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Steven Johnson Post

September 24, 2010

A student posted this to her blog. It’s an awesome TED talk, and if you watch to the end, it gives a great little history of GPS that I didn’t know about, with a little shout out JHU APL, where I got my masters degree.

And here’s a great animation about where ideas come from by the RSA

So this seems like a great book that is going to move to the top of my reading list when it comes out. I’m definitely going to use it to work on getting my kids to embrace confusion as a sign of learning (too many of them are just used to “getting” everything the teacher says.)

Ps. One little grading story from my days as a master’s student at JHU APL. The very first course I had to take was a grad level mathematical methods course out of Arfken. It was taught by a professor who had “perfected” his overheads (not powerpoint) into what he thought was the best possible way to teach math methods to physics students (which would be doing everything by had, worshiping at the table of Abromowitz and Stegun, and pretending calculators, computers and mathematica didn’t exist—yeah). Most students hadn’t had a math class in 10 years, and we started off solving 2nd order ODE’s. Needless to say his grading policies were just about as humane. After the first test, he wrote up ALL the scores in our 15 person class

99

98

96

89

85

and on and on

65

45

Then he drew a line between the 85 and the 89 and said “This is where the A’s are-1.5 std dev above the mean”, and another line, between 79 and 75 (these are B’s), and then a third line between 65 and 45, and said, this is failure, singling out 1 student in the class. Never mind that it was a freaking math methods students, and a simple “I grade on a bell curve, and the average and standard deviation were blah” would tell the us the same information without humiliating one student in class. This is a broad generalization, If professors in physics spent as much time preparing their lectures (and how they would actually teach information interactively) as they do making grade histograms, perhaps those histograms might look a bit different, and we’d have a few more scientists. </rant>

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