Tag: teaching

123

How should new members be found?

The community should encourage new membership broadly through its website, through associations at universities and word of mouth. Affiliations to existing institutions and the creation of educational material software should help spread the word to encourage new members. Public debates and interaction should not be seen as a recruitment drive any interaction with the public should if asked only respond; “The community is always happy to welcome new members” we should be clear we don’t have ulterior motives to any of our acts that help the community and the world, our motive is what we are, what we do and we want the world to improve for the present and subsequent generations.

In fact certain responses should be crafted that give a unified response to all questions that are regularly demanded so the community can speak with one coherent response.

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116

What methods of teaching will be employed?

There are various themes in pedagogy that cater to different types of learner so classes should do their best to reflect these types in the classroom.

There should be a division between lectures and seminars/lab work, or theory and practice/debate. This means information is distributed en mass initally and the discussed in smaller groups for clarification.

As stated earlier (e8) students who are proficient in a topic, mitosis for example, should be able to help assist teaching those of a lower level covering that subject. By explaining a topic one comes to understand it better.

Each high level student will have a mentor he can refer or defer to in times of need and have dialogues with. A mentor must be at least a number of grades above the student.

E-learning will be progressively worked on as will videos created to explain all topics in the subject, complete with questions to assess comprehension and open questions that students might consider writing experiments for, contemplate on or engage in dialogue about.

New methodologies of teaching should constantly be assessed and debated. Also all new members should have some exposure to teaching seminars and lectures [not just participating].

[Note: In the years since I’ve written this the rise of MOOC’s and available resources for learning everything from code to languages has exploded across the internet, in this case these give the community nearly all the material required to created an extremely nuanced hierarchy of grades without lifting a finger. However, all free open projects should be given as much support as possible via the community to continually help and improve their services. I know these initial thoughts were written on buses and trains around town, each one of them could be the basis of whole books in themselves, however the good news is there is a huge wellspring of available resources now to help any community member learn an incredible amount even if they are the first in the community to express an interest in the field.]

 

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110

What interactions will happen between the community and the society at large?

There should be a healthy level of interaction between the community and locals especially in a business, social, care, aid and education sense. Open classes available to all would be an appropriate venture, helping local homeless shelters with time and excess food, promoting educative systems and programs, organizing public debates between contentious groups or on serious issues like immigration, vaccination, global warming etc. Hopefully showing to people how real science works in opposition to hyperbole and media misrepresentation.

Public conferences, science fairs, supporting local teachers and students should all be considered reliable services which the community provides.

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109

What standards will be applied to differentiate a novice from an expert? The present undergraduate, graduate, master, Professor / Doctor system is ultimately misleading. When someone claims “I am a Dr” you must then ask “of what?”, biology, philosophy, humanities etc. being a professor doesn’t suddenly give you a status to talk on every subject. Consider the martial arts and their more gradual system of grading; starting at the basic level and progressing to 1st Dan (the black belt) which, contrary to popular belief, is the where the basic level of training ends and you start to master your skills in earnest.

The difference in professional Go players is also worth noting, it is measured in a similar system from  the lowest Kyu grade to the highest Dan grade, however, an even more interesting in this system is the concept that each grade difference between players is considered an extra stone handicap to the weaker player so that they can play a master on an equal footing.

All these systems correctly understand that there is a continuum of ability at knowledge at work here. You start at nothing and then progress over a lifetime to mastery, where systems differ is in how to measure how far along the continuum you have progressed so others can gauge your skill/knowledge/ability/suitability. As things stand standardized tests like GCSE’s, BAC SATs or A-Levels are created to give us a grade of our ability in each subject.

However, many people question how accurate this methodology is and whether it misrepresents or marginalizes students, it certainly only measures academic ability and knowledge, not practical application or personal experience. A much larger range of levels must be devised  for the community that reflects the levels of knowledge, experience and usage of a subject, so the level will be a blend of a number of factors. This will be extensively investigated in a future entry.

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Mindfulness and Education

So I saw this article on neural studies of Monks doing meditation and it’s effects on the brain:

http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Stanford-studies-monks-meditation-compassion-3689748.php

I’m presently reading a book on some of this, it’s really quite amazing. There is a sizeable amount of scientific literature which shows that meditative skills and methods have a huge number of positive benefit to the way we think. With that in mind, I wonder how long it will take to get meditation programs into schools. We are all about training the mind but really we’re mostly just teaching facts and not creative ways to think or solve problems.

In present education systems, at least the ones in the west that I am familiar, there is a focus on how much you ‘know’ as opposed to teaching students how to learn it, use it and retain it. I honestly remember very little of my schooling before University, just like most people we retain relevant pieces here and there but the bulk of it has very little use, outside of a pub quiz. Of course it’s good to have a wide spread of subjects at school to help us find what we excel in or enjoy, but what we need is to teach our children some methods ‘of learning’ rather than making them simply ‘memorize facts’

To clarify, there are a number of teachable skills and methods that we can raise attention levels, memory retention and enhance cognition among people. Even a regular 30 minute exercise and 20 minutes of meditation before schooling, every day, could have dramatic results. Mnemonic techniques have also existed for centuries and while they are a way of ‘memorizing facts’ they are a method which would help in every subject, not just one. Conceptual framing, lucid dreaming and many, many more techniques exist, they work, we already have them, they just aren’t taught in schools.

We need to teach the next generation how to think, not in George Orwellian kind of factual dictatorship kind of way, but in a vibrant, dynamic, constructive way. From memory palaces in primary school to meditation and dialogues at college. Let’s try and create better people and better learners and work from there. Let’s try  make a better student rather than a more comprehensive exam, in all honesty none of us have a clue what the world will be like in 20 years anyway, so what the exam is testing for is really to give you grades to get you into the next level. It’s measuring your capability at the time it was taken. Something which will never reflect your ability in the future, nor prepare you for it.

For those worried about religious aspects or indoctrination into a particular faith, like Buddhism for example. Don’t. While religions were the initial creators of these methods they are now firmly being understood and in the realm of science. Just like we don’t teach kids Islamic algebraChristian science or even Hindu Yoga the religious underpinnings have been clipped from these subjects and we focus on the problem solving methodology  or physical benefits they offer. In the future meditation will also be stripped of its religious elements and join the world alongside other subjects.  Meditation is to the mind what the gym or an exercise regime is to the body.

So now that I’ve got that off my chest, any ideas how do we go about getting these methods and meditations into schools?

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On being a teacher

I have to to say if you had asked me 3 years ago what I would be doing now the answer would not have been sitting in a office in France preparing to start an English lesson. It’s  a strange life and I’m not sure now what that means I’ll be doing in another 3 years.

In many ways that’s scary, in many more ways it’s exhilarating, intriguing and motivating. I would never have believed I could be good at English grammar until I had to teach it for thousands of hours, my grammar has always been abysmal. I would never have believed I could live in a foreign country for over 2 years, or speak a foreign language until I had too.

Being a teacher is probably not the career I will follow until the grave but it will always be a part of me, and through teaching I have learnt me a great deal about how we learn, about peoples temperaments, about language, culture and how we approach problems. Not to mention I can now speak happily in front of groups of people manage time a little better and generally I’m more confident when it comes articulating my ideas.

Not to mention all the time I’ve had to write up my various thoughts and clarify what I believe in life and what I want to be in the future.

It’s strange how unexpected events lead to better situations even if they seem at first to be a mistake or a problem, it’s all about framing I guess. Now I’m working seriously on my French, getting my fitness back to a good level and returning to programming.

I can’t wait to see where and what I’ll be doing in 3 years time :).

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101

Why use dialogue between members?

Dialogue is not an open conversation it is a formal discussion between groups or individuals with the intention to teach, learn or evaluate what is being suggested. In many schools students would memorise notable dialogues that perfectly explained or clearly identified a particular subject. The reason for using them in the community is to keep alive the idea of clear logical reasoning and debate, this also prepares the student to be use logical steps to draw conclusions from facts.

The other idea is to give a method of individual teaching create a framework to allow disagreements between members in a civil manner.

[note: I wrote and read a lot more later on dialogue and dialectic methods so I know this isn’t exactly a clear description of why we should use them, or even what dialogues truly are, it’s true that dialectic and dialogues feed the minds ability to debate and reason arguments, the noting of fallacies etc. are all good reasons to have at least a broad understanding of the discipline, but I wrote more on the subject later.]

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98

Why are members trained in a large number of subjects and disciplines? Why not just focus on a particular field from the beginning?

General education, in many countries, segregates  every subject teaching it in  isolation of its peers. As a community of reason we should realize that no subject is used in complete isolation from the others, especially in the sciences, many different disciplines combine to form very diverse subjects from nano-technology to bio-chem. But equally art, philosophy and creative visual thinking have been behind some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs (DNA, General Relativity etc) in a holistic, homogeneous approach to education a general spread of foundation skills can greatly improve our abilities in unexpected ways.

Secondly, the general studying of a wide range of subjects allows us to create a basic level of equal understanding. This could point to a level whereupon the member becomes a full fledged member of the community. The idea is that the level should not be a destructive barrier for people who have very specialised expertise but a level where by the members have enough understanding that they can be helpful in any disciple in some way, even if it is just data entry or testing data, at the very least community members should understand the arguments and essentials of a dialogue in a number of different fields.

While equality is the goal there might necessarily be a hierarchy of upper and lower levels of understanding. The lower level being equivalent to a GCSE or O-Level and the upper being the same as an A-level. To become a specialist in any subject you must have a fundamental understanding of the whole (chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics) in addition to this the disciplines of electronics and computing should be taken as they are essential for building practical applications or appliances. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable to assume that you need a high level of knowledge in all areas of all subjects there has to be some cut-off points. To become an expert in a field you need to direct your unwavering attention to it, thus an advocate of a subject will have to be content in letting other disciplines slide.

Finally, by keeping members educated or teaching subjects in a churn it keeps knowledge and humility alive as they realise their weaknesses in other disciplines and the strength of their peers, meanwhile by teaching other students their subjects it helps reaffirm and retain those fundamental skills of their trade.

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Writing a blog…

Not sure what to write on it. I’m still typing up my views on creating a new community so that’s an ongoing project. I’m also working on a few programming projects now on hiatus because of work I’m doing on a business (that’s really in difficulties before it’s even started).

I know that people say that if you write a blog it should be a service to the people who read it and released on a timely schedule. I think I’ll take a page from Seth Godin and if you don’t know who he is…

You: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

really: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread.html

should: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_on_sliced_bread.html

look: http://www.ted.com/talks/seth_godin_this_is_broken_1.html

at these.. Oh and you should read his books if you have time.

He is a writing machine far above and beyond me but maybe, just maybe I can write a paragraph or transcribe my deluded writings for at least 30 days (Matt Cutts would be proud 😉 I could form a good habit of expressing my thoughts online and also the progress I’m making towards creating a new kind of school here where I live.

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