The Great Connections Seminar

The Great Connections Seminar
Discussing ethics

Friday, October 29, 2010

Employees Learn More, Forget Less With Videogames

Much maligned in education and by teachers everywhere, read about a new study metastudy examining 65 studies and over 6,000 videogame trainees which finds that people learn better with videogames.

"A University of Colorado Denver Business School study found those trained on video games do their jobs better, have higher skills and retain information longer than workers learning in less interactive, more passive environments."

"games work best when they engage the user, rather than instruct them passively. She found 16 percent of the games she studied were too passive and no more effective than other teaching methods," said researcher Traci Sitzman.

Active engagement is key to the success of the Montessori Method also, using learning materials and self-directed activities.

To give teachers critical of videogames their due, students sometimes play these games so much that they miss important opportunities for real-world exploration and social interaction.

On the other hand, I've seen plenty of children work closely together on strategy and logical implications while playing videogames as a group, or online together.

Videogames can enable a person to engage in complex, multi-faceted, and/or exciting, dangerous activities, developing important cognitive and physical skills while remaining safe. They can develop skills through games that would be much more difficult to gain in the real world as a child or adolescent.

Bottom line: technology can result in good or ill, depending on how you use it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

College Tuition Rises with Pell Grants

When will colleges be accountable to the market? In the midst of our major recession, they're hiking tuition fees again. As I reported in a previous post, if you want to see how out-of-whack college tuition is, compare it to inflation:

When I went to Northwestern University in the '70's, the tuition was a very high $3,000 a year;using 2 inflation calculators, I estimated that,last year, if tuition rose with inflation, if should have been between $12,000 and $16,000 a year. What's current NU tuition?


Here's a story from the Chicago Tribune that names what's going on: "Tuition, Pell Grants Rise in Tandem."

The "free" money of Pell grants drives their uneconomical use, and thus increases prices.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The decline of creativity in the United States

Valuable article from The Virginia Gazette about the research of William and Mary Psychology professor Kyung Hee Kim on creativity.  It has good suggestions for how to foster children's creativity - one's all parents should try to implement.

Read this and then listen to the Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, talk about their experience in Montessori school:

Hattip to Bert Loan.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Waiting for Superman

I recently saw the movie "Waiting for Superman" about public education.  It's by Davis Guggenheim, director of "An Inconvenient Truth." Consequently, you'll understand that it's quite artfully done, and it's loaded with information. 

Families desperate to get their children into lottery-selected charter schools scream and cry - when they win a place, or lose. It's pathetic and depressing. The message is powerful: children in public schools are being robbed of a good education by the system. The New York Public schools, the DC Schools, the Milwaukee schools, and the teachers' unions are featured.

Although not strident, the director seems to lay the blame on teachers' unions. And it's astonishing to hear that the DC union leadership did not even allow the members to vote on maverick DC Superintendent (recently resigned) Michelle Rhee's proposal to give merit pay. I'm surprised the membership didn't rebel - but then, what does that say?

However, I'm of two minds about this movie: the movie won a Sundance Film Festival award, and, apparently, the New York Times , theWashington Post, and other mainstream media outlets have taken an interest in it - unlike other worthy film attempts on the same topic, such "The Cartel." It's getting the problem to the attention of more people.

But the director makes NO MENTION WHATSOEVER of the school choice movement, i.e. vouchers or credits allowing students to go to private school. 

This, while Guggenheim admits at the beginning of the movie that his own kids attend private school

This, while he interviews the superintendent of the Milwaukee schools, which have a very successful voucher program!

This, while ignoring the successful voucher program in DC!

Within the world of his movie, it's public schools or charter schools for those who can't afford an alternative.

He can't be that ignorant. So why is he ignoring school choice? "Don't bother to examine a folly, ask yourself what it accomplishes."

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Old Dead White Men" Hip Hop Curriculum for Oklahoma

Read about the "Flocabulary" history program which Oklahoma implemented with federal tax money.  

And example of the text: "White men getting richer than Enron. They stepping on Indians, women and blacks. Era of Good Feeling doesn’t come with the facts."

Flocabulary’s CEO and co-founder Alex Rappaport told “Without engagement and motivation it’s very difficult to learn, so our main purpose is to create materials that will motivate the students that are least likely to succeed with traditional methods.” 

More leftist indoctrination under the guise of an "edgy" curriculum which will get the attention of the students!

Hattip to Bob Meier

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Slate Crowdsourcing Project to Design 21st Century 5th Grade Classroom

Slate launches a crowdsourcing project to design a 21st century classroom. Anyone can read the parameters and contribute here.

I'll be curious to see if anyone comes up with something entirely innovative; many of the suggestions so far we already do in Montessori schools.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Hand as the Instrument of the Mind

"Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development."

"How Handwriting Trains the Brain," in the Wall Street Journal, you can read about a "new" discovery we've known in the Montessori world for 100 years.

“The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.” 
“The human hand allows the minds to reveal itself.”
“The mind and the hand are prepared separately for written language and follow different roads to the same goal.”  Maria Montessori 

Hence, the thousands of "hands-on" Montessori materials in a Montessori school. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

College Starts in High School

Story about a new trend, high school students enrolling in college courses:

"A record number of Illinois high school students enrolled in college courses this fall, racking up credits that fulfill high school requirements and also get them started on a college transcript, state records show."

Doubtless this is a new income stream for colleges. Is this also related to the dumbing-down of high school? In other words, students take college courses for a real challenge?

Many of the American Founders attended college at the age of 16 - James Madison nearly made himself sick by taking double classes at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton). At The College of the United States program, we will welcome qualified 16 year olds for the full college program.