Video Games, Smartphones, Language Learning, Technology and Learning

lynnz_col2Playing High-Action Video Games May Speed Up Learning, Studies Say by Sarah D. Sparks in Education Week 11/13/14
Sparks reports on a study in the December issue of Human Movement Science that contradicts earlier research which connects extensive video game play to attention-deficit disorders and other impulsiveness disorders. The authors contend that “game playing can improve students’ attention control” and create better learners.

Smartphone addicts: A project-based learning activity by Alexandra Lowe in TESOL blog 11/5/14
Lowe describes how she used the idea of a Smartphone survey to move English language use outside the classroom. In groups students developed and conducted surveys about Smartphone use.

Learning languages is a workout for brains, both young, old by Victoria M. Infivero from Science Daily 11/12/14
Using MRI scans, researchers at Penn State have demonstrated that even the adult brain grows and changes when learning a new language. They are also using “virtual 3-D-like environments with situation-based learning to help the brain make some of those new connections more effectively.”

Report Urges Caution on Approaches Equating Technology in Schools with Personalized Learning by William J. Mathis and Noel Enyedy,  from NEPC 11/24/14
This policy brief addresses the increased use of technology in schools and questions its effectiveness. The authors point to a number of factors, including the fact that teaching practices and learning outcomes often have not changed.

3 Responses

  1. The Mathis & Enyedy study resonates — “The authors point to a number of factors, including the fact that teaching practices and learning outcomes often have not changed.” Underscores the fact that the overwhelming majority of what passes for online learning — both blended and completely online — is still firmly onground. At least in the U.S. The teacher remains at center-stage delivering lectures in video or text as the sole dispenser of knowledge. In this scenario, the student is a consumer, passive and reactive. In fact, much of the glitzy and expensive technology has only one aim, and that’s to raise the teacher’s EQ, or entertainment quotient, by amplifying her/his traditional practices. The implication is that we’re still in the talking head stage of the online revolution in education. In the vast and open virtual learning environment, we’ve only managed to stake out a bit of ground that’s firmly anchored to our F2F classrooms. And, into this space, we’ve very carefully moved our centuries old practices and onground goals. The fact that we’re able to ignore the almost limitless opportunities for innovation in the global web is astounding. Regardless, we’ve entered the new frontier, and there’s no turning back. It’s only a matter of time before some of us will begin to develop practices and outcomes that are new world rather than old, and once that happens, others will follow. In fact, the Canadians and Brits are far ahead of us in terms of new world explorations, and some of the third world nations aren’t far behind. As a nation, we still don’t get it. It’ll probably take a new generation of teachers to take us to the tipping point.

  2. Jim, Not long after I sent this to you, I saw that NPR also covered it. Here’s their take: Is Digital Learning More Cost-Effective? Maybe Not:

  3. Lynn, thanks for the link. Enyedy repeats the widely accepted view re the superiority of blended over online approaches: He found “that online-only learning had no impact on student achievement and in some cases had a slightly negative impact.” This type of finding has had an enormous negative impact on online programs in the U.S. The problem is that these studies are flawed at a very basic apples-and-oranges level — subjects are drawn from the population of traditional students. The first lesson from disruption theory is that successful technological change impacts a previously under-served customer base — not the traditional customer base. In other words, for online classes, the appropriate population for study is nontraditional students — students who are not able to attend F2F classes for whatever reason. The second lesson is classes must be affordable to this new clientele. The third, they are easily accessible, i.e., not tethered to a physical campus that’s far away at times that are inconvenient. The fourth, classes, via technological breakthroughs, must be just as good as if not better than their F2F counterparts in obtaining degree goals. Simply comparing traditional F2F offerings and technologically enhanced F2F offerings against poorly contrived completely online offerings in the same population of students is not only unfair but ridiculous. It’s like judging the sales of Chevrolet Sonics ($14K) among clientele who can afford Bentley Continentals ($227K) or better. Colleges still don’t get it. The bottom line is that the disenfranchised remain disenfranchised. The other outcome of the study (“The results of blended learning were more mixed, but in cases where it improved student learning, it also cost more than traditional methods.”) is not surprising since all you’re doing is adding expensive glitz to the same old approach. Finally, the conclusion that “Teachers remain crucial to learning” is ambiguous. The implication is that teachers are not crucial in online classes. This, too, is absurd. Of course they are — but in a completely different role. No, they’re no longer at the podium as the lone dispenser of knowledge. Yes, they’re in the mix, creating a student-centric learning environment free from the time and space constraints of F2F classes. These are two completely different tasks, and teacher-training programs haven’t even begun to address the differences. Online courses are not meant to compete against traditional offerings, but as they become successful among nontraditionals in providing an affordable alternative, they will inevitably attract more traditional students who will recognize their advantages.

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