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Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Interactivity Unplugged

October 22, 2009 2 comments

Whoa! Can you believe the news lately about all the new tech-NO-tools that are going to make our lives so much more INTER-Active. New tickle me Mice, new touch-me screens, it’s all so rad and plugged in and viral and tactile. Oh my! Pass me that hand sanitizer, will ya?

Talk about electricity, I interviewed an Elon University professor today as part of my research on using all this electronic interactive media in the classroom. Of course, I’m becoming kind of a know-it-all on this topic so I figured going into this chat that I’d probably have to enlighten professor Gary Palin on exactly what I’ve been focused on. You see, he hasn’t been drinking the same Kool-Aid®, so he couldn’t possibly know, right?

Well, was I in for a big surprise! I barely got the word ‘interactive’ out on the table and don’t you know this gentlemen launches into a litany of stories. These are all very interactive teaching techniques that are not textbook-driven and that involve no chalk & talk lectures.

This guy’s on fire. He’s got a million deals cookin’ regarding how to engage students into great, interactive learning experiences. But, there was something missing. I held back on that as I didn’t want to interrupt his flow of really good stuff. I held back my hard question for him until later.

Here’s an example of one of his class projects in Entrepreneurship:

“I have two classes, one with seniors who are ready to complete the program and another with first year students. One day, for the young novices, I bring in children’s construction paper, glue and scissors and break the class into groups. Using only these materials, each group is to design and build a prototype men’s wallet that must also have a new innovative feature. Then they have to pitch the wallet to the ‘buyers.’ Of course, the ‘buyers’ are the seniors.”

All the students interact and learn by teaching themselves! Very nice. Very clever. But, I’m still thinking about that missing element. Remember, I’m the INTERACTIVE expert here.

Well, I thanked Professor Palin for his time and especially his great, interactive teaching examples. I did not mention that thing that was bothering me.

You see, he was all about engaging folks by turning over choice and control to them. He was asking them to synthesize in a non-linear, conceptual and empathic manner. All his materials were open source.

He was applying all the Kool-Aid, acid test, tagging and track back rules we are learning in our plugged in world of website and blog and wiki development but there was a difference. He hadn’t used one electronic device at all. Not one. Just some paper and scissors and glue which is kindergarten stuff.

He caused constructive, emotional and conceptual learning at the college level without any electricity!

Any questions, class?

Can Twitter and YouTube make you stupid?

October 13, 2009 3 comments

Can watching YouTube make you stupid? Maybe. The latest research indicates that while watching YouTube clips and sharing them on Twitter might be fun, it makes no improvement at all to our working memory.

Working memory is our ability to store and manipulate information for a brief time. It is typically measured by dual-tasks, where the individual has to remember an item while simultaneously processing a sometimes unrelated piece of information. In other words, working memory helps us multi-task and learn new stuff. It’s our mental sticky-note and explains why it is easier to do two different tasks (one verbal and one visual) than two similar tasks (e.g., two visual)

Working memory predicts learning outcomes independently of IQ. It’s important because working memory measures our capacity to acquire knowledge rather than simply remember what we have already learned.

A British researcher, Dr Alloway states that short form communication such as Twitter is harming our ability to remember. She describes Twitter as an “endless stream” that doesn’t allow users to process or manipulate what they’re seeing. “It’s not a dialogue,” reports Dr Alloway who is the Director of the Center for Memory and Learning at the University of Stirling. She had the same judgement for YouTube. She claimed children who watch too much TV and videos are more likely to be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. “A TV programme may be 30 minutes long. A YouTube clip is only a minute or so – your attention span is being reduced and you’re not really engaging your brain and developing your neural connections to engage on a longer basis,” she said. It’s not all bad news, however. Other forms of communication, such as Facebook, might be helping to train our brains.

“Social networking sites like Facebook might help working memory, because when we use them we feel more part of a larger community,” Alloway claims.

So, if you want to get smarter, don’t tweet. Try a little socializing on Facebook, play Sudoku, or blog.