Tag Archives: Learning

How your brain works / learns (video)

“The size of a small cauliflower, the human brain is the most complex organ in your body. It squeezes out 70,000 thoughts a day. But where does it store information? And how does it generate flights of fancy? Explore the inner workings of your personal ideas factory.”

This video posted to The Guardian ‘extreme learning’ section is a great introduction to “how your brain works” (and therefore learns).

How your brain works – videoSorry, the video isn’t embedded but if you click it it will take you to The Guardian website where you watch the short video.


What are you teaching the world?

Have you seen the Kid President’s message to mums everywhere? If not then watch it, it’s great. However, here’s  his next video, his pep talk to teachers and students.

Love it … “together we’re louder!”.

YouTube: Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students!

Invest in Your Students More Than Your Brand

Invest in your students more than your learning

Invest in your students more than your learningWhen I read this article – “Invest in Your Customers More Than Your Brand” – from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) I couldn’t help but make similarities between ‘brand’ and ‘learning’, between ‘customers’ and ‘students’. That is why this post is called “Invest in your ‘students’ more than your ‘learning’.”

I know we shouldn’t see students as customers but the simple truth is that many of them think of themselves that way and, since students are paying up to £9,000 per year for their University degrees now, Universities are competing for students numbers in similar ways to companies competing for High Street or online shoppers.

There are some incredibly recognisable brands in the world today, but why are they so big and so memorable? When someone mentions a big brand what do you think? If I mention Nike do you think about the ‘tick’ logo, the quality of product, or the sports personality wearing it? If I ask about Marks & Spencers do you again think green and gold logo or the ease of parking at their stores? There is a difference here between what the organisation wants their brand to be, and what their customers think their brand is. Brand is not necessarily what you want it to be, but what your customers thinks it is. Continue reading

Venn Diagram on Learning Attitudes

Learning Attitudes #eLearning

Credit to Joachim Stroh on Google+ for this graphic, in honour of the post by Euan Semple called “Dumbing down and victimhood“:

Venn Diagram on Learning Attitudes

Euan’s original post states:

“I have to confess I get frustrated when people complain about technology dumbing us down. The fear is often expressed that short attention spans will be forced on us by Twitter’s 140 character updates or that we will all succumb to mob mentality as memes sweep through Facebook.”

and Joachim replies in his G+ post:

“I think because of the tremendous changes we see in education and at work, the sets (attitudes) are beginning to overlap more and more. In Euan’s words: ‘Most of us will be all right’.”

Thank you both – the image above is a great encapsulation of learning as it stands now for many, the mix between ‘have-to’, ‘need-to’, and ‘want-to’, nicely grouped into School, Work, and Life. Thankfully there is little in my learning that is ‘have-to’, a little of ‘need-to’ and plenty of ‘want-to’ – perhaps this is why I like what I do and have a passion be better at it?

How Students Learn

How Students Learn

How Students LearnWhile we may think we know ‘how students learn’, do we?

This post called “The virtues of daydreaming and 30 other surprising (and controversial) research findings about how students learn“, from Julie DeNeen, has some interesting findings, of which the following are interesting (to me – read the full list on the link above to see what gets your interested):

  • Scary/violent video games … “can be an alternate way to release negative emotion, and help children alleviate their innate desire for risk and adventure.” I’ll sit on the fence on this one: while there may be some positive benefits to these kinds of games I’m not sure if they outweigh the negative?
  • Science practicals … “isn’t always as effective as it may appear on the surface.” This statement says that science  or lab practical work isn’t working – is it the actual time spent in a practical or the actual experiment itself that isn’t working? I enjoyed my science lab work, even more so when it didn’t work, but (and this was more down to the way it was taught and not the subject, I think) I was not given the opportunity to ‘try’ out different things.
  • Chess … “forces students to slow down, concentrate, use precise thinking, active both inductive and deductive reasoning, as well as recognizing difficult and complex patterns.” Yes, but so do lots of other ‘games’ in different and equally beneficial ways. Let’s not single out a specific game, we should be able to advocate all game-based learning, especially when there is scope for the student to “understand that ‘losing’ the game is as valuable as winning.”
  • Building blocks … “one of the simplest and longstanding toys, teach geometry, patterns, shapes, colors, and physics” not to mention spatial awareness and dexterity?
  • Music and movement … help children to “learn to appreciate the pacing of words and how to speak more clearly” through rhyme. “Children who engage in music from a young age have a more finely tuned ability to speak and communicate” therefore are more articulate when it comes to reflection and critical thinking in later life?
  • Drama and comedy … induce a “vibrancy of emotion that shows a student’s entire mind and feelings are engaged in the activity” and learning, in various ways, is a result from an engaged child – “one who is more likely to absorb information, retain it, and make real-life associations with the knowledge.”

These are just a few of the interesting ‘findings’ on how students learn, so be sure to read the full article on the link above to read more about these and:-

  • “Children who construct their own video games experience increased cognitive and social growth”
  • “Engaging children in planning and reflection enhance their predictive and analytic capabilities”
  • “Children are not blank slates on which adults imprint knowledge”
  • “Children learn more when they initiate an activity and are actively engaged in it”
  • Children behave better when parents are involved in their education at home and at school”


The Future of Learning in a Networked Society

“This is the first generation of people that work, play, think, and learn differently than their parents … They are the first generation to not be afraid of technology. It’s like air to them.” – Don Tapscott

This powerful video has some of the worlds best educators and thinkers outlining their view on the ‘future of learning in a networked society’, including the likes of Stephen Heppell, Sugata Mitra, and Seth Godin:

YouTube: The Future of Learning, Networked Society

Again, here are a few choice quotes that I like from the video, but watch it yourself for their context and many more I didn’t have time to write down:

“We are probably at the death of education right now. I think the structure and strictures of schools, of learning nine-to-three, working on your own, not working with others, I think that’s dead or dying. I think learning is just beginning” – Stephen Heppell

“There’s a very big difference between accessed information and school, they used to be the same thing. Information is there, online, to anyone of the billion people who has access to the Internet. So what that means is that if we give access to a four year old, or an eight year old, or a twelve year old, they will get the information if they want it.” – Seth Godin

“You don’t actually need to know anything, you can find out at the point when you need to know it. It’s the teachers job to point young minds towards the right kind of question, a teacher doesn’t need to give any answers because answers are everywhere.” – Sugata Mitra

“The textbook of the future is going to be delivered on connected devices. What that means is the incredible amount of data that students have always produced, when they studied, are now capturable and usable.” – Jose Ferreira

“You can’t imagine in a world where you sit down to do an exam and you ask yourself the question ‘I hope there are no surprises in the paper’. And your teachers think ‘I hope I prepared him for everything’. How would that prepare you to then go out into a world that everyday is going to surprise you? Learning prepares you to cope with surprises, education prepares you to cope with certainty. There is no certainty.” – Stephen Heppell

Thank you to Grianne Conole for tweeting this earlier today.

The Importance of Technology to Education #edtech

In light of last week’s FOTE12 event in London, I found this excellent video from Prof Stephen Heppell, talking about the education system in Australia (and a dire warning to the English education system at the same time):


YouTube: Professor Stephen Heppell – Importance of Technology to Education

“Schools are these extraordinary intellectual powerhouses that are at the heart of our future – connecting them up is essential if we’re going to bring the collective ingenuity of those minds together. But it’s that ability to crowdsource so many smart people, so many keen children, so many extraordinary communities and families, so many professional teachers. I’m in awe of where this all going to go in the next decade.”

“This isn’t about how much money you’ve got. This isn’t about what your parents do. This is about have you got the ingenuity, have you got the horse power between your ears, to really make a difference with this? And I’ll tell you what, we’re going to need every single kid on the planet, every single kid, to be part of this. What we can prototype with the NBN (National Broadband Network) is what ubiquitous learning looks like, what we can prototype is what learning looks like when everybody has access.

 [emphasis above is mine].

I’m sure we’re all aware of what resources can do for learning, where everyone has the access and ability to learn from what’s available, but it’s also about how these resources are introduced, managed, implemented, and ‘taught’ that makes them work for everyone (MOOC anyone?). From the above video and from a little reading I’ve done around the NBN and Stephen’s work in Australia it really does sound like they’re trying hard to, and already achieving, good results from this initiative.

UK take note … before it’s too late.

Question everything #pelc12 #edtech

Thank to Dave Cormier for sharing this video on Twitter, it’s amazing! I hope you think so to.

YouTube: notice. {vision 1 of 5}

 I have transcribed a few of the sections that really move and inspire me, what these children are doing/have done is brilliant, I hope you agree.

“Thousands of years ago the native Americans embraced the idea of a village, the entire community as teacher, as curriculum. The idea that everybody had something to offer was given. Somewhere along the way competition bled into efficiency and efficiency bled into standardisation. We are missing community, cross-generational expertise. We believe that technology wants to help us get back to to us.”

“We are suggesting that is compulsion, the assumption that was must teach and measure certain things, that is keeping us from betterness, keeping us mediocre rather than breathtaking. So we stop measuring learning, instead we prepare people for uncertainty, we facilitate curiosities, we create ‘community’. We create spaces of permission with nothing to prove because we believe ‘there is never nothing going on’.”

If you’re interested, check out the other 4 videos in the series: Dream (2), Connect (3), Do (4), and Be (5).

“There is never nothing going on” - Ray Rafiti

Now, I’m not an educational activist, nor do I want to upset the system or hack anything, but I do wonder why we continue to do things the same way despite evidence showing us there is a better way. From this video I can reflect my own experience at school, at university, etc, that I was not in the best ‘environment’ for my style of learning: I had to take myself out of the classroom to be comfortable to learn (but I still sat in the classroom with everyone else – does this mean I did twice as much?). From the video I question whether Schools are preparing children to learn a subject or learn to live in the world. There is a place for both, but I tend to see an either or approach, never both? Have I missed something … “we stop measuring learning, instead we prepare people for uncertainty, we facilitate curiosities, we create ‘community’.”

It strikes a chord with me, nothing more than that. And it is that chord that reminded me of the keynote that Simon Finch gave at PELeCON12 (pelc12) in April this year (2012), he opened ‘Something Better Change” with this video:

Another Brick in the Simfin

Powerful stuff, and equally powerful was the full 50+ minute keynote – watch and be inspired (and he knows his stuff from working WITH and IN schools, not just talking ABOUT schools).

Plymough Enhanced Learning Conference : Simon Finch Keynote


Leading a Learning Revolution #LWF12

Here is the closing statement from this years Learning Without Frontiers from Sir Ken Robinson. I enjoyed the whole three day conference and this was a nice round up of the event, just a pity he wasn’t able t be there in person.

“Reforms are required for our industrial scale education systems but what forms shall they take, what will they value and what purpose shall they serve? In closing the LWF 12 conference Sir Ken Robinson reflects on what has been heard and discussed with previous speakers and offers a call to action for the delegates to look at the future with a new determination based upon the challenges that future generations face and where our education systems will need to nurture the creative innovators upon which our future well-being will be placed.” Sir Ken Robinson, January 2012.

Sir Ken Robinson – Leading a Learning Revolution

I’m looking forward to next years conference – LWF13 – but will wait until the theme and speakers are announced before I get too excited.

Mozilla Open Badges

Mozilla Open Badges, adding a “reputation layer”?

“Learning today happens everywhere. But it’s often difficult to get recognition for skills and achievements that happen online or out of school.”

Mozilla is hoping to bring something to the learning-table – “open badges”. Mozilla Open Badges helps “solve that problem, making it easy for any organization to issue, manage and display digital badges across the web” as they say on their website: http://openbadges.org/ This is billed as new method of recognising and rewarding skills learned, both in and out of the classroom. Learners earn the badges which display their achievements and 21st century skills across the web, unlocking learning and employment opportunities. The badges system is open source and available to all.

Is this something that can be integrated with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) to show progress and learning?

Here are some more links/resources on the topic:

  • Mozilla Open Badges: “This (BrowserID) opens the door for users to create a single user-centric identity across the web, with tools like Mozilla Open Badges adding a “reputation layer” that provides a complete story about what they know and have achieved. All through an open, standards-based infrastructure that puts user sovereignty, privacy and security first.”
  • WebProNews: “By turning our accomplishments and skills into a digital achievement, more people might be pushed to achieve something greater. We already have people spending ungodly amounts of time to earn achievements in video games so the same should be true for a person spending a lot of time to learn astrophysics. ”
  • HackHigherEducation: “The proposed Open Badges Project challenges not just certification, but also assessment. What does it mean that anyone can issue any sort of badge? Does a badge offer a better representation of skills or competencies than having a formal degree? If so, when? Will these badges be meaningful — to students, to schools, to employers? Will they be accepted? If so, by whom?”

Steve Wheeler recently wrote on the subject of Running a MOOC:

“The question of open, free of cost participation in a MOOC is a given. But what about those who wish to receive some tangible form of accreditation at the end of the programme? Who provides that?”

While the Mozilla badges could be one way to show the quality of learning, there is no form of checking (at the moment?) of the quality of work completed to gain the badge, so is this just like obtaining a certificate to say you attended the course rather than getting a certificate to say how well you did on the course?