I have been involved recently in a high-profile project wherein it is being asserted that the best response to the challenges of Covid is a restoration of some sort of character education. I have a lot of problems with this, not the least because character education is so often a proxy for blaming the poor for being poor, and because so much of it is based on what can only be characterized as bogus behavioural psych fads like 'grit' and 'respect'. I also don't agree that there is a single coherent concept of what would count as the sort of 'character' people should have - the proponents talk as though the issues of morality and the Good Life have been solved and can be passed along as though they were subjects like math and science.
I would argue we are nowhere near such a resolution. For example, nowhere in their list of "core features" are my own touchstones - distrust of authority, reliance on personal experience, scientific outlook, and sense of freedom and agency. My list of things we need to learn looks very different from theirs. Nor do they include in any way the critical literacies I think characterize an educated person. And they don't recognize that things like ethics and morality are things we have to decide for ourselves are important and worth pursuing; they are the result, not the contents, of good character.
This post feels to me to be well-intentioned, but I am concerned that it unnecessarily constrains what counts as measures to increase equity. The authors argue that "the institution of education (and those in power struggling to keep control of it) is continuing the schooling assembly line by mechanizing equity." But, they argue, "equity is not a tool that improves machine operation. It is a way of being in the human condition... if we are truly ready to weave equity into schooling, we must dismantle the machine and emancipate equity for learning justice." Education that priorizes equity, they argue, is education that is "organized and facilitated in the community." I don't think equity entails communitarianism, and I don't think that the only effective routes to equity are low-tech hands-on approaches.
Creative Commons has released its annual report for 2020 describing a range of funding, advocacy, partnership and technology initiatives. The ones that I would highlight are the the Linked Commons, a visualization that shows how the commons is digitally connected, and the NGO network to support implementation of the UNESCO OER recommendation. One note of caution: the financials (p.16) are seriously imbalanced, showing expenses of more than $3 million and revenues closer to $1 million, a situation that obviously cannot continue for long.
This is a follow-up to an earlier post on non-fungible tokens (NFT) and makes the point that blockchain technology - which is what NFT are based on - poses a significant environmental problem. " Ethereum uses about as much electricity as the entire country of Libya," we read. But there are two subsidiary points worth making. First: it's an environmental problem only because so much electricity is generated using hydrocarbons. The argument here is not to oppose blockchain, but rather, to demand electricity be created from alternative sources. Second is Ethereum's impending switch to proof-of-stake, which would reduce its energy consumption to almost nothing. This article is sceptical about the prospect, but in fact, the conversion has already started.
This post argues that meritocracy is bad, but not for the usual reason. The usual reason, we are told, is that the people we call the elite aren't really that smart. "The idea that America’s existing elites are somehow 'pretty dumb' is itself one of the dumbest lies that people tell themselves," writes Matthew Yglesias. "Our society is great at identifying smart people and giving them important or lucrative jobs." The problem is that "just assigning all power and responsibility and economic reward to the best and brightest is a genuinely bad idea.... what you need to do is actually change the framework — have a society that’s less based on sorting and ranking, and more based on equality." Well... yeah. The system of rewards for being elite is all out of proportion.
But I really think he misses the main point. We don't say elitism is wrong because elite people are dumb. Rather, we say that the evidence that tells us that elitism is wrong.is that when you look at the elite, you see real failings in intelligence, morality, and basic humanity. On a genetic level, people are more or less the same. The advantages begin in the womb, with better nutrition, then through childhood, with better education and greater aspirations, through to adulthood with inheritances, preferential admission to prestigue institutions, and systemic racism and gender discrimination, among other factors. It's just as likely that a disadvantaged person could have become an elite, but the way the system is set up, they are prevented from advancing, and we promote people with real failings and artificial advantages, instead.
There's more than a little 'gee whiz' to the idea of hooking up a small device to your earbuds that would turn them from passive music players to smart sensors. After all, there are hundreds of millions of earbuds out there, and they could all be easily converted in this way. But there's the other side of this: now we have to be careful about buying earbuds that will spy on us. The chip might be built into the phone or it might be build into the earbuds. Either way, whether we benefit or not, we're unwittingly sharing yet more personal information.
The main work done in this paper is the selection of "nine features that are the most correlated with learner ‘dropout related to discussion forum and clickstream data." The use of a neural network, rather than algoritms based on these factors, results in what the authors call performance that is "more stable than the others." They measure not just the number but also the tone of social media postings around the MOOC.
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