Relevant Reading List #2

Learning is Remembering

A unique occupation like teaching requires unconventional preparation.  The Relevant Reading Lists are a series of books that when read together convey a similar message imperative to teaching.  The books listed are not included in typical teacher preparation programs. The Pragmatic TV Teacher feels they should be.  Reading these will make you a better educator.

Searching For Memory Daniel Schacter

In Search of Memory Eric Kandel

The Seven Sins of Memory Daniel Schacter

Did you know that for your students to learn something new their brain must physically change?  Neither did I, until I read these books.   Read these books for a better understanding of how the brain behaves, learns, and remembers because in the end, learning is remembering.

To become a better teacher, become a better writer

Read The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker to become a better educator.  To be honest, read anything by Steven Pinker to become a better teacher. 

Almost immediately upon reading The Sense of Style I found myself substituting “writer for teacher”.  For example:

Good writing starts strong” but as I subvocalized my mind read “Good teaching starts strong”

Or another:

Good writing is understood with the mind’s eye” but I read “Good teaching is understood with the mind’s eye”.

It became obvious that the book on writing that I was reading was going to help me more with teaching than syntax, vocabulary, and grammar.

I learned a new perspective on teaching.  It is summarized with a passage:

“A writer (teacher) of classic prose must simulate two experiences: showing the reader  (learner) something in the world, and engaging her in conversation.  The nature of each experience shapes the way that classic prose is written (taught).  The metaphor of showing implies that there is something to see.  The things in the world the writer is pointing to, then, are concrete: people (or other animate beings) who move around in the world and interact with objects.  The metaphor of conversation implies that the reader is cooperative.
“… implies that there is something to see”… I love that line.  Pinker says that a writer must approach writing from a conversational standpoint.  The goal of the conversation is to SHOW the reader something in the world that THEY ARE FULLY CAPABLE OF SEEING, they just haven’t yet.

He changes the frame of writing from 'I have something to tell you' to 'check this out'.  The first frame has a condescending tone to it.   'I have something to tell you' implies privilege or superiority.  'Check this out' acknowledges that the information about to be shared is fully knowable to anyone, they just haven’t seen it yet. 

On Ants and Education: Part 2

On Ants and Education first discussed the industrialized aspect of education.  Knowledge workers are no longer needed in the future.  Thomas Friedman successfully argues that the internet revolution leveled the playing field.  Upon contemplation it rings true and is frightening.  What are we to do?

E. O. Wilson is the most influential biologist currently alive.  By trade he is a biologist whose primary focus is ants.  Luckily for humanity, this incredible thinker didn’t stop there.  He has addressed the controversial biology of social behavior and biology of human nature.   He is a conservation biologist, philosopher, and general lover of the earth. The Theory of Island Biogeography was first inscribed by his pen.  He also theorizes in the social, cooperative aspect of organisms and the unification of knowledge.  In short and as my grandmother would say: “he is one smart cookie.”

Daniel Pink is a prolific thinker in his own right.  His considered a productivity expert and career advice specialist.  He thinks about how to “change the world of work” and the qualities that successful thinkers will embody in the future. 

“Grandma, what do you think of this guy?  His name is Daniel” 
“Oh well, isn’t he a cutie-pie!”

(Yes, I have read everything linked.  Please do the same)

What do the smart cookie and cutie-pie have in common?

They share the same vision of the future.  Wilson and Pink have a clear idea of what will make someone successful.  I believe them because they both swallow their own pill and they practice what they preach.  Together they are the cure to industrialized education.  Let’s take a look.

On Ants and Education: Part 1

Calvin is right; his generation isn’t accustomed to absorbing information in any other way than receiving factoids. However, neither does mine, nor my parents, nor their parents. 


If you lived post Industrial Revolution, you received your education as a series of sequential factoids.  Sir Kenneth Robinson makes a great point, education throughout ones life proceeds as an uncreative mechanized process and it closely resembles the industrial process.

The similarities between the industrialized process of creating a product and the current education system are eerie.  We arrive at school at a certain time, leave at another.  Lunch is during a specified time and you can only play outside when you’re told to do so.  Content is taught in groups; social studies before noon, science after recess.  As you age, you rotate between classes similar to the way a product moves in a manufacturing facility so new pieces can be added on.  

The student is the product, and through their first 18 years of education, new pieces are added as they move through the educational assembly line.  Before they leave secondary schools, students are quality controlled using a variety of different measures (thank you #2 pencils) just as materials are tested for quality before entering the market.

How to cure senioritis: 3 changes to make in how you view your course

All teachers face an obstacle: students who don’t care, especially seniors.  You try everything to engage them but nothing seems to work.  Treating your course like a product to be purchased allows you to utilize research regarding social psychology to increase student engagement.  

Our goal is to have them BUY into your course.

Calvin is right, you can’t make them care.  But you can create an environment that encourages them to care.

Tons of literature describes how decisions are made and how people in the position of authority can help others make the right decision.  Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler co-authored a book called Nudge that describes to readers the concepts regarding choice architecture (how to design a situation that encourages favorable choices).

First, go buy the book.  Seriously.

To use a phrase from Sunstein and Thaler, lets learn how we can nudge our students to buy into our class.

6 Ways to modify the structure of your lessons to decrease Transactional Distance

Transactional distance is the psychological gap existing between a learner and their teacher. In other words, you and the student are not on the same page.  

This gap must be bridged for learning to occur. 

There are three variables that can be manipulated to decrease transactional distance: dialogue, structure, and learner autonomy.  Our last stop in understanding Transactional Distance is learning how to alter the structure. 

Click here for more information regarding Transactional Distance Theory and here for a discussion on dialogue’s role in decreasing Transactional Distance.

Course structure is not the same as preparedness and less structure does not mean that the instructor is less prepared.  A course high in structure does not allow time for productive interaction because there is no time for deviation.  

A course low in structure allows for the instructor to respond to the learner’s individual needs.

Break down the structure barrier by making these adjustments to your plans:

Relevant Reading List #1

Student Motivation 101: why do your students do what they do?

A unique occupation like teaching requires unconventional preparation.  The Relevant Reading Lists are a series of books that when read together convey a similar message imperative to teaching.  The books listed are not included in typical teacher preparation programs. The Pragmatic TV Teacher feels they should be. Reading them will make you a better educator.

Start With Why Simon Sinek

Student motivation is something we often think is outside our sphere of influence.  I’m sorry to say that it is not and I choose to do something about the level of motivation of the students in my classroom.  Drive, Start With Why, and Why We Do What We Do will teach you how to increase student productivity by addressing student motivation.  Reading them will make you a better teacher.

Share a book that you feel belongs on this list.  Contact The Pragmatic TV Teacher :

Distance Learning Monthly Newsletter DEC 2014 now available

Click HERE to view the issue.

Table of Contents:

From the Editor: Welcome to the Distance Learning Monthly Newsletter
Special Feature: The Roots of Distance Learning
Feature Article: Making you a more effective DL instructor by understanding and applying Transactional Distance Theory
Part 1: 6 Steps to Understanding Transactional Distance Theory
Give This a Try! Getting your students familiar with the class website
Tell Us How You: Learned to use the technology
For the Facilitators: Where students should sit
Do you need help problem solving? Ask for it here!

 Click HERE To learn how to contribute to the DLMN

Contact The Pragmatic TV Teacher with any questions:

3 ways to improve classroom dialogue to decrease Transactional Distance

Transactional Distance gives us an answer to the question: why is instructing students so hard? 

There exists a psychological disconnection between the teacher and learner. Successful teaching and meaningful learning occurs when we bridge this gap.  The gap is defined as transactional distance or an area of interaction where confusion can arise.  There are three variables that an educator can control to decrease Transactional Distance: dialogue, structure, and learner autonomy. See the last post for more information regarding the rationale for our investigation.

As productive dialogue increases, transactional distance decreases.  Dialogue is more than talking.  It involves listening, responding, and conversing.  Productive dialogue is any interaction that leads to greater student understanding.

The Distance Learning Monthly Newsletter will thoroughly discuss the impact of dialogue on Transactional Distance in TV teaching. This article applies the idea to a traditional setting.  The goal is to deepen dialogue to make it more productive.

An answer to the question: why is instruction hard?

The Pragmatic TV Teacher begins a three part series addressing Transactional Distance Theory (TDT).  Though used for Distance Education, TDT has important information for traditional classroom teachers.

Picture your classroom filled with students.  You take a deep breath while peering into their apathetic eyes.  I can’t believe I have to do this” violently bounces around your brain.  What is it, specifically, you have to do?  Teach a lesson… collect homework… transition into cooperative groups?  You have to instruct them.