Disruptive students can be a big challenge for teachers in charge of a room full of 30 students. There isn’t always time to get to the bottom of student behavior and in a large class those students can derail learning for everyone. But what if there was a way to help kids stop acting out and show more empathy for classmates and teachers?
A group of Harvard education researchers have developed a virtual simulation for “walking in another person’s shoes” to help students relate to one another better. It’s part of a project called Social Aspects of Immersive Learning (SAIL) funded by the National Science Foundation. “The ability to accurately read people is really important to make compromises,” said Elisabeth Hahn, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Education in a recent edWeb webinar.
The technical term is “social perspective taking” and it means understanding another person by taking in their thoughts, feelings and motivations. Accurately reading another person requires both motivation and ability, qualities that Hahn and other researchers are discovering can be taught.
“This has great potential to use virtual environments to improve interpersonal relationships that are not possible in the real world, to actually walk in the shoes of another party.”
The benefits of reading others are well documented, Hahn said. Taking in social perspective helps people become less ego-centric, decreases use of stereotypes, increases perspectives of similarity, and diminishes social aggression. These effects could make a big impact on many classrooms where the success of the lesson can hinge on how well a teacher is able to interact with the students. “It becomes much easier to empathize and leads to benefits in relationships and ultimately educational outcomes for kids,” Hahn said.
In an effort to create an experience that will help build these types of positive relationships through Continue reading →
All over the world—from East Asia to South Africa to the Caribbean Basin—ministers of government, captains of industry, and scholars are discussing the best ways to foment innovation. Many experts still regard the United States as a leader in promoting creative uses of capital, technology, and people, with unrivaled access to new ideas and cultures—all prerequisites for innovation. Others point out that open societies value—and foster—creativity.
But can we measure creativity? And if so, what is the best way to promote it right from the start? A new working paper published by the Global Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD for the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester in England defines creativity as focused on five core dispositions. Anne Murphy Paul’s Brilliant Blog (one of our favorites) reports that their research finds that a creative mind is Inquisitive: wondering and questioning; Persistent: sticking with difficulty, daring to be different; Imaginative: playing with possibilities, making connections, Collaborative: sharing, giving and receiving feedback; cooperating and Disciplined: developing techniques, reflecting critically.
As experts in media creation for families and young children, we wondered whether there are specific ways to navigate through the sometimes overwhelming deluge of content available to young children in the apps marketplace; we were looking specifically for apps that speak to these five “seeds of creativity.” Stated simply: we think so! The remarkable ongoing appeal of educational media properties like Sesame Street—which has endured over 40 years of market tumult and change and now reaches some 125 million children in 150 countries, and more recently the global phenomenon of apps and games in the market proves that playful, creative products consumed not just by kids alone, but with the adults around them, can be both fun and engaging. Continue reading →
In creating World of Classcraft, a not-so-subtle nod to the world’s most popular online role-playing game, Quebec-based physics teacher Shawn Young has turned the everyday interactions of his classroom into a quest to gain special powers and avoid death.
In a manner similar to other role-playing games, students assume a class—in this case a Mage, a Warrior, or a Healer—that each boasts specific abilities. Working in teams of roughly six to eight students, Young said each student aspires to gain experience points related to positive classroom interactions, and avoid losing hit points for negative activities.
For example, students get 50 experience points for finding a mistake in class notes; 60 points for answering a classroom question correctly; and 100 experience points for good attitude and participation throughout class.
Alternately, students get -10 hit points for arriving late to class and arguing with the game master (teacher) and -30 points for not fishing homework.
Gain 1000 hit points, and a student wins a power point that can be traded for certain powers. The more power points a student gains, the better power he or she can purchase. For example, a Mage can purchase the right to be two minutes late to class for just 10 power points. For 40 power points, he or she can get a hint for the entire team on an exam question. The powers available, and Continue reading →
When St. Louis fifth-grade teacher Jenny Kavanaugh teaches history, she uses her laptop to look at a map, or to give kids a virtual tour of the historical landmarks they’re studying. “Students can interact with history in very cool ways online,” she said.
But when it’s time for math, she puts the computer away. Even though Kavanaugh thinks technology is a great tool to enhance and deepen certain lessons, for drill and practice of key concepts in class, she finds one-on-one practice to be much more effective than its technological equivalent – digital practice games.
“The goal is that a student can do division problems with speed and accuracy, and can also describe to me exactly what division is,” she said. “I have found that my advanced students can move past division of fractions in the online game, indicating mastery, but when I ask for a verbal description of what it is they are really doing – what is the division of fractions, or when would you use that in the real world? – they have no idea. I think that the rote practice is wasted time if the student does not have that conceptual understanding first. Many online games do not teach that part of math as well.”
“The best, complex games require specialized teacher knowledge, interest and skills to use effectively.”
As game-based learning gains momentum in education circles, teachers increasingly want substantive proof that games are helpful for learning. The game-makers at the non-profit GlassLab are hoping to do this with the popular video game SimCity.
GlassLab is working with commercial game companies, assessment experts, and those versed in digital classrooms to build SimCityEDU, a downloadable game designed for sixth graders. Scheduled to be be released in the fall of 2013, it builds on SimCity’s city management theme, but provides specific challenges to players in the subject of STEM.
“The big pain point we’ve heard from teachers is that they cannot entertain their kids to the level that they are being entertained outside of the classroom,” said Jessica Lindl, general manager of GlassLab. “They want to be able to create meaningful learning experiences and they just can’t compete with the digital tools their kids are accessing all the time.”
“None of the other games are trying to do formative assessment to the level we are. They aren’t validating whether they are assessing what they should be assessing.”
Teachers have been using the commercial version of SimCity as a classroom tool for a long time, but with the newest version recently released and the EDU version soon to follow, GlassLab is trying to convene an online community of educators already working in the space, asking them to Continue reading →
Need more convincing that Minecraft can be a powerful tool for learning? Check out this fun video from PBS Idea Channel’s Mike Rugnetta, who specifically (and very quickly) lists a number of ways the video game can and has been used to learn everything from physics to history.