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Mork and me

From Profile Photos

Fig.1 Mork and me

Promoted to being a ‘school prefect’ in my late teens at the RGS, Newcastle and required to keep a line of 11 year olds in order during morning assembly I would repeatedly hear mutterings and giggles of the line “Nanno Nanno” behind my back: ‘Mork and Mindy’ was on TV at the time and I supposedly looked like the main character played by Robin Williams. Only by doing that thing that Robin Williams did with his fingers when greeting Ork would this lot be satisfied. That was 1979.

35 years later I’m in the Senior Common Room at the University of Birmingham and a fellow graduate student asks “Do you know who you look like?” (we’d obviously got bored with talking about the First World War). I tell the above story. Whether or not hair or glasses or smirk are similar, I am a) not as hairy b) not funny c) six inches taller d) manic, but never depressed e) can’t grow a beard f) ten years younger and g) English.

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

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 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.

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.

 

Asynchronous Spaced Education becomes synchronous and game-like

I might have interviewed Dr Price Kerfoot of Spaced-Ed for H807, ‘Innovations in E-learning’ a year ago.

I finally caught up with him this afternoon two weeks into the Spaced-Ed transmogrification that is Qstream.

We used Skype. Clear barely broken sound. Sharp video in colour. It worked.

It was a fascinating discussion.

I should have asked to record and done so.

Next time. I’m sure the conversation has only just begun.

Though armed with a set of questions used in TMA02 of H807 non were necessary. I’d prepared them to follow a narrative flow, and that is what we did.

We have something in common, we were both at Balliol College, Oxford.

I was there as an undergraduate 1984, he was there five years later as a Rhodes Scholar taking a BA in Medicine. Dr B P Kerfoot is now an Associate Professor of Harvard Medical School. He is also a passionate educator and e-learning entrepreneur. I suspect we will continue to hear a great deal about him – he has a passion for education, reminding me of the late Randy Pausch, even the Robin Williams character from Dead Poets Society; there is an unstoppable, engaging warmth backed by a profound intellect.

The narrative

Price had finished his surgical training when he went into education, an odd elective he admits, but one that through circumstances and surely an innate interest has proved fruitful.

What is the problem?

I didn’t need to make this prompt. You strive to fix something when you see it isn’t working. Learning outcomes from first year medical students were poor. Why, in US terms, spend $1000 dollars on a course only to find a year later that the traditional methods of acquisition and retention of knowledge has failed.

No problem, no fix.

Price looked to web-based teaching to create learning modules. Two concepts were devised, the spacing of questions proved successful. This is from one of a dozen papers authored by Kerfoot and his team; each one, naturally, a worthy, academic, professional appraisal.

Two reports are cited as we talk, one on the effect on the hippocampus of rats, another on phosphate levels in fruit flies. As an OU student these reports are readily available.

There is physiological evidence that ‘spaced learning works’.

This matters:

a) you want something that works,

b) you want something that will justify the investment.

We give it away, academics in the US are commercially savvy.

Its as if in the UK academics (individuals and institutions) are like bachelors and spinsters, whereas in North America they are eager to marry.

More importantly the research has shown that the Spaced-ed approach improves patient outcomes the goal it was found that cancer screening of patients improved by 40% for the year spaced-education was introduced.

In 2006 the methodology was submitted by Harvard for a patent application. Entrepreneurs and venture capital companies were also approached.

It’s a shame the Spaced-Ed blog hasn’t been maintained, though you’ll get some further insights here.

What began as continual education in medicine has expanded. If you go to the Spaced-Ed website there are all kinds of courses you can take, typically 20-30 questions of the multi-choice type fed to your laptop, SmartPhone or iPad. Writing these multiple choice questions is an effort and requires skill to get right,, indeed I can admit to wanting to create what I thought would be a simple set of questions relating to teaching swimming … but the correct construction of the questions, let alone the creation of appropriate images has held me back. It isn’t as easy to get this right as it looks. You don’t want to feed your audience lame questions, nor do you want to overstretchthem. There is also some negative feelings about Multi-choice, perhaps we have all had negative experiences at school … I personally remember what we described as ‘multi-guess’ that was so often used in Chemistry classes. Though clearly effective, not enough people have been persuaded to pay for these sets of questions, even a dollar or so.

The challenge, has been to move on from asynchronous to synchronous, real time learning, including video and other rich media. The new platform promoted as Qform is an Facebook App and Twitter-like in its approach. People elect to follow a Qstream which goes out to everyone. You join in collectively, rather than alone, which creates a sense of participation and competition. If I understand this correctly, as I’m yet to give it a go, you pose a response to an open question that others read. You then vote on the various responses given. As Price, engaging as Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society enthused about the platform I thought about Skype and Elluminate, even forum threads. Indeed, I wonder if we could all organise to be online and go to one of these threaded conversations to turn an asynchronous environment into a synchronous one. Harvard is also the home of Rotisserie, which rotates a threaded conversation between online learners to ensure that everyone has a turn… and of course Facebook.

Gameification is the key. You respond in a way that other s like and you get points for it and your name appears on a leader board.

Rich content and a range of responses is what’s new. And its live And its competitive

And so Qstream delivers synchronicity and a sense of community Price also talked about how to make it possible for answers to questions to become searchable in Google – I guess with the inclusion of the right metadata. I didn’t need to say it to find I’m told the more controversial responses would generate the most responses. Now it’s starting to sound like the format of the Oxford Union Debating Society – I guess Price went along there at some stage too. By listening to two sides battle it out you form your own opinion.

One final statistic – 85% of those studying urology in North America (that’s the US and Canada) are using Dr B Price Kerfoot’s 23 question Spaced-ed multi-choice Q&A.

The competitors are Quora, Stackoverflow and FormSpring or some such … I’ll go take a look.

REFERENCES

REFERENCE

J Gen Intern Med 23(7):973–8

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0533-0

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2008

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