December 31, 2012, 9:01 am
Here’s a piece of a conversation I just had with my 8-year old daughter, who is interested in becoming a teacher when she grows up.
Daughter: Dad, if you want to become a teacher, do you have to take classes?
Me: Yes. You have to take a lot of classes about how to teach and a lot of classes in the subjects you want to teach. You need to be really good at math to teach math, for example.
D: Then do you have to go out and teach in the schools, like Mr. D___ [the young man who student-taught in my daughter's elementary school this year]?
Me: That’s right. You have to take classes and you have to go into the schools and practice.
D: Do you have to practice with the little kids?
Me: That depends on who you want to teach. If you want to become an elementary school teacher you work with elementary school kids. If you want to teach in a middle school, then you work with middle …
June 27, 2012, 11:52 am
Slate magazine has been running several articles on education this week, including two today that are of interest. This one by Konstantin Kakaes is worth looking at more closely, if only because it somehow manages to gather almost every wrong idea about technology in education in existence into a single, compact article.
The piece proposes that the effort to increase the use of technology in education “is beginning to do to our educational system what the transformation to industrial agriculture has done to our food system over the past half century: efficiently produce a deluge of cheap, empty calories.” I’m not sure which “effort” Kakaes is referring to, since there is no single push being coordinated from a secret underground bunker that I know of, and some efforts are better-conceived than others. But nevermind.
There are two overriding conceptual errors that drive this article…
June 13, 2012, 12:17 pm
This will probably be my last missive from the ASEE conference, since I’m going into my talk session in an hour and then heading directly to the airport. It’s been a good meeting, and it’s always good to rub shoulders with my engineering colleagues to see what they’re doing. As I blogged on Monday, engineers are doing some pretty great things in education.
One of the threads that has really resonated with me here is the necessity of lifelong learning in STEM education. I sort of dislike that term, “lifelong learning”, because I don’t feel like it conveys sufficient urgency. When you hear engineers talk about this, you get that urgency: The problems engineers face are increasing in complexity at an exponential pace, and as one plenary speaker put it, it’s essential to be able to add continuously to your skill set in order to be a practicing engineer. All the good grades in the world…
June 12, 2012, 7:00 am
The first speaker in the Model-Eliciting Activities (MEA’s) session Monday morning said something that I’m still chewing on:
Misunderstanding is easier to correct than misconception.
She was referring to the results of her project, which took the usual framework for MEA’s and added a confidence level response item to student work. So students would work on their project, build their model, and when they were done, give a self-ranking of the confidence they had in their solution. When you found high confidence levels on wrong answers, the speaker noted, you’ve uncovered a deep-seated misconception.
I didn’t have time, but I wanted to ask what she felt the difference was between a misunderstanding and a misconception. My own answer to that question, which seemed to fit what she was saying in the talk, is that a misunderstanding is something like an incorrect interpretation of an idea …
April 10, 2012, 8:00 am
In peer instruction, students are given multiple choice questions to consider individually, followed by an individual vote on the question using a clicker. That’s followed up by a small group discussion which is followed by a re-vote. Typically the percentage of students getting the correct answer to the question jumps, often in my experience with nearly the entire class converging on the right answer following discussion. But does that jump happen because peer discussion helps students understand the material better, or because students with a weaker understanding are socially influenced by students with a stronger understanding?
This research paper has some data that suggest the former. The authors administered 16 different sets of PI questions to a large-lecture (n = 350) physics class. The questions were given in pairs of “isomorphic” questions, having different contexts and…
April 9, 2012, 8:00 am
What I was trying to get across in Friday’s post, Gary Stager did much more clearly in this article. In it, he recalls the time thirty years ago when Logo and BASIC were being taught in schools and kids were programming. But:
Things sped downhill when we removed “computing” from our lexicon and replaced it with “technology” (like a Pez dispenser or Thermos). We quickly degraded that meaningless term, technology, further by modifying it with IT and ICT. Once computing was officially erased from the education of young people, teachers could focus on keyboarding, chatting, looking stuff up, labeling the parts of the computer and making PowerPoint presentations about topics you don’t care about for an audience you will never meet. [...]
What kids do get to do with computers tends to be trivial and inservice of the educational status quo. Gone are the days when educational…
February 8, 2012, 11:00 am
Here’s a quote from Stephen Covey’s classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which I am reading right now. Covey here is talking about the difference between improving one’s life through the “Character Ethic” (think: Ben Franklin’s autobiography) versus simply changing how you interact with other people without a corresponding shift in your worldview, which he refers to as “technique” or the “Personality Ethic”. All emphases are my own:
To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don’t pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind.
Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm—to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest? The farm is…
September 11, 2011, 12:04 pm
This is an article I first published here on the blog back on September 11, 2007, in remembrance of the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It seems incredible that 10 years have come and gone since that horrible day of confusion and chaos. I was in my first year at Franklin College in Indiana then. On 9/11/2001, the students I have today were around 7 years old, which is the age of my oldest daughter right now. Knowing how innocent yet knowledgeable my daughter is, I can begin to understand the awesome formative power of that day in their lives. I think the point of this article — you’ll see it in the last paragraph — still works today for me, and it’s the same lesson that I want to communicate to my students and to my kids.
I remember 9/11/01…
September 8, 2011, 7:30 am
Two things I noticed at the start of this semester were (1) the number of articles and blog posts coming out about “syllabus bloat” (see Profhacker, for instance), and (2) the insane degree to which my own syllabi have bloated. My Calculus II syllabus is 12 pages long, for instance, and I wasn’t exactly using 36-point font.
I liked (in a chagrined sort of way) Barbara Fister’s metaphor very much of the syllabus as Terms of Service. Put together all the boilerplate, all the course policies, all the tables of grade assignments, etc. and what you have is not very different from the Terms of Service (ToS) agreements we all click through without a glance when we start up new software. And that’s not a good thing:
The trouble is the syllabus-as-contract is not only tiresome to read, it’s not inspiring. You must, you can’t, you ought – that’s not an itinerary for a trip to someplace…
September 6, 2011, 8:00 am
There was a comment on this post back on the old site that I felt deserved more than just a reply. Raphael said:
…I flinched when I read this sentence:
“The ideal result is that the child/kid/student has a sense of being understood, cared for, and valued.”
There is one big difference between being a child and being a student. A child, I guess, has to be supported no matter what in the bounds of somewhat well-defined rules/values. You know your child is being stupid (like painting a green sky) but you still say it is doing great. It is part of the process.
As a student, I am on the verge of becoming a professional. What I need from my teachers (which includes other students, assisstants, professors) is honesty. If I do well, I need to hear that, true. But if I mess up, I need to know, too. And maybe the latter is more important. I have to learn my weaknesses so I can work on…