Tag Archive for education

Meditations on Blockchain

Blockchain_Logo

The internet is flooded with contemplations, broodings, and cogitations on Blockchain. One of the possible uses of this technology, Bitcoins and its ilk, has been the reverie, prayer, and speculation engine for endless get rich schemes and the constant fodder for media rumination. But what is it really? The direct answer is that Blockchain is just a digital form of trust. Allow me to walk you through it. Trust has always been the foundation of any society. Early on, when social groups were numbered in low dozens and basically consisted of associations of family members, trust was the currency among the members. You can trust your father-in-law because the survival of his grandkids was in his interest as much as your own, presumably. If a member of the family strayed, everyone knew about and punished the transgression accordingly, including by removing personal trust. But once the social groups grew in size, trust was more difficult to establish — who could remember who did what and to whom? To supplement trust born of personal knowledge, institutional trust was invented: laws, banks, governments, … and of course religious institutions. It no longer mattered if you were not familiar with a stranger, you…

Memory and Storytelling

nerve cell

Our only truth is narrative truth, the stories we tell each other and ourselves—the stories we continually recategorize and refine. — Oliver Sacks, The River of Consciousness, page 121 Our memories are not static. Each time we reach for one, we refresh and form new neuron connections, in fact changing the memory itself via our contemplation of it. Like Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle — we can observe a particle’s momentum or its position but not both simultaneously — each time we recall a particular event, we change it due to that recollection. After the mental touch, the memory is no longer the same. And this is true not just in some metaphorical sense, but in a real, tangible, physical way — the act of recall alters the neuron structures forever! And yet we eagerly recollect our favorite memories, and we just as eagerly try to forget the painful ones (and the very act of thinking of those painful memories makes them that much stronger, that much more connected and integrated into our neural memory networks). Social groups have always been aware of this property of memory. Cultures are molded out of stories, songs, epics, ballads, and now memes that bind us…

100% Life-Light Child

Life-Light

“Order! Order, Honorable Educators!” The lights and devices flashed again, as the power was cut and restored in rapid successions to bring the room back into a productive discussion mode. The screaming and arguing had gone on for at least two minutes now — unacceptable, life-light dimming behavior. “The school haven’t had a perfect child in over two decades,” Educator 1 said. “This is our chance to regain our standing in the World School Rankings.” “Be careful, Educator 1, envy is punishable by bedimming,” said Administrator. This was the second reminder during this session alone. Some teachers were sure to have their life-lights bedimmed before this incident was over. “Twenty three years!” said Educator 2. “I wasn’t even a teacher at the school back then.” “It’s unfortunate that the latest generations are not as bright as they were during our own time,” said Administrator, gently rubbing her own life-light still at nearly 75% after all these years. “But the question stands — do we accept Addam’s account of the incident and allow the dimming of his life-light? Or do we reject it as a bias story, told to save a friend from becoming a darkling?” “I understand Addam’s desire to…

2015 Paris Sage Assembly Summary Slides

Institut Pasteur Sage Illustration

In 2015, the first Sage Assembly was held at the Institute Pasteur in Paris: http://sagebase.org/paris-assembly-2015-april/ Below are my slides from the last day’s concluding remarks. 1. Let me start by saying what an amazing experience the last few days have been. Interesting ideas, great people, innovative solutions all came together here, in Paris. Thank you institute of Pasture for being such wonderful hosts. 2. And of course none of this would have happened if not for one man, one American in Paris, Steven Friend. Thank you for working so hard to change the world, Steven! 3. And all of us! Don’t we group well? But there are still some obvious empty pins on this map. The World-wide Sage Community has room to grow! So let me come straight to my topic — how do we create systems that help us change the world? How do we design and foster supports , scaffolds that make open data initiatives possible? Well, I believe we have to start by understanding the people and communities in which they work. And we need to think about how change propagates… 4. Change can be sparked by a single individual and then move all the way up…

Culture, education, language, and thinking

How we think about problems depends in part of how we are taught to do so. And that education is seeped in our culture and language. Metaphors, mnemonics, analogies, riddles, word choice for explanations are tightly interwoven into our language. Just like it was probably impossible for Romans to invent calculus given their numeral system, it is difficult to think clearly about some problems in some languages. I’ve learned advanced physics and mathematics in English and find it very difficult to express thoughts in those domains in Russian (my native language). But when I first came to New York, I marveled at how poor my cohorts’ geometry proofs were — their presentations took a lot of space and too many steps to achieve what I was taught to do in minimal configuration. I was taught to jump and bound from concept to concept (in geometry), while the students in America were taught to crawl through ideas. I found that maddening! But it was a different math language, and as such it allowed for a different set of affordances… It is difficult to easily show the differences in thought process that language makes in this short blog. But here’s a bit…

Musings on Failure in School

The Math Obstacle In the past few years, reports came out showing strong correlation between failing Algebra and graduation rates — if a kid fails math, he/she won’t be getting their high school diplomas. Here are a few articles describing the studies: “Is Removing Algebra a Key to Reform?” by Daniel Duerden, August 13, 2012 “A Comprehensive Study of the Predictors of High School Outcomes: Why Some Students Graduate on Time While Others Drop Out”. “A Correlation Study of Accuplacer Math and Algebra Scores and Math Remediation on the Retention and Success of Students in the Clinical Laboratory Technology Program at Milwaukee Area Technical College” by James Manto, August 2006. “Is high school tough enough: Full report” by The Center for Public Education. There are many more… Some suggested that based on evidence, we might just want to drop the math curriculum from high school graduation requirement — if there’s a strong correlation, perhaps by removing math, we might remove the problem and more kids graduate. Obviously, I don’t think that this a great solution. But I do come across the math problem a lot as part of the educational evaluations I do in my small practice. What I see…