Notes about education

September 28, 2011 permalink

littleBits: the Pipe Cleaner and Popsicle Stick of the 21st Century

littleBits — pre-assembled circuit modules that are designed to help kids, novices, and anyone curious about programming, logic, and electronics get started without the obstacles of soldering or wiring. The various modules snap together with small magnets, a great idea to keep it as simple as playing with LEGOs.

At littleBits, we believe we need to create scientific thinkers and problem-solvers, and interventions need to occur early. The time is ripe to create the pipe cleaner and the popsicle stick of the 21st century.

(Via Make)

May 23, 2011 permalink

We were basically trying to see if we could get each other to drop out of school.

Mike Monteiro of Mule Design on attending art school:

But the skill I picked up in school that turned out to be the most valuable was learning how to take a punch. We had these insane critiques where we’d trash each other viciously. We took pride in how brutal we could be to one another. I think it went way beyond constructive. It was an art form in itself. We were basically trying to see if we could get each other to drop out of school. And professors were the worst—we had one guy who’d slash paintings, which is completely devastating, right? I mean you work your ass off on something and your teacher just walks up to it and literally rips it to shreds. It’s kind of magnificent. And afterwards, we’d all go off and drink and have sex with another. But those critiques taught me how to not take criticism personally. It was always about the work. And if the work quality wasn’t there you were marked for demolition.

Yep, sounds about right. The ability to take (and work from) criticism was one of the few life-skills I directly picked up from my undergraduate art background, too.

No one ever literally slashed my paintings, but one professor did tell us during a mid-semester critique that he thought the class’s work as a whole was like “a giant ball of shit rolling downhill, getting bigger.” Fun times!

(Hat tip to Austin Kleon)

July 3, 2010 permalink

Open Data Literacy

It is worth remembering: We didn’t build libraries for an already literate citizenry. We built libraries to help citizens become literate. Today we build open data portals not because we have a data or public policy literate citizenry, we build them so that citizens may become literate in data, visualization, coding and public policy.

David Eaves argues that the best way to foster a data-literate society is to open the floodgates on open data, creating niches for discussion and analysis to engage the citizenry in much the same semi-guided way that public libraries provided in the 19th Century.

(Via Radar)

June 16, 2010 permalink

The ‘Learning Knights’ of Bell Telephone

FIFTY-SIX years ago today, a Bell System manager sent postcards to 16 of the most capable and promising young executives at the company. What was written on the postcards was surprising, especially coming from a corporate ladder-climber at a time when the nation was just beginning to lurch out of a recession: “Happy Bloom’s Day.”

And so began a novel executive education program at Bell that brought a rapid-pace liberal arts education to many of their top engineers who previously had rarely cracked open a novel. They read heavier texts than the average grad student, attended cultural events, heard dozens of lectures from luminaries in the field, perused works as diverse as the Bhagavad-Gita and Babbitt, and the capstone was tackling the most challenging novel of the day, Ulysses. It was a success, and early reports indicated that it changed the workers’ lives. So how’d that turn out?

The institute was judged a success by Morris S. Viteles, one of the pioneers of industrial psychology, who evaluated its graduates. But Bell gradually withdrew its support after yet another positive assessment found that while executives came out of the program more confident and more intellectually engaged, they were also less interested in putting the company’s bottom line ahead of their commitments to their families and communities. By 1960, the Institute of Humanistic Studies for Executives was finished.


April 14, 2010 permalink

The Textbook Myth

The Texas Tribune posted a great article last week following up on the Texas SBoE brouhaha, outlining why ideologically-fueled edits to textbooks rarely have much effect on the actual curricula taught in schools and why Texas no longer “wags the textbook industry tail”. The concluding paragraph is a bit depressing, though:

But that’s the thing: Most history textbooks are not written by historians — self-respecting or otherwise. Foner’s book, a cohesive narrative researched and written by one scholar, is the exception. Most elementary and secondary texts are written by committees of a dozen or more writers, hired hands who don’t own their work and can’t object to any changes multiple publishing house editors make to appease whichever politicians or bureaucrats control the millions being spent. They are cooked quickly and to order, pressed together from hundreds of standards that reflect, in many ways, the lowest common denominator of thousands of opinions. They are, in short, the chicken nuggets of the literary world.

Can we get Jamie Oliver to tackle this educational malnourishment, too?

January 11, 2010 permalink

The University of Nebraska Lincoln‘s Online Cartoon Archive

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is hosting an online collection of U.S. government-produced comic books, with full PDF downloads. Tucked away between the weirder, more off-beat stuff you’ll find some unique work from the likes of Walt Kelly, Hank Ketchum, Dr. Seuss, Charles Schulz, and more. Like this special run of Peanuts where Charlie Brown has Sally tested for amblyopia ex anopsia.

(Via Cartoon Brew)

October 19, 2009 permalink

Putting the Public Service back in PBS

Enjoyed this post on O’Reilly Radar advocating that PBS should realign with their original educational and public discourse mission. As local affiliates drop their secondary cable channels in favor of multiple over-the-air digital broadcasts, it’d be great to see at least one of those OTA channels used for stronger educational programming:

Our nation’s founders recognized that an educated public was crucial to the sustainability of American democracy, which led to public funding of education. Today, education happens in the media as well as in school. It is important that we use the media of television, in combination with new media, to support educational goals. There is even greater opportunity to combine a public broadcasting network and the interactive capabilities of the Internet to create a new hybrid framework for lifelong education.