All posts by lenerakezlevli

Handwriting in the XXI century

If someone asks you to note something, do you reach out to a pencil and a paper, type it on your laptop or cellphone, or audio-record it and later use a special software to decode it?

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/needs-handwriting-rebroadcast/

 
The 49th episode of the 6th season on Freakonomics features the topic of handwriting and its place in the modern world. A guest speaker Anne Trubek, a former college instructor and the author of a book about handwriting in present days, strongly argues that teaching penmanship is a waste of time and is detrimental to children’s both cognitive and physical development. On the contrary, researchers from Princeton University debunk Trubek’s argument by presenting study-experiment results of the effectiveness of note taking using laptop or a piece of paper. Lastly, listeners are acquainted with a young entrepreneur who owns a pencil shop where ordinary, unique, vintage pencils and accessories are traded.
Mrs. Trubek is firm in her stance declaring that handwriting is useless skill in the XXI century when technology is rapidly intervening in all spheres of our lives. Observing her son during his struggle to learn handwriting encouraged her to write an article and a book about uselessness of the skill. She argues that currently schools put too much emphasis on teaching how to write and ignore the value of words and ideas in writing. Trubek also talks about history specifying that penmanship has been used for only about 110 years and it isn’t something innate in our culture. Moreover, she rejects the studies that prove benefits of writing by hand saying they are funded by interested groups. For me, reasons and evidence Trubek provides are not convincing because, firstly, she gives an example of only her child and doesn’t provide other evidence; secondly, she is suspicious about results of the studies by prominent researchers but doesn’t take into account that use of technology could also be promoted by big tech corporations such as Microsoft or Apple.
A research conducted at Princeton University proved positive effect of handwriting for students’ cognitive development and learning. The study involved two groups of students: those, who use laptops for notetaking and those, who use handwriting. After a sequence of lectures, students who took notes by hand reported better absorption of the material and remembered info for a longer period. One of the explanations to that could that while handwriting, before you jot something you need to decide what to write and what to omit because you don’t have a luxury of writing every word. Thus, you process the information and note only the most important facts and you remember it better. Whereas students with laptops typed verbatim notes without much concentration on the content. Consequently, both straight after the lecture and after some time had passed conventional note-takers showed better results. Personally, traditional method of writing appeals to me more too. When writing by hand, I feel stronger connection with my mind and I’m generally more productive.
In the end, host of the show introduced the owner of a one-of-a-kind pencil shop where anyone can purchase a pencil(s) of his/her dreams. Even though there is widely-spread view that pencils are not popular anymore, revenues of this humble shop prove opposite. This may indicate that old writing methods are still prevalent and likely to persist despite of opposition.

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The research author I aspire to become alike to

Once you have outstepped the threshold of academic world, you ought to adhere to certain guidelines and even adjust some of your habits. If prior to becoming affiliated with academic world you are free to choose what to write or read, after entering scholarly society you do not have this luxury. The longer you study, the deeper you delve into the ocean of scientific knowledge. Consequently, you start to have certain preferences or disfavors. The scholar I personally respect and admire for his scholarly approach, uncomplicated manner of writing and deep knowledge of the context is

Peeter Mehisto.                                       Peeter - CLILpalace11-2008

Photo credit to http://clil-cd.ecml.at/Team/Teammember3/tabid/940/language/en-GB/Default.aspx

Prominent in the sphere of education as an author of books and articles, a trainer of teachers and administrators involved in the implementation of CLIL and an educator Peeter Mehisto gained recognition across continents. His vast experience in education first as a practitioner and later as a researcher enabled him to become an accomplished writer. Peeter Mehisto’s works possess certain distinctive features one of which is simple yet academic style of writing. His sentences lack complex structures or complicated words, though they still are not simple. While reading his papers you do not need to stop every now and then to check the meaning of words. Your reading goes smoothly and uninterruptedly. In my opinion, he manages to do that because he precisely knows the audience he writes for. Another characteristic of Peeter Mehisto’s writing is strong understanding of the context he writes about. Judging by his papers on a number of issues in Kazakhstan, it is evident that he navigates very confidently in the local context. Thus, he accomplishes to write thorough works as if he is an insider who knows all the peculiarities and addresses them meticulously in his writing.

What is the key of writing scholarly works in an uncomplicated manner? Firstly, I believe, is rich experience in the field you are writing about. Secondly, is clear vision of the audience you are aiming your paper at. Thirdly, is broad knowledge of the context and the problem you are discussing. Peeter Mehisto’s writing is a great example which incorporates all this features and serves as a model to follow.

How School Makes Kids Less Intelligent

Deconstruction post of the TEDx video by Eddy Zhong https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Yt6raj-S1M

Recently there have been many talks about the harming effect of contemporary schools on child development. The author of the above-mentioned video Eddy Zhong makes a very bold statement claiming that nowadays schools have an adverse effect on child development and actually make them less intelligent. Definitely, the current education system needs improvements in a number of aspects; however, I would not completely agree with the Zhong’s claim.
Eddy Zhong is a successful technology entrepreneur who found his own company Blanc which produces smart watches when he was a teenager. Also, established a summer camp Leangap where high school students can get professional support on how to open own company.
His main claim is that schools with their programs and certain requirements for all children deprive them of the opportunity to express themselves and kill creativity in them. Schools “preach” that there is only one path to success and it is completing school with good grades, graduating from a college or a university and getting a job somewhere in a bank. Zhong condemns this “ideology” and calls for a different way of thinking in youth.
The speaker supports his claim by narrating about his own life from being a typical kid who didn’t know what to do with his life and entirely relied upon his parents’ advice to becoming an establisher of a company. From the age of 14, he with his friends started to participate in business plan competitions the majority of which they won. He became very passionate about them and understood that he was really enjoying creating things. One distinctive feature of his team was that instead of presenting their business ideas in a primitive power point, they went to stores, bought supplies and built prototypes. During one of those competitions, they were offered to turn those prototypes into real products. Zhong also tells about a curious instance when they presented their idea at their school. While secondary school students accepted their presentation with complete indifference, primary school students became extremely curious and started to ask how they could buy it. Zhong was astonished by how these 5-6-year-old were so interested and full of curiosity, however, those who are 5-6 years older ones had no interest whatsoever. The author believes that school is to blame for this indifference.
Zhong concludes that education system should be tailored in a way to encourage students to be more creative and think out of the box. Students should not be confined to limits but be allowed to express their craziest ideas. Personally, I agree with the author, however, when making this type of claims, people should offer concrete steps on how to reach desired education system. Moreover, I believe the author should have chosen a different title for his speech because intelligence and creativity are different terms.

Ad nauseam citation: deficiency of contemporary academia

Citation. You always hear this world if you are in academia. Citation became an accompanying sign of a quality and trustworthy paper. The vaster your reference list is, the more valuable your piece of writing is, apparently. Some researchers abuse the right to cite other authors and, thus, produce papers the benefit of which could be questioned. Personally, I find articles with 4-6 citations in one paragraph less credible and devoid of the author’s voice. Overuse of citations could harm development of young researcher’s skills and tell about author’s inability to comprehend the paper thoroughly.

Contemporary researchers fear that overuse of citations may lead to “erosion of scholarly rigor” (Pierce, 2010, para. 3). One of the reasons to that is superficial attitude of some researchers who do not study papers in-depth. It prevents researchers from applying their critical and analytical skills and producing a worthwhile work. Ideally, if someone cites one work that automatically means he/she has read that work meticulously paying close attention to the main arguments. Thus, citing someone entails certain responsibilities. Useful tip to overcome this challenge would be to dedicate sufficient amount of time and do the work qualitatively.

Works saturated with citations could be a signal that writer is incapable of adding his new personal idea or opinion. Yes, sometimes other works can serve as a base for new opinions to emerge. That is totally fine. But we need to evaluate the article first and ensure that the paper is reliable and fundamental. Incorporation of one’s opinion in his/her work might at first be challenging, but practice is the best assistant in this laborious task.

Pierce (2010) discloses a curious statistics that “random samples of research articles published in the American Journal of Physiology reveal that the number of papers per bibliography averaged approximately 29 in 1989, 37 in 1999, and 42 in 2009” (para. 3). In your opinion, what are the reasons behind that tendency of ample use of citation?

Nowadays there are some journals which limit the number of sources one used in his/her paper. I partially support this policy and believe people must be more accountable for the sources they claim to have used to produce the paper. Do you agree with this policy? How can we enhance the quality of the papers while using less or more citation?

Reference

Pearce, W. (August 1, 2010).  Citations: Too Many, or Not Enough? TheScientist.

Retrieved from http://www.the-scientist.com/?          articles.view/articleNo/29170/title/Citations–Too-Many–or-Not-Enough-/

C-R-E-A-T-I-V-I-T-Y in education: is there a place for it?

brain
Photo credit to https://www.google.kz/search?q=creativity+in+education&rlz=1C1BLWB_enKZ681KZ681&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=589&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwidkaaK1bPSAhWGliwKHXiNDToQ_AUIBigB#imgrc=OEQq0NZMnCZZ_M:

 

Leaders are perceived as people with exceptional abilities which are impossible to be gained. Some even may use this notion to explain the limited number of leaders in the world. However, a number of researchers and writers (Adler, 2009; Davis, 1983; Harding, 2009) debunk this theory stating that all the qualities required for becoming a great leader are inherent in each of us. Our job is only to “wake-up” and evolve these qualities to a master level.

Paramount quality which serves as a “moving engine” for leadership is creativity. Harding (2010) postulates that creativity is “that force in each of us that begins with a yearning to answer an unanswered (or ill-answered) question by imagining more than one answer” (p. 51). He implies that change and creativity are interlinked and are the products of imagination. Thus, in order to answer that question people need to train their minds to think creatively. How? Interestingly, there is even a book with exercises for enhancing the power of one’s imagination called Creativity is Forever by Gary Davis. Namely, he teaches how to acquire certain habits to “look at, listen to, and contemplate all sorts all stimuli through a new sensory lens, imagining new ways to observe and observing new ways to imagine” (Harding, 2010, p.52). Hence, developing creative thinking is a laborious process outcomes of which may transform one’s mind cardinally.

Teaching to think creatively is not more important than giving space to implement these creative thoughts. Students have to be confident about the possibility to nurture their creative thoughts into ideas. Transforming thought into ideas consequently leads to creative action. In order to realize their ideas students could be provided specific tasks —learn the ways of communication with others or reveling their creative ideas to others using means technology (Harding, 2010). Another method would be creating special courses for creative thinking and acting which do not follow conventional teaching method.

All in all, creative thinking and acting are part and parcel of leadership the vitality of which is undermined today. Developing the former ones can make the latter more effective. However, these skills should be carefully cultivated and tested in practice.

Do you believe there is a place for creative thinking and acting in our education? How could we possibly integrate it into our education?

References

Adler, H. (2009, September). Attributes of great leaders. Leadership Excellence, 26(9), p.18.

Davis, G. (1983). Creativity is Forever. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.

Harding, T. (2010). Fostering creativity for leadership and leading change. Arts Education Policy

                             Review, 111(2), p. 51-53.

A professor = a good teacher. Or not?

One of the students of Nazarbayev University GSE and my former colleague once told me, “Do not expect NU professors to have the qualities of a good teacher and facilitate your learning. Just try to get the maximum from what they know.”

Life of each person is inevitably connected with a teacher. First teacher could be a mother or a father who teaches his/her child the basic skills essential for living. However later on a young person usually begins his/her journey of becoming literate and educated. The guide he encounters on this road has a profound effect determining whether the journey would be successful or not. Teacher has the authority to show his student magnificent buildings, gorgeous gardens and orchards, and thought-provoking events or only walk him through the streets with the most primitive buildings, lawns with widespread flowers and trivial events. Thus, a teacher has to strive for equipping his/her students with the most beneficial experiences and exposing the brightest sites of the road. Knowledge of the subject is not enough; a teacher has to be able to masterfully convey the knowledge he/she possess to others. I believe there are certain qualities a teacher should possess to be “a good guide”.

Professional, communicative, compassionate, caring, attentive, curious, modern, organized, open-minded, passionate and patient — all these adjectives should be attributed to a teacher. This portrait of a teacher formed during my primary school years by my first teacher — Rimma Aleksandrovna. Rimma Aleksandrovna is an exemplary educator and a model to follow. She always tried to ensure that everyone received enough attention and did not have any disturbing questions. Her passion to innovate the teaching process and make the classroom a comfortable zone for learning always amazed me. She put tremendous efforts in her work and it always paid off: her students performed better, won contests and were known as very disciplined ones.  However, not all teachers were like Rimma Aleksandrovna.

During my years at the university I was disappointed to encounter teachers who did not fit my vision of a teacher. Unlike my first teacher, university professors had a completely different approach to teaching. Of course some may argue that primary school and university cannot be compared, however, I strongly believe that there are certain features of a teacher which are universal. For instance, the ability to clearly communicate his/her knowledge to students is of paramount importance. What is a need for a teacher if he/she is not able to facilitate learning and share his/her knowledge?! What is the use of an instructor if he/she is a prominent researcher but a poor teacher?! I can compare this to a doctor who has necessary knowledge to perform a surgery but cannot do it because does not know how to operate with the instruments.

Personally, I learn better when a teacher is capable of creating suitable conditions. How about you? Do you believe that all teachers have to know how to convey their message or deep knowledge of a subject is enough to be a good teacher?

How much is enough?

proofreading-6
Photo credit to kater-alessandro.tk

Writing is a skill you need to constantly practice if you want your pen be sharp and strong. It requires diligent and permanent crafting and polishing of your piece of writing up to the point you are confident in every comma and every letter. Ideally. However, not always we have resources to produce an impeccable work. My experience, though, implies that creating a masterpiece is nothing but an onerous task. Deciding on the topic, creating an outline, writing the first draft, the second draft, the third draft…

During my study at the Pierce College, Washington State, US, I took several courses in academic and creative writing. Consequently, I had to put language down on paper extensively. At first, I did not perceive this task as something challenging; however, after the first assignment I understood that is not going to be a piece of cake at all. The reason is that I rewrote and edited my essays up to seven times. That is because I had very demanding host mom, Auntie Mariym, who wanted me to produce an impeccable work and, therefore, made me work arduously. Frankly, while writing my first work, I burst into tears after the third editing because I thought “Am I so hopeless that I can’t write an essay after three attempts?” However, my wise host mom rushed to calm me and said that it is completely normal to go through this long process. The first time we would sit and brainstorm ideas. Later, she would ask me to jot down the main points I want to discuss. Coming after would be playing with the organization and structure of the essay. The next step would be to expand these ideas and write some examples. Next, we would correct mechanics and think about vocabulary. After that, we would pay special attention to the punctuation. The concluding stroke would be creating a title that would grab reader’s attention and make him/her want to read more. The most important fact is that she rarely corrected the mistake immediately, instead, she usually made me think why that is a mistake and how I can fix it. That is how a typical writing process looked like during my year in the US.

This experience changed my view on writing essays which previously “allowed” only one
“chernovik” (a rough draft). Understanding that a good piece of writing takes time and effort, and editing for several times is absolutely OK gave me more freedom and ameliorated stress.

How much do YOU edit? Have you had an experience which changed your view on writing?

Are we really ready to be independent?

Lately, Kazakhstani government has been  adamant to grant universities more independence and autonomy. This reform, as they think, will boost higher education institutes’ (hereafter HEIs) performance and increase their competitiveness on the world arena. However, in this maelstrom of reforms in higher education sphere have they pondered of the universities’ readiness to accept this responsibility? Have they thought how to amend the reform so it fits the local realities?  Well, I am a bit skeptical about it. The evidence at hand witnesses that universities are not ready to cope with this challenge. Professionally. Mentally. The long existent custom of being dependent on someone in Moscow and insufficient knowledge of the reform pose the main obstacles to the successful implementation of the reform.

After a quarter of a century of independence Kazakhstani HEIs still heavily rely on the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) and have only relative freedom of actions. This legacy of the Soviet Union became so deeply entrenched in the minds of people that they see any new form of GOVERNANCE as harmful and deficient. According to the data Sagintayeva and Kurakbayev (2015) reveal, people are reluctant to take the responsibility because they are afraid of it. Basically, they are so used to just fulfilling the assignments “from above” that they do not know how to deal with this new system. Additionally, there is a number of issues which arise from the incompetence HEIs staff.

Certain people believe that autonomy means greater accountability to the MoES. Thus, HEIs staff views autonomy as something that will complicate their laborious work. This brings up a crucial point of building trust between a university and MoES. The authorities should allow HEIs some freedom and treat them not with constant suspicion, but with respect and trust. Another problem, which is the product of ignorance, is people’s misbelief that rectors will have an absolute power and, therefore, run universities as their own businesses (Sagintayeva & Kurakbayev, 2015). To put it simply, people assume that rectors will have the right to hire or fire anyone they want, impose his own rules and etc. In reality, university autonomy implies that board of trustees and academic staff make this sort of decisions.

The HEIs reform brought up a number of issues which have been in shadow for the 25 years of independence. These issues, if not addressed, threaten the achievement of the reform goals. I believe we should thoroughly contemplate all the steps and introduce the changes one-by-one. Otherwise, we risk ending up with an ugly parody of an effective governance system.

How do you see the implementation of the university autonomy reform? Do you think it is a viable one in Kazakhstan?

Sagintayeva, A. & Kurakbayev, K. (2015). Understanding the transition of public universities to institutional autonomy in Kazakhstan. European Journal of Higher Education, 5 (2), 197-210.

A recipe of a good “Kazakhstani board of trustees”

Kazakhstani government’s desire to upgrade its educational system caused entrance to the Bologna Process and adoption of its main requirements. One of the conditions is autonomy of the higher education institutes where boards of trustees perform management. Even though currently 45 % of universities report having boards of trustees (SPED, 2010), the question of their effectiveness causes concerns. There is scarce data on the results of their work which leads me to an assumption that local universities are not familiar with this system. With the aim to identify the main characteristics of an effective board of trustees I conducted a research and came up with a list of recommendations.

Chait, Holland, and Taylor (1993) elaborate on the traits an effective board of trustees should possess. In particular, efficient boards of trustees have to always consider the mission, traditions and values of the university. Additionally, as the authors claim, boards of trustees have to find opportunities for training of the members, and regularly make analysis of their work. The points authors make are fundamental because every university has to adhere to its mission and preserve its values and traditions in order to be a respected and trustworthy higher education institute. Moreover, adherence to the university mission would enable board of trustees to adopt the decisions which would best meet the university necessities.

Considering local peculiarities, Bilyalov (2016) suggests that to avoid formation of fractions the number of board of trustees’ members should not exceed 10 people. This is crucial in order to ensure transparent decision-making process and eliminate any possibility of collusion. Moreover, board of trustees should be provided with methodology and supervision from experts from the beginning of their practice. They have to get constant support and guidance from more experienced people and thoroughly analyze the finest practices of other established universities. Because board of trustees monitors all spheres of university life, it is highly recommended that members do not donate their own money (Bilyalov, 2016). This is another site we should not neglect because some may see membership in a board of trustees as a source of revenue. Thus, all recommendations mentioned above should be taken and put into practice.

All in all, successful transition to autonomy of the university is impossible without an efficient board of trustees. Considering local realities, we should ensure that boards of trustees are equipped with necessary knowledge and supervision. Even if we do not reach the goal of having boards of trustees in 90% of universities by 2020, the biggest achievement would be establishing a narrow but solid network of efficient boards of trustees in Kazakhstan.

This is my humble opinion, but what do you think about effectiveness and necessity of boards of trustees?

Reference

Bilyalov, D. (2014). The bodies of corporate management of universities: The recommendations are based on the American experience. Bulletin of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic Kazakhstan, 2, 144-149.

Chait, R., Holland, T., & Taylor, B. (1993). The effective board of trustees. Phoenix, Arizona: Oryx Press.

MoES. State Program of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011- 2020, Astana, 2010. Retrieved from http://edu.gov.trio.kz/sites/default/files/program_2020_english.doc