Wednesday, April 27, 2016

More Disturbing than Donald Trump

Start spreadin' the news
I am leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York...


Such a great song. I hear it and I'm transported to Yankee stadium and Frank Sinatra playing over the loudspeakers after back to back home runs by Matsui and Posada to come from behind and beat the Blue Jays.

One recent disturbing trend to come out of New York, of course, is Donald Trump, but this is something perhaps even worse than that. This is something that, while it didn't necessarily come from NYC, could have drastically changed the classic New York theme song forever if it had been common a few decades ago.

The song above is correct, and I don't know that I've seen the lyrics themselves written incorrectly, but the error I've been seeing more and more of lately in many different places would change the third line of the song to "I want to be apart of it..." which results in the exact opposite intended meaning, that the singer is leaving old New York.

You still have to deal with a non-matching preposition, since it would make more sense to be apart "from" it, but the point is that there is a huge difference between "a part" and "apart" that no one seems to recognize. To be a part of something means you're a component of the whole, integrated into a well-oiled machine that you can be proud of. Apart means you're separate, distinct, different, non-matching, and otherwise not a part of something.

So next time you want to be a part of something good, remember old New York. Remember Frank. Don't be apart like The Donald. Be a part of what's good in America.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter

With everything going on around the world, our country, and even closer,

With wars and rumors of wars, attacks of the physical and verbal kind,

With disagreements, idleness, avarice, and overconsumption,

Isn't it great to know that He lives,

And because He lives so will we?


Monday, February 29, 2016

Holidays

Every month needs a holiday. Maybe I really mean that I need a holiday every month, but the months themselves need something to keep us all looking forward to.

Each month has its own personality. January is cold, but it's a fresh start. February is the short month. March is basketball tournaments and Spring around the corner. April rains a lot and kind of mushes into May. May is the end of school. June is kind of July's little brother. July is the king of summer with the heat and patriotism and parades, but June is not quite as hot as July, and kids are sometimes still in school, depending on where you live. August is when you realize the summer is almost over and you have to hurry to get in everything you thought you were going to do and then suddenly school is starting again. September is that cool edge to the air and football starting up again. October is leaves falling and having costume parties. November is finding the heavier coat instead of just a light jacket and planning for all the family parties to come. December is snow and presents and all those parties we've been looking forward to.

Many months have a holiday, but not all of them do. Some even have two.
  • January has New Years Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February has Presidents Day
  • March sometimes has Easter but not always
  • April rotates with March for Easter, but otherwise not much
  • May has Memorial Day, marking the beginning of summer
  • June has nothing
  • July has Independence Day - the big summer peak
  • August has nothing (but you can go to the beach every day)
  • September has Labor day, marking the end of summer
  • October has nothing
  • November has Thanksgiving
  • December has Christmas
Now, it's not that every month doesn't actually have holidays. March sometimes has Mardi Gras (alternates with February) which is big some places (Louisiana and Brazil) but not most places. March also has St. Patrick's Day, June has Flag Day, August has um...okay still nothing, and October has Columbus Day and Halloween.

But those are second and third tier holidays. The first tier holidays are the ones where everything is closed. Retail stores are always open, but that's a problem with the retail stores, not with the holidays themselves. Easter is in a strange boat, because it changes with the phases of the moon (literally - first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox), but the biggest part is that it's always on Sunday. So while personally I put it as one of the two most important holidays (with Christmas), there's no day off that is associated with it.

Columbus Day is a federal holiday, meaning no one gets it off except banks and the post office, and it's just a reason for a history lesson. Halloween is nice because you can wear a costume to work and there's candy, but it makes the second tier list because you still have to work.

So first tier holidays are ones where businesses close down, second tier holidays are ones where you have to go to work but there are fun parties and activities so no one is really working anyway, and third tier holidays are ones where everyone still goes to work and school and there is some type of educational component (Flag, Columbus). If you want to go fourth tier, it's the honorary days like secretaries day, grandparents day, medieval French literature day, and sushi day, which are more of a footnote than anything.

What we need is to bump up some of the second and third tier holidays to first tier holidays, and a few times a year there should be a platinum tier holiday that everyone gets off, including the retail workers who normally get hosed by having to work. Leap Day is a day salaried employees should not have to work (since you don't get paid extra for it...think about it).

  • January - New Years Day and Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • February - Presidents Day and Leap Day (every four years)
  • March - Fast Day (Platinum)
  • April - Tax Day
  • May - Memorial Day
  • June - Summer Solstice
  • July - Independence Day (Platinum)
  • August - Hawaii Day
  • September - Labor Day
  • October - Halloween
  • November - Thanksgiving
  • December - Christmas (Platinum)
Fast Day, as part of Lent, would be a day to do service, sacrifice, and donate to the poor. This could be combined with St. Patrick's Day as it fits well with the story of his life in several ways. The only downside would be its reputation as an indulgent holiday so it would need a makeover. It might make sense to have Fast Day in April. I like the connection to Lent, but doing it a little later into April would possibly make it a better day for getting outside and cleaning up neighborhoods. It could be a good connection to Tax Day, for those getting big tax returns if you want to get donations out of it.

Summer Solstice makes more sense than Flag Day in June, since Flag Day is just like Independence Day Lite. July 4 is flags but also cookouts and parades and fireworks - a super-sized Flag Day. We also beat the aliens that day. That said, Summer Solstice could be seen as Memorial Day Lite as well, since it's the start of summer, but usually Memorial Day is the de facto start of summer (a few weeks early). I don't know. June is a tough one. Perhaps Take A Hike Day, where people would participate in outdoor activities, races, walks, etc.

Hawaii's statehood day is in August, and I think it's a good one to expand to the whole country. Who doesn't like Hawaii? Being in August right before school starts, it would be a good day to go to the beach. It could also be expanded to a First Nations or Indigenous Peoples or Native Americans Day. With some controversy around how Native Hawaiians and other Native Americans have been marginalized, it would be a good day to celebrate those who were here before we were. There are movements to turn Columbus Day into such a day, but tying it to that to me sounds more like a slam against Columbus than a true celebration of native peoples, so it should be established independently to avoid that baggage.

Halloween gets its official bump up to tier one from tier two, where it belongs.

What am I missing? What other platinum tier holidays should we give to the retail workers? What do we do with June?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Qualification for Not Governing

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it, or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

And so this is the situation we find: a succession of Galactic Presidents who so much enjoy the fun and palaver of being in power that they very rarely notice that they're not.

And somewhere in the shadows behind them—who?

Who can possibly rule if no one who wants to do it can be allowed to?

—Douglas Adams, Chapter 28, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Thursday, December 31, 2015

This Year

It's always fun to see how people access the blog, what they are looking for, and what they find. Or what they don't find.

Unfortunately, looking back at the past year, 90% of the hits to my blog show up as "not provided" which basically means Google isn't going to tell me what people were looking for unless I pay for advanced analytics instead of the free tools.

For the 10% of hits over this past year that I can see, some interesting patterns emerge.

A significant number of people found my blog searching for information about minimum password ages. It's the most popular post for the last three years since it's been there.

I have several posts about andragogy, and they come up quite regularly. A lot of people search for things like the difference between pedagogy and andragogy, how constructivism plays into andragogy, how to be a facilitator using an andragogical approach, and many different combinations of similar things. Oh, and a lot of people searching for information about andragogy are really, really bad spellers.

Interesting random things that people searched for and which ended up on my blog somewhere, which I may never understand include:
  • beat with a shovel the weak
  • ghost spam is free from the politics, we dancing like a paralytics
  • rob barton brain
  • syllabus is crap
  • (^ᴗ^)丿¯\_(ツ)_/¯(•ิ_•ิ)(ಠ益ಠ)(ಥ‿ಥ)(ʘ‿ʘ)ლ(ಠ_ಠლ)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)ヽ(゚д゚)ノʕ•̫͡•ʔᶘ ᵒᴥᵒᶅ(=^. .^=)
I think I like the one with all the faces the best. The little rhyming search thing was kind of neat as well. I choose to take the brain one as a compliment.

Of the items I posted during this year, the top ones were:
My personal favorite was the Haiku post.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Becoming a professional starts with attitude

Something I really like about Seth Godin's posts is that they are generally short but packed with meaning. The coolest thing, though, is that if you watch for a while and rearrange things a bit, they actually fit together to form a larger narrative. For example:

It's not your fault

...but it might be your responsibility.

That's a fork in the road on the way to becoming a professional.

When did you give up?

The bureaucracy is no longer your enemy. The bureaucracy is you.

And it's easy to blame your boss, or the dolt who set up all these systems, or the one who depersonalizes everything. The policies and the oversight and the structure almost force you to merely show up. And to leave as early as you can.

But the thing is, the next job, like the last one, is going to be like this. If this is the job you're seeking, if this is the level of responsibility you take, perhaps it's not just your boss.

How long ago did you decide to settle for this? How long ago did you start building the cocoon that insulates you from the work you do all day?

Years ago, the spark was still there. The dreams. And most of all, the willingness to take it personally.

You can take it personally again.

Attitude is a skill

You can learn math. French. Bowling.

You can learn Javascript, too.

But you can also learn to be more empathetic, passionate, focused, consistent, persistent and twenty-seven other attitudes.

If you can learn to be better at something, it's a skill.

And if it's a skill, it's yours if you want it.

Which is great news, isn't it?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Online Communication

I had an interesting comment from a student in an online course message board. Basically, the note was that face to face communication is always better. I agree with the student's premise that technology is not always the answer, but that doesn't mean that it isn't often an answer. I do disagree that a face to face classroom is always better than a technology based classroom. I've been in a lot of ineffective classrooms. My response to the meta-challenge that the discussion of how effective technology is to communicate would be proved by the fact that no one would respond to the post positing such:

I don't know that I'd totally agree with the statement that the authors believe that technology is always the answer. If used correctly and implemented well, it often can be. But it's not always. A large piece of the SDLC which the course covers deals with the need to analyze what the problem is before making a choice of how to fix it. And the course starts with several chapters related to understanding how businesses function before it gets into an substantive discussion of technology.

Even your example of the discussion we might have F2F, while true in just the right set of circumstances, doesn't necessarily work for a couple reasons. One is that how likely would it be that you would be able to get a group of people who are enrolled in the course together? Not likely, due to geography and differing schedules, which is why most of you are taking online courses to begin with.

And two is how often do you actually get a substantial conversation in a group? Does everyone actually get to participate? In many classes in a F2F environment, 90% of the students sit there and don't actually participate. Only a small handful will often dominate the conversation because not everyone can talk at the same time and the introverts like actually thinking about what they're going to say before they say it and by the time they decide what to say the conversation has moved on.

Technology levels the playing field a bit. Not everyone who uses Wikipedia contributes to it by writing or fixing articles, but enough do that it has become an invaluable resource which is comprehensive enough and accurate enough to put print encyclopedias out of business. I will fully agree that technology is often used ineffectively, inefficiently, sometimes just for the sake of using technology and not for a real business need, or using the wrong tool (a hammer when a miter saw is called for).

That, I hope, is the point of the course. If you don't have the right tool or can't speak the right language to get what you need from the IT department, you will have problems. Flip it around. It's not that technology is a hammer and actually talking to each other are the other tools but rather what are the various technology tools that can help us in a variety of situations? Thanks for the conversation starter. I'm glad that the asynchronous post you made allowed me to make an answer later since I was busy at the time you were making your initial post. How about anyone else? Examples of using technology effectively or not effectively at work or other places you spend your time?

The student's eyes were opened a bit, I think, recognizing how common it is for some people to dominate the conversation in a live group. We didn't really talk about this specifically, but as I think back on it later, I wonder how often it leads to bad, extreme ideas, simply because the extroverts who like to blurt things out without thinking about them end up directing most of the conversation. This seems particularly relevant as we are in the middle of election season. The follow-up comment by the student that the younger generation is overly involved in technology and do not know how to communicate face to face is sadly true. It isn't a reason to get rid of technology but rather a reason to focus on when and how to communicate effectively in a variety of situations.

I definitely agree with you there regarding upcoming generations who only know how to communicate through technology, even to people who are in the same room as them. Or who communicate electronically only to people who are far away and ignore the people close by them. Just look at a group of teenagers in practically any environment, and you'll see very little live interaction among them, which is sad to see. I went to Europe a couple years ago, and I was happy to turn off my cell phone for two weeks and just enjoy what was there in front of me rather than trying to stay up on the latest FB gossip. I enjoy the same when heading up to the mountains for some hiking or backpacking. Some literally go through physical symptoms of withdrawal if removed from an always-connected environment. That doesn't mean the technology is bad, just that the person hasn't learned to use other options or is bad at selecting which tool to use when.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Properly Balancing Formative and Summative Assessment

Formative assessment is one of the most powerful tools for promoting student achievement by providing an understanding about how each student is progressing in their learning continuously, as it happens (Stiggins & DuFour, 2009). Summative assessment is focused on determining the outputs of the learning process in order to assign grades or for evaluation of the course, keeping in mind that it can be used for both evaluating output and evaluating the process used to create the output (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001).

Summative assessment may be seen by some learners, especially those with a performance-focused orientation, as a way of comparing oneself to others, which can lead to less effective learning since the focus is on the display of mastery rather than on the actual learning process (Roll et al., 2011; Azevedo et al., 2008; Aleven et al., 2003; Butler, 1998). On the other hand, when formative assessments are used appropriately, they provide an opportunity to promote learning, self-improvement, and progress (Butler, 1998; Roll et al., 2011).

In order to allow learners to progress at their own pace, a combination of formative and summative assessment can be effective in helping learners understand what they need to focus on while learning and how to show they have attained competency in order to complete the course. This is especially important in an adult education environment, where each learner will come in with different levels of knowledge and experience, so effective assessment can help keep individuals progressing in those areas where they need assistance and complete the course when they can show they can perform at the appropriate level.

I'm always surprised, although I suppose I shouldn't be, how many students (yes, I'm purposely changing what I was calling learners previously to students, who may or may not be true learners) want to rush to the summative assessment and just "get it over with" instead of taking the time to use formative tools that are built into a course and provided in a very obvious way to guide their learning toward success. In some classes, a summative paper or objective exam may be actually used in a formative way as it is graded, feedback is given, and if the student is not happy with their result may revise and resubmit. It's a great way to approach things in theory, taking a bit of the edge off a high stakes summative assessment. But it also can lead to students throwing things at the wall to see what sticks even though they know they are not ready. I frequently make the point that when students say they don't know what they should be studying, then they know exactly what they should be studying, i.e. everything.

That is a key metacognitive error (White & Frederiksen, 2005), to know one is not prepared but not know what they are missing, so instead of taking the time to use provided course materials and formative assessments and guidance from a faculty member to figure out what they are missing, they jump immediately to whatever the summative assessment activity is and try repeatedly to ram it through even though they are not at the right level of cognitive preparedness (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001) for it. It is thus important not only to provide appropriately designed scaffolding leading up to a summative assessment but also help learners understand why they are built that way so they are willing to use it.

Aleven, V., Stahl, E., Schworm, S., Fischer, F., & Wallace, R. (2003). Help seeking and help design in interactive learning environments. Review of Educational Research, 73(3).

Anderson, L.W. & Krathwohl, D.R. (2001). A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. New York: Longman.

Azevedo, R., Moos, D.C., Greene, J.A., Winters, F.I., & Cromley, J.G. (2008). Why is externally-facilitated regulated learning more effective than self-regulated learning with hypermedia? Educational Technology Research and Development, 56(1).

Butler, R. (1998). Determinants of help seeking: Relations between perceived reasons for classroom help-avoidance and help-seeking behaviors in an experimental context. Journal of Educational Psychology 90(4).

Roll, I., Aleven, V., McLaren, B.M., & Koedinger, K.R. (2011). Improving students’ help-seeking skills using metacognitive feedback in an intelligent tutoring system. Learning and Instruction, 21(2).

Stiggins, R. & DuFour, R. (2009). Maximizing the Power of Formative Assessments. Phi Delta Kappan 90(9). Retrieved January 31, 2013 from http://alaskacc.org/sites/alaskacc.org/files/Stiggins%20article.pdf.

White, B., Frederiksen, J. (2005). A theoretical framework and approach for fostering metacognitive development. Educational Psychologist, 40(4).

Monday, August 31, 2015

Accessibility

Not that kind of accessibility.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Disney on a variety of fronts, which is not worth going into right now. One of the love aspects recently is the Disney Institute, which is their corporate training wing, where they act as consultants to do third party training to help other organizations achieve the magic they are known for. Of course, I think the reason they can give away their secrets is two-fold: first, I don't think they give away all their secrets and second, they know that most organizations can't or won't implement them. It is a significant investment requiring complete buy-in from the top to the bottom and back up again.

In a few recent blog posts, DI has talked about service recovery, which is how to fix problems when something goes wrong. Empowerment is the key to service recovery. For an example, every employee at Disneyland is trained to know that if a guest drops their cheese-filled pretzel or frozen banana on the ground, they can have a new one. It doesn't matter if it's the person who sold it to you or a random dude sweeping up garbage; half-eaten or just licked a little bit of the salt off, doesn't matter. They know the policy - free replacement cheese-filled pretzel - so before you even realize you dropped it, the garbage dude has swept it up and told you to go to the closest stand and just tell them that you need another one. Done. The pretzel person won't bat an eye, because they know the policy, too.

One of the most important points that I think gets lost is that empowerment should actually be empowerment, and not theoretical empowerment. That's where the idea of accessibility comes in. Accessibility means the service recovery solution is readily obtainable. As DI puts it, if a meal voucher is likely to be a recovery solution, "be sure the vouchers are available to employees when needed - not just when the one person with the key to the voucher drawer is present." If the vouchers are not accessible, the empowered employee is going to be less likely to offer that solution, and the unhappy customer is unlikely to want to stick around and waste time waiting for someone to find the key if that solution is offered.

That's also a good way to hide behind fake empowerment, where you tell a customer you wish you could give them something and if it was up to you, you would, but you know that the next level up will deny the request. You might even tell the next level up to deny the request when you put it in, just so you can say you tried even if it wasn't that hard.

Assuming you're not going down the fake empowerment road, the last thing you want to do is tell the person that you wish you could give them a particular solution but that you have to talk to your manager first. This is especially true if you know the customer deserves the solution but there is a chance management will turn down the request. That kind of empowerment is theoretical empowerment - your manager tells you that you are empowered, but there's no solid proof that your empowerment actually exists.

Even if you know they will back you up, it's annoying that everyone's time is being wasted - the customer, the employee, and the manager. How much is all that time and goodwill worth? Probably more than a cheese-filled pretzel.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Art of Teaching

Another great post by Seth Godin, in which he talks about art. He clarifies that art can be anything, whether or not it's a painting (or photograph or sculpture, I might add) that is generous and risky.

Of course, teaching comes to mind. There are all sorts of people weighing in on various sides of whether you can measure what a teacher does. There are bad teachers that sometimes certain metrics may find and sometimes they may not. There are plenty of things that a good teacher does that cannot be measured.

Seth's list of characteristics of what makes art:

  • Human
  • Generous
  • Risky
  • Change
  • Connection
Of course, if we try too hard, we'll end up trying to make a rubric to measure whether or not someone's teaching or other works are "artistic enough" which then actually completely misses the point in the first place.

But, think of the good and bad teachers you've had (or that you've been), and consider the 5 factors above. Are they realistic? Do they give more than they ask in return? Do they sometimes try things that don't work but still end up being just as much (or more) of a learning experience as the the lesson plans that were executed to perfection? Do they instill real change (for the better)? Is there a real personal touch present, even if but for a moment?