29 December 2014

Items to Share: 28 December 2014

Education Focus
  • Shopping lists and other cognitive tools | Webs of Substance 'Standard algorithms are the mathematical equivalent of phonics. Unless statutes require them to be taught then there are ideologues who will willfully neglect them. [...] Of course, there are occasions when standard algorithms are not appropriate or efficient (80 plus 12 or when completing mental maths) but, for any given problem, there will always be a most efficient strategy. And for most pencil-and-paper operations involving two-digit numbers or more, the standard algorithms are the best.' OK, as long as you understand the principles well enough to know whether ot not the answer is plausible.
Other Business
  • A Tablet for Africa? | AfriGadget  'The Betabook is a portable whiteboard, which can be used with a smartphone for archiving, content creation, and social media sharing.'
  • Christmas Gift! - The American Interest 'What makes this holiday so irresistible and global, yet also so particular and controversial? Why do so many people love Christmas while rejecting or in some cases actively hating Christianity? And why do so many others hate Christianity so deeply that they want to suppress all public celebration, however secular, of the symbols of Christmas? [...] For that matter, why do so many followers of the man who famously blessed the poor celebrate his birthday with the greatest spending sprees the world has ever known? How did the birthday of a crucified religious teacher become an excuse to drink egg nog?'

22 December 2014

Items to Share; 21 December 2014

Education Focus
  • MOOCs and the distance-learning mirage | ROUGH TYPE [Nicholas Carr] 'Now that we’ve begun to talk of MOOCs retrospectively, I think the time has come to update my previously published survey of the history of hype that has for more than a century surrounded distance-learning technologies. I am adding a new entry to the list. I suspect it won’t be the last addition.'
  • Christine Rosen for Democracy Journal: Automation for the People? 'Early in the book, [Nicholas]  Carr describes his youthful experience of learning to drive a standard (manual) transmission car. After many stalls and slipped clutches and grinding gears, he gained competence and, eventually, mastery. Unlike the explicit knowledge one obtains from step-by-step instructions, the tacit knowledge he acquired exists in a “fuzzy realm” far different from but no less crucial than the well-defined processes that characterize explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the reason you can still remember how to ride a bicycle after a 20-year hiatus.'
Other Business

20 December 2014

On presents and the wisdom of the ancients...

Even in the UK, it appears that practically every day after Thanksgiving (not our holiday) to Christmas has a label. Apparently today was panic Saturday (I heard someone on the radio christen [appositely?] next Monday, "Manic Monday"). What a countdown.

I last got excited about Christmas in 1957. I remember "Last Train to San Fernando" as a hit at that time, and I looked it up... Don't bother.

Son and grand-daughter (11) called round today. They had tried to go shopping, but town was a maelstrom, and so they were wondering what to do for the afternoon which did not involve crowds. They checked out the cinema, but while son was really up for going to see Paddington, grand-daughter thought it childish. And she is clearly embarking on a campaign for a TV in her room (to add to the iPad and...)

So it goes. They did settle on getting a DVD to watch. For some reason my suggestions about a walk—it was cold but bright and still—were not well received.

My presents for birthday and Christmas always include (or may consist entirely of) books. But it did strike me this afternoon that the books son, his partner, and her daughter will receive will be for individual consumption. Grand-daughter is beyond the age of the bedtime story (one of the great downside losses of children growing up), and her iPad fixation and desire for a TV in her room—they are all about doing things on her own (or with peers, probably virtually).

I've never been one for packaged video; I owned just one VHS video (Educating Rita—to use clips for teaching purposes). A few years ago, I started to receive boxed sets as presents; despite my admiration for the series, I only ever watched one episode of the West Wing on DVD—the very first one, which I missed on first showing. But I have to admit that a family can watch and enjoy them together.

So, what about making presents of them?

But. Given that son and family are apparently regular buyers, how to avoid duplicating their collection? The line plugged by the distributors is of course to get the latest releases.

But I have an advantage. I remember Last Train to San Fernando. Like all other artefacts and history in general, they grow. And however dodgy, our senescent but not senile memories are still the best access to choice—if trivial—gems from the past. I am totally ignorant about current cinema, but I was a keen follower until the mid-70s, and there is a treasure-house of not merely vintage but currently entertaining material, readily available as never before...

With some reluctance, because I am far from a fan of the fluvial behemoth, I went online. What might all three of them enjoy, but not know they had missed? Bringing up Baby. And that's bundled with... and other buyers bought...

But it took my seed knowledge to get this search going. As Daisy Christodolou argues (she's not the first, of course, but probably the most accessible today. This is a recursive argument!) it takes a foundation of sheer knowledge to build connotations and context and connections and ...

In other words: how would I have started to build a list of potentially enjoyable old movies without an initial exemplar? (First- or second-hand?)

Actually, I would have set out the conditions and run the search and then reviewed the results in search of... an instance which could act as an exemplar. Clumsy.

Even so: I may well have got it all wrong.

Why do we bother?

At the risk of getting (non-doctrinally, equal opportunity shame/guilt/non-specific miserable) pious it's the effort which matters.

15 December 2014

Items to Share; 14 December 2014

Education Focus
  • The Growth Mindset : Telling Penguins to Flap Harder ? | Disappointed Idealist 'My objection is to the way in which Dweck’s conclusions are rapidly metamorphosing into something completely different, and thus reinforcing the set of existing bonkers principles which are largely shaping education policy. Dweck’s well-meaning and perfectly reasonable research may well end up producing toxic outcomes if we don’t nip it in the bud.'
  • Colour coded self-assessment | Teaching: Leading Learning 'this term I have been working with colleagues from Maths and Languages on using self-assessment to improve redrafting. The concept is based on [...] the principles of improving work over time through specific feedback. This is best encapsulated by his famous “Austin’s Butterfly” example – mandatory viewing for all teachers! Just in case you haven’t seen it...'  

  • Donald Clark Plan B: VR is a medium not a gadget: 7 learning principles that work in VR 'Virtual Reality is a medium not a gadget; but how appropriate is it for education and training? I’ve spent a lifetime using technology in learning but am no technological determinist. [...] However, the first time I tried an Oculus Rift, it blew my mind, not just with its total immersion but its possibilities in learning. Before we get carried away with the sheer joy of the toy, what does the psychology of learning tell us about VR?' 
Other Business
  • Science News Fail: How NOT to Illustrate Your Story » Sociological Images 'Mainstream media outlets such as the Today Show, Marie Claire, and Huffington Post have been reporting on a new scientific study that claims “women talk more than men.” These media outlets report there’s new “biological evidence to support the idea that women are more talkative than men.' [...] Not quite!

08 December 2014

Items to Share: 7 December 2014

Education Focus
  • Is the Feedback Your'e Giving Students Helping or Hindering? | Learning Sciences Dylan Wiliam Center 'In 38% of well-designed studies, feedback actually made performance worse—one of the most counterintuitive results in all of psychology. [...] If there’s a single principle teachers need to digest about classroom feedback, it’s this: The only thing that matters is what students do with it. No matter how well the feedback is designed, if students do not use the feedback to move their own learning forward, it’s a waste of time. We can debate about whether feedback should be descriptive or evaluative, but it is absolutely essential that feedback is productive'
  • The Future Part 7a: Whats a Digital Native? 'A few years ago I sat through an INSET where we were shown pictures of a couple of everyday items and asked what they were called. The wrong answer was “a digital camera and a mobile phone”. Apparently, to our students, they would simply be “a camera and a phone”. This shows that our students are fundamentally different to us as they are “Digital Natives” and, [...] have to be taught according to all the usual progressive education methods of discussion, discovery learning and groupwork. Or at least that’s what we were told.' but...
  • Digital Natives Like a Good Lecture, Too - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education 'A large part of the value that we bring to the classroom is that of the "sage on the stage," rather than the "guide on the side." We have the qualifications and skill, and for students, being in the same room as an expert is an valuable part of university experience. [...] Students don’t enroll at brick-and-mortar colleges because they want a distance-learning experience. Instead of trying to offer both and ending up with neither, let’s play to our strengths.'
  • What Are They Learning? And How? | Vitae [chroniclevitae.com] 'What we’re looking for here are practical ways to elicit and make use of quality student feedback. We want to learn from students the information—about what they knew beforehand, what they’ve learned from us, and what they still don’t understand—that will help us teach more effectively. Providing students with ways to give us that information not only helps us tailor our teaching, it helps them become more aware of themselves as learners.'
  • Brain Training Doesn’t Make You Smarter - Scientific American "The strong consensus of this group is that the scientific literature does not support claims that the use of software-based “brain games” alters neural functioning in ways that improve general cognitive performance in everyday life, or prevent cognitive slowing and brain disease." 
  • Unlocking the Mystery of Critical Thinking | Faculty Focus ''As the instructor, you [...] provide a key learning experience by serving as a role model. Students need to see you demonstrating the courage to question your own beliefs and values, the fair-mindedness to represent multiple perspectives accurately, and the open-mindedness to give viewpoints opposed to your own their due. In such instances, you should point out to students that you are practicing critical thinking.'
Other Business
  • An immigration lawyer reviews Paddington | Free Movement 'Paddington stows away and deliberately avoids the immigration authorities on arrival. He is [...] an illegal entrant and as such commits a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971 [...] punishable by up to six months in prison. [...] [F]or offering a home to Paddington — or harbouring him, as the Home Office would have it — Mr and Mrs Brown could potentially face prosecution under section 25 of the Immigration Act 1971, [...] The maximum sentence is 14 years.
  • Tim Harford — Article — Learn from the losers 'It’s natural to look at life’s winners – often they become winners in the first place because they’re interesting to look at. That’s why Kickended (site about failed Kickstarter bids) gives us an important lesson. If we don’t look at life’s losers too, we may end up putting our time, money, attention or even armour plating in entirely the wrong place.  

02 December 2014

Items to Share: 30 November 2014

Education Focus
  • The crisis in adult education | The Learning Age '[T]here is a growing crisis in adult participation in education and training, with stark implications both for our economy and our democracy. If the trend continues it will soon be necessary to reinvent from scratch a part of the education system which has taken over a century to build up.
  • Why ‘triple marking’ is wrong (and not my fault) | David Didau: The Learning Spy  '[T]eachers should not [mark] students’ work for accuracy. If we point out their mistakes, there is no impetus to complete work accurately first time round. By insisting that the minimum expectation for written work is that it be proofread before it’s handed in, we make committing careless errors burdensome. If they know they will be expected to correct these mistakes before you are prepared to mark their work then they will learn that it easier to write correctly first time round. And if they don’t know how to correct an error then they will be requesting feedback at the point that they are ready to learn. Any input we give is far more likely to have impact than any amount of unsolicited advice.'
  • Older people may be better learners than we think '“The take-home message the study authors gave was that healthy older people are good at learning,” said Professor Henry Brodaty, co-Director of the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at UNSW. “They have the same plasticity, but they’re not as good at filtering out other information.”[...] The brain needs to be able to easily learn new information (plasticity), and filter out irrelevant information (stability). The experiment was designed to test whether ageing affects the brain’s plasticity, stability, or both.' 
  • Psychophysiology of blackboard teaching | Mathematics under the Microscope (Alexander Borovik) 'Mathematics teaching is not a science. It is an art. [...] Moreover, it is a performance art, like drama or ballet, and should be treated as such. Unsurprisingly, ballet dancers are very fussy about the state of the stage floor: they need a surface with just right level of friction, support and spring. Normally, we are very fussy about the quality of the blackboard surface -I can tell a lot on that subject. Unfortunately, we are reduced to fighting for continuing existence of our old blackboards; we do not even dare to raise the issue of their quality.' [This is an old post which I have just re-discovered, but still worth sharing.]
  • The “New” Professional Standards | Sam Shepherd (for teachers in FE) 'There is a general sense that the best development comes not from some advanced practitioner/consultant/manager telling you what is “best practice” (a phrase happily absent in the standards, you will note) but rather through working together. This places the emphasis on action research, peer observations, and raises the value of those staff room discussions about what is and isn’t working in class. To my mind, this shift from top down cascading of “best practice” to critical joint practice development is no bad thing at all.' 
Other Business
  • Leonard Cohen and smoking in old age | OUPblog 'Leonard Cohen’s decision to take up cigarettes again at 80 reveals a well kept secret about older age: you can finally live it up and stop worrying about the consequences shortening your life by much.'
  • What do fans of Spotify and meat pies have in common? [theconversation.com] 'Before the era of big data we believed that the inter-relationships between cultural preferences were esoteric, idiosyncratic, and very difficult to predict. The YouGov profiler indicates that they are anything but. I’m off now to find out what meat pie lovers have in common with jazz fans.'