Posted to Diigo 02/25/2011

    • As scientists and other specialists learn more about how our brains work, for example, many of the traditional instructional methods used for the past 100 years (or more) seem to be out of kilter with how human beings really pay attention, engage, and actually learn something
    • utter incredulity concerning the continuation of the old one-way large lecture hall
    • The massive lecture rooms are not designed to produce an ideal learning situation but rather to get a great amount of people through the material on a large scale
    • “tiny professor somewhere down there” in front going through the material but without engagement or connection with the students
    • If one of the goals of education is to “have a lively exchange of ideas,” the depersonalized one-way lecture seems to be an outdated method for stimulating this exchange
    • Einstein said many years ago that “it is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry….”
    • We are obsessed with giving prizes to students who memorize the most facts and bits of information (and in the shortest amount of time). Why don’t we give prizes for the students who demonstrate their unabashed curiosity and demonstrable pursuit of discovery?
    • The curious can eventually overcome their ignorance, but the chronically incurious—and yet self-assured—are stuck with their ignorance for a lifetime.
    • The ineffective teachers are the ones who have lost their curiosity and sense of wonder for their subject or even for their job
    • The best teachers guide, coach, inspire, and feed that natural flame of curiosity that lives within every child
    • The courage to teach, then, is the courage to expose yourself as you demonstrate your curiosity and wonder for your subject
    • This kind of passion is infectious (and memorable).
    • School for a student is ephemeral and short, but learning, self-education, and inquiry last a life time so long as a student’s unabashed curiosity remains alive
    • The best teachers (or trainers, coaches, etc.) are those who light the sparks and inspire students to pursue a lifetime of exploration and discovery
    • When designing an online or blended course, then, the question might be, “Which of these skills and those closely related skills are core for your discipline and map to your learning goals and outcomes?

    • A useful design theme for thinking about new writing spaces is “cognitive surplus.”
    • Shirky describes cognitive surplus as “the shared, online work we do with our spare brain cycles.”
    • The motivation for doing shared work with those “spare brain cycles” is simple: We, as people, like to create and we like to share.
    • an emerging trend in online courses is for learners to create while learning
    • Some of this creation work focuses on current course topics, resulting in mini-conferences and expansion of course materials. Other creative course work flows forward to future learners, to the community, and to other groups
    • So what are the alternatives to the traditional research paper?
    • Why is the traditional paper so prevalent in assessment, and how can we move beyond it to alternative evidence of student learning?
    • Writing is a core competency and we are now writing more than ever
    • What kinds of writing do learners need to do in their chosen careers, lives, and professions? Much of the writing will rely even more on critical thinking and research skills
    • Papers are popular because writing requires skills such as:

TEDx Johanessburg (session 1) – Iain Thomas

The first session at TEDx Johannesburg began with Iain Thomas, the author of ambiguous micro stories at I wrote this for you. Here’s the site tagline, which is great:
“I need you to understand something. I wrote this for you. I wrote this for you and only you. Everyone else who reads it, doesn’t get it. They may think they get it, but they don’t. This is the sign you’ve been looking for. You were meant to read these words.” Apparently there is a whole ecosystem of micro-story writers, this is the first I’ve heard of it.  I love the idea.

“We are a generation that consumes media in smaller and smaller chunks.”  I think of Twitter and the effect it has on my own concentration / focus / reflection?  It’s difficult to identify relevant data from an endless stream, focus on it, extract meaningful information and make use of that.  Should I slow down?  How?  Why?  Can I afford to?

Iain creates very short stories by leaving out the small details (e.g. age, gender, etc.) and having the reader fill in the gaps.  “There’s no story I can tell you that’s more powerful than the one you tell yourself”.

“We are not the unique snowflakes we are told we are, we are all of us the same.”  I love this sentence.  It makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger, but at the same time I think that each of us is unique.  But the aggregation of the whole “flattens” us out and makes the sum of the parts seem more uniform.  I like the idea of simplicity (the group) through complexity (the individual).

“This is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time” (from Fight club).  Inspiring quote to motivate one to get on with it.

“I don’t care how many fish there are in the sea, I don’t want fish, I want you.”  I came across a variation of this a few years ago (I forget where)…I don’t care how many fish there are in the sea, if I’m a mackerel and you’re a herring, it won’t help either of us.

Iain Thomas at TEDx Johannesburg

Iain got me thinking about stories and the important role of stories in our lives.  We all learned through stories when we were younger, and then for some reason, most of us stop telling them.  Maybe it has something to do with the creativity that’s “educated” out of us (Sir Ken Robinson).  I remember growing up fascinated with fables, myths and science fiction, yet most of what I read now is either academic or non-fiction.   I just finished reading Randy Pausch’sThe last lecture“, based on his last lecture at Carnegie Mellon, where he also talks about the importance of stories in our lives.

I like the idea of using stories as vehicles that we can use to carry concepts and principles.  Kind of like sneaking the idea in there, or learning without realising that you’re learning.  I often tell my students that their patient documentation can be thought of as a story…the story of this patient and their condition/injury.  Just like a story has a logical sequence and structure (beginning, middle and end), so too should an assessment have structure.  What are the logical patterns we can use to best convey the story of this patient and our role as physiotherapists in that story?

For the past few months I’ve been trying to get my head around the idea of complexity through simplicity, and this concept of ambiguous micro-stories seems to resonate with that idea.  It’s something that I worked hard on for my doctoral proposal, although I based it on a variation of one of Einstein’s quotes that “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”.  For me, Iain’s stories fall into this category of creating stories that can be incredibly complex, but only through incredible simplification.