Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Prometheus Inquiry Concept

The following is a draft for an elevator speech.  At 3.5 minutes, it is probably too long:

Education in this country sucks; it wastes time and money without really adding proportional value.

Schools are in a repetitive and unsuccessful loop of reform, yet: college students require remedial classes, the problems of drop outs and illiteracy have been unresolved, ineffective public school education traps the poor in poverty, and unchallenged students complain that lessons are not relevant to real life.

Students and parents should have better options available; especially those stuck in public schools, which should be called “welfare schools.”

Yet technology today provides the means to overcome constraints. Great teachers and curriculum exist, but they DO NOT scale. Most students suffer under the direction of inferior teachers and methods, when better exists and could be available to them with the click of a mouse.

The path to enhanced compensation to the best teachers is not merit pay in the public schools, but greater productivity…teaching more students by scaling through technology.

Truly today, a student’s ability to learn is limited by the time wasted on public school assignments and the parental wealth destroyed through taxation. But that limited time and those limited funds available could be leveraged to bring enhanced results; like a flywheel, slowly building momentum to ever increasing learning.

Having worked in postsecondary education finance, I am aware that no honest partnership is possible between a private company and public education; as the public will parasitically drain the capital from the private company. Unfortunately, most private education ventures seek to leverage the public schools as their market; in the long run, that will diminish the shareholders for the sake of the stakeholders.

Therefore, the foundation the Prometheus Inquiry proof of concept is to start by creating on-line courseware to supplement the education of students wherever they may be. By using the correct conceptual approach to education, students and parents can access on-line courseware to remediate, maintain, and enhance the students’ educational development at a fraction of the present cost in time and funds. Contrary to the Japanese model of rote and memorization, the Prometheus Inquiry scales by leveraging the student’s ability to think conceptually and independently instead of them becoming a parrot or automaton. Starting with supplemental education for children and adults, this bootstrapped enterprise will expand to provide multiple educational solution channels at multiple price points, including eventually brick and mortar classrooms, focused upon enhancing the ability of individual students (children and adults) based upon the resources available for student time and private financing.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mailbag: National Standards and Merit Pay

Moataz asked:
    What are your thoughts about national standards in education and performance pay of teachers ? Do you think that these are viable options ?

Re: National Standards, I have only seen this asserted as an arbitrary without any evidence from reality to support it as a policy solution; therefore, I dismiss it out of hand. If I come across any effort to support that policy with evidence from reality, then I think I could make short work of any such effort based upon evidence and objective principle.

Re: performance pay for teachers, I take the critics at their word; the public school system is not capable of measuring performance and giving rewards based upon merit. Given the educrats' confession that they can not do so for themselves, is it any wonder that they fail to do so objectively with our students?

Re: viability of these options, in the current context of public and progressive education, these will not work. It amounts to moving the deck chairs while the Titanic is sinking. The current public debate amounts to "Given that we can't do what should be done, will tweaking these other non-critical issues resolve the problem?" Such non sequiturs are the reason why public education, and other forms of non-objective law, continuously requires "reform".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tancredo on Education

Ari Armstrong has posted an interview with Colorado's Tom Tancredo on the subject of education and parental choice.

Two interesting aspect of the interview: (1) his description of parents who are willing to evade responsibility for their kids' education by letting the government decide for them, and (2) the fear amongst professional that parental choice would mean a flight from the public schools.

Unfortunately, I think that Tancredo is correct about some parents on the first point. On the second point, as long as the government has significant regulatory oversight of private schools through entangling public programs, then a private education alternative does not really exist.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Philosophy of Education

Dr. Stephen Hicks, Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College and CEE's Executive Director, presents a series of lectures on YouTube about the philosophy of education, which were recorded during the 2009-2010 academic year. This introductory course presupposes no formal knowledge of philosophy or education.

Unfortunately, the naming convention of his YT playlists obscures the proper ordering of the course; therefore, I have listed with links the correct order below, so that I can consume the material more methodically.

Course Playlists

1) Introduction to the Course: Philosophy of Education
2) Metaphysics: Philosophy of Education
3) Epistemology: Philosophy of Education
4) Human Nature: Philosophy of Education
5) Ethics: Philosophy of Education
6) Transition: Philosophy of Education
7) Idealism: Philosophy of Education
8) Realism: Philosophy of Education
9) Pragmatism: Philosophy of Education
10) Behaviorism: Philosophy of Education
11) Existentialism: Philosophy of Education

13) Marxism: Philosophy of Education
14) Postmodernism: Philosophy of Education
15) Conclusion: The Importance of Philosophy of Education

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wordle of The Prometheus Inquiry

Seeing how Wordles were being used by Fast Company to highlight key words in speeches by tech leaders at AllThingsD D8 conference, I decided to run this blog through to get a flavor.

Wordle: The Prometheus Inquiry

If you would like to try creating Wordles for assigned reading, your own writing, or lesson plans, then go to Wordle.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Venture Capital in Education

Berkery Noyes' 2010 Venture Capital in Education Summit will be held June 8-9 in NYC. According to the events website, “This year’s Summit will examine the key drivers behind these emerging trends and showcase some of the leading-edge entrepreneurs and investors whose ideas harken the changes to come.”

Fast Company’s Anya Kamenetz described last year’s summit as “where VCs and private equity firms talked about the enormous potential in disrupting one of the world's biggest industries, one that still remains tantalizingly locked up by bureaucracies within bureaucracies.”

Today, Kamenetz described 10 early stage start ups that will be part of the summit’s showcase, and recommend 3 additional education start ups.

Muzzy Lane Software creates 3D games through its Sandstone Platform. Middle school education projects include: ClearLab and Cell Saver (games for science), and Past/Present (social history).

Launchpad Toys recently unveiled their first digital toy called Toontastic, which is a storytelling and animation tool for the iPad. At their website, they also claim to be “…building an online community for all you parents, educators, kids, and kids-at-heart to share your thoughts and experiences on Digital Play and Creative Education.” Related to social media, one interesting recent post on their site says that they have been thinking about how to build a better community for kids to share their creations.

Along those later lines, Everloop is in beta for a social networking platform targeting 8-13 year olds with profile customization, real-time communications (email, IM, chat and voice chat), real-time posts and video uploading, and groups of common interest; plus original video content, games, and a virtual store.

Notehall targets college students with an on-line marketplace for buying and selling class notes. Recently, I had suggested the creation of study materials for sale as an enriching supplement to the parent of a bored and unchallenged college student. This service could serve as distribution for such an individual effort.

Watermelon Express created iPhone and Desktop apps to aid students in preparing for the GRE, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, and MCAT.

Irynsoft offers a distance learning platform, including peer networks, delivered through an iPhone.

CCKF promotes an adaptive learning framework that focuses on the individual learner within the context of defined course objectives.

PresenceTeleCare offers web-based speech therapy. While targeted in its product offering, the framework could apparently offer additional services targeted to scaling up limited specialist resources.

FairChoice Systems offers cost reducing health compliance solutions for colleges which integrate with students’ smart phones.

Kamenetz correctly laments that these solutions piggyback on existing education infrastructure without really changing the system as they target schools and universities as their clients. In addition, some of these solutions are focused on reducing regulatory compliance costs in such a way that they are dependent upon the status quo.

In contrast, Kamenetz recommends three start up companies that offer the potential for transformation: Einztein, NaMaYa, and Udemy.

Einztein is a nonprofit online campus offering free course content using a variety of available media from various colleges and universities around the world. This could be an excellent resource for high school students seeking enrichment, or an opportunity to survey potential majors for interest; however, adult supervision/guidance may be needed to control for potential weird-Ivory-Tower-disconnected-from-reality profs.

NaMaYa and Udemy are both interesting to me in that they offer platforms for publishing online course content. NaMaYa seems more oriented to primary and secondary teachers and schools. Udemy seems to have more postsecondary offerings. Another online content publisher that I have been looking at is Soomo Publishing.

From this sample, where is the VC money going? Companies that are offering to leverage technology to address niche, supplemental, and infrastructure services. Missing are the capital intensive private school infrastructure build outs to replace our failing public schools. Further, where are the offers to parents to aid in advancing their kid as had the encyclopedia and computer in the past?

Overall, I see some interesting opportunities in the platforms, frameworks, and technology integrations at the foundation of these products which can be brought together to advance education beyond our failed public school system.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

To a Public School Apologist

My post “Ravitch Admits Errors, Then Repeats” received the following comment on YouTube from cxa011550:
    “Government is force? By that simplistic logic you should support anarchy. By the same token, the ultimate goal of private business is profit, not reason, and not even the benefit of students. As Ravitch pointed out in another lecture, when private organizations are put in charge of schools they often exclude ‘undesirable’ students whose low performance would take away from their bottom line. Public education DOES work for many students, just not enough.”
That comment specifically relates to the following paragraph in the original post:
    “In embracing a renewed drive to fix public schools, Ravitch fails to correct one of her fundamentally flawed premises: that schools should be public. She criticizes hybrid efforts to bring business principles to school reform, while missing that the public nature of schools is one of education’s key problems. Government is force, which puts force—and not Reason—as the fundamental driver in public education.”
Let’s break the comment out and evaluate it.

1) “Government is force? By that simplistic logic you should support anarchy.”

Actually, I do NOT support anarchy as I judge that government plays an essential role in subordinating the retaliatory use of force to objective law. However, government should be utilized to achieve its proper purpose and within its distinctive competence instead of being a catch all for any collective action at the expense of freedom of association and civil society.

The comment demonstrates the process of taking a statement out of context and applying logic independent of reality, which is the Rationalism that I criticized in Ravitch’s approach and more generally is the common approach taught by public education.

In context, by saying that government is force, I refer to how government action is different from cooperative projects.

Tying this back to reality, how do we see force in government education? Compulsory education laws. Laws against home schooling. Statutory and regulatory restrictions and mandates over educational content. Expropriation of funding. Court rulings that parents do not have a fundamental right to direct their child education. I could go on, but I think that I have validated that public education applies force against children, parents, and other members of the community.

In government’s proper function, the use of force is retaliatory to protect individual rights. In the case of American public education, government initiates force against anyone who would dissent from the majority who holds power at that moment.

2) “By the same token, the ultimate goal of private business is profit, not reason, and not even the benefit of students.”

Actually, Eliyahu Goldratt put it best when he said that the goal of a business is to make money now and in the future.

The incentives for politicians are short term, until the next election or the next step up in power. In doing so, they do not need to provide excellent service to the parents and students, but only the plurality needed to grant them power.

In contrast, effective business people think in terms of their life time and even thereafter. One can point to business people that create enormous short term wealth only to have it waste into nothingness, which demonstrates the distinction between the effective and the ephemeral.

To be effective, in business, one must produce and exchange value in a fair trade of value (money) for value (service or product). What value are parents looking for in education? Reason, or at least that is what they should aspire to for their children; in an environment of free association, other parents could choose mysticism, skepticism, or other flavors of the irrational.

Instead of a private market making great, good, mediocre, and awful choices available to parents, they are now assigned by American public education only mediocre or awful alternatives with penalties to any that attempt better for their children.

3) “As Ravitch pointed out in another lecture, when private organizations are put in charge of schools they often exclude ‘undesirable’ students whose low performance would take away from their bottom line.”

This is a consequence of mixing the private and the public, which can not be used to condemn the wholly private. The same criticism could be applied to any government contracting, which can be horrific despite vital private enterprises thriving without government interference.

How is it that low performing students take away from the bottom line? By the terms of the public contracts as set by the public authority.

In contrast, in a private school, low performing students offer an opportunity to delight their customer (the parents) with excellent service by improving the capacity of those students.

For a concrete example of this in reality, I point to the private Deseret Academy (see Mr Cropper’s channel on YouTube), which took unmotivated and poorly performing public school students, and transformed them into motivated and successful private school students. Also, for excellence in private education, I cite the Van Damme Academy.

4) “Public education DOES work for many students, just not enough.”

This comment reminds me of a statement by Ralph Ketcham in his biography of James Madison:
    “A student of Madison’s endowments can sometimes overcome a series of poor teachers; that he was blessed with good ones at almost every step of his education undoubtedly contributed importantly to the characteristic discipline, keenness, and polish of his intellect.”
I have dealt with the essential aspects of this comment’s issue previously in my posts “Our Students’ Potential Gap” and “Who are Parents to Decide About their Child?