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The Bittersweet Convergence of Policy, Higher Ed and Tech
Dian Schaffhauser, Campus Technology, 2017/08/23

This article summarizes a panel at a recent BBWorld conference. The premise is that "even as technology continually promises to deliver a more effective education to a more engaged audience of learners, it hardly ever measures up." Instead, we see "a rush of bad actors coming in and providing subpar, poor-quality, crappy education, used by schools that are seeing this as a cheaper way to get folks through." But the "what I really want" response is equally bad - "What I really want — on our overhead projector, I want a rollof plastic, not individual screens." Yes, someone said that. In 2017. Of course, this is a policy panel, so we get the usual discussion about whether or not regulations stifle innovation. As though that were the problem. (I wonder how much money authors get paid to write panel summaries. Maybe I could get a gig doing that.)

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This amazing South-Bronx school grows 50,000 pounds of vegetables a year
Vicky Davis, The Cool Cat Teacher Blog, 2017/08/23

This is a sponsored post on Vicki Davis's site, but don't let that slow you down, it's a great post (if you read it on the website there's a really annoying blocker, just click 'No Thanks' and the story will reappear. Also, you have to scroll past the "Sorry, this promotion is not available in your region" box - I hope she's making lots of money from the advertising because we're certainly paying for it with a miserable reading experience). The post itself features an interview with the author of The Power of a Plant, which describes the way an inner city school is supporting education - and its students - by growing vegetables indoors. "It’s all low-cost, replicable, and of course, there are our incredible tower gardens where we are growing food in a food-insecure community using 90% less water, 90% less space, and sending home 100 bags of groceries per week." There's so much hype and marketing in and around the article that it screams scam, but I want to believe there's something good there at the bottom of all that.

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Mastodon is big in Japan. The reason why is… uncomfortable
Ethan Zuckerman, 2017/08/23


This criticism of Mastodon - which, full disclosure, I use regularly - is odd. Here it is: "Japanese users had been looking for a Twitter-like platform where they could share lolicon writing and imagery for some time." For those unfamiliar with lolicon (as I was", it "includes animated cartoons and 2D drawings of young men and women in a way that is undeniably sexualized." As Zuckerman says, "some advocates for distributed publishing will be disappointed that Mastodon’s growth is so closely tied to controversial content."

But where's the problem? I don't see one. In Japan lolicon "is legal, widespread and significantly accepted." As Zuckerman himself notes, the rest of the world has to live with "the hypersexualization of tween girls in Americal popular culture," not to mention some more objectionable manifestations of 'free speech' that we find in cesspools like 4chan and Reddit. The big difference between Mastodon and, say, Twitter, is that that culture-specific content isn't blasted all over the internet and into our homes. The difference is that one country can't impose its values on the rest of us. I call that a win. I've been enjoying my time on Mastodon, far away from spam messages, fascists, Disney child princesses, and yes, lolicon. It's the internet before it became ewwww and I prefer it that way.

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Don’t Complain About Charter Schools, Compete With Them
Arun Ramanathan, Education Next, 2017/08/23


The premise of this article is that public school supporters should cease complaining about charter schools and instead try to outperform them in the classroom. The main argument is that "neither side has a monopoly on the truth or a claim to the higher ground." And so, "In their rush to score cheap political points, both camps sidestep the reality that districts and charters are in a high-stakes competition for students." This competition - and the waste it creates - wouldn't exist were people not trying to privatize the school system. And while they may appear to be the same, charter school and public school organizations have very different objectives: the one to perform an essential public service for everybody, the other to cherrypick the most profitable parts of that service to make money. They are not equivalent, and it is an error to suppose that they are.

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Copyright 2017 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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