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Posts Tagged ‘new

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I enjoy reading the reflections of Larry Cuban, former teacher, professor, and educator supreme.

His two-part series (so far) on Open Space Schools (part 1) (part 2) are critical examinations of what some might consider novel when they are not. In Cuban’s own words, he considers “how ‘new’ ideas, innovations, popular policies, and classroom practices have a history that often goes unnoted”.

In part 1, Cuban shared a “new” idea of an open classroom in the Kyrene district of Phoenix, Arizona. It was one where the walls of six classrooms were removed to create a shared space. He pointed out that this was based on an idea in the 1960s and 1970s in a few schools in the US that challenged the practice of age-based classrooms.

In part 2, Cuban predicted that there could be a “slow reverting to the familiar age-graded school and fading of team-teaching, collaboration, and ambitious teaching”. He cited a USD163 million experiment in the 1970s in a Washington, D.C., district that built 17 open space schools only to return to form.

A key difference between the two districts’ efforts was that the older effort was top-down while the recent one was teacher-led. The implication: This might lead to better buy-in and ownership of the change.

All that said, Cuban’s wisdom was condensed in the final paragraph of part 1:

Reforms never die. They often get incorporated into the on-going system of schooling and become the old wall paper that another generation of reformers discovers and strips away. Or reuses with new paste.

My takeaway is the reminder that it is important to study the recent history of educational change. This is not just so we avoid claiming something old as something new. There are invaluable lessons to draw from efforts past if we are humble enough to dig for them.

Twenty four. That is the number of classic Google Sites that I cannot transition to new Sites. These were created by someone else and shared with me, but I do not have administrative rights to update them.

My screenshot shows 22 such sites, but there are two more that are domain-locked and not included in my list.

According to this support article, as of January 2022 “when users try to visit a classic site, they won’t see the website content.” This is Google-speak for classic Google Sites are dead, so you have to use new Google Sites.

I wish my previous collaborators would update the classic Sites to new ones. Each site takes a few clicks and about one minute to complete the whole process. It would be a shame for all that shared knowledge to be hidden because people do not know or care.

Sharing takes effort. Sometimes it involves going against institutional policy. Sometimes it is a minor inconvenience. Converting classic Google Sites to the new version is the latter. Just do it.

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When I watched this TED-Ed video last week, I thought about ways of thinking, i.e., old, new, and current.

Using the seasonal disappearance of birds as an example, one old theory was that birds transformed into other creatures.

A new theory was that the birds hibernated. While this was true of just a few birds, it did not apply to all.

Our now current knowledge is that those birds migrate seasonally. This is backed up by data and the phenomenon can be confirmed repeatedly and reliably with the aid of technology.

We have old, new, and current theories on how people learn and the virus that causes COVID-19. While those two examples seem incomparable, they share the facts that:

  • The old theories are almost comical because they rely on superficial observation.
  • The new theories have some support, but are not generalisable.
  • The current theories have broad support because they are tested rigorously by research and practice.

I have reflected on how we should not return to “normal” post COVID-19. Others have expressed the same thoughts in different and better ways than me.

Earlier this month, Lisa Lane introduced a recent reflection like this:

I hear people say things like “when things go back to normal” or “after the pandemic” or just “afterwards”.

That might have worked for something that lasted a few weeks. Or for a hurricane or fire that destroys your home, then you have to rebuild. We can’t do that yet — this is the classic slow-motion train wreck. And anyone who’s rebuilt, had tragedy strike, knows that nothing is ever the same again.

Because we cannot go backward. Trust me on this — I’m a historian. I know backward. We only go forward.

Returning to normal can be backward if you retain the ignorance and stupidity in the normal that was.

So what happens if we do move forward? Tim Stahmer tweeted this as a reaction to claims of the “new normal”.

The new normal can reek of empty rhetoric or policy speak, particularly when it is the old disguised as new.

So what really is daring, different, and desperately needed? I offer Alfie Kohn’s take on testing and grading.

He offered evidence for the normal failing the less privileged and better alternatives like pass/fail and ungrading, and no grading that served everyone.

If those ideas sound foreign, that is sadly normal. We need to move forward without the baggage of catchphrases and millstones of legacy. As Kohn put it, this is our “chance to turn a(n) epidemiological crisis into an educational opportunity”.

This is a follow up to my wish on Wednesday to replace my 2012 iMac with the recently released 2020 model.

Shortly after I shared my thoughts, I ordered the item online. The process to get the discounted iMac and pay by instalments was not as straightforward as simply getting one at full price and paying in one go.

Given the choice of calling a local number or ordering by online chat, I opted for the latter. I had used the phone ordering some years ago and it was too long and uncomfortable for my liking.

The online chat was smooth because I could copy and paste the URL that led to the exact model and specifications I wanted. That saved a lot of time that would have otherwise been used to get the order right.

The curious thing about ordering via chat was that the payment information and initial confirmation were still by phone. The phone call was the equivalent of inputting my credit card number and expiration details. The difference was that a bank partner handled this part of the transaction. This was still an uncomfortable process because I was taught never to give financial details over the phone!

That part was also out of Apple’s hands. If a bank partner did not have a centre to handle these calls, you could not use that bank’s credit cards to pay by instalments. Two of my credit cards normally qualify for this. However, one bank had stopped this service due to the coronavirus.

The final confirmation was via email. If I had paid full price and at one go, I would have received the same email. But since I wanted the education price, to pay by instalments, and get a free pair of AirPods, I jumped through these administrative hoops.

I ordered the iMac on Wednesday and received it and the AirPods by DHL on Thursday (yesterday). That was a quick turnaround!

If I had ordered normally, I could have chosen a specific delivery window. The hybrid ordering process I described above did not provide this option. However, the courier was considerate enough to give me a call before he stopped by.

I met the courier at my door in the afternoon and set up the new iMac with a Time Machine image of my old iMac. I drafted this blog entry a few hours later in the evening.

iMac 2020 overview.

I am pleased with how quickly the entire process of buying and setting up took. Now I only have to get RAM modules so that I can upgrade the iMac’s memory myself!

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I think that it is time for me to get a new iMac. My current one has been serving me since 2012. It is so old that Apple classifies it as “vintage”.

I had to repair my 2012 iMac twice in the last two years, so I am I not looking forward to another computer hospital visit this year. Better to reward myself with a new one.

Thankfully Apple announced the 2020 version of the iMac about a week ago. While it has lots of performance upgrades, I am looking forward to three seemingly minor changes — an all-SSD storage, user-replaceable RAM, and a better webcam.

The old iMacs had hybrid drives, i.e., an SSD with the operating system and a conventional drive for everything else. Since I rely largely on the cloud and external drives, the all-SSD move is not a problem for me.

The new larger version of the iMac also allows me to change and add more RAM on my own. While this is a mainstay of most PCs, Apple has locked its users out from most user-initiated upgrades. This exception will allow me to buy and install RAM without the Apple tax.

Finally, the new iMac will come with a high-definition webcam. Most of its laptops and other iMacs have subpar webcams that are embarrassing now that video conferencing is the norm.

Macs do not come cheap. I will be taking advantage of my educator’s discount, and since I am planning to get one now, I will get a free pair of AirPods as well. Combine that with a monthly installment plan and the new investment is a no-brainer.

Disclaimer: This was not a sponsored message.

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I had a happy first few days of the lunar new year, not least because I found this funny video courtesy of SGAG.

I fell ill on new year’s eve and am still recovering. Don’t worry, it is not Wuhan-related. My illness meant I had to avoid people like the plague.

I do not have problems with people proper. I simply dislike inane or meaningless interactions. So my illness was a bonus hongbao for my misanthropic tendencies.

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That is my short form for Product and Processes, Lunar New Year edition.

This was the product — a short story shot on the iPhone 11 Pro.

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This was some insights into some of the processes that created the product.

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You might cynically point out that this was Apple’s blatant effort to keep advertising the iPhone 11 Pro to the largest market in the world. You would be right.

You might also see how important it is to be aware of the processes behind the product. You might learn to be reflective.

So which would you rather be — right or enlightened — in the Year of the Rat?

I heard a few questions from new faculty at a recent pre-semester meeting. The questions revealed how much I take for granted and how much the new folk need to level up.

One person confused academic integrity with general integrity. Academic integrity is normally about how one writes essays and reports research. We want individuals who are models of overall integrity, of course. But when we focus on assignments and reports, we zoom in on specific aspects of academic integrity like citing, attributing, and not plagiarising.

Another person brought up how students might be confused as to why they had to cooperate in class activities (e.g., co-editing Google Docs) but could not do the same with most summative assignments. While such students bring up a valid argument, we should counter that with accountability. We focus on group accountability with shared documents, but we determine individual accountability with end-of-course essays.

I was glad to hear how a few faculty had started using mobile apps to quiz their students. However, I was dismayed that they focused on the bells and whistles instead of the praxis of feedback or assessment. Such application of educational theory could be the need to monitor learning and/or to provide formative feedback. It should not be about a timer counting down or background music adding tension.

All three examples bring up the importance of being an academic who is literate in pedagogical theory and research. Being a good instructor and facilitator is not just about knowing what works. It is also about knowing why it works.

It is the time of year when people tend to make new year’s resolutions.

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Shortly after the new year, most people fail or give up on them. To keep on task, folks might apply the strategies in the video below.

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The shortlist of strategies in the video:

  • Pick small and realistic goals
  • Be specific and detailed about the goals
  • Keep track of your progress in a concrete way
  • Change your environment to remove distractions or temptations

I did not set out to blog every day for the last several years. I did resolve to try to learn something or reinforce something worthwhile each day. As an educator, I know that cementing learning means acting on new information to make it encoded and embodied knowledge. So I keep that habit going.


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