I don’t think I’ve ever been that bored February 23, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in math, younger son.
Tags: math, younger son
Me: “Was this something your teacher had you do?”
Younger son: “No, I was just bored with reading.”
I counted…they both appear to be correct.
Obviously… January 8, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in grad school, younger son.
Tags: obviously, younger son
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The younger boy was saying good night before bed. I told him I needed a hug, so he curled up on my lap and said I couldn’t work any more tonight.
“The whole night? If I don’t get any more work done because I spent the whole night snuggling you, then what will my advisor think?”
“Obviously, she would think that you have a son who loves you.”
There’s nothing cuter than a little boy using the word obviously, except when he does it while snuggling you.
How I spent my holiday vacation December 31, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in photography, younger son.
Tags: legos, pictures, space shuttle, younger son
I had to spend a lot of time at home with the younger boy, so I managed to cross off something that’s been sitting on my to-do list for almost a year. Of course, I had a bit of help. This is the largest lego kit I’ve ever owned, and the first I’ve had since I was…five? It was 1200+ pieces worth of building goodness, and every piece was fantastic. This has made me wonder if one goal for the new year should be to get another kit. Of course, a more immediate goal is to find a place to put it…
Not working… October 4, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, younger son.
Tags: gifted, gifted education, math, younger son
Last spring, we came to an agreement with the younger son’s school that he’d be doing his online math course at school.
We didn’t even make it a month, and he’s back to doing it at home. I’m not sure what happened, but it sounds like he couldn’t work in the classroom. Instead, he was supposed to work out at the main desk. I’m sure that wasn’t at all distracting. He had some people there he could ask for help, but I get the feeling that didn’t work so well and they also weren’t going to let him contact his teacher through the program. He basically stopped working.
After a few days of this, I started doing some of it at home with him after school. Finally, it was apparent he wasn’t getting anything done at all at school, so we sent a note to his teacher and the principal that he would be doing math at home again. His teacher said ok, and the principal never responded.
I’m not sure what to make of it given how adamant they were about him doing his math at school last spring. I also guess I’m a bit disappointed that I have to take this over again. However, it seems like he’s moving again, so we’ll just go with it.
Bed time reading July 24, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in younger son.
Tags: books, reading, summer reading, younger son
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Last fall, we took a trip to Minneapolis and decided to visit the science fiction bookstore, Uncle Hugo’s. While I found a slew of books, I was hoping to find copies of a three books I’d read in my youth by Philip Curtis. All of the stories were “Invasion of…”, but the only one I could definitely remember was “Invasion of the Brain Sharpeners”.
I was ten when I read those books. I honestly don’t remember a thing about them other than that each featured a kid who saved Earth from some sort of alien invasion. What I do remember is that I was completely transfixed by them and that I got in trouble for reading them when I should’ve been doing schoolwork. I wanted to find copies in case the younger boy was interested in reading them. And, well, I sort of wanted to reread them myself.
The bookstore had no copies, and after I spent time hunting around, I realized why. Apparently the only copies still in existence seem to be old school library copies, so I ordered all three from various people selling them on Amazon. One of the books may not have ever been in a library, but it was probably in a classroom of some sort. It is very well used. The second was at a place called Newark Valley Middle School. I have no idea where it is, but the last page is ripped in half because they removed the checkout card.
The third one was a real gem. It belonged to Price Laboratory School Library at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. These wise people had the wisdom to leave the checkout card still in it. They attempted to blot out the names on the card, but I can still read a few. More importantly, I can see when the book was checked out. It was only checked out 17 times in the 20 years before it was withdrawn. It looks like it was pulled out in 2001 and must’ve been waiting to be bought for over a decade. Or maybe it’s been bought and sold several times since then. Hard to say. It was checked out a lot in the early 80s, only 4 times in the entirety of the 90s.
This book, incidentally, is the one that I decided to sit down and read with younger boy. Given I can’t even find a lexile score for the books, I have no idea where they are. We take turns reading alternating paragraphs. It appears that they use a lot of words that the younger boy can read but doesn’t necessarily know, so he’s being stretched. He seemed to enjoy it and even would spend longer than the 20 minutes that I suggested for reading time. (He could’ve also been trying to push off his bed time.) We finished it in about a week because the younger boy was so interested.
It turns out that the books aren’t as good as I remember, but I can definitely see how a 5th grader would find them captivating. And I was pleasantly surprised that the ending wasn’t as predictable as one would have imagined. Things have been busy, so we haven’t started the next one yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
Do you have any books that you have shared or would like to share with your kids?
Tags: brain rules, education, family, higher education, learning, learning disabilities, older son, online learning, schedules, science education, teaching, technology, UDL, universal design for learning, universities, younger son
I’ve been having a discussion with Massimo about his post on instructional technology. Despite what I’ve already said, I have a lot more thoughts, so it’s just easier to write it out as a blog post (or maybe more than one).
I think I’m going to start by defining some things about how classrooms operate online. First, you have what I would call the Udacity (or maybe Khan Academy) model. This is a model where you basically watch a lecture online, complete and submit homework assignments online, and discuss things via discussion boards (or Blackboard or Moodle). The second model is completely computerized – all the lessons are presented via a reading or lecture, and the bulk of the course is completing problems. Both my sons have used the former method to learn math. One uses EPGY and the other uses Aleks. On top of these choices for online education, there are in-class courses, mixed (some components online and others in a classroom or lab), and earning credit by exam, such as AP, CLEP, or DANTE exams.
If you look at these options from the point of view of a university, some of these options for educating students are going to be more appealing than others. Credit by exam, of course, is going to be the least appealing. The university gets a fee for administering the exam but pretty much nothing else. Many universities simply will not accept them, but there are a lot of them (mostly non-elite schools) that will.
The other one that is bad from a university POV is the completely computerized model. It works incredibly well for things like math and some sciences because it basically moves working from a textbook to working on the computer. Also, most of the programs are adaptive in that, if you’re having difficulty with a concept, it will first give you additional problems. If this doesn’t seem to be helping, it will pull you off that topic and put you on to another, waiting a while before it allows you to revisit the difficult topic. (I believe K12 uses a completely computerized model for all courses, but I have no experience with it and can’t say how well it works for language or social science-type courses.) In a classroom where one person is a facilitator supervising several students working on the course, this is a very cost effective method, and a lot of elementary and secondary schools are beginning to utilize it. When doing it for online education, however, it represents an expense that is more, generally speaking, than hiring an individual to teach a class. The majority of tuition money would be spent on licensing (as there are already several good ones out there) or development of a program (which may not compete well with pre-existing products) and not going into university coffers. Also, why offer something that everyone else can offer, too? That’s certainly not going to set you apart in terms of attracting students. Therefore, universities are more likely to want to have in-class courses, mixed, or online courses that utilize the Udacity model.
In the discussion Massimo’s final comment was this:
I was not aware that there is now solid research showing that online education is superior to classroom teaching for the vast majority of students (I assume that at Stanford they no longer offer classroom-based math courses — it would make no sense to have continued, given that online courses work better). I am surprised that classroom-based education still exists at all, and that so many of us still believe that it is better — but I am sure society will soon abandon this useless relic of a time past, and embrace the more effective online education.
Here’s the problem: there are decades of research showing that online education is, at the very least, equally effective for most students and significantly better for other students. So why aren’t we using it more? I could also state that lectures have been been shown to be one of the poorest forms of teaching known to man, so why do we continue to use it so much? Turns out, there’s an answer. In this journal called Science (you may have heard of it), they ask exactly this question about interactive teaching and inquiry-based classrooms:
Given the widespread agreement, it may seem surprising that change has not progressed rapidly nor been driven by the research universities as a collective force. Instead, reform has been initiated by a few pioneers, while many other scientists have actively resisted changing their teaching. So why do outstanding scientists who demand rigorous proof for scientific assertions in their research continue to use and, indeed defend on the basis of intuition alone, teaching methods that are not the most effective? Many scientists are still unaware of the data and analyses that demonstrate the effiectiveness of active learning techniques. Others may distrust the data because they see scientists who have flourished in the current educational system. Still others feel intimidated by the challenge of learning new teaching methods or may fear that identification as teachers will reduce their credibility as researchers.
I’d like to note that this was published in 2004, almost a decade ago. Here we are, 8 years later, and from my observation, active teaching strategies are seldom used in most classrooms.
I think it’s safe to say that this is the same set of problems faced with online education. I would also add that people who learn well in the classroom have a hard time understanding that others may learn as well or better using a different medium. Or there’s just simply the problem that they’re afraid they’re going to lose their jobs. (I only see this as likely in the scenario colleges would somehow try to implement completely computerized online classes…but you can see my comments on that above.)
One major issue that I see is how few college instructors really understand how people learn. They learned well through a lecture style course, and so they assume that it is obviously the best way to learn. I personally think that every instructor ought to have at least one course in educational neuroscience so that they understand how lousy lectures really are as well as so that they may communicate to their students how they ought to try to approach learning and studying. (This was a significant part of the class I taught to incoming engineering students last year, but not all places have a course where you can cover topics like that.) I do realize that such a course is not available at most universities, but I don’t think that should prevent one from accessing this knowledge. I would suggest that one who has never taken such a course invest some time in the course materials available online (are you feeling the irony?) at Harvard. Those opposed to online education can read the book Brain Rules, which was used as the text for the course. (Of course, if you are opposed to online education, I hope you’re reading an actual paperback rather than downloading it onto your iPad.)
Massimo also says:
I am not disputing that online education may be the only/best option for some — but, from it being a valid option for some, to it replacing classroom teaching foreveryone, there is a bit of a leap, don’t you think ?
No, I don’t think so. There are two reasons why I think this. First, teachers who embrace online learning are more likely to embrace other technology that is likely to enhance learning. Generally, this will enhance learning beyond anything that is likely to occur in a lecture-based class that occurs in a classroom. Despite what some people may say, research shows (read Brain Rules) that learning which is multisensory (like watching YouTube clips) is better for you than sitting in a lecture. Images will convey more information than talking, and video (or seeing something in action) conveys more information than straight images. Sitting in a lab is likely the best environment of all. Online learning also is likely to be able to keep people’s attention. (If you read Brain Rules, you’ll come to find that most people can only focus for about ten minutes, and then they need something to restimulate their attention.)
Second, I think accessibility is a huge issue in education. I have one parent who found it incredibly difficult to finish a degree (and she never did) because she had a choice between quitting her job to take classes at the local university, which were only offered during the day, and taking night classes at an expensive private college. I have a sibling who is currently finishing a degree in accounting online because she lives two hours from a university and works 4-10s. How is she supposed to finish a degree at a school in those circumstances? There are a lot of people in similar situations who would otherwise be unable to earn a degree. In fact, my husband earned his MS through Penn State through a Navy program where he took some classes at the university and some through a video link…well over a decade ago. He said he would’ve been unlikely to pursue a degree if he’d had to drive across Puget Sound (he was in the Seattle area at the time) evenings for two or three years.
Okay, so obviously I know a lot of people who have benefitted from these sorts of things. So why do I think it could work for everyone? I think this is a basic principle behind Universal Design for Learning: the notion is that if you design a curriculum that helps people with difficulties and disabilities, you’re going to help many other people as well. Our brains work on a continuum, and while not everyone may have learning disabilities, they may operate in a region where learning may be difficult, if not disabling, when it’s presented a certain way. Therefore, if you design materials to teach someone who is hearing impaired, for instance, you’ll likely help a lot of people who may have difficulty with ingesting information through auditory means in general. (Lest you think this must be a small part of the population, take into consideration that I was working toward a master’s degree before I found out that I likely have some sort of auditory processing disorder…and only because my son was diagnosed with one. Smart people can often do well even with learning disabilities because they often have other ways to compensate…but it can be frustrating for them, nonetheless. I wrote a post on this topic a while ago.)
So what does this have to do with online learning? I can give a concrete example: my older son is ADHD and had auditory processing disorder. He really struggles sitting in a normal classroom and, for most of his life, his teachers told me he couldn’t possibly be gifted because of his classroom performance despite the fact that I had documented evidence to the contrary. We took him out of the classroom, and he started earning college-level credits through CLEP exams beginning his freshman year of high school…working independently, primarily through reading. As I mentioned above, he does all of his math through Aleks. He does extremely well on pretty much any type of standardizes examination. I can easily see a kid like him, even with less problems, having huge difficulties sitting in a college classroom but being able to handle an online class very easily in no small part because the method of presentation. So why can’t this help someone who is less distractable?
Take it a step further. If online learning is ideal for people who have jobs and families and can work in the evenings but not get to classes, why can’t it also work for students living in dorms or even at home? Maybe some of them find that they concentrate best at night and it is preferable to sitting in a large, crowded, warm, boring classroom at 8 a.m. (And yes, people do function on different clocks.) Aren’t you benefitting the student by allowing them to work at their peak time?
I’m not saying everyone will take advantage of this, but I think it ought to be an option for many people. Some people really thrive on personal interaction and keeping them out of a classroom would inhibit them from learning. Some people don’t. The ideal situation is where students have choices and options.
I think the final thing I have to say on this topic is that the real problem, in my mind, is that teachers see themselves as essential to the learning process. Really, the one thing I’ve learned going through graduate school and homeschooling my kids is that teachers are more often an impediment. The university functions to teach students, and yet, in many cases, students are quite capable of learning the materials on their own. That’s really the reason behind homework: you learn it far better by doing it than by sitting and listening to someone talk about it. In reality, students are still learning on their own. The role of the university is to focus the effort, speed up the process, and assess performance. Students are not necessarily learning anything from their classes that they cannot learn on their own…and in fact, they may be learning it less deeply than if they did it on their own.
I find this ironic given that the other aspect of a university is research: people are expected to learn new things and create new knowledge all the time. If learning really only happens meaningfully in a classroom, then research couldn’t exist. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that researchers who learn things on their own all the time will turn around and claim that undergraduates somehow lack that ability.
My conclusion, therefore, is that online education should seriously be considered as an alternative whenever available. I think it democratizes education and makes a better environment for learning for a significant portion of students. The reason we haven’t shifted to these models is mostly because professors, on the whole, are unwilling to consider that it should be done another way and are uninformed about the benefits.
Tags: fostering, Gigadog, illness, reading, west nile, writing, younger son
I never thought I’d be thankful for my child being sick. I suppose I should as it means he’s acquiring another immunity.
I’m guessing the younger son had West Nile. At least, the symptoms were consistent with West Nile, and it showed up a couple days after his daycare took the kids to a nearby state park to swim. Swimming hole = mosquitoes = contagion. The younger boy is usually pretty healthy, but it was obvious he was pretty sick this time. He spent two days solid watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, eating jello and yogurt, and sleeping.
I constantly had a thermometer in my hand. The worst was reading temps of 103.5°F, because then I had to convince myself that it was really better not to give him Tylenol. See, the kid wouldn’t sleep unless I let his fever run up, and I know from past experience that you’ve got to let them hit that spike or it just drags out for days. It seemed to work because less than 24 hours after we initially discovered he was sick, his fever dropped down in to the below 101°F range. Yesterday, which was 48 hours after we found out he was sick, he was going stir crazy and taking Mike and myself with him.
In the meantime, I was stuck at home, and it was the probably some of the best uninterrupted time I’ve had in months to work on my dissertation. This resulted in a big jump forward, at least from my perspective. In that time, I learned how to use the debugger and managed to fix a couple major issues with my code. On top of that, I managed to finish a fictional novel I’ve been reading for the last six months. (Yeah, I know…) I even spent some time doing some fun writing of my own (though obviously not the blog).
I also was asked to take care of a rescue dog for a couple days. He’s a very sweet boy, but he makes Gigadog look tiny. (Maybe we should call him Teradog?) I’ll probably be picking him up tomorrow, so I’ll try to get some pics up. (Depends on how busy he keeps me.) I think we’ve decided to call him Rainier, since he’s huge as a mountain. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he and Gigadog get along well.
Bye, bye, Birdie… June 19, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in younger son.
Tags: bird, younger son
Sorry posting has been so light. I’m in the middle of fighting with my program and also trying to write up a proposal. Both activities are rather time-consuming.
We went to check on baby bird last night. It was sitting in the box/nest and doing well. I was actually very surprised. I expected it to be gone and/or dead. I was therefore feeling really good about the whole thing, thinking we’d done a good deed for our sparrow friend. I was feeling more confident that it was going to make it.
Before we left the grocery store, we went to take another peak. I mentioned to the younger son that we should rearrange the grass (which was drying up) to cover up the birdie a bit more. Younger son got overly enthusiastic and scared poor birdie out of the nest.
And that’s when everything went wrong. Birdie can fly short distances, low to the ground. So it did that…and landed directly in front of a car which was stopped. Apparently the person in the car had stopped to watch us. I turned around and pondered briefly if I should go after it…and then the driver started driving at the moment…right over our birdie.
Both younger son and I must’ve had horrified looks on our faces because the driver stopped and laughingly said, “What? Did I hit it or something?” I don’t think he realized at all what it was like to watch that. I replied (probably rather angrily), “No, you ran it over.” He kind of seemed surprised and said, “I didn’t see it.”
Of course he didn’t…it was right in front of his tire.
So birdie didn’t make it. Younger son immediately said he killed it and was starting to cry. I told him it wasn’t his fault. (I’d already saved said bird from being run over twice before we got it the new nest.) That being said, I feel guilty for not running out and telling him to stop before he’d moved. Of course, realistically, I only had a second to react, and I just wasn’t fast enough. There’s plenty of guilty feelings going around here. I’m already missing going to check on our little friend, and I keep saying that at least he got a couple more days than he likely would have.
All that being said, it makes me appreciate having younger son around. Unlike the older son, he’s always taking me on ‘adventures’. A few years back, we saved a baby rabbit. He will want to stop in the middle of winter and go on a random hike through the park. He forces me to stop thinking about everything else in life and pay attention to the stuff in front of me much more than I do without him. I’m sad things didn’t turn out well on this adventure, but at least we tried, and we dealt with all of it together.
The younger son’s nickname ought to be Diego June 15, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in younger son.
Tags: bird, younger son
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I picked up the younger boy from daycare after work. The plan was to run two errands and then pick up pizza on the way home. However, we were delayed at our first stop. At the grocery store three block from our house, the younger son noted a baby bird in the parking lot. We followed it around for a bit, and realized that 1) he couldn’t fly well enough to get back to his nest, 2) Mama was doing her best to keep the crows away from him and keep him fed, and 3) he had this horrible tendency to hop into traffic unless we were standing close by.
(Why do baby birds always look mad?)
The younger boy kept an eye on him while I went inside and bought a couple of tin cooking pans. I thought that we could at least put him in one and let mama keep feeding him. At least that way he’d stay out of traffic. No go. He didn’t like the pan and was able to hop out in short order. I tried calling the local zoo, who said I should call the Game and Fish Dept. They, of course, were closed until next Monday. I called a friend who is has a vet tech degree (and dealt with more exotic species). No luck.
In the meantime, I pointed out to younger son that when Mama was getting close to the baby, he’d start chirping and she’d come over to feed him. The younger boy, of course, felt we must bring him home and love him and cuddle him and give him a bath…then asked how to bathe a bird. I kept telling him that Mama was still taking care of him, and if we brought him home, he would very likely die. I called Mike and we talked about it, and I suggested bringing him home and getting a ‘nest’ set up…then I could bring him back after dark when there was no traffic. Mike had a better idea: he found a shoebox, put a brick in it (to keep it from blowing away in a strong wind), and filled it with grass and weeds. Since we were only three block away, he ran it over, and we got baby bird into it.
Mama found him a couple minutes later and started bringing food over to him. Also, she started keeping an eye out for crows. We left to get dinner (because it was well past the time we were supposed to have been home and had dinner). On our way back home, we checked back in on the impromptu nest. Baby bird was happily snuggled between the brick and the side of the box, almost completely hidden in the grass. It opened one eye when we came up to the box, but quickly closed it and fell back asleep.
I think the younger son was disappointed that he didn’t get a new pet bird, but I think he understands that this is his best chance for making it. The younger son said the only thing better would be to find a large grassland, devoid of any other animals. He could be right.
Why parenting sucks… May 25, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, teaching, younger son.
Tags: education, gifted education, math, standardized exams, testing, younger son
Now that the school year is over, I can finally discuss one thing that’s been driving me nuts for the past couple weeks.
Most of you know that I’ve been volunteering to work with a group in my son’s class that’s slightly ahead in math. The teacher was doing some grouping to help the kids who were struggling and more or less leaving the other ones to do “enrichment activities” for an additional twenty minutes outside of normal math time every day. I was going in once a week to help with the advanced group, although that evolved into reading math stories to the whole class every other week.
One day was very odd. As I sat down to work with the ‘advanced’ group, the younger son started talking. He started explaining addition and multiplicative identities to the other kids, but it was obvious they didn’t know what he was talking about. At first, I tried to get back to what I’d planned on discussing, but I also didn’t want to make him feel like he was being shushed. So when the other kids started this eye-roll, “here he goes again” type of body language, I tried to augment what he was saying. I wondered how often this type of thing was happening. I felt bad about the whole thing because the kids seemed interested when I was talking about it. However, here’s the younger son, feeling like he can talk to these other kids about some of the math he was doing at home, and they don’t understand and are blowing him off.
Unfortunately, I know how he feels because this happens to me as an adult, almost always when I’m talking to my kids’ teachers. I have always gotten the feeling that they think I don’t understand children or how they work. I obviously am just one of those parents that’s overestimating my child’s intelligence and pushing him beyond his ability. If my children really were ‘gifted’ (always said with a sneer, if the dreaded word is even spoken at all), then they wouldn’t behave the way they do. (I think this means they expect my kids to sit still and be compliant.) And I’m most definitely not competent enough to handle educating my own child.
In fact, it happened again very recently. The younger son’s end of year test scores came back, and all of the focus was on one subtest where he’s “right in with his peers”. That is, a full year ahead of national norms. They’re very concerned about his progress because of that subtest and wanted him to spend next year in the normal classroom to ‘get him back on track’. (Because working a year behind his current achievement level helps him how????) Very conveniently, they ignore the subtest where he’s four years ahead…and the other two or three where he’s still very far ahead of his classmates, as well. They use that one subtest as evidence that I’m doing a lousy job teaching him math at home.
The good news is that they’re going to let him continue to use his current math curriculum, only he will be doing it at school in the fall. I have a few reservations (mostly that he won’t get the help he needs), but I have hopes that just maybe they’ll start believing me. I know it’s hard to believe a kid can go from getting teary-eyed about getting subtraction problems wrong to gleefully manipulating fractions and decimals in a single year. On the other hand, I am pretty sure he’s said things that would make them realize he knows some of this stuff…but I suspect they just blew it off or attributed it to his “overactive imagination”.