Posts Tagged ‘learning’
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.
In this 3.5 minute video, my son and I illustrate how Minecraft might be used to practice arithmetic and put a plan to action.
This video is probably the shortest in our series so far on informal learning with Minecraft. But I think the exchanges of when I teach him and when he teaches me is the most obvious in this video.
Viewers might note that my view of Minecraft sports a different look. I apply the Sphax texture pack to make things look a bit less blocky.
I shot the time-lapse sequences with an iOS app called OSnap. My “camera” view of Minecraft was screencaptured with Quicktime and all videos were processed in iMovie (OS Maverick).
Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.
That was my simple contribution during chats I had with a few people at an event recently. That event was organized for people who believe that e-learning is videos of them lecturing.
Teaching can (and often should) be organized and methodical. But it is still just logical and/or inspiring delivery. You can deliver but that does not mean that it goes to the right person, at the right time, or in the right place. A group of people gathered at one time and in one place does not mean they are ready.
Instructors brought up on the diet of lectures often forget what it is like to learn when they were younger. The almost certainly do not know what it is like to learn in the age of social media, Wikipedia, and YouTube.
It is very messy.
You can try bringing some order to the messiness. I hazard that most will try to bring the order in at the beginning by delivering expectations, rules, boundaries, curricula, and content. But that only creates barriers that can stifle learning.
I have found that you need to be immersed in the messiness as a co-learner. That way you relate to what learners experience when they are new to something. They need to struggle a little with problems, experiences, and content. Each learner will find something that works.
A good instructor will manage the messiness by facilitating multiple journeys to more or less the same place. This is not as difficult as it sounds. It is difficult if the learner does not want to be there because s/he is not ready to learn. It is easier if you remove barriers to learning and leverage on the self-motivation that results.
A good instructor also creates confidence in learners. Learners must be able to look up from the messiness from time to time and know that their instructor is there to advise, guide, and even admonish.
A good instructor creates opportunities for consolidation by requiring learners to reflect. On a journey, this is similar to taking stock of the journey, knowing where you are, and anticipating what lies ahead. This is where neatness is necessary and timely.
I say this as a neat freak. I have a place for everything and I like everything in its place. But I embrace messiness in learning because even that has its place.
The thing that irritates me the most about “mobile learning” is not questions about how m-learning is different from e-learning.
I would rather focus on what both words have in common: learning. The focus should be on how learners learn.
We should not focus on how we want to teach regardless of how learners learn. That is what irritates me the most about how some m-learning is designed.
It is not enough to make content even more bite-sized for consumption on mobile devices. The mobile devices have cameras, microphones, on-screen keyboards, and screens for drawing, marking, and annotating.
What are we designing so that learners create? How do we get them to learn by doing something more than passive consumption?
Don’t get me wrong. Wonderfully designed and skillfully chunked content will go a long way in keeping eyeballs on the screen. But how are we getting the learner to learn by doing, acting, recording, sharing, creating, critiquing, etc.? These are examples of actual mobile learning because you can see evidence of learning.
The other kind is passive consumption. How do we know they are actually learning? And if we do not know, let us not call it m-learning!
This is the actual part 1.
In this part, my son and I explore the use of coordinates for path-finding. We also talk about importance of being persistent whether in a game or in life.
I have already been asked if I script videos with my son. I do not.
I might have an idea of concepts I might want to bring up or things I hope to discuss. But I leave it to the rather messy process of emerging dialogue and the time-consuming process of video editing to present something coherent.
An adult worries about time-on-task, objectives, and measuring impact. A child just gets on with the learning, finds ways to enjoy the process, and shows off occasionally.
It is a very humbling and valuable experience to co-learn with my son and I enjoy every minute of it!
I write many blog drafts, but most do not get published.
I revisited a draft I created in Evernote a while ago and decided to flesh it out. Just for the heck of it.
I observed two mother and son interactions a while ago.
The first was a mother who, tired of carrying her son, put him down to take a break. The mother walked forward but the boy refused to budge.
The boy did not appreciate this. He squatted on the ground and declared, “My leg so pain!”
The mother sighed, turned around, and picked her son up.
In another interaction, I observed a mother calling her young son “so vain” when he decided to put on sunglasses while in a mall. The boy simply retorted, “I like to wear!”
Almost on cue, he walked straight into a pillar.
The mother said, “See? I told you not to wear!”
I had to suppress my laughter in both cases. If I did not, I might have been kicked in the shin or given a black eye. Then I would have had legitimate reason to say “My leg so pain!” and to cover a bruise with sunglasses.
Instead of laughing, I asked myself if the kids were simply copying behaviour or if they devised their own. It is hard to say without more context and background.
But I will hazard some guesses.
In the first case, the mother modelled a lack of a backbone. The boy learnt that he could wear his mother down physically and emotionally. And he will do it again.
In the second case, the mother modelled poor communication (“so vain” is not the same as “I told you not to wear”). The boy learnt that walls are harder than his face.
Do kids learn when you teach? Sometimes. Sometimes (often?) not.
Do kids learn learn on their own or when you are not consciously trying to teach them? More often than we would like to admit.
Kids learn all the time. We have to ask ourselves if we are teaching and modelling what is worthwhile all the time too.
Minecraft is often introduced to newbies as LEGO-like game. While most authors of articles touting the educational benefits of Minecraft build on that analogy, I think that does a disservice to the game and its gamers.
Minecraft is so much more than that.
The game is an opportunity for adults and teachers to become kids and learners again. It is a portal that parents can step through to learn from and with their kids.
I see why Joel Levin, the Minecraft teacher, is using it for his classes. I wish more teachers would do the same.
I wonder how many parents leverage on games like Minecraft for informal but powerful learning of content and value systems. That is why I am going to try to create a short series on this.
This USA Today article, ‘Flipped classrooms’ may not have any impact on learning, makes for amusing reading if you realize how little the newspaper folks understand about flipped learning.
It is terrifying when you realize that the already ignorant masses read these articles and are “informed” by them.
Like most mass media outlets, USA Today described flipped classrooms this way:
In a flipped classroom, students watch their professors’ lectures online before class, while spending class time working on hands-on, “real world” problems.
As flipped classroom practitioners, thought leaders and I have pointed out, that is just one dimension of flipping. I also think that it is the weakest type of flipping (see part 4 and part 5 of my video series).
But the main claim the article makes is that four professors at Harvey Mudd College have preliminary findings that “there was no demonstrable difference” with flipping. At least one other blogger, Phil Hill (who is part of a team at e-Literate), has pointed that the study is not complete and that the reports are premature.
I am weighing in only on what the article reported and Hill’s initial response to that article. There have since been follow-ups at Hill’s post.
I might point out that the experimental (or quasi-experimental) design of the study (“each professor taught two sections of the same course — one “flipped” and one traditional”) is also a problem.
In a meta study of edtech-mediated interventions or research, you will find a few that say that a particular technology or strategy works and they will cite statistically or anecdotally significant improvement on grades. The USA Today article mentioned a few examples of this. In most other studies, you will find no significant difference (NSD) in grades but improvements in attitudes, attendance, retention in school, etc.
But back to the main argument of the article. If flipping produces no appreciable gains, and if flipping requires so much more effort by learner and teacher alike, then why bother?
That is the wrong question to ask because the conclusion is premature, and based on the follow-up comments of one member of the research team, based on the journalist’s misrepresentations of the research.
That said, I can still critique ideas represented in the newspaper article.
First, I would question the experimental approach. You cannot compare strategies convincingly if there are confounding factors. To make objective comparisons, you must change only one variable (traditional or flipped strategy) and not change anything else. You have to ensure that no other factor influences your measurements. You cannot do this in a social system when there are so many individual differences.
Second, I would question what you measure. If what gets measured favours the traditional way of teaching, then the impact of the alternative is bound to be low or zero. Put another way, if your instrument measures only the visible spectrum of light but the impact is in the invisible spectrum, you are going to find no impact even if there is some.
Third, I reiterate Hill’s point that flipping is about redesigning lessons and approaches. I would add that good redesign might make the experiences so different that the strategies are not logically comparable. One strategy focuses on teaching, the other focuses on learning instead. While you would want teaching to lead to learning, teaching is not the same as learning.
Fourth, I would remind the casual reader of Hill’s point that Mudd has a student to teacher ratio of 9:1. The contextual factors in such an environment (like student profile and opportunities for formative feedback) are going to be very different from a place that has a ratio of 40:1 or 400:1.
So what is the big takeaway?
Read critically. And never take a report in mass media at face value. Their job is to sell papers or air time, not to educate you. Only you can educate yourself and you might do this by also reading open blogs and equally open comments.