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Apparently you can relight a candle by igniting the smoke of a recently extinguished candle.

If you were a science teacher and you learnt this “trick”, would you leverage on the wonderment this generates and make it a teachable moment? Or would you ask your learners to find out why? What else might you do?

What you do depends on many things, of course. If you are pressured by a packed curriculum and tests that dictate what to cover, then you might do neither.

What you might want to do reflects your teaching philosophy.

Leveraging on the teachable moment could be the mark of a creative and responsive teacher. But I think that an educator who gets his/her students to investigate why the candle smoke lights up a candle helps his/her students learn to think and act like scientists.

The first person focuses on teaching that hopefully leads to learning. The second focuses on the learner and learning. The first person might want students to learn ABOUT science. The other wants students to BE scientists.

It might have been William Butler Yeats who declared:

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

Which would you rather do? Which would you rather be? Which do our kids need more?

 
I was prompted to write this as I was part of two recent Twitter conversations that revealed how some teachers still confuse game-based learning (GBL) with gamification.

There are several differences and I will just mention two fundamental ones. I am also going to mean video game-based learning when I make reference to GBL.

First, gamification relies on game mechanics. This could mean using the element of competition with leaderboards, collecting points or badges, levelling up, and so on. Learners are not actually playing a game; the teacher has not actually designed a game. They are all using elements or strategies that are game-like.

As its name implies, GBL requires the integration of at least one game for learning. It might be a mobile game, console game, desktop game, online game, serious game, off-the-shelf game, etc. Learners must play an actual game.

Second, I think that gamification is largely extrinsic. A teacher wants his/her students to do something and there is a reward system to get them to complete tasks. A student may not want to do those things, but the incentives are tempting or motivating.

GBL is both extrinsically and intrinsically motivating. But I would argue that if the games are carefully chosen and the activities are managed well, the motivation for playing and learning becomes intrinsic. The students play and learn not because they have to but because they want to.

I should also point out a potential pitfall of poorly designed gamification and GBL. Students may not actually learn what you want them to learn (typically content). With gamification, students might value the incentives over the content; with GBL the immersive play might be the be-all and end-all.

One way to deal with this issue is to recognize that gamification and GBL do not guarantee the learning. The teacher will still need to facilitate activities that consolidate learning and get learners to reflect on their learning. To quote Dewey:

We do not learn from experiences; we learn from reflecting on experiences.

To do this in my teacher education classes, I rely on small group and whole class discussion, one-minute paper reflections, individual and collaborative writing in wikis, thought-capture with online stickies, just-in-time instruction, etc.

For further reading on gamification and GBL, I recommend this article at MindShift.

 
A participant of my flipped learning course asked me a question in our shared online space.

Dr Tan, I want to ask what’s the difference between blended learning and flipped learning. Was googling and found this term. Is blended learning a part of flipped learning?

This was my reply.

Like flipped learning, blended learning (BL) is not just one thing. Typically BL is used to describe the combination of face-to-face (FTF) and online strategies.

Some people might consider flipping to be blended if there is one or more online activities outside of class and one or more FTF activities in class.

Some might consider BL to be what happens in class. For example, all of you have been working in groups these last few weeks and recording group notes in Padlet. The FTF and online components are seamless.

I favour the latter view of BL and that distinguishes flipping from BL somewhat. That said, the theoretical differences should not stop you from doing what works based on sound principles, good design, and critical reflection.

I should have added that the seamlessness comes from combining the two or more activities so that they are experienced as one logically integrated activity.

I get asked these questions all the time. Sometimes they get asked in the manner of a storm, other times it drizzles.

Just thinking out loud. I wonder if I should start a Q and A in this blog. Or might this be better suited for a CeL-Ed Monday series? Hmm.

A few weeks ago, my son decided that he would like to share his thoughts on games by posting videos on YouTube.

I would like to think that I have had an influence by getting him involved in the production of CeL-Ed Monday videos. He has even had starring roles in my video series on learning with Minecraft.

But I think that he has been influenced much more by gaming channels like the Kwings, CaptainSparklez, Yogscastetc.

The people behind these channels are entertaining and informative. The opinions, tips, and walkthoughs that they provide help their viewers make informed choices about what games to buy and which strategies to use or avoid.

YouTube is not just a wonderful place for learning because you can find and consume content. It is an open platform where you can create and publish content. After all, if no one produces, what is there to consume?


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I think that an overlooked aspect of flipped learning is getting learners to create content. This is what I call the third dimension of flipping. This not only allows them to teach content (the second dimension), it also gets learners to think about the needs and perspectives of audience. When they do this (or when they are taught to do this), they evaluate what they wish to create and how they deliver it.

These are high order skills that I would argue are even more important than the content. The content is a means to various ends. Ends like organization, discipline, perspective-taking, persistence, critical thinking, creative expression, and more.

If we are honest about it, educators realize that their learners will not remember much content. They will remember the type of person you are, what you stood for, and what you modelled. They will learn values and thinking skills.

If they are to apply values and skills, our learners should be teaching each other and creating content. They should be experiencing the second and third dimensions of the flipped classroom.

Earlier this week I tried responding to some questions in Google+ from an educator in Finland about Minecraft. Click on the screencapture below to see a larger version.

minecraft-q-googleplus

I realized I did not have all the information and a search provided too much or conflicting information. So I answered what I could and said I would consult an expert (my son).

When I got home from work, my son and I decided how best to answer the last question. My son thought about the question, relayed information to me (which I typed as a reply), and checked his reply before we hit send. In some other context, he could have replied on his own.


Video source

This was similar to what I call the second dimension of flipped learning in action: The learner as teacher. (The third dimension is the learner as content creator.)

In most classrooms the students are passive most of the time. Even in group work, where there are emergent opportunities for one student to teach another, the student is not viewed as the teacher.

In my example, the teacher (my son) was sharing his wisdom and experience with a learner (a teacher I have not met before but joined the same Google+ community). While this exchange took place in an informal setting, there is no reason to stop this from happening in formal settings.

There are several reasons why learners as teachers is important.

Off the top of my head I can think of the fact that you do not really understand something until you have to convince someone else of it. This is due to the fact that you have to not just process information but also reprocess it. This is active sense-making.

Teachers become content experts not because they read about it but because they teach it over and over again. When the content or standards change, teachers must adjust, and the cycle begins again.

Kids do not necessarily see this process as teaching. It is simply talking or sharing. It is a natural process if it does not get highlighted as “you are the teacher now”. Handled well, using the learner-as-teacher strategy builds confidence in learners of all abilities.

In a flipped classroom, learners as teachers takes some pressure off the teacher who has to manage a wide range of activities and strategies online and face-to-face. The teacher stops being the only source of information and can focus on providing feedback or just-in-time instruction.

How_Should_We_Learn__—_Teach_and_Learn_—_MediumThis nugget at Medium.com was titled How Should We Learn? It is a provocative title if you are thinking about better ways to teach (or not teach) so that students actually learn.

I could not relate with the first half of the article as it was content-specific: Sinatra, Ruby, Sass, Haml. You might be forgiven for thinking it was all about people.

But the last two paragraphs resonated with me.

Learning, especially in technology, is about learning how to learn. What do you do when you encounter issues, things you weren’t expecting, things you don’t know how to handle? If all you ever grasp is how to duplicate.. even if it’s perfectly.. you will be fantastically frustrated with the real world and its complex problems.

The process of learning to learn is a difficult one, it takes time, it is a process of doing and branching, taking what you know and intentionally stretching that into realms and projects you don’t know. This cycle is destroyed when the intentional process of learning to learn is replaced with simple goals in complex languages where all we can hope to learn is how to duplicate. You don’t really learn by duplication, you learn by experimentation.

I could not really understand the build up without Googling. In encountering and reacting to things I did not understand, I put into play exactly what the last two paragraphs mentioned. I used technology to make sense out of what did not initially make sense to me. I decided to react to what I read by writing a reflection that WordPress tells me has been revised twelve times so far.

That is how we should all learn because it is a natural way to learn. When presented with a problem, you look for solutions.

But schooling has become about presenting solutions to unknown, decontextualized, or distant problems. Kids are taught to unlearn natural learning because it is not structured and siloed.

If we are to return to a natural way of learning as enabled by current and future technology, teachers need to relearn how to teach. I think I will elaborate on this in reflections to come.


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Can video games alone make you smart? Maybe.

Can video games, game-based learning, and educators who know how to leverage on them make learners smarter? I think that is likely.

Can the same combination change the face of education? I would like to see that happen. I am trying to make that happen.

 
Today marks the eve of the Lunar New Year. The Year of the Snake will shed its old skin and transform into the Year of the Horse. Ugh, what a terrible mental image!

I will do some last minute spring cleaning before welcoming all my in-laws over for reunion dinner at our place tonight. Things are going to get noisy and messy. What an even more terrible mental image!

But I am still going to blog and educate even while I take some time off. I cannot horse around.

Being a connected educator means sensing all the time and deciding when and how to respond to my fellow educators and learners.

Being a flipper means monitoring the out-of-class activities and providing feedback even before the in-class part of the flip.

I think far too many teachers think that technology integration or flipping the classroom means they can “fire and forget”. Their rationale is that the technology should stand in their stead.

Not quite.

Flipping requires that you plan and prepare more. It means that you monitor and provide feedback constantly. The quantity of these behaviours goes up.

But if it is so much work, why do it? To oversimplify, the quality of the experience can go up for both the teacher and learner.

The information shared is more timely and relevant. The learner is more ready and involved. The teacher provides more immediate feedback. The learner has greater choice and autonomy. The teacher learns to unlearn old habits and relearns progressive pedagogies. The student learns to create and teach in order to learn.

Over time the teacher gets better at it and the student learns to be more independent. It gets easier and the process feels intuitive and even joyful.

The reason for this is simple: It is a rejection of the industrialized way of learning for a more natural, human way of learning.

 
I read this CNET article on a game for social emotional learning (SEL).

It sounds like an interesting development. And I get it. I also think that these forms of learning (along with higher order thinking) are more important aspects of game-based learning than just content.

But I wonder, aren’t good games that are not designed specifically for SEL already social and emotional events?


Video source

This is the fifth and final part of my series on informal and emergent learning with Minecraft.

It is not obvious in the video, but writing with Minecraft is not limited to preparing signs for others in the virtual world or messaging collaborators.

Outside that system are Minecraft wikis, blogs, discussion groups, Google+ circles, and other communities that write about Minecraft. Learners have rich opportunities to mine and create the resources here.


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