Infographic – Six Emerging Educational Technologies

The 2011 Horizon report identified six new technologies that will affect teaching and learning in the K-12 education community over the next five years.  

“Four to five years for Personal Learning Environments to have an impact?”  perhaps the Horizon report predictions on impact is already due for an update.?

Many innovative teachers are already harnessing these tools to to reframe the information landscape of the traditional classroom.

As I noted in Innovations in Teaching and Learning: Top Down or Bottom Up?

Head to the vendor area of an educational conference and you’ll see a “top-down” vision of innovation in schools – expensive stuff that delivers information – lots of flashy equipment like display systems, interactive whiteboards, etc. They might give the illusion of modern, but in fact they’re just a glitzy versions of the old standby – teaching as telling. Does anyone really think there’s an instructional ROI in jazzing up test prep with a “Jeopardy-style game” delivered by “cutting-edge display technology?”

In fact, the best innovation in instructional practice is coming from the “bottom up” – from teachers who find effective ways to harness the creative energy of their students. These teachers don’t simply deliver information to kids, they craft lessons where students can research, collaborate, and reflect on what they’re learning. They harness a flood of new platforms that enable students “see” information in new ways and support a more self-directed style of learning. Unlike the expensive wares being hawked by the convention vendors, most of these web tools are free.

In SmartPhone – Dumb School, I added

While I’ve seen some cutting edge schools / teachers that have effectively embraced mobile technology and social networking, too many educators see smartphones as a distraction from learning. Many schools block Facebook, Twitter and the rest of social web as if it was pornography.

So where’s this put our students? For many it means that they must leave their smartphone at the classroom door and surrender themselves to an information culture controlled by the adults. What’s the mobile context in schools? Not much, it’s banned as subversive to learning.

Every day in school, students must “forget” about the information control and functionally their phone gives them to browse, research, monitor, network, shop and entertain. While they might view a photo just posted to Facebook from a friend’s mobile as the catalyst to a conversation, their teacher considers it a distraction from learning.

…When students do get on a school workstation (laptop or desktop) they quickly realize that it doesn’t “know” them as well as their phone does. Their personal device carries a wealth of information that’s important to them – contacts, photos, data, memories. To the school desktop, students are just a user on the network with a limited range of permissions. The biggest problem with the school computer is that it doesn’t do “place” at all. That’s a stark contrast to students’ mobiles, which geo-browse via the growing number of locational apps and geo-tagged information stream.

Infographic credit: Saint Xavier University
Online Masters in Curriculum and Instruction

Mental Mapping: Video Game Maps Drawn From Memory

Games are interaction with rules. They mimic the scientific method – hypothesis tested to overcome obstacles and achieve goal while operating inside prescribed system of boundaries. Video games provide failure based learning – brief, surmountable, exciting. While failure in school is depressing,
in a video game, it’s aspirational.

Super Mario World world map by fliptaco
Super Mario World world map by fliptaco

Josh Millard recently began curating a growing collection of video game maps drawn from memory at his site Mapstalgia. He writes,

We spend time in video game worlds, learning our way around the constructed environments.  We make mental maps of these places as part of the process of trying to progress through them.  We learn where the good bits are hidden, remember the hard bits that got us killed every damn time.  The worlds may be fictional but our mental maps of them are as real as anything else we remember.  And they’re shared experiences: my experience in Super Mario Bros. was a lot like yours, and even if we never played it together, it’s a space we have in common.  And the way our memories overlap, and the ways they differ — the commonalities and contrasts of our individual recalls of these shared spaces — is a really interesting and as far as I’ve seen mostly undocumented emergent result of decades of videogaming experiences. So let’s draw these remembered maps.  Let’s put it down on graph paper or napkins or MS Paint. 

The Legend of Zelda world map by themadjuggler
The Legend of Zelda world map by themadjuggler

Submissions range from detailed renderings to simple sketches. They all demonstrate a great way to teach mental mapping skills – spatial relationships, sequence, causation, scale, location, and measurement. Use Mapstalgia to inspire your students. Then give them a chance to have fun while demonstrating their ability to translate gaming worlds into two dimensional representations. Let them compare maps of the same game to design their own mapping rubric. Explore different representations of game elements for clarity and design.

Super Mario 64 Peachs Castle by GNM
Super Mario 64 Peachs Castle by GNM

Get students hooked working with something they know intimately – video games. Then transfer those visual literacy skills to more traditional mapping instruction as well as exploration of symbolic representations of all kinds.

Sonic Adventure 2 City Escape by cubeybooby
Sonic Adventure 2 City Escape by cubeybooby
Zork excerpts by ErWenn
Zork excerpts by ErWenn

Image credits: Mapstalgia

Prisoner’s Dilemma – A Game Theory Simulation

Back in the 1970’s I taught a high school social studies course called “War and Peace Studies.”

A recent email exchange reminded me of a simplified version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma that I created for use in the classroom.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a fundamental exercise in game theory and serves as a great catalyst for discussions about decision making, communications, ethics and responsibility.

First, the classic example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma from Wikipedia:

Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated the prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies for the prosecution against the other (defects) and the other remains silent (cooperates), the defector goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?  

How I adapted for classroom use

Students were divided into two separate locations. (Group A and Group B). Once divided, I managed the game – shuttling between the two rooms. Both groups were given the same goal – “To accumulate as many points as possible without helping or hindering the other group.” In practice, I found that the point incentive generally faded away as groups just focused on their perception of “winning.”

I ran a series of 10 decision rounds. During each 5 minute round both groups were told make a group decision about the choice one of two colors – red or blue. See results chart below. I did not specify how they were to arrive at the decision within their groups. When each group has completed their decision, I shared results back to each group. As the decision rounds accumulated,  players faced the results of cooperation and betrayal.

To add another dimension to the dilemma, periodically (after decision rounds 3 and 6) I invited each group to send a negotiator to a neutral location (usually just the hallway). This was the only communication allowed between the groups. Generally each group was divided over both the instruction to give their negotiator (“bluff ’em” vs “make a deal”) and how to interpret the negotiator’s “report.” Sometimes groups even became mistrustful of their own negotiator.

It usually took about 45-50 minutes to set the game up and go through a series of 7-10 rounds with some negotiation breaks. The homework assignment was to write a reflection “What did I learn about myself during the game?” Loads of great discussion the next day with many great applications to history, current events, group process and ethics.

For great prompts to foster student reflection, see my post “The Reflective Student: The Taxonomy of Reflection.


Feature image by Spencer Tamichi on Unsplash