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Posts Tagged ‘learning

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.


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.

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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 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?

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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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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.

messy apartment by ryochiji, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  ryochiji 


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!

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Today I share another part of my series on informal and emergent learning with Minecraft. This episode focuses on opportunities for connecting and collaborating with other players.

This video is different in a few ways.

First, instead of presenting it as one continuous video, there are a total of five smaller parts (including the introduction above).

Second, this video was a combination of videos recorded and edited over a few weekends. I typically try one-take wonders because they are easier to edit. But the new version of iMovie in Mac OS Maverick is more usable than the previous version so I am flexing a little post-production muscle.

Third, this video does not include the usual CeL-Ed lead-in and lead-out video segments. This is to prevent confusion when selecting which parts to watch.

I recommend watching the videos on a desktop or laptop web browser so that you can click on hotspots. But I provide links to the video segments in the video descriptions in YouTube should you be on a more mobile device.

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