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Learning for 2020

My journey to understand what life will be in year 2020 and how we should prepare our next generation to cope with life at 2020.

Updated: 2012-04-16T09:38:46.229+10:00


What is weighing down learning?


by Harold Jarche

Harold dug up a post I wrote two years ago and highlighted the baggage the current school system is.

However, I would like to take issue with his use of "learning" in his post title.

"Education system" is NOT the same as "learning". In today's education system, our children are learning, albeit not necessarily during "school hours" and not the kind of skills we (here "we" means adults or society) like them to learn. Learning IS an innate ability of human. It is not whether a child has learnt or not. The problem is about "what, when, where and how".

I have left out "who and why" in the above. "Who" is obvious. We are talking about the children - oops, everyone actually because we need life-long learning.

I don't want to ponder "why" we need to learn. It has been covered by too many people and I have no expertise in it. I would rather apply "why" to each of the "what, when and where". Why *we* want learners to learn "what", at "when" and "where"?

When and only when the above questions have answers, education system would be able to address "how" to achieve under the economic and social constraints.

Unfortunately, we do not start from a blank state. There is an existing education system. Can it evolve to the ideal state? Or it is necessary to have a revolution in order to achieve that state?

Again, I have more questions than answers!

[cross posted to Random Walk in Learning]

"Deliver Instruction"


Chris Lehmann asks
Can someone differentiate when you would say "Deliver Instruction" over the simpler (and to me, more meaningful) term "Teach?"

Mignon McLaughlin says
It means that a teacher can deliver pizza along with instruction. It means that we can objectify teachers' delivery of knowledge--external from themselves--and grade her on her performance. It means that, like a baseball pitcher, we can clock the speed of delivery and that each teacher has her own way of getting the ball over the plate.

I say
Step 1: Unscrew the top of student's head.
Step 2: Deliver instruction into the brain.
Step 3: Replace the top of student's head.
Step 4: Send client a bill for the service.
Step 5: Call the next student in. Repeat step 1 to 4 above.

cross posted to Random Walk in Learning

"The Future of..." - Three Contrasting Views


by Scott Leslie

Scott reports on three "future" visions. Please read his own view by clicking on the title of this post. Here is my own hypothical scenario for 2031: Reflection on the Eve of International Conference on the Use of Books in Education 2031

By 2015, many of the Generation X have achieved executive levels at education institutes and government agencies. Some remembered how frustrated they were when they had to learn from content without support. Some were determined to change the way education should be delivered.

30 years later: Transhuman and learning


I blogged [in Random Walk in Learning] about a post by Christopher D. Sessums who asked "What will learning and schooling look like 30 years from now?" This blog does not try to look that far into the future. However, Christopher's call can actually be acted out today as it is very much about the attitude, rather than technology.

Sunday, Brian Wang posted Transhuman: Iron man versus Borg versus Xmen where he looked at what capabilities that make sense to put into the body and what to leave as wearable tools.

The capabilities that Brian refered to are those we may found in Star Treks Borg, the 6 million dollar man, X-men or comic book character Iron Man. Looking at the list, it seems that many of these capabilities are within reach in near future.

The one last thing on Brian's list is uploading/mind transfer:
There are questions as to how well this would work in terms of consciousness. Eventually this architecture could diverge from the cyborg, genetic enhancement capabilities. The communication between biology and the computer and whether upgrading hybrid biology would be slower than pure computer equipment would be factors in whether architectures diverge in performance.

It seems that there is no magic pill to transfer knowledge/understanding between minds yet in the near future.

What learning is like in 2020 is still unknown!

Future Students


After neglecting this blog for a few months, I am back.Here are a few posts of interest:Student 2.0My shameless rewording of Manager 2.0 by Kathy Siera.One dramatic difference between traditional schools and the Web 2.0 new schools is the way students are taught. Or rather, the fact that they are not "taught." Most School 1.0 (like, say, where I graduated?) are not only too old fashioned, but their teaching practices are just too old school (and not in a retro hip way) to foster a culture that matches the culture of the new citizens growing up in Web 2.0.School 1.0School 2.0Curriculum dictated by a syllabus.Students decide and negotiate the learning area.Teachers are the keeper of the knowledge. Teachers are the facilitator of the learning process.Information is limited from those in the textbookInformation are sourced from everywhere, including but not limited to online resources.How effective is the learning is measured by standardised tests.Effective learning is linked to satisfactory and joy of knowing new knowledge and mastering new skills.Students sit in rows facing the teacher.Students sit around tables facing each other.Emphasis on individual learning.Emphasis on collaborative and co-operative learningStudents tightly controlled to do right time.Students free to try new ideas and experiment.Examination result acts as an external motivation.Students delve pleasure from making and learning new things.Knowledge in textbook are "king" and cannot be challenged.Knowledge is negotiated and learnt in a community of practice.Learning effectiveness conducted by external "examination authority".Learning effectiveness is reported as portfolio and demonstrations.Fixed time table. If a student missed a lesson, she will miss that forever.Learning occurs all the time and contents are covered in repeating cycles.Scholarship are based on past examination results.Scholarship is based on the ability to learn in a group and contribution to the group.Repetitive homework are assigned.Projects are negotiated.Deadline of homework submission in short and frequent interval.Continuous presentation of current state of project.Students are forced to learn without explaining why they should learn that material.Students choose the subject they like based on career advice.A series of posts from 2 Cents WorthFlat ClassroomWhat about an education system that is challenged to prepare children for their future — and it’s not their father’s future. So what about a flat classroom? Traditional education has been an environment of hills. The teacher could rely on gravity to support the flow of curriculum down to the learners. But as much as we might like to pretend, we (teachers) are no longer on top of the hill. The hill is practically gone. [my emphasis]Flat Classrooms — Curious StudentsFlat Classrooms — Intrinsic Communicators & InfluencersFlat Classrooms — Future Oriented StudentsFlat Classrooms — Future Oriented Students (contd)and a wiki associated with the idea.[...]

Looking beyond 2020 - rendered physical reality


Let me first get some of the terms clear.

Physical reality - the physical world we are familiar with.

Virtual reality - a computer generated 3D-like (albeit rendered on a 2D screen) with support such as head-mount visual display to general 3D images. Recent development include 3D television (by directing different light into viewer's eye to create the 3D visual effect.)

Imagined (created) reality - the sense of reality when you are deeply engaged in a role play simulation such as Fablusi role play simulation. The information you received to create the reality is minimum. Your imagination fills in most of the details. This can also happen when you are reading a novel. The look of the character in the novel is mostly created by your imagination or creativity.

Now, consider this situation, from an Intel webpage, via Better Humans
In a hospital in Houston, two surgeons appear to be performing a difficult procedure on a cardiac patient. In fact, only one of the doctors in the room is real. The other is a replica - a lifelike physical model whose shape, appearance and movements precisely mimic those of a specialist in Tokyo who is performing the actual work.
When you finished using a replica for one purpose, you could transform it into another useful shape. A human replica could morph into a desk, a chair could become a keyboard, a lamp could be transformed into a ladder.

This is what the Carnegie Mellon University researchers called Dynamic Physical Rendering - a rendered physical reality.

Sound impossible? Here is their plan.

The source of the replicate may be captured via 3D motions. Carnegie researchers have already developed
technology that points a set of cameras at an event and enables the viewer to virtually fly around and watch the event from a variety of positions. The DPR researchers believe a similar approach could be used to capture 3D scenes for use in creating physical, moving 3D replicas.

(image) To create the physical replicate, they propose to use "a form of programmable matter". This programmable matter is in fact millions of small spherical catom which, a prototype (much bigger than the eventual version) has been partially* demonstrated in 2004. The final version will use electrostatic forces rather than electromagnetic forces to hold these catoms together or move. This simulation shows how 3D catoms can find other catom.

Obviously this kind of research will provide a very different future for us. The way of experiencing the world and hence forming our understanding of the world will be different. We should be excited and be prepared.

*partially because the prototype is 2D enabled instead of 3D. But the concept has been proven.

Insights from a Techie


by David Warlick via OLDailyWhat would it mean for a teacher to be clickable.This is a question I am most interested in, especially if we want to have an answer which is appropriate in 10 to 15 years.David continues to outlines three roles a teacher need to become:First of all, the teacher has to create and persuasively describe the place that the students will want to go, a student-centered outcome that is compelling to young learners. Then the teacher must construct a context within which the students will work with relevant/authentic limitations, and appropriate tools to accomplish the goal. Finally, the teacher becomes a consultant, or strategy guide.YES! Teacher is NOT the authorative content of a subject matter, but a convincing evangelist of an area of study that demonstrates relevancy to the curiosity of the young and inquiring minds. Teacher contructs challenging and stimulating problems to help the students to continue the scope of inquiry and further the depth of the study. Teacher is a guide, someone who is willing to travel the learning journey with the students helping in every way AND enjoying the discovery and excitement together.In The Zen Of Being An Effective 'Mod' In Online Role-Play Simulations [see my other papers on role play simulation in], I wrote, the roles of moderator in role play simulation, which is akin to teacher, areGuardian angel: ...maintain an overview of the general direction of the game progression. As a subject 'content expert' the role of the guardian angel is to help participants with the content, if and only if, help is requested, ... While guardian angels should communicate a sense of support to the roles, it is important that roles do not become over dependent on them ...Manipulative devil: Given that roles are trying to achieve goals, one tactic to create learning opportunities is to set up obstacles [or new challenging problem in the current context of a new role of a teacher] on the path to these goals.Resident Teaching/Learning Resource: Perhaps the most crucial of the MOD various dimensions is the need to recognise learning opportunities and transform them into potential learning. Thus when help is sought or a request for a specific action is made, a learning opportunity opens. ... A Resource should promote reflection and consideration of alternatives. When suggesting alternatives (always plural!), it is important to ensure that participants take responsibility for the role's action - participants should own the actions they take. ... On the other hand offering relevant facts for consideration that seem to be unknown to the participant is also useful.Improvising story teller: .... The MOD becomes a story teller and creates extension to the original design to cater for the situation.An administrator: ...While Dave continues with the focus on the role of content, the conclusion is very interesting: Quoting: ... Content today is the dominant thing. I think we will start to see people who can aggregate audiences in interesting ways. Woooow! Ok, so it isn’t the textbook? It’s the audience? The class? What is the power of the audience? What is the power of the class? How might we turn the class audience into an engine for learning? What does it look like? Is this where we need to be thinking, in order to drive a bottom-up revolution in education?Tags: future education Published simultaneously on Random Walk in E-Learning[...]

Is smaller always the better?


(image) It seems that the computing devices are getting smaller in their physical size and yet there is a converging trends that they are getting more features such as being mobile phone, camera, PDA, personal entertainment system. For example, the Samsung a970 shows here on the left is capable of [from Gizmodo]
capable of receiving multimedia content like 3D games, music videos, and other kinds of programming. It also features Bluetooth, a 2-megapixel camera with 2x optical zoom (plus video cam), an MP3 player, a T-flash memory card slot, a 262k colour screen, and VoiceMode, a speech-to-text technology.

(image) From Engadget: No doubt there are mobile phones which also can run the kind of applications we usually found on "PC", such as Nokia 6803 which
Symbian 9.1 + UIQ 3 platform and appears to feature a 1.3 megapixel camera with flash, SD slot, MP3 player, QVGA touchscreen, and weighs-in at 5.3 ounces.

or Lenovo ET980 with 4 megapixel camera and Windows Mobile.(image)

Two major limitations of small devices are (1) the difficulty of processing of complex information due to its limited screen size and (2) hand-sized interaction inputs.

I would like to have several paper-thin full colour devices with touch screen capability so that I can write and make notes on the display (just like paper, but of course processed digitally like a computer). These devices are networked together so that the information marked on one can be transferred to another, including my notes etc. My main notepad, any one of these, will accept my voice input as well as typing via the tiny keys wear on my fingers (so that I don't need a keyboard). These little keys have track balls built-in as well serving also as mouses when I slide my finger(s) over my desk.

Such a set-up would enable me to process and utilize several complex information with smaller cognitive load on my temporary memory (which can be used for more meaningful task) and with sufficient display resolution. The input devices I wear on my hand (and fingers) would provide a comfortable interface for prolong work.

Is there anyone out there designing such a set-up today?

Media in 2015


Michael Currie sent me this link.

The future is obviously much more complicated than this. What is the role of Yahoo, who brought Flickr? What is the role of eBay, who brought Skype? AOL is still a power company today?

With all the DRM enforced by Apple's iPod and iTune, one day, Apple may hold the key to all digital content (those choice to have DRM put on) and Google hold the key to the rest. How will this play out?

Interesting and stimulating views. Watch it and ask yourself. How will my future be?

Vision 2020


via Stephen Downes' OLDaily

According to the survey which asks students (as an open-ended question):
Today, you and your fellow students are important users of technology. In the future, you will be the inventors of new technologies. What would you like to see invented that you think will help kids learn in the future?

The profile of how students may wish to use technology for learning is:

Every student would use a small, handheld wireless computer that is voice activated. The computer would offer high-speed access to a kid-friendly Internet, populated with websites that are safe, designed specifically for use by students, with no pop-up ads. Using this device, students would complete most of their inschool work and homework, as well as take online classes both at school and at home. Students would use the small computer to play mathematics-learning games and read interactive e-textbooks. In completing their schoolwork, students would work closely and routinely with an intelligent digital tutor, and tap a knowledge utility to obtain factual answers to questions they pose. In their history studies, students could participate in 3-D virtual reality-based historic reenactments.

I do not believe the profile described there is anything near what will be in 2020. From this year to 2020, there are still another 15 years. If Moore's law continues to hold in these 15 years, there will be 15 doubling. In other words, the computing power, communication capability etc will be 32 thousands times more powerful than today. The form factor of a small hand held computer is most likely to be wrong.

On the other hand, I believe the students have under-estimated the slowness of social change. I don't believe that in 2020, there will be a separate Internet catering for the kids only. There may be better intelligence in sending the kind of suitable content to the students.

There is also an implicit assumption of the continuation of school in which there is finite block of in-school and out-of-school activities. Again, the students may be right at this (given the slowness of change to a large system like education). But, today, we have already identified a number of weakness of the "industrial" mode of structuring learning time, content and activities in rigid blocks. In 2020, I hope we can see a personalized education system whereby students are connected globally and working in groups on real projects which have real implications.

Improved future?



Based on developments such as
University of Tokyo researchers have developed flexible artificial skin that will allow robots to feel pressure, temperature, light, humidity, strain and sound. IBM’s new voice recognition systems will allow a more natural conversation with our silicon friends, and researchers at Redwood Neuroscience Institute dream of one day programming human cognitive behaviour into robots.

Dick predicts a time-line for robots in our homes:
2010: household robots will find their way into homes performing limited chores, providing valuable services for children, and enabling elderly people to live in their houses instead of going to nursing homes.

2015: robots perform most household chores.

2020: bots will understand our moods; know when we are happy, angry, in a hurry, or tired; and conduct meaningful conversations. We will rely on them to keep us organized, informed, and aware of everything happening in our world. They will express personal attraction for their masters and display near human-like personality.

2025: robots will become the most important family acquisition. These brilliant silicon creatures will understand our world and seamlessly interact with us. They will help manage our 2020s technologies: medical nanobots that keep our bodies in perfect health; counter-top replicators that provide food, clothing, appliances, or even build additional robots; and immersive virtual reality simulations that whisk us away to entertainment dreamland.

2030: human-machine merge will become possible.

The comments on the blog expressed both optimism and otherwise of such a future. Dick said in one of the replies:

No one knows for sure how our “magical future” might unfold, but as we multi-track projected breakthroughs in biotech, infotech, nanotech, and cognitive science, we get a clear picture that tomorrow’s life will be a vast improvement over today’s crude world.

What should we do today to avoid the scenario that one day robots find the human-spices a pest to their existence and decide to eliminate the carbon-based life-form?

23 Theses about the future of work


by Jim Ware

This article articulates 23 theses the author feels will be the way work is undergoing reform. Please read them yourself.

Here are a few which attracts my attention a little more than others (because the likely impact on the way we should prepare ourselves and our next generation).

1. We need to know our competency and response adequately:
Project management tools will support the decomposition of complex, larger work tasks into more discreet units. The “rule of two” will become a standard:

Here’s how much time you have . . . to

  • 2 minutes ..take action on immediate requests for your attention. If you can’t handle it that quickly, then it needs to go to someone, or some place else!

  • 2 hours . . . hold face-to-face meetings. If it takes longer than that, you’re not planning!!

  • 2 days . . . .respond to electronic requests. If you can’t get to it by then, you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.

  • 2 weeks . . . assemble a work team and commit to a plan. If you can’t find the right people and the right plan by then, the project will fail.

  • 2 months . . . identify a business opportunity and test it with customers. If you can’t do it by then, your competition can.

  • 2 years . . . nothing at all. If your static plans reach out years into the future, the world will have passed you by long before you get them done.

2. We need to be able to work in team, hence good inter-personal and communication skills. AND we need to engage in life-long learning.
People will shift their work activities to their core competencies for approximately 80% of their time. Everything else will be handed off to someone with complementary competencies. Individuals themselves will become less ‘vertically integrated’ and grow loosely coupled collaborative networks to meet their needs outside their core competencies. No more "jack of all trades.’" The remaining time will be devoted to learning new skills and competencies.

3. Improved decision making skills in light of incomplete knowledge of the problem.
Work projects will begin with some goals and vision, but will continuously morph as the projects rolls on, being responsive to external influences. This new reality means that project budgets will be moving targets, deadlines somewhat arbitrary, and final design impossible to predict. Managers who thrive on certainty must evolve into leaders of ambiguity – or be left behind.

4. Multi-tasking ability. The ability to quickly shift focus, retrieve relevant information to make a decision and perform a task.
People will work on several “projects” at once (indeed, most knowledge workers already do). Some will even have several “jobs” and serve many masters simultaneously. Individuals will take on the responsibility of managing their efforts across projects, as well as within projects. New skills in project trajectory control will be required, as well as a higher-level executive function that balances capacity (what I can do today) with capability (what I need to be able to do tomorrow).

Skin Cells Converted to Stem Cells


According to Washington Post,
The technique uses laboratory-grown human embryonic stem cells -- such as the ones that President Bush has already approved for use by federally funded researchers -- to "reprogram" the genes in a person's skin cell, turning that skin cell into an embryonic stem cell itself.
if further studies confirm its usefulness, it could offer an end run around the heated social and religious debate that has for years overshadowed the field of human embryonic stem cell research.

Although this research is at its early stage, we are seeing more and more research which may need to the removal of unnecessary human deaths. Again, the implication is huge...

Free Wi-Fi? Get Ready for GoogleNet.


via engadget.

Here is a possibility from not a too distant future - free wi-fi access powered by location-based advertisement.

Digital divide will still exist, but takes on a different meaning.


Implications when human can repair ourselves and more


A few break-throughs, which are likely to happen in this decade or next will have significant impact on the way we see ourselves, the way we work, the way society can sustain and hence the way we should prepare ourselves and the future generation. I am throwing this open, rather than attempting to suggest any implications.

Research for treating diseases with stem cells has been hampered with ethical issues. has reported (and elsewhere in Australia previously) that primitive cells from umbilical cord blood has similar properties AND collecting, storing and using such umbilical cord blood would not have the same ethical dilemma. We should see research in this area advances quickly so that unnecessary human death can be avoided in the future.

The line between human and machine has been blurring. We have hearing implants for many years. Artificial limbs are getting better and better. One day, they may be better than our natural limbs (and if you can, would you like to get a better pair?). One of the promise of stem cell research is to grow replacement parts for human. Another line of approach is to use nanotechnology to support or enhance human physical ability.

Another potential development is inserting "nanomuscle fibers" that can actually simulate muscles, giving soldiers more strength. Fabric is impregnated with nanomachines that create the same weight, lift and feel as a muscle. "So I coat the outside of the armour with a nanomuscle fiber that gives me 25 to 35 percent better lifting capability," DeGay explained.

The uniform from the waist down will have a robotic-powered system that is connected directly to the soldier. This system could use pistons to actually replicate the lower body, giving the soldier "upwards of about 300 percent greater lifting and load-carriage capability," DeGay said. "We are looking at potentially mounting a weapon directly to the uniform system and now the soldier becomes a walking gun platform." [Future Warrior Suit Exhibits Super Powers]

Simply, we may never die!

This seems like fiction. How real are they? I don't know, but there are a lot of people pouring their efforts into such research.

Another hard question, what is "consciousness", so characteristic of human need to be answered as well. Now, this is also being debated, see Why Great Minds Can't Grasp Consciousness [via BetterHumans]

May be by 2020, people will still die and I may die too. However, there seems to be a future that people need not die. Is that too far to us to contemplate now?

Human Washing Machine


Via Boingboing. The Google translated English version.
I wrote, back in September 2004 that in the future:
all physical production will be outsourced to developing or underdeveloped countries, ...The only local jobs commonly available will be from the service industry - most are low paying jobs - restaurants, barbers, cleaners etc...

It seems that such personal service, as washing your own body, may disappear as well. My question: What about the job of Hair-stylist? Will they be replaced by machine...?


Personal Memory Assistant


I heard a presentation by Jamais Cascio via ITConversations. In the presentation, he talked about
the Participatory Panopticon, and [it] spells the end of privacy and the end of secrecy. While personal privacy is eroding, the ability of those in power to lie, cheat, and steal is also becoming increasingly impaired.

While he focussed on the bigger issue, the scenario as described, if becomes true, has implication on the way we will learn.

Basically, Jamais is not predicting the future. He is trying to project the current trends and see what that may lead to. One probable scenario is what he called "participatory panopticon" where
we'll be living in a world where what we see, what we hear, what we experience will be recorded wherever we go. There will be few statements or scenes that will go unnoticed, or unremembered. Our day to day lives will be archived and saved. What’s more, these archives will be available over the net for recollection, analysis, even sharing.

Jamais also projected the use of personal memory assistant PMA...
You'll want to recall a casual mention of his favourite movie, or the name and year of the wine she loved so much, or what he *really* said in that argument. You'll want to be able to share the amazing flock of birds you saw on the way home from work, or the enthralling street musician you passed while shopping. In the past, all you could rely upon was imperfect memory and whatever descriptive skills you possess. Now, and increasingly as the technology progresses, these tools will make it possible to retain and share those moments with perfect clarity.

One impact of PMA is on those in intellectual property business (aka content). When people are using these memory assistant as adjunct to their memories, any limitation via regulation or otherwise, on what they can record are "equivalent to attacks on what they're allowed to remember".

Learning will not be about information. We will have too many. Information retrieval techniques will have to improve to cope and that's on the horizon. Education is about preparing future citizens. If this is one probable scenario, the big question to me, educationally, is how can we prepare ourselves and our kids for such a world. Estimated time of arrival of this scenario, I would say 2020.

Listen to the authorities and die - implication for teachers


The BoingBoing link on an article from the Wired tells a story of survival of a major tragedy. Here is the quote direct from BoingBoing:The people in the Twin Towers who ignored the instructions from the cops to stay put survived. The ones who paid attention to them died.and further down...In fact, the people inside the towers were better informed and far more knowledgeable than emergency operators far from the scene. While walking down the stairs, they answered their cell phones and glanced at their BlackBerries, learning from friends that there had been a terrorist attack and that the Pentagon had also been hit. News of what was happening passed by word of mouth, and fellow workers pressed hesitating colleagues to continue their exit. [my underline]The story did not tell us whether those who have escaped have called those left behind (because they listened to the emergency operators) to come out. If there is any, how many lives has been saved? I suspect that there should be some saved that way.The purpose of this post is not about the tragedy. This blog is more about learning. Hence, I would like to pick up a trend. In the information age, information is abundant.Today, we already see students who are better at the information technology than the teacher who meant to teach them information technology. The authoritive role of a content subject matter expert, a role that teachers usually take when delivering a lesson, is now being challenged. As our next generation continues to develop and has access to information globally, this will only increase. Our students may know more than we (as a teacher) do in certain subject domain. They may have played games about that, or simply because they are interested in that subject matter for a long time and hence has researched that area in deep for sometime. Teachers cannot claim expertise in every area, not even the subject matter that we are teaching.I can't swim, but my daughter is a competitive swimmer. Sometimes, she will ask me to coach her in some techniques. When she was eight, I "taught" her how to jump start from a block. She has been one of the best starters in her club's relay team. I have also "coached" her on making the rumble-turn. Many times, she was able to catch up with her competition after a turn. How did I do that?Obviously, from the subject matter's point of view, my daughter has a much better knowledge both in deep and width in swimming and swim techniques. I was able to help her improve because I acted as a sounding board for her. As she was practising, I watched closely, took measurements (time and distance) and told her the "consequence" of the action she took. She then tried again, modifying the style here and there. I do have some Physics background. I understand the effect on streamlining, drag and forces. I asked her to keep her streamline during entry and underwater. I asked her to add dolphin kicks when she was underwater. I told her how she did in the last try. She tried again. I took the time and distance again ....By providing her with feedback, I was able to help her find a style which suited her body shape at the time. With practice and determination, she was able to keep trying until she was happy.Improvements was fed back to her immediately. She knew the consequence of her choice of style and action. She modifies and tries again.My daughter has several district records (at different age groups), still unbroken.Tags: teacher role authority subjectMatter [...]

Comment tools for Essay grading


A member in the EDTECH discussion group (bit.listserv.edtech) provided a very helpful tip:
You don't need an add-on to create custom comments in MS Word. Go to Tools on the menu bar and open up Auto Correct. Create custom comments here. Try it out: in the text field on the left type "cs" and in the text field on the right type: "You have committed a comma splice in this sentence. A comma splice occurs when two separate independent sentences are joined with only a comma." Save it. Now any time in MS Word you type "cs" and then hit the space bar those two sentences will appear. I have used Auto Correct to add all sorts of custom comments on punctuation, spelling, grammar, topic sentences, paragraph structure, and the like.

If you are grading essay submitted as pdf files, there is also a tip from Adobe for adding comment stamps, see

Is there a way of easily adding comment for work submitted as web pages?


Alternate Business Plan needed for Higher Education


The Age posted an interesting article on how Hoyts cinema in Australia was experimenting with providing an IMax gaming experience to its customers.

Upon reflecting on this, I remembered the last time my wife and I went to see a movie. It was a Sunday afternoon. In the 100+ seats cinema, there were only 4 people, including us. No wonder cinema needs to find alternate revenue source from their asset (the huge cinema).

Going to cinema has become a special ocassion, when you want to experience something in addition to just watching a movie. Nowadays, most people going to cinema are for additional reasons, may be watching a movie is an excuse itself. It would be much cheaper, comfortable, relaxing to watch a DVD at your own home!

The same will happen to the large lecture hall at university. When I was doing my first degree over 30 years ago, over 300 students crowded in a large lecture hall to listen to the lecture. Today, if the course material is available online, many would prefer to access these material at their convenient time at their convenient location. I think it is an irreversible trend.

It does not mean that the face to face meeting places at a campus will no longer exist. It only means that the purpose of meeting is no longer just to get the information. It better serves some high value purpose that cannot be obtained in an online environment. Whether large lecture hall still has its value? I don't know. But I am quite sure that the utilisation of large lecture hall will be in a decline. These are huge investment. Higher Education should start developing business plan to utilise these asset!

Bill Gate's Solution to American High Schools being obsolete


I have blogged about Bill's view that American High Schools are obsolete. Thanks to the link from OLDaily, I have read the whole speech and am very impressed.The media has painted a "rough guy" image of Bill Gate in terms of his view towards education. Rumour has it that in one of his speeches, he said: RULE 1 Life is not fair - get used to it. RULE 2 The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself. RULE 3 You will NOT make 40 thousand dollars a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice president with car phone, until you earn both. RULE 4 If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure. RULE 5 Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping they called it Opportunity. RULE 6 If you mess up,it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them. RULE 7 Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room. RULE 8 Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life. RULE 9 Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time. RULE 10 Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs. RULE 11 Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.[Side note: Any way, these rules are worth repeating whether they are from "Dumbing Down our Kids" by Charles Sykes or from Bill Gates.]In the speech, I see some compassionate side of the man - hidden behind a strictly rational economic mask.Once we realize that we are keeping low-income and minority kids out of rigorous courses, there can be only two arguments for keeping it that way – either we think they can’t learn, or we think they’re not worth teaching. The first argument is factually wrong; the second is morally wrong. [all emphasis in the quotes are mine]For the sake of our young people and everyone who will depend on them – we must stop rationing education in America. After quoting a number of statistics, he finally dished out a solution [why the media did not report this part before? and I should have traced back to the source earlier and written about this part!]:the new three R’s, the basic building blocks of better high schools: * The first R is Rigor – making sure all students are given a challenging curriculum that prepares them for college or work; * The second R is Relevance – making sure kids have courses and projects that clearly relate to their lives and their goals; * The third R is Relationships – making sure kids have a number of adults who know them, look out for them, and push them to achieve.These 3 new R's sound good to me. If our schools in Australia can also embrace them, by year 2020, we should still see Australia as a developed country![...]

Blogging Your Education


about how her students are changing in their expectations and needs from their time in college. They are pushing against the traditional structures, asking to mix the classroom experience with online community and off campus travel, capturing all of it in their Weblogs with the voices of teachers and mentors and loved ones mixed in. I love that image...seriously love it...the reflective, interactive chronicling of learning. The getting it down, capturing the experience if for no other reason than to acknowledge it, and to help it take root.

This is about relevance of the education to the objective of life.

One of the reader commented

The only quibble I have with your comment is when you say, "... seriously rethink what we do in the classroom..." Why do we need to stay in the classroom? I think the growing irrelevance of the school system is mostly the artificial structure of classrooms that we have created over the years. To make learning relevant to our students, we need to be thinking of knocking the classroom walls down and moving away from classes that meet one block a day or whatever.

There are several industrial age devices in the current schools which block significant changes; Fixed group (classroom) and fixed time block. Another issue we should also consider is the possibility of more fluid groups, including mixed age, ability and talent.

Blogging is ONE of the many ways that students can use to collaborate. Blog is a collaboration tool. Not any more, not any less. The use of any tool is up to the imagination of the users. In an education situation, assuming that the role of teacher is still here, teacher will become the main people designing the environment to foster appropriate learning for all the member of a group, including different members' interest and ability.

Teachers are in big trouble


I have jokingly written the post "Teachers are in big trouble" in the Random Walk in E-learning blog.

I have seen the decline of the social status of teachers - at least in Hong Kong where I have taught for nearly 20 years.

In many countries, the education department of universities only attract the least capable students. After graduation, these teachers enter a workplace totally isolated from real world. In the school I taught, 50+ teachers shared one telephone line in the staff room. I struggled to maintain my own professional development at my own time and effort. I remembered the situation when I needed to attend my teacher training. Special application was needed to arrange a free period just before end of school in two afternoons. This was treated by the school management as a special favour to me. In one occasion, there was a teacher meeting after school on a day that I needed to attend the teacher training, I was demanded to still behind school for the meeting instead of the professional program I have enrolled - irrespective of the tasks demanded of me in the program. [I was due to have a presentation in the program, whereas the teachers' meeting was basically just a task assignment for the coming sport day - which I knew what my task would be anyway!]

I entered the teaching profession with a big heart - wanting to help the next generation. I have persisted and am still working in the e-learning industry. I am proud to have some very bright students who recognised my effect on them. But overall, I felt that teaching is not a highly regarded profession anyway.

To be fair to David Wiley, the two main camps referred to in the post are for "instructional designers". In many cases, instructional designers' job is to create teaching program to replace teacher. So drawing such a provocative conclusion from such a view is too easy.

However, the deeper lesson which we should consider is whether education is the same as learning. Is the job of teacher to help learner learns or to educate? Should well designed instruction replace teacher? If the answer is negative, then can teacher demonstrate values that can reverse the current path to extinction? As a society, should we allow teachers' social status to continue to decline?

More on Eide Neurolearning Blog and Learning Styles


Response to Bill Gates from Derek's Blog brought up this thread again. A new comment posted by pepper to Eide Neurolearning Blog raised and commented on the practice of assigning time slot for different subjects.
Where in the real world do we think exclusively about math, band, history, and art in 90 minute mutually exclusive chunks on Monday, only to think about English, marketing, and physics in equally exclusive chunks?

This is "industrial age production line concept" practice puts to the best use. By using equal time slots with distinct subject matter, teachers' allocation, class allocation and resource allocation are optimized - at least on paper.

Unfortunately, management efficiency here is killing the very essence of the purpose of the education. Some children have difficulties with such time switching as described by Drs Eide.
in our practice helping kids with learning challenges we see large numbers of children, especially in the early grades, who have difficulties transitioning from one subject to the next, and find the present "fifteen minutes and switch" pattern in the early grades to be absolute torture. This is especially true of children with "autism-spectrum" type or sensory integrative problems, which seem to be on the rise. Going to a more flexible "bell-less" world would be a tremendous boon for these kids, especially.

Pepper suggested,
meaningful integration, a minimum of an inter-term where small groups of 8-10 students tackle real-world, and thus interdisciplinary, problems, maybe even with an adult facilitator from the "real world."

Drs Eide further elaborated,
We gave a talk last fall to the National Association For Gifted Children where we talked about the need to provide a more historically and real-world grounded context for education in all subjects, to help students come to view the acquisition of knowledge as a means confronting problems in real world--that is, tying the teaching of conceptual developments in science and math, technology, government, art, etc., together more closely with the historical circumstances that led to them. The kind of groups you describe would be ideal for that: "Suppose you were all a bunch of 4th century B.C. Athenians..." or "15th century A.D. Chinese" and really living entirely in that environment at school for a few weeks at a time. The opportunities for problem solving and learning are immense.

That brings me back to an undergraduate business/commerce curriculum I heard about during the first "League of Worlds" conference last year. The complete curriculum is designed around a "virtual island" where the students play the role of different businesses and officials on the island. The scenario gives the students context to learn the principles of the subject.

More on Fuchs & Woessmann


Wow, what a great debate!First David Wiley commented a study whose abstract is We estimate the relationship between students’ educational achievement and the availability and use of computers at home and at school in the international student-level PISA database. Bivariate analyses show a positive correlation between student achievement and the availability of computers both at home and at schools. However, once we control extensively for family background and school characteristics, the relationship gets negative for home computers and insignificant for school computers. Thus, the mere availability of computers at home seems to distract students from effective learning. But measures of computer use for education and communication at home show a positive conditional relationship with student achievement. The conditional relationship between student achievement and computer and internet use at school has an inverted U-shape, which may reflect either ability bias combined with negative effects of computerized instruction or a low optimal level of computerized instruction.[my emphasis]David questioned the methodology and concluded that Yet another example of people with an agenda “doing research.” What an embarassment. No wonder educational research is completely discredited in the popular mind.One of his reader commented that David has "an agenda, and not the authors".David responded with the post More on Fuchs & Woessmann I am opining here.First thing that interests me is that the Fuchs & Woessmann's paper is based on the data from the PISA 2000 studies. It would be interesting to run the same statistical analysis on the now available PISA 2003 data to see if the same can be concluded. Fuchs & Woessmann's paper is a pure statistical exercise, basing data from another study and hence the authors have no control of how the initial data was gathered and all the associated assumptions being taken. David's comment is generally applicable to most of such "research", drawing conclusion from statistical correlation: without looking deeply into whether we can establish a causal relationship between the parameters under the study. With that in mind, it is prefectly correct for David to sayNow, let's pretend we are examing a group of 15 year olds, some of whom spend none of their educational and recreational time on computers, some of whom spend some of their educational and recreational time on computers, and some of whom spend much of their educational time and recreational time on computers. Now, let’s imagine two scenarios in which we might measure the academic achievement of a sample of this group of 15 year olds. In one scenario, we will carry out the assessment on computers. In the other scenario, we will carry out the assessment in "more traditional" manner. Can we not form a strong hypothesis, ahead of data collection or analysis, about which sub-group will perform best in each scenario?Methodology is one thing. But, let's consider something else.Some sample items from the 2000 studies are available here. From the first reading unit (page 32 of the pdf file), two figures are shown: first about the depth of Lake Chad and second about kind of animals in the rock arts, both plotted along a timeline. 5 items are associated to Lake Chad: first 2 of which test the 15 years old ability to read the first figure, the third item is "Why has the author chosen to start the grap[...]