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by Stephen Downes
December 28, 2009

Open Educational Resources and the future of institutions
Graham Attwell: "the crisis over the future role of institutional education will continue to deepen." Agreed. "The crisis, engendered largely by technological and social change, can only be exacerbated by the financial cutbacks facing higher education in many countries." The market meltdown, part deux, hasn't hit yet. But count on it, probably starting this year, as governments cut back on everything that moves in an effort to balance deficit-ridden budgets. Graham Attwell, Pontydysgu, December 28, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Using Serious Games and Simulations: A Quick and Dirty Guide
Games and simulations develop your entire neural network, rather than one small part of it. This is a different kind of learning than results from classroom teaching. Clark Aldrich sums it up precisely, and to my mind accurately, "the necessary goal of a well-designed sim-based program is to develop in the student a deep, flexible, intuitive, kinesthetic understanding of the subject matter." Content-learning is very one-dimensional. You learn a fact; that's it. But deeper, practice-based learning is multidimensional. In addition to any putative facts that you might learn, you gain an array of deeper skills and insights.

Aldrich writes, "To deliver this condensed experience, sims have to necessarily present richly interactive content models, interfaces and visualizations, and then entice or force students to repeat patterns of actions in increasingly complex and novel situations, and with rigorous short term and increasingly long term feedback. It is here that computer games, much more than classrooms or books, become the better framework to organize content and motivate students." Clark Aldrich, Simulations and Serious Games, December 28, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

Teachers aware of their own Learning Styles
We should not use the lack of evidence as a reason to believe that learning styles don't exist. So argues Matthias Melcher in this post, citing the Critical Thinking video mentioned elsewhere in today's newsletter. I would hasten to add that what has been lacking is a very specific form of evidence: a demonstrated change in short term test grades resulting from tailoring teaching according to teaching styles. The paradigm in which this evidence is not obtained, in other words, is a strictly instructivist model, where learning is defined as nothing other than achievement on a test. The primae facie case for learning styles is not tested at all (probably because the results are obvious): teaching a blind person using textbooks, teaching deaf people using audio lectures. Arguments such as the one offered in the Chronicle are not logically sound. They cite the lack of evidence as evidence. Based on the prima facie evidence, a more reasonable course would be to measure the extent and limits of learning styles, rather than to make blanket black-white assertions about them. Matthias Melcher, x28's new Blog, December 28, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , , , , , , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

60 Educational Game Sites That You've Probably Never Seen
Keith Ferrell digs up a nice list of 60 sites featuring educational games. The list was compiled from separate items on Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers website. Keith Ferrell, Tech :) Happy, December 28, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

Engagement v. Empowerment -- Some Early Thoughts...
Chris Lehmann is quite right: engagement is insufficient; we should be thinking of empowerment. But how many people employed in the role of teacher will be comfortable with the idea of empowering their students? Engagement is safe, docile, controlled. Empowerment suggests that students might take matters into their own hands. "It also allows us to do away with the notion that the classroom is always fun. It's not. Let's look at coaching for a moment... a coach who is worried about engagement as the goal lets the kids scrimmage most practices because it is engaging and fun. But an empowering coach puts the kids through smart drills that allows them to play their best basketball during the games." Chris Lehmann, Practical Theory, December 28, 2009 [Link] [Tags: none] [Comment] [Tweet]

(How) Would You Use This Critical Thinking Video?
Excellent short video introducing critical thinking. Clay Burell asks, "What follow-up questions for discussion or writing will get the most bang for the buck if used in the classroom?" The video originates from the QualiaSoup collection on YouTube (where you'll find more good introductory philosophy videos). Clay Burell, Beyond School, December 28, 2009 [Link] [Tags: , ] [Comment] [Tweet]

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Copyright 2008 Stephen Downes

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