Here is the link to the questionnaire.
I teach on Tuesday over at the University of Tokyo. I make a new course each semester to keep myself sharp and draw in some students again. The students visit the first week and choose. I get a great mix of students with high proficiency in English and others from abroad (Todai has more foreign students than most universities).
Dad is reading a new book called “The American Way of Eating” about the diet in America and how industry has influenced it. It got me to thinking about the progression of my courses over the last few years. Here is what I wrote him.
Now that I have the skill set we are going to target in the class, I am working on collecting examples from media. The topics are falling into a list of “what not to talk about at a party”. Sex, drugs, rock-and-roll, politics, religion, money, race, and education. Will keep you updated on how it goes.
Seth Godin has written a collection of ideas against education in its current form, called Stop Stealing Dreams. As I read through it, I find resonance with a lot of the online courses, especially the ones that are large and network-based MOOCs like #Change11), in a lot of his writing. Idea 65, for example, is The Smartest Person in the Room. He quotes Dave Weinberger. Turns out it is not a person at all, but the room itself. The network that enables it. That is my goal next semester in my classes. Build networks.
Alexis Madrigal over at Atlantic shows us how to cite a tweet from twitter in an academic paper. Go figure.
This week we have just received an assignment that is more like a challenge. We have to create a “learning artifact”. Still not sure what that is, but he also gave us a bunch of resource links to go along with the challenge.
We are supposed to use this learning artifact as a tool to illustrate many dimensions of the learning (and teaching) process, or even IF it IS a process. We take a step back and look at the a whole simplified picture from many angles.
OK, so I teach languages, or, as a Professor in the Department of English Language and Communication, that is what I am ostensibly doing. Problem is, I don’t think I really CAN teach anyone how to speak English. This is not personal. I don’t think a language is really teachable, at least not in the traditional academic sense. I now use most of my time with students trying to develop curiosity, and then ways to sate that curiosity. That first part is by far the hardest. But goes with the territory.
So, like languages, but a lot simpler, I’ve decided that my learning artifact will be “how to use chopsticks”. Like language learning, it is usually done as a child, and when accomplished, becomes completely automatic, but everyday. Some people don’t learn it as a kid, though, and therefore have to learn it a different way. I’m looking forward to this.
Great timing too, as I just finished my grades for this semester, I may even be able to join the synchronous sessions, for only the third time this year (here in Tokyo, they start at 2 AM usually.)
New York is going to publish (as in local newspapers) the ratings of public school teachers. So the bad ones, who don’t care, will simply do their supermarket shopping down the road. The ones who do will leave. Note that student, or administrators, are not subject to these same measures. Bill Gates has come out against them in an IHT (NYT) opinion piece. The illustration at left is from the article.
While I think having billionaires tinkering with education is a bit frightening, most notably with the promotion of people like Michelle Rhee, some do have a rational take on the situation. Mr. Gates shows that here. What we do know positively that now is the time for experimentation. If you aren’t trying anything new, you will be marginalized in the near future. More on this at Hack Education.
OK, not really. But I am going to take one class at Stanford. OK, not AT Stanford, but through Stanford. Stanford has generously opened up some of their classes to people outside the university, for study online. It will have the same lectures, the same activities, the same quizzes and tests, and the same interaction as the for-credit students will get. It is free, but does not carry any recognition. For a guy like me, who is a professor, and no longer needs any more recognition, this is pure learning.
I will be taking the course in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). I am very excited, because it looks like I will be able to freshen my programming skills while applying them to an area of development that will help me create materials for my students, and students outside my classes as well.
I hope to chronicle my adventure here. I will also keep you up on my other MOOC course, Change11.
Really excited about the opening of the collaboration between Pearson and Google to make OpenClass, an LMS built for the web. Out this week some time. Part of Google Apps for Education. Will update when I get it.
This may be a Moodle killer.
This impressionist is advertising for his show. I wish I could see it. The impressions of famous people are amazing, all while quoting Shakespeare. What a memory this guy has, and what a rubbery face!
When we say “the other half” usually it is poor or middle class people referring to rich people. But here, I am saying that all of us in Tokyo live so close together, with so much concrete and so many people, it is hard to imagine how some people with lots of sky and lots of space and lots of time, can live. It changes how they see the world and see each other. Let’s travel to Marfa, Texas. There, they have a group of very interesting people in what LOOKS LIKE a boring town, but it is not. Take the 5 minutes to watch what people do there. (via BoingBoing)
Over at BoingBoing, Mark Frauenfelder found cartoonist Lisa Hanawalt’s advice on getting things done. I like most of them. Execute dumb ideas beautifully is especially interesting. Another is “Don’t worry about how good it will be, just make it and do your best.” Words to live and learn by.
Looking into the future, or prognosticating, predicting, punditry, or guessing, is a skill. Recent results from a study at Hamilton College shows that some are better than others.
“We discovered that a few factors impacted a prediction’s accuracy. The first is whether or not the prediction is a conditional; conditional predictions were more likely to not come true. The second was partisanship; liberals were more likely than conservatives to predict correctly. The final significant factor in a prediction’s outcome was having a law degree; lawyers predicted incorrectly more often. Partisanship had an impact on predictions even when removing political predictions about the Presidential, Vice Presidential, House, and Senate elections.”
So there you have it. Conservative lawyers are the worst. Liberal economists are the best.
I teach Rhetoric and Hamburgers, a class about how to convince people about eating things like hamburgers. I start with a book, Fast Food Nation, then do a movie (documentary) Super Size Me, and finish with a computer game (McDonald’s).
Two interesting posts related to this topic came to me while browsing at Slate. One is about a guy that went on a beer-and-water diet for lent (40 days). Another is about violence at fast food restaurants. The more I see, the lest I like about fast food. My next movie is Food, Inc. Even better than Super Size Me.
People are uneasy here. The aftershocks continue unabated, now more than 1,000 since the big one March 11. We had 3 in one night, strong enough to wake us up. The epicenters are moving south, near Chiba, which is about 30 miles to the east of us. Fortunately, no significant damage has been reported. Our house, about 35 years old, is holding up all right. The spring rains have also come, and the school year has started up in most places. Julia spends a lot of time watching TV and reading.
One thing I do note, is that people are talking about their situation on the day of the quake. The topic of conversation quickly moves there, much like the “where were you when Kennedy was shot” kind of conversation. People are now making the before/after distinction, and although there are no big changes here in Tokyo, there are a lot of small changes. The streets are no longer lit by neon signs as much, and many of the escalators in the public transportation are turned off, all to save electricity. Right now there is enough power to go around, but come summer, with the load air conditioning puts on, it means there may be new blackouts. Tokyo Electric is ramping up their production, taking old coal-burners out of mothballs, and (more seriously) postponing scheduled maintenance on some nuclear powered plants. There is a small movement to try to shut down all the vending machines, which would reduce usage to manageable levels. Here is a before and after of downtown Shibuya near where I work.
Maki and Julia had a wonderful time in Hawaii for our niece Ruka’s wedding. They spent 5 days at the Moana Surfrider hotel with Ginger and Anri, in from Colorado. Maki’s sister, her daughter-in-law Jazelle and her son were also enjoying the meet. Ginger rented a van and got people beyond the confines of Waikiki. I’ve only heard a few stories, Julia and Anri fell asleep about 9PM. More later.
It’s been a month since the earthquake. Maki and Julia just returned from their trip to our niece’s wedding in Hawaii. About 2 hours after their return, we got a 7.1 shaker, pretty significant. I had time to get to the front door and open it (good), and Julia looked for the cat (bad). Just had another shaker, not quite as big. We have been getting them more regularly, but this is an increase in the frequency and intensity.
As rescue efforts get organized and more effective, the body count is rising more rapidly. We are still discouraged from travel to the area, and there seems to be a large government effort at restoration beginning. The construction industry, long the most corrupt part of the economy, have lined up to make sure that they are included in these relief effort. Very few outside companies are being considered.
I started school today. For my third-year students I have an activity where we look at how much each class session costs them. We divide tuition (about ¥1.2 million, or US$14,000) by the number of classes in a year (usually around 400, each 90 minutes). They usually guess pretty closely to the ¥3,000 ($35) price for each session. But then we add room and board (another ¥1 million) and lost opportunity costs. We define those as if they could work their part-time jobs 40 hours a week, instead of studying. That adds another ¥2.4 million, more than tripling the per-class cost to a total of more than ¥11,000. That is about $130 per 90-minute session. For each student. Sure, I explain they also get the office staff, the library, our Boston Campus, and 3 other retreat centers, the Career Advisory staff, etc, etc,. But they get the idea.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last too long. At the end of the class, I gave the students the option of using their laptop computers in class with our new wireless system, or the other option of a paper-only class. I told them web-based activities would be more interesting, and that they could learn much more, and more quickly. Most thought that carrying their laptop into school was too much of a burden. So we are using paper. (I have 3 classes where they don’t get the option, they HAVE to bring their laptops. At least they will get some muscle tone.)
Because of the electric situation, we will be finishing our semester 2 weeks early, just ast he really hot weather kicks in, and the air conditioner usage surges, causing rolling blackouts (but not in our area). I think it may have been that the university saw everyone else getting a late start, and wanted to get in on the inaction. The students cheered when they heard the news. So we have both administration and students working the system to get something for nothing, or, more accurately, less for the same.
I find it so hard not to just go along.
Showa Women’s University has a new set of goals for general pedagogy called The Seven Seeds. These are the first goals here in my 20 years which I can really endorse wholeheartedly. Let me list them. I may talk about them in more detail later on. (Japanese in parentheses). I’ve added some notes to each to show how we do each seed in my classes.
The Seven Seeds in Ryan’s Classes (ゆめをじつげんする七つの力: ライアンの授業)
1. Live a Global Life (グロバルに生きる力)
2. Use a Foreign Language (外国語を使う力)
3. Use IT Effectively (ITを使えこなす力)
4. Communicate (コミュニケーションをとる力)
Speak English: You can’t learn if you are quiet. It’s uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier.
5. Be a Critical Thinker and Problem Solver (問題を発見し目標を設定する力)
6. Be Active, keep one step ahead (一歩踏み出して行動する力)
7. Be Yourself: Understand your priorities (自分を大切にする力)
The buds are plumping here in Tokyo ready to burst forth in their frothy cascade of pink and white effervescence, evanescent impermanence, tantalizing with their bouquet. The days warming, the nights still a little chill, but one of 3 bedcovers are folded up.
OK, OK, too poetic. But you get the idea. Spring has sprung. Or is about to.
The winds are now favoring us, but as the counts of sieverts (a German scientist) and bequerels (a French scientist) make me wonder how the Europeans measured, the Americans built and used, then spread the nuclear tool to countries like Japan. A worldwide concern, but in our back yard. We have the radio on most of the day, but pay little attention any more. It is easier for me, with the announcements in Japanese.
I scoff at the Goldman Sachs employees, so well paid, ready to flee, having to be ordered to stay here in town. No loyalty, only raw Darwinian economics, self-interest at the core. Did you know Adam Smith wrote a companion volume to his economic masterpiece, The Wealth of Nations? In a prequel, designed to lay the groundwork for Wealth, he set the stage with The Theory of Moral Sentiments. They should be read as a pair. The Goldman people, indeed many economic schools after Keynes have ignored the moral element of economics.
But enough of abstracts. Three weeks after the earthquakes, organizations like the 3,000 strong JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) has been able to find about three fourths of its 250 members in the quake affected area. Many groups are mounting donation drives, aware that as the media attention subsides, so does the money. This is slated to be the most costly disaster on record, in economic terms. The loss of life is only now hitting home here.
The biggest news for those of us in education is the change in schedules. My daughter goes to 6th-ranked Hosei University, and will have her spring vacation extended until after Golden Week, the break we take the first week of May. Many other schools are doing the same. Not mine, though. We start tomorrow. Some part-time teachers without as much anchor here have left, so there is a scramble to fill empty slots at the absolute last minute. I expect to have my class load increased. I don’t mind, but will have to watch that this not become an excuse for adding permanent responsibilities. Already there is talk of using the disaster to increase consumption taxes from 5% to 10%.
Fear and uncertainty are making everyone jumpy. I don’t look forward to the first day back.
Blackout coming in about an hour, got to get this off, and eat dinner a little early, another dark evening with the Kindle and flashlight. A little warmer makes it nicer.
Magnitude 3 Stupidity
Dread yesterday, followed by wonder this morning. The newspaper reported radiation ten million times the normal in the water off the nuclear power plant. Fear lead to a kind of social shock here. Then today, the power company TEPCO announces they made a mistake in the measurement, off by 3 orders of magnitude (1,000x). The wonder this morning is how they can screw this up so badly, and still be able to fix the problem.
The rolling blackouts are having a pronounced effect on business. Especially entertainment or non-essentials, like restaurants. In the area most frequented by foreigners (Roppongi), it is starting to look like a ghost town.
The only good news is that Anri is having a great time. I am going to copy an email she sent to me because it sounds like a typical teen. Remember that English is not her native language. I am guessing she will probably kill me for this…
hi i just wanted to let you know what we’re up to in portland OR. I rode the air plane by my self for the first time, and it was way easier than I thought! The signs were really clear so i ever got lost and I just chilled in Mcdonalds till the plane got ready. The frontier plane was super new (4-5days old) and shiny. there WERE TV screens but they weren’t installed or whatever so we couldn’t watch them which was a bummer… but i met a family who were sitting next to my seat and we had a nice talk on the plane. i met Chrissy and Jeff right after I left the gate and we went to the Saturday market to look around town. We tryed going to a Theater to watch the Black Swan but they we’re all 21 or over so we just ended up having Taco Bell (first time for me!) and going home, and watched Shaun of the dead. This morning we woke up early and headed up to Seattle (3hrs). I met Chrissy’s friend Bruice, who is an hippy artist. He was a really interesting guy. We met up with Sasha and her Boyfriend Dan for Lunch and went to The Pike place market. I got a lot of pictures so check facebook out and i’ll e-mail you soon again. Chrissy nor Jeff dosn’t have skype but I’ll try to find a way to call mom,but if not, ill just e-mail you everyday.
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