OLDaily, by Stephen Downes

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OLDaily

by Stephen Downes
[Sept] 30, 2014

Education at a Glance 2014
OECD, OECD, 2014/09/30


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This is a comprehensive compendium of mostly authoritative statistics and data related to education in a selected set of OECD and developing nations. I spent a good hour this morning reading various charts, but think that if you want the best quick summary it's best to read the editorial (pp. 13-15) because while the story it tells is a familiar one, it is underlined in urgency as social mobility decreases and income disparities increase. While young people are better educated than their older peers, the levels of education required for employment are rising even more rapidly. This is not just a social justice issue. "The increasing social divide between the educational 'haves' and 'have-nots' – and the risks that the latter are excluded from the social benefits of educational expansion – threatens societies as a whole." The report covers attainment level by country, the influence of parents' education, the effect of education on participation in the labour market, advantages from education, investment in education, teachers' salaries, education spending and demographics. See also the supporting website for the report.

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Why Academics Stink at Writing
Steven Pinker, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2014/09/30


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"Fog comes easily to writers," writes Steven Pinker, "it’s the clarity that requires practice." I completely agree. In this article bemoaning the obscurity of academic writing and offering some possible causes for the phenomenon, Pinker hits the nail on the head over and over again. I am not a Pinker fan, but this article may just make me one. Who cares about the nature of cognition, if we can agree on the problems with academic writing?!? " Even scientists, with their commitment to seeing the world as it is, are a bit postmodern.... It’s just that good writers don’t flaunt that anxiety in every passage they write; they artfully conceal it for clarity’s sake."

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The Most Popular Social Network for Young People? Texting
Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, 2014/09/30


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I can't say I'm surprised that texting would be more popular than Facebook or Twitter - it is, after all, the medium you can use to talk to your friends that doesn't leave a content trail, isn't monetized by advertisers, and won't accidentally become the next internet meme. "Messaging is an everything network. It's identity, it's social, it's intent ("hey do you want to see Spider-Man"), it's location ("yo I'm in the theater"). It's the purest form of social network, so simply social that we scarcely consider it a network."

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Want even more mind-blowing TED Talks? Let’s get more STEM teachers in the classroom. Starting with … you!
Baratunde Thurston, TED Blog, 2014/09/30


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Sorry about the super-long title. It's typical of this post, which in turn is typical of the TED approach to education. Which is sad, and (as we see in this video) disappointingly patronizing. "Today, Cultivated Wit launches a co-funded digital campaign to inspire math, science, tech and engineering (or STEM) undergraduates and recent grads to teach." Yes, teaching science and technology and the rest are important. But a video titled (so help me) "I blow minds" isn't going to convince graduates to teach these subjects. Offering them a competitive salary and professional standing will. But I'm still waiting for that TED video.

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A Guide to Evaluating Networks
Madeleine Taylor, Beth's Blog, 2014/09/30


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From the original post it took three clicks to actually read the document, and that includes a form asking for my name and email for spamming purposes. But I'm interested in networks and I wanted to see what they had to say about evaluating networks. I could probably have stayed with the original post, although the case studies casebook is a substantial document. My main issue is that, although they are using the word network, what they are actually evaluating are consortia or collaborations. Why do I say this? Well, there's the presumption of a common objective, limited or closed membership, rules and processes - all the hallmarks of a single cohesive organization, and not a distributed entity such as a network. I'd point to their definition or account of what a network is, but they don't have one; all they have are very standard and very ordinary evaluation criteria that would be familiar to any hierarchical organization.

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Copyright 2010 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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