Adaptive learning and bacon causes cancer newsletter

How Bad Is Bacon for Us, Really? How Good Is Adaptive Learning?

How Bad Is Bacon for Us, Really? How Good Is Adaptive Learning?

What’s happening.
Oct. 26 2015 7:02 PM

The Future of Education and Eating  

Adaptive learning is coming your nearest classroom, and processed meat should probably leave your nearest kitchen.


Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo


Here’s a phrase you probably haven’t heard yet: adaptive learning. You will though; it’s the future of education. And speaking of the future, that burger will kill you, dude.


Adaptive learning is a catchall phrase for digital education tools that literally adapt to the students using them. They’re being developed by textbook giants like McGraw-Hill, and they automate tasks that previously required, you know, teachers: specializing questions and reading materials for individual students, designing tests, and analyzing performance. They’re no fluke:

It’s tempting, for those who have spent their lives as educators, to dismiss the whole trend as the latest techno-fad, destined to distract administrators and upset curricula for a few years until the next one comes along. But there are two reasons why adaptive learning might prove more durable than that. The first is that the textbook companies have invested in it so heavily that there may be no going back. The second: It might, in at least some settings, really work.

That said, adaptive learning presents real problems and concerns for educators, parents, and students alike. While promising, it raises technological, economic, and philosophical questions about how we learn, and what we hope to gain out of education.


I was hoping to learn that actually, bacon will never give me cancer. But it could.

If your social media feeds are anything like mine, you’ve watched the world go nuts over this new World Health Organization study saying that bacon and red meat are as likely to cause cancer as cigarettes. As a bacon-lover and an X-will-give-you-cancer skeptic, my initial reaction was a firm bring on the cancer. It seems like these pronouncements come out all the time, but this is mostly the real deal. This helpful and measured piece explains that there is tons of evidence connecting high intakes of processed and red meat with higher rates of colorectal cancer, and gives a helpful nudge for those who, like me, don’t want to believe that we should eat less bacon.

In the future, we’ll still argue about DOMA, global warming, and Star Wars.

In the year 2000,
Seth Maxon
Home page editor for nights and weekends

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