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Friday, March 31, 2006

The Chuck Norris Phenomenon

In between annoying TV commercials for a place called Rich’s Tire Barn, I began wondering how this whole thing with Chuck Norris got started. Chuck, if you read this, I'm not implying that you're annoying. Seriously, you have to believe me. By now, Chuck Norris facts are as widely circulated as gossip about Paris Hilton. Then, to my good fortune, someone pointed out to me that Wikipedia tracks such Internet phenomena. But, I still had questions. You see, sometimes I get pretty deep into philosophical and scientific discussions. I wondered what Chuck Norris would say if he were to read some of my blog posts.

“Proponents of higher-order theories of consciousness argue that consciousness is explained by the relation between two levels of mental states in which a higher-order mental state takes another mental state. If you mention this to Chuck Norris, expect an explosive roundhous
e kick to the face for spouting too much fancy-talk.”
I guess that answers my question.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Connecting people who love to teach with people who love to learn

MindSync was created by Jason Robinson as a service to both teachers and students. Students can find out about classes and workshops or find someone to help them with their studies. Teachers and tutors can post information about their services.

MindSync just put together this new flyer, giving you an idea of what you'll find at the site.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Gaming across disciplines

Also in the current Wired, author Steven Johnson explores the idea of virtual worlds colliding.

"One way or another, consolidation is all but inevitable. A single, pervasive environment will emerge, uniting the separate powers of today's virtual societies. And then we really will have built the Matrix."

Imagine an educational world that follows this metaphor ... allowing students and teachers to create connections where they see them... an adaptive system - bridging disciplines, filling gaps, forming new concepts, etc.

Picture credit

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Video games and how students learn

In the current Wired Magazine, Will Wright has some interesting observations about video games and non-linear thinking. I've been putting the idea out there for years now, for the need for an online, interactive educational game. If you go to this site (not fully functional), you'll see the type of game I'd like to get out to the public. I'm hoping that someone in cyberspace can connect me to someone who can make this a reality. The game would have the additional benefit of teaching students about diplomacy and international relations.

"In an era of structured education and standardized testing, this generational difference might not yet be evident. But the gamers' mindset - the fact that they are learning in a totally new way - means they'll treat the world as a place for creation, not consumption. This is the true impact video games will have on our culture."

"Games cultivate - and exploit - possibility space better than any other medium. In linear storytelling, we can only imagine the possiblitiy space that surrounds the narrative: What if Luke had joined the Dark Side? What if Neo isn't the One? In interactive media, we can explore it."

Friday, March 24, 2006

The ADHD - Creativity Connection

In an earlier blog entry, I posted some information regarding a connection between mental illness and creativity. Now, it's time for some possible reasons for that connection. In this essay, author Justin Genovese discusses some of the reasons why those with ADHD might be more creative. What concerns me is that there is no recognition of this unique style of thinking on standardized exams. What I'll be looking for next is a study on whether or not students with ADHD do well on these tests. Is it possible for conceptual and creative thinkers to do well on tests which require such focus and linear thinking ability? What might a test look like if it were written by someone with ADHD? One more thing to think about - what if, rather than answering a series of questions, students (in a hypothetical class) were asked to compose their own questions at the end of a unit of study?

Citing a study by Bonnie Cramond
(The Coincidence of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Creativity, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, 1995), Genovese writes,

In a 1992 study, a group of ADHD children and a group of normal children with similar backgrounds and IQs were compared. The ADHD group was found to have a higher creativity and more use of imagery in problem solving, as well as more spontaneous thoughts during a problem-solving exercise. One researcher hypothesized in 1980 that "Intelligent individuals who are bombarded by ideas seek to make sense of them by organizing them into new perceptual relationships. Thus the creative, original idea is born" (Cramond).

One creative solution to ADHD behavior, comes from Dr. Alejandro Terrazas at MediaBalance. He has invented a wireless device which rewards students/ clients with points for positive behavior. These points can then be used for television time (pay per view).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

iTunes offers lectures from major universities: with so many educational choices, who will help us decipher good from not-so-good?

For those of you who don’t know, iTunes now has lectures available from Stanford and MIT. How popular are these downloads? IP & Democracy reports that:

Through the end of the Fall semester in December, Stanford’s content was getting 15,000 tracks a week accessed at iTunes. The university plans to expand the coverage to include sports, with Stanford’s athletic matches slated to be available in video podcast form at iTunes.
Thought of the day: With so many forms of education available to all humans of all ages, i.e. public school, private school, charter school, tutoring, e-learning, cyber-learning, podcasting, I think (and remember, you heard it here first) a new type of service will become necessary – that of an education broker / consultant. The job of this person will be to assess students (of any age) and put them in touch with the type of learning program that most fits their needs.

For example, “alright, I’ve looked over your portfolio, spoken to your teachers, examined your test scores, and here is what I recommend: one year of home-schooling, supplemented by weekly podcasts and participation in this online educational game.”

Who coordinates all these activities? The educational consultant, paid on a monthly retainer.

Related links:
  • ITunes University
  • A wireless device to help those w/ ADHD. This device uses a token economy system to reward users with points for positive behaviors. Points can be converted to pay-per-view time. One idea might be to allow users to “cash in” points for downloads of music, podcasts and videos at the iTunes music store.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The intersection of video games and education

I'm finding more evidence lately to support the concept of using video games in education. Two years ago, approximately, at a video game conference in San Jose, I talked to vendors about the idea. At that time, I found it hard to generate interest, but things could begin to change. I had been interested in the idea of an Everquest, or Final Fantasy- like game filled with all types of educational content. It would be an endless learning environment, where lines between subject areas could be crossed and students would be allowed to be as creative as necessary to achieve game objectives. Through clever programming, standardized test content could be embedded in such games. This article shows both the positive and negative aspects of this type of learning.
"Experts in pedagogy and game design began the conference by discussing specific attributes of video games that lend themselves to learning applications and went on to examine areas of knowledge and skill development to which game features could be applied."

"The decision environments provided in gaming are great training for all sorts of high-performance teams," said Jan Cannon-Bowers, an associate professor at the University of Central Florida and formerly senior scientist for training systems for the U.S. Navy. "Though gaming provides a good medium for instruction, good instruction must transcend the game."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Can video games be used in the treatment of ADHD?

The link above will take you to an interesting overview of how video games might be helpful to people with ADHD.
"Video game play is a form of neuro-feedback, Owens says, which teaches patients to self-regulate brain-wave patterns to improve learning."
Henry Owens is a Melbourne, Florida clinical psychologist who has a patented video game, using NASA technology. I would be interested to read a write-up about this in a scientific journal, where they explore exactly how it works - but, this is a good starting point.

Credit to Jason Robinson for the link to Slashdot. "Zonk" posted this piece on slashdot.

You can read more about the company Smart Brain Games here.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Understanding “Lost"

I recently got hooked on the ABC series “Lost,” but this is one addiction I think I’m going to stick with. In fact, I actually think I’m supposed to be watching it. If you have read this blog before, you know that there’s a lot of writing about emergence, chaos theory, complexity, etc. Well, Lost seems to tap into all that. I’ve been looking for some places in the blogosphere that touch on these subjects and can recommend a few sites:

The numbers

Any other ideas?

The themes that I like are: 1.) the science-based Jack versus the more faith-based John. I know there have to be others out there, who believe as I do that the two really need each other – the two people and the two theories. Think of all the parallels to the state of politics in the U.S. Is no one broad enough in their thinking to bridge the gap? Maybe Lost will show the way. 2.) Order out of chaos: what a great opportunity this show has to show how the most unlikely of people can come together to achieve a greater purpose. You should read about Mitch Resnick’s slime mold experiments in Stephen Johnson’s book Emergence (links available on this site). Instead of “what do I want,” the question, as Locke puts it, is “what does the Island want?”

Making sense out of chaos is a great theme – the struggle is what makes it interesting. Putting all those unique brains and characters together, they might be able to figure out the mystery of the random numbers. It’s going to take a larger theme like this to get the folks on the island to work together… but does that make for good ratings? We’ll have to see.

There are so many ways to go with this. I’ll put a few out there. First, are there teachers out there who are using this show as a metaphor? I can see government teachers using this as a way to show the need and purpose of government, math teachers using this in a number theory lesson, world history teachers to explain the development of civilization and on it goes…

And, for the love of God, is anyone on the island going to make some coffee?!

…or did I miss that episode.