openletter

Note to readers: This post is based on “an Open Letter to Educators” by Dan Brown, which was first referenced in this post on critical thinking. The content of this post is a follow-up activity to this video we used in class and is addressed to my students. However, should you like to comment, please feel free. Can my students analyse their own answers to determine what makes one better than another?

Instructions for students

The video we watched in class is embedded below.  The questions you answered in class are typed below exactly as each of you wrote them. Please read all responses below. Vote for the answer for each question you believe deserves the highest marks based on content as well as grammar. Once everyone has voted, in class, we will compare your results to my opinion and analyse the criteria of a good answer.

1. According to Dan Brown, the value of information has changed over the course of history three times and we are currently in a fourth. Describe the societal situation of each of these three/four times to show a consistent change in value.

Student 1 – 999578559
According to Dan Brown, there are four different time periods that the value of information has changed in these periods. First he mentioned the kingdom period when there will be only one king that can access to all the information and other cannot. In this period, information is treasurable. After the kingdom, there comes a society that has three clearly divided classes, bureaucracy, work-class and poor people. In this period, bureaucracy can access to almost all the information, work class can access to a limited range of information. Poor people can not access to any, as a result the information is still valuable. The third period is the time that there are wealth people can access to all information, poor people

Student 2 – 999560915
According to Dan Brown, there are four time periods that the value of information has changed over the course of history. The first period is clearly divided by king and the information is very valuable. The second period is also clearly divided by bureaucracy, work class and poor people. The value of information becomes less valuable. Next period is less clearly divided wealthy people and middle class people. The information can be purchased. The last period is now and then information is free.

Student 3 – 999865579
There are four different sections about information changing, the first one is kingdom. The king have to power to know all information/knowledge so knowledge became very valueable during kingdom period. The second section is clearly divide class, which contain bureaucracy, workers and poor. Bureaucracy can learn limit knowledge which made knowledge less valueable than kingdom period. The third section in unclearly class divide which has wealth people, middle class and poor. In this period, both middle class and wealth people can learn knowledge if they pay for it. The last section is present day. Technology time, informations are free online.

Student 4 – 999594176
Answer: The information was very valuable in the past for example the kingdom, it was very clearly that just the king have as much as possible information. But now it’s 2013 all the information you want to find is free no. you can find it online. So the value of information has been changed.
valuble /
1. very / kingdom, clearly divided / just king
2. less value / clearly divided / bureaucracy,work class, poor
3. can be purchase / less clearly / wealthy people, middle, poor
4. Free (almost 0 value) / NOW, just free / info free

2. Dan Brown mentions that we are in the midst of a revolution. In what ways does he demonstrate this revolution (music industry/government/business, etc.)?

Student 5 – 999806919
Dan Brown mentions three revolutions: music industry, government and business. He demonstrates that people embrace iTunes to music. He thinks that government should be more transparence because government can share more knowledge with people. In addition, Brown compares the business Dilbert and Gloogle. He thinks that current business should be more like Gloogle which has good environment.

Student 6 – 999612780
As time goes on, A lot of things, such as music, government and business are changing. In terms of music, music industry has embraced Itunes, which implies people used to buy records in music stores, but people nowadays tend to buy music online. Also, governments are taking significant steps to our transparencies, which means governments are far more opener to public. As for business, companies nowadays would pursuit the model of google rather than rigid business style in the past. Overall, those revolutions are happening at present society.

Student 7 – 999837841
Dan Brown think our society is in the midst revolution, he thought there were three groups. First, many people do not buy CD to listen music, they prefer to buy or listen music on iTuns. Then, he thought government is become more and more transparence. Because people could get more information than before. Finally, he mentioned people’s working environment is become different. For example, people work in “Dilbert”, which means people just sit in front of the computer in a box and after they done their work, they could go home. But now people work easy and comfortable such as Google.

3. What were his experiences of university education and how does it differ from what he believes universities should do?

Student 8 – 999658703
In Browns university experience, only one professor teach 200 students in a class, the professor did not remember each of their name or have interaction with students. The professor only use Powerpoint to show the facts and test students how many facts they memorized. In Brown’s opinion, all the facts taught in class can be found online and they’re “free”, he is paying money for something “free”. More over, he think what university should do is not provides facts and information to students. University is stopping creativity of students. Brown believes that university should encourage students to be creative and “empower students to change the world for the better.”

Student 9 – 999641810
The guy mentions that there are almost two hundreds kids in a class with one professor. In addition to this, he costs a hundred dollar every class on textbook but he would never open it. Because he considers that it is much better and easier to find information online. Also, he illustrates that in class, there is only one professor who uses Powerpoint to tell students some fact and students receive grades based on how many facts they memorize. There are some differences between his beliefs in university and nowadays such as, he thinks that education should provide students with facts, is not preparing students for the real world. University should not stop creativity.

Student 10 – 999612806
According to his experiences of university education, he think university education is almost 200 students in a lecture teached by one professor and professor just teach facts to students used PPT, even don’t remember their names. He cost $100 per class on textbook, but he never open it because this facts easier to find in internet. He think university education is students take notes from PPT and recevies grade based on how many facts they memorize. But society didn’t care about their facts because these facts are free online. He think university should preparing students for the real world, university shouldn’t stop students’ creativity and Empower students change the world for the better.

4. Dan Brown makes a number of very good points. We as critical thinkers, however, need to evaluate these points for validity. What opposing arguments has he not addressed? How might we argue against his ideas?

Student 11 – 999806152
During Dan Brown’s vidio, he mentioned that the institution education paying much more attention on teaching facts which are free online than teaching creativities recently. He suggested university need to change, they have to follow the revolution. But the bias is, if they do not teach facts, then how can we creat new things? Fact is the basic for everything which is unchangable in institution education. Also, someting cannot be created, such as the lecture of history and phsyics. He also argued about the blackbord which I think is important to the institution education, such as math teacher need to use it to give the solution to students. Sometimes, old fasion make the essential affect.

Student 12 – 999652237
The major point of Dan Brown is that education does not prepare students for a real world. The reason is that it is based on facts, which are free. I do not agree with him because without facts, we cannot create something. They are a base for critical thinking. Also, today’s education provides us enough critical thinking because people have a lot of inventions in the 21st century in the area of science and technology. Moreover, if all facts are available online, it is more difficult to be creative because a person cannot show it. Finally, it depends on professor and his method of teaching.

Student 13 – 999937289
Dan Brown thinks that institutional education is not helpful anymore because it is easy to find what schools give on internet. He also mentions that schools does not prepare students for real life because it does not teach how to think creatively. However, he misses some points. Proffessors give facts but it depends on students to think critically and make an effort. Otherwise it will not change your grade. it is true that he says grades are based on how many information you include but, if he would add his thinkings he would get higher marks. Therefore, In my opinion it depends on the student to make a difference and to prepare himself for real life, because it is not completely proffessors job.

Student 14 – 1000169426
As the talker mentions the point that universities only teach students the facts instead of creativity, as far as I cam consider it is unconvincing. First all the creativity is based on the common knowledge, without the basic science of physics how Edson invent lights. What is more, not all the professors only teach the facts, in fact, many teachers think highly of the development in critical thinking. For example, in political science course, most professors encourage students debate the previous opinion and put forward the new ideas.

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7 Responses to Follow-up to S-generated writing

  1. Pete Laberge says:

    I would like to know:
    1. How old these students are?
    2, What grade are they in?
    3. What course are they in? is it Advanced, regular, or remedial?
    4. How come they write so badly, and incoherently?
    5. Have any of them studied REAL life, REAL business, and REAL economics?
    (If so, how come they merely re-parroted such BS? IF they are being taught to be creative… why aren’t they being creative? There are several alternate views, methods, etc to the one presented. No student brought any of these up in their answers! No student criticized AT ALL what was being told to them! So clearly, if the objective was critical thinking, they failed. Or: Were they not presented with alternate views? If not, then the instructor is at fault. Oh, they do not like being taught facts. Hum. Facts can be very useful. If the “facts that you knew” were the secret recipe for Coca Cola or KFC…. or any number of other facts…. Those facts would be very valuable. At the same time, there is no mention of being taught how to do things: processes, techniques, methodologies, etc…. Yet, they do like being taught unproven theories! I confess to being befuddled.)

    I find it fascinating that on the one hand… now a days, 4,000 student on-line MOOCS are presented as “The Coming Thing”, the needed thing, the all important thing, the thing that will revolutionize everything. So… That would be an environment. where you never meet the professor or your fellow “learners”. Yet, on the other hand, by golly, this Dan Brown guy is upset that he was in a class with only 200 people! I think educators have to make up their minds! Perhaps might I suggest trying to think logically? Then the educators wonder why taxpayers are up in arms…. I think I may have demonstrated just why.)

    I think that both the students and the instructors, and the theorists should address these issues. We, the public, do have the right to present these questions, and politely ask for some thinking, and some answers. You might consider the issues that I have raised as homework….

    • Tyson Seburn says:

      Hello Pete,

      You seem very passionate, but for this particular exercise, misguided. My students are second language learners, predominantly Mandarin speakers, in an English for academic purposes preparation program before heading into their first years of university. Their ages, lack of experience in Canadian universities and limited language abilities contribute to what you perceive as poor writing and lack of critical thought. Your criticisms are overly harsh, so I’m assuming you do not teach second language learners.

      The point of this exercise was to use the content of the video to practice listening comprehension to particular points made and answer questions about that content. This will result in an analysis of what makes a solid or weak answer to these types of comprehension questions. It was not to criticise this video maker’s ideas, so that’s why you see little to none of that in their answers.

      With the quick pace and overload of information given by Dan Brown (who is a Youtube channel entrepreneur, not one of my students), it can be an extremely big challenge for them to catch all that he says, even with repeated views. Their writing is significantly better than when they first arrived, thanks to their concerted efforts and the language classes they take, including mine. This particular response, as you can tell from the questions they had to answer, was not to be critical or respond critically to the issues mentioned. That part is encouraged later, after comprehension is established.

      I, and all instructors, spend a great deal of time helping students from other cultures (or even our own) first improve their language skills, second catch them up on culturally-specific expectations on common knowledge or background information, and finally develop their critical thinking skills,. By working with the ideas that are mentioned in the video, many of them do so very thoughtfully and after a good deal of connection building…not to mention spending a good amount of time discussing the intricacies of and culturally loaded language used by Dan Brown, so that they can understand the content well enough to use their improving language abilities to articulate their thoughts.

      I can appreciate your passion regarding the views expressed by the video maker, but before you go on the attack again against student writing or instructors, perhaps you may consider understanding the context of the exercise, post and in my case, blog.

      Thanks.
      Tyson

      • Pete Laberge says:

        Dear Mr Seburn:

        Thank you for your kind reply.

        Well, I am sorry, I did not have time to fully explore your past posts. Now, your reply comment that they are trying to translate back and forth from Mandarin to English, means a lot. Not only are the 2 languages VERY different, but as you would know, the thought processes to write in them, are also worlds apart. Now, if they are in Asia, well, the process to learn English is somewhat different than if they are in North America. (I have some resources below, you might find of use!)

        Hence your comment “Your criticisms are overly harsh, so I’m assuming you do not teach second language learners.” … should be taken in the context that I intended it. None the less, I apologize. I assure you, while I do not teach ESL, I have seen plenty of similar writing here at home. (And have heard a bit about ESL as practiced here.)

        In a sense then, my comments may be a compliment to your students — and to you. They wrote well enough to pass for natives who wrote poorly! So, you are doing SOMETHING right. Take a bow, then. My worry was that people here, in N.A., were having such composition issues.

        If they are HERE in N.A., you MUST urge them to talk to native speakers. Volunteers could be found. (A simple newspaper add, or a letter to a Radio, or TV station. Then there is KiJiGi, etc.) It is the fastest way they can catch up on idioms, the vernacular, etc. If they are in Asia, finding good English speakers can still be done. Perhaps some Canadian, Brit, Aussie, or US corporation would have some people there who might volunteer an hour or 2 a week? A look through a business directory, might give good yields. And perhaps some internships/PT jobs? One never knows where that can lead….

        From your comments, I gather they are roughly 17 to 19 years of age. So here, joining some English Facebook pages, Tweet streams, and Youtube channels may be of use. I can recommend several that MAY be useful (Some even have email newsletters that they can read. As you know, I think it was Twain who said: To write, you must first read.). I suggest that you explore the links first, so as to determine what might be most useful….

        Randy Cassingham (General things, EMT, culture, etc) https://www.facebook.com/cassingham
        Randy’s blog: http://www.thisistrue.com/blog.html
        See also: http://www.thisistrue.com
        Email newsletter available.

        Ask Leo Nottenbom (Computers, tech) https://www.facebook.com/askleofan
        Bob Rankin (Computers, tech) https://www.facebook.com/bobr3 @bobrankin

        Anne P Mitchell / The Internet Patrol (Tech, Law, Society, etc.)
        https://www.facebook.com/AnnePMitchell https://www.facebook.com/TheInternetPatrol
        Email newsletter available.

        History for Music Lovers (Music, Art, History, Education.) https://www.facebook.com/historyteacherz
        Google: Amy V Burvall….. Twitter: @amyburvall
        Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=historyteachers#g/u

        Ana Cristina Pratas Twitter: @AnaCristinaPrts
        Passionate about education & using ICT to enhance learning; interested in online education, music & photography; can’t live without sea, sun & open skies. (She Tweets on all kinds of educational and professional topics.) UAE · http://cristinaskybox.blogspot.com/

        HipHughes @hiphughes
        YouTube Partner, Facilitator of Learning Experiences, PoliPop Moderator, educational consultant, bad comic & roller derby widower. I see people people. Buffalo, NY · http://www.youtube.com/hughesdv
        (Specialties are US Civics & History, How to Teach, and wild humor!)

        Rasha Abdulla @RashaAbdulla
        Professor, Journalism &Mass Communication, #AUC, #Egypt. PhD, UMiami. Research social media, activism. Singer, dancer, guitarist, views solely my own. Cairo, Egypt · http://www.rashaabdulla.com
        (Very professional and erudite.)

        Phil Plait @BadAstronomer
        Astronomer, author, skeptic, father, punster.
        Boulder · http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy

        Maria Popova @brainpicker
        Interestingness hunter-gatherer obsessed with combinatorial creativity. Editor of @brainpickings & @explorer. Bylines for @wireduk & @theatlantic. MIT Fellow.
        Brooklyn, NY · http://brainpickings.org

        Dr. Loren Ekroth @lorenek
        Publisher of Better Conversations ezine. Speaker, Consultant.
        Las Vegas, Nevada, USA · http://www.conversationmatters.com
        (Public Speaker, Trainer Coach, has a lot of fascinating stories and a wealth of worldly experience.)

        I might also toss in:
        http://www.cbc.ca/television/
        (There are also sub links to CBC radio, and to literature, games, apps, news on line, etc…)
        http://ww3.tvo.org/
        This is TV Ontario, which has a number of suitable things for helping your students with both spoken and written English.)

        I have others, but these should be a good starting resource, if you do not know of them. Mind you, they are addictive…… So you will have to “police them a bit”, so that they do still continue their other work. (Butif these were used as a classroom only resource by you….)

        I did not think Mr Brown was one of your students!
        But I do worry about this: “By working with the ideas that are mentioned in the video, many of them do so very thoughtfully [GOOD!] and after a good deal of connection building [GOOD!] …not to mention spending a good amount of time discussing the intricacies of and culturally loaded language [THIS IS WHERE I AM WORRIED...] used by Dan Brown, so that they can understand the content well enough to use their improving language abilities to articulate their thoughts. [GOOD]. BUT YOU WOULD BE A BETTER JUDGE OF THEIR “LEVEL” OF ENGLISH USE THAN I.

        And I very much appreciate YOUR passionate defense of the students. A dedicated instructor will defend his students, so I know you have that on your side! None the less, some of the issues I raised, may still be useful in consideration by you. I hope I have, with these two comments, spurred some thought, inspiration, and given you some perhaps useful resources, in their learning not only English, but the “Western World’s”, culture, politics, tech, society, literature, etc.

        If there are any other resources, you think I could help with, let me know. I might be able to find something. I know Ana Pratas will have lots of material on the links I shared. And if you have any questions about any of these links,etc….. do not hesitate to get back to me. I cannot promise to be of much or even any help, but I am willing to try.

        In the meantime, I hope we can get over our mis-understanding. Take care.

        • Tyson Seburn says:

          I appreciate the apology and your suggestions. I am not new to language teaching and thankfully have an amazing community of educators around me, both on and offline.

          Thank you.

          • Pete Laberge says:

            Well I am glad you found the suggestions useful. I am also very glad that you have as you say “thankfully… an amazing community of educators…” Community, friends, worthwhile colleagues, make any task easier, better done, more rewarding, and more worthwhile. A lot of people have communities, but they are not so good. A lot of others have no communities. But you HAVE the community you seem to want. And that can mean a very great difference, at work, at home, anywhere. You are welcome. Take care. I wish you every success.

    • bnleez says:

      Pete, your response is one I’ll be using in my discourse analysis class, for sure…thanks for that. You say, “We, the public, do have the right to present these questions, and politely ask for some thinking, and some answers.”

      I think the key phrase is “…politely ask…” I couldn’t agree more. We might say that we both agree with Grice’s politeness maxim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politeness_maxims). Let’s unpack your post, shall we?

      1. The fourth opening question reads, “How come they write so badly, and incoherently?” Is it polite to criticize someone’s students? In fact, when you criticize students you are really criticize every teacher they ever had. If you are going to criticize, which I would argue is not being overly polite, criticize a teacher on a particular form of behavior based on something you understand. Taking this one step further, instead of criticizing, provide formative types of feedback that is more constructive.
      2. You say, ” Have any of them studied REAL life, REAL business, and REAL economics?” Writing text in all uppercase lettering is the equivalent to SHOUTING! So, here you are insinuating that what they are studying is non-authentic and thus of little value. That’s fine, but why not build an argument (with evidence) to defend your position instead of a blanket statement, which likely only offends. Additionally, I really doubt that you care whether or not they have ever studied real life – what you are really asking is have they studied in real life in Tyson’s class. Finally, I would argue that the line between “real” and “unreal” (i.e., authentic and non-authentic) can become blurry (subjective) and really becomes meaningless if your critique is limited to a single lesson plan. You first need to understand the entire learning progression before you can offer a valid critique.
      3. “If so, how come they merely re-parroted such BS?”, I assume you mean regurgitating or repeating word-for-word “bull shit”. Again, are you following your own advice by presenting “questions and politely [asking] for some thinking, and some answers”? Forget about using the expletive for emotional force – here you are using a term “bullshit” which adds no propositional meaning to your argument. It’s a wasted word. It would be like me saying that your post is a “worthless piece of shit”. Instead of using a phrase for emotional effect, I could instead build an argument that basically supported a substantive perspective that would support the idea that you do not know what you are talking about.
      4. Regarding the rest of your BS paragraph (pun intended), you continue to ask many questions about how the class was conducted yet you are quick to assume many aspects of the class that I’m willing to bet your really do not understand. By the way, we all know what happens when we assume… My favorite assumption is this one: “Were they [the students] not presented with alternate views? If not, then the instructor is at fault” I love it. So you’re saying I don’t know what you did, but if you did do it, it’s wrong.
      5. Going back to, “IF they are being taught to be creative… why aren’t they being creative?” Saying, “IF (again SHOUTING) they…” means, “I doubt they were, but if they are being taught to be creative…”, yet another example of being less than polite and again building a (weak) argument based on no evidence. Plus, one could argue that analyzing and evaluating each other’s work (peer assessment) does require a level of critical thinking skills.
      6. Now, regarding your fascination with MOOCs in the following paragraph. This hardly seems to support your argument – I’m not connecting the dots. “Are you honestly interjecting your views regarding some authentic piece of video that is being used in a language learning classroom?” I ask rhetorically. Who should be thinking logically? Dan, the students, Tyson? All of them? Leaving Dan out of it, can you honestly determine how logical Tyson and his students were based on this single post? Honestly. Most educators would quickly realize that the information included in this single post is a “snapshot” or small portion of an overall learning progression that only Tyson and his students understand (unless it was shared in some other post).
      2. “You might consider the issues that I have raised as homework….” I would argue that this statement smells of condescension. It’s like saying that you don’t know anything about me but follow my advice because I know what I’m doing and you don’t. I’m not questioning your expertness (because I don’t know you), but what I am questioning is your tone and the way you are presenting yourself online. This is something young language educators (my students) as well as experienced language educators need to be very conscious of.

      Pete, I totally agree with you that we – the public – should have the right to present important questions, politely asking for some thinking and some answers, to use your words. I especially think politeness, shall I say respectfulness, are two maxims to keep in mind when publishing comments in an open space. Notice how your first three opening questions maintain a respectful and polite writing style (tone) – bravo! But then notice how questions four and five take a turn for the worse. Have you ever asked an educator either face to face or online (other than with this reply), “Why do your students suck?” and have the educator interpret this question as being constructive?

      Your post and my reply have given me good material for my discourse analysis course (for years to come), and for that, I again thank you! This will support our topic on written informal discourse and online identity.

      I’ll conclude by saying that I commend anyone who shares any educative experiences (successes or failures) openly online for the benefit of fostering constructive dialogue among interested parties. Questioning each other’s approaches, methods, techniques, and strategies is a good thing as long as it’s done in a respectful manner. And in those cases where disrespectful behavior is intentional, then ignore it for what it is. What’s more difficult but equally important is determining when disrespectful comments are unintentional due to socio-cultural and linguistic differences; in which case, one needs to tease out the worthwhile criticism and disregard the rest. My advice, do not take teaching personally but keep your ears open.

      • Pete Laberge says:

        Dear: bnleez
        Interesting name there. Does not tell me much about you. Mine on the other hand, does tell much. To those who bother to search. (Which I know you can, obviously…)

        You say: “Pete, your response is one I’ll be using in my discourse analysis class, for sure…thanks for that.”

        Then I HAVE helped education. And THAT actually WAS my intention. Of course, I have 3 posts, if they are all left up. A first, a second which is a reply to Mr Seburn’s excellent and kind reply to me, and lastly this one, a reply to your comments, which also are good. You should also count Mr Seburn’s excellent reply to me, in any analysis. They would form a unit, I think. And his reply gives much “meat”. So you are welcome, as long as you do it properly — do see below.

        You say, “We, the public, do have the right to present these questions, and politely ask for some thinking, and some answers.”
        I think the key phrase is “…politely ask…” I couldn’t agree more. We might say that we both agree with Grice’s politeness maxim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Politeness_maxims). Let’s unpack your post, shall we?

        I am glad you agree with me. For we the public, we the taxpayers, we the people who are affected by any good or any bad that takes place in education, ARE indeed stakeholders. And therefore, could be said to have “a right and duty” to comment. I do not at this moment, have the time to look at Mr/Ms. Grice. By the standards of my age, my education, and my society, I was polite. Sharp, yes, but polite. Trust me, I am one person you do NOT want mad. I worked in the bar/hotel business too many years! If you have different standards where you live, well, ” C’est la vie”. One must live according to one’s cultural roots. But we may have much more in common that might seem at first glance. See why in my reply.

        Your 1st comment to me:
        1. The fourth opening question reads, “How come they write so badly, and incoherently?” Is it polite to criticize someone’s students? In fact, when you criticize students you are really criticize every teacher they ever had. If you are going to criticize, which I would argue is not being overly polite, criticize a teacher on a particular form of behavior based on something you understand. Taking this one step further, instead of criticizing, provide formative types of feedback that is more constructive.

        Well, you must understand, blogs vary. One blog lets you make a 1500 character comment, another, like this one, is much more generous. So I had to be more concise than perhaps I would have liked to be. (Since I did not know how much of the comment would be “post-able”.) Also, I am doing this for free. So, I have a limited amount of resources that I can commit. Therefore, I do not have the time to write “well considered” 50,000 word essays. I took less than 1/2 hour’s writing time, to write that. And it was interrupted, I think, by 3 phone calls. (So the total time was well over an hour. My train of thought was interrupted!) I can write much better, but was forcibly limited by constraints. And take note that I was writing in an area roughly 80 characters wide, by a few lines high. That is not easy! In fact, allow me to change to something less brutal, for the rest of this reply! I shall copy and paste…. (This reply may be longer, but note that I quote at least most of your text.)

        You ask: Is it polite to criticize students? Politeness has little do do with that. When criticism is required, it logically, must be given. Would you rather students grow up with no criticism, then have it hit them over the head as adults? Better they get some now, gently, from you/me/others, when they are young! Indeed, by failing to note their failings, I would be doing them a dis-service. I would be doing the kind Mr Seburn a dis-service also. (But see more on that below).

        As for “criticizing their past teachers”, that would be your opinion. And maybe a soft shouldered one! Forfend, that one of your students becomes a murderer… shall we have you jailed for life? I hope not! No there are many kinds of teachers, and a student may in some cases have all good, some good some not so good, or in the case of my friend Ron, ONE good teacher, up until the age of roughly 28. (Trust me, Ron’s story is one you do not wish to hear. I had a few good ones. And a some that should have never been within 50,000 miles of a student.) No my criticism was of their WRITING abilities. But do see my 2nd comment written to Mr. Seburn. I think my thinking will then become clear. There is a difference between the two comments, based on constrained assumptions. I did not have time to go back and look at the entire blog…. (And likewise, let me add there are good and bad students!)

        Your 2nd comment to me:
        2. You say, ” Have any of them studied REAL life, REAL business, and REAL economics?” Writing text in all uppercase lettering is the equivalent to SHOUTING! So, here you are insinuating that what they are studying is non-authentic and thus of little value. That’s fine, but why not build an argument (with evidence) to defend your position instead of a blanket statement, which likely only offends. Additionally, I really doubt that you care whether or not they have ever studied real life – what you are really asking is have they studied in real life in Tyson’s class. Finally, I would argue that the line between “real” and “unreal” (i.e., authentic and non-authentic) can become blurry (subjective) and really becomes meaningless if your critique is limited to a single lesson plan. You first need to understand the entire learning progression before you can offer a valid critique.

        Well REAL Life, is what all students will be hitting shortly. And I have seen and heard of a number of young people…. It seems we stuff them full of theories, but when they hit the real world, they are stymied. That is not what school is supposed to do. It is in my, and your, and their interest to see that they see the real world.

        As for shouting. AHEM! I am 57. I do hold two university degrees and some other education. Kindly, have some respect for ME, also. Do not tell me I am shouting, if I put a word “here and there”, in caps. This is a text blog, not Microsoft Word, that we are “using”. So putting a word or 2 in caps, is for me, called “emphasis”. Writing entire paragraphs in caps might well be screaming. It might also be a person of poor visual acuity who left the caps key lock on! I could think of several other reasons this could happen. And in any case, you used all caps once or twice yourself. WHY? Because, you also had certain words you needed to emphasize, and caps is a simple and time honoured method to do so! (And… you made excellent use of the thing.) So we are probably in agreement. Neither of us likes the overuse of caps! (Albeit, I recall a time, when that is all there was!)

        I actually DO care if students of ANY age have some real world know-how, experience, etc. And in all their classes, not just Mr Seburn’s! But explaining that, would take too long… I think you feel the same.

        Now in your next comment, I wish to thank and commend you:
        “Finally, I would argue that the line between “real” and “unreal” (i.e., authentic and non-authentic) can become blurry (subjective) and really becomes meaningless if your critique is limited to a single lesson plan. You first need to understand the entire learning progression before you can offer a valid critique.”
        YES!
        I am forced to agree that you are 100% correct. And you have stated your point well! Kudos! And as I said, “thank you”. But as I have noted, I was criticizing THAT particular writing in THAT blog entry. I did not have the luxury of seeing their “entire learning progression”. Again though, this is something they will find in real life. People will say, do, assess, judge, comment, etc, on incomplete information. And it is something you have found from me, also, as you did not have the luxury of having my life history before you when you wrote your excellent reply to me! And again, I do not have your life history either!

        Your 3rd point:
        3. “If so, how come they merely re-parroted such BS?”, I assume you mean regurgitating or repeating word-for-word “bull shit”. Again, are you following your own advice by presenting “questions and politely [asking] for some thinking, and some answers”? Forget about using the expletive for emotional force – here you are using a term “bullshit” which adds no propositional meaning to your argument. It’s a wasted word. It would be like me saying that your post is a “worthless piece of shit”. Instead of using a phrase for emotional effect, I could instead build an argument that basically supported a substantive perspective that would support the idea that you do not know what you are talking about.

        Well, I was using a, in my area, common euphemism. I call BS when I see it. (And I have seem a lot.) To me, the word described a lot of “this stuff they were commenting on”, but I come from the world of business. Our standards are different, you see. To a man with my life history, that is not an expletive, unless said in full. But neither of us, has walked in the other’s moccasins! Whether or not it added to my argument, well, that is a matter of perspective. Had I had more time, I might have worded things differently. As for knowing what I am talking about, well, I would obviously feel, that from my perspective, I do! (Else… I would not have commented, or replied to Mr Seburn’s incredible and well written reply to me. (Indeed, if ever an example of “how to reply” is needed, you will be looking a long time to find a better one!)

        Your 4th point:
        4. Regarding the rest of your BS paragraph (pun intended), you continue to ask many questions about how the class was conducted yet you are quick to assume many aspects of the class that I’m willing to bet your really do not understand. By the way, we all know what happens when we assume… My favorite assumption is this one: “Were they [the students] not presented with alternate views? If not, then the instructor is at fault” I love it. So you’re saying I don’t know what you did, but if you did do it, it’s wrong.

        Yes, I did make some assumptions. As I stated, I did not have time to read the entire blog. I was replying mainly to one thing which worried me: The student’s paragraphs/writing. I did make other comments, also. But, if you read Mr Seburn’s reply, and mine to him, you will discover a few things, as I did. As for my query, that was less of an assumption, than an honest query. If alternate views were offered, then the students, may have failed to make proper use of them. If no alternate views were offered, then obviously, that would not be under the control of the students. Note that I was asking a question. The answer would indicate if there was a problem, and if so, where. But the answer was not really needed, if you read Mr Seburn’s reply. The question, while valid, did not fit the data that came to light (via Mr Seburn’s reply) after my first posting! So at the current time of your and my discussion, you will agree, the question might perhaps be thrown out. (Although, whenever possible, students should be made aware of credible alternate viewpoints.)

        Your 5th point:
        5. Going back to, “IF they are being taught to be creative… why aren’t they being creative?” Saying, “IF (again SHOUTING) they…” means, “I doubt they were, but if they are being taught to be creative…”, yet another example of being less than polite and again building a (weak) argument based on no evidence. Plus, one could argue that analyzing and evaluating each other’s work (peer assessment) does require a level of critical thinking skills.

        Again, I was asking a question. But a valid one, I keep hearing everywhere, that too many young people today do not know how to be creative. That they have to be taught how to be, and encouraged to be, creative. (And that they have to be taught how to think!) I keep being horrified by these comments. Are not, I must ask, human beings naturally creative? Are we not natural thinkers? After all, elephants did not invent reading and writing. Whales, while they have huge brains, have nearly been hunted to extinction. On this planet, people are the inventors, the creators, it seems. Whether other species think… Ah, there, we are still learning. Indeed, they may ALL think a whole lot more than we have given them credit for, at least in the past.

        In my vocabulary, there are several “IF’s”: If, if, IF, and of course IFF. (If and Only If.) I honestly cannot recall at this time, whether I accidentally held the shift key down too long, or was asking “IF” as opposed to “If”. But explaining all my if’s would take too long to do so here, And in any case, I am sure you are well qualified to sort these out, after a moment’s thought. I may well have been emphasizing.

        You state: “Plus, one could argue that analyzing and evaluating each other’s work (peer assessment) does require a level of critical thinking skills.”
        Well, here, I cannot but agree with you, as does, I would hope, Mr Seburn. Indeed, I have argued this myself. But my main inquiry (in my mind) was, “if you cannot state your analysis clearly, why, how can one decide on the value of it?” Whether calling Dan Brown a peer of the students, is fair or not, that is another matter, and beyond our scope. As for the students working together, that you will note I did not argue against that. I did fail to commend it, to praise it, and to fight for it. Here, I apologize for my oversight. (But their writing might not be so bad, if one takes ALL the circumstances into account. We need more data to know. See Mr Seburn’s reply to me.)

        But do note that I later discovered, that they were actually first thinking in Mandarin, and trying to then think and write in English!!! Considering that, they may well have done a very good job. In fact, that is why, I apologized in my second reply, and gave a few possibly useful ideas and resources, to someone wanting to learn ans use English. (I have seen both French vs English, and Spanish vs English, “learning attempts” in my day. And you will agree, that is probably much easier than Mandarin vs English! But to learn a language, one must almost immerse oneself in it, unless one is a gifted linguist. Consider for example, the talents/abilities of Pope John Paul ][, who, I think, knew a dozen languages, vs you or I trying to do the same!)

        Your 6th comment:
        6. Now, regarding your fascination with MOOCs in the following paragraph. This hardly seems to support your argument – I’m not connecting the dots. “Are you honestly interjecting your views regarding some authentic piece of video that is being used in a language learning classroom?” I ask rhetorically. Who should be thinking logically? Dan, the students, Tyson? All of them? Leaving Dan out of it, can you honestly determine how logical Tyson and his students were based on this single post? Honestly. Most educators would quickly realize that the information included in this single post is a “snapshot” or small portion of an overall learning progression that only Tyson and his students understand (unless it was shared in some other post).

        Well at one point, Dan Brown seemed to have complained about having 200 students in one course! It was noted by the students, I think. (Yes, that is a large number. But it is also very common.) Yet, today, we are all told that “The future is MOOCS.” And while I have seen no spectacular successes (merely ordinary ones), I have heard of a few spectacular failures. Clearly, if one is worried about 200 students learning together in person, then one should be even more concerned about the possibility of thousands, learning together, with merely internet contact! Here, I guess maybe… (I do not know the man well enough) Mr Brown and I might have some common ground. (I think he made some comment about class sizes under 50 being best. Here, in general, I do agree.) I think we all need to be logical here. Indeed, perhaps I was hoping to determine how many students Mr Seburn was involved with. Probably out of some sub-conscious curiosity. I do tend to be the “curious type”. And as I noted, I was interrupted a few times. I think I lost my train of thought there. Sorry.

        I doubt I was attempting to determine the entire “logicalness” of Mr Seburn and his students there. I do agree 100% with your snapshot comment. But if one reads the original post, to me, it seems…. Mr Seburn was asking for comments on THAT post. I therefore did not, in fact, could not, follow their “entire learning progression”. (That could take months of study!) But I do agree with your “Most educators….” comment. Indeed, if you do not mind, I might “steal it like an artist” — as Austin Kleon would say. (Hard to give you full credit, of course!) Indeed, many of your comments, could taken in proper context, make “good re-mixing tools/fodder”! (I think you know what I mean!)

        Your next comment is (I have no idea where the “2” came from):
        2. “You might consider the issues that I have raised as homework….” I would argue that this statement smells of condescension. It’s like saying that you don’t know anything about me but follow my advice because I know what I’m doing and you don’t. I’m not questioning your expertness (because I don’t know you), but what I am questioning is your tone and the way you are presenting yourself online. This is something young language educators (my students) as well as experienced language educators need to be very conscious of.

        I myself, would not call it condescension. We may have different philosophies and definitions here. I did say “you might”. Perhaps, my comments may have “stirred some inspiration up” in Mr Seburn or his class. Indeed, if there was a problem in that class or another, (and I am not saying there is) my comments/questions might be useful. Even if all is well (as would appear to be the case), they might have a use. I did not say he did not know what he was doing. Indeed, both your comments and mine, are somewhat hypothetical. I am sorry you do not like my tone. Writing late at night, and interrupted, as I noted, it was the best tone I had. (And like Groucho Marx… I have several others.) Do consider, that different people do speak different ways, but I will try take your excellent advice, here. Thank you!

        Indeed, here you have found a good thing from them: You claim you will use the comments with your students. So long as you give the whole story, that is a good thing. Limited by time, technology, interruption, and a late hour, I still managed some good points — as well as some not so good ones!

        You continue:
        Pete, I totally agree with you that we – the public – should have the right to present important questions, politely asking for some thinking and some answers, to use your words. I especially think politeness, shall I say respectfulness, are two maxims to keep in mind when publishing comments in an open space. Notice how your first three opening questions maintain a respectful and polite writing style (tone) – bravo! But then notice how questions four and five take a turn for the worse. Have you ever asked an educator either face to face or online (other than with this reply), “Why do your students suck?” and have the educator interpret this question as being constructive?

        Yes, you ARE right. My last 2 questions, did, take a definite turn for the WORST! (Note my emphasis in both caps, and by changing the word!) Might I plead insanity? OR… over tiredness, and hurry.

        I actually have asked that “sucks” question, and so has my sister, but I assure you it was valid at the time. My sister asked why her children could not do math properly. She found out that in their case, the curriculum was not the best, and the teacher was very poor at math, and teaching out of her field of expertise! (And Apparently was inexperienced.) In my case, someone said that they were worried about some students “sucking at something” (That is, doing very poorly, and below their age/grade level.) So I asked “Why”? I was told why. Some factors were out of the student’s and the teacher’s control apparently. But the question is none-the-less valid… IF asked as a question. Asking WHY students of any age, group, etc…. are not doing well at something, IS important. Because…. As you must well know, there could be many reasons. Off hand, I can think of: That Actual School, School board, Curriculum, Outside Factors, The Parents, The Students, Poverty, Learning Disabilities, The teacher (or some other teacher causing problems)….

        I recall advising a young teacher on Yahoo Answers. I guess she reached a point, where her heart poured out. And she used that medium. By luck, she got me… She taught physics, loved physics, yet wanted to quit. (She said she was good, at it, and I decided to take her word for it.) Yes, physics is hard to teach. Yes she had a sprinkling of good, bad, and medium students. But I detected the problem. It actually was an outside issue. Problems she had out of class. (I cannot discuss them here.) Some people who replied were mean, some nice, all “hunted”, but, I, and PURELY BY LUCK, (I think) found the issue. I pointed it out to her. I told her” Solve that and…. Teaching will be pleasant, you will do a better job, your students will benefit.” She said to me: “I read the other replies. They tried hard, but had no answer, though some were good replies. I was going to quit. Now, I will solve that problem, and go on teaching.” I have no idea if I did good or not….. But I hope I did. See, I saw one thing (as I said, purely by luck) that nobody else did: Her “problem” would likely continue, even if she quit teaching and went on to something else. So she would be even more unhappy there, I thought/think.

        You then say:
        Your post and my reply have given me good material for my discourse analysis course (for years to come), and for that, I again thank you! This will support our topic on written informal discourse and online identity.

        Well, as long as you use ALL the material, you will be doing a good job. But if you only use part of it, you will be doing your students and fellows a dis-service. But you must use the original post from Mr Seburn, (not giving out any more info that I had) and then show the progression to the end. Else, you will, of course, be showing only one side, only 1/2 a coin. And I once met an amateur magician, who could do awesome things with a coin. Until he showed you both sides, and the edge. It was, of course, a very expensive “trick”, that he had bought. So, “Show the whole coin”. For yes, I have indeed “gotten your train of thought”. But I take no offense. Indeed, I take some good value from the whole affair. I hope the same for you. And for Mr. Seburn. And his students. And any other readers.

        You conclude:
        I’ll conclude by saying that I commend anyone who shares any educative experiences (successes or failures) openly online for the benefit of fostering constructive dialogue among interested parties. Questioning each other’s approaches, methods, techniques, and strategies is a good thing as long as it’s done in a respectful manner. And in those cases where disrespectful behavior is intentional, then ignore it for what it is. What’s more difficult but equally important is determining when disrespectful comments are unintentional due to socio-cultural and linguistic differences; in which case, one needs to tease out the worthwhile criticism and disregard the rest. My advice, do not take teaching personally but keep your ears open.

        And, if we take Mr Seburn’s original post, and his reply, as well as my two replies, and your comments to me, then we can say this: This series of posts has, indeed, yielded much useful dialogue! You saw disrespect, I did not. In fact I was trying, to show some respect, as I have noted. I obviously, was NOT entirely successful. I think we all 3 of us, teased out most of what was worthwhile from the issue.

        Indeed, I do keep my ears open. Well, actually, this internet blog being a written medium, as opposed to us meeting together either formally, or at the local Tim Horton’s for a good cup of coffee, you’ll agree: I’ll have to keep my eyes open, too! (The very bad pun, is intentional.) Sadly, I do take teaching personally, because, well, it can have a long term effect on people. Indeed, we all do, take things personally, in the end… . Both inside and outside of teaching. And of course, anything that happens to us, can have either a short or a long term effect. And I think that “taking things personal” may SOMETIMES (OFTEN?) be a good thing. If we take things personally, with a little passion, we avoid the blase, impersonal, “nothing matters” train of mind. Detachment is good, also. We must keep the two in balance. If the ALL the posts are considered, and all the factors also, I think we came close, to a good balance, here.

        So thank you for your kind comments. You must have taken some time to come up with them all. I am sorry for the length of my reply. But I tried to answer each one as best as I could. (Given certain constraints I have.) Let us hope we all walked away with “some coin”. And not my late acquaintance’s trick one.

        Lastly, I am sorry if again, writing late at night, I may have spelled a word wrong, or messed up some piece of punctuation. I view this type of writing as informal. And write and proofread accordingly. To tell you the whole story, well, that would likely bore you… Take care.

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