Technology doesn’t contribute to productivity?

Here’s what I think: If economic analysis says that technology does not contribute to the overall productivity of the country, check the analysis. It’s incorrect.

It’s self evident and obvious that technology – computers, smart phones, tablets, cloud computing, robotics, and on and on make us more productive. I say, send the economists back to the drawing board to look again.

Economic Statistics Miss the Benefits of Technology – NYTimes.com:

The meme is back. The burst of productivity during the dot-com revolution of the 1990s gave skeptics pause. But as productivity has slowed substantially in recent years, doubts have re-emerged about whether information technology can power economic growth like the steam engine and the internal combustion engine did in the past.

 

Ongoing coverage of MOOCs: How good are they really?

This trend is now unstoppable – massive open online courses – or MOOCs – are constantly in the news. The angle often seems to be about whether or how or how much they will impact higher education and education in general. It’s a topic I am very interested in.

Here’s another piece of the puzzle, this time from the New York Times. In this article a reporter signs up for ten different online courses in a quest to assess from his personal experience along these dimensions:

  • Professors: B+
  • Convenience: A
  • Teacher to student interaction: D
  • Student to student interaction: B-
  • Assignments: B-
  • Overall experience: B

His telling comments about the convenience factor:

“Regardless of the convenience, you still have to carve out time for the lectures. Which is one reason the dropout rate for MOOCs is notoriously high: Coursera’s bioelectricity course, taught by a Duke professor, saw an astounding 97 percent of students fail to finish. My dropout rate was lower, but only a bit. I signed up for 11 courses, and finished 2: “Introduction to Philosophy” and “The Modern World: Global History since 1760.” (Well, to be honest, I’m not quite done with history — I’m still stuck in the 1980s.) Not coincidentally, these were two courses with lighter workloads and less jargon.” (from NYT: Grading the MOOC University)

 

Great tips for dealing with email

This is a tired topic but this article from the New York Times does have some good tips on managing your avalanche of email

“…There’s no quick fix. But set aside a few hours one afternoon, brew a pot of coffee, get a tasty snack, put on your favorite playlist and roll up your sleeves. It’s time to tame your in-box…” (from “How to Lighten the Crush of Email“)

 Read the article here.

Friedman, mentioning Olin College: again about inventing your own job

Tom Friedman, quoting Tony Wagner, describes what he thinks should be taught today (that isn’t really being taught:)

““Today,” he said via e-mail, “because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate — the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life — and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, ‘We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can’t teach them how to think — to ask the right questions — and to take initiative.’ ” (from NYT – Need A Job? Invent It!

You know, what’s amazing, this is exactly what the philosophy at Olin College of Engineering is! I’ve been teaching there for the last several months, a course in entrepreneurship, and as I’ve gotten to know the students and the other faculty, I’ve begun to understand their unique approach there.

Another quote:

“We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need, and facts that they can Google and will forget as soon as the test is over,” said Wagner. “Because of this, the longer kids are in school, the less motivated they become. Gallup’s recent survey showed student engagement going from 80 percent in fifth grade to 40 percent in high school. More than a century ago, we ‘reinvented’ the one-room schoolhouse and created factory schools for the industrial economy. Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.” (from NYT – Need A Job? Invent It!

If this interests you, you should read the whole article. And don’t miss the end:

“In the U.S., 500 K-12 schools affiliated with Hewlett Foundation’s Deeper Learning Initiative and a consortium of 100 school districts called EdLeader21 are developing new approaches to teaching 21st-century skills. There are also a growing number of ‘reinvented’ colleges like the Olin College of Engineering, the M.I.T. Media Lab and the ‘D-school’ at Stanford where students learn to innovate.” (from NYT – Need A Job? Invent It!

Patents: Innovation Nation

An interesting view on patents from Judge Posner:

“In Posner’s view, many patents are unnecessary. Patents, he believes, are important for drug companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars bringing a new drug to market — a drug that can easily be copied by a competitor. Without the protection that a patent affords, pharmaceutical companies would have far less incentive to come up with new drugs.” (from New York Times)

In another article that discussed Posner’s view on patents: “Why there are too many patents in America” (from The Atlantic)

 

 

Android Inventor – not ready for prime time

The other day I wrote a post where I mentioned Google’s App Inventor, and I mentioned it with some skepticism.

Today, a column in the New York Times that covers Google’s App Inventor in more detail, and comes to more or less the same conclusion:

“I’m happy for App Inventor. I wish it a long and exciting life. Surely it will have one in schools and computer classes, among other niches.

But for nonprogrammers on their own? Forget it. Android Hype Inventor is more like it.” (from the New York Times)