Archive for December, 2016

Does Networking Make Us Smart or Stupid?

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Stephen Downes links to Amy Burvall on her daughter’s reliance on her friend Ellie as a source of information.

I think the question in her antipenultimate paragraph: “Do we crave more temporal, less formal interactions, even if it means the information we receive is at risk for being less accurate?” should be answered with a resounding “Yes!” – which means that it is quite possible that the way we most naturally use networked knowledge is making us stupider rather than smarter. Of course other possibilities exist and the network also allows us to access central sources which are subject to corrective review from a wide variety of directions, so contra Nicholas Carr I am not worried about Google Making Us Stupid but neither do I share David Weinberger’s confidence that Networked Knowledge Makes Us Smarter.

In any case, it’s the long-range structure of the network that matters, and the evidence from Nov 8 and June 24 is that the network is disconnected to such an extent that those of us in the “smart” bubble were unaware of the extent of the “dumb” one.

Source: #rawthought: Your Ellie – On the Primacy of Networked Knowledge | AmusED via #downes

Should Schools Teach General Critical-Thinking Skills? 

Monday, December 5th, 2016

This article claims that “critical thinking” should not be taught as an independent discipline – largely because success in any particular area is allegedly more dependent on detailed knowledge of that area. But one of the main reasons for teaching “critical thinking” is to train people to evaluate the arguments and claimed expertise of others in areas where they do NOT have loads of experience or knowledge themselves. As such, it is perhaps THE most important thing a person can learn …. if indeed it can be taught.

But an important point made or implied in the article is that there is precious little positive evidence that those who claim to be teaching critical thinking are having any measurable success. This is certainly an appropriate application of critical thinking to the claims of those who claim to teach it. But it does not address the question of whether or not those skills should be taught if possible. A proper application of critical thinking to the article itself requires us to investigate whether or not the graduates of a “critical thinking” class are  or are not better able to identify a charlatan than those who took the “placebo” class. Being too lazy to do so myself I will leave this as an exercise for the reader.

Some Math Ed Stuff 

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Inverse Functions are certainly a minefield for students, and the situation is not helped by teachers’ use of sloppy language to describe the concept and the prescription of a mindless ritual for answering assigned questions.

This article points in the right direction although it’s not quite perfect in my opinion1. But what got my friend Bruce to comment was one of the authors taking the objection to explanation by procedural prescription into another area where it might be less apt – namely the concept of average value.

Note 1:
Expressions like “the inverse of y=f(x)” are problematic because the relation defined by y=f(x) is the same as that defined by x=f^-1(y) and does have inverse relation defined by y=f^-1(x). So, contrary to the article, it is in some sense correct to say that the “the inverse of y=f(x) is y=f^-1(x)”, and the formal definition of functions as sets of ordered pairs does justify “switching x and y” if this is interpreted and explained properly.

Prepare to be inspired (fromBBC via Butterflies and Wheels)

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Connie, this is for you:

The BBC has an annual series called 100 Women. BBC 100 Women names 100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year. We create documentaries, features and interviews about their lives, giving more space for stories that put women at the centre.

Source: Prepare to be inspired – Butterflies and Wheels