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Is another man’s treasure.

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A new centre in Cambridge is to study computer games and comics as forms of literature consumed by learners.

The short BBC report reveals why:

“If what we regard as trash is popular with young people, we need to know why and whether, as researchers and teachers, we can offer them something that addresses the same needs but also deals with these themes in a critical and ethical way.”

She [Professor Maria Nikolajeva, director of the centre] added many trainee teachers did not understand the significance of the latest children’s books or films when they went into the classroom.

This is something I must definitely keep tabs on!

Here is an interesting article from The Chronicle: Matching Teaching Style to Learning Style May Not Help Students.

The recommendation of the study is:

for instructors… [to] not waste any time or energy trying to determine the composition of learning styles in their classrooms… Instead, teachers should worry about matching their instruction to the content they are teaching. Some concepts are best taught through hands-on work, some are best taught through lectures, and some are best taught through group discussions.

So we are we talking about content styles then? I hope not.

I think that teachers need to be learning experts first (something the article alludes to). If they can figure out how people learn, they can figure out how best to teach (or not teach) a topic. This then requires deep knowledge and skillful application of teaching styles, learning styles and content styles.

But all this is practically moot if you read deep in between the lines. By this I mean understanding what the researchers are arguing about, i.e., study design and drawing conclusions from them.

Studies in education have largely been designed along experiments. Real classrooms are not laboratories and the participants are not rats. You cannot control all except one variable in social studies. This is why we now have design experiments.

The content nearer the end of the article resembles a mud-slinging match more than academic discourse. But being an insider, I don’t see much difference between mud slinging and academic discourse!

Ever wonder why education evolves so slowly? Here’s one good reason!

When I read the BBC news article Great writers ‘fail’ online test, I was not surprised. Why? Two reasons.

First, one of the writing samples was actually a speech. Writing for a speech is not the same as writing for print. Yes, you are writing a speech, but not for someone to read like a book. The words don’t leap out of the medium the same way when they are delivered by the speaker.

Second, technology cannot (yet) replace complex human judgment, emotion and subjective interpretation. While this might have been a case of pushing the limits of technology, I also thought that this was using technology when it did not fit the situation.

Do educators make the same mistake when pushing the envelope with technology? Sure we do. But the harm is not in trying. The harm is in providing fuel for the naysayers to say “I told you so!”

But to the naysayers I reply:

Those who say it cannot be done shouldn't interrupt the people doing it

Or as James Arthur Baldwin originally put it: Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

Scientific American has an article titled Getting It Wrong: Surprising Tips on How to Learn. They might be surprised, but I am not. Educational gamers might refer to this as productive failure or safe failure.

The elements mentioned in the article are what gamers experience all the time. Challenging tests, trial and error, learning and strategizing from error, experiencing/trying before reading texts/manuals, etc.

The article describes word-pair experiments that, while well-established, lack context. Gamers have context: The game scenarios. So whether you are playing games or using gaming strategies, you might just get your students to get it wrong in order to get it right!

Jon Bower of eSchool News believes that “netbooks are all the rage, but they don’t really meet the needs of today’s students”. He goes on to say that netbooks are 1) not that cheap, 2) too small, and 3) not powerful enough. He could not be more misinformed or misleading.

Bower gives an example of a more powerful laptop that can be bought, after a rebate, for US$50 more than a typical netbook. But he failed to mention that few laptops have rebates and that rebates are not guaranteed. In the USA, rebates are a scheme to get people to buy on impulse. But if buyers do not complete the rebate forms in a timely or proper manner, they do not get their rebates. Even if customers play their part, things might get “lost” in the mail. The bottom line is that netbooks are cheaper than laptops and within most school or family budgets.

The issue of netbooks being too small is relative. To an adult with large hands, a netbook’s keyboard is cramped. But to a child, it might be just right. Also consider how most new netbooks are larger than when they first made their appearance about two years ago. Their keyboards are now large enough to touchtype.

Netbooks are meant to be light, lean and longlasting (in terms of battery life). Their power lies in what they allow students to do online, not just what they can do locally using the lightweight processing power CPUs of netbooks. This “limitation” of netbooks is actually a strength: Paired with well-designed curricula, netbooks allow students to develop 21st century skills like communicating, collaborating and creating with people outside the confines of the classroom, being a responsible netizen and having empathy for others.

Ultimately, netbooks are just one element in a suite of powerful tools for learning. To dismiss them as not meeting the needs of students is to miss the larger picture and to ignore a learner’s point of view. The smallish screen and keyboard of netbooks opens the world to learners and this in turn provides learning opportunities that can help them the rest of their lives. If we can do this at a lower cost, I don’t see why not.

Straits Times online featured this article on gaming:

2009-10-05-youth_stuck_on_gaming

I guess only negative or sensationalistic headlines grab eyeballs. Youth are “stuck” (as in addicted or immobile) and this “raises fears”. This isn’t news, it’s olds. The layperson already has this perception and ST is telling them what they want to read or hear.

If ST really wanted to report the news, report it when the results have been properly analyzed. Or link it to opportunities such as Singapore’s game development, participation in cyber competitions or educational gaming. These highlight Singapore’s reputation and savvy as well as the educational ground we can break in this area.

ST highlights fears but I am already aware of them. Folks at this forum are livid about the article. I see opportunities and pursue them instead. The layperson might see 27 hours a week wasted on gaming. I see 27 hours of informal and meaningful learning initiated by the learner!

BTW, I only have access to the digital copy above and don’t have the full article. I neither subscribe to ST online (cough, ripoff, cough) nor a paper copy (a waste of resources). The NIE library has “lost” yesterday’s newspaper too. I’d appreciate a copy of the full article if anyone has it.

It’s been said that we should never ASSUME because doing that makes an ASS of U and ME.

The folks behind Teaching and Developing Online(TADO have proposed that it is time to quit assuming what, how and why students learn. Here’s a snippet:

The information age came and a society that valued education changed, yet the education system failed to keep up with the change (Hiltz & Turoff, 2005)… Fulton (1989) states that “classrooms of today resemble their ancestors of 50 and 100 years ago much more closely than do today’s hospital operating rooms, business offices, manufacturing plants, or scientific labs” (p.12). Molebash (1999) further clarifies by stating “If you put a doctor of 100 years ago in today’s operating room, she would be lost, yet if you placed a teacher of 100 years ago into one of today’s classrooms she wouldn’t skip a beat” (p.7).

TADO ends with this: “The one stakeholder of the educational system that has not been asked is the students”. This is probably why they are now asking students to answer survey questions.

I can’t wait to hear what they (the students) have to say. Neither should you!


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