Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Brain and Google - Changing Times

The gist of this weeks article focused on two main points; 1. Our brains are malleable and the instant access nature of the Net is degrading both our attention spans and the way we're wired. 2. Google is trying to create the perfect search engine... an AI that can understand what you want --- and give you exactly what you need. "I'm sorry Dave. I can't do that Dave" Yes, i went there; and so did the authors, but i digress. To the first point, it appears that the way our brains wire themselves is changing. Where we used to be able to focus and weave elaborate mental pictures while reading books, we are moving towards a day when books will be out-modded by 1-2 paragraph articles that we simply power skim. I know for at least myself that I have lost the capacity to focus on a scientific journal long enough to read through a page without tangenting to some other task for a minute. Even reading the article for this, a paper of several pages, i had to take breaks and found myself losing focus even when i was actually trying to get it done. Literacy is a skill of civilization. Could it be that we are moving towards that future when the time machine stops and the great libraries of the world hold nothing but crumbling dust? The second point was the the scary prospect of our brains being replaced with a newer, faster, better processor. Google's future AI substitute for a search engine that will cater to our every question. What will become of invention, of synthesis, and experimentation when the answers to our questions can be implanted directly into our brains, as Rod Sirling once showed us in his series, The Twilight Zone. Or even more simply to use a Marvel reference, the Kree empire, a race of soldiers, all the same in purpose, to carry out the will of the supreme intelligence... Supremo, the biological computer. Will our own intellects be subjugated and altered by the Media Revolution? The Answer is yes. To what extent is left to be determined. End of Line...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Marc Prensky - Article Review

The following is based on observations of a) 

And b)'t_Technology_Good_At-(Part%202)-EDTECH-Nov-Dec-1012.pdf

Article 1 - Skills

Both articles express interest in the continued development of today education, however were as the first focuses the transition of content, the latter looks towards the use of lenses and individualized learning to excite student motivation. Looking at the first article, it is clear that the author has hit on a key point in todays' schooling; the needs of today are different than the needs of yesterday. It is true that essay writing is largely not used in todays market place, neither is writing letters, or reports.

However, all the these are necessary skills.

True, we do not write letters. the author made it clear that we now write emails, but are they all that different. They still need an address, a format, and a signature. Essays? without those skills how will we produce the next generations authors. If the sum of a persons skill set allows them to write a two page short story; will there ever be a novel? As to reports, yes we use ppt and other media these days, but the sciences still need those basic skills to be successful. Business managers and researchers still need to be able to produce concise written material.

On to blog posts... As is evident here and elsewhere, formatting is choppy. Yes, they are nice to look at, but the informal nature of them can be taxing. They end up being more like personal journals or logs than acceptable material. Are they useful... yes. Do i see a blog replacing the lab report. No. blogs to me are by their very nature supplementary.

Article 2 - Passion

Motivation is the achilles heel of today's teaching styles and there really isn't anything i can fault in this article save his call for individualized material. While i applaud his vision i cannot realistically expect a subject to be recorded every which way. It would be nice, but i feel that material is already stylized to the point that anyone can find a learning niche to work with and be successful. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Khan Academy - Pro's and Con's (Part 2)

Well, I'm back after a trip down memory lane with organic chemistry and the Khan Academy. I decided to choose a field that i had some competency in and chose three videos as random (the first three i noticed in the side pane to be exact. Sn2 reactions, Sn1 reactions, and the Markonikov Rule. Below i've embedded the first of the three as an example.

Sn2 Reactions: Sn2 Reactions

My initial reaction was that he certainly sounds well informed and competent. I would otherwise guess that he was a chemistry teacher with more than a few classes under his belt. The second was the color coding, which aside from being highly interesting aids in identifying the reaction's constituents and in seeing stereo chemistry. Thirdly, i found his style to be somewhat slow, which i grant is due to the fact he doesn't know where his students are in relation to the material. In my own classes leaving groups and constituent names would be givens and only mentioned verbally once where as here they are constantly reiterated. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and overall i found his teaching style highly informative and easy to follow.

Where do i see this going in terms of flipped classrooms? I could see lessons like this replacing the basic instruction. In this respect students can learn, as we have said repeatedly in class and in other forms, at their own paces, rewinding the teacher as needed. The classroom instructor then is freed to help students with focused instruction on areas that the video may be lacking, to correct misnomers/mistakes in the lecture, or thirdly, to simply guide the students on what material to access and watch.

The flipped classroom is a fascinating idea... now if only we could somehow incorporate tablets into the desks themselves...   

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Khan Academy - Pro's and Con's (Part I)

The scientist in my is always concerned with bias, and to that end i have divided this critique into two parts. Having just read this critique on the Khan Academy.

It seemed only fair that i recap my own reactions before i watch a random sample of his videos. This article hits a point that has been lurking in the back of my mind from the time i was introduced to it... credibility. I myself have used youtube lessons (in college) to get supplemental aid in classes where i have had trouble; notable organic chemistry and physics, and that at the time i took those lessons at face value with no thought to check for their credentials. This being said, finding out that the Khan Academy's status quo is to search google before lessons, and that it doesn't take criticism to better itself, is frankly worrying.

That being said, i do commend it for finding a niche where students can get help and enjoy the process. It may not be a novel idea but it certainly is working. Flaws aside, his program is a stepping stone to a better curriculum; one where lessons are created, tested, recorded, and viewed as part of a SDL system.

To be continued - Post Video Survey