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See how your primary school is doing

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Pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in England are dropping further behind their classmates in national primary school tests, statistics show.

The gap between SEN pupils and their peers has risen from 48 percentage points in 2016 to 52 this year.

The figures are revealed in school league tables, published by the Department for Education (DfE), showing the results of about 16,000 primaries.

Head teachers say special-needs education funding is in crisis.

English primary school tables

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The government statistics show 18% of children with SEN reached the expected level in reading, writing and mathematics, compared with 70% of their peers without special needs.

Although SEN pupils’ results edged upwards on last year, when 14% made the grade, their non-SEN peers boosted their results more dramatically from 62% to 70%.

Teachers have been warning that pupils with special needs, such as mild autism or dyslexia, would struggle in the tougher tests introduced last year.

A National Association of Head Teachers’ spokesman said it was “one of those situations where money is the solution and schools need the government’s help”.

The tables also showed disadvantaged pupils still perform far worse than all other pupils in England, with around half passing the tests, compared to nearly two-thirds of non-disadvantaged.

The gap between the two groups of pupils is now as wide as it was in 2012 at about 20 percentage points.

However, there does appear to be a small catch-up (one percentage point) in poorer pupils’ attainment on 2016 when the tougher tests were introduced and results for all pupils dipped significantly.


NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman said: “This data is a useful indication of school performance but it is not the whole story. One thing it does do, though, is confirm what NAHT has been saying for a long time about social mobility.

“Raising the Key Stage 2 standard (Sats test) was not going to help close the gap. The issues that underpin inequality reach far beyond the school gates and exist throughout the communities that schools serve.”

But Schools Minister Nick Gibb hailed the achievements of pupils and teachers, saying they had responded well to the more rigorous curriculum.

This set of pupils was the first to benefit from the government’s new approach to phonics, he said.

“Pupils are now leaving primary school better prepared for the rigours of secondary school and for future success in their education,” Mr Gibb added.

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Overall, pupils have scored better in their Sats results than last year, which was the first year of the new tests.

The DfE said this was partly because of “increased familiarity” with the new tests.

There was a nine percentage point increase in the proportion of black pupils passing the tests, to 60% – just one percentage point behind the national average and white pupils.

The top five local authorities were all London boroughs, with Richmond upon Thames at the top, Kensington and Chelsea coming second and Bromley third.

The inner city boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Hackney have claimed the fourth and fifth spots.

In 1999, Hackney, which had been one of the worst performing boroughs, became the first local education authority to be taken out of council control.

In this year’s tests across England, local authority schools slightly outperformed academies and free schools, with 62% of their schools reaching the expected standard compared with 61% of academies and free schools.

In all, 511 schools – 4% of the total – have fallen beneath the government’s expectations or “floor standard”, where fewer than 65% of pupils met the expected standard in reading, writing and mathematics and the school did not achieve sufficient progress scores in all three subjects.

This is an improvement on last year, where 665 – 5% – primaries were found wanting.

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3 tips on how to shop for gender-inclusive toys this holiday season

My favorite Christmas gift I ever received was a computer game—”Secret of the Scarlet Hand,” the sixth mystery in the Nancy Drew PC series. Playing the game, my friends, sister, and I would huddle around our bulky family Dell computer for hours on end. With one person controlling the mouse, the rest of us would watch earnestly, eyes glued to the screen, or peeping through spaces between fingers that nervously covered our faces.

Playing as the famed girl detective herself, we’d open forbidden passages and interview suspects around a museum exhibit of ancient Mayan artifacts. We completed cultural-, literary-, and science-based challenges, eventually losing our minds when Nancy became trapped inside a monolith with a mummy. I credit that game with the launch of my Nancy Drew obsession, and my interest in journalism that followed.

Perhaps the best part of the gift was that there wasn’t anything inherently masculine or feminine about the way the game looked or felt. I don’t remember feeling like Nancy had to “think like a man,” or that she was ever told she was smart “for a girl” to solve the mystery. It was a game that followed a female protagonist, not a game specifically made for girls—the kind of toy I’d hope to purchase for a niece or nephew to give them an opportunity to explore their interests.

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with gender-specific toys—I was a huge “Barbie girl” growing up, too—but according to toy experts, we run into trouble when we limit children’s play to toys marketed to a specific gender, perhaps limiting children in their understanding of what they find interesting as a consequence.

It might seem daunting to purchase gender-inclusive toys for the kids in your life, especially if you may not necessarily know what the child likes. However, toy experts and advocates from Global Toy Experts,, and Let Toys Be Toys, break down how to shop with gender-inclusivity in mind this holiday season.

1) Steer clear of gendered packaging and stereotypical choices.

Richard Gottlieb, founder of toy consulting company Global Toy Experts, told the Daily Dot that this notion that pink is “for girls” and blue is “for boys” didn’t begin until the 1930s, when department stores began gendering baby clothes to sell more products. While stores in New York and Philadelphia were initially split on which color was “for girls,” pink eventually won out, its feminine connotation brought into the mainstream with the success of the Barbie doll.

Most obviously, this marketed packaging manifests itself into toy aisles and onto the boxes themselves. Gottlieb used the example of the original Battleship game, the exterior of which showed a father and son playing the game, with a mother and daughter doing dishes in the background.

Even representation in toy catalogs matter. Tessa Trabue, a campaigner with the United Kingdom-based gender-inclusion toy campaign Let Toys Be Toys, told the Daily Dot that it’s important for advertising and catalogs to show boys and girls playing with all toys—as opposed to seeing two girls play with dolls, or two boys play with building blocks. When children see this kind of representation, they better understand that these toys aren’t just for a specific gender, and are also for them.

“If basing on a gender, it’s going to be based on stereotypes, and that’s not the best way to shop for a child,” Trabue said. “ that when people buy presents and they don’t know their children very well, they just end up with, say, a sea of Barbies for a girl, and the girl doesn’t even like Barbies. Do you really want to waste your money on a toy the child doesn’t even want?”

2) While toy brands might be introducing girls to STEM, gendered STEM toys are still gendered.

Let Toys Be Toys, which has helped push for gender-inclusivity in toys for about five years, doesn’t endorse certain toys or toy brands, Trabue said. However, she said that even when toy companies make toys such as engineering-based kits, home repair tools, or chemistry sets specifically for girls, these products are still gendered. In being gendered, these toys continue to send the message that girls are different and need a special way to get into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields.

Will Asbury, owner of, told the Daily Dot that the organization too holds mixed opinions. However, this seemingly reinforced gender bias doesn’t mean these STEM-specific toys for girls don’t serve a purpose.

“Whilst we agree that toys can play an important role in encouraging girls into STEM, it does seem counterintuitive that we are designing toys specifically aimed at girls in an effort to reduce gender bias!” Asbury wrote in an email. “That said, if STEM toys for girls do encourage more girls to enter STEM fields, then we do not see the harm in it.”’s list of the top STEM toys for girls includes several of these gendered options, including the popular GoldieBlox interactive toys, and a roller coaster and amusement park building kit from Lego Friends. To find STEM-related toys that don’t enforce a gender bias, however, Trabue suggested gift shops within museums and science centers. She also suggested looking into independent toy stores, which may have a greater selection gender-inclusive toys but might be on the pricier side than big box stores.

Of course, these options may not be available to people who don’t live in cities with such centers, so it never hurts to do a little online shopping, too. Asbury, whose website specializes in discussing STEM toys, told the Daily Dot that adults may be interested in looking into Lego Boost, a robot coding and building set, and Anki Cozmo, an artificial intelligence-based robot, which are both gender-inclusive.

3) Don’t forget about toys that emphasize caring activities for boys.

Gottlieb said that this push for gender-inclusive toys should, above all, make it so that children don’t feel there’s a “no-go zone” in the toy department—this goes for boys as well. Trabue said Let Toys Be Toys specifically uses the Twitter hashtag #caringboys to promote and encourage the practice of boys using caring toys, such as dolls and strollers, play kitchen sets, and cleaning toys.

However, because many of these kinds of toys are pink, boys are still resistant to choose and play with such toys. Going back to the point of gender-inclusive packaging and advertising, Trabue emphasized the discouraging nature of caring toys as a reason to advocate for companies to dismantle gendered toy aisles and catalogs altogether.

“We think it’s very important that boys are allowed the chance to play with caring dolls and explore these activities…It’s nice on the packaging if they could see a boy playing with the doll,” Trabue said. “It’s strange. Why wouldn’t you want to give boys the chance to explore caring play? Even if they don’t become fathers, don’t want them to be caring human beings?”

In the U.K. this is already happening—the Let Toys Be Toys campaign has helped remove gendered signage from toy aisles in major U.K. retailers, such as the Entertainer and Boots, and has also seen a 70 percent drop of online retailers ending the use of gendered denotations on catalogs. The campaign also gives out “Toymark” awards to book and toy businesses that market their products gender-inclusively.

Gottlieb’s company, too, has also helped lead toy companies toward more inclusive products, and assisted in removing gender categories from the annual Toy of The Year awards. But in the United States, one look at the Toys-R-Us website in their segregated toys for boys’ and girls’ outdoor play, as pointed out by Trabue, shows how much further mainstream toy companies need to go to achieve gender-inclusivity.

However, consumers in doubt about what to purchase their niece or nephew don’t need to shell the out big bucks for the perfect toy. After all, it’s the thought behind the toy that counts—literally.

“Think in more terms of the interest of the child, or your interest—there are two ways to give a gift,” Gottlieb said.

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Scholarship for Muslim women honors pioneering scientist

When it came to pursuing a scientific career, Tasneem Essader encountered forces pulling her in and pushing her away: She drew inspiration from her mother’s work in chemistry, but initial discouragement from her engineer father, who thought she should do something else. She was inspired by women engineers she met, but found few girls around her in advanced high school science classes.

Essader, who feels strongly connected to her Muslim faith, also struggled to find the right fit among an array of identity-based scholarships as she looked to help ease the financial burden of college.

Then, an uncle informed her about the Adawia Alousi Scholars program, and the obstacles started to fall away. She found that fit, and a kinship with the scholarship program’s namesake.

“After reading about Dr. Alousi’s life, I felt like the struggles I faced because of who I am in the field I want to pursue have been validated,” Essader wrote in her essay application, “that someone who has gone through the same struggles as I have and has something about it to make it easier for future generations.”

The scholarship, established at the Dearborn, Michigan-based Center for Arab American Philanthropy with money from Alousi’s family trust, is believed to be the first of its kind for Muslim-American women studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Essader is in the inaugural class of 11 recipients of the scholarship, named after a scientist who helped develop a pioneering drug treatment for congestive heart failure in the 1980s.

Alousi, who died in 2010, was an Iraq-born Muslim who had to fight to earn recognition in a male-dominated field. She wanted money from her trust to go toward charity.

“We reflected upon who my aunt was, what she would want. She was most passionate about her science and Islam — the scholarship reflects those passions,” said nephew Amin Alousi, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Alousi said his aunt’s pharmacological research was the backbone for a new class of drugs for congestive heart failure — and she and her colleagues were the first to bring such drugs to market. Still, he added, she faced discrimination being “a foreign-born woman.”

“She really did have to be vocal,” Alousi said. “On all the scientific papers, she insisted on being recognized as a lead author.”

Alousi said the scholarship includes grade requirements but he added, “We want people with a compelling story,” including “overcoming hardships.”

Essader, a freshman at the University of North Carolina, wants to “carry forward Dr. Alousi’s spirit by breaking the stereotypes surrounding people who look like me.” Essader says her father has grown more encouraging as he sees her passion for her intended career in biomedical engineering.

Another recipient, Teeba Jihad, said her “family was under attack” in her native Iraq as members of the Shiite sect of Islam during wartime. After coming to the U.S. at age 11, she faced name-calling and criticism for her modest clothing. Jihad, who had a cancer scare in 2013, is studying biomolecular science at New York University and has worked in a lab to develop breast cancer treatments using magnetic, nanoscale particles. The scholarship, she wrote, allows her to “continue to create a positive image of young Muslim females.”

Alousi hopes the recipients’ achievements help dispel misconceptions.

“The bigger narrative of how often people in the West or in the United States wrongly assume Muslim women are uneducated, not successful, or not outspoken — I think that’s the bigger story that we hope to overcome with this scholarship and the young women it supports,” he said.


Karoub is a member of AP’s Race and Ethnicity Team, and frequently writes about religion. Follow him on Twitter at and find more of his work at . Sign up for the AP’s weekly newsletter showcasing our best reporting from the Midwest and Texas: .

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Researchers share $22m Breakthrough prize as science gets rock star treatment

Glitzy ceremony honours work including that on mapping post-big bang primordial light, cell biology, plant science and neurodegenerative diseases

The most glitzy event on the scientific calendar took place on Sunday night when the Breakthrough Foundation gave away $22m (16.3m) in prizes to dozens of physicists, biologists and mathematicians at a ceremony in Silicon Valley.

The winners this year include five researchers who won $3m (2.2m) each for their work on cell biology, plant science and neurodegenerative diseases, two mathematicians, and a team of 27 physicists who mapped the primordial light that warmed the universe moments after the big bang 13.8 billion years ago.

Now in their sixth year, the Breakthrough prizes are backed by Yuri Milner, a Silicon Valley tech investor, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and his wife Priscilla Chan, Anne Wojcicki from the DNA testing company 23andMe, and Googles Sergey Brin. Launched by Milner in 2012, the awards aim to make rock stars of scientists and raise their profile in the public consciousness.

The annual ceremony at Nasas Ames Research Center in California provides a rare opportunity for some of the worlds leading minds to rub shoulders with celebrities, who this year included Morgan Freeman as host, fellow actors Kerry Washington and Mila Kunis, and Miss USA 2017 Kra McCullough. When Joe Polchinski at the University of California in Santa Barbara shared the physics prize last year, he conceded his nieces and nephews would know more about the A-list attendees than he would.

Oxford University geneticist Kim Nasmyth won for his work on chromosomes but said he had not worked out what to do with the windfall. Its a wonderful bonus, but not something you expect, he said. Its a huge amount of money, I havent had time to think it through. On being recognised for what amounts to his lifes work, he added: You have to do science because you want to know, not because you want to get recognition. If you do what it takes to please other people, youll lose your moral compass. Nasmyth has won lucrative awards before and channelled some of his winnings into Gregor Mendels former monastery in Brno.

Another life sciences prizewinner, Joanne Chory at the Salk Institute in San Diego, was honoured for three decades of painstaking research into the genetic programs that flip into action when plants find themselves plunged into shade. Her work revealed that plants can sense when a nearby competitor is about to steal their light, sparking a growth spurt in response. The plants detect threatening neighbours by sensing a surge in the particular wavelengths of red light that are given off by vegetation.

Chory now has ambitious plans to breed plants that can suck vast quantities of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in a bid to combat climate change. She believes that crops could be selected to absorb 20 times more of the greenhouse gas than they do today, and convert it into suberin, a waxy material found in roots and bark that breaks down incredibly slowly in soil. If we can do this on 5% of the landmass people are growing crops on, we can take out 50% of global human emissions, she said.

Three other life sciences prizes went to Kazutoshi Mori at Kyoto University and Peter Walter for their work on quality control mechanisms that keep cells healthy, and to Don Cleveland at the University of California, San Diego, for his research on motor neurone disease.

The $3m Breakthrough prize in mathematics was shared by two British-born mathematicians, Christopher Hacon at the University of Utah and James McKernan at the University of California in San Diego. The pair made major contributions to a field of mathematics known as birational algebraic geometry, which sets the rules for projecting abstract objects with more than 1,000 dimensions onto lower-dimensional surfaces. It gets very technical, very quickly, said McKernan.

Speaking before the ceremony, Hacon was feeling a little unnerved. Its really not a mathematician kind of thing, but Ill probably survive, he said. Ive got a tux ready, but Im not keen on wearing it. Asked what he might do with his share of the winnings, Hacon was nothing if not realistic. Ill start by paying taxes, he said. And I have six kids, so the rest will evaporate.

Chuck Bennett, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, led a Nasa mission known as the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) to map the faint afterglow of the big bangs radiation that now permeates the universe. The achievement, now more than a decade old, won the 27-strong science team the $3m Breakthrough prize in fundamental physics. When we made our first maps of the sky, I thought these are beautiful, Bennett told the Guardian. It is still absolutely amazing to me. We can look directly back in time.

Bennett believes that the prizes may help raise the profile of science at a time when it is sorely needed. The point is not to make rock stars of us, but of the science itself, he said. I dont think people realise how big a role science plays in their lives. In everything you do, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, theres something about what youre doing that involves scientific advances. I dont think people think about that at all.

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Renaissance Portraits Made From Single Thread on Circular Loom

Using a single thread roughly 1-2 km long (0.6 – 1.2 mi), Petros Vrellis continuously wraps the thread in straight, continuous lines, from one peg to its direct opposite peg in a circular, 28″ loom with 200 evenly spaced anchor pegs on its circumference. Thus each artwork is made from 3,000 – 4,000 continuously intersecting straight lines of a single thread.

Interestingly, knitting is done by hand, with step-by-step instructions dictated by a computer algorithm designed by the new media artist. Vrellis explains:

“The pattern is generated from a specially designed algorithm, coded in openframeworks. The algorithm takes as input a digital photograph and outputs the knitting pattern. Over 2 billion calculations are needed to produce each pattern.”

For ‘inputs’, Vrellis used famous portraits by the famous Spanish Renaissance artist El Greco. Below you can see a timelapse video along with close-ups of Petros’ experimental knitting project. For more information check out his official website. If you’re interested in purchasing any of the original artworks you can see what’s currently available on Saatchi Art.

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‘Impossible’ New Zealand maths exam even flummoxes teachers

Complaints being investigated after geometric reasoning section of high school paper left brightest students despondent and in tears

A New Zealand maths exam for high school students has been criticised as impossible with even the brightest students left despondent and in tears at the difficulty of the questions.

New Zealand year 11 students sat the maths exams on Monday and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has since received a number of complaints regarding the unreasonable difficulty of the paper.

It is the second year in a row NZQA has been criticised for a maths exam and education minister Chris Hipkins has ordered the authority to give him a full report on the matter.

We are trying to enable these kids to do well and you set an exam like this and they come out deflated, it is not giving them much hope for next year, or for maths in general, said Logan Park High School maths teacher Amanda Fraser, who is also president of the Otago Mathematics Association.

I think the exam was off, it was too difficult. I am concerned about the impact it has had on the self-esteem of students. We are are already fighting an uphill battle because there is a stigma around mathematics and this is definitely not helping break down the barriers students have.

Fraser said the geometric reasoning section of the exam was the main stumbling block for average and talented students alike, and she and other maths teachers struggled to work out some of the questions for a test designed for a 15-year-old child.

One student who studied for weeks in preparation for the exam said she was thrown by the difficulty of some of the questions, which tested skills she hadnt been taught.

Both my parents are scientists so I have always been interested in mathematics and always almost assumed Id go into it. It is an important subject for me, she said.

I struggled in the geometric reasoning section but I thought it was because I hadnt prepared enough. A friend of mine was quite shocked, she said They have never asked us to do this sort of maths in any of the practises weve done what happened here?

Deputy chief executive assessment Kristine Kilkelly of NZQA said she believed the test was in line with the national curriculum.

The Level 1 mathematics examination was set by a team of experienced mathematics teachers, for the right curriculum level, and is consistent with the specifications for the standard.

An open letter from teachers is being sent to NZQA and the ministry of education raising concerns about the exam.

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We Need to Retool Higher Ed to Defeat Robots

Thousands of years ago, the agricultural revolution led our foraging ancestors to take up the scythe and plough. Hundreds of years ago, the Industrial Revolution pushed farmers out of fields and into factories. Just tens of years ago, the technology revolution ushered many people off the shop floor and into the desk chair and office cube.

Today, we are living through yet another revolution in the way that human beings work for their livelihoodsand once again, this revolution is leaving old certainties scrapped and smoldering on the ash heap of history. Once again, it is being powered by new technologies. But instead of the domesticated grain seed, the cotton gin, or the steam engine, the engine of this revolution is digital and robotic.

We live in a time of technological marvels. Computers continue to speed up while the price of processing power continues to plummet, doubling and redoubling the capabilities of machines. This is driving the advance of machine learningthe ability of computers to learn from data instead of from explicit programmingand the push for artificial intelligence. As economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee note in their book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, we have recently hit an inflection point in which our machines have reached their full force to transform the world as comprehensively as James Watts engine transformed an economy that once trundled along on ox carts. Labor experts are increasingly and justifiably worried that computers are becoming so adept at human capabilities that soon there will be no need for any human input at all.

The evidence for this inflection point is everywhere. Driverless cars are now traversing the streets of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and other cities. New robots can climb stairs and open doors with ease. An advanced computer trounced the human grandmaster of the intricate Chinese strategy game Go. Moreover, it is not only the processing power of machines that has skyrocketed exponentially but also the power of their connectivity, their sensors, their GPS systems, and their gyroscopes. Today, we are giving computers not only artificial intelligence but, in effect, artificial eyes, ears, hands, and feet.

Consequently, these capacities are enabling computers to step into rolesand jobsonce held exclusively by members of our species. Robots now analyze stocks, write in deft and informative prose, and interact with customers. Semi-autonomous machines may soon join soldiers on the battlefield. In China, co-botsmachines that can work in factories safely alongside human beingsare upending that countrys vaunted manufacturing sector, allowing fewer laborers to be vastly more productive. In 2015, sales of industrial robots around the world increased by 12 percent over the previous year, rising to nearly a quarter of a million units.

At the same time, Big Data is revolutionizing everything from social science to business, with organizations amassing information in proportions that flirt with the infinite. Algorithms mine bottomless troves of data and then apply the information to new functions, essentially teaching themselves. Machine learning now powers everything from our spam filters to our Amazon shopping lists and dating apps, telling us what to watch, what to buy, and whom to love. Deep learning systems, in which artificial neural networks identify patterns, can now look at an image and recognize a chair or the face of a human individual or teach themselves how to play a video game without ever reading the instructions.

In many ways, these new technologies are an astonishing boon for humanity, giving us the power to mitigate poverty, hunger, and disease. For example, Stanley S. Litow, vice president of corporate citizenship and corporate affairs at IBM, is overseeing an initiative between Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City and Watson, the computer that famously beat the human champions of the television game show Jeopardy! A doctor who had watched the show approached IBM with the idea to collaborate. Thus, Watson was reborn as an oncology adviser. Computer scientists at IBM embedded it with information from the hospitals clinical trials (not just some, all of them, said Litow) and trained it through data analytics to respond to oncologists questions.

So it proceeds as if talking to a potential patient, said Litow. On a mobile device I can say, She has the following characteristics. Do we have any information on clinical trials that would help me figure out whether this is the problem or that is the problem? Watson then analyzes the data and responds to the oncologists question in normal English. Theres a lot of clinical trial information, but a lot of doctors dont have access to it, said Litow. It is actually helping some of the best oncologists in the United States make a better, faster diagnosis and move toward a treatment plan quickly. In treating cancer, thats critical.

Automation long has been considered a threat to low-skilled labor, but increasingly, any predictable work is now within the purview of machines.

Watsons next challenge is to improve teaching in the New York City public school system, advising educators on effective teaching practices by using the same data analytics and communication techniques it is deploying with such success at Sloan Kettering. Technologies like Watson are helping people save lives, teach fractions, andin their less sophisticated iterationsfind the nearest parking space. They are helping people work better.

Or they are, for the moment. Automation long has been considered a threat to low-skilled labor, but increasingly, any predictable workincluding many jobs considered knowledge economy jobsis now within the purview of machines. This includes many high-skill functions, such as interpreting medical images, doing legal research, and analyzing data.

As advanced machines and computers become more and more proficient at picking investments, diagnosing disease symptoms, and conversing in natural English, it is difficult not to wonder what the limits to their capabilities are. This is why many observers believe that technologys potential to disrupt our economyand our civilizationis unprecedented.

Over the past few years, my conversations with students entering the workforce and the business leaders who hire them have revealed something important: to stay relevant in this new economic reality, higher education needs a dramatic realignment. Instead of educating college students for jobs that are about to disappear under the rising tide of technology, 21st century universities should liberate them from outdated career models and give them ownership of their own futures. They should equip them with the literacies and skills they need to thrive in this new economy defined by technology, as well as continue providing them with access to the learning they need to face the challenges of life in a diverse, global environment. Higher education needs a new model and a new orientation away from its dual focus on undergraduate and graduate students. Universities must broaden their reach to become engines for lifelong learning.

There is a great deal of evidence that we need such an educational shift. An oft-quoted 2013 study from Oxford University found that nearly half of U.S. jobs are at risk of automation within the next twenty years. In many cases, that prediction seems too leisurely. For example, new robotic algorithmic trading platforms are now tearing through the financial industry, with some estimates holding that software will replace between one-third and one-half of all finance jobs in the next decade. A 2015 McKinsey report found that solely by using existing technologies, 45 percent of the work that human beings are paid to do could be automated, obviating the need to pay human employees more than $2 trillion in annual wages in the United States.

This is not the first time we have faced a scenario like this. In past industrial revolutions, the ploughmen and weavers who fell prey to tractors and spinning jennies had to withstand a difficult economic and professional transition. However, with retraining, they could reasonably have expected to find jobs on the new factory floors. Likewise, as the Information Age wiped out large swaths of manufacturing, many people were able to acquire education and training to obtain work in higher-skilled manufacturing, the service sector, or the office park. Looking ahead, education will remain the ladder by which people ascend to higher economic rungs, even as the jobs landscape grows more complex. And it undoubtedly is getting knottier. One of the reasons for this is that the worldwide supply of labor continues to rise while the net number of high-paying, high-productivity jobs appears to be on the decline. To employ more and more people, we will need to create more and more jobs. It is not clear where we will find them.

Certainly, the emergence of new industriessuch as those created in the tech sectorwill have to step up if they are going fill this gap. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the computer and information technology professions are projected to account for a total of 4.4 million jobs by 2024. In the same period, the labor force, age 16 and older, is expected to reach 163.7 million. Adding to the disjoint is the remarkable labor efficiency of tech companies. For instance, Google, the standard bearer for the new economy, had 61,814 full-time employees in 2015. At its peak in 1979, in contrast, General Motors counted 600,000 employees on its payroll. To address the deficit, well need creative solutions.

Apart from automation, many other factors are stirring the economic pot. Globalization is the most apparent, but environmental unsustainability, demographic change, inequality, and political uncertainty are all having their effects on how we occupy our time, how we earn our daily bread, and how we find fulfillment. Old verities are melting fast. The remedies are not obvious.

Some observers have been encouraged by the growth of the gig economy, in which people perform freelance tasks, such as driving a car for Uber, moving furniture through TaskRabbit, or typing text for Amazon Mechanical Turk. But earnings through these platforms are limited. Since 2014, the number of people who earn 50 percent or more of their income from gig platforms has actually fallen. In general, these platforms give people a boost to earnings and help to pay the monthly bills. But as an economic engine, they have not emerged as substitutes for full-time jobs.

Of the new full-time jobs that are appearing, many are so-called hybrid jobs that require technological expertise in programming or data analysis alongside broader skills. Fifty years ago, no one could have imagined that user-experience designer would be a legitimate profession, but here we are. Clearly, work is changing. All these factors create a complex and unexplored terrain for job seekers, begging some important questions: How should we be preparing people for this fast-changing world? How should education be used to help people in the professional and economic spheres?

As a university president, this is no small question for me. As a matter of fact, the university I lead, Northeastern, is explicitly concerned with the connections between education and work. As a pioneer in experiential learning, grounded in the co-op model of higher education, Northeasterns mission has always been to prepare students for fulfillingand successfulroles in the professional world. But lately, as I have observed my students try to puzzle out their career paths, listened to what employers say they are looking for in new employees, and take stock of what I read and hear every day about technologys impact on the world of professional work, I have come to realize that the existing model of higher education has yet to adapt to the seismic shifts rattling the foundations of the global economy.

Machines will help us explore the universe, but human beings will face the consequences of discovery.

I believe that college should shape students into professionals but also creators. Creation will be at the base of economic activity and also much of what human beings do in the future. Intelligent machines may liberate millions from routine labor, but there will remain a great deal of work for us to accomplish. Great undertakings like curing disease, healing the environment, and ending poverty will demand all the human talent that the world can muster. Machines will help us explore the universe, but human beings will face the consequences of discovery. Human beings will still read books penned by human authors and be moved by songs and artworks born of human imagination. Human beings will still undertake ethical acts of selflessness or courage and choose to act for the betterment of our world and our species. Human beings will also care for our infants, give comfort to the infirm, cook our favorite dishes, craft our wines, and play our games. There is much for all of us to do.

To that end, this book offers an updated model of higher educationone that will develop and empower a new generation of creators, women and men who can employ all the technological wonders of our age to thrive in an economy and society transformed by intelligent machines. It also envisions a higher education that continues to deliver the fruits of learning to students long after they have begun their working careers, assisting them throughout their lives. In some ways, it may seem like a roadmap for taking higher education in a new direction. However, it does not offer a departure as much as a continuity with the centuries-old purpose of colleges and universitiesto equip students for the rigors of an active life within the world as it exists today and will exist in the future. Education has always served the needs of society. It must do so now, more than ever. That is because higher education is the usher of progress and change. And change is the defining force of our time.


Education is its own reward, equipping us with the mental furniture to live a rich, considered existence. However, for most people in an advanced society and economy such as ours, it also is a prerequisite for white-collar employment. Without a college degree, typical employees will struggle to climb the economic ladder and may well find themselves slipping down the rungs.

When the economy changes, so must education. It has happened before. We educate people in the subjects that society deems valuable. As such, in the 18th century, colonial colleges taught classics, logic, and rhetoric to cadres of future lawyers and clergymen. In the 19th century, scientific and agricultural colleges rose to meet the demands of an industrializing world of steam and steel. In the 20th century, we saw the ascent of professional degrees suited for office work in the corporate economy.

Today, the colonial age and the industrial age exist only in history books, and even the office age may be fast receding into memory. We live in the digital age, and students face a digital future in which robots, software, and machines powered by artificial intelligence perform an increasing share of the work humans do now. Employment will less often involve the routine application of facts, so education should follow suit. To ensure that graduates are robot- proof in the workplace, institutions of higher learning will have to rebalance their curricula.

A robot-proof model of higher education is not concerned solely with topping up students minds with high-octane facts. Rather, it refits their mental engines, calibrating them with a creative mindset and the mental elasticity to invent, discover, or otherwise produce something society deems valuable. This could be anything at alla scientific proof, a hip-hop recording, a new workout regimen, a web comic, a cure for cancer. Whatever the creation, it must in some manner be original enough to evade the label of routine and hence the threat of automation. Instead of training laborers, a robot-proof education trains creators.

The field of robotics is yielding the most advanced generation of machines in history, so we need a disciplinary field that can do the same for human beings. In the pages that follow, I lay out a framework for a new disciplinehumanicsthe goal of which is to nurture our species unique traits of creativity and flexibility. It builds on our innate strengths and prepares students to compete in a labor market in which brilliant machines work alongside human professionals. And much as todays law students learn both a specific body of knowledge and a legal mindset, tomorrows humanics students must master specific content as well as practice uniquely human cognitive capacities.

In the chapters ahead, I describe both the architecture and the inner workings of humanics, but here I begin by explaining its twofold nature. The first side, its content, takes shape in what I call the new literacies. In the past, literacy in reading, writing, and mathematics formed the baseline for participation in society, while even educated professionals did not need any technical proficiencies beyond knowing how to click and drag through a suite of office programs. That is no longer sufficient. In the future, graduates will need to build on the old literacies by adding three moredata literacy, technological literacy, and human literacy. This is because people can no longer thrive in a digitized world using merely analog tools. They will be living and working in a constant stream of big data, connectivity, and instant information flowing from every click and touch of their devices. Therefore, they need data literacy to read, analyze, and use these ever-rising tides of information. Technological literacy gives them a grounding in coding and engineering principles, so they know how their machines tick. Lastly, human literacy teaches them humanities, communication, and design, allowing them to function in the human milieu.

As noted earlier, knowledge alone is not sufficient for the work of tomorrow. The second side of humanics, therefore, is not a set of content areas but rather a set of cognitive capacities. These are higher-order mental skillsmindsets and ways of thinking about the world. The first is systems thinking, the ability to view an enterprise, machine, or subject holistically, making connections between its different functions in an integrative way. The second is entrepreneurship, which applies the creative mindset to the economic and often social sphere. The third is cultural agility, which teaches students how to operate deftly in varied global environments and to see situations through different, even conflicting, cultural lenses. The fourth capacity is that old chestnut of liberal arts programs, critical thinking, which instills the habit of disciplined, rational analysis and judgment.

Together, the new literacies and the cognitive capacities integrate to help students rise above the computing power of brilliant machines by engendering creativity. In doing so, they enable them to collaborate with other people and machines while accentuating the strengths of both. Humanics can, in short, be a powerful toolset for humanity.

This book also explores how people grasp these tools. To acquire the cognitive capacities at a high level, students must do more than read about them in the classroom or apply them in case studies or classroom simulations. To cement them in their minds, they need to experience them in the intensity and chaos of real work environments such as co-ops and internships. Just as experiential learning is how toddlers puzzle out the secrets of speech and ambulation, how Montessori students learn to read and count, and how athletes and musicians perfect their jump shots or arpeggios, it also is how college students learn to think differently. This makes it the ideal delivery system for humanics.

A new model of higher education must, however, account for the fact that learning does not end with the receipt of a bachelors diploma. As machines continue to surpass their old boundaries, human beings must also continue to hone their mental capacities, skills, and technological knowledge. People rarely stay in the same career track they choose when they graduate, so they need the support of lifelong learning. Universities can deliver this by going where these learners are. This means a fundamental shift in our delivery of education but also in our idea of its timing. It no longer is sufficient for universities to focus solely on isolated years of study for undergraduate and graduate students. Higher education must broaden its view of whom to serve and when. It must serve everyone, no matter their stage in life.

By 2025, our planet will count eight billion human inhabitants, all of them with human ambition, intelligence, and potential. Our planet will be more connected and more competitive than the one we know today. Given the pace of technologys advance, we can predict that computers, robots, and artificial intelligence will be even more intricately intertwined into the fabric of our personal and professional lives. Many of the jobs that exist now will have vanished. Others that will pay handsomely have yet to be invented. The only real certainty is that the world will be differentand with changes come challenges as well as opportunities. In many cases, they are one and the same.

Education is what sets them apart.

Excerpted from Robot Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Joseph E. Aoun. Copyright 2017 by Joseph E. Aoun. Published by MIT Press.

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Unravelling Ropes Into Fractal-Like Patterns (10 Photos)

In an ongoing series of artworks entitled ‘Ciclotramas‘, Brazilian artist Janaina Mello Landini unravels ropes into incredible fractal patterns that evoke tree roots, river basins, lightning strikes and circulatory systems.

Landini has been developing this concept since 2010, using threads and strings to create site-specific installations that occupy the space in an immersive way. She adds:

The idea is to “unstitch†Time from its inside, unraveling the threads of the same rope in constant bifurcations, until the last indivisible stage is reached, a point that holds everything together in perfect equilibrium.

Below you will find our favourite Ciclotramas but be sure to check out her website for additional shots and dozens of more examples. Janaina is represented by the Zipper Gallery in São Paulo, Brazil

Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation


Janaina Mello Landini
Website | Gallery Representation

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The Lava Lamps That Help Keep The Internet Secure

At the headquarters of Cloudflare, in San Francisco, there’s a wall of lava lamps: the Entropy Wall. They’re used to generate random numbers and keep a good bit of the internet secure: here’s how.

For a technical overview of the Entropy Wall click here.

Video by YouTuber Tom Scott

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Can you solve it? Secrets of Russian intelligence

Three puzzles that came in from the cold

Hi guzzlers,

Every day we read stories concerning the prowess of Russian hackers. But why are they so good? A clue may lie in the fact that Russia has long excelled in maths outreach, which has been instrumental in creating a supply of people with the right skills. More of this later. Meanwhile, here are three puzzles with Russian origins.

1. Find a solution to the equation

28x+ 30y + 31z = 365

where x, y, and z are positive whole numbers.

2. Place five stones on an 8×8 grid in such a way that every square consisting of 9 cells has only one stone in it.

3. A colony of chameleons on an island currently comprises 13 green, 15 blue and 17 red individuals. When two chameleons of different colours meet, they both change their colours to the third colour. Is it possible that all chameleons in the colony eventually have the same colour?

The first question was told to me recently by Nikolai Andreev, of the Steklov Mathematical Institute, part of the Russian Academy of Sciences. It should take you a few seconds to solve.

The second question is taken from a fantastic after-school programme run by three Russian emigres in London. They call themselves We Solve Problems, and use two approaches used in Russia: maths circles, in which students can delve deeper into topics, and maths battles, which are like the maths equivalent of a debating society. Check out their website, where secondary school children can apply to attend weekly maths battles in London free of charge.

The third question is a stunner. It was first set in 1984 in the International Mathematics Tournament of the Towns, a wonderful maths competition founded in 1980 in Russia that now involves students in more that 100 cities and towns around the world (but mostly in Russia). The idea is to test ingenuity, rather than rote learning.

Ill be back at 5pm with the solutions and full explanations. Da? No spoilers BTL please, but do talk about great Russian mathematicians, or any experiences with Russian teaching methods.

Page-turning Japanese, I really think so.

If you have read this far, you have already solved another puzzle. What to put on your Christmas list! My latest book Puzzle Ninja: Pit Your Wits against the Japanese Masters, contains more than 200 of the most original, beautiful and interesting puzzles that have been crafted in Japan over the last few years.

I set a puzzle here every two weeks on a Monday. Send me your email if you want me to alert you each time I post a new one. Im always on the look-out for great puzzles. If you would like to suggest one, email me.

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