Monthly Archives: March 2013

More on choices of life

I never paid much attention to mundane life concerns. For example, I barely know about retirement plan or insurance. Sometimes I spent time learning of them only hoping to learn the culture and society through it. To me, life is too precious to waste on these tedious processes. Individuals should have the freedom to develop his full potential, which is why mobility is essential. I think this is what Americans believe in. Those oversea Chinese are practical. I am more on my dream and passion.

When I first arrived at the states, I realized my top priority should be learning of English and American culture. But school work and lab work are quite heavy, especially for a new comer. As a fellowship student, I have to maintain a high GPA to keep the fellowship. So I rarely have time to speak, not to mention practicing English. Finally at the last semester, I didn’t have to get a high score to keep my fellowship. I put most of my time and energy into learning English and American culture. I made many friends. With my thesis work, I think good enough is enough. I read of thesis of previous graduate and I thought it is not difficult to write a thesis of that quality. And ever since my undergraduate study, I have learned how to just get enough score and so that I could focus my time on learning that I deemed really important for my growth.So I think I am able to control my time well. However, this time, there is a very tough professor sitting on my thesis committee. He was probably angry that I didn’t consult much with him in my working on my thesis. He held a very high standard for the thesis. At the end, I had to stay in the lab for 4 days working continuously. I only got some cookies from the vending machine, and drink water. I got about 6 hours sleep for the 4 days. 3 hours each for the first 2 nights. And totally no sleep for the last 2 nights.My arms and legs were all numb except my fingers were still typing very fast and my brain was still running very fast. I redid all the experiments and redid the analysis.The result was astonishing, as professors on the committee used many “very” to describe it. And I got trained in the very strict scientific thinking. For what I deemed important, I pushed myself to limit.

I successfully transfered to Computer Science and started to do the research in elearning field, which I think is the passion of my life and what my whole life points to. For 3 years, I stayed in the lab from 6am to 11pm. I wasn’t even taking days off during the thanksgiving holidays and Christmas.Finally it came down to me that I had to start get social again and learn English and culture. So I worked in the dining hall, volunteered in various grassroots organizations (community radio station, bookstore, river cleaning, and so on). There are very rich things to learn from American grassroots. That was a great time. But it was supposed to be my time to find a good job. I had been a quite good student in Computer Science and get all the high scores, and did very intensive programming. But as I hurried into job seeking process, it was hard for me to recall many things as I was much into the cultural things at that time. And you know those job interviewing process, even if you are always programming, you still need to prepare yourself specially for these interviews. So with not much time left, I quickly went through various topics and found a job. But I probably had missed my best opportunities, and that probably gave me all the troubles afterwards.

For many years, I put a lot of my energy in something that didn’t exist in the industry. I was trying to realize the real life learning, but the industry is all about classroom learning or learning to pass tests. I picked python as my programming language of choice although the obvious mainstream language was Java and there were very few python position available at the time. I am glad to see that these choices start to seem like right ones as I can see that many new innovative elearning companies (including many startups) are adopting python as their main language and their focus is more and more on real life learning. I did try to reach many of these elearning companies. They are very interested in my background. Only because I am currently in China, it is difficult for them to hire me at the moment. But I think I can contribute remotely at this time.

For my passion and my dream, I have gone through all the ups and downs in my life. As Americans love to talk about passion and dream, here in China, people dare not talk about such things. Also once you get married, there are other concerns that you have to have as a loving gentlemen. 🙂 I guess that is where things get very complicated.

I tried. Very difficult this year. Will try again next year.

Last updated Mar 26th



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I always believe that one important aspect of future learning/education is that everyone can become a teacher. To be more specific, people who really have rich learning experiences and domain knowledge — usually those accomplished professionals — should be able to teach and guide learners effectively in their spare time. Thus we will really change the profession of teaching, and bring out the true value of “teaching”. We can see now that many websites are making efforts in this direction. Some allow individual teachers to host a class online and teach students like in a classroom. Some connect individual teachers and learners so that the teachers can teach offline face to face. But all these current efforts have serious drawbacks. They didn’t fully leverage the power of internet, and they cannot compete with the current mainstream teaching, e.g. the classroom teaching in schools.

What is trying to bring about is something that is dramatically different. Let’s say, someone who wants to learn something, for example, software programming, photography or management, post his request. People who think they can teach can answer the request by commenting or giving a simple learning/starting plan for the learner. For example, what good books there are, what areas the learner need to learn, what kind of path that he will go through. Or the teacher can share with the learner the learning material he has organized with the notebook. Based on these infos, the learner can decide who can be his teacher. He can have one or several teachers. So the teachers can give out specific areas that the learner can try. The learner has to make notes of what he has learned in the process and questions he has. The teachers need to provide feedbacks and guidelines in time. The teacher can also share his learning materials. The charge of service might be free for the starting period. Then the learner need to pay to get continued service.

This way the teacher knows where the students are in their study and the teacher is able to provide very effective and timely guidance to the students. The teacher can also use to record his own learning experiences and learning materials, and provide them later for the students to study. These learning resources are unlike the traditional ones, which are just knowledge that need to be memorized. These new resources include the teacher’s own experiences and reasoning in his exploration of knowledge. The students are supposed to replicate similar experiences and reasoning in their own various daily activities and construct their own knowledge. So the teaching shifts away from traditional way of filing in students with knowledge and starts to focus on guiding students in their exploring and building their own knowledge. The students also get trained to form the habit and skills of self-reflection, which should be the center of learning. Thus compared to other sites, provides a more complete learning experience. And the research work of knowledge engine, provides the technology backbone of the above process.

In United States, more and more learning centers and schools are starting to bring contemplative skills and methodologies back into learning and teaching, and start to have very powerful impact. I think the future learning won’t be like the current schools, where the students are supposed to grasp (quite often memorize) the knowledge in the book and pass the tests. Learning will not be separated from real life. Learners learn to solve their problems or to live a better life. Teachers are those who are able to guide the students in that process, helping students bring their experiences and reasoning together to reach some systemic knowledge and understanding. With and knowledge engine, we hope we can start to explore a systemic way to do this.

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Filed under Elearning, Learning