Making Connections

Hello fellow Bloggers & educators,

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Well I’ve managed to get myself caught up with EDC3100 activities, am in reasonable shape for completing my 1st assignment and have finished the activities for week 4!  During Week 4’s activities we were asked to reflect on how people think and learn and in particular we were asked to think about the connections made through the learning process.  I found this interesting and particularly in relation to 21st century learning.  

Previously when we have thought about learning we have thought of hierarchical systems where one thought leads to the next and so on but it is increasingly becoming apparent that that is not necessarily accurate.  When we think and learn about things we use previous understandings to make sense of new ones that is true, but what is interesting to consider is that these understandings have not just come from one source.  They may have in fact come from a number of previously different thoughts that when considered together give use a new understanding.  For example lets think about how we know a horse is a horse and not something else altogether.  Firstly we know that a horse has four legs.  A chair (not related to a horse much at all) also has four legs but we know it is not a chair because we already know about chairs and that they are not living so a horse is not a chair.  A horse is a big animal so it is not a cat or a dog.  If you follow where I am heading you can see how all of the connections we have made about different things in our environment, related to horses or not, help inform us more about what a horse is.  We transfer previous understanding about a lot of different experiences to forming this new understanding.  That is because we have created a network of connections and not just a line of connected dots.  

When you look at how the brain is formed it is quite striking to see how similar it is to such networks.  Is there a design principle at work here?  Do we think and learn the same way our brain functions and grows?  It would seem to make sense that we do but it will take more research to show if this is the case and if so how it may effect learning and education.  This theory is not necessarily new though.  It actually looks a bit like a Constructivist approach to learning.  Gros (2002) draws our attention back to constructivist theories and how this may relate to ICTs and their use in learning.  Constructivist learning encourages collaboration and problem solving which are prevalent skills used when ICTs are effectively integrated into learning environments and experiences.

Check out the video below, Manuel Lima’s The Power of Networks, to get an insight into how we make connections through networks of information and how it may change the way we view learning and many other aspects of life.

Kate.

 

References.

Gros, B.  (2002).  Knowledge construction and technology.  Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 11(4) 323-343.  Retrieved from http://www.jcu.edu/education/dshutkin/ed587/ID_constructivism.pdf.

 

 

ICTs – Interactive games motivating learning through real life problem solving and areas of interest.

Hello fellow Bloggers and educators,

In the 2012 Nesta report Decoding Learning: The proof, promise and potential of digital education; Luckin, Bligh, Manches, Ainsworth, Crook and Noss highlight 150 of the top ranked ICT innovations in education.  One of these innovations was by David W. Schaffer (2006) who discusses how children who play interactive games, particularly those that deal with problem solving and areas of interest build “islands of expertise” (Shaffer, 2006, p.223).  He then discusses how these islands of expertise allow learners to transfer knowledge and skills they have acquired to other areas of learning. 

Shaffer demonstrates how this may be possible through the example of Natalie and how she transferred her understandings gained from a design game to other aspects of her schoolwork.  He also discusses how young children become engrossed in subjects of interest to them developing a relatively deep knowledge around this subject – such as dinosaurs or flowers.  Shaffer then goes on to discuss how this represents different people’s ways of knowing and he suggests that learners use this different ways of knowing to make links with new concepts and understanding.  This is all very interesting but what does it mean for educators and how can it translate into incorporating interactive games into the classroom to be used as a learning tool to support, extend or transform learning; particularly in the early years?  One example I thought of might involve constructing units of inquiry around children’s interests thereby developing their areas of expertise.  This may involve playing interactive games about these areas for example a game where children have to build a vehicle, navigate around a particular environment completing specific tasks or identifying, labelling and sorting flowers in a garden.  Such games build a variety of scientific and mathematical skills and understandings as well as problem solving skills that could then be transferred to building connections in other areas by asking questions such as ‘how can we take what we know about building a car and build a house or a bridge?’ or ‘how do we make sure we can complete all of the activities in time?’ and ‘how can that help us be organised at school?’  Another interactive game idea may involve children interacting with others in a simulated world, similar to SIMS, where they are exposed to social/emotional problems, relevant to their real world, which they need to solve.  Practice with such games could transfer understandings to real situations thus teaching children how to deal with similar situations.  These games facilitate both open-ended problem solving skills and collaboration allowing students to engage in higher order thinking skills.  After some investigation I discovered a software program called Simple City by 2Simple.  This game features interactive activities that reflect real life scenes such as visiting the doctor, going to the cafe or doing the recycling.  These activities also integrate a variety of curriculum domains and encourage children to think about what they do in these scenarios and apply problem solving skills.

Kate.

 

References.

Luckin, R., Bligh, B., Manches, A., Ainsworth, S., Crook, C., & Noss, R.  (2012).  Decoding Learning: The proof, promise and potential of digital education (Research Report).  London: Nesta.

Shaffer, D. W.  2006.  Epistemic frames for epistemic games.  Computers and Education, 46(3), 223-234.  doi.org.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/10.1016/j.compedu.2005.11.003