Cubans surf the web

This Workaround Lets 2.6 Million Cubans Surf the Web

Written by

J.M. PORUP

More and more Cubans are getting access to the internet, thanks to government Wi-Fi hotspots and a loosening of trade restrictions with the US. However, many locals still don’t have access to the web or can’t afford it.

That’s why not-for-profit Miami startup Apretaste set up a system to allow Cubans to browse the web via email, which more people have access to. Only about 400,000 Cubans can freely browse the web, according to Apretaste, but 2.6 million have access to email.

education system

“The world economy no longer pays for what people know but for what they can do with what they know.”
– Andreas Schleicher, OECD deputy director for education

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity.

http://thelearningcurve.pearson.com/2014-report-summary/

East Asian nations continue to outperform others. South Korea tops the rankings, followed by Japan (2nd), Singapore (3rd) and Hong Kong (4th). All these countries’ education systems prize effort above inherited ‘smartness’, have clear learning outcomes and goalposts, and have a strong culture of accountability and engagement among a broad community of stakeholders.
Scandinavian countries, traditionally strong performers, are showing signs of losing their edge. Finland, the 2012 Index leader, has fallen to 5th place; and Sweden is down from 21st to 24th.
Notable improvers include Israel (up 12 places to 17th), Russia (up 7 places to 13th) and Poland (up four places to 10th).
Developing countries populate the lower half of the Index, with Indonesia again ranking last of the 40 nations covered, preceded by Mexico (39th) and Brazil (38th).

South Korea demonstrates the interplay between adult skills and the demands of employers. In South Korea young people score above average for numeracy and problem-solving skills, but are below average over the age of 30. According to Randall S Jones of the OECD, this skills decline is explained by many graduates “training for white-collar jobs that don’t exist”. This leads to a higher than average proportion failing to secure employment, and a quicker diminishing of their skills.

Developing countries must teach basic skills more effectively before they start to consider the wider skills agenda. There is little point in investing in pedagogies and technologies to foster 21st century skills, when the basics of numeracy and literacy aren’t in place.

Technology can provide new pathways into adult education, particularly in the developing world, but is no panacea. There is little evidence that technology alone helps individuals actually develop new skills.

Lifelong learning, even simple reading at home and number crunching at work, helps to slow the rate of age-related skill decline; but mainly for those who are highly skilled already. Teaching adults does very little to make up for a poor school system.

Making sure people are taught the right skills early in their childhood is much more effective than trying to improve skills in adulthood for people who were let down by their school system. But even when primary education is of a high quality, skills decline in adulthood if they are not used regularly.

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that basic reading, writing and arithmetic are not enough.
The importance of 21st century non-cognitive skills – broadly defined as abilities important for social interaction – is pronounced.

The OECD estimates that half of the economic growth in developed countries in the last decade came from improved skills.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats is a book by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group discussion and individual thinking involving six colored hats. “Six Thinking Hats” and the associated idea parallel thinking provide a means for groups to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way, and in doing so to think together more effectively.[2]

In 2005, the tool found some use in the United Kingdom innovation sector, where it was offered by some facilitation companies and had been trialled within the United Kingdom’s civil service.

The premise of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged, and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues. De Bono identifies six distinct directions in which the brain can be challenged. In each of these directions the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgement, neutral facts). None of these directions are completely natural ways of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking. Since the hats do not represent natural modes of thinking, each hat must be used for a limited time only. Also, many will feel that using the hats is unnatural, uncomfortable or even counter productive and against their better judgement. A compelling example presented is sensitivity to “mismatch” stimuli. This is presented as a valuable survival instinct, because, in the natural world: the thing that is out of the ordinary may well be dangerous. This mode is identified as the root of negative judgement and critical thinking. Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color. The six directions are:

  • Managing (Blue) – what is the subject? what are we thinking about? what is the goal?
  • Information (White) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
  • Emotions (Red) – intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
  • Discernment (Black) – logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
  • Optimistic response (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
  • Creativity (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

Coloured hats are used as metaphors for each direction. Switching to a direction is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat, either literally or metaphorically. These metaphors allow for a more complete and elaborate segregation of the thinking directions. The six thinking hats indicate problems and solutions about an idea the thinker may come up with.