I was finally able to finish Jo Boaler’s Mathematical Mindsets, thanks to the seven hours of flight to KL and back. 🙂 As I wrote in my previous book blog post onMindset by Carol Dweck, Mathematical Mindsets was the first book I began reading this year but I ended up finishing Mindset first.
Jo defines the mathematical mindset as one in which “students see mathematics as a set of ideas and relationships, and their role as one of thinking about ideas and making sense of them.” She then goes on to say that, although young children may begin to develop (what Carol calls) a growth mindset in mathematics early in life through games and puzzles, this quickly changes to a fixed mindset when they enter school, where they are forced to memorize number facts and follow a single, procedural pathway through timed tests and homework, in which they mindlessly apply a decontextualized mathematical procedure again and again. This in turn privileges students who memorize facts and procedures easily, deceiving them into believing that they are mathematically “gifted” (a myth that a fixed mindset apparently perpetuates), and, conversely, causing those who don’t memorize easily to believe that they are dumb in math or, worse, that they are dumb, period.
In lieu of these bad pedagogical practices, Jo offers evidence-based alternatives. For instance, instead of timed tests, which (can) cause lifelong and possibly debilitating math anxiety, and which give the impression that the essence of mathematics is being fast, she recommends the use of conceptual mathematical activities without time pressure (see e.g., the activities in her Fluency Without Fear web article). Jo also believes that homework that involves mindless practice of disconnected procedures should be replaced with reflective activities, if not eradicated altogether. And instead of “tracking,” in which students get placed into ranked sections, with the lowest performing students being placed in the bottom section, Jo recommends teaching heterogeneous classes instead, using strategies such as open-ended tasks, a choice of tasks, individualized pathways (using, e.g., SMILE cards), or the complex instruction model of Elizabeth Cohen and Rachel Lotan.
What I liked about this book is that it references many research studies (Jo’s as well as others’) and mathematics pedagogies. What I didn’t like about it is that ideas are repeated in the same form again and again and again (get the idea?) throughout the book, bloating it. Jo also tends to toot her own horn (e.g., “In an award-winning research study… I…”), when she obviously doesn’t have to. But I understand how difficult it is for academics to write popular books, so I take my hat off to Jo Boaler (and Carol Dweck) for making their results accessible to those of us who are not experts in their fields.
Possible books for next month’s book blog post:
Pernille Ripp’s Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower Your Students (2016);
Kevin Carey’s The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere (2016); or
Greg Toppo’s The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Makes Our Kids Smarter (2015)
February 27, 2017. At the start of the new year, I told myself I’d read at least one non-fiction book per month and blog about it. Thanks to today’s class suspension, here I am blogging about Carol Zweck’s (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I had planned to finish Jo Boaler’s (2016) Mathematical Mindsets first, but halfway through it I found myself reading and finishing Carol’s book instead.
The basic idea of Carol’s book is that there are two so-called mindsets (or powerful beliefs about one’s qualities) – a fixed mindset, which is the belief that one’s qualities are “carved in stone,” and a growth mindset, which is the belief that one’s qualities can be developed through effort. There are several implications of this idea for the teaching profession as well for parenting. For example, it is better to praise students/children for their effort or process, thus encouraging a growth mindset, rather than their attributes such as intelligence or beauty, which only strengthens a fixed mindset. Carol’s studies show that not only can the latter lead to rejection of new tasks (for fear that these would expose their flaws); praising them for their attributes or abilities rather than effort could even lead to the formation of unethical habits like cheating or lying. Carol discusses clearly what I view as mindset principles, and backs these up with results of her own quantitative studies (as a Stanford psychology professor) as well as those of others, and rich stories (qualitative research?) of individuals and, to a lesser extent, companies.
What I liked about the book is that it describes in many ways the various facets of a single basic gem of an idea. These different descriptions are like different pathways to understanding. Carol also makes clear that she doesn’t have all the answers (e.g., “Can anyone do anything? I don’t really know. However, I think we can now agree that people can do a lot more than first meets the eye.”) In addition, Carol writes with honesty and humility about herself (e.g., “Until I discovered the mindsets and how they work, I, too, thought of myself as more talented than others, maybe even more worthy than others because of my endowments”, “Late one night, I was passing the psychology building and noticed that the lights were on in some faculty offices. Some of my colleagues were working late. They must not be as smart as I am, I thought to myself.”). I also liked the “Q&A” section, where she engages readers’ possible skepticism. In the last chapter (Changing Mindsets: A Workshop), the book also presents a series of dilemmas to help the reader understand his or her mindset, and work toward strengthening the growth mindset.
What I didn’t appreciate so much in this book was its identification of certain unpopular individuals (CEOs) as having fixed mindsets, and the attribution of their companies’ failures to their fixed mindsets. I’m more inclined to think, though, that mindset is not a binary thing, that one can only have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, but not (a bit of) both. Instead, I think that mindset is a spectrum, and most of us are somewhere between two extremes. Moreover, it is not clear whether one can so easily transfer the mindset principles from the classroom to the running of a conglomerate. There are probably so many other factors that led to the demise or decline of these CEO’s companies, not just their CEO’s mindsets.
Overall, Carol’s book and her ideas and their application to teaching, mentoring, coaching, parenting, and learning are excellent. All those engaged in these endeavors would do well to read this book and apply her ideas.
Weeks ago, I began watching Little House on the Prairie, a popular American TV series from the 70s about a farmer’s family and community in rural Minnesota in the 1870s. The series is loosely based on Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s Little House books. It’s interesting that Charles and Caroline Ingalls, the parents, “knew” and taught the mindset principles to their children. Charles and Caroline, and their children’s families, were relatively poor compared to the other mainstays of the series, but they had one happy family despite the usual problems of life. Aah, the good ol’ days! (I will blog about this series, too!)
As in 2012, 2011, and 2010, I revisit the top 5 happiest things that happened to me in 2014, as a way of thanking God for all good things. Will you join me, my friend?
1. Spearheading curricular and pedagogical innovation and working with a wide variety of talented individuals
As Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, I enjoyed spearheading university-wide innovations in curricula (e.g., the New Lasallian Core Curriculum (NLCC)) and pedagogies (e.g., the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SOTL)). This necessitated my forming and working with various committees of top-notch DLSU professors from diverse disciplines and talented academic support staff, as well as delivering presentations to hundreds of people at university town hall meetings and national conventions. What surprised me was that despite the extremely hard work that all these activities — innovating, working with different people, and delivering presentations — entail, I found all of them…quite enjoyable!
2. Learning new things
I have never learned so many new and diverse things in my adult life. This year, for instance, I underwent training in Bangkok and Manila as an AUN QA Assessor, and soon after conducted my first program assessment at the Vietnam National University in Ho Chi Minh City. I also resumed studying Spanish after a hiatus of more than a decade. And as overall chair of the New Lasallian Core Curriculum initiative, I also had to read up on practically all the twelve (!) interdisciplinary (!) courses that make up the NLCC. For example, I had to read so many books on theology and Christianity (such as those below), which, given the goal of the NLCC — which is to develop in students love for God, humanity, country and the environment, and the virtues and competencies needed to practice this love in the 21st century — play a crucial role throughout the core curriculum:
or strolling barefoot on a beach (e.g., in Boracay after a workshop presentation),
or reading books, including the fantasy trilogies of Joe Abercrombie (fantastic!) and Rowena Cory Daniels, during long weekends. (I hope to post a review of these before the third trimester starts.)
4. Fun-time spent with the family or with friends and co-workers (including co-workers in ministry) away from the workplace…
5. Last but not the least, time spent alone with God (e.g., Christmas eve). At church I have throughout the year taught on the spiritual discipline of spending quiet time alone with God daily, which includes daily prayer as well as daily reading of the Word of God. Though not perfect, my practice of this discipline was much better this year than in the last, and I believe will get better and better, by God’s grace. As a result, I have come to understand God’s love more, which in turn has resulted in my loving God more, which in turn has resulted in my loving others more!
I thank the Almighty for an exhilarating 2014. May many of the things the Lord has begun in our lives in 2014 start to bear fruit in 2015. Amen!
November 2. I’m glad it’s a holiday here in the Philippines so I have time to reflect on my recent trips to Mexico and the U.S. I’m fond of Top-3 or Top-5 lists, so here are the three best things that happened to me during this recent trip abroad.
3. Fun and adventure
In Mexico, my greatest adventure was climbing up the Teotihuacan Pyramid of the Sun, said to be the third largest pyramid in the world. I chickened out at first due to acrophobia. Looking at the steps in front of me, which were uneven in height and width, and then looking up at the seemingly countless steps to get to the summit, I simply froze after climbing up half a dozen or so steps, and had to go back down, shaking. But my tour mates, Joe and Gary from the U.S. (whom I instantly connected with because of their hippie history), encouraged me to try again, and so I did. I thought of wearing my cap, so that I couldn’t see the top and could concentrate instead on each step. And that’s how I made it to the peak of the pyramid… one step at a time! (Joe’s calling my name out loud while I was resting midway up the pyramid was also a big confidence booster.)
In New York, I had the most fun at (1) the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which for me ties with the British Museum + National Gallery as the second best museum in the world (the best for me would be the Louvre), and (2) watching Broadway musicals. Unlike my first visit to the Met more than a decade ago, I took several pictures this time, some of which I immediately posted on FB. I spent close to seven hours in it, and the only time I really sat down to more fully enjoy specific works of art was when I was in the Monet galleries. I love Monet’s impressionism, as well as Seurat’s neo-impressionism called pointillism, as evidenced by the pointillist painting that greets me each time I enter my condo (a photo of which is in this blog’s About page).
Thanks to my long-time buddies Alex and Carlo, I was able to watch three Broadway musicals on this visit to NYC: Phantom of the Opera, which is the longest running musical of all time, celebrating its 25th year; Wicked, which is celebrating its 10th year; and Kinky Boots, 2013’s Best Musical. Of the three I liked POTO best, and I’ll write a separate blog explaining why.
Carlo also took me to Washington, DC one weekend. While I enjoyed looking at the major monuments (especially the Lincoln Memorial) and other buildings, I had the most fun at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I especially loved being with the fossil marine mammals (early whales, seals, sea lions, dolphins). Of course I was awe-struck at the fossil dinosaurs, especially the 70-foot Diplodocus!
2. Friends and Family
The second best thing that happened to me during my trip involved friends and family. I not only met new friends in Mexico and in the U.S., but also renewed relationships with old friends.
Among my new friends are:
and Alex (educational technologist at ULSA, Mexico), Mario (Concierge head at Hotel Sevilla Palace, Mexico), Joe, Gary, and Udo (my Teotihuacan tour mates), and Tom (a Met fan who studied Philosophy of Science at Cambridge, UK).
It was also great to meet again some old friends, including:
and, last but not the least:
I also knew that my pastor, family, and friends were praying for me back home, and so they were also with me in their prayers, and I look forward to meeting them again soon.
Finally, the most important thing that happened to me on trip was experiencing God’s kindness.
Five days before I left for Mexico I was diagnosed with asthmatic bronchitis (aka bronchial asthma) and had to take antibiotics. I even felt my throat becoming sore a couple of days before the flight, and had to call my doctor. But by God’s grace, and with the help of prayers of family and friends, I felt miraculously strong throughout the trip, despite the lack of sleep due to the many things to do and see. 🙂
By God’s grace, I was also able to meet with professors from NYU and Columbia who have been working for some time now in the field of games for learning (which I have recently come to believe to have great potential locally) and who are among the co-PIs of the Games for Learning Institute, a collaboration of 7 universities originally funded by Microsoft Research.
By God’s grace, and through my friend Nestor Castro Arauz, I was also able to meet with the rector, vice-rector, deans of the engineering and business faculties, and director and staff of the distance education office of ULSA Mexico, and realized the many ways through which ULSA and DLSU could collaborate.
I also met Lasallian professors who have expressed interest in the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL), one of my initiatives as AVCAA of DLSU. At the IALU Forum in Mexico, I gave a presentation on SoTL and argued that SoTL was really quite Lasallian. Roger Peckover (St. Mary’s University, Minnesota) and I eventually thought that SoTL might need to be Lasallian (i.e., done in close collaboration with a community of SoTL practitioners worldwide) to be truly successful.
Aside from experiencing the presence of God in and through everything I have mentioned above, I was also enabled to spend time with God in worship services (I was able to attend 5 in 15 days!), and in silent conversation when I’m alone, including special quiet time at St. Malachy’s (also known as the Actors’ Chapel) on Broadway. That chapel is an oasis amid the hustle and bustle of Broadway, and I will never forget it.
What a truly wonderful time with God, with friends, and with beautiful and enduring creations!
Yesterday, Br. Ricardo Laguda, FSC, was installed as the 22nd President and 4th Chancellor of De La Salle University.
My favorite Catholic prelate and priest, Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, led the celebration of the investiture mass. Wearing red vestments in honor of the Feast of the Cross, Archbishop Tagle first expounded on Jesus’ death on the cross: a death taken up in obedience to the Father out of love for the Father, and in solidarity with mankind out of love for mankind (I’m paraphrasing here). He then blessed Br. Ricky saying, “May you be crucified (eliciting chuckles from the audience)…, may you have the power and wisdom to love (God and the DLSU community)”. He ended by welcoming Br. Ricky “to calvary,” i.e., to a calvary of love.
In his speech, Br. Ricky talked about the accomplishments and challenges of DLSU. He then shared his dream not only of a leading research university that bridges faith and scholarship in service of society, especially the poor (i.e., the new DLSU vision), but of a community of learners and scholars striving to live the Lasallian values (of faith, zeal for service, and communion in mission). He ended by inviting everyone to the calvary that such a dream entails, thereby eliciting everyone’s laughter and approval.
Together with all who have associated themselves, formally or informally, with the De La Salle Brothers in their mission, I have been on the Lasallian road to calvary for some time now. And I look forward to continuing the journey, this time under the leadership of Br. Ricky Laguda, one of my favorite profs at DLSU. May his sanctity rub off on me! 🙂
I’m profoundly impressed by people with disabilities who study, work, compete in sports, or simply bring joy to others by not giving up.
Take these two Asian athletes. The first, Maya Nakanishi, lost half of her right leg in an accident at a paint factory in Japan when she was 21. Now 27, and after visiting so many companies to talk about sponsorships, to no avail, she decided to pose in the nude for a 2013 calendar. Everything was done in good taste, her calendar sales reached 5 million yen ($50,000), and Maya is now in London for the 2012 Summer Paralympic Games. Poverty and disability definitely did not get in her way.
The second is 28-year-old Thin Seng Hon, who was born without a fully formed leg. She doesn’t expect to win a medal at the Paralympics because her “lucky leg” (as she calls her sole prosthetic) isn’t even built for sprinting and is therefore infinitely less comfortable than those worn by other first-world rivals (including Nakanishi). Nevertheless, as the sole athlete from Cambodia to qualify for the Paralympics, she said she would try her best. Another stunning example of triumph over disability and poverty.
My interest in the Paralympics began a couple of years ago, when a group of students and I worked on a computer simulation of the game Showdown, which is like air hockey, but for the blind and visually impaired. The players of our prototype game used a Nintendo Wiimote as paddle and had to pay attention to audio (e.g., sound of the ball rolling toward them) and vibro-tactile cues. I’ve another couple of groups currently working on a simulation of boxing, in which blind players also have to pay attention to audio and tactile cues in order to know when to hit and when to block punches of an AI opponent, which in turn reads the blind player’s actions using Microsoft Kinect. There are so many research issues involved, but we hope to produce a robust product within a year or two.
Hats off to all the valiant persons with disabilities in the Philippines, Asia, and the world!
I always look forward to Sunday afternoons, when I get to joyfully celebrate with my dad, mom, younger brother, sister-in-law, nephews, and niece, the amazing grace and steadfast love of our Lord! 😀
FORMDEV is one of my four spiritual families. There are around 60 student facis, around 200 alumni facis, and around 15 faculty facis in the FORMDEV family, many of whom are my spiritual children (in the sense that the Holy Spirit chose me, undeserving man that I am, to lead them to Christ). I especially look forward to FORMDEV’s 10th year anniversary celebration — Praise God! — which we’re planning to hold sometime in April, before the DLSU centennial year closes in May.
3. My local church
I’m so proud of being a member of this beautiful church (where by “church” I don’t mean the edifice but the people who make up the church), which is situated right in the middle of a huge urban poor settlement. I’m proud of the pastor and leaders, who, by God’s grace, have faithfully and zealously obeyed God’s call to love, and of the members, whose slow but sure rise from poverty of many kinds, as a result of faith in and obedience to God, is a miracle that I witness every Sunday morning!
4. My spiritual parents
Always in my prayers are Pastors Shinji and Kayoko Kimura, my spiritual parents, in whom I saw Christ’s agape love for the first time. I was so happy to hear from Pastor Shinji last Christmas of how, by God’s grace, he recently facilitated the visit to Japan of around 20 Youth with a Mission (YWAM) young missionaries from various countries. Alas, my last visit to Japan was in 2005. I hope to visit them again when I take my sabbatical.
5. My accountability partners
Also always in my prayers are Pastor Arnold, my accountability partner, and his wife, Sister Mina. There are certain habitual sins (spiritual strongholds) that can only be overcome with the help of an accountability and prayer partner. May everyone have such a gift from God.
6. Special groups of friends
a. My best friends
All but one of my best friends who are not pastors are citizens of other countries (one is a citizen of Canada; another, of the U.S.; another, of Australia and the U.K.; and another of South Africa). Though it saddens me to think that the only one who is based in the Philippines is going to Canada soon 😦 I am buoyed by the fact that our friendships have, by God’s grace, stood the test of distance as well as time.
b. The Gorettis
We served as deans of DLSU at around the same time and I can’t believe that we have remained friends after more than a decade. All of us have retired from DLSU administration but we’ve amazingly been able to meet up every trimester for fellowship. How we got to be named the Gorettis is a long story. 🙂
c. My PhD (Education) classmates
Studying to obtain a PhD is tough. Doing so when one is already old and with many children (some even with grandchildren) is a lot tougher. So I’m proud of my classmates for having finished our coursework! Now, after two years, “all” that remain are the written comps and the dissertation. By God’s grace, may we finish all these before the academic year ends!
I’ve got several other groups of very good friends, but we were not able to meet up during the holiday season. Nevertheless, I will add our photos here when we’re finally able to celebrate the new year together.
Thank God for families and friends!!! 🙂 It is because of God’s love and theirs that I am able to fulfill the purpose of my life!