Archive for the Education Category

Toys from trash

Posted in Education, Money on May 19, 2013 by daviddiel

This TED talk and accompanying website has tons of toy designs that can be made from very inexpensive materials. These toys teach scientific and mathematical principles to kids in a most natural and easy way. I hope to use these on a classroom full of kids someday.

What led to the Adam Lanza school shooting?

Posted in Education, Law, Music-Movies-Media, Psychology, War with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by daviddiel

Regarding the school shooting last week in Connecticut, I have been asking the questions: How did this happen? What factors led to the outcome?

Here are the elements that I think were critical:

1) Lanza had access to weapons that he knew how to use. The weapons didn’t have to be guns. They could have been mining explosives. But his killing pathology must have developed through training that matched the weapons.

2) Lanza probably trained through first person shooter video games. The pattern of aiming at a person, pulling the trigger, feeling no remorse, and targeting another person for pleasure is not innate, but learned. The creation of such games is partly funded by war money.

3) The school did not have armed security personnel. In this case, the principal acted heroically to try to stop Lanza, but failed because he did not have a sufficient weapon. An armed police officer on staff, or any adult present with a concealed weapon and proper training, might have stopped the rampage.

4) Lanza had an episode of a mental dysfunction that got out of control. This case particularly points to a childhood developmental disorder, based on who he chose to kill. Lanza’s immediate fear of treatment triggered a trap loaded with biological predispositions and parenting mistakes.

Steps could be taken on all of these issues, but #2 can be addressed for free without passing legislation. All we need to do is boycott video games and movies that trivialize murder. Which video games or movies would you boycott in honor of the Sandy Hill Elementary victims? Answer in the comments below.


Posted in Education, Faith & Science, War on May 4, 2012 by daviddiel

“I see God in the instruments and the mechanisms that work reliably, more reliably than the limited sensory departments of the human mechanism.” — Richard Buckminster Fuller

A place to tear down

Posted in Education, Energy & Waste, Faith & Science, Money on January 2, 2012 by daviddiel

This post is about themes of human culture passed down over generations, and how these themes could be taught to students in learning spaces that might not be available to them currently. The inspiration comes from two sources:

1. “Why Walking through a Doorway Makes You Forget” from Scientific American based on this technical paper.

2. Ecclesiastes 3 (NASB), a biblical passage attributed to King Solomon.

Imagine a school appointed with many rooms:

A place to give birth and a place to die;
A place to plant and a place to uproot what is planted.

A place to kill and a place to heal;
A place to tear down and a place to build up.

A place to weep and a place to laugh;
A place to mourn and a place to dance.

A place to throw stones and a place to gather stones;
A place to embrace and a place to shun embracing.

A place to search and a place to give up as lost;
A place to keep and a place to throw away.

A place to tear apart and a place to sew together;
A place to be silent and a place to speak.

A place to love and a place to hate;
A place for war and a place for peace.

One might call this the school of life, or the school of hard knocks. Some of the more intense themes may not be appropriate for all ages, so imagine that care has been taken to present them gradually. For example, birth and death could be experienced through the natural life cycles of small pets, and themes of destruction could be experienced through sand sculptures or blocks. Neither is it an exhaustive list of rooms. The idea easily expands to include rooms for modern art, science, mathematics, and other forms of education.

Do our schools currently provide distinct rooms for these kinds of lessons? Is place-based learning compatible with general assessment tests?

Get to know your body

Posted in Education, Health & Food on November 18, 2011 by daviddiel

Don’t take my word for it. Your body is talking to you all the time. You probably notice it when you are overwhelmed, but it says so much more at other times. By the end of this message, I hope that you hear, or rather feel, something that you never noticed before.

By experience, I have decided that listening to my body is the most important activity I can do for myself and for others. That’s because I am in the best position to provide early diagnosis and treatment of myself. If something goes so terribly wrong that others have to get involved, then it is probably going to cost somebody a lot of money. That may happen at times, certainly at the end of life, but I want to avoid burdening others with my health. And, of course, I want to feel good. That’s why I started listening.

Here are a list of potential problems that can be avoided by noticing them early and taking care of oneself:

  • Feet – Do your shoes cause you to turn your feet inward or outward? Can you spread your toes in them? Do they chafe your heels? Can you modify them to improve your comfort and posture? Do your feet smell or itch due to unresolved bacterial or fungal problems?
  • Hips & Butt – When you sit down, does your belt restrict your waist? Do you clench your butt?
  • Back & Shoulders – How much mobility do you have in each region of your spine? What is the effect of bending and twisting? Are your shoulders drawn in toward your chest or up toward your ears? Are you holding tension in your neck?
  • Hands & Nails – Can you rotate your wrists through their full range of motion without irritation? How does it feel to spread your fingers wide? How long are your nails? Are their undersides clean? Have you cared for your cuticles?
  • Underarms – Can you feel or smell anything that needs to be remedied?
  • Scalp – How oily or dry is your scalp? What is the effect of increasing or decreasing how often you use shampoo, or changing brands?
  • Face – How open or clogged are your facial pores? Is your face irritated by bacteria, makeup, or chemicals that you are using? If you shave, what is the effect of changing how often your do it, or changing razors and creams?
  • Eyes – Are they dry? Are they cold? Should you be farther away or closer to what you are reading? If you wear glasses, is your prescription right for you?
  • Nose – Do you need to clear your nose or wash your sinuses? Do both nostrils feel the same? What do you smell? Can you feel the humidity of the environment, and do you need a humidifier?
  • Lips – Are they dried or cracked? Do you lick or bite them?
  • Teeth – Have you brushed and flossed since your last meal? Do you clench your teeth when you are angry, or during the night?
  • Tongue & Throat – What do you taste? Is there a coating on your tongue that needs to be brushed? Can you feel your tonsils, and do they need to be cleaned?
  • Respiratory System – Are you filling your lungs and emptying them completely with every breath? Do your chest and belly expand when you breathe? What is the rhythm of your breath?
  • Cardiovascular System – What is your heart rate? Is your heart tired? How stressed are you? Can you feel the restriction or openness of your blood stream?
  • Digestive System – How hydrated is your body? How do you know when you are hungry or full? Can you feel different types of desires for proteins, calories, vitamins, electrolytes, or various kinds of whole foods? Do you know when your body needs good bacteria from cultured foods? What causes gas or allergic reactions for you? When you eat fatty foods, do you feel how much bile your gall bladder has reserved to digest them, and do you know when to stop?

I hope this list makes you feel and think. A few years ago, I was only paying attention to a small percentage of these details. I knew that I felt awful most of the time, but I didn’t know why. Expanding awareness of these issues has changed my life and vastly improved my health. I only wish I had started sooner.

Proposal for a new two-axis grading system

Posted in Education on September 8, 2009 by daviddiel

I have often thought that the academic grading system should provide two characteristic numbers corresponding to two fundamental measures of information:

1) Comprehension (C) — What breadth of explanation, creativity, or ambition has the student expressed?

2) Percent Error (PE) — How much of the student’s expressed knowledge contradicts accepted knowledge?

This is how the proposed system would work. On a given test or assignment, a student who answers every question gets all the Comprehension points. Answer half the questions and get half the Comprehension points. Then, Percent Error is calculated based on number of questions answered and the number of mistakes.

A simple example would be a student who answers 4 out of 10 questions and 3 answers are correct (1 answer is incorrect). Using the two-axis grading system, the resulting scores would be C=40 and PE=25. This provides a point in a fundamentally meaningful two-dimensional space. For those who are familiar with information theory, this grading system measures the student’s Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC).

This new system actually simplifies grading in many cases. Late work or missing answers get penalized in their C score, without affecting PE. Creative assignments become easier to grade, because the overall creativity or lack thereof goes into the C score without concern for technical flaws, which show up in PE. Classes with mixed levels of students can require students to show different levels of comprehension in order to achieve the same numerical score. Most importantly, it lets the student express directly how much he claims to know without encouraging Bogus Solutions (BS).

Teachers often ask “What if I have to give a single score? Won’t that score be the same as I would have given using the old system?” The answer is that you can reduce C and PE to a Single Score (SS), but the result will be different only if you grade on a curve. The formula is SS=(C/100)*(100-PE). If you curve, then the curve is only applied to C based on its mean value across all students. This method provides a better measure of information than curving SS based on the mean value of SS across all students.