Sunday, 30 September 2012
I think the most important time during any semester is immediately after the first test. Until that time, the students have done what they thought you wanted them to do (or what they thought they could get away with). The first test gives them a chance to judge how well their class strategy has worked. If they need to make corrections in that strategy, this is the time to do it. You have their undivided attention, especially if they did not do as well as they would have liked. They are young -- believe it or not, they usually appreciate some serious guidance.
You need to understand that most students are very used to doing X amount of work and getting Y grade. Many are well satisfied with that approach and that result. Others are not satisfied but have no clue what adjustments they need to make. Our school systems produce many students who are not very good at being what I call "learning students." For many students, their entire learning strategy consists of reading the chapter and marking key words with a highlighter. That's a long way from developing critical thinking skills.
So, my first test is always demanding but not impossible (I’m not sure what giving an impossible test might accomplish). I try to cover a lot of different things we have covered during the weeks we have been together. If you have read my essay on testing circles, you know that I try to give questions slightly outside of the circle of information that we have covered in class – questions they should be able to figure out if they have understood the material well enough.
Some students do extremely well on the first test whereas others struggle. It’s at that moment that I want to push them all in the direction that I want them to go. First, I mail out an answer sheet which can help them gauge how they have done – most can look at that answer sheet for a few minutes and have a general idea whether they are pleased. I wait a few hours and then send them another email. In this second email, I want to tell them two things: (1) if you are not satisfied with how well you were prepared for this first test, here are some concrete ideas to try and (2) you can still do well in this class but you need to start making some improvements. I do not want to leave them feeling lost and hopeless.
I’m not out to punish them.
I’m not out to make them feel guilty.
I just want them to do the work that is necessary to learn the material. And, I don’t want them to lose their confidence because that is the first step in a spiral downwards.
I don’t try to be a cheerleader who just gives them rah rah encouragement. I want them to know that they can still do well and show them the kinds of actions they can take in my class to get the grade they really want.
Here’s the email that I sent out to my Financial Accounting class yesterday.
To: Accounting 201 Students
I am working on your tests this morning. I might have them done by Monday but more than likely it will be Wednesday. They have looked just like every other test I’ve ever given in 201: They range from the brilliant to the not quite so brilliant. On some questions, I am thrilled by your ability to work through a complicated issue. You looked like geniuses. On other questions, I wanted to kick my cat because a simple concept seemed to elude you. But, in the heat of a test, it is easy to have ups and downs.
The primary purpose of a first test is help you gauge how you are doing. If you are satisfied with your grade, then I would keep on keeping on. Don’t get lazy and make any changes.
However, if you are not happy with your first grade, I have one piece of fatherly advice. In most cases, the way to raise a grade is to invest more time. Not more time the night before the test but more time each day. If you are spending 30 minutes a day, maybe you should spend 60 minutes. If you are spending 90 minutes a day, maybe you should spend 150. To quote Miss Piggy of the Muppets: “more is never enough.”
How could you spend more time? Here’s a check list – check off the ones that you are already doing. The ones you are not doing, consider starting. I read an article recently about LeBron James who is usually assumed to be the best basketball player in the world. The article basically talked about how hard he worked to get better. That’s what I want/need from you.
--Did you watch the opening video whenever we started a new chapter? I didn’t always assign the videos but they are always there. They help you know what to watch for in the chapter. They give you an outline structure before you read the first word.
--As you read the chapter, did you stop and do every single “test yourself” problem? That’s a key way to make sure you are catching on to what the reading is saying. And, if you missed the “test yourself” problem, did you keep working on the answer until you understood it? Never walk away without understanding.
--Did you spend some serious time getting ready for each class by working on each new sheet? Students often get good at “kinda knowing” material without ever “really knowing.” That “kinda knowing” often becomes way too obvious on a test.
--If there was a question on the daily assignment sheet that you couldn’t figure out, did you come by during my office hours to chat or send me an email lesson? I talk with a lot of students but clearly not all.
--Have you been gathering for 30 minutes before each class in order to have a serious conversation about the material on the sheets? Have you been using that as a way to prepare or as a way to check your preparation?
--After class (almost immediately after class) did you go back through the material to organize it to make sure you really understood it all? That organization after coverage can be the most important part of learning.
--When I sent out a problem by email, did you work it right then and check your answer?
--When I posted the answers to the end of chapter true-false and multiple-choice questions, did you work them right then and check your answer and not quit until you understood each answer?
--Did you watch the video at the end of the chapter where I list out the 5 most important things in the chapter? It is a great way to review because I am pointing directly at what I thought was important.
--Did you go over last semester’s test until you could work it backwards and forwards and upside down?
I realize that most of you are used to “one-hour” courses – they require about an hour a week in your leisure outside of class and you learn a little that you forget over Christmas. This is not a one-hour course and I don’t expect you to ever forget what you learn. Yes, you may have to party a little less. Yes, you may have less time for television or Facebook. Yes, you may have less time for computer games. Yes, you may have to get up a little earlier to study.
But you CAN do this. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. If you don’t have a check by everything on the above checklist, then there is clearly more that you can do.
The first test is merely 21.7 percent of your grade. Pick the grade you want on the second test RIGHT NOW and promise yourself that you will do whatever it takes to make that grade.
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
Sunday, 23 September 2012
Effectiveness of QE3
While it is a new move for the Fed to develop an open-ended quantitative policy, I am concerned with the actual impact that this round of QE3 could make on the economy. I believe the Fed is taking more risk than the opportunity. When we look at the economy and try to figure out the factor that is holding back consumption and leading high unemployment, it does not appear that more easing would change the situation. Indeed, lower interest rates, cheaper money can promote borrowing, but I don't see how this solves the problem.
Here is an email that I sent out to my students in one of my classes after the third week of the semester. Notice how many things I was trying to accomplish with this one communication. That’s a good test question for you – how many things am I trying to do here?
“To My Students
“Okay, we have finished our first 3 weeks. Our first test is a bit over 2 weeks away (October 1). Not a bad time to stop and evaluate how things are progressing.
“How are you doing? I’m constantly trying to assess how each class is doing. I think about that in general terms – how is the class as a whole doing? I also think about that in individual terms – how are you (yes, you) doing? I only have 23 students in intermediate accounting this semester so I can do some serious thinking about you individually. (A close friend of mine teaches classes of 400-500 at another school – he has no way to keep personal track of each student. I do.)
“In many ways, I’m really interested in how quickly you catch on to what I’m doing so you can get on board with the process. In any intermediate accounting course, I always have a few students who assume it’s still a high school class and treat it that way. I’m glad to say, though, that most of you are beginning to pick up the system. There are many moments when I'm quite pleased with you especially when we get to a point where we start seeing how things in accounting fit together.
“How do I view this class?
--I expect you to prepare very well on a consistent basis. I do my half of the work every day; I expect you to do your half of the work. You have daily questions from me. You have a huge textbook. You have last spring’s test along with answers. You can easily make use of 60-90 minutes between each class. I often say TIME equals POINTS and I believe that is true. The best thing you can do to do better in this class is put in more time. "How can I make use of more time?" is never a bad question to ask yourself. Too many students ask “how quickly can I get finished?”
--Then, you come to class and I throw bizarre questions at you – often different than the ones I have given you to prepare. What I am trying to do is teach you how to take what you’ve prepared and use it (on the spot) to figure out something else. I am teaching you how to answer questions that you haven’t seen before by a quick analysis and a genuine understanding of what’s gone before.
--Then, you go back to the library or your dorm and spend 30-40 minutes assimilating what you’ve learned so that you can use it in answering future weird questions.
--I think all of that is a skill/talent worth developing. That’s something you can use in the real world regardless of your major.
--The four keys to this process as I see it: (1) preparation and (2) “figure it out” and (3) assimilate for future use and (4) consistency.
“When all of the above goes well, the class should be fun. You should look forward to coming to class and be surprised and disappointed that our 50 minutes together has flown by. I know things are going well when people tell me ‘I wish all my classes were this interesting.’
“How do some students seem to view this class?
--These students believe that preparation is a waste of time because the teacher (me) is going to tell them what they need to know in class. Their preparation is, at best, a half-hearted affair.
--In class, they pray they won’t get called on. They write down what anyone and everyone says with the assumption that they’ll memorize it all the night before the test. All real learning is deferred and replaced by a cram system.
--The problem is that when they get to the test and I throw a bizarre question at them, it doesn’t match up with the memorized material in their head and they haven’t determined how to analyze and figure out a reasonable answer.
--This system only works if the teacher is going to ask you to repeat back what you have been told. I won’t do that.
“In addition, that type of class is just flat boring.
“So far, at least in general, I’m not unhappy. Not at all. Oh, I throw out questions occasionally and feel we should get better answers but that always happens. It’s hard to understand gravel or gift cards until you’ve worked through it for a while. Or, I ask something directly from a previous class and get a “deer in the headlights look” that says “I haven’t thought about this one second since we last discussed it.” But, you are getting better each day and I’m not looking for perfection. We've made 3 weeks of progress in 3 weeks.
"That’s sufficient for me.
“I’m just looking for preparation and the willingness to try to figure things out. (A genuine curiosity is a big help in my class and in life.)
“Come see me if you need help.
“And, remember, a good grade on the first test is nice but it isn’t a guarantee of great things to come. And, a bad grade on the first test is not the end of the world. It’s just a first test, a way to gauge how you are doing in this somewhat unusual class.
“If nothing else, enjoy the process.”
Saturday, 22 September 2012
Friday, 21 September 2012
Has any of your friends got a new iphone 5? Does s/he use maps on the cell phones a lot? If so, you must be hearing them complaining all days about their new babies, more specifically, about the map app.
It seems that Apple's decision to replace Google Maps by its own product has now come to such an embarassment so quickly. The two Silicon Valley giants were once good alliances until Apple realized Google's android phone as a dangerous rival for iphone. From then, Apple started to cut down or even cut off their dependence on Google. Apple tried to find the alternatives for each popular Google apps in their iTunes store. They no longer see each other as a partner.
But now the feedbacks from thousands of consumers proved Apple's failure. It's just too anxious to escape from Google's control. Almost all new iphone users find the new map system as a joke because mislabeled landmarks, missing roads and streets and misplacement of lots of famous constructions. In a word, it would never bring you to the right place. And this is not only in America, consumers in Japanese and Hong Kong find these problems as well, along with language problems since some locations in Japan are only described in Korean.
Although Apple is responding actively and promise to improve maps as soon as possible, most of the consumers still begin to demand adding back of Google Map. Perhaps the new map system is not a bad trial , but Apple should be more patient, patient enough until all its tuition fee has been paid. Google has developed its map system for almost 10 years. No one is expecting Apple to build another Rome in one day.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
The fires of a long-standing territorial dispute between Japan and China have been rekindling as multiple anti-Japanese protests have taken place recently in China. The territory under question is a few small uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. China claims long-standing historical ties to the territory. However, Japan held jurisdiction over the islands starting in 1895 and lasted until 1945 when the United States took occupation of the islands. The United States gave the islands back to Japan in 1972. China has never been accepting of this Japanese control and still claims the islands. Just this past month, the Japanese government decided to purchase the islands from the private Japanese citizens who owned them. This purchase has been the direct cause of the recent anti-Japanese protests in China.
As of the writing of this article, the protests have begun to die down. Protesters were seen destroying Japanese goods, cars, and even demanding economic sanctions on Japan. Besides the territory in question, the protests seem to have some clear political causes as well. There is a leadership transition underway in China and no leader wants to appear submissive to Japan.
There has been a near media frenzy in covering this story. Authors from the New York Times to The Economist have belabored how important it is that China and Japan continue to trade, and the drastic consequences that would result if these countries came to war. However, despite the media attention for the protests, there are no signs that these protests will lead to any major consequences. The islands in question are described as natural gas rich, but the resources in question certainly are not enough to make a difference for China. More importantly, the Chinese government has more than enough problems at home to keep it occupied. Why would it need to acquire a few islands?
While anti-Japanese protests in China might seem to have the potential for dire consequences, it is important to look at the situation in practical terms. These protests have a political flavor, but are very unlikely to gain traction. The potential for war and economic sanctions from these protests seems almost nonexistent.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
|The New PS3 (Photo Credit: Sony)|
Will this redesign save Sony's lagging entertainment division? While sales of the PS3 remain steady, they are nowhere near the level of its predecessor, the Playstation 2. The slimming down of the PS3 will be a good thing for Sony and for consumers in general; however, it displays a glaring problem in Sony's corporate business model at large. For several years, the PS3 was sold at a loss with the hopes of eventually trimming it down to turn a profit. Only "eventually" happened three years later. When looking at the corporation overall, Sony has had its largest consecutive losses in the last four years, and with each one, corporate cutbacks are promised. Management has cut over 30,000 jobs and shuttered 11 factories in the past 5 years, hoping to reduce costs to make an operating profit. Yet Sony still lags behind its competitors in practically all of the fields it once dominated: laptops and music players to Apple, phones to both Apple and Samsung, and TVs to Samsung and LG, among many others. Ultimately, the problem with Sony is believing that its core business model will work given enough time. This has led to a lack of innovation with Sony simply waiting it out until their production processes gradually become cheaper. But underneath Sony's fat are just skin and bone, no muscle to support the frame.
Sunday, 16 September 2012
Saturday, 15 September 2012
Thursday, 13 September 2012
Yet, since Beijing has been authorized to host the 29th Olympic games, its average increase in GDP from 2002 to 2007 is 12.1% and according to statistical research, the Olympic game accounts for 1% increase each year. Beijing pays for its long-term impact: it invests 370 billion dollars, which is more than other industrialized countries such as America and Australia’s expenses. Unlike London, a country with a rooted image of well development and prosperity, China has been consistently finding opportunities to open its door of both trade and culture to the world since it joined the WTO in 2001. The Olympics stimulates the world’s interest in China, which is a new land with potential resources to invest and explore as it presents itself during the Olympics. Even though the unemployment rate in London drops greatly in short-term, the economy boost in London can hardly last as long as that in China for its saturated tourism market.
Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Written by: Ritika Gawande
Photo credit: http://www.darkgovernment.com/
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
- Vivek Shah