Even organizations with great meeting process inadvertently perpetuate barriers to full participation and access to democratic process. This happens through group dynamics of power, privilege and oppression that often marginalize women, people of color, queer, trans and gender non-conforming folks, people with disabilities and those with limited access to the cultural cues and financial resources that come with class privilege.
Whether or not you act as facilitator at meetings you attend, building your facilitation skills will help you make your meetings better, more inclusive, and more fully democratic! Here are some foundational tips and suggestions that can have big impacts on your meetings.
I especially like the “Community Agreements”:
One diva, one mic
No one knows everything; together we know a lot
Move up, move up
We can’t be articulate all the time
Be aware of time
Acknowledge the difference between intent and impact
This strikes me as thoughtfully and lovingly put together, battle tested. I’ve used some similar ground rules in class in the past, but am looking forward to trying more of this language in the future.
It may remain a little-known fact, but Africa has never lacked civilizations, nor has it ever been as cut off from world events as it has been routinely portrayed. Some remarkable new books make this case in scholarly but accessible terms, and they admirably complicate our understanding of Africa’s past and present.
There is still a lot of world out there, and a lot of history. The more I travel and read and learn, the more I realize just how ignorant and biased I am.
For years I wanted to be the kind of writer that could write more often, more quickly, more succinctly than I do. But throughout it all, I’ve been drawn back to writing the same kind of posts, which are sort of like opinion column-style essays of 500-plus words or so, and that always takes me way more time to write than I would prefer, if given the chance. Ultimately, I just learned to accept that that was the kind of writer that I am, for better or worse.
Your work is beautiful and your passion for our language is quite inspiring. I have never seen this sort of appreciation for Vietnamese by a Vietnamese person before. I’m glad to have found Vietnamese Typography and I’ve donated $5 via the support page. I wish you all the best, Donny.
This is how we can win back the web, one person at a time. Take some time to create something you care about and share it with the world. The world might just find you and thank you for it.
Mike Caulfield has been working on teaching web literacy, in part as an effort to address misinformation spread and impact. These preliminary results from some of his classes, and his conclusions, are compelling.
Design matters. Engineering matters. But so too does the context and the practices around technology. Culture matters. All of these systems and practices have a history. (That’s one of the key takeaways for you, if you’re taking notes.)
Why does the cursor blink, for example? How does the blink direct and shape our attention? How is the writing we do – and even the thinking we do – different on a computer than on paper, in part because of blinks and nudges and notifications? (Is it?) How is the writing we do on a computer shaped by the writing we once did on typewriters? How is the testing we take, even when on paper, designed with machines in mind?
Audrey has been working on a book, Teaching Machines, and gave this talk last month in Florida. I won’t try to summarize the whole talk here, because I think you should just go read her transcript. I’ll just whet your appetite with a couple more selections.
On B. F. Skinner’s influence (over Seymour Papert’s):
I maintain, even in the face of all the learn-to-code brouhaha that multiple choice tests have triumphed over democratically-oriented inquiry. Indeed, clicking on things these days seems to increasingly be redefined as a kind of “active” or “personalized” learning.
And just for fun:
“The most important thing I can do,” Skinner famously said, “is to develop the social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us,” adding that he intended to develop “the social infrastructure for community – for supporting us, for keeping us safe, for informing us, for civic engagement, and for inclusion of all.”
Oh wait. That wasn’t B. F. Skinner. That was Mark Zuckerberg. My bad.
Speaking of Lisa, her dissection of student needs vs. wants is withering:
It is obvious that the problems of the customer-service model of education continue to expand. The larger question is how it has become accepted wisdom that students require motivation in the form of entertaining behaviors on the part of instructors, that not to do so means being boring, and that boring is not OK and needs to be fixed. Regardless of what a student may need in terms of acculturation, self-direction, and scholarship, it has become more important that they be entertained into learning, then get a degree as quickly as possible to avoid wasting public monies.
Education should not adapt to such support goals, nor adapt to fit what students say they want.
Since I work in for-profit education, I see this bad habit of thinking of students as customers crop up all the time. I do believe that we should take a service-centered approach in supporting student learning. But I believe any input from students has to be filtered and interpreted, and that we have to rely on more sophisticated and less biased methods to determine what is working and what isn’t.
There’s an analog in user experience: designing for the user isn’t about giving the user whatever she wants. If you ask people what they want from their software, you’ll often hear very different things than you’d catch if you watch someone actually use their phone.
I learn more about improving my class by observing students work and asking them to explain things to me than I ever could by sending a survey asking them for suggestions. I do surveys like this, yes, but these are inputs I largely treat as noise that’s required by the larger organization—by people who aren’t in a position to do the boots on the ground work of figuring out what students need.
An SLO is a Student Learning Outcome. Now, before you roll your eyes, be aware that when the History department was given the task of creating SLOs for all our courses years ago, we were given significant latitude. In our wisdom, we decided to make our SLOs skills-based rather than content-based. Instead of saying what content would be covered, what names and dates and events students had to learn, we would base our SLOs on what skills we wanted students to practice as historians.
Love this approach. Personally, I prefer to go a bit broad and overlappy at this high level, because it allows you to have a dialog about shared goals across subjects.
It’s hard to imagine companies of this size voluntarily reducing revenue in response to a new brand of ethics. It’s unclear, given their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders, if they’re even allowed to do so.
By contrast, I’ve long supported a focus on culture over corporations. Instead of quixotically convincing some of the most valuable business enterprises in the history of the world to behave against their interests, we should convince individuals to adopt a much more skeptical and minimalist approach to the digital junk these companies peddle.
We don’t need to convince YouTube to artificially constrain the effectiveness of its AutoPlay algorithm, we should instead convince users of the life-draining inanity of idly browsing YouTube.
Maybe I’m just in a cynical mood, but I don’t personally see either of these approaches working. Honestly, anything that requires individuals or groups of people to shift their behaviors by first changing their minds sounds like tilting at windmills to me.
I’d love to be wrong about this.
On a less cynical note, I believe behavior is currently naturally shifting away from the excesses alluded to by Newport. Anecdotally, I see fewer students distracted on their phones throughout the day than I used to. And it’s clear people have to started to pay attention to the man behind the curtain in terms of advertising and content suggestions online. Give it some time, people know how to take care of themselves, and are surprisingly resilient.
Most of my students don’t see themselves as mathematicians because they can’t see pathways for mathematics to positively influence their lives. What if, as one small step toward creating richer perceptions of what mathematics is and creating a discipline that has a more positive influence on humans, we chose to center “mathematics for social good” as a core part of what we see as math?
We do not need another social network with 1 billion users. Part of the problem is having so many users and so much power concentrated in one place. And setting out to achieve 1 billion users means it’s an ad-based platform that will inherently revisit many existing problems.
Agreed. And yet I am still bothered by the barriers of entry to alternatives, including Micro.blog. Apart from the usually-discussed technical and know-how barriers to entry (which honestly I find dubious on their own), what of social barriers? I see a lot of what faces whenever I check in on Micro.blog. How do we avoid revisiting this existing problem?
OMG I love these old postcards of the boardwalk at Coney Island.
The wood planks of the Coney Island Boardwalk were designed to accommodate two kinds of traffic: pedestrian and rolling chair. The sections with diagonal planks forming a chevron pattern were meant for foot traffic, whereas the two strips of straight planks were meant for rolling chairs.
If you ever visit New York, I really recommend the trip out to Coney Island. It’s kind of a bizarre place so close to such a huge international city. I recommend the freak show, a corn dog or two, and a stroll down the boardwalk.
If it’s nice out, take a nap on the pier. Don’t forget sunblock.
When I worked in food service and in the mailroom, the uglier touchscreens were always easier to work with. They were color coded with bright, contrasting colors, making the boundaries between numbers or items very obvious. I found that the colors reduced mistakes. I’d usually tap the right items after barely even glancing at the interface. After a while, I’d only check the screen for mistakes at the end of the process, before submitting an order or printing a receipt.
Most touchscreen interfaces don’t use high contrast colors or locked, static buttons for basic functions. They bury actions under multiple buttons, and this leaves us dangerously hunting for the right button while trying to drive, or our frustrated passengers trying to help us get our phone connected via Bluetooth.
This PageRank thing, they told us, was an “algorithm.” And, for a time, algorithms were all the rage. We were living in the age of the algorithm. And in all my client meetings and project plans, every time we had a decision to make, someone would say, “the algorithm will do it.”
The algorithm never did it.
I’ll let Dionne Warwick take this one:
Gotta get off, gonna get
Out of this merry-go-round
Gotta get off, gonna get
Need to get on where I’m bound
When did I get, where did I
Why am I lost as a lamb
When will I know, where will I
How will I learn who I am
Added this to my reading list last year, and have been digging into it again the past week. So far I’m finding the book to be interesting in terms of case studies, but short on practical advice. Does anyone have any other recommendations as I go down this road?
Without professional standards we will continue to expect those around us to be able to do more than they can, and not expect enough of ourselves.
We need to understand that most people can spot a bad service, but won’t be able to tell you why it’s bad or how to fix it. This is the same with graphic design – where most people will be able to identify a bad road sign, but won’t be able to tell you that the kerning is too tight. It isn’t fair to expect them to do this, just as it isn’t fair for us to charge for our services as designers if we can’t.
Reading through these principles made me much more interested in service design.
“Everyone Can Code” is an interesting idea. The implication is that there will be a lot of good code out there, but it also implies that there will be a lot of bad code too. In a world where everyone can code, not all code will be good. There will be bad code, in fact.
It’s worth noting though that engineering as a discipline, as a trade, as a profession is largely unthreatened by the idea of bad code. In fact, you could say that the prevalence of bad code has been a boon to the world of engineering. In spite of all the bad code being written out there, the discipline is thriving.
And yet when it comes to the discipline of design:
Designers want design to be an exclusive domain. They want its processes to be mysterious, and often rooted in the idiosyncrasies of mercurial creative directors and savants, because it preserves the perceived value of our craft. Put more plainly: the more difficult design is to practice, the more lucrative it is for practicing designers.
I’m with Khoi on this point:
Any embrace of design by non-designers is a good thing, and design thinking qualifies here. The reason for this is that when that happens, it means our language, the vocabulary of design, is broadening to the rest of the world.
If you ask me, this is a big part of what I’ve always loved about the web: the way it seems to support individual growth by giving so many a platform to share about what they do and how they approach their work.
Back in the 90s, I remember an explosion of writing and sharing about making web pages. It was great! I wouldn’t have learned half the things I know how to do without that impulse to share.
I think the impulse is still there, if it sometimes gets a bit overwhelming dealing with so many resources which just attempt to monetize content rather than provide genuine heart-felt writing to visitors. Just have a look at some of the math education blogosphere and you’ll see that impulse on full display.
I hope to give this a more thorough read over the next weeks. If you haven’t read the earlier editions, now’s a great time to pick this up.
In conclusion to my first two months on a big project, I now know that getting confused, spending a long time studying many different files & folders, and asking other developers for help is a right of passage to becoming a better developer.
I remember the first time a friend of mine showed me something he’d written in Mathematica, about 15 years ago. I had no idea what was going on. I hadn’t studied any computer science, I didn’t really understand what this tool was supposed to be doing, or why anyone would use it. There was a big gap between how impressed my friend was with what he’d been able to do with it, and my feelings at looking at it with him. (I feel like it had something to do with simulating sheep populations?)
Fast forward to a couple of years ago, when I was working on the launch of a data science course and saw a Jupyter notebook in action running Python. The scales came off my eyes. This was an interactive programming environment that I had never really imagined! The possibilities for teaching were immediately obvious. You could create notebooks that showed code and results for students to tinker with, demonstrate with live examples you could update on the fly, leave blanks for students to fill in like worksheet, etc.
It was only later that I realized I was seeing a new take on a set of paradigms that I’d seen in Mathematica so many years earlier.
Observable uses the same notebook model, in a way that feels very much web-technology native. It’s web interface is nicer than Jupyter already. I’m also encouraged to see some early community on the site (although at first glance it seems heavily male-leaning). I’ll be curious to see how it grows. As far as I can tell, there’s not currently a way to download and work locally on Observable notebooks, whereas part of what I like about the Jupyter format is its portability. Observable is still young, so I hope that there is a chance this may happen in the future.
Shortly after I moved back to New York, I was let go from my job. It was the first time I ever cried in public, and I still recall more of the emotional nuances of the experience in my heart, than any of the actual details of the job. I just remember suddenly needing to get out of the building, waiting tortuously for the elevator to take me down the 40-or-whatever floors, and having nowhere to go. So I simply broke down into sobs in the street.
I felt embarrassed, like insanely embarrassed, and I was so worried that people would come up to me and ask if I was okay and it would only make it worse. But no one came up to me. I don’t think anyone even took a second look at me. And this was a busy area in mid-town, a few blocks from Grand Central.
I fell in love with New York a little bit more that day. Sometimes you need to cry, and in New York that often means crying on the street or in the subway, because life doesn’t happen in your apartment, and you don’t have a car to hide in. There’s a shared experience of this, anyone I’ve talked to who lives or lived in New York has stories like these. And the beautiful part is, that we also all know that the best way to comfort someone who is crying in public, is to leave them alone.
I love that, and I love this map, which so effortlessly conveys the experience of living in New York during your formative adult years with emojis and one-sentence stories. Thank you for this.
Another thought-provoking talk from Maciej Cegłowski, tracing the early history of radio from hobbyists to commercial success:
Like the Internet, radio technology was on the horizon for a long time before it arrived, and it arrived in a rudimentary form that didn’t strike anyone as a qualitatively new technology, let alone one that could upend politics.
The world that radio arrived in already had ways to communicate in real time over long distances—telegraphs and telephones. It wasn’t clear at the outset that Hertzian waves could be detected at distances much greater than a few hundred meters, let alone that they might become a practical method to transmit the human voice.
At best, they might prove a useful method for detecting lightning at a distance, or communicating with ships at sea.
The world that radio was born into had a group of telegraphy enthusiasts who ran their own little networks, the Usenet of their day. And there was also an assortment of thriving small-scale telephone networks, including rural ones where the telephone wires were run over barbed wire fencing, connecting thirty or forty farms on a circuit.
Some of these people became the first radio “hams”—amateur hobbyists.
Socrates didn’t charge for “education” because when you are in business, the “customer starts to become right”. Whereas in education, the customer is generally “not right”. Marketeers are catering to what people want, educators are trying to deal with what they think people need (and this is often not at all what they want). Part of Montessori’s genius was to realize early that children want to get fluent in their surrounding environs and culture, and this can be really powerful if one embeds what they need in the environs and culture.
I want to believe this, but I don’t know how to escape the patriarchal implications of this line of reasoning. As soon as it’s the teacher’s job to know better what students need…
The Web is at a point where more of us need to be putting in some effort to get a broader view of the world and the people living here. The social effects of the Web are stretching further and further every day. More and more people are getting access to it. More than ever, we need to make sure it’s an accessible and secure place for everyone.
This is all nonsense, but nonsense with a purpose. Powerful men, mostly white men, are not Jews in Nazi Germany, black Americans in pre-civil-rights U.S., heretics and witches before the Salem magistrates or the Inquisition, alleged Communists before the House Un-American Activities Committee, or political dissidents in Soviet Russia. Losing a job, losing screen time, losing influence—these are not equivalent to the loss of life or freedom. Every time the playing field tilts a bit toward level, the powerful start to cry, “Help, I’m being repressed!”
The period from 1995-2008 (roughly speaking) was fun. It seemed like everybody was coming up with new things, and people were experimenting, and we were finding new joys in new connections, both human and technological.
A hyperfast web frontend for git repositories written in C.
Honestly, it’s fun just poking around a codebase whose user interface is the project itself. For me, it’s especially fun to look through all this C code and realize that in most cases I kind of know what’s going on.
My career path wasn’t planned out and was shaped by an acceptance that it’s okay not to know. Even now I don’t have much of a plan for what I’ll do next. All I know is I want to keep learning and to keep making things, and with that I’m confident I’ll find my way.
Speaking confidently, explaining ideas clearly, having some content knowledge, and getting students to like you are all things that many humans get good at outside of teaching contexts, and at first glance someone with those skills might appear to be a natural teacher.
The heart of teaching is much more subtle, much harder to learn, and much more counterintuitive.
Isn’t this true of any field of endeavor?
I find it’s often the case that those who show the most “natural” skill in something, wind up being the ones who have the most difficulty un-learning what they believe they know and understand as they work toward mastery. They’re more likely to get frustrated once things become more challenging for them.
I always find it more rewarding to try to get better at things which I feel require work for me to really engage with. Anything that seems immediately obvious or straightforward to me gives me pretty major pause, because I’m probably over-simplifying it.
Timothy Garton Ash makes a compelling case that Germany’s current flirtations with the far-right have more to do with a sense of cultural loss, as opposed to a loss of economic standing.
For the rank-and-file, it is yet more evidence that the liberal elites have so little time and respect for them that they “won’t look at us even with their asses.” Worse still: they won’t even let ordinary people say what they think. In a poll conducted in spring 2016 for the Freedom Index of the John Stuart Mill Institute in Heidelberg, only 57 percent of respondents said they felt that “one can freely express one’s political opinion in Germany today.”
It’s therefore encouraging to see a growing number of German intellectuals advocating John Stuart Mill’s own response. Take on these arguments in free and open debate. Subject them to vigorous and rigorous scrutiny. Separate the wheat from the chaff. For as Mill famously argued, even a false argument can contain a sliver of truth, and the good sword of truth can only be kept sharp if constantly tested in open combat with falsehood. Otherwise the received opinion, even if it is correct, will only be held “in the manner of a prejudice.”
I can’t pretend to really know what is going on at all, but it makes sense to me that there are many people in this world with grievances who feel simply unheard. It also does strike me as dangerous to allow insular thoughts to fester in their own insularity. If we can’t air out our grievances, how can we stay open to the possibility of changing our thinking?
This isn’t at all to say that I think the “non-elites”1 of economically advanced countries like Germany and the US are somehow more deserving of attention than the billions of people on the planet who are genuinely making do with too little. But they are part of the voting process for decision-makers who increasingly affect people around the world, despite being representative of only a select few. We have to be able to have a conversation with them, or I can only see the current state of affairs getting worse.
I’m not sure what to call it, but I mean folks who feel left behind somehow. ↩
I always appreciate when folks who struggle with their mental health find ways to write and honestly share their experience. So I want to give thanks to Megan Schmidt for opening up at a time when she probably feels like closing off, to share about her decision to take some time from her teaching:
I simply need time to let my brain settle down from the chaos that has taken over. I’ll work to restore relationships with my spouse, my daughter, my family, and my friends that I simply have not had the mental energy to attend to.
I’m glad she’s able to take the time she needs. And to anyone else out there who shares these sorts of struggles, I hope you are able to find people and support in your life to ease the pain at least a bit.
What if women are leaving the tech industry before they can educate other women? Or, worse, what if women in the tech industry are so unhappy that they are actively convincing their friends and daughters NOT to join.
This is exactly what’s been happening in our field. The attrition of women from the technology industry, namely software engineering, over the past few decades is a significant contributor to the lack of women in the field today. And, while my research focuses mainly on women, I believe many of the same things are true for people of color. Let me explain why women are leaving, how that impacts the next generation’s pipeline, and how we can go about fixing it.
This past weekend, we took a bus to Wrocław, Poland and stayed near the old town square. We arrived late on Friday, and on our walk through town, I was immediately struck by the night life of the city. I realized later that we were near the university, which explained all the young people. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an active local night life in the historical center of town.
For dinner on Saturday, we trekked out to a more remote part of town where we had made reservations at a restaurant. The restaurant was nestled in a strip of shops at the foot of a six-or-so-story apartment complex, among a dozen or so similar complexes. As we entered, the setup was very intimate: three tall large tables designed to seat at most six people each, sharing the space with a small open kitchen.
After getting some drinks, the chef came over and sat across from us at the table for a chat. He explained that he’d opened this restaurant after feeling frustrated at larger restaurants with the politics of designing menus for customers to order from. Here there were no menus, and instead he simply wanted to know what kinds of things we like and what kinds of things we don’t like. As we hesitantly started to describe our tastes, he took notes on a small piece of paper and interjected with follow-up questions. At one point he said, “That’s great, that inspires me!”
Soon he was off behind the counter to the kitchen, where he and two other chefs prepped several small plates of food, all based on the conversation and his notes.
After dinner we talked with him some more. A small “kiddie” table next to the kitchen had become occupied by a young girl while we’d eaten—it turned out she was his daughter. He’d cooked in restaurants in London and in the center of Wrocław for years, but it was clear as he told his story how much joy he’d found in this venture. He opened for dinner Tuesday through Friday, and held lunch and dinner on the weekends. The tables were chosen to be modular because he also sometimes held cooking classes in the same space.
It’s rare to see such a tight integration between a craftsman, his craft, his team, his life, and his customers. What a treat.
By focusing on the hue, saturation, and lightness of colors – and how these dimensions interact – designers can learn how changes in code are reflected visually, and compose interesting color combinations from this knowledge.
NCTM proposes a high school course of study premised on:
modeling, which students most often experience as pseudocontextual word problems,
proof, which students most often experience by filling in blanks in a two-column template,
technology, which students most often experience as a medium for mealy, auto-graded exercises,
to say nothing of joy and wonder, which most students typically experience as boredom and dread.
This is a multi-decade project! One that will require the best of teachers, teacher educators, coaches, administrators, edtech companies, assessment consortia, policymakers, publishers, and parents. It will require new models of curriculum, assessment, and professional development, all supporting modeling and proof and eliciting joy and wonder from students. It will require a constant articulation and re-articulation of values to people who aren’t NCTM members. That is, changes to the K-8 curriculum required articulation to high school teachers. Changes to the high school curriculum will require articulation to college and university educators! Does anybody even know any college or university educators?
Honestly, this last line is what kills me: “Does anybody even know any college or university educators?”
In retrospect, my personal experience of being a student feels extremely herky jerky. I’m not sure it ever really felt like my entire education was designed to go together. Instead, every year felt like a new challenge in forming my own complete picture from the new puzzle pieces I was being given. (And, given my interest in teaching, new opportunities to observe wildly different approaches to good teaching.)
I find myself torn though. Having spent some time now as a teacher myself, and knowing more than a few, I do think there can be an exasperating feeling of not having colleagues, especially across the spectrum. Of course there should be more opportunities for teachers to gather and swap stories across subject area, geographic region, age range, and level.
We also need a quality standard of some kind for students, if we’re to work toward the ideals of equal opportunity.
And yet, for me, I only felt that my own path through school was stronger for all the disjointedness that I had to navigate myself. I’m probably just articulating my own level of privilege here, but part of me has a hard time letting go of the idea that every child and every student ultimately deserves their own rich and unique path through life.
Does a shared sense of the bare minimum help us get there? I don’t think we have any choice but to hope that’s the case, and support long-term multifaceted endeavors like these to raise the overall bar. But I still hope, perhaps even longer term, that this will simply look like the first step.
We dream of a world where books, and indeed all kinds of publications, are first-class citizens of the web. From novels to textbooks, from journal articles to corporate memos, from newsletters to manga, publications are everywhere. But we face challenges in presenting them on the web with the fidelity and ease of use that they deserve.
Many good ideas and considerations in here, especially addressing challenges like offline availability and citations.
On both those fronts, I still find myself wondering about inline interactive examples. How will these be bundled? How will they work offline? How can one reference a particular state of an interactive example?
Still, I’m hopeful that work like this will continue.