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Knowledge Avatars - Education's blog

Gaming the System: EscapEDX

Man with a torch looking aty a wall in a dark dungeon.

Like most of my teachers growing up, when I started teaching in 1998, I relied heavily on practice drills and textbooks. Not surprisingly, I struggled to keep my students engaged. Why couldn't I get these kids to love learning as much as I did? Then I remembered. When I was their age, I spent most of my time daydreaming and doodling in class.

Just as I was beginning to recognize the problem, the late education luminary, Sir Ken Robinson, had already discovered the solution. As early as my first year of teaching, Robinson realized that to encourage greater engagement in schools, the world's Industrial Era teaching model would have to go. Rather than moving all students in herds on the same assembly line designed to produce compliant workers, Robinson called for personalized curricula that targeted individual interests and skills.

I soon realized that I didn't develop a love of learning until I graduated from college. Only then could I choose to learn anything I wanted on a whim, work at my own pace, pick my learning materials, or change "course" if I lost interest. Only then did I start to love learning.

It’s ALL a Process – Why the Writing Process helps EVERYONE

Golden fountain pen

As a child (growing up with two English teachers as parents), I had a pretty easy time writing. Most of the time, I would get an assignment and sit down as soon as possible to take care of it. Usually, I could just start writing and come up with enough material to complete the assignment. As I got older and the projects became more complicated and involved, I began to find myself coming up short – both in terms of pages and ideas. I needed to find a system that would allow me to make sure I had sufficient material to produce the paper as assigned before I began it in earnest. I wanted to avoid wasting hours writing, only to have to start all over again with a new topic that might (or might not) work.

The most important challenge in education

What is the most important challenge in education today?

It is being able to teach students when they have some free time, when they are not distracted, and only what they need to know at the moment.

Studies show that people forget 70% of what they learned 24 hours after training. So, it is essential that people only learn what they are most interested in learning at the moment. Usually, that is to solve an immediate problem.

Those Darn Knowledge Gaps!

Climber reaching across a chasm.

One summer, when I was in elementary school, I was terrified! You see, by the end of the school year I had not yet memorized the Times Table and I knew that I'd be entering the upcoming school year clearly disadvantaged. I imagined a disappointed teacher and my embarrassment and humiliation amongst my schoolmates. That is pretty much what happened!

Jack & Jill Go Back To School in 2020

Vintage image of Jack and Jill falling down the hill.

Jack and Jill are working on a physics problem. Their teacher asked them to calculate the force needed to hurl a 500 pound projectile from a spot on Earth to 20,000 miles in low earth orbit. They don’t have any idea of what they need to know to solve this problem and they don’t want to dig through numerous articles or videos on the subject. They want to learn what they need for this problem as thoroughly and rapidly as possible.

AI Brings the Teacher Back to E-Learning

Current e-learning has been focused primarily on mimicking the classroom, except that the teacher takes on a less important role. Students are interacting with content that a subject matter expert assembled, but there is no direct relationship between the student and the content matter expert, a.k.a., the teacher. Webinars and the occasional live interaction are inadequate substitutes for the classroom experience.

Artificial Intelligence Mentors That Individualize Learning

Most of our lives we learn specifically what we need to achieve our goals. As children, we learn how to crawl, walk, and talk when we are physically ready to do so and when our brains are sufficiently developed to take on the task. Even so, we will only attempt something new, like the precarious act of walking, when we are motivated to do it. Babies start to crawl to get to something that they want, their mother and her milk, for example, a shiny toy, or perhaps something to explore. Similarly, we learn to talk to get what we want.

E-learning’s Promise and Failure

Student looking concerned at computer

Since the early days of computers, many of us dreamed of how computers were going to revolutionize education. We didn’t know exactly how it was going to work, but we knew that the “personal” computer made it possible to individualize education. In learning, one size does not fit all, so individualized education is the “holy grail” of education! Industrialization brought us mass education, essential to building an educated workforce, but today’s workforce requires specialization and skills that are way beyond group-think. 

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