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Let Them Eat Khan Academy

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the trickle-down-education dept.

Education 134

theodp writes "Connie Ballmer announced that Seattle's Lakeside School and nine other private schools have formed the Global Online Academy to enhance learning opportunities for students at the elite institutions, some of which charge upwards of $35,000 in tuition and count the likes of Bill Gates, President Obama, Steve Case, Mitt Romney, and Sean Lennon as alums. 'Independent schools have traditionally struggled with how to provide their education models and resources to a wider student population in order to serve a public purpose,' Ballmer explained. 'While the initial classes will be for students at member schools only there is potential to share them with a broader community and help narrow the disparity of educational opportunity.' In the meantime, there's always Khan Academy."

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134 comments

Online free curriculum? (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#36151928)

Here's hoping this will be successful. Meanwhile, is there a complete, online, free curriculum?

One which would tell you, like maybe in a lesson-plan format, what to teach everyday? Say, either for a homeschool, rural school, or independent school (religious/hippie/whatever)?

The resources here seem incomplete:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_curriculum [wikipedia.org]

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36151990)

Where does it say 'free?' It doesn't. These are private schools - they arn't just going to give away their cirriculum. That is not a good business model. The Khan Academy is free, but it's also the work of just one very dedicated person, and one person can only do so much.

Re:Online free curriculum? (4, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152022)

IME as a private school graduate, they don't give you a better education anyway. What you get:
(i) How to talk the talk, i.e. say what people want to hear - most of life's tests aren't about properly understanding stuff, just about giving the impression that you do;
(ii) The right friends - they will help you out whenever you need it;
(iii) A sense of self-importance which gives you just enough tenacity and lack of empathy to overcome any adversary^H^H^Hity.

Curriculum? Read good books and talk to smart, keen people.

Re:Online free curriculum? (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152156)

That isn't always fair. Some private schools are, indeed, purely about meeting the right sort of people, playing some sports, and learning how to not look awkward in a suit. Others provide a genuinely excellent education. Some do both(whether to the same people, or by means of having a meritocratic battle arena and an old boys club on the same campus, catering to different populations.)

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152244)

Or for the private girls' school:

(iv) meeting the "right boy" to get her MRS degree with.

Re:Online free curriculum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152758)

Or for the private girls' school:

(iv) meeting the "right boy" to get her MRS degree with.

Um, they don't have boys at private girls' schools.

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153794)

Why do you think every one of those schools is "attached" to a major boys-only (or at least "historically boys-only") school?

Apparently you've never heard of the "Seven Sisters" colleges.

Re:Online free curriculum? (2)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152296)

So what you're saying is that a private school education teaches you how to be full of shit, ride the coat tails of others, and develop a huge ego?

No wonder the education system needs a massive wild fire.

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153904)

So what you're saying is that a private school education teaches you how to be full of shit, ride the coat tails of others, and develop a huge ego?

No. That's how you choose to interpret it. Whether due to a desire to be maliciously/disingenuously/cynically obtuse, or to lack of reading comprehension skills, only you know.

No wonder the education system needs a massive wild fire.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non_sequitur_(logic) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152306)

Or you can translate it an other way.
(i) How to communicate effectively - You actually know a lot about stuff let people know that too so they can make an informed decision. Pissing someone off while may make you feel happy in the short term, it rarely ever gets you way.
(ii) Socializing Skills - If they are willing to help you out when you need it that actually sounds like good friends.
(iii) A sense of pride in your work. Which allows you to focus harder on your work and get better results.

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

AkkarAnadyr (164341) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152824)

Or you can translate^Wspin it another way.

FIFY.

Or is there some path I'm missing that "feeds back an error term" to these students that will distinguish between your version and the OP's? If so, please detail it ASAP - we seem to have a lot of upper-crusters that have gone "open-loop".

Re:Online free curriculum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152966)

Work and friends are two different things to me. I have a handful of good friends. I rarely ask for their help (they ask me for help more than I do them) but on the rare occasion that I ask for help they are there. At work there are a few people I would consider friends though I wouldn't put myself out, outside of work for them. Most people at work however just want something from you and then they move on. I think this is where life for most people compared with life for the 'old boys network' differs. Work isn't about making friends with influence or power to further your own needs, its just about getting your job done and going home...

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153958)

Work and friends are two different things to me. I have a handful of good friends. I rarely ask for their help (they ask me for help more than I do them) but on the rare occasion that I ask for help they are there. At work there are a few people I would consider friends though I wouldn't put myself out, outside of work for them. Most people at work however just want something from you and then they move on. I think this is where life for most people compared with life for the 'old boys network' differs. Work isn't about making friends with influence or power to further your own needs, its just about getting your job done and going home...

These two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In fact, they should match often.

Re:Online free curriculum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36154112)

I went to a private high school, and I actually think the education was good. What I got:
(i) Great student / teacher ratios - usually 8 or 9 to one;
(ii) Other students whose parents were very involved in their education;
(iii) Teachers who had a wide latitude to teach what they were interested in.
Now, I hated lots of aspects of the administration, but the actual education part was of a high standard. Even the not-so-bright kids did well and went to college.

Re:Online free curriculum? (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 2 years ago | (#36154184)

(i) Yes, but a class of 9 in which everyone cares much less than I did about being educated is no better than a class of 30 in which at least half appreciate and exercise a need to struggle to survive;

(ii) I wish! Most of the kids were boarders;

(iii) This is quite cool, although it's only become more of a problem in recent years as standardisation ever more fucks up the ability for teachers to teach.

Re:Online free curriculum? (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152310)

It isn't actually clear that schools have all that great an incentive to be terribly protective of their "curriculum". Some colleges have explicitly endorsed(and funded) things like OpenCourseWare, and even for the ones that don't, it isn't as though you'd have a hard time scraping a complete syllabus and reading list off the prof's website(or, if the school uses some horrid authenticated 'portal' like that damnable "blackboard" crap, virtually anybody taking the course would give you a copy of the syllabus and reading list for a 6-pack...)

At the highschool level, things like "AP" and "IB" are pretty heavily codified, and the tests that actually verify your knowledge of them are administered independently of the school, so you don't run into the "You say that 'my mommy and daddy academy' was taught according to Roxbury Latin's curriculum. How cute... Now go away." problem. Public schools, similarly, have voluminous state standards and approved textbooks that are trivially available for public inspection.

What schools actually sell isn't really curriculum; but (depending on level and institution) a mixture of prestige/networking, a reputation that allows them to (credibly) assert that a graduate with a decent GPA has actually learned their curriculum, practicum courses using facilities unavailable to smaller institutions or individuals(particularly in things like chemistry and physics), and access to really good people in the relevant fields.

Access to a good curriculum can, certainly, make autodidactic behavior easier(given that the set of books/resources one could possibly devote time to is larger than could be tackled in a lifetime, it sure does help to have somebody else suggest the ones worth starting on, a problem for which some intelligence is required; but no level of brilliance will substitute for years of experience...) and one's experience with a merely OK teacher following a good curriculum will be much better than the same teacher following a bad one. However, it is really impressive to watch and experience what a Good teacher can do, with or without a curriculum. There are plenty of stuffed suits out there, and plenty of research-focused intellectuals barely cleared for human interaction; but there are also Good Teachers who can bring more insight into a series of extemporaneous talks and reading suggestions than could 90% of their lesser peers, given full access to a curriculum. Good schools try to have some of those on hand.

I applaud efforts to use technology's ability to organize and cheaply disseminate information that would historically have mouldered away somewhere to provide broader access to information, and advice on how to use it, to people who don't have a good source thereof. Hopefully it will even outcompete some pathologically counterproductive teaching environments. I'm somewhat skeptical, however, of such projects abilities to either rival having access to really good teaching, or to handle the task of introducing students to new things. Given how cheap technology makes it, a system that is purely helpful to autodidacts is still entirely worth it; but some of the pieces where the motivated autodidacts of the world stand around congratulating each other on how brilliant their newfound educational model is seem to miss the fact that much of the educational world's "trench work" consists of trying to inspire disinterested students to become interested learners(and, if that fails, at least shove enough basic knowledge into them that they don't become another recruit for the useless festering underclass...)

Successful? (5, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152094)

Color me cynical, but somehow I get the feeling that institutions whose clientele are exclusively the super-rich do not have a real stake in trying to minimize the disparity between their clients and the less fortunate. They may put up something "for everyone" for its PR value, but I wouldn't be surprised if at the same time they're emphasizing to their paying customers how much better is the education their kids are getting.

This is in contrast with private universities, which are also terribly expensive, but which have a tradition of valuing education for its social benefits. Even these universities may one day get to the point where they feel economically threatened by the free material they post (for example MIT's OpenCourseWare) --- for example, if a new demographic of students starts to appear which demand to pay less but only to be tested and certified for their degrees, because the free educational material available is good enough for them.

Re:Threatened (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152166)

Threatened is right.

The entire point of education is to administer the knowledge with a series of proofs that the students learned it (let's ignore gaming the system for now.)

Knowledge huh? That should be cheap. The inbound material consists of books and podcasts! And a college degree is a very finite series of classes, so it can't really be that hard for $State_School to post a curriculum for all the courses that don't require crazy equipment. Then all the student needs is Q&A sessions, and the administered tests. Price tag per semester: $500.

So then the Elites have to step it up to show where that other $200,000 is going.

Yet we're well into the Music and Movie content debates, how has Edu remained this far below the radar?

The Edu Revolution is coming, and it's going to scare the Old Boys network.

Re:Threatened (2)

havokca (1864454) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152292)

The Edu Revolution is coming, and it's going to scare the Old Boys network.

Not really. You're making the mistake of thinking that universities actually care about their undergrads. They only care about them insofar as every undergrad is a potential slave^H^H^H^H^H postgrad student waiting-to-happen. The exception to this would likely consist only of those schools which charge upwards of 100k/year/student, as that money would likely surpass grant funding.

In order to revolutionize undergrad programs you'd have to first change the way the peer-review system works and how organizations like DARPA/NSF/etc... hand out grants. While awesome, Khan academy knockoffs aren't going to cut it in that respect.

Re:Threatened (3, Interesting)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152304)

That may work in some simpler degrees, but many degrees require hands on work and experience as well. This can't be handled through books and podcasts. Do you really want your Doctors, your Engineers and your Nuclear Scientists learning from books on tape before they go out and start operating on you, building your bridges and running your nuclear reactors?

Re:Doctors. Engineers, and Nuclear Scientists (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152744)

Combining several threads at once, it still works to slice a good year off the "general ed requirements" for those professions, and the lecture courses thereafter. Meanwhile, it gets into the "degree subsidization" of those professions by the English majors. That would force a collision with the other stories that we are giving away our engineering knowledge for free to the Chinese and reducing the US jobs for those degrees.

My original post meant that for the simpler degrees, if we convince the employers that X degree is good enough to hire, it tackles the "you don't have the piece of paper" problem. ... Which lastly collides with the Babysitting Service crew.

Re:Doctors. Engineers, and Nuclear Scientists (2)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153148)

Yeah, agreed for that. Certainly a lot of courses that are taught as lectures really do not need to be. Personally, I'm not an academic and would prefer something more along the line of apprenticeship for professional fields. I've never liked the whole lecture mentality in favor of hands on and dynamic education. I don't learn well from blanket presentation of material and learn much better from actually doing and I think this is true of many people. So yeah, I agree that general education stuff that doesn't really have a hands on application can be easily taught for effectively free and think that anything beyond that should be more hands on and dynamic. The costs would then be associated with the skill level of the people you are learning from (and therefore the value of the skill you are learning if you have the ability to match the level of skill.)

Re:Threatened (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152544)

"The Edu Revolution is coming, and it's going to scare the Old Boys network."

The "Old Boys" network has a key advantage. Their parents actually care and can fully provide for the welfare of their children. The problem with Public Education is the fact that there is this crazy idea that "All kids should be saved and are worthy to go to college" The problem is School isn't always fun and most children do not have the ability to self motivate themselves to do well in school. There are a lot of parents who think education is a wast and use the schools as a baby sitting service. Other parents do not have the resources to help their children. Private school aren't any better then public schools however the parents tend to pressure the children to perform better. If you take all the kids out of a snotty upper crust public school and put them in the poorest inner city school, and all the kids of the inner city school into the upper crust public school I doubt you will see any meaningful change in the child's education.

I would argue the schools will need to be more selective. If by high school they should be strongly pressured (not forced) to go to vocational training if they don't have what it takes, so they are trained for the workforce in 4 years. The A and B students will then continue onto High school, where the distractive elements of kids who really don't want to be there, is reduced thus can focus more on education and college.

Re:Threatened (4, Informative)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36154122)

"The Edu Revolution is coming, and it's going to scare the Old Boys network."

The "Old Boys" network has a key advantage. Their parents actually care and can fully provide for the welfare of their children. The problem with Public Education is the fact that there is this crazy idea that "All kids should be saved and are worthy to go to college" The problem is School isn't always fun and most children do not have the ability to self motivate themselves to do well in school. There are a lot of parents who think education is a wast and use the schools as a baby sitting service. Other parents do not have the resources to help their children. Private school aren't any better then public schools however the parents tend to pressure the children to perform better. If you take all the kids out of a snotty upper crust public school and put them in the poorest inner city school, and all the kids of the inner city school into the upper crust public school I doubt you will see any meaningful change in the child's education.

I would argue the schools will need to be more selective. If by high school they should be strongly pressured (not forced) to go to vocational training if they don't have what it takes, so they are trained for the workforce in 4 years. The A and B students will then continue onto High school, where the distractive elements of kids who really don't want to be there, is reduced thus can focus more on education and college.

I agree with this. Other developed countries, notably Germany and Japan have similar models. The German model of education seems IMO the best for preparing kids either professionally and vocationally in a manner that is meaningful for both students and society. That is what we need.

What we currently have in the US is a system with a 12-year long baby-sitting system that, upon exit, gives a kid the choice of flipping burgers or go to a 4-year college. It completely ignores vocational training. Vocational training is the foundation to a solid, self-reliant and enterpreneurial blue collar working class. We do not have that at all.

Re:Threatened (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36155526)

"I would argue the schools will need to be more selective. If by high school they should be strongly pressured (not forced) to go to vocational training if they don't have what it takes, so they are trained for the workforce in 4 years."

You assume that the US will have a "workforce" when in reality all those jobs are either outsourced overseas or insourced by cheap foreign labor.

You missed the point (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36153888)

Sorry that you missed the point of college, but I can only think of a few classes that I took where replacing the professor with a book would have been even half as effective. Human professors (the decent ones, anyway) do a lot more than just open student's skulls and pour in facts. A good professor will foster critical thinking, discussions, and will welcome challenges to intellectual authority. Show me a book that can do all of that, and we can start talking about learning.

As to where the money for your tuition is going? Simple--it's subsidizing your professor's research, and paying for the rest of the campus experience. Surprisingly enough, just like with everything else in life, you get what you pay for. If you want the best professors, you're going to have to pay them a lot of money, because if you don't, someone else will. The best professors also want to work on the most interesting problems, which are often some of the most expensive problems to work on.

Re:Successful? (2)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152318)

for example, if a new demographic of students starts to appear which demand to pay less but only to be tested and certified for their degrees, because the free educational material available is good enough for them.

As the cost of a college education has skyrocketed, a similar thing's happened already in both public and private institutions. Namely, kids taking a couple of years at a local community college to get their "core" out of the way before transferring in to the college they actually want to get their 4-year degree from.

But why has the cost skyrocketed?
1 - HR drones constantly inflating the "requirements" of various jobs. Jobs that used to require a HS diploma and the ability to get through a basic spoken interview, followed by the company training the worker for the specifics, now require "a BS in related field, 4 years related experience, Certifications X,Y,Z,Q,D..." Reasons for it? Apart from (a) companies not wanting to bother with even the basic training for their employees, (b) companies having zero loyalty TO their employees (and consequently, employees jumping ship / changing jobs often), and (c) the slow but sure creep of companies deliberately inflating the requirements so as to disqualify as many capable Americans as possible so they can abuse the H1-B system instead.

2 - "State Universities" used to be state-funded, to the tune of 90% or more. Thanks to Retardicans in state legislatures who don't understand the value of an actual education (face it, what they got was daddy paying a private college to let them ride and buying them a swanky place and a spot in the "for rich whiteys only" frat), your average state university now is lucky to get 20% of their budget that way. The rest is either "grant funding", alumni donations, or... you guessed it... jacked-up tuition and fees.

Re:Successful? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152946)

I personally believe that rise of "HR Methodologies" is one of the major problems we face in the U.S. today. Worse, no one outside of slashdot is really talking about it. There is proof that HR drones are abusing the H1-B system and still it is not addressed in our media. Why... because they subscribe to the exact same methodology and they don't see it as a problem.

Re:Successful? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153372)

Indeed, one of the reasons why WA state and Seattle in particular was on a rise for so long was our highly educated work force, but we do also have cheap electricity to go with it. With the huge cuts to the state schools here, I worry about how much longer that will be the case. Grads tend to stick around where they study if they can find suitable work, and if we're chasing students out of state with high tuition rates and poor support, it will eventually take its toll.

Wikibooks could be part of it (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152250)

Meanwhile, is there a complete, online, free curriculum?

For all years K-12, in all sovereign states' official languages? Not yet, but we can hop on Wikibooks to start making the textbooks as a first step, and once those are fini^W "featured", we can add lesson plans.

Re:Wikibooks could be part of it (1)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152358)

Well, OK, not all languages. Just English would be fine. And then people in non-English speaking countries can adapt it. (Sort of like on the model of English Wikipedia -> others.)

And, granted, stuff like national history would be different for various countries, but math and science, also (to a great extent) English, should be the same.

Re:Online free curriculum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152708)

Khan academy, while it doesn't have lesson plans, per se, does track what modules you go through, and has a graphical interface to show what you've taken and what else it connects to. He also is really good about saying on the site "if you have done all of 'this' then you should be ready for 'that'". Really a great site. I noodle on ther at work, and Im trying to get my kids into it as well.

it had to be said... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36151946)

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

I'm just here for the Khan reference (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36151948)

waiting for someone to post a link to Kirk's "Khaaaan" audio

If I were to change the US educational system... (3, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#36151976)

...I would start with the issue of eliminating the employment of multiple choice questions in the sciences and mathematics.

This move in my opinion, would encourage students to deliberately show the working (read steps) as they solve these questions.

What we have these days is a situation in which students are encouraged by the knowledge that they can guess their way through an exam and it has not helped.

My approach would reward 'small marks' for each step shown to be relevant in solving a number. This approach is better. What do you think?

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152008)

you mean like most other countries?

What a mind blowing idea ;p

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152044)

That doesn't automatically give it merit just because it's foreign.

But yes, like some other places too.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (4, Interesting)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152040)

One of my college physics professors had a novel solution for using scan-trons for easy grading while avoiding the multiple choice dilemma. Instead of selecting from a series of 4 or 5 choices to choose from, he gave us scan-tron sheets with the columns of numbers from 0-9 like the ones you see when you fill out your social security numbers. You work out your physics problem and then input the number on 3 or 4 columns.

It's a great way to make exams easy to grade while avoiding multiple choice. We always had our physics exam grades back the next class for that class.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (4, Interesting)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152106)

Incidentally, here's the professor:
http://www.physics.rutgers.edu/~croft/FARADAY.HTML [rutgers.edu]

Awesome dude. For the last 14 years, he's given the annual Faraday Christmas Children's Lecture where he messes around with physics experiments like jetting around on rollerblades and a 50 pound fire extinguisher and having a cinder block broken on his chest while laying on a bed of nails.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152364)

I had one who gave the wickedest "multiple choice" questions ever. Every single question had the following options:

(a) A
(b) B
(c) C
(d) D
(e) A and B
(f) A and C
(g) A and D
and so on...

Of course, that doesn't work so well for math problems, but he was a psych prof.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153448)

My precalculus teacher in high school had

E) None of the above

as the fifth choice for every single problem on the test.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152576)

I am a current high school math teacher.

The solution you propose doesn't help so much with the problem of multiple choice tests. The goal is to understand what the student knows. If a student makes a sign error at the beginning of the test, but does all of the steps correctly, this student knows a lot about the problem. Without actually looking at the work, I don't know how to tell this.

Another example is systematic error. Suppose the student doesn't understand rounding rules, or switches x and y. Again, looking at the work and I can tell much more about what the student knows.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#36155050)

If you are really a high school teacher, then you are probably teaching at least five classes a day with around 30 students each. That means you have a hundred thirty tests to grade. At the end of the day you're going to be thinking more about how to get through grading as quickly as possible.

The logical way is to do multiple choice tests. You can combine it with checking the students who did poorly, to see if you can figure out what their problem was (since you can require them to show their work).

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 2 years ago | (#36155508)

Presumably there is some middle ground to be found. For example, pose a question that involves a series of intermediate steps and make each step multi-choice, or write a value in a box. The only thing that sucks is that the student is forced to do the calculation in one specific way, so it hardly allows expression of understanding of anything other than the algorithm they have learned rote, but it seems to me that there is a place for rote learning among other styles.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152680)

In my college the math, physics, engineering, etc departments never used scan-trons, at least not in any class I ever took. For most of the courses it's not a problem to grade by the next day since there's one, maybe two sections and maybe 50 students at the most (although I've seen as few as 6 including myself). However, in courses such as calculus and physics with hundreds of students they still managed to grade all of these exams by the next day. The exams were basically 8-10 pages long with one question with multiple parts per page and a bunch of blank space to answer. The exams were divided up amongst the graders and grad students who helped with the recitation and lab portions of the course.

Strangely some of my other courses such as psychology, sociology, and similar did use scan-tron sheets. I never got the grades the next day since the scan-tron machine was clogged up.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152734)

I've taken science classes where the tests were scantrons, but the bubbles were numbered 0-9. The instructions: "Solve the problem, then bubble in the first significant digit of the answer." Best of both worlds.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152110)

Ideal system, but collapses depending on three situations. First, a student:teacher ratio that a good teacher just lacks the time to grade this way. Second, a lazy teacher. Three, a school/system that wants clear cut answers.

A modified version of what the SATs, if my memory is right, could work though by merging that and your idea to allow multiple choice to work.

1) Correct answer: +X points
2) Incorrect answer: -X points (not simply 0).
3) Blank answer: Indication to look at work sheet, +(Y%)X points based on the teacher looking at the work.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152382)

I personally hated showing my work in school, I've always been good with numbers and could do a good percentage of the questions in my head.
Having to write down steps was just a hassle and slowed me down.
Granted, there were plenty of problems where I did have to write them out, but I would rather have the option over being forced.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

shish (588640) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152854)

I personally hated showing my work in school, I've always been good with numbers and could do a good percentage of the questions in my head

This. Brain is RAM, paper is swap space - I'm quite happy to use paper when there's too much going on at once to concentrate on all of it, but other than that it's just slower

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153442)

Well, tough. I say this as somebody that has spent a lot of time tutoring math and science students, and doing things in your head is a really, really bad habit to get into when you're being asked for an exact answer rather than just an estimate. The reason being that if you do make a mistake, there's absolutely no way that you'll ever identify it and the likelihood of getting any partial credit is zero. What's worse is that the teacher then has no means by which to understand where that answer came from unless it's a common mistake.

But, beyond that, it's just good form to write out each step carefully and put a single line through a the numbers if the step was wrong, that way at least you learn something in cases where you make a mistake. That's not going to happen if you're doing things in your head.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#36155310)

My teachers did it Differently(tm).

You chose to show your work, or didn't. If you got the right answer, full marks regardless. If you didn't, but showed your work and it was a simple error, a small point loss (the amount depended on the error - stupid errors started counting more as the term went on in an attempt to train students to be more careful). If you didn't show work at all, a zero.

Bonus points if you know of another way to estimate the answer to show you're in the right ballpark. Even if all you did was work out what the sign of the answer should be.

Oh yeah, and if you want to contest your mark, you had to write your answer on the paper in *PEN*. You could use pencil, but if there was a grading mistake, tough. And neatness counts - no big splotches of crossed out ink - you are allowed some mess, but it had to be neatly crossed out and not excessive. You were allowed to use scratch paper to do rough work which you transferred neatly to the test paper for big problems. Smaller problems you were confident on were done right then and there, but less confident answers you did on scratch paper first.

And yes, there was the standard time pressure. The goal being it's also about time management. Some made it particularly fun by giving every question the same weight.

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152690)

God, I used to hate having to show my work in math classes. While I get why teachers liked this (it showed you understood the process and weren't just cheating), it drove me crazy because it discouraged creative thinking. I was always coming up with shortcuts and ways to arrive more efficiently at an answer. But I would loose points if I didn't do it the "correct" way. This kind of conformity is why I lost interest in conventional mathematics and went into programming instead. In programming, I actually get rewarded for coming up with shortcuts and ways to make my solutions more efficient (most of the time anyway).

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36154270)

Were you able to then "tigthen" the points to get your grade increased?

agreed (1)

sunfly (1248694) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153154)

My sister teaches math at a small college. A student came to her aghast that she must show her work. When she explained the reasons it was necessary, she took her issue to the head of the math department. When that didn't work she kept moving up the chain of command, eventually talking to the president of the college. When the president backed the teacher, the student dropped out of college.

I am forever glad my high school math teacher not only forced us to show our work, but work without calculators unless we really needed them (i.e. trig functions).

Re:If I were to change the US educational system.. (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#36154022)

Showing steps has its drawbacks too. It biases things towards specific mechanics chosen for either pedagogical purposes or ease of marking rather than practicality or insight. I'll illustrate this with an anecdote.

Many years ago when I was at MIT, there was a guy in the dorm who always finished his problems sets in a fraction of the time of the rest of us, although he sometimes got marked down for not "showing his work". It turned out he could perform many astonishing feats of algebra in his head. Naturally, my curiosity was aroused, so I questioned him about this. He said he never learned the "proper" ways of doing things because they were so tedious. It was so much easier just to see the answer. Yet while he was intelligent enough, apart from math he didn't seem like a superhuman genius. He'd simply worked out algorithms for doing things that didn't require a lot of working memory, either in his head or (like the rest of us) using paper as supplementary memory. He'd turned a kind of corner in algebra, like the one when you're learning a foreign language and start to think in it instead of translating word by word and puzzling over book grammar. I lost track with this guy after college, and I've often wished that I'd thought to write down the "tricks" he had for simplifying algebra so I could make them available to the world.

The point of this story isn't that the educational system should be built around the needs of rare individuals like this. It's that it's important for teachers to know their students as individuals. A teacher should be intimately familiar with each student's strengths and weaknesses, and use that knowledge to guide students to mastery of the subject, rather than verifying that the student goes through the same standardized set of motions.

Star Wars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36151980)

Did they have high school in the Star Wars Universe? If so, I would have liked to live on Hoth. Every day would have been a snow day.

the disparity of economic opportunity (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152010)

I don't see the 'disparity' as much of educational opportunity as economic opportunity. Look at all the college graduates who can not find a decent job.

The gap between the super rich and the poor & middle class is very large, and getting bigger. This is the real disparity.

Re:the disparity of economic opportunity (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152396)

Look at all the college graduates who can not find a decent job.

But of course! How else could you ensure that there was plenty of cheap highly-educated labor available? Without that, my hedge fund returns would be reduced a good 2-5%. And even better, these sorts of programs reduce the need to fund public education, giving me a significant reduction in those pesky property taxes on each of my 7 homes.

And it's not all bad: I used to have to hire illegal immigrants as my maid / personal masseuse. Now I can get a very nice beautiful Harvard-educated Japanese woman for the same price. She seemed pretty happy to be working at all, so everybody benefits from that arrangement.

- Phil T. Rich, Esquire

Re:the disparity of economic opportunity (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153472)

It is, however, the problem is that at the bottom things are quite competitive and unfortunately at this point you really do need a degree for many jobs. What bothers me is how many jobs list a degree as a requirement when everybody knows that they don't need one, they just put it there so that they can toss any applications by applicants that don't have at least one degree.

khaaaan! (-1, Offtopic)

digitalsushi (137809) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152020)

http://khaaan.com/ [khaaan.com]

Always relevant from its irrelevance.

Re:khaaaan! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152356)

Judging from the -1 moderation that the three Khaaaaan comments made thus far have already garnered, I'd say that there is a moderator out there who either hates Star Trek or who found that someone had pissed in his Wheaties, or I suppose it is possible that he hates Start Trek and found that someone had pissed in his Wheaties.

Re:khaaaan! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36155402)

wow slashdot, you pissed off khaaan.com. good job...

What's the point? (2)

jamesl (106902) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152028)

Is this posted for information only or is there a point?

Slashdot getting more subtle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36154590)

The recent trolling article headlines were becoming too obvious.

So the new /. strategy is to post summaries with no real point, but which point out some observation on the rich, the elite, or "the man" in general. A multitude of slashdotters are bound to be offended by the very existence of these elites, and so the rants begin again. Mission accomplished.

Just what the world needs (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152050)

Gosh, you mean being at a private school that can cherry-pick its students just isn't enough? And serving a public purpose? What the hell? It certainly serves nobody but the elites themselves.

Yeah, I know, it's not talking about public schools, it's the ancient concept of noblesse oblige. They see themselves as uniquely progressive, and take this wonderfully noble obligation upon themselves to "better" the rest of us. Anyone ever think that the rest of us might have "better" lives if elites just left us the fuck alone?

"Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victim may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
-- C.S. Lewis

Re:Just what the world needs (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152338)

I'm failing to see the tyranny inherent in private schools deciding to publish some information on the web, for the interested to peruse if they care.

Re:Just what the world needs (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152558)

A better solution is: A public school system. Owned by the people, controlled by the people. And if some "elite" want better schools, they can donate to the public school system not only to one particular school in a nice district.

Re:Just what the world needs (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153502)

They already do. My parents paid property taxes year after year after year. Neither my sister nor I ever attended a single day of public school in our hometown. (She did go to a public university.) And, despite having a household income that was within $1000 of the median US household income every year, they paid for private schools, too.

Re:Just what the world needs (1)

prefec2 (875483) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153860)

Yes. And? You are missing the point. The point is: When rich people or other people who are able to pay for private schools separate their kids from the rest, you get bad schools for people who cannot afford the fees or who do not care where they children go to school. Even more when interested parents have the opportunity to put their children on elite schools, they do so because they want the best for their children. I would most likely act the same. So while this is completely sound from a personal perspective it is bad from a society perceptive.

First, if you separate people in the education system, they stop to understand each other. This results in a decrease of caring for each other, which results in classism which is merely the same as racism you just stop using skin color as a discriminator. the result of this is violence and other destructive behavior by those people who loose.

Second, middle to upper class people do often insist in improvements in schooling and teaching. In lower class families this is not that common (I am absolutely sure you can point out counter examples, but as in sociology one or two examples in the opposite direction do not negate the primary trend). So if you separate them, in the end poor people get bad schools, which makes them less educated, which increases potential for losing jobs, which in the end increases the potential for violence.

But beside, violence. there is also another important fact. Poor people are also humans and therefor they should have the same chances. So if a rich kid can go to university or college with C or D in its high school exam than so should be all the poor kids too. Education shall not be a thing for those who can pay for it or fight for it. Education is a human right. So beside positive effects for society. It is recommended to have an equally good developed education system for all children. And it is important to mix children from various backgrounds.

Re:Just what the world needs (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153554)

We have two systems -- One that seems to be working and one that doesn't. You propose getting rid of the one that works?

Re:Just what the world needs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36154052)

Rich people FTW!!

Re:Just what the world needs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36154176)

The point made in the article was that the one that works does so at the expense of the one that doesn't. If the resources going into private schools went to public.

I use resources loosely. People who put their children into private schools are more likely to place a higher value on their education and will put more effort into improving it (attend PTA meetings, make formal complaints about issues giving them more visibility, etc)

Re:Just what the world needs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152876)

It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

Great! In the US we get to have both. God bless America!

Re:Just what the world needs (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 2 years ago | (#36155564)

C.S. Lewis, the preeminent Christian apologist and popular moralist of the 20th century, was hardly opposed to the physical or moral betterment of the masses. What he is talking about isn't giving, it's taking with hypocritical, self-serving justification. Most of us are familiar with the King James version of the Second Commandment as "Thou shalt not take the Lord's name in vain." The verb translated as "take" might better be translated as "carry", as in a banner or a tool. So Second Commandment isn't primarily about swearing; it forbids the use of religion to justify selfish ends.

Giving back by the elite is a good thing and sensible on their part, but as with everything there is a dark side; nobody's intentions are ever perfectly pure. I live in a city which probably has more universities per capita than any other city in the world, built in part to satisfy the vogue for public works among the elite; in part no doubt to feed their egos; and in a few cases to assuage their consciences. The part of the Harvard campus between Harvard Square and the Charles River was purchased by the Forbes family (a family member once told me) with dirty money from the "China Trade", the polite name for pushing cheap Turkish opium in China. But however mixed the motivations were, we non-elites are much better of than if the elites had just taken their money and used it pay for a lavish lifestyle.

So, if these Global Online Academy people find some way of making their courses available to the rest of us, that's great as far as I'm concerned. I think there is a tendency in some of these schools to indoctrinate students in the belief that the current economic status quo reflects natural justice and no more. That is a concern, but no more than other biases that all we non-elites were educated with. But if you think this material's primary motive is indoctrination, it doesn't make sense to view the decision not to make the material available to the masses as a self-interested one. More likely it is a matter of charging to pay for the development costs. The public-minded elites do like to see that projects are financially sustainable before investing in them.

Obama kids not President Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152126)

Obama kids as current students. I don't think President Obama attended any of those schools....

Re:Obama kids not President Obama (actually, both) (1)

theodp (442580) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152394)

Punahou left lasting impression on Obama [starbulletin.com] : Long before he became Barack Obama -- junior senator from Illinois and presidential candidate -- he was just Barry, the good-natured, unassuming kid. He loved basketball. He loved books. He always wore a smile. He got along with everyone. He did not come from privilege, but was able to attend the exclusive Punahou School based on his achievement and with the help of financial aid.

Re:Obama kids not President Obama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152572)

Of course he didn't, he was running away from Lions in Kenya at the time.

The "Magic of Fundraising" (1)

superdude72 (322167) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152236)

I LOL'ed:

In March, Connie Ballmer noted that Lakeside’s tuition is $8,446-a-year less than the per-student expenses incurred by the school, thanks to the magic of fundraising. Records show that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation contributed $34 million to Lakeside in 2008, and $40 million in 2005, primarily in support of the school’s capital campaigns.

Yes, there is something truly magical about being able to hold tuition down to $35,000 per year when you have backing from two Microsoft founders. Good job, fundraisers!

Re:The "Magic of Fundraising" (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153512)

To be fair, that school has had a number of other wealthy graduates over the years, hardly just two MS founders. Which is sort of the point, the public school system doesn't generally get to benefit from things like endowments and scholarships. Granted there is no tuition, but there is an increasing amount of supplies that parents are being expected to pay for in order to attend classes. It's technically illegal, but with anti-tax morons refusing to fund education it's more or less inevitable that cuts are made somewhere.

Doing Something (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152380)

Its nice to see somebody doing the "putting up" part of "put up or shut up" these days.

Let Them Eat KHAAaaan! (2)

blackfrancis75 (911664) | more than 2 years ago | (#36152784)

like all /. readers, I scanned the article, picked up only the keywords 'Ballmer ' and 'Khan' and hence I feel compelled to make a comment about someone throwing a chair while yelling 'KHAAAaaaan!'
Thanks for your attention.

Re:Let Them Eat KHAAaaan! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36152814)

This is what I was looking for. Thank you.

Khan Acadamy != Teaching (1)

Aaron_Pike (528044) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153246)

For what it's worth, IAAMT who has worked with ALEKS [aleks.com] and Khan Academy.

The Khan Academy videos aren't bad, but they're really just textbooks that move and talk.

The Khan Academy mastery exercises aren't bad, but they're really just worksheets of arbitrary length. The instant feedback is pretty cool, but it's just a faster way of doing a worksheet and then checking against the teacher's key.

The instant feedback for a teacher isn't bad, and it makes monitoring student progress more efficient, and making tasks more efficient is the bailiwick of software engineering. That said, throwing Khan Academy (or ALEKS or other similar program) at students will get you pretty much the same result as tossing them a textbook and some worksheets.

Re:Khan Acadamy != Teaching (2)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153446)

Yeah, but some students work better that way. If you get down to it, a teacher lecturing isn't much different than a textbook either, except shlee can take questions. And taking questions isn't that great unless you're wondering about the answer too, otherwise it's just breaking your train of thought.

So, I'd rather have a video that's professionally made (not by professional, but just anticipating what students will ask) and being able to rewind it instead of sitting in a lecturing frantically taking notes getting a ton down because the professor hinted that any bit of trivia is up for exam.

Now, I can understand Khan Academy is a one way exchange, and teachers can offer a two way exchange (conversation) but in my educational experience that's so rare inside the 5-12th grade classroom and then in the first several undergraduate years (outside class may be different) that people may as well be harping about unicorns.

Re:Khan Acadamy != Teaching (1)

O('_')O_Bush (1162487) | more than 2 years ago | (#36153842)

Which just happens to be how I (and I'm sure some others) learn. It doesn't provide broad teaching methods, but it is great for some of us that learn that way.

Re:Khan Acadamy != Teaching (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36153912)

Places like Khan Academy cannot ever replace excellent, high level math teachers but most of the world does not have excellent, high level math teachers.

You get what you pay for and our district pays less than $40k for a new calculus teacher who's getting laid off at the end of the year. His instant feedback took a back seat to job searches and part-time employment to pay the bills. Great guy but seriously stressed.

Reverse the classroom (1)

gambino21 (809810) | more than 2 years ago | (#36154008)

I like the idea of reversing the way that most classrooms work today by watching video lectures at home, and then doing homework assignments in the classroom with the teacher available for help (http://www.ted.com/talks/salman_khan_let_s_use_video_to_reinvent_education.html). During school I always had a hard time paying attention to all day lectures which may go too fast or slow for me depending on the topic. Watching the lecture at home would give the chance to pause, rewind, take a break and get a snack, look something up in the book, etc. Then doing the assignment in class you have the teacher there to help if you get stuck or have a question, and you can easily help, or get help from, the other students.

Why aren't there more Khans on the internet? (5, Interesting)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 2 years ago | (#36154126)

The reaction to Khan and his incredible resources is universal: People applaud and cheerfully encourage him to "keep going"

Now imagine if the reaction to Linus Torvalds had been the same in 1993. "Neato, Linus! More please! You're really awesome to have done all this yourself!"

Luckily for the world, that was not the reaction to the release of the Linux source code back then. People were like "Yeah, this is a great start, now let me add something to this so that we can build this into a fully functioning system." To be fair, Linus openly encouraged this and provided a framework for volunteer contributions. Khan doesn't do that, but does nothing to discourage it.

Yeah, his lessons are the work of one man, but already, they contain like 5% of a full curriculum of education. With 19 other Khans working in their spare time, we could finish the job and release "curriculum 1.0". Then, hopefully, many other Khans would work on augmenting and improving it. But it's almost shocking to me that something this important and easy is not being done. There might even be money in it for a company that releases free/openly licensed teaching material and then administers for-pay achievement tests or certification tests. If this were done right, it would be the obviously right path for gifted students, homeschoolers, and people who lack access to good traditional schools. They could go through the material at their own pace and take certification tests as quickly as they work through the material. Wise governments would even offer them a refund for the cost of tests they passed. It's much cheaper than the same government paying to "school" them.

Re:Why aren't there more Khans on the internet? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36155750)

What are you on about? I've seen Khan in talks where he discusses others chipping in with their fields of expertise. Those with the skills aren't bothering, they see him as a threat, those without skills who think they have them are submitting awful lessons. Sooner or later someone from a field will come in and do a great job, or the obvious alternative is to stump up some cash through sponsorship and hire someone to do it.

Re:Why aren't there more Khans on the internet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#36156166)

Right now, the head of a teachers union is looking to kill you.

Good Parents (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 2 years ago | (#36154236)

Parents willing to pay for these schools have high expectations for their children. Some kids are brilliant by birth. Most are brilliant by good mentoring. And parents are the most readily available mentors.

Kids in the US generally do poorly because we just want them to feel good about themselves, even if they stink at math. Parents of many countries expect A's, not C's. The parents who pay for these schools expect A's, and they don't expect to get them by passing failing kids and rubber stamping A's.

Why are there public schools? (1)

GeneralSecretary (1959616) | more than 2 years ago | (#36155528)

This is a great idea. As usual all innovation is in the private sector. The government should quit the education business and switch to a voucher system.
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