School Time

Despite the fact that I have tons of stuff to do at work and school during the weekends, I knew I had to place this somewhere. What can I do? Some things are just too good to leave forgotten among the wilderness of cyberspace. I guess the fact that I’ve decided to go for a postgraduate degree’s the primary culprit here.

Anyway I’ve encountered an English instructor’s rambling take the form of an article. There he writes of the difficulties of teaching Adult education to students who decide to pursue higher education in the United States. Everyone who lived long here in the Philippines have heard in one way or another the degredation of the quality of education here as manifested in the quality of a lot of recent university graduates. Reading a certain Professor X’s piece however, I got a glimpse of other facets of the educational issues–this time in the setting of a developed country.

The first thing that came to mind upon reading the article is a post by leelock sometime ago in highfiber. There she writes of the difficulties she encountered from irate parents when she fails a number of students from a certain university. It’s one of the issues included here as well as the author writes:

…There seems, as is often the case in colleges, to be a huge gulf between academia and reality. No one is thinking about the larger implications, let alone the morality, of admitting so many students to classes they cannot possibly pass. The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty. No one has drawn up the flowchart and seen that, although more-widespread college admission is a bonanza for the colleges and nice for the students and makes the entire United States of America feel rather pleased with itself, there is one point of irreconcilable conflict in the system, and that is the moment when the adjunct instructor, who by the nature of his job teaches the worst students, must ink the F on that first writing assignment.

Yup. Everyone’s all for higher learning but it seems not everyone’s prepared to face the realities that come with its pursuit.

Finally just a couple of items more:

  • A coincidental but unrelated bit in what seemed to be a pun at the said article, X-Men’s Professor X (Patrick Stewart) becomes a real professor at the Huddersfield University.
  • I’ve never been much of a Chemistry guy but I give credit where credit is due. In an effort to provide a very substantial and effective reference, the guys at the University of Nottingham put up a Periodic Table of Videos. Though I don’t appreciate what it’s for much, I have to say kudos to the effort and creativity in coming up with something that’s supposed to help hold the chemistry student’s attention for a few more seconds at the very least.
  • Tons of free e-books at Burgomeister’s Books. Be sure to read the disclaimer though.

Human Behavior Tidbits

Really stuff for the news entry previously, (only more dated that is.)

One of Four American Adults Read No Books Last Year

Not really surprising as far as I’m concerned. I think advances in technology has something to do with the dent on the amount of time people get to spend with books significantly. A lot has been said about the impact of such technological development on human behavior from shorter attention spans brought about by the ease of access to necessary information to more distractions brought about by the increased multitasking capabilities inherent in today’s computing technologies.

Even the definition of books themselves have become vague as a lot of publications have gone digital much like the trend seen for music records last year as I have written in this blog entry.

Anyway here’s the said Associated Press report:

One in four adults read no books at all in the past year, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday. Of those who did read, women and older people were most avid, and religious works and popular fiction were the top choices.

The survey reveals a nation whose book readers, on the whole, can hardly be called ravenous. The typical person claimed to have read four books in the last year — half read more and half read fewer. Excluding those who hadn’t read any, the usual number read was seven.

Web Usage Eats Up TV Time

Knew this one was coming when earlier this year related studies came out reporting on more people spending time on YouTube than in front of the TV. The sky’s still very much the limit for the growth of the internet as a related Reuters report on the findings of an IBM survey on consumer behavior goes:

In the latest sign of television’s decline as the primary media device, 19% of respondents said they spend six hours or more each day on personal Internet usage. That compares with 8% who said so about the TV. One to four hours of TV usage was reported by 66%, compared with 60% for the Web.

The number of TV viewers using digital video recorders continues to expand, with 24% of U.S. respondents saying they have a DVR and watch 50% or more of TV programming in replay mode, IBM found. Of those viewers, 33% said they are watching more TV since owning a DVR, in line with other recent studies.

New Diseases Due to Sex, Farming and Population Growth.

Yup, that’s pretty much a no brainer there. Consider the following Associated Press report quoting WHO authorities. WHO epidemics expert Dr. Mike Ryan in particular says:

“We’ve seen a shift in trend that reflects a transition of human civilization,” Ryan said. “The relationship to the animal kingdom, our travel, our social, sexual and other behaviors have changed the nature of our relationship with the microbial world and the result of that is the emergence of new pathogens and the spread of those pathogens around the world.”

And the facts laid down:

  • The increase of the rate at which food and people around the world carries risks which must be managed effectively. The increase in poultry to meet the demands of the growing world population for example might have resulted in the spread of bird flu according to WHO-Director General Dr. Margaret Chan.
  • Majority of the 39 new diseases recently including AIDS, Ebol, SARS and bird flu came from animals.

Architects and Urbanization

The global warming issue has been touching on the topic of urban living for a good reason: this year’s summer marks the first time that more people living in urban areas compared to those in rural areas. Effective policies and measures in place in cities therefore should translate to a considerable if not significant plus towards the effort.

Anyway a livemint article features the architect’s take on the subject:

As the demands on the world’s planners grow, academics from around the world gathered at a recent conference and expressed great unease about their ability to prepare the next generation of architects to build for this urban future.

“Every year the urban population increases by 80 million, equivalent to the population of Germany,” said Lars Reutersward, an architect and director of the global division at UN Habitat, the UN department that looks at urban development.

“Within that, there will be an increase in slum dwellers the size of Holland and Belgium put together—35 million—every year. This is a complete disaster, and it doesn’t have to happen,” he added. “People are dying in slums every day. It is horrible. We are lacking a sense of urgency; we are not coping with the speed of it.”

For a good reason. UN estimates place properly planned building work in expanding cities around the world at a dismal 5%. In Asia for instance, it is estimated that 70% of urban residents live in the said unplanned areas.

The Future of Books, Not Bound by Anything

The Economist published an article of the same title towards the end of March. I’ve been waiting for free time as scarce as the rainfall in this country these days so the read has been pretty much mentioned in several threads by now already.

Anyway the article talks about the phenomenon of digitizing books. It was apt to start off by mentioning Google‘s mention of its endeavors towards that direction through books.google.com among the many efforts towards realizing an unbounded environment for information.

With the many issues arising from digitizing books raised, even the basic definition of a book has been obscured. The seemingly relevant analogy of e-books to other digital formats such as digitized music even adds to the uncertainty on the future of the traditional publication form, not to mention possible legal issues that will likely arise just as when music albums have been unbundled as well. Throw in its effect on the reading individual and I’m definitely looking at this more closely.

Among the early casualties of the movement were published encyclopedias as their online counterparts have rendered them practically obsolete. For someone who grew up relying on the former as primary reference or starting point for research, the change sure didn’t go unnoticed. On a more massive scale of obsolescence into the future, it does seem to point to having bookstores and libraries lined up in the domino queue.

I am inclined to believe however that published books won’t still go away. Apart from behavioral considerations on reading cultivated by human society over several centuries, I’ve heard the same concerns somewhat raised more than a decade ago yet I have yet to see a hard hitting effect of the movement comparable to that which hit the recording industry though.