Sunday, December 29, 2019

Machine Vision has the Potential to Improve Vehicular Traffic Flow

Often cars must stop for a red traffic signal even when there is no traffic coming from the opposing side of the intersection. This results in time lost, aggravation, decreased gas mileage, increased air pollution due to idling cars and can even limit the life of most cars. Technology can be applied to improve traffic flow if signals can interactively respond to changes in traffic flow through intersections. The application of machine vision can regulate the timing of signals in response to the traffic volume approaching an intersection from all directions. One way is to have cameras used to count cars and transmit data to computers that can actively adjust the timing of signals to maximally improve the flow of traffic.

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, babysitting,
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