Tag Archives: technology

Good reads worth your time (Technology and Humans)

A few articles about our technology-riddled world and what we should do about it that have entered my stream over the past few weeks – worth your time to read.

I generally fall on the side of “tech is neither good nor bad, only thinking [and using] makes it so.” But there’s much to learn about how to connect in this brave new world without losing our souls.

Good reads about the effects of tech on our hearts and minds:

  • a sobering read about just how awful people are online is this Medium post: “Why Twitter’s Dying (And What You Can Learn From It)” – “Today’s revolutionary is tomorrow’s little tyrant.” Silicon Valley giants think tech will save humanity. Truth is, humanity is pretty effed up, even when we’re using their shiny, beautiful code. And that’s why people are such a-holes on Twitter.
  • Unfortunately, the excellent article in Chronicle of Higher Ed, “How to teach in an age of distraction,” is now behind a paywall. But you can read the full article here for now, at least.
    The author makes a great point about how young adults, having so much opportunity to communicate via text or online, fail to build the deeply necessary skills of face-to-face conversation that is the basis of a classroom learning community.
  • The New York Times ran a similar piece recently as well, about the scary lack of empathy among those of us who spend a lot of our time communicating online. Read it here: “Stop Googling. Let’s talk.
  • We now live in the era of the GIF– a deceptively simple device that masks incredible nuance. Maybe. Or not. “The GIF Bite Election” (on Medium)

Get out your pencils, everyone.

Hm. I’d had a hunch this was true, just based on my own classroom observations.  There’s a new study out that suggests writing lecture/meeting notes by hand ends up helping you remember them better:

Mueller and Oppenheimer started by having subjects watch a lecture on a screen, and assigning them to take notes either by hand or on a laptop. About 30 minutes later, subjects were quizzed about factual and conceptual elements of the lecture. They found that students who took longhand notes performed significantly better, particularly on conceptual questions.

Something even more surprising happened when the researchers waited a week to quiz their subjects, and then allowed them to review their own notes first. Because the laptop users could type faster than the writers could write, they had taken more notes, which other research has shown to be beneficial. “We though we might see [laptop users] rebound because they had extra content,” Mueller said. But the longhand note-takers still outperformed them. “We were really surprised that they seemed to not get any benefit from that.”

All notes are not created equal. Because laptop users are better able to keep up with the pace of speech, it turns out, they are more susceptible to transcribing lectures verbatim, a style of note-taking that previous experiments has shown to be inferior. “If students are taking down notes on everything that’s said in class, they’re just functioning as a stenographer,” said Michael Friedman, a cognitive psychologist who is conducting note-taking research as a fellow at the Harvard Initiative for Learning & Teaching.

via Taking notes? Bring a pen, skip the computer – Ideas – The Boston Globe.

A MOOC mega-man pulls back on the promise of online education

FastCompany offered a great long-read article a couple weeks ago about Sebastian Thrun, the Standford professor & Google geek who got so famous a few years ago by offering Standford-level coursework like Computer Science, Machine Learning, and Introduction to AI to anyone on the Internet who wanted to take it.

The whole article is here – I highly recommend taking the time to read it.

Udacity’s Sebastian Thrun, the godfather of free online education, changes course

Thrun initially got excited because hundreds of thousands of people across the world stepped into his virtual classroom to study (I was one of them). Even though most of them didn’t finish (like me) to earn the online certificate, still the scale was vast. the ability to bring education to anyone with a connection was intoxicating. And so Udacity, one of the largest providers of MOOCs (massive online courses), was born.

Th author traces how Thrun’s initial enthusiasm took him and Udacity into a partnership to offer math and remedial math to San Jose State students.  But the vision tarnished when even students in those smaller cohorts likewise dropped out before completion.

Thrun’s enterprise has turned more toward partnering with businesses to offer particular kinds of training that are useful more for employees than for undergrads.

What might we learn from this?

Well, first I think we shouldn’t leap too quickly to any conclusion about online learning. The field is so young and we’re just now beginning to gather some actual data about the students, the course structure, or the quality of learning.  It’s hard to compare the results of online courses with their more traditional counterparts — it’s not quite apples to apples.

However, it’s troubling that the most needy and underserved populations don’t seem to be much helped by  the invention of MOOCs. You need more educational motivation, not less, to work through an online course.  (Many folks who commented on the FastCompany piece noted that online courses are easy for about the first ⅓ and then the difficulty rises sharply. I experienced this too in Thrun’s class on AI. And when you hit that wall, even with online forums or teacher-mentors, you’re left very much on your own.)

Put simply, we are too quick to treat new educational technologies as saviors when really they’re just tools.  The core of providing a good education will remain in the hands of people who dedicate the blood, sweat, and tears to make it happen.  Especially for students who would otherwise miss out.

 

Cross-posted to Teaching Redemptively