Monthly Archives: May 2012


…that’s basically how education reform works.


More on automated grading

It’s fascinating how people have to put “not ready for prime time” disclaimers on things. As if educational institutions could change fast enough that the writers feel the need to slow them down.

Online Ed at MIT

It’s tough to write a decent entry when your old computer is carefully transferring 250 GB to your new one. 19 hours left to go.

I was able to attend a large 3-hour meeting at MIT yesterday about online education, both off- and on-campus. There were about 100 folks, most of them professors or postdocs, with a few grad students and undergrads in the mix as well. It was fairly interesting and useful. I was worried that it would be mostly people defending face-to-face courses and lecturing without considering what might actually be done online, and while there was some of that, it wasn’t the primary thrust of the meeting. Many people were genuinely, actively considering what might be done about the whole thing.

Two major topics came up at my table:

  • How can humanities courses take advantage of this? Especially courses where analysis and writing are the primary activities? How can automated grading provide useful feedback to 200,000 students? (That’s not a rhetorical device, that’s an actual question.)
  • In science/engineering courses, how can we provide useful feedback regarding problems that are complex or that have multiple solution paths? Is this something that must necessarily be coded into each problem we write (time-consuming), or are there other ways?

All in all, it was substantially more useful than I feared it would be. The institute is still likely to move fairly slowly as a whole, but there are many people who are interested in attacking the issues rather than ignoring them.

Grading vs Assessment

Just a link for today:


“Who taught them to value grading over assessment? We did.”

The dangers of flakery

If you’re an insider when it comes to education reform, especially if you’re a proponent of non-traditional education, you can sometimes forget what it looks like from the outside.

It looks like this:

(For those not familiar with McSweeney’s, it’s a satire site.)

Dig deep enough into Sudbury schools, Waldorf schools, Montessori schools, and so forth, and every once in a while you actually get something that sounds like that. Well, maybe not as bad as that, but pretty bad. I laughed at this, but it hit pretty close to home sometimes.

Sometimes we all need to keep an eye on the outside world.

Still kinda behind

On the plus side, I’ve been sleeping very well recently. On the down side, less writing time.

I’m taking another short break. Should be back next Wednesday.

Link day

I’m a little behind today – been working on other stuff – so I’m going to give you a pair of links today.


To me there’s actually a good deal of interrelationship between these, behind the scenes. Students who are mindful in class are more likely to use technology to accomplish that, rather than to distract themselves from it. Students without mindfulness are unlikely to find it through the use of technology. Not that it couldn’t happen, or that I have research to back this up – this is just experience and opinion here. I think that teachers who encourage greater engagement and mindfulness in their students will find just about anything they do to be more effective, and will thus get more bang out of technology.

The Secret

Wednesday’s XKCD¬†hits the nail on the head as far as what makes teaching fun, and what you have to remember to keep it that way for both students and teachers.

That’s all I have for today.

Chucking Lectures

Today’s news item:


National Teacher Appreciation Week

I’ve heard it said many times that teaching is not a respected profession in the US, which is one of the reasons we’re falling behind in terms of education.

Here’s your chance to change that.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week¬†(I know, the link is about yesterday, but it’s the whole week).

It’s half over, but there’s still plenty of time – the internet is fast. Thank a teacher.


To Bob Cooley, who believed in the power of The Odyssey,

To Lisa Schmitt, who didn’t tell us what we were trying was impossible,

To Wayne Roberge, whose humility continues to inspire me,

To too many others to name.

Thank you.


Here are a few posts from around the web:–from-socrates-to-lady-gaga/2012/05/08/gIQA9uEi9T_blog.html