What we know vs What we do

This has been brewing for a while. Ask anyone who works with me (as I’ve likely ranted at them recently), and I’m not the first person to have the thought. Still.

The difference between what we know and what we do troubles me. Examples?

1. We know that the formalized teaching of grammar doesn’t actually lead to better writing from students. We’ve known this (using science!) since the 60′s. We still teach formalized grammar to “improve writing.”

2. We know sitting is bad for us. We continue to fill classrooms with chairs (and demand students stay in them).

3. We know physically assaulting a child is not an effective method of discipline. We pass bills (in 20 states!) that allow it anyway.

And sadly, there are many more. So many more, I’m afraid, that I can’t even begin to enumerate them here. And for me, it was the realization of how different our schools would look if we took into account the things we know.

Doing the Math.

So cars.

I drive more than the average American- instead of the “industry standard” 12,000 miles a year, I’m pushing closer to 18,000. That’s a lot more. As a result, and because I’m a car dork, I’m always looking for a better solution.

Today, Tesla cars announced they will debut their new “$40,000 ish” Model E. That’s exciting to me, since their Model S is what I’d run out and buy should I win the lottery tomorrow (Yes, over an M5 or E63 or S6…). It’s not that it’s a nice car (though that’s also true), but rather that it costs an amazing 4.5 cents per mile to operate. That’s it. I spend somewhere north of $3000 a year on gasoline, and by Tesla’s math it costs $240 a year in electricity to fuel one of their cars. It’d take a long time to make up the difference between my current price bracket (read: cheap) and the Model S ($70,000 base). But at 40k, over, say, 7 years, I’d make up the difference. Meaning the cost of a gasoline car plus the gas over seven years would equal the price of the Model E plus electricity. That’s nuts.

I likely won’t be in the market when the Model E debuts, but it’s starting to look like by the time I’m ready to buy my next car, it very well might be electric. I always assumed that would happen some day- but I never thought it’d be in time for my next car.

Welcome to the future.

Research #24

A 1984 quarter riveted to a toolbox

I thought this would look good as a badge riveted to my toolbox. And it does.

Here’s what I’ve been looking at for the last week:

  • 3D modeling to printing workflows based around iOS devices
  • Joseph Cornell boxes
  • Bandwidth requirements of 4k monitors (at 24 and 32 bit color depth)
  • Analog displays of digital data
  • Polar tours on Russian Nuclear Icebreaker ships (this is totally a thing)
  • Some interesting research looking at what raising MCAS scores does for other types of learning (answer: not much)
  • Old-school waterproofing via wax application
  • Watching Panasonic Lumix GH2 pricing

 

Sources of inspiration.

Cool Tools Book

Cool Tools

Sometimes people wonder where I get ideas from. It’s always a difficult question on answer, because the sources are so varied and diverse, but since I just received something I’ve been waiting for, I thought I’d share:

Kevin Kelly, formerly of the Whole Earth Catalog, formerly of Wired Magazine, has just put out a new book: Cool Tools A Catalog of Possibilities. It is, in every way, the spiritual successor to the Whole Earth catalog. Just looking through it inspires idea. It’s exactly the sort of place I go when I need broad-band inspiration.

I hate rubrics.

It’s like this: Rubrics run the danger of encouraging “checklist think,” wherein a student checks off the aspects of the rubric to achieve the grade they want. Done well this doesn’t pose a problem, but it’s often not thought out- and the rubric becomes a mere checklist to be fulfilled. The danger with this is the elimination of opportunities for creativity. When the checklist becomes the gold standard, we risk loosing the ability to reward the divergent thinking student.

Consider that the rubric essentially becomes a contract between the student and the teacher. It allows for points to be awarded based on specific criteria. This is good, in that the students know exactly the sort of tasks they will be rewarded for. The flip of this, of course, is that educators can only reward for the things in that rubric.

I’ll offer an example from my education.

During my undergrad study, I was asked to write a paper in an English class. The topic was specified, as were several other criteria: evidence integration, structure, length, transitions, etc. Among the specifications was a stipulation that the paper be between five and seven double spaced typed pages long.

Let’s say that I’m not known for my long-form writing. It’s not my nature.

The paper I submitted was a scant three pages long- essentially half of what I’d been asked to provide. In all ways, the paper was excellent (if I do say so myself…), and it exhibited the sort of depth of thought and argument that the professor was looking for. When it came time for a grade, I was rewarded for my work with an “A.” There was no rubric for this paper- there were guidelines. As a result, the professor was free to grade my work on it’s merits. Had there been a rubric that specified the length of the paper, the professor would have had no choice but to deduct points for the short length of my work.

It’s not that rubrics are inherently bad. It’s that so many of the rubrics made aren’t thought out and structured to foster the creative and divergent thought we so badly need students to express. They aren’t rubrics- they’re checklists. And not good checklists at that.

It won’t fail.

NASA's motto for the Apollo program

My modified Field Notes with NASA’s Apollo program motto.

Somewhere between 400,000 and 1,500,000 people were directly involved in allowing 12 people to walk on the moon.

This was a project so big that no one person could understand all aspects of it. But each member of that enormous team lived by the same mantra:

If won’t fail because of me.

experimental education ideas