Archive of April 2017

21st Century Skills

Dylan Kane:

I’m also skeptical that the 21st century has made very many skills obsolete. Sure, calculators can multiply for us. But a fluency with multiplication and familiarity with its structure builds essential knowledge that students need to engage in more challenging problem solving. It’s easy for those with knowledge to underestimate the extent to which that knowledge makes higher-order reasoning possible, called the “curse of knowledge” by psychologists. I’m a big believer in content. The more people know, the better they are able to reason about new situations in the future.

Blogging Principles

Julia Evans:

I wrote this set of blogging priciples on Twitter a while back and thought I’d mirror it to this blog. These principles help me publish stuff.

The LMS and the End of Information Literacy

This post by Lisa M. Lane was a must-read for me. I could easily just quote the whole thing, but that’s what the link is for.

If I had to pick one nugget it would be this:

The fact that such interfaces prevent branching, distributed, or complex learning is considered to be a feature, not a bug. All information is “chunked” for easy understanding and assessment.

I love thinking about the interplay between the web and education, and it’s clear that things are murky.

When designing for the web, or “digital” or “apps” or whatever, we are encouraged to make things easy to use. The trouble is that most rewarding work is not “easy”—that is, it doesn’t follow a straight-forward progression of steps.

In thinking about designing tools that coexist with people, then, I don’t believe it is our job to design a tool that makes peoples’ jobs easier. Instead, I think it’s our job to design tools which make fussy or mundane parts of the job easier, possibly to the point of going away altogether, so that the job that’s left to the person is largely concentrated on what that person does well and finds rewarding. (This can obviously vary from person to person.)

If we treat learning as the job of the student, and facilitating that learning as the job of teachers, how can we design tools for learning and facilitation that shave away the tedious bits and focus on the juicy bits?

‘Technology-Enhanced Retention’ and Other Ed-Tech Interventions

I can always count on Audrey Watters to join words together that get at something that’s been brewing somewhere beyond my own language motors:

And I’ll say something that people might find upsetting or offensive: I’m not sure that “solid research” would necessarily impress me. I don’t actually care about “assessments” or “effectiveness.” That is, they’re not interesting to me as a scholar. My concerns about “what works” about ed-tech have little to do with whether or not there’s something we can measure or something we can bottle as an “outcome”; indeed, I fear that what we can measure often shapes our discussions of “effect.”

Arguments around “outcomes,” “assessments,” and “effectiveness” bother me because they tend to be reductive and self-serving. They’re reductive because they require us to place measuring sticks on students that don’t take into account their perspective. And they’re self-serving because anything that you choose to measure can be optimized for, providing an easy escape to the question of whether we’re measuring the right thing: “Sure we are, just look at how much {thing we are measuring} has improved!”

At the same time, I do have a bias toward practical, hands-on education. What is practical? strikes me as a tough question, but I still personally prefer it to How do we measure effectiveness?

Audrey finishes this talk with a real doozy that will likely ring in my ears for a long time:

My concern, I think – and I repeat this a lot – is that we have substituted surveillance for care. Our institutions do not care for students. They do not care for faculty. They have not rewarded those in it for their compassion, for their relationships, for their humanity.

Adding a technology layer on top of a dispassionate and exploitative institution does not solve anyone’s problems. Indeed, it creates new ones. What do we lose, for example, if we more heavily surveil students? What do we lose when we more heavily surveil faculty? The goal with technology-enhanced efforts, I fear, is compliance not compassion and not curiosity. So sure, some “quantitative metrics” might tick upward. But at what cost? And at what cost to whom?

How Dan Meyer presents

He’s got a great attitude about his approach:

I will share some of my workflow and style choices with you but a lot of that is just how I present, not how you should present. I’ll offer only two words of advice that I think every single presenter should take seriously.

To preface that advice, I’d like you to make a list of what you like and dislike about presentations you attend. Keep that list somewhere in view.

I’ve seen him talk about his preparation process before, but never this succinctly. His approach to using a document to outline “Narration” alongside “Images” is a great way to separate what you say from what your viewers see.

As Dan puts it, what your audience sees should illustrate your point, not restate it.

It’s no mistake that presentations prepared in this way, with a focus on the content first as text, with images prepared as illustrations, adapt well to being presented accessibly on the web.

A Todo List

Heydon Pickering:

In this article, I’ll be building an integrated todo list component from the ground up. But what you learn doesn’t have to apply just to todo lists — we’re really exploring how to make the basic creation and deletion of content inclusive.

Great walk-through and explanation. I especially like the black and white aesthetic of the example.