Welcome to week three of our ED 200 class. Well, I am trying to think of a good name for this lecture. Perhaps I will call it: Language Speaks Us. We are biological beings that dwell in language. And that language shapes who and how we are.
Teachers have to ensure that students understand the words they hear and the words they use.
Why is that do you think? Why is it so important that students understand vocabulary?
I think you know the answer to this already. You know that if students don’t know the vocabulary they are hearing or using, they won’t understand what they’re hearing, and they won’t remember what they’re hearing. The child who doesn’t understand the terms legislative, executive and judicial is unlikely to develop much understanding about government let alone remember what she memorized. If you hear an unfamiliar word, you won’t have the neuronal cell assemblies being activated to allow you to make sense of the word. You will attempt to use context clues, but sometimes that slows your thinking down to such an extent that you will not be able to follow, and perceive, what is being said. If you don’t have sufficient background experience to have created neuronal webs that can be activated when you hear a word, you won’t physically experience what is being said.
You’ve experienced this and you’ve seen this — sometime we refer to this as the blank look we see on peoples’ faces. Insufficient neurons are firing for the person to make sense of what is being said.
Here’s an example. You will feel this. I’ll say a phrase and you monitor your reaction. Let’s see if any neurons fire. Here is the phrase: He bit into the big juicy Carl’s Jr. chili burger and warm, spicy, sloppy, chili dribbled down his chin and onto his new white shirt.
Well, your reaction will depend on whether or not you know what a Carl’s Jr. chili burger is, or whether or not you have had chili, and whether or not you have spilled food on a clean white shirt.
Here is another sentence. Approximately the same number of words. I have taken this from one of my philosophy books. Monitor your physical reaction: “The assertion as an assertion of “a of b of H,” is the seat of truth. In the structure of proposition, i.e. of a simple truth we distinguished subject, predicate, and copula — object assertion and connective.”
You probably didn’t feel as many neuronal webs being activated, even though I am quite sure you are familiar with, or have at least heard, each one of the words in the phrase. Like the second grader, you could memorize the phrase and then write it down on Wednesday’s test. However, doing so wouldn’t indicate you have much understanding.
And, of course we have different techniques to help students memorize — such as using acronyms, or jingles, or rhymes. Some people have even come to believe that they memorize items or statements better if they see them, hear them, or handle them in some way. And that might well be the case. But as you know, memorization of statements does not equate to understanding. And, if schools are in the business of educating, which we presume they are, they have to do what? . . . . . . They have to concern themselves with understanding.
What follows next, right after this video, is a little game of sorts to show you the importance of having an understanding of vocabulary. Without understanding, your our ability to remember, and to learn, is significantly diminished. We often say, one learns to understand. However, I think you know now that we have to understand to learn.
The following little game will tell us a lot about the foundations of education and schooling. It will demonstrate to you why you might be succeeding in some subjects and struggling in another. It will also show you how some school environments are responsible for student success, and others might be hindering student success. It will demonstrate, in a very simple way, a clear difference between what good teachers might be doing, and what poor teachers might be doing. And, it will give you another clue as to how you can be educating yourself.
Word Game, Part 1
I have a little word game for you to play. I think you will find this to be quite a powerful example of just how important vocabulary is and what it is like when we don’t have neuronal cell assemblies firing.
There are two parts to this game. Before you start you will need a sheet of paper. On one side you can write down the numerals 1 through 20. You see, beside each numeral you will be answering a question. On the other side of the paper you can write down the numerals 1 through 15 in a column. In Part 2 I will ask you 15 questions.
When you have your paper and writing implement ready to go, listen to the first audio file. As you listen, do your best to form a visual image in your mind. You will remember the answers better that way. I will read the statements first. After that I will let you know when I will be asking you questions for you to answer. All right, let’s go!
Word Game, Part 2
You probably did quite well on the first one. Now we will try part two. Very similar, but with a twist. Let’s give it a go!
So you probably didn’t do quite as well on the Part 2. Why? The sentences were very similar to the first set. But you probably noticed I changed things up a bit. I put in one made up word in each sentence. A word that I made up out of thin air. Now, I think this is huge. Not that I can make up words out of thin air, but that we have such a difficult time creating mental images of statements when we don’t know one word in the statement. usually have students who complete Part 1 get anywhere from 15 to 20 questions correct. I usually find that students get 5 or fewer questions correct in Part 2. Not knowing one word in a sentence disrupts a person’s ability to make sense of what they hear. Furthermore, people will rarely remember any of the Part 2 statements for long.
Interestingly, though, at the end of the day, if I ask you questions from Part 1, you will remember many of them. You knew every word and you were able to create visual images, and you remember those visual images for some time.
Think now of the implications. Think of any class you took where you didn’t understand all of the vocabulary. Can you see how difficult it is to make sense of what the teacher might be saying? Consider the challenges for any second language learner. Not knowing one word in a sentence can prevent the learner from learning or remembering. If, for example, you are taking an math class and you don’t really understand the meaning of ratio, or axiom, or congruence, or integral, or any other term making sense of what is being talked about is almost impossible. Not knowing the vocabulary pretty much guarantees that you won’t do well.
How often have you taken a class and you read the text book. And then when you get to the end of the page you can’t seem to remember what you read. So you read it again, perhaps highlighting some passages, thinking to yourself that you will come back to the passage and review it later. If you don’t know some of the words, it is quite likely that you will never make sense of what you are reading.
It is not that students who are not doing well in class are any less bright than a student who is doing well. They might simply be missing some vocabulary. And yet we have school narratives that suggest that when students are not doing well, it is their fault. They are not bright, or capable. We will hear that some students are unintelligent, or come from homes where they can’t learn, or that they don’t try hard enough. Sometimes we call that blaming the victim. The school environment might be such that the teacher isn’t providing students with necessary vocabulary support. It is not that teachers don’t want to provide the support and give students all the time they need. But, we will find out in short order that there are some school narratives that demand coverage, speed and efficiency. And those narratives don’e bode well for the student who requires extra time to learn. Sometimes the schedule is such that the student can’t learn and can’t keep up. The school schedule says, we have to press on. And for some students, it is impossible to recover.
What does this insight regarding the importance of vocabulary mean for you when you are educating yourself? Well, you have to do your best to understand the vocabulary. Summarize what you are learning. Put things in your own words. You know your own words.You understand your own words. That’s why the Feynman technique works so well.
Question Set Number Two (more below)
1. Please tell me the difference between your performance between the Part One of the word game and Part Two of the word game.
2. What would you say accounts for the difference in your performance?
A little detour to think about the way that putting ideas into our own words will help us educate ourselves.
How to Use the Feynman Technique – Study Tips – How to Study
Back to the Cup — Let the cup be our guide
Teacher: I want you to know the definition of cup.
Child: Definition of cup: a small container usually used for drinking, usually has a handle.
Teacher: Now you know what a cup is.
Sounds a bit like a passage from Charles Dickens’ Hard Times:
[Gradgrind says] Give me your definition of a horse.’
(Sissy Jupe thrown into the greatest alarm by this demand.)
‘Girl number twenty unable to define a horse!’ said Mr. Gradgrind, for the general behoof of all the little pitchers. ‘Girl number twenty possessed of no facts, in reference to one of the commonest of animals! Some boy’s definition of a horse. Bitzer, yours.’
The square finger, moving here and there, lighted suddenly on Bitzer, perhaps because he chanced to sit in the same ray of sunlight which, darting in at one of the bare windows of the intensely white-washed room, irradiated Sissy. For, the boys and girls sat on the face of the inclined plane in two compact bodies, divided up the centre by a narrow interval; and Sissy, being at the corner of a row on the sunny side, came in for the beginning of a sunbeam, of which Bitzer, being at the corner of a row on the other side, a few rows in advance, caught the end. But, whereas the girl was so dark-eyed and dark-haired, that she seemed to receive a deeper and more lustrous colour from the sun, when it shone upon her, the boy was so light-eyed and light-haired that the self-same rays appeared to draw out of him what little colour he ever possessed. His cold eyes would hardly have been eyes, but for the short ends of lashes which, by bringing them into immediate contrast with something paler than themselves, expressed their form. His short-cropped hair might have been a mere continuation of the sandy freckles on his forehead and face. His skin was so unwholesomely deficient in the natural tinge, that he looked as though, if he were cut, he would bleed white.
‘Bitzer,’ said Thomas Gradgrind. ‘Your definition of a horse.’
‘Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.’ Thus (and much more) Bitzer.
‘Now girl number twenty,’ said Mr. Gradgrind. ‘You know what a horse is.’
Dickens wrote this as a reaction to the factory, industrialization, models on schooling practices in England. But I digress. Suffice it to say, definitions and bits of information have little to do with understanding.
You will recall that in week one I introduced you to the idea of the four causal modality framework. It should be evident to us now that we must concern ourselves with education and not memorization. And, to be educated we try to achieve a depth and breadth of understanding. To understand a cup (to take a very easy artifact) one would be expected to know the purpose of a cup, that cups come in various materials and have a form that suits their purpose.
We would question someone’s understanding of a cup if they lacked the necessary bodily experiences to make sense of cups. For example, if someone saw a cup on the table and tried to drink from it without lifting the cup up to their mouth, we would say that they don’t really understand ‘the cup.’ If we saw someone try to drink from a cup without bending their arm at the elbow, we would say that they don’t really understand ‘the cup.’ If we saw someone try to drink from a cup without opening their mouth, we would say that they don’t really understand ‘the cup.’ Our bodily experiences help inform our understanding of the artifacts we use. We know what a styrofoam cup feels like and sounds like when we rub the side. We know that metal cups have a metallic taste to them. We know that we can hold a warm cup with two hands if we are trying to warm up while drinking hot chocolate. We know that our bodies should remain relatively stationary when drinking from a cup. All of these bodily experiences add to our understanding of the cup.
Let’s try to visualize all of this.
First our four causal modality. We have the purpose, materials, form and person to create the cup.
We also have our numerous sensory modalities, something we looked into in week two. We couldn’t claim to understand the cup without having bodily experiences with the cup.
Also, importantly, we have environmental / social contexts that give meaning to the cup. We understand, and use, the cup differently depending on the context in which we find ourselves with the cup.
You will notice that each one of these contexts, and the way our bodies experience or live within each different context, will slightly change how we experience the cup.
Consider for a moment the implications of this. For you to really understand one seemingly simple artifact, such as a cup, you require a vast number of embodied experiences. You require some understanding of the purpose of cups; and an understanding of the form and material of cups; you require bodily sensory experiences with cups such as how one holds a cup, drinks from a cup. You require the sorts of contextual (social and environmental) experiences in which we experience cups, such as in fast food restaurants, parties, or formal dinners. These contextual (environmental/social) experiences help you understand how one deals with the cup. You would appear a bit odd to others if you were at party and you handled the red party cup delicately, with your pinky out to the side, cup as one might at a Japanese tea ceremony. And you certainly wouldn’t want to slam your tea cups together and say CHEERS at a Japanese tea ceremony as one might at a party.
Question Set Number Two (continued)
3. Imagine you are explaining to an inquisitive child the importance of the three different layer of modalities: the causal, the sensory, and the environmental/social. Explain this using an object that the child would be familiar with.
Becoming Educated Through Layers of Experience
To become educated, you need the depth and breadth of understanding that all these three layers of experience afford.
If you are a teacher you will try to help students develop aspects of all the layers of experiences as best as you can. Furthermore, teachers want to be assured that you are developing understanding within all of those layers. Your ability to articulate with some degree of clarity and precision, and to be able to discriminate between different experiences and contexts, in all the different layers of lived dimensions, allow the teacher to get a sense of what you understand.
For you to educate yourself, you will want to deliberately experience all of these layers.
Reflecting back to the word game
As you reflect on these three layers, perhaps you notice that this helps explain why it is so difficult to make sense of a statement, or to remember what was said, when you are unfamiliar with a single word in a statement. Not knowing one word can prevent all the necessary neuronal web assemblies to activate. Look at all the modalities that would come into play if we heard the statement, “Put the cup in the dishwasher.” The dishwasher context connects with the grasping modality (we would grasp the bottom of the cup to set it upside down on the dishwasher rack). This would also activate the proprioception neurons of bending down and extending the arm to put the cup in the dishwasher. We would sense that the cup is made of a solid material rather than paper or styrofoam. That simple statement, “Put the cup in the dishwasher” activates all those bodily experiences and understandings.
If you didn’t know what the word dishwasher meant, none of the other modalities giving meaning (context) to dishwasher would activate (come into play). No context, no proprioception, no grasping, no material, no purpose. No learning. No remembering. Thus, once again, the blank stare.
“Put the cup in a what?”
When you heard the word ‘boldendra’ or ‘yumanraman’, or ‘plats begolla’ all the neuronal cell assemblies required to make meaning were silent. None of the modalities required for understanding were activated.
Outside in, or inside out?
We have a long history of following a narrative that suggests that we have representations of the outside world that have made their way into our heads. We might call it the outside-in model. We will look into this more in a future lecture. But suffice it to say, a better way to think about the way you perceive the world is from the inside out. That might sound strange at first. It is a bit counter intuitive. However, we perceive and we make sense of our environments as a result of what we already know. When you look at a cup there is six times more brain activity traveling from the inside of your brain moving to the receptor centers than what comes from the perturbations from the outside. We will get into that a more later as well.
Let’s apply some of this to education and schooling
We are gaining some more clues as to the foundations of education. Education, the achievement of a depth and breadth of understanding, calls on all the modalities — causal, sensory, environmental/social.
We are now in a better position to analyze schooling environments and schooling procedures to see how schools are enhancing the development of understanding or possibly hindering the development of understanding.
Of course, with the Three Branches of Government story we noted how a schooling activity might hinder the development of experiencing all the necessary modalities required for understanding.
Let look at a couple other schooling narratives that might enhance or hinder the educational pursuit.
As you know, context matters and body matters when making meaning of a situation or for any artifact or process to be intelligible. Without knowing what a word means, you are unable to understand the context or to ‘feel’ the word. Your brain isn’t full of definitions so that when you hear a word a definition pops into your head. Our brains aren’t like computers (even though that is a metaphor that is often used). Rather, your brain is continually having you re-enact parts of your visual, motor system. Your entire sensory system comes into play. You re-experience past experiences to understand a word.
This is one of the reasons why women who experienced pain, hardship and death on the Oregon Trail can help us experience those feelings when we read their words.
But it is easy for us to forget just how important sensory, bodily experiences are.
Let’s talk iPads and Typewriters
For those of you have have a horse, what would your understanding of horses be if your only contact with horses was limited to an iPad? Or for those of you who swim, or play a sport, or camp, or hike, or love. To what extent could someone, without any previous experience with any of these activities understand the activity the way you do having had real-life bodily experiences with these activities?
And yet people will still argue all the benefits of incorporating iPads or computers into young children’s lives. “Just think of all the state standards students could meet if only we had them using iPads,” we will hear people say. But is there a problem with this? As a true novice what can you re-experience on a two dimensional screen when you lack experience? When I say lack experience, I mean when you don’t already have sufficient neuronal cell assemblies intact to bring a rich meaning to the iPad.
Now this is not to say we shouldn’t ever use computer-based technologies. Many of us use sophisticated music software, or graphics software, or architectural software regularly. But we have already established neuronal cell assemblies so that we re-live a rich past experience when we use the technological artifact. And, as far as my electronic music students — playing a trumpet sound on a keyboard to compose music is great, but only after the student has had bodily (physical/sensory) experience with brass instruments. It took me a while to understand that, but I did in the end.
Let’s use another Apple cinnamon bun example (I mean Apple the product)
Here is a child about to learn about cinnamon buns by entering into this technology-barren environment. Did you hear that many school districts have been very excited about this?
Sometimes it’s difficult for us to look objectively at what we are doing in school. We get caught up in the hype or the fads — just like the music teacher who thought his students were developing a depth of understanding by playing keyboards. I won’t mention his name.
The technology seems so amazing, doesn’t it. It is the wave of the future, just like the typewriter was.
Did you say Typewriter? I did! Time for a Blast to the Past!
Did you know that typewriters were once thought to be valuable educational tools?
Oh, I should remember that most of you might be too young to really remember the typewriter. I remember it well. I even took a typing class in high school. “Sit up straight. Feet on the floor. Fingers on the home row. F, F, F, H, H, H, f-o-x, f-o-x, f-o-x.” And so the class would go. Mr. Pobada shouting above the clacking of the typewriter keys.
Ever hear about the typewriter study? Did you know that research showed that typewriter-based instruction had various advantages over traditional instructional methods? That’s true. The research said it was true. And yes, I am talking about a typewriter. You know:
That’s me in the back. Wandering around looking at the interesting pictures rather than actually doing any work 🙂
From 1929 to 1931 Wood and Freeman (1932) conducted an extensive investigation on the “educational effects of the use of typewriters in schools.” The main purpose of the investigation, which was funded by four manufacturers of portable typewriters, was to study the nature and extent of the educational influences of the portable typewriter when used as a part of the regular classroom equipment in the kindergarten and elementary school grades. The magnitude of the investigation can be estimated from the fact that during the first year nearly fifteen thousand children and over four hundred teachers were involved in the study. The findings indicated that typewriter-based instruction had various advantages over traditional instructional methods. The conclusion was that the typewriter was a valuable educational tool that could be used effectively in most subjects.
The contemporary reader of this report is likely to be struck by at least two things: first, by the high expectations associated with the use of the portable typewriter in schools in the early thirties, particularly when we consider that fifty-eight years later, the typewriter is used primarily in experimental classrooms in the early grades; and secondly, by the striking similarities between these early expectations and contemporary expectations surrounding the use of computer technology in schools. In fact, the similarities are much stronger than the previous account suggests. In the Wood and Freeman study the reader is shown pictures of children working in small groups on the typewriter, “drawing” pictures with “X”s , and pictures of poems composed by children directly on the typewriter, strikingly similar to what we find today in books on the use of computers in schools. It seems that if we exchange the word “computer” for “typewriter” in this fifty-eight year old study, we would have a credible research study on the “educational effects of the use of microcomputers in schools.”
What does this tell us now that we understand the importance of bodily experience? Are we to conclude that educators in the early thirties were naïve and even blinded by this new machine and that they uncritically interpreted technical possibilities as educational possibilities? Or are we to conclude that the fate of typewriters in the curriculum reveals how educators have failed to take advantage of the pedagogic potential of the typewriter in areas such as reading, writing, visual arts, social studies, and even mathematics? Or should we perhaps take this story as an illustration of educators’ quests for patent solutions to educational problems? Now that we know about narratives, perhaps it seems a bit more obvious to us that teachers were told that typewriters were the wave of the future. And when we are caught up in a narrative, it is easy to lose sight of ‘understanding’.
This story should draw our attention to the similarities between the plans of implementing typewriters into the curriculum in the early forties and plans of implementing computers into the curriculum today. Not only do we all hear the benefits and possibilities for students in schools, but we also get a similar message from all the advertising outside of school. Then, when researchers test for the efficacy of product-use, they focus on one causal modality and disregard the others. We will talk more about that more in a future lecture.
Anyway, one thing we learn when doing research is if you ask the right questions you will get the answers you want — the typewriter company understood that well.
Let me apply our understanding of the importance of bodily/sensory experience on a topic I know well — the use of the Oregon Trail program.
Beware of the questions that we ask.
Some of you might remember the Oregon Trail game. It too was, at one time, thought to be a great educational learning tool. Researchers even wrote about the benefits of the game in educational computing journals. This was better than the typewriter. Just look at, and admire, the glitzy graphics.
(This is a good example because the hardware and software is old enough to show the obvious flaws, and yet recent enough that you might still recollect something about this.
The Oregon Trail: A Glimpse of Gaming History
Ah, the Oregon Trail. Technology-rich we used to say.
We sometimes hear the phrase “technology rich.” In reality, for novices (notice I say novices here), doesn’t the use of computer-based two dimensional screens lead to “technology barren” experience? It is technology-barren when we have not yet had a rich corporeal experience that can re-enliven the richness of authentic experience. I only have to say, think of the last time you had a soft warm cinnamon bun, warm out of the oven, and if you have been lucky enough to have experienced this in the past, the neurons that were wired together when you experienced this in the past are re-firing now. For those of you who have only experienced cinnamon buns by seeing them on a computer screen, I am afraid your experience will be rather barren in comparison. So much for technology-rich.
One of the things you know now is that words will activate neuronal cell assemblies. For example when you hear the word cinnamon bun neuronal cell assemblies are activated to help you experience cinnamon bun. Consider for a moment how hearing people’s real life stories might actually activate more neuronal cell assemblies than playing a game.
That reminds me of a story.
Now I think you will find this interesting now that you have some idea of how context confers meaning. What is the context of the Oregon Trail game? . . . Well, it is a game context. That in itself isn’t a problem. Now when I was teaching, I used the game in my Social Studies class. That in itself probably isn’t too much of a problem either. But You probably know me well enough by now that you know there is some sort of problem here. . . There is.
Sometimes when we are teaching, we think we are accomplishing one thing, and we might not be. . . . If our purpose is to teach students about the Pioneers crossing the continent on the Oregon Trail, and hope that they have some authentic understanding of the pioneer experience by playing the game, that might be a problem. . . . Why? . . When the game metaphor pervades our thinking, students experience the content in a game-like fashion. . . .
When I was teaching at Auburn University in Montgomery, I had a graduate class of mine break up into two groups. One group played the game, The Oregon Trail. The other group read the book Women’s Diaries of the Oregon Trail. Two different media through which one might access the lives of the Pioneers in some way.. . . I observed both groups. I observed students using the program putting together their imagined lists of items that they would load into the cartoon-like wagon and then set off across the screen from Independence, along the Missouri River, through Omaha, all the way to Oregon City. . . . I watched them excitedly poke fun at other groups when other groups weren’t progressing in the game as fast as they were. And, I listened to them laugh when one of the family members in the game dies from a snake bite. You see In the game, that sort of tragedy allows the other players to advance up the game ranks. And, of course, this is to be expected. It is a game. . . But contrast this with the experiences of the students who read the stories written by real women pioneers, mothers, wives. I watched the reading group well up with tears as they experienced the stories written in woman’s diaries of the Oregon Trail–stories of mothers telling how they watched their husbands and children drown while trying to cross a river, or how their children died from sickness along the way.
Think back to your model of the four causal modalities. We have the four causes, the person, the purpose, the materials, and the form. For the computer game, the person is the student, the Purpose is to learn about pioneer experiences along the Oregon Trail. The material is a computer program, and the form is a game. That context confers meaning on how we will understand pioneer life. Contrast the computer game frame with a diary reading frame. Once again the Purpose is to learn about pioneering experiences along the Oregon Trail (so same purpose), the person involved here is, once again, the student. But now change the form to authentic stories, and change the materials to Women’s journals. Real women, real mothers, real deaths and tragedies, real stress, real hardships. If we are clear as to the why and how we are educating, the environments we create must be taken into consideration. If I want my students to have some sort of ‘authentic’ understanding of the Oregon Trail experience, the technology of written journals that share the life of the time might be more appropriate than a computer game.
Let me emphasize something here though. The Oregon Trail experience can be depicted with two different technologies (computer game, and diaries), but one incorporates authentic language, and authentic stories, the other doesn’t. One calls upon full sensory bodily experiences, the other doesn’t. Both technologies, both mediating technologies, the computer and the journal, depict, create, and enliven particular neuronal cell assemblies so that we can re-experience our past experiences so that we might perceive and make sense of the stories or the game. But hearing real hardships, and playing a game, elicit very different sorts of understandings.
So let’s reflect on this for a moment. The folks who traveled the Oregon Trail lived a particular reality. If education has something to do with understanding reality authentically, how might a particular technology (or software) help or hinder understanding the experiences that shape reality in the first place? We should probably make a distinction at this point regarding understanding, fact, and information. It is probably easy to recognize that by playing the game, one might come to know the fact that many people died while traveling the Oregon Trail. I could also say, “Yes, I understand that many people died while traveling the Oregon Trail.” If, however, understanding implies some shared experience, that might be accessible through language and depiction of activity, the information might fall well short of depicting what really happened when we play a game on a two dimensional screen. Perhaps we should describe the experiences as encouraging or eliciting authentic or inauthentic understanding.
A history teacher, with a limited amount of time to spend with students, might be more interested in having her students acquire an authentic understanding of the Oregon Trail rather than an inauthentic understanding. In this case, the diaries would be considered media or technology rich (to use a phrase so often used by proponents of particular technologies). I bring this up because “rich” is a metaphor with numerous implications. Next time you come across the phrase “technology rich” it might be worth asking if the author is referring to a technology that is helping us gain an authentic understanding or referring to something that does not lead one to authentic understanding.
This is not to say that students should not have the opportunity to be entertained and to play games. I had fun playing the Oregon Trail game. I learned some interesting facts. And when I moved from Alabama to Oregon, I deliberately followed part of the Oregon Trail in part, because of the game. However, educators do have an obligation to be clear on their purposes and expectations and not to fall into a narrative that distorts what is happening educationally. And as we know, becoming educated is developing a depth and breadth of understanding.
We know that bodily experience is important for the development of understanding. But there are narratives that will tell us otherwise.
Question Set Number Two (continued)
4. Computer-based technologies can enhance or limit one’s achievement of understanding. Why is it necessary to have bodily experiences before adopting a computer-based technology?
What’s Your Style
Let’s look at a schooling process. Something I still hear about.
Have you heard of learning styles?
We often hear about Learning Styles. Some students will say, “I am a visual learner” or “I am an auditory learner” or “I am a kinesthetic learner.” You might have even come to believe that you have a learning style. Hopefully by now, with your thinking on bodily senses and neuronal cell assemblies you are thinking that this might just be a problem. Perhaps an incomplete narrative.
The idea of learning styles came out of some poorly designed research. That in itself is a problem. Furthermore it was an easy idea to sell. That is also a problem .
My Learning Styles Story
Do you believe in learning styles?
Here is a story, another music-related story:
I ask three students to stop by my music lab to set up some recording equipment and then record some drum tracks using some electronic drum pads.
When the first student stops by I say, “Would you please record some drum tracks using our Logic Pro recording software on the mac (computer). The drum kit is over in the corner. Go ahead and connect via midi and run the pads through one of our multi-timbral outboards that house all our percussion sound modules. Go ahead and record ten different tracks in a Wave format at a sample rate of 44100. You can save those as loops as well.” After saying this my student sets to work and goes about setting up the equipment and recording the tracks.
When the second student stop by I say the same thing: “Would you please record some drum tracks using our Logic Pro recording software on the mac (computer). The drum kit is over in the corner. Go ahead and connect via midi and run the pads through one of our multi-timbral outboards that house all our percussion sound modules. Go ahead and record ten different tracks in a Wave format at a sample rate of 44100. You can save those as loops as well.” After saying this my student looks a bit confused so I pull out a piece of paper and draw a diagram of the recording setup. Inputs and outputs are shown, and I also write down the format and sample rate of what the recordings should be at. After writing this down on paper, my student sets to work and goes about setting up the equipment and recording the tracks.
When the third student stops by I say the same thing. “Would you please record some drum tracks using our Logic Pro on the mac etc..This student also looks confused. And a visual diagram clearly wasn’t sufficient for the student to begin. I went about helping the student set things up, hands-on, and also taking the students hands and showing him how to hit the drum pads to increase the volume (triggered by velocity). It was at that point that the student seemed to understand what to do.
It seems evident to many people when they hear this story that the first student was an auditory learner because she only had to be told what to do and then she did it. The second student was thought to be a visual learner because once a visual diagram was produced the student was able to record the tracks. And the third student who seemed to benefit from hands-on instruction was thought to be a kinesthetic learner because the student had to touch and handle things to learn. Thus, this seemed to be adequate proof of three independent learning styles.
Of course none of this had anything to do with learning styles. It had everything to do with background knowledge. And background knowledge has to do with neuronal cell assemblies wired together as a result of experience and learning. The first student worked with the equipment before and had ample background knowledge and experience to inform what I had asked her to do. The second student had some background but needed a bit of help knowing some of the specific design elements and the routings that would enable the recording . The third had little to no experience. He had to be shown everything.
This is really a story about background knowledge, not learning styles. The idea of learning styles came out of some poorly designed research that has long been refuted.
Let the music be our guide.
Question Set Number Two (continued)
5. While we might jump to the conclusion that the music students in the above story had specific learning styles, what was it that really differentiated their performance?
Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection | Tesia Marshik | TEDxUWLaCrosse
Question Set Number Two (continued)
6. Given what you know about whole body learning, and the necessity of the peripheral nervous system, can you explain why the idea of teaching to learning styles would be a bad idea? (Just think about the cinnamon bun.) You answer need not be longer than 1/2 page.
Want to know more about the problems with Learning Styles?
This will give you the background research:
Until next time!