28 September 2008

On-line Lectures

This does not surprise me, of course; I've long recognised that many of my reservations about e-learning in terms of the transparency of the medium are not any concern to students who are entirely at home with iPods and the like.

But I'm still not entirely convinced they aren't missing something from the corporate experience of attending the lecture... I'm looking at ways of pod-casting my stuff at the moment (CamStudio free version looks like the best way of capturing slides for webcasting, by the way--unless you know better!) but it's not the technical stuff which gets in the way, it's the question of how much of the unmediated experience can be shared, and if so how. I suppose it is analogous to adapting a novel for film or TV.

On the blank slate

This is a little late, but TED has just featured it again, so it's worth reminding people about.

The so-called "nature-nurture" debate crops up in all kinds of courses and teaching discussions so the video is a useful resource. Pinker presents the issues well, of course, and is interesting on the passions engendered. The best popular treatment in print is still, I think, Ridley (2004) Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human London; HarperPerennial.

27 September 2008

On the psychology of morality

This is not particularly within the remit of this blog, but the "liberal-conservative" construct does reach into our classrooms, and is highlighted by the US presidential line-ups; so do look at the linked video and links from Jonathan Haidt's home page to make sense of the implicit and underpinning values.

If you want to check out your own views in relation to others, the site Haidt referred to was www.yourmorals.org.

From a slightly different perspective you might also be interested in http://www.politicalcompass.org/.

26 September 2008

On a come-back for "education"?

Perhaps it's just "confirmation bias" (the tendency to pay more attention to evidence which supports your point of view than that which tests or contradicts it), but I do detect occasional voices raised in the press arguing for the re-instatement of a broader-based critical education in colleges and universities, rather than narrow instrumental employment-focused courses. Here are two short articles from today's Times Higher Education, which draw attention to different aspects but point in the same direction:

23 September 2008

On stories and teaching

Reading this article reminded me of yet another reason to avoid presentation packages (PowerPoint, blah blah) wherever possible. The article contrasts narrative with "exposition", but principally points out the ubiquity of narrative; it cites one study suggesting that 65% of conversations, across all settings and people, concern social topics (Dunbar, 1997). And most of those topics are stories.

So why don't we tell more stories when we are teaching?

See also this blog post (the promised page is here)

22 September 2008

On new academic year resolutions

The second idea; "Do it first, then we'll talk" is not exactly earth-shatteringly new, but it's a useful illustration of variation theory (http://video.strath.ac.uk/06/140-06-03.wvx) on the derivation of principles from variation in examples. A different angle on getting at the same thing can be found in these exercises http://www.learningandteaching.info/teaching/exercises_definitions.htm

On a philosophy of teaching philosophy

Talking to a friend recently about a course on entrepreneurship at a business school, he summed up the confusion surrounding it as, "They don't know whether they're teaching about it or for it." Is this etic examination of the topic from without, or emic preparation from within? (No, it's not quite the same question as whether it is education or training.)

It's a central question in professionally/vocational curriculum areas. It beset our degree in "Educational Studies" for years and probably still does. It was not accredited as a teaching qualification in its own right, but it found little to say about education. (Sadly; there was so much which could have been said but wasn't.)

The linked article is about a professor who has taken the for approach to teaching philosophy;

Jolley says he thinks of his relationships with his students less as teacher-student than as master-apprentice. His goal, as he sees it, isn’t to teach students about philosophy; it is to show them what it means to think philosophically, to actually be a philosopher. When the approach works, the effect can be significant. Several years ago, a student named Zack Loveless wandered into one of Jolley’s classes and very nearly dropped it after the first day. “I was expecting a survey course, and in walks this big scary guy, using words I’d never heard before, talking about Hume as background for Kant, telling us how hard the class was going to be,” Loveless told me.

Loveless, ... is now getting a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Chicago. He describes Jolley as more of a collaborator than a professor; rather than answer his questions, Loveless said, Jolley tried to work through philosophical problems with him.

Do you share the article author's admiration for this approach?

17 September 2008

On the failure of technology

There's apparently no similar-scale evidence relating to further and higher education, but;
    "Those and other trials by Nielsen amount to an important research project that helps explain one of the great disappointments of education in our time. I mean the huge investment schools have made in technology, and the meager returns such funds have earned. Ever since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, money has poured into public-school classrooms. At the same time, colleges have raced to out-technologize one another. But while enthusiasm swells, e-bills are passed, smart classrooms multiply, and students cheer — the results keep coming back negative. When the Texas Education Agency evaluated its Technology Immersion Pilot, a $14-million program to install wireless tools in middle schools, the conclusion was unequivocal: "There were no statistically significant effects of immersion in the first year on either reading or mathematics achievement." When University of Chicago economists evaluated California schools before and after federal technology subsidies (the E-Rate program) had granted 30 percent more schools in the state Internet access, they determined that "the additional investments in technology generated by E-Rate had no immediate impact on measured student outcomes." In March 2007, the National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance evaluated 16 award-winning education technologies and found that "test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using selected reading and mathematics software products." Last spring a New York State school district decided to drop its laptop program after years of offering it. The school-board president announced why: "After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none."
But the reasons, Mark Bauerlein argues in the article, is that technology-enhanced teaching does not work because students apply to their learning the same skimming and skipping skills that they bring to their other net-based activities; they don't pursue arguments and follow them through on-line.

16 September 2008

On a backlash?

Yes, I'm being a little partisan in the links from the heading, but there's an interesting surge of articles supporting the case--unless I'm a victim of confirmation bias:

The magic of face-to-face teaching

The spark that tingled to my bones

but... I have to admit that "passion" is not a term which attaches readily to teaching about COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health)

The argument is not about education versus training per se but about the re-instatement of "education" as a legitimate discourse.

10 September 2008

On inclusivity/normalization... whatever

I went to Marks and Spencer in Cambridge today, and was served with their customary efficiency and courtesy. Only difference—the cashier who processed my purchase had Down's syndrome. Which made no difference to the service; as it should be. Respect to him and to the store!

On Phil Race's new address

The header says it all; Phil has had to change his web address, but his site continues to be as useful as ever. Now I have to add to my "to-do" list up-dating all the links to his old site before people start complaining they don't work!

08 September 2008

On PowerPoint again

This comes up every year, and so it should. The link is to Tara Brabazon at the Times Higher Education site.

My previous post on this is here