From Entertained to Engaged in Learning

Mark writes an interesting blog on contemporary issues in computer education. I use them to stimulate thinking about why the history of computing is important to an improved future. Here are my comments in response to his Dec. 18th blog:

http://computinged.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/to-get-interest-catch-and-hold-attention/#comments

Reply to: To get Interest: Catch and Hold Attention

So the whole process might be: Expose, Catch, Hold, Teach, Learn, Create new. Pure entertainment media offer an opportunity to Expose. But ‘projective media’ (as compared with ‘interactive media’) don’t offer a way to Catch (or engage). So the potential learner just goes on to watch another Hunger Games film. Video games Catch and some Hold. They also Teach but the skills and information offered are rarely transferable to other environments. Therefore the Learn part is largely wasted. The Hour of Code campaign takes a stab at the Create new process — we need that attitude throughout the teaching/learning process. Those who Create new instinctively are called ‘cultural creatives’.

When I first envisioned LO*OP Center (Learning Options*Open Portal; http://www.loopcenter.org) in 1972, I thought it would have a pinball parlor as its front entrance. A few of the machines would have educational computer games. Those who gravitated to the computers would be invited into the next room that would provide a portal onto all kinds of learning, including programming. Some of those learners would master programming and teaching so that they could build new offerings for the front room.

Reality has played out very differently from my vision but we have arrived at a similar, if not the same, place in 42 years. We now have widespread access to little computers connected to the web instead of my pinball parlor. We have Facebook and MOOCs and Open Educational Resources to Catch and Hold learners of all ages.

There remain two (at least two) major pitfalls to what we have now. #1. Entertainment, at the Expose-Catch-Hold level, is sometimes so engrossing that people narrow their variety of exposure because they have been caught and held by a single theme or medium. #2. The creators of entertainment often fail to provide a doorway into the Teach-Learn inner room. If there is one (as at National Public Radio in the US) folks from families where education is a tradition and exceptionally gifted children will search for such a door. But normal or average consumers of entertainment are less likely to discover this opportunity unless it is prominently displayed.

Antidotes? #1. Go ahead and make another sequel to Hunger Games but be sure to add new themes, characters with entirely different skills and hooks into real human history, geography and science. #2. In the Director’s Cut on the DVD, in the trailer, on the films web site, provide links to teaching materials that begin with the theme as displayed in the movie for further Catch and Hold. Then segue into related, real-world problems and the tools to solve them.

Yeah. I’m an idealist. It’s tough work but someone has to do it.

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About lizaloop

Social philosopher, educator, teacher, parent, grandmother, musician, horseback rider, skier, dog owner, writer, trouble-maker, idea generator.

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