Saturday, January 29, 2011

3 study strategies for students

Apropos our recent discussion of testing versus 'studying,' Landmark College's Jim Baucom discusses some basic study strategies that are proven to enhance learning. Baucom notes that the amount of time college students spend studying has declined since the 1960's and proposes that a key explanation for this is that students don't know how to study effectively. It makes sense really: You 'study' in order to master material. Tests, etc., show that you didn't learn much, so you pull back from 'studying'.

Baucom mentions three research-tested methods of studying that actually work:

Friday, January 28, 2011

Simply (one of the 50) best

Mike Austin alerted me to ISW being listed as one of the 50 best humanities blogs by the Online Education Database. We're joined by some indisputable philosophy blog all-stars: Leiter Reports, Experimental Philosophy, Think Tonk, PEA Soup, Certain Doubts, the Prosblogion, and others.

It says we look "at philosophy, education and their interactions, exploring teaching methods that get people thinking critically about the world around them."

Yes, we do.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Former House rep makes the case for the humanities

Heather Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the U.S. House for about a decade, reports on her experiences as an evaluator of Rhodes Scholar applicants. Without quite saying it, she makes a powerful case for the humanities. A lengthy quote below the fold...

Testing, testing, 123

The New York Times reports on a pair of experiments concluding that taking tests enhances learning better than repeated studying. I won't go into the details of the studies, but the gist is that students were asked to read a passage and tested a week later for how much information they retained from the passage. Those students who took tests in the interim retained more information from the passage than did students who repeatedly studied the material or mapped it out with concept diagrams.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Technology, Values, and the Value of the Humanities

I'm teaching an upper-level course this semester entitled Technology and Values. Today in class we began a discussion of some of the values embedded in technology, based on a piece by Langdon Winner entitled "Artifacts/Ideas and Political Culture."*  Briefly, one of his arguments is that some contemporary technology contains anti-democratic values, including the centralization of power, a view of the world as hierarchically structured, the unequal distribution of goods, and the assumption that men and women have different competencies.  For example, some information technologies eliminate certain places of community life; computer technologies can undermine privacy and freedom; and some systems of manufacturing seek control at the expense of human initiative and creativity.  Without going into the details of the argument, the claim is that these values conflict with democratic values such as freedom, justice, equality, and self-government.

What strikes me as quite relevant for teachers of philosophy who are also concerned with the state and role of the humanities is one of Winner's proposed solutions. He offers three "guiding maxims" intended to help us talk in more meaningful and comprehensive ways about technology and its impact on political culture, rather than merely allowing values such as productivity and efficiency to trump everything else. One of those maxims is No engineering without political deliberation. When a proposed technological project is under discussion, it "should be closely examined to reveal the covert political conditions and artifact/ideas" its production would entail. Because of this, he argues that the education of engineers should equip them "to evaluate political contexts, political ideas, political arguments, and political consequences involved in their work."  The goal is to find ways to extend values such as freedom and social justice into the structure of technology and technology-related public policy, rather than acquiescing to the default market values of efficiency and productivity.

Given the role of technology in society, and the amount of attention it receives, one way to underscore the importance of the humanities is to discuss the human, social, and political values that particular technologies foster and hinder. Then--when the myth of the value-neutrality of technology is exposed--show the need for not only engineers but others involved in designing, building, and distributing technological artifacts to consider the types of value issues that those of us in the humanities are concerned about and equipped to teach. This is another way to make the case for the importance and value of the humanities which connects in direct ways with our daily individual and social lives, and is therefore likely to be seen by some others as part of a sound case for the value of the humanities.

*Society, Ethics, and Technology, edited by Morton Winston and Ralph Edelbach

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Some resources for cheaper textbooks

I'm sympathetic to student greivances about the costs of textbooks. A New York Times blog recently listed some avenues to getting textbooks more cheaply — worth sharing with students.

"Logic: You can't fake it"

The book Academically Adrift is causing quite the buzz in higher ed circles, and it's not even officially hit the market yet. Yours truly hasn't read the book, but today's IHE has a summary followed by a litany of approving comments.

The book's thesis?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gaming the gamers

I'm fairly confident that I design writing assignments that, while not plagiarism-proof, are at least plagiarism-tough — that specific enough topic prompts, etc., make it harder for students to plagiarize.

But a simple study by Dan Ariely and a colleague suggests maybe I'm too worried, since at least one way for students to plagiarize — buying papers from an 'essay mill' — should be awfully easy to catch. Ariely ordered papers from four essay mills, ironically on the topic of cheating.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Examined Life

(cross posted at A Ku Indeed!)

Most of the books I get shipped to me by publishers are ones that will never get their spines cracked — a motley assortment of logic, ethics and introduction to philosophy textbooks that I have no need (nor the time) to read. Every once in a while, however, I get one that does actually look interesting. Like today: waiting for me at the University Post Office was The Examined Life by James Miller (at the New School for Social Research).

I haven’t read any of it, but I have thumbed through it and it seems like an interesting possible read for an Introduction to Philosophy class, actually. Miller writes the book as a biography of 12 thinkers from Socrates and walking though history to Nietzsche. From what I can tell, Miller basically tries to capture how each thinker attempted to pursue the project of “examining life” and in the process how each crafted an idiosyncratic project (Kant’s is built around the importance of “autonomy” for instance). Miller crafts each story while also talking about the actual private and public lives of each thinker, exposing not only larger reasons why each thinker may have pursued their specific project, but also in order to highlight how each thinker’s philosophical project and their actual life didn’t exactly mesh perfectly.

Sounds interesting, and it looks like an easy read. Has anyone out there read it or heard anything about it? (The WSJ has a review here.)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Pedagogical New Year's resolutions?

So it's twenty eleven. Or two thousand eleven. 2011. Whatever.

A good moment to think about teaching-related New Year's resolutions (I asked a few years back. Do your remember yours?)