Dave Snowden complains rightly about the oversimplification of differences between generations, in particular, the fuss being made over so-called digital natives:

We now have this rather silly idea that the next generation will be digital natives, comfortable with technology in a way that their parents were not. We also have the idea that this is necessarily a good thing. There are several reasons to challenge this but there are two main themes to the arguments. Firstly its simply not true that you can classify a whole generation and secondly the assumption that the new skills can displace older capabilities without loss.

Snowden goes into more detail with some telling examples. In particular, I liked his comment, "Professions have more in common across the generations that the generations do across professions."

Related posts:

The Myths of the Digital Generation
Myths of the Digital Generation, Part II
Myths of the Digital Generation Cont'd
Hype from the Media and Web 2.0 Evangelists

Roland Fryer, Professor of Economics at Harvard, conducted research on how incentive pay affected teacher and student performance. From the abstract:

Financial incentives for teachers to increase student performance is an increasingly popular education policy around the world. This paper describes a school-based randomized trial in over two-hundred New York City public schools designed to better understand the impact of teacher incentives on student achievement. I find no evidence that teacher incentives increase student performance, attendance, or graduation, nor do I find any evidence that the incentives change student or teacher behavior. If anything, teacher incentives may decrease student achievement, especially in larger schools.

In explaining these results, Fryer considered four possibilities, concluding,

we argue that the most likely explanation is that the NYC incentive scheme, along with all other American pilot initiatives thus far, is too complex and provides teachers with too little agency.

In other words, if people don't see a strong, direct connection between incentive pay and teaching, it won't motivate them to do teach better, and if they don't perceive themselves as in control over what and how they teach, then they won't be motivated to improve their teaching.

That fits in with the Learning and Fun post on Feynman, Daniel Pink's detesting of the question, "What is your passion?", and the perspectives of self-determination and flow (see, for example, Where Does Curiosity Go? and Engagement and Flow).

In short, to improve at one's work (or anything else), people need to feel that they in control of their lives and their work.

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper coined the terms bug and debugging. From Britannica's article on women mathematicians:

In 1944, after becoming a lieutenant in the Naval Reserve, she was assigned to a project at Harvard University, where she worked on the protocomputer Mark I. When a moth infiltrated Mark I’s circuits, causing failures, she came up with the term bug to describe such unexplained computer problems.

It's coming this week: TESOL 2011. For those interested in writing sessions, see SLWIS sessions and highlighted sessions

I won't be going this year due to lack of funds, but I wish I could. The highlight for me is SLWIS's "An Evening with Friends of Second Language Writing" at which you get to talk with researchers in second language writing, including well-established scholars, on items of interest to you. All of them are friendly and most are down-right down-to-earth.

From Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate in Physics (Posted on Gregory Kilcup's site)

Then I had another thought: Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing - it didn't have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with. When I was in high school, I'd see water running out of a faucet growing narrower, and wonder if I could figure out what determines that curve. I found it was rather easy to do. I didn't have to do it; it wasn't important for the future of science; somebody else had already done it. That didn't make any difference. I'd invent things and play with things for my own entertainment.

So I got this new attitude. Now that I am burned out and I'll never accomplish anything, I've got this nice position at the university teaching classes which I rather enjoy, and just like I read the Arabian Nights for pleasure, I'm going to play with physics, whenever I want to, without worrying about any importance whatsoever.

Within a week I was in the cafeteria and some guy, fooling around, throws a plate in the air. As the plate went up in the air I saw it wobble, and I noticed the red medallion of Cornell on the plate going around. It was pretty obvious to me that the medallion went around faster than the wobbling.

I had nothing to do, so I start to figure out the motion of the rotating plate. I discover that when the angle is very slight, the medallion rotates twice as fast as the wobble rate - two to one [Note: Feynman mis-remembers here---the factor of 2 is the other way]. It came out of a complicated equation! Then I thought, ``Is there some way I can see in a more fundamental way, by looking at the forces or the dynamics, why it's two to one?''

I don't remember how I did it, but I ultimately worked out what the motion of the mass particles is, and how all the accelerations balance to make it come out two to one.

I still remember going to Hans Bethe and saying, ``Hey, Hans! I noticed something interesting. Here the plate goes around so, and the reason it's two to one is ...'' and I showed him the accelerations.

He says, ``Feynman, that's pretty interesting, but what's the importance of it? Why are you doing it?''

``Hah!'' I say. ``There's no importance whatsoever. I'm just doing it for the fun of it.'' His reaction didn't discourage me; I had made up my mind I was going to enjoy physics and do whatever I liked.

I went on to work out equations of wobbles. Then I thought about how electron orbits start to move in relativity. Then there's the Dirac Equation in electrodynamics. And then quantum electrodynamics. And before I knew it (it was a very short time) I was ``playing'' - working, really - with the same old problem that I loved so much, that I had stopped working on when I went to Los Alamos: my thesis-type problems; all those old-fashioned, wonderful things.

It was effortless. It was easy to play with these things. It was like uncorking a bottle: Everything flowed out effortlessly. I almost tried to resist it! There was no importance to what I was doing, but ultimately there was. The diagrams and the whole business that I got the Nobel Prize for came from that piddling around with the wobbling plate.

So – with a voice that quavers in expectation and an inflection that italicises the final word – they ask us again, "What's your passion?"

Ladies and gentlemen, I detest that question.

When someone poses it to me, my innards tighten. My vocabulary becomes a palette of aahs and ums. My chest wells with the urge to flee.

So writes Daniel Pink. His response is to ask "a more productive" question:

what do you do?

Pink's not against passion, but he says,

business can be a bit like love. When people first fall in love, they experience that woozy and besotted feeling that verges on obsessiveness. That's passion, and it's great. But as couples bond more enduringly, that fiery intensity can give way to a calmer warmth. That's true love – and that's where the magic is.

This concept corresponds to research on love by Helen Fisher, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers. She asserts that there are three types of love—lust, attraction, and attachment—that are governed simply by various hormones: Lust by testerone, attraction by dopamine, and attachment by oxytocin for women or vasopression for men.

Neither lust nor attraction can be maintained for long periods of time. They wear off. Those who promote passion, either in business or in education, are either exaggerating or deceiving themselves and others.

The "calmer warmth" of attachment via doing is attainable, and it's honest.

Relevant post: Creating Passionate Learners?