2010年10月29日 星期五


Educators have long held that peer tutoring can help students learn, and emerging research on students working with computer characters points to one possible reason why: Teaching begets learning for the teacher, too. Researchers at Stanford University’s AAA Lab and Vanderbilt University’s Teachable Agents Group call it the “protégé effect,” which posits that students will work harder, reason better, and ultimately understand more by learning to teach someone else—even a virtual “teachable agent”—than they will when learning for themselves. Being social is a frame of mind, said David Schwartz, the director of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based AAA Lab, a social and cognitive learning research center. “These kids know these characters aren’t alive, but they get engaged with the narrative and play pretend, and it brings out a lot of good behaviors,” he said. The article is in Education Week.

BILL GATES: What I've Learned About Great Teachers


What I've Learned About Great Teachers

by: Paul Tough
What I've Learned About Great Teachers
"In almost every area of human endeavor, the practice improves over time," says Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. "That hasn't been the case for teaching." This month, Gates is sounding the alarm about public education in Waiting for "Superman," a new documentary from An Inconvenient Truth's Davis Guggenheim. "He has this amazing capacity to drill really, really deep," Guggenheim says of Gates. "He has an infectious curiosity." PARADE sat down with the software mogul turned philanthropist to talk about the movie, the American education system, and his own school days.

PARADE: Why did you decide to appear in Waiting for "Superman"?
Our foundation has picked education as a priority in the United States, and we've spent over $4 billion on various projects. So when I heard that somebody who's done great documentaries was doing one on education, my interest was to share some thoughts and say, "Hey, don't get too depressed."

PARADE: Depressed? Do you think people will find the film pessimistic?
Most people don't realize how bad the situation really has become. They think, Geez, if half the kids in the inner city were really dropping out, wouldn't somebody declare a crisis? The movie shows how bad the system is, and that's a downer. But you also see that there are great schools, and kids in the inner city can succeed. So that's a very hopeful thing.

PARADE: In the documentary, experts say there are too many bad teachers in America and not enough great ones. Why is that?
Very little is invested in understanding great teaching. We've never had a meaningful evaluation system that identifies the dimensions of great teachers so we can transfer the skills to others. The Gates Foundation has learned that two questions can predict how much kids learn: "Does your teacher use class time well?" and, "When you're confused, does your teacher help you get straightened out?"

PARADE: As a student, did you have one teacher who really influenced you?
I went to a public school through sixth grade, and being good at tests wasn't cool. Then my parents switched me to the Lakeside School [a private school in Seattle]. A teacher there, Mr. Anderson, was pairing people up by ability for a geography quiz, and he put me with this kid I didn't think was very clever. I thought, Wait, he thinks I'm the same as this kid? Man, oh, man, there's something wrong.

PARADE: How did you turn yourself into a different kind of student?
When I was in eighth grade, I scored the best in the state on a math exam. After that, my math teacher let me go off and do independent study and computer stuff. I also became good at relating to adults. When I'd meet a teacher, I'd say, "Hey, tell me your 10 favorite books." I'd read them, and then I could talk to the teachers about something they knew a lot about.

PARADE: You and Melinda have three school-age kids. Are you involved in their education?
Last year our family traveled for three months, and we did some home-schooling. I taught math and science. We went to the Large Hadron Collider, the giant particle accelerator in Switzerland. We went to a toilet-paper factory, a garbage dump, an aircraft carrier, and a coal plant. I also found great educational material on the Web, including short videos at Khanacademy.org.

PARADE: What did you learn from working with your kids?
Teaching's hard! You need different skills: positive reinforcement, keeping students from getting bored, commanding their attention in a certain way. I'd be better at teaching the college-level stuff.

PARADE: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has criticized Waiting for "Superman" for focusing too much on charter schools as a solution. What do you think?
She points out that, on average, charter schools don't do better than other public schools. She's right. But it's a strange point to make: "Hey, they're as bad as we are!" The fact is, we're failing those kids. Ms. Weingarten represents the teachers' union, but say there was a students' union. Might they ask that the dropout rate be lowered? Might they stay at the negotiating table until it was below 50%? We ought to ask kids whether they think the status quo is working.

2010年10月27日 星期三

Learning how to learn?

Hewlett’s Barbara Chow writes in RE: Philanthrophy: When I joined The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation last year as the director of its education program, my colleagues and I took a hard look at public education in the United States, our own grantmaking, and the lessons we’ve learned. We talked to lots of smart people, read everything we could, and visited the widest possible diversity of schools. After months of research, and consulting with more than 100 top thinkers in education, business, and public policy, we asked ourselves one question: What could we do to make the biggest impact? Our answer was to focus on a set of skills and knowledge that reinforce each other and together promote rigorous and deeper learning. These include:
• Mastery of core academic content
• Critical thinking and problem-solving
• Working collaboratively in groups
• Communicating clearly and effectively
• Learning how to learn

HCL's Shiv Nadar on Bringing Business-plan Rigor to Social Entrepreneurship

HCL's Shiv Nadar on Bringing Business-plan Rigor to Social Entrepreneurship

Published: June 17, 2010 in India Knowledge@Wharton

Shiv Nadar, founder and chairman of the US$5 billion Indian IT group HCL, has forayed into setting up educational institutions and attempting to bridge the country's urban-rural divide. He has designed this effort with business-plan rigor, thinking big but starting with pilot projects before scaling them. In a conversation with Wharton management professor Michael Useem and India Knowledge@Wharton, he spoke about his model of social entrepreneurship and building organizations, processes and leadership skills in students, among other topics.

An edited transcript of the conversation follows.

India Knowledge@Wharton: You have spent your career building HCL as an entrepreneur. How do you view the relationship between entrepreneurship and the social goals you are trying to achieve through the Shiv Nadar Foundation?

Shiv Nadar: I have a view on this. When a corporation grows up, when it takes up a certain percentage of its revenue [or] a certain percentage of its profit and puts it into social causes, what can be done gets fairly limited. And it'll create a very discontinuous effort. Otherwise it'll become very small. If we say that we will put in one percent of our profit or five percent of our profit, and then put it in, what happens when you do this in a year in which there's no profit? Then they all become projects. Projects are by nature discontinuous. But what [the corporation] gains is the project management and program management capabilities, which will always be inherently very strong in the corporation.

We know that the subjects where we can contribute are very many. So we encourage our employees to participate along with NGOs (non-government organizations) in many of the causes. One of the causes for which we seek their cooperation is to go and teach in a school. It's a question of how long your time is available, and accordingly, we work with NGOs which will find when our employees can go and teach in a school. We have 62,000 employees. So the number of hours they can contribute is large.

But what we have done, or what my family and I have done, is different. We have two operating companies in HCL -- HCL India and HCL Global. HCL India is about US$2.5 billion in size and HCL Global is US$2.8 billion. They have been declaring dividends since inception. HCL India was formed in 1976 and HCL Global is [the former] HCL Technologies, formed and listed in 2000. These dividends flow into a family corporation. The family corporation bequeaths a large quantum of it into a Shiv Nadar foundation. So we have found a very sustainable way of doing this. With this, we can take a long-term effort -- something which will take 10 years or 25 years, a big project. At the end of the day, what have I achieved, what have we achieved? We have built two institutions. And we know how to run them with processes and structures. So if you want to create institutions which are built to we will do them as institutions, not as projects.

Michael Useem: Let me ask you about the target of your efforts. It could be health, the arts or community services, but you have chosen to focus on education. Why education?

Nadar: Education came [about] with not much of reasoning. Because when we wanted to give something back, I looked at myself, I said, "What am I?" I'm a product of education. Education and scholarship gave me a lot of confidence. And aspirations I picked up from friends and the ambience in which I grew. If I could provide a similar ambience, it could help a lot more people. That's how we set up a college of engineering (the Sri Sivasubramaniya Nadar College of Engineering), under Anna University. But we set it up [saying] that this is going to grow big, this is going to last, this is going to do many more things than just engineering. We bought a 230-acre (an acre is 4,047 square meters) campus near Chennai.

In 14 years, we did the processes right, we built the institution right. In its ninth year it's topped the state; there are 400 engineering colleges in the state. In the 10th year it ranked among the top 10 private colleges in entire India. Nine years ago, we said, 'Let's start a joint program for masters, and let's do it with the best school in the world in these fields.' So we've done that with Carnegie Mellon [University, in Pittsburgh, Penn.]. We offer four post graduate courses. In a globalized world, we believe you should study in multiple countries.

Now I'll step back and give you the reasons. China has become India's largest trading partner. It's rare to find an Indian who speaks Chinese. It's rare to find a Chinese who can speak any of the Indian languages. Neither of them at the trading level -- I want to repeat this, at the trading level -- can speak English either. All businessmen -- how do they communicate? God knows. Sign language, probably. They are our largest trading partner; they displaced the United States. We all speak English, but no one speaks Chinese. If you've ever traded with them ... they come up with a calculator and tell you, "This is the price." That's all. You always go back with the price that you want. The way they cost their materials is probably very different, [perhaps] by weight or something [else].

So now, this has to be recognized. It has to find its way into the education system. It will be good for India exchange programs, where if there's a two-year course, someone goes there, spends three months and comes back. And then over that entire period learns Chinese -- to speak, read or write. You have a problem in America where everyone speaks only English or Spanish. In India everyone speaks their mother tongue or English. [Over time], the economies at No. 2, 3, 4 and 5 will be China, Japan, Germany, India. They have to speak a different language now.

Anyway, we thought that this joint program should pick up the experience. These programs have two semesters in India and one semester in the U.S. The students are solid; most of them work for American company and go through a placement system. In the third step, we had a product of technology. We had a product of R & D. Our company began its efforts in producing computing before either Microsoft or IBM did in the personal computing area. We were one of the earliest in the '70s. We were also one of the earliest in Unix.

So we know that the way stages itself. Technology comes first. Research comes first. As a result of it (research), technology comes. As a result of it, engineering comes. If you build an engineering college, how do you connect it up with what happens before? So we started working on that. We built a research center. We got somebody from defense research. We've got great advisors who are supporting this. The people who support us include [Carnegie Mellon professor] Raj Reddy and V.S. Arunachalam (former scientific advisor to India's defense ministry). We thought we would do this as something which is inspiring. Our belief is that aspirations, meritocracy and a world class institution are the three ingredients our country needs.

India Knowledge@Wharton: How serious is the educational challenge in India and what is your strategy to try and tackle that?

Nadar: Education in India requires correction in some places, new interactions in some places and widening in some places. When my daughter (Roshni Nadar) came here to study, the first thing I insisted was: 'You live abroad for a year alone and work in a company just by yourself.' She went and worked in the communication business with Sky News (in London), completely anonymous. No one knew who she was; she got a job because she had a degree in communications. But it's great experience. One must have some alien experiences like this. Studying in one location somehow doesn't appeal to me -- not for the future.

I come from a generation in which the average life expectancy is in the 80s. They (his daughter's generation) are going to be in a generation in which life expectancy should be 100 plus. If it is so, they have more time to strengthen their education. It can be a discontinuous effort, too.

We thought that we would provide all these things and build a university. That is another project we are doing. We are not doing it in the traditional style, where we take land, then start with some courses and then build it [over time]. Not like we did it the last time. This time we are going ahead and constructing it, so that a full fledged university is what will be built. We will get to work with partners across the world and then take it from there, offering a completely different educational experience. Someone asked me what is this [university] going to look like? We don't know. It's a leap of good faith. These are two things we're doing in higher learning.

Useem: You've built the university, and yet I know you're also very interested in students of younger age at a different stage. Where have you intervened in the educational course that people follow? Why intervene at the university level? Why intervene at a younger level? A related question is, what do you think about scale or scaling? You want to intervene, but I also know you want to intervene and have a large impact on a lot of people.

Nadar: There are two things that we noticed as serious gaps. One, let me talk about my home state. My home state is not where I come from, which is Tamil Nadu. My home state is U.P. (Uttar Pradesh, adjacent to New Delhi), where we are the largest private employer, which is where we built all our businesses. We employ 20,000 people who all are in U.P. If the state were to be a country, with a population of 190 million, it will be the seventh most populous state in the world. But it has very depressing failures. The school system with 180,000 schools is not able to cope with the needs. Politically, compulsions have been such that a student will just get through class after class after class without measuring what he or she has learned.

If you take fifth standard students (aged 10-11), 45 percent of them don't know how to read. If you take second standard students, a similar percentage of students can not recognize letters. So we have a serious problem, okay? If you knew that how to correct that, they would have followed it. The state government is very sincere; I'm not blaming them. Someone needs to experiment and find an answer.

We have run some pilot models of delivering education through a non-qualified teacher. Deliver it through this medium and a telecast mode, where someone only is assisting, standing next to the student; it's almost like cooking with a television instruction. We created it, tested it and piloted it. After every hour or so, we reinforce the learning, then find gaps and close them.

The huge advantage a city-bred person has is the mother becomes a teacher. No one can replace a mother's teaching, because she will ensure that the child learns and retains what she has taught, if she can teach. That's why the urban students get to be much more competitive, particularly the bulk of what learning potential that there is. We are bringing in a control and command system through satellite, so that the most proficient of the teachers take all the students who have gaps; they're connected through satellite, and they teach and correct.

Our objective is to get 90% of what is being taught to be retained by 90% of students. The advantage of this system is if someone has a two-month handicap, he or she can join a class. You take away this mental conception of one year for each one standard. Think without those limitations. You have so much to study; it has to be paced to what you have. And in between, if you are to go away for something else, it'll wait. These are people who may drop out after the first standard or drop out after school. This is the only opportunity they have to have any foundation.

The government knows that we are fairly sincere people. We have a good reputation. We say we will do what we say we will do. And if we don't commit [to] anything, we'll say at least we'll experiment with all sincerity. So of the 180,000 schools (in U.P.), we asked them to give us the management of 200 schools. [We asked them to] just agree to be patient with us and we will correct things. We are yet to do it. But we are starting now.

They (the U.P. government) said, "Take at least 1,000 schools." There were 200 schools and we are talking about 60,000 students. So it is a very serious responsibility. I said, "Look, it's an act of faith with what you're giving. It's a leap of faith. And the least we will do is we'll follow the old method, but deliver good education to these people." These 60,000 people will take charge. Next year, we'll write in the letter of intent that we'll go up to 1,000 schools. But post that, we will program-manage this interaction over the state to the 180,000 schools. This is the largest such effort. We will work side by side with [the government.]

It's a very well-intentioned thing. And the team which is doing it is highly capable. The project is headed, you know, by a person no less than T.S.R. Subramaniam, who was chief secretary of U.P. and [Union] cabinet secretary. The team is very high-powered, and has very capable individuals. I'm personally involved in this project, which is called Shiksha. The other project is called VidyaGyan. [It addresses the urban-rural divide, which] is very sharp.

[Take] 2001, 2002, 2003. In three consecutive years, India registers nine percent growth. In 2004 there is an election and the ruling party (the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance) is defeated. And it has not come back [since then]. The problem is the [country's] 300 million poor people who go and vote, never saw the benefit of the nine percent growth. In the subsequent five years, they (the government) called it all-inclusive growth, and did partly, and promise mostly, that they would get them (the poor) the benefits. And they started seeing them.

Currently all benefits are going to urban people. How do we take it to the rural people? How do we bring them to be equals? We need to bring leadership at the rural level. Talent is randomly distributed. It doesn't look at caste, it doesn't look at creed, it doesn't look at religion, it doesn't look at where you are studying and where you are living.

India Knowledge@Wharton: How can you develop leadership at the high school level among students?

Nadar: At the level in which you develop them, because afterwards it may be late. You develop it in every stage. They get very aspirational. Aspiration comes when all of them are almost similarly qualified. If you go to 2,000 schools and take school toppers and select 200 students, they're all very similarly qualified when they come in. So you compete and then you correct yourself. In some field or the other, we make sure that they lead. If we hold a play like Ramayan (an ancient Indian epic story), 56 of the 200 students will participate. We'll make sure that in sports, they compete every week on something or other. Competition raises leadership. There are many team events in which they participate. It's a very busy life. Those kids lead a very busy life. They get up at five in the morning, they get to work at 5:45 and they get to sleep at nine or 9:30; they don't have a minute free.

To me these are projects which will take a long time. I hope I live long enough to see the results because they have to go to school, then they have to go through college, then they have to go through work life. Will they go into an IIT or IIM (Indian Institute of Technology or Indian Institute of Management)? I guarantee you, yes. Unquestionably they will be able to pick up where they want to go, anywhere in the world. I would want them to go back to IAS (Indian Administrative Service, the country's civil services cadre) or political life. Run for office. We would prepare them for it. When I was very young, they said every Kennedy was prepared to be a president of the United States. They pretty much did.

Useem: So as a business entrepreneur for many years, you developed a capacity to think strategically and to build an organization, set a direction. As you've come in now to serve as a social entrepreneur, what are the skills that have carried over from your years at HCL?

Nadar: Whatever we aspire to do has to be big to keep my interest in it alive. All our initiatives were bigger than what we thought we could do at the time we started them. The first thing we always do is to work out a plan. The plan has always been a 10-year plan. We work on financial allocations, which will be a 10-year allocation. We work out an organization structure of how we create it. We said, "First, we need a board that will guide it." We construct the board. The person who had served as the head of the IAS academy is on our board, someone who's managing the petroleum ministry is on our board. You know, we got them. For the school, we have one who is principal of Miranda (Miranda House, a residential women's college in New Delhi); the vice chancellor of Delhi University is on our board. For the engineering college, we have Dr. Natarajan (R. Natarajan, former director of the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai) on the board and we have Dr. [V.S.] Arunachalam on the board. We have the previous election commissioner on the board.

The first task is to create a board that will help and then build the institution. And then build an organization structure. How do you translate a 10-year goal to a five-year goal? They have to have the aspiration. These things cannot be served by people to whom it is just not a job. In our educational institution, people turnover is pretty close to zero because they like what they do. They are compensated well and we introduce metrics for everything, because it must be measured. The topper's grade was 92.8 percent. In the school for leadership, 25% [of the students] scored about 90%.

How did they get there? It is checked out week by week. It runs with an institutional discipline. I learned that from somebody. I learned how the [Bill and Melinda] Gates Foundation works. It works like a business organization, excepting [that] its business is to meet some other objective, which are not business objectives.

India Knowledge@Wharton: How will you measure your success?

Nadar: In?

India Knowledge@Wharton: In the field of social impact and education.

Nadar: The social impact of something like an engineering institution is measurable. There are many measures to that. [But for] something like a brand new idea of a university, which will function in collaboration with universities in multiple countries, it has never been done before. So it has to be adapted. We always create an institution, an organization.

We have to keep correcting -- being the first in doing anything is nothing to go by. The only thing to go by is to keep collecting feedback to see [if what you are doing] is correct and keep checking the outcome. We have an advisory board of people who not only govern the inputs but also will be the final consumers -- it could be businesses, it could be the government, or wherever we want these people (students) to go to, such as research.

India Knowledge@Wharton: Thank you very much.

Useem: Terrific, thank you. It was very interesting.

2010年10月26日 星期二



HongKong,Oct26,2010-(亞太商訊)-倫敦商學院於剛公佈的金融時報(FinancialTimes)行政工商管理碩士(EMBA)排名榜再次獲得佳績,更成為全球唯一一所商學院在排行榜中擁有2個席位的商學院。 倫敦商學院與哥倫比亞商學院合辦的行政工商管理碩士全球課程(EMBA-Global)本年度全球 ...


48th Is Not a Good Place

The National Academies, the country’s leading advisory group on science and technology, warned in 2005 that unless the United States improved the quality of math and science education, at all levels, it would continue to lose economic ground to foreign competitors.

The situation remains grim. According to a follow-up report published last month, the academies found that the United States ranks 27th out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science or engineering, while the World Economic Forum ranked this country 48th out of 133 developed and developing nations in quality of math and science instruction.

More than half the patents awarded here last year were given to companies from outside the United States. In American graduate schools, nearly half of students studying the sciences are foreigners; while these students might once have spent their careers here, many are now opting to return home.

In a 2009 survey, nearly a third of this country’s manufacturing companies reported having trouble finding enough skilled workers.

The academies call on federal and state governments to improve early childhood education, strengthen the public school math and science curriculum, and improve teacher training in these crucial subjects. It calls on government and colleges to provide more financial and campus support to students who excel at science.

The report sets a goal of increasing the percentage of people with undergraduate degrees in science from 6 percent to 10 percent. It calls for the country to quickly double the number of minority students who hold science degrees — to 160,000 from about 80,000.

Too often, science curriculums are grinding and unimaginative, which may help explain why more than half of all college science majors quit the discipline before they earn their degrees. The science establishment has long viewed a high abandonment rate as part of a natural winnowing.

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County — one of the leading producers of African-American research scientists in the country — rejects that view. It has shown that science and engineering students thrive when they are given mentors and early exposure to exciting, cutting-edge laboratory science. Other colleges are now trying to emulate the program.

Congress has an important role to play. It can start by embracing the academies’ call to attract as many as 10,000 qualified math and science teachers annually to the profession. One sound way to do that — while also increasing the number of minority scientists — is to expand funding for programs that support high-caliber math and science students in college in return for their commitment to teach in needy districts.

2010年10月21日 星期四

At Harvard, the Kitchen as Lab

At Harvard, the Kitchen as Lab

Michele McDonald for The New York Times

Students at Harvard who are studying the science of cooking learn techniques from guest chefs who stop by, like Carles Tejedor from Barcelona, shown with Amy Rowat, a researcher.


Video: Harvard Lectures on Science and Cooking

On YouTube, lectures from a public series given in connection to the undergraduate course, with Ferran Adrià, Harold McGee and others.

IN a basement laboratory at Harvard, Ashley Prince read from the instructions as her lab partner, Allan Jean-Baptiste, poured fruit nectar into a pot.

“Heat it to 113,” Ms. Prince said.

Then Mr. Jean-Baptiste added a mix of sugar and pectin, and Ms. Prince whisked.

“So far, so good,” Ms. Prince said.

These Harvard students were making chewy fruit gelées for From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science, an undergraduate course that uses the kitchen to convey the basics of physics and chemistry, a most unusual Ivy League approach to science.

Each Thursday, David A. Weitz, a physics professor, or Michael P. Brenner, a professor of applied mathematics, covers the science concepts. On the following Tuesday, one of a select group of top chefs, some well versed in kitchen technology — like Wylie Dufresne, of WD-50 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, or Grant Achatz, of Alinea in Chicago — talks about cooking techniques that illustrate the science.

Besides the laboratory work — the week before the fruit gelées, the students made ceviche; the week after, molten chocolate cake and ice cream — the students also work on projects tackling some sort of culinary science conundrum.

The guest chefs have suggested ideas and problems that they hope the students can solve.

Mr. Dufresne and the other chefs at WD-50 have concocted Parmesan noodles for the fall menu, but the texture deteriorates too quickly.

“They’re e-mailing and calling, ‘Is there any team you have yet that can run this project?’ ” said Amy Rowat, a postdoctoral researcher who is also involved in putting together the course.

Mr. Achatz wants help with some dessert geometry. At Alinea, some desserts are served by pouring them onto a latex sheet draped on the table. Cream will pool into the expected circular puddle. But chocolate flows, to spectacular effect, into a square puddle, and Mr. Achatz would like to know why.

The projects will culminate in a science fair in December, at which the students will be judged on their science (by the instructors) and the culinary presentation (by chefs including David Chang, of the Momofuku restaurants).

For Mr. Jean-Baptiste, a junior majoring in economics, it’s been an introduction to two worlds. “I think I will start to cook,” he said. “I actually think I will take more science classes.”

His gelée experiment was part of a lesson on elasticity (how easily a solid, like gelatin, can be squeezed or pulled) and viscosity (whether a liquid flows fast or slow).

Dr. Weitz also used a steak to demonstrate elasticity, measuring its thickness, applying some weight to it and seeing how much it was squeezed.

“A steak is a spring,” he said enthusiastically. “We’re going to understand the difference between a raw, rare and well-done steak. Tofu has exactly the same behavior. It’s all the same.”

Cooks increase the viscosity of gravies and sauces by using flour and cornstarch as thickeners. In recent years, some chefs have manipulated the textures of their dishes by tapping ingredients from the processed-food industry like xanthan gum and guar gum.

To show how that worked, Dr. Weitz had a brainstorm in the morning, saying in an e-mail to Dr. Rowat, “Please bring spaghetti.”

Pouring cooked spaghetti out of the pot, Dr. Weitz explained to the students that the strands entangle and rub against one another and that the friction slows their movement, increasing the viscosity. In the same way, the proteins in flour, cornstarch and xanthan gum also increase viscosity and thicken the liquid.

If the spaghetti strands — or these proteins — stick together, the liquid turns into a gel.

In the laboratory, as their fruit gelées were cooling and solidifying in a freezer, the students measured the viscosity of water mixed with varying amounts of guar gum and the elasticity of blocks of gelatin.

The experimental apparatus was an improvised mash-up of science and cooking tools. To measure the viscosity, the liquids were poured into measuring columns — standard equipment for a chemistry lab. The funnels were upside-down mustard squeeze bottles with the bottoms cut off.

This particular week, Carles Tejedor, the chef at Via Veneto in Barcelona, had flown in to give the Tuesday lecture. He stopped by the laboratory to see what the students were doing and then started experimenting himself.

In his kitchen, Mr. Tejedor has been developing olive oil jellies. A tiny bit of xanthan gum can thicken water but does nothing when added to olive oil. But if he first made a mixture of water and xanthan gum and then blended in olive oil, the result would be olive oil jelly.

In the Harvard lab, he did something similar but with guar gum, a thickener he had not used before.

“And it’s really good,” Mr. Tejedor said. “It’s like crème brûlée.”

(The guar gum was actually a second choice of the instructors. Originally, the lab was to use xanthan gum solutions, but “at high concentrations, it has strange properties we couldn’t explain,” Dr. Rowat said.)

Explaining how all this works — why, say, honey is viscous and sugar water is not — has turned out to be a tough task, even for the professional scientists.

“What we realized is we also don’t completely understand it,” Dr. Weitz said. “We learn a lot in trying to explain it.”

The science-of-cooking class grew out of a visit to Harvard a couple of years ago by Ferran Adrià, the wizard chef of El Bulli in Spain. At the time, Harvard was looking to revamp and revitalize the core undergraduate curriculum, and the idea of such a class popped up. Mr. Adrià liked the idea, and his foundation collaborated on the course material, which covers the phases of matter, thermodynamics and the various chemical reactions that turn ingredients into food.

The subject material appealed to the students as well, many of whom are history or political-science majors yet to take a science course.

Nearly 700 students wanted to enroll. By lottery, 300 got in. (Dr. Brenner noted to the students that the chance of getting into the class, about 43 percent, was still much better than the chance of getting a reservation at El Bulli.)

A “Top Chef” aesthetic has already made its way into the laboratory. Madison Shelton, a senior, cut her finished gelée into various shapes and attempted to stand them up on a rectangular white shape, just as on the television cooking shows. The soft gelées, however, did not stand up straight, but leaned to the side.

“If you have time, you ought to figure out the elasticity of your jellies,” said Tom Dimiduk, a physics graduate student and one of the teaching assistants for the lab section.

Ms. Shelton took no heed of that suggestion. “I need to make more shapes — a star,” she said, and she cut a star out of the gelée, then a heart, and added them to the plate.

2010年10月20日 星期三

regression-discontinuity vs randomized, controlled trials

Published Online: October 19, 2010
Published in Print: October 20, 2010, as Federal Criteria for Studies Grow

'What Works' Broadens Its Research Standards

Clearinghouse Moves Past 'Gold Standard'

Premium article access courtesy of Edweek.org.

For the first time since its inception, the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse is broadening its definition of “gold standard” research to include nonexperimental designs.

As part of the Institute of Education Sciences’ push to make research more relevant to educators, the clearinghouse has devised standards by which it can consider two new methods for rigorous research. In addition to the randomized, controlled trials now considered the gold standard, education researchers are now able to use regression-discontinuityRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader, a method that uses a cutoff point rather than random assignment to form comparison groups, and single-case studiesRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader in certain situations. In clearinghouse reviews, studies that adhere to the new standards are now considered, along with randomized, controlled trials, to result in the “strongest evidence” to guide educators and policymakers.

The standards, which have been in development for more than three years, were posted on the clearinghouse website over the summer and are already being used to evaluate incoming research, according to Rebecca A. Maynard, the IES commissioner for the National Center for Education, Evaluation and Regional Assistance. However, the clearinghouse plans to tweak the standards further this fall and has asked researchers to weigh in on their usability. The clearinghouse plans to produce reports of research that meets the new quality standards, but Ms. Maynard said it may be several months before the first ones come out because there will be an extra layer of review for those reports.

“We want to make sure those standards seem to have been functionally easy to apply and that we’ve been able to apply them fairly and report the evidence in a meaningful way,” she said.

The institute, which serves as the research arm for the Education Department, established the clearinghouse in 2002 in order to showcase high-quality research for educators and policymakers. Yet its rigorous criteria for inclusion, which focus primarily on randomized, controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies, at first found relatively few studies that met the bar. Of those that met the criteria, so few showed strong positive effects that the site was given the moniker the “Nothing Works Clearinghouse.”

Critics have eased up on the nickname, however, as more studies with positive effects came out and the clearinghouse moved to include a broader array of research. For example, it produces guides showing the best practices culled from all research in a given instruction area, such as English-language learners. It also conducts quick reviews of the quality of individual studies on hot topics, such as charter schools.

JAMES W. KOHLMOOS wants to see standards for many different study methods.

“I think the What Works Clearinghouse in a way helps shape the marketplace of research; the standards that are contained in the What Works Clearinghouse then shape the way people will go about doing work,” said James W. Kohlmoos, the president of the Knowledge Alliance, a Washington-based group that represents research organizations. “Just the fact that they’re looking at it, to me, suggests they are eager to make the What Works Clearinghouse more usable and more relevant to what the end user needs and wants, and, to me, that’s a positive thing.”

Different Methods

To meet the highest evidence bar previously, researchers generally had to conduct a randomized, controlled trial, in which subjects are randomly assigned to receive an intervention or not, with other factors as closely matched as possible. If the students in the two groups are otherwise the same, the program or intervention being studied can be presumed to cause changes seen between the two groups. Charter schools have become hot topics for experimental design in part because the lotteries used to assign students to overenrolled schools create a natural experiment situation for researchers.

Single-case design studies are much more specialized. They are experiments that involve a single subject, be it a student, classroom, or school district. The researcher repeatedly measures an outcome in response to an intervention under many different conditions. In this case, the researcher sets a baseline measurement before implementing the intervention, so the subject becomes its own control group.

Single-case studies are frequently used in special education research, particularly for less common disorders such as autism, according to Scott Cody, a deputy director of the clearinghouse and the associate director of human-services research at the Princeton, N.J.-based Mathematica Policy Research Inc., which operates the clearinghouse.

“Each single case study is not designed for generalization,” Mr. Cody said, but, “once you’ve got a critical mass of single-case studies, you can start to generalize.”

For the clearinghouse to publish single-case study results, they have to come from at least five studies by three or more research teams in three or more geographic locations and cover at least 20 cases, Mr. Cody said. The clearinghouse is conducting a pilot study this fall to gauge the size of effects that can be expected from those studies.

The clearinghouse also decided to write standards for regression-discontinuity studies “because it’s becoming very popular, ... so it seemed important to take a hard look,” Ms. Maynard said. “We’re getting out a little bit in front and hoping we’re able to provide guidance.”

Like randomized, controlled trials, regression-discontinuity studies gauge whether a program or intervention causes certain effects—for example, whether a phonics tutoring program increases students’ performance on a reading test. Rather than randomly assigning similar students to receive the intervention or not, a regression-discontinuity study compares students on either side of an objective cutoff point used to assign students to one group or the other. The tutoring program, say, may only take students who have scored lower than 75 percent on a phonics test. The students who scored 74 percent, barely qualifying for the tutoring, and those who scored 76 percent, just out of the pool, start from a nearly identical point, statistically. Researchers then compare the outcomes of the two groups.

“Here you know exactly who got the treatment and why, and you know that any other differences between the groups are because of the treatment,” said Jill Constantine, a clearinghouse deputy director and an associate research director at Mathematica.

Regression discontinuity can be more palatable to parents than randomized trials, since researchers don’t have to prevent students from receiving an intervention solely for research purposes. Ms. Maynard said researchers also see such studies as “easier, quicker and cheaper; people are defaulting to that instead of randomized trials.”

A Broader Base

Jon Baron, the president of the Washington-based Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy and the vice chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences, which advises the institute on clearinghouse operations, voiced concern that the clearinghouse may be jumping the gun in declaring that regression-discontinuity or single-case studies can provide results as reliable as randomized trials do. He notedRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader that there have been few attempts to replicate the results of randomized trials using other methods, and those that have been done “show consistently [that] many of the widely used quasi-experimental methods, [including regression discontinuity], don’t do well in replicating the results of a really good randomized, control trial.”

“Those nonrandomized studies are very important, but it’s when the question comes to, is there definitive evidence that a program works, … the answer is generally you can only get to that level of evidence with well-run [randomized, controlled trials] carried out in real-world settings.”

By contrast, Miguel Urquiola, an associate economics professor at Columbia University who has previously critiquedRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader the quality of regression-discontinuity studies, said the new standards do “a good job of simplifying some criteria that could help researchers understand when there are problems. … Under these conditions, RD can give answers that are as credible as an experiment.”

ERIC A. HANUSHEK says the standards will improve research quality.

Others, including Eric A. Hanushek, the chairman of the National Board for Education Sciences and an economist at Stanford University, see the new methods as a natural broadening of the clearinghouse’s research base. Mr. Hanushek and Mr. Urquiola both predicted the new standards will improve the quality of regression-discontinuity and single-case studies and encourage researchers to explore new questions using the methods.

“People now accept that rigorous methods can be applied to education problems, that scientific methods can be applied to education and should be,” Mr. Hanushek said.

Moreover, Ms. Maynard was quick to point out that the new methods will not replace experimental designs in IES’s research quiver, as techniques for experimental designs continue to evolve. “Most of the arguments against using [randomized, controlled trials] are a function of not thinking broadly about how you design an experiment,” she said.

Mr. Urquiola agreed. “It opens the field to certain types of questions that [regression-discontinuity] experiments aren’t set to deal with. In education, there are so many questions that one approach can lead to things being quite limited.

“Wayne J. Camara, the president of the National Council on Measurement in Education, said researchers have been waiting for the clearinghouse to broaden its scope in this way for many years. He considers the new standards a good first step, but both he and Mr. Kohlmoos said they would like to see standards to signify high-quality research conducted in many different methods, from experimental to descriptive.

“Only when you see repeated evidence that looks at context and uses different methodologies and perspectives can you … really understand whether interventions will really hold up against the test of time,” Mr. Camara said.

Vol. 30, Issue 08, Pages 1,12

李家同法國菜單[1].—數學老師考題分三種 讓學生都有信心

感謝 Justing 分享2010年台灣扣件展(年產值千來億元)


李家同法國菜單[1].—數學老師考題分三種 讓學生都有信心


想到Dr. Deming的雞蛋標日期故事
昔日Dr. Deming 從超市買雞蛋放進冰箱前先將每顆雞蛋標上日期
Dr. Deming 是少數關心標準化的人

讀"德國雞蛋" 想到Dr. Deming的雞蛋標日期故事



請了3位助理編輯 每年花不下一百五十萬

接到 臺大歷史系電子報No.21” 內容豐富 轉給許教授參考


「聽科學家們談歷史時,必須保持幾分警惕……我們不妨把它叫做『贗史』(fake history…….費曼稱之為『傳奇史』(convetional myth-history……」(
Leon Lederman , Dick Teresi (
合著)《上帝粒子》(The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? 1993)上海科學教育出版社,2003p. 425


「人民和民族在用盡其他一切可能性之後將理智地行事。」(Franjo Tudman《歷史真相的泥沼》達州譯,北京:中央編譯出版社,1998p.447之引言:「卡茨定律」)【這是一本談錯綜複雜的克羅地亞共和國的史論。】

2010年10月19日 星期二

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

How Handwriting Trains the Brain

Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas

Ask preschooler Zane Pike to write his name or the alphabet, then watch this 4-year-old's stubborn side kick in. He spurns practice at school and tosses aside workbooks at home. But Angie Pike, Zane's mom, persists, believing that handwriting is a building block to learning.

Wendy Bounds discusses the fading art of handwriting, pointing out that new research shows it can benefit children's motor skills and their ability to compose ideas and achieve goals throughout life.

She's right. Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.

It's not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.

Studies suggest there's real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small. Indeed, technology often gets blamed for handwriting's demise. But in an interesting twist, new software for touch-screen devices, such as the iPad, is starting to reinvigorate the practice.

Angie Pike

Four-year-old Zane Pike used to toss aside his handwriting books. Now, the Cabot, Ark., preschooler is learning to write his letters using a smartphone application.

Most schools still include conventional handwriting instruction in their primary-grade curriculum, but today that amounts to just over an hour a week, according to Zaner-Bloser Inc., one of the nation's largest handwriting-curriculum publishers. Even at institutions that make it a strong priority, such as the private Brearley School in New York City, "some parents say, 'I can't believe you are wasting a minute on this,'" says Linda Boldt, the school's head of learning skills.

Recent research illustrates how writing by hand engages the brain in learning. During one study at Indiana University published this year, researchers invited children to man a "spaceship," actually an MRI machine using a specialized scan called "functional" MRI that spots neural activity in the brain. The kids were shown letters before and after receiving different letter-learning instruction. In children who had practiced printing by hand, the neural activity was far more enhanced and "adult-like" than in those who had simply looked at letters.

"It seems there is something really important about manually manipulating and drawing out two-dimensional things we see all the time," says Karin Harman James, assistant professor of psychology and neuroscience at Indiana University who led the study.

Adults may benefit similarly when learning a new graphically different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry, Dr. James says. For instance, in a 2008 study in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, adults were asked to distinguish between new characters and a mirror image of them after producing the characters using pen-and-paper writing and a computer keyboard. The result: For those writing by hand, there was stronger and longer-lasting recognition of the characters' proper orientation, suggesting that the specific movements memorized when learning how to write aided the visual identification of graphic shapes.

Other research highlights the hand's unique relationship with the brain when it comes to composing thoughts and ideas. Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key.

She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information.

And one recent study of hers demonstrated that in grades two, four and six, children wrote more words, faster, and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

AJ Mast for the Wall Street Journal

For research at Indiana University, children undergo specialized MRI brain scans that spot neurological activity.

Even in the digital age, people remain enthralled by handwriting for myriad reasons—the intimacy implied by a loved one's script, or what the slant and shape of letters might reveal about personality. During actress Lindsay Lohan's probation violation court appearance this summer, a swarm of handwriting experts proffered analysis of her blocky courtroom scribbling. "Projecting a false image" and "crossing boundaries," concluded two on celebrity news and entertainment site hollywoodlife.com. Beyond identifying personality traits through handwriting, called graphology, some doctors treating neurological disorders say handwriting can be an early diagnostic tool.

"Some patients bring in journals from the years, and you can see dramatic change from when they were 55 and doing fine and now at 70," says P. Murali Doraiswamy, a neuroscientist at Duke University. "As more people lose writing skills and migrate to the computer, retraining people in handwriting skills could be a useful cognitive exercise."

In high schools, where laptops are increasingly used, handwriting still matters. In the essay section of SAT college-entrance exams, scorers unable to read a student's writing can assign that portion an "illegible" score of 0.


Even legible handwriting that's messy can have its own ramifications, says Steve Graham, professor of education at Vanderbilt University. He cites several studies indicating that good handwriting can take a generic classroom test score from the 50th percentile to the 84th percentile, while bad penmanship could tank it to the 16th. "There is a reader effect that is insidious," Dr. Graham says. "People judge the quality of your ideas based on your handwriting."

Handwriting-curriculum creators say they're seeing renewed interest among parents looking to hone older children's skills—or even their own penmanship. Nan Barchowsky, who developed the Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting method to ease transition from print-script to joined cursive letters, says she's sold more than 1,500 copies of "Fix It … Write" in the past year.

Some high-tech allies also are giving the practice an unexpected boost through hand-held gadgets like smartphones and tablets. Dan Feather, a graphic designer and computer consultant in Nashville, Tenn., says he's "never adapted well to the keypads on little devices." Instead, he uses a $3.99 application called "WritePad" on his iPhone. It accepts handwriting input with a finger or stylus, then converts it to text for email, documents or Twitter updates.

And apps are helping Zane Pike—the 4-year-old who refused to practice his letters. The Cabot, Ark., boy won't put down his mom's iPhone, where she's downloaded a $1.99 app called "abc PocketPhonics." The program instructs Zane to draw letters with his finger or a stylus; correct movements earn him cheering pencils.

[WRITE3] Indiana University

In children who had practiced writing by hand, the scans showed heightened brain activity in a key area, circled on the image at right, indicating learning took place.

"He thinks it's a game," says Angie Pike.

Similarly, kindergartners at Harford Day School in Bel Air, Md., are taught to write on paper but recently also began tracing letter shapes on the screen of an iPad using a handwriting app.

"Children will be using technology unlike I did, and it's important for teachers to be familiar with it," says Kay Crocker, the school's lead kindergarten teacher. Regardless of the input method, she says, "You still need to be able to write, and someone needs to be able to read it."

Write to Gwendolyn Bounds at wendy.bounds@wsj.com

2010年10月15日 星期五

Gaming as Teaching Tool

Gaming as Teaching Tool

October 15, 2010

ANAHEIM — All work and no play makes a dull syllabus.

That is what Sarah Smith-Robbins, director of emerging technologies at the Indiana University at Bloomington, told a somewhat wary audience here at the 2010 Educause conference on Thursday. “Games are absolutely the best way to learn,” she said. “They are superior to any other instructional model.”

Smith-Robbins prefaced her remarks by reminding the audience that she was taking an intentionally strong position in order to stoke debate. But she nevertheless argued that games — as simple as tag or as complex as World of Warcraft — can accomplish an array of teaching goals that more traditional pedagogy says it wants to achieve, but often does not.

“Fundamentally, school is already a game,” she said. “It’s just a really bad one. The rules are not clear. The system works better for some people than for others. Not everybody has the same resources at the beginning of the game. We don’t start on a level playing field or with a shared goal.”

Using games, whether within a single course or across a curriculum, helps iron out these inconsistencies and motivate students, argued Smith-Robbins. Compare a typical course — particularly one where assessment is subjective — to a game like Chutes and Ladders, she said. “When you land on one of those slides, you go down. Everybody sees you go down, you know exactly what happened, you know why it happened. There’s no, ‘This game hates me, it just doesn’t like my ideas.’ It’s simple.”

Further, students are more likely to learn from their mistakes in games, since the stakes are lower than they are with, say, exams. Gamers often get multiple opportunities to try similar challenges over again if they fail. This makes students more apt to reflect on feedback and work through mistakes, Smith-Robbins said. Like practice problems — only, you know, fun.

The point of Smith-Robbins’s presentation was not to prove that gaming is a superior method of learning, but rather that good course design and good game design are based on the same factors: fair rules, clear goals, fair rules, and strong incentives to learn from errors and develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful. Judging by how many students choose games over coursework, it would appear course designers might have something to learn from game designers.

But some were skeptical. “What about efficiency?” asked one audience member. How can professors, teach students everything they need to learn in 15 short weeks via low-stakes, presumably time-consuming games?

Smith-Robbins argued that a well-designed game should in fact allow students to move through lessons more quickly. Most courses, she said, are taught in chunks that only make sense to students in retrospect. In a game, the skills are learned in a context that makes them seem less discrete and more like intuitive steps toward an explicit goal. “So you don’t have to artificially put things in groups of common topics, or by chapters in a book,” she said. “You can break them up into an order than makes sense to the learner, so they can soak them up as quickly as they can.”

Another big concern was whether the rigid rules and objectives inherent to gaming might stifle creativity in the classroom. This was a challenge Smith-Robbins said she and her co-panelists faced when running a decidedly meta pre-conference session earlier in the week, in which they made a game of teaching others how to design classroom games. “One of the hardest things that we had to confront in designing that game was that we wanted to allow the players to be extremely creative, but because we couldn’t anticipate what they could do, we couldn’t figure out how to evaluate that within the games system,” she said. The experiment was a failure.

But what if creativity was the key to winning? There are plenty of games like that — such as Pictionary, or Charades — where there is a goal, but no prescribed path toward achieving it, Smith-Robbins said. A classroom-based game might be designed such that creativity is rewarded, not stifled, she said.

Not every student or course is ideal for gaming, Smith-Robbins said, but there are plenty of courses and curriculums out there that could benefit from games — or at least some of the principles that make games so appealing. “We could certainly do with a dose of play in school, period,” she said. “I hope games can do that. But if we can get the playfulness without the games, that would be an improvement in and of itself.”

For the latest technology news and opinion from Inside Higher Ed, follow @IHEtech on Twitter.

2010年10月10日 星期日

Path to Professions Rankings


Path to Professions Rankings

Check out Paths to Professions, featuring a ranking of the 25 universities whose graduates were top-rated by recruiters, and explore 12 different career paths that many of these graduates followed. The ranking is intended to identify the schools that are most likely to help students land a job in key careers and professions—areas that are growing, pay well and offer high levels of satisfaction. Paths to Professions also features stories and interactive tools to help high school students, college students and their parents think strategically about applying to schools and choosing a major that will give them the best chance at successful and fulfilling careers.

Read now >>

2010年10月8日 星期五

Teaching Math as Narrative Drama

come to live/ come alive

When Edward B. Burger presents a math challenge to his class at Baylor University, he paces the aisles and pairs students together. "I want to hear chattering," he says. Before long, students are laughing and shouting out answers. He dashes to the chalkboard to scribble them down, creating long rows of numbers topped with running stick figures. Mr. Burger, 46, who is visiting from Williams College, keeps up a rapid-fire banter with his students, whom he calls by name. He began teaching night classes at Austin Community College at age 22, while he was working on his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin. "What I was trying to do was to take really complex, intricate, abstract ideas of mathematics and make them come to life for these students," he says. He began encouraging students to be creative and take risks, and even bases a portion of their grades on "the quality of their failure." The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education


Teaching Math as Narrative Drama

Matt Nager for The Chronicle

Edward Burger at Baylor U.

Enlarge Image
close Teaching Math as Narrative Drama 1

Matt Nager for The Chronicle

Edward Burger at Baylor U.

When Edward B. Burger presents a math challenge to his class at Baylor University, he paces the aisles and pairs students together. "I want to hear chattering," he says. Before long, students are laughing and shouting out answers. He dashes to the chalkboard to scribble them down, creating long rows of numbers topped with running stick figures.

Mr. Burger, 46, who is visiting from Williams College, keeps up a rapid-fire banter with his students, whom he calls by name.

He is here this semester as a recipient of Baylor's annual Robert Foster Cherry Award for Great Teaching, which came with $215,000 in cash and $35,000 for Williams's math department.

The 12-member committee that culled more than 100 nominations from around the country was impressed with his string of teaching awards, his multimedia textbooks and videos for secondary schools, and his televised analysis of the math behind the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Mr. Burger was younger than the students he's teaching at Baylor when he discovered how much fun teaching math could be. Armed with a lesson plan and a conviction that he could cut through his classmates' collective fog, he asked his high-school teacher if she'd step aside and let him teach two classes.

"She agreed, and at the age of 17, I stood up in front of a precalculus class of about 40 students who looked at me like I was the biggest nerd in the world," says Mr. Burger.

He began teaching night classes at Austin Community College at age 22, while he was working on his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin. "What I was trying to do was to take really complex, intricate, abstract ideas of mathematics and make them come to life for these students," he says. He began encouraging students to be creative and take risks, and even bases a portion of their grades on "the quality of their failure."

He judges that quality, he says, "by the size of the risk they've taken and the amount of insight they have generated from their mistakes."

In 1990 he received a tenure-track position at Williams, where he is also a professor of social responsibility and personal ethics. The most important issue, he says, is what students will retain from his class 10 years later. "If we are in the business of transforming lives and can't give a good answer to that question," he says, "we're failing."

To demonstrate the concept of infinity to a class of mostly liberal-arts students at Baylor, he sketches a trough that he describes as containing an infinite number of Ping-Pong balls, which are falling into a barrel, 10 at a time, as a hypothetical student reaches in and plucks balls out at shorter and shorter intervals.

"Soon you'll be working faster than the speed of sound, than the speed of light. You black out, regain consciousness, approach the barrel, look inside. My question to you is, 'What's inside? What is in the barrel?'"

The students pair up at their desks and compare guesses. "It has to be infinity," one says. His partner responds, "He's trying to trick us. ... Maybe the answer's zero." Mr. Burger writes these and other guesses, which he draws out of more-hesitant students, on the board. He tells the class to come back on Tuesday for the answer.

Adam Telatovich, a sophomore math major, says some of his favorite lessons in Mr. Burger's number-theory class follow that pattern. "He starts out with a big picture, describing these really far-out problems, and says this is what we're going to work up to. Then he builds up suspense and leaves the punch line for the next class. When the class is over, we're disappointed."

Lance L. Littlejohn, chairman of the department of mathematics at Baylor, describes Mr. Burger as "a teaching phenomenon": well organized, articulate, and engaging.

At Williams, when his students arrive for the first day of class, they sometimes tell him that they've already had him in a course. That's because he wrote an online, multimedia math textbook used in many classrooms nationwide. California just started a pilot program in which middle-school students are given iPads to read his textbook and watch his lecture series.

Mr. Burger, who once planned to go to law school, discourages students from zeroing in too early on a career. "The whole point of higher education is to mess things up and challenge basic assumptions about how you look at the world and fit into it," he says. "If you don't allow your education to challenge those assumptions, there's no point in it."

He advises students to choose their careers by finding things they would do on their own for fun. "On good days," he says, "I almost feel it's criminal to accept money for what I do."

This fall he's stimulating discussion about good teaching across the Baylor campus by helping to organize weekly lunch discussions for faculty members. He will also speak this week to a regional meeting of K-12 math teachers and plans to visit local public schools to meet with math teachers and students. "He's wonderful in the college classroom," says Heidi J. Hornik, a professor of art history and chair of the Cherry award committee, "but he also reaches deep down into the academic system to make math exciting for everyone."

By the way, the answer to the question about the number of Ping-Pong balls in the barrel: zero.

2010年10月3日 星期日

司馬賀R. H. Tawney 談教育



  我是有心辦網路上的自由SIMON大學。他以為大學量已經太多,當前提以及未來數世代)中,最重要的是如何利用現代化的傳播科技,把世界上的一流大學(Strong universities)之資源與社區連用、分享。


近來讀張漢裕教授所譯的R. H. Tawney《中國的土地與勞力》(1995,協志工業叢書;原書1929年出版),其中有許多話很重要:「...國家所需要的是受過教育的人,不是沒受過教育的畢業生,…再不可為了大量生產而犧牲內容。應該側重教學生自己思考──這是比較費力的事...」(中譯本,pp. 206 -07

R. H. Tawney真是名家,他對於中國現代化的整體建議是引《浮士德》中的一句詩為喻:『設非自己心靈出,何得精神助你與。』意思是:若非從你自己心中湧出,你不能得到什麼使你心靈更爽健。(p. 209

Land and Labour in China by R. H. Tawney《中國的土地與勞力》

2010年10月2日 星期六

Weapons of Mass Instruction上學真的有用嗎?

Weapons of Mass Instruction上學真的有用嗎?


Weapons of Mass Instruction

A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling
By John Gatto