The new AP sounds like a good step

Last month the New York Times published a feature on the changes coming to Advanced Placement courses. 1

I finally got around to reading it and found it pretty interesting. They mention the following change, among others, for the biology course and exam:

College Board officials say the new labs should help students learn how to frame scientific questions and assemble data, and the exam will measure how well they can apply those skills…The board plans to cut the number of multiple-choice questions nearly in half on the new test, to 55. It will add five questions based on math calculations, and it will more than double the number of free-response questions, to nine.

It is not a perfect exam but it sounds like a good step forward in many ways.

In the AP U.S. History course I took during my Junior year we had to copy definitions for all the glossary terms to index cards that counted as a significant part of our grade. These index cards then made up a good chunk of the test material for class and, theoretically, the AP exam.

Ultimately I could rattle off dates and dictionary like definitions without really understanding the greater context and relevancy of events. It was nothing like the American History course I took Freshman year in college.

If cutting the number of multiple-choice questions in half means fewer students have to mindlessly re-copy glossary definitions then that’s progress. 2


  1. H/T to Lauren.
  2. Until we have our perfect system that is. 🙂

The Great Cyberheist

The Great Cyberheist. A totally fascinating story about how Albert Gonzalez mislead the United States Secret Service and eventually stole over a hundred million credit cards. He was even able to hack into the point of sale devices used by stores.

The attention-span myth

Virginia Heffernan disputes the traditional notion of an attention-span. Good to see someone confront Nicholas Carr’s notion that technology causes brain damage.

I’m surprised that anyone ventures so far into this thicket of sophistry. I get stuck much earlier in the equation. Everyone has an attention span: really? And really again: an attention span is a freestanding entity like a boxer’s reach, existing independently of any newspaper or chess game that might engage or repel it, and which might be measured by the psychologist’s equivalent of a tailor’s tape?

If material is engaging people will focus on it, regardless of what their supposed attention-spans are.

Making Lunch a Social Networking Game

Combining fast food with social gaming is fascinating, particularly giving restaurant credit as a measure of successful burger ideas. The Bits Blog explains 4Food:

Here’s how it works: I create a burger, call it “The Bits Burger” and broadcast it to Twitter or Facebook. Each time someone orders my special creation, I get 25 cents credit in the restaurant and my burger rises up the leaderboard. The more customers order my burger, the higher it goes and the more credits I get, until I’m eating free.

I Tweet, Therefore I Am…Seriously?

The New York Times published “I Tweet, Therefore I Am” today. It is too bad because I though we were past the days of mainstream media feeling to need to publish something, anything about Twitter.

The fun of Twitter and, I suspect, its draw for millions of people, is its infinite potential for connection, as well as its opportunity for self-expression. I enjoy those things myself. But when every thought is externalized, what becomes of insight? When we reflexively post each feeling, what becomes of reflection? When friends become fans, what happens to intimacy?

If Twitter causes you to externalize every thought and post every feeling you should step back and take a deep breath. For your followers’ sake, put down the tweet button.

On a separate note, we need to stop absolving responsibility by forming broad claims as questions. If you are going to bring those questions up attempt to answer them. Otherwise you are preying on readers who do not know any better.