18 May 2015

Items to Share: 17 May 2015

Education  Focus
  • How One Psychologist Is Tackling Human Biases in Science [nautil.us] 'Sometimes it seems surprising that science functions at all. In 2005, medical science was shaken by a paper with the provocative title “Why most published research findings are false.” Written by John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine at Stanford University, it didn’t actually show that any particular result was wrong. Instead, it showed that the statistics of reported positive findings was not consistent with how often one should expect to find them. As Ioannidis concluded more recently, “many published research findings are false or exaggerated, and an estimated 85 percent of research resources are wasted.”'
  • Donald Clark Plan B: Deficit model in education: a dangerous conceit? 'If only we filled our minds up with even more knowledge, even more skills, GDP will dog-leg upwards, productivity will soar and all will be well. The conceit of education is that the answer to bad schooling is always more schooling. The glass is always half empty, even when the data suggests it is close to the brim. We always seem to have deep deficits and divides; digital divide, digital skills, maths, 21st C skills, qualifications, even happiness!'
  • Five ways universities have already changed in the 21st century [theconversation.com] 'Global higher education underwent a period of remarkable change in the first 15 years of the 21st century. Five key trends affecting universities around the world illustrate how, despite increased access to information, our understanding of higher education remains limited.
  • University Readiness | The Traditional Teacher 'The problem isn’t spoon feeding: it’s hoop jumping. Pupils are trained to perform peculiar tricks for the benefit of examiners, while schools neglect to give them a proper grounding in the academic subjects. In fact, our pupils are not being fed enough. They are intellectually malnourished. But this is not inevitable, even within the current exam system. There are brave schools that are bucking the trend and focusing on core knowledge. They will find that their GCSE results are very good as well, because they will go far beyond the impoverished requirements of the GCSE curriculum.'

  • researchED New York, part 2: Daniel Willingham persuades - Tom Bennett - Blog  'Willingham was doing something he's very good at, and many academics aren't: summarising and highlighting useful lessons that cognitive psychology can teach to teachers – all teachers, be ye progressive bringer of light or neo-trad axeman. He took pains to describe how these biases and filters affect everyone. In point one, above, he was at pains to say, "this is all of us, we all do this".'
  • What’s the Point of a Professor? - NYTimes.com 'You can’t become a moral authority if you rarely challenge students in class and engage them beyond it. If we professors do not do that, the course is not an induction of eager minds into an enlarging vision. It is a requirement to fulfill. Only our assistance with assignments matters. When it comes to students, we shall have only one authority: the grades we give. We become not a fearsome mind or a moral light, a role model or inspiration. We become accreditors.'
  • What is an “original contribution”? | patter Doctoral regulations invariably include a requirement that the thesis constitute an "original contribution" to knowledge. What does that mean? 'As David Lodge argues, originality is taking the reader, and I’m suggesting the thesis reader/examiner too, somewhere which is simultaneously familiar and not. Original thinking and writing defamiliarises and in doing so, recovers a newness about the topic no matter how well trodden it is. An original contribution to knowledge offers the reader a chance to re-view and re-think the event/text/phenomena in question. That’s the kind of original contribution I’m interested in.
  • Do all good ideas need to be researched? | David Didau: The Learning Spy 'I was asked a very good question by Alex Wetherall. Basically – and I hope he forgives my paraphrase – he asked whether it would be worth conducting some ‘proper’ research on my good idea. I said no. It seemed as though this came as something of a surprise to the research literate audience. I’ve had a good think since and I stand by the justification I gave.'
  • Ideas: Why Good Teachers Get Bad Evaluations '...an interesting piece of research on student evaluations of teachers. It judged the quality of teachers by how well their students did in later courses, compared the result to student evaluations of teaching quality, and found that the two anti-correlated. On average, good teachers get bad ratings, bad teachers get good ratings.'
Other Business
  • BBC - Future - Press me! The buttons that lie to you 'The tube pulls in to a busy station along the London Underground’s Central Line. It is early evening on a Thursday. A gaggle of commuters assembles inside and outside the train, waiting for the doors to open. A moment of impatience grips one man who is nearest to them. He pushes the square, green-rimmed button which says “open”. A second later, the doors satisfyingly part. The crowds mingle, jostling on and off the train, and their journeys continue. Yet whether or not the traveller knew it, his finger had no effect on the mechanism.'  

11 May 2015

Items to Share; 27 April to 10 May 2015

Back again. Move went well, thanks. Now trying to get back on an even keel.

Education Focus
  • What is an “original contribution”? | patter (In respect of the rubrics for a doctorate) 'As David Lodge argues, originality is taking the reader, and I’m suggesting the thesis reader/examiner too, somewhere which is simultaneously familiar and not. Original thinking and writing defamiliarises and in doing so, recovers a newness about the topic no matter how well trodden it is. An original contribution to knowledge offers the reader a chance to re-view and re-think the event/text/phenomena in question. That’s the kind of original contribution I’m interested in.'
  • Do all good ideas need to be researched? | David Didau: The Learning Spy 'I was asked a very good question by Alex Wetherall. Basically – and I hope he forgives my paraphrase – he asked whether it would be worth conducting some ‘proper’ research on my good idea. I said no. It seemed as though this came as something of a surprise to the research literate audience. I’ve had a good think since and I stand by the justification I gave...'
  • Ideas: Why Good Teachers Get Bad Evaluations '...an interesting piece of research on student evaluations of teachers. It judged the quality of teachers by how well their students did in later courses, compared the result to student evaluations of teaching quality, and found that the two anti-correlated. On average, good teachers get bad ratings, bad teachers get good ratings.'
  • Conservative victory means England’s school system will look like few others in the world [theconversation.com] 'The Conservative education manifesto was long on aspiration. It promised that England would lead the world in mathematics and science; that there would be a place in a “good” primary school for every child; that every “failing” or coasting school would be turned into an academy to drive up standards; that universities would remain “world-leading”; and that further education would “improve”. But translating these – rightly aspirational – goals into policies will bring some difficult challenges...'
  • How 'digital natives' are killing the 'sage on the stage' [theconversation.com] 'Make the lecture an entertaining performance piece on the area that causes the students to look into it more deeply. Recognise that students can get information from many places and embrace this by aiming for the lecture to be a highlight reel and a teaser rather than an expert at the pulpit. Yes, this means every lecture should be a special occasion, but is that really a bad thing? If it gets our students thinking, then hasn’t it done its job?'
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein's Short, Strange & Brutal Stint as an Elementary School Teacher | Open Culture'Wittgenstein comes off, by many accounts, as an exemplary and almost unbelievably engaged teacher. He and his students, in Robins’ words, “designed steam engines and buildings together, and built models of them; dissected animals; examined things with a microscope Wittgenstein brought from Vienna; read literature; learned constellations lying under the night sky; and took trips to Vienna, where they stayed at a school run by his sister Hermine.” Hermine herself remembered the kids “positively climbing over each other in their eagerness” to answer their philosopher-teacher’s questions,'
  • The Dvorak Keyboard Controversy: Interesting Thing of the Day 'All modern computers—Macs, PCs, and Linux machines—include the capability of switching into a Dvorak layout if that’s what you prefer (though the physical keys won’t match the characters they type unless you perform some minor surgery on your keyboard or put stickers over the existing letters). So if you want to try out Dvorak yourself, you need only consult your computer’s Help to find out how to change that setting. Chances are you’ll find that it takes a few weeks or so to retrain yourself to the point where you’re about as fast as you were using QWERTY. If you can tolerate the temporary loss in productivity, you may find the experiment useful.'
  • What should written feedback look like? | David Didau: The Learning Spy  and The fetish of marking | David Didau: The Learning Spy 'I don’t really think marking is a bad thing, but I do think it comes at an appalling cost to teachers’ well-being. The fact that very many teachers seem reluctant to cast off their shackles shows the extent to which we’ve imbued marking with magical powers and superstitious awe. Teachers probably do need to mark some work, if only so they understand the process of assessment, but I don’t think the process needs to be nearly so onerous or widespread. Marking is only a proxy for what we actually want...'
  • I'll be back: TEDinator 2. A review of Ken Robinson's 'Creative Schools' Part 1 - Tom Bennett - Blog' [W]hat Ken does is point out that in many educational ecosystems, things are far from perfect. Life, too is far from perfect. And he does what all great politicians, circus barkers and medicine men have done for centuries: tells us he knows how to fix it. The map to Canaan is his. But pointing out to people that they're slaves in Egypt doesn't mean you're Moses. Sometimes it can make you Pharaoh.'
  • Will at Work Learning: Excellent New Book Debunking Learning and Education Myths 'There's too much crap floating around the learning and education fields; too many myths, misconceptions, and maladaptive learning designs. [ ] I'm passionate about the need for more debunking. The need is great and the danger to learning and learners is dire. [ ] Fortunately, entering the world is a great new book by three researchers, [...] Their book is titled, Urban Myths about Learning and Education, and it's jam packed with a list of 35 myths that plague our field.

  • The Trials and Rewards of Teaching in Prisons | Academies Community 'Teaching in prisons is tough: not just mentally but also because of the insensitive system. However when teaching the most troubled and desperate of people can also come hand in hand teachers also experience the greatest amount of pride when their students succeed. It’s a mentally challenging rollercoaster.'
 Other Business
  • The centenarian psychologist [apa.org] 'As he approaches his 100th birthday, cognitive psychology pioneer Jerome S. Bruner reflects on the past, present and future of psychology.' 

28 April 2015

No Items to Share: 26 April 2015

We're moving, so I'll be off-grid for a while.

20 April 2015

Items to Share: 19 April 2015

Education Focus
  • QTLS | Sam Shepherd Is it worth bothering to claim Qualified Teacher (Learning and Skills) status?
  • How to Teach Adults: Get a Job; Plan Your Class; Teach Your Students; Change the World - Boing Boing '[A] lot of instruction amounts to giving students the confidence to slog on when they're in the wilderness, and to impart big-picture, overarching wisdom about the subject that they can use as a pole star while they are on their long march. But there are also the "stupid writer tricks": clever gimmicks and techniques that work reliably, produce quick dividends, and which can be transmitted quickly and relatively painlessly. These are just as important as the big picture stuff and not just because of how they boost morale. Anyone can learn and apply these techniques and produce readable material, but becoming an expert requires that you transcend them through extended practice, reflection and refinement.'
  • In praise of Teaching as a Subversive Activity | Improving Teaching 'Writing in the late 1960s, [Postman and Weingartner,] the authors of Teaching as a Subversive Activity worked from two assumptions: society’s survival is under threat and something may – perhaps – be done about it. In response, they set out to challenge the foundations of the education system and invited teachers to reimagine schools to benefit students and society.'
  • Why is this reading so hard? | patter 'Getting into a new area or mode of thinking is actually a bit like getting to know a new physical location. When you arrive in a new city you don’t expect to know how to get around straight away. You don’t expect to know a new place in the way you know your own home environment. You understand that you have to make several trips before you have a sense of what is where, and how to get from one place to another without looking at a map for general directions and/or reassurance.'
Other Business
  • The Golden Ratio: Design's Biggest Myth | Co.Design | business design 'In the world of art, architecture, and design, the golden ratio has earned a tremendous reputation. Greats like Le Corbusier and Salvador DalĂ­ have used the number in their work. The Parthenon, the Pyramids at Giza, the paintings of Michelangelo, the Mona Lisa, even the Apple logo are all said to incorporate it. It's bullshit. The golden ratio's aesthetic bona fides are an urban legend, a myth, a design unicorn. Many designers don't use it, and if they do, they vastly discount its importance. There's also no science to really back it up. Those who believe the golden ratio is the hidden math behind beauty are falling for a 150-year-old scam.' 
  • A Certain Closeness – Lingua Franca - Blogs - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'Taking advice on usage from Word is like taking advice on investments from Bernie Madoff. The grammar-checking tool is a chaotic, unreliable, inconsistent, brain-dead piece of junkware. It can’t tell what’s grammatical and what isn’t, yet still it presumes to query every passive or split infinitive, and advise you falsely on when to use an indefinite article and hundreds of other points.'
  • WHO announcement on withheld clinical trials, and my commentary in PLoS Medicine – Bad Science 'This week there was an amazing landmark announcement from the World Health Organisation: they have come out and said that everyone must share the results of their clinical trials, within 12 months of completion, including old trials (since those are the trials conducted on currently used treatments). This is great news, but it’s not enough. The WHO announcement was in PLoS Medicine, with a commentary from WHO staff explaining their reasoning (it’s very good) and a commentary from me, explaining why we need to audit missing data, and act on that audit data.'

13 April 2015

Items to Share: 12 April 2015

Education Focus
  • 8 Tips for Arguing about Education | Filling the pail 'Let’s be clear: the point in engaging in a debate about education is not to get someone to admit that they are wrong. Few people have the self-confidence to be able to do this. Minds do change as a result of such discussions but usually over the course of many. It takes time and you’re unlikely to get any credit. Instead, you should be engaging in order to test out your own ideas. Do they stand up to scrutiny? Is there something you can learn? Is there a well-known criticism of your position that you need to take into account? To do this, you need to accept the right of others to challenge you.'
  • Schools and the Mindless Mindset Meritocracy | SurrealAnarchy  'Mindset attracts schools because in a kingdom of the blind the one eyed man would be king. We think: ‘ah our kids can get higher grades if they have a growth mindset; our kids can be ‘kings’ and our school lauded as ‘kingmaker’! But in a kingdom of growth mindset ‘where all schools do it’ all the iniquities and inequalities remain. If I was to practise as much as Usain Bolt I doubt I would ever be as fast as him, even with the same coaching I would not be his equal.'
  • Paulo Freire: Pedagogy of the Oppressed [digitalcounterrevolution.co.uk] 'Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed remains an inspiring work. The banking model of education he set himself against is now being replaced by an online shopping model of education (learning as the active, personal acquisition of disposable stuff you can find online), but what really inspires in Freire’s pedagogy has as much to say about the latter as Freire himself had to say about the former.'
  • A New Kind of Learning — The Synapse — Medium 'The program, part of a new institute in Paris called “Centre de Recherche Interdisciplinaire” (or Center for Research and Interdisciplinarity), has an equally vague sounding name: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Life Sciences. At first, the entire approach seems rather unfocused and a failure waiting to happen. In my 2nd year Master (called an “M2” here, in France), there are students from varying disciplines, not only in Biology, but Mathematics, Physics, and even Design. Last year, there was a student in Philosophy! All of us learn the same things, in the same classes, though it may seem like we don’t learn anything at all, especially considering our various interests and expertise.The trick is thatwe, as students, define what we want to learn. [   ] The curriculum isn’t catered for the students by the teachers, but rather by the students for the students. Of course, there are some guidelines, some limitations, but overall, we teach ourselves what we really want to learn and what we’re really curious about.
  • Should all university lectures automatically be recorded? [theconversation.com]  'Universities across the world are considering whether to start automatically recording lectures. Some students are voting for it. And the IT industry has created some seductive products to record lectures, a process also known as “lecture capture”. Some onlookers expect a hesitant response from the higher education sector, which is often portrayed as cautious about taking up educational technologies. [...] Yet lobbing new resources into complex settings deserves caution. Our universities are rich human ecosystems and, as such, they can prove fragile in the face of interventions. A new technology such as the automatic recording of lectures does not just add something good to the learning context – it re-configures it, but in uncertain ways.'
  • How Assignment Design Shapes Student Learning | Faculty Focus 'every kind of assignment influences the shape of learning. So, what would you say about how you’ve constructed exam experiences in your courses? Are they shaping learning in the ways you want? I once observed an instructor who, on the first day of class, asked students, “Are you worried about what’s going to be on the final?” Heads nodded. “Well, no worries in this course. You’ll find the final attached to the syllabus.” It was a page of essay questions. “You’ll be writing responses to some of those questions on the final and we’ll be dealing with content throughout the course that you can be using in your answers.” Would that approach change the way students take notes throughout the semester? Would it enable instructors to ask a different kind of exam question? Would students prepare for the final differently?'
  • Donald Clark Plan B: Sir Ken Robinson: ‘Creative’ with the truth? 'So often in education, shallow unsubstantiated TED talks replace the real work of researchers and those who take a more rigorous view of evidence. Sir Ken Robinson, is, I suspect, the prime example of this romantic theorising, Sugata Mitra the second. Darlings of the conference circuit, they make millions from talks but do untold damage when it comes to the real word and the education of our children.'
  • Those were the days… | dancing princesses 'Forty years ago I signed up to study an A Level in English Literature at my local FE College. I liked reading, but I wasn’t sure about the ‘Literature’ part, and was looking forward to finding out how it was different from ordinary books. My teacher had a kindly smile and twinkly eyes, and he seemed to know I was keen although I was painfully shy and never dared to ask or answer a question in class. Instead of directing a series of Socratic questions to probe and challenge, he let me be, and he certainly didn’t make me engage in embarrassing group-work or keep switching activities to maintain a brisk pace.'
  • When 140 Characters Isn't Enough: The birth of a zombie statistic [Sam Freedman] 'Last week the "i" newspaper splashed on a startling statistic: "40% of teachers leave within one year". It has since been repeated in the Guardian, Times, Mail, Observer and probably hundreds of other places. [...] The only problem is that it's entirely untrue. 9% of teachers leave in their first year [...] It's been 9 or 10% a year every year for the last 20 years. This isn't particularly interesting; it isn't news; but it is true.
Other Business