As I wrote in my previous blog, A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool blog and the accompanying video, the most popular computer games take players through increasingly challenging levels as they became more and more skillful. As skill improves, the next challenge stimulates new mastery to just the right extent that the player could reach with practice and persistence. Students need challenge suited to their background knowledge and abilities if they are to remain motivated to persevere and build mastery of foundational knowledge.
This is an excellent article for those of you interested in incorporating gaming elements into your teaching. There are two really solid strategies in here, along with some great, practical advice.
I think the most uncomfortable piece of this new information landscape for educators is that many of them don’t know what learning looks like when students use these tools. They think simply because they have the ability to learn about things that aren’t necessarily the traditional disciplines and content, that those students are not doing valuable learning.
This article from NYT talks about an interesting experiment in merging classroom and virtual learning. Looks a lot like an experiment I tried last spring with my 9th grade cultural studies class.
If many schools seem intent on containing students’ online personas and use of social media, Dwight is trying to set them free — to blog, animate, make movies, design video games, make robots, and go forth in the networked world headfirst.
“If we don’t take this time to teach them how to behave online, something will happen,” Mr. Kolani said. (He did not mention it, but the behavior of certain elected officials came to mind.) “We want them to participate online in order to have a legacy of good things about them online.” And there’s the fact that a lot of college and university level work will be increasingly online and collaboration oriented.
When Mr. Kolani arrived at Dwight in 2005, in a traditional head of information-technology role, the technology curriculum focused on more traditional skills building — like Microsoft Office and Web page design — and using technology as a creative outlet (think Adobe Acrobat to make movies).
Last year, the school hired two more teachers to join Mr. Kolani, and the three overhauled the program.
“We took best of all and made it a linear progression,” Mr. Kolani said. “We wanted the skills to build year after year.”
Now students start in sixth grade with a digital citizenship and ethics unit — dangers of cyberbullying included — followed by an introduction to blogging, which requires them to “blog regularly as a means of self-assessment and reflection,” Mr. Kolani said. (The first thing they reflect on is the class itself, with the hope that in time, the reflections become more sophisticated, like the import of social media to the Arab Spring.)
There’s a video unit in which students tell a story and film it, and a foray into robotics. Mr. Kolani said he recently heard shrieks of delight from a student who made his robot follow a line of tape.
When possible, technology intersects with other classes: Sixth graders studying Greek history, for example, used the Google SketchUp tool to examine ancient architecture.
Seventh graders might use the same tools in a more advanced way, perhaps using SketchUp to design their own buildings. They design video games, and they animate.
By eighth grade, they are using Prezi, an online presentation tool, to make their own mandalas, Buddhist and Hindu presentations that require them to frame themselves with four “gates.” For another unit, they pick one piece of technology, like an implantable cellphone, and research how it has evolved and predict how it might continue to evolve. There’s more video gaming, and as the students get older, more independent projects.
Every year takes them away from the local and more toward the global, Mr. Kolani said, reflecting the school’s use of the International Baccalaureateprogram. “We’re an international school with a focus on looking globally,” he explained. “We realized we could take the same technology that we would use to look at our neighborhood to explore the world.”
Any such method should be used a supplementary tool to other ways of learning. The downside of this learning is that even though the mind is picking up on the shortcuts, when you ask the student to fully explain the concept behind the shortcut, I image he/she is likely to have difficulty articulating that. I could imagine using this method in addition to purely conceptual problem solving, as well as intentional written reflection exercises meant to evaluate and assess the value of the processess together.
Now, a small group of cognitive scientists is arguing that schools and students could take far more advantage of this same bottom-up ability, called perceptual learning. The brain is a pattern-recognition machine, after all, and when focused properly, it can quickly deepen a person’s grasp of a principle, new studies suggest. Better yet, perceptual knowledge builds automatically: There’s no reason someone with a good eye for fashion or wordplay cannot develop an intuition for classifying rocks or mammals or algebraic equations, given a little interest or motivation.
“When facing problems in real-life situations, the first question is always, ‘What am I looking at? What kind of problem is this?’ ” said Philip J. Kellman, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Any theory of how we learn presupposes perceptual knowledge — that we know which facts are relevant, that we know what to look for.”
The challenge for education, Dr. Kellman added, “is what do we need to do to make this happen efficiently?”
Scientists have long known that the brain registers subtle patterns subconsciously, well before a person knows he or she is learning. In a landmark 1997 experiment, researchers at the University of Iowa found that people playing a simple gambling game with decks of cards reported “liking” some decks better than others long before they realized that those decks had cards that caused greater losses.. Some participants picked up the differences among decks after just 10 cards.
Experts develop such sensitive perceptual radar the old-fashioned way, of course, through years of study and practice. Yet there is growing evidence that a certain kind of training — visual, fast-paced, often focused on classifying problems rather then solving them — can build intuition quickly. In one recent experiment, for example, researchers found that people were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections of works from all 12 than after viewing a dozen works from one artist, then moving on to the next painter. The participants’ brains began to pick up on differences before they could fully articulate them.
“Once the brain has a goal in mind, it tunes the perceptual system to search the environment” for relevant clues, said Steven Sloman, a cognitive scientist at Brown University. In time the eyes, ears and nose learn to isolate those signs and dismiss irrelevant information, in turn sharpening thinking.
Hidden away in the Amazonian rainforest a small tribe have successfully managed what so many dream of being able to do – to ignore the pressures of time so successfully that they don’t even have a word for it.
It is the first time scientists have been able to prove ‘time’ is not a deeply entrenched human universal concept as previously thought.
Researchers, led by Professor Chris Sinha from the University of Portsmouth Department of Psychology, studied the way in which time was talked about and thought about by the Amondawa people of Brazil. Their research is published in the journal Language and Cognition.
Professor Sinha said: “For the Amondawa, time does not exist in the same way as it does for us. We can now say without doubt that there is at least one language and culture which does not have a concept of time as something that can be measured, counted, or talked about in the abstract. This doesn’t mean that the Amondawa are ‘people outside time’, but they live in a world of events, rather than seeing events as being embedded in time.”
An interesting opinion piece by Thiel Fellowship recipient, Dale Stephens (19 yrs old) printed at CNN.
I left college two months ago because it rewards conformity rather than independence, competition rather than collaboration, regurgitation rather than learning and theory rather than application. Our creativity, innovation and curiosity are schooled out of us.
Failure is punished instead of seen as a learning opportunity. We think of college as a stepping-stone to success rather than a means to gain knowledge. College fails to empower us with the skills necessary to become productive members of today’s global entrepreneurial economy.
College is expensive. The College Board Policy Center found that the cost of public university tuition is about 3.6 times higher today than it was 30 years ago, adjusted for inflation. In the book “Academically Adrift,” sociology professors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa say that 36% of college graduates showed no improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing after four years of college. Student loan debt in the United States, unforgivable in the case of bankruptcy, outpaced credit card debt in 2010 and will top $1 trillion in 2011.
Fortunately there are productive alternatives to college. Becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg or mastering the phrase “Would you like fries with that?” are not the only options.
The success of people who never completed or attended college makes us question whether what we need to learn is taught in school. Learning by doing — in life, not classrooms — is the best way to turn constant iteration into true innovation. We can be productive members of society without submitting to academic or corporate institutions. We are the disruptive generation creating the “free agent economy” built by entrepreneurs, creatives, consultants and small businesses envisioned by Daniel Pink in his book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future.”
I’m struck by the reactions of students about a boring 45 minute class becomes a boring 2 hour class. Exactly! If you’re going to change the schedule, you have to revamp and restructure what happens in the classroom. Any change in scheduling must be coupled with a focus on designing experiences that maximize motivation, inquiry, and learning.
“The collateral qualities our kids carry out with their diplomas,” Mr. Nelson said, “are qualities colleges want — kids that are actively interested in things and not just doing things to put it on their transcript.”
Nearly a year into the experiment, teachers interviewed said they enjoyed the flexibility of longer classes, which allowed them to take students out of the classroom and collaborate more, both with other teachers and students. Advanced biology students, for example, trekked to the Black Rock Forest, in Orange County, N.Y., to measure snow depth, and frequented the Museum of Natural History. Spring Workshop, led by English and theater teachers, adapted Edwidge Danticat’s short story “Children of the Sea,” with students writing the script, designing the costumes and building the set. Woodworking and astronomy teachers worked together on a class that built a telescope.
Students and parents also had mostly positive reviews, though some said the new schedule fell short of at least one of Mr. Nelson’s key goals: reducing stress. For many students, the year had an uneven nature: one easy module, with two art classes, followed by a hard one with multivariable calculus and chemistry.
A bad bout of flu could result in missing almost 20 percent of classes that last no more than 36 teaching days. The blocks meant much less daily transition time, with students no longer racing from one 45-minute class to the next, but the modules brought big transitions five times in the year instead of twice — including five sets of exams or final papers.
“They have five ends of semesters, which can be hell,” said Claudia Brown, a parent with two children in the school. “I don’t think it lessens the stress.”
Another complaint: boring 45-minute classes became boring two-hour classes. Robert Ronan, a senior, said, “There are some classes that lend themselves more easily to 2-hour-and-15-minute classes and teachers that can do that, but I sort of feel like a lot of the classes are the same, just stretched.” Mr. Nelson deemed the experiment a success, though he acknowledged there were areas to work out. The dislikes are often the result of poor teaching, he said. “It’s our job to make them interested,” he added.
The change came after five years of discussion with teachers, parents and others. “Our tradition is change,” said Ms. Brown, the parent.
The Article posted in The Atlantic Magazine by Laura Seargeant Richardson concentrated around division between work and play is a myth. If America is going to teach its youth to innovate, we need to unite the two.
Nearly a decade ago, John Howkins wrote a book called The…