27 July 2015

Items to Share: 26 July 2015

Education Focus
  • Building a Better Discussion - Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education '[W}hat I found was something new, illuminating, and provocative: a research-based approach to understanding the classroom as a social space, and an awareness of how the norms of that social space can help or inhibit classroom discussion. Howard’s book should be essential reading for any faculty member who wants to hear students speak up in the classroom, real or virtual.'
    • What Fitness Bands Can Teach Us about Classroom Assessment [facultyfocus.com] 'Although fitness bands are cool tech tools, their “magic” is rooted in the continuous feedback they provide on one’s progress toward fitness goals determined by age, height/weight, and activity level. [ ...] Watching her response and seeing her success have caused me to revisit what we know about the power of formative assessment as a learning tool.'
    • ‘Growth mindset’ – Panacea or double-edge weapon? | The Language Gym 'The principles embedded in Carol Dweck’s Growth mindset theory have played a great role in my life, especially in recent years. They are inspiring, motivating and reassuringly universal. However, they are nothing new. [...] In the realm of social learning theory, Bandura’s (1994) produced very similar findings and his self-efficacy theory overlaps with Dweck’s work in many ways. [...] Finally, at the risk of trivializing the present discussion, Rocky Balboa’s famous ‘motivational’ speech to his son, in Sylvester Stallone’s movie, could be seen as a forerunner of many of Dweck’s principles… [ ] So why all the fuss now? Why is ‘Growth mindset’ all the rage in the business and education world at this moment in our history? Why do, these days, so many diagrams displaying Carol Dweck’s commandments pop up in so many Tweets and Facebook posts day in day out?'
    Other Business
    • Furlongs Per Fortnight: Interesting Thing of the Day 'something moving at the speed of one furlong per fortnight (f/f) would be moving very slowly indeed. Interestingly enough, though, 1 f/f is almost exactly equal to 1 centimeter per minute; therefore, furlongs per fortnight would be a good unit of measurement for a snail’s pace, which ranges from a bit less than 1 f/f to about 30.5 f/f.'
    • Web Design - The First 100 Years 'Brilliant funny provocative talk about technology and design. The first third argues that civil aviation design flatlined after the Boeing 747 because the 747 was good enough for getting round the world fast. The second third argues that the Internet has reached the same stage of development: It’s done. The third third takes issue with software and AI visionaries who claim that the digital revolution is only just beginning (6,600 words)' Thanks to The Browser
    • Does Mindfulness Mean Anything? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR 'We are in the middle of a mindfulness revolution. According to Time, The Huffington Post and a host of other media outlets, mindfulness and meditation are having their moment in the spotlight. From hospitals to corporate wellness programs, mindfulness is — supposedly — a new path to relieving stress, lifting depression and increasing happiness. But, depending on your perspective, the advent of mindfulness and meditation in America is either a milestone in the evolution of the culture — or a mighty avalanche of hype.'
    • Video: How to cook an egg perfectly in just 3 seconds - Boing Boing But it does remind me of a camping trip in Scotland in 1960... with my brother and his room-mate from university (later Speaker of the Norwegian parliament). We didn't have a primus stove, so we borrowed Dad's blowlamp instead, which proved capable of charring the bottom of a fried egg to a cinder and leaving the top totally raw, in about the same length of time.

    20 July 2015

    Items to Share; 19 July 2015

    Education Focus
    • You can keep your magic beans, or why I got over SOLO | MrHistoire 'What is troubling [...] is that zeal with which I and many others approached SOLO as some kind of structrual saviour, gloriously guiding us up just five short steps before opening the six-sided gates of success. What does this say about us? What does it say about a profession which is so keen to find an easier way? Everything we do isn’t wrong and I, of course, do not object to helping students follow a path. But that path is not generic and there isn’t a shortcut to be found. You can keep your magic beans, Jack – I’ll stick to my subject.'
    • Lesson Study 101 | barrydunn 'Lesson Study is a professional learning cycle where 2 or more teachers identify a challenge to learning, research possible solutions, plan a lesson together using this knowledge, observe the lesson and reflect upon their findings. This cycle is then repeated until all members of the group have delivered a collaboratively planned lesson and their finding are often delivered to colleagues or others to share their learning.'
    • Cooperative Learning Structures and Deep Learning [facultyfocus.com] 'The results of the research support a conclusion at odds with much of the writing about cooperative learning. “Changing the instructional methods is in itself not enough to discourage a surface approach and promote a deep approach to learning.” (p. 183) Students won’t engage in deep discussions with peers unless they see the value of those exchanges in terms of their own achievement. It boils down to this simple fact: many students don’t believe they can learn content from and with their peers. Much evidence verifies that they can, but they first need to be convinced. '
    • Why do we demand evidence for our research, but teach on instinct? | the academic teacher 'One thing I want is to get this aspect of professional practice included in my job description – at the moment despite being on a full-time teaching contract I have no obligation to embed evidence based practice into my teaching! However, even if I don’t manage this I will still continue with it – I would never want to go back to a point where I wasn’t fully assessing how my learners and my teaching interact as I have already learned so much from it. I now firmly believe science educators have a responsibility to embed respect for evidence in their teaching just as much as they do in their research, and should be supported by their institutions to do so.'
    • Let's not abandon the humble lecture quite yet [The Conversation] 'Before we all abandon the lecture, let us fully examine the potential that it has to make learning a social event and a strength, a place where we can all learn together. [ ] “A thrilling, action-packed, emotionally-enriching blockbuster lecture! Coming Soon to a lecture theatre near you!”
    • What’s worse than a Ref for teaching? An Ofsted for universities | Higher Education Network | The Guardian 'The more we measure in education, the more invisible the learners become. We see our measures are inadequate so we measure more stuff. In schools things are done and policies are made on the grounds it will be “good for Ofsted”, and not because it is good for the children who attend the school. [ ] In universities, we’ll change things because “it’s good for the Tef”. We’ll fail to make improvements as “it’s not in the Tef”. But the main victims of the Tef will be the students. And with the lure of the right to charge more fees, what could possibl[y] go wrong?'
    • We’re not mentally ill – we’re teenagers | Education | Mental health | Parents and kids | spiked 'I do think [the school] has helped to create an environment in which young girls, in particular, are encouraged to think of themselves as having emotional and mental problems. Often it feels like, after having their pretty normal teenage worries and concerns labelled as serious anxieties, my friends eventually come to think of themselves as being emotionally broken. [ ] This is not my friends’ fault. Nor is it the fault of their parents and the environment they have at home. The professionals in our schools are to blame – they are claiming to be solving problems, when really they are creating them.
    Other Business
    • Apparently There Are 4 Kinds of Introversion -- Science of Us 'Introversion, thanks largely to Susan Cain's 2012 best seller Quiet, is having something of a cultural moment. Once a mostly misunderstood personality trait — and often considered a behavioral defect when it was considered at all — it's now the subject of countless other books and online listicles [...]. And as more regular, non-scientist types started to talk about introversion, psychologist Jonathan Cheek began to notice something: The way many introverts defined the trait was different from the way he and most of his academic colleagues did.' 

    14 July 2015

    On a time-saver

    My first computer was a "Joyce", in 1985. Joyce was apparently the name of Alan Sugar's secretary at the time, and became the colloquial label for the Amstrad PCW 8256. (256k of memory, one floppy drive —taking extortionately priced 3" discs which never caught on—with a formatted capacity of just under 180k, a green-screen monitor and an included dedicated 9-pin dot matrix printer...) It revolutionised my work, and made possible the production of a book and my doctoral thesis.

    It came with a dedicated word-processing package called LocoScript. Among its many features (including an add-on mail-merge facility which was a simple programming language in its own right) were its ability to store phrases, which were each associated with a letter, and were relatively permanent features such as names and addresses and simple commands so that paragraphs could be numbered or laid out consistently; and blocks which were clipboards associated with numerals. So you had a capacity for 26 phrases and 10 blocks.

    When I had to move on to a PC I was dismayed to lose all that functionality—just one clipboard for everything! I've played around with many substitutes over the years, including work-arounds incorporated in office suites, but so far encountered none with the simple elegance of phrases and blocks.

    I'm happy to say it is back (although I'm a bit behind the curve—it's apparently been back for more than a decade) now in the form of applications called Breevy (highly intuitive—free 30-day trial, £24.20 to buy)  and PhraseExpress for Windows (free for personal use, but too bloated and cluttered with features I'll never use, for me) and another (compatible) package called TextExpander for Mac. There is/was another, simpler, variant called Texter for Windows, but although I have downloaded the installer, it won't play with Windows 8.1. Reviews here.

    PhraseExpress also has a cut-down Android app. which I haven't looked at.

    So why do I think this is worth drawing your attention to? Marking and feedback. We are continually being called upon to raise our game in this area (although the weak link is often getting students to pay attention...) We try to personalise comments, of course, but it is in the nature of the beast that many of the phrases we use are standard and repetitive; "Referencing!", "Evidence?", "Well-made point." ...And even when we can scrawl on scripts, our remarks are often less than helpful because of the sheer time they take to write—they become so cryptic that we think that they convey something useful, but to students unversed in our restricted code they may be meaningless.

    Move to electronic submission and commenting via an office suite, and the process is even more cumbersome. Of course you can use codes to point students to standard points—but my experience  has been that they just find it too much hassle. Yes, that is indeed their loss...
    Years ago, I attempted to grapple with this issue with a semi-automated marking shell, using a spreadsheet and a mailmerge to generate personalised but also standardised feedback. it was pretty clunky then, and it is only still on the site because I put so many hours into devising it—and who knows, someone may resurrect it. (I once did something similar with a simulation scenario in social care based on a spreadsheet. I realised I couldn't take it any further and wound it up by sending it to a newsletter/journal, [“Computer-aided Learning and Experiential Learning” New Technology in Human Services vol 9 No 1, 1996] Some years later it was picked up by some diligent scholar and led to several years of fascinating consultancy and learning at the Open University.
    But if your feedback can be expanded to a full paragraph from typing only a half-a-dozen characters? You can't make your students read and act on it. but you can make it more likely, and save effort at the same time. I think it's called win-win.

    13 July 2015

    Items to Share: 12 July 2015

    Education Focus
    • 'Banning the bullet’ in student presentations | The Higher Education Academy Official Site 'Students can often take the easy way when generating a presentation, creating lists of bullet points from a source text, without thinking about the effectiveness (or not) of such approaches or how close they may be to plagiarism of the source. As educators who are seeking to develop students transferable skills we need to facilitate the acquisition of more imaginative approaches to oral presentations by students.' “Reconstructing” the source information to create something more visual may itself facilitate learning.'
    Other Business

    06 July 2015

    Items to Share: 5 July 2015

    Education Focus
    • Educationists have forgotten the power of knowledge | Education | spiked 'What follows from a vision of providing each and every pupil with access to powerful knowledge is that those of us based in faculties of education have to rethink our roles as specialist educational intellectuals or theorists. We should stop telling teachers what to do, and start supporting them instead. We should be helping them to think through what they do, to think the unthinkable and the not-yet thought. Lastly, we have to convert our education faculties into spaces for thinking and debate. Evidence of what works is important, of course. But more vital still is a willingness to question educational practices, and to learn from discussions and debates. It will be a long road, but it is the only worthwhile one. '
    • Will the University of Adelaide's lecture phase-out be a flop? [theconversation.com] 'The University of Adelaide is planning to completely phase out lectures. In their place will be online materials and small group face-to-face sessions. According to University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor Warren Bebbington, the lecture is dead – and it is not coming back. Lectures have been around for hundreds of years. They have survived other technological revolutions, including the printing press and the motion picture. Adelaide will be the first university in Australia to break with tradition and eliminate them entirely. But is this change good for learning?
    • FE Culture: Professional Status 'More than four million 14 to 19‑year‑olds and adults are educated and trained through the FE system each year. Courses and options are numerous and encompass a fully comprehensive range of students. FE does not discriminate – why? It has a range of highly skilled, professionally trained and continually developing lecturing staff. [ ] The government proposes to halt this, to remove the requirement for lecturers in FE to be professionally qualified, through its draft deregulation bill. The key driver for this is on the first page: “Publication of the draft Bill is the latest step in the Government’s ongoing drive to remove unnecessary bureaucracy that costs British businesses millions”.'
    • Speaking for a reason: the Last Proper Class of 2014-2015 | Sam Shepherd 'Conversation, broadly, falls into two categories: transactional, where the participants are trying to achieve something, and interactional, where the people involved are engaging in social bonding, what I think of as a human parallel to chimpanzees picking fleas out of each other’s fur. Interactional conversation is about forming and developing social and personal interactions, rather than trying to make something happen. The second one is much harder, I think, to achieve in a second language: the social and interpersonal nuances are much harder to follow. This is why “talk to your partner about…” so often bombs: students aren’t sure what the point of the conversation is, aren’t clear about what the conversation is trying to achieve.' 
    Other Business
    • In Defense of Ethnography - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education (David Perlmutter) 'Controversy over the sociologist Alice Goffman’s On the Run, a study of young people on the margins of society, has put ethnography on trial. Lost in the accusations and rebuttals, I fear, is the reality that ethnography is one tool among many but too valuable to dismiss or ignore. Like other methodologies, it has strengths and weaknesses, but it complements other approaches in crucial ways.'