Down Under (3:18 E.R.T.)

Here is a very interesting piece on the effects of different digital media on students, with a link to the original article.  It discusses an Australian study of 15 year olds.  According to the study those students who spent an above average amount of time playing video games, actually did better than the average student in math, reading, and science.  And the students who spent an above average amount of time on social media did below average in those same fields.  Of course as the article points out, simply forcing students to play Assassin’s Creed or Fallout 4 won’t necessarily increase test scores, but it should help parents and educators rethink their views on videogames and other digital media.  Apparently Australian youths spend more time online than their European or US counterparts, but a European or US study would be interesting to see any differences.

Here is an article which discusses the need to decrease anxiety and increase emotional comfort to increase math success.  Of course this should be evident that we succeed in courses we are less anxious about.  Though people within the United States have always seemed to have a less than loving relationship with math.  So figuring out how to decrease that anxiety is key.  The article points to several ideas, one of which is allowing students to learn from one another and making the teacher less than the omniscient purveyor of knowledge.

Should we get rid of lecture?  This article does not think so.  Lecture has been around for a long time.  Of course in medieval universities it was used as a method of helping students copy down what the professor was professing to give them a copy of the work for later reference, and presumably later professing.  And yes it made the transition in the US to k-12 schools c 1850 because it was an efficient method to give information.  But as this article suggests the problem is not that lecture is bad, its that we don’t train people how to lecture well anymore.  That is an interesting thing to consider.  And the author upholds Lincoln, King, and TED talks as examples.  So the Gettysburg address was around 3-5 minutes, the I have a Dream Speech is somewhere around 17, and yes there are some great TED talks in the 15-20 minute range, I love Ken Robinson’s TED talk.  But those are speeches.  A four credit hour class with lecture would entail about 64 hours of talk, probably with a few good speeches, but not 64 straight, great hours.  And yes, I sat through many lectures, none of which I can remember twenty years later.  I think the two things which stick out for me from my undergrad days are a group project on terrorism for a political science class, and a group project on Anheuser Busch for a business class.  So do we all have a few great speeches in us?  Yes, I think we all do, and those should be used to engage students in conjunction with group work, videos, readings, discussions, simulations, and other projects.

The last article I wanted to discuss was on some successes at a community college in the South Bronx.  From the article it sounds like the school has had the same issues as many schools around the nation, and tried to answer questions focusing on retention and persistence.  Their answer was first to work with various units across campus, admissions, marketing, financial aid, counselling, academic services and others.  They then brought in some technology platforms to help, and finally developed an app for the students to use.  I’m glad to hear them report that they hit bumps with the technology, but still moved forward.  Making something mobile and useful is important in meeting the needs of the students to connect with professors and staff.

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