Saturday, September 08, 2007

Net Neutrality and the DOJ

If you are not informed about net neutrality please read this:

As you might have already read the DOJ on September 6, 2007 came out against net neutrality. The reason the DOJ might have ruled as it did is that big business convinced them that the Internet is “hurting business”.

Google News

The Internet is unlike most other forms of communication in that you have nearly an infinite amount of choices to choose from. The Internet expands people's palette, so to speak, meaning because you can access nearly any piece of information easily, you can find out about artists, movies, software, products, and ideas that you would not have been exposed to without the internet. This makes it incredibly difficult for companies to sell products, why buy a piece of software when you can legitimately download an open source program that does the same thing free? Why buy a digital camera on sale from a large company, when you can find a better camera online for less money? Why buy a newspaper when I can look at it for free? Why buy a pop-star's album when I can find a more musically talented artist that fits my tastes exactly? Why should I take so and so's word when I can ask several top experts what they think? Why believe people or institutions biased to tell you a spun version of the truth when you can look at it yourself?

Before the Internet, people where limited by the amount of material you could acquire, read, and compare, but with the internet you can compare almost every online retailer, you can read product evaluations from experts, you can compare and shop like never before. You can contact experts, professors, common-folk, soldiers, etc. You can get facts directly, you can analyze events yourself, you can look at the bare numbers, and the bare equations and say I see something wrong, or my local media missed this or that etc. You can ask several top experts questions regarding the information and come to your own conclusion. No longer is the public limited to information presented by major media outlets, you can read dissenting opinions, different opinions, weird opinions, crazy opinions, and every once in a while an opinion that make more sense than anything you've read in the major media.
End result, it is more difficult for big companies to mold the public to buy their products or support government policy because it makes them money. They hate this.

Much of the push for no net neutrality is that many internet service providers want to make sure there is enough bandwidth for all their products, like internet telephony, on demand video services, etc. The only problem is that it will come at the cost of websites, and web servers that can't afford to pay to have their packets prioritized.

If our internet service providers route different packets with different priority and if the packets we want are not on the top of their priority list then technically they are doing a disservice. Why should someone have their packets routed first if both he and I pay the same amount of money, same package, same provider? What's worse is that they can play this little game with websites they don't like. They can make it easier for someone to access one website over another thereby little by little pushing the public towards the website they want you to see.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Intended Audience

As one can probably tell, many of my recent posts are not really directed towards those who already are doing well in school nor are they directed toward educators or the management of high performing schools. In fact much of my website is directed and has always been directed to those who need help learning and communities who have always been underrepresented in higher education. Of course anyone is welcome to my website, and if it helps them all the better.

I can easily see the irony here, those who need the most help are the ones least likely to own a computer or use the internet. If they do use the internet they probably won't use it to learn how to learn math. Nevertheless, I believe that if I cast a wide enough net, and I cast it frequently eventually the few people I do reach will add up. Even if my opinions are unpopular and extreme if it helps one more kid and/or parent to get his/her act together to go to college, finish college and become a productive member of society then, it is worth it.

Standarized Tests IV

I realize the previous post might seem extreme, but it is nevertheless useful. We see that the way children study is equally if not more important than how a subject is actually taught. Given that we live in the US and that educators can only play, at best, a limited role in the child's education, it is best to set exceedingly high standards of studying. This is necessary so that when most children fall below the standard, they will be studying at a level necessary to adequately learn the material and/or do well on standardized exams.

This is akin to a negotiation, given that usually one must compromise and give up certain demands, it is best to start by asking for more than what you want. In the process of teaching one will usually always compromise and give up certain standards, so it is best to start the class by asking for more than what is needed.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Standarized Tests III

Regarding the following article:

School test scores level off as federal standards get tougher

The biggest problem with the US educational system is that, simply because a child sits in a classroom doesn't mean he/she is learning. Anyone can sit in a chair for an hour; daydream, not pay attention nor fully process the information and give the teacher the impression of learning. What educators should want is the child to internally process the information. The US educational system is set up to maximize the freedom given to the child, of course this means the child has the freedom not to do well in school.

Now 2 hours of math and English a day combined with 3 hours on the weekend for a total of 11 hours of math and English. Let us assume the child gets out of school at 3 pm from 3 to 7 pm is spent doing homework and studying, lets assume the child goes to sleep at 10 pm, for a total of 3 hrs of "freetime". On the weekends lets say the child goes to 3 hours of enrichment on Saturday for a total of 9 hrs of freetime, on Sunday lets say 12 hrs of freetime. If you add the freetime you get 36 hrs of freetime weekly, you see this is directly comparable with the 31 hrs spent supposedly actively learning, doing homework, or studying.

The way this "free time" is spent is the most important factor in education. I teach at an afterschool program for children, most of them are of Asian background ranging from the ages of 5 to 17. Here is a typical day:

They do their math and English homework, tutors help them with any question they have. Tutors also check to see if their homework is done correctly. Afterwards they are given a series of practice standardized tests and they are timed, the tests are scored and then the children must redo the test correcting all the missed questions. After that they are given math and English enrichment packets where they practice the concepts learned in class or learn concepts not yet presented in class. The tutors make sure they do them correctly otherwise they have to correctly rewrite any missed question 5 times each, if they miss the questions again they have to rewrite them 6 times and so on. Oh yea, the children go through this "grilling" 6 days a week, including Saturday and starting from 5 yrs old all the way to 17 yrs old. This center even has Standardized exams for 6 yrs old kids, so just imagine a child taking a scored practice standardized exam nearly everyday for 11 yrs, do you think it will have effect?

The only reason such a program works is because parents make the children go, whether the child wants to or not. Also they give the tutors the right to "grill" their sons and daughters, in addition at home they make them study all the time, and by all the time I mean that nearly all of their freetime is spent studying.

Now in regard to summer vacation, what summer vacation? At the center they offer summer math and English classes where they cover 1 month of material in a week, the homework literally takes up all of their free time.

So you see, it has nothing to do with intrinsic capabilities, it has everything to do with just how much parents are willing to do to educate their kids. If the educators want to surpass this plateau then they will first have to make the children "internalize" the value of education, second they will have to make the children want to study correctly everyday, third they will have to make children think like a person who scores high on standardized exams.