Been There, Done That

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office took its time: back in February, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department said it had ample evidence that Justin Bieber egged a neighbor’s house, causing what the department estimated at $20,000 of damage. But it took until now for formal charges to be filed. That is expected to happen on Wednesday at Superior Court in Van Nuys, Calif., where Mr. Bieber is to be charged with a single count of misdemeanor vandalism, The Associated Press reported.
—Alan Kozinn, NYTimes.com
I’m just thinking back to all the vandalism I did from age 15 to age 20 and what the cost of my bill would have looked like if I had been charged.
Justin Bieber is a kid and he’s doing a lot of stupid shit. He’ll grow up eventually.
People act shocked. They shouldn’t.

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Education

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This Circuit Is Contributing

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.”
—Maria Konnikova, NYTimes: What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades
Thinking and creativity intimately connected to our ability to sketch things out—to take our thoughts out of the ether and put them into the physical world. And this is not just important to “creative” types, but everyone.
I’m reminded of the slogan for Field Notes: “I’m not writing it down to remember it later, I’m writing it down to remember it now.”

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Education

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Textbook Racketeering

John McDuling at Quartz on the college textbook racket:

Even so, the trend is clear. College textbook prices have more than doubled since December 2001, the first month data were broken out for college textbooks. Over the same period the overall consumer price level is up just 35%.

Help may be on the way. A range of new digital entrants are offering textbooks at much cheaper prices, or even for free. In the research note, Morgan Stanley analysts point to Boundless Resources, Flat World Knowledge, OpenStax and Bookboon as notable, would-be disruptors in college textbooks.
Cheaper textbooks is a welcome disruption. Fuck the publishers.
And what do I mean by the college textbook industry being a “racket”?
From [Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racket_(crime)): “A racket is a service that is fraudulently offered to solve a problem, such as for a problem that does not actually exist, will not be affected, or would not otherwise exist.”
College textbooks get updated every year, many times with little to no relevant updates to the content. This is all done so students have to buy the newest version every year. So textbook publishers are offering to solve a problem that does not actually exist. The existing books don’t need updating.
This is bullshit.

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Education

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“Graduating”

Anyone else seen these kids “graduating” from kindergarden this month?
Can anyone tell me what the big achievement is?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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Education

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Smart Schools

From Steve Lohr at The New York Times:

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York last month appointed a three-person commission to offer thoughts on the use of technology in schools.

The group, the governor’s office said in a statement, will be “charged with advising the state on how to best invest” the $2 billion the governor plans to raise in a “Smart Schools” bond issue in the fall.

Eric E. Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, is one of the three, but his appointment raised some eyebrows. Mr. Schmidt’s company has a commercial interest in seeing more Chromebook computers, which run Google’s Chrome web software, and the company’s productivity applications, Google Apps, being used in schools.
That’s bullshit.
(I’d feel the same way if Tim Cook was on the commission, only to a much lesser degree because I prefer Apple products to comparable Google ones)

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Education

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Schooled

Matt Richtel, for The New York Times, on introducing coding into the school curriculum:

But the momentum for early coding comes with caveats, too. It is not clear that teaching basic computer science in grade school will beget future jobs or foster broader creativity and logical thinking, as some champions of the movement are projecting. And particularly for younger children, Dr. Soloway said, the activity is more like a video game — better than simulated gunplay, but not likely to impart actual programming skills.
Oh I see, we’re not sure if teaching computer science will beget jobs and foster creativity, but we’re fine cutting funding to the arts in public schools in the United States.
Having an understanding of computer science and coding in no way guarantees you a job, but if I had a choice, you’d be damn sure my kid would know how to code.
We’re beginning to label computers as our enemies more and more, as they continue to prove themselves more efficient and better at our jobs than us. I think the gospel of Vito Corleone makes the most sense: keep them closer.

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Education

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You Have Been Schooled, Little Man

A 14-year-old, Suvir Mirchandani, told the government if they change the typeface they use they’ll save $400 million in printing costs.
Grown-ass adult Thomas Phinney shuts down the kid’s lofty idea in every way possible.
His first point:

It is not the change of font to Garamond that saves toner; it is that their chosen font is smaller at the same nominal point size than the comparison fonts.
So fuck it, use the smaller-at-the-same-point-size font, right? Wrong:
But any of those changes, swapping to a font that sets smaller at the same nominal point size, or actually reducing the point size, or picking a thinner typeface, will result in slightly less legible text. That seems like a bad idea, as the % of Americans with poor eyesight is skyrocketing as our baby boomers (and even their children, like me) age.
This isn’t even getting into the cost difference between printing in-house or using a third party vendor:
Aside from that, the reduction in toner/​ink usage probably would save less money than claimed in the study. The claim is based on the proportion of total cost of ownership of a laser printer that goes to toner. There are sadly two big problems with the idea that using less ink (or toner) will save that amount of cash, based on that proportion.
He has many more points, but you get the idea.
Adults: 1, Children: 0.
In the infamous words of Maddox, I AM BETTER THAN YOUR KIDS.
Don’t cry little Suvir Mirchandani, some day you’ll be a grown up, and you’ll likely be smarter than most 14-year olds, but not yet.

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Education

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Kids Need Art

Great piece in the NYTimes on the benefits of exposing children to art:

FOR many education advocates, the arts are a panacea: They supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools. Most of the supporting evidence, though, does little more than establish correlations between exposure to the arts and certain outcomes. Research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent.

A few years ago, however, we had a rare opportunity to explore such relationships when the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art opened in Bentonville, Ark. Through a large-scale, random-assignment study of school tours to the museum, we were able to determine that strong causal relationships do in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes.

Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions.
It’s unfortunate art programs are usually the first to get axed when there’s budget cuts in schools.
via Co.Exist

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Education

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A Blue Box

CSS-Tricks:

A little meme went around CodePen the other night. A Blue Box. I’m not sure how it started, but lots of people started posting code of different ways to draw a blue box. It’s weird, it’s funny, but it’s also rather amazing there is as many ways as there are for doing something so simple.
This is a great example of how to train you to think different.
To think outside the [blue] box, if you will.
If lateral thinking is your bag, I recommend reading Edward de Bono.

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Education

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iPads Aren’t *That* Magical

PandoDaily: Los Angeles School District’s $30 million iPad program falls flat

Last week, I wrote about how one-to-one tablet programs in Missouri and Texas K-12 schools had hit some road bumps. In North Carolina when 73,000 Amplify tablets arrived — from Robert Murdoch’s edtech company — a good chunk of them were shattered and labeled “dangerous.” The program got discontinued. In Texas, a consultant review of the science program iAchieve, that 70,000 students were doing on iPads, found it didn’t meet curriculum standards, and students weren’t learning what they were supposed to. The program was discontinued.

At the time I said, “Uh oh, this doesn’t bode well for the Los Angeles School District, which just ordered $30 million worth of $700 retina display iPads for its students.” School districts and tablet providers are screwing up the execution of what otherwise sounded pretty cool.
The key to improving student performance isn’t in iPads, or any other tablets. They’re not magical pills you give kids and they’ll suddenly all be A students.
It’s about great teachers using great technology.
Technology alone won’t do it.

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Education

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More Mail, Less Postal

One of my favorite things to do when I taught design at Rutgers Newark and FIT was to have students rethink existing websites/services.
SVA Masters student Tom Calabrese did this with one of my most hated services of all time, the United States Postal Service.
Check out his presentation on Slideshare.
via Brand New
Update: Regarding my hate for the USPS–I’m specifically referring to the experience of waiting in line at the physical post office locations. It’s just a miserable experience. When at all possible, I use the automated machines, where you can weigh, stamp and mail things without having to interact with postal employees.

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Education

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New School

Naz Hamid, on the industry versus the design schools:

Something I’ve noticed, and as an industry we all have, is the disconnect between “The New Design” and what’s currently being taught in schools. Interactive designers, also called UI, UX or visual designers, are in short supply. The young guns are emerging, but product-driven start-ups and companies are searching high and low for those who have experience.
I agree with the whole piece. Design is about problem-solving and design students need to articulate their solutions beyond visual means. Writing, speaking and programming (to name a few) should all be in design students’ tool belts.

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Education

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