Categories
learning

Seven principles of learning

This is a short summary of a post by Scott Young that itself summarises the learning principles presented in Why don’t students like school, by Daniel Willingham. I’ve added the book to my reading list based on Scott’s recommendation.

Here are the principles from Scott’s post (with some of my own comments in italics):

  1. Factual knowledge precedes skill. Before you can understand complex ideas or be creative you need a sound knowledge base. See spaced repetition as an example of how to improve here. Anki is a useful app for this.
  2. Memory is the residue of thought. We remember what we think about. You can improve this skill by looking away from what you’ve just read and paraphrasing the text in your notes. It’s important not to simply copy the words (i.e. rewrite them) but to put them into your own words. Hypothesi.is will enable you to do this for most content that you access through the browser.
  3. We understand new things in the context of what we already know. This makes it difficult to learn abstract concepts, since we need to use metaphor and analogies to connect related ideas. Mind mapping might be a useful tool to think about in this context. Also, see the first principle.
  4. Proficiency requires practice. You need to be proficient in basic skills before you can progress to more complex ones. Focused repetition with feedback (see deliberate practice) is important.
  5. Cognition is fundamentally different early and late in training. Knowledge creation (research) and knowledge acquisition (learning) are different and therefore require different approaches. We’re not training people to become academics so we need to be sure that they can learn before we teach them how to create new knowledge.
  6. People are more alike than different in how we learn. Don’t spend too much time thinking about learning styles because learning styles aren’t real.
  7. Intelligence can be changed through sustained hard work. The genetic component of intelligence, combined with a sustained, nurturing learning environment, can see a relatively small advantage compound over time. And this doesn’t need to be in the form of complete lifestyle changes. Small, consistent changes in our habits can result in massive changes over time in how we live and learn.
Categories
ethics reading

PSA: Peter Singer’s “The life you can save” is available for free

In 2009, Peter Singer wrote the first edition of The Life You Can Save to demonstrate why we should care about and help those living in global extreme poverty, and how easy it is to improve and even save lives by giving effectively.

This morning I listened to an 80 000 hours podcast with Peter Singer and learned that, on the 10th anniversary of its publication, his book, The life you can save, is now available as a free ebook and audiobook (you can get the audiobook as a podcast subscription, which is very convenient). Singer’s ideas in this book, and Practical ethics, have been hugely influential in my thinking and teaching and thought that more people might be interested in the ideas that he shares.

Click on the image below to get to the download page.

Categories
AI education

Book chapter published: Shaping our algorithms before they shape us

I’ve just had a chapter published in an edited collection entitled: Artificial Intelligence and Inclusive Education: Speculative Futures and Emerging Practices. The book is edited by Jeremy Knox, Yuchen Wang and Michael Gallagher and is available here.

Here’s the citation: Rowe M. (2019) Shaping Our Algorithms Before They Shape Us. In: Knox J., Wang Y., Gallagher M. (eds) Artificial Intelligence and Inclusive Education. Perspectives on Rethinking and Reforming Education. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-8161-4_9.

And here’s my abstract:

A common refrain among teachers is that they cannot be replaced by intelligent machines because of the essential human element that lies at the centre of teaching and learning. While it is true that there are some aspects of the teacher-student relationship that may ultimately present insurmountable obstacles to the complete automation of teaching, there are important gaps in practice where artificial intelligence (AI) will inevitably find room to move. Machine learning is the branch of AI research that uses algorithms to find statistical correlations between variables that may or may not be known to the researchers. The implications of this are profound and are leading to significant progress being made in natural language processing, computer vision, navigation and planning. But machine learning is not all-powerful, and there are important technical limitations that will constrain the extent of its use and promotion in education, provided that teachers are aware of these limitations and are included in the process of shepherding the technology into practice. This has always been important but when a technology has the potential of AI we would do well to ensure that teachers are intentionally included in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of AI-based systems in education.

Categories
research

Activity Theory, Authentic Learning and Emerging Technologies

Selection_001For the past few years I’ve been involved in an NRF-funded research project looking at the use of emerging technologies in higher education. One of the products of that collaborative project was an edited book that has recently been published. Professor Denise Wood, one of the editors, describes the book on her blog:

This edited collection seeks to fill the current gap in understanding about the use of emerging technologies for transformative learning and teaching by providing a nuanced view, locating higher education pedagogical practices at an intersection of emerging technologies, authentic learning and activity systems.

The book, which is edited by Professors Vivienne Bozalek, Dick N’gambi, Denise Wood, Jan Herrington, Joanne Hardman and Alan Amory, includes case studies as examples, and draws from a wide range of contexts to illustrate how such a convergence has the potential to track transformative teaching and learning practices in the higher education sector. Chapters provide the reader with a variety of transformative higher education pedagogical practices in southern contexts, theorised within the framework of Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) and tool mediation, while using authentic learning as a pedagogical model upon which this theoretical framework is based.

I made a small contribution to the book in the form of a case study that emerged from my PhD work as part of the project. Professor Jan Herrington wrote the introduction to the section on the Case Studies:

Moving from theory to practice in higher education is deeply challenging. While exploring pedagogical models in the literature may lead to tacit understanding of general principles, actually implementing these principles in practice can be an entirely different matter. Authentic learning is a pedagogical model that is sometimes misunderstood, such as when teachers believe that in order for authenticity to be achieved, learning must occur outside the classroom in the real world. In fact, authenticity – as described in this model – can readily be achieved within the regular classrooms and lecture halls of the university environment. Providing examples of successful cases of such authentic learning environments offers an opportunity to explore the practical application of a theoretical model, and provide concrete instances of implementation in different subject areas. This chapter provides three such cases. The cases presented here provide international examples of authentic learning in practice across different discipline areas, using different technologies, and focusing on different aspects of the approach. The first case (Case study 14.1) describes the use of reflective analysis and role play in the study of obstetrics, using the model of authentic learning described in Chapter 5 (Herrington, 2014). It focuses on the use of technology as a mediating vehicle for authentic learning through the use of practice dilemmas. The second case (Case study 14.2) describes specific tasks developed within an authentic learning environment, using characteristics of authentic tasks (Herrington, Reeves, Oliver, & Woo, 2004). This case describes the use of complex contexts and the development of case notes in the study of physiotherapy. The final case (Case study 14.3) explores the use of wikis and blogs to mediate authentic learning in sport science education. All the cases represent authentic learning in action, and include details of the context, the tasks, and the problems that inevitably arise when teachers necessarily relinquish their more traditional role to allow students to take primary responsibility for learning. They are also effectively works in progress, where solutions are refined and improved in successive iterations. But above all, they are visible and tangible exemplars of theory in action.

While my own contribution was small, I’m really proud that I could be part of the initiative. The book is available on Amazon in a variety of formats.

Categories
education

Manuel Castells lecture

I was fortunate to be able to attend a lecture on campus today, given by Manuel Castells, the renowned sociologist and one of the foremost scholars of communication in the information age. His talk was inspirational and quite personal, dealing with his own journey which was a treat, since apparently he rarely talks about much of his personal life.

There were a few ideas he mentioned that really struck me. The first was his comment that ever since he was quite young, he had wanted two main things from the “project” of his life; to be free, and to understand the world better in order to change it. He went on to explain how he reasoned that the breathing room required to achieve these things could be found in academia. He also commented that his students always come first, that they constantly challenge him, and are his sources of inspiration, motivation and interestingly, information. I love those themes; that the freedom to change the world can be found in academia, and that our students are our focus.

He’s recently finished a new book, “Communication power“, which he feels will be even more influential than any of his previous works (although he kind of has to say that if he wants to sell this one).

Categories
Uncategorized

The Tower and the Cloud

Just a quick pointer to what I think is going to be a great read.  “The Tower and the Cloud” is a new publication by EDUCAUSE, which looks at the impact of cloud computing on higher education.  The book is divided into broad sections, each containing several chapters, with each chapter written by a different author who is a prominent figure in the field of e-learning.

I’m particularly keen on the section, Open Information, Open Content, Open Source, containing the following chapters (I’ve linked to the downloadable chapters):

The book is available as a free download, as well as a paid-for hardcopy that can be shipped internationally, and is published under a Creative Commons license.  I’m really looking forward to reading this.

Note: EDUCAUSE is a “…nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology”.

Other books available from EDUCAUSE include: