Tagged Reactions to readings

It works if you substitute the chicken for a frictionless orb

The agent-based model of an ant colony provides us with a “glass box” (as opposed to a “black
box”), through which we can examine and observe the operations of the ants, and discuss and
test whether or not hypothesized mechanisms are valid.

As I stated in class, I’m not one of those students that is simply satisfied with being told to use an equation. I have to know why it works. I have to build it using what I know to be true. If I can derive the equation from scratch I know I can do it again any time I wish. If I cannot derive the equation I know that there is a piece of information that I lack and I learn it in the process. If I had simply memorized the equation I would not have found this lack of information. This is probably why I had a deep distrust of physics.

Most physics require the user to not only memorize and equation, but memorize the conditions when such an equation would be accurate. I remember when I was learning about velocity and the force of gravity. Given a force and an angle I was told that I could accurately predict where a projectile would fall. To illustrate this we used nerf guns and predicted where the darts would lie. I tried that dammed experiment several times and the dart never hit my estimate. When I asked the professor about the anomaly he simply stated that it was because we had left out several factors. There was air resistance, the force of friction of the dart against the gun, and the fact that the force used was just an estimate of the true force of the gun. He explained that if I was in a world with frictionless guns and no air that the dart would always hit my estimate. He failed to mention that these conditions do not exist, and, more importantly, that without air I would probably die.

The second paper touched on this concern. While models are a great approximation of the world they often do not take into account things like air resistance. This is troublesome since our world will never lack air. I think that the idea of using sensors to make models true to their natural equivalent is an excellent step in the right direction and keeps these models from assuming things that would never really occur.

Degeneration Response

While reading Degeneration I couldn’t help but think that one day our statistics will also seem ridiculous. Computer memory and storage alone double every 6 months. In fact I remember watching a rerun of friends where Chandler gets a brand new computer. I couldn’t help but laugh as he read off the specs. My Ipod had more computing power than his top of the line computer. It is laughable to think that the same thing won’t eventually happen to our technology. Heck, even my friends reference is showing it’s age. Still, even in those dark ages people managed to get work done.
I find it curious how little we value technology that is considered “outdated”. Old products are cast aside or thrown away in favor of new and flashy models. Sure, to those who can afford it, purchasing new technologies seems to be a logical step, but it’s important to realize that old technologies are still cutting edge to those that cannot afford it. I wonder what would happen if all of the “outdated” computers were donated to the less fortunate instead of simply recycled or thrown away. In the worst case scenario they may not be used (similar to what would have happened anyway). But in the best case scenario someone will have access to technologies (and the affordances they provide) that circumstances would have rendered impossible to attain.

While reading “Models of growth — towards fundamental change in learning environments.” I found it interesting, but not surprising, that process was heavily emphasized. While I attended high school I was a part of 3 major restructuring attempts. This ranged from having 3 vice principles, to having 3 different “Academies”. Did any of these restructures work? Well… I don’t know Maybe it worked at some other school. Maybe the conditions weren’t right at our school. Maybe we didn’t have enough time to see any changes. There are many variables that play into where or not the changes could be considered successful that it’s hard to say how or why things are effective. This is why I think focusing on the process makes sense. Perhaps the point wasn’t that 3 principals would equal a great school, Perhaps the point was that with more vice principals there would be less workload for each which would translate to better management. It’s too bad that most people are content adapting to things that worked in other situations rather than trying to figure out why.

Damn you Rodolph, or Piaget is A ZOMBIE!

A long time ago my brother, Kevin, was explaining one of his beliefs to my mother’s friend, Lisa. Lisa found Kevin’s view of the world amusing and asked him to repeat it. Kevin did so with some hesitation and Lisa was once again amused. I watched as Lisa then gathered a few people and asked Kevin to repeat his view of the world, so that the others might hear. It was at this time that my brother, frustrated that he had to repeat himself again, told his audience, “This lady need’s help. Either she’s dumb, or she can’t hear”.

I am a deep believer in Piaget’s idea that children are not incomplete people, but are instead viewing the world through the mental models they’ve created. Sure Kevin’s mental model of the world may have seemed foreign and amusing, but it was not because he was incapable of understanding the “right” model. After all, he was able to create the model indicating that either Lisa was either incapable of understanding or deaf after being with her for only a short time.

However, to say that all of Piaget’s ideas are infallible would be a mistake. Sure we can develop a mental model for almost anything we come in contact with based what we know. Still, this does not guarantee that our model will be accurate. The is much to gain by actually being in the situation we model. The mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity were designed based on what we knew about Mar’s surface. Even with ideal conditions the rover was not expected to last longer than the time it took to complete the 90 day mission. Yet, for some reason, both rovers work to this day and still send signals back to earth. Obviously we cannot rely simply on generalized models that internalize.

This is not to say that we should ignore our priori models. Rushing into a situation without considering what we know would be unwise. Knowing that tigers eat people, and generalizing the model so that you can assume a tiger would eat you, is probably a model you want to keep. In fact this model would probably prevent you from dying in what would other wise be a very educational experience.

So in short, Piaget is dead but his ideas are not. It is with little hesitation that I say Piaget’s ideas will probably consume the minds of many scholars for years to come. BRAIIIINS!!!!111!!

The far and distant future

I hate the fact that schools still use the drill and kill method to teach subjects. I guess looking back on it it’s kinda difficult to teach the material using another method. The fact that standards still need to be met every year, usually assessed through multiple choice achievement tests, it is not surprising that the drill and kill method is still being used. While the drill and kill has been shown to be far less effective than other methods it still remains the easiest way to present students with material thus fulfilling the absolute minimum job requirement of a teacher.

I guess the reason that I’m being so critical is because I’ve seen programs that have taken similar challenges and have developed engaging ways to present the material. I remember using one of these programs to explore the world around me. The program, wikiworld, used gps positioning and social networking to share a community’s knowledge. With wikiworld I could ask questions about anything in the world around me. All I had to do was stand in the area where the question occurred to me and I could post my question for others to answer. I could later review my question and see what others had suggested as possible answers. For an inquisitive, but shy, person like me this application was perfect. I could ask questions without worrying that people would think I was uneducated.

I could also answer questions that I found scattered about. This was quite possibly the most fun I had with the app. As a kid I had a deep interest in zoology and visited nature reserve by my house as often as I could. One day I used the wikiworld app at the nature reserve and I found that many people had left questions about animals they had seen in the reserve. Naturally I took to answering these questions as best I could, and many times my answer was selected as the best. When I found a question that I didn’t know the answer to I would quickly scan any posts that were left as possible solutions and then searched for the answer on wikipedia, at the library, and within my own books for the answers. I remember how addicting it was to search for posts left by others. In many ways I feel wikiworld worked as a catalyst to expend my knowledge.

It is amazing to think that this effective means of teaching was executed on such meager technology as an Ipod touch. The wifi connection was atrocious, and memory capabilities were quite limited. Still even with this technology that is now capable of running on our paper I learned so much. It’s a shame that these holograms, realtime streaming, and tactile feedback which are now commonplace in our schools and homes are used simply used to drill and kill information. It’s a shame that even though our technology has changed so much, our thoughts on education have changed so little.

-Ender Connor