Dear @Microsoft, I DON’T want Windows 10, and here’s why

I’ve seen this often enough, but typically once, maybe twice a week. However, this is the third time today I’ve had this pop-up message today. The answer is NO, NO, and NO! Windows 10 is a huge problem for a lot of people.

Microsoft keeps pushing Windows 10 onto consumers.

Microsoft keeps pushing Windows 10 onto consumers.

Firstly is the privacy issue. Windows 10 apparently uploads all your personal data, including passwords, to the Microsoft servers in the US (The Guardian). The issue here is the sovereignty of data. I’m not in the US, I’m not American, I do nothing wrong and no threat to humanity, but yet the NSA collects all my data, and will undoubtedly collect all my computer usage details, including passwords.

Secondly, it’s just too creepy. Not only does MS want to make a mirror copy of my PC onto their servers, and the NSA will be able to look into it. The creepy pop-ups like this is unnerving. I got this Windows 8 tablet before Windows 10 was even announced. Now my W8 is telling me W10 is a thing. This can only happen if MS has been loading onto my current computer their advertising, and they have. Each day, the advertising / prompts are slightly different. Last week they were saying that 100 million computers are now infected with W10. To me MS has entered a slippery slope of advertising. I’m sure soon Operating Systems will start to have advertising on them, much in the same way as you see advertising on your favourite website like Dilbert. I guess it won’t be long until you see unwanted advertising pop-ups interrupting your concentration and your work. Currently, my computer is an advertising free-refuge… well, my Linux Ubuntu is. W8 currently has started to advertise W10, so this ad-free experience is now ruined.

So Microsoft, please stop pushing W10 onto me. The constant interruptions will just make me hate it more, and frankly, it makes you look desperate.

Would you like to form an ELT Listening Group?

I’ve contacted some teacher-researchers here in Japan before about the possibility of forming a teaching-research group on listening. Such a group would probably focus on the how to teach, how and what to research, and the connection of applying the theory to the classroom. If you’re interested, I’ll be at JALT this weekend on Saturday evening. We should meet up and briefly discuss the feasibility, and a possible first symposium to get us started.

Presentation. CC Tobius Toft, 2009.

Presentation. CC Tobius Toft, 2009.

Global Teacher Prize: Congratulations Nancy Atwell

Congratulations to Nancy Atwell for winning the Global Teacher Prize. According to the BBC it’s the education’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize (BBC World Service Podcast, from 17:25 to 21:36mins).  In the BBC interview she talks about her approach to education which includes extensive reading, giving students a choice (including for writing topics and reading books), and banning standardised testing from her classroom. The banning of testing is particularly interesting to me, as she focuses more on the student, more time on student learning, and less time on examinations that do not actually test the subject well. Here is her acceptance speech.

Traditional classrooms are better than online schools

The study reported by the BBC, suggests that students in online schools perform significantly worse than those in traditional brick and mortar schools in the US. Where for instance, not a single online school performed the same or better than a brick and mortar school in maths. It’s hardly surprising to me. It seems these online schools rely on self-paced learning, which may be at the heart of the problem.

Teenager using a computer. GameLab Exhibit. CC Ars Electronica, credit: Florian Voggeneder, 2013.

Teenager using a computer. GameLab Exhibit. CC Ars Electronica, credit: Florian Voggeneder, 2013.

Problems with self-paced learning

This semester I’ve been experimenting with the idea of flipped classrooms (see Edutopia and Wikipedia), where I upload videos relating to course work, students watch these at home, and apply this knowledge to their course task. Consequently, students have more in-class opportunities to discuss and clarify anything they need, ie: individualised learning. However, I what have seen is that most students do not watch the videos at home, only in class (YouTube statistics support this), and so they lose valuable in-class work and Q&A time. Also, they tend to just stare semi-frozen at the screen, even after the video has finished, and still do not work on their project. It would seem that they cannot decide what to do next. Perhaps with self-paced learning, students aren’t trained to figure out for themselves what to do next, and so are paralysed, caught between doing a teacher mandated task, and then deciding how to get to the next part of the project. Or perhaps they are without the cognitive tools to understand how a decontextualised video relates to the project, and how to piece it in.

Example of a flipped classroom video using the current paradigm I’m experimenting with.

Keeping pace

The other issue that I see is that students cannot compare their progress. In a class, you can see that you’re either falling behind, or slow, or doing fine. Also, there is a teacher with a whip reminding students about due dates, and giving advice of not waiting until the night before to do the report, and the like. With online learning, you are separated by distance from other students, and the checking-out-your-neighbour comparisons cannot be discreetly done. Also, the online teacher does not have the feedback that an in-the-same-room teacher would have. The online teacher cannot closely monitor how fast or slow students are completing tasks, if they are struggling or not, and cannot see if students have gone onto an unhelpful  tangent or not. There is also less opportunity for students to ask simple little questions that might take two seconds to answer, but might make all the difference. For instance, “Can I just copy and paste this paragraph from Wikipedia?” (the answer is of course, “NO!”)

What next?

For me it’s good to see this report, as it seems to clarify some of the issues I’ve seen in my attempts to implement a flipped classroom. It seems the next step is to give students either the tools to work out what to do next, or to set them up with a routine that they can follow. With either of these ways, the paralysis and the slow pacing problems can be solved. At the moment, my ideas on what task related decision tools they require are vague and uncertain; perhaps something along the lines of metacognitive strategy training. However for the routine, that’s much easier to implement. Have to-do lists on the whiteboard (which would be very similar from project to project), with advice (which would be very similar from project to project). Also mandate and stage their progress. For instance, “Finish writing the Introduction paragraph by the end of this lesson”. Also strategies like writing on the whiteboard, “Ask me if you need help, or don’t understand something”. Admittedly, these are just notes I have been writing on the whiteboard all of this semester, but if the habit began at the start of the year, it is hoped that students would get into the routine of automatically following these, and so by the end of the year, only simple little reminders are needed, not extensive to-do lists, suggestions, and extensive reminders.

What is the future of online learning?

For us who have learnt offline, it’s hard to imagine education success without a shrewd mean looking teacher patrolling the classroom, looking over your shoulder at any time without warning. Can the future generation succeed with only an online teacher? I doubt it. Physical presence and proximity will probably always trump a virtual, distant, cyber-teacher.