Archive for April, 2008

Memory Architecture

April 28, 2008

As mentioned in my other blog, I feel that the main advantage of teacher blogging is to maintain a virtual memory. However, as mentioned earlier, I’ve started this blog as a reaction to the thought that not maintaining such a site is equivelent to educational malpractice. 

The combination is interesting in that I have always thought of memory as an internal affair. In a sense bloggers are creating electronic memory palaces but at the same time we are making them virtual in every sense of the word. By commiting our memories and mental connections to the web are we keeping ourselves from storing the information locally in our brain? If so, does that have a potential impact on our ability to make connections and solve problems at the expert level? Certainly there are many who feel this is a positive thing since the virtual world is becoming more ubiquitous all the time. 

I don’t really have any insights, just questions at this point.

Project management

April 28, 2008

Lest I come off as too much of a sloth I’d like to point to a great use of Web 2.0 in the form of both learning from others and in the form of using new technology in terrific ways.  I like PBL but it is a mess to run such a classroom and hold everyone accountable.  Thus I’m thrilled to see a discussion of open source project management tools that might help with it in a school setting.  

Our specific use is in managing student research projects.  All three of the applications listed seem to be overkill at first glance.  Its a trade off between a simple checklist (quick and easy to create and to evaluate) versus the power of these applications.  Can we, the school, justifiy the teacher and student time?  Since the projects are normally signle student projects I think I came down on the side of the check lists.  On the other hand it looks like our school robotics team might have a new organizational tool.

The slow loris

April 25, 2008

The slow loris (Nycticebus coucang and two other species) is a primate native to Southeastern Asia.   While generally slow moving they can react quickly in capturing prey or avoiding danger.  It is possible to draw many comparisons between a slow loris and a physics teacher there is no particular meaning to the name.  At a bare minimum I can assure everyone that I am not venomous or nocturnal.

Professionally I’m a physics teacher with an interest in student research.  Initially trained as an materials scientist I still find much of the engineering spirit in myself.  On the other hand I’m too laid back and frugal to fully geek out on technology and gadgets.

A teacher by any other name

April 24, 2008

Thanks to Ryan at Metanoia (and Techlearning) I have started another blog. Recently he presented a “push for teachers to stop waiting for the organization and become a collaborative professional learner.” One portion of his theses is that as professionals teachers should maintain a public professional learning space. I like the general idea but I have some reservation about both the technological and the personal aspects.

Technologically my reservation centers around a feeling, maybe even a fear, that the social web is hype. Just like many past educational theories I feel that the concept of Web 2.0 has become a talisman. Just because 100’s or 1000’s of teachers are linking to each other’s blogs and posting small “keep up the good work” messages doesn’t mean things are improving. Yes there is benefit in keeping up with the conversation within the profession. Certainly this can be made easier through aspects of the social web. On the other hand I would rather see people learning and DOING things instead of talking about them.

While Ryan dismisses the issue of time and time pressures I have to disagree. While there are times that we need to ignore protestations by students, colleagues, or ourselves there are also situations when it is important to recognize that time is limited. One of the lessons that I try to teach my kids is that they need to learn to prioritize, to learn make value judgments. All students would say that doing a physics problem set is more important then playing Halo 3. Most will make the “correct” call when its calculus versus basketball also although sometimes they need to be reminded of their goals first. Yet when it come to physics versus calculus the ranking is less clear. I find I can not fault either choice.

Similarly I find it hard to judge poorly a teacher who is striving to teach and to learn but is not striving to communicate. The learning and then actiing on the learning is the important part. Spreading the word can be done by those with a passion for such things.