Explaining Postmodernism

3rd April 2020

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

We thought last week was big with 26,000 new Learning How to Learners.  But this week is even bigger—40,852 new fellow students!  Welcome to our vibrant learning community, approaching 3 million total registered students on all platforms. If you are trying to grapple with career change or upskilling, as many are nowadays, check out our sequel course to Learning How to LearnMindshift

Book of the Week

Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Expanded Edition), by Stephen R. C. Hicks.  We read this marvelous book some years back, when it was in its first edition, and are delighted to now see the book is now out with a new, expanded version that is, as we type this, now available on Kindle for free. (The expanded essays include “Free Speech and Postmodernism” and “From Modern to Postmodern Art: Why Art Became Ugly.”  Hicks has a wonderfully readable style that makes complex philosophical ideas more comprehensible to us mere mortal, non-philosopher types.  

True story: Barb was talking to a fellow colloquium attendee who seemed keenly aware of philosophy. She mentioned she only really felt she understood and enjoyed one book about philosophy, but for once she couldn’t remember the title or author. She dutifully reported back after a break to visit her hotel room that the book was Explaining Postmodernism, by Stephen Hicks.  “Oh,” said Barb’s conversant. “That’s nice to hear, because I’m Stephen Hicks.”

Think K-12 Is Going Online? Think Again

One very-well situated professor of education tells us that many K-12 schools, at least in the US, have not stepped up to the shift to online—instead, they’re just bidding the rest of this school year goodbye, hoping that matters can go back to business-as-usual in the fall. (Sometimes public schools are using the excuse that because all students can’t be taught, no students should be taught—which, of course, simply further benefits the elites who are sending their children to on-the-ball private schools.)  What’s particularly disappointing is that the middle and high schools that have the technology—meaning the students each have been given devices—are ignoring the need to create engaging materials. Throwing a few documents online and turning students loose on them is not creating engaging materials. And creating engaging materials doesn’t mean just getting the students to interact with one another.  Creating engaging materials means creating engaging materials, especially videos, which is what students love and learn well from.  As this article observes: “COVID-19 will bring about an education reevaluation, if not revolution.” 

Preparing for a Fall Without In-Person Classes

This perhaps eerily prescient article in Inside Higher Ed speaks of universities that are wisely preparing for the possibility of a virtual Fall semester.  In our opinion, all universities and K-12 schools should be doing the same. This is a time to step back and look more meaningfully at how to create good online coursework, rather than simply throw together remote instruction.  

Online Learning—Webinar and Beta Review Opportunity

Incidentally, Barb is working on a book to be published by Penguin-Random House on effective teaching based on practical insights from neuroscience. If you are an experienced professor or teacher and have the time to beta review and constructively critique the chapter on online learning, please email her.  And if your institution would like to invite her to give a webinar on creating truly engaging online materials based on solid research findings, feel free to also reach out.

The EdSurge Podcast Is Inviting You to Share Your Stories 

If you’re teaching a class online for the first time, suddenly taking your courses digital or helping lead an institution through this crisis, EdSurge hopes you’ll share a short one- or two-minute anecdote or observation about how that is going. What has been a moment of surprise or unexpected challenge? Just open the voice memo app on a smartphone, record a short message and email it to jeff@edsurge.com. Please do keep it short. EdSurge will compile some of them for a future episode of their excellent weekly podcast.

MOOC of the Month: Sex from Molecules to Elephants

In a time where it’s difficult to do any travel, you can travel vicariously while learning about sexual reproduction by taking “Sex from Molecules to Elephants.” This MOOC follows the best of good MOOC-making techniques: The instructors tried to avoid talking heads as much as possible—they based the instruction on nature videos that they shot all over the world, including Africa, Yellowstone, Iceland and Israel. Watch the promotional video of this extremely-popular-in-its-home-university course here. “Sex from Molecules to Elephants” is intended as an enrichment course suitable for everybody, with no previous knowledge required. Enjoy!

Remembering the Important Things You Learn

This wonderful video by Will Schoder provides a great reminder and set of new perspectives on key ideas about learning we learned in Learning How to Learn. Will then goes beyond to show how these approaches can help you live a more meaningful and productive life.

Cognitive ability is a whole-brain phenomenon

As described in this recent article, research is revealing that cognitive ability involves much of the brain. As the researchers themselves note: “Firstly, we have demonstrated that the relationship between brain structure and intelligence not only involves grey matter, but also white matter — the brain’s wiring system… Secondly, it’s not just one part of this wiring system that is important for intelligence, but rather the wiring system as a whole…”

Building Your Memory

Four-Time US Memory Champion Nelson Dellis has created a new, updated video on how to calculate any day of the week in history. It’s a fun skill to learn (and not too difficult). And don’t forget Nelson’s great book, Remember It! The Names of People You Meet, All of Your Passwords, Where You Left Your Keys, and Everything Else You Tend to Forget and his upcoming Memory Superpowers! for kids.

Teachers Urge Government To Reopen Schools Before Students Learn To Think For Themselves

Yes, that’s the headline of an article from one of our favorite satire sites, the Babylon Bee. (And of course, we also enjoy the Onion.)

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team

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