Friday, April 15, 2011

Applying Mind/Brain Principles?

I was recently looking over the notes I took after reading 12 Brain/Mind Learning Principles in Action by Caine, Caine and two others.

While this book has its touch-y-feel-y aspects, there are many good ideas. Indeed, I found that the principles in Caine, Caine et al jibed amazingly well with Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do.

In my notes I synthesized them down to ten or so points.
  • Get the learner relaxed.
    • This can involve things like: clear communication about expectations, short assignments.
    • Assignments that involve contributing or sharing experiences can lower the learner’s stress, while also providing fodder for meaningful discussion later.
  • Give the learner a challenge--but not too much.
    • This implies knowing what the student can do. You can give a pre-test, quiz.
    • Or you can even give a ‘secret’ or ‘hidden’ test--e.g., asking students to write about themselves and then noting who can write a paragraph, who has spelling problems, etc.
  • Crank down threats and fatigue and things that make students feel helpless.
    • So: don’t overwork the student. Give clear feedback. Communicate clearly about deadlines.
    • Rewarding the student for submitting work on time, for instance, helps the student feel she has control over her performance.
  • Get the learners to interact socially.
    • Social interaction is a motivation, and it has lower stress than interacting with a forbidding instructor.
  • Encourage the learner to search for meaning that's important to her.
  • Immerse the learner in a complex but clear and structured task.
    • It can be a ‘Where’s Waldo?’
    • Or it can be finding something meaningful based on her own experiences within a significantly complex whole--such as an essay or a textbook chapter.
  • Give her ways of grasping wholes and not just a dizzying array of minute tidbits.
    • E.g., demonstrate a clear pattern and then ask students to recognize that pattern in small examples.
  • Promote pattern recognition.
    • Keep using the same pattern or configuration--a loop in a computer program, an irregular verb, “causes of Expressionism”--so the student knows what to look for.
  • Give the student ways to actively process information with concrete tasks (list, re-arrange, draw, map, etc.).
    • The point is not the beauty of the results: indeed, you needn’t grade on quality, only meeting minimal assignment requirements.
    • The point is for the student to put the information into working memory and build connections.
  • Guide each learner to create her own unique knowledge-map.
    • The important thing is to do and make the map--not that it’s the map you would make for yourself.
A good course design brings these all together. Yes, the devil is in the details. But it can be done, and Bain's book provides fine models.

--Edward R. O'Neill

Thursday, April 14, 2011

TEDxUSC: Annotated Tweet Curation - Themes & Selective Summary

A How-To How To

I already gathered my livetweets about TEDxUSC, made a screenshot and tweeted it:

And I also had to tweet how I did that:

This lets you grab tweets, put them in a window. This lets you capture that window: than a minute ago via TweetDeck Favorite Retweet Reply

Meta-tweeting? Meta-meta-tweeting?

But I also wanted to annotate these tweets.
It's amazing/ridonkulous that you can't just search & pull all the tweets you want, and then wrap a commentary/discussion around them.
But there it is. Twitter is still evolving.
There is, however, a tool for embedding the tweets in a blog:

So that's what I did below: pulled my and others' tweets together and annotated a tiny bit.

This is not a complete discussion of the event, just some highlights--with links.

(And if you want to see another Tweet summary, check out one of the best livetweeters there: snidelyhazel. I also mention coachkays below, so here are his #TEDxUSC tweets.)

Big Themes.
  • Participation. Getting involved feels good.
  • Help others. This feels good, too. It's not square. There's some new impulse towards altruism. Maybe after the Great Recession, we understand its value more.
  • Doing and making. These feel good, too. And it needn't be digital, electronic, computerized or 2.0.
  • Re-use, economize, invent. It's not only ecological to re-use, it's smart, requires smartness, and can help others.
  • Value. What do we value? Who creates it? Who gets to share in it? Our society seems to be going back to fundamentals here.

Talks, Performances, Movies

I was worried before the event started: they lost my registration, and people were tweeting about their VIP status (which I tried to parody).

FYI When #TEDxUSC loses your registration, you have to wait 30 minutes. Thnx.less than a minute ago via Twitter for Android Favorite Retweet Reply

Generic brag about seating and/or status at #TEDxUSC --from my iPad....less than a minute ago via HootSuite Favorite Retweet Reply

(And I wasn't the only one whose registration was lost.)

RT @tastyjules #tedxusc is a major clusterfuck. Event crew shmoozing as at 30 ppl w orchestra seats relegated to 2nd balcony. #disappointedless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

"Oh no," I thought: "another way for people to feel superior."

But that quickly went away.

Steve Connell did a wonderful monologue: a memory of learning from his mom and dad, their insights and hardships, that superheroes fight everyday struggles--including and especially to help others.

RT @snidelyhazel: Steve Connell: "The fight starts when you leave the phone booth as Clark Kent." #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

  • Whom do we lionize?
  • Whom do we revere?
  • Billionaires because they are billionaires?
  • Or when they create value and connect people--no matter how much they earn?
(Warning: if you go to his personal web site, you get re-routed to some media-heavy page that takes forever to load and may well crash your browser. Be forewarned.)

The session quickly moved to a sing-along: basically the room got divided into parts and taught some harmony.

Auditory proof WE are better than me. RT @edwardoneill A sing-a-long? Really? #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

This underlined a running themes: social action,
doing things and doing them together, participation, a greater good.

On this topic, Jose Antonio Rosa talked about the poorest people in the world not as an emerging market (as I first thought he was saying) but as inventors and creators of value.

Scavengers scavenge to CREATE and INNOVATE to fill real needs. #TEDxUSC J. A. Rosaless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Pomona basketball coach
Brian Kays (among the best live-tweeters on the premises) insightfully pointed to the less-is-more aspect of this talk. We are so distracted by technology and newness that we collapse the two. What if the greatest invention used rubber bands and bailing wire?

RT @coachkays: The poor are producing the beat DIY innovation around as they don't have the advantage of tech, results are astounding #T ...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Rosa also underlined the importance of hope: that without hope there is no creativity. Hope may be a delusion, but it is a healthy one.

RT @derekfromson: Biz prof Jose Antonio Rosa (University of Wyoming): "Hope allows us to engage in healthy delusion and creative devianc ...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

(He also pointed out that creativity can be illegal, violent and inimical, too: this wasn't a greeting card.)

USC professor Josh Kun (casually dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt) talked about music and borders--notably our border with Mexico.
Most interesting, I thought, was his description of deejay parties where participants can have the deejay shout out the names of distant (even dead or missing) loved ones--then buy a CD of the shout-out.

At the Solidaro Party, the DJ shouts out to your loved ones. You get the CD and send it across the border to your loved ones. #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Maybe I spelled the name of this kind of party wrong. Kun called them 'transnational messaging events':

RT @RickyHang: Sonidera parties allow transmission of messages to those across borders- basically transnational messaging events - Josh ...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Rick Nahmias from
Food Forward explained how gleaning unpicked backyard fruit could feed our hungriest, notably farm workers who themselves are poorly paid--fruitanthropy.

Rick Nahmias talks about the 1.1 million CA farm workers who feed our whole country. #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

California farm workers earn $11k per year, feed the country, but can barely feed themselves. #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Rick Nahmias gleans fruit and food for the hungry. They've harvested over 1 million servings of food. #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

This is also a tax deduction for the homeowner!
Rick N. called it win-win-win-win: food pantries get food that's fresh and wholesom, homeowners get a tax break, volunteers participate, and hungry people get fed.

(Where is our next Cesar Chavez, I wonder?)
One screening was a short film shot entirely on an iPhone4--and edited on it too (at least the rough cut).

RT @derekfromson: Watching "Apple of My Eye," a short film shot and edited entirely on iPhone4. Very cool! See it here: ...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

The fact of the technology produced more ooh's and ah's than the film, which is interesting. But I think this set up very powerfully the message: technology can lower the bar for skillful media content-creation.

Against the tendency to fetishize computer technology, Dale Dougherty showed actual physical objects--some even without batteries!

His "slides" were hand-made pieces of cardboard with letters cut out of them.

Dale Dougherty uses his own handmade slides--physical objects, not software. KEWL! #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

He used salty
Play Dough to make electrical circuits, and he built up to using an Arduino processor.

These were low-tech but joyful devices. He sang the praises of simplicity, play, productivity and poverty, even.

Homemade Play-Do, musical instruments and rockets? Sing-a-long's? We are craving to make & participate at #TEDxUSC!less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Behind social media, which can seem alienating and distancing, there is a deep desire to CONNECT. You could see it at TEDxUSC in the opening participatory sing-a-long.

Annenberg graduate Aram Sinnreich proposed the design requirements for a network that belongs to citizens, not phone providers or the government.

RT @derekfromson: MondoNet (, Aram Sinnreich's ad-hoc wireless mesh network, shows new approach to web connectivity ...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Jennifer Pahlka described a project in which programmers work for a year doing small projects for local government.

Code for America is like Teach for America--but for geeks. #TEDxUSC #redundant They develop apps for government/citizen use.less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

I could go on about this one for hours, so I'll have to make it a separate blog post.

Elisabeth Stock explained what a student-centered education looks like--including helping parents have a clear role and not expecting teachers to make learning appear from nowhere.

RT @snidelyhazel: Elisabeth Stock: Rethink digital learning through student-centered lens. Learning follows child, teacher and parents s ...less than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

Her organization offers hundreds of digital assets for teachers, parents and kids to access.

And she told a charming story about a teacher realizing that play could be part of learning, not a distraction.

Elisabeth Stock tells a killer anecdote about teacher realizing a game can be a platform for learning. #TEDxUSCless than a minute ago via Twitterrific Favorite Retweet Reply

This is the kind of 'a-ha' moment we need more of.

There was more. But I found these speakers and ideas very compelling.

--E. R. O'Neill