Meditation: my perspective

Meditation! I have passed through many experiences of meditation practices and mindset. When I was in my youth, I was under the impression that meditation would give me superpowers. In the last years, twenty or so, I discovered that meditation, in its essence, is a technique to silence the thoughts of the brain which in turn would give clarity of thought by eliminating the impact of the physical and emotional factors that would causes noises to our thinking processes.

History

I have passed through many meditative habits and practices based on the beliefs I followed of the period.

The first meditative practice was the Christian prayer where I close my eyes and recite phrases that makes me closer to God. Based on this teaching, I was supposed to be reborn and given magical powers of speaking a new language. 13 years of practice and I did not feel any changes or satisfactions.

The second and third meditative practices were Islamic based. The first one was Doaa (the call for God to fulfill a desire I have by asking him directly). The second one was the Sufi practice of ziker (repeatedly mentioning the word “Allah” while moving the beads of a rosary where it is claimed that combination of voicing the word of Allah with the movement of the thumbs with the beads has a synchronizing effect on the overall personality and make the individual unique te with God.) both method did not work with me and found them useless.

The forth meditative method I practice was the Transcendental Meditation where you repeat a specific random word given to you by a “guru” in a silent meditative environment. A prolonged practice would lead to gaining some powers of leaving the body experience and flying (more hopping) which never worked with me.

My method

In late 90’s, I went through a severe mental exhaustion due to personal insecurity. None of the meditative practices eased up my situation. In one of my long drive, I recognized my brain is turbo working and an unlimited stream of interrelated ideas throughout the trips. It was going through a lot of “what if” scenarios and trying to figure the expected outcome of each scenario. I used to call this practice “the planning”. On my return trip, I recognized that none of the “what if” scenarios actually happened and that I have spend the two hours drive worrying about something that would not happen. So, the planning, was actually useless worrying. I spent few years trying to overcome this habit which now I recognize as a flavour of compulsive disorder. The breakthrough came when I watched the movie called “beautiful mind” about how a genius overcame his schizophrenic nature by ordering his brain to stop thinking about a recurring fear or idea. That’s when I recognized that one method to stop worrying is to forcefully order the brain to skip and idea and think of something else. I.e. take control of the thinking process. Later, i discovered that this is a variation of the worrying process and it does not help rest my brain, but a way to put the energy of my brain engine into shifting to new ideas (or worries) that I choose rather than the brain forced on me. One step. In the right direction of minimizing worries, but did not offer any peace of mind.

In another boring long drive, I started figuring out new ways to apply. I remembered the rhythmic breathing practices I was asked to do during all different meditations I practiced. I thought this could be a solution because focusing on breathing cycle eliminates the need to think of ideas. However, I devised my own variation. When I was learning to scuba dive, I was asked to free my lung from air to prevent my body to float. I failed miserably. So, during my drive, I tried to practice to elongate the period of keeping my lungs free from oxygen the longest period I could. Over a long period, I used to exhale all oxygen, keep my lung empty for as many seconds I can, at that point I would exhale further more and keep my lungs even emptier.to do it again until by brain cannot take it anymore and force me a inhale deeply. That feeling was phenomenal. Feeling of relieve and control. After doing that cycle for 5 times, I notice my brain attained peace I never experienced before. My brain was free from all kinds of thoughts. I was in control, peacefully. The rest of my day was peaceful. And a new breathing technique was born that proved effective.

The breathing technique: for 5 seconds, i would slowly inhale as much as I can. Hold it for 5 seconds, then repeat this cycle of inhalation 5 times. Hold the air in my lungs for 5 seconds. Then exhale for 5 seconds nd hold it for 5 seconds. Repeat the exhaling cycle five times until there is no more air in the lungs. Once I feel I will die, I exhale further more one more time then wait for my brain to force to inhales. At the beginning, violently, but it became more controllable with the passage of time.

This gave my brain energy, clarity and the power to avoid worrying and just use its power I. What is happening now instead of worrying about the future.

The counting technique: sometimes, I would go through some planning or worrying mode when I am planning for a project. It natural. I needed another supportive method to help me direct my brain into productive line of thought. While watching some spiritual video, I stumbled into an effective thought controlling technique which is simple and powerful. Close my eyes, count depending from 100 to 0 focusing on the counting and reverting from any unrelated thought. Repeat from 30 to 0, then 20 to 0 and finally from 10 to 0.the first time, I nearly reached 60 and lost my line of thought. After a week, I was able to master the “decounting”” which gave me a full control of my thoughts. It works.

The combination of both techniques allowed me to put my thought process under control as a way of life without even having to do them, my brain is tamed. I lost all feelings of worry, fear, guilt feeling and I had peace of mind in a true meaning.

eNomad communication technology

So far, my telecommunication devices are not convenient. I carried with me a phone, iPad and a laptop. My iPad had a Bell data plan. It worked well in Canada but failed measurably in the US. I changed to Mobility Roaming, but was a disaster. slower than a snail. I found difficulty finding good wireless provider in the US. Most salesperson would not help a visiting Canadian to get a good deal for all they were trained on is getting a long term plan.

After three days of trial, and few states later, I was able to get a good deal from an AT&T guy in the outskirts of DC who just gave me a microSIM and said: set it up. It worked. I chose the 5G/$30 deal for it meets my need. Good deal. Speed is good. I’m satisfied.

This solution was suitable for most of my need. The annoyances include missing signals, non-coverage in most rural area. Loss of 4g coverage. The most annoying feature is the disconnections that happens with Google Latitude. It could not keep track of my location regularly.

One good feature of the AT&T is the massive number of WiFi locations across the US which includes (like Bell) Starbucks and McDonalds.

the iPad was a very useful tool for many of the tasks which I will cover later. For now, the AT&T and iPad is a good tool to complement the GPS. Additionally, it was not bad to keep connected with my PhD team and doing some of my PhD assignments.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Alexandria Bay,United States

3year olds and ideas

This idea came to me while driving to Yorkton… Based on Breuer’s 3 year idea, I am wondering if there is a relationship between being obese and the habit/attitude taken while being breast fed. For example, if the mother tends to start feeding the baby when she just cries as the first test to address the crying (before trying to figure out other causes )) would tend to make the individual eat even if the are full? Is there a relationship between being slim and the mother attitude to allow the child to cry for a while before feeding? Is there a relationship between eating habit if the mother followed a strict feeding regime whether the kid was crying or not… I wonder.

Maybe i should ask the elderly that I meet during my trip to see the relationship.

Maybe I should start with these two ladies.


– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Broadway St W,Yorkton,Canada

East to west trip


Here I started my next phase of using nomad technology. I have been traveling for two days now in my soul search and experiencing next generation technology. I am traveling from Fort Mcmurray to Montreal through the US to enjoy the beauty of North America, reflect on my next 5 years of my life and, most importantly, experiencing the eNomad life: that is, living and working anywhere, anytime, anyone ice and just in time. I had some mishaps so far, but I am converging to something thrilling. At the moment, I have reached Kenton on the border between Sakskatchewan and Manitoba on my way to Grand Fork, North Dakota which I am planning to stay for one night to finish my Sat PhD assignment.

So, the technology I am using is my car GPS, my iPad and a Bell G4 pay as you go plan. I am facing some hiccups with connectivity on the road. But McDonalds always come to saving me because of their free WiFi. I still have to figure out what I must do when I get to US.

So, from now on, I should be able to blog my thoughts and feelings as I progress. Hope it works.

P.S. the picture above is taken at Yokoton McDonald. The place I downloaded BlogPress app and testing it with this post.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Broadway St W,Yorkton,Canada

Controlling Instincts: Middle East Politics

I had a great TEDx talk about my Controlling Instincts. I tried to show how the concept impacts “Organizational Personality” and “Educational Dynamics”. In this post, I will try to apply some of these ideas to the politics in the Middle East.

If we look at the Middle Eastern countries up until the start of the Arab Spring, we recognize that there were three types of governments: the Royal Monarchies (Morocco, Jordan, Gulf States), the Military Regimes (Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria) and the democratically elected government (Lebanon and Iraq).

If I want to apply the controlling instincts concepts to countries, and create “Country Personalities”, I can understand many of the dynamics of what is happening there.

The military mentality belongs to the Industrial instincts: structure, mass production, norm for all, one objectives. The majority of the population that stayed in their country and did not emigrate belong to the agrarian instincts group: family/tribe based, possession oriented, follow the norm mentality and so on.

The military regime created what I will call “tamed tension”. Most revolutionary political parties (Communists, Baath, Greens in Libya) aim at moving the country to the industry age. This means replacing agrarian instincts with industrial instincts. However, they failed to make the real change, because in my opinion religion influence was dominant. Something similar to the demise of communism in Europe. But this is another post. So, the military regimes created a “fear” driven society disguised by “the big family mentality” through the creation of ONE party that governs the country by thought monitoring means. I think it was a brilliantly vicious plot. Since agrarian instincts cherish solidarity and dying in defend of the brother, the military regimes brilliantly used the Palestinian cause as the glue that gives the “big family” its identity, cause and survivability through living for the cause and readiness to die for its solidarity. They had controlled media, controlled education and strong vicious intelligence services that assumed the role of monitoring their thought. Brilliant vicious concept that worked well until 2010.

So, the presence of the military regime was a means of imposing industrial instincts on a community that is driven by agrarian instincts. There was a tamed tension but the agrarian instincts survived.

[side note: many individuals left the country during the military era… I suspect that the majority of those who immigrated were industrial in nature… but now I am wondering: were they knowledgian in nature?? Worth a research.]

Obviously, the monarchies follow the rules of the agrarian instincts. This matches their own people drive. This is why the monarchies are experiencing a relative calm in this turmoil period of history. The only skirmishes are caused by “industrially driven parties” who are miscalculating the dynamics.

As I outlined in an earlier post, the present Egyptian revolution is the only turmoil where the knowledgian factors are playing a major role. All other Spring Revolutions are caused by Agrarian-Industrial tension. The Egyptian is Agrarian (assumed by the Islamists), Industrial (played by the Military Government) and Knowledgian (assumed by the Wikipedian lead by Wael Ghoneim) tension. We need to keep an eye on it.

The Syrian Revolution is bit more complicated. Most of the revolutionists on the ground are agrarian in nature. They are revolting because the modern media (FaceBook, Internet, Saltallite,…) made the strong glue keeping them united (the Palestenian Cause) melt. They recognized that their government is not fighting for the cause (leaving Lebanon, staying silent when Israel hit Syrian targets, staying neutral in 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon, etc…) In previous eras, the Syrian population would never hear stories like this because the government media would twist it. But now, in the modern media age, these truths are well known and spread among the Syrian. So, the glue that kept them together became weak, consequently made the people revolt. This is why I believe the Syrian case is another agrarian-industrial tension and Knowledgians are not playing any rule, so far. Similar analogy could be extrapolated to the Tunisian, Libyan and Yemeni examples.

I feel great when the small pieces of facts add up to the big picture.

[Another side note: The Arab population are famous for believing in the Conspiracy Theory. They were right. But the conspiracy was not plotted by Israel and the Capitalists… but by themsleves on themselves. Worth a thought].

 

 

Privacy, West and East

This week LAK12 topic is privacy and learning analytics. Erik Duval presentation made me contemplate on some Privacy ideas.

First, you need to know that I was born in Lebanon, lived all over the world then decided to finish my professional life in Canada. So, I have that cultural mix in me where I continuously shift my values between eastern and western connotations. Something like wearing the right clothes: pajamas to sleep and T-shirt/Pants to go to work. I will call it “value attire”.

Erik asked the question: What you worry about?

Trying to reflect on a good answer made me recognize that my answer depends on the set of “value attire” I refer to.

My Eastern value attire would answer: nothing. There is nothing to hide. I lived my life sharing everything about me and I expressed my opinion freely. I had nothing to hide. Even others were not offended if we were “politically incorrect” and attacked them. Personal judgement is part of life and it never forced anybody to shunt their ideas, identity and expression.

My Western value attire would answer: I am worried that I will be considered an “alien” and lose the privilege of being a “westerner” that I  value.

This made recognize that I am forced to have two faces: the real me who wants to be open and express my feeling the way they are without worrying about my image or my identity. The me who accepts criticism and do not consider them to be politically incorrect.

The other face is the one the forces me to hide my true feeling and shut up because I still do not know what is politically correct or not.

Then it hit me: does the western culture promote privacy because people need an environment where they can be themselves on their own without anyone else judging them?

At this stage I started analyzing further with no prove: do people in the privacy of their home think differently than outside that privacy? Why and how they developed this attitude? Is it education that “programmed” students at early age to react to life in a way that they are not? using two different attire values? What they value in their own privacy is different than the values they express outside? Is this why privacy is so important? More questions than answers.

But to me, I made peace with my privacy rules: I am open and I have nothing to hide. My ideas and thoughts are to be shared with the world openly with no restrictions. And at point, if I am politically incorrect, I will look for the root cause/reasons/values that made me react in that way and eradicate it at the root so it comes out naturally in a politically correct manner without having to sugar coat it unnecessarily.

Other questions that comes to my mind:

– how much lawyer have to do with this privacy culture? Are they promoting it for their own benefit?

– I noticed that the eastern culture has far more wars among themselves than western mentality countries. Does privacy have anything to do with it?

LAk12: Baker’s Educational Data Mining

Thoughts and information captured from Ryan Baker’s Presentation as part of LAK12 videocast:

  • Educational Data Mining: improve research, improving learning models (Journal of Ed Psychology). It predicts the future. Change the future [tough for me to digest, maybe should say: change the future failure into success rather than change the future]
  • Resources: Journal of EDM, Intl EDM Society
  • EDM & LAK:
  • Similarities: understand learning through study of large data; improving education and research; drives planning, decision making and manual/automated intervention.
  • Differences:
  • LAK=include automated discovery, EDM=putting human judgement in the automated discovery [still confusing to me]
  • LAK=understand the system, EDM=focus on components and the relationship between them
  • LAK=inform instructors and learners, EDM=automated adaptation
  • LAK=focus on needs of multiple stakeholders; EDM=focus on model generalization
  • EDM Methods: Prediction (classification, regression, density estimation), Clustering [I oppose this], Relationship mining [I relate to this], Distillation, Discovery [I need to know more about it to align it to my research and interest].
  • Knowledge Engineering [?]
  • Vision: predict student success based on analysing data generated by the students. Data obtained from: course selection data, cognitive tutor log data, grade data, AST data, Khan Academy log, State Std exams, SAT Career interest, Strong Interest Inventory, MSLQ Survey. [missing soft data like intelligence indicators, interest indicators, strengths indicators, stimuli profiling, communication profiling, etc… will they be handled by LAK?]
  • https://pslcdatashop.web.cmu.edu/
  • [I did not sense the drive to help students to discover their learning strengths although I have read a lot about changing students attitudes!]
  • Learning indicators: correctness or incorrectness,

References

Baker, R. (2011). https://sas.elluminate.com/p.jnlp?psid=2012-01-31.1003.M.0728C08DFE8BF0EB7323E19A1BC114.vcr&sid=2008104

Bibliography

  • http://www.educationaldatamining.org/
  • http://lak12.sites.olt.ubc.ca/
  • https://pslcdatashop.web.cmu.edu/

Interesting Slides

Slide 29: Sample of correlation between behaviour and EDM indicators

Slide 30: Sample of correlation between action and gaming

 

LAK12: Siemen’s Educause Presentation

Here are the slides:

Notes, Reflections and Thoughts

  • Academic Analytics: target organizational efficiency, strategy and decision making. (Campbell, Dianne ?)
  • Educational Data-mining: Reducing components and analyzing relationship.
  • Learning Analytics: Systems and wholes that include social components and cognitive elements.
  • Bottom Up: Data collected through traditional learning activities.
  • Top-Down: System wide data collected.
  • Due to the existence of large data, cognitive processes need to use tools to convert them into useable information.
  • Confidence is directly related to (academic) success.
  • Quantified Self: Tracking the self abilities and analysis its data.
  • Precise and accurate information leads to better performance overall all types of organization.
  • In learning, there are many data/methods that exist: EduCause, Student Success researches, Duval, Haythornthwaite, De Liddo & Buckingham Shum (automated vs manual, 70% accuracy), Social learning analytics, Clow & Makriyannis (icebox?)
  •  Privacy and Ethics issues especially when you relate the data to none-learning layers will cause unease and we need manifestos to guide the privacy and ethics layer to minimize negative reaction. There is no research about P, E and analytics.
  • Gold Mine: Organizations [e.g Pearson, Stanford] offers open free learning courses because it offer them priceless free amount of learning data.
  • Learning organization collect massive data. We need (1) figure out a way to find them and (2) We need to relate the data together.
  • Data needs to include: data from outside LMS, from Library, classroom interaction. This required 3 layers to communicate together: Systems/enterprise level + Researchers + Educators.
  • 24% of learning organizations utilize deep analytics (Kron, 2011).
  • The process of handling data: Acquisition, Storage, Cleaning, Integration, Analysis, Representation [Myopic view]
  • Procedures for a systems: Strategy, Planning & Resources allocation, Metrics & Tools, Capacity Development, Systemic change (Click on image to enlarge, Siemens, @ 45:00 min)
  • Capacity Development: will require restructure and redevelopment capacity.
  • Resources found at: www.solaresearch.org
  • Cloud Based Analytic research: SAlgorithm should be open, Student should see what schools sees,
  • Conference in Vancouver: lak12.sites.olt.ubc.ca
  • Starting point for new born analyticians: Initiate the social practice. Other suggestions: use tools (statistics, SPSS, SNAP, …, low threshold tools), begin conversation in the institution to identify chunks of data, Sr. Admin track the procedural matrix, PD a team and the capacity (tab on Educause).
  • Initial questions: (1) Teacher level: why do students do what they do, what network structure contribute to student learning (2) Admin level: what is the impact of resources on learning success -> provide an edge.
  • Collective collaboration: relate and connect to others, organization,  state level, develop new tools.

References

Siemans, G. (2012). https://educause.adobeconnect.com/_a729300474/p4xmnq9p9rz/?launcher=false&fcsContent=true&pbMode=normal

 

LAK12: 3 ingredients that made up a new LAK side dish

The learning analytics has been slow burning on my mind since I enrolled in the lak12.mooc.ca course. I usually dedicate Monday afternoon for the LAK focused reading and reflections in preparation for Tuesday activities. But the idea is placed on a slow cooking pot throughout the week where I add an ingredient based on an incident here, anecdote there, or a info I gather. Then on Monday, I taste the pot to see if I can make something tasteful out of the mix. Today, I feel I can uncover a good side dish: analyzing the controlling instincts. Here where it came from.

The first ingredient: In an argument with my wife, I discovered that we sometime say something while we mean something totally different and we usually do not recognize that. For example, to me, prepare the table to eat means having plates and cutlery distributed on the table. To my wife, it means the feel and look of the elegance of the table which should include a red cover, lit candles and romantic music. She never said them in those words and she adamantly rejected this notion but admitted this is what was desired(yes… go figure). So, the same thing means different things to ourselves as well as to others. How can we develop an analytic system that can understand our behaviour and habits if we, ourselves, many times, do not understand them.

The second ingredient: we had couple of colleagues to dinner and we were chatting about validity of profiling tests. The discussion got to the MBTI profiling test. One conclusion that came out of the discussion was that MBTI wording of the questions measure “what you want to be” and not “who you are”. So, if the most famous measuring analytics cannot measure who we are, how can learning analytics measure our learning by analyzing data that resides on the internet. Mind boggling indeed.

The third ingredient: Buckingham newest book was sitting on my desk since my son bought it for me for Christmas. I decided to read it. To my amazement, around page 23, he indicated that our natural reactions are not random that depends on outside factors, but are based on recurring patterns that are deep  rooted in our personality. Those recurring patterns are our strengths! [My first aha: can we define a term called “our learning strength”? which is determined by a set of recurring learning habits or reactions? But how? add this ingredient to the pot].

Buckingham answer to the same question did not convince me that we can apply it effectively as a learning analytics. But its gesture has many good potential applications. He said that he applied the stimulus/reaction approach. [My second aha: maybe learning analytics should include processes to identify responses based on certain stimuli that the learner consistently exhibits while learning or surfing the net, consequently, one can determine the recurring pattern that formulate the learner’s learning strengths]. I am not sure yet that I want to add this ingredient to the pot. It needs more research.

So, recognizing that sometimes we do not know ourselves, recognizing that existing profiling tests cannot measure accurately who we are and recognizing that we need to look for recurring learning patters are 3 ingredients that makes a light side dish that still need more ingredients to make it tasteful. Let’s see what week 2 brings.

References

Buckigham, M. (2011). Standout: The groundbreaking new strengths assessment from the leader of the strengths finder. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson.

WritersDiet

I tested some of my writing using the the Writer’s Diet analysis tool, and I got the following results:

I need to analyze these findings and figure out how I can improve my work.

LAK12: Educational Data Mining

This is my first blog about the LAK12 course to see if my feed goes to the rest. To make it worthwhile, I thought to share with everyone the Concept Map I created based on this week reading (Click on the image to enlarge):

References:

Baker, R., & Yacef, K. (2009). The state of educational data mining in 2009: A review and future visions. Journal of Educational Data Mining, 1(1), 3–17.

I Learn by Trial and Error

What a synchronicity!

In my doctoral studies, I had a heated discussions about Learning Styles and why I consider them incomplete, and to some extend, useless or counterproductive (the post is elsewhere). One minor argument I used is that my learning style is based on trial and error. I challenged my co-learners to prove that there is any learning style theory that address this type of learning. I did not get a reply to this challenge. I was wondering why? Is it because no one found it, or is it because no one read my reply!

When I formulated that stand point, I was basing it on my own experience in the first place. But more importantly, based on all my male friends who hate to read instructions or guides. They prefer to try it themselves. Our wives (in majority) consider this approach to be a total waste of time. I do the same and survived many arguments with my wife. When I reflected on my habit, I discovered that I find joy going through the discovery process… it gives a thrill. We might make many mistakes, we might have to un-assemble the kit because we assumed one piece goes to the wrong place. But that gives me a joy. Not only that, I discovered that this experience becomes engraved in my personality and I, intuitively, refer to it in the future. It becomes part of me. More than just a knowledge, it becomes an intuitive habit. If this is not learning, what is? So, I learn through Trial and Error… and I find joy doing that. Shouldn’t a learning style theory include such an approach?

Anyhow, I am mentioning this now because yesterday, when I was working on a TEDx project for my community, I discovered a TEDtalk video that supports my argument. What a discovery. Here it is, enjoy. (P.s. if there is a woman who learns this way, please make yourself known to me to rewrite the above post and include you!)

Smart Convenience Stores

I was wondering today about a diet program I am following. It is working fine and helping me a lot. However, this post is about the services offered and not the diet. I just recognized that the model followed resembles how business in the knowledge age will look like. You pay for buying smart items based on knowledge. Let me elaborate.

Grocery StoreIn my younger years, my mom used to send me to buy her groceries from the convenience store next door. The owner was an illiterate person who uses his own signs and doodles to keep track of his account. His only expertise was knowing what price to tag the food based on the hour of the day to avoid spoiling them. He would talk about politics, who had a fight in the neighborhood and maybe what ingredients a recipe needs. Simple man.

In modern days, this has changed. The diet shop is an example. The lady who is running the shop is well versed with nutrition and diets. She gives advice and suggests eating programs based on who you are. Her advice and time is free. She makes her money from selling the right food that suits the customer nutritional needs and diet. Every thing you expect to find in a traditional convenience grocery: Eggs, Soups, desserts, sweet bars, drinks, condiments… Except that the seller is knowledgeable. Her advice is free, but you pay for the products she sells!

What an evolution. Nice merger between making money from selling products and selling knowledge and information. How will this merger be applied in other business areas? Hair cutting? Banking system? Above all, in the classroom? Something to ponder upon.

Community of Practice

I have met Etienne Wenger in 2000 when we were working on creating the LINC (Learning International Network Consortium) with Prof. Dick Larson in MIT. He introduced his Community of Practice to us as a group and I was fascinated with it (although I just comprehended it fully!). We had a nice chat especially about my Controlling Instincts theories which, somehow, complemented his theory. I do not remember whether I felt he accepted it because I was proud of myself or he dismissed it and I chose to ignore the fact. Few years later, I met him again at a conference held by University of Alberta… and to my amazement, he did not remember me although he remembered the project. It was an understandable shock.
Anyways, I read and reflected on his Community of Practice sporadically over the years until I was forced to study it as part of my doctoral studies. It was an optional topic that I opted to choose for I thought I could finish it quickly. To my amazement, it was a transformational experience. I saw it through a totally new eyes. Then I started seeing the world in a totally new eyes as well. I saw it as a complex field of circles. People who walk into the circle learn new language… they understand things in a way that people outside the circle cannot understand. Now, when I talk with someone, I try to figure out which circle he belongs to, I reflect to figure out if I know the paradigm of that circle, then I start using his terms. If I do not relate to his circle, I shut up, listen attentively and just nod. When I have a chance, I try to translate the conversation to terms I can relate to.

An Epiphany that has many applications.

One intimidate application is another epiphany I got when I was watching Gardner video (see it below). I related very quickly to his ideas. I am in his circle. Yet, in his talk, he hinted that many reputable theorists rejected his ideas. How can anyone reject Gardner’s ideas? They are so logical and natural. Then it hit me when he said: “my work in neuroscience influenced me”. Using CoP, he belongs to two circles: psychology and neurosciences. I can bet $100 that those who are opposing him are well versed in psychology, but not neuroscience… or some other circles I am not aware of… an epiphany: Wenger ideas could be applied here as well… What a great idea this “Community of Practice” is…

Another application: the above two experiences, the Wenger and Gardner, had an influence on a doctoral assignment I had to submit. It is simple: create a concept map about the relationships of the Learning Theories. However, based on the above two experiences, and based on my interaction with other doctoral students, I discovered that most educational studies classify and categories learning theory based on psychological paradigm (that is the Community of Psychological Practice). I thought: maybe I should come up with a new model that classify learning theories based on the Community of Practice of its curator… In this way, I will have an effective tool to understand where the theorist is coming from, what values and vocabulary they use, the connotations behind their words and, above all, understand in a better way those who criticize the theory.

What a week.

Below is a partial and an initial map I came up with which requires further analysis and compilations (click to enlarge):

Ah, I was almost going to forget Gardner’s video (it is long, but worth watching if you are interested in the background around Multiple Intelligences):

Yen Yang of education: First Attempt

The Chinese believe that polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and that they give rise to each other in turn (from Wikipedia). In my recent doctoral researchers and exposures, I have discovered some dichotomous situations and concepts that might require the Yen Yang philosophy to explain. In this post, I will list some of my finding hoping to elaborate further in the future.

Natural and Artificial Learning: When reviewing Vygotsky, Gardner, Lavit and Wenger’s work, I discovered that they advocate that learning happens naturally when an individual is placed in the right social environment, like Community of Practice. Deeper reflections and further investigation in cognitive neurosciences, made me discover that there is a good possibility that individuals can learn naturally on their own merit. This made me wonder: is traditional education an artificial learning environment? If Yen Yan premesis are correct, it is worth investigating this topic under that light!

(P.S.: I used “traditional education” because I have witnessed many educators who deviated from traditional education methods and actually created a natural learning environment in their classes.)

Copycat and Creative: Interacting with Sir Ken Robinson’s ideas about dismissal of creativity in preliminary school, and few other readings about Clifton positive approaches made me think if the learning processes that individuals go through since birth would yield one personality out of two: either a copycat personality or a creative personality. The copycat get his (or her) creativity from borrowing ideas from others, while a creative personality can imagine and visualize unrealistic images.

This idea was enforced again when I was watching a video of Pauolo Coelheo describing two types of authors: one who write based on experiences they go through themselves, and those who create new realities that they have never experienced. Watch the video: (P.S., I am wondering if I an a copycat or creative person. what do you think?)
Watch Coelho video:

Strengths, Weaknesses and Disorders

In a recent discussion with PhD students, I touched base on how Positive Psychology should shape our world instead of surrendering to the negativity of traditional psychology. When I was challenged to prove that positive psychology could help people with anxiety and or personality disorder without medication, I reverted to Clifton’s strengths as a support. Then a epiphany happened. I related stress and anxiety to strengths and weaknesses. I said that: anxiety (e.g. stress, fear, insecurity, etc) happens to a person who is forced to live, study or work in areas of his weaknesses.  Personality disorder (e.g. compulsiveness, impulsiveness, addiction, etc.) happens to a person who has strengths suppressed.

So, to help a person under stress, let him change his environment to capitalize on his strengths. To help a person with personality disorder, help him rediscover then relate to his strengths.

This deserves a serious research. A topic for my PhD thesis? Do I want to get involved in the messy world of psychology? I doubt it.

Q&A: Learning Styles

Learning Styles TreeIn a recent academic discussion about learning styles, I was inundated with questions related to my standpoint about Learning Styles. I though I should summarize my philosophy in this post.

1. Do you feel the models are really that important?

Yes. At this stage of the educational game, learning models are important stepping stones essential to push education. Before Kolb introduced his model, educators believed that there is only one type of learning and that learners who do not conform to this type are lazy, incompetent, under-achievers, at risk and all the negative labels attached to such failure. Kolb introduction of his model in 1986 forced education to adjustment the curriculum and teaching to accommodate for different styles, consequently giving an equal chance for students to learn. This was a powerful shift of the blame from the student to the teacher. As Hogan mentioned in 2002, This led to a new educational paradigm where the teacher became the ‘facilitator of learning’ instead of the teacher.

2. What is the impact of the large number of learning styles

I foresee that the explosion in the number of learning styles will definitely force education to make more paradigm shifts with more focus on learners’ success. No one can tell how it will look like as much as Graham Bell was able to tell that his invention of the phone will lead to the iPad. But we can sense the change in many new educational ideas like the one promoted by Aviram and Amir in 2008. For example, some emerging teaching programs permit, if not encourages, that each student learn differently although they are taking the same material and supposed to pass the same assessment. This is not permitted in traditional education because every student is expected to demonstrate learning along the same norms. Without the ideas of differing learning styles, there would have never made the shift to this teaching approach.

3. Do we have to teach to a particular student’s learning style

Depends on the scenario. You asked about “teaching” so I will limit my reply to the “teaching” scenario. When I teach for certification (like Project Management or Safety), I use one style because the certification expects one type of learners consequently diversification is counterproductive. Obviously, I disagree with this approach, but I use it. On the other hand, when I teach transformational courses, I do consider the different learners’ learning needs ahead of the course to ensure effective learning.

I cannot help myself to point out that the ideal approach is to stop teaching so students can learn. This is new educational paradigm that I hope the multiplicity of learning types will bring to the educational table.

4. Do you feel that the set of Learning Types will ever be complete?

My “feeling” is I do not care. Having complete command over all learning style is a waste of my time and my resources. Few of them are enough for me. However, if you ask me if I want “them” to complete the picture? I’d say yes. The future of education is in technology. Computers will be able to customize the learning of each individual far better than any human teacher. For computers to do a good job, the whole framework should be complete. I think they are doing a great job individualizing the online shopping experience, I hope that approach extends to individualizing learning.

4. Is it better to follow a given model or to instead be aware of the many varied ways students might learn and focus instead on strategies for both educator and student.

If we are “teaching”, then following a given model, or combination of models, is really helpful. For example, I find Kurucz learning orientation model an effective approach to use with multicultural students. I find some underlying concepts in VARK and NLP to be effective “communication” (and not learning) tools. For example, I make sure my teaching material includes the 4 VARK mediums, while I use the NLP concepts to read deeper into my student personality through observing their usage of words and bodily gestures when they are conveying a message. Above all, I find Clifton’s model to be an effective reference when I need to help those who fail my courses to succeed in their life. My courses receive high merit evaluation from the learners, yet, always, there is that one learner who considers it to be the worst course ever! So this approach still needs refinement.

On the other hand, if I am “not-teaching” to make my students learn, I do not need to use any of these models for the students will follow their own natural learning abilities. I do not think I should interfere to ruin their learning ;-).

X-Teacher and Theory Y-Teacher

In the 1960’s, Douglas McGregor from MIT came up with the Theory-X and Theory-Y to describe styles of managers. It became very popular in the field of HR and it was a model that helped shift management from the negative paradigm to a positive spin. I would like to apply the same theories in Education describing Teacher-X and Teacher-Y. I have copied and pasted the theory directly from  and replaced management terms with educational terms. So, work becomes study, employees becomes students, managers becomes educators, and so on. I have placed the words I could not find an alternative between square brackets.

Theory-X

In this theory, [which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practices], educators assume students are inherently lazy and will avoid studying if they can and that they inherently dislike learning. As a result of this, educators believes that students need to be closely supervised and comprehensive systems of controls developed. A hierarchical structure is needed with narrow span of control at each and every level. According to this theory, students will show little ambition without an enticing incentive program and will avoid responsibility whenever they can. [According to Michael J. Papa,]  if the educational goals are to be met, theory X educators rely heavily on threat and coercion to gain their students’ compliance. Beliefs of this theory lead to mistrust, highly restrictive supervision, and a punitive atmosphere. The Theory X educators tends to believe that everything must end in blaming someone. He or she thinks all prospective educators are only out for themselves. Usually these educators feel the sole purpose of the student’s interest in the school is [????]. They will blame the person first in most situations, without questioning whether it may be the system, policy, or lack of training that deserves the blame. A Theory X educator believes that his or her students do not really want to study, that they would rather avoid responsibility and that it is the teacher’s job to structure the work and energize the students. One major flaw of this teaching style is it is much more likely to cause Diseconomies of Scale.

Theory-Y

In this theory, education assumes students may be ambitious and self-motivated and exercise self-control. It is believed that students enjoy their mental and physical learning duties. [According to Papa,] to them learning is as natural as play. They possess the ability for creative problem solving, but their talents are underused in most organizations. Given the proper conditions, theory Y educators believe that students will learn to seek out and accept responsibility and to exercise self-control and self-direction in accomplishing objectives to which they are committed. A Theory Y teacher believes that, given the right conditions, most people will want to do well at their studies. They believe that the satisfaction of doing a good job is a strong motivation. Many people interpret Theory Y as a positive set of beliefs about students. [A close reading of The Human Side of Enterprise] reveals that McGregor simply argues for teachers to be open to a more positive view of students and the possibilities that this creates. He thinks that Theory Y teachers are more likely than Theory X teachers to develop the climate of trust with students that is required for learning. It’s human resource development that is a crucial aspect of any organization. This would include teachers communicating openly with students, minimizing the difference between mentor-learner relationships, creating a comfortable environment in which students can develop and use their abilities. This climate would include the sharing of decision making so that students have a say in decisions that influence them.

3 flaws of Education

Education, as we traditionally know it, has 3 flaws:

The first flaw is that learning is considered a branch of psychology while it should be part of neurosciences. There are two reasons for this standpoint:

  1. learning is a function related to the creation and strengthening of links between neurons (Arbib, 2003 and Moldakarimov & Sejnowksi, 2009). The scientific laws that governs these dynamics should determine, define and frame our knowledge about learning.
  2. The second reason is that psychology focuses on fixing human weaknesses (Snyder, Lopez & Pedrotti, 2011), this is reflected in education where the majority of teachers are under the influence that their role is to “fix” the student habits and attitutdes. While education should focus on our strengths and should not bother with our weaknesses (Robinson & Aronica, 2009).

So learning should be investigated and researched by cognitive neuroscientists and not psychologists alone (Hirsh-Pasek & Bruer, 2007). Cognitive neuroscience should have more influence on learning theories that it does today.

The second flaw is that education assumes that peoples’ “learning character” (my term) can be shaped during adulthood. While neuroscientists say that our learning character is shaped by the age of 3 and it is almost impossible to change it after that age (Bruer, 2002). We can enhance it and improve it, but we cannot change it nor create it. This is a flaw in education because most teachers believe that students’ under performance is caused by laziness consequently tag students based on their weakness for the rest of their life.

The third fault is that educational assessment measures the wrong learning parameters. It measures retained information, while it should measure knowledge and learning parameters.

Recognizing the above will convert education from Theory-X to Theory-Y (adopting McGregor managers model, see the following post).

References

Arbib, M. (Ed.). (2003). The handbook of brain theory and neural networks. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Bruer, T. (2002). Myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning. New York: Free Press.
Earl, L. (2003). Assessment as learning: using classroom assessment to maximize learning. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.
Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books
Hirsh-Pasek, K., & Bruer, J. (2007). The brain/education barrier. Science (New York, N.Y.), 317(5843), 1293.
Moldakarimov, S. & Sejnowksi, T. (2009). Neural Computation of Learning. Chapter 15 in Byrne, John (ed.). Concise Learning and memory: The editor’s selection. (2009). Accessible partially from: http://www.elsevierdirect.com/product.jsp?lid=0&iid=5&sid=0&isbn=9780123746276
Robinson, K & Aronica, L. (2009). The element : how finding your passion changes everything.  New York: Penguin Group USA.Bruer, T. (2002). Myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning. New York: Free Press.
Snyder, C., Lopez S. & Pedrotti, J. (2011). Positive psychology: the scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE