16 September 2013

Items to Share: 15 September

Education Focus 
  • Your subject is of no use - Blog - Harry Webb's Cocktail Lounge - There you are, prattling on at some length about graphs of quadratic functions or the formation of oxbow lakes and you are suddenly pierced with an arrow straight to the heart. That question. “But when are we going to need this in real-life?” (Thanks to Webs of Substance for the link.) 
  • It's the Little Things That Count in Teaching - The Chronicle of Higher Education "Every so often, it's worthwhile to focus on the less 'serious' aspects of teaching and learning—on the little things that, seriously, may not prove so little after all." Indeed, to see them as 'little things' is to do a serious disservice—these are practices which set the scene and the culture, and prepare the ground for learning—neglect them at your peril.
  • When Memorization Gets in the Way of Learning - Ben Orlin - The Atlantic "Some things are worth memorizing—addresses, PINs, your parents’ birthdays. The sine of π/2 is not among them. It’s a fact that matters only insofar as it connects to other ideas. To learn it in isolation is like learning the sentence “Hamlet kills Claudius” without the faintest idea of who either gentleman is—or, for what matter, of what “kill” means. Memorization is a frontage road: It runs parallel to the best parts of learning, never intersecting. It’s a detour around all the action, a way of knowing without learning, of answering without understanding."
  • Hannah Arendt Recommending her 1954 essay on the Crisis in Education (US focus) "The general crisis that has overtaken the modern world everywhere and in almost every sphere of life manifests itself differently in each country [...] In America, one of its most characteristic and suggestive aspects is the recurring crisis in education that, during the last decade at least, has become a political problem of the first magnitude, reported on almost daily in the newspapers. To be sure, no great imagination is required to detect the dangers of a constantly progressing decline of elementary standards throughout the entire school system,..." Plus ca change...!
  • Don’t import the scourge of scientism into schools | Frank Furedi | spiked "[T]he principal problem educators face today is not the dearth of educational research or a lack of evidence about ‘what works’, but rather the increasing absence of any opportunity for them to exercise professional judgment and to learn the value of what Aristotle call phronesis – the virtue of judgment. Experimentation in education should be part of a teacher’s everyday life. What we need is a pedagogy that is integral to the experience of the classroom, not procedures inappropriately imported from the field of health." Another typically combative contribution to the debate sparked by Ben Goldacre's Bad Science paper from March; I linked to a couple of other ripostes from here. (This is a brilliant thread for discussion in class.)
  • ‘We must take students beyond their everyday lives’ | Joanna Williams | spiked "Many teachers today have an actual fear of knowledge. They find it frightening, threatening, dominating, and oppressive.’ Michael Young, emeritus professor at the Institute of Education in London and author of Bringing Knowledge Back In, is determined to challenge what he sees as a turn against knowledge in education. ‘The crucial role of schools is to give pupils access to knowledge that they won’t get from their experiences and that takes them beyond their everyday lives’, he tells me. ‘As society gets more complex, this becomes ever more important.’ 
  • And at the level of practice: Pedagogy Unbound. "A place for college teachers to share practical strategies for today's classrooms ... Discover practical tips for this semester. Check out the latest tips below, browse by category for specific kinds of tips, or share what's worked in your classroom."
Other Business
  • Systemic Causation and Syria: Obama’s Framing Problem « George Lakoff  It goes beyond Syria; Lakoff makes a good stab at the almost impossible task of explaining what he calls "systemic causation". I tried all through my teaching career to get this idea over—and only ever succeeded accidentally and unrepeatably. But it is a heck of a threshold concept! "From infanthood on we experience simple, direct causation. We see direct causation all around us: if we push a toy, it topples over; if our mother turns a knob on the oven, flames emerge. And so on. The same is not true of systemic causation. Systemic causation cannot be experienced directly. It has to be learned, its cases studied, and repeated communication is necessary before it can be widely understood." 
  • Revisiting Milgram's obedience experiment: what did he actually prove? - Boing Boing  "The wrinkles in Milgram’s research kept revealing themselves. Perhaps most damningly, after Perry tracked down one of Milgram’s research analysts, she found reason to believe that most of his subjects had actually seen through the deception. They knew, in other words, that they were taking part in a low-stakes charade." Very interesting revisionist take on one of the most famous experiments in psychology ever.
  • Are You Drinking Too Much? The Myth Of Moderation - Forbes "Today, it’s easier to solve a trigonometry problem in your head than to get a straight answer about how much we should be drinking each day. I’ve been conducting a very anecdotal survey over the past several months, asking friends what they have been told by doctors about drinking. One friend was counseled to limit her intake to 3 glasses a day. My doctor advised me to adhere to the 1-2-3 rule (one drink a day, no more that 2 at one time, no more than 3 days a week). Another friend remarked that her doctor just told her ‘in moderation’. Well, one man’s moderation is another man’s bacchanal..."

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