Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Show the students the final on day one

Schools are changing, life is changing.  So, any one person's experience might be quite different from another's, in school or at home or anywhere else.  Many people of my generation experienced school, especially the years of 3rd grade and beyond, as a sampling and a surprise.  The idea in such a set-up is that any test will be a sample of what the student knows, a sort of random check.  If the student can answer 90% of the test questions, it is assumed that he knows 90% of the material that was studied.  A test or "surprise quiz" in that way of verifying learning is not to be revealed to the students beforehand because of the danger of "studying for the test", that is, learning only answers to the test questions, spoiling the inference from test performance to all of the material studied.


I studied statistics in grad school and taught the subject in college.  However, it was about 15 years after I began teaching, I looked into the work of W.E. Deming, Walter Shewhart and Joseph Juran.  They worked in an area called "process control" and sought to make mostly manufacturing processes as efficient and error-free as possible.  In their work, a car that comes off the assembly line that doesn't run properly is a big waste.  They want as close to 100% of their creations to work as they can possibly get.


If we are really trying to get every student to learn, we too are trying to get as close to a 100% success rate as possible.  There are political and social ramifications to high rates of success in education but teachers in tax-supported schools of a democracy try for success for all.  So, just like the Scouts with their merit badge requirements, it makes sense to put the final right out there where students can keep an eye on the goals.  Right from day one, they can benefit from knowing what they need to be able to do to show mastery.  Some of the final might already be known before instruction begins.



--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Monday, September 29, 2014

tests in school and actual learning

Say, I teach you the date of Albert Einstein's birth.  It was March 14, 1879. So, in one scheme of learning, you have learned if you say or write "March 14, 1879" when I say or write "When was Albert Einstein born?"  Of course, there are more elaborate frameworks describing learning, such as Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Objective, where I might ask you to paraphrase your answer in other words to cut down on dry, non-comprehending memorization.  Higher up in the taxonomy, I would ask you to apply your knowledge (Al was born after the Civil War), analyze the fact (he couldn't have known Columbus or Henry VIII),  do some synthesis (write a story about Al's first brush with electricity) and evaluate the fact (not very useful, not validated or confirmed).


But what about typical testing?  What about verifying that you have learned?  We want to spend our school time mostly on student learning so the most common approach to testing is to ask the student to respond to a series test "items" and count the number or percentage that he is able to answer "correctly" (in quotes since sometimes through ignorance or pure error, the answer that gets full credit is not the actual correct answer, but rarely).


Consider a test of just 2 items:


Student

Question 1

Question 2

Test score

Circle

1

0

1

Circle

0

1

1

Triangle

0

0

0

Square

1

1

2


-

The diagram shows the experience of four students on a two-question test.  The important point is that the two circle students have the same "score" but are 100% opposite in their states of knowledge.  One knows just what the other doesn't.  If we are not running a contest but instead are trying to get the students to learn, what needs to be done for one of the circles is the opposite of what the other needs. Many classrooms are un in such a way that this situation can be detected and corrected but many are not.


--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teachers testing and grading

I taught a course in testing for more than 30 years.  The basic idea was to increase the value and accuracy of the tests and grades teachers give students.


Quite a few teachers are not happy with the duty of grading students.  I can understand and sympathize.  It does seem to be especially burdensome to ask the teacher to be sensitive to the student and his personality, his academic strengths and weaknesses, to be inspiring while at the same time to be judge and jury of his academic performance.  Of course, in college, we are often dealing with very competent students.  Despite that fact, some professors feel it is their duty to award a certain percentage of low grades and a limited percentage of high grades.


The book that I wrote and used in my tests and "measurements" class is online here"

http://goo.gl/6fjOk6


The actual URl (uniform resource locator a.k.a. 'web address') is much longerr and more complicated but I put it in the Google url shortener and got the result above.


I like to compare classroom teaching to dentistry.  When I go to the dentist or the doctor or the car mechanic, I come with a problem and I want to leave without it.  I want my problem solved.  I don't want to hear that there have already been so many successful treatments that my problem has to be only partially solved.  I like to feel it if a student takes my course, it is my job and his/hers to learn all the required parts of the course.  The student and I have a mutual responsibility to have that student earn the highest possible grade, "A" at my university.  The student may choose to not study, to babysit the kids, to work extra hours at his/her job.  I will gladly give a failing grade or a lower grade if that is what was earned.  But I would rather find a way for the student to show me A level work if possible.




--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Math of sleep

90 minute cycles, need 5 cycles = 450 minutes or 7.5 hours

Sounds can help getting us to sleep.

Be punctual about bedtime.

Don't skimp on sleep.


I have been interested in sleep since the 2nd grade.  One day, it seemed like my brain wasn't working.  The word "apple" completely stumped me.  I knew I knew it the day before. Mom said I had gotten little sleep because of family events.  That was my introduction to the importance of sleep.  Later, I read how the other side kept our heroic and innocent spies awake to torture them and extract information.  In the real world, I could see which of my 5th graders got to be on time and which didn't by the quality of their papers.


A couple of years ago, I found "The Universal Sense" by Seth Horowitz, PhD, a neuroscientist and sound expert.  That lead me to Sleep Genius, the app and Sleep Genius the web site and company.  I was suspicious of the power of sound but then I thought of what happens when I heard a Strauss waltz well played or some words of love spoken in my ear.  I admire the Schubert adagio D956.  The power of sound shows in the 2005 movie Joyeux Noel, when a woman's voice floats out over the WW I battlefield.


Sleep Genius plays music that is supposed to lull a person to sleep and about 7 of 10 times, it does for me.  If I wake up at 4:30, I realize I need another of the 90-minute cycle of sleep, snuggle back down and get it.  My sleep and my nights seem to make more sense when I think in terms of 90 minute cycles but it has take a little work to feel comfortable with such hour and a half periods.


--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Friday, September 26, 2014

Getting into YouTube

I am exploring a little of YouTube.  I made this video because I needed something to practice annotating.  Dr. Roth, the director of the UWSP CCIT lab where I am doing a little volunteering, asked me to learn to insert annotations into videos.  It seems that you can see the written title, a small blue bubble and what is called a "spotlight"(a yellow rectangle) if you run this link in the Google browser called Chrome. It is free and easily downloaded to any computer.


Here is the link itself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUP_6IFyXzA&list=UU62YVzQb-lNCLUJ7R2EUrng


It can be copied and pasted into the URL (address window ) of any browser (Internet Explorer in Windows/PC, Safari on a Mac, Firefox.  I have run it in Chrome and in Safari and the annotations appear.  They don't in Firefox but it runs all right otherwise.


I just learned that there are channels and subscriptions in YouTube.  So far, I have found subscriptions to be free.  They just mean I get notified of each new item posted  I have a channel but it is called "Bill Kirby".  The trouble with that is that there are two many Bill Kirbys.  My email address is "olderkirby" because Google accepted that as unique and therefore ok for a name.  I don't have big plans to make videos.  


I wondered about Google Radio, where I wouldn't have to worry about my stage makeup (just kidding), the lighting, the camera angle, etc.  There is such a thing but it only means a selection from Google Play music.  I will have to look into podcasts.  Another thing I am interested in learning is how to make a video pause at a given spot, which could be important in instruction.



--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thinking can be tough

Several friends confess that they are thinking these days.  Tough activity at times!  Is our country doing ok or getting worse?  As I age, am I getting closer to death and possibly hell after death, for my many sins?

 

You could put down such topics as worries, not as thinking or analysis.  If you aren't used to handling such questions, you may wonder at yourself.  Why now?  At my age, shouldn't I have answers by now?  Maybe.  But maybe you have more time now.  Maybe you have more insight.  It is definitely possible to develop more insight as you get older.  You simply know more and have experienced more so it is easier to see a little more broadly and a little farther.


You have more experience and are more aware of dangers and ways things can go wrong.  As a student, you may have had times when you wrestled with tough topics and never really felt as though you got a full understanding.  You may have thought you were finished with those days and it can come as a shock that here are some of the same old questions and you still don't have answers.  In fact, now that you know more and remember more and worry more, tough questions these days seem even tougher than they used to.


I personally find that it helps me to see how ignorant I am.  I don't know what goes on in my own body and truthfully, neither does anybody else. Oh, they can scan and do blood tests but nobody has complete knowledge.  Besides, they won't.  


It helps me to try to face what I think I know and what it seems I don't know.  I don't know what is happening in Washington, D.C. or even in my own little town.  Just as with monogamy, there is only one me.  I can't really concentrate on national politics and state politics and local politics.  I can't really study global warming and gun control and genetically modified plants as foods.  I have declining years and I will focus on a selection of activities and thoughts that meet my needs, hopes and desires.  Sometimes, I will be unable to focus.  I will experience intrusions.  A neighbor or a relative asks for help.  A pipe bursts or a crime gets committed. I will bear with the upsets and unexpected problems as best I can, looking for ways to return to what I care about and what I think I can handle.



--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Isn't 'puffery' a wonderful word?

American business law in the area of advertising and marketing does not, as I understand it, try to focus on whether advertising claims are true.  Instead, it focuses on whether claims are misleading.  Traditionally, my touting the book just about to be released as "the greatest book you have ever read, the one book to read during your lifetime to lift your spirits to heaven while putting your worries away forever" in not considered misleading.  The idea seems to be that your common sense and years of being mislead by exaggerated claims will keep you from being misled.  


The words above between quote marks are considered puffery, typical overblown language claiming outlandish results, much like old snake oil ads claiming to cure all ills.  This Harvard Business School article discusses puffery and some research on it.  Some researchers were curious about why advertisers use puffed-up language if it always gets discounted or ignored.


Of course, exaggerated claims can drift into pure humor.  Here is an item for "digital download" for only $495.00 that sports 131 customer reviews.  I am not sure about the document itself but the customer comments deserve a book of their own. Be careful about clicking to buy.


--
Bill
Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety


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