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How Teachers took over the Internet in 2011
As we are rapidly getting closer to the end of 2011 which has been quite an exciting year for the education startup scene, I want to take a quick look at the current state of affairs in the vertical that caters to teachers.
Not long ago there was no real vertical for this group in education though it is clear that teachers are probably the most important people to target besides students. Why no one was interested in creating products for this group might have had a variety of reasons. Probably, the vertical was seen as too difficult to cater to and there was a notion that teachers in general were not open enough to new technologies in their classrooms.
Maybe, the market wasn’t there two years ago when a small group of teachers started their weekly Twitter chat under the hashtag #edchat. Starting with only a handful of teachers it quickly became a phenomenon, drawing in more and more teachers who wanted to connect with like-minded colleagues and were eager (if not even desperate) to talk about the things that really mattered to them. And though I still think that Twitter isn’t the right tool for this kind of use as it is in many aspects too limited to handle all this information, those teachers found creative ways to make it work for them by adding other free tools like TwtPoll and such.
The other big story was probably Ning, a platform that enabled anyone to create a social network. Classroom 2.0 and EduPLN are amongst the biggest ones with tens of thousands of teachers and principals as members. When Ning decided to axe the free plan that most teacher and school networks were built on, there was quite an uproar resulting to Pearson stepping in and sponsoring educational Nings in the US.
So the main problem was that teachers needed to use services that were not created to meet their needs which often resulted in situations were both sides, teachers and startup entrepreneurs, clashed as their philosophy did not match. That’s mostly based in changes in the business model like turning into a paid service or adding advertisement.
But that situation has changed dramatically over the last one and a half years and today the Internet and dedicated sites and services for teachers are popping up like mushrooms which means that the web is becoming more and more a crucial part in the daily life of teachers.
One of the earliest ones, Edmodo, just raised a new $15 million funding round from from Greylock Partners and Benchmark Capital. This round also added two Silicon Valley stars to the board: Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Matt Cohler of Facebook which could become crucial for the growth of the network.
Collaboration is one of the major driving forces behind the rise of websites like BetterLesson where teachers can share their lesson plans with others. It even created a new revenue model for them as teachers can decide to sell their lessons to their colleagues.
Another startup that got funded recently and is about collaboration is MasteryConnect. It raised $1.1 million from NewSchools, LearnCapital and imagine K12 for its platform that enables teachers across the US to work together on the Common Core standard on the one hand and it also provides them with detailed analysis on the performance of their students on the other hand.
The Teaching Channel is a portal were teachers can watch and share best practices from classrooms across the US. There is for instance a series of one-minute-videos that show how to get the attention of a class or engaging classroom activities. Teachers can take personal notes and hence create their own library of how to videos they want to implement in their classroom.
Talking about videos, YouTube for Schools is a new, stripped down version of the world’s biggest video hosting site that takes the needs of teachers and schools into consideration. Everyone who uses YouTube knows how messy it can get in the comments. That’s why many districts simply banned YouTube from schools leaving the teachers who wanted to use the huge amount of great educational videos in the dark. YouTube for Schools now offers a clean, curated version, enabling teachers to get access to this source of educational content.
And to answer the question how to motivate and support people who want to become a teacher these days, MAT@USC and 2tor partnered to launch a portal that answers all questions involved in the process in one single place called Teach.com. But the portal is not only for career starters, it also aims to provide seasoned teachers with information about requirements when planning to move into another state, salaries and such.
If you then add smaller projects like mobile and tablet applications to the mix it is clear that 2012 is going to be another exciting year for teachers and principals. This infrastructure tailored to the needs of teachers also has a big potential in driving innovation in schools faster than it is today. Tim Brady, founding partner at imagine K12 explained this grass roots movement as following:
And even the superintendents we talked to are being very excited about that because they usually say:” I sit and I listen to these sales pitches and try to imagine what the teachers want and then I have to go and convince the teachers to use it and push it down.” Superintendents are very excited when a bunch of teachers say:” Hey, we are all using this product. Can you buy this additional feature?” It actually makes it easier for the superintendent as well.
Picture: Back to School! from Shutterstock
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From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.