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Education

Teaching Yourself

Saarbrücken, HTW, Mathematics Workshop

Saarbrücken, HTW, Mathematics Workshop (Photo credit: flgr)

When I was in school I was expected to learn how to do something and to master this skill on my own.  There was no teacher utilizing a method of instructing in math or reading.   Tutoring and such additional help is common today but was only used then in extreme cases where the student couldn’t master the subject.  If they were given extra help in class, the  rest of the class would fall behind.  Memorization skills  and good handwriting were expected and competitions were held in these areas with winners and losers.  To the gifted student, it was motivating and now we know it created  brains filled with much knowledge and good problem solving skills.

Such students still exist.  My son and I both figure out how to do math problems on our own.  I never was very good at helping with the “new” math homework when my kids were in school.  Surprisingly I took advanced math classes in high school and did well; but calculus was never offered.  I never did master calculus but I memorized derivations in graduate school when calculus was used in statistics class.

Computer Basics Class

Computer Basics Class (Photo credit: taylor library)

When methods are used to teach math, they often do not “click” with every student.  This is like with using the computer.  You need often to figure it out for yourself and when someone else teaches you, they teach you their way which may or may not work for you.  Everyone’s wiring is different and what works for one person may not work for another person.  There are many different ways to do things on the computer and how something is done in one program may not be the way something is done in another.  Frequently programs on the computer assume that you will already know something and skip explaining this step.  If you already know how some things are ordinarily done on the computer, you may be able to almost automatically fill in the missing step while a novice won’t be able to do this.

Assuming that somebody knows something or knows how to do something may make somebody look like an “ass” whether it is you or the other person depends on who determines the winner of the argument you or the other person.  I frequently find this a problem with men who feel that if you can’t convince them of something that you are automatically wrong.  Who determines the winner is the problem here.  As a result, I refuse to participate in such arguments.

 

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The Importance Of Problem Solving!

To learn and not to do is really not to learn....

To learn and not to do is really not to learn. To know and not to do is really not to know. (Photo credit: planeta)

This post is finished.  I am done with the revising and editing; but I wanted to put it up early so a class I am teaching could use it to learn something about critical thinking.

Cognitive development continues in adult life and some of the crucial elements are the individual’s creative and learned abilities to solve problems.  Do it “My way; but nicely” as a musical comedy (The King and I) song says is the way many parents and supervisors lead.  Could it be that the problem-solving skills of these individuals are also underdeveloped not just those of their children or their supervisees?  A good work relationship requires an able boss and a good employee, an able parent and a child with undeveloped potential, an able teacher and a willing student.  In all of these equations, both the leaders and those being led have to participate and make contributions.

How do we help this along?  It is by not letting an “I can’t do this” attitude from hindering a person’s development.  Learning does not stop at 16, 21, or 35.  It goes on for a lifetime.  I realize that I have, when confronted with a barrier or an obstacle, have not taken the time necessary.   I just want to get on with it so I continue on with that detail not attended to and also on depending on someone else to do what I have not learned to do for myself and not bothering to problem solve and master what may be a new skill for me.

Obstacles and barracades are opportunities to grow and learn and to acquire new skills.  How often have you said I can’t when you probably could.  Being constantly dependent on others to do things for us which we can’t or have not learned to do for ourselves can lead to anger both at ourselves and for our helplessness and at others whose whims we see ourselves are susceptible to.

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

Take on a new project.  Find one thing that you have not learned how to do for yourself and master it.  My spouse recently showed me for the nth time how to call up a missed number on the phone.  I had always depended on him to do it for me and if he wasn’t there I could get mad at myself for not knowing how to do it and at him for being in control of my life that way by not being able to return a simple phone call without him.

Now I have a growing list of things I should be able to do for myself which demands I usually met in the past with a feeble, “I can’t…”  Sometimes it is not easy; but, when mastered, these things give you more freedom to do it your way, not theirs.  Learning involves communication between pupil and teacher.  The student needs to build on what they already know in order to bridge the gap between themselves and teachers.  It is this communality that fosters learning.  The attitude, “This is so stupid.  Why can’t he learn this”, is often an example of the teacher’s tendency to give up and externalize the blame onto the student.

Finally, once you’ve solved the problem, remember to use what you have learned the next time you have that problem.  Remember practice makes perfect.  What you learn for yourself is often the best learning method.  You don’t leave any steps out or forget to define terms.  Focusing on the neuroplacity of the brain means that we can go on learning the rest of our lives.  It increases self-esteem,  it develops abilities you may be able to teach others as a legacy, it enlarges your sphere of life (now no more saying to yourself limiting yourself by saying, ” I won’t go there because I can’t do that and I am not willing to learn”.

Remember you sometimes can chose what you want to learn to do but you can’t always control others so that they will do things for you when you don’t know how.

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Perseverance

 

Chinese proverb. It says, "Study till old...

Chinese proverb. It says, “Study till old, live till old, and there is still three-tenths studying left to do.” Meaning that no matter how old you are, there is still more studying left to do (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

perseverancePerseverance breeds possibilities. Possibilities make themselves visible when we are optimistic about doing something.  Self-confidence breeds success.  Developing solutions to problems can become our constant mod us operandi if we think positively.  Thinking something is hopeless blocks our thoughts and cripples our creativity.  Being judgmental, especially of one’s own self and one’s abilities, can be self-defeating.  Is the first thing you say to yourself when faced with a problem or decision, “I can’t.”  Stops you in your tracks doesn’t it and you immediately give up trying to do something about the problem.   Also at a certain point when you get older, you are often told that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  Perseverance is the key and we now know the brain can and does make new connections as we learn something new no matter what our age.  This is called neuroplasticity.

Perseverance is also necessary when seeking help.  I have come to rely on others who I think know more than I do about somethings like computers and technological devices or who, I think, have more mechanical abilities and even those who I think are physically less challenged than I.  They’re taller and stronger.  Sometimes, however, I still must rely more on myself.  For example, when it comes to computers, I have done two things:  When I do rely on others for help, I review my problem areas and compose questions whose answers I hope will help me get the answers I need to do what I do.  That way I can help myself to some extent and better use the help I get.  Or I try to figure it out by myself with the aid of any material I can find which will explain what I need to have explained at my level.  Even though I feel at times that the time I have spent “trying” to do some things has been useless, I have found that I did acquire some basic knowledge that helps me to understand and use the information I do get if any from other sources.  Learning is a complex process and to achieve it you must persevere.

Sometimes people do not appear to have to persevere at something to master it. Somethings appear to come naturally to others without perseverance, but that is often so because they want you to think that when actually it took blood, sweat, and tears.

For example, after I had finished my graduate schooling, I had to take a comprehensive exam in my area of study in order to be licensed by the state.  This required perseverance.  It was very strictly regulated and offered infrequently in a distant city.  I remember my former boss told me that he had taken it and passed it without studying for it.  I studied anyway for several months as I had been out of school for a couple of years and needed to refresh my memory about important concepts and applicable research studies.  The exam was very difficult and I would not have passed it if I had not persevered and done all the studying I had.  I now think my former boss was setting me up to fail by saying what he did.  I doubt whether he had passed it without studying or that maybe even if he had passed it at all.

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Leading People On By Those Who Should Know Better

Academic

Academic (Photo credit: tim ellis)

Leading people on is a scam.  Here’s one you didn’t think about awhile back.  How many worthless college degrees are there out there?  How much in student loans is owed and can’t be paid off in this economy.  I bet you know at least one person like that.  I know several.

Colleges and their financial aid offices are leading people on.  These days a college degree doesn’t guarantee you a good job anymore, perhaps not even a job.  Accurate numbers are not being kept of people with college degrees who have given up looking for a job.  Also how many people are working only part-time or even at minimum wage service jobs?  Add to this the number of people who are working at jobs where a college degree is not needed and also in an area that they did not complete their studies in.  Last but not least how many people are stay-at-home moms or dads because even with their college degrees they can’t find a job that pays enough so they can afford a babysitter?

Leading people on is a scam in which promises are not kept.  College students are encouraged to acquire more debt than they can  pay.   Is this a problem with truth in advertising?  We have had that problem in the housing industry with people buying more house than they can afford.  It is not bad enough that these college graduates can often only get a job paying a subsistence wage with which they have trouble making ends meet.  Then they have to pay off  an exorbitant amount of college debt as well.  Is there such a thing as ethics to consider in loaning money to someone who will not be able to pay it back and in offering educations that won’t pay any return on the investment?

 

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Learning Through Experience

happyoldercoupleLearning through experience is sometimes the best way.  If things don’t happen to you early in life, how will you be able to cope with them later in life?  We all wish for our children to have happy uneventful lives, but is this the best thing to want to have happen for them?  If we could insure that the rest of their lives would stay this way, then that would be ideal and they wouldn’t have had to deal with unpleasant things.

Learning through experience is sometimes skipped by people in some areas of life.  For example, a woman meets the man of her dreams in high school, they have a long and happy marriage with nothing happening to upset the applecart while they were together.  Then one of them dies and the other one does not know how they will get along without the other.  There was always someone else to rely on to do the things that he or she didn’t learn how to do.  What happens in this worst case scenario?  Someone has to cook, do laundry, clean house, pay bills, and deal with the unpleasant details of planning a funeral or administering an estate (especially if there are unexpected expenses or unpaid debts belonging to the departed).

Learning through experience often seems to be the hardest way to learn.  There is a price to pay but whether it is money, pain, loss, or sorrow, it usually leaves the learner with some new usually hard-earned skills.

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Take Care of Yourself

Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing (Photo credit: BrianCSmith)

Treat yourself like you want to be treated.  Thank yourself for everything you have gotten done.  Rewards work better than punishment even for you.  Keep something beautiful where you can see it.  If you are a guy, keep something out on display that motivates you.  Or vice versa.  Make a list of all the things you have accomplished in life and review it every so often.

Remember an accomplishment for one person may not be one for another person.  For example, graduating from college can be a difficult goal for someone who works their way through college and  who started with a GED.  For another person who had an excellent grades in high school and whose parents could afford to send him or her to college, getting a college diploma might not be too difficult.  For the second person taking a minimum wage job with rotating shifts and supporting themselves might be more difficult.

If you have made a mistake or mistakes, don’t make that a focal point of your self-evaluation.  Mistakes can be a learning experience.  Don’t let one mistake stop you.  At least you can acknowledge it and then you can do something about it.  I am not encouraging you to do something stupid where you or someone might get hurt or die.  You usually learn more from mistakes than you learn from successes.

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Integrated Learning

English: Graduate School

English: Graduate School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There needs to be a foundation of past learning on which to build new learning.  The better a person can relate to a new subject, the more likely, he or she will understand and retain the new learning.  One gift of a teacher is that he or she can find ways to connect past learning in his or her students to new learning.  Not only do teachers need the gift of knowledge about a subject that they seek to impart to their students, but also they have to know how to convey that material to their students.

I have had the experience where a professor who was very well known in her field and who had done trail blazing research was unable to pass that knowledge on in a meaningful way to her students.  It was in an advanced graduate course where all the students had been at the top of their class when they graduated from college and were successfully mastering graduate work for their advanced degrees.  She gave a test  and all of the select group of students who were taking her course did not give the answers she expected of them.  In fact, she held the students over so that she could go over the entire test and demonstrate the answers she had expected of them.  What she didn’t know was that the students had regularly been getting together in order to figure out the correct answers to questions that she had raised and thought that she answered in class.  Every lecture she gave was even more confusing than the last.  No wonder her students did not know the answers that she had expected them to give on her test.  She knew her subject, but she could not teach her subject.

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I Remember When

Multiplication Tables on gFlashPro on my iPhone

Multiplication Tables on gFlashPro on my iPhone (Photo credit: Wesley Fryer)

Check out the Thesaurus' sibling, Dictionary.
Check out the Thesaurus’ sibling, Dictionary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember when we memorized telephone numbers, learned multiplication tables, and wrote in cursive, do you?  Since the dawn of the computer era, things like these have gone by the wayside.  What would we do without machines?  Having a good memory, good fine motor skills, and the ability to do some tasks by hand (not machine) at least exercise our brain and reinforce the capacity to learn and do new things with our mind, our senses, and our bodies.  I know you think I should use spell check; but I try first to get the spelling right on my own.  I have a Thesaurus (and I am sure you can get an apt for that ); but I try to think of a synonym on my own expanding my vocabulary when I do this.

You know you should exercise your body to keep it healthy and it is suggested that you do something that requires movement on a regular basis.  It can be an activity that you enjoy such as playing a sport, walking somewhere instead of driving somewhere, parking farther away from where you want to go in a parking lot, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, even doing housework or yard work.

You also should keep your mind sharp by exercising it.  This was easier to do when people relied more on their memory than they do now in the information age.  You can learn a new language, take up a new hobby where you acquire new knowledge about some subject such as astronomy, and sharpen your fine motor skills by drawing, doing calligraphy, fixing and maintaining fire arms. etc.

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Dumb Animals?

I guess I was very impressionable when I was in grade school.  It was a christian school and I was thoroughly indoctrinated.  I didn’t know what I believed, but I knew what I was supposed to believe.  Being raised in the church and having the added experience of a religious education, was not totally a bad thing as it was there I learned about values and how to live my life in a way that considered others as well as myself.  It was from this advantage point that I developed my concepts of why we are in this world and what our purpose in life was.  As a result, I am not an atheist.  Unfortunately not everything I learned was helpful.

As I have said in another post, teachers often give their own point of view on the subject that they are teaching and children especially can easily accept their words as law.  Hopefully when they grow up they will find out that some of the things the teacher said did not represent the “gospel truth.”  I did, but not before making a few incorrect conclusions based on these teachings.  One belief I kept for a long time was that animals were dumb, not intelligent like humans, and their behavior was only based on instinct.  Also I thought humans were superior to animals in every way and that there was nothing an animal did that a human couldn’t do better.  I also believed that animals didn’t really deserve a place in God’s kingdom like man did.

When I first studied psychology, I learned that animals were acceptable substitutes for humans in experiments studying the origins and expressions of many behaviors.  Certain animals were more appropriate for use in such experiments than others depending on their similarity to humans. At the time animals were not considered to be intelligent like humans and could be used in ways that could not be used on humans. Recently (or at least since I was a student) we have learned that at least some animals can think (not everything they do is because of instinct) and/or use language which we used to think was reserved for humans. Also animals are special creatures that can do things that humans can’t do or do as well. I strongly suspect that as time goes on, we will find this to be more true rather than less.

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Good Teachers, Bad Teachers

education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I was not an education major; but my graduate education in my subject matter qualified? me to teach college in that area.  My experience as a student, eventually taught me what I didn’t know when I first started school.  Naively, when I was young, I expected that my teachers not only knew their subject matter, but they also knew how to teach it.  Initially I felt that if I failed to master the subject matter, it was my fault.  Then as I became a student in high school, I learned (what almost all students learn at that point)  that you could easily get the teacher off the subject he or she was teaching and on to their “favorite” subject whether it was the Vietnam war or something else.  This was the easy way out of having to listen to a boring lecture on some subject we didn’t like anyway.  For those of us going on to college, this was a disservice as we might be expected to have learned certain things before we took certain college classes.  This idea occurred to me when I was a high school student and I began to feel at least vaguely uneasy when some students would try to distract the teacher in this way.

Problems like this continued on into graduate school where some teachers, in what was supposed to be an overview of findings in a certain area, focused only on the research that they were interested in and/or agreed with.  Sometimes they were wrong and things that needed to be covered especially if you were going to eventually work in the general or applied field were not covered or were “proven” by them to not be scientifically based.  Even worse were the professors who during the “hippie” era decided to turn the class over to the control and direction of the students who were also usually allowed to assign their own grades as well.  Scarey?  I thought so at the time.  Fortunately I had some more responsible teachers whose insights into the subject matter they taught helped me discover things about the area studied that I would not have discovered by myself or in most classes taught in that area. Thank God for good teachers.

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