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Is neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water?

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KEY

Green = Activated

Amber = Engaged

Red = Blocked

What concerns me is the belief that theories of learning, which academics have identified in eduation in the last 90 years, are either key drivers or infleuncers in the design of learning. Surely these are all observations after the event. Like trying to analyse a standup comedy routine using a set of plans and parameters – ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ comes to mind. As, I suppose would ‘Dead Poets Society’ to bring in Robin Williams again. Was the Khan Academy a product of such analysis? No? An investment banker wanted to help his nephews out with their Math so he recorded some videos. Actually, I jsut realised my wife is doing this for a friend’s daughter who is learning French – creating bespoke French language pieces for her to practice on. I can’t even think what either of them are – behaviourist or social-constructive and experiential. I’m afraid, given what the academic ‘gurus of e-learning’ keep coming up with they are probably the least intuitive or inventive because their hands and minds are tied by this kind of thing. Just my opinion.

If I want to develop a platform or school that uses e-learning I’ll go find myself a ‘Robin Williams’ kind of educator – someone has a natural flair for it, who engender a following, who most importantly delivers extraordinary results.

Looking back at school I know that what motivated me was two fold – my own long term goal and the quality of an inspired and informed teacher who had tutoring, moderating and teaching in their blood.

There’s a reason why research and teaching don’t mix. I’ve asked some academics about this and they have told me that they haven’t gone into the commercial sector, nor do they teach … ‘because they hate people’.

Where in these theories is the person?

This relationship, the rapport that can form between tutor and student is what is lacking and it is why, in my opinion, the lifes of the Oxbridge Tutorial, that one to one, or one to two or three hour long session once a week is far, far, far from dead.

Neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water.

Already the shift is very much in favour of genetics and the way our unique brains are formed as we develop as a foetus. It is nature, not nuture, so frankly, we can have anything thrown at us in terms of life experience and how we learn and how we respond will remain individual. This is the perspective of my father in law whose secondary education was the being in the Polish resistance during the Second World War, his first university a prisoner of war camp. He had England or the US as choices having decided not to return to Poland. And found himself learning English in Gateshead. The story continues … so what kind of learning was occuring in the POW camp?

He bartered lessons in German for lessons in English.

Social-situated in extremis.

Not that it can be injected into a class, and even less so in online learning, but ‘fear’ doesn’t half help turn a short term memory into one that will stick. Playing Devil’s Advocate, can ‘e-learning’ only ever be ‘cotton wool’ the safest, tamest learning you will ever recieve? Try reading an essay out in a tutor group – there’s fear! Try getting up in a hall of 300 people to make your point in a debating chamber – terrying. An odd conclusion to reach at the end of this reflection on the exercise – but where is the ‘fear’?

And I mean the right kind of fear, not the threat of the cane or other such punishment, but the fear of letting you down, or your side down, or of humiliation … against the public reward if you get something right?

Pinned down in a collapsed cellar in Warsaw my father in law believed he would die. He was the only one alive. Everyone else had been flattened. By some chance he had been standing under a beam that had partially protected him. He made promises he’d keep if he lived. He was found. A smash to the head.

Does learning have more impact when there is something at stake?

Try introducing this element into an e-learning module.

The impossible hypothesis – people learn better and make decisions with firmer convictions, where their life is at stake?

Then again we turn to neuroscience and will conclude that some will, some won’t, that the response of the individual to a shared experience means that you get as many different outcomes as there are people.

Institutions think that grades divide students – that’s only the tiniest fraction of what makes each person in that class different. If the student isn’t suitably self aware to know how to play to their strengths and managed their weaknesses then the observant tutor and others who are part of the institution should be doing this on their behalf – as parents, friends and siblings might do. Even with medical intervention.

The ‘Flipped classroom’ for me is finding ways to work with the individual who happens to be in a class that is probably already sorted by age and culture, if not also social class and gender.

And therefore already inappropriate.

Maybe the classroom has had its time. A short-lived interlude in human development over the last 70,000 years.

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Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design

This is an activity in week 7 of Open University postgraduate module H809: Practice-bases research in e-learning which forms part of the Masters in Open & Distance Education. Shared here, as in my student blog, in order to invoke discussion. I’ve successfully completed the MAODE so this is something of a ‘bonus track’ (I graduate in April then look onwards). The activity is drawn from the Conole et al paper referenced below. Theories are catergorised and a model produced to help define the learning theories that can be identified.

20130324-234258.jpg

20130324-234309.jpg

20130324-234322.jpg

20130324-234644.jpg

20130324-234330.jpg
KEY

Green = Activated

Amber = Engaged

Red = Blocked

What concerns me is the belief that theories of learning, which academics have identified in education in the last 90 years, are either key drivers or influencers in the design of learning.

Surely these are all observations after the event.

Like trying to analyse a stand-up comedy routine using a set of plans and parameters – ‘Good Morning, Vietnam‘ comes to mind. As, I suppose would ‘Dead Poets Society‘ to bring in Robin Williams again. Was the Khan Academy a product of such analysis? No? An investment banker wanted to help his nephews out with their Math so he recorded some videos. Actually, I just realised my wife is doing this for a friend’s daughter who is learning French – creating bespoke French language pieces for her to practice on. I can’t even think what either of them are – behaviourist or social-constructive and experiential. I’m afraid, given what the academic ‘gurus of e-learning’ keep coming up with they are probably the least intuitive or inventive because their hands and minds are tied by this kind of thing.

Just my forming and fluid opinion.

If I want to develop a platform or school that uses e-learning I’ll go find myself a ‘Robin Williams’ kind of educator – someone has a natural flair for it, who engender a following, who most importantly delivers extraordinary results.

Looking back at school I know that what motivated me was two fold – my own long term goal and the quality of an inspired and informed teacher who had tutoring, moderating and teaching in their blood.

There’s a reason why research and teaching don’t mix. I’ve asked some academics about this and they have told me that they haven’t gone into the commercial sector, nor do they teach … ‘because they hate people’.

Where in these theories is the person?

This relationship, the rapport that can form between tutor and student is what is lacking and it is why, in my opinion, the likes of the Oxbridge Tutorial, that one to one, or one to two or three hour long session once a week is far, far, far from dead.

Neuroscience is going to blow this allow out of the water.

Already the shift is very much in favour of genetics and the way our unique brains are formed as we develop as a foetus. It is nature, not nurture, so frankly, we can have anything thrown at us in terms of life experience and how we learn and how we respond will remain individual. This is the perspective of my father in law whose secondary education was the being in the Polish resistance during the Second World War, his first university a prisoner of war camp. He had England or the US as choices having decided not to return to Poland. And found himself learning English in Gateshead. The story continues … so what kind of learning was occurring in the POW camp?

He bartered lessons in German for lessons in English.

Social-situated in extremis.

Not that it can be injected into a class, and even less so in online learning, but ‘fear’ doesn’t half help turn a short term memory into one that will stick. Playing Devil’s Advocate, can ‘e-learning’ only ever be ‘cotton wool’ the safest, tamest learning you will ever receive? Try reading an essay out in a tutor group – there’s fear! Try getting up in a hall of 300 people to make your point in a debating chamber – terrifying.

An odd conclusion to reach at the end of this reflection on the exercise – but where is the ‘fear’?

And I mean the right kind of fear, not the threat of the cane or other such punishment, but the fear of letting you down, or your side down, or of humiliation … against the public reward if you get something right?

Pinned down in a collapsed cellar in Warsaw my father in law believed he would die. He was the only one alive. Everyone else had been flattened. By some chance he had been standing under a beam that had partially protected him. He made promises he’d keep if he lived. He was found. A smash to the head.

  • Does learning have more impact when there is something at stake?
  • Try introducing this element into an e-learning module.
  • The impossible hypothesis – people learn better and make decisions with firmer convictions, where their life is at stake?

Then again we turn to neuroscience and will conclude that some will, some won’t, that the response of the individual to a shared experience means that you get as many different outcomes as there are people.

Institutions think that grades divide students – that’s only the tiniest fraction of what makes each person in that class different. If the student isn’t suitably self aware to know how to play to their strengths and managed their weaknesses then the observant tutor and others who are part of the institution should be doing this on their behalf – as parents, friends and siblings might do.

Even with medical intervention.

The ‘Flipped classroom‘ for me is finding ways to work with the individual who happens to be in a class that is probably already sorted by age and culture, if not also social class and gender.

And therefore already inappropriate.

Maybe the classroom has had its time. A short-lived interlude in human development over the last 70,000 years.

REFERENCE

Conole, G, Dyke, M, Oliver, M, & Seale, J (2004), ‘Mapping Pedagogy and Tools for Effective Learning Design’, Computers And Education, 43, 1-2, pp. 17-33, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 March 2013.

 

Some ways to improve the e-learning experience

Fig.1. Jeremy Hardy

1. Teaching is a performance Jeremy Hardy, The News Quiz, Episode 78, Series 3.

He’s got a point, teaching (and coaching) is a performance – we should plan for performance too, but can I quote him? In a discussion, but not in an assignment – though I have little doubt there are those who I can cite from education and sport who say the same thing or something similar. Not only does Jeremy Hardy quip about teaching as ‘performance’ but he suggests that teachers who were ‘characters’ provided a benefit too – that and the Grammar School Experience.

Where do we get characters in e–learning?

Where indeed do we get humour or spectacle? Both are ways to create memories and so embed learning, even to motivate students and create a following. How can a tutor do this in e-learning, and if they did a Robin Williams ala Dead Poet’s Society would they be sacked? I can think of a tutor who ran a forum who was the heart and soul of the module – probably cost him 15 hours input for the 5 he was paid for. however, if he decided to run a module on basket weaving in the Congo Rainforest I might do it – for the fun of it. Education can be entertainment.

Fig 2. Contemporary Theories of learning

2. There are ‘Multiple approaches to understanding’

Howard Gardner (1999) – reading this in ‘Contemporary Theories of Education‘. Join me on Twitter @JJ27VV as I share. I have highlighted 60% of the content, there are several bookmarks too and it is only a few pages long. Some key thoughts:

Students do not arrive as blank slates:

  • Biological and cultural backgrounds
  • Personal histories.
  • Idiosyncratic histories
  • Nor can they be ‘aligned unidimensionally along a single line of intellectual development’.

So I wonder if there is a reason why at school children are taught in year group cohorts – it matches with a developmental stage.

It may not cater for cognitive ability or drive. A mix of learning abilities and backgrounds affects the learning experience and quality though, it always struck me that, for example a young musician studying in a driven, step by step fashion, largely on a 1 to 1 basis, can progress fast. Far greater tailoring of a range of lessons, combined with the cohort, paced to challenge the style as the Khan Academy does, has to be an improvement.

Fig.3. Sebastian Coe’s parting words at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

3. There are multiple reasons why the Paralympics and Olympics are mot merged – there are benefits of such segregation for learning too – not exclusively, but to focus and scale up expertise and support for specific types of impairment.

The needs of the plethora of disability groups are better catered for separately. Or are they?

When the Games end they must re–integrate with a world where access is far less certain, accommodating or even a shared experience. Is this relevant to access to e–learning? One size does not fit all – creating content that is clear and easier to read, or follow is a reasonable adjustment – however, is it not the case that once along a certain spectrum of impairment, say legally blind rather than sight impaired, or deaf, rather than hearing impaired, or an arm amputee rather than having some mobility impairment that both in sport and in learning – though not all of the time or exclusively – that these people should learn together, as occurs for example through the RNIB or the RAD.

Whilst clearly provision of an audio version of a book, or video with captions and a transcript should be common practice, when it comes to some approaches to e–learning, say gamification, and certainly any social, or synchronous forms of learning then, like the Paralympics, they would benefit from coming together – indeed, if distance and travel is a barrier, and getting a number of sight impaired students together to study, for example, English Literature, was the desire then distance learning as e–learning may be beneficial.

Fig.4. Our guinea-pigs – reversioning nature’s way!

4. Might the approach to responsive e–learning where using HTML5 allows the same content to be used on multiple devices be applied to creating version for devices that are pre–programmed or the hardware is different, to suit a variety of disabled people?

As we live in a multi-device world we increasingly want the same content reversioned for each device – personally I expect to move seamlessly between iPad (my primary device), iPhone and Laptop (secondary devices) and a desktop. I don’t expect a Kindle to do more than it does.  I wonder if a piece of hardware suited to the sight impaired might do a better job of tackling such versions? Ditto for the hearing impaired, as well as for people with physical impairments who require different ways to navigate or respond to content.

Fig.5. New keyboard App

Or Apps that do the same job?

And the module that has set me thinking about the above:

H810 Accessible online learning: supporting disabled learning

With a final thought – we are all equally able and disabled in some way. We share our humanity … and too short lives.

REFERENCES

Gardner, H (1999) Multiple Approaches to Understanding. Second part of a chapter first published by C.M Reigleuth (ed) Instructional Design Theories and Models: A new paradigm of instructional theory, volume 2. 69–89pp.

Hardy, J. (2012) The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, Sat 23rd September. Episode 78, Series 3.

Marcotte, E (2010) Responsive Web Design (Last access 23:45 21 September 2012) http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design/

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