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Posts Tagged ‘fun

Hot on the heels of Apple’s recent education event came this tweet from @AppleEDU:

Here was a critical response:

I agree. The equation of fun = engaging = learning is flawed.

Something that is fun might be engaging, but does not mean that the right gears are in play.

For example, a teacher might introduce a mobile or online game to teach a math skill or language concept. A student might play the game — typically a quiz in disguise — to get a high score, but learn little, if anything at all.

This happens when the teacher focuses on the game or content instead of factoring in the learner’s prior knowledge and cognitive schema. Doing the latter activates the right gears in the learner before they start a meaningful learning journey.

Something engaging still does not guarantee learning. When a teacher tries to engage learners with iPads or Chromebooks, this is an external hook or lure. The stimulus comes from without.

Empowerment comes largely from within. It might start with an engaging hook, but the teacher must also provide learner choice and agency. A teacher teaches; only a learner learns.
 

 
Entire school districts might commit to Apple’s new offering. They might also opt for the technical training it offers for teachers. But all these are pointless if there is no socio-technical professional development (PD), i.e., one that focuses on both pedagogy and technology. Such PD is about activating schema and empowering learners with technology. It is not about putting one above the other, i.e., pedagogy over technology, or technology over pedagogy.


Video source

Here is some free PD: The video above and the one embedded in the AppleEDU tweet hint at what empowered students look like. They learn by doing and they create.

However, neither video shows the teacher’s role in all this. Neither video shows what the gaps are, how wide they are, or how to bridge those gaps. This is PD that school administrators and policymakers need to plan and pay for. This is PD that teachers must demand. This is PD that people who live in the nexus of pedagogy and technology — people like me — can provide.

 
Have you ever wondered why some of the meat that we eat is not called what it was when it was alive?

Fish is fish, chicken is chicken, and duck is duck. However, cow is beef, pig is pork, and sheep is lamb or mutton.

I wondered why but it was never important enough to find out. That is, until YouTube suggested I watch this video.


Video source

Now I want to know why everything is named what it is. The makers of this video series and YouTube are there to tell me why the Earth’s continents have their names and why kiwi is a fruit, bird, and nationality.

This approach might be called serendipitous or incidental learning. Better still, accidental learning. A teacher does not have any teaching objectives (old school) or even learning outcomes (newer school). There is no plan or test.

The information about meat names is not particularly useful, but it is not useless either. There are more important lessons for teachers and learners.

For teachers, it is designing lessons that are fun or intriguing. These leverage on emotion and curiosity.

For learners, the lesson is about learning for its own sake. It is not about memorising facts but about enjoying them as well as the process of learning. It is constant, low pressure, and on demand.

I have officially been at the helm of the CeL for almost four months. Somehow it feels more like four years!

I say that partly in jest because time flies when you are having fun. And I am having fun because I feel this is something I am meant to do. I go back at the end of the work day exhausted but energized at the same time. I work and learn constantly thanks to iPhone and iPad but I am able to spend quality time with my family too.

I think I am able to do this because I think of my experiences as being part of a game. If I didn’t, I’d probably go insane!

Playing the game sometimes means playing by the rules. Playing by the rules is frustrating because they are established by incumbent and more experienced players. The rules are complicated and set like concrete. The administrative players here are supposed to help but end up hindering instead.

Sometimes playing the game means bending or breaking the rules at strategic moments. So, like playing video games, this might involve looking for advice from more experienced gamers, viewing walkthroughs and applying “cheats”. It’s my simple theory of trying to have fun as I work. This is probably not something you will hear or read about in management courses and books, but, hey, it works for me!

Here’s an article from the New York Times: Start-Up Uses Online Games to Teach Math. (Many thanks to Laremy from last semester for pointing this article out to me.)

The article does not reveal very much about the games themselves, but the approaches taken by the company are progressive.

Here are some choice quotes:

Children pick a theme, like an arcade or adventure park, and a character, like a dinosaur or pirate, and play an online game with a hidden math lesson.

“The hallmark of the product is it’s real math, but children think it’s a game,” said Lou Gray, DreamBox Learning’s chief executive officer.

Most competitors are doing repetition practice and drills — the lesson pathway is very linear, from lesson one to two, whether you crawled there or whether you zoomed there,” he said. “We founded the company with the idea that every student deserves an individually tailored education.

A good example of engaged learning that can be fun!

There has been a spate of teaching-related articles and forum letters in the press of late.

One topic of discussion has been the recruitment of teachers with passion and compassion. I totally agree, but I cannot even begin to suggest how we determine this with our current recruitment process.

Instead I think that contract teaching should be compulsory for all recruits before they undergo training in NIE. This will solve the chronic need for relief teachers and allow undecided folk to determine if they have the DNA for teaching. School authorities can also help MOE and NIE weed out the chaff. Other benefits of such an arrangement are a closer relationship with schools and a return to more practice-based teaching.

Admittedly this is quite an adminstrative challenge and the apparent influx and efflux of staff at the school level can seem disruptive. But I think that disruption can be minimised if each teacher recruit has the same contract, practicum, and eventual school posting.

The other hot topic is the type of schooling that students experience nowadays. Parents and journalists have been lamenting that school is “no fun”. Their solution? Bring back the fun.

This is where the responses can get interesting. I recall reading an article about the inventor of the Brain Age game (and many others as well) saying that learning should be hard, not fun. That might sound strange coming from a person who designs video games.

He has a point: Some learning requires learners to get stuck, struggle, try different approaches, etc. The experience is engaging and emotional, and when learners overcome the problem, they remember it well.

But that is only one side of the story. What if learners take the same struggle, but have fun and remember and apply what they learned as a result? This approach flies in the face to the common perception that playing games or having fun does not lead to any learning. As my trainees will eventually discover, it is possible to use game-based strategies to promote both formal and informal learning.

Nonetheless, I think that the issue is not whether school is fun or not. The greater issue is whether we are engaging our students. We do this not by merely have sporadic fun or cool activities, but by making learning challenging and meaningful over a prolonged period of time. As educators, we need to create and maintain an ecosystem of engaged learning, not just one or two lessons that are out of the ordinary.

The question that begs to be asked is HOW do we as educators do this? This is why we offer AED104/QED522 as a core course for all teachers-to-be.

Andrew of Group 7 had what I like to call an “A-ha!” moment. He saw the light! He mentioned a very important concept about technology integration, that when put into practice, makes for more meaningful and powerful teaching and learning.

At the end of Andrew’s entry, he said:

This small use of ICT really started me thinking about how to effectively implement ICT in my teaching. ICT is not simply about introducing a technology into a classroom so that my students have “fun” – it’s not only about creating a lesson that is “fun”, but ultimately one that is pedagogically effective. The technology itself is therefore only one aspect of an ICT-facilitated classroom and it must come with other supporting material to ensure that learning takes place.

Do you want to know what  “small use of ICT” he was referring to? Read the rest of his reflection.

Where along the MEET continuum did his initial idea fall? (I wrote about MEET here.)


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