Google Reader

google reader

Just a very quick reminder that if you follow this blog’s RSS feed using Google Reader, it will be switched off on Monday.

I’m disappointed, as I find it a really useful tool, but I have found two passable alternatives:

Feedly
Digg Reader

I’ve also been changing over to following blogs through email subscription. Please consider doing that by signing up in the box on the top right.

More teaching stuff next week!

Online news site for English learners

newsinlevels logo

Finally, a post about teaching ๐Ÿ™‚

I found a nice online news site this week, and have been trying it with some of my classes. I’m going to introduce the site’s functionality, my experience of using it, and then evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of using the site.

ย Functionality

The News in Levels website features news stories written specially for learners of English. They have three or four versions of each story (from basic or easy to more challenging), along with a video. The stories are interesting and the various difficulty levels are useful.

My experience

I used the site with some junior high school and high school classes. After choosing a story, I had students read level one and answered their questions. They we read level two together. Finally we watched the video. It was a quick and successful lesson with several groups. The site also worked well with individual students.

Good and bad points

Good:

  • interesting stories
  • good presentation
  • texts and video
  • a large number of stories on the site
  • free

Bad:

  • many of the texts have mistakes/typos. Missing words, spelling mistakes, strange phrasing. It would be safest to check everything first, although this could also result in some teaching moments
  • the leveling isn’t always great. Sometimes the same sentences are used in two different levels
  • prominent advertising throughout the site

Overall

I liked this site very much. I think it has a lot of potential as long as teachers and learners are aware of the shortcomings. Could be a good resource to allow learners to move on to higher-level texts. Worth a look.

If you have any other good websites you can recommend, please leave a comment below ๐Ÿ™‚

TED Talk: What will future jobs look like?

Here’s an optimistic TED talk on yesterday’s topic (thanks Tom!).

A future with no jobs -the most important social issue of our times?

wasteland

I think the most important scientific issues of our times are climate change, energy sufficiency, and environmental pollution, but I believe that these will be solved by technology within my lifetime.

Recently, I have been reading a lot about a problem that will be caused by technological advances.

I read two books: Race Against the Machine ($3.99 on Kindle) and The Lights in the Tunnel ($3.95 on Kindle). They are both incredibly thought-provoking, and tell the same story: we are approaching a future without jobs.

Technological advances are resulting in more and more jobs being automated. Looking around me here in Japan I have seen petrol stations (self-service), restaurants (order from a touch panel) and supermarkets (self-checkout) directly replace workers with machines.

Amazon has replaced countless shops, and is in the process of automating their warehouses.

The latest thing in education is Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), allowing one teacher to deliver content to tens of thousands of students.

Foxconn, the company that assembles iPhones in China, is currently replacing it’s workers with robots.

Google’s driverless cars will eliminate taxi drivers, delivery drivers, and eventually driving schools, traffic police, and even street signs.

Increasingly sophisticated computer hardware and software will replace legal researchers, translators, middle managers, medical technicians, surgeons, and other knowledge workers.

So, as technology continues to improve at exponential rates, and human workers for jobs at both the blue- and white-collar levels continue to become surplus to requirements, what are people going to do? Are we going to have societies where 60%+ of the population are on welfare?

It’s terrifying.

I think I’m probably going to be okay, as I work in a public university in Japan (possibly one of the last sectors to face automation). Even so, I would be surprised if my job still existed in 15 years time.

One possible positive to come out of this is that Japan’s extreme demographics may turn out to be a blessing. When there is no need for a workforce, and unemployed people are a drag on society, a falling population could become an advantage.

Am I overreacting? This seems like the issue of our times, as it is going to result in huge changes to our social and economic systems, but it doesn’t seem to be part of public discourse.

I look forward to your comments ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Priorities

realization

As I was cycling to work today, I realised that my priorities are not the things I am spending time on.

I need to make some changes.

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