The Reflective Educator

Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

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Day: May 11, 2011

Interview on the Bill Good show on CKNW

Tomorrow at 11am (PST), I’m going to be on the Bill Good show on CKNW. They have asked me to talk because I recently presented at my school on social media for parents.

They sent me the following two articles as some background on the issue of young children using social media.

Five million Facebook users are 10 or younger

That Facebook friend might be 10 or younger, and other troubling news

If you want to listen to the interview, you can visit the CKNW website, and click on "Listen Now" on the left hand side of the page.

I’m thinking of these basic talking points:

  • The Internet is not private, it is mostly public space.
  • Children need positive role-models in online social spaces, in many cases this is lacking in their lives.
  • We should adopt a scaffold approach to social media, recognizing that when students graduate from school, they will be entering an unfiltered world.
  • The Internet is not as dangerous as make it out to be, in many ways our physical spaces are more dangerous.
  • 67% of children report being bullied offline more than online.
  • Someone who knows your child is still much more likely to abuse them than a stranger.
  • The Internet is permanent, and most children do not understand this. They are unlikely to look ahead and see the consequences of their actions. When we grew up, this was less of a problem because "society" forgot our mistakes. For today’s children, we somehow expect them to be perfect while they are growing up.
  • Social media hasn’t changed our behaviour much, it merely amplifies both the good and the bad.
  • Children are learners, and we should treat them as people who make some mistakes. They need guidance and feedback in order to learn from their mistakes.

Are there any other important points you think I should bring up?

Update: This happened and went fine. I didn’t get as much time I would have liked to talk about this issue, but I didn’t make a fool of myself either. 🙂 You can download and listen to the interview here:

The Biobook – a nonlinear textbook

I just read an interesting article from Mashable about mobile technology in education, and it included a section on the Biobook which is a textbook arranged in a non-linear fashion. This allows someone reading the book to peruse the information in the book in the fashion which suits them, rather than the order predetermined by the textbook company. 

Traditional textbook vs Biobook

Image credit: Wake Forest

The idea is interesting. I’ve certainly been annoyed myself when accessing traditional textbooks because of the difficulty finding the piece of information I want to access. In all fairness, a traditional textbook does have a table of contents would you can access the material in a non-linear fashion if you desire.

One question though, does the order of the information matter? Organizing information is one way of curating it, and helping ensure students have the sometimes necessary background information to understand content they access. Is this a critical part of our containers of information (we’ll call them textbooks in lieu of a better word)? How important is the traditional structure to accessing information?

I wonder if you could go further and use content recommendation systems to suggest possible orders of content for students? Ie, you can access this content in anyway you like, but your friends accessed it this way, you might like that particular path.

I like how it challenges one of the assumptions about texts we have, which is that page numbers are necessary. A non-linear book would need none, they wouldn’t even make sense.

Interesting stuff. 

Gamification of education

Here’s an interesting video which was shared with me by @misterlamb today.

While I’m not thrilled about the use of experience points as group awards (external motivator), I do like the idea of incremental improvement rather than requiring students to make large changes in order to improve. I also get the point that the traditional grading system is poorly designed, and that if we must use some sort of grading system, one that expects improvement through "trying again" is a huge improvement over our "you failed, oh well" system. Further, in a system of levelling up, it would be easier to get away from the notion that how old a student is determines what path they should be taking.

There are some questions I do have about implementation of this kind of system.

  • Would students tend to become specialists in this system rather than generalists? Would they think that because they are doing well in x subject that they can forget about y subject? I’m level 55 in math, but only level 3 in writing, but it’s okay because level 55 is really good! Is this something we should worry about, or just part of the further personalization of education?
  • A huge part of any game I’ve played is the competition between the players. Most games are zero sum, in which one player has to do poorly in order for another to do well. Our comparison system of grades is such an example. In order to feel good about your A, there can’t be too many people who get one, hence your gain, is someone else’s loss. In a leveling system, being level 50 feels better when you realize you’ve beaten other people in the race to that stage of the game. I worry that this type of system might foster more competition than it would encourage cooperation. There are some suggestions in the video on how to counteract this, but none of them seems sufficient to me to overcome this effect. How can we encourage greater cooperation in a gamified classroom?
  • What do we do with a child who refuses to play the game? We have this problem already in education, where there are lots of kids who don’t participate in the classroom because they can see they will "lose" at the game, or the rules of the school game aren’t interesting to them.
  • Should we give points for mastery, or for good learning behaviours? Who hands out the points? How do we ensure that kids don’t find ways to get lots of points without really learning (gaming the gamification system)?