kitchen table math, the sequel: 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Barry's book is out!!!!!

Letters from John Dewey/Letters from Huck Finn: A Look at Math Education from the Inside by Barry Garelick

Go order it right this minute!

I'm a sucker for Apple ads...

I'm 100% certain I shouldn't like this, but I do.

Revised post

For any of you getting posts by email …. I hit "Publish" too soon on the previous post, which is now finished:

5 years on

5 years on

Off-topic--

I looked at my calendar today (for once)* and discovered I had entered a link to a 2009 Greg Mankiw post challenging Paul Krugman to a bet:
Wanna bet some of that Nobel money? (If that link doesn't work, try this one.)

Paul Krugman suggests that my skepticism about the administration's growth forecast over the next few years is somehow "evil." Well, Paul, if you are so confident in this forecast, would you like to place a wager on it and take advantage of my wickedness?

Team Obama says that real GDP in 2013 will be 15.6 percent above real GDP in 2008. (That number comes from compounding their predicted growth rates for these five years.) So, Paul, are you willing to wager that the economy will meet or exceed this benchmark? I am not much of a gambler, but that is a bet I would be happy to take the other side of (even as I hope to lose, for the sake of the economy). [March 4, 2009]
Apparently I was so struck by this challenge that I pasted the Mankiw post into my calendar on a date five years hence…..and today's the day.

From FRED Graphs:

Real GDP 7/1/2008: 14895.1
Real GDP 7/1/2013: 15839.3
Percent change: 6.3%

Not 15.6%.

If I had never had to teach my son math, I don't think I would have reached the point where I can fact-check the predictions of Nobel-prizewinning economists.

My now half-decade long preoccupation with macro also led me to tell Ed to get rid of ALL of the bonds in our Vanguard 401k last spring, just weeks before the Fed's taper talk crashed the bond market. Weeks.

Of course, we'd be better off today if I'd figured out the problem with bonds a few years earlier, but, on the other hand, if I hadn't taught my son math, & hadn't developed an obsession with macro, I wouldn't  have figured it out at all. So: silver lining.

At a family birthday celebration yesterday (my father-in-law's 94th!) Ed and his brothers chewed over the stocks-&-bonds issue for a while. The youngest brother has all of his and his wife's retirement savings invested in bonds. 100%.  Ed, a person with heretofore zero interest in the Federal Reserve who has spent the past five years being harangued on the subject, gave a fluent explanation of why nobody should have 100% of anything in bonds (short version: Don't bet against the Fed), at which point the middle brother said there was a middle position: the youngest brother should have some of his retirement savings in stocks.

Ed objected to the middle position, too, and on the same grounds: don't bet against the Fed. The Federal Reserve is the decider.

I learned that from Algebra 1.

S&P 500 Stock Price Index
1/1/2013 - 1462.42
1/27/2013 - 1841.4
Percent change: 25.9%

Ed, by the way, has developed an interest in the Fed and in monetary policy and monetary effects in general -- to the point that he has read Barry Eichengreen's book on the gold standard (a gift from me Christmas 2012) and was recently asked to expand a section on the Great Depression and the gold standard in a book review of a new history of Europe.

*I say for once because, this week alone, I managed to miss a) a scheduled phone call with Katie Beals and b) my friends F & J's Christmas party by not checking my calendar.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Off-topic: John Mulvaney on SVU

Chris just showed me this bit, and we guffawed….'cuz we've watched a lot of SVU in this household.

Warning: language. SVU language.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

French for Reading

Chris is spending next semester in Paris, so for Christmas he received a copy of French for Reading. The reviews are so good I'm thinking of getting a copy for myself.

Goodreads reviews here.

Il Est Né le Divin Enfant



Il est né le divin enfant,
Jouez hautbois, résonnez musette.
Il est né le divin enfant,
Chantons tous son avènement.

Depuis plus de quatre mille ans
Nous le promettaient les prophètes,
Depuis plus de quatre mille ans
Nous attendions cet heureux temps.
Une étable est son logement,
Un peu de paille est sa couchette,
Une étable est son logement,
Pour un dieu quel abaissement.
O Jésus, ô roi tout puissant,
Tout petit enfant que vous êtes,
O Jésus, ô roi tout puissant,
Régnez sur nous entièrement.

Lyrics from about.com

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Stay Wierd (Wildfox edition)

I was about to ask whether Wildfox is an American company, but never mind.

Wildfox is a California company.

Which I'm pretty sure is worse.

I say that because I had kids in New York schools at the same time one of my sisters had kids in California schools.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

I ask because at least from what I can see commenters (and instructors) who are more MOOC-friendly than I am seem to be mostly math/science types.

That could simply be because I happen to be writing a blog called Kitchen Table Math as opposed to Kitchen Table Humanities or Kitchen Table Social Sciences.

Nevertheless, it strikes me as possible that the lecture may be a serious 'form,' with a kind of value in and of itself, in the humanities in a way it is not in math/science.

I liked lectures as a college kid, and I like lectures as an adult. The idea that you would get rid of 'boring' lecture so students can work in 'interesting' pods and pairs is …. well, "horrifying" wouldn't be too strong a word.

By the way, in my own class I never lecture. Ever. I give extremely brief 'lessons,' I guess you would call them, followed immediately by cold-calling, followed immediately by whole-class exercises done individually.

I use Stick Pick for cold-calling, which my students always seem to think is hilarious.

My class is pure instructivism, and pure instructivism requires interaction.

I wish I could find the professional development video on direct instruction I posted a few years back. It was terrific (though, as I recall, the video may no longer be available…) I remember the lecturer (& she did lecture) giving a formula for how many questions a direct instructivist should ask per each 10 minutes.

It was a lot.

(This post from 2012 discusses teaching and question-asking as they used to be done....)


Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

True story

I just left this as a Comment, but am reposting here:

Ed went to a department Christmas party Friday night & was talking to a young English professor at Cornell.

She told him students are incredibly lucky because they get to attend lectures.

She loved attending lectures as a college student.

So did I.

Ed remembers brilliant lecturers at Princeton -- and only one class with boring lectures.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Who wants flipped classrooms?

Bergmann and Sams co-wrote the book Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, which some credit with starting the flipped classroom trend. Today, they serve on the board of the Flipped Learning Network.

Criticism of the flipped classroom model usually stems from arguments between the didactic and progressive camps within higher education, Bergmann said. Members of the didactic camp oppose flipping the classroom to preserve the role of the lecturer, while the progressive camp instead advocates for a move toward project-based learning and inquiry. “That’s where I’m seeing the rub,” he said.

Still in Favor of the Flip
October 30, 2013
By Carl Straumsheim
Given what I see here in my own district, and given what I read, Bergmann's characterization of the two sides in this argument is correct.

It's the 'didactic' camp versus the 'progressive' camp, instructivists v. constructivists. As usual.

Flipped classrooms are championed by constructivists.

Speaking of, I'm not sure I ever got around to posting this, but Salman Khan is, at heart, a constructivist. He's a constructivist who believes in mastery learning, which makes him a rare bird, but he is a constructivist nonetheless:
…a teacher can finally have every kid going at their own pace [no grouping by achievement or ability] and have the teacher really focus on what we would consider kind of higher value-add activities, which is running simulations with students, doing actual interventions, getting the students to teach each other the concept. [emphasis added]

[snip]

I mean, I think everyone can testify that in college they learned most of what they're learning the night before the exam from their peers, and then all the way fast-forward to now, what we're seeing in Los Altos is what's happening is all the kids are working at their own pace. They are watching the videos on their own when they have a question. Some students might get 90 percent from a video. Some students might get 60 percent from a video, but when they start to connect with each other, they can start to point out other things, and then they can look for other resources on the Web and they get each other to 100 percent. [guide on the side] …. You know, we're going to try to make the videos as good as possible, but what we think it does is it takes lecture out of the room. We think we're really effective in getting the lecture out of the room and allowing these videos to be consumed in a way that different people [students] can take what they can from them and from other things on the Internet, frankly, and then when they go into the classroom, since the lecture's off the table now, they are now liberated to actually communicate with each other and they're liberated to have a conversation about mathematics. They're liberated to, like, sit next to their teacher. [guide on the side...] So the power, the real beauty isn't actually like, you know, some magic that Khan Academy has a neural plug-in to your brain and can deliver -- the real magic, I think, is that class has so much potential that we're letting happen now, because we're taking all that other stuff that was kind of disrupting traditional class out of the way. And so the real magic is actually what happens when you let people talk to each other.

[snip]

For me, like, the deepest learning happens with a project-based story, [emphasis added] but the projects can only be useful if people go into the projects with the core toolkit that -- so they can understand what's actually going into -- going in an analytical way. So every student working at their own pace, it doesn't matter what grade they are, what age they are. In fact, we're starting a few pilots with multi-age groups in the same classroom, and some can work on things that are below grade level. [in-class tracking via differentiation]

[snip]

And then what we're hoping is it informs the teacher enough, saying, "You know what? I think the students in my class are ready for this type of a project and that type of a project". And I think right now we are putting it on the teacher, like, "We've kind of liberated a lot of this core stuff off of you. You won't have to give the traditional lecture. You won't have to do the traditional homework, but you how [sic] have, I would say, maybe a larger responsibility to do more of this less-traditional stuff, which is invent an interesting project or find an interesting project". Two summers ago I was running a little summer camp myself and I wanted to experiment with this, just eat my own dog food, to some degree, on what's going on. So what I did is I had the students that used the videos and the primitive kind of the exercises back then to learn a little bit about probability and multiplying decimals and fractions and all that. And then what I wanted them to really internalize what probability is and what expected value is. I did a bunch of simulations. One of them had the -- I don't know if you've ever played "Settlers of Catan". It's like a trading game, right? So, like, we're all in one civilization and we can build roads, but we trade. Like, to build a road you need, like -- I don't know. I forgot -- like, two woods and three bricks, and you can build a road. And you might have four woods, and so we'll try to trade. We're competitive, but we're also trading with each other, but obviously if you see students who've already mastered the basics of probability, they've watched some of those videos on expected value, then this would be an ideal exercise for them, because they're really going to internalize what expected value is.

[snip]

We genuinely feel like the teachers are getting liberated here. Do what you want on whatever day and the students are going to do what they want on this day, and we're freeing tons of class time for you to do what I think you went into teaching to begin with. Like, when I ran my little summer camp -- and I won't claim to have 30 years of experience and all the rest, but what was fun for me was not having to give a lecture on these common multiples, not having to give a lecture on probability, to know that that was out of the way and getting to do this super fun simulation where the kids are trading pieces and all this. And I felt like I was able to express my creativity. I was able to go home and say, "What would be a really cool way to understand this concept intuitively"? And when I went to classroom, that's what we did, and I felt like it was a much richer experience. And so we genuinely feel and we genuinely hope that it's doing that for teachers, and the teachers of Los Altos have expressed that, that they love -- that they feel liberated.

Salman Khan on Liberating the Classroom for Creativity (Big Thinkers Series)
It's all there, the entire constructivist project, but with the recognition that students need knowledge in order to take part in group simulations.

Lecture is gone, "traditional" homework is gone, the responsibility to make sure students are actually acquiring the knowledge they need is gone (if the Khan videos don't do the trick, students help each other find what they need on the internet)…. et voilà : the teacher is "liberated."

I remember, listening to Salman Khan's keynote address at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning, his saying that one of the reasons he began taping himself was that he found teaching the same core content over and over again to different cousins boring.

He was bored.

That is the problem, right there.

If you can't find teaching and reteaching the same core content interesting, exciting, and engaging, you shouldn't be teaching.

I am teaching basic content to my students, who are "basic writers," and I am never bored. Ever. Maybe one day I will be, but not now. The content I teach always seems new to me, and exciting, and thus via the magic of mood contagion I am able to persuade my students, at least to some degree, that the content I teach is new and exciting to them, too.

A bored teacher is a bad teacher.

If our schools have bored teachers, the answer isn't to "liberate" them from teaching.

The answer is to fire them and hire teachers who aren't bored.

For the record, throughout all my years of having children in public schools, I haven't seen a big problem with bored teachers.

How long have I been writing ktm now? (Don't answer that!) Have I ever written a post about bored teachers in lo these many years? No. (At least, I don't remember writing any posts complaining about bored teachers.)

All of my kids have had numerous teachers who gave the impression of being fully engaged with the kids and with the content they were teaching. The problem has always been curriculum, absence of effective practice regimens, absence of formative assessment, absence of accountability for kids actually learning what was covered in class, etc, etc. Oh, and the artifacts.

At least from where I sit, Salman Khan is trying to solve a problem that doesn't exist. He is projecting his own boredom with basic instruction onto actual classroom teachers and then fixing the problem he would have if he were a basic classroom instructor. Which he isn't.

And of course he has tiny little kids who have not attended public school, so he has absolutely no idea what public-school group "simulations" are actually like, or how fun it's going to be for his kids to sit through 6 hours of public-school group simulations every day, 5 days a week, for 13 years.

He's got a lot to learn, our Salman.

In the meantime, though, and thanks to his elevation to superstar status by Bill Gates, he gets to transform US public education.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

If students could talk

Oh, wait (warning: many f-words).

One thing that annoys me no end re:constructivism & contructivists is the universal constructivist assumption that constructivism in all its myriad forms and formations is more fun for students.

We instructivists have only drill-and-kill on offer; constructivists have real-world authentic 21st-century global hands-on group problem solving!

Wheeeee!!!

Kids love that stuff.

Problem is, no one ever asks the kids if they agree.
They don't understand. When they make math fun, it's MORE BORING.
- Christopher, age 10 (scroll down to "Kids say the darndest things")

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Eureka, part 5: Why MOOCs don't work and flipped classrooms never will work

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4

I got a little ahead of myself bringing in the laugh track yesterday.

The point I meant to make before getting to laugh tracks and the like had to do with the relative absence of "Dorky Teacher Humor" in MOOCs and flips as opposed to live classroom teaching.

Presumably, MOOCs go easy on the Dorky Teacher Humor. At least I think I would go easy on the Dorky Teacher Humor if I were recording myself for a MOOC. You don't want to be recorded for posterity making lame jokes about the 5-paragraph essay.

To the extent that teachers and professors do suppress D.T.H. when they are taping themselves, a taped lesson is going to be much less compelling than a live one.

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Philip Keller on teachers and interactive lessons

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4

From Philip Keller (whose The New Math SAT Game Plan: The Strategic Way to Score Higher we used and strongly recommend:
...and regarding MOOCs:

Count me in with the skeptics. Here's why:

Earlier this year, I developed an interactive simulation to use in my classroom. Then, I wrote a guided activity for my students to follow to use the simulation to learn a specific set of physics skills. Then, I played the "guide on the side" (suppress gagging noise) to observe and help as they worked through the activity.

No one complained that it was hard to understand. No one had technical difficulties working with the simulation. But what I saw was that no one drove themselves to engage with any sense of urgency. What I thought of as a finely crafted interactive study guide, they thought of as a "work sheet." Without me steadily circulating to maintain the pressure to keep on task, to actually read the words on the page, to follow the directions and to think about what was happening in front of them and to do the math -- well, it wouldn't have happened. And if I had sent it home as a flipped assignment, I don't think my students would have given the 20 - 30 minutes of relentless concentration required.

I don't want to sound all nuts-and-berries, but I think that teaching and learning requires personal interaction and a sense of accountability to a course and to the teacher. Only a tiny fraction of students will do all of what it takes to learn the material without that personal element.
Here's the pull:
What I thought of as a finely crafted interactive study guide, they thought of as a "work sheet."
Exactly right.

"Flipped" classrooms and MOOCs and interactive lessons students can work through at their own pace sound like a good thing (at least, MOOCs and interactive lessons sound like a good thing) …. but then, when you try them with your child or your students or yourself (at least in my case), nothing happens. Your child doesn't learn his math facts from the fun software program(s) you bought him, your students tune out, and you yourself watch exactly 1 lecture of each Great Courses series you purchase, if that.

I'm going to be sending Philip's account to all of the administrators & board members in my district. Several times.

From a second email:
And I am definitely a believer and practitioner of dorky professor humor.  
……………...

News flash: Phil's son just got into Princeton!!!!

Congratulations!

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The New York Times is going to be surprised again

The New York Times is surprised 12/11/2013

In the Times today:
In past years, the College Board, which administers the program and the exams, has been justifiably criticized for requiring too much rote learning of a broad range of facts, and too little time for in-depth study, lab work or creative ventures. But now the board is beginning a drastic revision of its courses and exams, which will focus on the most important core concepts of a subject and leave more room for students and teachers to become more creative.

Even Gifted Students Can’t Keep Up
In Math and Science, the Best Fend for Themselves
Ostensibly, the New York Times editorial board believes AP courses are flawed and approves of the current effort to gut revise them.

Close reading of this passage, however, compels me to point out that the choice of the word "drastic" as the modifier for "revision" signals a certain ….. foreboding …. on the part of the Times.

Conclusion: the collective basal ganglia of the Times editorial board is crying out to be heard.

Dick Van Dyke on comedy

Auntie Ann left this link to Dick Van Dyke explaining comedy:

15:54 Dick Van Dyke:
A comedy writer writes those funny stories that people like Captain Harper steal, uh, sell.

9:45 Boy in class:
Can you write one now?

Dick Van Dyke:
Can I what?

Boy in class:
Can you write one now?

Dick Van Dyke:
Well, uh, see there’s so many different things a comedy writer – BACK TO CLASS, FACING BOARD, WALKING BACKWARD, FALLS OFF STEP IN FRONT OF CLASSROOM – does—

Children:
LAUGH

16:09 Dick Van Dyke:
You laughed there. You know why you laughed? Because that was unexpected. You didn’t expect me to do that. Did you see that? Unexpected means that something happens that you didn’t think would happen. It’s kind of like a surprise, really, and that makes you laugh. For instance, if Mrs. Gibbon had said, ‘Children we’re going to have some addition now, if she said, first of all [WRITING ON BLACKBOARD] 1 and 1 are 12.

Children:
LAUGH

Dick Van Dyke:
See, that surprised you. That was the unexpected so you laughed. Of course everybody knows that 1 and 1 are 11.

Children:
LAUGH

Dick Van Dyke:
DOUBLE TAKE – See? That’s what the unexpected does. It makes you laugh, because you don’t expect that. And it’s a surprise. Now, when I came in the door and sat down you didn’t laugh, did you, because there was nothing really funny. You expected me to do that. But what if I had come in this way. [WALKS TO DOOR] Just a minute, I’ll be right back.

Mrs. Gibbon:
Now watch carefully children. This will be very funny now.

LOUD BANGING ON DOOR, DICK VAN DYKE ENTERS, SLAMS DOOR ON HAND, AGONIZES, TRIPS OVER PLATFORM, FALLS ON FACE

Children:
LOUD LAUGHTER.

Dick Van Dyke:
Now you see. That was unexpected and you laughed. So that’s one way of making people laugh.

TRIPS ON PLATFORM AGAIN & FALLS DOWN AGAIN

LOUD LAUGHTER FROM CHILDREN

17:25 Dick Van Dyke:
See. Got you again. You can surprise people and make them laugh. Now. Another way to make people laugh is something familiar to them. If they see themselves, or they see something in other people that they recognize, they’ll laugh at that, too. Now. I’m going to do some movements for you. No words. Just gestures, and you’ll have to try and guess what it is I’m doing, alright? I’ll move this light table back – [STRUGGLES TO PUSH TEACHER’S DESK BACK TOWARD BOARD]

Children:
LOUD LAUGHTER

Dick Van Dyke:
[GIVES UP TRYING TO MOVE DESK, TURNS TO CLASS, FOLDS ARMS ON CLASS, LEANS AGAINST DESK] Well we’ll have to—oh! [DESK HAS MOVED BACK OF ITS OWN ACCORD]

Children:
LOUD LAUGHTER

Dick van Dyke:
Now I’m going to just do some movements and you’re going to tell me what I’m doing. Alright [PULLS UP PANTS AT KNEES, LEANS AGAINST DESK AGAIN, MIMES PUTTING ON ONE SHOE, THEN PUTTING ON THE OTHER & TYING IT]

Children:
Putting on your shoe!

Children:
Tying!

Dick Van Dyke:
That’s right.

[WALKS CHARLIE-CHAPLAN STYLE]

Dick Van Dyke:
My shoes are on the wrong feet! That’s right.

[MIMES CHANGING SHOES TO DIFFERENT FOOT, THEN MIMES WALKING PIGEON-TOED]

Children shouting out what’s happened [unintelligible]

Dick Van Dyke:
That’s right. Now. I’m going to do another movement for you. This is called pantomime. It was invented by the Romans about 2000 years ago. Alright.

[MIMES THROWING A BASEBALL]

Children shouting what he’s doing

[MIMES CATHINKG A BASEBALL]

Dick Van Dyke: Oh! [MIMES HURT HAND]

PANTOMIMES TENNIS SERVE, CIRCUS LADDER, TIGHTROPE, BICYCLE ON TIGHTROPE, HEADLESS PERSON, YO YO (HITS HIMSELF IN NOSE)

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

MOOCs and mikes

gasstationwithoutpumps wrote my next post---!

MOOCs should mike the audience.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Eureka, part 4: Why MOOCs don't work and professors are jaunty

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Back to my eureka moment:

Sitcoms explain why MOOCs fail, and why flipped classrooms will fail.

To reprise: sitcoms work because they are funny, and funny works because it is surprising.

Surprise affects us via reward prediction error. When something better-than-expected happens, dopamine spikes, and your brain marks that event as a good thing: a thing to return to, a thing to pay attention to when you see it again.

In short, reward prediction error (via humor, in this case) commands attention.

Which brings me to the difference between a live lecture & a MOOC.

Live lectures are, not infrequently, almost bizarrely jokey. I say "bizarrely" because the jokes don't really fit the content. They're add ons, humor for the sake of humor.

Take a look at Jo Ann Freeman's lectures on the American Revolution. These are fabulous lectures, so fabulous I've managed to watch almost 3 of them, a record for me to date.* I've never made it through more than 1 lecture from The Great Courses.

At times, Freeman is so jokey I feel impatient: Stop joking around about the Founders, will you?

But if I were sitting in the lecture hall listening to Freeman in person, everything would be different. Inside the lecture hall I would feel happy, interested, and best of all awake.

17:03 - 18:11: Here she is on her first semester teaching at Yale. I've seen this section several times now, and I still find it funny (even on tape, which I realize undermines my thesis….)



Here's Lecture 2 Being a British Colonist:



13:42 "I've already given you one arrogant British quote…"
16:53 "As promised, here is yet another arrogant British quote in my series of arrogant British quotes..."
17:36 Freeman laughs out loud at the observation that British observers never view the colonies as "polite."
17:47 Freeman on the British sending inferior goods to the colonies because the colonists wouldn't know
18:51 "I just can't resist adding [this] in, it makes me happy and it's John Adams!!!!

Another example of weird humor in college teaching: Thomas C. Foster's books.

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines
How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World's Favorite Literary Form

Notice the subtitles.

"Lively and entertaining"

"Jaunty"

Then take a look at the reactions to Foster on Goodreads. More than a few readers see Foster as condescending. The reason readers see Foster as condescending, I think, is precisely that he is jaunty. He is jaunty about Shakespeare, he is jaunty about the Bible, he is jaunty about Ulysses, he is jaunty about Northrup Frye, he is jaunty about intertextuality for God's sake. Name a work of literature covered by Foster, and you will find a jocular and jaunty tone; open the book to a random page, there jocular and jaunty will be. The entire work is unrelievedly jaunty; Foster never lets up. Reading Foster, you become desperate for whatever is the opposite of comic relief.

Why would anyone, let alone a professor of English literature, write a book that leaves the reader desperate for whatever is the opposite of comic relief?

What Foster has done, I am certain of it, is transpose his classroom voice directly to the page.

It doesn't work.

But inside the classroom, his jocular and jaunty tone does work.

As a first pass at understanding how sitcoms and reward prediction error explain the failure of MOOCs and the impending failure of flips, I would say that MOOCs and flips are catastrophically handicapped by the simple fact that goofy humor works inside the classroom and doesn't work on tape.

Probably for the same reason The Big Bang Theory isn't funny without the laugh track.

Eureka, Part 5 t/k



Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk

How to Read Literature Like an English Professor by Thomas C. Foster
How to Read Literature Like an English Professor by Thomas C. Foster - NOTES

* It's a toss up which I'll finish first: The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version or Jo Ann Freeman's 25 lectures on the American Revolution.

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Speaking of jokes and "reward prediction error"

the world's funniest joke

I actually laughed out loud when I read this, and immediately afterwards thought: That joke's pretty dumb.

The fact is, though, that I didn't see the punchline coming, and I laughed.

Humor depends on surprise.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Eureka, part 3: MOOCs and flips and dopamine

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

So, MOOCs. Why don't they work (setting aside, for the moment, Anne D's experience)?

I had just gotten to the point where sitcoms gave me the answer I was looking for when I had to take a train to the city.

So, to reprise:
Ed brought up movies.

When you go to the movies, he said, the screen is huge, the sound is deafening, all the lights are turned off, you can't talk to your friends, and you have to stow your cell phone. Plus a movie lasts only a couple of hours, then you never have to see it again unless there's a sequel that you really want to see, and you don't have to see that for at least a year.

And even at the movies, even with all the ploys and devices filmmakers and theater designers have developed to hold your attention, if the plot sags, your mind wanders.

MOOCs don't have any of those things, so good luck. The wonder of it all is not that the drop-out rate for MOOCs is catastrophic, but that anyone thought they were a good idea in the first place.

Ed continued.

TV, he said, had had to follow in the footsteps of movies. TVs are bigger, the sound is louder, the experience more immersive….

That's not really true, I said. It's definitely not true of sitcoms. Sitcoms are the exact same hokey, flat-lit, 3-camera affair they always were, with the laugh track telling you when to laugh, and they work. They always have.

That's when it hit me.

"Reward prediction error"

In graduate school (I have a Ph.D. in film studies) I was intensely interested in comedy; I wrote my dissertation on 1950s comedies. 1950s comedies are fabulous, but what I really wanted to know was: what is humor?

What makes things funny?

I've wondered about that for my entire adult life, and have probably, finally, found at least a partial answer, which has to do with -- hold your breath -- the basal ganglia. (For passersby, I have been slaving over a basal ganglia writing project for years now.)

Research on the basal ganglia is very new, so take what I'm about to describe as provisional.

The basal ganglia seem to be all about reward prediction error.

"Reward prediction error" means that learning happens when you predict a reward and you are wrong.

Here's how it works. (Or may work).

Dopamine spikes or drops in response to "prediction" errors, that is to mistakes we make predicting rewards.

  • If you expect something good to happen & it doesn't, dopamine drops. That feels bad.
  • If you expect something bad to happen and it doesn't, dopamine spikes. That feels good.
  • If you're not expecting anything good to happen one way or another, and all of a sudden, out of the blue, something good does happen, that feels great. Because dopamine.

(I've learned just this week that "because" has become a preposition.)

So, if you're expecting a check to come in the mail and the check comes in the mail, no dopamine spike. You open the check, you're mildly happy (if that), you deposit the check. Life goes on.

If you're not expecting a check to come in the mail and a check in the exact same amount as the expected check-in-the-mail arrives without warning, that feels great because dopamine.

A surprise check in the mail feels great because dopamine fires in response to good surprises (or to "better-than-expected" rewards.)


Reinforcement learning

Reward prediction error is the basis of reinforcement learning.

It's unfortunate that "reinforcement learning" is called "reinforcement learning," because "reinforcement," to me, sounds as if learning takes place when the same thing happens again.

Instead, reinforcement learning takes place when something new happens, something you didn't expect.

("Something new" includes something old but better -- or worse -- than you expected. I know the whole thing gets incredibly confusing right around this point, but just remember the surprise check in the mail: how different it feels from the fully anticipated check in the mail. The surprise check in the mail produces reinforcement learning; the expected check in the mail does not.)

For the record, I don't know how learning via distributed practice, via repetition, relates to reinforcement learning, so that question will have to remain a mystery for the time being.

Reinforcement learning in the sense of the incidental learning we do naturally throughout the day (what should I do again? what should I not do again?) depends on mistakes. "Reinforcement learning" happens when we are wrong, when we are wrong in a very specific way: reinforcement learning happens when we are wrong about the goodness or badness of what comes next.

Drug addiction is probably a phenomenon of reward prediction error, btw.

Normally we habituate to good things. We get used to them; we no longer feel ecstatic when they occur. But addictive drugs always spike dopamine -- that is their effect inside the brain -- and that is what makes them addictive.

Cocaine spikes dopamine every time you use it, so  your brain is always getting a 'REMEMBER THIS AND DO IT AGAIN' message, and your interest in taking cocaine always increases. Addiction is a form of learning, a form of overlearning, more exactly.

At least, that is the way I understand the reward prediction error theory of drug addition, as a "disease of learning and memory."

(Interesting 2012 research here…dopamine and GABA…)


Surprise is good

The long and the short of it: surprise is good.

Good surprise is good.

Bad surprise is bad.

All surprise, however, appears to be informational. Our brains react strongly, and we learn.

Which brings me to sitcoms.

Why are funny things funny?

Funny things are funny, at least in part, because humor -- humor that works -- is surprising. If it's not surprising, it's not funny.

And that means humor tells your brain you've made a reward prediction error. The punchline of a good joke or gag is unexpected, so dopamine spikes up. Dopamine spikes feel good, so we come back for more.

A good sitcom doesn't need an immersive setting or loud music or arresting imagery to hold our attention.

A good sitcom sets the reward prediction errors coming one on the heels of another, and that is plenty.

Eureka, Part 4 t/k

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Woodrow Wilson on fathers, sons, and universities

I am interested in [this organization - the YMCA] for various reasons. First of all, because it is an association of young men. I have had a good deal to do with young men in my time, and I have formed an impression of them which I believe to be contrary to the general impression. They are generally thought to be arch radicals. As a matter of fact, they are the most conservative people I have ever dealt with. Go to a college community and try to change the least custom of that little world and find how the conservatives will rush at you. Moreover, young men are embarrassed by having inherited their father’s opinions. I have often said that the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible. I do not say that with the least disrespect for the fathers; but every man who is old enough to have a son in college is old enough to have become very seriously immersed in some particular business and is almost certain to have caught the point of view of that particular business. And it is very useful to his son to be taken out of that narrow circle, conducted to some high place where he may see the general map of the world and of the interests of mankind, and there shown how big the world is and how much of it his father may happen to have forgotten. It would be worth while for men, middle-aged and old, to detach them selves more frequently from the things that command their daily attention and to think of the sweeping tides of humanity.

Woodrow Wilson on the Christian Men’s Association
Needless to say, I personally do not agree that a sentiment such as "the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible" can be advanced without "the least disrespect for the fathers" even once, let alone often.

Well, at least Woodrow Wilson thought character education happened via instruction in the disciplines, not vendor-produced character-ed "curricula" and the like.

I suppose that's something.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Eureka, part 2: why MOOCs don't work and flipped classrooms never will work

Eureka, part 1

So as I was saying, Ed and I were having lunch in the American Diner, somewhere in the vicinity of Nyack (if I am not mistaken) and we were talking about MOOCs, and I had a eureka moment re: why MOOCs don't work, and why flipped classrooms won't work, either.

The whole MOOC/flipped classroom extravaganza of lo these past 2 years------

Wait.

Has it been 2 years?

Should we date the commencement of MOOC fever to Bill Gates' anointment of Salman Khan as the new new thing?

[pause]

Two seconds on Google brings us to Bill Gates on the “golden era” of learning, thanks to massive open online courses and easy access to information, so I say Yes, blame Bill Gates. Because if it wasn't Bill Gates who launched us on the MOOCs-&-flips merry-go-round, it could have been. Pretty much wherever you see a really bad idea re: public education taking hold, you will find Bill Gates.

So I blame Bill.

Anyway, Ed and I got on the subject of MOOCs, and while I no longer recall our point of departure, we pretty quickly arrived at the simple fact that MOOCs (and flips) are fantastically boring.

The fantastic boringness of MOOCs is no secret, & pretty much everyone concedes the point (though for different reasons) but the question is: Why?

Why are MOOCs fantastically boring?

More to the point, why are MOOCs fantastically boring to me, a person who is perfectly happy, and not remotely bored, listening to a live lecture delivered inside a lecture hall?

I can prove it, too. Morningside's Summer School Institute, which I attended the summer before last, used a heavy-duty lecture format; we students sat for hours of lecture, hours on end. Lecture and Powerpoints.

It was great!

By the end of the two weeks I was exhausted and my brain was fried, but I wasn't bored (just the opposite), and, more importantly, I was still in the class. Everyone was. Which would not have been the case if we'd been taking the class via MOOC.

(For the record, the first week of the Summer School Institute is largely lecture; the second week is divided between lecture and student teaching in Morningside Academy.)

My point being: I have a very high tolerance for lecture; I have no problem showing up for, learning from, and enjoying live lectures delivered in bricks-and-mortar venues. Where MOOCs are concerned, I should be a natural.

So why can't I make it through more than 2 or 3 (usually 2) taped lectures of a MOOC?

Ed brought up movies.

When you go to the movies, he said, the screen is huge, the sound is deafening, all the lights are turned off, you can't talk to your friends, and you aren't allowed to turn your cell phone on. Plus a movie lasts only a couple of hours, then you never have to see it again unless there's a sequel that you really want to see, and you don't have to see that for at least a year.

And even at the movies, even with all the ploys and devices filmmakers and theater designers have developed to hold your attention, if the plot sags, your mind wanders.

MOOCs don't have any of those things, so good luck. The wonder of it all is not that the drop-out rate for MOOCs is catastrophic, but that anyone thought they were a good idea in the first place.

Ed continued.

TV, he said, had had to follow in the footsteps of movies. TVs are bigger, the sound is louder, the experience more immersive….

That's not really true, I said. It's definitely not true of sit coms. Sit coms are the exact same hokey, flat-lit, 3-camera affair they always were, with the laugh track telling you when to laugh, and they work. They always have.

That's when it hit me.

Part 3 t/k

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Little Drummer Boy

I spent the first 5 seconds of this video thinking This is ridiculous, and, about 5 seconds after that, This is fabulous!

Little Drummer Boy Pentatonix

You have to watch the video, and the singers' faces.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Eureka

This afternoon, while Ed and I were having lunch in the American Diner over in …. Nyack?

Hmm.

I have no idea what town the American Diner is in.

Retake.

This afternoon, while Ed and I were having lunch in the American Diner, it came to me.

Why MOOCs don't work, and why flipped classrooms aren't going to work, either.

I've got it.

Optimal arousal levels.

That's the problem.

As usual, the world of athletics is way ahead of the world of everything else.

More anon.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

MOOCs grow the gap

This study contributes to a growing body of research on academic achievement of students in online courses. In a recent meta-analysis of studies comparing online to inperson courses (2009), the U.S. Department of Education found that there was no significant difference between student achievement in online and traditional courses, although a small increase was noted for hybrid courses that combined the two methods. However, when these studies were further analyzed by at-risk student population demographics lower achievement was found in online courses (Jaggars & Bailey, 2010). This finding has been recently expanded by Xu and Jaggars (2013) in a study that investigated how different types of students—including groups that share characteristics found, particularly, among students from AOLE’s partner high school—perform in online learning courses. Using course grade and course completion as dependent variables, Xu and Jaggars found that while all students did less well in online courses, some student groups were more negatively affected from taking courses in this mode. These students were males, younger students, students with lower levels academic skills, and African American students. [emphasis added] The study also found that the negative impact of online learning was exacerbated when groups of students comprised of those who adapt least well to online learning study together. It should be noted that the study, based on research conducted across Washington State on 500,000 online and face-to-face course enrollments (and 41,000 students), did not distinguish between different types of online learning environments, faculty preparation, or support services available to students. The Xu and Jaggars study confirms prior findings in previous smaller studies, which also found that students from at-risk demographic groups and introductory courses had lower performance in online courses compared to other students, thereby exacerbating the well-documented achievement gap in higher education (Kaupp, 2012; Xiu & Smith, 2011, Terenzini & Pascarella, 1998).
PRELIMINARY SUMMARY
SJSU+ AUGMENTED ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
PILOT PROJECT
September 2013
Prepared for Principal Investigator: Elaine D. Collins, Ph.D

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In the world of MOOCs, 2 + 2 is never 4

The statistical model found that measures of student effort trump all other variables tested for their relationships to student success, including demographic descriptions of the students, course subject matter and student use of support services. The clearest predictor of passing a course is the number of problem sets a student submitted. The relationship between completion of problem sets and success is not linear; rather the positive effect increases dramatically after a certain baseline of effort has been made. Video Time, another measure of effort, was also found to have a strong positive relationship with passing, particularly for Stat 95 students. The report graphs these and other relationships between variables examined by the logistic-regression models and pass/fail.

While the regression analysis did not find a positive relationship between use of online support and positive outcomes, this should not be interpreted to mean that online support cannot increase student engagement and success. As students, Udacity service providers and faculty members explained, several factors complicated students’ ability to fully use the support services, including their limited online experience, their lack of awareness that these services were available and the difficulties they experienced interacting with some aspects of the online platform. It is thus the advice of the research team that additional investigations be conducted into the role that online and other support can play in the delivery of AOLE courses once the initial technical and other complications have been addressed.

Conclusion: The low pass rates in all courses should be considered in light of the fact that the project specifically targeted at-risk populations, including students who had failed Math 6L before Spring 2013 and groups demonstrated by other research to be less likely to succeed in an online environment. Previous studies (see Section 1) have found that these students do less well in online than in face-to-face courses. Further, student groups in at least one major study (Jaggars and Xu, 2013) who were found to experience the greatest negative effect from taking courses online share many of the characteristics found among the AOLE partner high school students in particular, a group with very low pass rates in Spring 2013.

Overall, much was learned during and from the first iteration of AOLE and improvements are already in progress in the second AOLE iteration. Perhaps most importantly, the faculty members who taught these courses, although they had to contend with major difficulties along the way, believe that the content that has been developed has tremendous potential to advance students’ critical thinking and problem solving abilities. One faculty member summed it up this way: "Udacity has brought to the table ways to make the courses more inquiry-based and added real life context."
PRELIMINARY SUMMARY SJSU+ AUGMENTED ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENT PILOT PROJECT September 2013
Let's reprise.
  • The clearest predictor of success in the course was the number of problem sets students completed. In other words, practice. 
  • The online mentors, aka teachers-slash-tutors, didn't help. But they might have helped if students had a) had lots of internet experience (practice) & thus could figure out how to get to the mentors; b) known the online mentors existed; and c) been able to get the MOOC site to work.
  • "Previous research" had found that weak students do better in face-to-face courses, so….SJSU opted to run a MOOC and fill it with weak students.
  • "Most importantly," the teachers who taught the MOOCs think the "content" has "tremendous potential to advance students’ critical thinking and problem solving abilities."
Practice is what matters, so the instructors are focused on inquiry; weak students do badly in online courses, so the MOOC people put weak students in online courses; educational technology never works.

A person who lives in the world where two plus two equals four would be doing something else.

Eureka
Eureka, part 2
Eureka, part 3
Eureka, part 4
Eureka, part 5

Flipping the Classroom: Hot, Hot, Hot
MOOCs grow the gap
The New York Times is surprised
In the world of MOOCs, 2+2 is never 4
World's funniest joke: humor depends on surprise
Dick Van Dyke on comedy
Philip Keller on the flipped classroom
If students could talk
Who wants flipped classrooms? (Salman Khan on liberating teachers)
True story
Are math & science lectures boring in a way humanities & social science lectures are not?