We have to ask more questions about the collection and analysis of student data that is feeding algorithms that promise “personalization.” What do technology companies actually mean by “personalization”? We have to consider if we are reducing students from people to profile —…
“An educator cannot be viewed as a technician, a functionary carrying out the instructions of others. Educators are learned scholars, community researchers, moral agents, philosophers, cultural workers and political insurgents. - Paulo Freire from Pedagogy of the Oppressed”—
In describing his experience teaching at West Point, Dr. Stapell started by describing the first rule that West Point teachers are given—you’re not allowed to lecture—at all! …What? Isn’t that what college teaching IS? And wouldn’t you expect a place with such a military history and an authoritarian approach to underscore this traditional teaching method—of having one expert individual lecture and provide information to a bunch of young, dutiful students? They don’t lecture at West Point? At all?
So this seemed surprising to the folks in the audience. And, of course, the next question is begged—what DO they do at this esteemed, larger-than-life institution? How do they educate—how do they create such great leaders?
Apparently, according to Dr. Stapell, this educational method is 100 percent activity-based. The classrooms have boards on all four sides of the room—and all cadets are charged with engaging in activities related to the material throughout the class. Get in a group, discuss the material, write notes on the board—come up with a set of implications for modern life—tell the class about it. You’ve all read about this famous historical figure—discuss as a group his positive and negative attributes—and controversies regarding his life—and give a presentation to the rest of us—teach US about what his life and work implies about how the world operates now. Etc.
In this context, students are constantly engaged and empowered—they own their education. They own how much they learn and how much others learn. How much education will happen within the confines of a given class? This is up to each and every individual cadet—with the professor who is tasked not with teaching them, per se, but, rather, with getting them to teach one another.
“We can never dispense with language and the other symbol systems; for it is by means of them, and only by their means, that we have raised ourselves above the brutes, to the level of human beings. But we can easily become the victims as well as the beneficiaries of these systems. We must learn how to handle words effectively; but at the same time we must preserve and, if necessary, intensify our ability to look at the world directly and not through that half opaque medium of concepts, which distorts every given fact into the all too familiar likeness of some generic label or explanatory abstraction.
Literary or scientific, liberal or specialist, all our education is predominantly verbal and therefore fails to accomplish what it is supposed to do. Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else’s.”—Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, 1954
Positive feedback on successful actions can encourage the pursuit of goal-congruent actions when it signals an increase in commitment to the goal but decrease motivation when it signals sufficient progress was made. For example, a math student who receives a high test score and infers that she likes math will work harder as a result, whereas a classmate who receives similar positive feedback and infers sufficient progress will relax his efforts and focus on spending time with her friends.
Negative feedback on unsuccessful actions can encourage the pursuit of goal congruent actions if it signals insufficient progress has been made but decrease motivation when it signals a decrease in commitment to the goal. For example, a math student who receives a bad test score and infers lack of commitment will subsequently reduce her efforts, whereas her classmate, who infers insufficient progress from the negative feedback, will subsequently work harder.
Fishbach, Ayal, & Finkelstein, 2010. How positive and negative feedback motivate goal pursuit.
“Poverty still persists today because we have lost the moral perspective as the polestar of public policy. Instead we follow the law of the jungle, content to abandon the poor to their own devices, demanding that they marshal resources they simply do not possess. And the reason we have moved in this direction, drifting away from the high ideals of the Great Society era, is because the vision and values of corporate capitalism have gained ascendency over those of human solidarity and mutual responsibility. To eliminate poverty, this trend must be reversed. The individualistic vision must give way to one that stresses our essential unity; competition must be balanced by mutual assistance and respect.”—Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, “The Price of Dignity” (via tricycle-tumbles)
I’ve been teaching in higher ed for over a decade now and every single day of my life someone sends me something to read, shares an idea, helps me find information, or performs some invaluable act of help. The idea that we’re not all doing so is horrifying. Given the siege under which we in higher ed operate, it’s these innumerable gestures that make everything worthwhile.
If you haven’t yet discovered the Academic Kindness Tumblr, it’s the best thing of the new year.
Pippert and his researchers looked at more than 10,000 images from college brochures, comparing the racial breakdown of students in the pictures to the colleges’ actual demographics. They found that, overall, the whiter the school, the more diversity depicted in the brochures, especially for certain groups.
"When we looked at African-Americans in those schools that were predominantly white, the actual percentage in those campuses was only about 5 percent of the student body," he says. "They were photographed at 14.5 percent."
Q: As an academic and a political figure, you stand in an interesting position to observe shifting trends in the academy. How, in your view, have spiking tuition fees, sky-rocketing student debt and a corporatization of academic institution affected higher education? What’s your outlook on shifts in the education system in general in this country?
Well for me personally, it hasn’t been a change, but there are changes and developments in the higher education system and also K-12 which I think are extremely threatening and harmful. To keep it at the higher education: Over the past generation — roughly speaking the neoliberal period — there has been a substantial shift towards corporatization of the universities, towards imposing of the business model on higher education. Part of that is what you’ve mentioned, tuition rises. There has been an enormous increase in tuition. I don’t think you can give an economic argument for that. Take a look at the comparative evidence. Right to our south, Mexico, which is a relatively poor country, has a quite respectable higher education system, and it’s free. The country to that consistently ranks among the highest in educational achievement is Finland. A rich country, but education is free. Germany, education is free. France, education is free.
Take a look at the United States: Go back fifty years to the early post-war decades. It was a much poorer country than it is now, but for a large portion of the population, education was free. The GI Bill provided education for a great number of people who never would have been able to go to college otherwise. It was highly beneficial for them, and highly beneficial to the country in terms of the contributions they were able to make in terms of the economy and culture and so on. And it was essentially free. Even private universities costs were very slight by today’s standards. And that was a much poorer country than it is now. So in general I think that the economic arguments for the sharp rise in tuitions in the United States and to a lesser extent in England and a few other places, one can’t offer a persuasive economic argument for that, these are policy decisions. They are related to other changes that have taken place, so for example over the same period there has been an enormous expansion of administration in universities. The proportion of the University budget that goes to administration has skyrocketed…. This is all part of the imposition of a business model which has an effect also on curricular choices and decisions.
Similar things are happening at K-12 level with, first of all, the underfunding of schools, which is very serious as is the demeaning of teachers, the undermining of teacher’s respect and independence. The pressure to teach to tests, which is the worst possible form of education. In fact most of us have been through the school system have plenty of experience with courses we weren’t very much interested in, we had to study for an exam, you study for the exam and a couple weeks later you forget what the course was about. This is a critique that goes way back to the enlightenment, where they condemned the model of teaching as analogous as pouring water into a vessel — and a very leaky vessel, as we all know. This undermines creativity, independence, the joy of discovery, the capacity to work together with others creatively — all of the things that a decent educational system should foster. It’s going in the opposite direction, which is quite harmful. So there is a lot to reverse if we want to get back to a much healthier system of education and preservation and growth of cultural achievement.
Noam Chomsky, the Salon interview: Governments are power systems, trying to sustain power
“Among the most important kinds of research needed in the field are studies of teaching and learning. By studies of teaching and learning I mean studies that try carefully to answer the question “What do teachers of the arts do when they teach and what are its consequences?” By what teachers do, I mean questions like the following: What kind of curriculum activities do teachers ask students to engage in? To what content are those activities related?
What forms of thinking do they evoke? How do they introduce what they want their students to learn? What kinds of comments do they make to their students as they view their work? What kind of scaffolding do they provide? What kind of emotional support do they provide so that their students can take risks? How do they go about developing their students’ technical skills? Do they promote the use of imagination through their teaching? If so, how?”—Elliott W. Eisner ‘The Arts and the Creation of Mind’ p.215 (via jonportfolio)
“Civilization is a very complex system in which we use symbols - words, numbers, figures, and concepts - to represent the real world of nature. We use money to represent wealth. We use the clock to represent time. We use yards and inches to represent space. These are very useful measures. But you can always have too much of a good thing. You can easily confuse the measurement with what you are measuring, such as confusing money with wealth. It is like confusing the menu with dinner. You can become so enchanted with the symbols that you entirely confuse them with reality. This is the disease from which almost all civilized people are suffering. We are, therefore, in the position of eating the menu instead of the dinner, of living in a world of words and symbols. This causes us to relate badly to our material surroundings.”—Alan Watts (via kempur)
Would-be donors should consider whether “doing the most good” might mean supporting one of the many other effective and reputable charities that provide for the needy without engaging in anti-gay beliefs, policies, or political activities.
I always kindly decline an offer to donate, despite the good work I know they do for many. There are other support organizations which can use your money equally to the benefit of others, but which won’t overtly discriminate against LGBT people. So when you’re thinking of where to make your charitable donations this season, consider this.
The federal government made enough money on student loans over the last year that, if it wanted, it could provide maximum-level Pell Grants of $5,645 to 7.3 million college students.
The $41.3-billion profit for the 2013 fiscal year is down $3.6 billion from the previous year but still enough to pay for one year of tuition at the University of Michigan for 2,955,426 Michigan residents.
It’s a higher profit level than all but two companies in the world: Exxon Mobil cleared $44.9 billion in 2012, and Apple cleared $41.7 billion.
“From what I hear, really good actors can actually teach really well,” says Anant Agarwal, CEO of EdX and former MIT computer-science professor. “So just imagine, maybe we get Matt Damon to teach Thévenin’s theorem [a concept involving circuits and electronics]. I think students would enjoy that more than taking it from Agarwal.”
"I’d aspired to give people a profound education—to teach them something substantial," Professor Sebastian Thrun tells me when I visit his company, Udacity, in its Mountain View, California, headquarters this past October. "But the data was at odds with this idea."
As Thrun was being praised by Friedman, and pretty much everyone else, for having attracted a stunning number of students—1.6 million to date—he was obsessing over a data point that was rarely mentioned in the breathless accounts about the power of new forms of free online education: the shockingly low number of students who actually finish the classes, which is fewer than 10%. Not all of those people received a passing grade, either, meaning that for every 100 pupils who enrolled in a free course, something like five actually learned the topic. If this was an education revolution, it was a disturbingly uneven one.
"We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product," Thrun tells me. "It was a painful moment." Turns out he doesn’t even like the term MOOC.
“I still think it’s important for people to have a sharp, ongoing critique of marriage in patriarchal society — because once you marry within a society that remains patriarchal, no matter how alternative you want to be within your unit, there is still a culture outside you that will impose many, many values on you whether you want them to or not.”—
“There is a tremendous difference between ‘thinking’ in verbal terms and ‘contemplating,’ inwardly silent, on nonverbal levels and then searching for the proper structure of language to fit the supposedly discovered structure of the silent processes that modern science tries to find. If we ‘think’ verbally, we act as biased observers and project onto the silent levels the structure of the language we use and so remain in our rut of old orientations, making keen, unbiased observations and creative work well-nigh impossible. In contrast, when we ‘think’ without words, or in pictures (which involve structure and therefore relations), we may discover new aspects and relations on silent levels and so may produce important theoretical results in the general search for a similarity of structure between the two levels, silent and verbal. Practically all important advances are made that way.”—Alfred Korzybski, Polish-American philosopher, scientist and engineer. Korzybski is remembered for developing the theoretical and practical model of General Semantics. His work argued that human knowledge of the world is limited both by the human nervous system and by the structure of language (1879-1950)
To be the parent of a young black man in this country is to be torn between wanting your son to see the world with no boundaries and warning him of the boundaries that are out there. Moving him into a safe neighborhood and then fearing for his safety. It’s nerve-racking, to tell you the truth. Anxiety grips my body each time he leaves home. Seeing the defense attorneys crack grim jokes and gloat after the not-guilty verdict does not help matters.
To draw so much satisfaction from the senseless death of a young black male going unpunished; to cavalierly absolve Zimmerman of any responsibility, as if Trayvon’s death did not come at their client’s hands.
But this is what it’s like to be the parent of a young, black male in this country.
“Appeals for calm in the wake of such a verdict raise the question of what calm there can possibly be in a place where such a verdict is possible. Parents of black boys are not likely to feel calm. Partners of black men are not likely to feel calm. Children with black fathers are not likely to feel calm. Those who now fear violent social disorder must ask themselves whose interests are served by a violent social order in which young black men can be thus slain and discarded.”—Gary Younge http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/14/open-season-black-boys-verdict
“It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America. Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.”—Cord Jefferson http://gawker.com/the-zimmerman-jury-told-young-black-men-what-we-already-770650992
“The growing number of gated communities in our nation is but one example of the obsession with safety. With guards at the gate, individuals still have bars and elaborate internal security systems. Americans spend more than thirty billion dollars a year on security. When I have stayed with friends in these communities and inquired as to whether all the security is in response to an actual danger I am told “not really,” that it is the fear of threat rather than a real threat that is the catalyst for an obsession with safety that borders on madness.
Culturally we bear witness to this madness every day. We can all tell endless stories of how it makes itself known in everyday life. For example, an adult white male answers the door when a young Asian male rings the bell. We live in a culture where without responding to any gesture of aggression or hostility on the part of the stranger, who is simply lost and trying to find the correct address, the white male shoots him, believing he is protecting his life and his property. This is an everyday example of madness. The person who is really the threat here is the home owner who has been so well socialized by the thinking of white supremacy, of capitalism, of patriarchy that he can no longer respond rationally.
White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior. Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected. Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingness to conquer fear through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action. Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor. Viewers are encouraged feel sympathy for the white male home owner who made a mistake. The fact that this mistake led to the violent death of an innocent young man does not register; the narrative is worded in a manner that encourages viewers to identify with the one who made the mistake by doing what we are led to feel we might all do to “protect our property at all costs from any sense of perceived threat. ” This is what the worship of death looks like.”—bell hooks, All About Love, p. 194-195 (via playsuits)
“Is the web the first truly flexible medium? I tried to come up with other fields that need to design things for a flexible canvas, in the hope of finding inspiration there. The only media types I could come up with was the art of balloon printing and the art of tattooing.”—Other flexible media: balloons and tattoos ⚒ Nerd (via roomthily)
“We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and there is no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified — how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact. And most of your actions are based on incomplete knowledge and you really don’t know what it is all about, or what the purpose of the world is, or know a great deal of other things. It is possible to live and not know.”—
Working memory is very limited but highly flexible. A good approaching using it is to identify a small number of key elements to “work” with. For example, we need to know the subject, object, and verb for a sentence (three things), or the cause and the effect for an explanation (two things). Success depends on defining small numbers of central elements in any experience, rather than extensive and complex explanations. Brevity and clarity are the virtues.
In school, this suggests that we should arrange students’ experiences in direct and simple ways. This may be the most difficult part for the educator, since that individual must put himself or herself in the place of the learner. With complex situations, the first step would be to identify a small number of very basic elements. That might even be enough for a whole class period (If we even had classes). Taking working memory as our gauge, we might have shorter classes, or they might be a variable length rather than a set time. Deciding when to end a class would not be a matter of watching the clock, but on watching the ideas. The point would be not to have a lot of ideas, but exactly the opposite. I might judge success not by how much information was “covered,” but by the significance and utility of the ideas, and by how much impact the ideas had on students.
We might have an “idea clock” rather than the time clock.
Zull, J.E. (2011). From brain to mind: using neuroscience to guide change in education.
““The only excursion of my life outside of New Orleans took me through the vortex to the whirlpool of despair: Baton Rouge… . New Orleans is, on the other hand, a comfortable metropolis which has a certain apathy and stagnation which I find inoffensive.”
—A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole”—(via nola-diary)
Inevitably the teacher’s response is an effort to move towards a connected social system. The response is about reaching synchrony of action and thought. This is similar to how the learning brain works, but the most significant difference is that teaching, unlike learning, cannot be carried out independently. Teaching requires human interaction and it requires a feedback loop between teacher and student that displays “success” in order for the process to continue. When this works well we have reached a level of synchrony in which teacher and learner have joined in “knowing” and the process begins again, renewing itself.
This cycle of recursive processing is a continuous loop where the student and his or her learning brain respond to the teacher’s actions and alter the sensory input that the teacher receives. This provides critical iterative feedback that the teaching brain processes to adjust responses; for example, it alters the act of teaching. This constant feedback loop is what I suggest is the source of the intangible synchrony that occurs in teaching, between teacher and student. … This give-and-take between teacher and student, this human interaction, creates a “by-product” Of human synchrony that is hard to define, but you know it when you see it or feel it. It is the flow that drives creativity and higher human thought. It is the X factor that makes in person teacher student relationships irreplaceable as this feedback loop is based on the full body of interaction — not simply voice, visual, or textual. The teacher-student interaction is the engine behind the synchronous educational experience that characterizes the best teaching and learning brains.
“In the present age the five great degenerations seem to totally dominate life on earth, to the extent that fighting and conflict have become part of the very fabric of human society. If we do not make preparations to defend ourselves from the overflow of violence, we will have very little chance of survival.”—Prescient words of warning from the 13th Dalai Lama, 1932. (via explore-blog)
Steven Pinker would disagree with His Holiness. In his book, “The Better Angels of our Nature — Why Violence Has Decreased,” Pinker argues persuasively that humans may be living in the most peaceful and least violent period of our history.