teachers

Helping teaching assistants switch to CORE

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 13/06/2018 - 8:00pm in

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Blog, teachers

On 4 June Gonzalo Paz Pardo, one of our Postgraduate Teaching Assistants, was one of of only 12 people (and the only teaching assistant) to win a Provost’s Education Award for his work at UCL.

The UCL Education Awards “recognise the work … that has enabled excellent practice or facilitated innovation in teaching and learning”. In Gonzalo’s case they praised his “level of carefulness, empathy and deep regard for the teaching activity,” described him as “a dependable and supportive guide for junior staff and an invaluable contributor”, and called him “a model for all PGTAs at UCL and well beyond.”

Gonzalo has been a teaching assistant on CORE for three years, helping both students and other TAs. He has followed the development of the course at UCL since the first beta units. He has also participated in its development, having probably suggested more corrections and improvements to us than anyone else. He discovered some of them while he was teaching, and sometimes they were found by his eagle-eyed students.

Because many TAs will be teaching CORE for the first time in the next few months, we asked Gonzalo for five tips to help new TAs prepare. Don’t worry if it takes some time to adjust to the new ideas in CORE, he says, it’s the same for everyone who learned their economics from traditional texts. “Every TA I have worked with, including myself, has struggled to explain inflation in this course,” he jokes.

1. Approach the course with an open mind

Many new TAs tie themselves in knots trying to interpret some of CORE’s models using the assumptions and ideas that they were taught when they were taking introductory courses. Gonzalo’s advice is, don’t even try. “Don’t be scared, but it will be very different to the material you’ve used before,” he says, “so think about the economics, don’t try to think about previous models you have studied. Sometimes new students will surprise you because they’re fully on board with the CORE model, whereas people who studied economics before are still trying to put the pieces together.”

2. Read like a first-time student

Before you dive in, it helps, he says, to thoroughly read each unit, and pretend that you are learning for the first time. This helps you prepare for tricky questions. “See it as a first-time student would see it,” Gonzalo says.

3. Learn the labour market model thoroughly

“The treatment of the labour market is challenging, both for students but also for new TAs,” he warns. In Unit 6 CORE has tried to make a more realistic model of the labour market, which is also important in many subsequent units. As the teaching guide to Unit 6 puts it: “Teaching market-clearing labour models has a fundamental problem … In the past we have made the assumption that the market clears in microeconomics, and then generate unemployment either through price controls (such as a minimum wage) or assume some kind of friction like sticky wages in macro models. Neither of these analytical solutions is satisfactory.”

So Gonzalo advises his TAs not to think in terms of traditional labour market models to avoid confusing themselves, and their students. “If you start out drawing curves of labour demand and labour supply, this is where they cross, you’re going to get lost. But in the end the CORE model does work better than standard teaching, because the students are more convinced by it. And we don’t have to tell them that unemployment is caused by the minimum wage.”

4. Be prepared for critical discussion

The course encourages students to look critically at the assumptions in economic models, which can lead to lively tutorials. “When you have a model that is about things like inequality in the world, or even about personal decisions such as how many hours you choose to study, it’s much more open to discussion,” Gonzalo says, “but not everything that any model predicts will be correct, and students will notice this. So ask them what it is in the model that’s missing. I tell them that they can do research on these things.” Having open discussion can also help create understanding, he adds. For example, when working with a group, ask students to explain the model to each other, rather than explaining it to them.

5. Keep the connections in mind

There are common themes running through many units in CORE: the importance of rents, power, or incomplete information, for instance. “But students will be focusing on the unit they have just studied, and if you ask them about something related to it from three weeks ago, they often will have forgotten. When we are studying interest rates for example, we can say to them, this relates to income and substitution effects, and describe those again,” Gonzalo says.

His advice: refer back whenever it’s useful to do so, both to cement what they learned in previous weeks, and make it clear that the new material builds on these ideas. There are many references to previous units in the text, and if TAs email us to be approved as teachers, they can download the teaching guides that explain these links.

… And remember, you’re a team

All of these adjustments are easier if you meet regularly, Gonzalo suggests. UCL’s TAs have a weekly meeting, which some lecturers also attend, to discuss ways to to approach that week’s teaching. At the University of Warwick, TAs and teachers are preparing by holding a reading group. But TAs can also meet informally, he says, for example to practice ways to explain difficult concepts.

Also, soon TAs will also be able to take advantage of CORE Labs, one of our new features for 2018. If you have a question or a problem, simply ask on this shared discussion board, and other TAs or teachers from across CORE can offer ideas or solutions. “Remember,” Gonzalo says, “this is a group effort.”

Gonzalo wasn’t the only member of the CORE community to be recognised in the UCL Awards this year. The Centre for Teaching and Learning in Economics (CTALE), (right) was awarded for its “efforts to encourage cultural change … The team developed a holistic approach and included Faculty, students and the professional services team, where they developed a series of initiatives and innovations to embed active research across all modules.” CTALE has been extremely helpful to CORE, generating support material for teachers, as well as showing us innovative new ways to teach and learn economics.

Gonzalo will be presenting at the RES Nuffield Foundation Workshop: Teaching and Learning with CORE, taking place in Bristol on 18 and 19 June.

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Inspiration for the future in Afghanistan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/06/2018 - 10:58pm in

When Omar Joya joined the faculty at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul in 2017, he realised that the economics in the standard introductory textbooks he started to teach often had little to do with the lives of his students. “The textbooks I was teaching were a long way from reality in countries like Afghanistan. I had to contextualise the lessons, as the textbooks were primarily written for students in the US.”

To create a more relevant curriculum, he switched to teaching CORE’s The Economy as the source text for his students, who study in English for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. “At the moment it is working very well. The level of contextualisation I need to do now is much less. Unit 1, The Capitalist Revolution, in particular works well with our students because it gives them a background in economic history. In other textbooks you don’t get a sense of how countries have evolved, or how we came to have the institutions that economies need to develop.”

AUAF is the only private, not-for-profit, independent university chartered under the Afghan Constitution. The “American” in the title is not about ownership. It comes from the course structure, which echoes that of a US liberal arts college. It was founded in 2006, and aims to prepare its Afghan students “to be tomorrow’s leaders”. Currently just over 1,000 of them are taking degrees, including a large number of female students (there is a female dormitory too). Competition for places, some of which are subsidised by government grants, is fierce.

When he joined the faculty, Joya was already familiar with the country’s economy and culture. He had relocated to Washington DC after five years as the World Bank’s country economist for Afghanistan, a job in which he was working intimately with the government on policy issues and analysis. But he decided he could do more for the future of the country as a teacher than analyst. “Previously when working on policy reforms with the government and the challenges we observed in policy implementation, I sometimes lost my hope. But now I enjoy the teaching, and teaching makes me optimistic for the future of my country.”

Challenging assumptions

Joya studied in France, and the contrast with the classroom culture he found in Kabul surprised him. “In France, students were very quiet. You would only ask a question if it was relevant to the lecture, and you would leave out other questions to after the class. In Afghanistan I expected students to react the same way, but here they ask a lot of questions, which is a good thing.”

What sort of questions? Students would challenge the simplifying assumptions of traditional economic modelling, he says, for example the concept of a perfectly rational, selfish consumer. “They would ask ‘why do we assume this? We don’t see it in reality’. In our lives we consider ethics, altruism and many other factors, which are not taken into account in the standard economic models.” The switch to using The Economy meant that Joya could introduce concepts like inequality and fairness to his teaching –although he still likes to add local context to the examples to make them relevant for Kabul’s students.

His colleague Lutfi Rahimi agrees that more local context helps AUAF students. Rahimi teaches the microeconomics section to first and second years, says that it “covers all aspects that most traditional textbooks miss. All those who had taken beginners economics modules beforehand found the book easier to grasp.” But those who were new to economics found some of the material later in the course harder to understand. His feedback is the same as many of our teachers in developing countries: more localisation helps the students to understand and to learn. (We agree, and we’re working with local teachers in some regions to help develop this type of feature.)

Studying and working in Kabul often presents bigger challenges than the next lecture. “This is a country in conflict, and everyone is at risk,” Joya says. This was brought home to staff and students at the AUAF in August 2016, when suspected members of the Taliban stormed the campus and killed eight university students, three policemen, three security guards, and two university professors. “Life for our students can be difficult,” he admits, “but no one stays at home saying ‘I won’t go to university because of the risks’.”

Afghanistan needs more university education, and more teachers to deliver it. “Transferring my knowledge to others could make a positive impact on the economy,” Joya says, “The biggest challenge for Afghanistan is to have efficient institutions, and therefore we need to have well-educated people working in them. But I see the ambition our students have. It makes me feel inspired for the future.”

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Resilience: Building students to think for themselves

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 02/06/2018 - 3:30pm in

Whenever world class education systems are highlighted, Singapore is always vaunted as a leading light internationally. Their system reliably produces students with good discipline, a ferocious work ethic and good grades. But what if these measurements have been useful but one dimensional? Especially now the world and the workplace have changed? What if the glorification of the academic individual only goes so far and actually service to your community or nation is more useful?

The post Resilience: Building students to think for themselves appeared first on Renegade Inc.

CORE Schools Economics Challenge 2018

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 21/05/2018 - 2:00pm in

The CORE Project, with the help of our partners FT Secondary Schools, is launching the CORE Schools Economics Challenge 2018. We are challenging students in schools across the world to create an accessible and entertaining short video on an economic topic. This year’s theme is:

 “Ten years on from the global financial crisis”

 

If you need inspiration, you can watch the winning entry from our 2017 competition, by The Academy at Penguin Hall. And if you need an incentive, this year, we are offering generous cash prizes and Amazon vouchers to the winners.

The 2018 challenge

Using CORE’s The Economy as a resource, present a three-minute video on the theme: “Ten years on from the global financial crisis”

Be creative! Your entry can combine data, charts, economic analysis or references to the work of a particular economic thinker. To get you started, there are a lot of useful resources on our site, particularly Unit 17 of The Economy.

For this year’s competition CORE has partnered with the Financial Times, and you can also find multiple resources on FT Secondary Schools, (right) which offers “articles to help get ahead in exams and interviews”, and is available free online for 16-19 year olds and their teachers. To get access, there’s a simple sign-up for UK schools here, and for schools elsewhere here.

You will compete for three cash prizes:

  • 1st place: £1,500 for the school and £500 Amazon vouchers for students
  • 2nd place: £750 for the school and £300 Amazon vouchers for students
  • 3rd place: £500 for the school and £200 Amazon vouchers for students

Participating schools may each enter one additional collaborative entry with another local school to compete for a separate prize of £1,500 for the school and £500 Amazon vouchers for students.

The closing date for entries is 1 October 2018. For guidelines, and to find out more detail about the competition, read our Overview and the Terms and conditions documents:

CORE-SEC 2018 Overview

CORE-SEC 2018 Terms and conditions

CORE-SEC 2018 Entry Form

CORE-SEC 2018 Consent Form

 

The post CORE Schools Economics Challenge 2018 appeared first on CORE.

Arizona Strike Enters Second Week As Teacher Union President Opposes Calls For Nationwide Strike

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 04/05/2018 - 12:00am in

On Monday, nearly 50,000 Arizona educators and supporters continued their walkout against underfunded schools and low pay for a third day. Although the teacher unions have done everything to isolate the teachers and wear them down with fruitless appeals to hostile politicians, educators came out to the state capitol in Phoenix en masse Monday to demonstrate their determination as the strike began its second week. Several of the largest districts announced they would remain closed on Tuesday as the Arizona Education Association and the national teacher unions scramble to come up with some justification to end the strike without meeting teachers’ demands, as the unions did in West Virginia and Oklahoma.

Implementing CORE from the bottom up at The University of Warwick

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/04/2018 - 9:55pm in

If you attend our CORE teaching workshop on 8 May, you’ll be sitting next to a team from The University of Warwick (one of its more striking buildings, above), ranked in the world’s top 30 in the QS world university rankings. It is planning to introduce CORE for its joint honours and PPE students. “We already inform some of our teaching with material from The Economy,” says Robin Naylor (right), director of studies for Warwick’s department of economics, “and we think this group of students in particular will benefit from CORE’s approach.”

Changing the curriculum at Warwick is a major undertaking, and much more complex than changing a reading list. The economics department does not follow a conventional three-year structure in its undergraduate degrees. Instead it takes advantage of the quality of its intake to incorporate its introductory, intermediate and advanced courses into two years of study. In the third year, students take elective courses and write a dissertation.

Therefore, any changes to the introductory curriculum need to be carefully planned, because they have knock-on effects. For example, joint honours and single honours students take the same elective courses in year three, so they will need equivalent levels of skill and knowledge. There is no repetition of basic principles of micro and macro, and so any introductory course must teach all the skills the students will need in subsequent years.

That’s why, rather than seek to impose on colleagues what a new curriculum should be, Naylor is seeking volunteers to plan the change among teaching fellows and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). Together, they will define how they would like to teach using The Economy. “I want to avoid the idea that this is a top-down project and that fellow teachers on the course are passive recipients,” he says, “together we will own and shape this.”

Implementation from the bottom up

The process will begin soon with a unit-by-unit reading group for these volunteers. Warwick’s model for introducing CORE will be “bottom up” both in the way it allocates teachers and teaching assistants, and also in how it will structure lectures, workshops and tutorials.

Because the group is self-selecting, it’s reasonable to assume that it will capture the current and future teachers who are motivated by innovation. So, many of its members will become the first teachers and GTAs for the course. “For example, we will need to find eight or nine GTAs who will be delivering workshops to our students. It will be more demanding for them than running workshops using the standard introductory text that they learnt as undergraduates. We want them to be able to have discussions with students, and do more than just go through problem sets,” Naylor explains.

The reading group plans to meet regularly over the summer to discuss how to teach each unit, the challenges and opportunities. This has benefits both to the teachers and the department, Naylor says. For teachers, it familiarises the people who will be delivering the module with the detailed differences between CORE and the syllabus they inherited. For the department, it provides reassurance that the change will cause the least disruption, and that integration with the existing course in year two has been thought through. This planning process will also include students, although the department hasn’t decided yet how that will happen.

Naylor says that the bottom-up approach builds skills and learning in a way that a top-down imposition of a new curriculum, however good its content, could not. “We want to do this in a collegial way,” he says, “The composition of this group will mostly be the younger members of the faculty and PhD students, and they are leading it. We are sure that the best way to introduce CORE is using horizontal teamwork and group learning.”

 

The post Implementing CORE from the bottom up at The University of Warwick appeared first on CORE.

Fresh audio product

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 20/04/2018 - 6:38am in

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Radio, teachers

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

April 19, 2018 Kate Doyle Griffiths on teachers’ strikes and the crisis in social reproduction • Thea Riofrancos and Daniel Denvir on Yascha Mounck and liberal derangement syndrome

Trump Wants to Arm Teachers: This is Joke from the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 12:49am in

Trump is apparently serious about arming teachers to protect them from another school shooting. The best solution obviously would be to restrict firearm ownership, so that people couldn’t get their mitts on powerful submachine guns, especially not criminals and murderous nutters. As for teachers with guns, I’m reminded of the Boomtown Rats old hit, ‘Tell Me Why I Don’t Like Mondays’. It was based on a real incident, where a teacher came in and shot down her class. When she was asked by the police why she did it, she simply replied ‘I don’t like Mondays’.

In fact, Douglas Adams was making jokes about arming teachers with guns as long ago as the 1980s, in the third book of his Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I’m afraid it’s so long ago since I read it, that I can’t remember what it was called. But I do remember it involved Ford and Arthur going off to investigate the re-emergence of a savagely xenophobic and militaristic race, the Armourfiends of somewhere-or-other – I’ve forgotten the rest of their name. These people are so mad keen on war and weaponry, that certain professions are armed because of their work. This includes teachers.

What started as a joke by Adams’ is now being promoted as serious government policy by Trump. Somewhere up there, Adams must be having a very dry, ironic laugh. Always supposing that heaven exists, and the Good Lord will let militant atheists in.

Chunky Mark on Toby Young’s Attendance at a Eugenics Conference

In this short clip, Chunky Mark, the artist taxi driver, expresses his absolute disgust at a report that Toby Young, the grotty right-wing hack Theresa May put on the regulatory board for the universities, attended a secret eugenics conference recently at University College London. What, he asks pointedly, does this say about the Tory party? He points out that Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Jo Johnson, Fraser Nelson and Andrew Neil all defended Young, despite knowing about his foul and dangerous views on this subject.

Up to this video, I was prepared to give Young the benefit of the doubt on eugenics. Yes, he’s an obnoxious, right-wing snob, who’s published pieces sneering at the working class, disabled people and a variety of left-wing issues and causes. This includes the Welsh. I can remember him appearing on one of the TV shows a few years ago describing how he had to sneak out the back way when he appeared on Welsh radio in Cardiff. Young had previously described the Welsh as ‘swarthy, stunted trolls’ or something similar, and one of the station’s listeners had decided that he wasn’t going to put up with it, and had come in to sort the wretched hack out. So Young was forced to scurry down the back stairs to avoid him and a good hiding.

I knew from the various articles on Young, including those put up by Mike over at Vox Political, that he had published a piece arguing for eugenics. This is the pseudoscientific doctrine that some people are biologically unfit, and to maintain the purity and fitness of the race should be prevented from breeding. It was a part of Nazi policy during the Third Reich, when recidivist criminals and the congenitally disabled were sterilised, in order to prevent them passing on their bad biological heritage. It was also the rationale behind the murder of the disabled under Aktion T4, in which the mentally handicapped were taken to special hospitals and gassed by Nazi doctors under the direction of the SS. The Nazis based much of their eugenics legislation on contemporary laws governing biological heredity and disability in America, which provided for the forcible sterilisation of those considered ‘unfit’. Indeed, the Nazis boasted that in this regard, they had not invented anything. Similar views were held by a number of people over this side of the Pond, where eugenics was, in the early part of the 20th century, one of the popular topics among the chattering classes. The Nazis’ crimes against humanity and their mass sterilisation and murder of the disabled, as well as their attempted genocide of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other ethnic groups they considered subhuman, were no doubt powerful influences that turned popular and elite opinion against eugenics. Nevertheless, the subject continued to survive amongst a group of supporters. The ‘societies and clubs’ section of Whitaker’s Almanac for 1987 includes the Francis Galton Society, named after Darwin’s cousin, who first promoted the idea, and which existed to promote eugenics.
I’d assumed, however, that when he published the article, Young may not have been entirely serious.

I was wrong.

Young strikes me as little more than a troll, adopting deliberately offensive views and language, in order to upset people. Sort of like Milo Yiannopolis, but heterosexual and without the Jewish heritage. I did wonder if he was one of those Tories, who admire Auberon Waugh, who used to publish similar articles in Private Eye and then the Torygraph sneering at the left, in what was seen by his admirers as some kind of wit. In fact, precious little of what Waugh seemed to me to be at all witty. It mostly seemed to be just abuse. I particularly remember his sneers at teachers in the Torygraph, which in retrospect just followed the Tory line of blaming teachers for everything wrong with British education while screaming loudly about progressive education, left-wing indoctrination and the need to bring back grammar schools. He also appeared on Wogan’s chat show, where he also spewed hate at the Greenham Common female peace protesters, decrying them as ‘lesbians’. Which wasn’t even the most original insult, as just about everyone on the right was claiming they were. Some may well have been, but certainly not all. Especially as some of the early news reports described how many of the women had children, whom they were missing terribly, and so presumably also male partners. I’d assumed Young had adopted eugenics as just another extreme, right-wing pose in order to cause the upset and anger that he appears to thrive on.

But it’s clearly not the case. If he attended this conference, then he really does believe it. Which makes him a positive danger. From the article as it appears in the video, it seems that the report comes from Private Eye, and Chunky Mark states that he can’t even read about some of the things that went on at the conference. But Young was there, along with Nazis and other horrors. As for what it says about the Tory party and its leadership, there always has been a current of extreme right-wing attitudes and policies within the Tory party, and it’s certainly been no barrier to advancement in the Tory ranks. Way back in the 1970s Thatcher’s mentor, Keith Joseph, caused outrage when he declared that unmarried mothers were a threat to ‘our stock’, using the language and attitudes of eugenics. And there has been a fringe of the Tory party that admires and has had links with the Fascist right. Way back in the 1980s one of the Libertarian groups within the Tory party held an annual dinner at which the guest of honour was the head of one of the death squads then exterminating left-wingers in Central America. One of the members of that group, if I recall correctly, was Paul Staines, the founder of the Guido Fawkes blog.

Young has since resigned from his position on the universities’ board, despite being loudly supported by Theresa May. His appointment was, in any case, a calculated insult to students. Young was put in because he favours the privatisation of education, as shown by his promotion of free schools. As for his other, obnoxious views, I’ve no doubt that they appeal to the type of grassroots Tory, including those on the backbenches, who regularly cause a scandal by blaming crime on Blacks and immigration, and rant on about how wonderful Enoch Powell was. At a time when students are worried about paying off tens of thousands in debts and tuition fees, Young and his grotesque opinions were a calculated insult. They showed the Tory faithful the absolute contempt the party really had for these pesky students and their concerns over the quality of the education they were receiving, and the determination of May’s government to continue privatising education and stamping out any trace of perceived left-wing bias, regardless of the wishes of students, lecturers and educationalists themselves. All done so that universities, like schools, would indoctrinate students with the required Tory view of history and politics, as demanded by Michael Gove, amongst others.

Young’s appointment was met with a barrage of complaints and opposition, leading to his resignation. It’s significant that he was not replaced by Theresa May, despite considerable pressure to do so. Some of this may have been weakness on her part. Young was supported by Gove and Johnson, and she may have been afraid that if she sacked Young, those two would move against her, just as they intrigued against Cameron. But it also shows that May, and the rest of the Tory front bench, really don’t see anything wrong with Young’s opinions, even when they include such an inflammatory, dangerous ideology as eugenics.

Chunky Mark ends his video by stating that they should all resign. He’s quite right. This is a brutal, murderous government anyway. It’s policies of stripping away workers rights, enforcing low pay, and zero hours contracts, have forced millions in work into poverty. At the same time, their expansion of the sanctions system have resulted in nearly a quarter of a million people relying on food banks for their next meal, and has led to the deaths of almost a thousand or so disabled people, deprived of benefits after being declared ‘fit for work’. Left-wing commenters like Mike, and the commenters on his and my blogs have called the deaths ‘the genocide of the disabled’, and suggested that it does indeed come from a conscious eugenics policy by the Tories, targeting the disabled for death. But done quietly, so as not to alarm the general public. After reading about Young’s very real support for eugenics, you could be forgiven for wondering if this isn’t, after all, the literal truth.

The Tories are a danger to the working people of Britain, and particularly to the poor and disabled. They should be removed as quickly as possible, and never let back into power.

Share and Enjoy! The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Predicted the Tutorbot

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 29/12/2017 - 5:52am in

‘Share and enjoy’ is the company motto of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, a massive robotics conglomerate best known for its incompetence and shoddy workmanship in Douglas Adams’ Science Fiction classic, The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The company and its products are so substandard, that its complaints division now occupies the major landmasses of three whole planets.

And while, according to Adams, the great Encyclopedia Galactica defined a robot as a machine designed to do the work of a man, the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as ‘your plastic pal who’s fun to be with’.

And we’re coming closer to that reality every day. Yesterday and today, BBC 2 have been running a short documentary series, Six Robots and Us, in which six families and other groups of people take care of six robots designed to help them with their particular problems. One of these is Fitbot, a robotic fitness instructor, which was given to a group of people trying to get fit. In tonight’s episode, the people of a shop take custody of Shopbot, are robotic store worker, to see how they get on. And there are two children with learning difficulties, one of whom is autistic, who are given Tutorbot, to see if it can help them overcome their difficulties at school.

Douglas Adams predicted something very similar in the Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy way back in the ’70s-80s. In the second series of the radio version of Hitch-Hiker, there’s a device called an autoteach, a kind of computer teacher. It gives the student facts, and then starts asking questions to get the student to think through the issues. If the student gets an answer right, they get to press a button on the autoteach, which stimulates their pleasure centres. And at the end of the lesson, after the students has laughed and screamed with pleasure when they get the answers right, the autoteach asks them to press the other button. This give the autoteach itself a dose of pure pleasure, so that part of the story ends with the autoteach laughing like a maniac.

Ok, so Tutorbot, with its humanoid shape isn’t quite like that, and it doesn’t electronically stimulate the pleasure centres, mercifully. But the idea’s more or less the same: an intelligent machine to teach children.

As for the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation, the Hitch-Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy defined them as ‘a bunch of mindless jerks, who will be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.’

I didn’t see all of yesterday’s edition, because I went to bed early due to this cold. The next programme is on tonight, 28th December 2017, at 8.30. Aside from the cold, what went through my mind while watching the programme was all the jokes in Hitch-Hiker about the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.

Here’s a clip from YouTube from the 80s TV version of Hitch-Hiker, where the Book talks about the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation and robots.