Ride the learning curve beyond frustration

student_driver

Let’s make something explicit: just exactly what is that “learning curve” you keep hearing about?

I can’t remember where I first heard this idea, but it has been around for awhile: whenever you learn something new, you go through four stages. Continue reading “Ride the learning curve beyond frustration”

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Stop worrying about learning styles

Regular readers here know I am somewhat skeptical of research about learning styles. I am far from alone on this.

Regular readers also know my frequent theme about the need for teachers and speakers to go beyond serving merely as information transmitters.

You can imagine my delight when I stumbled across a post that combines both of these, although you have to look several paragraphs into Getting Over Learning Styles to see the connection. Continue reading “Stop worrying about learning styles”

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Education is doomed, unless….

Graduation!

I posted the following as a comment on LinkedIn. It deals with both communication and higher education, and it affects our whole society–or does it? Am I right?

We [that is, college faculty] have had three basic roles since the time of Aristotle: information transfer, intellectual skills (i.e., critical thinking and context framing), and inspiration.

Many of our funding bodies (such as legislatures) have thought primarily of the first one. In the Internet age, if we believe our primary value lies in standing at the front of the room and passing on information, we are in serious trouble. Our students can find information cheaper and easier elsewhere. Continue reading “Education is doomed, unless….”

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Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 2)

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Esher SketchCreative Commons License photo credit: Wild Guru Larry

In Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 1), we talked about an experiment I’m conducting this term, and explored the background a bit. In this part, let’s explore some of the advantages of the flip, especially for students.

Inside out

There are certain advantages for students getting “lecture” material outside of class via reading or podcasts (audio or video). I have tried to follow my own guidelines and speak rather than lecture, and I think it works in the way intended. I contend that “out loud” excels at giving the “big picture,” the context into which the details fit, making them more understandable because the audience sees the pattern, whereas print excels at explaining and mastering detail.

A skilled writer can show the big picture, and a skilled speaker can get detail across memorably, but neither are easy. Most of the time, why not simply focus on strengths? Give an audience a handout, a white paper, a book, etc., to master the detail, and use speaking to give the big picture.

Think about when you’ve been on the receiving end. Have you ever had a history teacher flood you with dates and names and wars and wound up simply empty? Have you ever gotten so lost in the details of a book chapter, you couldn’t find your way through? Most academic conferences, and most business reports, would improve fivefold from this simple realization.

Continue reading “Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 2)”

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Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 1)

Thoughts Before the Jump
Creative Commons License photo credit: MichaelLaMartin

I’m trying an experiment this semester in the college classes I teach. In various circles it’s called a “flipped” or an “inverted” classroom, a term I’m not completely comfortable with, but it’s a handy term at the moment.

While relatively new, it is rooted in ideas and practices that are not, and it seems to me to be good communication practice, recognizing the strengths of various forms and building on them.

The flipping background

A flipped (or inverted) class swaps out what goes on in the classroom and what goes on outside the classroom.

Traditionally, since the Middle Ages students listen to a professor lecture in class, and do application work (otherwise called “homework”) outside class. Reading could fall into either category.

Almost everyone has heard that the lecture is passé, exemplified in the now-cliché, “Be the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage.” I’ve taken a related approach, demonstrated in workshops I’ve done for teachers around the theme, “Stop Lecturing and Start Speaking.” When you want to master detail, you do better to work with the information in written form. When you want the big picture, “out loud” excels. That partly has to do with the way we process information, and also with the interactive nature of “out loud.”

Continue reading “Flipped classrooms hold implications for communication (part 1)”

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Intelligence, even multiple intelligence, not real important in learning

Effort is. MindShift asks the question, Can Everyone Be Smart at Everything? and seems to conclude that we don’t need to be. My only quibble with the article is that the headline doesn’t seem to me to fit the article very well. But I like the article itself. We’ve known for awhile that telling a kid, “You’re so smart!” isn’t very effective. “Great effort!” works better. Even “Good job!” doesn’t work–kids tend to interpret as “you’re smart” or “you’re talented.” They don’t see that as something they have any control over, whereas they  do have control over their effort.

“[T]elling kids they’re smart when they get good grades encourages them to continue focusing on the grade rather than the learning process,” they say.

More importantly in light of recent practices, though, is this: the emphasis on learning styles can be just as counterproductive. When you tell a kid that he is a visual learner, it can leave the message that no one expects him to learn, say, via auditory means–again, he has no control over it. “Taking that idea one step further, kids might think that if they have to work hard at something, that must mean they’re not smart.”

Furthermore,

“Clearly, people have distinctive abilities and aptitudes. Some people have higher visual ability, and some have higher auditory ability,” said UCSD professor Hal Pashler, lead author on the report. “But the question is whether that predicts anything about the most effective way to teach them. … There is a complete lack of evidence of the sort.”

There’s a lot more food for thought there. Go take a look at the article to see the implications that seem, to me, to point beyond educating kids (as important as that is) to educating college students.

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New article about games in education

We know that Second Life isn’t a game. Got that. Wish I could get more people to understand the difference. Nevertheless, the fact that SL uses game software for non-game purposes, and that we can take advantage of the game skills students bring, makes this article of interest for SL folks.

Beyond Blowing Up Enemies: The Future of Games for Learning follows the two-day Games for Change festival at New York University. Among the observations:

No doubt assessment will be key to this mission. And games could transform assessment. Scratch that: games could be assessment. One powerful form of it, at least. Instead of slaying pixel-painted dragons, for instance, I discovered that you could navigate a mid-air obstacle course using the laws of physics in a quest of save the world (that’s a game in the works at Vanderbilt University) or try out different ways to save the real-life lake that is dying in your real-life town (a game being developed in Madison, Wisconsin, starring local Lake Mendota).

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Ace your exams

While I drew legitimately on the article title, I think the original author chose an attention-getting title rather than the real focus: effective learning. I know I did. Few people actually seem to want to learn; they want to get good grades. Ironically, though, learning effectively is the easiest way to get good grades, so it’s not pure fraud to dangle “Ace your exams.”

Take a look at How I Was Able to Ace Exams Without Studying. This will be a win-win: you’ll get better grades, and I’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you learned something along the way.

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