Dr. Hirsch yet again extends for our review the importance of an authentic, contextualized approach to early childhood development and elementary-grades learning. Eloquently. A not-complex defense of complexity. Don't miss it!
Learning, technology & development
Entries in learning (8)
From Science magazine, January 20, the abstract of an article by Jeffrey Karpicke and Janell Blunt:
Educators rely heavily on learning activities that encourage elaborative studying, while activities that require students to practice retrieving and reconstructing knowledge are used less frequently. Here, we show that practicing retrieval produces greater gains in meaningful learning than elaborative studying with concept mapping. The advantage of retrieval practice generalized across texts identical to those commonly found in science education. The advantage of retrieval practice was observed with test questions that assessed comprehension and required students to make inferences. The advantage of retrieval practice occurred even when the criterial test involved creating concept maps. Our findings support the theory that retrieval practice enhances learning by retrieval-specific mechanisms rather than by elaborative study processes. Retrieval practice is an effective tool to promote conceptual learning about science.
I'll be damned. But wait, do educators really "rely heavily" on elaborative studying? And are we basically comparing concept mapping with memorization, as if there are no other alternatives?
(But what about that "the advantage occurred" even when the kids were asked to create concept maps?)
If if I can find my way to the full text of the article, perhaps I'll have more to say. Perhaps I'll make a concept map of it.
John Tierney describes a review of articles that people emailed to others from the NY Times home page over the course of the last 6 months:
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page.
Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.”
Of course there are implications for education: If students have an emotional response to what they're asked to learn, they'll be more likely to share their learning with others -- and in the process summarize it, analyze it, (re)produce the information that they've learned, touching some of the milestones along the path to mastery.
The possibilities can be found across the curriculum--literature is designed to tug at your core, and historic events, the creation of Borobudur or the emergence of women's suffrage, and certainly discoveries in math that fuel our drive to understand the cosmos have emotional potential--but the researchers finding that science articles are more likely to be shared signals that educators are failing to use a powerful tool:
“Emotion in general leads to transmission, and awe is quite a strong emotion,” he said. “If I’ve just read this story that changes the way I understand the world and myself, I want to talk to others about what it means. I want to proselytize and share the feeling of awe. If you read the article and feel the same emotion, it will bring us closer together.”
But where's the curriculum that seeks to inspire awe? And what are the consequences of curriculum that doesn't attempt to get students even a little excited about what they're learning?
(Is there a topic more potent than natural selection, if you seek out and present speciated adaptations to available niches? Warm, fuzzy salamanders migrating perilously along ancient vernal waterways, now paved. Or obsessive squirrels able to remember 30,000 or more places where they've stored acorns? [I'm not kidding about that last one. Squirrels might not have much reasoning power, but apparently their memories for spatial referents are unsurpassed.)
But if that's so, it's also likely that the understanding and seeking have been at least partially emptied of specifics.
While the stakes for Maine--it's a small state in the largest national economy on earth--are significant but not epochal. If 1:1 computing fails there, well, at least _something_ positive will probably happen, even if it's only an increase in the number of computer technicians.
But 1:1 computing has rapidly--really rapidly, considering that Maine launched its program only in 2002--been adopted by developing countries. Driven partly by one of Papert's proteges, Nicolas Negroponte, 1:1 computing has made appearances in the education systems of Uruguay, Rwanda, Brazil, Ethiopia and elsewhere. The stakes in these countries, and the consequences of anything other than success, are much, much higher.
(At one point in 2004 I was hanging out with a bunch of kids in a village in Rwanda. I asked them if they wanted some soda, you know, Fanta or something. Most schools I've been to in Africa, soda lubricates interviews. These kids, though, would have none of it. "Could we have some meat, please?" School fees and uniforms and lost wages were all barriers to the participation in school of these kids. And yet education, literally mastering English if nothing else, held so much for them in terms of opportunity.)
Does "everyone" (who counts) in those countries understand and seek the same transformation? And if so, is it the same transformation as that sought by "everyone" (who counts) in Maine?
The NY Times reports on the connection between kids using schooldesks that allow them to stand up in class and improved academic performance. While research has yet to be completed...
“We’re talking about furniture here,” [Ms. Reisenger] said, “plain old furniture. If it’s that simple, if it turns out to have the positive impacts everyone hopes for, wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing?”
(One wonders, also, the degree to which stand-up desks might be a "disruptive technology" in the discipline-centered classrooms of so many countries. They would certainly be a cheaper technology, more easily implemented, with more easily assessed impact.)