Mailing List Archive

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [tlug] Corona and schools in Japan

Yasuaki Kudo writes:

 > I have always wondered since my elementary school days (30 year
 > ago!)  why the can't the educational institutions get together,
 > produce high quality explanatory videos,

Who needs an educational institution?  Try Khan Academy, for example.
Or @RealSexyCyborg's videos on Maker-ing.  Lots of great podcasts, and
there's the Great Courses Plus (at least in the US), too.

But we've had the "get together and produce high quality explanatory
media" for hundreds of years.  It's called "textbooks". :-)  Thing is,
every teacher has a different slant on the subject, in part because
every department has a different slant, as well as the intructor's
personal bent.  Even the authors of the popular textbooks (at least in
my field) can't possibly teach the whole thing in a semester, let
alone a quarter.  You have to be selective.  That's possible with a
book, even easy: 30 minutes perusing the ToC, taking notes, and you've
got a syllabus.  We don't have proper ToC tech for audio/video yet as
far as I know, let alone indexing.  Simply slicing and dicing one
lecture's worth would take multiple lectures' worth of time, I'd

That's an opportunity for tech-y people, I think, coming up with a UI
for that.

Also, by college we've filtered out the low-performing autistic folks,
those with little interest or insufficiently rich parents, the ADHD,
the handicapped, etc.  (I'm not saying that's a good thing, but it
*is* part of the environment that gives college professors their
freedom to do what they think is right rather than slavishly follow a
state-directed curriculum.)  Those kids, not the model students who
make up the majority of the college population, are the part that
makes life, uh, "interesting" for teachers in compulsory education.
In general, the kids are all different, and every year's class has a
special personality as a group.  My hat's off to the elementary school
teacher.  That's a high degree-of-difficulty job requiring unremitting

 > just let the students watch them at their pace and let the
 > classrooms be full blown Q&A sessions all the time.

That is much harder than it sounds if you want all the students to get
their money's worth, though.  Besides the natural reticence of most
students to speak their mind at risk of being wrong or getting
crosswise with the prof, there's the fact that reticence is
differential.  If you allow the shy students to hide behind their
brasher classmates, you're not only failing to give the shy ones the
benefit of in-class guidance, you're also cheating the whole class of
the potential diversity of expression, and in most cases, knowledge
and experience, available in a group of 20 or more individuals.  It's
emotionally hard work, at least for me.  And there's also the problem
of students whose "pace" didn't permit watching the lecture in time. :-)

Of course if you can cut the classes to 10 members, things might be
different.  Elite American universities (well, Stanford, anyway ;-)
simulate that by having sections taught by graduate students paid
around minimum wage, and not taking attendance, so only the 10 talkers
show.  They also charge USD 80,000/year. ;-)

And again, that's college where students with irregular behavior are

 > I can even imagine having a multiple tutors vs multiple students
 > setting where the tutors can offer answers from different angles to
 > help students develop understanding.

I can imagine the Tokyo Board of Education with a trillion-yen budget
deficit.  Can't you? :-)  Most children in compulsory education in
Japan are in classes of up to 30 to up to 40 depending on age.
Getting a 3:1 or 4:1 student:teacher ratio will be very expensive.
Japanese private universities are no better (and by and large they're
already running existentially threatening deficits), although typical
elective classes at U Tsukuba (an elite national university, I'm told
:-) still run about 20 students in my department.  At 75 minutes/class
period, that's still less than 4 min/student/session.  Private
universities with 40/class would be less than 2 min/student/session.
Not every student has to talk every time, of course, but I don't like
the odds for getting "fair distribution" of attention with that kind
of time constraint.

Just logistically, this is a hard problem (based on current practice,
of course, which is definitely cost-constrained compared to what we
might think is ideal).  It's not that as a society we can't afford it
-- but there are no societies yet that are in the habit of affording
it.  We'd rather have quiz shows where you guess what 100 random
people are going to answer, and fuzoku (an essential business
according to Mayor Koike, you know :-).

 > So, borrowing the New York governors' words from his coronavirus
 > briefings, this might be an excellent opportunity to "reimagine"
 > education!

Imagine what we like, even assuming the logistic issues are solved, it
doesn't matter if we don't find a way to change the people.  And to do
that, we need to change the incentives that the people face.
Especially in Japan, where masters students sometimes start job search
before they start classes (I am not joking or exaggerating), and
undergrads are considered late to the party if they're not applying
for "internships" midway through their 3rd year.

It's not impossible.  In fact, as I see it, it's necessary.
Increasing personal services, and converting mass services like
education to more or less customized versions, is one of the ways we
maintain well-paid employment into the future in the face of
increasing automation and mgration of value-added to highly-scalable
digital sectors.  But it's a long-term, society-wide, project, I


Home | Main Index | Thread Index

Home Page Mailing List Linux and Japan TLUG Members Links