Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stats for Dummies (e.g., me)

It's been a while (obviously) since I last blogged, but I think it's time to do as I will soon instruct my students: write everyday, even if only for the sake of writing....

I am a teacher of English.

I desire to state it clearly and succinctly because the subject of this blog represents an attack on my ordinarily singular pedagogical sensibilities.

You see, as part of my Master's work through the University of Florida, I am taking EDG 6931: Research for Educational Technologists. One would tend to think such a class might have to do with, oh, doing some research. Perhaps research for Educational Technologists.


Simply put, it's a math class (statistics, to be specific). Now, I can appreciate the subtle nuances of language, can spin yarns detailing basically any writer's methodology and its effects on his work, can even write fairly fluid prose myself (read: I am capable of being a B.S. artist when the situation presents itself). But whoever concocted such an obvious bait-and-switch with this one should be given her due. Research for Educational Technologists = Statistics? Only a veritable compendium of rhetorical knowledge would be able to produce such a fallacious title. Or maybe they are just like me (when the situation presents itself): B.S. artists.

Nevertheless, I am compelled to take it. This is probably the class I have been least looking forward to (heavy litotes here), but alas we educators are working in an increasingly data-driven world, so it behooves me to know how to collect data and if ever I suspect someone of -- as one butcherer of the English language said -- propagating "fuzzy numbers," then I should be able to prove such a case.

Still, I haven't had a math class in nine years. The students I have now were in elementary school then. Playing with Power Rangers.

We'll see how this one goes. I hope by writing thoughts on here as I go, I will better learn as I hoist myself up the mountain of statistical knowledge. I figure if I have my students reflect on their learnings, then I had better be a decent model for them to do so.

This teacher of English is about to become a learner of math.



Jo Electro (E.M.P) said...

Ricky Wells, this is the exact reason why you were (and still are) my favorite teacher I ever had the pleasure of ACTUALLY teaching me something. I can honestly say I could cry right now for not being in school because you are not teaching me the beauty of words and math (lol) I must visit you soon, and we will talk about the stupidity in being intelligent.

Love always, the ex student you hate to love.

S.M. Torres said...

If you honestly consider the title, "Research for Educational Technologists" does seem to imply statistical features, considering technology has to do mainly with numbers (excluding primitive technology of course) and in order for such technology to be educational, one must research the data to learn about them.

Nonetheless, it is a bit deceiving.

And I played with paper fortune tellers and "Chinese" jump ropes when I was nine. Power Rangers were SO six-year-old territory.

Have a good night!

Richard Wells said...

Suggesting that technology has to do "mainly with numbers" is a bit of a narrow view. You could reasonably assert that without the all-too-familiar binary code, there would likely be no computer-based technology.

But consider that technology simply means tools created in order to complete a specific task, or to make a specific task easier to perform. To that extent, a pencil is educational technology. No numbers here, other than those created by the owner/user of the pencil by way of the pencil.

Taking a larger view of the subject, one could (reasonably) assert that everything is numbers. The number of letters and words, for instance, that I decide necessary to prove you wrong. The number of cells in the body of the writer who is proving you wrong. The number of hairs on the head of the man who snapped the last keys on the keyboard in place to enable the writer to type the letters and words to prove you wrong.

Don't even get me started on the number of numbers found in religions and rituals and rites of passage.

But everything is not numbers, nor is any one thing divested of any necessary component save for numbers. Even math relies upon words and thought and - perhaps more transcendentally - human spirit and soul to make sense of the numbers created by people to make sense of the world.

So, no, educational technology is not mainly numbers any more than you, or I, or anyone who has ever thought or written or spoken in numbers is mainly numbers.