Thursday, March 08, 2012


Friday Fragments

You’d think I would have learned to expect it by now, but I’m still surprised by the volume of email and delayed meetings that backs up while I’m traveling.  Yesterday was a dig-out-from-the-avalanche day, and today features seven scheduled meetings.  This is why I don’t travel much.


I don’t get the Netflix thing.  Why can’t they stream the same movies they send out on DVD?  If I watch, say, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo on a DVD, and then watch it again via streaming, I notice two things.  First, my will to live is shot.  And second, it’s the same movie.  I don’t know why it matters how the pixels get to my tv.  They’re the same pixels.  If they could stream all the movies they have on DVD, I’d happily sign back up.  As it is, though, no.


The joys of disaggregating data: at my college, we used to get course completion rates broken out by race, and again by gender, but not by both.  This year we’ve started getting each race broken out by gender, and the extra dimension is revealing.  Last Fall, women in the “Latino” category (Latina?) outperformed the white guys in developmental math classes.  Within each racial group, women outperformed men by about seven points.  What used to look like a racial disparity is starting to look more like a race-and-gender issue.

If nothing else, the data may help fine-tune some interventions.  And maybe dispel a few myths.


Podcasts are what radio should have been.  Discuss.


Genes are stubborn.  I don’t recall ever seeing my grandparents swim, or even hearing them mention it.  My Mom wanted -- and still wants -- nothing to do with water.  I never enjoyed actual swimming -- as opposed to just messing around in a pool on a hot day --  and dreaded lessons.  Now The Girl is complaining about her swim lessons.

The “landlubber” gene is tenacious.  That can’t be an entirely bad thing.


If this whole focus on graduation rates continues, I foresee a major grade inflation scandal in the next five years.  You heard it here first.


Okay, I have to admit the ipad is getting pretty tempting.  But the combination of “faster connectivity” and “sharper resolution” with “data caps” strikes me as a time bomb.  I don’t want an episode of The Daily Show on Hulu to run me a couple hundred bucks in overage fees.  And there’s still that “getting it back from the kids” problem...

The Netflix thing is a rights issue. The studios either won't license them for digital distribution. Or they are charging a much larger fee. Perhaps you knew this and were just expressing incredulity over how inane that is. And on that we completely agree.
The flipside is that Netflix has quite a few movies and shows that aren't on DVD at all.
We can always see what's the difference.
I'm astounded that you never looked at a breakdown of success by gender within various ethnic groups. What you see is not radically different from what we see in a very different part of the country. I think it is mostly gender, and probably reflects attitudes toward "school" that boys develop between 6 and 16. I'm afraid our developmental classes don't "feel" much different from the middle school classes that they hated.

If you found those data interesting, try splitting them further into (1) FTIC with placement into developmental classes, (2) FTIC going directly into college classes, and (3) transfers into your CC. Now look at success rates.

PS - I didn't hear it here first.

The folks at College Misery and many other bloggers have predicted massive grade inflation as the response to political pressure from state governments to turn colleges into what HS has become. You might already see it from your adjuncts and pre-tenure faculty trying to keep their ratings up.
Agree with CC Physicist. The goals we have for K-8 (everyone must complete; we'll do what it takes to keep them engaged) then HS(everyone must complete; they may not be engaged but we'll give them credit recovery so they graduate) are not appropriate for higher ed. These are adults, and if they dislike and resist what we are handing them, we should not water it down but rather provide a different product (apprenticeships, certificate programs, OJT, and most of all a full-employment economy with opportunities to return to school when ready and willing).
Predicting more precisely, a major grade inflation scandal that does not involve a ranked sports team.
When Netflix began streaming, it was a free add-on, because the studios didn't charge them much. Those contracts have expired, and now the studios want to really get paid. The response is to provide some limits on what can be streamed.

So long as you watch your Daily Show clips on your iPad via wi-fi instead of the cell network, there's no chance of overage charges. I like my iPad2 much more than I expected to, and the price has just been cut by $100. I'm not quite so certain the premium for the newest iPad is worth it.
Ditto CCPhysicist.

As an adjunct, I try to keep students' grades up while offering something more challenging than high school by building an elaborate safety net of scored in-class activities.

One eager Nimrod scored a 0 on the first paper required by the District (second semester requires three sourced papers) but, we realized, if he did all the busywork and scored 85% on the two remaining papers (one of which is worth 300 points), he would end the semester with a high B.

If I flunked half my students (as happened with the draft of this paper), I wouldn't be around next semester to collect my vast pay.
Because music companies/conglomerates limited digital access, we know how various P2P server farms (legal or not) as well as iTunes and the options on Amazon to buy only what we want, not an entire album/collection. Will be interesting to see how long this part of the industry hangs on to the old way of doing things.
My big problem with the iPad 2 right now is that the Netflix App does not appear to work anymore. It buffers, and buffers, and buffers so much that a show is not watchable. I do NOT have this problem with streaming the same content to my laptop.
Add socioeconomic background to CCPhysicist's analysis of gender, males from lower end of the socioeconomic scale fare even worse. I see the disengagement of boys even in the upper middle class suburb where I live, but the parents spend a lot $$ on tutoring. Boys who are average or below go to nearby 4-yr colleges, as opposed to the girls who go farther away (did a gender analysis on our high schools report on college attendance). And as a mother of two buys, I've seen some disengagement in my own sons, and do what I can to help them keep up with the schoolwork. So what is it about K-12 and beyond that's disconnecting so many males?
Transmission is the issue with the movies - when you borrow a DVD, there's one set of rules applied to who gets it and what the price will be. When you transmit, the rules change drastically - to the point that I could not use figures from the text I was teaching from when I taught on-line but it was perfectly within reasonable use to do so when I was teaching in a classroom.

The rules need to change around copyright so that public domain starts to mean something again and ed use has a broader definition that extends beyond the physical classroom.
I just signed up for Netflix - but just for the DVDs. And this only due to the closing of my beloved local Blockbuster.

We have a massive issue with grade inflation here. (TX)
DeanDad: One of the nicest things that Apple does is, at least on the first ipad, there are no overage charges for data. That is, when you run out of your paid allowance, data simply stops. It's not like a cell phone where you can start racking up tons of charges. If you want to turn the data spigot back on you have to manually approve another month's data charges.

So you can still burn all your data, but at least you won't rack up hundreds of dollars of bills without explicitly approving them.
So what is it about K-12 and beyond that's disconnecting so many males?

I don't think it's K-12. The most interesting study I read about this looked at new immigrants to see if their kids followed a particular path with regard to school. They found that the boys that integrated into white, afro-american, and hispanic peer groups performed poorly compared to those that integrated into asian groups regardless of the ethnicity of the child. The implication being that those groups that supported the kind of behavior that lead to success in school found that success and those that didn't, didn't.

There's also a socioeconomic status variable that's as powerful as the force of gravity according to many studies ( one example here - The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science November 2008 vol. 620 no. 1 90-114)

So if you're concerned about your boys doing well in school, make sure their friends are the kind that come from families that care about school. Be middle class or higher. Chances are, your son will do well.

(I also believe in banning videogames but have no evidence to back that up! I just think that when videogames replace reading, no good comes.)
So what is it about K-12 and beyond that's disconnecting so many males?

Lack of male role models in the school system?

Around here, most elementary school teachers are female, and my high school has been hiring about 3/4 females for the last few years (we are a majority-female staff already).
uninteresting content and dumbing down of the system, combined with bureaucratic emphasis on testing & one-size-fits-all responses to what are actually complex issues and problems?

What I can't figure out is why anybody, male or female, is not turned off by contemporary models of k-12 mass education. It has about as much intellectual value as a happy meal has nutritional value.
Re: Netflix, another issue is the cost of providing the infrastructure required to provide the upload bandwidth for everyone in the neighborhood to watch movies simultaneously. Why should an internet service provider spend money providing faster infrastructure so Netflix can make money streaming videos? Carrying in a video or two from the mailbox is much faster data transfer than streaming, with the major caveat of neglecting the long time between order and delivery, e.g. a 5 Gb DVD from the mailbox over a 5 second period is 1 Gb/s. This is much faster than the 15 MB/s rates that are advertised as upload speeds.

Re: ipad, first ask yourself if you touch type. If so, then try typing on a laptop screen. If I read an email on an ipad and need to reply, then I boot up my computer rather than fighting the iPad touch screen and auto-"correct" feature.
@Ivory, what of those of us who enjoy both videogames and reading?
PM I get where you’re coming from but in my family, we will not allow videogames or computer games in the house. My kids will play them to the exclusion of all other activities and it interferes with homework, meals, and just spending time together as a family. There may be some families where access to gaming does not interfere with those things but not in mine.
Your question prompted me to visit the literature and I pulled a study that shows that if you spend time on the internet (not gaming but doing social media type stuff) it improves reading levels but gaming does not. (Internet use, videogame playing and cell phone use as predictors of children’s body mass index (BMI), body weight, academic performance, and social and overall self-esteem. Jackson, Linda A.; von Eye, Alexander; et al Computers in Human Behavior, Jan2011, Vol. 27 Issue 1, p599-604) and there’s also the NEA study from 2004 which showed among other things that close to 20% of high school boys don’t read at all for fun while their time on-line and watching TV has increased.
We are good at the things practice. (This meta analysis agrees – people who read more are better at it - To Read or Not to Read: A Meta-Analysis of Print Exposure From Infancy to Early Adulthood. Mol, Suzanne E.; Bus, Adriana G.. Psychological Bulletin, Mar2011, Vol. 137 Issue 2, p267-296)
It’s great if you like gaming and love to read. But most kids don’t have the discipline and/or bandwidth to do both. As a parent, I don’t have to encourage gaming because my kids will choose to do it. Reading is one of those things on the life skills list so I remove distractions that might interfere with it.
If you want to hear what music broadcast over radio is like in a special few places, at least on par with podcasts of curated music, check out They are run in tandem with Dallas's NPR station, play a variety of local and national music programming, with lots of stuff you won't hear anywhere else.

I don't even live there anymore and still listen to it via smart phone.
If you'd asked a question about women in PhD mathematics programs, you would have gotten this answer by now.
What if males are just biologically not as good at reading et al? Or at least, become proficient more slowly (thus, redshirting)?
Or, more likely still, what if there are simply biological (or at least practical) limitations on how much skill one can develop in any given period of time, and we strongly encourage boys to develop physical skills and strongly encourage girls to develop reading skills? And then we're surprised when we take recess out of schools that boys don't do as well as they used to?
Well, I suppose Larry Summers would reasonably have counterparts on the other end of things.

Anyways, schools are prisons. Different populations are going to go crazy in different ways in response to being punished for existing.
Hello! That data on your college students is interesting!

I have the landlubber gene, too!

Just so you know, I have a weekly Friday Fragments meme, which I publish at 9pm Central time on Thursdays. You're welcome to link up any time :) Click on the FF tab on my blog to learn more.
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