15 September 2015

SMART Notebook 11.4 on Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite requires Ruby 1.8

I upgraded my Mac to OS X 10.10 Yosemite and SMART Notebook 11.4 started to crash upon opening it.  SMART doesn't provide a patch or any information on why that is, except that you'd basically need to buy a newer version of Notebook (which I wasn't about to do).

So with some investigation it turns out SMART Notebook 11.4 requires Ruby 1.8 to work.  Except installing Ruby 1.8 from, e.g., Homebrew doesn't work.  I guess SMART had statically linked Notebook 11.4 against the particular Ruby library that was distributed by Apple.

A bit of research online turns up a post describing the same problem and the solution: copy Ruby 1.8 from a pre-Yosemite Mac over to Yosemite in the same directory.

The directory is /System/Library/Frameworks/Ruby.framework/Versions/.

Someone even made an installer and posted a link in the comments in that post, although I can't say whether you should trust using that installer...  Not feeling comfortable using that installer, I dug up an older Mac and zipped up the 1.8 folder from the above directory and copied it over to my Yosemite machine.

Leave a comment here or message me if you want a zipped copy of the Ruby 1.8 folder.  Or else if you feel comfortable with using that unvetted installer, then go download it from that comment.

Problems with this fix

Note that this method of making SMART Notebook 11.4 work will make the program less stable.  I've had crashes from time to time.  It also makes the toolbar unusable, and in fact, it won't even show up on the screen!  So get used to picking tools the long way via the menubar instead.

I do wish there was a better software solution to what I'll call the "Projector Transparency Roll - Writable (50 feet)".

08 September 2015

Worries over losing deep conceptual knowledge: Better teaching in any subject, part 4

A concern some may have with facilitating learning through the inner game of meaning-as-uses is that it seems to turn everything into decomposed techniques and skills, lacking in holistic, deep, conceptual, or otherwise "meaningful" knowledge.

A moment's thought should give you comfort that that's very far from the truth.

Imagine complaining that by breaking tennis up into the various forehand and backhand techniques, players will lose sight of the holistic meaningful concepts required to understanding tennis.

I'd imagine a lot of the worry comes about from not "seeing" the holistic concepts being taught or learned when seeing only the individual techniques being learned.  Traditionally, we'd see the worksheets for practicing factoring quadratics but never see the worksheets for learning what quadratics are conceptually, or what the meaning of factoring is.  From that, we might be led to believe that there must be something wrong with worksheets or with not teaching concepts and meanings (as if we could even directly teach concepts or meanings at all).

01 September 2015

Facilitate learning through the inner game of meaning as uses: Better teaching in any subject, part 3

The inner game of meaning: a lesson from tennis

A lesson from the Inner Game of Tennis (Gallwey) we might draw from is that consciously and intellectually solving the problem of "what is the instructor doing" is like a fool's errand. Because the actual problem the student is trying to solve is "how do I [the student] hit that tennis ball in that situation".  Solving the former problem may help with solving the latter, but there is no guarantee of effectiveness or efficiency.

Because of the unique cognitive and physical characteristics of each student, the solution to the actual problem is always unique anyway.  It always require each student to solve it anew.  The instructor can only point in a general direction, but the student has to go the final distance to arriving at a personalized solution.

If a student's energy is devoted to solving the problem of "what is the instructor doing", then the student will have little energy left for what is more important: solving the actual problem anew for themselves in a way that fits their own unique cognitive and physical characteristics.

How to facilitate learning proper meanings from proper uses

"Meaning is use" means that meaning comes from a variety of particular uses, and students need to look and see while teachers show the varieties of uses properly in order to learn the proper meanings from their proper uses.  But because every student brings with them a different set of prior learning and experiences, a way of conceptual thinking (and physical doing) that works for one student may not work for another.

25 August 2015

Meaning is use: Better teaching in any subject, part 2

Meaning is use

Meaning as use is a philosophical concept of meaning from Wittgenstein:

"For a large class of cases of the employment of the word 'meaning' --- though not for all --- this way can be explained in this way: the meaning of a word is its use in the language" (Philosophical Investigations).

Many traditional and folk understanding of meaning explains meaning in terms of mental representations, or idealized objects in some (sometimes mathematical) objective space, etc. --- i.e. stuff in people's heads or in some Platonic ideal space that has no practical significance for teachers in the classroom.

So while we may not necessarily agree that meaning is philosophically just its use in the language, it's certainly practical to see it that way for teaching!  Because we can, as Wittgenstein urges, look and see the variety of cases in which a word is used, but we cannot look into the heads and minds of students --- and more importantly, nor can students look into the minds of teachers in learning what the teacher meant.

"So different is this new perspective that Wittgenstein repeats: 'Don't think, but look!' (PI 66); and such looking is done vis a vis particular cases, not generalizations." [1]

Meaning as discussed usually refers to meaning of words in a language, but math is no different.  Math is itself a natural language, with a grammar and semantics that's evolved in the mathematical community, used to talk about things and their relationships.  We need not look further than many science research papers wherein authors write mathematical notations and formulas, interweaved with English prose, to see how math is very much a language we can talk about things with.

If we accept that meaning (of words) comes from their use, then the meaning of a thing like a math formula is also built up from the use of it.  The proper meaning of a math formula doesn't come from the instructor explaining it, and it doesn't even come from students discussing and talking about it.  The meaning of a math formula comes from the proper use of it.

18 August 2015

Problems with modern inquiry based methods: Better teaching in any subject, part 1

Problems with experiential, discovery, inquiry, and constructivist learning and teaching

In education, teachers nowadays are often taught constructivism and other modern inquiry based teaching and learning methods.  Those teaching methods purport to help educators teach children in a way that helps the kids construct their own meaning of what they are to learn.  One of the central claims is that meaning is constructed through experiencing, and reflecting on those experiences, on the basis of concepts and meanings learned previously.

By "modern inquiry based" teaching and learning methods, I mean the constellation of academic philosophies and folk understandings of experiential, discovery, inquiry, and constructivist learning and teaching methods.

What's frustrating is that the core understandings in modern inquiry based teaching and learning methods are not so much as wrong, but are just not very helpful to teachers.  Not helpful because the core pedagogical ideas basically only tell teachers that kids must learn from experiences and reflection.  Since we're not privy to see or control all the stuff that happens in the kids' heads anyway, therefore all the philosophically interesting parts of constructivism have no practical significance in the classroom.