Blog Posting From the Bus

Oh, how I love my little Palm Pilot keyboard1. Here I am on the bus, traveling from work-related event #1 to work-related event #22, but writing a blog posting that I can upload from my beautiful Hermione when I get home tonight.

Had my first real class yesterday – last week’s class was more of just an introduction to the course. It’s a seminar style course, so most of it will be students presenting stuff (debates & seminars), but this week I gave a lecture on “Thinking About Thinking” to set the stage for all the student-directed learning and debating that the students will be doing. I usually avoid blogging about my work, but I do have a few general things I’d like to say (it’s all pretty innocuous, so I think I’m safe to say it):

  • My class seems pretty cool. Lots of interesting ideas – I can’t wait to see all the seminar presentations they are going to be giving and debate arguments they will be coming up with.
  • I was surprised when I asked my class if anyone used Twitter and only one of my 42 students raised their hand.  I guess because I hang out with a lot of tech-savy at-risk youth3, I forget that most of the world isn’t drowning in social media the way I am.
  • I actually presented my “research paper” on the Count to my class yesterday. You know, the one that showed a correlation between childhood attitude towards the Count from Seseame Street and mathematical ability later in life? No really, I did. We were talking about how “correlation is not necessarily causation,” so I used my paper as an example of how, although we showed a correlation, we cannot conclude from that any causation…. We know that kids who were scared of the Count went on to be adults that aren’t good at math, but this doesn’t prove that being scared of the Count causes people to be bad at math. Perhaps people with a propensity to be bad at math get scared off of the Count because he’s doing math (i.e., being bad at math CAUSES a fear of the Count). Perhaps there’s a confounder – maybe people who have a genetic tendency to fear the colour purple have a genetic tendency to be bad at math, and so both fear of the Count and poor math abilities are CAUSED by a scared-of-purple-plus-bad-math gene. The point is that although we can speculate as to why these two things are correlated, these are just speculations (or hypotheses) that we would have to go on to test. Correlation does not prove causation. Which makes my paper legitimate, since it’s been presented in a university class. No, really.
  • For the record, I wore this skirt and this shirt to class.  And for class #1, I went with Stacia’s suggestion and wore this outfit.

1which needs a name, now that I think about it. The Palm Treo is Hermione, so I’m tentatively thinking about naming the keyboard Ron Weasley.
2I’m not sure how I ended up with two work-related events – both major launches – today, as I very rarely have any work-related events. Mostly, I’m just happy that since I have to travel around the city to said events, it’s nice and sunny and warm out. It’s hard to sit in my office and look out at the sunshine, and often when I do have to go out, it’s raining.
3OK, they aren’t really at-risk or youth, but my friends are tech savvy. And 25 points for the first person to identify where I stole the phrase “tech savvy, at-risk youth” from.

Comments |6|

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  • The tech-savvy, at-risk youth are the kids behind Dan Savage’s most excellent podcast. And I’ve always wondered about them. I hope he puts them on the air at some point.

    What can I obtain with my 25 points? A Kewpie doll?


  • Nicely done! You answered that one in record time.

    As for the points, I haven’t actually decided what they are for. Sort of like that British comedy improv show (that, like most British shows, was later ripped off by the Americans), “Whose Line is it Anyway?” where “everything is made up and the points don’t matter.” I may someday figure out what the points are for, so make sure you keep them in a safe place!


  • Holy smokes, Darren was fast!

    On the research geeky side – What kind of data would you use to show causation? In the social sciences, causation is perhaps the toughest proof of them all, particularly because most explanations for specific phenomena are of a multiplicitous nature.


  • Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Of course, technically this doesn’t prove causation, as there’s always the possibility that what looks like causation actually occurred by chance (which is why you will hear “p<0.05 = significant findings” – this means that there’s less than a 5% chance that the findings occurred by chance. But at least with a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, you’ve manipulated one factor (A) and examined the effect on another factor (B). When all you have is that (A) is correlated with (B), how would you know if A causes B or B causes or A? (Or C causes both A and B)?


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