Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) 2013-08-22T07:15:54.919Z
Meetup : Baltimore meetup 2011-09-29T02:37:22.659Z
Meetup : BALTIMORE: Anyone wanna meet up? 2011-09-12T02:57:36.246Z
On Eliezer's post "The Cluster Structure of Thingspace" 2011-09-04T05:02:08.915Z
Another treatment of Direct Instruction getting more into the technical details of the theory 2011-09-02T06:06:35.017Z
Partial rewrite of the "Direct Instruction" thing 2011-09-01T04:00:36.853Z
Scientifically optimizing education: Hard problem, or solved problem? Introducing the Theory of Direct Instruction 2011-08-31T05:28:43.473Z
Ending British Columbia's anti-cryonics law 2011-06-12T07:18:58.525Z
Victoria BC meetup Monday May 23rd 5pm 2011-05-14T06:57:05.540Z


Comment by owen_richardson on You Only Live Twice · 2020-02-13T18:22:00.330Z · LW · GW


Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-23T06:23:25.016Z · LW · GW

Good decision.

............. Okay, I have got to get out of this discussion. xD

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-23T06:05:34.755Z · LW · GW

... Yes, Rolf was awesome, and he is cool and I like him. That is entirely the point. The bit about him helping me to realize that I am "crazy" is a humorous way of giving mad props to his clear and incisive thinking.

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-23T02:32:38.948Z · LW · GW

I would respond with a mildly self-deprecatory comment that simultaneously ironically highlights the strange, unnecessary harshness and lack of humor one may find surprisingly commonly on LW, but I expect it would just get a bunch of downvotes and be a silly waste of time, amusing no one but myself.

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-23T01:17:06.571Z · LW · GW

What do you mean by "have access to"?

Hm, yeah, that's a really weird way to phrase it unless you have certain... historical things in mind. Strictly speaking, everyone "has access" to all the books and other resources you need. It's just really unlikely for anyone to notice that it's something worth focusing on.

Okay, I wrote my response to Technoguyrob to double as a response to you. I'll get back to you in a few days.

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-23T01:11:00.849Z · LW · GW


Minimum Viable Products have been done, hence the excitement... just built mainly for markets where the ultimate "consumers" have pretty much no influence over "purchasing policy"... and stuff ...

It's not a theory of learning, but a theory of instruction...

As to "smarter than me", I didn't develop the theory, and it's largely dumb luck I came across all the puzzle pieces in a way that made it perfectly obvious how much of a Big Deal the implications could be...

A year ago, I'd've talked your ear off at this point trying to explain how damn cool this is and how much you should care, but now I'm wondering if I should shut up and keep it to myself for a while longer...

I mean, you could extract the information from various crackpot rants that I've left around the web, but... I think I'm safe from you making the effort at this point. xD

Okay, so I didn't really think about whether I wanted to get into this at all beforehand, and I need to talk to my partner.

I have a bunch of moving-to-another-country practical matters I should be focusing on right now anyway.

I'll get back to you guys in a few days.

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T23:35:03.778Z · LW · GW

Oh, alright, allow me to adjust down to the objectively correct level of excitement...



Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T23:28:44.879Z · LW · GW

Thank you very much! You are cool and I like you and I will look into those some time! :3

I don't think I have to worry too much about "insight porn". The closest I get is obsessively sampling the products of the nearest thing we have to "competition", noting details of all the ways they screw up and how to avoid those problems (and making sure to hit the few points they ever get right!)...

I'm basically forcing myself to spend these next few weeks landing some cheap-or-free rent and other pre-move preparations.

The theoretical and engineering puzzles of building the figurative machinery are just so inherently fascinating, and the joy I anticipate at watching it all run is compelling. :3

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T23:17:25.680Z · LW · GW

... D'awww. :)

I love how, sometimes, Lesswrongers can be so sweet in this totally unique and awesome way. :3

However, I actually meant "insane" in the same way FAI and cryonics are insane.

However however... Inferential distance!

This is how I have come to feel:

Don't try to explain people into caring about anything important.

If I really know the important things that I believe I know, then I should be able to use that knowledge to do amazing things. Things people can experience.

Then people will come to me begging for explanations.

I will say only that we have access to a Theory of Instruction that is to the field of education what Newton's Principia was to the field of physics. If you're really interested, then I could give you a fascinating reading list (and what is "libgen"?), but I aint gonna explain much. I've got engineering skills to teach myself, and there's a lot of bootstrapping to be done! :D

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T22:31:57.649Z · LW · GW

"I don't quite understand your point here" ....


Try to think about it from this angle: What are the connotations of you saying that the phrase seems to carry "dismissive" connotations? ;)

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T19:12:06.927Z · LW · GW

... Yes, thank you for pointing out the exact conjunction used in the original meme that I was riffing on. Definitely the key point. xD

("sarcastic only actually genuinely genial")

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T19:04:41.203Z · LW · GW

The worse case scenario is that a year from now we end up having to work a couple days a week slinging coffee/janitoring etc! :3

Better case scenarios are like (quoting muflax) "3 months programming, 9 months living off savings".

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T17:59:52.530Z · LW · GW

ours is the romance that shall shake down the very foundations of human civilization, and give birth to a new world in their place, yes

(... "ha ha but serious" xD )

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T17:45:02.581Z · LW · GW

Yeah, I actually just discovered that I've gone completely off the deep end, so your sane and measured advice is completely useless to me, sorry. xD


  1. Nope
  2. What is this "retire"?
  3. Nope.
  4. Ha ha ha what.
  5. Well yeah, of course. )

I think I'd edit in a notice to the top of the post so other well-meaning folks like you don't get tricked into wasting your time trying to talk sense into a total nutcase like me. :)

(I appreciate all y'all, though. ^^ )

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T17:37:51.649Z · LW · GW

... Yes, the winner is you.

Our answer to 2, from the depths of our souls, can only be: Hell. Fucking. Yes.

Now, Paul Graham is awesome (he has left me in a state of complete conviction that LISP is the One True Way, to which I must aspire), but that's... alot of essays. (An entire herd of alots, majestically migrating across vast prairies of prose.)

And I think our "startup" is going to be a lot different from what is normally meant by the term, so... I'ma sketch said differences, and you can tell me what you think is relevant, if you want.

  • Our "startup" is never going to be a publicly traded company.

  • We're actually not trying to become "rich", but to win the freedom to focus on doing nothing but work on inherently awesome projects.

  • Once we've got our prototype, we'll be able to easily start paying the bills through... basically tutoring celebrities and other rich people part time.

(That sounds bizarre, but we've got an outside view on this. The whole thing has basically been done before by people who had a clumsy grasp of the theory underlying the technology, and didn't even take advantage of basic computer programming tools to assist in the analysis. Just... stipulate this point.)

  • Although we also have, like, web-app subscription models we expect to get some cash flowing through...

  • So we going for establishing a reputation that'll allow us to maintain our frugal lifestyle easily off of a bit of consulting-y work, and some nice monthly cashflow for web-apps etc...

  • But essentially we're doing a startup for... a non-profit?

  • We're basically fantasizing not about giant IPO's, but about massive Kickstarter popularity whenever we announce a new project. And eventually creating our own university. A school that actually is for learning.

So yes, we're obviously insane. But let's stipulate that trying to live a "sane" life would be worse than death for us, and that the only type of advice we could possibly make use of is tips on how to kick ass at pulling off crazy things.

What does Graham have that I should read?

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T16:27:32.760Z · LW · GW


Do you know who the voyageurs were?

They were men who had to work in a massive wilderness where the only "infrastructure" was a bunch of rivers.

So they would just build a goddamn boat right there in the middle of nowhere with some bark they ripped off a tree, and canoe across a fucking continent. And where they couldn't paddle, they would get out and carry the damn thing, even when it was loaded down with a mountain of beaver skins.

Nobody "dismisses" these guys.

I'll tell you who we do "dismiss": The aristocratic assholes back in Europe who funded this whole phenomena with their insatiable hunger for ridiculous furry top-hats made out of giant pond rats (a fashion statement which they somehow failed to realize should do nothing but scream out to society at large in towering letters of fire, "I AM A BRAINLESS GIT").

In short, you sound unpleasantly dismissive of jungle-donkeys. ;)

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T08:47:34.287Z · LW · GW

All that said... how would you respond to question 4?

You can kind of tell that it was the question I came to realize was key, through the process of writing the post...

Should I even bother with this "investment" stuff right now, or just move the whole 13k sum to a simple savings account and worry about reinvesting it in a year?

Comment by owen_richardson on Simple investing for a complete beginner? (Just… developing world index funds?) · 2013-08-22T08:44:34.844Z · LW · GW


Well, I just did a quick google search for developing economies and looked for graphs that seemed to deal with the comparison I'm interested in.

For instance:

And my dad put the majority of investments in "Canada" and "US", which... are in the group of economies represented by the lower lines. (And the rest in "world", which is the average of the low and the high lines.)

As far as I can tell, his decision was based on... a heuristic that developing countries are lower status, and lower status=poorer=not a good investment? (I say "decision", but I don't know if it even occurred to him as an option...)

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T19:13:28.143Z · LW · GW

Interestingly enough, the study with the highest effect size in the meta-analysis (2.44) involved non-basic skills. Actually I think I'll just type up the summary:

This study analyzes the use of the Earth Science videodisc program with elementary education majors who traditionally have had negative attitudes towards science teaching. One group received the DI program and the other group received the traditional approach [random assignment, of course] during a one-semester science course. The DI group had significantly higher posttest knowledge scores (91%) and higher confidence in their understanding of science knowledge and ability to teach science.

Cited as:

"Vitale, M. & Romance, N. (1992). Using videodisc instruction in an elementary science methods course: Remediating science knowledge deficiencies and facilitating science teaching. Journal of Research in Science teaching, 29, 915-928."

Not that I've dug up the original paper myself yet.

But one of my favorites was a study that didn't use random assignment, but actually compared the performance of two groups of high school students: AP kids (doing whatever they normally do to study), and kids with performance previously in the lower two quartiles (taught through a videodisc course on "Chemistry and energy"). Both groups then took the same test.

Results as a researcher reported informally outside the study: “The experimentals whumped the AP students on all topics related to what was covered by the videodiscs of our course.”

(This one wasn't included in the meta-analysis, so I'll have to try to dig up the reference later.)

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T18:32:33.731Z · LW · GW

Thank you for your offer of help with feedback (I'll def take you up on that) and papers (there are some papers referenced in "Research on Direct Instruction" I might like to get my hands on), and the sympathy on my ma.

I'm interning at a DI school in Baltimore (City Springs). Currently working with the kindergarteners on the language program (I'm supposed to move on to also doing math and reading soon, and teach older kids as well).

The National Institute For Direct Instruction (NIFDI) placed me here. It usually takes a minimum of two years for someone to get really good at presentation, but they figure I should be able to do it in one.

They're just setting up a program for talented DI teachers to learn design by becoming coauthors on new programs, and that's obviously where I'm aiming to go next year right after the annual summer DI conference.

Anyway, thing about the internship is that they've never had an unpaid foreign intern floating around before, so I end up as the third teacher in the room (the usual set-up at City Springs is a two teacher team. One of them is technically just a 'paraprofessional', but their instructional responsibilities are the same at a DI charter school). So I have to make sure I'm actually working on the things I need to be working on rather than getting side-tracked into some not really DI-relevant task.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T18:13:32.645Z · LW · GW

Yes, but we're not talking about long-term research here. It wouldn't be hard at all to get a bunch of volunteers interested in learning a language, and randomly assign them to one of the various different treatments popular in the industry (MT, Pimsleur, Rosetta, traditional classroom instruction, whatever). It would take less than a year, probably.

(Various choices would be up to the experimenter, like whether they wanted to control time so all groups spent, like, an hour a day or whatever, or examine the time students chose to spend themselves as one of the dependent variables, or whatever. Obviously it would be best to do it both ways.)

Obvious, easy, and valuable. Just nobody with the resources has the incentive or the perspective to see that it should be done.

Anyway, I'd expect to see a pretty high failure rate even for the MT courses. Just a significantly lower failure rate than any of the other courses.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T18:01:12.386Z · LW · GW

Yes, and I should make clear that Solity didn't say, 'The MT courses work well, wherever they work well, due to approximating DI'. He presented DI more as one of many interesting little connected pieces (many of which were pretty much fluff), rather than as an overarching explanation.

The interpretation that, "If dalmatians are metaphorically the gold standard, then the MT courses are mangy mutts in an industry where everyone else is painting black spots and pinning floppy ears on chickens," is mine.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T17:06:57.051Z · LW · GW

Yeah, and all of what Cainntear was talking about later in that post with "teach confusable things separately" is covered in Chapter 10 of ToI, "Introducing coordinate members to a set".

[And yes, there's a typo in the table on the first page. Awareness of abstract feature "C" rules out example 6. It doesn't have to wait until feature "(D)" is brought to attention.]

I really think both the places where MT follows DI principles, and the places where he fails, should jump out to anyone familiar with both.

Which makes me wonder about how familiar Solity was with ToI, because I don't remember his exploration of the samenesses and differences as very good. How much of that recollection is due to my lack of familiarity at the time, I'm not sure, but I don't think all of it. Don't think I'm gonna reread it any time soon, though.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T04:06:32.482Z · LW · GW

No, although I'd like to. I've just been really inactive the past couple weeks. Settling in to the internship and making sure I'm actually learning what I'm supposed to be learning there is still taking most of my energy during the week, and then I found out my mom had cancer (she just had a little bit, they got it out completely, and the chances of it coming back are apparently 'virtually nil' with just five weeks of radiation... but still, totally killed my productivity for one weekend), and then lazing around with a cold the next weekend. Yeesh.

The most I've been doing is poking at a post tentatively titled "A dry introduction to the empirical evidence on DI's effectiveness", essentially a summary of "Research on Direct Instruction", since I was feeling like maybe the best thing to do would be to take a step back and present a better explanation of why people should be interested in the theory before explaining the theory itself. (Yes? No? Maybe?)

MT was never supposed to be presented as evidence itself, but as an explanation for the initial inspiration for strategies for the "what we can do for DI / what DI can do for us" thing. Obviously, it would be way better to wait until many other things are explained before I tackle that one, but I might have to try a bit anyway just to keep the confusion down since it's already out there...

Anyway, I'll go ask Misha if he wants to work on the 'top-level post on DI' project now, and if he could use me for it.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T03:37:04.499Z · LW · GW

I should also note that MT was not merely poor at meta-teaching how to use his eponymous 'Method' itself; He was actively secretive about it.

I believe the reason he claimed was something like fear of the establishment stealing it and claiming credit? That doesn't seem to make much sense to me. Was that the 'real' reason, or a rationalization for some traumatic after-effect of his war experience, or what? Not really a question I'd expect a high chance of success or high returns on answering.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T03:20:16.317Z · LW · GW

Summary: Nice for beginners and people with bad learning experiences ...

Actually, this strikes me as a bit weakly worded. I think the MT courses are the best resource currently available for an English speaker looking to start learning French or Spanish, by a significant margin.

Unfortunately there are no scientific studies comparing the effectiveness of various different 'teach yourself' programs and traditional classroom instruction, so I can't find any direct evidence on that question beyond my own anecdotal experience.

But still, what with that and the much more indirect evidence available, I'd still be very surprised if this wasn't true.

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-25T03:02:50.931Z · LW · GW

However, according to several DI proponents the reason MT works so well is that it applies (an approximation of) DI techniques.

Wait, 'several DI proponents'? Are you sure? Because I know of no-one in the DI world who is aware of MT (unless I were to count myself as properly 'in the DI world', which I do not yet).

The only place I found the connection was in the book "The Learning Revolution" by Jonathan Solity (2008). This was where I found the first reference to DI period, setting me off down this long path. However, it isn't really the focus of Solity's book itself, and I wouldn't recommend the book as useful to anyone who already knows about DI, especially not if they already know about MT.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-25T02:24:25.932Z · LW · GW

Yes, Project Follow-Through had some problems, but I don't think it's likely that those problems provided a systematic bias towards DI sufficient to explain away the huge differences as non-significant, especially since similar results were replicated in many smaller studies that were in a situation where better random assignment etc was possible.

"Research on Direct Instruction" (Adams and Engelmann, 1996) goes into much better detail on Follow-Through and those other experiments.

Actually, it basically covers three different types of studies:

  • Those dealing with the relative effectiveness of DI compared to other models (in a meta-analysis)

  • Those pinning down the internal details of DI theory, validating unique predictions it makes (about the effect specific variations in sequencing, juxtaposition, wording, pacing, etc should have on student performance). Only one prediction ever came out differently than expected: That a sequence of examples starting with negatives would be more efficient at narrowing in on a concept for the learner. It was found that while this did hold with more sophisticated older learners, more naive younger students simply interpreted the, 'This is not [whatever]' to mean, 'This is not important, so don't attend to this'.

  • Those demonstrating 'non-normative' outcomes. For instance, calling Piagetian developmental theory into question.

You should be able to find the book at a local university library. Could you get your hands on it? I'd love to hear what you think after reading it!

Comment by owen_richardson on Review: Michel Thomas French (Direct Instruction) · 2011-09-24T21:02:42.083Z · LW · GW

Wow, nice work!

Just one note for now: On the MT courses being approximations: Yeah, the way I usually think of it now references an article by Zig Engelmann called "The Dalmatian and Its Spots" (contextual prologue here).

To summarize the most here-relevant message of the article:

Thinking that programs with certain features [eg, some focus on 'phonemic awareness' and 'phonics' in a reading program] will be successful because research shows successful programs have those features is like thinking something with spots must be a dalmatian because research has shown dalmatians have spots.

So I would say that the MT courses are, "Essentially dalmatians, not just spotted. Some mutt, some mange, but dalmatian enough to suffice for many practical purposes”.

(Although this metaphor obviously shouldn't be phored too meta :P)

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-08T01:06:02.894Z · LW · GW

Hmmm, there could be lots to reply to in that post, but I'll try to keep it brief...

Can you give me a few specific examples of actual tasks that your students have problems with most commonly? Like, show me exactly what the students are presented with.

With that, I might be able to do a transformed task analysis, and develop an example cognitive routine.

Actually, factoring is used as one illustration of a cognitive routine in Theory of Instruction. I'll scan that section when I get time.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-08T00:56:11.830Z · LW · GW

Thanks! I did think it sounded annoying for commenter, and I don't want to try the general audience's patience much further at this point. Hence why I'm just asking a few people what they think of it in the comments.

Being able to calibrate myself objectively is an extremely attractive idea, though.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-08T00:39:29.536Z · LW · GW

DI is a theory of instruction, not of learning.

If you're interested in judging in greater detail how DI might offer any ideas on AI that are both useful and original, the place to start would be Inferred Functions of Performance and Learning (Engelmann and Steely, 2004), which does attempt to set out a theory of learning (and the logically necessary things that must be going on inside of any system that performs a given behavior, whether learned or unlearned).

Please see this comment.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-08T00:25:34.201Z · LW · GW

Yes, this post is just an introduction to the very basics of DI (technically to just the very basics of one half of it, the 'stimulus-locus analysis').

Theory of Instruction goes into detail on those fundamental principles and how they apply to teaching the most basic concepts. It then shows how the basic concepts can be built up into more complex ones, and therefore how more complex ones can be analyzed to reduce them into parts for teaching.

Once you understand the details, you'll probably just say, "Oh, right, reductionism. Of course that also applies here."

Comment by owen_richardson on Another treatment of Direct Instruction getting more into the technical details of the theory · 2011-09-07T04:25:11.931Z · LW · GW

Considering that you didn't even try to see if I was making a bluff by offering to bet me one cent against my $2000...

S=probability of scientology involvement





Again, assuming I didn't make any embarrassingly simple math errors, that's an over 99.9995% confidence that the 'scientology-related' hypothesis was wrong.

Not that this is factoring in the hassle for both of us of setting up the judging and so on, but still, right? :P

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-07T04:05:00.751Z · LW · GW

Oh no, I know DAMN well I could've done WAY better if I'd been less stupid in the first place! Although if I had to communicate with my past self, I think the best thing I could have told him would be just to put a note at the beginning of the original post saying explicitly that it was a draft with many, many problems, but that I was pretty damn sure DI was a super-important topic to bring to the attention of LW, so if anyone would be so super-cool nice as to give me some feedback on how to make it more presentable...

There's no way I could communicate the things I've learned so far to him more effectively than his resulting experience would teach him.

Uh, does this seem like an interesting idea?

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-07T03:43:30.747Z · LW · GW

Most excellent Gwern!

I have a proposition!

So, I've begun writing a new post, “A dry presentation of some empirical evidence on DI's effectiveness”. (An attempt to replace that intended function of my original post with as high-quality a replacement as Misha's post was for the intended function of the 'theory sketch' section.)

KPier very kindly offered to help me with editing, so I sent her the first seven-ish paragraphs I had written. She found one change to recommend, somewhat ambivalent herself over which way was best. I wasn't sure either, and found myself wondering what I'd decide in the end.

Then I started wondering about what differences in responses there might be between a post where she made all the final decisions, and a post where where I did.

And then I thought... double-blind experiment! (Woot woot, raise the empirical roof. :P)

Here's my idea:

I finish writing the post, get the 'her final' and 'my final' versions, and then make a post linking to both versions and explaining the experiment.

I'll just label them version A and version B (flip a coin to avoid any weird bias I may have on As and Bs, not that I'd anticipate much), and ask the reader to follow one or the other (by flipping a coin to avoid any weird bias they may have; Mostly just to make sure the sample sizes for each version are equalized.)

Then people record their impression and give me their feedback (without directly quoting the text), and I have to try and discriminate which readers got which.

Does that sound like a neat idea? If it works well, it seems like it might even end up being worth creating an automated system for setting up and running such experiments (without all the coin flipping and link following), for people to use with appropriate posts.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-06T22:57:09.208Z · LW · GW

Some other thoughts: perhaps you could give me some examples of specific teaching goals you have, and specific problems you often encounter?

Honestly, I suspect most of the problems high-school students have are due to lack of mastery of the basics. That they are weak enough on such things as adding/subtracting/multiplying/dividing fractions and working with exponents that they are likely to make mistakes on those even if they aren't having their cognitive resources split between trying to track that shaky foundation and learn the details of the new thing you're presenting to them.

If we could develop some systematic diagnoses, corrections, and practice materials (practice to mastery!) for just fractions and exponents, I think we might be able to hugely improve any tutoring you [or anyone else!] attempt.

ETA: If the lowest hanging fruit in improving your own skills is to "stop doing stupid shit", then it follows that the lowest hanging fruit in improving your teaching is to figure out how to get your students to "stop doing stupid shit". :P

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-06T22:45:19.344Z · LW · GW

At this point, I have nothing more detailed to respond to that than, "I am now extremely aware of that, but thank you for telling me again, because the extra repetition couldn't hurt my chances of remembering to thoroughly apply it in the future."

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-06T22:36:11.790Z · LW · GW

I'm going to the effort of telling you this because, due to the value of the comment, I want to encourage similar feedback from you in the future.

I'll be sure to criticize you in the future, then.

And I'll be sure to strive to make your job much smaller. =]

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-06T05:45:32.716Z · LW · GW

After rereading your last comment here, I just wanted to make clear: I do care very much.

Thank you making an excellent, explicit, compressed list of everything I did wrong. (...Where else than LW would that be obviously non-sarcastic? :P)

It is very valuable and I will be using it to improve. If I had a printer, I'd print it out and put it by my computer. (As it is I'll just have to save it to a file I use a lot.)

I'm going to the effort of telling you this because, due to the value of the comment, I want to encourage similar feedback from you in the future.

...And if I had never made the attempt, I never would have gotten that feedback from you either. :P

Yes, I realize that you can't just say, "Well, it's all right, cuz I learned a valuable lesson!" and then keep doing the same dumb thing, but... whenever I have done a dumb thing, it's cuz I haven't learned that lesson yet! So long as you're not twisting that into an excuse to keep doing the dumb thing, or to avoid trying to learn faster not to do different dumb things in the future, you've got it right, right?

So I still think "Just Try It" was good advice.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-06T03:09:09.219Z · LW · GW

Problem is that the DI world, in terms of the actual experts on the theory rather than just people who deliver programs, is very small, and most of those experts work together in person rather than communicating online.

So it might take a while to get a response.

Heh, I actually just realized that I've been using some non-transparent LessWrong jargon in some of my communications with the DI community, like "inferential distance".

The problem is that, once you understand the concepts common both on LW and in DI theory, there is so much overlap in meaning that it takes a little bit of conscious thought to remember which way of expressing an idea is appropriate in which context.

[I mean getting the context of LW and DI people confused, of course. In the context of individual sentences, it's obvious which is most apt, hence why I need to stop myself from switching back and forth without thinking about it.]

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-06T00:04:54.831Z · LW · GW

No no no! Please don't mistake my tone! I am so happy that you're asking me for detailed help with this! Responding to you is not onerous, but joyful!

Writing a "Complete Guide to Task Analysis for Beginners!" is something I'd love to do! I just know it won't get done very soon.

I'm sorry I keep forgetting to examine my jargon that seems intuitively transparent to me and try to over-estimate how much explanation it needs. From now on I will start compiling a glossary of terms.

But yes, you raise a very important question:

"How much practical use can I get out of DI theory without actually studying it in depth?"

It is true that it is not like a magic item you can just put in your inventory and thereby receive extra points to your teaching ability, but an entire complex, well, theory, for engineering complex educational machines, which you have to understand and master the use of to create such machines yourself.

But still, there must be at least a few quick equivalents to things like pulleys and levers that I could distill for you.

The hardest part of that will be simply noticing what's not already obvious to you...

How about if I submit the question to the DI community for you?

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T23:15:07.744Z · LW · GW

Ah! Sorry, I was thinking maybe you had understood some of the contents of that thread already before I mentioned it in this one.

Anyway, sorry this reply took so long. I was having scanner issues.

Here's the first page of Chapter 12 in ToI, "Programs Derived from Tasks" [edit: fixed from accidental link to section of the AthabascaU module]. A definition of "Task Analysis" is, of course, under that heading.

There are details in the definition that rely on knowledge of concepts covered earlier in the book, but as a whole, does it help?

I just realized that page starts the heading "Strict Task Analysis" but I didn't scan "Transformed Task Analysis" since that's on the next page, and that's what you need.

But honestly, it is reasonable of me to direct you to the book yourself, right? Rather than trying to write a " Complete Guide to Task Analysis for Beginners!" right now?

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T22:48:42.006Z · LW · GW


The reason I did not, rightly or wrongly, was because you have to start off doing this by showing how it applies in the most basic context, like in the AthabascaU module.

This results in a very technical analysis of something that initially seems trivial and pointlessly detailed, and unrelated to the amazing-looking results from studies like Project Follow-Through (which, remember, the meta-analysis says are representative).

I remember glazing over that section in the AthabascaU module myself the first time I read it. And several times after that. Only my emotional experience with the Michel Thomas lessons made me keep focusing on it until it clicked. Way later.

Now, many people on LW surely have much quicker intelligences for such things than I do.

But see the last paragraph of this comment from prase, in which he, at least, is having the same 'this seems trivial and pointlessly detailed' reaction after reading the AthabascaU module.

Why was he sticking with it? I believe because he had heard my emotional enthusiasm, and wanted to find out if I was just a crank, or if there was actually a rational reason for all that gushing "this thing is important!"

I believe that in the future, when detailed knowledge of DI has become a common thing on LW among people who never read my original post, some of those people will go back and read it, and go, "Huh? Makes perfect sense to me!" making it an excellent case study of how someone can have read Eliezer's "Expecting Short Inferential Distances", marked it in their mind as very true and very useful, studied DI theory, and still had to go and run smack into the brick wall, knowing explicitly that that was what they were doing, before truly emotionally understanding that, yes, it actually does apply to them.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T20:54:47.269Z · LW · GW

I appreciate your willingness to have an in-depth discussion of this topic with me, and if I had infinite time, I would gladly take you up on it. But since I don't, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to bow out of discussing the subject of me in order to have more time for the subject of DI.

I have already learned lots of things I think I could apply to better accomplishing similar goals in the future. And I don't anticipate having to introduce another such wide, deep, complex topic as DI from scratch again.

Again, thank you, and I hope to see more of you in the DI discussion.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T20:07:59.374Z · LW · GW

I would love to help, of course. Right exactly now I have some stuff from my internship I should bump to the top of my priority list (there were some minor problems last week with the kindies not following the proper procedures for asking for my help when I'm helping someone else, and I need to whip up a short script to model the expectations with the other teachers - Honestly, a huge percentage of behavior problems with kids, especially the youngest ones, are just from them honestly not knowing what you want from them).

But that kind of project is nowhere near as demanding as this, so yeah. Please do use me as a resource. I'm a lot easier to understand in a real-time discussion format.

But I think we might want to hold off on putting this on the main page for a little while, although that might just be because I'm so familiar with the depths of how far DI goes that even a very deep introductory piece seems shallow to me. It's everyone else's decision, obviously, since people who aren't super-familiar with it are the audience.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T19:55:34.023Z · LW · GW

I... this is one of those issues that if I am in the wrong, I will have to take a break and apply some more intense techniques for getting around my own defensiveness than I usually need to use.

But I really honestly feel no "small note of discord" in my mind that should make me expect to find that I am wrong.

At any rate, since it's over and done with now, what say the both of us just put the issue far in the back of our minds to allow any potentially useful new thoughts to crystallize by themselves, and refocus our attention on the future of what we need to write about DI?

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T19:47:16.474Z · LW · GW

Oh no, I didn't mean "Is that all you need?" as in "subtext: I've given you enough, go away". :P

I meant: "I know I need to give you more information. Tell me where I should start."

I linked to a scanned page of Theory of Instruction here in this comment thread

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T19:41:44.006Z · LW · GW

Ha ha. See here.

Comment by owen_richardson on What Direct Instruction is · 2011-09-05T19:38:59.278Z · LW · GW

Please see "I wasn't contemplating suicide per se". I knew in advance that I would decide to keep fighting, as I always do. It is actually a technique I use to cheer myself up, rather like being underwater, and dipping down just a bit so that you can kick off the ground in order to spring back to the surface.