Learning about learning when you learn…?!

October 28, 2010


Thinking let the sparks flies

Do you think about thinking?

Oh boy, that sound confusing doesn’t it… Let me explain. One of the factors that some say distinguishes us human from the other animals in the animal kingdom is our ability to have meta-cognition.  Wow, big word, what’s that? It refers to a higher level of cognition, i.e. being able to think about your thinking.  As teachers/lecturers/professors we should stimulate our students to do this; not only to think about what they’ve learned directly, but also what they learned from the process of learning.

If you are a student, do YOU think about that? Or are you so worried about passing the exam that afterwards you hardly can remember a thing?  Thinking about your learning experience can help you with your next learning experience. So if you fail (or do badly) in something, should it not tell you something, not only about the material, but also how you approached the material?

If you are on the lecturing side, do YOU think about helping your students to do that? Or are you just worried about your little field of specialization? I actually think many people on the lecturing side does, but sadly some probably don’t.  Thinking about this reminded me of the very famous video of Randy Pausch‘s last lecture.  He uses the term “mind fake” to send a message behind a message… Should we not be thinking more about our “mind fakes”?

If you have experience mind fakes from your parents, your mentors, whoever, please share that with everybody in the comments.

Note: If you’re not one of the more than 12 million people who already watched this on YouTube, plan to. It is an hour and a quarter, but you will not regret making the time — if this doesn’t make you think, nothing probably will…

“On September 18, 2007, Carnegie Mellon professor and alumnus Randy Pausch delivered a one-of-a-kind last lecture that made the world stop and pay attention.” (CMU) I think you should also pay attention. Randy died July 25, 2008, at the age of 47, but his legacy lives… forever.


Opportunity is a matter of attitude!

October 26, 2010

Some days ago I found the video below via Nancy Duarte’s blog. It’s great to watch, an excellent exhibition of passion…

But I want to repeat the start of the presentations here.

Probably a lot of you know the story of the two salesmen who went down to Africa in the 1900s. They were sent down to find if there was any opportunity for selling shoes. And they wrote telegrams back to Manchester. And one of them wrote: “Situation hopeless. Stop. They don’t wear shoes.” And the other one wrote: “Glorious opportunity. They don’t have any shoes yet.”

Need I say more?

You can be positive about things, or negative.  Thing is, regardless, but sadly, you are probably right.

What do you choose?  To see the opportunity or to see the difficulty…?

Using momentum to review your progress.

October 24, 2010
Speed and Grace

Where is your momentum taking you?

How are you doing? You have a goal right? Are you getting there?

I suggest thinking about your momentum to help you think about whether you are getting there…

Of course momentum can refer to a physical object in motion. That is not the kind of momentum that I am referring to. I’m thinking of the impetus of an idea or a course of events. But the analogy with the physical object is useful; let’s explore it.

Momentum gets influenced by the mass and velocity of an object. Ask yourself:

What is the mass of your idea/course of events. I.e. how noticeable is what you do? How do you make others aware of what you are doing? Is there substance to what you are doing… You know ideas can stay ideas, useless. It only becomes something if you do something about it! You need to give your ideas mass. You need to do something about your ideas… ideas by itself does not have mass, it’s what you do with the ideas, to borrow from Seth Godin, what you ship, that matters.

What is velocity? In physics it describes the speed and direction of motion. This is two important concepts to further explore.

Direction is important. If you are not going in the direction that you want, you are not going to get there. Well, that’s probably not 100% true, nobody is 100% on target all of the time.  We steer a boat to compensate for the current, but generally if you want to go straight north, you do not head straight south. You need to have a direction in mind. See Why a Destination Decision is Mission Critical on the Escape Velocity blog.

Speed is an indication of the rate of change.  How fast do things happen?  Are you taking your time? Fine, but don’t expect to get their anytime soon.  And don’t be surprised if somebody gets there before you do.

So are your ideas gaining mass? Does the momentum take you in the direction where you want to be, at the required pace?

Think about it… Maybe you need to work on increasing the mass, adjusting your direction or involve others to help up the pace.

[By the way you can help me by completing my blog survey if you did not do so yet… If you already did, thank you very much]

Help me understand my blog a bit better…

October 21, 2010

I’ve blogged actively for a couple of months already and I’m kind of surprised at the number of page views I get. It’s not massive by any stretch, but certainly higher than what I expected…(the again I actually had almost zero expectations: maybe my wife and a friend/student or two that felt guilty…)

So I thought it might be a good idea to try to figure out what my readership thinks.  I therefore created a survey on surveymonkey.com that hopefully will help me understand my blog a bit better.

BUT, for that I need your help though. Please click here to take survey it should take you less than 5 minutes as it only has 9 questions. Be assured that your efforts are appreciated very much.

Thank you for your support and helping me out on this one!   Hopefully you will help me make the blog better…

A Random Rant on Bloom-ing Assessments

October 20, 2010

Bloom’s taxonomy is widely used in education circle to think about the classification of learning objectives. I thought liked it… that was until I start thinking about it, then it makes my head hurt and I’m wondering if I miss something.

So a quick overview for those that may not be too familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy… Essentially one moves from knowledge, to comprehension, to application, to analysis, to synthesis, to evaluation. And for those of you that’s too familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy, I realize there are criticisms, I realize their has been alternatives suggested etc., but let’s not complicated the issue.

My problem is not so much with the idea of his levels, but with the verbs that are often associated with the level.

So a question like “List the advantages of x” is generally considered to be just giving back knowledge…  fair enough, maybe…

What about a question “Compare y and z.” Ah, compare is analysis… or so I’m being brainwashed…

But, hey,  that does not make sense.  Think about it: if your lectures/class notes/whatever basically did the comparison, maybe it was a good way of “selling x to them”, what are you asking the student. I think you could as well have said “Recall the comparison between y and z, that you’ve memorized and write it down”  At which level are we now? Oops back at level 1: knowledge…

Having said this I realize the level of student may very well have an influence on the level: when a pre-schoolers works out how to divide the 10 pancakes between the five people its kind of right up at levels 5 or 6… Several things had to fall in place… Somehow if I do it, it is at best “application” and even that is for me a hard sell, and certainly would not make for a compelling exam question…

So you are welcome to criticize my thoughts! That would be level 6, evaluate, by the way, because I want you to actually think…

So what do you think? Am I missing the point? Please leave your thoughts and perspectives in the comments, I need your help!

What makes good ol’ bullshit?

October 19, 2010

Well the answer is not bulls… Last week I attended a rather academic conference, and as part of one of the keynotes (Jan Dietz) I had to listen to an academic explanation of what is bullshit… Yes, you read correctly: bullshit. So what is bullshit?

Well here is the official slide photographed…

I like the first and third comment very much. Let me repeat them here for the record.

Bullshit is unavoidable whenever circumstances require someone to talk without knowing what he is talking about”
“Bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies are”

The second point makes sincerity sound like bad thing… which i am not sure i agree with, speaking truly about ones feelings, thoughts and desire can be a good thing, provided it is not about you.  However the focus of the sentence on the slide is on the shift from considering facts to personal beliefs certainly is not good…

For a much deeper discussion read Harry Frankfurt on “Bullshit”. Philosophers clearly have too much time on their hands…

Currently I am reading Chris Brogan and Julien Smith‘s Trust Agents. When they discuss “trust signals” they make the following statement (p. 99) “People have very sophisticated bullshit sensors, and your intentions will be exposed, if not immediately, then later.” I could not agree more: a good reason for sincerity in the good sense of the word. So I was just wondering: if we are so good about sensing bullshit, why has it not been eradicated yet…

What characterizes bullshit for you? How do you know when somebody is bullshitting?

[PS. I hope you don’t think my blog is bullshitting you!]

Two options when using non-standard fonts in your presentations

October 18, 2010

You want to use a non-standard font in a presentation for a specific effect? Yes, well that can be a good idea, but one must be aware of the caveats. The presentation may not display correctly on another PC as the font may not be standard distribution.

Take the slide which I chose for this post. I used this at a presentation at the World Computer Congress. I wanted to give the feel of a stick on label and therefore choose the Blackout font that looked as it was a label generated by an old-style label-making machine. But clearly this font was almost certainly not available on the PC that the conference organizers provided.

So how do you do it while playing it safe?
Read the rest of this entry »