Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Cultured Meat: Economic and Environmental Implications

There are many reasons for supporting a decline in human meat consumption. Included, is the need to reduce the production of greenhouse gases produced by animals, reduce water consumption, and the morally questionable killing of animals. Efforts have been underway to produce plant-based meat substitutes with mixed success. Of greater significance is the development of cultured meat. This source is derived from the use of cells extracted from animals. The specimens are treated in a lab and grown into meat that is biologically indistinguishable from the donor animal. The slaughtering of animals is completely eliminated. Similarly, the same process can be used to produce dairy products; cows not needed.

A number of ramifications are to be anticipated assuming that animals will no longer be required as a food source. The economic impact on animal farmers would be severe as their livelihood and that of employed workers would be substantially eliminated. A huge amount of land will no longer be required for grazing and the harvesting of animal feed. Then there is the problem of what to do with the millions of cows, hogs, chickens, and sheep. Ideally, the transition to animal-free food production will be gradual allowing for a natural die-off of existing herds. The slaughtering industry will be largely eliminated. Slaughterhouses will be replaced by labs. The need for butchers will decline, but the need for lab personnel will increase. There would be a need to preserve some of the animal stock in order to prevent the extinction of species. The transportation of animals will be impacted as the movement of cultured meat is far less demanding as is the transportation of livestock.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Using Open Educational Resources (OER) in K-12 schools

K-12 school districts can spend large sums of money for the purchase of textbooks. These can become outdated, can wear out, abused, and even lost by students. Also, they add significant weight to a student's backpack. An alternative is using Open Educational Resources  (OER) as a replacement for textbooks. Each student would need a laptop or tablet and an internet connection to make this plan workable.

OERs have many advantages over traditional textbooks:
1.  Are free of cost.
2.  Are immediately available for downloading onto student devices.
3.  Can be edited and updated to meet the needs of each class.
4.  Can be shared with other classes, schools, or districts.
5.  Being stored in the cloud, are always available to students 24/7, from any location.

Faculty would have to screen OER resources before adoption to make certain curriculum goals are supported.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Why Did the Cheshire, CT School District Discontinue the Summit Learning Program?

The Summit Learning initiative is a personalized learning program sponsored
by Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook. 380 school districts throughout the U.S are
currently participating. Cheshire, CT schools opted-in for grades 5 through 8 but
withdrew from the program after about three months. The reasons given included:

  • Flaws in the organization of the program, including assessments where students
found ways of cheating by finding the answer page.
  • Student dissatisfaction with the time spent on computers minimizing interaction
with their teachers.
  • Parent dissatisfaction.
  • The appearance of inappropriate images when students went to third-party
websites for reading assignments.

While not all students and parents expressed dissatisfaction, those that did became very
vocal leading to the superintendent’s termination of the program. Failure could have been
minimized had the district undertaken better preparation, including:

  • Requiring the provider to activate a full-proof filtering system that would block
inappropriate content.
  • Requiring each teacher to take all lessons as if they were a student prior to
class implementation.
  • Giving students and parents the option of participating in the program.
  • Consider a program that increases student-teacher dialogue; e.g. online
instruction followed by class discussion and student interaction.
  • More involvement of parents by having them experience first-hand how the
program works.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Benefits of On-line Newspapers

Recently, an article appeared in The Hartford Courant critical of reading online, especially newspapers. Yes, a physical newspaper is larger than a computer screen, but the online variety has many advantages: (1) less expensive, (2) more timely delivery, (3) the need for paper is reduced (many trees will be spared), and (4) you can access it from anywhere as long as you have an internet connection. I have subscribed to the online edition of the Hartford Courant for many years. I read it daily on my laptop; I do not miss the paper edition. Admittedly, I do not like reading a newspaper on a smartphone, as I find the screen too small for my eyes.

The person who wrote the article is an English teacher in the Haddam-Killingworth School district in Connecticut. As a retired educator, I become annoyed when a member of my profession becomes critical of education technology. Also, I believe that K-12 education has been too slow in incorporating technology into the curriculum. Too many educators feel threatened by technology and have actively resisted its implementation. Kudos to those who have eagerly accepted its introduction. Fortunately, the younger breed of educators is more comfortable with technology, having been introduced to it at a young age.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Needed: Encouraging Parents and Children Living in Poverty to Value Education

More needs to be done to help those in poverty to become financially independent. Education is a major route to achieving this goal. Unfortunately, too many impoverished parents do not value schooling. These attitudes are intrinsically adopted by their children; they are unaware that this is occurring. Often, these students are the ones who become disciplinary problems; they attend school only because it is required. So, what can be done? Programs like Head-Start can help, but can it modify a student’s attitude toward education? Dedicated and caring teachers are essential. Some struggle to motivate their students by seeking to make learning rewarding. Some succeed by finding the “hook” that captivates their class. A more ideal solution is to find ways to to get students to value education before they enroll in school.

Value systems begin early in life and are often related to the values of the parents.
Consequently, we need to find a way to encourage parents to hold education in higher
esteem. They should be engaged in a program that stresses the long term advantages
of a good education. This means providing inducements for parents to learn the value of
education and, more importantly, transmit it to their offspring. Allied with this is getting
parents to play a more active interest in their child’s academic progress. When accomplished,
the student receives the message that education is important; and most children want to please
their parents.

Some programs can begin when the child is one year old. Invite parents to attend “seminars”
that include viewing videos of children who, through education, have succeeded in escaping
the poverty of their upbringing. Better yet, invite speakers to describe their transformation in
person. Getting parents to attend may need inducements such as free dinners, baby-sitting,
health care, and giving away prizes.

A second effort would be the use of parent surrogates who provide in home, age appropriate
educational games. Parents should be included where possible. An example of this is the
Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP) where  an early-learning specialist visits pre-school
children twice a week to provide educational activities. Evaluations of this program have been
encouraging. (Click link below for more details.) Programs like PCHP need to be expanded to
all areas where the disadvantaged live.

All the activities described should promote a positive attitude toward learning. Hopefully,
this will provide an avenue of opportunity for future generations to break from the cycle of

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Congratulations, General Motors (GM)

GM recently announced a massive workforce reduction and cancelation of a number of their car models. But, the real news is their recently announced focus on electric and autonomous vehicles (AVs). Transitioning to electric motors will likely result in a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. This is especially probable if solar energy is used to generate the electricity needed to power autos. The advent of AVs will have a major impact on transportation. The need for every home to own one or two cars may decline significantly. An AV can be summoned when needed and arrive at your home to transport you to your destination; similar to Uber's system, but minus the driver. AVs can be used for short and long trips, reducing the need for public transportation. Costs would be offset by no longer needing to purchase and maintain a car. Car accidents could be reduced as AVs would abide by all safety laws. Traffic flow will improve as AVs will be aware of other vehicles and pedestrians and take needed measures to avoid accidents. The need for parking lots and garages may also decline as AVs will be available 24/7.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Will Streaming TV Result in the End of Cable TV?

Technology has a way of increasing efficiency while lowering cost, and in many ways reducing the need for human labor.  Streaming TV (aka Internet TV) uses the internet to deliver programming to devices like laptops. Since many homes today already subscribe to internet service, the addition of a TV service provider becomes simplified. TV shows are streamed to your computer. However, a low-cost receiving device, like Chromecast can transmit the signal wirelessly to your home TV. All service activations take place by the interested subscriber over the internet; no installer comes to your home, and no antenna or other equipment is needed.

Costs range from free to about $75 per month, depending on the number of channels provided and the amount of advertising. This cost is signifacantly less than cable or satellite providers. Many providers are available including Sling TV, Hulu, YouTube TV, Philo TV, HBO Now. Pluto TV and others.

As the transition to less expensive streaming TV increases, cable and satellite TV subscriptions are sure to decline. Employees of these and related services will be faced with the loss of employment.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Personal Universal Health Registry (PUHR)

It is not uncommon when visits to a doctor or hospital require a health history provided by a patient or relative. Often, future visits require a repeat of the process. The easiest and fastest way to provide health information to your doctor should be via the internet. A PUHR would include all the known health data of every individual, including blood type, past illnesses, prescription history, allergies, surgeries, next of kin, etc.

PUHRs can be secured in the cloud and be available from any place at any time.
The information can be password protected or accessed through personal attributes,
such as the use of a fingerprint reader or retinal scan. Personal identifiers can be useful
in emergencies where the patient is unconscious. However, retrieval speed must be rapid and may not be available until improvements in processing and internet access provide an almost instantaneous response.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Can Technology Reduce the Cost of a College education?

Can Technology Reduce the Cost of a College education?

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Colleges can significantly reduce the cost of a college education by implementing technology-related modifications while improving instructional efficiency:

(1) Enlist professors to prepare an online equivalent for each of their courses. These courses can be improved and updated over time. Ideally, these lessons would incorporate a personalized approach where the individual needs of each student are recognized. The need for expensive textbooks would be eliminated.

(2) All students would need a laptop computer and at home internet access. 

(3) A blended learning approach can be implemented where students complete lessons online in their homes prior to attending class. This has the potential to reduce student in-school presence; the number of school buildings and professors would be reduced over time. For example, a 3 credit, on-campus class could be reduced to one session per week for review, discussion, assessment, and other activities.

(4) Students would complete all written assignments on their laptop, and submit each to their professor via the internet.

(5) The need for libraries would be reduced as all resources would be available from the internet. Library space can be utilized for student projects where research and creativity are emphasized.

(6) Eliminate the need for costly on-site servers to store school records and other computer functions by utilizing cloud-based resources such as Amazon Web Service (AWS).

(7) Provide virtual/augmented reality (VR, AR), an immersive, online experience accessible to students during non-school time. These resources could reduce the need for in-class lab activities.

These recommendations would entail a high initial cost, including expenditures for staff development and redeployment, but would save money over time. Currently, there are a number of online universities in operation; some well-known universities provide a few online courses. The reduced cost of operating a college should result in lower college tuition. while increasing instructional efficiency.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Article on the Future of Education

Here is an article, "Back-to-School Thoughts: Future of Education" by Peter Diamandis, that I highly recommend to present and future K-12 teachers.