Category: Learning

The value of Edutainment

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By , October 9, 2012 7:41 am

What the heck? I’m posting more than once a year to this blog? Yeah I know… whacky eh? Well after leaving the ivory tower, and spending time in the snake oil sales environment of private industry (at least for what I was doing), I’m back developing content, delivering that content and reflecting. The biggest difference that I see is that outside the ivory tower, things are not about “what if” or “we can”, the things that get done are those that connect right now. So while these may be years or decades behind what is being suggested by the towers, they are making big impacts. Case in point? One of the things that I’m doing with my new position is developing a set of practice tools/scripted simulations. It’s done in Excel and is something that I would have taught students back in the early naughties. But regardless it’s being received as revolutionary. Granted, this is a very limited audience, but I don’t know if this is something that I would have appreciated had I not been cut from the tower.

But regardless of the technology element, the one thing that seems constant is the struggle for engagement. The content that I’m working with now is dry. But in order to get it across, I need to make it entertaining. So I do that between my personal presentation and the resources that I develop. The entertainment is not over the top, but as much a stand up show as anything else, and the resources are “just enough” and “just in time”. But the entertainment is what is making the biggest difference – think about it this way. My content is a pine tree, my show and dance is that makes it a Christmas tree. The value comes from the trimmings.

So if you are still with me, you might be lamenting the lack of details here. Well that is one of the down sides of where I am now. I can’t talk about what I do, but I think I can reflect on my practices.

Hopefully I’ll be able to post more as time goes on… but in the mean time, it’s nice to be back.

Twitter or Novelty and Engagement (nee encouraging communication)?

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By , November 16, 2010 2:51 pm

The Chronicle, Fast Company and many others have picked up on this article – The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades (Junco R., Heiberger G., Loken E. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00387.x). What struck me wasn’t how many other outlets ignored the fact that it wasn’t actually “Twitter” perse, but rather engagement and novelty that may have created the result. Twitter was merely the vehicle that allowed that to happen. I would think that much of the same results could in all manner of Student Response Systems. From The Chronicle:

“One of the hallmarks of any good college education is to have students engaged, because engagement is crucial in developing critical-thinking skills and increased maturity, as well as promoting overall retention,” said Reynol Junco, an associate professor of academic development and counseling at Lock Haven University, and one of the study’s authors. He suggested that Twitter may be able to improve grades because it incorporates a feature into academic study that many students already use in their everyday lives—the “status update” that’s a part of Facebook. He said this familiarity may make students more comfortable in both continuing class discussions outside the classroom, and responding to class material. At the peak of the experiment, occurring three weeks before the end of the semester, the 70 students produced 612 tweets within a single week.”

Thankfully I’m not alone in thinking that it’s not the tool, but I don’t think entirely the students and the way that they choose to use the tool as Danielle Webb suggests in Macleans.

Whether a student uses a tool like Twitter or not can be indicative of a number of things. But it is not, by itself, indicative of a student’s intelligence, nor is it by itself capable of boosting any single student’s GPA. The possession of a hammer does not make a person a better carpenter, but simply offers them more opportunities.

I would hate to see the effects of a study like this on an impressionable young student, struggling with their course load, thinking that the answer to all of their academic problems lies in a Twitter account. Sure, in some cases, Twitter can bring a new, dynamic and sometimes valuable contribution to class life, but it’s completely naïve to think that the simple addition of this social networking tool to a classroom will turn Cs to As.

It is very much also a requirement that the instructors are part of the equation as well, creating an environment where the tool can be used to as great a range as possible. From the abstract:

This study provides experimental evidence that Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilize faculty into a more active and participatory role.

It’s nice to see this sort of research being done.

Sir Ken on, what else, reforming education

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By , October 20, 2010 2:30 pm

It would seem that we are victims of our own “success” – those items that can be tested in a standardized environment are being rewarded when we think we are trying to get them to be “outside the box thinkers”. When the kids do, we medicate them into oblivion. I’ll leave the rest to Sir Ken.

Repeated confessions of a Digital Native/Resident – was Digi/Ana

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By , October 12, 2010 11:12 am

Natives/Immigrants, Resident/Visitors – But what about people who are born “digital” and then want to leave (digital refugees?) or those who are residents (native born, or resident by choice or situation) of the Analogue Isles and never want to venture out of a world that is working just fine and sometimes even trumping those “kids from across the world”? (taking a slight cue from here) Well, that was what people were talking about way back in the day when Prensky first coined the term, and then throughout the next few years as people including the TALL group to talk about residents and visitors.

I don’t hear about the term as much anymore, but it came to me as I was studying my 7D manual this weekend. Thinking to myself… people would certainly consider me a digital native… I am “all in the cloud”, I’m “learn by doing“, so why am I pouring over this little manual (even as it helps with the last three points on the list as I reflect on what I have done)?

It occurred to me that digital residency is not free of paper. The classic book form allows me to abstract the knowledge and experience that I have in using my old camera (apparently, I’ve had this moment of reflection before, hence the title) to my new one in a manner that forces me to reflect on what the details are as opposed to “just getting through”.

With this in mind, the Digi/Ana debate seems to be better pointed now in the way that one facilitates their typical workflow – with/out paper, on/offline – and not where or how one chooses to teach/learn/study or express one’s self. For me, it seems curious, being interested in photography – a pursuit that is now almost entirely digital in workflow, but still primarily analogue in expression (regardless how cool one can make their shots look on a 60 inch screen). If I look out from there, the digi/ana lines really start blurring for me. Maybe this is a sign of the times, but in light of privacy and the rise of Facebook, it seems to me that these terms are in need of some re-examination.

More epistimology from Over the Hedge

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By , September 3, 2010 10:45 am

Over the Hedge
It seems that both the Tree and Verne have a point, everyone has a right to an opinion, even when we believe certain topics are immutable and absolute truth. Just take a look at the Stop Fox News North blip over the past few days.

Over the Hedge
But it seems to me that Tree has got it right… there is a balance somewhere between ignorance and intellect, science and superstition. On the whole it will lean toward Science and Intellect because our societies need systems to function, not only microwaves, but other mundane things like governments as well. But we also need some of the “other” side… without it, I think we lose some of the wonder in our world. We’d lose pregame rituals, letting kids grow and learn according to their needs. It seems we have gotten very good at over thinking things and trying to measure everything, because we can. I don’t think we’ve often stopped to think about if we should. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and that lucky coin is really what got things done.

Rapid “digital” Game Creation helps kids

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By , January 25, 2010 1:48 pm

I forgot if I found this through RSS or Twitter, but here it is:

Rapid digital game creation for broadening participation in computing and fostering crucial thinking skills
Nikunj Dalal, Parth Dalal, Subhash Kak, Pavlo Antonenko, Susan Stansberry
International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing 2009 – Vol. 1, No.2 pp. 123 – 137
10.1504/IJSHC.2009.031002

I haven’t been able to get to the article as the library system is having issues right now, but according to the abstract and the lay articles that it’s generated, the use of non code based creation systems is a good thing for kids of all ages. This seems to be a no brainer, but thankfully there is now research to back it up. If you give people access to generate content in an media that they are comfortable with, you are more than likely to see good things come about. The important thing here is that the researchers have removed that complicated UI layer (like I was talking about in the last post) and have allowed the creators to work in an environment that more closely resembles the finished product.

I was thinking over the weekend about photography and how previously, you almost needed to be a chemist to get the most out of your images and thinking about how removed that was from the actual act of photography and how “digital” has changed that. Now someone takes a shot and can use it immediately and often with the same device that created the image, no black box required. Systems like the Rapid Dev environment would seem to do the same thing. People build in an environment that mimics the environment that they are going to experience when the project is finished effectively this research tells me that maintaining the “vocabulary” certainly helps when you are trying to get people to explore. If all you are wanting to get out of a game that you create is move A from 1.1 to 1.2 and have it explode, you don’t need to worry about the physics of collision detection and optimizing the math behind the path finding. Just like when you snap a picture, you want to be able to take it and share it quickly – you don’t want to deal with fstop and the rest – after all, the camera likely has hidden that from you. If however, your camera tells you all that, you have a vocabulary that then makes sense when you use tools that can then go and manipulate those settings.

Deconstruct to find the story

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By , December 22, 2009 3:56 pm

A colleague in one of the courses that I support sent this (Clark IE, Romero-Caldero ́ n R, Olson JM, Jaworski L, Lopatto D, et al. (2009) ‘‘Deconstructing’’ Scientific Research: A Practical and Scalable Pedagogical Tool to Provide Evidence-Based Science Instruction. PLoS Biol 7(12): e1000264. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000264) out to a group of us today. Not being from an Education journal, it doesn’t have the usual references, but it does take an interesting approach to teaching high level concepts to introductory level students:

During the deconstruction phase, the students identify hypotheses from the seminar, explore the experimental approaches used, and actively analyze the data — a collective exercise that deconstructs a complex research seminar into manageable portions. As concepts and techniques are introduced to them, stripped of jargon, the students begin to see the logic of the research. In the process, they follow the story of the seminar and experience discovery moments as the implications of each experiment become clear.

The part that hooked me of course was the “story of the seminar”. The “chunking” is something that should be familiar to most Ed people, but chunk->story angle seems to be novel, at least to me as is the removal of jargon.

Thinking about what some of this high level research might sound like, I can only assume that the biggest wall that the students would come up against is the language that is used and the need to be able to deal with the presentation as a complete package with this incomplete vocabulary. Portioning the wall into more manageable chunks is a technique that may seem logical, but removing the language barrier is something that may not have been so obvious. Science, as with any other discipline is very protective of it’s language and rightfully so, but stripping the jargon is something that lowers the entry barrier quite quickly without overly impacting the proper vocabulary.

Mini Games

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By , December 22, 2009 12:18 pm

I spotted this on OLDaily – and looking at the conclusion…

Mini-games are fast becoming an effective and relevant method to deliver game-based instruction. They should no longer be considered as just simple quiz-style games embedded in a conventional course to break up the monotony of the information. While they certainly can be included in a web-based course, they can also be delivered in the context of a larger game or simulation, or combined with other mini-games to build a training experience with greater depth and breadth than was previously possible. Furthermore, mini-games have become sophisticated enough to stand on their own as a legitimate method of training and education.

… I like the idea of stringing these small chunks of novelty together into a larger whole. Entertainment oriented games have been doing the mini game thing for a while and even though Nintendo has made a mint on it, I haven’t really seen much from people doing educational mini games. Of course, this might be semantics – we might have strung together a farm sim with a peace maker game and used it to deliver concepts in a course before but I don’t think I’ve seen anything calling these individual object “mini games” yet. To borrow a term from my Education training, the mini games are essentially manipulatives then that help students “play with the idea”. While doesn’t seem convinced by the cognitive grounding, I think it makes sense – if you take a bit of a K-12 view of the games.

Immune Attack

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By , December 10, 2009 3:23 pm

Meant for High School Biology, Immune Attack seems to be another in a long line of resources that, if nothing else, engages students in a topic and presents material to them in a way that they have some control over. What I like about this, is other than the theme, this isn’t “edutainment”. It’s a FPS with you as a player… you just happen to learn things along the way.

JSB – Learning in the Digital Age

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By , September 15, 2009 8:26 am

Teaching the ‘net generation – Brown looks at how pedagogy has moved (or has it?) from knowledge transfer to social models of learning that encourage and indeed rely on the participation and even play on the part of the students and move the instructor from the role of the ultimate authority to one of “content area master”. It is an hour long, but certainly worth the time to at least skim.

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