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Dyed All Hues

Thinker and Experimenter,


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Does Education teach us to memorize information, instead of understanding it, or is memorizing important for future use?

I belive that knowing and understanding are completely two different concepts. Understanding something is far better than knowing something, but does the education system teach us to memorize everything? Wouldn't memorizing everything be a bad thing or does small things not matter as long as you knew it was supposed to happen (even if you somehow forgot). Like in the case of Atul Gawande's Talk about doctors should use checklists and cowboys already using checklists.

Should education not dually educate their students to know something for the first half of their educational life, then understand it for the second half? Would that system not be more efficient that way?

What can we change about, or what is the use of, memorizing so much information in a course at school, as opposed to understanding?

Update: check out this video introduced by Edwin Nazarian:
I elaborated about it in a seperate post, just a bit though.
Mini Update: Edwin's video has bad sound quality, but try to bear with it and hear it through. Amazing information.

Watch this! =)
Thanks Mary for sharing this amazing video with us. =)

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    Apr 17 2012: Assessment systems are usually what drags an education system down in terms of what you're talking about.

    I also think that many of these issues are the result of logistics and reducing the student to teacher ratio would solve most of these.

    Don't forget that deep understanding often comes from time and experience and cannot be effectively "delivered" in the classroom.

    Also, what's in the curriculum? That would dictate the nature of the content and how it should best be delivered, retained, practised, and demonstrated.
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      Apr 17 2012: "I also think that many of these issues are the result of logistics and reducing the student to teacher ratio would solve most of these"

      Here in FL we have passed legislation to reduce student/teacher ratio......it hasn't worked. There is just no controlling what goes on inside the classroom. And here I speak of elementary, middle and high school.

      Also, I wholeheartedly agree with your point: "deep understanding often comes from time and experience and cannot be effectively "delivered" in the classroom."

      Life is a work in progress. Little by little we learn.....and as we get older we learn to understand IF and ONLY IF we want to. If we are searching for understanding, asking questions, investigating......and so on.

      I will give this example: I collect quotes, and I find it amazing, that every once in a while I will peruse my collection, and a quote will stick out and I will go AHA, so that is what that means, NOW I understand it. Now I can make this thought my own, I can own it, use it, share it, enlighten others with it.......

      I know that I don't know everything......so I search and try hard to educate myself. I also love to share what I have learned throughout my life. And I love to hear other people's stories, analogies, experiences, hardships......because these, help me understand people....which to me is the most precious understanding we can have.........understanding another human being.

      As far as curriculum in schools.......I won't even go there.......that is another topic all of it's own.

      Teachers can do much good, but they also can do harm. Let's be thankful that children get exposed to all kinds of teachers, and aren't stuck with just one all of their lives. Parents can do much to help kids develop their mind's faculties......I wholeheartedly encourage this, and with the use of the internet, and websites as this one, it is easy to do.

      I rambled.......sorry. Thank you for reading my reply.
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        Apr 18 2012: In New Zealand, we've got a pretty damn good curriculum - it's child-centred and focuses on teaching essential skills (called Key Competencies) and tends to be about 'adding value' or moving a child on from where they began rather than a focus on a benchmark that everyone is expected to meet.

        Our big problems started with our current government. They introduced standardised testing (it seems the only thing these bureaucrats can comprehend) and it is this sort of out-of-date approach to education that causes all the problems - why? Because the assessments are generally irrelevant and artificial and built around traditional content that is also irrelevant but worse than that, boring.

        There'll only be a solution to all the problems of education by bringing together a range of answers - unfortunately, they all cost money and for some unfathomable reason, governments seem reluctant to spend tax-dollars on the future generations. Much better to invest in short-term money making schemes for their good buddies in the private sector.

        Sorry, there's my rant.

        In the (ideal) future there'll be schools, Jim, but not as we know them..
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        Apr 19 2012: Mary, Scott,

        I feel that schools should attempt to expose their students to as many situations as possible, so they should try and inspire deep understanding in that way.

        I couldn't agree more with Scott saying that tests can be boring/irrelevant, but in my head I referenced a game. Usually in a game you play a bunch of little levels leading you to the ultimate boss, which in a sense is a test of all your skills you built up from previous levels, so maybe schools should reform testing in the format of a "BOSS level". =P
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          Apr 19 2012: Well, this is the way it is done Derek.......here in florida we use a spiral curriculum.........each year the same information....but different.....and going deeper and deeper into content and complexity...........BUT, always, always, it is is the teachers hands.

          If the teacher is doing a job.........she will not be as effective as the passionate teacher who inspires and ignites learning.......you know the kind of teacher I'm talking about......Also, if the teacher is phenomenal, but the student is apathetic, or creates disturbances in the classroom by challenging the teacher or other student's thoughts this can affect everone involved...........School is a challenge............kids don't just come in and participate perfectly............they come with issues, and one rotten apple spoils the bunch.

          Like I said before Derek, your question is phonomenal, and one that is interconnected with lots of others. As a teacher, I truly value you asking it, I hope that as people read through my simple comments, they will glean a better understanding of our role in education and how challenging teaching effectively is.

          To you my dear Derek..... =) (And thanks for teaching me all these new faces to make with my keyboard......I am "imitating" you.......but I still don't comprehend their meaning....I hope I am not being unwise in using them........haha......toodles)
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      Apr 19 2012: Hey Scott,

      I just had a new idea. What if we have two teachers in one classroom with more 25 students? or What if we broke down area codes for schooling in American societies, would that not make education more competitive?
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        Apr 19 2012: NO...........been there............done that.

        Don't get me started......=) =P :(
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    Apr 17 2012: Memorising a fact is easy to quantify, easy to write on a report, easy to evidence. Schools and governments like this, because it 'proves' that education is happening.... 'look, see... It's here on this paper'

    Understanding something is difficult to quantify, difficult to put down on a spreadsheet.
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      Apr 17 2012: Why is demonstrating application difficult?
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        Apr 18 2012: I'm not sure understanding necessarily needs application to be called 'understanding' . Perhaps there are concepts that are understood but have no way of being physically applied.
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      Apr 18 2012: Why try to quantify understanding to begin with?

      The desire to quantify is the driving factor behind the poor results in today's classroom.
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        Apr 18 2012: I'm not sure I totally agree with this...........I think that the poor results in today's classroom is a cooperative "lack" of effort on the part of teachers, parents, and students. I don't think it is the driving factor...........of course I am speaking in elementary schools in my area....I don't like to generalize too much.

        Many times teachers leave their teaching on the knowledge level, getting kids to say back something they memorize.....without caring if the student understood the concept...



        This simple problem, is knowledge. Answer is 7. If the kid knows what 3 is he can draw 3 sticks.
        then 4 sticks, then if he knows the cross means to put together he will put the sticks together and arrive at 7 sticks.

        But look how some teachers test for understanding:

        Mary got three stickers for getting good grades. She already had four stickers in her collection.
        To find out how many stickers Mary has now which of the following will you do?

        (a) 3 + 4 = ___ (b) 4 - 3 = ___ (c) 3 x 4 = ___ (d) 4 - ___ = 3

        This is how the FCAT test is composed in the state of Florida. I personally think the FCAT is a wonderful tool to test higher order thinking in children.

        Trouble is.............and it is trouble with a capital T, is that teachers, like all humans, want to take the path of least resistance...........they teach to the test..........instead of going about teaching normally and helping ignite a passion for learning and higher order thinking. If you teach with the goal to ignite a love of learning, and use a variety of exciting techniques, the technology that is out there, the smart boards, the videos, the websites, oh my goodness, you would not be teaching to the test..........and still kids would pass it.....some of my fellow teachers don't see it that way............because teaching, like many other professions, is a job to many...........A job.....not a passion.

        Dr. Seuss' Hooray for Difendoofer Day addresses this issue of testing.
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          Apr 19 2012: Your example of testing understanding proves my point. How does a multiple choice problem prove understanding?

          "Here's a question. Here's list which contains the answer. Let's see if you can pick the one which is correct."

          Quantifying drives tests, and as a result, it drives the "teach them to pass the test" mentality due to the test results being used to measure the success of a teacher and/or institution. The lack of effort you speak of is best illustrated by multiple choice tests, the laziest of all testing formats. I don't want students who can perform well when the answer is in front of them, an environment where process of elimination can play a significant role. I want students who see a question, work to find the solution and have the confidence to state "I know this is correct!"

          Removing the desire to quantify a student's ability, we are allowed to test a student's understanding by pass/fail grading. If the student understands then the student moves on to the next level; if not, then the student continues working on the current material. Of course, this would require us to recognize the nonsensical idea that all students learn at the same rate - the linear approach to education.
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        Apr 19 2012: Shallow, you are an adult, of course it appears to be easy.

        This example I gave is for 7 year olds.......Trust me, alot of 7 year olds fail to answer this question correctly.

        First, they have to be able to read. Second, they have to be able to understand what they read,
        third, they have to be able to understand the concept of when you accumulate items you have to add. And finally they have to know the the + sign is for adding and that the answer has to appear on the right side of the = sign.

        Me personally, I wait until I see they understand to administer the test....but that's me.

        Multiple choice tests can be made to exhibit higher order thinking, in Math these problems are called "Problem Solving" activities.. They can even have extraneous information such as:

        Mary got 3 heart shaped stickers, 5 lollipop stickers, 2 flower stickers, a pencil and an eraser for her good grades. Last week she also received a pencil and 1 heart shaped sticker. To figure out how many more lollilop stickers than flower and heart shaped stickers Mary has, what do you need to do?

        This requires several steps......knowledge, understanding....thinking in logical sequences....gathering information, and throwing out what they don't need.

        Seven year olds can be taught to handle problems of this type. Putting the multiple choices is a way to grade quickly.......especially in standardized testing.

        Here in FL these tests (FCAT) also have questions where the students have to explain their thinking and how they arrived at the answer, which in my opinion is a good thing.

        And you bring out a very good point in your last paragraph. That of students not learning at the same rate. We have to trust nature. Children's growth, their intellect, maturity and so forth is not always visible to us........because it's inside......then one day.......AHA!!! they bloom......the light in the attic turns on!! It's wonderful to see these moments as a teacher...it's very rewarding
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    Apr 17 2012: As a teacher, I have wrestled with knowing and understanding for years. It is a constant cause of frustration for me when my students know so much and understand so little.

    I have come to the belief that the ratio between knowing and understanding that is fundamental to a society indicates that society's ability to be inventive and creative. It also indicates the society's ability to change and accept differences in other societies. The more a person thinks they know, the less likely they are to seek new knowledge. The more a society as a whole thinks it knows, the less it is able to compromise in its dealings with other societies.

    I see the movement toward standardized tests as a movement toward 'knowing' as opposed to 'understanding.'

    I see the use of the National Test of English in China as a use of 'knowing' rather than 'understanding.' Many of the people who have talked to me achieved very high scores on the National Test of English, and went to the best universities in China. After graduation, they found that in the real world, you must understand others, and be understood by others. I have talked to many people who were angered and disheartened when they discovered that the thousands of hours spent studying to get high scores on the National Test of English did neither enable them to understand people who spoke English to them, nor be understood when they spoke English to others. Many use text translating programs on their computers which translate the English to and from Chinese so that they can communicate with foreign businesses. The problems arise when they get calls from foreigners and neither can understand the other. This whole set of problems arises because they 'understand' English in Chinese. Idioms, cultural innuendos, humor, and sarcasm are beyond their capability to understand. All this is because of the use of standardized testing which tests for knowledge.

    Knowing that I wear a size 12 shoe does not enable you to walk a mile in my shoes.
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      Apr 17 2012: Yep,

      You can know things - but life makes it real.

      I salute the learners of language, but all the multi-lingual friends I have known relate to teh need to go into the live culture . and tehn when you start dreaming in the new language .. then you have the connection.

      Language belongs to the core self .. it is typically developed in childhood .. and then all the proxy selves inherit it as interfaces to the people you meet and choose to interact with.

      As a musician, we often hired players who could read musical notation, but when we asked them to create within a given space, they could not do it. This was bad for live performance - where one had to read a crowd and play back their emotional state in a peaking feedback-loop .. the music reading player could not achieve that. Music belongs to a deeper place than the core self - the place which defines it has no notation.

      Tradition is important. It is like the trunks of trees, and we are the happy leafs. Talking to sunshine.
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      Apr 17 2012: Jon, how beautifully stated your thoughts are...........as a fellow educator this is all to real to me also.

      I have also seen, that many times, when I want to teach the understanding of a concept to students, they are not interested...........they want me to hurry and spit out facts............I think it is a prevailing attitude in some people, this just wanting to know, without understanding.

      I had not thought about this before.............it is not just the teacher that fails to teach "understanding", but oftentimes also, it is the students themselves, especially in upper grades and college, who have little patience for going deep into an issue.

      Wong quoted someone as saying: "Education in America is a mile wide, but an inch deep"

      Thank you Jon for your thoughts, and for this most appropriate quote:

      "Knowing that I wear a size 12 shoe does not enable you to walk a mile in my shoes"
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        Apr 18 2012: I tell my students that I create a banquet but I cannot make them eat.
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          Apr 18 2012: Sometimes, when I am besides myself with frustration, because I see and perceive the problem to be, not that they don't understand, but that they don't WANT to understand, I get enfuriated with myself.............I keep cool in front of the kids though, but inside I am praying....please think Mary, how can you reach their seed of motivation to want to understand?

          It is me I have the struggle with. Because how do you go about getting children motivated to want to UNDERSTAND............And now here is what I think.....

          Sometimes, I think that they stare at us as if watching a tv............and they want to stare and listen silently.........and not participate.............just counting down the minutes to 3:00.

          I have had students like this.........usually what melts them is kindness.......because truly who can go inside the mind of a child or another human?? I can't

          Ken Brown made a great comment in the critical thinking conversation Jaime Lubin has posted which reflects how I feel...............that there is nothing you can do if the person does not want to understand or to think..........which is precisely what your comment solidifies for me.

          And, now, let me congratulate you for keeping up with Mitch and his zero theories. I'm afraid I don't have the knowledge or understanding of such lofty ideas to have kept that going. Kudos to you!!!

          What do you teach Linda?
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          Apr 19 2012: Mary,

          I think using simple gimics can intrigue younger students as well. I found myself engaged with a teacher that used some insight into reality and intertwining that with some light entertaining humor. Humor is a good rhetoric or even Great for teaching something that is seemingly dull. Just my views, but I am no expert.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts. =)
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        Apr 18 2012: Not in a teaching role at present. But one of the things I used to teach was Pathophysiology. Talk about boring and students not wanting to learn... But actually, I love patho and for me, passion was what got through to them.
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          Apr 19 2012: Sounds really interesting when reading and looking up the definition. =)

          It sounds like the psychology of diseases. =P
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      Apr 19 2012: Jon,

      That last part was a zinger! Education should teach skills that are relevant and I understand certain basic information needs to have a foundation, but after that education should really be pertinent to real world usage.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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        Apr 19 2012: Well, I maxed out on thumbs up for you Derek...

        This conversation has been phenomenal. I hope you haven't been creeped by opening and closing of electric doors while reading our posts...hee hee hee

        You are getting information from people of various fields of study, and different perceptions, which is great............Five years from now, you might come back, and find this conversation even more profound, or perhaps too simple for your developed mind...........That is just the way the brain works. The results are up to you, and you only............So keep asking questions Derek.......Keep on learning......... :)
  • May 15 2012: As someone who works in education I believe that our task is to develop learning and knowing how to distinguish between good 'knowledge' and bad 'knowledge'. This means that at the same time we are learning something 'old' it is teaching us how to learn something and understand experiences or information we have not yet encountered. Too often in the past we have been told that the purpose of education is to develop children who will become adults who are learned but not adults who are learners - For example -as a child I learned very efficiently how to use simple algorithms to solve mathematical problems but really did not 'stand under' them to be able to apply them in the real world. In fact it was not until I was at college learning how to teach maths that I really 'got' place value, I just applied the method. A real Eureka moment stimulated by a short vidoe sequence of dancing buidling blocks... Unitl then I had been applying my rote learning and could 'do' calculations in denary, octary and binary notation but did not really 'get it'. My point is that knowledge can be applied but only understanding creates new ideas which present new problems which require new solutions. To do that, we need brains which can learn to acquire knowledge and minds that can understand what that knowledge means and its significance, validity and relevance. Knowing how we learn and what 'content' helps us to practice different kinds of learning is the metacognitive aspect of learning which is just beginning to make an impact. How we use our knowledge and understanding to make a positve difference requires wisdom and having the abilty to communicate with, influence and change how others feel, think and then behave requires emotional intelligence. Those four (powerful information, growing understanding, profound wisdom and creative emotionally literate communication) together makes for the genious that is TED!
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      May 16 2012: Annette,
      That was very well put. I totally agree with your perspectives. I especially agree with your comment about 'creative emotionally literate communication' because I myself have come to realize that I have yet to fully develop this skill.
      This was very much an eye opener that there is a lot to learn and you can't learn it all in one sitting, though I am sure there are improvements that certain educational systems can make to improve their students to better comprehend many concepts. Most students probably won't become teachers or be in a field of education, and children born in this day of age have so much to consider in life, as well as so much competition, because of these factors many people are going to switch career paths at least 5 to 6 times or more in the new generations, starting from generation Z and above. Good 'knowledge' should start from the root of education, the parents. The environment comes next because it affects the childrens' first perspective of "outsiders". Finally, early levels of school need to be reformed as well because learning does come from life experience, so why not bring the 'experience' into the classroom. Students who are able to apply all they have learned in real world, tangible, and sensible teaching strategies, then students will have stronger foundations.
      My other issue of early schooling is the social environment. Children usually have no training in filtering information and most of these information are usually copies of their environment outside of school, so some reform in that aspect would be nice. I personally recall the difficulties in my early schooling with children and was labeled the outcast due to my "different" qualities. I was also marginalized by my facilitators, and especially the principle at the time I was in school. That really hurt me and I grew from that experience, but I don't want anyone else to suffer. That is all seperate though, but reform would be nice.
      Thanks for the thoughtful response.=)
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      May 16 2012: I am going to start a new conversation about emotional literacy. I wanted to thank you for giving me the idea. =)
      • May 16 2012: Hi Derek,
        Thank you for responding to my contribution so thoughtfully. i am delighted that I have tirggered a conversation about 'emotional literacy'. Here in the UK we have introduced the concept of EL in schools through a programme called SEAL ( the social and emotional aspects of learning) but as usual with ideas that are 'known' ( EL is significant - Emotional Literacy is a key component of success) but not understood ( To teach EL you have to own it!), we have done it in such an emotionally illiterate way, that only in those schools which didn't really need it ( i.e those schools where the adults model EL behaviours, has it worked!!. In those schools where it is most needed, as a result of the emotional illiteracy of the adults implementing the programme, it has not been communicated effectively is not supported by EL attitudes and behaviour from adults and has not had an impact.
        I very much look forward to joining your conversation thread.
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    Apr 25 2012: Music .. very important:


    Tradition - also very important.

    Tradition carries the love of our ancestors through the generations.

    Without it we are lost.

    I know - I am honoured by my ancestors, and that opens up a life that all should know, but few can see.
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    Apr 19 2012: One more thought.
    Education is a fundamental part of society. I stress that 'part of.'
    What I am getting at is that the children come to kindergarten already knowing a lot about how our society works. They have spent more hours watching TV than they have spent talking to their family.
    The medium is truly the message.
    And what does TV do? It chops reality into bites and segments. You watch something interesting for a length of time and them listen to a short bit that just gets in the way of your concentration and tries to sell you something.
    It is very rare for an American child to experience 30 minutes of concentrated, focused, coherent, content.
    These things do exist on TV, don't get me wrong. But they are far outnumbered by the other kind of content.
    Then comes school. Classes with teachers who want children to pay attention for 40 minutes to an hour.
    By that time, it is not natural for a child to have the habit of concentration. Their whole world view is formed by sound bites, clips, and segments.
    The natural child can concentrate on play for hours at a time. So I know they are able to do it. They can play computer games for hours. But how do they communicate within the games? Perhaps there are short clips of text that give them some relevant information or a voice or cartoon character which tells them about the next level they will play. But I have never seen a computer game in which the player has to sit through even 2 minutes of instruction. And the player is not required to answer back.
    Perhaps they have to click on something, or slide a virtual control over to one side of the screen.
    And then when they want to quit, they can often just quit, to start where they left off at some later time.
    What is all this teaching them? Do they learn critical thinking skills?
    Do they learn that when you are tired of something, just turn it off?
    How can they learn how to work, when, with all the cool things they 'work with,' you can just turn it off when you are tired?
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      Apr 19 2012: Jon I'm glad you brought this out...I remember listening once to a speaker that said that any image a child is exposed to on tv will not remain still for longer that 11 seconds..........I thought, no way, I'm sure images last longer than 11 seconds on the screen, I have yet to be able to count up to 11....and I have tried Jon, I have tried.

      I think that off-task behavior is decreased when a child has a balance in what they are entertained with. It is what I have always recommended to parents, and what I strive for as a mom.

      Your thought provoking questions at the end of your entry reflect the questions alot of us educators ask ourselves. But everything is about balance.

      Look, a few weeks back a young man posted a talk on "what life lessons have you learned from video games", the answers surprised me....look it up and read through it if you can.

      I like my kids to play board games, and I let them play chess on line......but mostly they read, talk, and play.

      Thank you for your observations.
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        Apr 21 2012: So Jon and Mary,

        Should we strive to find more educational, less brain-washing, and/or less life-sucking pass times for the future of humanity? Maybe some refining of our current pass times?
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          Apr 22 2012: hi Derek
          As Mary said, I think it is up to the parents to do the best they can.
          I am not in favor of censorship by the government, so the best way is for parents to control the TV, turning it off as much as possible.
          I have often heard the phrase "Get a life," and this is one easy way to do it.
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        Apr 22 2012: Thanks for the Response Jon.

        I have met parents who have removed these distractions completely, like going "COLD TURKEY" with attention retaining stimuli. I thought that would suck, but the parents said their children improved a whole lot in one way or another. =)
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      Apr 22 2012: " Ihave often heard the phrase "Get a life," and this is one easy way to do it"

      Front and center on my refrigerator door, I have a big magnet with a Mary Englebreit illustration.
      It is a little girl holding a big hat filled with small pieces of paper. Each paper has a different job/profession written on it. A sign sticking out of the hat says "Lives". Then in big letters imprinted next to this sign it invites you........"Get One".

      I bought this magnet a very long time ago..........it spoke to me. For the longest time I had it front and center on my white board at school. Now it is on my refrigerator. Thank you Jon helping me make this mental connection.
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        Apr 25 2012: Oh wow, that was an amazing story Mary, I missed this comment until just now. =)
  • Apr 19 2012: Hi all

    Derek thanks for your explanation. I understood Mary M's point.
    She has explained it very well.

    You both went into understanding the system of a clock. I went into electricity.
    I have to admit that I don't understand how my watch works. it is automatic.
    (saves time from winding and buying batteries) but yes, I know what time it is.

    The same thing might be said for your computer or your mobile phone, you know how to use it, but when it break down, you might not know how to fix it, it doesn't matter how old or new it is.
    we simply pay attention on what is most important to us. today, we are bombed with information,
    do you think our brain is capable to take in all at once? if it did, we would have gone mad.
    our unconscious mind delete the parts of the information that we don't need and takes in only the very best of it.

    Can I say that we, as human beings, can NOT know or understand everything?
    that is why there is a word: SPECIALIST ... we are training ourselves in one things that most interests us.
    We can learn certain things throughout live but sometimes we forget what we have learnt,
    just because we don't use them very often.

    an example. I used to work for architects (I have no idea how it works, what every line means)
    but I knew how our brain receive the information, decode it and translated it into the language that we know.
    and when a certain client came in there was a tension in their interaction. because just like me the client didn't understand the architectural signs and language but they knew what they wanted. they would ask all sorts of question until they understand what the architect wanted to explain.
    Same for a doctor, you don't understand what they say, but you know that certain pills will help you to recover.

    so here come the knowing and understanding - these two things are connected in one way or another.
    we can't have one without the other.

    be well
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      Apr 19 2012: Very true Edwin,

      they are definitely connected, but in my personal aggregation of different ideas, the definition and meaning of the two words are different. Though, that may ultimately not matter in a larger scale of things. Like I always say, "we can agree to disagree", but luckily not on everything. =)
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    Apr 17 2012: Understanding, to my current way of perception, is a process of reductive resonance.

    We certainly are the beneficiaries of those who reduced understanding to some methods. But the methods are dead ends. these dead ends prevent us from going where the master went - they short-circuit "understanding".

    THe master was judged by personal result - by his gift of "magic tricks" he gained advantage, but locked us away from his insight. In so doing, he assured his advantage and extracted tenure from it. And his understanding died with him.

    Underneath our bag of magic tricks is the flaw the master inflicted upon us - eternal darkness in exchange for his personal advantage - and our momentary comfort.

    THe result of this behaviour is a world of momentary comforts with no access to understanding and the happiness beyond materialism.

    The true teacher invites the student to come along - watch and see why and how and let's do it all together .. and tehn the student becomes the teacher as he/she becomes inspired and dances in the phenomenon and describes it in glorious resonance. All come away enlightenned.

    Tricks of memorisation keep us locked in darkness. In neural topology, this is the local minimum - and none locked in it can find the absolute until the noise of the error makes us humilliated enough to abandon our old comfortable fortress of personal advantage. This process can last for millenia - and the latent revolution will cause more suffering than all the comfort combined.
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    Apr 17 2012: As a result of living in the Information Age, the memorization approach to education has become outdated. The value of retaining specific facts deteriorates at an exponential rate today.

    "Should education not dually educate their students to know something for the first half of their educational life, then understand it for the second half? Would that system not be more efficient that way?"

    I actually say the opposite. Education should promote understanding from the very beginning; knowledge will follow naturally.
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    Apr 17 2012: Damn this is a good topic Derek!

    I have some observations that might spark up some development - I'm looking forward to this!

    Where to start??

    Ok I start at teh old axiom - "any fool can learn from his own experience - the wise man learns from teh experience of others".
    This is the basis of empathy. We have not named ourselves "homo sapiens" for nothing.
    And "sapiens" is almost exactly equal to "empathy". Let me expand:
    The simple organism alters entropy by taking sensual data into "meta-space". The sensual data crosses the boundary defined by "perception" into meta-space, which is a compressional representation of reality. It is a place of symbol.
    Within metaspace a transformation occurs that results in "potential agency" .. a decision is made on that potential = ground or not-ground. Upon grounding, the "information" provided by perception is transformed and discharged into "agency". "Agency" is the de-code boundary that converts compressed/transformed information into change in the real world - the real world is transformed by the physical motor systems and alters entropy to create "advantage" for the organism. The most typical example of this is "i see something I can eat/I eat it".

    In between the boundaries of perception and agency there are mechanisms of stored causal information that we call "knowledge". Knowledge is a store of compressed data= information. The "knowledge": of an organism is direclty bound by the sensual/perceptive transformation of data into information - it is refined by observation of agency .. which provides a function of convergence between knowledge and reality. This is "noise reducing" and allows the organism to track reality close enough for effective agency. It is effective agency that provides the space in entropy for the organism to inhabit. This actually creates extra dimensions of time, but I won't go into that.

    Efffective agency is bound by field of perception - I will continue in the next text frame.
  • May 6 2012: Memorizing things to some extent does not do any good, Understanding does. To understand something, a person needs to be in a particular scenario, like for example, stepping into a poor person's shoes so that he can understand what the poor guy goes through. But, it takes a lot of time to understand things and thus we are made to memorize stuff so that it can be used in the future.
  • Apr 29 2012: Thank you for complimenting my son's playing. He is probably going to be an excellent pianist someday. :)))

    For me, knowing does not equate to remembering. You can remember a vast list of things but that is not understanding. Knowing something is about understanding it. I never used to take notes on any of my courses. My tutors would despair because they thought I was not paying attention. When pressed, they all thought I should be writing down notes that helped me to record the salient points of their lectures. I explained that I preferred to listen to the discussions and lectures so that I could understand what was being said... then I had no need to remember it verbatim.

    Examples of memory testing... History exams: Remembering dates when things happened (purely memory testing) as opposed to learning about the social milieu at that time and the resultant pressures which forced people to live in a certain manner. (understanding rather than memory)

    Maths: How to work a particular kind of problem, in the hope that the memory of the process will stick and subsequent problems will be amenable to the same solution. (purely memory testing) Learning why the method employed to solve a mathematics problem is valid and useful. The techniques behind manipulating the numbers in a certain manner and why they will always lead to the answer sought. (Understanding the process rather than remembering how it was done)

    I once had an exam to complete after a 3 week x 8 hour intensive course. (respiratory medicine in cardiac arrest) The pass mark was anything from 96% upwards. Anything less was not acceptable and this was not an examination which could be passed by remembering the plethora of facts. One had to understand the anatomy, physiology and biochemistry of the diseases and traumatic situations being discussed. There was far too much information to memorise so really understanding the information provided was the only method of gaining the requisite knowledge.
    • Apr 29 2012: How does a person understand something you don't remember? I understand if you want to marginalize memorization, and I even support you, but that lies under the assumption that understanding a concept doesn't involve any form of memorization, which I disagree with.
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    Apr 28 2012: Sure Derek,
    Disclaimer: I ll give you knowledge on the education system I had so it ll be specific not generic ..
    School was hectic with 11 subjects to prepare which included 2 languages
    College was cool with 6 subjects (Physics,Chemistry, Maths ,Computer Science , English and Hindi)
    Engineering was moderate with again 11 to 12 challenging to easy subjects every year with practicals
    I have no idea about Commerce and Arts so google should help you out with that

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      Apr 29 2012: Bharath,

      I don't think that our system is even close to pushing their students to that extent. It didn't feel that hectic in high school, but there was a lot of soul searching or drama for some people.

      Did elementary/middle/high school prepare you for college or did you feel you were in some completely different world when you got to college?
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        Apr 30 2012: Well Derek,coming from a country like India, you are considered a super kid only if you score real good scores but I have seen people really talented in arts, sports but due to pressure from parents/Society , they were forced to leave behind their passion. I would suggest you watch a wonderful hindi movie :"3 idiots" with subtitles (as it is in hindi) , it tells about how many passionate people are forced to leave behind their passion and how wonderfully 3 guys persisted and succeeded in realizing their dreams ...

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    Apr 28 2012: Hi Derek ,
    You have bought up a valid question , if you remember Albert Einstein never memorized people's phone numbers , yet he had done marvelous inventions. But in the present day , we do need to remember phone numbers....However , In India education system is strict,we are not allowed to carry reference books and western Education system (Correct me if I am wrong) encourages open book tests and adaptive tests .So if we bring the best out of these 2 education system , we can literally do wonders for our future generation

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      Apr 28 2012: Hi Bharath,

      I think education isn't necessarily seperated between western and eastern forms of education. Education is mapped out more specifically by individual regions/continent or even differs from each individual country.

      Since I believe you are referring to the United States, I will give you my best interpretation from my knowledge. American style education doesn't usually allow open book testing and adaptive tests are more for specialized/major type education, I think.

      I am curious, could you elaborate more on the tye of education system India has?

      Thanks for reading my thoughts and sharing yours. =)
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    Apr 27 2012: Derek, have you seen this presentation on education?

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      Apr 28 2012: OMG! Mary!

      That was totally mind blowing! I think you should emphasize the importance of really amazing videos such as the one above! =)

      I was fortunate to be having one of those days that my brain wanted me to click on the link. =P
      Usually though I watch all the links in a conversation, but I wait till much later sometimes. I am amazed by the visual stimuli from this video as well as the depiction of the "factory" educated students.

      I am going to be highlighting your video in the description as a must see now. =)

      Thanks for sharing the video! =)
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        Apr 28 2012: I actually came across this video through a TEDster that posted it as a link.
        I have used it more than once in several conversations.

        It is food for thought....isn't it?
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          Apr 28 2012: The funny thing was I learned about R.S.A. recently and when the words popped up on my screen I knew that the video will be good. =)
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    Apr 27 2012: I find it reasuring that there is so much discussion about what education should look like and so here is my spin.

    I believe that education should be an ongoing and mutual experiment between teachers and students, that regularly presents to unfettered minds as much information as they can assimilate (of course in appropriate doses). Test the rules, define the exeptions, explore all corellations then share and apply new understanding.This approach I think would making learning much more dynamic for all parties involved.
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      Apr 28 2012: Hey Wayne,

      I think you should check out Edwin's video in the description, if you haven't already.

      It talks about the United States doing a several billion dollar study on the best form of education.

      Give me some of your views on the video.

      Thanks for the contribution. =)
    • May 16 2012: Hi Wayne,
      I think that maybe the problem with an unfettered or 'indisciplined' mind is that it does not know what to do with its knowledge. The purpose of different 'disciplines' is to teach the methods of thinking- Maths-Logic ; History- filtring relevance, veracity, bias truth; Science : deductive reasoning; Art ; Music - Aesthetic appreciation; Literature : Cultural refence, linguistic powers.
      Perhaps 'fettering' is helpful if we understand what the underlying cognitive processes.? Freedom of thought is a right, a disciplined focused mind is a powerful tool which needs sharpening on something that is not so important before being used on something crucial or significant.?
  • Apr 26 2012: [D] I belive that knowing and understanding are completely two different concepts

    [J] I disagree: You cannot KNOW anything unless you understand it.

    [D] does the education system teach us to memorize everything?

    [J] I hope not. If the system does not aim for understanding (rather than rote learning) it would have little value. It would only serve those with a good memory.

    [D] Should education not dually educate their students to know something for the first half of their educational life, then understand it for the second half?

    [J] Education should teach students how to learn and to have a love of learning. Understanding is integral to this notion and memory tests have absolutely nothing to do with education. If you understand something, you have no need to remember it.

    [D] What can we change about, or what is the use of, memorizing so much information in a course at school, as opposed to understanding?

    [J] Stop using memory tests as a measure of knowledge and understanding. (examinations which only test memory rather than understanding of the syllabus)

    further downstream Mitch Smith says that music is very important... I tend to agree.

    My ten year old. http://yt.cl.nr/77lqHj9ARSY
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      Apr 28 2012: Jeff! You kid is so good! So adorable too!

      Okay, back to the subject. =P

      [J] I disagree: You cannot KNOW anything unless you understand it.

      [D] That is a topic we can "agree to disagree", but if you feel strongly we can discuss it more. =)

      [J] I hope not. If the system does not aim for understanding (rather than rote learning) it would have little value. It would only serve those with a good memory.

      [D] Precisely what I am attempting to take a stab at. I feel the American educational system educates by dictating their students to memorize information for tests, but not many teachers really teach a student to understand the material. For example, we all had bad teachers, but when a good teacher comes our way we usually instantly know and they usually are extremely helpful. The good teachers don't usually teach us to memorize, but instill deep understanding.

      [J] Education should teach students how to learn and to have a love of learning. Understanding is integral to this notion and memory tests have absolutely nothing to do with education. If you understand something, you have no need to remember it.

      [D] Yes, I couldn't agree more! So why on Earth are we still using these memory tests in United States, that don't work, is it laziness to change the old system? Also, I was thinking in chemistry they require you to memorize so many small bits of information, but all this information is listed out on charts and if you are in the profession of a chemist you won't need to memorize those information because they have charts for them. I think...

      [J] Stop using memory tests as a measure of knowledge and understanding. (examinations which only test memory rather than understanding of the syllabus)

      [D] Maybe I don't know how to tell the difference, but could you explain two examples of a test that is based on memory and the other test on understanding?

      Music! Is! Amazing! =D

      Thanks for reading mine and sharing your thoughts. =)
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    Apr 24 2012: Yes exactly, at present the system of education in most part of the world propose to know more and more things and give very minor important to actually understanding the same subject.
    Knowing is the part of Memory, and present education teaches the same thing! Ironically no one is bothered about the understanding the subject with practical experience! The same question was pocking a nail in the back of my mind for so many years and to address this dilemma and help school and college student to redefine education and redefine innovations, I started an initiative at my home town Rajkot in Gujarat-INDIA.

    I insist that there should be an ideal education system right from primary education which balance memorizing as well as practical experience to understand different subject.

    Note: I have recently uploaded some video of mine which is prepared for "Resilience Creatives" just enter "Bakulvalambhiya1972" in the search bar of www.youtube.com and check the videos and give me your comments. Thanks
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      Apr 25 2012: Hi Bakul,

      I'm happy this was able to catch your attention and also for you sharing similar ideas with my topic. I hope you will find most of the comments in this conversation will help you.

      I will try to find the time to view your youtube video. I will get back to you with my thoughts. =D
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    Apr 22 2012: wouldn't you say that memory is actually the basis of intelligence?
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      Apr 22 2012: Orlando,

      That is pretty clever! Ha! Yes, you pose a very good point.

      Memory is very much, from my knowledge, the foundation for intelligence, but the point being that intelligence, according to google, means "The ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills." and you are possilby making a statement that everyone has fully realized and fully reached their full potential of their abilities and they would basically either understand/know-it-all or understand/know a lot.

      Good question though! =D
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    Apr 21 2012: Hi everyone,

    I am in no way stating that memorizing is a bad thing, but it is bad if, and only if, you purely memorize for the sake of gaining a good grade and graduating, then keeping that mentality that all obstacles in life are these "tests" that you must divulge the information you memorized in order to use it at your job/profession. In the example of Gawande, it would be bad if the doctor graduated top of their class and they purely regurgitated information they crammed into their mind to graduate with a high GPA because what about all the freak cases of medical issues, they don't usually have those new or unique situations listed on a test or book. Discovery of new or unique situations would literally cripple society if we stuck with a system of pure memorization, but that is all hypothetical, though with the logic that my mind contains it seems plausible.

    Thanks for all the contributions so far. =)
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    Apr 19 2012: Look at this quote, it is in another conversation on how TEDx can helf change the world..............

    “In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.”

    What do you think of it?
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    Apr 19 2012: I memorized the multiplication tables. As a result I understand that 4 X 6 = 24. They are the same thing. One cannot understand something without knowing it. One cannot know something without understanding it. Someone might say, "I know gravity but I don't understand gravity." That would be untrue because they must have some knowledge of gravity to know gravity, maybe they don't know everything about gravity, but they know enough to "know/understand" it.
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    Apr 19 2012: Hey Everyone,

    I extracted this awesome video from our talk, thanks to Edwin Nazarian.

    Watch This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-QS7Fo6FTk

    I extracted these points from Mr. Woodsmall's Tedx:


    2)Dis-educational system

    3)Michelle's version of education

    4)Government research and Direct Instruction

    5)Teachers not being creative

    6)Too much government and union interference

    7)You, You, You....LOL....that one was just for fun. ;)

    His video has slightly bad sound quality, but it is tolerable I think.

    Check it out. Thanks for reading my thoughts. =)
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    Apr 18 2012: I don t know what the educational system is about in USA . Memorizing happens in my country but here who only memorize are the weakest in the class . Everybody has to know the things teached but the best in order to know them undertand them. In this way it s far much easier to know things .
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      Apr 19 2012: In Romania, do tests in school require students to apply what they learned into different situations or does it test you on your understanding of terms and material coverned in class? For example, teachers test their student on real life situations involving science, instead of testing them on if they remember/understand the terms/materials in class.
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        Apr 19 2012: They test them mainly on remember/understand the terms/materials, in the class .

        But when a student want to know how to solve a problem at math for example he tries to understand the logic of the solving algorithm (given by the teachers) and don't bothers to memorize something , it takes time and it's usually very boring . When will come to solve a similar but new problem , the student will do it right away , the best will even realize the way he can solve a totally different problem (using an algorithm or other) very quickly if he have to solve a totally different problem .
        The weakest don't understand too much usually and memorize with an empty mind the materials .

        The best schools here in Romania are mainly theoretical schools , don't deal too much with real life situation in a practical way . Communism left a big print on our minds : everything has to be according to the book . This is also a reason why some who are weak reach further , they memorize and memorize the book .
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          Apr 19 2012: Thank you for sharing this. It helps me understand education in another country.

          Is there rigorous testing done of the students throughout the year, or just one test at the end to pass to the next grade? How is testing done, and what kind of tests are administered?

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        Apr 20 2012: There are rigorous testing done throughout the year .
        There is administrated usually writing testing ; but if you want to be the best you need to be very vocal in the class .
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          Apr 22 2012: Why do you need to be vocal? Will the teacher give the highest grades to the most vocal students?
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    Apr 18 2012: Hi Derek, I was so glad to see this question as you have hit on a major problem. A man call Richard Ryisczyk has an excellent web site where he discusses this in depth .. The Art of Problem Solving is the title: Artofproblemsolving.com.
    He discusses why so many STEM hopefuls are switching majors. I hope this will answer your question. Education is my passion. I am sure we will talk again. All the best. Bob.
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      Apr 18 2012: Hey Bob,

      what tab should I look under to find Mr. Ryisczyk's article about "why so many STEM hopefuls are switching majors"?
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        Apr 19 2012: Here an except from a letter to Senator Crandall the Chair for Education in Arizona that outlines the APOS basis.

        We share the common concern of best addressing STEM success for our students. If I reverse
        engineer the pillars of STEM I would soon locate the base as being Mathematics. Three years
        ago I became a fan of Soloman Khan and the Khanacademy as a tutorial and teacher of math
        fundamentals (as well as other subjects). With equal enthusim I endorse Richard Ruisczyk and
        Art of problem solving at artofproblemsolving.com and would encourage instructors to review the
        site and use it to envolve students in math basics and competative math.

        The key is students have been taught that math was a set of destinations and they were taught
        to follow a set of rules to get to those places. They were never taught how to read a map, or
        even that there is a map. Traditional math curriculum is to teach discrete algorithms, a set
        of rules that elicit a correct answer, like how to do long division, or how to use the Pythagorean
        theorem. Then students “learn” the material by doing a large quantity of similar problems. The result is that students are rarely asked to solve a problem they are not thoroughly familiar with. They come to think of math as a series of rules to be memorized. The trouble is kids don’t necessarily learn how to attack a new or different kind of equation. This does not imply that math rules are not important, they are. However, as students reach higher math the capability to extrapolate becomes essential to resolve new or unfamiliar problems that they will face in college.

        This site also provides problems from the American Math Competition.

        You can look under his name or the web site artofproblemsolving.com.

        Also a article in GREAT SCHOOLS.COM or his books and videos.

        Thanks for your reply.
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      Apr 17 2012: You're right Rob. I think part of this has to do with the English word understand. I found this out when I was using Blooms taxonomy. Bloom has understanding as a low level knowledge skill (as in do you understand the directions), but the research on understanding a phenomena is such high level synthesis (phenomenology).

      I don't like the word and try not to use it if possible. It can easily be taken out of context.
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        Apr 17 2012: Which word don't you like to use?.....understand, synthesis, or phenomenology?

        I'm glad somebody else on here has heard of poor Bloom and his taxonomy....phew
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          Apr 17 2012: Sorry - understand. And thanks for the smile.
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        Apr 17 2012: I don't understand why people don't "understand" the concept of "understanding"....what's to hard????

        Can you enlighten me, please. I am at a loss.
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          Apr 19 2012: For instance, do you understand what it is like to be homeless (yes, am making assumptions but only for purpose of elaboration)? You can understand about homeless but if you did not ever experience it, you would not really understand it.

          So when Bloom has understanding at such a low level it almost negates when someone says 'you don't understand me.' And if you did need to understand, how would you approach it? Would you read about it? Would you interview people? How do you answer this question, 'How do I understand the meaning of being homeless?'

          That is worlds away from, 'you have 50 mins for this exam, do you understand?'

          Two completely different cognitive levels here. Example 1: synthesis. Example 2: comprehension. Same word.
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      Apr 17 2012: If there is no way of it being applied, then what is the point?
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          Apr 17 2012: That is all geared towards application.

          You can discern a lack of understanding by a lack of application.

          E.G. Keynesian economics was created to control the fluctuations in the economy. The lack of results by all of those who attempted to apply it indicate the lack of understanding. or Stan is stymied when asked to paint the wall because he doesn't understand what paint is.

          I have an idea lets put those who are trying to fix the economy to work on painting and the painters to work on the economy, could it be done with less comprehension?, only in the area of painting.

          My point is that application is the key.
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        Apr 17 2012: Sorry Pat, I came to understand (ha ha) that only after I wrote the post so I deleted it. I was hoping you hadn't gotten to it yet. I am with you but I also understand what Rob is saying on an ethereal plane. But I truly, truly understand concrete application of knowledge. I mean paint application. I mean..
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        Apr 19 2012: Pat,

        Sounds like your talking walking a mile in another person's shoes?
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        Apr 19 2012: Point being that I do agree, and that is empathy. Sometimes all we need is a little love and empathy. =)
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      Apr 17 2012: Rob

      Can you give me a couple of examples of that?
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        Apr 19 2012: Perhaps Philosophy or Metaphysics are areas where understanding has priority over application, or indeed require no application at all.
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          Apr 19 2012: Philosophy that has no application is not philosophy, I would have to put that in the category of insanity. The objective is what keeps us sane, application is the objective part.

          Metaphysics probably has some hoped for application such as understanding how to navigate in areas we didn't know about before, knowing about reincarnation, ghosts, etc could be useful in therapy for us human types.
  • Apr 17 2012: Memorize vs. Understanding!
    This is a great conversation to have!! I am a teacher and I have to say that most of what we do is teach to the test!! That's right....We are pressured to teach the students all that material that is on the state mandated tests every year! So, is it memorization or understanding? What an interesting question, that I know most educators are embarrassed to answer.
    Through my years of schooling, I remember learning about things, interesting things, things that made sense to me and grasped my attention. Today, we want students to know how to figure complex algebra problems in third grade and be able to write a superb essay in the 8th grade when their vocabulary and reading skills are only at the 3rd or 4th grade level.
    So I ask you: Is this memorization or Understanding?
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      Apr 17 2012: Oh please don't say that! I fight against teaching to the test every day. You really don't want your plumber or your hairdresser or your doctor to only know only enough to pass the test. Because once you have them in your house you have no way of knowing.

      Although it might explain the last doctor I went to...
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      Apr 17 2012: Angela, as a teacher, I also am aware of this teaching to the test.

      It is a fact of life. Because, states have to have accountability.....ever since NCLB act, we have had the FCAT here in Florida. This hasn't made the student body any more smarter, or encouraged more understanding. We cram facts and tricks to help them pass the test, then after the test, we relax and do pretty much nothing the rest of the year....well, we take field trips and hold science fairs and book fairs................education's state is sad. I will not reveal what I had to do about it, but I took action 5 years ago, and have not regretted my decision one bit.

      I remember kindergarten being so much fun for kids. Lots of hands on and playing in dirt and all kinds of art projects, but now the poor little souls are tested left and right just like the rest of the school....every 5-6 weeks to assess benchmarks............Our state's educational policies leave much to be desired, but, they must have accountability....too many teachers, were not doing their job, so now, at least they teach something...........whether it's memorization or understanding, that is up to their conscience, and integrity as a professional.
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      Apr 18 2012: Angela: Sounds like schools are run through a capitalistic system. I mean that the government wants the students to just be able to function enough to work under an umbrella of major corporations that make money for the system to continue. It sounds very much like memorization to me, but almost robotic like Thoreau and Marcs talking about humans as pieces of a machine, but the machine is not working well, so maybe time to make a new machine?

      Mary: Though I am not knowledgable about the NCLB or FCAT, but still sounds like more ways for the govenment to tax more people and siphoned for other uses that aren't for education. In addition to that, I think all the government/states are doing is removing creative ways of teaching and mandating more ways to maximize their capital through funding by "good grades" and "tests". Sometimes teacher unions can seem to have that effect as well. Why keep teachers that can't teach creatively or have harrassed children? I believe students reflect teachers abilities to teach, usually. What type of light can you shed on this subject?

      Thanks for reading my thoughts. Feel free to share yours. =)
  • Apr 17 2012: hi all

    Watch this first:


    Then I will talk about education system (or maybe it wouldn't be necessarily)
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      Apr 17 2012: Dr Woodsmall is either on a rant or is speaking in the pedantic manner he disdains.

      That aside I agree with him, he more or less nails it. Especially when he talks about how the unions have ruined the education system. More importantly it helps to ruin the culture. Why is government involved in education at all?

      But I'm afraid that the school system is a symptom of the cause. The cause is that the application is missing from the culture in other words the government meddling has ruined the culture.
      • Apr 17 2012: Hi Pat, thanks for you note.
        I think you know better than I do, why gov is involved in education system.
        I don't think there is a need to say it over and over again.

        may I say that culture is not ruined by gov.. we are getting a multi culture society.
        this at first seems a bit rare. we don't really know whose way is "right" or "wrong"

        talking about education... I would add that it is the mirror of our society.
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          Apr 17 2012: The culture is corrupted by the government as in the tyranny of the majority.

          I will agree the answer is to change who is looking in the mirror. My country is in dire need of this and at the risk of insulting you, yours is in a more dire need.
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        Apr 18 2012: A bit off tangent, but pat,

        Does a government create "culture" or do their citizens create it?

        Also, I think it is very nationalistic of americans to always view "our government" as above the rest of the world, so I want to add that other societies are different, which doesn't necessarily mean it is in dire need to reform. Though, I am not aware of Spain's current government and situation. I think the world is a giant bowl of trail mix and we should learn to pick and choose what fits best in the boundary of each society.
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          Apr 19 2012: That is a good question and I can report that I have seen the enemy and he is us.

          But homo saps being homo saps vote for more free stuff with out much comprehension that they allow the government to do to their integrity by trading in there freedom for some security.

          I'm not happy with the American government or us at all. That being said the country of America has done more for the world in the last 100 years than any other country perhaps all of them put together. You may disagree with that point and I don't care. Spain on the other hand is in worst shape for the same aforementioned reason.
  • Apr 17 2012: Too often in our current education system what we call "understanding" is actually a memorized rationalization.

    For me, the objective of education goes beyond both memorization or understanding. The objective of an ideal education is to guide an individual to the synthesis of new ideas and realities. In teaching science we teach 1) to observe, 2) to rationalize/generalize, and 3) to synthesize.

    Memorization, as necessary as it is to establish language and the tools of communication, is not about thinking. It's place in education can be to give us a common framework upon which to build understanding.

    Understanding is about rationalizing observations. It's value in education is that it begins the process of thinking. It makes us map our experience and make sense of it. But, understanding does not create by itself.

    Synthesis is where the student trained to think take us all to new places. It uses understanding to carry us forward into the unexplored territory.

    Given the opportunity I would focus on educating the student on how to think, working through memorization and understanding to synthesis. What they think would be not be part of the curriculum, how they think would.
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      Apr 17 2012: Paul, your comment brings out the Bloom's taxonomy approach to education.

      Where does critical thinking fit in to all this? Do you know?

      And yes, I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph.....educating the child on how to think......

      In working with Math, I always tell my students, there are various ways to arrive at the correct answer....this is a life lesson........you have to "train your brain" to think of various ways....so you can doublecheck your work......and be open to see how others go about solving the same problems.

      Really enjoyed reading your comment....please let me know about critical thinking if you can. Thanks
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      Apr 17 2012: Getting the student to think is only half the equation. I need students to synthesize information, think, then DO.

      Think is not the end-point of education.

      Do without think is training. Think without do is, well, academia. To think then do is profession.
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    Apr 17 2012: The object of education is to build understanding. With some knowledge in place (at that point residing in memory) and skills in connecting, analysing, and synthesizing new observations, the student becomes a builder of new ideas. It is mightily convenient not to have to look everything up. Those whose memories are declining could likely offer additional insight here.
    In terms of basic arithmetic, it is convenient to have the ability to estimate things using numbers without needing charged batteries. Automaticity of some skills allows us to give attention to things that are not routine.