Sunday, October 05, 2014

Assessment Rocks and Sucks!


I recently facilitated a conversation with new teachers on Assessment. I very much wanted to model what active learning can look like in the classroom and I simply refuse to just talk at people for an hour without involving them in the conversation in some way (as you can tell from slide 2 below).

The format was a riff on an EdCamp classic activity called Things That Suck.

Clear the tables and chairs away. Everyone stands up in the middle of the room, me at the front. My right hand is the "Rocks" side; people stand there if they agree with the statement on the slide. They stand on my left if they disagree; the "Sucks" side. They can also stand anywhere in the middle and change their mind at any time by "voting with their feet."

Each slide is followed by a 5 minute timer. Once the timer starts anyone can call out (I facilitate this part a little bit, making sure people get a chance to speak and be heard) and say why they've chosen to stand where they are. It's always fascinating to watch people walk across the room while listening to someone else because they've changed their mind.

Pro Tip: Get a "collaborator" to play devil's advocate; preferably one of the participants rather than someone seen as a leader. Very Machiavellian, but it works. And it's fun. ;-)

Feel free to use these slides or just replicate the format to foster some interesting conversations with folks where you are. Let me know how it goes.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Are Laptops Really Bad For Learning?


A study was recently published in the Journal of Psychological Science and subsequently reported on in The Atlantic, Scientific American, The Association for Psychological Science, several educational blogs, The Washington Post, and elsewhere online. The study is titled: The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking. The general consensus seems to be that people learn more effectively when taking notes using pen and paper rather than laptops.

Experiment 1
• Watch 5 TED Talks on YouTube.
• Take notes with either a laptop or pen and paper.
• Afterwards participate in distracting activities in another room for 30 minutes.
• Take a quiz on the content of the TED Talks.

Pen and paper note takers did slightly better at factual recall, significantly better on conceptual questions. The laptop note takers took more notes (they transcribed more content) than those using pen and paper (they summarized & synthesized more content).

The research on note-taking suggests "more notes" is a sign of more effective note-taking, however, verbatim transcription is a sign of shallow cognitive processing compared to summarizing and synthesizing.

Experiment 2
The same set up as Experiment 1 with one change. Laptop note-takers were alerted to the shallow cognitive processing associated with transcription style note-taking and told to avoid it. They were also told to take notes as they would in a classroom.

The results were the same: more notes taken by people using laptops, pen and paper note-takers did better on the follow up quiz.

Experiment 3
Again, the same set up. And again, with one difference. Since people typically review their notes before taking a test students were given 10 minutes to review their notes before taking the follow up quiz.

Again, more notes were taken by people using laptops. Pen and paper note-takers did better on the follow up quiz.


Many people concluded from this study that students shouldn't take notes with a laptop; handwriting is better. Mueller and Oppenheimer, the authors of the study, concluded:

Although more notes are beneficial, at least to a point, 'if the notes are taken indiscriminately or by mindlessly transcribing content, as is more likely the case on a laptop' than when notes are taken longhand, the benefit disappears. Indeed, synthesizing and summarizing content rather than verbatim transcription can serve as a desirable difficulty toward improved educational outcomes (e.g., Diemand-Yauman, Oppenheimer, & Vaughan, 2011; Richland, Bjork, Finley, & Linn, 2005). For that reason, laptop use in classrooms should be viewed with a healthy dose of caution; despite their growing popularity, 'laptops may be doing more harm in classrooms than good.' (p. 1166)

In short, no.

The study does show that using a laptop is highly correlated with verbatim note-taking; we know that's not an effective way to take notes as opposed to summarizing and synthesizing.

John Jones, Assistant Professor of Professional Writing and Editing at West Virginia University, also points out a problem with the instructions given to students in the second experiment. Namely, that students were told to take notes as they typically would in class when using a laptop. The warning against verbatim note-taking may have been ignored in the face of the students falling back on what they typically would do with their laptops. It's unlikely their note-taking habits would have been changed by a brief verbal warning in an unfamiliar learning situation.

In the same way learning to ride a bike and learning to drive a car require different learning experiences using different learning tools also requires different learning experiences. Students don't automatically know how to take notes; it's a learned skill, one we have to teach.

In the words of John Jones:

I am not criticizing Mueller and Oppenheimer's research, only the implications they draw from it. The correlation between laptop use and verbatim note taking is incredibly useful information for it allows educators to address how students use their tools. It certainly does not suggest that laptops are "harm[ful]" or should be restricted. The "pen" is not "mightier than the keyboard."

Moreover, we have to ask, is taking notes in a lecture hall what we mean by "learning"? Surely what we mean by "learning" is a far richer experience than that.

Cathy N. Davidson, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, has more to say about this study as well. In particular, she says people are asking the wrong question.

What do you think? What do you mean by "learning"?

Cross posted at the Canadian K12 Blueprint.

photo credits: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Tulane Publications, creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Newman University , creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by ransomtech

Sunday, March 16, 2014

5 Rules of Thumb for Teaching HOTS


What are some concrete and powerful pedagogical approaches you can leverage in a 1-to-1 or BYOD teaching environment? What sort of practices shift the focus of teaching and learning from Lower Order Thinking Skills (LOTS) to Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS)?

That might be a million dollar question, with many answers. Nothing works all the time, but everything works sometimes; successful learning is largely context dependent. The real question we need to ask is: "What works best in my context'?"

The slide deck below illustrates five concrete teaching practices that may be helpful in answering these questions. They grew out of several workshops I've lead with teachers discussing emerging practices in BYOD classrooms for encouraging teaching HOTS. It may be difficult to hit on all five ideas in every class you teach, and there will always be a place in our classrooms for teaching LOTS too. Nonetheless, having these rules of thumb knocking around in the back of your head can help create learning experiences for your students focused on HOTS.

Personalize Tasks to Students' Life Experiences
This is sometimes described as "personalized learning". Both the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI) and the British Columbia Education Plan discuss and share resources for personalizing learning.

When students know their work is being seen by an audience beyond the classroom it encourages them the "up their game" a bit and do better work.

Be aware that there are two sides to this coin; one positive (Social Facilitation) and one negative (Social Inhibition).

Collaborate on Group Worthy Tasks
Find ways to have your students collaborate on group worthy tasks. A group worthy task has two seemingly contradictory components: It both requires interdependence amongst students and individual accountability.

Carefully constructed group learning activities can foster students' academic and social growth and help close the achievement gap. (pdf)

Giving effective feedback is hard. Dylan Wiliam says: "Feedback should cause thinking."

When you orchestrate feedback for your students from sources outside your classroom you also weave in the effects of many of the other rules of thumb mentioned above.

Teach Something
Teaching something is one of the most powerful ways to learn that something. As teachers, we all know that "knowing a thing" and "teaching a thing" is not the same thing. Find ways for your students to teach what  they've learned from you to others. If they do that online they are also making a contribution to the global knowledge commons.

Have you used any of these ideas in your own classroom? What was that like? Leave me a comment and let me know.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Digital Citizenship ≠ Digital Ethics


Maybe this is just a personal pet peeve of mine but there's a difference between Digital Ethics (ethical and responsible use and behaviour) and Digital Citizenship. The later is really about doing the things a good citizen does: participate in the governance of the community to which you belong, make a meaningful contribution to the global knowledge commons, leave things a little better than how you found them. i.e. participate in the community in ways that improve it.

It seems to me people often confuse ethics with citizenship. Both are important, they may even overlap in some places, but they're not the same thing.

cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by mars_discovery_district

Friday, July 06, 2012

"60 000 times faster than text" ... Really?


I just got an email from Alan Levine. He's sniffing around for the origin of the quote many folks have often used, myself included, that we process visual information 60 000 times faster than text.

Here's what Alan said:

I need your help. I have found an assertion repeated on thousands of web sites, and repeated so often that it is cited as a fact, yet I have tried and tried and have been unable to locate the actual source of this claim:
Research at 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60000 times faster than text.

In the interest of dogged pursuit, information literacy, and all that we value as scholarship (okay I am laying it on)- can you help me find the answer? Or spread to someone who can?

Here's what I found ...

I started with the search engine by eliminating the first million hits from Google I circumvented the lions share of SEO (Search Engine Optimized) sites and took a first stab at the deeper web.

The 6th & 7th link struck me as worth following, the 7th link included a citation “The Power of Color in Presentations:”. ( I thought the inclusion of a colon here was odd, probably someone doing a quick "cut & paste". I followed the link to a middle school student's paper. In the bibliography she cites a presentation by Ian Jukes. (Not the one I've included in that link. Its a pdf; page 8.) I first heard the "60 000 times faster than text" claim from him several years back in St. Louis at a workshop for administrators.

One more comment about that student's paper, look at where it's hosted; Looks like a software solutions company. Why would a Middle School kid's paper be there? I did a little digging (go look at their About page). I suspect it's likely her teacher's website.

The link to the Ian Jukes reference is dead, I tried several ways of getting at it but didn't work too hard as I really wanted another source although he might have included some bibliographical info in there somewhere I suppose.

Another search and I found the 3M web page for "The Power of Color in Presentations":

There is no mention of the "60 000 times faster than text" research.

I did another regular Google Search for:

3m “The Power of Color in Presentations”
(quotes included; I removed the colon)

I found a link to a Google Books search:

In the book "They Snooze You Lose" by Lynell Burmark she cites the source as:

I looked up the link, which was dead, but the date (May 1998) struck me.

A custom Google Search for dates between 1 Jan 1900 and 31 Dec 1998 lead me to what I thought was the original presentation at 3M where I found this quote (below) in the transcript of a presentation given by Jenn Manalo, Sr. Product Specialist, 3M Corp. This talk was given at St. Louis College Valenzuela on 31 Aug 1998 (I used my browsers "find" command to search for the number 60 and five clicks of "next").

"Humans can process an outstanding amount of visual information. Actually, we can process at 60,000 times faster than text."

Looking up that specific quote using each of the different options at millionshort or a regular Google search returns one result; that very same web page.

Now, let's look up Jenn Manalo, Sr. Product Specialist, 3M Corp.

No fruitful results from or or anywhere really. I found several Jenn Manalos in the Philippines. I suspect Jenn is Filipino because she uses two Tagalog words in her talk "matandang mayamang" (old rich) and the url from the archive of her talk has a Philippines root (.ph). Also, St. Louis College is in Valenzuela, Philippines. None of the LinkedIn profiles I found have a Jenn Manalo ever working at 3M.

Lastly I used the "site" command and Googled:

site: Jenn Manalo


So it seems Jenn said it; maybe even said it first. (Her talk is dated 31 Aug 1998 and the date embedded in the link from the citation in Lynell Burmark's book points to May 1998 ... there's more work to be done here.) She said "research shows …" a number of times in her archived talk but did not say so for the "60 000 times faster than text" fact; although it is in quotation marks as though she's quoting another source. (Then again, it might be the redactor quoting Jenn.) She may have worked for 3M in the late 1990's and she gave a talk on effective presentations at St. Louis College in Valenzuela, Philippines.

Learning Pyramid
Learning Pyramid (Photo credit: dkuropatwa)
It's worth noting that Jenn alluded to someone else saying the "60 000 times" fact and, although she may have been employed by 3M, she didn't say the research was done by 3M.

All this reminds me of the Learning Pyramid hoax and another time I was "awarded" a Top 100? blog.

Good luck with the search Alan. I can't wait to learn what more you find. ;-)

UPDATE: Getting Closer

I realized I hadn't limited my original Google Search to the 1 Jan 1900 - 31 Dec 1998 time frame. So I went back and did that.

First hit was this pdf: Read 180 Aligned to No Child Left Behind hosted at (a subsidiary of the McGraw Hill publishing company). The research collected here is in support of their Read 180 literacy product. Direct from the pdf:

Media Researchers have found that humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than text, and visual aids can improve learning by up to 400 percent (Burmark, 2004).

I looked into Burmark … actually, I had already started that above. She's the author of You Snooze You Lose I mentioned previously. She apparently mentioned this same "fact" in her 2004 Book, Visual Literacy: Learn to See, See to Learn. In this pdf advertisement for the book she writes: "According to research from 3M Corporation, we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text."

We've already been down that road.

I'm not closer to the source of the research; I'm closer to saying it's an academic legend of the same sort as the Learning Pyramid hoax.

UPDATE: 14 July 2012

Still scratching away at this. I came across the "Pictorial Superiority Effect." These are the results of my digging around:

"Combining pictures with print or audio generally maximizes learning."

Still nothing about "60 000 times faster than text".

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Linked text is different


Reading (318/365)
cc licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by Jack Amick
A few years back my friend Bud Hunt published an unusual post on his blog; it was titled Going South. In just a few short sentences he shared that he'd be spending a week visiting his grandfather's garden. "As best as I can determine, the first reference on the Internet to my grandfather, a man that I know far too little about, is this one." he wrote. There was one link in the entire post; the words "this one". You can tell from the comments, not every reader followed the link.

I was talking with a couple of English Language Arts teachers today. They're planning to have their classes do most of their writing online this semester. We were talking about how they might use a Mother Blog model to do that. They'll use Google Reader to monitor the community; subscribing to both the posts and  comments of their students' blogs.

I wanted the two teachers I was talking with understand how to help their students learn to read and write hyperlinked text effectively. I shared with them the story of Bud's "Going South" blog post. It's a poignant lesson in reading and writing linked text. (In the privacy of my own thoughts: This will also be a nice memorial to Bud's granddad. In a way, he'll teach and touch the lives of generations beyond his immediate family.)

A Better Metaphor for Life Long Learning
In his book, Everything Is Miscellaneous, David Weinberger talks about the difference between writing on paper and writing hyperlinked text. Paper has physical limitations that digital text doesn't. It starts and ends. It's only so wide and so long. A paper book can only contain so much content. Even if it's one of many volumes in a larger work.

Have you ever started reading an article online, say in Wikipedia, clicked a link, then another? And another. Only to find yourself two hours later having explored a web of ideas unique to your personal interests along the way. Eventually you stop. Not because you're "finished" but because life imposes other demands on your time.

Digital text is different. It's a much better metaphor for life long learning. And you can't write linked text if you aren't reading. Lots. (It's taken me years of reading to write this blog post.)

New Media, New Process
Not too long ago Dean published a post about writing hyperlinked text. He had collected a number of comments in a storify archive and reshared a video Will had made about his writing process. (Think that through as a writing process.) Watch:

This sort of process is another thing I shared with the teachers I was talking with:

  • Using a mind mapping tool, like mindmeister, that includes hyperlinks is different.
  • Clipping ideas contained in text, images and video using a tool like Evernote, which allows you to create web pages & hyperlinks is different.
  • Writing by stitching your ideas together from hyperlinked sources is different.
  • Reading that text is different too. It matters where you publish it, online or off. Different media (paper or digital) carry different messages. 

I'm fascinated to see the student writing that emerges from this semester.

I'm also curious; is there anything different about how you teach reading and writing digital text? Any advice for us?

UPDATE 20 Feb 2012
Check out Bud's thought provoking digital writing workshop (a network of Google Docs): 
Reading 1.0 - How Digital Changes Nothing. And Everything. Is All.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Too Big To Know #edbookclub


Too Big To Know by David WeinbergerImage by dkuropatwaHow'd you like to know "how our concept of knowledge is changing in the age of the Net"? (John Seely Brown quoted from the dust jacket)

Since I first heard David Weinberger say: "The smartest person in the room is: The Room!" I've repeated it often. I've seen it in action. In his new book Too Big To Know he fills in a few more details about this. The room is "smartest" as a function of the networked connections between all the people in it, and out of it, via the internet. I hear echoes of George Seimens and Stephen Downes in that.

Anyway, the book was published on 3 January 2012 and I just got my copy of it today. In the last 10 days or so the idea of an #edbookclub flared up on twitter. So, we're going to do that. We begin this Friday. We've even got a timeline and a list of people reading together. The conversations have beginning times, to help us all stay on track, but they don't have ending times. So really, join in any time you like.

#edbookclub originally grew out of a conversation between Ben Hazzard and Kelly Power. They describe it:

What is it? #EdBookClub emerged from a discussion between educators (@kellypower and @benhazzard) about how using Twitter could encourage professional dialogue.  It will be a discussion about a common book or article, that is voted on via a TwitPoll, by educators and people interested in applying the book's content in an education setting. 
Why? The purpose of this Twitter discussion is to engage in an informed discussion on Twitter that also provides a purpose and audience for educator tweets.  This was informed by #educhat when the organizers in 2008/2009 began posting articles and other documents to heighten the conversation 
  • Participate: 
  • Read the book or article with us (or listen via the audio version).  Follow the #EdBookClub 'hashtag' on Twitter to find out new information.  Then send messages via Twitter with the #EdBookClub 'hashtag' to offer your ideas, questions, and comments.
  • Respond to #EdBookClub tweets to extend, clarify or question to enhance our collective learning
  • Follow along: Read all the #EdBookClub tweets by following that 'hashtag' 

If you'd like to join us message me on twitter @dkuropatwa and let me know. Get a copy of the book; it's only available in either hardcover or kindle format right now. As you read, tweet reflections and quotes from the book that strike you. Use and follow the hashtags #edbookclub and #2b2k. There's already been some talk about chatting in realtime in a Google+ Hangout or maybe in an eluminate room. 

Anyone want to take turns building a storify each week?

Learning about learning ...

While walking ...
Best viewed "full screen." (Click on bottom right corner of any video when playing.)

With pictures ...
Best viewed "full screen." (Click on bottom right corner of any image when playing.)

Curating discoveries ...

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.

My Class Blogs

Class Blog 2004-2005
Class Blogs 2005 - 2006
Class Blogs 2006 - 2007
Class Blogs 2007 - 2008
Class Blogs 2008 - 2009

Delicious Links