Thursday, December 31, 2009

Elearning Prediction / Hope 2010 – Next 10 Years

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneFuture City
My prediction and hope for 2010 are tempered by what I learnt and gathered in 2009 and before that. However, my hope does not match my prediction.

I suspect that what I hope happens will not come to pass.

I’ll not dwell on the particular. That is too narrow for the future. Instead, I’ll attempt to look to the bigger picture of where a Nirvana in elearning might lie.


Commercialism and consumerism will rise with renewed vigour, despite the recent and global economic collapse that many experts say was brought about through, among other things, flagrant practices of commercialism and consumerism.

Rather than learn from past errors and misguided pathways, society will resume its hazardous journey and continue to career along a wavering and obstacle-strewn path to uncertain success.

Why do I feel this way? There are many reasons. I will cite only one elearning example here.

At the beginning of last decade (2000 – 2003) I watched the rise and fall of what might have been a brilliant concept in learning resource development – that of the learning object.

I may be wrong here – I don’t think I am. But my feeling is that financially pushy commercial factors, far larger than the budgets for learning itself, launched into the sky and eventually nosedived to destruction what could have been a worthwhile elearning concept, in the form of the learning object.

Pandora relic

I have one hope for this year and for the rest of time.

Sheryl McCoy’s recent post, Another Balkanized Technology Rip-Off, puts into words exactly how I feel about the way commercialism and consumerism have continued to hinder the betterment of society.

The drive to sell, through a strategy of planned obsolescence despite genuine need, continues to come in the way of establishing real expertise in the use of technology. It stymies creativity. It comes in the way of progressing to better things, while purporting to advance and progress towards improvement. It wastes time, resources and money.

I have worked through a decade of watching incompatibles, non-connectables, lack of connectivity and even incompatibility between different versions of the same commercial devices/applications/appliances.

I’ve wracked my senses, grappling with upgrades to versions of machines, computers and their applications. All in an attempt to continue to use these for the purposes that I had worked to acquire consummate ease in and reasonable expertise in.

What I discovered was that I was grounded, once again, when the latest version (of whatever) was released. It made me consider seriously and review any further dubious opportunities for ‘upgrading’.

Valuable opportunity

I hope that we can learn from the mistakes of the last decade, and of last century. Let’s not push mistakes into the past as history to be forgotten. Let’s not claim we are assured success by simply ‘moving right along’.

Let’s start putting to good use what can be salvaged in learning from our past mistakes and successes, and move to a richer and prosperous future.

Rangimārie - Peace in Harmony

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thinking and Learning

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

De Bono Thinker
A well-meaning friend once lent me a book and said, “You should read this. You’ll learn how to become very rich.” He also told me that the secret clue to becoming wealthy was found on almost every page, and that it also occurred several times on the first page.

I read the book. It is well written – a study of human nature – an interesting compendium of anecdotes and tips, directed mainly at sales-people, but not exclusively. I found the clue to becoming wealthy several times before I’d even finished reading page one.

But it didn’t help me become wealthy.

The book was Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The clue centred on the word ‘desire’. To become rich, first you must have the desire to do so.

Of course, the main reason I could not use the book for its intended purpose was that I had no burning desire to become wealthy. I’d like to be, but the necessary burning desire isn’t there.

The book did make me rich, however, but not in a financial way. It made me think about how some people can be so engaged in learning, they suck up skills and knowledge as if they were vacuum cleaners. It gave me clues as to how some people seem to learn, almost as if by instinct, and never stop learning.

Teaching and learning

When I taught Mathematics at Rongotai College, Wellington, I always asked for an Upper Fifth Mathematics class when classes were allocated to teachers at the beginning of the year. These classes were of students who had failed to qualify in Mathematics the year before.

Every year, I had a lot of fun with the learners in the Upper Fifth. I really enjoyed teaching them. I used to hold classes after school for those learners who felt they needed some extra help and tuition. It was rewarding. The after-school class was always full, though not all who attended were from my own Mathematics class.

There was one attribute common to all who attended.

Hooks for learning

Teachers speak of engagement, and practice strategies to improve student engagement in learning. Some put a lot of effort into stimulating interest in their learners and this is admirable. They look for and find the hooks that catch some learners and get them engaged.

Learning, and achieving through learning, is a bit like growing wealthy. There are many contributing factors, not all of which are related necessarily to innate ability. The learner who has a burning desire to learn will learn, despite apparent handicaps, whether it is learning to become a musician, learning to play chess or learning to read.

But to do this, they must also be able to think to apply their desires effectively. It is in teaching learners how to think that permits those who have the desire to learn to reach their goal. It ignites the fire of learning within them.

    Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. – George Bernard Shaw

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Deck The Halls

Ngā mihi o te kirihimete me Te Tau Hou - A Merry Christmas and a happy New Year

Opens new window at The Titanic

    Deck the halls with cloud computing,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.
    Tis the season, no disputing,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    See the blazing screen before us,
    fa la la, la la la, la la la.
    Strike the keys and join the chorus,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Follow me in multi-tasking,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.
    Is it useful? No point asking,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Can this be? I’ve no cognition,
    fa la la, la la la, la la la.
    Heedless of my mind’s condition,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Don our coats for it is raining,
    fa la la la la, la la la la,
    things to learn, but where’s the training?
    Fa la la la la, la la la la.

    Sing we joyous, all together,
    fa la la, la la la, la la la.
    Heedless of the global weather,
    fa la la la la, la la la la.

Thank you - bloggers, commenters, followers, visitors and great mates - for your support and friendship. I have really appreciated you being with me this year.

Have a rave time this festive season!

Rangimārie - Peace in Harmony

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Compassion - What I Learnt About Fishing

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allThe Anglers
As a child, I was never aware of any real ability I had, other than to get into mischief or catch cold. I discovered these rich talents early on. Even as a ten year old, I bumbled along with no appreciation of any real capabilities I might have had as a human being.

My grandfather used to take me fishing. I got a buzz from the wonderfully natural places we visited. My head got filled with the summer sounds and scenery of these spots. But I was hopeless at catching a fish, having too much compassion for the poor hapless creature to get any enjoyment from the event.

I recall stabbing my finger with a fishhook, being more astonished at how easily the needle-sharp device entered the tissue than the searing pain it caused. It stuck firmly, deep in my fingertip.

My grandfather was annoyed and looked at me sternly for a moment. He fumbled in the pocket of his fishing jacket and took out a small pair of pliers, holding them tightly in his hand.

With his other hand, he grabbed mine and lifted the injured finger so high that my shoulder hurt. I watched to see what he would do.
I thought he might pull out the hook with his pliers but I was too dumb and curious to close my eyes and brace myself.

He deftly pinched the hook in the jaws of the pliers and gave it a powerful and sudden twist. What I saw made my eyes pop.

Contrary to what I’d hoped, he didn’t pull out the hook. Instead, the business end of it reappeared through the tip of my finger – a tiny fluted barb, tinged with the blood that dripped from the newly pierced hole.

Grandfather carefully snipped off the barb with his pliers and swiftly pulled out the remains of the hook. He explained that the barb would have torn my finger apart if he'd remove it the same way it went in.

As I held my sore finger, wrapped
tightly in a piece of bandage,
I reflected on what it might be like for a poor fish who unwittingly takes the bait.

    I stood beside a brooklet, that sparkled on its way,
    and there beneath the wavelets, a tiny trout at play,
    as swiftly as an arrow, he darted to and fro,
    the gayest of the fishes among the reeds below,
    the gayest of the fishes among the reeds below.

    Angler there was standing, with rod and line in hand,
    Intent upon the fishes, a sportive fearless band,
    “`tis vain” said I “good neighbour, to fish a brooklet clear”
    The fish will surely see you upon the bank so near.
    The fish will surely see you upon the bank so near.

    But skillful was the angler, and artful too,
    The crystal brooklets depths defying, he hid the fish from view, and then he skill renewing,
    the fishes unheeding took the bait,
    and I was left lamenting, my tiny troutlet’s fate,
    and I was left lamenting, my tiny troutlet’s fate.

Video - The Trout

Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Zubin Mehta


Friday, December 18, 2009

Experience and Qualification

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Opens a new window at Bradley University in Second Life

I’ve been reflective in my thoughts on where teaching and learning, training and higher education have been leading us recently.

I find it curiously odd that there seems to be a cogent drift away from the value of qualification, in those who are actively engaged in creating educational and training resources. This, at a time when experience is already not held universally in high esteem.

By qualification, I mean a formal standard, diploma or degree, conferred by an authorised and antonymous education or training body.

By experience, I’m implying months or years actually practicing a discipline, in whatever role the position requires.

I have tremendous faith in the youth of today, so I’m not denying their worth and value. They have unbelievable potential and the future of the world as we know it lies undeniably in their hands.

But in the past decade or more, there has been a move away from recognising experience in the workplace. Fresh minds – and let’s not deny it, youth – and the promise of creativity coming from those, have been put above the true and proper value of experience.

And now, we might be misled into believing that qualification could also be discarded.

I put it to you, that by severing the effective combination of qualification, experience and innate ability of the potential appointee to a position in the workforce, we are not only doing a disservice to the workplace, we are putting the future of the world at risk.

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Learning - A One Way Street?

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone
Filling Jugs

Robert Winston got it right when he corrected John Campbell on TV3's Campbell Live today. John had remarked that he was learning a lot during his interview with Lord Robert, when the surgeon politely pointed out that he too was learning a lot.

Lord Robert is Professor of Science and Society at Imperial College, London. He made the point that the brain is an ever-changing organ where (learning) connections are being made all the time.

He said that when he left the TV studio, his brain would be different from how it was when he came in. This is because neural connections would have been made in Lord Robert's brain during the time he was in the studio. He would have learnt new things.

Empty vessels

'Filling jugs' has been a favourite metaphor for teaching and learning.
It implies many things erroneously. Among which is that teaching is a one way process of transmitting knowledge from teacher to learner.

My teacher training lecturers at Moray House College of Education, Edinburgh, in the 70s, were before their time. They each passed on their message. But a common theme was that teachers should never stop learning.

Part of good pedagogy is sharing the journey with the learner. There is as much for the teacher to learn on the way as there is to be taught.

If ever there is an idea that is ‘learner centred’, that one is!

Haere rā – Farewell

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What I Learnt About Learning 2009

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allKallan in the Land of the Long White Cloud

On The Learning Circuits Blog, Tony Karrer’s Big Question for December is What Did You Learn About Learning in 2009?

I reviewed my posts over the year, following Tony’s advice, looking for things that might be relevant to this. There are several recurring themes. Some I’ve also met on other bloggers’ posts. I've selected two main ones that are related - the quick pill and learner engagement.
I’ve a lot of questions, and few convincing answers.

We are often dogged by tradition when it comes to theories of learning. They are many and varied. But it’s too easy to discard time-honoured philosophies and replace them with something new and seemingly innovative.

Thinking and learning

One theme that’s prominent is related to multi-tasking, among a series of other linked ideas that took my interest this year. It prompted me to think of how ideas on thinking and learning evolve in the first place.

The discussions I’ve followed on the merits and demerits of multi-tasking seem to be at cross–purposes to each another. Those who believe that it can be done effectively are seemingly oblivious to hard evidence that it just can’t be done.

The quick pill

Learning is not often easy. It nearly always involves concentration, thought and patience. A person looking for a learning panacea (don’t all learners do this as some stage?) may end up having to make a strategic choice, and stick with that long enough to see if it works.
It doesn’t always work. It’s no different for the teacher who is looking for a quick pill to offer learners.

Teachers have a more difficult job in many respects, for they have first to assess the learners’ progress, and interpret these assessments to see if a method works. Teachers who believe that assessment is not required or who neglect the need for these are short-changing their learners and fooling themselves.

Learners who know something about metacognition may have more facile routes to similar destinations. But they also have to assess effectively their own progress before they know if a learning technique is any use to them.

The smorgasbord of tips and ideas to do with learning that learner and teacher confront, tends to be so much in-your-face - a plethora. And there are conflicting arguments in abundance over the merit of each tempting morsel – which one works for what situation, etc – everything from where the learning is sourced, to how it’s supposed to be assimilated:

    Are books a good idea? Should learners be able to read AND listen to mp3s? Does listening to music really assist learning? What type of music is best if it does? Is the Internet a fast option? Can a learner listen to or watch instructional DVDs and read the Internet at the same time?

    Does the learner have a so-called digital-immigrant’s barrier to accepting these learning technologies? If so, what can the learner do about it if they have?

    What other barriers to learning can impede the progress of the would-be-learner? The list goes on.

Learner engagement

Another theme I’ve seen a lot of this year is learner engagement. Again, a whole set of questions arise out of this.

    What is it that hooks the learner? How can the hook be put to further use? Is there a way of maintaining an effective level of engagement once initiated? Is it individual engagement or is a community more likely to achieve a better level of success?

    What influence does the support of the learning environment have on learning? Are parents, partners or other significant people important to the learner when it comes to motivation?

    What circumstances are best for learning – situational or isolated instruction? Of these, are the benefits associated with either, dependent on the occasion?

    Where does praising the learner fit into all this?

I find this difficult. I’ve covered so much ground this year, it’s a hard task to prioritise and select the most significant ideas or the most interesting thoughts, for I’m really not sure of their relative importance.

They are all fascinating in their own captivating way. The practice of the good teacher is to select, revise and re-activate from past actions those that work best in the ever-changing environment of learning.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What's In A Name?

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
A RoseCourtesy PD

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet – William Shakespeare

Evening Standard columnist, Frank Furedi, believes that the educational crisis facing Britain today is in part due to the way objective academic standards are being defined and asserted in the classroom.

His claim is that society seems “to have given up on adult authority and the idea that the person who knows best in the classroom is the teacher.” He believes that “education requires the conscious and regular imposition of adult authority.”

I was reminded of Furedi’s opinion when learning recently of the debate over the move by principals and teachers in some New Zealand primary schools to have pupils call them by first name. Some teachers believe that learners bond better with their teacher when they call them by their first name.

Anthropologist James Urry claims that removing the age-based hierarchy empowers children before they have the social skill to cope with it.

Canterbury College of Education associate dean, Barry Brooker, was reported as saying that using formal titles develops a demarcation between teachers and students that gives teachers the authority to do their jobs properly.

Do teachers need authority to do their jobs properly?

At The Correspondence School of New Zealand (TCS), a distance education centre, learners always refer to teachers by first name.

When I first took up a teaching post at TCS, this idea was new to me. I’d taught in different secondary schools for many years before then.

In all the schools
where I taught, in Scotland and New Zealand, students called their teachers by their surname: Mr Roberts, Mrs Gill, Miss James, etc.

When I graduated PhD, the principal of the Edinburgh High School
I was teaching in announced to the school that I was to be called
Dr Allan, from now on. I've been addressed as Dr Allan, or Sir, by students in every face-to-face school I’ve taught in since.

But I had no problem when my students called me Ken at TCS.
The policy of the school was that students always referred to teachers by first name.

Other distance education centres do the same. And you know, it seems to work. I find that learners relate to me with at least as much respect as I had earned while teaching in face-to-face schools.

Are face-to-face schools so different that students calling their teachers by first name can damage the potential for effective student–teacher relationships? What do you think?

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Odd Tails – a post for bloggers

Kia ora tātou – Hello Everyone

It is usual for a blog post to attract nearly all its visitors during the first few days after being published. This is so much so that the term
‘the long tail’ is often used to describe the shape of the visitor profile of a typical post.

Now and again a blogger may spot an exception.

Digital Natives? Digital Immigrants?’ is a post I published in mid-July this year. It was popular and attracted a couple of comments.

Normally even the tail of a popular post would dwindle quickly over a period of less than a week. After two or three months, only the occasional visitor would be registered by visitor tracking.

I use Google Analytics (GA) to track one sector of visitors to my blog.
It gives a fair indication of comparative popularity.

The July post is an exception to the long tail trend.
Its visitor profile is at the top of this post. It has received recent attention of a magnitude not unlike what might be expected of a newly published post, yet it was published over four months ago.

I first took note of its unusual visitor profile when comments started to appear, again, as if out of the blue. It has since attracted a significant number of comments.

Occasionally posts generate very long tails that never really dwindle to nothing. Working With Online Learning Communities is such a post, published 1 April 2009. Its visitor profile shows recent steady traffic.

Posts with visitor profiles of this type tend to have been cited and linked on popular blogs or web pages.

Isn’t it heartening that not all posts receive the same fate as a time-capsule?

NASA's Voyager Golden RecordCourtesy NASA

related posts - >> ( 5 ) ( 4 ) ( 3 ) ( 2 ) ( 1 )

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Monday, November 30, 2009

Science, Context and Humour

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Card Stack in Jabberwocky
When was the last time you laughed at a joke? Where did you hear it? Was it on TV? Or was it on a video clip or podcast?

Susan Greenfield says, “Everything that happens to you will be seen in terms of previous experiences.“

Your brain “can see one thing in terms of something else and that’s your unique perspective”, even when it comes to appreciating a joke.

Here’s what she says:

If you are a scientist or if you are just interested in Science, you may also be familiar with the erroneous opinion that Science is humourless. A joke is a cognitive jolt based on your previous experiences. This jolt can happen even if these experiences are to do with Science.

So let yourself go! Abrogate your sense of self and have “a cognitive time” with some Science humour from Brian Malow.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Friday, November 27, 2009

Resource Success? It Bears Thinking About!

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allThe Dice in Jabberwocky
How do you tell if a learning resource is successful?

You have to use it of course! Or at least, it has to be observed being used by learners who may benefit from it in some way.

But there’s more to it than that . . .

A game-based resource can be seen to be popular and for this it gets a big tick in a check-box.

But does a learning resource need to be popular to be successful?
Does the popular resource assist the learner to meet the target learning objective?

Extensive research on a whole series of resources might throw some light on these questions. But let’s just limit the discussion here to one resource.

How do you know if a learning resource is effective in helping learners reach the objective or objectives the resource was designed to meet?

This needs more than just observation.

Learner focus

Attention must be focused on what the learner has gained by using the resource. This acquisition has to be very specific if the resource is to be regarded as a useful ‘learning object’.

Oops, I’ve used that term!

I know! ’Learning Object’ is not a popular term among some educators. At least the term implies that the resource actually has an objective associated with it. Whether the resource assists learners to meet the objective is quite another matter.

In fact, some very good learning resources are often found to meet objectives that are not necessarily directly related to the objective or objectives that the learners were supposed to be reaching. That’s life! Sometimes it just happens that way.

So how do we know when a resource is meeting its objective?

It’s taken me a few hundred words to get to this nitty-gritty stage.

    How do we know the resource is really achieving
    the learning that was intended to happen?

As obvious though the answer may seem to be, it is often something that’s completely overlooked when a resource has been planned, crafted and produced for learner use.

Follow up

One of the important stages in the development of any course module, or even one of its components, is the time consuming and difficult process of assessing its real worth. It’s one of these stages that teachers and developers would rather not get too far into, for it is both complicated and complex. And it takes a lot of time.

But it is obviously very important.It means that a series of analyses has to be performed involving the learners.

As well, it has to involve a thing called ‘learner assessment’. Oops! Another not too popular term.

Learner Testing

That’s right! The learner has to be tested. And this is difficult, for how do we know that the assessment item designed to test learner achievement assesses effectively the objective that it’s meant to?
This brings us more or less back to where we started.

Sorry folks! It’s the dogged chicken and egg story all over again.

Before we can be sure that the assessment item is any use, first it must be tested! And of course, this always means learner involvement.

Compounding problems

We now have learner assessment as well as learning resource design to deal with. It’s a bit like the collective effect of errors, if you’re familiar with how that works.

Small errors that occur at stages of a process tend to be cumulative. They add up to one significant error in the end. Often this error can be big enough to discount the whole process.

Catch my drift?

“What does it all mean then?” you say.

Frankly, it means that teaching and learning is a difficult process to assess. The learning that could possibly take place through the planning, building and subsequent use of a learning resource by learners is actually very difficult to assess.

Can you imagine the tasks involved in checking properly a whole course made up of multiple series of resources?

Time consuming? Yes! This alone is a factor that puts teachers and developers off the whole idea of attempting that all-important final stage of checking to see if it all works.

If you think that building a successful learning resource is a quick and easy thing to do, then maybe you should think again.

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you allAssumption
Some say I have a chip on my shoulder about education.

At 9 years old, I returned to Scotland with my parents, having spent almost 2 years in Nyasaland (now Malawi). While in Africa, I was home-schooled for almost a year. I then attended St Andrew’s Primary School, in the Capital City of Blantyre, for the remainder of my stay.

I had no education in the traditional sense during the months-long journeys to and from Nyasaland on Union-Castle liners. The unusual long routes round the Cape of Good Hope, were taken at the time of the Suez Crisis when access through the Suez Canal was unsafe.

My childhood experience of living in Africa was an enriching one, but my traditional education fell sadly behind. When I re-enrolled at Dunfermline Commercial Primary School in Scotland, I sat beside the classmates that I’d been with over two years before.

They were all so far ahead of me by that time. I had real difficulty catching up. My schoolroom behaviour took a turn for the worst.

I was soon to be classified as a boy much
in need of counseling, and was made to attend a series of Tuesday afternoons with Mrs Len, a child guidance counselor.

My visits consisted of sessions of being helped through tests, mainly so-called association tests and intelligence assessment, presumably to determine my state of mental health and my ability.

A beautiful glen

I recall one session in particular. Mrs Len began by asking what I did on Saturdays. I explained that I spent fine-weather days down the beautiful Glen in Dunfermline. I loved the Glen and would have spent every Saturday and most Sundays there if I could.

“Why don’t you go to the films on Saturday mornings?” was her response to my story. “That’s what lots of other children do.”

I explained that I didn’t like the movies that were on at the local cinema.

“Why not?” she asked. “These films are specially chosen for children!”

Gangster cadillacs

I explained that I didn’t like watching cowboys and Indians killing each other, or wars with ‘Japs and Gerries’, or gangsters hooning about in Cadillacs, or cops and robbers blasting themselves to bits.

That was in 1957. I was ten years old.

Not that long after the war, it was still acceptable for children to see all this violence. Mrs Len’s assumption was that it was good for me to be subjected to hours watching movies of people shooting at each other.
I had a different opinion.

Educational assumptions

In fact, in discounting the years of my lost education, she made a number of assumptions.

Based on the results of the tests she gave me, one assumption was that I was unfit to attend High School. Luckily I had caring parents who insisted that there was ‘nothing wrong’ with their son and that he would attend High School no matter what.

The long and the short is that my parents eventually removed me from Commercial School to enrol me in Pittencrieff Primary School nearby.

A year later I attended High School. In 1965 I became a student at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. I left that place of education in 1972 with a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

So I’m not knocking Scottish education. All things considered, I firmly believe that the system served me well. But when I think of my last months at Commercial School, there were several odd and perhaps invalid assumptions made by my teacher, the school I attended and the child guidance councilor, Mrs Len, about where I stood in relation to ‘education’.
Abominable assumption

Wikipedia defines assumption as a proposition that is taken for granted, as if it were true based upon presupposition without preponderance of the facts.

This means it’s a preset notion with no factual foundation.

Assumption can present barriers and can lead to disastrous decision making. It has dogged the view of where Earth is in relation to the centre of the universe since before the time of Ptolemy. It seeded the reason why Shakespeare’s Romeo took the fatal poison.

The legal maxim that a person is innocent until proven guilty was initiated by the recognition of its fallacy. Yet assumption is often used mercilessly by legal council in leveraging notion and supposition while swaying the opinion of a jury.

One of the greatest barriers to learning is initial and erroneous assumption in the mind of the learner.

Another is initial and erroneous assumption in the mind of the teacher.
Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Denial - Tumbling Walls

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all9/11
This month’s theme from Paul Cornies’ Green Pen Society is
writing about a wall you would like to see come down.

In Wellington, New Zealand, just after 6 am on 12 September, 2001,
I learnt of the World Trade Centre Twin Towers collapse.

In New York City, it would have been just after 1 pm on 11 September.
At that time the original 7 World Trade Centre building was still standing. More than four hours passed before it too collapsed.

Official reason

The official reason given for the subsequent disintegration of the 7 WTC building described that it was damaged by debris when the nearby North Tower of the WTC collapsed. Fires were ignited on the lower floors, which continued to burn throughout the afternoon. The 7 WTC building collapsed catastrophically when a main column buckled causing structural failure throughout.

Expectations don’t stack up

There were features about the collapse of the building that puzzled me.

One was that the initial damage was caused by debris, apparently ejected during the collapse of the North Tower at speeds close to 100 kilometres per hour.

Material ejected at this speed could only have been assisted by huge amounts of energy, driven from some source
other than just the collapsing of the North Tower. Any bright year-13 Physics student can prove this.

Video footage screened on television in New Zealand clearly showed the 7 WTC building fell extremely rapidly. It looked like a controlled demolition using explosives.

Recent investigations from video footage have shown that the disintegration was what’s known as a free-fall collapse. It took just over 6 seconds for the top of the building to fall onto the collapsed pile of rubble that was all 47 compacted storeys.

Only an explosion-assisted collapse of the type used in controlled demolitions could have caused such a free-fall collapse. The explosives would had to have been detonated on almost every floor.

Pancake collapse

In a so-called pancake collapse of a building, the floors remain more or less as discrete layers. Contrary to expectations, however, the rubble from the collapsed building showed no sign of layering of floors at all.
Instead, it consisted of crushed concrete, dust and twisted steel.

Danish scientist Niels Harrit carried out rigorous investigations of the debris from the collapsed WTC buildings and published a report in April this year. He and his co-workers found evidence for a significant amount of a substance known as
thermite in the debris.

Thermite can consist of fine aluminium dust and powdered iron oxide. When well mixed and ignited, these substances react rapidly,
forming aluminium oxide, molten iron, smoke and huge amounts of heat.Thermite Equation
Thermite was used for welding tram tracks early in the
20th century.

Molten iron

Observations from videos taken just before the collapse of the towers showed the ejection of huge amounts of molten iron. Experiments have confirmed that these quantities of molten iron could not have come from steel structures melting in the burning building and aviation fuel. Steel girders, roasted in a burning building, do not melt and flow freely.

Until 11 September 2001, no high-rise steel constructed building had ever collapsed because of fire
yet on that day, three WTC buildings collapsed. One of these buildings wasn't even hit by a plane.

There has been a series of consistent analyses conducted by independent analysts. Compositional analysis shows that the molten iron ejected from the building was what’s expected from iron made during thermite ignition.

A wall

Examination of footage of the moment of collapse of the South Tower shows clear evidence for a descending series of explosions, preceding a floor-by-floor collapse – an occurrence that could only be brought about by synchronised detonation of a type used in building demolition. I find it almost unbelievable that the publicity surrounding the collapse of the 7 WTC building was so scant. It’s only recently, in reading about the emerging evidence for the presence of thermite in the tower debris, that my initial suspicions have been wakened.

What these facts and other evidence point to is a cover-up of some huge dimension that was apparently enacted at the time of the towers disaster, and maintained over the years since. They leave questions hanging over why the planes were involved in what seems to have been a large scale and extremely well-planned operation.

Somehow a wall appears to have been successfully built around what really caused the collapse of the World Trade Centre buildings. I would dearly love this wall to be demolished so the truth of what happened in New York CBD on 11 September 2001 is revealed.

Check out 911 In Plane Site for further observations.
A Green Pen Society contribution

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Change - A Possible Barrier to Progress

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all

Roundabout in Jabberwocky

Change has come up a lot in the blogosphere recently.

Andrea Hernandez prompted me to write one of my post-type comments against her recent post on agents of change:

I thank her for the opportunity for that reflection. Part of my comment to her ran something like this:

Always, when I learn about change being brought about, I ask questions. I ask why we are changing and I listen. The reply I get allows me to decide whether the change that's proposed is something I'd support.

If I am confronted with the question, "Don't you support change?" my knee-jerk reaction is always to ask again, "What change or changes am I being asked to support?"

If I get back nothing but an argument on change, I become suspicious that the goal of the agent for change is simply to change, without recourse to why, how, or if a proposed change is for a real benefit.

There is always the possibility that change could mean a retrograde shift - moving back to what was - or moving to situations that are of no real benefit or worse. Yet it is always assumed that 'change' is good and that it means moving forward.

Why do I think like this?

Much of the change that I have been coerced into accepting in education over many years has not been thought through beforehand. It is only years, months or even weeks later, when in hindsight, it's seen that the enacted change was not needed, or was falsely initiated, or that there was a political agenda.

So it was for me with the introduction of unit standards to New Zealand secondary education in the mid-90s and with the introduction of NCEA this century.

When I heard of the proposed introduction of national standards to primary education in New Zealand, I experienced powerful déjà vu.
I had a dizzy sinking feeling, and something inside my head shouted, “Here we go again!”

When I hear John Hattie speak about the introduction of national standards, I think, “John! You’ve got it right mate!

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Common Sense

Kia ora tātou – Hello EveryoneCommon Sense

In his book, Where Have All The Leaders Gone, Lee Iaccoca claims common sense as one of the Nine Cs of Leadership.

The Ninth International Symposium on Logical Formalizations of Commonsense Reasoning, Commonsense 2009, took place this year to explore one of the long-term goals of Artificial Intelligence, that of providing computers with common sense.

Stephen Downes claims common sense is what’s needed to avoid or prevent some Internet fraud.

In 1776 Thomas Paine published anonymously a best seller 48 page pamphlet, Common Sense, challenging the authority of British rule in America.

Have you ever thought about what makes up common sense?
Have you ever tried to explain what common sense is?

Seemingly, it’s an awareness, like the ability to judge temperature, recognise directions close to the vertical, or the talent for dress sense.

Difficult to measure

We hear a lot about common sense today. It’s something that every school teacher admires. Possessing common sense seems to be one of the key attributes for achieving success – in any walk of life.

Each of us has a quantity of it – some of us have more than others.
Yet it is extraordinarily difficult if not impossible to measure, let alone define. We are more often made aware of common sense as an entity by its absence than through its occurrence.

Intelligence & noticing the obvious

The brightest and most knowledgeable among us can succumb to a lapse of common sense. Even trainee doctors can suffer a lack of it. When it comes to recognising simple clues, it’s clear that what’s required is more than just expert knowledge or even skill.

One of the most celebrated American scientists, Linus Pauling, undoubtedly possessed a fair amount of common sense in his day.
His researches and passion for what is right earned him Nobel prizes in two disciplines.

Common sense drove him to pursue research into vitamin C and the common cold in directions that have since been proven unequivocally fallacious. This is not a criticism of Pauling. I have a huge respect for all that he did in his life. But his efforts show the illusive nature of common sense and how it can direct or mislead decision making.

Is it instinctive?

If common sense is innate, does this mean that it cannot be acquired by someone who begins life with a less-than-average amount? This idea suggests that it’s like the gene for eye-colour – you are stuck with whatever calibre of common sense you had at birth.

There’s a lot to suggest that common sense is instinctive. In action it tends to be intuitive rather than contrived. Generally the common sense decision is not brought about through a process or processes involving logical thinking strategies, though the use of these cannot be discounted when common sense is brought into play.

Can it be learnt?

If it isn’t an inborn trait, how can a person ensure that a useful amount of common sense is acquired?

I’m only too aware of the rhetorical nature of these questions,
but I’m going to ask them anyway:

  • Is it possible to teach/learn common sense?

  • Can common sense be assessed?
    If so, how can it be measured?

  • Should common sense be included as an essential part of the school curriculum, like literacy and numeracy?

Ngā mihi nui – Best wishes