September 20, 2011

Agile Education

So, I work mostly with computers and application development. One of the big movements or trends these days is called Agile Development. It is a methodology for creating regular incremental iterations (of 1-4 weeks, usually) of software that is highly responsive to customer needs and developed by self forming teams. To really learn more about it, a good place to start is Wikipedia.

Interestingly, my educational background is in educational psychology, dealing mostly with ways and methods that people learn and what works best. In thinking about education in the last month or so, I came up with the idea of Agile Education. Well, turns out that it isn't totally original, but the one presentation I found on the web tried to copy the Agile Manifesto and only change the word software to education. Well, I can tell you, that education isn't developed. At least not in the way software is. The idea in the presentation is a good start, but certainly didn't go far enough into a methodology and system for education that really will help people learn better.

The basics of the full idea that I had uses an iterative approach to identifying scaffolding and ZPD's, but not just a first tier ZPD, but second tier, and related foundational ZPD's required for future tiers. It allows the individuals to progress at their own speed, and at the same time work in cross cultural social situations through self forming teams. The teachers in such a system, would be more in the role of student external advocate combined with scrum master and coach. Learning is a self driven activity, even when the motivations are external, so the customer is the student themselves, but they often loose site of or fail to fully comprehend their own needs and educational situation.

Anyway, there is no way I could really give such a big idea adequate justice in a simple blog post, or even a presentation for that matter. I think I will have to start writing a book on it. Maybe. It is a great idea. I just don't know if I have the time.

September 19, 2011

The Logic of Religion

I have been thinking about what people believe religiously and how logic fits or doesn't fit. Now, I know, there are some of you folks out there who swear there is no connection between logic and religion, but atheists and fanatics aside, how does logic fit with our religious beliefs?

First, I guess you have to decide if you believe there is a God. There isn't a lot of hard evidence one way or another (Well, actually, there is, but you have to dig and spend a lot of time working to understand the meanings and possibilities and ramifications. You have to be open to any possibility before you can effectively use Occam's razor anyway, otherwise, you bias the outcome.). Atheists will say a lack of evidence indicates lack of existence, and a lot of other people will say faith doesn't need evidence. Whatever you believe, still, I think the application of logic can only be helpful.

Second, assuming you decide you believe in a God, you need to decide what are the characteristics of that God. What would that God's motives be, and are they consistent with the commandments and teachings he has sent forth (Again, assuming you believe he has sent some forth. If you think there is a God who doesn't get involved or doesn't care, well, then you have a lot less to go on, but, if you remember the evidences I mentioned above... lets just say He has send forth both commandments and teachings.)

One thing to consider is the consistency of teachings and doctrines professed by a variety of religions. I am going to mainly focus on Christianity today. Lets say you are part of the Catholic Church. They say God is loving, just, and all powerful, but if you are not baptized in the Catholic Church, you get to spend eternity in Hell. What about those who have never heard of Christ, or that never heard the Catholic version. Well, too bad, you lost the genetic lottery and you get to go to Hell without being able to do anything else about it. A God that arbitrarily sends a major portion of his Children to hell just because of where they were born doesn't sound loving or just. OK, so, sorry Catholics, you fail the logic test. Unfortunately, many Christian churches have the exactly the same problem.

Here is another one. Lets say you belong to a christian church that doesn't have this problem because you say that everyone gets saved. There are no requirements. Ok, so what the heck is the point of your church in the first place if I don't have to do anything to get to heaven. Another Fail.

OK, lets look at the whole concept of heaven. Many Christian churches, and Jewish, and Muslim for that matter, have this outlook that if we do what is required here, we get to go to heaven and be happy forever with nothing to do, except sing in a heavenly choir (the Muslims get their 72 virgins, but I am not sure how they reconcile the lust involved with their other teachings, not to mention the denigration of females that is required). Now I like to sing. I even met my wife in a choir. But I don't think I want to spend eternity just singing. But, I have heard some say that is all there is. God just wants this one big choir singing his praises forever more. Man, that sounds vain. Now, don't get me wrong. God is beyond great, and should be praised, but not because he can send me to hell forever, but because he is perfect and loving and not selfish. The personal choir praising just himself forever sounds pretty selfish. There has to be more to it. Otherwise, this one doesn't do all that well on the logic test either.

So, now you see what the logic test is in religion. Go ahead. Try it. See if your church or religion measures up. Just keep in mind, everything must be included. The personality of God, his teachings, his commandments, who we are, who we can become, what the outcomes for us are, why we are here, etc. I personally think the church I belong to passes this test on all counts. It does say that it is the only true church. If that is the case, well, then everyone else has to be wrong. But, that doesn't make it fail the logic test. Go ahead. take the test, write it down, and see if what you find is what you expected.