Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Can Technology Be Used to Reduce the Cost of K-12 Education?

There are a number of technology-related possibilities that can increase instructional efficiency while lowering educational costs over time.

1.   Provide internet service to all classrooms. Assure that internet access is available in the homes of all students. Provide access where needed.

2.   Provide all students with Chromebooks, a cloud-based laptop. This computer provides the most educational value at the lowest cost.

3.   Enlist teachers to compose an online-based curriculum that would replace the need for textbooks.

4.   Eliminate the need for pencils, pens, and paper as all student work is saved/retrieved online.

5.   Summer school, for remediation and enrichment, can be provided online.

6.   Consider the implementation of blended learning where students complete lessons online in their homes prior to attending the classroom-based review, discussion, assessment and other activities. This has the potential to reduce student in-school presence and the number of school buildings needed.

7.   Students can do classroom work online at home on snow days rather than make up lost time at the end of the school year.

8.   Implement personalized learning which has the potential to allow students to learn at their own pace and possibly graduate early.

9.   Modify the role of school librarians into technology support specialists. Library space can be utilized for student projects that allow for creativity.

10. Use virtual/augmented reality (VR, AR) as a replacement for field trips. These immersive, online experiences may be accessed by students during non-school time.

11. Eliminate the need for on-site servers to store school records by utilizing cloud-based resources such as Amazon Web Service (AWS).

These recommendations would entail a high initial cost but would save money over time. Expenditures would also be needed for staff development.

Friday, July 27, 2018

A Plan for Reducing the High Cost of College Textbooks

College textbooks can reach as high as $200 and up per class; a burden for many
students. I propose a win-win solution to high textbook cost: encourage professors
to create their own online textbook tailored to each subject taught. Charge students
$50 for online access; far less expensive than the $100-$300 price. The incentive
for the professor would be increased earnings per academic year. For example,
if the class size averages 20 students and s/he teaches four classes per semester,
the potential earnings would equal $4000 or $8000 for two semesters. Of course,
there would have to be a system that prevents students from copying or circumventing
the cost.

  • Saturday, June 2, 2018

    Can Robots Deliver Utopia?

    In my blog entry of January 21, 2013, I made a number of predictions on the effects of robotics on the future of society. I alluded to how technology will result in a massive loss of jobs and the need to provide an income to the unemployed. Today, this idea has come to be known as Universal Basic Income (UBI). I also mentioned the government's role in dealing with the problems of an idle society by providing various social programs that would appeal to the populace. The loss of jobs need not be a catastrophe as some would imagine if the government takes remedial action and producers of goods and services cooperate.

    A key result of robots is a large increase in productivity. They can operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Their only downtime would be for repairs and maintenance. They receive no compensation or benefits. The result would be a significant decline in the cost of goods and services; in other words, deflation. Obviously, companies would want a large share of the resulting profits since they produced the robots that caused the increase in productivity. However, the unemployed should be provided with a UBI, adjusted for deflation, that at least guarantees a comfortable existence; they should not be penalized if they find work to supplement this income. The UBI will be funded from taxes imposed on the producers of goods and services. The amount of taxes imposed would be determined by the number of jobs lost due to automation. Companies will realize that without a UBI, there will be only a minimal market for purchasing their products.

    The government will have to develop social programs that allow the unemployed to enjoy a meaningful existence. Otherwise, there is the risk that an idle population could result in violence or withdrawal from society. These programs should encourage creativity and pride in accomplishment. Included would be hobbies, participation in competitive sports, and furthering one's education. The latter could provide the opportunity to become employed in a rewarding technical career.

    Those who are trained in robotics will become the elite and most highly compensated members of society. They must be competent in the development, maintenance and control of robots. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) progresses, and many processes become automatic and even self-improving, the danger of complacency increases.  Control must always be the responsibility of humans.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2018

    Letter to the editor of Rivereast News
    May 29, 2018

    To the Editor:
    I agree with Mr. Steven’s letter to the Editor of May 25, 2018, where he states that   “.. despite three
    decades of economic growth, middle-class incomes have risen only slightly.” I would like to add
    two more reasons why this has occurred: (1) outsourcing production to foreign countries, especially
    China, and (2) automation, especially robotics. Both have the effect of reducing costs and increasing
    profits for manufacturers. Both have placed downward pressure on middle-class employment and compensation.

    Automation is increasing more rapidly due to progress in artificial intelligence (AI). This means that machines have the potential to replace workers at ALL levels of employment. Productivity will increase immensely as robots work 24/7, are not compensated, and have no fringe benefits.
    This trend has the potential to eliminate most jobs. Positions involving technology and social
    assistance will increase. The ultimate result will be massive unemployment. However, people will
    need income to purchase goods and services. The government must tax companies according
    to their rise in productivity due to automation and job loss. The result will be a Universal Basic Income
    (UBI) provided to all the unemployed. Also, the government must sponsor social activities for an idle,
    restless population.

    Thursday, April 19, 2018

    A Possible Solution for Making-up Missed School Days

    A student’s school attendance is impacted by illness and missed class time due to storm delays and cancellations. Usually, this time is made up by adding days to the end of the school year. Many families object to this plan as it complicates vacation planning or requires attendance during warmer weather in buildings that are not air-conditioned. One solution is to give students the option of online schooling on days when schools are closed. Also, students who miss school due to illness can be provided with online classes that make up for missed days. In some cases, makeup time can be flexible, including days beyond the school year.
    Educators must have lessons prepared in advance if this plan is to work efficiently. Their lesson plans must be online and students must have laptops and an internet connection in their homes. Also, teachers would have to evaluate student progress.
    Another application of online, makeup instruction is teacher absence. Rather than have a substitute teacher who may or may not have the qualifications of providing quality instruction, students can continue lessons online in school and/or at home.
    The advent of computers and the internet have opened up many alternative ways of delivering instruction to K-12 students. Making-up classes is one of a number of possibilities.

    Saturday, February 17, 2018

    School Play Therapy as a Preventive Method of Reducing Emotional Problems in Youth

    The recent shooting in a Parkland, FL high school has many people thinking about what can
    be done to prevent such tragedies. Arming teachers, employing guards, implementing metal
    detectors, gun control has been suggested. A more constructive solution would be the
    prevention of the development of hostile personalities. The implementation of a play therapy
    program in grades K-5 is on possibility. Schools provide counseling programs for middle
    and high school, but nothing for elementary schools.These young children do not respond
    well to “talk counseling,” but respond enthusiastically to play techniques. Many authorities
    believe that early intervention is the preferred approach to minimizing the development of many emotional problems.

    Play therapy requires a room about the size of a classroom with many choices of playthings,
    including toys, paper, paints and musical instruments. The room should be large enough to
    provide for the activeplay of up to five children. Psychologists must be specifically trained in
    play techniques. They should be tolerant of noise and skilled in the resolution of naturally occurring
    conflicts that occur during play. They also should be skilled in counseling of parents.

    Play therapy provides opportunities for children to learn to channel their hostility into socially
    acceptable modes of expression. Also encouraged is having withdrawn children express
    themselves socially. All of these gains can occur in an environment where children are free
    to express themselves through play by themselves or with their peers. The only limit is that
    no one is allowed to hurt another physically.  Noise is never limited. I have worked for years
    with children in play therapy and have personally witnessed the improvements in many.

    Tuesday, February 13, 2018

    Recent Amtrak Train Derailment Indicates Need for Backup Systems
    "An Amtrak train derailed south of Seattle, Washington, on Monday, sending train cars tumbling onto a busy interstate." The train was traveling 80 mph around a curve when the accident happened.  This derailment could have been avoided if a computerized sensing system was in place. Such a system would have the capability to slow the train as it approached the curve by warning the engineer or reducing the speed automatically. Such systems could also activate warnings for other dangers, such as damaged track and obstacles on the track. The technology is currently available and is prominently featured in driverless vehicles.