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Posts Tagged ‘Learning’

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Bill Gates, Father of three adorable children shares his love of books. Reading is crucial and the backbone to everything we do in life….here are some of his favorites.

 

~My Favorite Books~
By Bill Gates

 
Never before have I felt so empowered to learn as I do today. When I was young, there were few options to learn on my own. My parents had a set of World Book Encyclopedias, which I read through in alphabetical order. But there were no online courses, video lectures, or podcasts to introduce me to new ideas and thinkers as we have today.
Still, reading books is my favorite way to learn about a new topic. I’ve been reading about a book a week on average since I was a kid. Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading.

 
If you’re looking for a book to enjoy, here are some of my favorites from this year. They cover an eclectic mix of topics—from tennis to tennis shoes, genomics to great leadership. They’re all very well written, and they all dropped me down a rabbit hole of unexpected insights and pleasures.

 

 

String Theory, by David Foster Wallace. This book has nothing to do with physics, but its title will make you look super smart if you’re reading it on a train or plane. String Theory is a collection of five of Wallace’s best essays on tennis, a sport I gave up in my Microsoft days and am once again pursuing with a passion. You don’t have to play or even watch tennis to love this book. The late author wielded a pen as skillfully as Roger Federer wields a tennis racket. Here, as in his other brilliant works, Wallace found mind-blowing ways of bending language like a metal spoon.

 
Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. This memoir, by the co-founder of Nike, is a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like: messy, precarious, and riddled with mistakes. I’ve met Knight a few times over the years. He’s super nice, but he’s also quiet and difficult to get to know. Here Knight opens up in a way few CEOs are willing to do. I don’t think Knight sets out to teach the reader anything. Instead, he accomplishes something better. He tells his story as honestly as he can. It’s an amazing tale.

 
The Gene, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Doctors are deemed a “triple threat” when they take care of patients, teach medical students, and conduct research. Mukherjee, who does all of these things at Columbia University, is a “quadruple threat,” because he’s also a Pulitzer Prize– winning author. In his latest book, Mukherjee guides us through the past, present, and future of genome science, with a special focus on huge ethical questions that the latest and greatest genome technologies provoke. Mukherjee wrote this book for a lay audience, because he knows that the new genome technologies are at the cusp of affecting us all in profound ways.

 
The Myth of the Strong Leader, by Archie Brown. This year’s fierce election battle prompted me to pick up this 2014 book, by an Oxford University scholar who has studied political leadership—good, bad, and ugly—for more than 50 years. Brown shows that the leaders who make the biggest contributions to history and humanity generally are not the ones we perceive to be “strong leaders.” Instead, they tend to be the ones who collaborate, delegate, and negotiate—and recognize that no one person can or should have all the answers. Brown could not have predicted how resonant his book would become in 2016.

 
Honorable mention: The Grid, by Gretchen Bakke. This book, about our aging electrical grid, fits in one of my favorite genres: “Books About Mundane Stuff That Are Actually Fascinating.” Part of the reason I find this topic fascinating is because my first job, in high school, was writing software for the entity that controls the power grid in the Northwest. But even if you have never given a moment’s thought to how electricity reaches your outlets, I think this book would convince you that the electrical grid is one of the greatest engineering wonders of the modern world. I think you would also come to see why modernizing the grid is so complex and so critical for building our clean-energy future.

 

university speakrers

gazette-logoHand-raising is a quick, cost-effective, time-tested technique for gauging student knowledge and progress, but it may not give an accurate picture of students’ grasp of a subject. A new Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) faculty working paper co-authored by Senior Lecturer Dan Levy, doctoral student Joshua Yardley and Professor Richard Zeckhauser examines the biases and challenges that result from hand-raising and the potential solutions offered by the use of “clickers” in the classroom.

“Since student satisfaction often correlates imperfectly with student learning, it is important to explore the ways in which clickers may impact learning specifically, in addition to the positive reviews they are getting from users,” the authors explain in the paper’s introduction.

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Richard Zeckhauser, Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy (L) and Dan Levy, Senior Lecturer (R) Clickers, the researchers argue, may be beneficial in allowing students to complete the learning process (thinking through their own independent responses to a question) and thus giving teachers a clearer picture of their students’ learning

 

The paper examines the possible benefits of clickers, chief among them anonymity – eliminating the usual “herding” behavior that can result when students are asked to raise their hands. Using a clicker, students are denied the opportunity to mimic other students, and are freed from the embarrassment or peer pressures that would promote certain choices. They can only choose independently.

The researchers conducted experiments in 22 different university classrooms, working with more than 1100 total respondents. Each classroom was divided into two groups: one with hand raising and the other with clickers. The response results differed significantly between the two groups. The hand-raising results were generally more clustered, consistent with the researchers’ theories on herding behavior.

“Those providing erroneous answers love company,” the authors note. But students may also “cluster” toward the responses of their classmates who are known to be knowledgeable about a topic, even if those answers are in the minority. For certain types of questions, the authors found that “clustering with others may also be helpful when there is no single right answer.”

While herding does sometimes push more students toward the correct answer to a question, the students may simply be following the crowd instead of arriving at the correct answer on their own. Clickers, the researchers argue, may be beneficial in allowing students to complete the learning process (thinking through their own independent responses to a question) and thus giving teachers a clearer picture of their students’ learning. Clickers also enable students to comfortably express minority or unpopular political views.

Besides allowing students to engage with questions on their own, clicked responses “can be an important source of feedback for teachers,” the authors explain. Yardley adds, “Clicker data that more accurately reflect student knowledge can help teachers make better informed real-time decisions regarding pacing and focus.” For example, Yardley says, “If clicker data suggest that students understand a particular concept, the teacher moves on, whereas if the data reveal student confusion, the teacher may decide to stay with the topic longer.”

“It seems likely that clicker responses give the teacher a better picture of where the students actually are in understanding a given concept or question,” the authors conclude. The study provides compelling evidence that hand-raising and clicker responses differ significantly from one another, and raises interesting questions about the potential use of both techniques in classrooms of the future.

Dan Levy is senior lecturer in public policy and Faculty Chair of the Kennedy School’s SLATE (Strengthening Learning and Teaching Excellence) Initiative. He teaches courses in quantitative methods and program evaluation. He recently directed impact evaluations of girl-friendly school construction programs in Burkina Faso and Niger.

Joshua Yardley is a Ph.D. candidate in Public Policy at Harvard University, with a focus on research in development economics and education.

Richard Zeckhauser is the Frank P. Ramsey Professor of Political Economy at Harvard Kennedy School. His contributions to decision theory and behavioral economics include the concepts of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), status quo bias, betrayal aversion, and ignorance (states of the world unknown) as a complement to the categories of risk and uncertainty. Many of his policy investigations explore ways to promote the health of human beings, to help markets work more effectively, and to foster informed and appropriate choices by individuals and government agencies.

 

Written By Katie Gibson