Little Robot Friends: Kids Should have Fun with Code

Little Robot Friends is a Toronto-based startup that wants kids to not only be comfortable with code, they want kids to have fun playing with it too. The company runs traditional classes which teach coding practices like similar educational services. The neat thing with Little Robot Friends is that they want you to take it home. They sell kits for kids to make, you guessed it, a little robot they can be friends with.

We started with a simple idea. How can we blur the line between toys and tools? Can we make a robot that encourages kids to customize not only how it looks and sounds, but how it works? And so we created the Little Robot Friends – a coding companion for curious minds.

Before launching Little Robot Friends, Ann & Mark spent their time designing and building museum and science center exhibits around the world. Their expertise is in taking challenging subjects and making them fun & engaging for kids. When kids discover for themselves why things are awesome, they can propel their own excitement and imagination. Check out their past work at Aesthetec Studio.

Check it out.
Thanks to Nick!

Start School Later so Students can Sleep in

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Sleep and teenagers go together better than slicing and bread. Every teenager already knows that school starts early and it’s rather cruel to make them learn before they brains are ready to do so. Yet, former teenagers force teens out of bed and kick them out the door too early. Finally, schools are starting to learn that teenagers should sleep in and school should start later in the day.

Whenever schools have managed the transition to a later start time, students get more sleep, attendance goes up, grades improve and there is a significant reduction in car accidents. The RAND Corporation estimated that opening school doors after 8:30 a.m. would contribute at least $83 billion to the national economy within a decade through improved educational outcomes and reduced car crash rates. The Brookings Institution calculates that later school start times would lead to an average increase in lifetime earnings of $17,500.
Since 2014, several states have passed legislation related to school start times. In August, California lawmakers passed a bill that would have gone further. By 2021, most middle and high schools across the state would have had to start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

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We Shouldn’t Wait Until Kids are Teenagers to Teach Them Health

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Teaching children how their bodies function is a controversial idea to some people who think children should remain ignorant until their late teens. Waiting until their bodies are fully developed is too late to teach people about issues like puberty and pregnancy according to experts. Those experts are backed by tons of research and statistics about health around the world. So why don’t we teach children about bodily functions? Because some parents think health education is only about teaching children about sexual activity. It’s time to change that.

While parents, not schools, should be in charge of teaching values, said Schroeder, kids should be learning the facts from content experts, just like they do in other subjects. “It’s gotta be a partnership. I don’t think it’s appropriate for teachers to be inculcating values, that’s the parents’ job. It’s like ‘Dragnet’: Just the facts, ma’am,” she said.

That has led Deardorff to argue that it might be better to find a new name for these early stages of sex ed, the parts that aren’t directly about sex. “The number one thing that I would suggest is that we start pubertal education earlier. And that we don’t call it sex ed, because that raises all kinds of red flags,” said Deardorff.

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Schools Should Teach how to Dissent

The role of schools often gets debated in places where safety and wellbeing are in doubt. Some people argue all schools should do is make kids into workers with little concern towards student’s mental and physical health. On the other hand, many argue schools should be places where kids learn about the world around them for the sake of bettering oneself and society. To me it seems that now more than ever we should encourage education to be all about self and societal improvement (particularly since robots are taking all our jobs). Indeed, over at the Conversation they’re running a piece on the importance of teaching students to question the world in order to improve it.

It is only with the opportunity and capacity to dissent that we can determine if our laws and systems guiding us are good or just. Further, in order to invoke our right to dissent, citizens have to know how to dissent, which calls into play the role of schooling.

[Students] should learn the skills of dissent, including consciousness-raising, coalition building, persuasion, public demonstration and pursuit of traditional government avenues for change. This type of instruction is happening in some schools, but not systematically enough across all schools, as courses in civics and social studies have been cut in order to focus on testing and such. Students receive even less of this kind of instruction in poorer schools.

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Learn Economics for Free in the Most Effective Way

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Economics is a large field filled with nuance – and assumptions. One of those assumptions is that environmental concerns and inequality are secondary to that of economic concerns. These assumptions are questioned in a new course prepared by an international team of economists called the core team. Their work is available for anybody around the world to download and use for free, unlike traditional economic textbooks. You can check it out at The Economy.

Traditional, wallet-busting introductory textbooks do cover topics like pollution, rising inequality, and speculative busts. But in many cases this material comes after lengthy explanations of more traditional topics: supply-and-demand curves, consumer preferences, the theory of the firm, gains from trade, and the efficiency properties of atomized, competitive markets. In his highly popular “Principles of Economics,” Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw begins by listing a set of ten basic principles, which include “Rational people think at the margin,” “Trade can make everybody better off,” and “Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity.”

The core approach isn’t particularly radical. (Students looking for expositions of Marxian economics or Modern Monetary Theory will have to look elsewhere.) But it treats perfectly competitive markets as special cases rather than the norm, trying to incorporate from the very beginning the progress economists have made during the past forty years or so in analyzing more complex situations: when firms have some monopoly power; people aren’t fully rational; a lot of key information is privately held; and the gains generated by trade, innovation, and finance are distributed very unevenly. The core curriculum also takes economic history seriously.

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