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Arts & Letters Daily

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Report: Generalization

Making generalizations

Generalizations

Notes

A generalization is a statement about some or all of members of a class of objects. It is based on direct or indirect methods of confirmation. Direct confirmation includes personal experience and observed experiences. Indirect confirmation includes testimony of others and other generalizations.

Readers are wary of generalizations because so often they are used inappropriately. Readers will assess them based on their own experiences or observations. Sometimes they will accept the testimony of others. Generalizations based on other generalizations usually are suspect.

Sample

Monitoring Global Temperature

Scientists are not agreed on the methods that should be used to monitor global temperature. Why? They do not agree with each other because scientists monitor temperature changes in different ways. The traditional method monitors atmospheric temperature at ground level and the satellite method monitors it in the upper atmosphere.  These two methods will be reviewed and compared in this report.

Global warming timeline

Chart 1

The ground level method uses thermometers located near cities to monitor the atmospheric temperature. No thermometers are placed over forests, deserts, water or mountains. The data collected by the ground level method over the past 100 years is summarized in Chart 1. This record, collected by NASA, shows that the earth has experienced a fairly steady increase in temperature.

The satellite method, used to record atmospheric temperature since 1979, monitors global temperature at least 1500m above sea level (Chart 2). Satellites monitor the temperature in a layer of the atmosphere that is 4500m deep and 1000m wide. This layer blankets all surfaces of the earth including land, deserts, forests, mountains, and water.

Global warming timeline 2

Chart 2

Based on recent studies, scientists believe that the first sign of an increase in global temperature occurs in the upper atmosphere because heat-trapping gases accumulate at that level in the atmosphere. Therefore, the satellite method is regarded by some scientists as more reliable for monitoring temperature changes.

The satellite method is not without its problems. Recent research shows that scientists who used satellite methods have produced incorrect readings. They failed to realize that the satellites’ orbits were slipping gradually as atmospheric friction pulled them closer to earth and out of the upper atmosphere where the heat-trapping gases are located.

How does the data collected by these two methods compare? The ground level method, which relies on thermometers located near cities, indicates a gradual temperature increase of approximately one degree over the last 100 years. The satellite method, which records the temperature in the upper atmosphere, shows no consistent increase over 10 years between 1979 and 1988.

Based on the ground level method, the average temperature from 1979 to 1983 was warmer than the temperature from 1984 to 1986, and 1987 was the warmest year. Over the past 20 years, however, the satellite method has shown an overall temperature increase of 0.07 degrees.

It must be remembered that the ground level method has produced a 100 year record, while the satellite method only a 20 year record. The trend or fluctuation in temperature that satellites might record over a 100-year period is unknown. In order to make a reliable comparison, the satellite method will have to be used for a much longer period of time. The satellite method looks promising; especially useful is its record of the temperature in the upper atmosphere.

Scientists are showing increasing interest in the satellite method because it monitors the temperature across all types of the earth’s surface (Chart 3). In contrast, the ground level method relies on thermometers located near cities.  More research is needed to address the following questions. What is the impact of cities on global warming as recorded by the ground level method? How long must temperatures be recorded by satellites to generate significant trends? How should scientists address the impact of atmospheric friction on the satellites’ orbits? Given the potential impact of global warming, it is urgent that scientists address these questions. Time is of the essence!

Global warming graphic

Generalizations

  • Direct – personal experience
  • Direct – observed experience

–       Based on the ground level method, the average temperature from 1979 to 1983 was warmer than the temperature from 1984 to 1986, and 1987 was the warmest year. Over the past 20 years, however, the satellite method has shown an overall temperature increase of 0.07 degrees.  It must be remembered that the ground level method has produced a 100 year record, while the satellite method only a 20 year record.

  • Indirect – testimony of others
  • Indirect – other generalizations

Assignment

Assignment: Generalizations

Read the following report and identify the generalizations in the report.

Teaching and Learning: Where to from Here?

“The struggle to use computers wisely and well is one of the most important challenges we and our children face, and schools are a crucial area in which this challenge must be confronted.”

Alison Armstrong and Charles Casement, the child and the machine (1998).

This quote summarizes the fundamental concern raised by Armstrong and Casement about the use of computers in education after Alison visited many classrooms in North America. The book is devoted to a thorough documentation of the large scale failure of the use of computers in schools. In this paper, I will summarize and acknowledge the failures in the use of computers identified by Armstrong and Casement and suggest some appropriate alternatives.

Armstrong and Casement quote Bettleheim and Zelan, “for most children, learning to read is not an entertainment but hard work, a difficult task requiring serious application.” They conclude from this statement that, “the multimedia attractions of electronic books and CD-Rom encyclopedias might well lead children to equate reading with visual entertainment so that they keep looking around for meaning instead of creating it inside their own heads. Another example cited in the book refers to computer-based learning programs, which require no teacher input. The third example refers to writing. Armstrong and Casement acknowledge that using a word processor makes writing easier for children – the text can be changed instantly, children are more likely to take risks and discuss and revise their texts with peers because the text is visually displayed. On the other hand, Armstrong and Casement found that lack of efficient keyboarding skills and knowledge of software commands made writing on computers more difficult.

Some educators have jumped on this comprehensive critique to denounce the use of computers in education.  Derwin Davies, a retired librarian, assailed advocates about the use of computers in schools in a review of the child and the machine. He concludes that these advocates see the computer as the only tool or as “the hammer that is going to reshape our schools.” (1999).

What these critics fail to see in this book is the challenge thrown out to educators to explore how computers could or should be used to drive education as part of a wide range of educational opportunities. To single out the use of computers as the only element that contributes to learning is as short sighted as it is to single out any other element be that play, memorization, physical education, or music. To deny the value of each element is equally short sighted.

At the same time, I challenge educators to consider seriously some computer applications in education that drive effective teaching and learning. I do so because I believe that is the real challenge we face as we provide appropriate educational opportunities for people of all ages in today’s society. First, Judah Schwartz, co-director of Harvard’s Educational Technology Center, demonstrated his belief in the judicious use of computers for teaching and learning when he developed the Geometric Supposer in the mid eighties.

A second example of successful computer application, which was acknowledged by Armstrong and Casement, shows how computers can be used for learning how to write information text. The River East School Division Literacy Initiative represents an attempt to incorporate computer technology to create conditions in which students can improve their writing. A researcher was contracted to collect pre- and post data from control and pilot classes to monitor any change in students’ writing. Adopting a broad definition of literacy that included the ability to think critically, reason logically, and be technologically capable, the initiative addressed four basic needs. Students need specific thinking and writing strategies to think through and refine their ideas. They need software that enables them to move easily among the organizing, composing, revising and publishing process of writing. Students also need to share and exchange their texts with peers, teachers and other adults. Finally and most important, students need teachers to demonstrate how to apply the writing and thinking strategies and to apply the technical skills related to computer software.

The challenge of using computers for teaching and learning is acknowledged by Armstrong and Casement when they conclude their book with the following statement, “Children’s educational needs are best met by giving them a range of appropriate tools. We cannot rely on a single technology to do the job of educating our children.”

Generalizations

  • Direct -personal experience

_____________________________________________________________________

  • Direct – observed experience

_____________________________________________________________________

  • Indirect – testimony of others

_____________________________________________________________________

  • Indirect – other generalizations

_____________________________________________________________________

Assignment

Writing Assignment: Generalizations

Write a paragraph in which you make generalizations on a topic of your choice. Submit it to your instructor or tutor for feedback on grammar and your generalizations. Then edit your paragraph based on the feedback you received.

Complete the template for  Generalizations on your paragraph.

Generalizations

  • Direct -personal experience

_____________________________________________________________________

  • Direct – observed experience

_____________________________________________________________________

  • Indirect – testimony of others

_____________________________________________________________________

  • Indirect – other generalizations

_____________________________________________________________________

Answer Key

Generalization – Teaching and Learning – whereto from here?

  • Direct -personal experience

–       I believe that is the real challenge we face as we provide appropriate educational opportunities for people of all ages in today’s society.

  • Direct – observed experience

–       The struggle to use computers wisely and well is one of the most important challenges we and our children face,

–       schools are a crucial area in which this challenge must be confronted

  • Indirect – testimony of others

–       these advocates see the computer as the only tool or as “the hammer that is going to reshape our schools

–       “Children’s educational needs are best met by giving them a range of appropriate tools. We cannot rely on a single technology to do the job of educating our children.”

  • Indirect – other generalizations

–       To single out the use of computers as the only element that contributes to learning is as short sighted as it is to single out any other element be that play, memorization, physical education, or music