How an idea goes from being a possible blog post to a black hole for time and energy.
A story of an idea: It started with a discussion with a colleague about evaluating teaching and my saying that I didn’t think that my department would agree on what was good teaching. And then I had the question, “Is there some form of teaching, that even if done in the most excellent manner, is not effective?” And then the spiral begins. This connects to an earlier unfulfilled idea about how that the measurement of effective teaching is really a question of the expected value (the effectiveness of the teaching for various student types against various distribution of student types) and, of course, the question of the time frame and actual measures for effective teaching. But then what teaching styles can I consider, and is it reasonable to look at the styles in isolation or at ones that probably nobody really uses. (For example, what about the stereotype of the professor that teaches the same class over and over from the same notes, and just reads them without any type of interaction with the students – I doubt anyone really does this anymore). Just in case you might think the spiral is settling down, it goes to the next level. I start thinking about how writing a blog post starting from a question is like the way one approaches mathematical modeling. One, ideally, starts with a question and then as the model develops, new questions and ideas start coming out, and it is easy to lose focus as one examines all the different possibilities. It is also challenging if you share the model with someone else as they will always have suggestions for other (reasonable) things to consider. And then it seems the blog post should be about that, but then it seems like the best idea is to write a post about the struggle to come up with a a focused post. And so, here it is.