"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, May 21, 2018

Parents, Turn Off Your Smartphone

We worry a lot about how much kids these days let their time pass by playing a game, posting on instagram, texting, or watching a video on YouTube. We fear that our children may turn into addicts, as they get used to instant gratification while in front of these devices. We are afraid that our young may drop other activities that are good for their social, emotional and physical growth as they start spending every waking hour on social media. Yet, we lose sight of our own addiction to our smart phones. And it is ironic that the technology that is supposed to keep us connected takes us away from those who are actually physically around us. We, as parents, have actually allowed our smartphones to impair our social connection with some of the most important people in our lives.

A study recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows that parents who use their smartphones while they are with their children feel less meaningful connections with their kids.

These findings ahould not be surprising. A survey of more than 1700 parents in the US by CommonSense Media back in 2016 shows that:
Parents of American tweens (age 8–12) and teens (age 13–18) average more than nine hours (9:22) with screen media each day, with 82 percent of that time devoted to personal screen media (7:43).

Above copied from Parents

What is more disconcerting is that screen use among parents increases with lower household income. And when it comes to race, both African Americans and Hispanics average more hours in front of the screen than Whites do. This is not helping as academic gaps in the US persist with both income and race.

There are, of course, benefits from today's technology. Parents can resort to their smart phones at times when baby sitting has become a drudgery. Our children's use of these devices are often seen as helpful in learning. After all, there is a ton of information available out there on the internet. Yet, we cannot neglect cultivating meaningful relationships with our children.

As James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense, states:
"These findings are fascinating because parents are using media for entertainment just as much as their kids, yet they express concerns about their kids' media use while also believing that they are good role models for their kids. Media can add a lot of value to relationships, education, and development, and parents clearly see the benefits, but if they are concerned about too much media in their kids' lives, it might be time to reassess their own behavior so that they can truly set the example they want for their kids."

Blogger Tricks

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Double Whammy

I am currently a professor in a university in the United States and I am originally from the Philippines. Although I finished my basic education and bachelor of science degree in the Philippines, I did spend eight years as a doctoral and postdoctoral student in Illinois. I know of other Filipinos who have chosen the same career path as I have. Filipinos are likewise found in K-12 classrooms across the US. In the past years, schools in the US have been increasingly hiring teachers from other countries to fill shortages that are often in high poverty and more challenging districts. In the Clark County district alone, eighty one teachers have been recently hired from the Philippines to solve the county's special education teacher shortage.

Above copied from Fox News

Public schools are able to recruit these teachers based on a "culture exchange" program. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers' union in the US, regards this recruitment as an abuse of the exchange program.

The chief recruitment officer of Clark County school district, Michael Gentry, does not hide the fact that the program is indeed being used to fill shortages. The Las Vegas Review journal reports:
Finding special education teachers is a challenge nationwide, Gentry said. Forty-two states reported a special education teacher shortage for the 2016-17 year. That led Clark County officials to consider creative solutions.
In April, administrators flew to the Philippines and interviewed 250 candidates, selecting 81. In 2005, the district took a similar trip, hiring 49 teachers. 
“They have a mass number of teachers in the Philippines,” Gentry said. “We are stealing teachers.” 
English is one of the national languages in the Philippines, so the teachers already speak English. The J-1 visas allow foreigners to come to the U.S. to teach, study or receive on the job training. 
Officials can’t say why, but more teachers in the Philippines choose to specialize in special education than in the United States. Teachers in that country make between $5,000 and $7,000, while Clark County’s starting salary is $40,000. 
At that point, leaving your homeland can become a no-brainer.

"We are stealing teachers." Clark county is indeed taking away teachers from the Philippines where they are badly needed. Since these teachers need to go through a selection process, it is clear that they are not just stealing teachers. They are stealing good teachers. It is a whammy from the Philippine perspective, but it is actually a double whammy especially when these are occurring against the backdrop of teachers' walkouts and strikes in the US.

Above copied from MSNBC's Facebook page
Thus, the Las Vegas Review journal also states:
Critics say the foreign teachers don’t hold the same credentials as local educators and are a legal loophole for districts to pay even lower teacher salaries. Plus, critics say, it’s not solving the overall issue – teacher shortages.
Of course, this is nothing new. In Lora Bartlett's Migrant Teachers, we can find the following paragraph:

Bartlett further emphasizes the contrast between economically motivated and global adventurers (those that will fit more appropriately the cultural exchange program).

And Bartlett uses the following example to demonstrate the problem she sees:

This brings me back to a previous post I made on this blog where I quote a public school teacher in Maryland from the Philippines, Malou Cadacio:

"Some of these teachers from Prince George's County who were affected by the debarment are now being hired by charter schools in Southeast DC. According to these teachers,they were hired because the enrollment has increased. The parents have been pulling out their children from DC Public Schools and have brought them to charter schools, prompting the DC chancellor to close down certain SE schools due to under-enrollment. 
Hopefully, these Filipino teachers will not be "exploited" in these SE charter schools, especially because charter schools have no unions to protect them. These "DC charter schools' Filipino teachers" also came yesterday (they were late), and shared that they work in their schools from 7 am to 7 pm. 
Some of them cried while sharing their recent teaching experiences in teaching young children in these charter schools. They said that the children are so "rough". 
One teacher shared that she was hit by a 2nd grader with a chair.
The teachers said they just persevere because of their desire to secure their visa status and to be able to continue to provide for their families back in the Philippines.
They also have not considered going home to the Philippines yet because most of them have sold their properties in order to travel to the United States. 
There's so much "sob" stories from these teachers, that I hope someday will be dealt with by our own government in the Philippines."

While this blog has emphasized on so many posts the importance of the impact of poverty on basic education, a second major point is the need to increase the salaries of teachers in the Philippines. With the above in mind, there should be no remaining doubt that teachers' salaries need to be raised in the Philippines.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"How Can We Lose When We're So Sincere?"

I had a chemistry professor in Ateneo who taught me not just chemistry but also some nuggets of wisdom. Back then, rallies against the Marcos administration were widespread. This professor reminded me that sincerity was never enough. Competence was equally necessary. Sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity were dangerous. With this reminder, he also cited a strip from Charlie Brown, "How can we lose when we're so sincere?" Aquino obviously had made serious errors during his administration. Without careful vetting, Aquino appointed a Chief Justice to the Supreme Court that later would be ousted by a quo warranto petition. Aquino also rushed a mass vaccination program against Dengue, disregarding the proper protocols and ignoring the advice of experts. And in basic education, Aquino plunged the nation into a new K-12 curriculum without careful preparation and analysis and with total disregard for the resources necessary.

Above copied from
The Comics Section

One glaring example of Aquino's incompetence on basic education was his desire to equip every Filipino student a tablet instead of a textbook:

His reasoning was based on his perception that if materials are online, errors could be easily corrected. To this, I previously wrote on this blog:
Technology can be an enabler - this is really the nature of technology. In education, technology can help enliven a class. Seeing a Cisco ad that shows students from two different countries interact through a webcam is an example. Replacing textbooks, replacing teachers - this is entirely different. The fact that content can be changed instantly is not purely an advantage. Of all the technology that is here in the US, it is amazing that applying and closing a mortgage still involves a thick set of papers that need to be read and signed. There is permanence in documents that are printed on paper. The cost of changing things makes it more important to be thorough and careful in the production. The fact that revisions are seen to be a lot easier and simpler to do in the future only caters to carelessness. There is no need to be particularly concerned with spelling and grammar when writing articles in this blog, for example. It does not cost that much because it can be easily erased. In fact, in a fraction of a second, this entire blog could easily disappear.
Actually, even if I erase this blog, there are numerous cached copies out there. It is one reason why "fake news" is such a big concern nowadays. Misinformation is occurring online, where it spreads quite fast, and is, in reality, more difficult to rectify.

Antonio Go, in a recent opinion published on the Inquirer, reminds us just once again of the numerous errors on learning materials provided to students in the Philippines:

The 363-page Grade 3 “English Learner’s Material” written by 15 “authors” and reviewed by three “reviewers” has 430 errors, while the Grade 3 “Araling Panlipunan Learner’s Material” written by Manalo, Capunitan, Galarosa and Sampang — a veritable joke book that is so funny simply because of its sheer stupidity — contains 1,308 errors!

Here are some of those errors:
  • Manila is near the equator that’s why its temperature is low and sometimes it rises.
  • The Philippines is an island of 7,100 islands.
  • Palay is the main food of Filipinos.
  • The Pasig River flows through many rivers before it exits into Manila Bay.
  • Negritoes first inhabited Romblon in 1870; the Panays and the Bicols also lived there in 1870.
  • The KIPLING is a thin biscuit made from rice; houses in Lucban are filled with decorative KIPLING.
  • The waterfalls of Laguna are vast.
  • The Japanese soldier Hiroo Onoda hid in the jungles of Lubang Island in 1974.
  • Places that have the biggest population have the most number of people.
  • Taal Volcano is immersed in Taal Lake.
  • Mt. Pinatubo is located in Zambales and Pampanga.
  • Pants made of silk are worn by male fishermen and farmers of Mindoro.
  • The government, which wants to hasten the production of people, is responsible for erecting streets and piers for airplanes and ships.
  • The mayor did many things such as muddy cement and dilapidated roads.
  • Identify the provincial leaders who were NOT ELECTED by the people.
  • People from India are called Bombay.
  • Agta children do not wash their hands before eating.
  • Mangyan children do not take a bath.
  • Our ancestors hung jewelry in between their teeth.
  • From Laguna the highway will pass going to Quezon.
  • We ride vehicles to get to our schools which use oil to run.
  • Batangas and Bataan, which are rich in marine resources, are brought to the market.
  • The product of a province may be textile factories.
  • A large portion of the egg comes from Batangas because of its poultries.

These are the errors now read by Filipino children. Indeed, sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity are dangerous.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Helping Students Learn in the Sciences

Students often struggle in the physical sciences. Not only does one have to be proficient in mathematics. A pupil also needs to understand concepts and some of these are quite challenging. There are indeed instances in which a student is clearly capable given his or her aptitude in math and reading and yet, still finds either chemistry or physics as tough subjects in school. It is therefore necessary to look at ways that can help students overcome difficulties. As Susan Carey has pointed out, "All good teachers have always realized that one must start “where the student is”... ...Now we understand that the main barrier to learning the curricular materials we so painstakingly developed is not what the student lacks, but what the student has, namely, alternative conceptual frameworks for understanding the phenomena covered by the theories we are trying to teach."

There is nothing inherently wrong with how young children understand their physical world. After all, scientists also reshape how they view nature as they continue to hypothesize, experiment and discover. The atomic theory is one good example. What is important to realize is that there is indeed this progress as concepts are refined from what is learned in the early years to what is tackled today and in the future. Carey provides the following example to illustrate the challenge of conceptual change:

...the teacher may ask the students to imagine the weight of a pile of rice, a piece of rice, half a piece of rice, half of that, and so on. Most of the students will agree that one reaches a point where the rice weighs 0 grams. Then the puzzling question can be raised: how can a pile of rice weighing 2 grams be composed of many pieces weighing 0 grams?

Knowing "where the student is" is crucial for teachers but it is equally important that students also know where they currently stand. Thus, some of the promising ways of supporting students learn in the sciences involves self-examination. Hofer and coworkers have recently examined a battery of interventions that can greatly help students overcome the challenges of conceptual change in the physical sciences. This approach called the "cognitively activating instruction" (CogAct) includes the following ingredients:

  • Generating Solutions to Novel Problems Prior to Instruction (Productive Failure)
  • Inventing With Contrasting Cases
  • Comparing and Contrasting
  • Metacognitive Questions

This blog has descibed previously another study that looks at how these methods enhance learning. In Problem Solving Before Instruction, the work of Loibl, Roll and Rummel has been  highlighted. The experiment performed although quite limited already shows great promise in helping students learn new concepts. The new study by Hofer and coworkers deals with a more elaborate setup. Lessons on mechanics are given during a 10-12 week period to 172 students enrolled in 10th grade Gymnasium classes in Switzerland. The Gymnasium is the highest academic track which is comparable to the Advanced Placement (AP) courses taken by high school students in the United States. These classes are therefore taken by students who already have demonstrated proficiency in their primary and early secondary years. The instructors who participated in this experiment either hold a masters or a doctorate degree in Physics. Thus, with the design, the effect alone of the "cognitively activating instruction" can be carefully measured. Examples are provided and here is one for the Productive Failure part:

Above copied from
Hofer, S. I., Schumacher, R., Rubin, H., & Stern, E. (2018). Enhancing physics learning with cognitively activating instruction: A quasi-experimental classroom intervention study. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

Most student will not get the correct answer, that is, the force meter will still display the same amount of force, 10 N, when an additional weight of 1 kg is placed on the other side of the force meter. It is this failure that helps wake up the students to the new concept of Newton's third law.

The results of the experiment illustrate the positive effects of "cognitively activating instruction", CogAct, especially with female students who score high in IQ tests:

Above copied from
Hofer, S. I., Schumacher, R., Rubin, H., & Stern, E. (2018). Enhancing physics learning with cognitively activating instruction: A quasi-experimental classroom intervention study. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

What is truly amazing is the significant way CogAct erases the gender gap for female students with an intelligence score above the 75th percentile. However, the impact on problem solving for males with high intelligence is not demonstrated and generally, why CogAct effects on students with lower IQ needs are small needs to be further examined. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

It Often Takes Time to Learn an Important Lesson

Felipe Villamor reports on the recent ouster of the Philippines Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the New York Times with the following headline, "Philippine Court Removes Chief Justice, a Critic of Duterte". Michael Gonchar once enumerated in an article also published in the New York Times fifty ways by which students could learn from current events. The fifty ways obviously paint one overarching theme when it comes to learning from current events, the importance of practice, for it really takes time to learn important lessons. One reason it takes time is that current events are frequently relayed already with a bias, which makes it difficult to distill what the real lesson is. In this recent event, the Supreme Court in the Philippines is crystal clear in its opinion when it ousted its Chief Justice. The decision is even unanimous with regard to the question of whether Justice Sereno violated the Constitution for her failure to file Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. The court then reminds its citizens that "A public officer who ignores, trivializes or disrespects Constitutional and legal provisions, as well as the canons of ethical standards, forfeits his or her right to hold and continue in that office." Sereno was ousted not because she was a critic of Duterte. She was removed from office because she did not follow the law. Being a critic of Duterte does not exempt an individual from the law. Speaking against Duterte is not a license to be above the law.

Above copied from The New York Times

Therein lies, I think, is the important lesson. Some of the elites in the Philippines look down on this recent decision by the Supreme Court. It is a result, I believe, of a sense of righteousness that is based solely on one condition - being against Duterte makes an individual infallible. Morality becomes relative that even honesty is no longer an imperative. Cheating, for example, can be justified if it is meant to prevent someone considered evil by the elites from taking power.  When and how the Philippines would ever learn that no one is above the law and that elites are not entitled to be the sole arbiters of truth and justice would probably take time, lots of time.

But there is hope. Lessons do have a way of miraculously appearing. The other night, my daugther introduced me to a book written by Don Brown, "Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History". The book was so much more than just an account of the duel during which Aaron Burr killed his political rival, Alexander Hamilton. I was actually impressed by how Brown depicted these two founding fathers of the United States in a parallel fashion, but what hit me the most was Aaron Burr's closing statement, “I should have known the world was wide enough for Hamilton and me.”

There is indeed hope as long as those who actually have the resources to write and inform us also have learned the important lesson. Gonchar did preface his fifty ways to learn from current events with the following:
"How can we make sure that students are informed about what’s going on around the world? That they are armed with the tools to be able to distinguish between opinion and fact; between evidence-based statements and empty rhetoric; between sensationalism and solid journalism? Just like most other things in life, the best way to do all that is through practice."
Such practice, however, requires responsible writers and journalists.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Today's Students Are Digital Natives: A Myth

It was Marc Prensky who first made this bold statement in 2001:

Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach... ...It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today‟s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors... ...What should we call these “new” students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet....

To this, George Couros provides us something to think about, "“Kids are sooooo much better with technology than adults are”? Yes, many kids have never known anything BUT a world with iPhones and YouTube, but the same adults have lived in that world the same amount of time kids have, and sometimes, even more. Add the years of experience in other parts of life; there is no reason that kids should be better at technology than adults."

Prensky's notion of digital natives has caught the attention of educators that even a website for teachers back in 2013 has highlighted the perception of a disconnect between the youth and adults.

Above copied from
A Journey into the Teaching Experience

There are even internet sources that make such great claims on why 21st education must be totally transformed because the current students, the "digital natives", bring a different set of skills and experience to the classroom. Below is an example from Jukes and Dosaj.

The concept of a "digital native" learner is an example of an idea in education that is not based on research or evidence. And ample research has shown that this is a myth.

Above copied from

Kirschner and De Bruyckere have reviewed work on this area and have found strong evidence against the concept of "digital natives" and "multitasking". They conclude:
"As has been shown, there is quite a large body of evidence showing that the digital native does not exist nor that people, regardless of their age, can multitask. This corpus of research also shows that though learners in this generation have only experienced a digital connected world, they are not capable of dealing with modern technologies in the way which is often ascribed to them (i.e., that they can navigate that world for effective and efficient learning and knowledge construction). Finally, the research shows that these learners may actually suffer if teaching and education plays to these alleged abilities to relate to, work with, and control their own learning with multimedia and in digitally pervasive environments."
However, there is indeed a "digital divide" between generations. Christopher Ball and coworkers talk about this in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology.  But the divide is not about skills or intellect. The divide is social. Here is what research says:

"The physical–digital divide exists when particular groups, such as older adults, feel ostracized or offended when those around them are engaged with ICTs during typically social/public situations. The physical–digital divide is a new conceptualization of the digital divide which articulates the important real-world social (i.e., physical) ramifications of digital exclusion. Specifically, the physical–digital divide occurs when certain divided groups may feel excluded from social life simply by witnessing the increasing prevalence of ICT usage in public and in private social encounters."
The divide is not occurring because there is a difference in ability, cognition, or knowledge. There are no differences or magical powers provided by being born or growing up in the technology age. The divide is happening because there are some who chooses to use their smart phones during dinner. Technology seems to have failed us in teaching how not to be rude.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Is Cheating Ever Good?

Of course, the answer is no. Nonetheless, cheating does occur. There seems no ambiguity when the case involves a person cheating and that same person benefits from his or her cheating. We are always quick to look down on individual cheating. However, the line gets somewhat murky when we can point to a higher good, when cheating occurs collectively, and when circumstances can be used to justify dishonesty. It is election time again in the Philippines. This time is for community (barangay) officials. These contests are oftentimes very heated involving families, relatives and friends. And accusations of not playing by the rules are common. Fairness frequently takes a backseat in favor of loyalty. Underneath the disguise of some sort of goodwill, cheating more often than not always advances one's personal interests. For this reason, it is important that schools starting from the early years emphasize to students that there is no such thing as "good cheating".

A recent study done in Switzerland involving second and third year college students illustrates that while individual cheating becomes unacceptable as adherence to values increases, other forms of cheating become acceptable. Only the case of an individual copying in an exam becomes abominable. On the other hand, an individual sharing his or her answers with a group, a group copying off other students, and a group sharing answers, all of which should still be considered cheating, become tolerable.

Above copied from
Pulfrey, C., Durussel, K., & Butera, F. (2018, March 19). The Good Cheat: Benevolence and the Justification of Collective Cheating. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000247

Cheating in schools is widespread. About half of high school students in the United States admits to having cheated in an exam. The troubling aspect of cheating is the justification.

Honesty and fairness are values that should never be compromised. Outside school there are elections for government officials. This exercise requires no less than the honesty and fairness from everyone. Unfortunately, as in school, we are tempted to redraw the rules with the belief that we are rightfully doing the cheating because of a higher good. We should be reminded, "The end does not justify the means".

Friday, May 4, 2018

Catholic Schools Are Better?

Terence Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of the conservative website CNSNews, recently wrote a commentary suggesting that we should abandon public schools in favor of vouchers since students from private Catholic schools are performing a lot better than students from public schools in the United States National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. Of course, Jeffrey is correct in citing that scores of students from Catholic schools are higher than those students from public schools. Unfortunately, jumping to the conclusion that public schools are not performing up to their task is really not supported even by the scores in the NAEP exams. It is not necessarily true that the high scores of students from private Catholic schools is directly a result of how Catholic schools educate their students. It is equally incorrect, for instance, to claim that Ateneo de Manila, a private Catholic school in the Philippines, educates its high school students better than a public high school simply because its students are more successful in college. The reason why this is clearly wrong is that, in fairness, we cannot compare oranges and apples.

Above copied from CNSNews

Private schools are selective. First, parents have to pay tuition. Thus, there already lies an income gap between families who send their children to a Catholic school and those who send their children to a public school. This is a big factor since poverty seriously influences basic education. In addition, it is not only the family income but also a parent's engagement is expected to be different between these two groups. Sending one's child to a private school, after all, is a choice made by the parents. Lastly, even admission to these schools by itself is often selective.

Considering only the scores students reach in a standardized exam to arrive at how well schools are performing is indeed careless. Catholic schools in the United States do perform better than public schools in both reading and math exams:

In the Grade 8 math exam, a larger percentage of students from Catholic schools reach the proficient level:

The difference is even bigger when it comes to the Grade 8 exam:

Considering however the difference between schools that have a large percentage of its students qualifying for the free lunch program (a good proxy for measuring family income) can already explain most of these differences:

Public schools serve everyone. This is the huge difference between private and public schools. Public schools cannot refuse admission. These schools will gladly take your child even if you are an irresponsible parent who does not engage in your child's education. These schools will accept your child regardless of disabilities and income. These schools take a large fraction of English language learners and minority students. Using scores in standardized exams to trash public school education is not just inappropriate. It is very misleading and dishonest.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Making Our Presentations More Appealing

The effectiveness of a lecture presentation needs to take into account the audience. It is very helpful for an instructor to know beforehand the prior knowledge his or her students have. This is apparently important not only in deciding the pace and content of the lecture, but also in adding embellishment to visual aids or slides, which are known to enhance learning by heightened engagement. Obviously, when the intellectual curiosity or motivation of the audience is not in question, as in the case of an "expert" audience, unnecessary decorations can be detrimental. However, within basic education, increasing the engagement of students by using enticing images can be facilitative. One way to engage young learners, for instance, is to use human like or anthropomorphic images. After all, it seems natural for us to add a human touch to objects. Of course, we may likewise cause distraction so one important question to ask is how much is too much.

There is a recent study scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology which addresses this question. And the answer the researchers found depends on the audience. Young learners (Grades 5 and 6) benefit the most with images that have a medium level of anthropomorhism while older students (high school) learn most efficiently with images that have a high level of anthropomorhism. The different degrees of human like features are illustrated in the following images on slides that are used for teaching blood platelets:

Above copied from
Schneider, S., Häßler, A., Habermeyer, T., Beege, M., & Rey, G. D. (2018, March 29). The More Human, the Higher the Performance? Examining the Effects of Anthropomorphism on Learning With Media. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000273

Adding decorations to figures increases the cognitive load on a learner which can be detrimental to learning. This apparently is the case for young learners who have no prior knowledge on this subject. Having a medium level makes the figure attractive enough to motivate students but without overloading. With young high school students (Grades 8 and 9), high anthropomorphism is required to make a significant difference in learning outcomes. And for senior high school students (Grades 11 and up), anthropomorphism still helps but there is no significant difference between high and medium levels of anthropomorphism.

What happens with very young children seems easily explained by balancing aesthetics with cognitive load. Young learners are very susceptible to distraction so it it important not to overdo the embellishment. For young high school students, the highest level of anthropomorphism works best. But as students get older, there are no more additional benefits by adding more to an image. One can perhaps extrapolate this to even older students (college and graduate school). At this stage, students may begin to view these drawings as simply childish.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Colleges Are Ripping Off.. ...What We Do With Numbers

A friend on Facebook brought to my attention an article from a conservative website, Intellectual Takeout. The article, How Colleges Are Ripping Off a Generation of Ill-Prepared Students, was a commentary authored by a professor of economics at George Mason University, Walter Williams. It was originally published in another right-wing site called The Daily Signal. In the article, Williams was accusing colleges of admitting students who could not even read nor write nor do arithmetic. Williams arrived at this conclusion by comparing scores in the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), high school graduation rates, and enrollment in colleges. Williams noted that the fraction of students entering college is far greater than the fraction of students reaching proficiency in either math or reading NAEP exams. Obviously, Williams did not know what the levels in an NAEP exam really meant, or he was simply misleading readers.

Here is the description on the NAEP website regarding the meaning of proficient in its exams:
Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter. It should be noted that the NAEP Proficient achievement level does not represent grade level proficiency as determined by other assessment standards (e.g., state or district assessments).
Using the proficient level as a mark for grade level completion is obviously wrong. Williams is therefore making a great error when he writes:
Nationally, our high school graduation rate is over 80 percent. That means high school diplomas, which attest that these students can read and compute at a 12th-grade level, are conferred when 63 percent are not proficient in reading and 75 percent are not proficient in math.
Perhaps, it would have been better if Williams used the "basic" level instead. About 70 percent of students reach this level in math and in reading, which is more in line with the percent of students graduating from high school. But even this comparison is not valid since obtaining a high school degree is not decided merely by scores in a standardized test. This is not the purpose of the NAEP. The NAEP is just one way that puts all schools in the US under a common measure, but its application should never be extended to gauging whether a student should graduate high school or enter college.

But Williams did not stop at this point. He continued and accused colleges of admitting ill-prepared students. His argument was based on the fraction of students entering college. He cited data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed 67% of high school graduates enrolling in college. One should take note that only 80% graduates high school. Thus, the percentage of high school students continuing into college is only 54%. Furthermore, only two out of three students in this group enroll in a 4-year college, bringing it down to 35%, a number that is actually very close to the percentage of high school students scoring at or above the proficient level in math and reading.

There is indeed a lot of information on the internet. Unfortunately, most have an agenda. Most are misleading. We have sites like Media Bias/Fact Check that can help us weed misinformation from correct information. We should use these resources as much as possible.

Above copied from Media Bias/Fact Check