[The Week in Education and Technology is a weekly summary of news, events, and ideas related to education, technology, and culture.]
My problem with most ‘Future of Work’ narratives is that these myths are extended and their importance to ‘society’ and ‘civilization’ amplified. Platitudes such as ‘don’t worry, the jobs will be there’ – just different jobs, are just that. Platitudes.
Just when you thought things were getting easier to figure in K-12 education… Just kidding! It’s always been a work in progress — both from a pedagogical and sociopolitical point of view — and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Why? Because educating millions of kids each year, trying to prepare them to flourish as adults in our society, is really complicated. Just ask the hardworking people in the Houston Independent School District, the ninth-largest school district int he U.S.
The school district in Houston, Texas, faces an unprecedented move. Texas officials announced a complete takeover of one of the largest school districts in America. They announced this even though the district came very close to earning an A grade in the latest state report card. So why take it over?
It’s complicated. State leaders say the HISD’s board isn’t doing enough to provide consistent support to all schools int he system. Not surprisingly, some HISD teachers and parents are apprehensive.
Speaking of complications related to public schools now might be a good time to talk about charter schools. United States Senator Cory Booker had a recent opinion piece about charter schools and public misperceptions about them. There’s also a new Mathematica brief out that looks at studies that measured the causal effect of school choice on traditional public schools. 10 studies that met Mathematica’s evidence bar found no effects of charter schools on traditional schools, nine found positive effects, two studies reported mixed results, and three found negative effects.
Another November report worth looking at is “Why Rural Matters.” Here are just some fo the interesting statistics from the report’s Executive Summary.
Roughly half of all rural students in the U.S. attend school in just 10 states, including some of the most populous, urban states. Texas has the largest number of rural students, followed by North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, and Indiana. Texas has more rural students than the 17 states with the fewest rural students combined.
Many rural school districts across the U.S. are very small: The median enrollment for U.S. rural districts is only 494 students, and at least half of rural districts in 23 states enroll less than the median. In Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont, at least 90 percent of rural districts have fewer than 494 students. West Virginia, where a majority of public schools are rural, has no small rural school districts, because all 55 districts are countywide systems. Florida, Maryland, Delaware, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Alabama also have no small rural school districts.
At least half of public schools are rural in 12 states: Montana, South Dakota, Vermont, North Dakota, Maine, Alaska, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Mississippi. At least one-third of all schools are rural in 14 other states.
Yes, it’s complicated.
There are also new and interesting reports out in the higher ed space. For example, the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government has released the Open Doors reports, a survey of international exchange activity in the United States.
- New international student enrollment dropped for the third-straight year in the 2018-19 academic year, according to annual data released by the Institute of International Education.
- Fewer foreign students headed to the U.S. for undergraduate and nondegree education, with those groups declining year-over-year by 1.5% and 5.7%, respectively. However, a 1.6% gain in international graduate students partially offset those losses.
Elsewhere, the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University has a 2018 report showing that most college students are working while they are enrolled and low-income working students are generally working longer hours than their high-income counterparts.
Another information source, a financial analysis tool by Edmit that forecast “projections of how many years 946 private colleges have until they could run out of money and close,” was withdrawn from publication due to concerns by some of the private colleges featured. Bryan Alexander has a thoughtful analysis of the situation, as well as a discussion about how this might affect the work of researchers/futurists like him. Somewhat lost in the kerfuffle is the reality that colleges are closing each year due to financial difficulties and these closings place students in great difficulty. All of which raises the legitimate question, “When should a college say it might close?”
Paulina Karpis wrote a Fast Company article last week in which she examined the ongoing value (or lack thereof) of the mid-career MBA.
Historically, the solution for mid-career employees was a workforce sabbatical called the MBA It worked for employers—they welcomed back new grads who had pedigree and were educated on business basics (often on their own dime)—and it worked for employees, too. They got a stamp of approval and the chance to swap their corporate jobs for two fun-filled, alcohol-infused years of parties and travel.
But, that model is no longer working, a story clearly told by the multi-year declines in MBA applications, even at top business schools. Many would-be students, myself included, decided the six-figure debt—not to mention years of lost earnings—just wasn’t worth it.
The alternative, Karpis suggests, is co-learning. “In short, co-learning is a combination of expert knowledge sharing, peer-to-peer mentoring, and collaborative practical assignments, all designed to provide professionals with the business know-how they need right now.”
While the value of the mid-career MBA may be waning, companies like FedEx are finding that offering free college education that leads to a degree is a great way to boost employee retention. And, with an increasing number of present and future employees taking advantage of online learning, some are pointing to the increased importance of teaching uniquely human skills, such as communication, collaboration, and leadership.
According to the Brookings Institution, it is likely that white-collar jobs will be those most affected by artificial intelligence in the coming decade.
Researchers looked at the text of AI patent and job descriptions, and quantified the overlap in order to identify the kinds of tasks and occupations likely to be affected. The analysis says that AI will be a significant factor in the future work lives of managers, supervisors, and analysts, shaking up all sorts of white-collar work from law firms, marketing roles, and publishers to computer programming.
Yes, it’s true that Elon Musk and Tesla seem to grab all the headlines when it comes to electric vehicles. This week was certainly no exception as Tesla unveiled its new Cybertruck to great fanfare (Musk announced over the weekend that Tesla had already received 146,000 preorders).
Musk said that the vehicle will do zero to 60 in about 2.9 seconds. But more importantly, it can tow 14,000 pounds. In demo videos, Musk showed it besting an F-150 in a tug of war, and beating a Porsche 911 off the line. He also announced three different battery ranges, with 250+, 300 or 500+ miles per charge, depending on the setup, said the truck will support 250kW charging via Superchargers and pack an air compressor on board.
Of course, having the best marketing doesn’t necessarily mean you have the best product. In the electric truck competition, many are hailing Bollinger’s EV utility trucks as the ones to beat. Also getting in on the action is Ford, which is betting its future on the $44K electric Mustang Mach-E SUV.
Finally, it seems that this Christmas and beyond we may all be buying wearables. According to a forecast from Gartner, worldwide end-user spending on wearable devices will reach $52 billion next year. That’s an increase of 27 percent compared to 2019, which is “on pace” to reach $41 billion in spending, the research firm said.
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