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Deductive vs inductive arguments

I was searching for material on media literacy and came across this very insightful definitions of deductive and inductive arguments:

Mastering the art of picking out premises and conclusions is the first step toward good analytical thinking, but we must also think about whether the premises really do support their conclusions. Making that sort of determination requires that we think a little bit about the different kinds of arguments. There are several ways of categorizing arguments, but for our purposes, we can distinguish all arguments into one of two types: deductive and inductive.

Deductive argument: an argument whose premises make its conclusion certain

Inductive argument: an argument whose premises make its conclusion likely

(Note: Some dictionaries – and even some older logic texts – define deductive arguments as arguments that reason from the general to the specific and inductive arguments as those that reason from the specific to the general. That particular usage of the terms is obsolete.)

The difference between deductive and inductive arguments is easiest to see by way of examples.

Smith owns only blue pants and brown pants. Smith is wearing a pair of his pants today. So Smith is wearing either blue or brown pants today.

This is an instance of a deductive argument. We can tell that the argument is deductive because the two premises (that is, the first two sentences) guarantee the truth of the conclusion. If the two premises really are true, then there is no possible way that the conclusion could be false. Here’s another example:

The soccer game is on either Thursday or Friday. I just found out that the game is not on Thursday, so the game must be on Friday.

Again, this is a deductive argument, for the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion. Contrast those examples with this one:

January has always been cold here in Siberia. Today is January 14, so it is going to be another cold day in Siberia.

This argument is inductive. The premises makes the conclusion likely, but they do not guarantee that the conclusion is true. To put the point another way, it is possible that the premises of this argument could be true and the conclusion could still be false. One can, for example, imagine a freak warm day in Siberia on January 14. But one cannot imagine that Smith owns only brown pants and blue pants, that he is wearing his own pants and that his pants are not brown or blue. To make the conclusion about the color of Smith’s pants false, one has to make one of the premises false. But one can make the cold day in Siberia claim false while keeping the premises true. Here is one more:

The local branch of Wachovia Bank was robbed yesterday. Jenny needed money to pay off her gambling debts. She just bought a gun two days ago, and I saw her hanging around the local Wachovia Bank yesterday morning. Today the bookie’s goons stopped looking for Jenny. So Jenny robbed Wachovia Bank yesterday.

This is the sort of inductive argument that should be familiar to anyone who has ever watched an episode of “Law & Order.” Again, though, as anyone who has seen “Law & Order” can attest, these sorts of inductive arguments can be (and frequently are) wrong. Even if all the premises are true, it is still possible that the conclusion is false.

Making teaching stick

After reading Switch (highly recommended) by Dan and Chip Heath I headed to their website to get more resources. I was pleasantly surprised by the range of resources they have there. From a short summary of the book to how-to guides on using the principles in different settings. The one that caught my eye was Teaching that Sticks, a resource from their previous book, Made to Stick. It is a wonderful article-length read that gives a handful of strategies that you can try immediately, such as using the unexpected to create focus and interest.

You Can Get There From Here: Websites for Learners

Amber Simmons writes about making websites 'learner-friendly'.
"Most websites are not learner-friendly. Web creators might aim for beautiful, accessible, usable interfaces to house their smart, web-native content, but they don’t often have learners’ goals or needs in mind—if they even know what those needs are... As an industry, we haven’t done our best to make our content-rich websites suitable for learning and exploration. Learners require more from us than keywords and killer headlines. They need an environment that is narrative, interactive, and discoverable."
You may also want to skim an article I wrote back in 2001 titled Serendipitous learning.

3-D Learning

Converge Magazine reports on some 3D learning modules used by the Kentucky Community & Technical College System.

“But through computers and projectors, 3-D technology allows users to see a person, place or thing as it would appear in real life. This opens the door to a virtual world of possibilities in the classroom, where students can learn about science anatomy, geography, architecture and astronomy by interacting with the content rather than reading about it in a textbook.”

A Photo Essay of Classic Instruction Manuals

"How do you run the A/C on a spy plane? Where's the Start button on a nuclear power plant? Don't try to wing it—read the directions! A portfolio of classic instruction manuals."

Another related site: The Product Manual Archive.

The ‘Least Assistance’ Principle

Clark Quinn writes about 'minimalist instruction'. And I subscribe to it. We're living in a day and age where the information to 'fill in the gaps' can be assembled easily. We have to focus on the essentials of the learning.

"We develop full courses to incorporate motivation, practice, all the things non-self-directed learners need. But there are times when we need to provide new information and skills to self-directed learners. When we’re talking to practitioners who are good at their job, know what they’re doing and why, and know that they need to know this information and how they’ll apply it, we can strip away a lot of the window dressing. We can just provide support to a SME so that their talk presents the relevant bits in a streamlined and effective way, and let them loose. That, to me, is the role of rapid elearning."

A UH report shows that blended learning works

A research study from the University of Houston provides the numbers to what many of us already believe and practice: blended learning works.

"A technical report from a University of Houston Department of Health and Human Performance researcher finds that students in a "hybrid class" that incorporated instructional technology with in-class lectures scored a letter-grade higher on average than their counterparts who took the same class in a more traditional format."

Instructional video websites

There seems to be a lot of interest in instructional videos. Graspr just joined the fray. Others well-covered websites are:

[Via TechCrunch]

Gaming and Learning

Insightful post by John Hagel on how or why we learn when we play games. He nicely layers current research findings by the likes of John Seely Brown to show that the real reason we learn by playing games is because we choose to exercise 'failure':

Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It's learning to be - a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture - as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.


E-learning guru points to arcsmodel.com -- a resource site by John Keller on his popular motivational design model ARCS - Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction - that is used in instructional settings.

Notes on participation

Dan Saffer writes on Ross Mayfield's and Jean Burgess' power laws of participation and how they can be used to design more intuitive interactions. From the world of instructional design this looks like old wine in new bottles. Gagne's taxonomy and Maslow's hierarchy of needs have both long cried for the design and organization of content (instruction or other) based on the status of the current state and on the vision of the desired state. In fact, in his 1935 Kappa Delta Pi lecture, he stressed on the need to organize subject-matter based on the desired state of participation of students in a working society. Participation issues are critical in this Web2.0 age and it definitely worth the effort to revisit and reuse some 'old' stuff -- an action that is on the far side of the 'high engagement' axis on the power law graphs!

The Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-based Learning

A new journal on PBL. This news comes on the heels of the much publicized report on why minimally guided instruction does not work.
[thanks willatworklearning]

Why Minimally Guided Instruction Does Not Work

This is important stuff (PDF) for the learning community and the implications could run deep:

"While unguided or minimally-guided instructional approaches are very popular and intuitively appealing, the point is made that these approaches ignore both the structures that constitute human cognitive architecture and evidence from empirical studies over the past half century that consistently indicate that minimally-guided instruction is less effective and less efficient than instructional approaches that place a strong emphasis on guidance of the student learning process. The advantage of guidance begins to recede only when learners have sufficiently high prior knowledge to provide ‘internal’ guidance."

[thanks e-learning guru]

Corporate storytelling

This is fun, weekend viewing smile

Check out the one on storytelling. Thanks to Shawn Callahan.

No more categories

I’ve done away with categories. I was constantly struggling with categories for a long time. I had 3 iterations in the past and always thought that I would finally get to a more representative set, but never did. The main reason I guess is that I find myself not talking about a single topic or domain. If I were to do that, say on instructional design, then I think I would have found that representative set. But the topics I find myself getting into are so diverse—design, decision-making, branding, neuroscience, intranets, etc.—that it would be absurd to have a listing of categories for these entries. Blog posts, I’ve come to realise, want to be free.

Another way of looking at instructional design

Jay Cross takes us back to the events of 9/11 and then to WWII, Skinner and Sherlock Holmes to explain learning landscapes -- his version of Web 2.0 for eLearning (I hope that is a nice way of putting it, going by the context of the last post).

"Learning environments, which I’ll dub learnscapes, are like landscapes. They make sense as a whole, not simply a bunch of independent courses and workshops. As in nature, you don’t get very far if you think only of people, ignoring the community in which they are interconnected. We can establish the starting conditions, but then we have to let the plants (or the people) grow as they will. Each organism contains it own feedback loops; adaptation is their destiny. Shouting at them won’t turn roses into rhubarb or artists into engineers, for a rose is a rose is a rose, and a person comes with hard-wired aspects as well as flexibility."

Learning Development Cycle

I have not gone through this George Siemens article in detail, but it seems to provide the basis for his theory of Connectivism.

"Instructional design (ID) serves only a small part of the entire learning experience. The pace of information development exceeds courses as the primary delivery mechanism of learning, challenging established ID. Alternatives to courses, like learning networks and ecologies, are developing as an informal learning approach. Designers and organizations receive substantial benefits to acknowledging informal learning, and initiating a focused design approach. Effective learning design must recognize different domains of learning."

How to use the dial phone (1927)

Check out this multimedia-instruction from 1927 on how to use the dial phone. It uses a story to link the sequence of operations together.

On another note, I also like the way the Internet Archive uses thumbnails to allow users preview the movie before downloading it. [Via Usable help]

Tapping the power of analogy

This article, which appears in the latest Harvard Business Review, is a comprehensive read on understanding and using analogies to make sense of new or unpredictable environments -- be it for strategy or for learning purposes. It explains why the case based method of business instruction is so effective -- it provides managers with a repository of analogies they can draw from to make sense of uncertainties in the real world. Much of the article, however, focuses on techniques to avoid shoehorning analogies to fit your bias. [Note: full article available for purchase online.]

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