Five Popular Posts Of The Month

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Two examples of linguistic analysis.

Two examples of professional linguistic analysis.

This post has two parts:

Part I: The meaning of “master”, “professional”, and “expert”.

Part I: The meaning of “master”, “professional”, and “expert”.

People often use the same words, but imply different meanings. “You told me that …”. “Yes, but, this is what I meant!”.

People believe that the sentence they say has only one meaning – the one they imply in it – but in reality, very often that sentence may have other interpretations. Misunderstanding happens when another person who listen to the sentence perceive its another interpretation. However, that person often does not realize that his/her interpretation is only an interpretation, and believes that his/her interpretation represents the only possible meaning of the sentence, hence believes that what he/she perceives is equal to what the author of the sentence means. In the end, two people (an author and a receiver/listener) assign different meanings to the same sentence, and when they argue, the argue about different things.

When a word or a sentence has a  different meaning or interpretation, then we have a case of ambiguity.

Ambiguity is a common reason for misunderstanding.

Clarity is the opposite of the ambiguity.

Clarity becomes with separation of different meanings that used to be used for the same word/term assigning those meanings to different words/terms.

This procedure has a name – a definition. We define the meaning of a word by assigning to that word one specific meaning.

Of course, that is not always possible, but definitions are the fundamental basis for a scientific language.

Science cannot have any ambiguity.

As an example of this approach let us assign specific meaning to three different terms: a master, a professional and an expert.

If you do a simple internet search, this is what you find.

What we immediately notice is that the descriptions do not place the terms in one linguistic domain. However, in our professional life, we use all these terms as a description of a person who has specific work-related responsibilities.

That means, first we need to define a domain where these words would have to be used with their specific meaning, and then we need to assign that meaning.

Let us narrow the domain to professional qualification evaluation.
We will use these terms do describe a person form the point of the quality of view of his/her work.

This is my view and my proposition for assigning specific meanings to terms “master”, “professional”, and “expert”.

The roots of mastership are in the sense of decency.

A master stems from a decent person.

But in this case decency is not understood like a moral prerogative, i.e. to be a good person.
Here, in the field of professional qualification evaluation, decency is understood in a sense of  - an intention to do the right thing.
Sometimes the right thing to do may feel moral for one person but immoral for other people.

Maybe there is a better word for a person who always tries to do the right thing, but I do not know that term.

By stating that “decency is an intention to do the right thing” we define the meaning of this term in the field of

And then we start describing the meaning of term “master” by stating that master bust be decent.

If a person does not have decency (when we talk about professional qualification evaluation), it means the person cannot be called a master.

But not every decent person is a master.

 Being decent is only the first component of being a master.

It is not enough just to want to do the right thing.

One also has to know what the right thing is (that implies understanding of why that is the right thing to do) and how to do it (that implies an ability to perform the required actions).

These two components represent an expert and a professional.

And expert is the one who knows what is right to do, and a professional knows how to do it. But an expert or a professional may not always want to do the right thing.
Now, after we defined “expert” and “professional” we can define “master”.  

A master is a decent expert and professional.

A master knows what is the right thing to do, knows how to do it, and wants to do it.

When a master encounters something wrong, he/she wants to fix it, to make it right, and also has abilities (knowledge and skills) to do it.

A specific approach to professional evaluation and development of teachers, called “Professional Designing”, is described in this publication: “Professional Designing For Teachers”.

Part II: What is “chaos” in a social setting.

Recently I came across an email where a faculty says: “I always expect that the first day of the class will be very chaotic”.

There are two major sources for this type of chaos.

The number one source of chaos is students who do not follow instructions.
In a social system, chaos is a presence of many unexpected events.

Of course, some unexpected events could be due to spontaneous change in the environment, like a natural or technological disaster.

But no one expects an earthquake or a tsunami on the first day of classes.

Hence, the actual unexpected events are the ones initiated by humans.

That means humans – students – will act unpredictably, unexpectedly, not according to the expectations of an instructor.

If all students would have been acting according to the expectations of an instructor, there would be no chaos.

But why don’t students act according to the expectations of an instructor?

Do they do it on purpose?

Or they are incapable of acting like they are supposed to?

Or those expectations are unrealistic?

In my experience, the majority of students want to do the most to succeed, and that includes following instructions. In most of the cases, the main reason for student not actin according to the expectations of an instructor is that those expectations are not articulated in a clear form.

In simple words, the most common source of chaos is insufficient instructions.
Chaos happens when an instructor did not provide students with exact and accurate instructions of what, when and how to do.

This is called bad planning.

Bad planning leads to chaos.

The events of the first day of a class heavily depends on the quality of planning on the part of the instructor.

Planning is a skill and can be trained, improved, developed.

A specific approach to professional evaluation and development of teachers, including planning, is described in this publication: “Professional Designing For Teachers”.

Monday, August 31, 2020

I want you to know what I did last summer!

This post has 2 parts:

Part I: at the end of this part you find the link to shared developed materials, including online labs.

Part I:
Well, technically, it is still this summer.

I taught two remote courses my first fully remote, fully off-site, 100 % internet based, distant courses.

They were not online courses, they were remote courses with the elements of online one. The differences is described here, but the main idea is simple,

a remote course is a course with the ultimate goal to give students learning experience “the same”
(meaning – as close as technically possible) to a regular on-site course.

I used to include online components in my regular courses, so it was not something absolutely new – except labs!

Online Physics Experiments: two semesters

Of course, I had to develop a brand new strategy for teaching physics labs for a 100 % remote physics course.

My first intention was doing labs live; an example is semester 1, lab2
(there was no lab 1, the title was reserved for an FCI survey).

And this is how I did my very first lab – live.

It did not go well, for many reasons, one of which was that students had a hard time to watching me and follow my instructions – too intense. Plus, of course, at the very beginning of the lab my tech failed and I had to spend 20 minutes on fixing it, while more than hundred student were waiting (in the first semester I created one huge lab section for 90 % of students and another small one for students who could not attend the first one; in the second semester I broke the class into ten small lab sections).

So, I’ve changed the approach.

All other labs were pre-prepared (pun intended), and students did those labs in groups under the guidance of the TFs (via Zoom).

The results were good (at least according to some students).

The same lab experiments could be used as parts of lectures.

I decided to share all the materials – videos, instructions files, lab files, and software I used (at the time – free for students).

During the lab students had to work in groups of 4 completing a  shared file, and also entering their answers into an online system (I used WebAssign – easy to grade).
I tested different software

but ended up using only Zoom, Tracker, LoggerPro and Screen Recorder (you can find instructions in the shared folder – the link is below).

I did not have a team, no sound managers, no editors, etc., and naturally that affected the quality of the videos.

I wish I had more time and more sources – in that case I could develop all those (and more) labs in a solid product (interested in cooperation? check this link!).

Without further ado, this is the link to the share folder – probably, you need to have google account to access the folder, but maybe not.

This is what I see when I follow the link to the folder: some instructions files and then two folders – one per each semester (you should see something similar).

You can download any file or folder.

However, I have to say upfront that my labs are intense and force students into a lot of thinking. For example, you can take a look at my first lab for the second semester, and this online lab I came across some time ago (also the first lab for the second semester; in the lab file I also placed some notes to pinpoint some issues I found in the lab). On the other hand, some of my labs have found its way to the wider audience. For example, since 2012 I was using this lab in my Summer II course. And recently I found that my manual was used - verbatim! - as an online lab for Pivot Interactives. It's nice to know that other instructors appreciate my material. But it would also be nice to be noted - as the author.
If you are looking for experiments that could be used as a demonstration, you can check theses resources.

1) Descriptions of common physics demonstrations:

Links to videos:

2) About 150 videos; most show a specific experiment named in the title

3) About 400 videos, about 150 of them are lectures, but about 90 % of those lectures also show demonstrations.

Sorry, there are no catalogs for the videos, and when browsing, you can also stumble upon something not related to physics.

Please feel free to leave comments (at the bottom of this page).

Please feel free to contact me if you need a consultation.

Part II: Some notes on course organization.

All lectures were live using live streaming tech ECHO360, and at the same time all lectures were recorded. As a backup, I always had with me a second PC system with Zoom. On several occasions mine main system failed, and I had to use a backup system, and I had to deal with IT, but that story would take much more space than one web-page.

Students could choose to watch live or a recording. In any case they were required to asnwer my lecture questions using WebAssign (so far it was the cheapest solution around $60 for two semesters). 
My students would have to pay only for the WebAssign access. They didn't have to buy a text book because for many years I’ve been using a free online textbook from OpenStax. It's not perfect, but sufficient enough (since physics has not changed much for about a hundred years any textbook would do fine). Plus, I always try to develop my lectures in such a way that students would not really need a textbook at all. I used free versions of software, and instead of using other platforms (like FlipIt or Pivot) I was developing my own materials.

All homework was also delivered via WebAssign. 

Office hours were done via Zoom, and for a day-to-day communication we used Piazza. 

I used a touchscreen monitor for writing on the top of my slides and then uploaded the slides for students. 

When I did a demonstration experiment, I would switch to Zoom and used my web camera to project experiences. In order to see what students see I used a tablet to join the meeting as a student, and also I was watching myself via ECHO360. 

The tech was very cumbersome, switching between different tech modes took extra time and effort. When one uses only a PowerPoint presentation, then all attention can be focused on the content. But trying to achieve the best view for students I had to pay attention to multiple actions, switching  between different modes and devises, and that wasn't easy – teaching a remote course requires from a teacher additional skills. And, of course, regular switching of the focus between the content and the tech has led to more mistakes in the content (more things like a missing coefficient, etc.).

This also demonstrates a simple fact - if you want to deliver good distance education you need to invest in it, you need to invest in technologies, and then you need to train people how to use those technologies (that also requires serious investments).
I also experimented with teaching from home.

Anyone, everyone on this planet gets bored really really quickly watching a PowerPoint presentation for more than ten minutes without seeing a lecturer – only slides (with a lecturer it’s twenty).

But I don't have at home a projector and a screen or a wall-sized TV set to stand in front of them while broadcasting my lecture (I’m not that rich).

Hence, I had to find a way to project my slides and myself at the same time.

Zoom allows that using a screen sharing option.

In the end, to provide students with the best learning experience, I've built this remote teaching station.
 But my laptop was not powerful enough, and I needed more fast USB ports, so I made an upgrade.

When performing a live lecture with this setup, I used a touchscreen monitor to write on a top of my slides (to post them after a lecture).

One camera faced me and the second camera faced the table which I used for some small demonstrations. When I need to do a demonstration, I didn't have to move my camera manually, I can't just switch from one camera to another and then switch back.

The second monitor I used for Zoom and other windows. And I used another computer to see what students would see.

Technically, the second monitor does not have to be a touchscreen, but using a pen saves time (instead of moving a mouse cursor between two screens).
In the summer, when I was teaching from the campus, I was also broadcasting my lectures using a Periscope (I also used those recordings as backup recordings when ECHO360 system failed – twice).

But at home, without a screen behind me Periscope broadcasting was useless.

If you record your Zoom meeting with a shared screen, then stopping sharing and pausing sharing affect your video in different ways – you can play with settings and find the one you like more. I use the settings when students can see in one video both views at the same time – the slides and me.

But I wish Zoom would develop the third mode: freeze sharing.

For meeting participants freeze sharing mode would act like pause sharing mode, but in the recorded video it would act like stop sharing mode.
It would be also cool if Zoom would add to the annotation panel some tools, like a ruler and a protractor.

Unfortunately, there is no company that would create an integrated tech solution for remote science courses.

In the end, the tech part was doable and effective enough.

I do not expect many online teachers would have students saying: 

Demonstrations are also entertaining and help for visual learners with difficult concepts.

Good use of demonstrations.

“Does a lot of visual demonstrations.”

More from student evaluations, and also links leading to the actual files (with everything negative students tell about me) is on this page.

P.P.S. my blog

Please feel free to contact me if you need a consultation.

Some examples of Zoom lecturing I came across in the past (including some of mine) 

A presentation with a laser pointer

A presentation with notes over slides
 A presentation with notes over slides and a view of the lecturer

A presentation with notes over slides, a view of the lecturer, some communication and an experiment