April 5th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
My reaction to a NYT article on the use of artificial intelligence to grade essays:
As an educator, I appreciate technology that provides students a quicker way to get feedback, but this software only reinforces students’ frustration with essays: no one reads them except the professor. Most are written to be read by one person. Artists are able to share their work, but for most majors that require writing, assignments are meant to be forgotten. This is exactly the reason why students who major in these fields graduate without a portfolio of their work.
My husband and I developed https://chalktips.com/ to solve this problem. We wanted to make essays and school work for college students engaging and shareable. Students publish booklets and slideshows as part of their assignment. Students can tweet or share their work in Facebook or Tumblr.
Last semester as part of the final, I had professionals from different fields comment on student work, and the feedback from students was amazing.
Using AI to comment on essays might be efficient and probably comparable to having ONE person grade an assignment. But it doesn’t make use of the power of community. It also does not address the fundamental problem with essays: after it’s graded, so what?
We currently have 1,400 users with more than 2,500 booklets and slideshows published. Students are embracing the platform. Of course, I’m a community college teacher without the clout of MIT professors. But we’re hopeful that more students start demanding that they are given assignments that have utility after the course is over.by
March 25th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
We presented MagTag at a FashionTech event 2 weeks ago. Fashiontech is such a departure from Chalktips and Edtech. There is an energy and enthusiasm that I don’t quite get from teachers and educators in general.by
January 24th, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Presented Chalktips at Santa Monica CrossCampus.
August 25th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains” provides a sociobiological analysis of how the internet’s structure is altering the way we consume information, our neural paths, and emotional depth. Carr argues that this shift from linear consumption of information to a staccato-like attention span is a return to earlier evolutionary survival skills:
“Our fast-paced, reflexive shifts in focus were once crucial to our survival. They reduced the odds that a predator would take us by surprise or that we’d overlook a nearby source of food. For most of history, the normal path of human thought was anything but linear.” (Kindle Locations 1127-1128)
Unlike other forms of media, the web is designed to distract. The web relies on short-term memory, which Carr laments as endangering our ability for schematic thinking–the foundation of in depth thought.
“The Web has a very different effect. It places more pressure on our working memory, not only diverting resources from our higher reasoning faculties but obstructing the consolidation of long-term memories and the development of schemas.” (Kindle Locations 3298-3300)
Aside from our intellectual abilities, Carr argues that the net “reroutes our vital paths and diminishes our capacity for contemplation, it is altering the depth of our emotions as well as our thoughts.” (Kindle Locations 3763-3765) Over stimulation and the bombardment of information does not give us the space to reflect.
Carr takes on a technological determinist argument. Citing Veblen and Marx, Carr strongly supports the causal relationship that technology leads to social change. In the process, Carr dismisses human agency in his argument. People are passive consumers of technology.
Interviewing scholars, professionals, and intellectuals, Carr discovers that avid consumers of knowledge have succumbed to the web’s distraction. People rarely read an entire piece of literature and we have resorted to skimming.
This book reminds me that the shifts in my reading habits are the new norm. As I prepare for my Fall 2012 courses, here are some questions that the book raised for me: Should I expect students to read the whole text? No. Do I expect them to be able to articulate arguments and ideas from the readings? Yes.
Did I read the entirety of the “The Shallows”? Here’s my honest answer. I tried reading it from my computer. I got so distracted, so I read it on my iPad. I read it my patio in the middle of the night. I skimmed a few chapters, but read the entirety of some. I finished it in about 3 hours.by
April 9th, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Oprah inspires the world in many ways. She encourages people to dream big and to follow life paths. Here is a quote from the One: “I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint – and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you (O Magazine, September 2002).”
Oprah’s outlook embodies the values of post-materialism. Coined by Inglehart, post-materialism refers to a shift in cultural values from an emphasis on “economic and physical security” to values that emphasize “self-expression” (Inglehart 2008, 130). This shift permeates life decisions such as marriage and careers. Society encourages us to think with our hearts and to prioritize emotional satisfaction. Parents advice the young that money can’t buy happiness, and our educational institutions attempt to provide a well-rounded education to feed the spirit and not just the mind.
I live my life by this post-materialist adage, and it seems to work for me, but does it work for everyone?
According to the Gallup Well-Being Index, life satisfaction hovers below 50%. This dissatisfaction is also evident in the work force. According to Amabile and Kramer (2011), workers generally feel unhappy with their job and feel unmotivated. For a post-materialist society, this is a social failure. Part of the problem is that abstract advice such as “follow your life path” triggers an emotional awakening, but it also expands choices. One is given unlimited choices without concrete ideas on how to turn abstract goals into a profession. People are confused.
I currently teach an upper-level sociology course, wherein a majority of the students are sociology majors. When asked about their career goals, about 80% want to be social workers and their motivation is that they like to help people. I am encouraged by the fact that so many students want to lead a life centered on assisting other people, but disturbed that the group has such a limited view of exactly what it means to help society.
Does each person have a calling? Yes, but it takes more than abstract ideas for the calling to materialize. It’s time for our social institutions, from family to schools, to provide specific examples to abstract ideas. I envision a conversation at home or in school to go like this:
Advisee: My calling is to help people.
Advisor: Good, there are many ways to help. Let me tell you about these people, their professions, and how they changed the world: Jonas Salk, Gandhi, Nicholas Kristoff, Aun San Suu Kyi, Oprah…
Amabile, Teresa, and Steven Kramer. 2011. “Do Happier People Work Harder?” The New York Times, September 3. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/opinion/sunday/do-happier-people-work-harder.html).
Inglehart, Ronald F. 2008. “Changing Values among Western Publics from 1970 to 2006.” West European Politics 31(1-2):130–146.
February 5th, 2012 § 1 Comment
The internet is redefining what it means to be learned and how one acquires knowledge. The DIY university movement shows that with diligence, there is enough information online to acquire academic knowledge, comparable to a college degree. The quandary however, is accreditation. How can one prove that they took the class and that they learned something. Who is going to issue a diploma?
MITx seems to partly address this issue, but with all of the innovations happening in online education that expands educational access, institutions still dominate teaching. The world’s teacher, Salman Khan has showed us that not only is learning fun, but that sometimes, the best teachers are not in education, and that what matters are good teachers working in various industries, more than prominent institutions.
Decentralizing the teaching aspect of education allows for more flexibility, specialization, and the opportunity to enrich our pool of teachers. It gives those who have experience and are currently working in an industry to train and instruct–an apprenticeship if you will.
In a credentialist society, aside from major, a school’s ranking and prestige dictate the value society places on a degree. My experience as a teacher and a student in post-secondary institutions showed me that not all Ivy League professors can inspire, and that great professors can at times be found in lower-ranked schools. Yet, our system of valuation focuses on university clout and ignores quality of instruction.
The internet has the power to expand the reach of great teachers, without institutional affiliation. Who you learn from matters more than the institution that offered the course.by
February 2nd, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Recently, I wrote a post arguing that the social sciences have a place in a post industrial economy. Part of the solution is to not only present theoretical material, but to make students realize the practical skills they can gain from our courses. Hoping to enforce this pedagogical outcome this term, I structured my Sociology of Marriage and Family course as an internship opportunity that allows for adaptive learning.
Students have to choose a “role” to fulfill, from being a demographer to a marketing and advertising executive. Every paper they have to write for the course has to be from the point of view of their role. To gamify the course, the top papers will be posted online and shared through social networking sites. I told the students to think of themselves as interns rather than students.
For the past few years I have been teaching a marriage and family course, and most students tell me that they take this course in order to better understand their personal relationships and that they “find it interesting.” Valid reasons, but it’s exactly these perceptions that downplay the practical relevance of the social sciences.
So far, the first week seems promising. I’ll be blogging about my experience, student comments, suggestions, and outcomes.
Here is a link to the resources for the first day of class, which includes the syllabus and a video that explains the course better.
Let me know what you think!
Course Video Album