Weakly Post #3

Media: Marie Kondo (or in Japanese, Kondo Marie) is famous for her technique of tidyng up. She has a new show on Netflix. I am not sure what to think of it. She is a small bubbly (yes, bubbly) woman who speaks little English, giving advice to families in the USA. I’m not sure if her ultra Japanese-ness is affected or genuine. The families seem to eat it up. The real star of the show is the translator. Maybe something to use in class as an example of how people do simultaneous translation. You only need to watch one episode. I watched 2 and they are the same. Unless you want to see more cluttered homes (voyeur!). Evidently organization porn is a big hit.

Politics: Crazy stuff when the American Taliban prosecute a woman for having a miscarriage. (NYTimes). And other countries might start thinking about tourists from America trying to emmigrate, because of health care. Pet stores in California can only sell rescue dogs and cats (NYTimes). You have to go directly to the breeder if not. Designed to limit puppy farms and animal cruelty, and reduce the state animal shelter budget, this has me wondering.

Business: Amazon is the place where America shops online. Following up last month’s link about how opaque the marketplace (The Verge) is on Amazon, where 3rd parties (small business) sell through Amazon, you can also make money by giving advice to new sellers. But is it legitimate? (Atlantic)

Media: Elsevier owns 2,500 academic journals, publishing articles by unpaid faculty, and charging over US$30 to access each article. Sci-Hub pirates these articles, much like the torrent network does for TV, movies and music. Meanwhile in Europe Open Science is gaining support for Plan S to require all government funded research to appear in Open (free) publication immediately. Publishers are worried, but this really needs to be a global concern to succeed, and this is the first step.

Writing: Is the exclamation point (!) an intensity marker or a sincerity marker? That and more, in how we overuse them!

Looking at this post, I don’t like the mish-mash of topics. I am going to start separating the posts and let the Categories help you find what you need, along with a much shorter Weakly Post each Sunday pointing to the other stuff I posted during the week. Check back here often (or better, add me to your RSS feed reader), and make a comment. I may even start an email list to notify people of Weakly Posts.

Homework Exchange

I am at a tech conference for teachers (Japan Moodle Moot) and over lunch I was throwing out ideas to see if they resonated with others who use Moodle for teaching. Gordon Bateson was answering follow-up questions about his morning presentation on Badges.

This conference follows a week where the faculty admin from our Boston campus came to explain how the accreditation process goes on in the US. They use SMART (Business guru Peter Drucker’s 5 criteria for setting goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (with a time frame). The course content is broken down into tiny bits, each with its own set of standards (actually, there are 4 sets, as Boston breaks the students into 4 levels). This requires a lot of work, but does force people (teachers and admin) to clearly define what they want to go on in class.

One of the interesting admonitions from the consultants in Boston was to make sure that time was not the determining factor, only one of 5 parts. Also not about how much work is done, but how much learning gets done. I applaud this.

It is looking like this kind of goal-setting (curricula and syllabi) are coming to Japan. Word around the Ministry of Education is that it is the next big thing after “active learning” runs its course.

I was put in charge of our sadly neglected self-study center, repurposed as an unofficial event room called the English Room. We need regular activities next year (starting in April).

With all these ideas, and Blockchain (technology behind BitCoin) applied to Education, I came up with an idea. Homework Exchange.

It seems with our students doing so much of the same kind of homework, it gets less efficient. It also adds to the teacher load. An Exchange among department members (espcially in our language learning skills courses) would give students an opportunity to do things with other students outside their groups with teachers doing stuff they are good it. Here is how it works.

I like playing board games. I set up Monday lunch as Gamer’s Lunch. Any student who comes can get recorded. If a teacher assigns that as a kind of speaking homework for their speaking class, she gets credited. But, for a teacher to assign an activity, they in turn have to offer an activity of their own. Say, watching a 10 minute video and leading a discussion. You build a series of activities, students get a lot more practice and teachers share the load.

There are a lot of logistics to work out, but it does satisfy the Ministry’s current guidelines for homework, 45 minutes a week per credit hour. (Unrealistic in itself, with students carrying a load of 24 90-minute classes, plus the homework, that makes for a 54 hour work week.) But hey, they might have some fun for at least part of it instead of doing fill in the blanks.

I see this starting as a face-to-face thing, then moving from a small group of volunteers to the faculty in the department, then across departments, at which time it will need to go online. Fortunately, tomorrow has a presentation on sharing activities in Moodle, at 9 AM. Takes an hour to get to the conference. Time for bed.