Archive for the 'Education' Category

Deb Roy: The birth of a word

Five years ago, when our son was born, we wanted to keep notes on his first bilingual, later trilingual, language acquisition. One idea was to do audio records, but the amount of data would have proven quickly to be unmanageable as well as life (read: work) getting into the way. In the end, we kept written notes about the first correct utterance of a word in a few dozen cases. Tonight, I came across at a TED talk by Deb Roy: The birth of a word. His presentation as well as the implementation and findings are nothing short of amazing.

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies

Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies


Project Implicit®

Project Implicit® – taken from the introduction:

It is well known that people don’t always ‘speak their minds’, and it is suspected that people don’t always ‘know their minds’. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology.

This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. […]

Available in 33 languages – try it.

Cost of Education

An article at Mashable  “In the Future, the Cost of Education will be Zero” doesn’t bode well for institutes for higher education. Universities are a different matter, as higher education used to be free in Germany and still is in countries like Sweden – also top students in any country. In the long run, costs will naturally decrease, but I don’t see language teachers being replaced by videos anytime soon. Also, lower costs don’t mean the price will fall as well – especially in education, a high price tag signals quality. Many of the courses universities offer though could be replaced by open source and keep down overall costs – readings first and foremost. Also, education could be introduced to a broader spectrum of the population, but then again, a certain mindset is neccessary to watch an MIT Video lecture about Classic Mechanics instead of a mundane Big Brother episode at Youtube.

A commenter argues that “automatization can go only so far” – but logical essays i.e. can’t be evaluated by a machine. Nevertheless, PearsonVue is attempting exactly that with the new Pearson Test of English. If it’s technically feasible, I don’t see a problem evaluating other forms of academic production as well, verbal or written.

Still, I’ve had the opportunity to both experience face2face as well as online courses: The biggest advantage is direct intellectual exchange between students working on a case – not doable with today’s tools. Many textbooks are definitely going to be free in the future, it’s just a long way. Education is certainly going to get cheaper – but as long as teachers need to be paid and class rooms needed for social interaction, institutes for higher education are not going to be able to offer completely free courses.

Social Software @ Work

I’m at a great workshop today and yesterday, “Social Software @ Work” at HHU’s Schloss Mickeln in Duesseldorf. I didn’t have much opportunity to take part in such conferences – something that has to change! Dozens of like-minded people, from companies like BASF, Daimler and Siemens as well as Frauenhof researchers talking about web 2.0. Check out the speakers list and their publications.

Düsseldorf Business School

I did it! After reading up on further education, thinking over my decision not to do a doctorate, but an MBA program and coming to the same conclusion once again, I started looking for business schools in the area. There are two local schools, FOM and DBS and a number of distance study programs like the ones from Akad and Open University. The latter was really tempting, but I wanted to sit with other students in one room and work on problems together. Since every student has several years of experience in his work field, the mix of experiences a group can offer is unparalleled and can’t possibly be reached by distance learning. The DBS has an English MBA program as well, but it hasn’t started yet for this year so I’m settling for the German one and might switch later one.

Money is scarce as always, so I applied for a scholarship – and obtained it! The first day of school is today. In the next 19 months, I’ll dive into the world of economics and business administration. See you December 2009.

Nova Corp. Japan Bankrupt

It was on the horizon, one hour ago this made the news:

The company, which provides mostly English conversation courses, reportedly had liabilities of 43.9 billion yen and will be delisted from the Jasdaq Securities Exchange on Nov. 27. Nova had a 50% market share among foreign language schools in the financial year from April 2002 to March 2003, according to a government statistics cited on Nova’ s Web site.

After being in business since 1981, this is a major event for Japan’s English education market as NOVA was said to be the largest provider of language teaching services on the market. A Friend tells me that embassies are jumping in to help teachers who have been fired in the process and are now in financial distress. Several hundred thousand students are also probably never going to get their money back.

Who is going to fill the gap?

Anarchy Is History

Steven Pinker, one of the brightest minds of our times gave a speech about the history of violence at the TED Talks in 2007, arguing that we live more peacefully with each other than ever before in human history. I’d like to agree, but the media coverage of every incident easily leads to the impression that the world has indeed gone down the drain and the outlook is grim. It’s 20 well invested minutes:

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What Terrorists Want

What Terrorists Want and how to beat them: a lesson from history.


10th Dimension

Something to wrap your brain around, if you have ten minutes.

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Crackdown On NOVA

I was so waiting for this:

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has decided that Nova Corp., the nation’s largest English-language school chain, violated the Specified Commercial Transaction Law and ordered it to partially suspend business.
Nova has about 450,000 students, more than 60 percent of the nation’s English-language school students.

If 60% of a country’s English-language school students are taking courses at one school and Japanese’ test takers average TOEFL score is 65, it begs the question in how far NOVA can be hold accountable for such low results. 😉

update: Alex Case compiled a list of reasons why good English teachers leave Japan.

ETS Plans To Expand Network Capacity On The Chinese Mainland By 25,000 Seats

ETS plans to expand network capacity on the Chinese mainland by 25,000 seats. South Korea is by far not the only country with a lack of available TOEFL seats. ETS should also offer more test dates, but that’s up to them.


TOEIC Introduced In China In November

Shanghai Daily: The new ibt TOEIC is coming to China in November – it was set to start in summer in Germany, but after a few delays it’ll probably be fall.


Why TOEFL Online Registration Broke Down

ETS_TOEFL_logoTOEFL is required as English became a basic requirement for jobs in South Korea, even ones completely unrelated to English. Even children are taking the test. I don’t have to mention that they’re not supposed to take it since TOEFL is targeted to candidates in their last high school year or first semester at the university. The market for TOEFL in South Korea is not huge, it is gigantic: The bank of Korea estimated in 2005 that about 54,8 million Euro are spent annually for study. The linked page gives a good explanation about the sociocultural reasons why everybody is learning English.

800px-Flag_of_South_Korea.svgThis year, it happened that the TOEFL online registration system (a.k.a. iSER) broke down for several weeks. Worldwide, nobody was able to register online. It’s no wonder if you have one server and hundreds of thousands of customers trying to register. This was certainly the case in South Korea. The cbt TOEFL, the computer-based variety, was taken by 130,000 in 2006. Since ibt TOEFL got introduced, the numbers were cut to less than one fourth. The numbers vary depending on who you ask. The rest of the unlucky ones who didn’t get a seat yet are even hiring people to do so for them or fly to other countries to take the test. The ETS server got pounded by Korean customers, once there were 32 million hits in one day when free seats for July admins were up to grabs. Now, that’s desperation.

ETS is going to loose a lot of customers if they don’t expand their network capacity fast: The South Korean government might create a test of their own to depend less on TOEFL. It’ll take them a few years though, and even then, ETS has a head start of several decades in language tests and a couple of years in internet-based testforms. TOEFL is a global operation, involving thousands of people working hard for it for years.

After the debacle with excluding South Korea from July admins lawyers took it in their hands and filed a complaint at the Fair Trade Commission. In the meanwhile, the importance of TOEFL is decreasing, applicants for foreign language schools are among the first who don’t need to take the TOEFL anymore.

Lee Yong-Tak (who has an English name like every English language learner in this country: his name is Paul), who has been appointed as country manager for South Korea on June 1st will need every help he can get to end the TOEFL crisis in South Korea. My advice: Four cities can’t possibly meet demand for the whole country, get every university and language school equipped with computers on board asap.

Nokia in China: Mobiledu includes TOEFL

Nokia in China includes TOEFL and GRE vocabulary in its Mobiledu program.