My Passion for Learning & Google Drive

Carl Sagan Quote Learn

Forgive me for prying if I am, but what fuels your obvious passion for learning?

You are not prying. It is an interesting question and one that I am happy to take a stab at. Besides, I asked you to come up with questions that you had. It wouldn’t really be fair of me to NOT answer a question like this. And thank you for saying that my passion for learning is obvious; that is a real compliment.

I think that I have always liked learning but I was always sort of ambivalent about school. When I was younger, I was interested in classical knowledge: science, Shakespeare, classical music, because I wanted to understand why everyone thought those things were important. But I was afraid that if anyone knew that I was interested in those things I’d be FORCED to take a bunch of classes that were difficult and boring. So I snuck into the library in my hometown and read books and listened to recordings in the library study room. I wouldn’t even check these materials out.

As I got older and began to have a wider sets of experiences I discovered that I never tired of learning new things, meeting new people, eating new foods, traveling to new parts of the world, listening to new music etc. Some people want to fill their lives with money or things that money can buy and that is common in our society, but I find that I don’t really care about these things as much as I care about learning and being open to the knowledge that unfolds. Things that money can buy can be replaced, but things that feed our souls and our minds are unique to us.

I would encourage you to keep your curiosity alive by pursuing new interests and learning things. Doing this and being thankful for what you have and what you have learned will bring more happiness than all the wealth or power or status one might accumulate in a lifetime.

Would it be possible to use i cloud storage as oppose to google drive since i only have apple devices?

Of course you can use whatever storage you’d like, but I am going to ask you to create a Google Account for this class. Just so you know, the Google apps work on Apple products as well. I have mine linked with my iPhone so it talks to my calendar and I can view and edit documents on any computer or on my phone. It’s pretty cool.

Important Things to Learn & Handwritten Notes

What is the most important thing you want students to take away from this course ?

The most important thing for students to take away from this course is that they are the ones who are responsible for their learning. They need to follow what is interesting to them and they need to challenge those who would stand in their way. I also want you to be able to monitor and gauge the effectiveness of your behavior. We will do that in a systematic way.

As I have said from day one, this class is about your behavior. If you are aware of your behaviors and you can direct your will to control your behaviors, there will be a good chance for you to accomplish your goals.

Syllabus questions : 1. Will you be grading our notes?

I typically don’t grade notes, but I will want to see them because I want to know how you are organizing your thoughts.

  1. Will we be working in groups often?

If you haven’t noticed the other people in the classroom already, let me be the first to let you know that there are other people besides you and me in there. Okay, I an being sarcastic and I will stop, but I want you to recognize that you are already in groups. I want you to formally work with those people and I will help facilitate that process. You affect the others in the room and they affect you already. We are going to “ride the lightning” on that.

  1. Do you prefer printed or handwritten work ?

That is going to depend. Research shows that it is better to take handwritten notes than it is to make them on a computer, but with tablets and electronic drawing/writing pads, that’s a tougher call. I would say for assignment, think about getting those done on an electronic device unless otherwise instructed.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/to-remember-a-lecture-better-take-notes-by-hand/361478/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2014/06/princeton_university_study_finds_students_more_likely_to_learn_by_taking_handwritten_notes.html

How to ask better question, divergent thinking and personality inventories

How can one be more inquisitive?

Hang around with some 3-5 year old. Seriously. They want to understand the world around them and they question or mess with everything. Not because they are trying to create trouble, but they want to know, They don’t know NOT to ask questions and they will poke and prod until they get what they want. Once kids get into school, they learn that asking questions makes them a problem for the teachers. They learn that the things they think are important are not the subjects they deal with in school

How can you ask effective questions?

Human beings get better at what they practice. Make lists of questions that you might find interesting. If you can’t think of things that interest you, first check your pulse, then Google lists of questions. Short list from NPR’s Story Corps:

  • Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
  • What was the happiest moment of your life? The saddest?
  • Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
  • Who has been the kindest to you in your life?
  • What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • What is your favorite memory of me?
  • Are there any funny stories your family tells about you that come to mind?
  • Are there any funny stories or memories or characters from your life that you want to tell me about?
  • What are you proudest of?
  • When in life have you felt most alone?
  • If you could hold on to one memory from your life forever, what would that be?
  • How has your life been different than what you’d imagined?
  • How would you like to be remembered?
  • Do you have any regrets?
  • What does your future hold?
  • What are your hopes for what the future holds for me? For my children?
  • If this was to be our very last conversation, is there anything you’d want to say to me
  • For your great great grandchildren listening to this years from now: is there any wisdom you’d want to pass on to them? What would you want them to know?
  • Is there anything that you’ve never told me but want to tell me now?
  • Is there something about me that you’ve always wanted to know but have never asked?

Is convergent or divergent thinking better?

It depends on the situation. When do you think it would be more appropriate to use convergent and when would you think it might be better to use divergent? (See how I slipped some questions in there?)

Why take a personality inventory?

A personality inventory is one tool we will use to get you thinking about yourself:  your likes, your interests, your values, your personality, your interests.  Sometimes it is hard to see ourselves in meaningful ways. As the Chinese proverb states: The fish is the last to discover water.

Re: Asking Questions, Attendance and Exemptions

confused-freshman

1) Do we always have  to comment and questions even if we don’t have any?

I require students come to my Introduction to the College Experience class with questions.

Questions: Ever been around a 3 yr-old? They are question asking machines. You were 3 once. You could be that machine again and you would learn like you did when you were 3. Think about how many things you were taking in because your mind was set to question. I would say that if you cannot come up with any questions, you are on your way to dying. Questions are the things that keep us alive and make us strive. They send us to the moon. They solve crimes. They make art. They create cures for disease. No, questions are the most important thing you can have. They will keep you alive, never doubt it.

2) What will happen if we miss more than 3 classes because of being sick? What can we do if something came up at the last minutes and we cannot make it to class?

My class requires a 90% attendance rate in order to pass. We meet about 27 times so they can miss like 3 times. Students have some bad habits about class attendance they’ve acquired in high school, which this question seems to suppose.

Absence – You fail, automatically. Period. If you are too sick to show up for classes you need to ask yourself how you expect to pass classes.  If you have a major illness, by all means take care of yourself and we can see you next semester. What do you think would happen to the class environment if some people just decided not to show up.  Would that work in a workplace? What happens to people who don’t show up in the workplace?

If something comes up at the last minute, you need to do what adults do and decide what you are going to do about it.  Don’t expect the other adults to accommodate you. If you need to miss, you miss.  If you miss too many, you fail. That is the consequence. Adults get that. Kids expect to have an adult with authority fix the situation for them.

3) Can we be exempt from finals if we have a good grade?

Final Exemption:  No. My final is a actually a self-evaluation where you look at your own work and behavior and evaluate what you did well. Why would you skip that? If my class was a big Easter Egg Hunt for the right answers and you had a full basket of eggs, perhaps that would make sense. But it isn’t and so, no exemption.

Learning from Ambiguity

There is an unfortunate reality for most students that I see in a college class; they have been taught to avoid failure and ambiguity. Since they were little, whether they wanted to or not, they have been told that the goal of being a student is to make As. Even though many of them don’t they still feel guilty about not making As. It is as if every activity they have ever undertaken has been designed for them to succeed. The trouble is that no one designed the rest of their lives that way.

I had an administrator laugh at me one time when I said, aloud in front of a group of fellow teachers, that I design activities where I know students will fail, at least at first. I want them to regain the ability to struggle to achieve something, to not find the correct answer easily. It has been my experience that struggle in most of our lives is one of the things that causes us to grow and mature into full-fledged adults. But our K12 system wants students to be perfect in a narrow band of academic knowledge that can be recalled for standardized tests so they learn to avoid failure. They learn to avoid struggle and ambiguity.

Adam Smith, the man who is credited with describing the foundations modern capitalism viewed human beings as inherently lazy and needed incentives to labor. A few hundred years later, B.F. Skinner postulated that human behavior could be conditioned through a series of rewards and punishments. These two streams of thought run like a gutter in the ghetto of public education. It really doesn’t matter what students learn if our view of them is that they are lazy and need to be controlled to do anything of consequence.

My experience with students, when they enter my class, is that they are beleaguered by these views. They understand it for the crap that it is at a level almost instinctual. They expect every instructor to take part in this game with a system of tricks and points to coerce them into doing and thinking the right things even though they know they aren’t learning things of real importance. But they know that they will need to get the “right answer” because that has always been the goal. When I don’t play this way, they often get mad at me, at least at first.

They aren’t used to failure. They aren’t used to anyone talking about it with them honestly. It is disorienting. They don’t know what to do when the “right answer” does not spring forth from the back of the book or from their instructors’ lips the moment they don’t understand something. I help them exist in that space, to navigate it with inquiry and patience.  In short, I create a place to struggle and fail and then struggle some more. But in the end, they begin to realize that they aren’t lazy and they don’t need to be controlled. They need to have a process to deal with questions with no apparent “right answer” or several answers all of which could be the right answer. They learn to deal with that failure. They make friends with that ambiguity that is a hallmark of adult life. In a small way, they grow up just a little in my class.

First Year Student Questions: Learn without Cheating, Taking Notes, and Types of Thinking

Senecio-1922 Klee

  1. Exactly how are we going to learn how to get correct answers without cheating?

You are going to learn by thinking critically.  I am going to show you the process of how to be curious and skeptical.  I am going to show you how to verify answers you get from sources so that you will know when they are right, or you will at least of good reason to believe that they are right. That’s the thing about cheating; how do you know the answers you have are correct? They might be correct or they might not, but the cheater cannot tell. He/she is only going on faith that this information is correct.

Imagine that you broke into a home in the dark.  You might know that there are some valuables in the house, but unless you know for sure what they are and where they are, you run the risk of getting caught or stealing some worthless object or both. If you knew what you were looking for, you would have a greater chance of success. Heck, you might be smart enough to get your own valuables so you don’t have to steal from someone else.

Questions for the syllabus.

  1. What is the difference between Divergent thinking and Convergent thinking?

Divergent thinking is being able to think in different ways or to think of lots of possible solutions to a problem. Convergent thinking is bringing many ideas together to create, from the best options, a good solution to a problem.  Really great places to learn or work seem to have a nice balance of both things. My opinion.

  1. Do we have to take notes the same way that is shown in the syllabus video, or can we take notes however we like?

You can always use notes in any way you like, but if you only have one way to take notes, there will be some times when that one way is what is called for and another time that it is exactly the wrong thing.  Think of note-taking as a tool. The more kinds you have, the more likely you will be able to complete different jobs. If all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.

New Qestions About Learning from New Students

too much tech

Question: Aren’t most college classes geared towards correct answers just like middle/high school?

Answer: No. The difference between college and K12 is like the difference between the K12 school cafeteria and working in a restaurant. In in the cafeteria, you show up with your tray and expect to have mediocre food plopped upon it. You’ll complain, but wind up eating it anyway. In college, the chef calls you into the kitchen and says, “You are working at this station and you will need these tools and skills to prepare this food, and it better be GOOD.”  The higher you go in education, the more is this is true.

In my experience, schools focus on getting the correct answers to limited questions. They rarely ask students to come up with questions. Often the reason that school is considered “boring” by many students is that no really important questions are asked and none of the answers seem to connect to things that people care about.

If you think about it, most of the really important things we learn in life are done outside of a classroom. Correct answers come with experience, failure and demonstrations. Whether we are falling in love, making a cheese cake or learning to drive a car, we know we are getting it right because we had to do something to get there. We had to perform and not just with little tiny facts on multiple choice tests. And yet schools and education has been reduced down to passing one or two tests.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in correct answers sometimes, but I am careful about the things which cause me to feel that I am “right.” If I am right about something, I lose my curiosity about it. I stop looking for answers. If I am curious and skeptical and I have just a little bit of humility, I am able to know, and I mean really know, just a little more everyday. Curiosity welcomes good answers because they always bring 3 more good questions with them to the party.