Posted to Diigo 06/18/2012

    • “When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.“The minute that you understand that you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, that you can change it, you can mold it. That’s maybe the most important thing. It’s to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you’re just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.

      “I think that’s very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you’ll want to change life and make it better, cause it’s kind of messed up, in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”   — Steve Jobs

Doing more with less. Or, how to avoid distracting myself

I spend a lot of time online. A lot. And I’m beginning to realise that a lot of that time is spent bouncing around between applications, windows, tabs, etc, just checking up on things. When I get notified that new mail has arrived I have to check it, even though I know that I’ll probably just delete it, file it, or mark if for “Action”…later. A few months ago I wrote about how I was going to try and read less but with more intent. I began by culling some of the accounts I follow on Twitter, deleted some of those RSS feeds that I never read and unsubscribed from a bunch of mailing lists. It has worked to some extent, and I find myself feeling less pressured to scan everything coming through my filters.

More recently, I started using another strategy to try and do fewer things more effectively. Quite simply, I maximised every window that was open and put each one in it’s own Workspace. I’ve found that when all I can see is my browser, I tend not to think about email (although I still haven’t managed to ignore the “New mail” notification). When I’m working in Mendeley, my eye isn’t drawn to other open applications in the taskbar.

I find that I’m more able to focus on the task at hand and spend less time moving between applications. When I do change focus, it’s to accomplish something related to the task and I come right back to it. You might argue that there really isn’t anything wrong with the old system, other than my lack of self-control. However, I have been able to do a lot more work lately and I believe that this is at least partly because the maximised windows mean that I literally can’t see anything else. Out of sight, out of mind.

Just thought I’d share after reading this post on Presentation Zen, about “the intentional selection of less”. I was particularly interested to read, “Does this focus on the consumption of more and more ephemeral tools lead to a great distraction in many cases?” In my case, I’d have to say that yes, it did.

Posted to Diigo 09/11/2011

    • To experience something has a far more profound effect on your ability to remember and influence you than if you simply read it in a book
    • You’ve cast a learner into the world. And that’s the most powerful thing you can do as a teacher
    • The enthusiastic teacher is fundamental to igniting flames of interest in any student in any subject
    • a totally different way of thinking about “teaching” one where “instead of controlling a classroom, a teacher now influences or shapes a network.”
    • apprenticeship for every student in our classrooms these days is not so much grounded in a trade or a profession as much as it is grounded in the process of becoming a learner
    • we teach kids to learn
    • we don’t teach subjects, we teach kids
    • We can’t teach kids to learn unless we are learners ourselves, and our understanding of learning has to encompass the rich, passion-based interactions that take place in these social learning spaces online
    • seeing the purpose of higher education as going beyond the acquisition of knowledge and skills
    • Only this will provide flexibility in applying knowledge, skills, and understanding that will suffice at a time of rapid change and ‘super-complexity’ in dealing with emerging issues and new problems.
    • encourages the development of courses “that set a broad agenda from the start, highlighting the ways of thinking and practicing that are required, and introducing broad questions as ‘throughlines’ that keep students focused on the importance of reaching understanding for themselves.”
    • That doesn’t mean students get to interpret the material as they see fit. It’s more about them making the material their own, storing it where they can find it, and configuring it so that it usefully connects with what else they know
    • convinced that most of our courses need to be reconstructed, if not destructed and rebuilt
    • Entwistle, N. (2010). Taking stock: An overview of key research findings. In J. C. Hughes and J. Mighty, eds., Taking Stock: Research on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Kingston, Ontario, Canada: School of Policy Studies, Queens University

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:

Posted to Diigo 06/09/2010

    • most ineffective presentations could have been prevented if the presenter had just asked two important questions before he began to prepare: (1) What’s my point? And (2) why does it matter?
    • Most presenters focus only on the what (information, data, more information…more data just in case) and then spend some time on the how (often resulting in the creation of typical bulletpoint driven ppt slides), but almost no time is spent really thinking about the Why
    • The Why is were we should start almost all projects, including presentations

Giving good presentations

I gave my first conference presentation in June, 2008 and thought that it was terribly boring. I presented the results of my Masters thesis and since I’m quite new to the whole “being an academic” thing, I did it the same way that everyone else was doing it. In other words, I fired up OpenOffice and began adding bullet points. I knew that I wasn’t happy with it, and I knew that there must be a better way of presenting my work, but didn’t really know how.

Since then I’ve learned a little more about giving effective presentations (although I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good presenter), and with each subsequent one I’ve given I’ve gained the confidence to try something different. I’ll always try something to break the tedium of merely summarising my results into bullet points, and along the way I’ve learned a few useful thing. Here are some sources of inspiration for me.

Finally, I try to remember that my goal in giving a presentation should be to entertain, not just to inform. On a related topic, read this post by Seth Godin on why most academic conferences are…typical.