Tuesday, February 19, 2008

effectiveness, not eifficiency

A great quote from one of my readings this week regarding learning:

"If learning is what we value, then we ought to value the process of learning as much as we value the result of it. A typical classroom narrows both thinking strategies and answer options. Educators who insist on singular approaches and the "right answer" are ignoring the history of our species: Human beings have thrived because we continually seek viable alternative solutions instead of being bound to a single path. The human brain survives on effectiveness, not efficiency. Limiting education to the search for the right answer- as we do when we focus on standardized testing - violates the law of the adaptability of the developing brain. Quality education encourages a wide-open creative problem solving approach, there by exploring alternative thinking options, multiple right answers, and creative insights. These are not valued on standardized tests."

Monday, February 11, 2008

inside wants out

I've been working out lately. I got a little tired of being the last one up the side of the mountain each time our class went on a field trip. I do feel a lot more active than I have in any other winter, and I'm actually losing weight instead of gaining it while snow's on the ground - which is a fantastic improvement.

But I have to say, winter still gets to me a bit. I miss being outside. Today, the wind is howling with a -15F wind chill, and I'm sitting indoors, wishing I was following tracks through the woods, but knowing that really, that wouldn't be healthy. I get stir crazy in the winter, and a tad depressed. Right now, that's manifesting in an aversion to sitting still. I don't want to read what I have to for class because it involves being under artificial light and sitting still for hours at a time.

(I did, however, update my tracking photo album to include the most recent class, where we saw some awesome stuff. Above is a picture of bobcat tracks, and that day we saw coyote, mink, and bear signs.... sweet.)

If I could read while running at the gym, I would, but bouncing up and down while running makes me a little nauseous if I try to read.

I'm also having a paradox between what I'd like to read and what I am supposed to read. I have a few books that I ordered for personal reasons (The Omnivore's Dilemma, Blink, The World Without Us, etc.) that are calling me, but I have to read 6 chapters of Beak of the Finch, 4 chapters of Evolutionary Ecology, 2 chapters of my Learning Development Book, and I have to finish the book on brains. Phew. I should stop writing and get back to work...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Unplug children

Inspired by several things and remembering Louv's book, "Last Child in the Woods" I decided to make a bumpersticker that expressed what I felt about the way kids were growing up these days. It's now available for sale at my Zazzle site should you feel so inclined. I think there's a few more ideas still stewing, so there may be more coming.

In association with Zazzle.com

Foxy lady

Last week I went tracking for the first time since I started taking Mammalogy. Since then, the conditions have been horrid for tracking - everything is melting and rain obscures any tracks that were there. But, since I have some pictures of the tracks I saw, I thought I'd show you what they looked like in fresh, good snow, instead of the junk we're dealing with now.

On my first jaunt out I saw squirrel tracks, white footed mouse tracks and red fox tracks! I had no idea there was so much red fox activity in Durham, but there were plenty of tracks gonig up and down the frozen Oyster river and through the woods. I had a great time out in the snow following the tracks around, and I can't wait to do more!


On Icicles and language

So tonight I am writing a paper regarding the language development of 18-24 month olds. After having difficulty finding anyone I know with a 2 year old (everyone's child seems to be older or an infant!) I decided to to my analysis on a home video of my brother Greg when he was two, circa 1988 (my mom's haircut is hillarious.)

I've had a great time writing this paper because its forced me to look at really what stage Greg was in at the time by looking at his language alone, instead of just thinking that his speech was the most adorable thing ever.

An excerpt:

When mom interacted with Greg, it was clear that they had certain nicknames for things that they were doing. The tinsel that they were putting on the tree was called “icicles” which Greg seemed to understand was the shiny stuff he was attempting to put on the Christmas tree. I wondered if he knew where the nickname came from – the tree resembled one coated in ice when the “icicles” were all applied – and I wonder if he thought they resembled each other at all, because there were big icicles outside of the window hanging from the eave of the roof. It was clear, however, that his meaning of icicles as being the silver, thin tinsel they were putting on the tree was a little less than concrete a few minutes later. Greg opened a box of ornament hooks, spilling them onto the floor, heaping them into a pile and then dropping them from above his head in front of him. These ornament hooks were silver like the tinsel – and when asked what he was doing, he said “Look icicles!” at that time, mom corrected him and said, “No, honey, those are hooks for the ornaments.” “Icicles,” Greg said back. Mom slyly scooped up the pile of ornament hooks and returned with some more tinsel. “Lets put more of these icicles on the tree,” mom said, “and daddy will attach the hooks later.” This, to me, was an example of the “No, that’s not a kitty!” example given in class – the subtle dissonance (a la Piaget) and learning that must have been going on for Greg all the time at that age.
What was also interesting is that at the same time I was writing this paper, I came across an article that has to do with language development of toddlers that is quite amazing.
ScienceDaily (2008-02-04) -- Researchers are studying a ground-breaking theory that young children are able to learn large groups of words rapidly by data-mining. Their theory, which they have explored with 12- and 14-month-olds, takes a radically different approach to the accepted view that young children learn words one at a time -- something they do remarkably well by the age of 2 but not so well before that.
I shared this article with the class and the teacher thanked me for it. Maybe she'll mention something about it in class tomorrow. Anyway, that's all for now, back to the paper.