by Stephen Downes
Feb 16, 2017
Choose Science is a website recently created by the Government of Canada to encourage girls to pursue their interests (and may their careers) in science, technology, engineering and mathematics - STEM. It was criticized by the National Post this week for perpetuating stereotypes (featuring fashion, music and kittens) but after a quick retrofit yesterday it is looking much better, though by no means perfect. The activities for parents and for teachers are drawn largely from Actua and Let's Talk Science, which are private foundations with a lot of federal and industry funding. The resources could be a lot deeper and could be drawn from a much richer repository of actual work by Canadian teachers and educators. And instead of talking down to girls interested in science, we should invite them to tell their own stories in their own voices. But hey - I'd rather see them do this work imperfectly than not at all.
Mobile applications that have merged transactions and services have become stables in China. "Hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers now depend on these all-in-one apps to do, well, everything: interact with friends; pay for cabs and utility bills; book hotels, flights, and even dentist appointments; find love; and read news." On the hardware side, innovation is similarly flurishing, with companies like Xiaomi, BBK and Huawei taking the lead. "Huawei recently announced its new Mate 9, the first smartphone embedded with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant... Xiaomi’s Mi Mix smartphone... features a stunning edge-to-edge screen.
Interesting discussion around the topic of internet-based computational services in industry. "Every form of large-scale machinery will be suffused with sensors and software controls, all more and more interoperable. Increasing productivity, raising profits, eliminating waste, ensuring environmental quality, and improving manufacturing processes will all be automated activities, functions of a kind of ghost in the machine." What makes the industrial market different from the consumer-based market is the addition of physics-based modeling. "With a cloud-based, physics-based model, you can run a million scenarios simultaneously and pick one that is optimized for what you’re trying to accomplish."
According to this article, "we know that large-scale progress, in both getting children into school and learning, is possible." It being Stanford, a certain amount of scepticism is warranted (83 page PDF). The 'secret sauce' is actually a combination of "14 core ingredients that appear to contribute to scaling quality learning, with the right combination depending on the context," grouped into four areas:
It's hard to disagree with any of these points, but the difficulty is always in the details. How do you determine what learners actually want? How do you deal with the scale of delivery problems? What are the mechanisms for stable finance? How do you convince increasingly reluctant governments to take responsibility for education?
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