Crucial Thought Rss

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Chris selected as K12OnlineConference keynote speaker Each year the K12OnlineConference provides tremendous professional development for free, and entirely online. This year, they have selected me as one of their keynote speakers. I am thrilled to have been chosen and look forward to participating in the conversation. Read the full post announcing all the keynote speakers here.

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Two quick links on Cognitive Load Theory I've been fielding lots of questions lately about Cognitive Load Theory. Here are two quick links that may be useful. First is an article talking about the practical implications of CLT on the design of learning. The second are some "recent" (as of 2003) developments regarding CLT. Happy reading! Update: I clarified the second...

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Practical advice on kids and Android app development After hearing about my students' success developing an Android app, I've gotten several emails asking for more details as to how I practically worked with my kids. Here are some pointers that I offered to the first person that emailed me, perhaps they are of some use to you. Please note that your mileage may vary. It's ok to not be...

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Publishing an App Inventor app to the Android Market As I mentioned earlier, my students and I published an Android app to the Android Market. See those links for more information on the background. This post is decidedly technical. First, once we finished the coding process, we packaged the app for to download to the computer. This is an option in App Inventor. This downloaded an .apk file....

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Designing and publishing an Android app with kids This post is designed to provide some context around how/why we decided to build this app. The more technical details of the code and how we published it will come in a future post. My students and I recently completed and published an Android app, and here's how we did it. First, the genesis for this goes back to a question I asked...

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Knowing, Teaching, Expertise, and More

Category : Academics

Recently, Darren Kuropatwa and I got together for an open talk about the role of teaching in learning. Specifically, we wanted to talk about whether a student needs to effectively be able to teach a concept in order to demonstrate that it has been learned.

Here is that conversation, which involved many others. Please feel free to listen along and respond, we welcome your thoughts!

Update: Here is our conversation on YouTube if you prefer.

Embedding a LiveScribe Pencast

Category : Academics

There is finally a way to embed LiveScribe pencasts. I’ve been asked not to share how to do this just yet. This is proof of concept so far.

Let’s see how it works! I chose this lecture intentionally, so watch it if you have time. It is from my Vygtosky seminar and covers some of the many misconceptions in dealing with Lev Vygotsky. Of particular interest is how many people misunderstand the Zone of Proximal Development. If you have the time and/or inclination, I encourage you to watch and learn. And no, it’s not me lecturing!

Stuck in the stone age – a video from an undergrad

Category : Academics

One of my students made this video for a project we’re doing in my undergrad class.

As a part of our inquiry project they were required to create a video or a voicethread (or something equivalent) as a video repsonse to some “educational video”.

Watch hers, and tell me what you think! I was really impressed…

For the rest of the inquiry projects, check out our wiki.

Learning Styles do not exist (according to Dan Willingham)

Category : Academics

Take a look at this video by Professor Dan Willingham.

Then tell me what you think. Is he right? I pretty much happen to think so.

Video games in education – response to Dr. Scott McLeod

Category : Academics

This was a comment on a post over at Dangerously Irrelevant. Read his post and then read my comment.

Hi Scott,

I must take issue with your comments on Vygtosky. I can say most emphatically that Vygtosky would not support video games as the more knowledgeable other. In fact, video games don’t speak to the ZPD at all. I realize that Dr. Gee (et al) often use this terminology but it is not typically used in concordance with Vygtosky’s intentions.

It’s worth noting that Vygotsky spent little time (6 pages out of thousands) on the ZPD and for the record, the ZPD requires assessment to determine.

To clarify, Vygotsky supports the ZPD to be used by an educator to determine the exact gap between what a child cannot do, and what a child can do with a little help. You’re right in calling that a growth area, but Vygotsky would not support interaction with video games as a form of this growth. In fact, he advocated interaction between a child and the Ideal Form of Behavior, which he meant as an adult.

As an aside, Vygotsky would not support peer groups as a form of the ZPD either. I often hear educators use the ZPD as a reason to have students work together on something, but it simply isn’t the case.

Let me direct you to some resources on the matter.

Gredler, M. E. & Shields, C. (2008). Vygotsky’s legacy: A foundation for research and practice. New York: Guilford.

Gredler, M. E. (2005). Learning and instruction: Theory into practice (5th ed.). New York: Prentice Hall.

Gredler, M. E. & Shields, C. (2004). Does no one read Vygotsky’s words? Commentary on Glassman (201). Educational Researcher, 33(2), 21-25.

I study under Dr. Gredler, a tenured professor who studied under Robert Gagne (can’t figure out how to put the accent on the e, yikes) and who has spent years researching Vygotsky and has read his entire works many times. She is considered a leading authority on the matter.

I invite you to revisit Vygotsky and I think your understanding will change a bit, especially in terms of video games.

I am well familiar with the Schaffer (sp?), Gee, Steinkeuhler (oh gosh what is her husband’s name? drawing a blank, his thesis was Civilization in a high school history class and he’s also at the U of Wisconsin-Madison), Dede, etc etc.

For an alternate perspective, let me point you to such folks as Feldon at Washington State, Clark, Yates, others at the U of Southern Califorina (his book Learning and Media is excellent, 2001) and others.

Point is this, there is an alternative viewpoint to the whole debate of video games in education, but many do not accept valid counter arguments due to the “fun” nature of video games.

To sum it up, after having read much in this area and after having completed a lengthy lit review concerning MUVE’s in K-12, I just don’t see the evidence for video games having a direct effect on learning content matter.

Notice, I’m looking for researched evidence, not anecdote. In fact, I’d say that video games in education can be harmful to learning content matter.

Notice I’m talking about content matter, not learning how to design prims in Second Life. I’m talking about learning the basics that we all need to know, the 3 R’s.

Sorry for the long comment, but I think much clarification is needed here.


Teaching undergrads in the 21st century

Category : Academics

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to design a course for undergraduate students. I’ve never taught at the higher education level before, but I’ve been teaching 6th graders for a few years now, how different can it be?

I mean that partly tongue-in-cheek and partly not. Here’s how my course design is shaping up. I’d welcome your thoughts and input.

1. My University offers Blackboard access, which I’ll surely use for a couple of quizzes and the like, but mostly our home will be on a WordPress Multi-User installation on my server, so it’s outside of official university servers. I’m going to use it as a replacement for the locked-down Blackboard discussion forum. Often profs will have students post and respond. I’d rather open it up for outside comments, too.

2. My slides are coming together nicely, with little text and a lot in the notes field. My daily plan looks a bit like this…

Greet them at the door.

Begin with attendance done by CPS IR Remotes (that I bring from my middle school)

Move into the lecture, taking into account both my own thought on avoiding cognitive overload and dan’s next gen lecturer techniques. Lecture is good, and in fact useful when used appropriately with novices. Lecture will be full of good content and good conversation.

After lecture we talk about homework, assignments, etc.

Then we move into our “educational” content arena. This is when we’ll view and discuss some of the more popular educational videos out there and discuss their value (I’m looking at you, Did You Know, Pay Attention, a Ninja video, and a few others).

This will lead to some blog posts from them, and surely some feedback from you. We’ll then use those comments and feedback as fodder for class discussion.

I think it will be a good class. It’s two days a week for a 1 hour and 45 minutes. I think the time will fly by.

I might even ask a few of you to Skype in and talk to them for a few minutes. Interested? I’ll be in touch with you.

So what do you think?


Motivation in education (also titled breaking the blog silence)

Category : Academics

I’m breaking my self-imposed blog silence. I have to. I can’t keep quiet any more.

I happened to see a tweet from Lisa Parisi about her summer to do list. I scanned through her blog which I hadn’t spent much time on and came across a notice about her being involved in a new EdTechTalk show called Conversations. That note is at the end of the post I referenced a moment ago.

This is what I said…

Are you really going to talk about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation?

Please oh please go read everything by Eccles and Wigfield.

Then go read a fantastic book called Motivation in Education by Schunk et al.

And then, make sure you’re familiar with B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning.

Bottom line, there’s no such thing as intrinsic or extrinsic motivation.

There are lots of amazing theories that surround motivation, such as the Expectancy-Value theory and others.

I’d almost rather you chat about motivation in general and get out of the specific question of extrinsic or intrinsic, it’s a false dichotomy.

Motivation in education is a much larger topic than solely that, in fact there is a large body of research that indicates that this dichotomy is totally wrong.

Lots of folks are doing great work in the arena of motivation. Please go search them out and involve them in your conversations. I dare you to contact Schunk, Eccles, Wigfield, Feldon or any of the other major names in Motivation and ask them to appear on your show.

If you do, you’ll surely learn a lot and get beyond the echo chamber of intrinsic v extrinsic and what we all do in our classrooms. Let’s get some outside info from folks who have been researching this very topic for many years and can shed some real, research-proven tactics and theories with us.

Just my thinking..


I know I am going to be accused of being academic and uppity. I know I’m going to be accused of being snobby or something.

Either way, there is a lot more out there than solely the intrinsic versus extrinsic discussion. MUCH MORE.

A topic that has been running around in my head for a long time is the disconnect between the research being done at the University level and what is considered best practice on the K-12 level. A lot of what we consider best practice is not so good after all. I suppose that’s another post.

Man I wish I had more time to blog. Honestly, there’s little value in it right now as it’s not going to keep this roof over my head. I’m prepping for a sick course load next semester, so less blogging (not that I do much anyway).

NB: I didn’t link to the book in the comments to her post. I did in this note. Here it is again if you missed it the first time.