as universities place more of an emphasis on earning patent income than on advancing the cause of learning - especially as most of them don't even earn their investments back, much less hit the big time. Via Michael Feldstein. Today: Total:97 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Serious Potential in Google's Browser
David PogueDavid Pogue, New York TimesNew York Times,

Overview of the new browser. "Chrome is, nonetheless, full of really smart features that seem to have been inspired by other browsers - or ripped off from them, depending on your level of cynicism... If you believe Google, though, the best stuff is all under the hood." Here is another review from CNN. Today: Total:70 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Some Media Companies Choose to Profit From Pirated YouTube Clips
Brian StelterBrian Stelter, New York TimesNew York Times,

This is a welcome development: "In the last few months, CBS, Universal Music, Lionsgate, Electronic Arts and other companies have stopped prodding YouTube to remove unauthorized clips of their movies, music videos and other content and started selling advertising against them." Not because I like advertising or anything (indeed, I wonder about using the same technology to remove advertising from unauthorized copies of my work) but because because it lets people use cultural content they way they have always used cultural content - as the starting point, and main ingredient, of a conversation. More,/a> from Google Blog, suggesting that about 90 percent of publishers are taking the 'monetize' option. Today: Total:80 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Harmony and the Dream
David BrooksDavid Brooks, New York TimesNew York Times,

Writing in the New York Times, David Brooks trots out that old truism that Asian countries display a collectivist mentality while western countries display an individualist mentality. This may or may not be true, as Mark Liberman comments (in great detail), but the research he cites is wrong in a deceptive and misleading manner. This is not uncommon, and I have complained elsewhere about the misrepresentation of research that occurs both in blogs and in traditional media. What bothers me is that such misrepresentation perpetuates a systematic misunderstanding of one's own society. When we look at American society, for example, e pluribus unum, with its mass media and mass movements, with its million man marches and pageants and spectacles, I see a society that is as collective in its own way as China is in its. But that said, for myself, I have long since abandoned the simplistic description of 'individualist versus collective' forms of organization, and I think that alternative forms of organization within societies bears at least as much examination as the (tired old) east-west dichotomy. Today: Total:205 [Comment] [Direct Link]

High Cost of Driving Ignites Online Classes Boom
Sam DillonSam Dillon, New York TimesNew York Times,

Increases in online enrollments for summer school have been getting a lot of attention as gasoline prices continue to rise. South Texas College saw a 35% increase in online this summer. Member schools of the Tennessee Board of Regents saw a 29% increase. U Mass Online had a 46% increase. One Missouri student claims to be saving $200 per month per month by taking courses in health, humanities and world music - all online. "I don't feel I get as much out of an online class as a campus course," Ms. Miller said. "But I couldn't afford any other decision." The increase at the Missouri school was 52%. -BD Today: Total:82 [Comment] [Direct Link]

I Freed Myself From E-Mail's Grip
Luis SuarezLuis Suarez, New York TimesNew York Times,

Luis Suarez, blogger, has had the report on his project on how to eliminate e-mail published in the NY Times. Having been up to my in-box with e-mail on a recent project, I can really relate to this worthwhile project. "THINK about whether my experience could work for you. Think about how to use social networking tools to eliminate spam and to avoid repeatedly answering the same question from many different people. These tools can also save you from an accumulation of online newsletters that never get read, and from those incessant project status reports that clutter many in-boxes." Eliminating e-mail may be the best way to get better social media adoption in an organisation, and now we can refer to IBM as an example. -HJ Today: Total:79 [Comment] [Direct Link]

In a New Generation of College Students, Many Opt for the Life Examined
Winnie HuWinnie Hu, New York TimesNew York Times,

As a philosopher by both training and inclination, I never thought philosophy was out of fashion. Students today are beginning to agree. "I''s a major that helps them become quick learners and gives them strong skills in writing, analysis and critical thinking." And I am evidence, I think, that not all philosophers spend their lives in academic tweed sipping wine and discussing Marx over caviar. Via Open Culture. Today: Total:144 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Publishers Phase Out Piracy Protection On Audio Books
Brad StoneBrad Stone, New York TimesNew York Times,

This is a move that is long overdue and which will make it possible to actually listen to these audio books. The books, published by companies such as Random House and Penguin, will be available in MP3. Today: Total:74 [Comment] [Direct Link]

A Lifesaving Checklist
Atul GawandeAtul Gawande, New York TimesNew York Times,

Things that seem really obvious aren't always so. And though it comes from the field of medicine, this debate over the use of checklists is illustrative. The story, in brief, is that a hospital decided to try using checklists to ensure proper procedures are followed, and were following up by evaluating the results to see whether it worked. More detail here. And although it appeared to work, the program was halted, because it violated ethics regulations. Specifically, you can't experiment on people without their knowledge or consent. OK, fair enough, but what about when something is obviously successful, like checklists? Surely the regulations weren't intended to stop that!

But they were. The problem is, they're not "obviously" successful until after the experiment. And also, the definition of "obviously successful" varies. We here in the Maritimes remember well the Swissair crash off Peggy's Cove in 1998. The efficient air crew followed the checklist to the letter, including taking an extra loop around the airport to dump fuel in the ocean. That's what did them in - that extra few minutes in the air, during which their electronics burned to a crisp.

Checklists do work, which is why airliners still use them. But there is a lot to learn about how they should be used. The air crew had no way to know what would happen. But, if following the checklist caused a patient to die, and if the doctor knew full well this would happen, do you continue the experiment? Not without the patient's consent you don't - and by that implication, the research program must be shut down. Today: Total:72 [Comment] [Direct Link]

At 71, Physics Professor Is a Web Star
Sara RimerSara Rimer, New York TimesNew York Times,

Nice story about an MIT professor who is able to awe people with physics and has gained a global following as a result. My own take is that the world is filled with fascinating and compelling people, all of whom are far more interesting and engaging than the 14-year-old child singers the media seems to favour. Walter Lewin is quite rightly a rock star - and it is interesting to see that it is the people's media that makes that possible. Meanwhile, when the panderers at your local television station say, "but it's what people want," maybe nudge them toward the internet and say to them, "oh really?" Today: Total:120 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Classroom of the Future Is Virtually Anywhere
Joseph bergerJoseph berger, New York TimesNew York Times,

The entire tenor of this Nw York Times article is captured through the following: "Andrew Delbanco, the Columbia humanities professor, said flatly that it would be impossible to put his seminar on war and culture online because 'the energy and spontaneity of discussion among people sitting together in a small room cannot be replicated by electronic exchanges.' His statement, not surprisingly, came in an e-mail message." Today: Total:100 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books On Web
Katie HafnerKatie Hafner, New York TimesNew York Times,

Google and Microsoft have rece ntly launched some high-profile content scanning services. But a number of research libraries have been put off by the restrictions in those services. They are instead joining the open content alliance, which will scan materials for the public good, and not just the good of Google and Mircosoft. "There are two opposed pathways being mapped out," said Paul Duguid, an adjunct professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. "One is shaped by commercial concerns, the other by a commitment to openness, and which one will win is not clear." Today: Total:80 [Comment] [Direct Link]

In Some Schools, iPods Are Required Listening
Winnie HuWinnie Hu, New York TimesNew York Times,

While iPods are being banned in some schools, they are being given out in others, especially as an aid to language learning. This is a good idea; learning a language typically requires developing 'an ear' for the language, and a good way to acquire that it so listen to it constantly. Via Judy Breck. Today: Total:130 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Buy a Laptop for a Child, Get Another Laptop Free
Steve LohrSteve Lohr, New York TimesNew York Times,

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project has taken the long expected step of making the XO computers available to consumers under a program that allows people to buy one for themselves while funding the purchase of one for a developing nation. Today: Total:77 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site
Richard Perez-PenaRichard Perez-Pena, New York TimesNew York Times,

Um, this is the place where I say, "We told you so," to the New York Times. According to the article, the subscription met all expectations, and the new policy of openness is the result of projected advertising revenue. But I have to figure that having their 'opinion leaders' locked behind a subscription wall hurt. You can't be "the paper of record" if people are reading or linking to your content. Anyhow, I'll just take this moment to welcome the New York Times back to the open web. Can the Chronicle of Higher Education be far behind? Via that very same content when we have an argument about last night's game in the bar.See also Michael geist on this issue. Today: Total:49 [Comment] [Direct Link]

Log on, Learn to Play (Without Reading a Note)
Angela FrucciAngela Frucci, New York TimesNew York Times,

Music learning is undergoing an online revolution. "From the real-time animated guitar fretboard of to the on-demand guitar lessons to the animated courses of, students are increasingly able to forgo formal lessons in favor of a la carte online instruction with as little or as much human interaction as they want." The music industry, of course, whats to shut it all down, claiming that the 'tabs' - or non-traditional noration used to describe guitar chords - violate their copyright. Today: Total:85 [Comment] [Direct Link]


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