Are we overloading our kids with homework and killing their creativity?

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hwAccording to recent news (see Flanders Today and Klasse Leraren), in some countries, such as Belgium, children are overloaded with homework:

Secondary schools are overloading students with homework, according to Lyle Muns, chairman of the Flemish secondary school students organisation. Muns feels excessive homework assignments are obliging many students to stay home too much, with too little time to develop essential social skills. Figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Flemish 15-year-olds spend an average just over six hours a week on homework; their Finnish counterparts, for instance, spend 3.7 hours a week on assignments but achieve better results.

Personally, I have nothing against working and studying hard, as long as it involves intrinsic motivation strongly coupled with spiritual satisfaction, but I have also started to get the impression that kids these days, at least a representative sample I generally come across, are really busy; busier than adults, if I may say so!

Finland, in this case, stands as the ultimate example of the worn out cliché “work smarter, not harder”. Nevertheless, I think we need to think more about the correlation (and the causality relationship) between the amount of homework given to the kids and their long-term success, because, well, in the long-term that’s what counts, and not some temporary test scores that helps the feelings of teachers and parents.

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Computerized System to Prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome): BabyBeat

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I’ve just read an interesting and exciting news from ScienceDaily:

A new system using video and computer software to monitor a baby that could be used to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), as well as for telemedicine applications, has been developed by two students at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU).

The new system called “BabyBeat” was developed by students in the BGU Departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. It uses computer algorithms to convert video footage to pulses that represent a baby’s heartbeat and skin tone. In the event that the system detects an abnormal heartbeat, an alarm sounds to awaken the baby, change its breathing pattern and alert the parents.

SIDS is the unexpected, sudden death of a child under age one in which an autopsy does not show an explainable cause of death. No one knows what causes SIDS, but researchers have theorized that a dramatic drop in heart rate occurs just before death. Thousands of babies die from this phenomenon each year in the United States.

Tomer Apel and Anava Finesilver developed the program as part of their final research project. While still early in the development process, the software program will work with a basic video camera and home computer, which minimizes cost.

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