September

The Center for Innovative Education at Kean University will be holding its Fourth Annual Fall Conference December 5-6, 2008: 21st Century Learning: Going Global. Keynote speakers include Milton Chen (George Lucas Foundation), Michael Furdyk (TakingItGlobal.com), and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach (Powerful Learning Practice).



It seems that both President Truman and modern CEOs have a similar saying: "The Buck Stops Here". In the case of Truman, it meant that he accepted responsibility for the decisions he made. In the case of CEOs, it apparently means to get as big a golden parachute possible regardless of the financial decisions they made. Do you remember Stan O'Neal, the CEO of Merrill Lynch, who was expected to receive $160,000,000.00 despite Merrill Lynch writing up 7.9 billion dollars in losses (AFP), and in January up to 15 billion dollars (Huffington Post), and finally "crippled", bought by Bank of America. Apparently, economic reality is not "trickle down" but "flood up."



iTunes University continues to grow. According to Apple's website, it has

over 75,000 educational audio and video files from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world.

Its latest addition is Edutopia: What Works in Public Education sponsored by the George Lucas Educational Foundation with podcasts ranging from Technology Integration to Assessment to Project Learning and more.

It also a variety of language learning podcasts, a few of which are Greek, Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, ... , and, of course, English.

And it has various podcasts on writing, including podcasts from

Related post:
The Web: The Future of Learning



The 12th Spillman Symposium on Issues in Teaching Writing will have as its theme “Reading to Write: What, When, Where, and Why?” and speakers will include Professors David Jolliffe (U of Arkansas), Deborah Holdstein (Columbia College Chicago), and Eli Goldblatt (Temple U), who will initiate discussion of a topic inspired by Jolliffe’s recent College English article, “Texts of Our Institutional Lives: Studying the ‘Reading Transition’ from High School to College: What Are Our Students Reading and Why?”

Hosted by the Writing Program at Virginia Military Institute,

The Spilman Symposium on Issues in Teaching Writing is a one-day, annual event created to bring teachers of writing together for conversations with some of the major scholars in rhetoric and composition studies. Providing a forum for active engagement of timely issues, the symposium is designed as a think-tank for all instructors who are interested in the teaching of writing, including those involved with writing across the curriculum. Each year registration is limited to approximately sixty participants.

I've attended four of these symposiums in the last six years, and I can say that they are excellent for those who are interested in issues in teaching writing. Although it is not focused on second language writing, I always learn something useful in teaching writing.



A miscellaneous mishmash of thoughts.

Subversion
A few months ago, Ken Carroll wrote a great post asking, Is Teaching a Subversive Activity?". He begins with

Some teachers see their work as a subversive act. To them, perhaps, western democracy is lacking, and requires their intervention. There is also an assumption that the teacher possesses the truth - that he knows with some degree of certainty what needs to be changed in our society and why.  

This is not how I see it. The real purpose of education, I believe, centers around  the pursuit of truth. The teacher’s role is to help learners find truth, not to instill a particular political view of the world, and still less to set them on a course of active subversion that the teacher chooses.  

Of course, one might argue that the pursuit of truth itself is a particular perspective that Ken holds, in fact, one that can be a subservsive activity. After all, which do people in power prefer for those under them? To pursue truth or to follow them? Even so, the entire post (and the comments) is worth your time to read.

Reading
What happens when one doesn't pursue truth? Arguments, of course. Just look at the phonics vs. whole language wars that have been going on for decades: Each side is so convinced of their position that they can't see any aspect of another position. This news on reading research (about a year old), Phonics, Whole-Word, and Whole-Language Processes Add Up to Determine Reading Speed, Study Shows, shows that opposing positions may not be opposing but complementary:

Pelli and Tillman's results show that letter-by-letter decoding, or phonics, is the dominant reading process, accounting for 62 percent of reading speed. However, both holistic word recognition (16 percent) and whole-language processes (22 percent) do contribute substantially to reading speed. Remarkably, the results show that the contributions of these three processes to reading speed are additive. The contribution of each process to reading speed is the same whether the other processes are working or not.

"The contributions made by phonics, holistic word recognition, and whole-language processes are not redundant," explained Pelli. "These three processes are not working on the same words and, in fact, make contributions to reading speed exclusive of one another."

Such research does make one wonder about all the fuss and buss over whether one should teach with phonics or with whole language approaches.

Creativity
Scientific American has an interesting article in which three experts are interviewed on How to unleash your creativity (via Chris Lott). Although many people believe that creativity is something you're born with, according to John Houtz, you

have to work at it; creativity isn’t necessarily going to come naturally.

And ccording to Robert Epstein, creativity has four skills:

There are four different skill sets, or competencies, that I’ve found are essential for creative expression. The first and most important competency is “capturing”—preserving new ideas as they occur to you and doing so without judging them. Your morning pages, Julia, are a perfect example of a capturing technique. There are many ways to capture new ideas. Otto Loewi won a Nobel Prize for work based on an idea about cell biology that he almost failed to capture. He had the idea in his sleep, woke up and scribbled the idea on a pad but found the next morning that he couldn’t read his notes or remember the idea. When the idea turned up in his dreams the following night, he used a better capturing technique: he put on his pants and went straight to his lab!

The second competency is called “challenging”—giving ourselves tough problems to solve. In tough situations, multiple behaviors compete with one another, and their interconnections create new behaviors and ideas. The third area is “broadening.” The more diverse your knowledge, the more interesting the interconnections—so you can boost your creativity simply by learning interesting new things. And the last competency is “surrounding,” which has to do with how you manage your physical and social environments. The more interesting and diverse the things and the people around you, the more interesting your own ideas become.

Throughout the article, the different experts give different techniques for becoming more creative. One point I kept thinking about was that of not judging your ideas. That's similar to the invention technique of free writing in which one writes continuously for a period of time without stopping, without editing, without correcting, without evaluating the writing. And it reminds me of how Emotion Overrules Reason. When judging, emotion generally enters the picture and clouds one's ability to think straight--or to think new thoughts and see new connections, the foundation of creativity.

Flow
And it reminds me of the state of flow. (See Csikszentmihalyi's book titled Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.) In flow, one is so involved in an activity that distractions cease to exist and one loses awareness of oneself. Obviously, in a grade-centered environment, such as school, flow is not easy to attain. David Farmer, summarizing a lecture by Csikszentmihalyi, wrote,

He noted that a major constraint on people enjoying what they are doing is always being conscious of a fear of how they appear to others and what these others might think.

Charles Dietz, drawing from another of Csikszentmihalyi's books, wrote

One of their principal findings, published in Talented Teens – The Roots of Success and Failure was that ‘flow was the strongest predictor of subjective engagement and how far the student progressed in the school’s curriculum in his or her talent’.

The authors suggest three ‘promising steps for promoting optimal experience in the classroom’:

1. The most influential teachers were found to be those who always continue to nurture their interest in their subjects and do not take their ability to convey that enthusiasm for granted. Learning was found to flourish where the cultivation of passionate interest was a primary educational goal.

2. Attention should be paid to ‘conditions that enhance the experience of maximum rewards’. Everything should be done to minimise the impact of rules, exams and procedures and to focus on the inherent satisfaction of learning.

(In a more recent interview, Csikszentmihalyi has stated that although it makes some sense to work on students’ weaknesses, it makes even more sense to work on their strengths, ‘Because once someone has developed strengths, then everything else becomes easier.’)

3. Teachers must read the shifting needs of learners. The flow state is not a static one: once a skill has been mastered it is necessary to add more complexity if the student is not to become bored – there must always be a close fit between challenges and skills. The teacher’s sense of timing and pace, of when to intervene and when to hold back, is therefore crucial. There must be freedom wherever possible for the student to control the process, but teachers must also draw on their experience to channel students’ attention.

Edutopia has an interview with Csikszentmihalyi on Motivating people to learn.

Here's a video of Csikszentmihalyi talking on the "Flow of Goodness":