AppCampus

Tech Doesn't Teach… But it can Help

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Hmm. What does it mean to ‘like’ this post? Well, I’m very sad to hear this story unfold. I am a fan of Mr. Lehrer from both NPR and The New Yorker. I’m not sure how this happened, but I hope that he can find a way to redeem himself. I certainly don’t excuse the actions he is charged with taking, but I also would hate for the science world to lose such a clear voice.
Good Luck Jonah.

-Ps, I should probably disclose that I wrote the above comment on another blog first (see dispatches from pangea).

Dispatches from Pangaea

It’s been a rough couple of months for the science Wunderkind. Jonah Lehrer resigned today from his post at the New Yorker after acknowledging that he fabricated quotes in his most recent book, Imagine. His publisher is pulling the e-book that contains the misquotations and is halting production of physical copies.

Lehrer admitted that quotes that he had attributed to Bob Dylan “either did not exist, were unintentional misquotations, or represented improper combinations of previously existing quotes.”

This news comes on the heels of a smaller scandal, in which Lehrer admitted to reusing or “self-plagiarizing” his own work in numerous published pieces without telling his editors. At the time, Lehrer had just left his post at Wired, where he was a contributing editor, to become a staff writer at TheNew Yorker.

Lehrer issued an apology this morning:

I understand the gravity of my position. I want to apologize…

View original post 442 more words

Why Video Games Can Achieve Educational Objectives

Video games have several key features that make them attractive as a means to meet educational objectives. Primarily, games are intended to be enjoyable pursuits and video games have achieved this to amazing success leading to $65B of gross revenues in 20115, a figure surpassing that of the motion picture industry which grossed $10.2B that same year.6 In addition to their appeal, video game design has evolved to incorporate a number of features demonstrated to be successful as pedagogy.

One advantage of using games in the academic space is that they commonly employ a self-paced model of ‘concurrent chaining’ in which tasks are first presented in their simplest forms, but gain complexity following each player success. This approach has been shown to be successful compared to other methods of teaching by continuously involving the player in trial and error testing and thus providing more interaction and engagement with the teaching device compared to lecturer-based education alone. 1,2

A second feature of video games is that they specifically engage players by the use of storytelling – an art as old as human culture itself. Story is central to the way that people grasp the events of their lives and as such, it is vital that education be delivered in this form in order for it to make sense and be memorable. 3

However, engagement is only valuable inasmuch as it affords greater academic gains or improves attitudes towards a subject or learning in general. In an assessment of students enrolled in an undergraduate Physics course, learning outcomes were greatly improved by any implementation of interactive learning. 4

The challenge is to provide software that is 1) interesting enough to students for them to actively engage with and explore and 2) of high enough quality that this engagement is not achieved at the expense of the educational purpose. Few games achieve both of these goals simultaneously. Presently, much of the educational software market is awash in flashcard / random quiz question generators that provide test preparation without any attempt at engaging the student. Likewise, entertainment games give short shrift to scientific principles of any kind, instead inventing new rules for nature that serve only the interests of the game without providing any educational content.

 

Together, these features describe a successful means of improving education and, possibly more important, the enjoyment of education. At long last, having ‘computers in the classroom’ may provide a real, measurable benefit aside from assuring parents that technology is being used and that we assume this must lead to some improvement… we hope.

 

 

 

 

 

1.     Graesser, A. C. & Person, N. K. Question Asking During Tutoring. American Educational Research Journal 31, 104–137 (1994).

2.     Peck, A. C. & Detweiler, M. C. Training Concurrent Multistep Procedular Tasks. Human Factors 42, 379–389 (2000).

3.     Zabel, M. K. Storytelling, myths and folk tales. Preventing School Failure 32, 28–41 (1991).

4.     Hake, R. R. Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses. American Journal of Physics 66, 64 (1994).

 

5.      Reuters- http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/06/06/us-videogames-factbox-idUKTRE75552I20110606

6.      Boxofficemojo – http://boxofficemojo.com/studio/?view=company&view2=yearly&yr=2011&p=.htm

 

 

Why Technology in the Classroom Anyway?

The AppCampus Blog is premised on the notion that technology in the classroom is a good thing that educators should embrace, but why?

Here, I argue that technology (and gaming in particular) is a central part of many people’s lives. Games are the most embraced part of technology by younger generations and, over time, older generations have accepted gaming into their lives as well. Leveraging this interest to teach STEM subjects is vital to engaging students and improving global competitiveness.

Game use has increased not only in absolute number of users, but also in penetration of older age-group markets and amongst female users. A Pew Foundation report on teens and video game-play found that “nearly one-third of all 12- to 17-year- olds report playing video games every day or multiple times each day, and three-fourths report playing at least once a week.” The reach of video games greatly outdistances the number of students graduating with STEM bachelor’s degrees and may thereby extend the penetration of science instruction outside of the classroom. 1,2          Further, the reach of videogames into the older demographics has climbed such that more than half of all adults play video games of one kind and seniors are reported to play, on a daily basis, more often that all other demographics. 3

The public’s embrace of technology and gaming provides an opportunity for STEM education to reach out to students and the public at large. There exists an opportunity to seize the opportunity that mobile device technology offers to engage students of all ages in a form of entertainment that integrates education into the game seamlessly into an integral part of young people’s lives.

Despite the primary role the US has played in many technological achievements of the 20th century (including developing nuclear power for war and peacetime use and putting a man on the moon), the US is no longer a leader in STEM subjects. The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report found that the proficiency of US students in Math is lower than many other developed nations including Iceland, Estonia, Poland and Slovenia. 4

Improving performance in STEM subject education will improve competitiveness in the world market. This connection is no hypothetical assumption lacking objective evidence, data from Hanushek et al shows a direct correlation between academic performance and Gross Domestic Product, suggesting that further improvements in education can have beneficial economic consequences. 5Considering the primacy of technical job skills in the current labor market, it follows that STEM education may be a driver of this relationship.

The use of interactive, multiuser games promotes not only collaborative-, but also active– learning. Together, these techniques improve student involvement and retention by instilling a sense of personal responsibility for the material. 6,7 Further, using mobile games immerses students in science and meets them in a technology that is a central part of their lives.

 

Alltogether, games-especially those played on mobile devices- should be part of a comprehensive approach to education because they engage students in science in such a way that is vital to capturing the imaginations of scientists-to-be.

 

 

                       

 

References

 

1.     Mayo, M. J. Video Games: A Route to Larger-Scale STEM Education? Science 323, 75–79 (2009).

2.     Lenhart, A. et al. Teens, Video Games, and Civics. Pew Internet and American Life Project 1–76 (2008).

3.     Lenhart, A., Jones, S. & Rankin Macgill, A. Pew/Internet: Adults and Video Games. Pew Internet Project Data Memo 1–9 (2008).

4.     Peterson, P. E., Woessmann, L. & Hanushek, E. A. Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete? 1–48 (2011).

5.     Hanushek, E. A., Jamison, D., Jamison, E. & Woessmann, L. Education and Economic Growth. Education Next 1–10 (2008).

6.     Bonwell, C. C. & Elson, J. A. Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest. 1–5 (2012).

7.     Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. (Interaction Book Company: Edina, MN, 1991).

 

iBooks

For the educators out there…

The iBook Revolution

Apple is decisively positioning itself to take the education market by storm.  This is clearly evident from their website (http://www.apple.com/education/ipad/), “The device that changed everything is now changing the classroom.” This movement could be felt earlier, but it became a stated mission when the company introduced the iBooks Authoring tool in January of 2012. At this moment Apple placed the muscle of its publishing and distribution network in the hands of educators interested in creating their own material for the classroom. By material, I mean textbooks.  And by creating textbooks, teachers / professors / educators everywhere have the power to make an endrun around one of the most dominant, top-down forces in education: the textbook publishers.

 

For years textbook publishers have been dictating what material is taught nationwide. On one hand, this is no problem, teachers need a resource that provides content, support, lesson organization, etc. On the other, given a limited number of textbook publishers, teachers are bound to follow conventions set by very few people. And those people (the publishers) are bound by the market. And when I say ‘the market,’ I mean Texas and California.

 

Because of their size, these two states play outsized roles in determining what textbooks are used throughout the country. Being large states with high populations they are the largest purchasers of textbooks for public schools in America. This means that textbooks publishers bend to the market forces operating in these states. Where this becomes a problem is that these forces actually transform the content of the books. It may seem that history is history, math is math, etc. But anyone who has read The People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn knows that history is told by the winners and can be presented very differently by different people. For instance, states that had one time been a part of the union teach the civil war as being a war over slavery; states that had once been part of the confederacy refer to it as a war concerning states’ rights. These are both accurate statements, but they mean two very different things.

 

The effect of these market forces has documented in decades of publications on the topic, appearing in education journals and even a multipart series in the Baltimore Sun by Mike Bowler back in 1976. The question raised by many of these publications is, “should the content of textbooks be subjected to the same forces as those for cola and breakfast cereal?” That is, is the content of educational material a matter of taste?

 

This could easily be another article, but this topic has been reviewed many times elsewhere.* However, with the introduction of the iBook Authoring tool, Apple places the power to do something novel in the hands of educators. Teachers and Professors have been providing supplementary handouts and packets to their students for years. With this new app, they can now consolidate these supplemental materials into a single professional document for digital (or .pdf print) distribution.

 

But a funny thing happens once you start putting all this material together. You realize that you may be well along the road to creating your own textbook that is perfectly tailored to your own syllabus. Then you start wondering what that other book is really offering that yours is not.

 

I can’t promise that iBooks will revolutionize education, but I can say that it has revolutionized my own approach to providing materials to my class and that what used to be a packet of handouts is quickly becoming a rich multimedia document that looks an awful lot like a textbook. So, how much longer will the textbooks be the centerpiece of my students’ focus for my class? I can’t say yet – we’re only about to start my first semester. I’ll be sure to write more about how it goes though, so check back here later in the Fall 2012 semester and see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*among others:

1.“Textbook Publishers Try to Please All, but First They Woo the Heart of Texas” Mike Bowler, The Reading Teacher, Vol. 31, No. 5 (Feb., 1978), pp. 514-518.

2.“Textbook Publishing” Gilbert Sewall; Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 86, 2005

Your Experience with Technology in the Classroom

To start up this site, it seems reasonable to get a handle on what other’s experiences have been with technology in the classroom. I’m not asking for much here, just a general feeling about your own experience as a teacher -or- student.

Feel free to leave comments to explain or qualify your answer.

 

 

Welcome

Thank you for coming to this blog. Here I will examine how technology is/ isn’t or should / shouldn’t be used in the classroom. I expect to discuss the general idea of ‘computers in the classroom’, iPads and iPods, smartboards, clickers and even powerpoint presentations.

What devices and software have you used in the classroom? How was it received? Do you think it made a difference in the way you taught or the way the material was received?

Share your experiences and I’ll do my best to distill the best practices from our collected anecdotes as well as recent observations from the literature into a readable format that points towards improvements that we, as teachers, can make right now.

If you are a student, your input is valuable too! Perhaps even more valuable. What experiences have you had where technology did or didn’t help you to understand a lesson.

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