Thursday Links

(There are more links than usual because I’ve been too busy working and editing pieces to write new ones. Exciting things coming up though!)

  • A genius Mongolian 15-year old kid aces a MIT Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) on Circuits and Electronics, and is now a MIT student. Wonderful story. I’m in favor of using MOOCs – I think they’re fantastic, and have taken a number of them – but I don’t think this one tale should assuage the fears of MOOC skeptics. Remember: this kid is a genius, and would almost certainly have found success with or without the MOOC; the true hope of MOOCs is that they’ll level the playing field for the masses (and make higher education cheaper in the process)
  • This is a fun, informative look at the use of tablets – and “screens” more generally – in education. The author is refreshingly frank about her biases, and makes it clear that the tablet isn’t a panacea in and of itself; how it’s used is much more important than that it is being used. The company Amplify, a News Corporation offshoot helmed by former NYC Public School Chancellor Joel Klein, is featured prominently; it uses a few neat tricks to make the tablets theoretically excellent engines for learning
  • “Eighty to 90 percent of people who use crack and methamphetamine don’t get addicted,” according to Dr. Carl Hart, a neuroscientist/psychologist profiled in this article. That’s astounding. He makes a persuasive case that crack addiction is more psychological and sociological than biological (i.e., for some poor, unemployed people, the hit of crack is better than their other options, but others with better options, the hit of crack isn’t better). Also, he used conditional cash transfers in an experiment! Adding his book, High Price, to my reading list
  • Malaria is, in important ways, a social disease, even within the same poor community: “Our findings suggest that low socioeconomic status is associated with roughly doubled odds of clinical malaria or parasitaemia in children compared with higher socioeconomic status, within a locality.”
  • Nice use of smartphone technology in Pakistan: ensuring workers are actually doing their job in preventing dengue fever
  • Can’t wait to read Sendhil Mullainathan’s and Eldar Shafir’s book, Scarcity, when I make it home for Christmas. You should read it. Until then, here’s Cass Sunstein’s review in the New York Review of Books; it’s quite good

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