Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review Contest: Do Less, Achieve More - Discover the Hidden Power of Giving In (reviewed by Syarina Abdul Kadir)

“Life is meant to be easy.”

‘Do Less, Achieve More’ by Chin-Ning Chu is a self-help book on how to live your life with eases, how to simplify it and enjoy life to its fullest potentials. The stories and advices in this book revolve around the story of the ‘Rainmaker’ by Carl Jung, a premier student of psychoanalysis. The ‘Rainmaker’ is, to some, a miraculous man whose job is to bring rain from the heaven above down to the dry earth. But to him, it is a job that does not need any divine power but only requires the power from within himself. He is very well in-tuned with his actions; his mind is always at ease and has discovered the great power in him. These are the three major secrets discussed by Chu. Chu proved that by doing less work with less worry, you can still achieve greatness and take pleasure in it.

In this book, it is apparent that Chin-Ning Chu likes to convey her train of thoughts to her readers by using allusions. She uses this method through mentioning famous names, events in history and by referring or quoting to well-known books. To be precise, several names of prominent people of today and the past were brought up. Names from the past were mentioned in the topic of the role of friends in life such as Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds. Chu talked about the three phase that life follows; the ups and downs on achieving and revealing the destiny in this book of hers. She match up this context to the life of George Washington, from being a fraud to a great inspiring American icon and all the three stages he had to face through his life.

Furthermore, the oriental side of Chu was also put in. For example, quotes from Lao-tzu and Confucius. One of Confucius quotes that brought me thinking was “When you do not know how to live life, how can you ask about how to die?” page 138. Not to forget, “Every family has a sutra that is difficult to chant” meaning that we should not have envy in our heart because every one of us have our own problems in life that we cannot escape, are one of the several Chinese aphorisms that can be found in pages 52, 79 and 82.

Chin-Ning Chu not only involved histories and people from the west and the east but also from in-between. Hindu philosopher; Shankaracharya’s advised on how we should always be willing to face the worst outcomes and not run away from it, which was also included in ‘Do Less, Achieve More’. Hindu and Chinese wasn’t the only resource she used for this book, for example “Faith without work is dead” is acquired from the Bible, James 2:26 (page 43) and also a number of citations taken from the Gospel of Peace, William James and Meister Eckhart. Also several wise quotations from Sufis were put in. “My death is my wedding with eternity” (page 137) by a Sufi poet Rumi which means that we live our life to prepare ourselves for death. But one excerpt in this book made the most impression on me (page 127) which is actually taken from the Quraan (suroh Al-An’am, chapter 7, verse 59) and it quote “Not a leaf dare fall without Heaven’s permission”. It gives a meaning to us that nothing in this life happens by accident, everything happens for a reason.

In addition, metaphors like “spiritually bankrupt” and “ego’s balloon” are some of the ways Chu portrayed the natural attitude of a human being. To her, our life energy is like a bank account. There must be a constant deposit to ensure that we are able to make a withdrawal later on. When there is none, only emptiness inside our heart, we are then considered as “spiritually bankrupt” according to Chu. We are the “hostage of life”, we are tied to what destiny brings us, but that does not mean we should just surrender to destiny and sit back. Each of us has a choice in life that is able to twist and turn destiny to our desires. Moreover, on page 126, it is stated that “We are the audience as well as the actor”. Each actor has their own role to act out and each audience has their own opinion on the act. Signifying that whatever we perform in life, we must look back at what we did and should improve our actions to make a better ‘performance’.

Inserting quite a few of connotation in this book has made the words turned into an art piece. It strengthens the meaning of the words and shows the attitude a writer portrayed to her thoughts. Take for example the words “glorious perfection” on page 157. “Glorious” and “perfection” are already given a meaning of superb and flawless and could stand alone in a sentence as reader would already feel the positive emotions of the writer. But uniting these two words together brings a greater impact on the reader because you could feel how the object described before in that sentence is more than perfect.

To wrap this review up, her gift to present the most complicated ideas into everyday situation is incredibly impressive. As a reader, I am caught in her words and her book has caught my attention from the very first moment I saw the title ‘Do Less, Achieve More’. But I believed that this book might be quite difficult for some readers since just reading the book will not be enough without deep thoughts. Without thinking deeply, a reader will not be able to enjoy the contents of Chu’s ideas. I, for one, enjoyed it very much and I think that Chin-Ning Chu’s explanations and descriptions of her views and opinions on life are written very well in ‘Do Less, Achieve More’.

“Life is truly meant to be easy.”

Book Review Contest: Poetics of Self and Form in Keats & Shelley (reviewed by Hema Madhavan)

As second-generation Romantic Poets, it is understandable that John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley would feel the ‘anxiety of influence’ in relation to their Romantic forefathers. Coming late unto the scene, Keats and Shelley struggle to come up with a unique voice amid the throng of Romantic luminaries like Wordsworth and Coleridge. If we take Mark Sandy’s word, it is we, the reader, who share the responsibility of ensuring their poetic posterity. Mark Sandy is a pioneer in Romantic criticism for undertaking the task of comparing Keats’ and Shelley’s works over several genres in a field which is dominated by comparison studies between Shelley and Lord Byron. His study is mainly informed by Nietzsche’s idea of ‘the subject as a site of conflicting fictions’. It must be emphasised that Mark Sandy is not suggesting, Bloom-like, that Nietzsche exerts a strong influence on the writings of these poets; rather, Sandy is suggesting that the works of Keats and Shelley anticipate key Nietzschean concepts. These include (1) the rejection of rational metaphysics, (2) the Apollonian-Dionysian binary opposition, and (3) the idea of writing for a future, unknown audience.

Nietzsche’s rejection of rational metaphysics is a backlash against the Enlightenment’s insistence on a monolithic philosophy which purportedly categorises and controls natural phenomena. The belief in this one truth of the Enlightenment leads to the notion of the self being fixed and static, a condition known as Being. Nietzsche, however, believes that the self is multiple and divided, and has the ability to create fictions. By extension, this means that the idea of the Enlightenment is just one out of many possible fictions that can be concocted to make sense of reality. In contrast, poets like Keats and Shelley are seen to always be in a state of Becoming, a condition where the poet’s sense of self is flexible and amorphous. This indeterminateness allows for a constantly shifting sense of identity, so that the artist becomes the art object; the reader becomes the artist. This obviously undermines all Enlightenment pretensions of stability and certainty in favour of a liberating sense of Romantic chaos. Sandy uses the metaphor of the self as a revisable script, capable of constant invention and revision. Indeed, Shelley believes that poets should be regarded as the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’ (Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, p. 535) because they do not subscribe to a ‘fixed logocentric system of language’ (18).

In Keats’ Lamia, two types of illusion are pitted against each other, the mask of sensual illusion conjured by Lamia colliding with Apollonius’ philosophical classification system. Lycius is torn between these two fictions, and in dramatising Lycius’ dilemma, we as readers are made aware that neither of these fictions have any absolute authority over us. Neither is any better than the other; each attempts to seduce Lycius with its promise of illusion and order. What is telling is that Lycius dies because he finds himself unable to sustain either illusion, suggesting that though there is no one single fiction that fits all, one needs some form of fiction in order to go on living. Similarly, Shelley’s The Witch of Atlas explores the theme of self-creation through fiction-making as symbolized by the witch’s shape-shifting ability and her needlework (used figuratively to embroider tales). Again, the fragility of the fiction-maker is revealed, this time through the device of the poem’s narrator, who in telling the tale reduces the witch to a mere fiction who revels in fabricating fictions of herself. The common bond between Keats’ Lycius and Shelley’s witch is their dependence on fictions which prove to be ever-shifting and unstable, thus endangering their sense of existence. Having said this, it is that fiction which allowed either of them to function at all in the first place.

A useful concept suggested by Nietzsche and applied by Sandy to the works of Keats and Shelley is the Apollonian-Dionysian opposition. The Apollonian refers to the tendency towards illusory dream, a longing for absolute, idealized reality. The Dionysian, on the other hand, represents tragic reality, embracing the mutability and instability of the human condition. Both Keats’ Endymion and Shelley’s Alastor feature men who quest after an attractive but distant woman, representing the Apollonian desire for an ideal which is always just beyond reach. Similarly, Sandy points out that Wordworth employs a fiction of solitary communion with nature in Tintern Abbey as an Apollonian ideal. However, where Wordsworth is content to dwell in this illusion of harmonious communion, Keats and Shelley depart from their forefather’s influence by at first paying homage to that convention, and then later betraying an uneasy apprehension that this fiction might vanish at any time to be tragically replaced by a Dionysian waking unto reality. The self-awareness of both romances with regards to its own fictionality distinguishes them both from Wordsworth’s relatively self-indulgent reverie, which is in danger of becoming fossilised as another absolute truth of Being because it does not offer an alternative counter-fiction. The Dionysian artist is cautioned against settling for any pat truths, for the spirit of Becoming requires that he embrace flux and change.

‘Un-timeliness’ becomes the fate of Nietzsche, Keats and Shelley, in the sense that they see themselves as being ahead of their time and forced to rely on a future audience to ‘counter-sign’ them. Nietzsche’s prophetic lunatic finds his counterpart in Keats’ and Shelley’s visionary poet. These are people who see beyond the contemporary reality of their times and behold a vision of the future, at the expense of being misunderstood and ostracised by society at large. This holds especially true with respect to literary fragments, which demand the reader’s active participation for its completion. In the process of reading, the reader is also fashioning his own self-fiction, and in doing so, he counter-signs the author by interacting with the text. This borrows heavily from Derrida’s notion of the ‘borderline’ in which Keats’ ‘margin-sand’ (Hyperion, 1, 15) and the shoreline imagery in Shelley’s The Triumph of Life converge to delineate the “cross over point between the life and work of an author, poet and reader, forcing a collision of life and literature” (112). In reading the dead authors, the reader, in a manner of speaking, ‘resurrects’ the memory of Keats and Shelley, thus ensuring their legacy.

Notwithstanding his insightful ideas, Sandy’s writing tends to suffer from an excessive use of jargon in places. One gets the impression that to properly understand Sandy, one needs to either be a PhD holder, a philosopher, or Sandy himself. Wading through this thicket of thorny jargon impedes easy and smooth comprehension of Sandy’s subject, which is a shame because it is an engaging one. This kind of writing succeeds in intimidating novice readers such as myself, and may deter the faint-hearted student of Romantic literature from proceeding further.

A further objection that I would like to propose is that Sandy’s insistence on reducing everything into a fiction could in itself be seen as an imprisoning fiction. The assumption that Sandy necessarily makes is that instability is inherently desirable in literary works, and by implication, any author who displays a self-consistent unity in their writings should be suspected of promulgating a linear, autocratic view of things. But to insist upon instability is paradoxically Apollonian, for it betrays an ironic desire to order reality through chaos. Ultimately, all forms of thought reveal a propensity for system (even if it is in fact an order of disorder) and most systems have a tendency to tyrannize through convenient concept-making. Sandy, like Apollonius, comes up with a ‘dull catalogue of common things’ (Lamia, 2, 233) and imposes his systematic framework on the reader. To enforce liberty and choice by force may seem, in this light, the bigger tyranny. Besides, what’s wrong with tyranny if we happily choose to be tyrannized?

From reading this book, I have gained more insight into the writings of these second-generation romantic poets, especially with regards to the inter-textual connections between their works as perceived through the lens of a Nietzschean sensibility. The unique effect of reading this book is that of having witnessed a scintillating dialogue between Keats, Shelley and Nietzsche over the same coffee-table. Besides contributing much needed comparative commentary on Keats and Shelley, Sandy’s book does much to promote Nietzschean thought as a useful aid to illuminating Romantic works, especially in relation to its emphasis on the primacy of imagination (in creating self-fictions) over reason. However, Sandy deliberately omits a comparison of Keats’ and Shelley’s dramatic works, believing that such an undertaking warrants a separate study. It also remains to be seen whether the works of the first-generation Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge are equally susceptible to the Nietzschean treatment.

While being highly scholarly and refreshing, Poetics of Self and Form in Keats and Shelley comes across as a difficult text to read in parts. Still, praise must be accorded to Mark Sandy for pioneering a comparative study of Shelley and Keats which also promotes Nietzschean literary concepts. As a beginner, I am encouraged by the depth and ingenuity of his arguments to re-read Shelley’s and Keats’ works to verify his analysis. Sandy’s study should be used as a model for scholars who wish to initiate a three-way (or more?) study of major writers and thinkers. In Keats, Shelley and Nietzsche, we have three highly intellectual guests for dinner; in Mark Sandy, we have one very good host.

Book Review Contest: The Wedgwood Ladies Football Club (reviewed by Alan le Bras)

I came across this book a few years ago and immediately liked the author’s tone. The author,TRR Raman, is a famous independent bookstore keeper cum publisher in Kuala Lumpur. This collection of short stories is his first ever being published.

Among the eight stories collected here, a few really stand out and even convinced me to take up the task of translating them all into French. And this will not be an easy task as the author’s use of the English language is informed by the local Malaysian English, much to the reader’s delight, and a lot more to the translator’s plight.

TRR Raman deals very maturely yet at times quite humorously with touchy topics such as religion (Book of Records), politics, communalism (The Wedgwood Ladies, Snatch), but also with the difficulties a publisher may be faced with when dealing with a charismatic author such as Bernie (Bernie).

Drawing on the image of the Wedgwood well crafted porcelains; the author depicts his characters and settings with well‐chosen details, having the readers immersed in lively crunchy dialogues.

For the Western readership I may hereby stand for, the collection is never an object of exoticism but a foray into contemporary Malaysian urban life, with all the modern issues a foreign reader may not be aware of. Last but not least, this collection of short stories is an excellent opportunity to dig into Malaysian English literature starting with an emerging contemporary author from whom we’d like to read more in the years to come.

Book Review Contest: The Compassionate Carnivore (reviewed by Michelle Goh)

This is the latest effort by Friend to encourage us to think about what we eat and how it influences us, the environment and the meat itself in a hilarious and conversational manner.

We are like baby birds; waiting for corporations to shove food down our throats and we do not care where the food comes from. Over the years, we’ve seen many boycotts and public and controversial demonstrations by Peta and yet we do not do anything about it.

Friend describes the relationship between us, the carnivorous consumers and the animals, the meat and her as the middle person, the farmer. She never ask us to be a herbivore because it will not be good for the farming industry but she wants us to make the effort to not waste meat and be more aware of what we’re shoving down our throats.

From the nursery rhyme Old Macdonald, we always expect red roofed barns, with wooden fencing and animals wandering around doing what they have to do but the farms nowadays are far from that especially the factory farms which mass produce animals for the slaughter house.

For those who are on the gory side, she even described the whole slaughter process thoroughly and the difference between the slaughtering process done in factory farms and conventional farms.

Besides that, she tells of her daily challenges as a farmer who loves animals and yet has to raise them and kill them for meat. The words that she uses will tell you the cold, hard, facts and not some sugar dusted truth.

She leads a conventional and interesting life as she lets you peek into her life as a lesbian, Elvis loving farmer living with her partner in a small conservative town. After reading the book, you’re sure to think twice about the Double Cheese Burger you shove down your throat.

Book Review Contest: Harry Potter & The Philosopher's Stone (reviewed by Fong Chia Sin)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone written by J.K.Rowling were full with fantasy and adventure. This story introduces us to Harry Potter, an orphaned boy sent to live with his "horrible" Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, and their fat, obnoxious son, Dudley. Since Harry's parents were powerful witches before they were killed by an even more powerful wizard known as Lord Voldemort on Halloween night, Harry has generational witchcraft in his background, making it very likely that he will be a wizard when he grows up.

Harry is totally unaware that he has Witchcraft in his background and that he might possess inherent "special powers" until he reaches eleven. This is where he was rescued by a beetled-eyed giant of a man named Hagrid to enrol at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. In Hogwarts, Harry befriends other first-year students like Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. He, Ron, and Hermione were chosen to be in the noble Gryffindor house.

As the school year gets underway, Harry goes through many challenges where he participated in the Qudditch game as the youngest seeker. Gryffindor won the game against Slytherin. On Halloween, a troll is found in the building. He and Ron again went to find Hermione who doesn’t aware of the troll. Unwittingly, they lock the troll in the girls' bathroom along with Hermione. Together, they defeat the troll. He also discovers the Mirror of Erised, which displays the deepest desire of whoever looks in it. Harry looks in it and sees his parents alive. Harry, Ron, and Hermione begin to unravel the mysterious connection between a break-in at Gringotts and the three-headed guard dog. They learn that the dog is guarding the Sorcerer's Stone belongs to Nicolas Flamel, Dumbledore's old partner. Harry also learns that it is Voldemort who has been trying to steal the Sorcerer's Stone. He, Ron, and Hermione sneak off that night to the forbidden third-floor corridor. They get past the guard dog and perform many impressive feats as they get closer and closer to the stone. Harry ultimately finds himself face to face with Quirrell, who announces that Harry must die. He tries to kill Harry, but Quirrell is burned by contact with the boy. A struggle ensues and Harry passes out

When Harry regains consciousness, he is in the hospital with Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains everything to Harry. Harry heads down to the end-of-year banquet, and then Dumbledore gets up and awards many last-minute points to Gryffindor, leads to them winning the house cup for Gryffindor. Harry returns to London to spend the summer with the Dursleys.

In this story, the author uses the third-person point of view. He or she knows everything about the characters, generally stays close to Harry Potter’s point of view. In the book the author register surprises when Harry is surprised and fear when Harry is afraid. This makes the book interesting as I can feel all the characters emotions and feelings while reading the book. Not only Harry, he also takes the point of view of Mr. Dursley, who dislike by the signs of wizards around town. The shift in point of view from a Muggle's perspective to a wizard's emphasizes the difference between the two worlds.

The story uses straightforward and simple tone, with few purely decorative elements or artistic features, few metaphors and figures, and little playful irony and even foreshadowing. Example of some symbols is Harry's scar, Quidditch, and the Mirror of Erised. The pain that Harry feels at the end of Chapter 7 when Snape stares at him foreshadow that there is some underlying tension between the two. J.K. Rowling exploits our misgivings about Snape by leading us to believe that he and Harry will eventually confront each other in a climactic battle for the Sorcerer's Stone. Besides that, the language used is also easy to grasp. The narrator also never involves moral judgements on any characters, even the wicked Voldemort, but allows us full freedom to praise or condemn. This makes the story easy to understand and interesting.

There is also varies in the settings of the story. It changes from stage to stage. The settings start at Private Drive where Harry stays with his aunt and uncle there since he was a baby. Then the story sets at Hogwarts, School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. This is where Harry studies and learn all the spells and also defense against the dark arts. This is also where he faces Voldemort at the end of the story. This varies in settings make the story more exciting and can have the feel of the atmosphere.

There is also meaningful theme underlying in this story used by the author. It underlined the deep friendship. This can be seen in Harry, Hermione and Ron who are best friend. They helped each other when there is trouble. Hermione and Ron helped Harry to discover the mystery of the Sorcerer’s Stone. They even joined Harry to stop Voldemort from stealing the stone. The friendship tie among them is very strong making the story very meaningful. In the story, J.K. Rowling too slips in many sub-themes such as the value of humility, the occasional necessity of rebellion and the dangers of desire.

This story is full of actions and adventure making it interesting. However, it is still very unrealistic as magic does not occur in our real life.

A School That Sings - Teaching Latin Through Music

From the casual observation that there ought to be some new way to teach Latin -- a required subject, which makes it even less appealing to students than its merely being an extinct language -- a Latin teacher in Sicily came up with the idea to set his curriculum to music.

And not to Bach or Monteverdi, but rather to the pop music the students already knew by heart. Thus, Schola cantans -- "the school that sings" -- was born.

More at edutopia.

Teacher & Student-Centered Teaching Strategies

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Future of Education - Gaming?

"Why should anyone sit through hours of instruction about biology or anthropology or geology when, today, virtual reality video gaming technology can project students directly into the subject.

"Having fun, they can fight off invading bacteria, live in an ancient city or watch the formation of the Ice Age. They can learn more in 10 minutes of game playing than we learned in hours of classes and reading boring textbooks. Who says education has to be painful?"

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More 21st Century Education (from the CIDTT Gang)

Alice And Lydia
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Bill Gates & Wife Back to School!

Bright Future for Online Video Marketing?

In the 2008 campaign season, primary debates were co-sponsored by YouTube, and questions from the public were submitted through the pioneering video-sharing site.

In 2004, YouTube did not exist.

eMarketer projects that the US online video audience will grow to 190 million people by 2012—that will be 88% of the Internet user population. Read more.

Kiva and Entrepreneurship

From Duct-Tape Marketing:

Mark Flannery co-founded with his wife a few years ago and their success has forever altered the way entrepreneurs in the developing world get access to the small amounts of capital that can make a huge impact on their businesses and lives. In doing so they’ve also opened up an entirely new channel of micro lending to businesses and individuals who would like a way to help the smallest of businesses get going.

Here’s how it works:

1. You go to the Kiva site and choose an entrepreneur who has posted and been screened for a need

2. You make a loan payment for as little as $25 through Paypal or credit card

3. Receive a journal so you can keep track of how your entrepreneur is doing

4. Withdraw or reloan the proceeds from your load

13 Ways to Network (w/out being a Nuisance!)

Scott Ginsberg shares:

1. Stop asking people, “Do you remember me?” This question immediately makes them feel defensive, embarrassed and on the spot. Plus, you’re setting yourself up to be insulted when they tell you they DON’T remember you. Don’t challenge people’s memories. Odds, are – they don’t remember you. Just tell them who you are. Are your questions making people feel defensive?

2. Speak with passion and people will listen. Find a way to get on the topic of passion. Yours AND the other person’s. Excavate it, then embed people’s passion into the pavement and you will lead the way to meaningful, engaging conversation. Ask Passion Finding Questions (PFQ’s) like, “What keeps you busy when you’re not working?” or “How do you incorporate your passion into your work?” Do you really care what people “do,” or who they ARE?

3. Capitalize on every encounter. That doesn’t mean money. It means identifying what your “currency” is at this particular networking event. Maybe it’s leads. Maybe it’s visibility. Maybe it’s sharing referrals. Maybe it’s capturing emails to build your permission asset. Maybe it’s having fun. Maybe it’s practicing your new elevator speech. Whatever your currency is, there’s always a way to leverage every conversation. What’s your #1 goal at this networking event?

4. Identify why you’re there. Is this an opportunity for you to meet people, or is it an opportunity for them to meet YOU? This simple attitudinal change will alter your business forever. Are you framing your networking brain positively?

5. Be The Observed, not The Observer. Put yourself in a position of value. Lead the conversation. Invite new people to join your table or conversation. Better yet, be the guest speaker or sponsor of the event. You might also consider being a volunteer, people-mover or association leader. All positions of value. All Observable. How could you position yourself in way that people have NO CHOICE but to meet you?

6. Remove the threat of rejection. If you’re afraid of starting conversations with strangers for fear of looking stupid or being rejected, approach people who HAVE to be nice to you. Leaders, volunteers, hosts, bartenders … these encounters are perfect opportunities to achieve small victories that will build your networking confidence. Whom could you speak to without the threat of rejection?

7. Gently introduce, don’t unnecessarily sneak. Get to know people on a personal level FIRST. Lead with your person; follow with your profession. Values before vocation. Individuality before industry. Personality before position. Realness before roles. Then, when the time is right, find a way to gently introduce how you deliver value. Don’t force it. People can tell. What are you leading with?

8. Stop asking people, “So, what do YOU do?” Again, nobody cares. Not to mention, not everyone has a job. Nor are all people defined by their work. Instead, ask questions that enable the person to take the conversation in whatever direction makes them feel comfortable, i.e., “What keeps you busy all week?” “What’s your role here?” “What’s been the best part about your week so far?” What are you assuming about people that might cause Foot In Mouth Disease?

9. Beware of compartmentalization. As much as I love nametags, beware of unconsciously using someone’s nametag to size that person up. Whether they’re a board member, first-timer, president or guest speaker, treat everyone the same. If possible, use hand-written nametags with first names only. That levels the networking playing field. Wait: You ARE wearing a nametag, right?

10. Typing is dangerous. Throw out everything you learned about personality types, learning styles, Meyers Briggs or any of those other ridiculous assessments. They’re worthless. Stop typing people. Typing blocks listening. Instead, harmonize with people. Stop calling them “INTJ’S” or “Extroverts.” They’re just people. That’s it. “Human Being” is the only label that means anything. What mental labels are preventing you from networking effectively?

11. “Identifying” with people is overrated. It’s one thing to discover the common point of interest. It’s another thing to pretend you’re just like the person you just met. SO: Tell the truth. Tell it all. And tell it now. Tell them you’re NOT one of them. Tell them you don’t know the first THING about BEING one of them. Tell them that you know NOTHING about who they are and what they do – but would like to learn. Does your candor and authenticity shine?

12. Friendliness is underrated. I know it sounds dumb, but just be friendly. That doesn’t mean, “be everybody’s friend,” it just means BE FRIENDLY. Friendliness is so rare; it’s become remarkable. Use it. Do it. BE it. In the end, it’s just easier. It actually takes more mental energy to avoid people than to just say hi. How many people did you go out of your way to ignore yesterday?

13. Be The Only. Attend events where you’re the only one of your kind. If you’re a man, go to women’s events. If you’re a salesperson, go to management events. If you’re a doctor, go to accounting events. Not only will people notice you; they’ll also seek you out. After all, you’re an Outsider. Everyone will be interested in hearing your fresh perspective. Sure beats having the same old conversations with the same old people. What out-of-place networking event could you attend to guarantee your memorability?

Smoking Trivia

Some "trivia" (from USA) on the habit:
  • Cigarette smoke contains over 4,800 chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer.

    Quitting smoking cuts the risk of lung cancer, many other cancers, heart disease, stroke, other lung diseases, and other respiratory illnesses. Smoking is responsible for approximately 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.

    Among infants to 18 months of age, secondhand smoke is associated with 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia each year.
  • Secondhand smoke is classified by the EPA as a known human carcinogen.
  • Smoking is a major factor in coronary heart disease and stroke.
  • When inhaled in cigarette smoke nicotine reaches the brain faster than drugs that enter the body intravenously.
  • If both parents smoke, a teenager is more than twice as likely to smoke than a child whose parents are both non-smokers.
  • Pregnant women who smoke are more likely to deliver underweight babies.
  • Smokers are likely to die on average six and a half years earlier than non-smokers.
  • People that smoke have 10 times as many wrinkles as a person that does not smoke.
  • Three years after a person quits smoking, their chance of having a heart attack falls substantially.
  • The average person who stops smoking requires one hour less sleep a night.
  • More than 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are from smoking-related illnesses.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Notes from the NCTE

Karl Fisch's notes from the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Convention in the States:
  • If we really want students to succeed in the future, we have to allow them to work in a participatory and collaborative way.
  • They did all this work outside of school because our filters wouldn’t let them find these things.
  • We invited the superintendent, adminstration, etc. – not one of them took the invitation. That was disappointing.
  • Teachers will incorporate bits and pieces, but it was still the same basic curriculum – we needed to change the whole thing.
  • 'They’re on a computer, that’s not English' – but they were doing more reading and writing than in their other English classes.
  • I didn’t feel like our department had a vision – so I changed schools. At my new school, there was a different way of talking about students, a different way of viewing students.
  • We believe kids can’t look critically at the world until they figure out who they are.
  • We should think of ourselves [teachers] as the Designer of the Learning Experience.
  • Every teacher will have to be tech savvy.
  • They (the teachers) don’t have to be where the information is.
  • Blogging is reading, with the intent to write. (Quoting Will Richardson).

21st Century Education (from the CIDTT Gang)

Here are the first submissions from our (very fun!) CIDTT class on the subject of the 21st Century Educator.
Claudine & Karen
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Melisa & Viviane
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Monday, November 24, 2008

A New Way of Marketing Education?

Can we make education an inspiring, love-marked, sustainable enterprise?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gagne's 9 (again)

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Do also read the earlier post on Gagne and George Thomas' comments on the system.

Tips for Powerpoint

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Web 2.0 Principles

Pam Slim's Open Letter to all Corporate Employees

Don't pretend your job is secure. I know of no job in any industry today that is safe from market forces or lame managers. You read stories in the paper every day about well-established companies (some that are making huge profits) that are cutting back tens of thousands of employees to "stay competitive." But you still act angry and surprised when you get pulled into your manager's office with the HR rep and are told that your job is eliminated. We are all self-employed, and if you don't get that fast, you are in for a rude awakening.

Make a long-term life plan. You get so caught up with surviving each day that you have no idea what would make you happy down the road. But it is this long-term plan that is going to give focus and structure to decisions you make every day on your job, and guide decisions about the next step in your career. Get clear on what kind of work energizes you, the kind of people that you want to be around, where you want to live, how much money you want to make and how much time you want to spend at your job.

Pay attention to who you go to lunch with. It is theraputic to bitch and complain about your job once you are out of earshot of your manager or coworkers. But are you spending all your time with people who just complain and never do anything to change their life? You are what you eat, say and who you hang out with. If you want your life to grow in a positive direction, surround yourself with people who are eager to learn, problem-solve and support each other. I don't mean you can never complain - just don't get stuck whining all the time.

Always have a Plan B, C and D. Even if you have a great job right now, you should always know what your next step is if everything blows up tomorrow. Network with people inside and outside your company to know what kinds of jobs or businesses you are interested in. It is perfectly ethical to scan job boards even if you are happily employed (just don't do it all day on work time - a little tacky). I know how busy you are. That is not a viable excuse when it comes to something as important as securing your livelihood.

Don't think of your job as a paycheck, think of it as a learning opportunity. Learning should be the primary thing on your mind at all times. You can be in a hellacious job situation and still learn from it. I was once on a great team inside a company that had questionable management. When our recommendations were shot down for reasons we knew were wrong, we would discuss the implications and try to guess the outcome. Most times we were exactly right, and would learn a lot from the experience. If you have taken the time to create a long term life plan, you should be clear what things you need to learn to get there.

Take responsibility for yourself. Blaming "The Man," "The Company" or your manager for your unhappiness is a cop out. You choose to be in your current situation, otherwise you would have changed it. So don't give away your power. If you are miserable, follow the advice above and move yourself to a better place.

Engineering Suddenly Sexy?

As the financial crisis deepens, science and math grads who once flocked to investment banking are now considering jobs in engineering.

BusinessWeek reports.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Avoiding Web-Publishing Pitfalls

Words of caution from Maya Payne Smart, excerpts below:

Praise Locally, Criticize Globally
Teachers may be liable for information they publish that is untrue and harms the reputation of organizations or other people. Bud Hunt, instructional technologist for the St. Vrain Valley School District, in Longmont, Colorado, advises teachers to describe positive programs in great detail while leveling criticisms more generically. "If I disagree with something a colleague does, I'm not going to make that fodder for my blog," Hunt says. "I'll address the broader issue without calling him or her out." Hunt cites his fellow educational blogger Doug Johnson, who describes this strategy as "praising locally and criticizing globally."

Fess Up
Hunt also recommends that educators blog using their real names to promote accountability and lessen the likelihood of launching online character assaults. He discloses his name, workplace, title, and other details on his blog but makes it clear that the views expressed on the site are his own and not those of his employer. "The lines between personal and professional lives are changing right now," he says. "It seems that 8 o'clock to 3 o'clock never worked for classroom teachers and, as our digital tendrils stretch into all elements of our lives, it becomes a challenge for folks to figure out where their personal interests begin and their job ends."

Don't "Out" Others
Teachers also may inadvertently break the law by publishing private or personal information about students, colleagues, or others online. This can happen when a teacher mentions private facts such as a student's grades, an administrator's medical or financial condition, or other information that hasn't previously been made public. Similarly, some states prohibit publishing photographs of others without their permission.
The Goochland County Public Schools, in central Virginia, made teacher blogging mandatory in 2005. The district promotes privacy by distributing a permission form each year to obtain parents' consent to publish photos of students. Teachers also take care not to name students, reveal their personal details, or allow others to. For example, when parents submit blog comments along the lines of "Why did Johnny fail the test?" teachers delete the comment before it appears on the site and respond via email to protect the student's privacy.
When teacher publishing is done right, the rewards far outweigh the risks. "All the comments from parents and the community have been very positive," says John Hendron, the Goochland district's supervisor of instructional technology. "They embrace the transparency that the blogs bring to classrooms. They enjoy knowing what's going on." The key is to remember that the Web is a public space, and that you should publish with your audience in mind.

Google Sketchup 7

Anybody keen? Mass Comm? Download it. Join the blog and warehouse.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did You Know?

Digital Natives & Immigrants (Again)

1. Native learners prefer receiving info quickly from multiple multimedia sources while many teachers prefer slow and controlled release of info from limited sources.

2. Native learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking while many teachers prefer singular processing and single/limited-tasking.

3. Native learners prefer processing pictures, sounds and video before text while many teachers prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds and video.

4. Native learners prefer random access to hyperlinked, interactive, multimedia information while many teachers prefer to provide information linearly, logically and sequentially

5. Native learners prefer to interact/network simultaneously with many others

6. Native learners move seamlessly between real and virtual spaces instantaneously - virtual space is any location where people can meet using networked digital devices – chat rooms, blogs, wikis, podcasts, email, discussion threads that come and go – synchronous and asynchronous and with multitasking, can inhabit more than one virtual space at a time – while many teachers prefer to operate in real spaces.

7. Many teachers prefer students to work independently rather than network and interact.

8. Native learners prefer to learn “just-in-time” while many teachers prefer to teach “just-in-case” (it’s on the exam).

9. Native learners want instant access to friends, services, and responses to questions, instant gratification and instant rewards while many teachers prefer deferred gratification and deferred rewards.

10. Native learners prefer learning that is relevant, instantly useful and fun while many teachers prefer to teach to the curriculum guide and standardized tests.”

Read more at edorigami.

21st Century Learning Spaces

Access to technology and media: The 21st Century classroom is networked, adequately provided with a rich internet connection to support media streams, personal (skype) and group (video conferencing/access grid) communications. Able to upload and download students work and research to suitable structures to support anywhere anytime learning and collaboration. Facilities need to be in place to enable media production, whether its video, audio or text/image based.Consider this. Many projectors have the facility to support wireless networking enabling the users (teachers and students) to easily connect and then switch between users. How many projectors have this enabled? This flexibility is essential for the 21st Century learners.

Classroom design: Traditional classrooms are design for a teacher centric delivery mode. 21st Century learners are collaborators and communicators. So the classroom must be designed to enable group collaboration. They must have the flexibility in furnishings and technology to be rearranged with ease and speed. Switching rapidly between individual and groups, presentation, communication and collaborative modes. From these grouping learners and educators must be able to connect, collaborate, share and report - projection and video conference, present and report back.Classrooms must be able to adapt to different needs of the classroom - space for the students to work quietly and reflectively; space to operate in small groups discussing and debating; space to meet collectively to report, discuss, plan and teach.

Display spaces: Students will need access to real and virtual display spaces. Whiteboards, pinboards, collaborative learning spaces online, conferences etc. They will need easy and instant access to media systems that they can use to view materials and share their own.How many classrooms have student whiteboards - how many of us use whiteboards (interactive or traditional) as we interact with our colleagues in meetings.

Professional Work Ethics

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Theory to Practice Database

Tons of stuff at this website run by Greg Kearsley. For example, here's the theory section:

ACT* (J. Anderson)
Adult Learning Theory (P. Cross)
Algo-Heuristic Theory (L. Landa)
Andragogy (M. Knowles)
Anchored Instruction (J. Bransford & the CTGV)
Aptitude-Treatment Interaction (L. Cronbach & R. Snow)
Attribution Theory (B. Weiner)
Cognitive Dissonance Theory (L. Festinger)
Cognitive Flexibility Theory (R. Spiro)
Cognitive Load Theory (J. Sweller)
Component Display Theory (M.D. Merrill)
Conditions of Learning (R. Gagne)
Connectionism (E. Thorndike)
Constructivist Theory (J. Bruner)
Contiguity Theory (E. Guthrie)
Conversation Theory (G. Pask)
Criterion Referenced Instruction (R. Mager)
Double Loop Learning (C. Argyris)
Drive Reduction Theory (C. Hull)
Dual Coding Theory (A. Paivio)
Elaboration Theory (C. Reigeluth)
Experiential Learning (C. Rogers)
Functional Context Theory (T. Sticht)
Genetic Epistemology (J. Piaget)
Gestalt Theory (M. Wertheimer)
GOMS (Card, Moran & Newell)
GPS (A. Newell & H. Simon)
Information Pickup Theory (J.J. Gibson)
Information Processing Theory (G.A. Miller)
Lateral Thinking (E. DeBono)
Levels of Processing (Craik & Lockhart)
Mathematical Learning Theory (R.C. Atkinson)
Mathematical Problem Solving (A. Schoenfeld)
Minimalism (J. M. Carroll)
Model Centered Instruction and Design Layering (A.Gibbons)
Modes of Learning (D. Rumelhart & D. Norman)
Multiple Intelligences (H. Gardner)
Operant Conditioning (B.F. Skinner)
Originality (I. Maltzman)
Phenomenonography (F. Marton & N. Entwistle)
Repair Theory (K. VanLehn)
Script Theory (R. Schank)
Sign Theory (E. Tolman)
Situated Learning (J. Lave)
Soar (A. Newell et al.)
Social Development (L. Vygotsky)
Social Learning Theory (A. Bandura)
Stimulus Sampling Theory (W. Estes)
Structural Learning Theory (J. Scandura)
Structure of Intellect (J. Guilford)
Subsumption Theory (D. Ausubel)
Symbol Systems (G. Salomon)
Triarchic Theory (R. Sternberg)

Helpful One-Liners

"Thanks" is more than courtesy - it is obligation.

A perpetual learner is the best teacher.

Avoid the authors who are meringue chefs.

Better to be a participant in life than a reporter.

Clarify your thoughts so that others may use them.

Cliches are pre-thought expressions.

Cliches may sharpen truth for better penetration.

Fantasy's function is to change reality.

From the joy of learning comes the joy of sharing.

Great ideas that become nothing more than interesting are little more than entertainment.

I don't have to agree with you to understand you.

In 20 languages "be" and "do" are the same word.

Invite your listeners to hear.

Language is often a useful tool to conceal meaning.

Only you can share your memories.

Our vitality consists in the great themes of life and thought which have become woven into the fabric of our character, personality and actions.

Purpose and plan are not synonyms.

Speak to people about a subject, not on a subject to people.

The music of joy is played in the major key.
Read more from Breakfast with Fred.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Be Proactive

I would like to share this poem with you :)

There’s a Hole in my Sidewalk
by Portia Nelson

Chapter 1
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…
I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter 2
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I cant believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter 3
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in… its a habit.
But, my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter 4
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter 5

I walk down another street.

Click here for chapters' explanation.

It shows us how a person change from a reactive to a proactive mind. Stop blaming for fault, change & take responsibility for your life.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (Marc Prensky)

I think it's worth reproducing part of the article by Prensky:
"Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.
Today's students have not just changed incrementally from those of the past, nor simply changed their slang, clothes, body adornments, or styles, as has happened between generations previously. A really big discontinuity has taken place. One might even call it a "singularity" - an event which changes things so fundamentally that there is absolutely no going back. This so-called "singularity" is the arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century.
Today’s students - K through college - represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today's average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.
It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today's students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.
What should we call these "new" students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.

So what does that make the rest of us? Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them, Digital Immigrants."

Broccoli or Dessert Brain?

The broccoli stomach: Fills up quickly.

The dessert stomach: Always wants more.

Same thing with brains. There are broccoli brains which can't stand school and there are dessert brains which yearn for more innovation and learning.

Hugh Osborn explains more:
"As New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and so many others keep pointing out, competing in the empower-and-connect twenty-first-century world will require a highly effective and creative education system. Science and technology are not about white coats and circuit boards but about problem solving and creative thinking -- in a word, innovation. There's no point in pretending that schools teaching primarily to the broccoli brain will ever rise to the challenge Friedman describes.

"But one rapidly growing group of kids is familiar with personal innovation: Gamers are enthusiastic learners who have their dessert brains fully engaged. Indeed, the results of a yearlong study by the Federation of American Scientists suggest that computer games have the power to teach analytical skills, team building, and problem solving. Other research shows that gamers make better managers because they can innovate and, not surprisingly, instinctively understand rapid decision making in changing environments. Stripped of their violent content, games can be powerful (and tasty) learning tools. But most teachers can't channel these tools into activities that boost motivation while improving test scores."

10 Mistakes That Could Be Killing Your Blog

1. Less-than-useful posts. When I’m exploring new blogs, most of the time I’m looking for certain information — interesting new workouts, yummy recipes, good running advice, frugality ideas, inspiration to improve my life, and so on. You want useful posts — that’s why you’re there. Sure, some times a blogger is just such an interesting writer that you’ll read posts even if they’re not that useful. Some of my favorite bloggers are more interesting or funny than anything else. But most of the time, you’re looking for useful stuff. And when you go to a blog and scan the front page and can’t find one single useful post, you’re outta there. You want useful posts, and you want them fast. Bloggers should have lots of posts packed with useful information, and they should be on the front page so the reader doesn’t have to look for them. If your front page displays the 5 most recent posts, and they’re all updates about a competiton or a new product you’re selling or a contest on another blog … well, the reader will leave rather than having to wade through 10 non-useful posts just to find one useful post.

2. Infrequent posting. If you go to a blog and the last update was two months ago, you know the blog isn’t being updated. And while it might contain tons of useful stuff from the past, there’s no reason to subscribe or keep coming back if you don’t think new posts are coming out regularly. A good blog will have posts at least once a week — any longer than a week and it looks like cobwebs are forming on the blog. Two or three times a week is probably better, and 4-5 times a week might be best (depending on the type of blog you have — news blogs obviously are updated more than daily).

3. Writing about infrequent posting. What’s worse than noticing that the last post was two months ago? Reading the first paragraph of the post and seeing something like, “Sorry I haven’t been posting lately — things have been really busy for me. I promise to post more frequently!” That kind of post is a death knell for a blog. Don’t let that be the first impression. If you haven’t been posting recently, get on the ball and write some great posts (or ask other bloggers for guest posts). Don’t write a post about why you haven’t been posting.

4. Not displaying your best posts. Going through months of archives is too difficult for a new reader. The new reader wants to find your most essential posts right away, on the front page. Of course, your best posts might be spread out throughout the entire lifespan of your blog, so you’re not going to actually have them on the front page (which obviously just has the latest posts). But you can display them on the front page (and on every page, actually) by listing your best posts in your sidebar. A list of 10-20 essential posts for new readers is a must. Seriously, a must. Don’t make it difficult for readers to find your good stuff.

5. Flashy or annoying ads. If an ad is flashing, or popping up, or making noises, or expanding to block the text of the post, or in some other way forces the reader to click “close” … that’s just annoying. It’s happened on Zen Habits a few times when my ad networks ran annoying ads — and I wrote to them right away to ask them to remove them. Annoying your reader is a very bad strategy. Don’t do it. Seriously, stop it right now!

6. Trying to push products too often. I’ve run across some really good blogs with lots of useful information — they do everything right — except that they’re always trying to sell me stuff. I mean, like in every post, along with their sidebars and headers. It might be their own products, or the products of other websites. I’m not talking about banner ads in the sidebar. I’m talking about pushing products within the posts themselves, all the time. I do it every now and then when I think I’ve found a useful ebook my readers might enjoy, or do a book review with Amazon affiliate links. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that from time to time. But in every post? C’mon!

7. Long posts that are hard to scan. I’ve written about making your posts scannable before, so I won’t belabor the point here, but too often in my recent explorations of a large number of blogs, I’ve found post that contain useful information, but it’s too hard to find the info you’re looking for. You shouldn’t have to read every word of every paragraph to find the tips you want — they should be listed in bullet points or a numbered list, or highlighted in bold or somehow brought to the attention to the reader. Make it easy, not hard, to find the info the reader wants!

8. Pop-up subscription boxes. A good number of very decent blogs have this gimmick, and perhaps it helps them get subscribers. I can’t say. All I know is that as a reader, when I go to a blog like this, I click “close” or “no thanks” when the pop-up subscription box appears, and then I leave the site, never to come back. It’s too annoying, and too pushy. Don’t force the subscription on the reader. Let them review your site first, and then decide for themselves if they want to subscribe. A large number of blogs also use that WordPress plugin that says something like, “It looks like you’re new to this blog. You might consider subscribing … etc.” Something like that. Well, it’s better than the pop-up subscription box, but it still annoys me … especially as I’ve often been to the blog before but perhaps my browser has cleared out the cookie the plugin uses. Why tell me I haven’t been to your blog when I’m a regular reader? Frustrating.

9. Way too much clutter on your site. This is often related to the annoying ads and the blogger trying to sell you too much, but basically when you have a ton of ads, sidebar elements, and things throughout the post and in the header and footer of the blog, it gets overwhelming. The reader really wants to focus on the post, and while he’s willing to put up with some ads and other elements, if there’s too much it makes it hard to read. And that’s gonna lose you readers. Consider eliminating as many elements as you can while still retaining your best performing ad networks and other sidebar elements. Make reading a pleasant experience.

10. Boring or uninformative headlines. Again, a new reader wants to be able to find your useful posts very quickly. Often that means that he’ll scan through the front page, looking only at the headlines. If the headline is “Tuesday workout”, that doesn’t promise anything useful. But if it’s something like “Why running the day after lifting heavy weights is a bad idea”, that might contain something the reader is looking for. You can see the difference: the second headline is much more informative (even if both posts contain the same info), and it shows the reader exactly what useful information the post will deliver. Get that information and benefit in the headline, not just buried somewhere within the post. Or else you’ll lose that reader.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Traditional vs. Digital Teaching?

  • "How do you appraise a persons teaching when they are using techniques, process and methods that are completely new to the appraiser?
  • How can you judge the effective delivery of core competencies when you do not understand the approach or method the teacher is undertaking or using?
The problem with being on the leading edge of innovations is that often this is the bleeding edge and I suspect that my colleagues have just found this out.

With the vast array of tools and technologies available to us, we can, if we are so inclined, match many traditional approaches to digital ones (see traditional approaches and digital alternatives). I can see the value in
  • students writing blogs as process journals,
  • in digitally telling stories rather than writing on paper;
  • of drafting essays and stories on computers rather than rewriting it each time;
  • in presenting reports as movies, voice threads, photostories;
  • I can see why using mindmapping tools is a suitable alternative to butcher paper
  • and why an empty exercise book is not a reflection of lack of classroom work."

But, he hints, does everyone else? How do you navigate the tension/ambiguity between traditional and digital approaches to education?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Holland Codes

Which category are you? (Go here to get a larger view of the explanations)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

5 Minutes to Communicate

The Hidden Workings of Our Minds

PsyBlog has a good series on how our minds work (or how we don't know how they work!). Check it out, the intro's below:

"What is true of great scientific and artistic leaps of imagination is also true in everyday life. When people are asked why they chose one career over another, one partner over another or one flavour of ice-cream over another, the same problems emerge. Often, people's answers are unconvincing or they just don't know.

Psychologists no longer find this inability to explain our internal mental processes strange. Like Freud all those years ago, modern cognitive psychologists have come to accept that a lot of the time we don't have much of a clue what's going on in our own minds, and there's evidence to prove it."

Obama's Victory Speech (Chicago, Nov 4th 2008)

Here's the full text of Barack Obama's acceptance cum victory speech. Notice below how Obama doesn't seem to be using any notes!

"Find Things To Do"

That's one of the best ways I've heard 'being proactive' defined. It's the ability to find helpful, productive and meaningful (and usually rewarding) things to do with one's time at work.

I can attest it's an art, having spent three years at a professional services firm, in which possibly only 20% of individuals are constantly seen initiating tasks they love i.e. finding cool things to do.

It takes more than merely asking the senior manager, "Is there anything I can help you with?" Nah, it takes a lot more than that.

It's transforming the most menial task allocated to you into something which makes other people go Wow.

It's marketing oneself, slide by slide, report by report, explanation by explanation, smile by smile.

It's thinking of instantly acceptable new ideas which get others excited and eager to see implemented (not necessarily by them, of course).

It's doing some very obvious things which no one else has taken the time to do because they feared stress or non-appreciation or both - and you couldn't care about these concerns either way (why not? because you were looking for things to do).

Randy Pausch on Oprah