Category Archives: Education

Informe de PISA 2012

Esta semana la OCDE (Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económicos, OECD en sus siglas en inglés), una organización compuesta por 34 estados mayormente desarrollados, ha publicado su ya famoso informe PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2012. En el último estudio las pruebas se centraban en las matemáticas:

“Las pruebas de PISA son aplicadas cada tres años. Examinan el rendimiento de alumnos de 15 años en áreas temáticas clave y estudian igualmente una gama amplia de resultados educativos, entre los que se encuentran: la motivación de los alumnos por aprender, la concepción que éstos tienen sobre sí mismos y sus estrategias de aprendizaje. Cada una de las tres evaluaciones pasadas de PISA se centró en un área temática concreta: la lectura (en 2000), las matemáticas (en 2003) y las ciencias (en 2006); siendo la resolución de problemas un área temática especial en PISA 2003. El programa está llevando a cabo una segunda fase de evaluaciones en el 2009 (lectura), 2012 (matemáticas) y 2015 (ciencias).”

Como muchos de los informes de la OCDE, el volumen y la profundidad de los análisis es admirable. Se ofrecen todo tipo de tablas comparativas, las preguntas que los alumnos debían responder, gráficos interactivos, etc. El informe ofrece también una nota sobre los resultados en España [PDF, 395KB]; una lectura muy interesante que paso a comentar, después de dejar un par de imágenes que resumen la situación:

  • Resultados de España:
    • Matemáticas: ocupa según el ránking [PDF, 1MB] la posición 33ª de entre 70 países del informe, con un resultado medio de 484 frente a 494 de la media de la OCDE (en una horquilla de entre 368 y 613). Un 23,6% de los alumnos obtiene un bajo rendimiento y solo un 8% un rendimiento excelente.
    • Lectura y ciencias: los resultados (488 y 496) son también inferiores a la media de la OCDE (496 y 501).
  • En España no faltan recursos (casi 60.000€ / alumno), ni profesores, ni horas de clase.
  • La diferencia de resultados entre regiones es abismal [PDF, 3MB], de hasta 55 puntos entre Navarra (517 puntos, lo que le situaría en el puesto 15º del ránking de países) y Extremadura (461). Las condiciones socio-económicas explican en más de un 85% estas diferencias. En un alumno de 15 años, este retraso entre regiones supone el equivalente a 16 meses de escolarización.
  • Crece la desigualdad: los desfavorecidos económicamente, los inmigrantes, las chicas y los repetidores se encuentran peor que hace una década.
  • Solo un 8% de los alumnos obtiene un rendimiento excelente (frente al 13% en OCDE) y solo un 6% de los más desfavorecidos es capaz de obtener resultados mejores a los que cabría esperar de su situación.
  • Sobre los alumnos:
    • Están motivados pero les falta confianza al enfrentarse a las matemáticas.
    • Falta puntualidad (35% reconoce haber llegado tarde en los días anteriores al estudio) y hay un gran absentismo (un 32% se había saltado una clase y un 28% faltado un día en las semanas previas al estudio; frente a 18% y 15% OCDE), lo que de por sí explica prácticamente el retraso en matemáticas, dado que el absentismo se asocia con hasta 37 puntos en el resultado (equivalente a un año de escolarización).
  • Sobre los profesores:
    • Falta motivación (un 25% de los alumnos acude a centros donde los profesores están desmotivados, frente a 10% OCDE).
    • Faltan evaluaciones a los profesores y no tienen consecuencias (salario, desarrollo, promociones, reconocimiento público, asunción de nuevos roles…).
    • Se resisten al cambio (29% frente a 19% OCDE), lo que dificulta el aprendizaje.
    • Son poco colaboradores: solo un 10% de los estudiantes acude a centros donde profesores más experimentados observan las clases de otros profesores (frente a 69%), solo un 22% revisa y planifica los contenidos con otros profesores (frente a 60%) y no se usan las tutorías (26% frente a 72%).
    • Son poco abiertos a mejoras: solo un 27% de alumnos acude a centros que piden ayuda externa para mejorar (frente a 43%)
  • Falta transparencia: solo un 13% de los alumnos acude a centros que publican sus resultados (frente a 43%) o comparan sus resultados con otros centros (44% frente a 62%).

Entrando en profundidad, el informe PISA incluye hasta 4 volúmenes con cientos de páginas cada uno analizando los siguientes asuntos (en inglés y de lectura gratuita en línea):

Estos informes deberían ser el punto de partida de cualquier política de educación que busque mejorar la pobre situación actual en España.

Por último, tenía curiosidad por ver qué tipo de preguntas se les hacen a los alumnos. Éstas vienen clasificadas en 6 niveles de dificultad. Incluyo debajo un caso de mayor dificultad:

PISA 2012 question 6

PISA 2012 pregunta 6.

Siempre me ha llamado la atención la cantidad de periodistas, tertulianos y adultos en general que se apresuran a criticar el bajo nivel de la educación que reciben los alumnos hoy en día. Viendo los resultados del informe PISA, parecen tener razón. Quería incluir aquí esta pregunta, porque estoy razonablemente seguro de que no más de un 8% de esos periodistas, tertulianos y adultos en general serían capaces de responder a esta pregunta correctamente. Aún así, viven en la creencia de que ellos sí recibieron una educación de calidad (ni que hablar de que la superaron satisfactoriamente).

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Encuentro Anual Antiguos Alumnos EOI (2013)

El pasado martes 17 de septiembre tuvo lugar el Encuentro Anual Antiguos Alumnos EOI (la escuela de negocios Escuela de Organización Industrial), con el lema “El Éxito es la Cooperación”. Dado que esa tarde estaba en Madrid, acudí al evento con un amigo y mi hermano, todos antiguos alumnos de la escuela.

La velada estuvo animada y presentada por el mago Luis Boyano quien hizo las delicias del público y sobretodo ayudó a animar el ambiente al principio.

Seguidamente, hubo tiempo para un par de discursos institucionales por parte del director de la escuela y del presidente del Club EOI (la asociación de antiguos alumnos), Fernado Moroy. Fernando destacó algunos puntos interesantes que hacen fuerte a una escuela: la formación continua, fomentar la empleabilidad de sus (ex-)alumnos, crear comunidad y la excelencia de sus (ex-)alumnos; además de la simbiosis Escuela – Asociación de Antiguos Alumnos. En todos esos aspectos teníamos la impresión de que la Escuela trabaja bien, y, sin embargo, queda la sensación de que falta algo (¿qué? y ¿cómo conseguirlo?). Por otro lado, tras la conferencia nos confirmó que el club cuenta en la actualidad con más de 4.000 socios, de entre los aproximadamente 50.000 alumnos que han pasado por sus clases desde su fundación en 1955.

Antes de la conferencia se dieron también premios a dos antiguos alumnos por su trayectoria y a una empresa por su compromiso con la formación. De entre los alumnos destacaré a Elena Mayoral (ingeniero aeronáutico por la ETSI Aeronáuticos de Madrid) por ser la primera mujer directora del aeropuerto de Madrid-Barajas en su historia (desde el pasado 1 de abril de 2013). No tiene una papeleta fácil (como tuiteé pocos días antes y sin conocer que se iba otorgar este premio):

Y finalmente, la velada llegó al momento más esperado: la conferencia de Emilio Duró, economista que últimamente se ha venido especializando como consultor, conferenciante sobre motivación, felicidad, etc. Existen multitud de vídeos suyos en internet (más abajo enlazo uno). El mensaje de Emilio viene a decir que no desaprovechemos el tiempo, que somos dueños de nuestros estados de ánimo, que busquemos razones y situaciones que nos permitan ser más felices. Para ello comienza con un repaso sobre su vida (riéndose de sí mismo), se apoya en algunas estadísticas de estudios (que no termina de citar), comenta anécdotas y relatos de terceras personas (como la historia relatada por el prisionero en un campo de concentración, durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, Victor Frankl, descrita en su libro “Man’s Search for Meaning” o la vivida por Ric Elias durante los minutos previos al amerizaje de su avión en el río Hudson – vídeo enlazado debajo), usa una gran variación vocal y utiliza todo el espacio a su alrededor, además de interactuar con la audiencia. La conferencia se extiende entre 40 minutos y más de una hora, pero se hace muy amena, además de dejar varias perlas para recordar:

  • “En ningún funeral se ha visto un camión de la mudanza tras el coche fúnebre.”
  • “La vida cambia en un instante y no nos damos cuenta. Los planes no sirven. Nunca pospongas nada porque puede no llegar.”
  • “La primera causa de la infelicidad es la memoria. Borradlo todo.”
  • “Y resulta que con todo lo grande que es el universo, Dios o quien sea se dedica a recoger marrones por el mismo para soltártelos a ti… no será que el marrón eres tú.”

Y termina su charla dando los siguiente consejos para ser más felices: hacer deporte (para mejorar el estado físico), tener contacto físico con otras personas (especialmente cuando son menores de 3 años), compartir (ser altruista), seguir aprendiendo (no dejar de estudiar cosas nuevas) y ponerle pasión a la vida.

Vídeo resumen del encuentro (1h49’18”):

Vídeo con la charla TED de Ric Elias, “3 cosas que aprendí mientras mi avión se estrellaba” (5’03”):

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Certificate from Stanford Venture Lab

In a previous post I discussed about online education. Among the final reflections that I shared, one was about the certificates:

Certificates: all three courses are not official Stanford courses, though the instructors send a “Statement of Accomplishment” after satisfactory performance and completion of the course. I guess that with time more institutions will go towards this model. I even think that official certificates will be delivered for these kind of online education.

I have started to receive the certificates from those courses that I completed. The first one in arriving was from “A Crash Course on Creativity“. Note that in fact it is called “Certificate of Accomplishment”, not being an official certificate from Stanford:

Statement of Accomplishment of "A Crash Course on Creativity", Stanford Venture Lab.

Statement of Accomplishment of “A Crash Course on Creativity”, Stanford University Venture Lab.

You may note the remark at the bottom of the certificate:

PLEASE NOTE: SOME ONLINE COURSES MAY DRAW ON MATERIAL FROM COURSES TAUGHT ON CAMPUS BUT THEY ARE NOT EQUIVALENT TO ON-CAMPUS COURSES. THIS STATEMENT DOES NOT AFFIRM THAT THIS STUDENT WAS ENROLLED AS A STUDENT AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY IN ANY WAY. IT DOES NOT CONFER A STANFORD UNIVERSITY GRADE, COURSE CREDIT OR DEGREE, AND IT DOES NOT VERIFY THE IDENTITY OF THE STUDENT.

Some more questions to debate:

  • Would that stop you from taking a course?
  • If you had not completed some other studies before: would you go for these courses? Would you build your student records based on this kind of certificates?
  • If you were an employer: would you recruit somebody which key skill was acquired through such kind of course? (“it does not verify the identity of the student”)

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Wild brainstorming (about sleep deprivation)

One of the exercises of the online course I took, A Crash Course on Creative Thinking, was related to brainstorming. Within groups we were supposed to tackle the problem of sleep deprivation, “Not getting enough sleep”.

Those who know me are aware that I tend to sleep between 4 and 6 hours on week days, rarely more, thus I could easily relate to the topic of the exercise, but I had never seen it like a problem. It is more like I viewed sleeping time as time not dedicated to doing something else, to accumulating experiences…

The thing I liked more about the exercise was the challenge posed by the teacher, Tina Seelig, “your team should submit at least 100 solutions for the problem you are solving”. So there we were, having to come up not with few solutions to a problem we didn’t even see as a problem but having to provide at least 100 solutions to it! I loved it.

In the course Technology Entrepreneurship we had done an exercise to facilitate brainstorming by intentionally looking for the worst business ideas. Coming up with the wildest ideas, ideas that we knew would not work. In this same course on creativity we had to produce a video connecting and combining different objects to create a new sport (see the video here). So with these ideas, looking for the wildest, even worst ideas, connecting and combining them, we launched ourselves into the brainstorming…

Setting the target in 100, a wild absurdly high number, made it even easier than if we had been asked for 10 solutions, which would have probably led ourselves directly into evaluating ideas as they came in order to keep only the best ones.

See the result in the following Prezi prepared by Luis, one of the team members:

Fruitful day, good night sleep

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Online education

At the beginning of the year I started some online courses: Coding with Codecademy, Valuation and Corporate Finance with Coursekit (which was later acquired by Lore), and Game Theory and Model Thinking with Coursera.

Together with other life and work commitments, it became tough to follow the courses and in the end I dropped them.

In autumn I received an email from a friend pointing to another online course: “Finance” from Venture Lab platform. I took a look at it… In the end I subscribed to 3 course from that platform: “Finance”, “Technology Entrepreneurship” and “A Crash Course on Creative Thinking”.

They were simultaneous and finishing them has been quite challenging; but this time, yes, I completed all of them.

I wanted to share with you some thoughts about the courses:

Finance: we could say that this was the more boring course for the general public (even though 32,500 students from all over the world subscribed to it… I don’t know how many completed it, probably less than 10%). It started with basic theory of interest and time value of money to get more into the fine details of term structure, building bond portfolios, risk measures, CAPM.

Every week there were about 1h30′ of videos to watch (some quite dull) and exercises to complete (not so easy to solve). On top of that, at mid-way through the course there was a project on bond portfolio (term structure calculation, immunization against rates changes, portfolio building) to be completed between teams.

Team working with different time-zones proved difficult in this project. But the possibility to discuss ideas and results, coupled with the online forum with dozens of students posting questions, problems, hints, etc., proved very valuable for the learning process.

A part from that, there was a textbook (“Investment Science” [PDF, 7MB], by David G. Luenberger) that could be consulted and, of course, Google ready to be posed all kinds of questions.

What did I learn? On the finance side: CAPM, time value of money, etc., were things I had already studied in the past, but not so the term structure, immunization and creation of bond portfolios, the detail and theory behind CAPM, etc. Other take away has been learning to use Microsoft Excel Solver Add-in to solve systems of equations (I hadn’t use it in the past).

Technology Entrepreneurship: Above 34,600 people from all corners of the world subscribed to this course. So many people with good ideas dream with setting up a company. I believe that is the best thing out of this course. You can feel the energy and passion in some of the teams.

The course consists of some weekly videos by the instructor (Chuck Eesley) and some assignment. The videos are great. Full of models, studies, cases, interviews to entrepreneurs, VCs, etc. Very rich content can be found there. The whole set of videos is available in Youtube, starting with the first video here.

This course was 100% practical and very fast-paced. You had to form a team and really get into launching a real product if you wanted to get the best out of the course. Assignments were due very one or two weeks, and included creating a business model canvas, identifying an opportunity, building a low-fidelity prototype of the product, testing the value proposition with customers, building a higher fidelity prototype, creating a marketing page and testing it… At the end of the course mentors for the team were also available.

Our team started out quite well. We all had a similar idea and completed the first steps (I posted about it), but later on we lost some momentum. It was a pity, but it also reflect how difficult is to form and work in a team in a start-up, especially as we were not seeing each other (based in the USA, France and UK). I guess that is one take-away of the course. Another lesson is related to the time you’re willing to commit to it. If carrying out the exercises took some time, starting a company will be a totally different undertaking… a full-time job.

From this perspective, it is good also the last assignment of the course, the “Personal Business Plan”. With it you can reflect on personal priorities, what you’re willing to do, how do you see yourself in some years time, etc.

A Crash Course on Creative Thinking: As I already explained in a previous post, I joined this course because I thought it could be fun and it consisted mainly on forcing yourself to be creative, to do things that you would normally never do. I was surprised to see that almost 41,600 students subscribed to it (more than to any of the previous 2 courses.

This course was light on videos and reading materials. It mainly consisted on completing the assignments. For that you had to break your comfort zone some times and always be on the look out for ideas. Some of the exercises included: observation of shops, filming a video combining objects to create a new sport, brainstorming for 100 solutions to a given problem, creating stories…

What did I learn? From the learning side I could mention the innovation engine model of the instructor,  Tina Seelig, or the 6 thinking hats from de Bono. But more important than that was the idea of combining solutions, setting wild objectives such as coming up not with 10 ideas, but 100!

General reflections:

  • Videos need to be engaging. It would be also good if the materials were available for reading in all cases.
  • Team working proved difficult online: different time zones, tight deadlines, not being able to meet each other…
  • Feedback from other students: some exercises required other groups to rate your work. This was a two-sided sword. Sometimes you would get good insightful comments and others a bad rating without feedback.
  • Time: “online” doesn’t mean easy, nor short, quick… If there are exercises to complete, videos to film and edit, projects to prepare… it will require time (the same as if the instruction was given offline).
  • Certificates: all three courses are not official Stanford courses, though the instructors send a “Statement of Accomplishment” after satisfactory performance and completion of the course. I guess that with time more institutions will go towards this model. I even think that official certificates will be delivered for these kind of online education.
  • Market place: One of the courses included a survey after course completion. Among the questions two caught my attention: they were related to the reasons behind having taken the course. Was it the topic only? The teacher? The institution? Once you can have access to the best teachers, the best universities, the most innovative courses from your home, some things will change. When laboratories or practical exercises are still needed the old system may still have an edge. But who would pay thousands of dollars to study finance from the best Harvard teacher when you can get it free from Stanford or Columbia. The certificate, yes… and what is more: what will be the place in this market for smaller universities without a name in the global market place?

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Wine app (technology entrepreneurship)

If yesterday, I shared with you a video I made for a course on creativity, today I wanted to share: Wine app.

Some of you have already heard about it: another course I am taking from Stanford University Venture Lab is “Technology Entrepreneurship” (taught by Chuck Eesley). As part of it, we have been teaming in groups. In each of the groups we are studying the viability of some product or service. In our case: a wine app.

You may see a presentation with the features we have in mind.

As part of the project we are carrying a survey, which many of you already received and quite some of you have answered (a big thanks!). If you haven’t, please take 3 minutes to help us with it.

I will keep you updated. Especially if we do come up with such an app :-).

This is the second season of this online course in Venture Lab. If you are only interested in the content of the lectures and not so much in learning process of working on the assignments, you may find the collection of videos here.

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Hotel Room Sports (Creativity)

At the beginning of the year, as a yearly goal I decided to keep on learning new things. One of the actions I took was signing up for some courses (in Coursera platform).

The courses were great, the way of learning is very encouraging: with videos, small and bigger assignments, online forums, students from all over the world helping each other, aspiring career starters and retired people wanting to learn something new together in a global class.

I followed them for some weeks but finally I was unable to keep up with them and dropped. I felt frustrated for that.

Some weeks ago a friend forwarded some information about some other online course from Stanford University Venture Lab. I decided to follow a couple of them, including “A Crash Course on Creativity” taught by Tina Seelig.

Those of you who know me well might think “a course on creativity, how unlikely of Javier?”. Well, I decided to join it because I thought it could be fun… and some of the assignments are fun!

In this post I wanted to first raise awareness of this kind of free education and, secondly, to share the video I took last weekend in Seville for an assignment. Enjoy:

What was the assignment about?

“Your challenge is to use TWO HOUSEHOLD ITEMS of any type – to come up with a brand new SPORT. Use your creativity to generate something you have never seen before.

 You will be evaluated on your creativity and presentation. Deliver a drawing, photo, or video demonstrating the sport. Feel free to include a short description.”

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Visiting the CERN & Higgs boson

I visited the CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), in Geneva, some months ago (I already wrote some posts about two of its museums: Patek Philippe & Science). The CERN and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have been widely in the media lately due to the detection of the Higgs boson.

The visit was very interesting despite of the fact of not being able to descend into the under ground to see the tunnels that appear in the media so often. In fact, as we were informed by the researcher who guided our visit, all those images are from archives as at the moment radiation down there is high due to the experiments and no one can get down, everything is controlled from above the ground, being this monitoring room the closest you can get (including researchers from ATLAS, pictured in the photos).

ATLAS monitoring room

ATLAS monitoring room

As I said, tours and explanations were given by researchers contributing some of their time to science outreach: I found that fantastic, even if to some eyes the discourse might seem dull. To complement the visit some videos were displayed and I collected some brochures, that I have scanned and can now share in the blog (you see how timely the visit was!). If you are interested in the brochures, click on the links and you can retrieve them from Google docs:

Guided visits are free of charge but limited in number and group size, thus you need to make a reservation prior to going there. Needless to say that I strongly recommend the visit.

By the way, I’ve seen in many places people criticizing the Higgs boson nick as “God Particle”. The explanation is simple and funny and can be found here.

The book in which this nick first appeared, “The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question?” is a tremendous piece of divulgative physics by the physicist Leon Lederman. I loved it because of the anecdotes he explains of his experiments, the humour he uses and the passion he transmits. I recommended this book once five years ago in Toastmasters, got it borrowed by a member and returned it after a week: “Javier, it’s not *that* easy, funny and entertaining” (obviously the person didn’t read more than 5% of it). Nevertheless, I continue to recommend it, especially if you know some teenager thinking about studying Physics.

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Wooden aircraft, cloth wings and pressure

Most of you, the readers of this blog, probably know that an airplane flies due to the difference in pressure between the upper (extrados) and lower (intrados) sides of its wing. This difference in pressure is due to the difference velocity of the airflow around both sides of the wing as you may see in the picture below:

Airflow around an airfoil (image from the Wikipedia, by Kraainnest).

As the speed above the wing is much higher, the difference in the pressure is mainly due to the lower pressure in the extrados. This can be seen in the following picture:

Pressure coefficient around an airfoil (by the Aircraft Aerodynamics and Design Group, Stanford University).

However, how could we see that in a real flight?

In commercial planes, of which wing skin is made of aluminium alloys this is not easily seen.

Two weeks ago, after my flight lesson was finished, I sat at the back of the plane to come back to Toulouse while my colleague had his lesson. It was then that I saw the image I captured in the following picture:

Wing extrados on air.

The aircraft we fly in our training lessons is a small Robin DR 400; a wooden aircraft of which wing skins are made of cloth. Not any cloth, but a type of polyester (PET) commonly used to build sailcloth, produced by Dupont and named Dacron. The surface is then lacquered with a polyurethane paint.

Robin DR 400 140

The air within the wing is at a higher pressure than the air in the extrados, and you can see how it expands and pushes up the cloth skin of the wing as you can see in the picture above.

You may see below the same wing on ground. Though the picture is of a lower quality, you can see that in this case the wing doesn’t look “inflated”.

Wing extrados on ground.

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Flight lessons

About a month ago I started taking flight lessons at the ACAT aéro club, based in Lasbordes, a small aerodrome to the East of Toulouse.

I subscribed together with another Airbus colleague and both encouraged by a third colleague who had started some months beforehand.

Yesterday in the morning, the weather was not very good so we were not sure whether we would finally fly or not. Nevertheless, we had a theoretical lesson at first hour in the morning so we went to the aero club. At the break of the class, our instructor arrived and confirmed our flight. We took our stuff and skipped the second part of the class and headed towards the Robin DR-42 (F-GNNI) we flew.

For this second flight I decided to bring my Garmin GPS, which normally I use for sport activities, in order to record our flight, so that my colleague and I could better know where we had been flying. This will hopefully help us in getting to know better the Toulouse area from the air and with the navigation in the near future.

The flight was short and simple: practising pitching up/down, some steady turns and approach.

If you click on the map below you will be redirected to the Garmin website where you can read further information about the flight (time of the activity between switching on and off the engine) such as take-off, cruise and landing speeds. Do not pay attention to altitude figures, those reflected by Garmin are the ones of the terrain below (our track footprint).

Route of our flight: LFCL-LFCL

Some more pictures taken in yesterday’s class:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Clarification: as we fly two pupils plus the instructor, each time we perform 2 flights, that is why I was siting at the back when I took pictures during flight.

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