Seeing mathematics everywhere…

September 7, 2013 § 2 Comments

ollernshawDame Kathleen Ollernshaw was deaf since the age of 8. Despite this she had an amazing life as a mathematician, amateur astronomer, politician (she served as mayor of Manchester as well as in the Thatcher administration) and mother. To learn more about her read this story on the Scientific American website, titled Centenarian Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw—Conqueror of Magic Squares, Rubik’s Cube and Mauna Kea. People with diverse interests like this always fascinate me (maybe it is because I am that way as well – though clearly not at the level of Dame Ollernshaw). You should read the article in full but I am highlighting some quotes that stood out for me. « Read the rest of this entry »

Banning Facebook in school: Interview on the Craig Fahle Show, WDET

August 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

I was a guest on WDET’s Craig Fahle Show yesterday. The topic was the the recently passed Missouri law that bans teachers from interacting with students on Facebook in order to protect students from sexual assault. I find this a singularly silly waste of time by the legislators of the State of Missouri and I tried to make this point, in different ways, during the interview. You can listen to the segment and let me know if I was successful or not. You can listen to the segment here.

This was my first interview on a radio show… so let me know how I did and what your take is on this issue.

iVideos from Australia, the 2011 edition

March 23, 2011 § 2 Comments

Last June I had posted a note (Teacher as filmmaker: An update from down under) about the iVideos created by students from the University of Technology, Sydney (under the guidance of Dr. Matthew Kearney). iVideos or “idea videos” are short films often 2 minutes (or less) in duration in which a student explores an important issue in K-12 education.

The idea of iVideos connects with a couple of strands of work that I have been involved in. These include, the TPACK framework, and the learning by design approach. We have written about this in a variety of articles but the specific one that Dr. Kearney points to is:

Wong, D., Mishra, P., Koehler, M.J., & Siebenthal, S. (2007). Teacher as Filmmaker: iVideos, Technology Education, and Professional Development. In M. Girod & J. Steed (Eds.), Technology in the college classroom. Stillwater, Oklahoma: New Forums Press.

In this article we argue that there is great value in having teachers engage in such creative, design tasks since it allows them to “transform ideas and practice by immersing themselves in deep pedagogical consideration of subject-matter, significance, audience, learning, epistemology, and aesthetics.” Some evidence of this comes from a blog post by Dr. Kearney, based on his experience of having his students create their own iVideos. He says that,

We noted a high degree of emotional investment, motivation and interest in these tasks amongst our student teachers and postulate that these outcomes were a catalyst in their TPACK development. [You can read the entire blog post here.]

As in the previous year, Dr. Kearney’s students have been busy working on working on a new set of videos for 2011. In this years edition students created iVideos in three main areas related to the use of ICT in education. These topics include, Teacher professional learning; Curriculum; and Social, Ethical, Legal and Equity issues around ICT. There are over 2 dozen videos on the site and you can access them by going to

http://sites.google.com/site/teacherivideos/

Incidentally, you can see last year’s videos by following this link

http://sites.google.com/site/teacherivideos/2010-ivideos

Click the links above to see the these iVideos and, if possible, take a moment to write a comment or response to the videos. It will take you just a few minutes of your time but I know this will be greatly appreciated by the students.

Reading Obama, and getting it right!

March 12, 2010 § Leave a Comment

I rarely if ever blog about politics – though I follow it avidly. I spend large parts of my day reading the news, keeping up with what is going on. Most of my news gathering happens online (the little TV I watch, usually the Daily Show, also happens online). And it is not that I am reticent to talk about my political views, not at all. It is just that I don’t see this blog as being the site for it.

Today, however, I will make an exception to the rule, prompted by a column by NYTimes columnist, David Brooks. As I have written before, I am quite ambivalent in my response to Mr. Brooks. I typically disagree with his political writings but I love his occasional forays into science, psychology and economics. So to read yesterday’s column (which was all about politics) and to agree with almost all of it was surprising. I think that in this column Mr. Brooks has given the best summary of how Obama is (mis)perceived by people on the right and the left, as well as a pretty nice encapsulation of who Obama really is.

This article, Getting Obama Right, is spot on. Here are some key quotes: « Read the rest of this entry »

MLK

January 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment

Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted
—in Strength to Love, 1964

21st Century Skills? What do they mean?

September 14, 2009 § 1 Comment

A decade into the 21st century, how are we doing with the movement to “position 21st century skills at the center of US K-12 education.” The National Journal Online has been conducting an discussion on this topic… some very interesting views represented there, from both sides of the spectrum. I have some definite opinions on this, which will have to wait for another day (I am swamped with work right now) … but for now here is the link to the discussion: Has The P21 Movement Succeeded?

What do you think? What do we mean by 21st Century skills? How are they different from traditional skills (such as critical thinking) that were the rage some time ago? What is the role of content knowledge in the 21st Century? What about trans-disciplinary, or inter-disciplinary knowledge? … Important questions, worthy of discussion and thought.

Darwin film can’t find distributor

September 12, 2009 § Leave a Comment

Telegraph article titled: Charles Darwin film ‘too controversial for religious America’

How sad is that!

Keeping tabs on the experts

September 8, 2009 § Leave a Comment

In an age where experts are a dime a dozen, willing to pontificate at the drop of a pin, it is hard to tell whom to believe, and whom NOT to believe. In comes Phillip Tetlock, an academic who has made it his mission to evaluate the prognosticators! This is described in his book:

Tetlock, P.E. (2005). Expert political judgment: How good is it? How can we know? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

I recently came across a review written by him, titled Reading Tarot on K Street (in the September/October 2009 issue of The National Interest) and I thought it captured his work in this area quite nicely (and would be worth preserving).

When we score the accuracy of thousands of predictions from hundreds of experts across dozens of countries over twenty years, we find the best forecasters tend to be modest about their forecasting skills, eclectic in their ideological and theoretical tastes, and self-critical in their analytical styles.1 Borrowing from philosopher Isaiah Berlin, I call them foxes—experts who know many things and are not finicky about where they get good ideas. Paraphrasing Deng Xiaoping, they do not care if the cat is white or black, only that it catches mice.

Contrast this with what I call hedgehogs—experts who know one big thing from which likely future trends can be more or less directly deduced. The big thing might be any of a variety of theories: Marxist faith in the class struggle as the driver of history or libertarian faith in the self-correcting power of free markets, or a realist faith in balance-of-power politics or an institutionalist faith in the capacity of the international community to make world politics less ruthlessly anarchic, or an eco-doomster faith in the impending apocalypse or a techno-boomster faith in our ability to make cost-effective substitutes for pretty much anything we might run out of.

What experts think—where they fall along the Left-Right spectrum—is a weak predictor of accuracy. But how experts think is a surprisingly consistent predictor. Relative to foxes who are less encumbered by loyalties to an all-encompassing worldview, hedgehogs offer bolder forecasts and, although they hit occasional grand slams, they strike out a lot and wind up with decidedly poorer batting averages.

The implications for people who make projections about technology and schools and learning is quite obvious to me. It is the hedgehogs we need to be careful of, mainly because of the vehemence of their beliefs which can sometimes override our “foxy” nature. I say inherent because I think that educators, for the most part, are pragmatists, sensitive to the limits of arm-chair theorizing and big ideas. A hard nosed approach to reality, that recognizes its complexity, that demands multi-faceted problems solving approaches is what is needed, not being wedded to one, just one overarching idea.

Of certainty & doubt

September 3, 2009 § Leave a Comment

The NYTimes has a op-ed piece today by Max Blumenthal about an obscure letter Eisenhower wrote to “Robert Biggs, a terminally ill World War II veteran.” Biggs was worried by ambiguity and uncertainty he seemed to observe in president Eisenhower. He wrote that he:

“felt from your recent speeches the feeling of hedging and a little uncertainty… We wait for someone to speak for us and back him completely if the statement is made in truth.”

What is amazing is that Ike took time out to write back to this person and something he wrote, struck a chord with me:

I doubt that citizens like yourself could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that you believe needed.”

At this time, where people compare anybody that disagrees with them to Hitler, where town-hall meetings are disrupted for political and partisan purposes, where the air waves are jammed with birth-certificate controversies, Ike’s sane and pragmatic voice was wonderful to read. You can read the entire letter here.

The revolution will be twittered

June 15, 2009 § Leave a Comment

The recent (and ongoing) evens in Iran sadden me deeply… but also give me hope. The scenes and news emerging from there speak of courage and a need and demand for freedom. What is also amazing has been the use of technology particularly twitter to get news out of the country.

A few decades ago it was audio-cassette technology that led to the fall of the Shah of Iran. Ayotollah Khomeni had been exiled to France and his speeches would be secretly smuggled into Iran – where an informal underground network of people would dub and re-dub these tapes and pass them around. New technologies lead to new ways of sharing information, new ways to mobilize.

My heart goes out to these protesters as I obsessively track news coming out of Iran. The two best sources of news on this are Andrew Sullivan’s  Daily Dish and The Lede of the NYTimes. Or better still follow the incoming Twitter-feeds collected here.

The first 100 days, on Facebook

May 2, 2009 § Leave a Comment

This is just absolutely brilliant!!

In particular check out the URL that Dick Cheney sends to Obama, approximately half-way down the page. (You will have to copy and past the url).

Finding myself in EduPunk

February 14, 2009 § 4 Comments

Matt Koehler introduce me to the idea of edupunk. As this Chronicle story (Frustrated With Corporate Course-Management Systems, Some Professors Go ‘Edupunk’) says,

Edupunk seems to be a reaction against the rise of course-managements systems, which offer cookie-cutter tools that can make every course Web site look the same.

As with any neologism, there are as many meanings as there are users… here are some links if you want to learn more. First the post that introduced Edupunk to the world, and a couple more that attempt to explain its intricacies, here and here. [Note, this is not a comprehensive or even most important set of links on this topic, just what a few minutes with Google revealed to me.]

Now, the idea behind EduPunk, as Mike Caulfield describes it, “with its implication of technical accessibility, a DIY ethic, quick and dirty over grand design, and a suspicion of corporate appropriation” appeals to me a lot. It is something that Matt and I have been arguing and implementing for a while now, though of course we didn’t call it EduPunk. We often said that our course websites worked through a strange combination of “Duct Tape and Magic”. « Read the rest of this entry »

The story of Hari & freedom of speech

February 13, 2009 § 1 Comment

Last week, Johann Hari wrote an article defending free speech for everyone. You can read the article here: Why should I respect these oppressive religions?. This article was reprinted in the Indian newspaper, The Statesman. This led to riots, death threats, and the arrest of an editor who published the article!

They have been charged — in the world’s largest democracy, with a constitution supposedly guaranteeing a right to free speech — with “deliberately acting with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings”.

And this, in a secular country! « Read the rest of this entry »

Responding to my reading…

February 12, 2009 § Leave a Comment

I had written a response to Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist a while ago (read it here). Yesterday, I received a note from Irfan critiquing my take on the novel. « Read the rest of this entry »

Barriers to Innovation & Inclusion

February 10, 2009 § 3 Comments

Leigh Wolf just sent me this video created by the Johnson Space Center on Barriers to Innovation & Inclusion. A Google search led to this description: « Read the rest of this entry »

How cool is that!

December 10, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I just read on CNN that Obama’s likely nominee for energy secretary is physicist and Nobel Laureate Dr. Steven Chu. What a contrast to the previous administration’s science policy. (Actually it is still the current administration!)

Has a novel prize winner ever served on the cabinet before? I wonder.

The reluctant fundamentalist

November 30, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I just finished reading “The reluctant fundamentalist” a novel by Mohsin Hamid over the break. (I had mentioned this novel in another context here). It is a tight, powerful novel, structured as a monologue, (reminiscent of Camus’ The Fall, a fact that few reviewers seem to have noticed), describing the literal and metaphorical journey of a young Pakistani man from a successful student and businessman in America to becoming a “reluctant fundamentalist” back in his home country.

I was reading this novel even as the horrific events of the past few days played out in Mumbai (see this, this and this). In some ways the attacks on Mumbai became a lens through which to interpret the novel, making me somewhat less sympathetic to the novel than I would have been otherwise. Hamid has gone on the record indicating that the views of Changez do not reflect his own – and that Changez is a piece of fiction, a writer’s creation. Though I knew this intellectually, it was emotionally difficult for me to separate the author and the character. This was partly because Changez’s story and that of the author roughly parallel each other – though Hamid quite his high-flying job in the corporate world to become an author (not a Islamic fundamentalist) and partly because I could not but notice the connections between the western educated protagonist in the novel (Changez) and the young men (wearing jeans and designer shirts) who attacked Mumbai.
« Read the rest of this entry »

11/26/2008

November 28, 2008 § Leave a Comment


Mumbai, 11/26/08


Nov. 27: School children hold candles as they pay tribute
to the victims of terrorist attacks in Mumbai at a school in
Ahmadabad, India, on Thursday. (Photo credit: washingtonpost.com)

The last few days have been very strange… dream and nightmare in one. At one level this is Thanksgiving weekend, one of my favorite holidays in the year. So we have been cooking, eating, drinking, with family and friends – the kinds of things we typically do at this time of the year. And yet, hanging like a dark cloud over everything, poisoning the very air we breathe is been the news coming out of Mumbai. The loss of innocent life, the brutality and ruthlessness of the attacks… the sheer scale of the horror just staggers the mind. This is brutality at an incomprehensible level. I cannot imagine what ideology or rhetoric can cause people to do things like this?

And there is the anger… an urge to do something, anything to prevent something like this from happening again. But even as the mind darts from one vengeance filled scenario to another, a part of me knows that there are no clear and easy solutions to this…

At the end what remains is a heaviness of the heart… yes life will go on but I can’t help thinking of all the innocent lives lost, and more importantly a certain loss of innocence, for Mumbai, for India and for each of us. What a terrible tragedy.

A sad day…

November 26, 2008 § Leave a Comment

… for Mumbai, for India, and for the world!

Analyzing political debate

November 16, 2008 § Leave a Comment

Political debates are heavily analyzed – by pundits and laypeople alike. I had my own minor visual contribution to this discourse through this WordMap/Cloud of the third and final debate between McCain and Obama . Such wordmaps are fun to create and see but are not terribly insightful. Yes you can see that Obama used the word “see” more often than McCain but how far does that really take you in terms of interpreting and making sense of the campaign. And then comes this! « Read the rest of this entry »

APA & Torture

November 10, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I had written previously (here and here) about the American Psychological Association’s long connection with torture and other coercive information gathering techniques. I am still bothered by it.

Today’s NYTimes has a op-ed by Stanley Fish (titled Psychology and Torture) about this very issue.
« Read the rest of this entry »

A defining moment!

November 5, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I started blogging at the beginning of this year – January 1, 2008

4 days later, when Obama won the Iowa caucuses, I a posted a video of his speech, and asked a simple question, “Is this a defining moment of our time?” See it here « Read the rest of this entry »

WordMapping the debate

October 16, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I created two WordMaps (using wordle.net) using all the words used by Obama and McCain during their third and final debate. Kind of interesting. Check them out (Click on the image for larger versions, hosted on Flickr).
« Read the rest of this entry »

Ads in Video Games

October 15, 2008 § Leave a Comment

A couple of people have emailed me about the Obama campaign inserting advertisements into video games. Check out this Flickr set with screenshots of these advertisements. Most of the press is reporting that these ads show up in just racing games but as these screenshots indicate they are showing up in a range of games. « Read the rest of this entry »

The greatness of teachers

October 13, 2008 § Leave a Comment

I discovered Hulu TV a few weeks ago and have been using it to catch up on previous episodes of The Daily Show. I decided today, as I was working on a presentation to watch Crawford. It is a documentary about “a small town thrust into big politics when George W. Bush moves in next door. Gritty, authentic and often funny.”

This post, however, is not about the documentary (watch it yourself and form your own opinion) but rather about one person in the documentary – the school teacher.
« Read the rest of this entry »

Who is god rooting for?

October 12, 2008 § 1 Comment

I have often wondered, while watching sports movies, particularly the ritual prayer scene before the big game, as to who is god rooting for? I mean, surely the other team is invoking god as well? So how does god decide? And if one team wins does that mean their god is stronger or their faith more deeply held?

I was reminded of all this by reading online that a pastor at a recent McCain rally said the following (see this for a report AND an mp3 version)

I also would also pray, Lord, that your reputation is involved in all that happens between now and November, because there are millions of people around this world praying to their god–whether it’s Hindu, Buddha, Allah–that his opponent wins, for a variety of reasons. And Lord, I pray that you will guard your own reputation, because they’re going to think that their God is bigger than you, if that happens. So I pray that you will step forward and honor your own name with all that happens between now and election day.

This just seems silly and mis-conceived at multiple levels. « Read the rest of this entry »

Obama at MSU

October 2, 2008 § 1 Comment

Soham and Shreya make it to the Lansing State Journal’s website photo gallery…
« Read the rest of this entry »

Political poetry

October 1, 2008 § Leave a Comment

What do Donald Rumsfeld and Sarah Palin have in common? Turns out that they both deliver speeches that can, at be, without much effort, converted into poetry. Check out this and this. Some of them are quite briliant.

Deck chairs on the Titanic

September 29, 2008 § 1 Comment

I just got back from a faculty meeting where we discussed what would be some possible new hires in the area of Educational Technology & Educational Psychology. At the same time (as we were discussing this) the House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion plan to bail out the U.S. financial system, putting a roadblock in front of the largest government intervention in the markets since the Great Depression. The Dow was down more than 600 points after the voting ended!

My sense after both these events, the faculty meeting AND the economic news, is that we are rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as it sinks.

The world of education is going through fundamental changes, most of them having to do with the advent of new technologies. However, I see a lack of understanding of what this means for scholarship and research. And I have a similar opinion of how this whole economic debacle is playing out. We are spending more time quibbling about whether Palin can see Russia from her house than about what this collapse means for all of us.

It is all very sad and depressing.

Wordle, McCain v.s. Obama

September 9, 2008 § 3 Comments

As I was playing with Wordle (see previous postings here and here) I realized that it could be used for political analysis. So here are John McCain and Barack Obama’s acceptance speeches as a word-map. « Read the rest of this entry »

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