In a couple of previous posts I had talked about the idea of postdiction (see the posts here and here). The argument being that good teaching (among a long list of other good things) is postdictable, i.e. it walks the line between predictability and chaos, and most importantly makes sense post hoc. To make my point I had posted a couple of videos that were good examples of being postdictable.
Closely connected to the idea of postdictable is the idea of creating anticipation and suspense. Once again other artists (particularly those working in temporal media such as film, and advertising) seem to have grasped the importance of this earlier than educators. Good film-makers can create suspense out of pretty much the flimsiest of materials. Think of the first scenes from Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The way the scene builds tension out of a disagreement over whether or not to tip is pitch perfect. There is more tension in that scene than in dozens of other “suspense” thrillers.
However making suspense work is difficult. Navigating this line between predictability and tension over the unknown is a fine art. (This is where, of course, the connection with postdictability becomes most clear.)
Check out the two videos below, which highlight just how fine the line is between succeeding at creating suspense and anticipation and failing to do so. Both of these videos are interesting and well made – both have pace and rhythm but one of them builds anticipation while the other just happens. One tells a story, the other doesn’t. Read the rest of this entry »
Carole Ames, Dean of the College just sent out this note regarding the sad news of Jere Brophy’s passing. She has asked for it to be shared with our broader networks, so I do so.
Note: The memorial service for Jere Brophy has been scheduled for Monday, October 19th 2009, from 10 – 12 at the MSU Alumni Memorial Chapel
It is with great sadness that I write with the news that our dear colleague, Jere Brophy, died last night from an apparent heart attack. There are no words to express the loss of this intellectual giant to the field of education, but more importantly, we have lost an esteemed colleague, a cherished friend, and generous mentor. Jere’s warmth of character was apparent in all his interactions. He always had an inviting smile, was known for his laid-back manner, and greatly enjoyed a good chuckle. He had a genuine interest in other people, their families, lives, work and ideas. To the world, Jere was an internationally-renown scholar whose writing informed researchers, policy-makers, and practitioners alike. To us, he was all that, but, in addition, we had the privilege of having him as our beloved colleague. Read the rest of this entry »
I had written earlier about the idea of “postdictable” which was defined as something that is “surprising initially, but then understandable with a bit of thought.” It lies at the spot between predictability and total chaos. The movie Sixth Sense is postdictable in the best sense of the world. Good teaching I believe needs to be postdictable. That is what keeps us engaged, keeps us waiting for more, the payoff as it were. And best of all, once all the pieces are in, we can’t wait to go back and review everything again, to see just how beautifully the whole thing holds together. There is a strong aesthetic component to this – a sense of wholeness, closure, elegance, and inevitability. Good poems have this quality, as do mathematical theorems. A well crafted lecture or a lesson plan has this quality as well. In my mind these ideas are closely tied to the Dewey’s idea of experience and to the idea of design. Hopefully I will have a chance to explore these connections in a later post but for now, here are a couple of commercials that I think were postdictable in a really cool kind of way. Read the rest of this entry »
As readers of this blog know I love examples of seeing things in new ways. That to me if often the crux of creativity. Anyway here are two examples. The first curtesey of Leigh Wolf is a new advertisement from some credit card company. The ad is actually pretty average but what is really cool are the visuals. Read the rest of this entry »
Have you heard of the marshmallow experiment? It is a pretty famous experiment conducted at Stanford back in the 60′s. Walter Mischel a psychologist conducted this experiment on four-year olds in which the children were given one marshmallow and promised a second marshmallow if only they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. Turns out that some children could and others couldn’t wait. Following up on this study Mischel and his collaborators found that those who waited were better adjusted, dependable and, on some measures, more successful than those who could not delay gratification. In fact they found that these children scored an average of 210 points higher on the SAT!!
I had read of this experiment a while ago, it had also been the focus of a recent RadioLab segment and then I began running across a video titled Oh, The Temptation. As the director describes it he used, 2 Hidden Cameras, A bunch of Kids, 1 Marshmallow each to create this movie. He agrees that this was “not an original idea, but very fun to make.” And it is great fun to watch…
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.
Imagine controlling machines, typing text or juggling balls using nothing but the power of thought. What sounds like far-fetched science fiction is gradually becoming possible, providing hope for disabled patients — and new gimmicks for the computer gaming industry. Read more in Playing With Your Head: The Dawning Age of Mind-Reading Machines
What implications do these new technologies have for learning and education? I mean even Mattel is getting into the action… As the article says
The new system Mattel is introducing at computer trade shows is called “Mindflex.” According to the company’s fact sheet: “A true mental marathon, Mindflex exercises the brain in an entirely new way as players learn to continuously control their brain activity.”
So, you ask, how does it work? To train the brain, the user puts on a headband with sensors at the temples and a cable connected to something that looks like a mini miniature golf course. Then the user tries to master the first task: balancing a small ball above an air current, causing it to levitate and making it pass through a plastic ring.
At this time these interfaces work only in one direction, from the brain to the computer. But can the reverse, from computer to the brain be far behind? The power being discussed here is truly revolutionary. We have all known that computers are cognitive tools i.e. working with them changes the way we think. However, at some level changes in brain states are mediated via our senses and through movement, a somewhat inefficient process. What these technologies indicate is the future is in a merging of our brains directly with the computer… where the distinction between us and the machine will be increasingly blurred till we won’t be able to tell one from the other. Imagine having access to Google like search engines whenever a question pops up in our heads? How can we tell where the brain ends and the machine begins?
Just came across this on the Ph.D. design list (a listserv for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design) from a posting by Charles Burnette. He quotes Donald MacKinnon, author of a large study on creativity in the arts, sciences and professions:
If I were to summarize what is most generally characteristic of the creative [individual] as we have seen him (sic), it is his high level of effective intelligence, his openness to experience, his freedom from petty constraints, and impoverishing inhibitions, his aesthetic sensitivity, his cognitive flexibility, his independence of thought and action, his high level of energy, his unquestioning commitment to creative endeavor, and his unceasing striving for creative solutions to the ever more difficult … problems he constantly sets for himself.
The question to ponder is, how many of these correlates of creativity are amenable to teaching (i.e. can be taught / nurtured) in the classroom or other contexts and how many are completely outside of our control?
Charles Burnett also provides a couple of references to MacKinnon’s work:
MacKinnon D W. (1962). The nature and nurture of creative talent. Amer. Psychol. 17:484-95.
MacKinnon, D. W. (1978). In Search of Human Effectiveness: Identifying and Developing Creativity. Creative Education Foundation.
I had posted something similar here (from Bic to vase).
There is something deeper here than just cool design ideas though. What this video highlights is improvisation, creativity and a sense of play to repurpose artifacts for purposes other than what they had been designed for. In fact some of these designs find a use for what most of us would regard as trash.
It is this creative repurposing that is critical in this new world of teaching and technology (Technology Integration 2.0 and the TPACK framework). Teachers often look for the perfect technological solution to pedagogical problems they face. The fact is that there is no such perfect solution. In fact I argue that there is nothing like an educational technologies. Most technologies we regard as being educational in nature were not designed for this purpose. And yet, everything from a Excel spreadsheet to a Wiki; a GPS device to Audacity can serve as an educational technology, if appropriately repurposed! The sooner teachers realize that we live in a world where nothing is an educational technology…. and yet, everything has the potential to be. the better if will for all.
Scott McCloud over at Dangerously Irrelevant in his most recent post asks “Are our training efforts helping educators or enabling codependence?” This is a great question and one that all teacher educators with an interest in technology need to confront. I have always struggled with this – and varying levels of success in my own teaching (and in the MAET program I now direct). As he suggests what is needed is to develop a “willingness to probe, investigate, and experiment … [to] learn and master the tools.
It seems to me that videos such as this one highlight exactly the kind of free-form creativity we need to encourage in teachers: the ability to see a side-table in an old magazine, and a vase in a bic pen. It is only through similar creative repurposing that technologies can become educational technologies.
P.S. A key aspect of creative repurposing has to do with looking at the world with new eyes! Check out this movie titled SURFACE or Veja Du assignment on this very site.
I love how these interconnected pipes called the Intertubes lead to serendipitous discoveries. Here are two videos, the first I went looking for, and the second, fell into my lap, so to speak, due to YouTubes related videos section.
The video I went looking for was based on a delightful book I had picked up at a garage sale a few years ago. “The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics” is a little book (20 pages or so) with an intriguing story-line and its geometrical illustrations. The main character is a straight line who is in love with a dot – but sadly she is more attracted to a wild, unruly squiggle. How the simple line develops his talents and wins the love of the dot is told through whimsical (and mathematically sound) illustrations.
I learned later that the famous animator Chuck Jones had made this into a short film. Here it is (thanks to YouTube).
This is just a wonderful example of how mathematics and art, perception and recognition, creativity and design can come together. This book (and the movie) speak to me at so many different levels. What is most amazing is the ability we humans have to see purpose and meaning in the simplest of lines and curves. So much of art and science depend on this ability to perceive / construct patterns.
Nowhere is this more beautifully (and humorously) illustrated than in this other video I discovered. Written and narrated by Mel Brooks (yes THE Mel Brooks) this animated short film, The Critic, takes a different interpretive stance (crankier and edgier) than the previous narration. That this short animation captures, powerfully how we as humans both seek, and question, the meanings of the patterns we see around us.
I just finished reading parts of Sheri Turkle’s latest book, Simulation and its discontents, and the parallels to what she is writing about and Mel Brook’s Critic are quite strong. The cranky one man in the short recognizes or “sees” meaning is some of the abstract images he sees on the screen and yet he questions their value. The scientists and designers quoted in Turkle’s book echo some of the same concerns.
What is amazing is that the Mel Brooks short was made in 1963, the Chuck Jones movie was made in 1965 and Turkle’s book was published just this year, in 2009!
although most people believe that humans are good at thinking, it is actually the weakest of our mental faculties… Our minds are biased against thinking, because thinking is slow and effortful. In addition, it’s error-prone; it may not even produce an answer at all, much less a good one.
What we truly hate, according to him are things that are (a) either too easy; or (b) things that are incomprehensible. What fascinates us are problems that hit the sweet spot, not merely unpredictable but rather postdictable. He defines this as being “initially be surprising, but then be understandable with a bit of thought.”As he says:
… interest is engendered by an appraisal process: that is, a process by which we evaluate the potential interest of something before we delve into it. If we perceive an event to be novel and complex, but also comprehensible, we find it intriguing and worthy of continued thought. Tasks that lack complexity seem too easy. Tasks that lack comprehensibility seem too hard.
Just two points here. First, most of school, it seems to me, lies at these two extremes, either lacking in complexity OR lacking in comprehensibility. Combine this with the diversity of student interests and background it is hardly surprising that even students who like to learn, learn to hate schoo.
Second, I had never heard of this term “postdictable” before but I think it is going to become a part of my vocabulary from now on. It helps me explain and categorize educational activities that work from those that don’t. Additionally it helps me explain movies and books I like – from ones that don’t. I know I hate predictable plots and stories (something I am trying to get my daughter to realize particularly around the typical Disney fare she so seems to love). However, complete unpredictablity is also a pain – a waste of time. Movies I like are postdictable… surprising at first glance but understandable later. Cool.
Pennsylvania State University (PSU) has launched the Aesthetic Quality
Inference Engine (ACQUINE), an online system for determining the aesthetic quality of an image. The online photo-rating system helps establish the foundation for determining how people will react emotionally to a visual image. ACQUINE delivers ratings–from zero to 100–within seconds, based on visual aspects such as color saturation, color distribution, and photo composition. PSU researchers hope to improve upon the system’s current performance level of more than 80 percent consistency between human and computer ratings. “Furthermore, aesthetics represents just one dimension of human emotion,” says PSU professor James Z. Wang. “Future systems will perhaps strive to capture other emotions that pictures arouse in people.”
Wang says that linking cameras to ACQUINE could potentially enable a photographer to instantly see how the public might perceive a photo.
Now this is the ultimate democratization of the idea of aesthetics – of course diluting the idea of the aesthetic encounter to the lowest common denominator i.e. “how the public might perceive a photo.” The assumptions behind that definition of aesthetics are mind-boggling. Let me count the ways in which this is a boneheaded idea… actually let me not, at least at this time. But the link was worth sharing nonetheless. I hope to write more about this … hopefully soon.
I am in Chicago to give the Keynote address at the 2009 DePaul University Faculty Teaching and Learning Conference. The conference theme this year is Engaging Minds: Pedagogy and Personalism. I was invited by Sharon Guan (she was part of the AACTE Innovation & Technology Committee that edited the TPACK handbook). The title of my talk is Blurring the Boundaries, The Personal and the Professional in a Webbed World. Here is a brief description of what I will be talking about
Dr. Punya Mishra of Michigan State University asks DePaul faculty to consider the role of the professor’s identity (or persona) in course design. What are the challenges, benefits –and limits — of bringing personal experiences, values and interests into one’s teaching? We want our students to see us as “being knowledgeable yet accessible, wise but funny, cerebral but warm, benevolent and yet firm.” How can we do this in an age where we are increasingly communicating via electronic media that alter, extend and/or challenge the teacher’s identity?
A while back I had written about the idea of “serendipitous connectability;” the idea that the web allows us to “to run across things that are stunning in their ability to connect to us in powerful, emotionally touching ways.” I was prompted to do this by clicking on a random link on the We feel fine website that led to someone’s personal blog (one that I, deliberately, didn’t link to and have no real record of).
This idea seems to have been picked up a bit and this is my attempt to sort through and see how it started and how it is developing (note: there already is a mutant version out there). Details below. Read the rest of this entry »
I don’t know if anyone has been following the back and forth following my posting about the Periodic Table of Typefaces (see Yet another periodic table…). In brief, I was quite critical of the design of this table and made that point in no uncertain terms. Imagine my surprise at receiving a wonderful note from the Camdon Wilde (the designer of the table) which led to quick back and forth between us. It was a wonderfully pleasant conversation and I am very appreciative of Camdon’s grace.
I was telling my wife about this, reading through my posting, and the comments back and forth… and it struck me just how cool this entire episode was. To connect with another person, someone I have never met, building on mutual respect and openness, was beautiful in being unexpected. And it could not have happened without this wonderful technology called the Web! How very cool is that.
I received an email yesterday from the State News (our local university newspaper) about what I thought of the 60 second lecture—a trend sweeping through online courses. Some of my first thoughts about this are below. Read the rest of this entry »
As the TPACK framework has developed and received greater research and scholarly attention there has been an increasing demand for a survey instrument that can help us measure TPACK. There are now two such measures available. Read the rest of this entry »
If you love optical illusions you have to see this… just absolutely brilliant. The moment she pulls out the driver’s license is priceless. And of course the face / vase flip-flop at the end is cool too. Read the rest of this entry »
Mishra & Yadav (2006) was a paper based around my dissertation research. It took a while to get published and I am including it here for the record. My dissertation (Mishra, 1998) was maybe the first place where I made a specific mention of the triad of constructs: Technology, Pedagogy & Content that later developed into the TPACK framework. I must add that I used the word “learning theory” or “theory” in place of “pedagogy” in my dissertation. By the time this paper came out our key TPACK paper (Mishra & Koehler, 2006) was already in press – so this paper refers to our further crystallized thinking about these issues.
I have always been interested in how we use words to capture intangibles. For instance wine connoisseurs have developed a specialized language (which sadly is quite opaque to me) to explain to each other characteristics of wine. So the words “fruity” and “dry” have specific gustatory connections.
I was reminded of this on hearing this NPR story (Andrew Bird: Words As Instruments) about singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Andrew Bird. This is how he describes the goal of his latest album:
Bird says that his main focus while working on Noble Beast was to represent texture in his music.
“I think of like, when I was a kid, and I would get my Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass and throw myself down in a pile of mulch or something and go in there and pretend that I was microscopic,” Bird says. “I wanted to capture that kind of woody, mossy, decaying kind of sound.”
Terri Gustafson has created streaming downloads of the presentation recently made by the TE150 (Reflections on Teaching, Reflections on Learning) Online team (see this for more context). The video can be seen in two parts: Read the rest of this entry »
The entire TE150 team joined together to make a presentation to the College today as a part of the Online Teaching and Learning Colloquia. These sessions are sponsored by the MA-APPC, Center for Teaching and Technology, and the Center for the Scholarship of Teaching. Read the rest of this entry »
As you know I am always intrigued by a new breed to personality analysis tools that are out there in the world (for instance see these prior postings: on PersonalDNA; on Color IQ; and browsing for gender). So here is this new website that seeks to analyze me by studying my blog.