Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

eBooks vs. printBooks

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Another look at the efficacy of eBooks for learning: Naomi Baron has a good report in SFGate. From the report:

For several years I have been surveying university students about their reading practices and preferences. I’ve probed what platform — onscreen or hard copy — they favor for different kinds of reading. I’ve also inquired how often they annotate or reread, how much multitasking they do, on what kind of platform it’s easier to concentrate, and how cost shapes their choices. What surprises me is how much these young people, who can’t stop texting during class, understand about the mental benefits of print.

The students were far more likely to prefer reading in print over digital screens. They did more annotating and were more likely to reread when using print. They also reported better memory for what they read in hard copy.

A number of studies have compared how much students learn when reading digitally versus in print. Using simple comprehension tests (think of SAT reading passages), the majority of research has reported that medium doesn’t matter. However, more subtle testing is revealing differences in the type and depth of learning. One such disparity is in the ability to articulate the principles behind the empirical information you encounter. Here, print wins.

We shouldn’t be surprised. Young people are keenly aware of what happens so frequently when they set out to read digitally: 80 to 90 percent in my studies reported they are likely to be multitasking. Or taking just a quick look at Facebook. Or maybe watching YouTube while doing Spanish exercises. (Only 25 to 30 percent multitasked when reading print.) More than 90 percent said it was easier to concentrate when reading in hard copy. A number complained that digital screens gave them eyestrain, but the real culprit was the Internet. Any device inviting your mind elsewhere is bound to decrease mental focus.

Like students, schools need to be mindful not to compromise in-depth learning for the sake of trendiness or cost. Yes, saving money was high on the list of what those in my surveys liked about digital books. But what if the price were identical? A whopping 89 percent preferred hard copy. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2014 at 9:03 am

Good news: Los Angeles School District will give up grenade launchers

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Too bad: a grenade launcher is just the thing for unruly study halls. But the District will keep their assault rifles and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicle, possibly for use in Homecoming combat.

Here’s the story.


Written by LeisureGuy

18 September 2014 at 7:57 am

Sphere of control vs. Sphere of concern

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Stephen Covey mentions in 7 Habits how one should focus most closely on his or her sphere of control and not spend excess energy on things outside your sphere of control. A useful reminder in times like these. I was just struck by a series of titles offered on discount Kindle books (bookbub and Kindle deals) how many titles are about having to save the galaxy, or save the planet, or save the country—BIG things, history-altering things.

And all of that is so much outside our own personal sphere of control. It’s a strange dynamic: immersing oneself in a fictional world in which the protagonist can take such actions—would that make one more apt to do things and focus attention on his sphere of control? I would say not. By getting across the message, “If you can’t solve the most enormous problems facing our world, then you might as well do nothing,” the reader stops acting even when s/he can—to take the obvious example, s/he doesn’t vote. (I’m not trying to blame the victims, and God knows the GOP is deliberately and openly doing everything it can to prevent marginalized groups from being able to vote, but I’m interested in what makes the GOP effort successful. And I think it’s because so many feel that if they cannot save the world, what’s the point? And the point, of course, is to do what you can in your sphere of control.

Covey has several good examples of the far-reaching effects from those who actually did that. The name Gandhi was mentioned, for example. He focused on what he himself could do: thus the salt march.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2014 at 4:11 pm

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

The ‘Feynman Lectures on Physics’ Are Now Online

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Pretty cool. Here’s the report on the effort, and here are the three volumes of lectures in a very nice browser-read edition..

Written by LeisureGuy

4 September 2014 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Education, Science

Stanford Will Teach You All About Mass Surveillance, on the Deep Web, for Free

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Interesting for those interested in this sort of thing. D.J. Pangburn reports:

If you’ve been following United States and international surveillance law in any capacity since former security contractor  Edward Snowden leaked a trove of National Security Agency documents, you know that feelings of bafflement, astonishment, and anger have become nothing if not routine.

Jonathan Mayer, a Stanford Law School instructor, wants to change all that. His idea is a simple one: teach surveillance law online, for free. On the deep web, if you want.

Mayer told me the  Stanford surveillance law course is designed for two audiences. If a student would like to understand the big picture of government surveillance, there will be online readings, quizzes, and a forum designed for that ambition. But, if they would prefer a quick background on a particular issue—say, Ronald Reagan’sExecutive Order 12333, which authorized the NSA’s mass data collection—then students can “pop in” for just that lecture. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 September 2014 at 8:56 am

Posted in Education, NSA, Technology

Be careful what you write

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UPDATE: There was more than the novels. Here’s a follow-up.

A teacher wrote a science-fiction novel set in the far future (2902), and in the novel are two school shootings (a topic I imagine most school teachers think about from time to time, given their responsibilities).

Apparently authorship is now considered some sort of crime. Robby Soave posts at

A Dorchester County, Maryland, teacher was taken in for an “emergency medical evaluation,” suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. Authorities searched his school, Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, for weapons. As classes resumed, parents worried that their children were in danger, so police decided to remain on the premises to watch over them.

What happened? The teacher, Patrick McLaw, published a fiction novel. Under a pen name. About a made-up school shooting. Set in the year 2902.

If you’re having trouble figuring out which part of that was criminal, or negligent, or even inappropriate, you’re not alone. From WBOC:

Early last week the school board was alerted that one of its eighth grade language arts teachers at Mace’s Lane Middle School had several aliases.  Police said that under those names, he wrote two fictional books about the largest school shooting in the country’s history set in the future.  Now, Patrick McLaw is placed on leave.

Dr. K.S. Voltaer is better known by some in Dorchester County as Patrick McLaw, or even Patrick Beale.  Not only was he a teacher at Mace’s Lane Middle School in Cambridge, but according to Dorchester Sheriff James Phillips, McLaw is also the author of two books: “The Insurrectionist” and its sequel, “Lillith’s Heir.”

Those books are what caught the attention of police and school board officials in Dorchester County.  “The Insurrectionist” is about two school shootings set in the future, the largest in the country’s history.

Phillips said McLaw was taken in for an emergency medical evaluation. The sheriff would not disclose where McLaw is now, but he did say that he is not on the Eastern Shore. The same day that McLaw was taken in for an evaluation, police swept Mace’s Lane Middle School for bombs and guns, coming up empty.

But coming up empty did not stop the authorities from punishing McLaw: . . .

Continue reading.

And here’s a follow-up story by Soave.

Surely there must be some other reason, right? Surely.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 September 2014 at 8:36 am

One amazing study of the impact of cultural memes: Baltimore kids growing up

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Quite an amazing article in the Washington Post by Emily Badger:

BALTIMORE — In the beginning, when they knew just where to find everyone, they pulled the children out of their classrooms.

They sat in any quiet corner of the schools they could claim: the sociologists from Johns Hopkins and, one at a time, the excitable first-graders. Monica Jaundoo, whose parents never made it past the eighth grade. Danté Washington, a boy with a temper and a dad who drank too much. Ed Klein, who came from a poor white part of town where his mother sold cocaine.

They talked with the sociologists about teachers and report cards, about growing up to become rock stars or police officers. For many of the children, this seldom happened in raucous classrooms or overwhelmed homes: a quiet, one-on-one conversation with an adult eager to hear just about them. “I have this special friend,” Jaundoo thought as a 6-year-old, “who’s only talking to me.”

Later, as the children grew and dispersed, some falling out of the school system and others leaving the city behind, the conversations took place in McDonald’s, in public libraries, in living rooms or lock-ups. The children — 790 of them, representative of the Baltimore public school system’s first-grade class in 1982 — grew harder to track as the patterns among them became clearer.

Over time, their lives were constrained — or cushioned — by the circumstances they were born into, by the employment and education prospects of their parents, by the addictions or job contacts that would become their economic inheritance. Johns Hopkins researchers Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle watched as less than half of the group graduated high school on time. Before they turned 18, 40 percent of the black girls from low-income homes had given birth to their own babies. At the time of the final interviews, when the children were now adults of 28, more than 10 percent of the black men in the study were incarcerated. Twenty-six of the children, among those they could find at last count, were no longer living.

A mere 4 percent of the first-graders Alexander and Entwisle had classified as the “urban disadvantaged” had by the end of the study completed the college degree that’s become more valuable than ever in the modern economy. A related reality: Just 33 of 314 had left the low-income socioeconomic status of their parents for the middle class by age 28.

Today, the “kids” — as Alexander still calls them — are 37 or 38. Alexander, now 68, retired from Johns Hopkins this summer just as the final, encompassing book from the 25-year study was published. . .

Continue reading.

And by all means, read the whole thing: it’s not just about these kids, it’s about the cultural landscape of the city: who lives on the good cultural clusters, who on the marginal, and the devastating effects of a bad cultural cluster.

But of course it can be interrupted in a generation were there the will. But those who occupied privileged niches will be loath to change.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 August 2014 at 2:05 pm


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