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Reading Critique: How People Learn - Chapter 9


                This chapter covers a lot of technologies that allow us to improve learning in the classroom. Some of the key components that a lot of the technologies seem to focus on are:
·         the understanding of what the student knows before the interactions,
·         what erroneous preconceived notions he has (conceptual barriers),
·        and implementing methods that experimentally have shown to tackle these conceptual barriers and achieve basic learning.
These technologies have different uses and applications in learning, which is generally not attributed to the development of new learning theories, but rather to the core benefits of technology in general. Firstly, communication is one of those huge benefits new technology has brought along. One of the benefits of that in education is in the possibility for communication of students with experts, and with other students around the world. This aspect of communication has tremendous benefits as it gives a sense of the world community, collection / visualization of data from all over the world (as seen in Project GLOBE), and access to massive amounts of new information that previously took years to get published into libraries, and even more time to make it to the classroom. The chapter focuses on a variety of technologies which I will highlight, and also demonstrate their benefits and their disadvantages.
Technology
Description
Advantages
Disadvantages
Jasper Video Adventures (the Little Planet Literacy Series has a very similar method, but for writing)
Allows children to help architects solve problems in the community, by challenging them to design them.

Main focus is:
Mathematics
Brings real world problems to the classroom. Tackles issues of mathematics that architects encounter. Creates unforgettable experiences in the students.
Video lectures would seem difficult to do for some topics. They require a real world example (like the playground for children) to engage the students, and this isn’t always available for topics like history.
Project GLOBE
Allows students to gather data with the incentive of communicating with other students and experts in the field about their environment. Data can be visualized, to understand concepts that are usually very complicated to explain.

Main focus is:
Science
Provides a global context for the students. Uses visualizations to explain data, which allows the human brain to retain information better.
Seems difficult to recruit enough scientists to help students. Does not really seem to tackle specifics of the interactions students have with these scientists, or how language barriers are dealt with.
CoVis Project
Allows students to collaborate on data collection, but also lays the groundwork that allows for understanding of concepts. Students are introduced to basic concepts and followed with more complex visualizations.

Main focus is:
Science
Uses concepts of learning to teach students (by presenting general background information, and using visualizations for learning). Allows for collaborative projects. Working with scientists seems to be a phenomenal motivator.
Same disadvantage as GLOBE, can you really get that many scientists (they named meteorologists, geologists, astronomers, teachers, and computer scientists). Seems like they use the fact that real world interactions incentivize children, but don’t ask themselves what the minimum amount of real world interaction required is to get most students incentivized. Do you require one scientist per class, or per student?  
Belvedere System
Allows students to understand issues better by providing scaffolding.

Main focus is:
Science / Public Policy
Uses visuals to help the students understand concepts better. Focuses on providing feedback and scaffolding for the betterment of learning.
Not sure if this can be extracted to any topic. Also not sure if by an online adviser they mean a person or a virtual adviser (a machine). If it’s a person, it seems they are getting their good results from the basic knowledge that one-to-one tutoring is the best way of learning, and not from the use of technology per say.
STELLA Modeling Environment
Uses modeling to improve teaching.

Main focus is:
Wide variety of fields.
Visualizations are a brilliant learning tool.
Seems very specific and not malleable to every subject, however they do claim teaching things
‘as diverse as population ecology and history’.
GenScope Project
Uses simulations to teach biology.
Allows access to real world data, can be a big motivator.
Not enough information to analyze the tool for disadvantages.


I covered a few of the tools in the chapter (didn’t cover because of length of the assignment: SMART, DIAGNOSER, Classtalk, CSILE, SpeakEasy, Sherlock Project, Geometry Tutor, PUMP Algebra Tutor, and KGS).
Overall, it becomes evident that some tools seek to increase the ‘teacher-power’ to improve teaching, by making the software act as the teacher. Further, other tools focus more directly on visualizations to increase understanding by presenting information in ways that the brain can better comprehend. Further, other tools use communication as their main purpose, which can excite and motivate students to collaborate and talk to experts. Lastly, some tools focus on being there as a resource/tool that students use to learn with ease, as they provide the adequate scaffolding to aid you in your path to understanding.

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