Wow. That has to be my shortest post ever.
I stumbled upon an interesting Acronym Search tool today that I thought had interesting potential uses in the classroom. I guess I am just one of those (annoying?) guys who likes making acronyms, so seeing what is already out there also has some appeal. But I know that I am not alone and suspect that this could also engage some students in some interesting activities.
As a starter, you can search for acronoms of your name. Who would have thought there were 9 main acronyms of ‘ERIC’ and another 91 less common ones? As these acronyms generally represent organisations or concepts, it is even more astounding to see the huge variety of that these acronyms represent – in my case, from “Educational Research Information Clearinghouse” to “Ervmisbe’s Intelligent Combat-Armour”, although there was a high strangely high proportion of education-related acronyms. Coincidence? Anyway, getting students to do an acronym search for their name, then choosing some of the results to Google and write a summary paragraph on could be an interesting option.
It also told me 14 acronyms had ‘ERIC’ in their meanings. This could provide interesting insight into a project, when the topic has already been set. For example, a search of ‘SHARK’ revealed “White Shark Research Institute (Cape Town, South Africa)” and “Outlaw Shark Digital Interface Unit”.
And for a more creative project, this resource could support students in creating their own acronyms, either on a given topic, or to fit a given word.
My previous post (on a child’s outlook influencing their intelligence) made me recall a segment in a BBC documentary (I think it was either Human Body or Child of our Time, both hosted by Robert Winston) about how using rewards too much can actually demotivate a child.
It seemed that by promising a reward while assigning a task, the child would focus on how to acheive the reward with the least possible effort, shifting focus away from intrinsic motivation and simply enjoying the task at hand. They illustrated this effect in a classroom, and it only took one or two occurrences to to demotivate the children, and created flow-on problems for quite a while afterwards like boredom, lack of focus and loss of self-sufficiency. This negative effect could be avoided by not promising the reward ahead of time and only providing a reward on a regular basis. With student motivation seeming to be the largest problem facing many teachers and schools today, I wonder if this phenomenon is at least partially to blame. It is very easy to fall into this trap and once started, it can be a slippery slope, as teachers try to counter demotivated students with the promised reward technique again. Even telling students they can leave class or stop work early once they have finished xyz, (or inversely, hold them in after the bell has rung to finish a task) can start them down the slippery slope.
Its facinating and somewhat terrifying how easy it can be to influence a person’s frame of mind. Which brings us back to the previous post – how are the children’s “theories” of intelligence being influenced in the classroom? Related studies have shown that praising a child for acheiving a particular task can be a problem, as (in a similar way to the promised reward technique) it conditions the child to expect (or even attempt to ‘engineer’) praise. This becomes a problem if a task is not done well – if praise is withheld, then the child will feel like they are not able to accomplish that task and be less inclined to try in the future. This fosters ‘helpless’ orientation of learners. However, it is also possible to foster ‘mastery-oriented’ learning using praise. The key is to not praise the task itself, but rather to praise the characteristics used to complete the task. For example, when a child has created a painting, instead of saying “what a beautiful painting”, you could praise their creativity etc.
Recognising the correct characteristics to praise can take some getting used to, however there is help available. The Virtues Project has identified a list of virtues, categorised them and selected a shortlist of the most important ones to bear in mind. They also provide advice and training of how to identify virtues in people’s actions and acknlowledge them. They provide courses for teachers, who in turn teach the students, who interestingly teach their parent as they are intrinsically motivated to be praised on their virtues. They also offer a lot of other advice with many different applications from Violence Prevention to Leadership Development. I actually know someone who is finishing their masters thesis on applying the virtues project in primary schools. The results have shown a significant improvement in sociability and time on task for pretty much all students (less for students that already rated well) in the space of only a few weeks.
So it is good to know that the ease of influencing someone can be both a good and a bad thing.
SlashDotReview mentioned an item on SlashDot (which has a vibrant conversation on the topic) quoting Hugh Pickens, who summarises an article in Scientific American on the secret to raising smart kids. Dang – talk about quoting your sources!
Anyway, Hugh Pickens writes:
Scientific American has an interesting article on the secret to raising smart kids that says that more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame. One theory of what separates the two general classes of learners, helpless versus mastery-oriented, is that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount. Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. Mastery-oriented children think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating offering opportunities to learn.
The original article Scientific American article is available here.
In the spirit of the blogosphere philosophy of ‘filtering’ and helping the cream rise to the top, I thought I wanted to mention the podcast discussion on 21st Century Learing #30: Media Literacy. The shownotes describe it as “A amazing conversation with With Adam Kenner and Sheryl Rivera from Horace Mann School and the Action Coalition for Media Education New York Chapter. This is a must listen for educators and parents in our wired world”.
It covers the following topics (apologies for the formatting – WordPress can’t seem to indent bullet points (without making them blockquotes), so this is the best I can do):
How and why teach Media Literacy to children.
Understanding how you are being manipulated by advertising and marketing.
– Also how this is constantly changing and evolving.
How media changes our view and reactions to world events.
Asking “Who produced this and what benefit do they get from giving it to me?”
– Conflicts of interest. E.g. MSNBC owned by GE – who earns a lot more from Military Defense contracts than their MSNBC news branch.
– None of the media companies are providing news as a public service. They are doing it to make money. Even PBS now.
Research showing excess of ‘mindless media’ results in lack of involvement.
– Results in depressed, anxious, sad, alone.
Bob McCannon (sp?) collecting media literacy research:
– Just teaching media literacy makes children more aware, but does not change attitude or behavoiur.
– Changes behaviour when combined with parental involvement and reduced media diet.
So a three-pronged approach to improving attitudes and behaviour around media:
– Media Literacy Education
– Parental Involvement
– Reduced Media Diet
How to encourage parental involvement.
Reactions of children. They love it. “Why didn’t you tell us about this earlier?”
The hype around online predators.
– 90% of molestations are by people the family personally knows.
– So should be educating people to look out for this.
– So why so much hype / focus on the other 10% (not all of which are online based).
– What does traditional media have to gain by perpetuating this hype?
Implication of larger politcal issues around media.
Its great to see the NECC Conference releasing stuff to the wider world that cannot make it to the conference. In NECC Live 2006 (only 2007 content is currently available), the item called “One Laptop Per Child: Hope or Hype?” had a number of interesting comments that I have transcribed below.
The three pannelists were:
- Ian Jukes – Travels a lot (consulting), working on 4 books.
- Barry Vercoe – Media Lab – Developer of OLPC, Music and Audio specialist.
- David Thomburg – Thomburg Center, State Dept Advisories, Travels (Brazil, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand), Getting into OS and Linux, New book “When the Best is Free – an educators perspective on Open Source”.
Ian Jukes – We need to transform learning, not just use the new technology in an old way.
David Thomburg – You need both the technology and the staff development to make the most of it.
David Thomburg – The technology can play a very important role if we can get the educators to realise it is learning about learning, not learning about stuff. (There is still a need for some learning about stuff, but not the dominant need).
David Thomburg – I think 1 to 1 is a myth, I don’t think 1 to 1 is a goal. I think 1 to 1 is a waystation on the way toward somwthing else. I think technology needs to be ubiquitous. I don’t operate 1 to 1, I operate 5 (technologies) to 1 (person). The critical issue is that those become useful to the extent that they interoperate. (a lot more work to make devices talk to eachother effortlesslessly).
Ian Jukes – In Singapore … they are truely 1 to 1 there, but you have to ask yourself “what has changed?”. I had a conversation with their Minister of Education two weeks ago where he said “top academic kids in the entire world that couldn’t think their way out of a wet paper bag if their life depended on it. We are a nation with no natural resources – not even fresh water. We can’t just have people that regurgitate the old, we have to have people that create the new”. And so if you put the technology in there by itself, I say “So what?”. The real issue here is about how you use that technology.
Barry Vercoe – Singapore … are running scared, just as they are in Taiwan, about the industry that has supported their economy for the last 20 years – the economic miracle of those places. …they can’t just stamp out copies any more, they are being undercut by Mainland China. The people in Singapore and Taiwan have to learn to create, have to learn how to invent, have to move higher up in the food chain in order to come up with products, new ways of thinking. So it has to do with how you think about technology, how you use technology to invent and create the economic community.
Ian Jukes – With ‘No Child Left Behind’ (no Superintendent left standing) we end up graduating highly educated, useless people – people who have really good school skills, really good test writing skills, but they arn’t ready for the world out there. … these kids leave the system that has held them up for 16 years and fall flat on their face.
Ian Jukes – So the real issues arn’t hardware issues, the real issues are headware issues. … about how we take the technology and leverage it. This isn’t about teaching powerpoint, it is about teaching kids to be better communicators. This isn’t about teaching Microsoft Word, it is about teaching kids to be better writers. Learning about the technology is nothing but an incidental (but essential) byproduct of that process. The real issue is education is about thinking – the technology is just the vehicle that will allow us to go there.
David Thomburg – (believes US is loosing its creativity. e.g. Motorola Razr Cellphones is designed in Brazil, not because it is cheap (it cost Motorolla a fortune), but because of the creativity of the Brazilian software engineers and their interdiciplinary perspective).
David Thomburg – This (lack of US creativity) is being exaserbated by the NCLB perception that we need to teach to task, that it is about a body of regurgitatable knowledge, as Ian says “the binge and purge model – information bulimia”.
David Thomburg – When did joy leave education? At conference it used to be so much fun … teachers were giving other teachers software they had wrote themselves … now it is all shrinkwrapped, you have al the booth barbies with bodies by Nautilus, brains by Matel. Come on, lets have some fun.
David Thomburg – You take Linux on a little box, you put in some creative stuff, you put that in the hand of some kids and teachers, you sit down in a corner and the next thing you know its Tuesday because your having so much fun with it. Anything that brings that joy back is going to be good for this country (USA).
David Thomburg – When we get all of the children who can celebrate knowledge, celebrate culture – not as a melting pot or soup that is homogenised but like a salad bowl where you get the delight of different flavours … it is not a perspective that supports the concept of (armed) conflict. When you truly understand other people in the world and that this is a planet, how can you fight?
Barry Vercoe – Its the people that have creativity and a natural desire to express themselves, are going to burst there way through whatever technological barriers are there, these are the people that innovate. Innovation occurs when there is a clash of cultures, a clash of ways of thinking, a clash of ways of doing things – the interaction of those people (is where the innovation happens).
Ian Jukes – We live in a media culture that builds things up in order to tear things down. My greatest fear is that the media jumps to a conclusion (like after a team looses one game) that all is lost (before we build enough momentum to reach Gladwells tipping point).
An audience question – “How can we get the same scale of conversation moving (as around the OLPC) about what real rich learning looks like like when it is facilitated by teachers?”
Ian Jukes – Neil Postman said “Children enter school as a question mark and exit as a period. Primary kids like school, high schoolers like lunch. Primary teachers teach children, secondary teachers teach subjects”. I beleive the tipping point is about grade 3, where learning goes from this incredible multimedia experience to being increasingly drudgery.
Ian Jukes – What is the opposite of pro? con? What is the opposite of progress? congress? Many of these people that are making decisions that affect the lives of these kids – their senior year was grade seven, their toughest two years was grade one … and they haven’t been in a classroom for 30 years.
Ian Jukes – We have these incredible tools, but as yogi bearer says “Its deja vu all over again”. What has changed? … My fear is that we are going to take this magnificent tool (OLPC) and instead of letting the children shape the tool, the tool is going to shape the childern and basically it is going to be the same old same old all over again.
Ian Jukes – I think we do a great job in American schools today (2006) of preparing kids for 1950, and I may be being optomistic there.
Barry Vercoe – Our philosophy at the media lab is “tools to think with”.
David Thomburg – This also evokes some fear, some negative fear I have read (about OLPC) is that “oh my god – if this happens, education is going to change. We can’t let that happen”. They will hide this in other ways by saying “the machine is underpowered” etc (but based in this fear).
Barry Vercoe – The $100 laptop is already forcing people to think differently … The Intel $400 knockoff … it looks just like the (MIT) machine, but it costs $400. You have to admit the software systems are just bloated, they are very slow … so the small hardware is going to force the Linux people to come down (to match it).
David Thomburg – … they want something that is reliable, that works, you turn it on and it is there. You are not going to get that with anything that runs software that comes out of Redmond Washington.
David Thomburg – Dell is now releasing a $450 computer … but they are not going to preload it with the kind of software that MIT is doing because they are going to say “out maket doesn’t want that”. You see, focus groups are almost the worst things to have because what people will say what they want is what they already have. If you keep going where you are going you will keep getting what you’ve got. Its time for something new.
David Thomburg – The positive opportunity is that in November 2007, NCLB going to be rewritten. …MIT’s project has made enough noise that I think there will be a seat at the table to talk about what education might look like here. If this country starts to see what other countries are doing and take it seriously, they will realise “we have tennis shoe marks up out back”.
Lindy Mekeuwan (audience) – In working with professional development … I’ve moved my crosshairs of the teacher and have moved it onto the university staff. Anyone who can only run Powerpoint, Word and the Library software can’t possibly prepare a teacher for the kind of world that this machine is going to open up. … I think what you need areound the OLPC is the salvation army of education – the people who will work with the people as the devices arrive and bring the ideas to them. What I have found working with teachers is that they are wonderful, creative, teriffic people – all you have got to do is give them a little bit of time and some great resources and they will do astounding things with them. It is just they are not prepared for that by their faculty or in their graduate programs or the professional development that they are offered – it very targeted to maintaing the status quo. … The concept of a lecture about constructivism is our issue.
Barry Vercoe – The problem in Australia is that Brenda Nelson who was the Minister of Education last year is noe the Minister of Defense. These people are making some of the decisions. … the problem is that the decision making is not put into the hands of the people that have the real experience.
David Thomburg – One of the best instructional TV series is JunkYard Wars (you have to build a machine to fit a challenge with any junk you can find). During the process they go around and interview the teams about the decision making process and their materials testing etc. What you get to see is the most delightful thinking and problem solving. (and you learn the lessons you need in a practical way you will never forget). There is also “Make” Magazine dedicated to this topic. I think that we would be better off if textbooks were more like make magazine and schools were held in junkyards, because that is where people could really build stuff and do stuff. We are human beings, but we are also human doings.
I’m sure almost all of us make backups to CD or DVD – if you don’t you should! And I’m guessing almost all of you hope that data will still be there when you go back to it. If so, you’ll probably appreciate this good blog post on the topic. While it is informative, it is very detailed and technical, so I decided to summarise it, and then write a 4-point summary of the summary for the really really busy people…
- Use CD-R or DVD+R, but not DVD-R.
- Use Taiyo Yuden media if possible, which can be sold as TDK or Verbatim brands – see links for genuine sources and a trusted store.
- If you can’t find Taiyo Yuden media, use Verbatim.
- Keep all media out of direct sunlight, in a nice cool dry dark place, in acid-free plastic containers – this will triple the lifetime of any media.
- RW Media of any description is not reccommended.
- Only buy media made in Japan or Taiwan. Especially not India (can loose its seal and oxidise).
- CD-R is ok, if you use a good brand (see below).
- DVD-R is not good (the author goes as far as saying it “sucks”) for 3 reasons – inferior error correction, inferior ‘wobble’ tracking, and the fact its data writing methods look like an un-needed halfway point between CD-R and DVD+R.
- DVD+R fixes these 3 problems and also has better power control settings and gives four times more scratch space.
- So DVD+R very strongly reccommended.
- Brand makes a significant difference. The author a dozen different brands and the only ones that have had a 100% success rate is Taiyo Yuden (TY).
- After TY, the next best is Verbatim. Usually, after choosing brand (Verbatim), type (DVD+R) and possibly quantity (e.g. 50-pack), you will only have one choice. If you do have a choice, there are resources available to make that choice an informed one. Verbatim uses various manufacturers and techniques, so results vary. Links at the bottom of this post may help by collecting user reviews of the different variants.
Where to get Taiyo Yuden Media:
- Can buy TY brand as TY in Japan. In other countries, popular brands such as TDK and Verbatim carry TY media, however not all TDK and Verbatim is TY – the non-TY media is not as reliable.
- See the Taiyo Yuden FAQ by the CD Freaks Forum for a listing of TY media under different brands AND what is fake TY.
- You can also get genuine TY media at SuperMediaStore.com – the only company the author has found that guarantees that their media is actually from Taiyo Yuden and not a fake.
- Unlike ‘pressed’ media, no ‘burnt’ media will last forever.
- The article mentions that good quality CD media (or at least the dye) is stable for at least 70 years. But cannot say for DVD media because the dyes are secret. However it does say that DVDs use similar dyes.
- For the technically minded, five main things effect the quality/lifetime of ‘burnt’ media: Sealing method, reflective layer, organic dye makeup, where it was manufactured, and your storage practices. However, in this article, with DVD, we can’t get much more information – sealing method is fine with Japan and Taiwan manufacturers, this also speaks to the country of manufacture, the dyes used are kept secret, the reflective materials are almost exclusively silver and aluminum alloys which produce similar end results (there are only a couple of gold layer options, which are only of comparable quality to TY and more expensive) and storage practices.
- Keep all media out of direct sunlight, in a nice cool dry dark place, in acid-free plastic containers – this will triple the lifetime of any media.
Finding Good Quality Media:
- www.cdfreaks.com/media – gives a list of tested media, some basic facts and votes/popularity in the CDFreaks community. When faced with many similar choices (even within Verbatim) this can help.
- www.videohelp.com/dvdmedia – a large database of media for sale, searchable by many things, including UPC/ EAN code (i.e. barcode) which some online retailers list so you can buy with more confidence online. Many user reviews so you know how well the media has worked for other people.
Of course, the simple answer to this problem is ‘yes’. But when things are not simple, that is, extra time needs to be spent to support Opera, then what should the answer be?
Recently www.yellowpages.co.nz was refurbished, which is all well and good, but on my first visit I spent about 5 minutes (which felt like hours) trying to figure out how to do a simple search. As it turns out, I am not completely inept – I was using Opera and the site did not display properly. Unfortunately, it didn’t even detect that my browser may not be compatible and notify me (as www.rsnewzealand.com does nicely), so I let them know (through an online form that also didn’t support Opera…). I was told that they only make the site compatible with browsers that 1% or more of their users use.
I did some research before replying to this. As it turns out, there are a number of interesting angles to this, and it is actually quite hard to find reliable numbers on this topic, so I thought I would post my reply here:
Thanks for your reply. It occurs to me that there is a bit of a ‘chicken and the egg’ flaw in your logic – how do you expect even 1% of people to use your site with a browser that can’t use your site?! At a very conservative estimate, I tried using your site once with Opera, failed, and then used Firefox for at least another 10 page views. So already you will be innacurately thinking Opera is 10x less popular to me than it is, and this number will just keep getting worse the longer you leave your website broken.
There is something else you should realise. Opera spoofs IE as its ‘user agent’ – when web servers ask it what it is, so your web logs are very likely wrong. Responsible/knowledgeable weblogs state their stats as “MSIE 6.x/AOL & opera = XX%”.
There are 2 very good reasons they spoof. Opera is very dedicated to being very standards compliant, which actually causes them trouble. As IE is not completely standards compliant, many web developers have had to modify their sites to work for IE, which sadly, can cause problems for Opera. Also, there are documented situations where Microsoft-owned websites actively look for the browser type, and if it is Opera, they actively corrupt the page info sent out, so that Opera can’t display it properly. So Opera has to spoof IE in order to give its customers a good experience. See here for more info.
Therefore, estimating the true number of Opera users is quite difficult, and unfortunately Opera does not often release this kind of information. However, http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp is well respected, and lists Opera as over 1% for the last 5 years (and this is still subject to the spoofing problem). In some areas, usage is higher – some German sites said Opera was as high as 15%. Maybe the most relevant stats – http://operawatch.com/news/2006/08/some-opera-statistics-2.html says over 10,000,000 downloads of Opera 9 in less than 3 months, which does not include all the previous versions of Opera (there were 10,000,000 downloads back in 2003 when it was still a paid product), or downloads since then. It also states more than 40 million phones were distributed with the opera Mobile browser. The only other data I could find is comparing the number of downloads at www.download.com – Opera 9.21 has 6,800,000, IE7 has 9,100,000, Firefox 2 has 10,500,000. Obviously this has many areas of uncertainty, but it does strongly suggest that Opera interests more than 1% of users.
I am not an Opera evangelist, but I have to say I find Opera the best browser by far, and it is now free. It is the only browser created by dedicated, paid, professionals and it shows. Firefox has stability issues and is memory hungry, IE is simply behind the times – even version 7 lacks many common features. Opera is fast, efficient and easy to use with a highly customisable interface and has a track record of introducing innovations that others copy (tabbed browsing, sessions, trash bin etc). About the only problem I have with Opera is that it has problems with a few interactive sites that are not standards compliant, which is unfortunate. Hopefully your site will not be one of those for much longer.
I think I have stumbled across a parallel that is worthy of note between the idea of rhizomatics and the Discovery 1 school. The idea of rhizomatics is briefly mentioned in a seminar I blogged about, and detailed more in some of Dave Cormier’s blog entries, starting with this introduction. The Discovery 1 school is a local experimental primary school I blogged about.
In a sentence, rhizomatics “describes theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation”. And Discovery 1 School focuses on letting children discover the knowledge that they are personally interested in.
So it seems to me that Discovery 1 children are operating in a very rhizomatic way – they are taught from their very first day to seek out information in many and varied ways, and integrate this into their own knowledge. Of course they need some help in the early years, but parents are encouraged to come to school with the child and assist them. They are also taught the associated skills that support this: choosing educatonal goals, planning how to acheive these goals (so essentially creating their own lesson plans), managing their time, recognising ‘blind spots’ in their knowledge and resolving them, and at the end of the topic, creating an output that will fairly represent the knowledge they have gained (their equivalent of assessment).
So what can we learn from this? The first thing that hits me is that rhizomatics does not have to be a digital process. Sure, it is made easier by using the internet, but it can equally work in a classroom of 10 year olds who enter and exit from knowledge via talking to people, observing or interviewing an expert, reading books, performing experiments or possibly using the internet.
In addition, at the end of the presentation, there was a discussion on how to apply rhizomatics in traditional teaching situations, especially with regard to curriculum and assessment. I beleive there is a lot to be learned from Discovery 1 School (who themselves have had to learn from the ground up over the last 5 years). Bear in mind I am not the expert on this (in fact, I can probably line up someone from Discovery 1 to attend an EdTechTalk – if someone is interested, let me know), but my second-hand knowledge would be as follows.
With regard to assessment, the student has to create one or more outputs by the end of the topic that will fairly represent the knowledge they have gained. These outputs can be in any form that does the job, so can be any or all of text, diagrams, photos, video, audio, multimedia, posters, paper mache or performance etc.
With regard to curriculum, the teacher (or parents) works with the child to ensure that all curriculum objectives are acheived within the topics of the student’s choice. Often, this is simply a suggestion that the student also looks at xyz as a part of their chosen topic (maybe if the topic is dinosaurs, the student is encouraged to calculate the fraction of various species’ life spans compared to a humans). Occassionally, when the student presents their learning goals to the teacher, the teacher may have to suggest that, for example, they have covered enough music topics recently and should think about something involving science, but generally this does not seem to be a problem as the students seem to naturally have diverse interests.
I am sure there is more that can be drawn from this comparison, but for now, real life becons.
The Eight Competencies of Online Interaction: What Should We Be Learning and Doing? was recently presented at the NYSAIS Mohonk 2006 Conference. Its a long (89 minute) mp3 so jammed full of interesting observations that I had to go back and have a second listen. The energy of the presenters also helps keep you interested for its entire length. My only negative comment would be that in the audio version it was not clear what the 8 competencies were, with only some indications when they were moving on to the next topic, but that does not detract from the insights within.
So what is it about? The title really sums it up, and because online interaction pretty much applies to everyone nowadays, I would reccommend that anyone online take a listen (especially if you are eclectic enough to be reading this blog post). Why? I think it can offer valuable insigts into what you are doing online and how you go about it, and quite importantly, better understand your own strength and weaknesses, which in turn will help you play to your strengths and improve or at least anage your weaknesses. Sounds like a good idea to me.