All hail the lightbringers

This post is about the need to help teachers aquire new schemas to use technology and the bottleneck preventing it.

Experts are better able to recognize and reproduce briefly seen problem states than novices (Sweller & Cooper, 1985). It can be assumed that experts are better able to remember problem configurations because their schemas permit them to see the configuration as a single entity rather than a collection of parts. To me, I see this as entirely relevant aspect of why games are influential in the development of young people.

For example, consider schemas that deal with common objects such as trees. No two trees have identical elements but each tree seen can be instantly incorporated into a tree schema. As a consequence, if asked to describe a particular tree from memory, a person’s description will be heavily influenced by a tree schema rather than entirely by the particular tree elements (leaves, branches, colour etc.) actually seen. Tree schemas allow people to deal effortlessly with the potentially infinite variety of objects called trees.

Schemas held by teachers imparted on students through similar patterns and processes. These objects are called ‘lessons’ and ‘lectures’. When we change them significantly, for example putting students into a virtual world (to learn) – most adult schemas don’t allow auto-recognition of these things and face actually having to control their thoughts to acquire them though critical thinking – and a lot of experience.

Popular dialogs in the Huffington Post etc., cultivate the popular idea that if we Web2.0-ify classrooms or worse give teachers an IWB, then learning could be better and teachers need to play ball to learn these things.  Change is more than reorganisation of rooms, desks and software installs – which has turned out to be a patchy modification in a relatively small number of students’ experiences.

Few educational systems actually have a ‘social media’ strategy but do have policies to frustrate or ban it. It’s is a bizarre situation in many respects.

This is the message of the ending decade. It is supported by that slide with the Web2.0 logos or the lecture hall with all the students having MacBook Pros.

Many speakers have expertly learned: Bouncing of an audiences’ belief about human society (and change) is more useful to them that actual social research or providing a workable ecology – for curriculum renewal, transforming assessment and conceptualising learning environments.

Let me pitch an example from future ISTE keynote.

During the dark ages in Europe, the Moors built hundreds of public baths at a time when bathing was not popular in Europe. They built centres of learning, collected and translated ancient Egyptian and ancient scientific texts which provided the ingredients for the European Renaissance in Europe, thus bringing Europeans out of the Dark Ages.  Without the Moors, western society would be ignorant … and today technology is the new bathhouse where students come to learn.

The tragedy of this decade seems that rather than continuing to explore the new opportunities created by the read/write web as many did in the first half of the decade, many have settled to consolidate their original observations and yet to deliver any workable design schemas or evidence beyond it … settling for formula philosophical ‘7 things’ blog posts than trying to conduct any social research into their hypothesis’.

All hail the light bringers … 2011 is upon us.

Ref: Sweller, J., & Cooper, G. A. (1985). The use of worked examples as a substitute for problem solving in learning algebra. Cognition and Instruction, 2, 59-89.