On Assuming I Know What I Mean When First I Speak

I often begin reasoning from first principles of which I may not initially be aware; they unfold to me as I explain my thinking over minutes, days, and weeks. I don’t see this as a matter for concern. I follow in the step of many writers who have expressed the idea that they learn what they think as they write and re-write it.

However, this can lead to the impression that I’m not trying to be precise or decisive. Quite the opposite is true. My willingness to continue refining my thoughts, often times in private and slowly, is just that: my attempt to be both precise and decisive, albeit in the face of imperfect information.

How can any of us claim to be honestly engaged in conversation if we’re unwilling or unable to refine our thoughts?

Commenting on Student Writing

We often find ourselves commenting on students’ writing and acting as editors rather than critical readers: we indicate line-level edits, such as missing commas and poor word choices– as if fixing the mechanical errors would make the paper acceptable. In reality, most student papers we see are first drafts, often written the night before the assignment is due and unedited by anyone, including the author. (See my post concerning the design of assignments, coming soon.)

Continue reading Commenting on Student Writing

Six Words Challenge

I’ve been inspired by a recent reminder of the old story about Hemingway and how he was asked to write a complete novel in only six words. I immediately began thinking about how I could distill advice to educators down to just six words. What can you say about assessment (as opposed to grading), instructional design, program evaluation, classroom management, and so on in just six words?

My first shot: Don’t solve problems students don’t have.

What six-word guidance do you have for educational best practices?

Can Apple’s Gadgets Converge with Apple’s Other Gadgets?

I’m a fan of Apple products. I like the design and I like the overall user experience. That’s not to say that Apple products (both hardware and software) or Apple itself is without flaw; they certainly fall down in some spots. But I’m reassured that they at least try, unlike so many other companies out there.

One of the areas I wish Apple would get its act together on is convergence with its own product lines! Different docks for each iPod/iPhone model has always bothered me, although the dock connector has been going strong for some time now. Similarly, the initial software disparity between the iPod Touch and the iPhone — shameless and unnecessary! The marginal cost of including the full suite of Safari, Mail, and so on for iPod Touch users from the start would have been so much less than the public relations fiasco of having to charge for the software upgrade, once Apple finally realized the error of their ways.

I’d like to pick on one particular technology where Apple missed the opportunity boat, however: The earphones that come with the iPhone; they’re not the highest audiophile quality around, but they suffice. The inclusion of the mic and push to answer/hangup/play/pause button on the right-hand earbud is wonderful. Apple has managed to train me to use it and I love them for it. I love it when the music pods down when there’s an incoming call, and I love the ability to just click-to-answer.

I love the features so much so that I’m shocked when I’m using those very same earphones plugged into my MacBook and they don’t work as my Apple training has led me to expect.

  • I should be able to listen to my music (no problem)
  • I should be able to click to play/pause music (can’t)
  • I should be able to use them as a headset/mic for audio/video iChats (can’t)
  • When an audio/video iChat invite comes in, my music should pod down and I should be able to click-to-answer (can’t)

In short, I want the same features on my notebook that I have on my iPhone with those cute earbuds! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been sitting in the library or cafe and had an iChat invite come in and you know, my first instinct was to click the button on the earphones. Invariably, I then have a moment of confusion, followed by disappointment as I context-switch and figure out how to answer the invite.

Apple can do better at very little cost, it would downgrade gracefully for users of standard earphones just like it does on the iPhone, and the overall Apple user experience would be smoother and black-turtle-neck-style cooler.