“Engage, Empower Students with 21st Century Skills” – Susan Meeks, Breakaway Games

The speaker covered some problems in the current education system(s), it’s antiquated goals, and the incomplete theories that form its foundation. Also covered several new inventions and innovative ideas for reform.

While there are two must-see videos about the current American school system, I think the most interesting aspect of this talk was: the weird reactions (especially, the things it made me think about – zany brainstorms included below).

The question at the end (about presenting our long term assessment metrics to upper management, in a useful manner) struck me as one of the more profound takeaways of the whole conference.

Educational institutions pump about 1.6% of their budget into new tech – while within the private sector it is more like 7%.
Notes education is one of the few industries that hasn’t been changed by technology.

Shows video of Sir Ken Robinson (whiteboard animation) attacking the notion of kids as commodities (Grouped by manufacture date. Not leveraging technologies ability to offer an individual focus. The whole education system was created in the industrial model).

Points out we are now living in a new sort of knowledge-based economy.
Goes over charts showing the need to generate more creative-based workers (because of outsourcing, basically: America isn’t industrial anymore). Shows Bloom’s chart on high order thinking.
Notes that she thinks “Share” should be added to Bloom’s taxonomy.

Focuses on The Partnership for 21st century skills (2006)… “Learning and Innovation” is most recently broken down into the four C’s:

  • Creativity (and innovation)
  • Communication
  • Critical thinking (and problem solving)
  • Collaboration

These have become the focus (to avoid the overload of involving all the new skills. Which are 20 or so total… which freaks teachers out when designing their lesson plan).

Lady in audience claims Khan Academy is just the bottom two levels of Bloom’s pyramid (this leads to a short discussion over what Khan is currently offering, verses where people see it potentially going).

Notes the “flipped classroom” – wherein lectures and tests are dumped online, and the classroom becomes purely a roving teacher lab-activity-time. Changing the focus of classroom activities like this: changes the teacher. Changes their identity.

[Daydream: More and more I think Spongelab’s HistoryOfBiology game is really the future. Students will just go outside of school to learn in the personalized ways they prefer. Third parties who make these useful learning games should also focus on offering useful results to the student directly – which they can take to friends parents or teachers to evaluation and feedback guidance. In the same way you take your xrays and medical history to different doctors. shopping around.]

[… Curious what Spongelab guy sitting behind me, Jeremy, would think of idea of making his in-game ‘notepad’ feedback submissions optionally public/available. Or storing and evaluating the customer, then giving the customer results report they could take elsewhere – like a doctor’s offering x-rays and reports to their patients. (I actually asked him about this later, and he really didn’t dig the idea of going around the school system at all)]

[aside: The big themes of this conference seem to be that crappy games are crowding up the “serious games” space, and obscuring some of the real triumphs.]
[… Another big theme might be the question of who will assess whatever metrics you bother to gather. and what are your goals for your assessment conclusions…]

Q: What are Khan academy’s reporting/assessing mechanisms?

[Reminds me I’ve been way too focused on gathering assessment metrics, through things like Biometrics. I need to focus more on ways to use what I can already gather, meaningfully.]

“If you can harness the power of game technology to address real world problems, then we are solving that real world relevancy problem.” [trying to come up with ways to get people to take games seriously as a medium. but it strikes me like trying to get people to take board games or comic books seriously. maybe not the most realistic goal]

We are moving from passive lectures (“sage on stage”), to student-centric driven teaching…
[This reminds me of the cultural transition from ‘passive’ book entertainment to the ‘engaging’ time-limited sensory overload experience of watching tv… (that may sound backwards, but point is:) i.e., I’m not convinced it’s a good thing to seek to spoon-feed the information. Might turn out it’s better to make kids work for it. learning isn’t often fun.]

She talks about multi-modal vs. Uni-modal (or traditional single-mode) learning. Not sure what she is referring to…
Experiential learning is better than abstract…

Shows Katie Salen, who created the quest to learn program in new York.

[Students “making games to demonstrate learning” reminds me of my high school experience in the 90’s, where I could just make a wacky video instead of doing the actual homework – and still get a great grade. i.e., I’m worried teachers are just dazzled by new technologies, because it warms their hearts to see kids using advanced tools]

Spongelab’s guy asks: How can we create game assessments that meet the political needs of the bureaucratic classroom?
He is quickly quashed by some morons in the audience – But i think that was a really damned good question!

I talked to him afterwards (and several other people gathered around to soak up his wisdoms). His key point was we need to change the motivation of the school superintendent – And they just want easy numbers to decide about their funding.
Easy numbers may be a false assessment (Kids don’t really care about their numbers). Their learning should just be assessed based on “whether it works”.

So how do we record “how learning worked out, over many years” , and then how do we present this assessment: within the existing system?

I babbled at him about killing off the system, by just going outside of it. Maybe even presenting a sort of “doctor’s report” to anyone who visits your learning game website, so they can take it back to their parents – and ignore the broken school system altogether. … He said there was still value to the system. (he, heh. hope I didn’t come off as too crazy… he seemed a little condescending, like I was crazy kid.)

Also, his whole line of questions suggests that my interest in generating a TON of data: is exactly the wrong thing to offer to administration within a bureaucracy.

… probably no need to check back on this one actually

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