Views You Can Use Vol. III No. 7
In this monthly briefing memo that you have requested, my colleagues at the International Center and I share information on trends and technologies that will have an impact on education. Information Technology
High-tech Speech Interpreter Advancements in technology and an ever-expanding global economy have made the world a smaller place. In fact, one of the greatest challenges of communicating with others via computer or the spoken word is the language barrier. IBM researchers are on the verge of overcoming this, however, with a system that translates spoken language on the fly – much like a human interpreter would. IBM has produced a working prototype on a laptop computer that uses speech recognition software to process the spoken word into text and converts the text into a second language. The computer’s text-to-speech technology then “speaks” the translated words. Currently, the software works only for English and Mandarin Chinese – two of the most commonly spoken languages in the world. Another reason that these languages are used is their vast difference in linguistic structure – it provided the ultimate challenge for developers to engineer a valid product. This technology could appear in laptops or personal digital assistants sometime this year. Source: Erika Jonietz, “Automatic Speech Translator,” Technology Review, December 2003/January 2004. For more on the emergence of the Mandarin Chinese language in the global economy, see the article under “Changing Workplace” in this issue of Views You Can Use.
The Latest Advancement in Microchip Technology: Wireless Communication
Computer chips have become so small that the greatest challenge to faster computing is not how many devices can be placed on a chip, but how information can be transferred between chips more quickly. Current technologies use tiny wires that allow information to pass between chips. It is these wires that limit how fast information can travel. Sun Microsystems is engineering a new system that will allow chips to communicate information by merely being near one another. This technology, “capacitive coupling,” allows a charge to skip from one chip to another over the distance of a couple of micrometers. “Proximity communication is essential for the growth of computing,” says Robert Drost, a senior staff engineer at Sun Microsystems. The result of chip-to-chip communication will be a system that is up to 60 times faster than any existing one. Computers installed with this technology could be available within five years. Source: Erika Jonietz, “Chip-to-chip Communications,” Technology Review, December 2003/January 2004. Biotechnology
Connecting the Dots – How Human Biological Molecules Work Together
Systems biology is one of the fastest growing fields to come out of the Human Genome Project. Simply put, systems biology takes a holistic view of what’s going on in the human body at the molecular level. By examining how DNA, RNA, genes, proteins, cells, and tissues work together, scientists hope to answer questions such as why some people get gravely sick when exposed to an infectious agent while others will only experience minor symptoms or none at all. Though system biology is only in its infancy, this field is likely to lead the way in treating or finding cures for the most deadly diseases we know of today, be it cancer, heart disease, or obesity. Source: Jon Cohen “Big-Picture – Biotech,” Technology Review, December 2003/January 2004. Treating Clinical Depression with Magnetic Therapy
Every year, more than 18 million Americans are afflicted with clinical depression. Conventional drugs such as Zoloft and Prozac are a common treatment option, but many people don’t respond well to these medicines. A new type of therapy that is gaining wider use in clinical trials is “transcranial magnetic stimulation.” In this therapy, pulses of magnetic energy are administered with a hand-held device to generate electric currents in specific brain regions. The treatment is administered for a few minutes a day over the course of a few weeks. Though it may take several years to assess how successful magnetic therapy is, it continues to attract the attention of those who fight depression. Source: Gregory T. Huang, “Zapping the Blues,” Technology Review, March 2004. Changing Workplace
Mandarin Chinese Becoming the Next Must-learn Language
“It may be time to brush up on your Mandarin,” advises Stefan Lovgren for National Geographic News. A recent study published in the journal Science shows that the number of people in the world who speak English as a first language is declining. The same study shows that the number of people who speak more than one language is increasing. Though English is expected to remain one of the languages spoken by many bilingual people, Mandarin Chinese is likely to become the next “must-learn” language – especially in Asia. A separate study published in the same issue of Science claims that the presence of English in the scientific arena will continue to expand. Experts warn that the language issue could become divisive within the scientific world community – one that could possibly lead to a “new linguistic order.” David Graddol believes that English will play a major role in a new linguistic order, but its primary role will be to create bilingual and multilingual speakers. "English is becoming a major mechanism for social and economic exclusion and creating new divides," Graddol said. "In many parts of the world, English is now regarded as a basic skill, like computer skills, which children learn at an early age so they can study in English later." Source: Stefan Lovgren, “English in Decline as a First Language, Study Says,” National Geographic News, February 26, 2004. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/02/0226_040226_language.html
Urban Students Improve NAEP Scores
Reading scores of fourth graders on the 2003 National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) are on the increase in some big cities, even as the national average has declined. When disaggregated by economic status and race, students in some urban districts are outperforming their suburban counterparts on certain tests. The message: urban students can compete. Source: Gail Russell Chaddock, “Test Scores Improve in City Schools,” Christian Science Monitor, December 18, 2003 The Model Schools Conference will feature some of the best examples of urban success.
The International Center has joined forces with the Council of Chief State School Officers on a major initiative to analyze the policies, organizational structures, and practices of 30 high schools that have achieved high standards for all students. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is providing financial support. As lead researcher and chief spokesperson, I am happy to present below three central findings from our research.
1. Outstanding student achievement is obtained through a culture that empowers staff and develops their capacity
rather than one that exerts controls over staff.
2. Teachers embrace the concept that “less is more” in terms of the number of standards/topics they attempt to
cover in any course. These schools have a more focused curriculum than many other schools.
3. Staff understand and support the concept of “continuous improvement” for students. Details from this study will be released at the Model Schools Conference in June. www.leadered.com/model_schools.html Please contact Karen Wilkins at my office if you would like me to visit your district to share the results with you and your colleagues.
By the Numbers:
Mandarin Chinese is the world’s most widely spoken language (874 million speakers), with English a distant fourth (341 million speakers). Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu, with 426 million speakers) and Spanish (358 million speakers) are second and third. Source: Ash, Roger, The Top 10 of Everything. Dorling Kindersley, 2003. International Center for Leadership in Education 1587 Route 146 Rexford, NY 12148 518-399-2776
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