Sunday, December 25, 2016

Some things smart people said about teaching!

Some nice quotes from http://www.simplek12.com/
Merry Christmas! And Happy New Year!






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Friday, December 9, 2016

Who and why should learn physics?


For this post, there are two options:
1) to watch a short video (however, it does not include appendix: Physics v. Computer Coding)
or
2) read the transcripts of the video (including appendix: Physics v. Computer Coding).
Hello I am Dr. Valentin Voroshilov.
Since my graduation with my Masters in theoretical physics I’ve been teaching algebra based physics, calculus based physics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, even logic, and problem solving. I also have a PhD in education with the concentration in teacher professional development. I have developed and taught courses to middle and high school teachers. I also developed and taught a physics course for students with learning disabilities. So, I know a thing or two about teaching, and I am good at that. My website GoMars.XYZ provides all information about me (Why “GoMars”? Because it’s easy to remember!). 
If you click on this link you can read what my former students say about my teaching. This is the best proof any teacher can have of a good teaching (capital G, capital T). I’m pretty proud of this, considering that when I moved from Russia to Boston I couldn’t speak or understand any English. Today I teach and wright. I am very productive. I publish papers and even books. I think that today I am compensating for all those years when I was learning English (mostly via TV and radio) and couldn’t express myself.
Well, I guess, if you are still reading that means you understand what I’m saying.
The first time I realized that I was good at teaching was a long time ago. I was teaching physics to two-year college students. It was the first or second week of the course. The class had to solve some problems, and every student had to show the work to me. A girl was walking to me slouching and scared. She handed me her notebook. I looked at it. The solution was absolutely correct. I said “You are absolutely right, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be done”. Her face lightens up, she smiles, and she says “I wouldn’t ever think that I could solve a physics problem on my own.”
Since then every time when I begin teaching a new course, I look at my students, and I see an anxiety or even fear in many eyes. Based on my surveys, student feedback, and just everyday conversations with students, I know that many of them are scared of physics, they think physics is too difficult, and they can’t get a good grade in physics.
That is why at the very beginning of every physics course I always tell my students “You can learn physics. Everybody can learn physics. Everyone who knows a multiplication table, and can solve a quadratic equation can learned a high level of physics - like quantum gravitation. And everyone can get an A. Different people may need different time and effort to get it, but everyone in this room can succeeded in a physics course. If someone tells you that physics is hard, and you can’t learn it, that person is a liar, or a bad teacher, or he or she just wants to feel better about themselves. “I know physics, I’m so smart.”
There is a lot of competition in a “science” of teaching physics. Some people compete for a fame like actors compete for an Oscar.
Most of my students by the end of a course change the perception of physics from “hard” to “doable”, and a perception of themselves from “I can’t do physics” to “I’m actually smarter than I thought!”
I always say that to learn how to solve a problem about walking a rope is much easier and faster than to learn how to walk a rope.


People say that to learn physics you have to be good at math. That’s not true. That’s another myth. To learn an algebra based physics people need to know a simple, elementary, rudimentary mathematics available to everyone.
Learning physics is like learning a foreign language. You need to memorize a set of new words. And you need to be able to look around, to see things, to name those things, to classify those things and relationships between those things. As a school subject, physics is uniquely positioned as a bridge between an abstract world of mathematics and real world of actual phenomena. 
Physics as a science is based on experiments, but when we learn physics most of the work is happening in our brain. We have to use the power of our mind to manipulate with different images, ideas, abstract objects. That is why the most important tool for learning physics is imagination – like in reading and writing.
Nowadays, physics is used far beyond just physics and engineering. It has entered business, medicine, even sport – and this is the first answer to “WHY students need to learn physics”.
Everyone who considers a career in a STEM related field, has to take physics, and the sooner it’s done the better. I’ve got a presentation on this matter available on my website.
I want to finish this video with a question “If everyone can learn physics, does it mean that everyone can teach it?” The answer is “No”. Why? For a short answer, I recommend to read the “Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy”. It takes just five minutes. For the full discussion please read my book “Becoming a STEM teacher” which is available on Amazon.com or Smashwords.com, or NoiseTrade.com, and almost free. Or just call me and we will talk.
 
Thank you.
Appendix: Physics v. Computer Coding
(a.k.a. a “scientific thinking” v. “computational thinking”)
Nowadays computer coding, or “computational thinking” enjoy a broad attention, an ideological and financial support from all levels of government and philanthropy.
According to the Wikipedia: “Computational Thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer—human or machine—can effectively carry out. Computational Thinking is an iterative process based on three stages: 1) Problem Formulation (abstraction), 2) Solution Expression (automation), and 3) Solution Execution & Evaluation (analyses)”.
Simply, computational thinking has two parts: developing the solution of a problem (a.k.a thinking, or reasoning), and coding (translating into computer operations) that solution using a language understandable by a computer.
The later part – coding – relies mostly on memorizing lines of computer commands (or, if using a high-level object oriented programming – memorizing a set of programming operations).

Every road has its beginning.
Every evolution has stages and phases.
The birth of a knowledgeable and skillful human follows specific laws, in the same manner like the birth of a human.
Skipping the stages is just impossible.
Alternating the stages will lead to “birth defects”.
For STEM, Computer and Data sciences the road, the evolution, the birth begins with PHYSICS!
Before physics, reading, writing, math, general science leads to a person to be ready to start to study physics.
Then study physics leads to the advanced development of other abilities require to succeed in science.
Why?
Because physics is the only science suited as the bridge between abstract matters (math) and real world.
BTW: That is why the NSF needs to have a project with the goal to allow ALL school students to study physics (like it does for computer and data sciences and cyber thinking).
Physics Is the Door into STEM education! 
I have a much largeer post on the matter:

How much of “cyber” in “cyberlearning” and "cyberthinking"??



a link to a presentation on the matter:
physics as a Door into STEM Education



Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals
GoMars.xyz

To learn more about my professional experience:
The voices of my students 
"The Backpack Full of Cahs": pointing at a problem, not offering a solution
Essentials of Teaching Science

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy: a Handbook For a Beginner Teacher




Every road has its beginning.
Every evolution has stages and phases.
The birth of a knowledgeable and skillful human follows specific laws, like the birth of a human.
Skipping those stages is impossible. 
Alternating those stages will lead to “birth defects”.
That is why we need to know the basic laws of TeachOlogy, so we could fulfill the mission of K12 education!

Preamble
When we talk about science we do not usually think about what do we mean when we use that word. The only time when we try to invoke the definition of a “science” is when we want to run a comparison between a science and a religion. But when we talk about a specific science, like physics, or biology, or science of education, we automatically assume that all sciences are more or less equal to each other by their structure. This assumption is wrong.
The full discussion about what science is would take too much time and space.
For the purpose of this post we can rely on a common sense and the use of a clear analogy.
Let's say you read a paper on geopolitics. You read that such a country is developed, and such a country is developing. Even if you don't know the exact definition of what a developed country is or what a developing country is you have the feeling which helps you to understand the difference; you have the feeling which helps you to answer a question about different countries: “Is that country developed or developing?”, e.g. Brazil is more developed than Mexico but it still is a developing country; the USA is a developed country (however, with underdeveloped public education); etc.
The exact same feeling can be used to differentiate between specific sciences. Using the same terminology we can differentiate between developed sciences and developing sciences. For example, we can ask if physics is a developed or developing science. The answer is “Physics is a developed science”. There is no doubt about that. Mathematics is a developed science, as well.
But what about education? The first note should be made that when we say this word – “education” – we don’t usually mean a scientific research in the field, but a human practice. That human practice – “education” – also includes a research in the field. But we don’t have a special name for that type of a research. However, we can say that the research in the field of education is ina developing stage, hence the science of education is a developing science.
Most of the sciences fall either in a category “developed” (like math and physics) or developing (like education and economics).
Personally, I do not like this particular terminology.
I prefer calling a developed science just a “Science”. And I find calling a developing science a “science” is just confusing, because it makes it to be seen as a developed one. That is why I do not call a research in  education a “science” but a “scientific field”.
As a human practice education includes a research related to the study of properties and laws of learning and teaching processes. That research represents a scientific field, which eventually will lead to the development of a science of education (in the sense of a developed science).

Using the same word – education – for the whole human practice and for a research in the field is confusing. We need a name which describes specifically the field of scientific research in education. That field includes everything related to learning and teaching. For all species learning is a very important evolutionary process. We – humans – study properties of learning processes so we could use the results of that study for the development the most efficient and effective teaching practices. That is why I call this field of research – the field of scientific research designated to study learning and teaching processes – TeachOlogy. TeachOlogy is not yet a science, it is still a scientific field, or, using the geopolitical terminology, TeachOlogy is a developing science. Even if TeachOlogy is not yet a science, it already has many important discoveries. Those discoveries so far have not been scientifically proved, but they can be used as heuristic rules to plan and execute research practices, as well as professional practices, in the field of learning and teaching.
TeachOlogy is a practical science of learning and teaching, offering a set of helpful and working heuristic rules (in the same sense as rules for problem solving in "How to Solve It", by Goerge Polya). 

Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy: 
a Handbook For a Beginner Teacher






6th
Teaching is guiding students through an arrangement of learning experiences specifically designed for helping students with mastering the subject, including understanding the topics, developing skills, and feeling good about themselves.
7th
Teaching = motivating + demonstrating + instructing + explaining
Learning = goal making + memorizing + reiterating + thinking
Understanding = making sense of the things by connecting the current experience with the previous knowledge, and – if needed – modifying the previous knowledge, or re-describing the current experience.
8th
If a person can learn the multiplication table and the strategy for solving a quadratic equation, that person can learn any high level intellectual knowledge (e.g. quantum gravitation), and there are only two reasons for that not happening - no desire, or a wrong teacher.
9th
If the only exercise students had been doing for 12 years is squats, they will not be good at push-ups and pull-ups. Do not expect from students an ability to think if all the had to do for 12 years was memorizing facts and rules.
10th
True learning never happens by watching, it happens by doing.
You can watch for hours other people swimming, but if you want to learn how to swim you have to get yourself into water and start trying.
Reading (and watching, and listening) helps to form an initial vocabulary, and to set relationships between the current knowledge and the upcoming one. Doing (speaking, writing, solving, explaining) forms the skills.
11th
The “learning space” of students in a class is (essentially) three dimensional: students might differ by their 1. background (previously learned knowledge and skills); 2. learnability (rate and volume of attaining knowledge and skills as a function of time and effort); 3. motivation (aspirations and willingness to learn).
A good teacher always can provide a reason for his/her actions. Sometime it is "I just felt like doing this". But for a good teacher that does not happen very often.
12th
Kids do not know anything and learn everything from scratch. When adults learn new skills, they repeat the same general steps and stages of learning they used to use when where learning as kids (but usually/hopefully faster).
13th
Look at infants – they always try doing new things and want to learn something new! Now look at school graduates – so many of them do not want to learn anything new. A facility which does this to students cannot be called “a school”.
14th
The best gift a parent can give to a child is good habits; the best gift a teacher can give to a student is love for learning and confidence in ability to learn.
The most important social ability and a habit parents and teachers can give to children is fighting the temptation for instant gratification.
The art of teaching is based on the science of learning, the love for education, and the passion for sharing this love.
15th
Everybody can drive, but not everyone is a good driver, everybody can cook, but not everyone is a chef. Anyone can talk, but it is wrong to think that anybody can be a good teacher.
A great teacher is not the one who just loves teaching, but the one who loves learning and is passionate in sharing this love.
If you are a good teacher, your students understand your way of thinking and copy what you do. If you are a great teacher, your students can generate their own ideas and do things impossible to you.
For example – for a physics or math teacher.
If you are a good teacher, your students understand your solutions to problems, if you are a great teacher, your students generate their own solutions.
16th
Teachers – like doctors – must take “a Hippocratic Oath” of a teacher. i.e. to promise “never do harm to anyone”, because there is always something more important in teaching than merely transmitting knowledge.
If a person does not like a challenge and does not like learning, that person should not go into the business of education in any form; she.he is not going to be a good teacher, or administrator, or a researcher in the field.
17th
There are three kinds of human practices/projects with the goal of advancing human life: (a) scientific research - with the goal of discovering new patterns which can be used for making reliable predictions; (b) engineering and art - with the goal of developing and building new devices (and systems of devices), or  developing artifacts of art; (c) social advancement - with the goal of a social advancement, developing or adopting new collective practice(s) (new - for the given social group, but may have been used already by other people).
Education combines all three.
18th
Every human practice has some elements of a scientific research: when we start a project, we generally have some understanding of what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve that (“a hypothesis”), and how will we assess (measure) how close we are to the goal (“facts”).
The difference between a scientific research and a social project is in “what utilizes what”.
In a scientific research, some social activity is being used as a vehicle to obtain new knowledge. In that case, some advancement in some social practice represents a “collateral” result of the research.
In a social project, some scientific knowledge is being used to achieve positive changes in a certain social situation. In this case, some newly recorded knowledge represents a “collateral” result of the project.
19th
Physics represents the most developed scientific approach to study the Nature. When a physicist is trying to understand how the Nature works, he/she uses a scientific approach based on clear and uniformly used terminology, and on well-defined and uniformly used measuring tools and procedures. Everyone who teaches science has to use the same scientific approach.  Everyone who teaches how to teach science has to use the same scientific approach.
20th
The main goal of education is equipping students with the ability to succeed in life. The highest level of education is achieved when students can create solutions to problems they have never solved before. 
Since the solution has to be constructed, a student most probably will be making mistakes.
True (actual, full, complete) learning cannot happen without making mistakes.
Mistakes are inevitable and unavoidable.
There is no shame in making a mistake.
There is shame, though, in insisting that you didn't, when even you already know that you did.
A culture where mistake are being punished cannot succeed in Science, Technologies, Engineering, and Mathematics (and intellectually in general; but, keep in mind, that "grading" is not necessary "punishment").
This is just a fact, that the same assignments (e.g. physics problems) may be too easy for some students and too difficult for other students. In both cases the learning is not happening, because a student did not have to learn anything, or could not learn anything. Hence, when designing teaching practice a teacher has to manage the difficulty of the assignments - for all students - making assignment not too easy and not too hard, i.e. placing them in the Zone of Proximal Development of the students.

21th
People who praise the Socratic method should keep in mind how he ended his life.
For Socrates, knowledge a person has, defines that person as a whole. When Socrates said: “I know that I know nothing” he did not just accept limits of his knowledge, he accepted his limits as a human being. Unfortunately, expecting the same from others had lead Socrates to willingly drinking poison.
Click here For more on the Socratic Method

Appendix: On a definition of “a law” and “a science”
I) What is “a law”?
A law is a statement of an existing pattern. This statement usually has a verbal or a mathematical representation.
II) What does a law do?
A law allows to explain observed phenomena. But the most important application of a law is to predicting events. A law allows to make a statement about (a) what events will be possible for happening (within given limits, under given circumstances, within a given timeframe), and (b) among possible events, what is a chance for a given event to happen.
III) What is “a science”?
The definition of a science is multi-dimensional.
(a) A science is an internally consistent body of knowledge based on the scrupulous and logical analysis of a vast amount of data.
(b) A science is a specific human practice which mission is to obtain and describe natural and social patterns (a.k.a. laws) in order to use those patterns for making reliable predictions.
(shortly: the mission of a science is making predictions; if making reliable predictions is not yet possible, the field is still in a pre-science stage)
(c) The development of a science usually has two stages:
1) a pre-science stage, when the main goals of human activities are:
* developing a language (mainly naming objects and processes), tools and procedures (including specifically designed experiments) for collecting and classifying data, and
* collecting and classifying data, and
* formulating the set of patterns describing the phenomena within a specific domain
2)  a science stage, when the main goals of human activities are:
* using the developed set of patterns for improving human living, and
* using the developed set of pattern for advancing the science
Avery human practice presents a certain combination of pre-scientific activities, scientific activities, art, engineering, and chaotic trials. The activity which dominates the practice gives the name to the practice.

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals

To learn more about my professional experience:
BTW: A Teacher is the Manager of the Class!
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