I’m giving a talk at AECT in a couple of weeks on embodied cognition and education, as well as working on some related writings (and here are slides from my previous AERA talk on the subject). One related book I recently picked up is Embodied Cognition by Lawrence Shapiro. It’s a brand new book, and I’ve seen some positive reviews of it. It’s supposed to be a balanced perspective on embodied cognition research and theory.
But I flipped to the few pages on sensorimotor contingency theory (Noe, O’Regan), and Shapiro repeatedly says that a problem for the theory is that it can’t show that a brain in a vat doesn’t have sensory experiences (the “Argument from Envatment”).
I think even a 3 year old can tell you that a brain in a vat doesn’t have sensory experiences, no more than a head of lettuce.
This is a clear case of paradigm shifts. Shapiro is trying to talk about one paradigm from the perspective of another, older one (what he asserts is “standard cognitive science”). And according to Shapiro, it is the burden of the new paradigm to “distinguish itself” from the old one and “prove” itself. Take for example his assertion that “the burden that the sensorimotor theory of perception carries is to show that the brain alone is not constitutive of perceptual experience.” He most frequently cites work by Adams and Aizawa, who wrote a book critical of embodied cognition.
That’s not how paradigm shifts work (see Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions from 1962). We shift to a new paradigm when the old one starts sounding ridiculous (brains in vats), or when the new paradigm is more useful or more parsimonious, or more consistent in its framework and so forth.
Shapiro’s book takes the traditional point of view on cognition, and of a computer-like, disembodied brain (he himself calls this “standard cognitive science”), and analyzes embodied cognition theories from that viewpoint.
He keeps using the term “knowledge”, for example, as something in the head that has nothing to do with action or physical experience or the environment. For example a fully paralyzed person is only capable of having “knowledge”, not actually “doing” anything embodied. I think paralyzed people can still try to do things (phantom limb, etc.), and they know how to do things (not to mention they can actually still do many things such as move their eyes and so forth). You can call their attempted actions a mental simulation if you like, but FMR studies show that mental simulation activates the same brain regions as the real actions.
Here’s a taste of the current tools and frameworks out there for developers interested in learning more about this platform. Probably the first thing you have to decide though, is are you more interested in running your HTML5 app on mobile phones and tablets (iPhone and iPad’s iOS, Android, and to some extent Blackberry and Palm), or in a regular desktop browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE…), or both? Some tools for mobile web app development are listed below.
First, here are some places to keep up with this rapidly evolving field:
- Learning WebGL – for keeping up with 3D developments
- Some discussion groups: http://groups.google.com/group/iphonewebdev , sitepoint forum, codingforums, etc.
- The Changelog – They have a regular podcast which often features interviews with developers of HTML tools such as some of the ones listed below (Sencha Touch, Coffeescript, etc.)
- YUI – very java-like user interface toolkit from Yahoo, very complete and accessible. They have started adding mobile support (touch/swipe/etc).
- JS Optimizers – to compress/obfuscate and combine into one file your js code see Google Closure Compiler, YUI Compressor, JSMIN
- PhoneGap – has an open source permissive license. They support Blackberry and Palm and Symbian and so forth, as well as iOS and Android. They create a native webview wrapper for your HTML5 app, so that you can access native things such as the camera or sensors.
- Sencha Touch – built off of ExtJS and JQTouch – any app you develop with it either needs to be GPL or else you have to pay for a commercial license from them. Can work with PhoneGap, they have some nice demos, esp. for the iPad.
- Ansca Mobile – Corona SDK, better for game development, commercial license.
- appMobi – commercial, too, I believe
- Canvas tutorials
- ExCanvas – for making canvas work in internet explorer (IE 9 will support it I believe)
- RGraph – graphing library
- bluff – graphing library
- three.js – canvas-based 3d engine (not using webgl as the ones below)
- Painting/Sketching demos
- Sass and Compass – alternative to CSS – adds some smarter features to CSS like variables and so forth
- HAML – alternate to HTML, not as popular perhaps, or as needed as the above two, since there are 2000 HTML WYSIWYG editors out there.
- narwhal – an alternative to node.js
- npm – a package manager for node.js, similar to gem for ruby
- WebSockets – a new HTML5 feature that allows for better persistent server-client connections. You’ll find some demos around of multiplayer games and web pages that use websockets, and on github there are node.js websocket server examples. You need the Chrome browser or Safari or Firefox 4 beta.
- ExpressJS – server-side web application framework
- Spritely – nice sprite engine
- gameQuery – 2D engine
- Akihabara – for creating arcade-like games
- Copperlicht – WebGL 3D game engine
- GLGE – another WebGL game engine
- SceneJS – WebGL scenegraph library, see also the interactive, editable demos
- C3DL – Canvas 3D library
- Dextrose Aves Engine – commercial game engine in development, see this video talk
- tinygames – see their work (building off of karma edu and so forth) to create educational html5-based games (math only apparently).
- Physics Engines & Demos
Browser-based Development Environments
- See my earlier post Browser-Based IDEs, but also these:
- http://sketchpad.cc/ along with hascanvas and others work with processingjs for creating animations
- I mentioned it in the previous post, but the bespin editor continues to evolve and improve. It now supports code completion using jsctags.
- GUI Designers – really nothing out there that is finished and free and open source (see Ext Designer for a commercial option), other than of course free WYSIWYG HTML designers, but see these rough demos:
Larry Cuban argues that we only have new technologies in classrooms in order to placate (mostly non-parental) taxpayers and politicians, so that schools can seem “modern” and “with it.” Computers and so forth are just there as a status symbol, just like an ipod/iphone, or a nice car or dress (he actually used those analogies). I’m not really buying the argument. First, are schools awash in new technologies? When you visit your local school, does it seem “modern” and “with it”? 9 times out 10, I’d say not exactly, with richer private schools being the usual exception.
If this argument is correct, then why are technologies only being bought for schools now? Why not 50 years ago, 100 years ago? There were never TVs in every classroom, and 100 years ago there were no calls for “1 horse per child” or “1 locomotive per school” even though horses were just as much a ‘status symbol’ as computers and cell phones are supposedly today.
What’s the difference now? What’s different about computers (and interactive whiteboards, etc.)? Maybe it’s because teachers want it, students want it, parents want it, etc. That’s not ‘resource dependence’ (satisfying taxpayers) at all. In fact, the more something is likely to be a status symbol, the *less* likely teachers want it in the classroom, because it distracts from learning (such as iphones, etc.). It was when computers and laptops became a commodity, an everyday phenomenon, that they started to grow more present in the classroom.
Some recent and upcoming books that caught my eye (haven’t read them yet).
- Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities – They’ve made a copy of Chapter 10: Action Notebook available online. “it summarizes dozens of practical steps you can take to support your community. With checklists, tables, and questions, it takes you through the steps of stewarding technology and outlines what to keep in mind at each step.” (via Scott Leslie, EdTechPost)
- How Learning Works: Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching - The words “Seven” and “Smart” in the title give me pause, but I’ll check it out sometime.
- Inspired College Teaching: A Career-Long Resource for Professional Growth - Maryellen Weimer has written a good deal in SOTL (scholarship of teaching and learning). See this essay Positioning Scholarly Work on Teaching and Learning (pdf) and her site/blog: Teaching Professor. They have a conference next week, too.
- Next Generation Course Redesign – By some folks at the University of North Texas.
- A Guide to Faculty Development -
- Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College – This book has gotten a lot of attention elsewhere already. I will check it out, but I’m a bit skeptical of folks who base their work on charter school results, since charter schools choose the students, which can skew the results.
- The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up – I’ve liked Kieran Egan’s work, although this one sounds a bit weird, he imagines being 50 years in the future or so, and how education changed (sorry, I forgot even the summaries I’ve read, it was a few weeks ago). See his website and Imaginative Education Group portal for more info, too.
- The Systems Thinking Playbook: Exercises to Stretch and Build Learning and Systems Thinking Capabilities – Sounded interesting
- Using and Developing Measurement Instruments in Science Education: A Rasch Modeling Approach – Probably only interesting to those developing assessment instruments like myself.
- You are Not a Gadget – Already a good bit of coverage of this elsewhere. Has some criticisms of web 2.0, wikipedia, and the like. From a quick skim in a bookstore I found some points I agreed with, some I did not. I’ll try to look at it more in depth in the future.
- DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education – There’s already been a good bit of discussion about this book in many places. I liked the perspective this excerpt from Inside Higher Education gave on college life in the 18th century, to show that yes, we have made some progress in education
- “In a faraway colony, one in a thousand people — mostly young, rich, white men — are sent to live in isolated, rural Christian communes. Some are pious, learned, ambitious; others are unruly younger sons with no other prospects. The students spend hours every day in chapel; every few years, the entire community is seized by a several-days-long religious revival. They also get into lots of trouble. In their meager barracks they drink, gamble, and duel. They brawl, sometimes exchanging bullets, with local residents, and bother local women. Occasionally they rebel and are expelled en masse or force administrators to resign. Overseen by low-paid clergymen too deaf or infirm to control a congregation, hazed by older students, whipped for infractions of the rules, they’re treated like young boys when their contemporaries might be married with children. And, oh yes, they spend a few hours a day in rote memorization of fewer than a dozen subjects. This was the typical 18th century American college, loosely modeled on England’s Oxford and Cambridge, which date to the 13th century.”
- And finally, some upcoming or recent embodied cognition/phenomenology books: The New Science of the Mind: From Extended Mind to Embodied Phenomenology (Mark Rowlands), Embodied Minds in Action (Hanna & Maiese), and The Extended Mind (Richard Menary).
A colleague of mine, Dr. Qing Li of the University of Calgary, along with Dr. Xin Ma, just had an article published in the journal Educational Psychology Review titled A Meta-analysis of the Effects of Computer Technology on School Students’ Mathematics Learning. She found “statistically significant positive effects” which were ” greater when combined with a constructivist approach to teaching than with a traditional approach to teaching.”
I first came across Dr. Li’s work last year when she published an article in the British Journal of Educational Technology titled Instructional Design and Technology Grounded in Enactivism: A Paradigm Shift? (Word doc). She presented this past Monday at the 2010 AERA conference in a learning sciences SIG session on embodied cognition and enactivism. Her AERA paper as well as my presentation are at this site: http://embodiedcog.wikispaces.com/ Dr. Li is actually more known for her work on cyber-bullying. She has several papers on that topic.
Dr. Li and I are currently putting together a chapter proposal on applications of embodied cognition and enactivism to instructional technology for the forthcoming Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology. I’m also hoping to submit a proposal on engineering education for that handbook.
By the way, the person who chaired my AERA session, Dr. Alan Amory, also just had an interesting theoretical article published in the journal Interactive Learning Environments titled Instructivist ideology: education technology embracing the past? From the abstract: “It is argued that against the background of a neo-managerial and market-driven global education system, the production and use of technology to support teaching and learning perpetuates hegemonic behaviorist values….The analyses show that education technologies are often designed to support masculine hegemonic behaviorist instruction practices. As an extension, education technology is used in the classroom as the object of instruction to support fundamentalist values rather than a tool to mediate knowledge construction.”
Imagine if Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Maria Montessori, or Paulo Friere were tenure track education or psychology professors today. They would probably not get their work published in education and psychology research journals, despite being some of the most highly influential and innovative thinkers in education.
Even some contemporary people who are or have been highly influential in education largely do not publish their work in journals for the most part, including Kieran Egan, Howard Gardner (multiple intelligences), Seymour Papert, Larry Cuban, and so forth.
They primarily publish in books.
Part of the issue is that we keep research, theory, development, and practice in separate bins. Educational research journals rarely publish about theory or development or practice; Philosophy of education journals primarily publish articles about long deceased theorists; and teacher/practitioner journals and magazines rarely publish about research or theory.
If some of the above authors submitted their work to journals, they would be rejected for not having p values and effect sizes, or because they discuss new and innovative theories and practices without devoting enough attention to past philosophers or empirical findings.
Research, theory, development, and practice are not separate but equal things. Influencing and changing education for the better is not the result of any one of those in isolation. A common thread between them all is innovation. We are interested in new, innovative ideas and practices and developments to improve education, such as those created by Piaget, Dewey, Montessori… This is more of a concept from engineering or entrepreneurship than science or philosophy. One might adopt an engineering perspective on education (as Dewey did). If you compare today’s world outside of education to the world of 100 years ago, the starkest differences and advances are a result of engineering. We don’t use p values alone to judge improvement in automobiles or computers. We don’t have to cite Plato or Kant to better understand new medical technologies.
Of course engineers do research, engineers do discuss theory and philosophy (the fPET engineering & philosophy conference is this weekend), and engineering is inherently connected to development and practice. But too often educational research is disconnected from changing theory or practice, and educational philosophers don’t engage in innovative development or empirical research. The former becomes aimless and ineffectual; the latter becomes arm-chair theorizing disconnected to everyday practice. Practitioners, too, sometimes glom onto some new idea or technology that doesn’t have a basis in research or theory, or doesn’t really change or advance their practices (IWBs, or interactive whiteboards, may be a current example). Developers sometimes recreate activities based on outmoded and less effective ideas. That said, are K-12 and higher education teachers and developers supposed to read and apply educational research journal articles? I don’t think so, although there is evidence for a correlation (not a causal link): engineering instructors for example who follow educational research have better student learning outcomes, but they are a tiny minority, the exception. And it’s not entirely the responsibility of practitioners. It is our job as educational researchers, theorists, and developers to always be highly connected to innovation and making educational change happen, as were Dewey and so many others. At the very least, we should be striving to communicate our work publicly with others and allowing for public feedback and criticism from practitioners, theorists, developers, and so forth. Many more people read a magazine article or even a blog post or view a youtube video than read an educational journal article or attend a conference presentation. My AERA talk was attend by 20 people, but after posting it online over 200 people had viewed it within a few hours. A journal article, even an open access one, I would guess at most a few hundred read (and virtually zero practitioners), whereas an innovative new software tool or instrument or curriculum may be used by hundreds or thousands more, especially when given away for free with an open license. I and other edubloggers, #edchat’ers, youtube educators, and educoders know this phenomenon well. Salman Khan‘s instructional videos on youtube get more views than even all of MIT’s opencourseware courses combined. If you google ‘cognitive load theory’ you’ll get my post that is critical about it, even though I don’t do research on that topic myself, and despite decades of other published journal articles and books on the topic. Perhaps Dewey and Friere would have had blogs or twitter accounts or Youtube channels, like Larry Cuban, Roger Schank, Richard Hake and many other less well known but nevertheless influential educational innovators do today.
Students in my advanced instructional design course (login as guest) created some narrated presentations in VoiceThread at the end of the semester. They are on topics related to faculty development, teaching and learning, multimedia, etc.:
- Service Learning
- How People Learn framework
- Backward Design
- Threshold concepts
- Animations vs. Diagrams
- Multimedia learning
The end of the presentations have links to more resources, but apparently voicethread doesn’t make the URLs clickable in a slide. Comment here and I can post the links in a clickable format.
I had some thoughts for a new open educational journal last week, especially in light of the discontinuation of the Innovate journal. I even tested out Google Knol as a hosting platform. It allows for open peer review and more transparent interactions, plus it has zero costs and zero institutional obligations. Some medical journals are starting to use it for quicker research dissemination. Here is a fake google knol journal I created to test it out, feel free to play with it or contact me if you want moderator privileges.
Anyway, while I was conked out after a dental procedure this morning some education/edtech folks on twitter started discussing creating a new journal so I thought I’d share my own notes. Perhaps the anesthetics still haven’t worn off. My notes are here in a Google Doc that anyone can view and edit:
I welcome any feedback or thoughts. I do have some more notes & thoughts on procedural issues, like editor guidelines and decisions, author guidelines, etc. This best practices guidelines from DOAJ on creating new open access journals is very helpful.
Learners need support. That’s my overall gist from reading recent constructive criticisms of open education and open education resources (OERs) by Michael Feldstein and Tony Bates. Dumping class lectures and notes online (which comprise the vast majority of OERs and opencourseware materials) is not very supportive of learners. I forgot the reference, but I believe even students IN the class often don’t view the resources online if it’s just a dump of what they already heard in class. The study I remember reading showed that students who DO view the resources had higher test scores, but that’s actually a correlation, not a causal relationship (perhaps better students viewed the resources more, or worse students got no supplemental benefit from the online lectures). When you do post resources online, it’s better if they are designed specifically for the online learner, or to supplement face-to-face instruction, such as shown in this research article on instructor-made videos. And of course, learners need spaces to interact, create, share, etc (wikis, blogs, whatever). Opencourseware sites unfortunately are not interactive or participatory. Even on Curriki you see Moodle zip exports, not actual Moodle courses you can participate in. These sites are designed more for instructors, not learners, which is fine, although instructors are not as keen on re-using/re-mixing as we would like to believe. I’m really encouraged to see the first really free Moodle hosting site appear: http://www.keytoschool.com/
In response to a post by Stephen Downes arguing against Michael Feldstein’s post I commented:
The kids/students that Michael is talking about (who need learning support and guidance and so forth) are not at any of those sites you linked to. They aren’t at opencourseware sites, either. Those (adults) who are at opencourseware sites are not re-using/re-mixing anything. There is no producer-consumer collapse, unfortunately.
Survey kids or the general public, and they don’t know anything about any of this stuff.
They know Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo Answers, Youtube, Facebook. The last 3 are where they really interact, and Yahoo Answers is where you find many students actually learning (and yes, cheating).
Yahoo Answers is the type of ‘support’ site that Michael might be referring to, and that David Wiley has mentioned before as one of the critical services of education (he thinks can be disaggregated from the others, I think there might be problems with disaggregating education services, as we’ve seen in the programming industry).
And yes, corporations and educational institutions are providing support for learners/trainees. Even by just putting multiple learners in the same room together or in the same office as other employees you provide some support or allow them to find/offer their own support. It may be poor support, but you don’t see corporations and institutions just dumping lectures and expecting people to learn from them on their own. [I meant to say ONLY, not just. Unfortunately for people outside the institution, that is the only thing they have access to]
I currently have a small set of netbooks with Ubuntu Netbook Remix (download) installed that I use for various projects. If I were to set up a classroom netbook/laptop cart for a K-12 class or a school-wide 1-to-1 netbook/laptop program, I would follow what Jim Klein did as part of the SWATTEC program at the Saugus Union School District. They also used Ubuntu Netbook Remix, but with nice extras like a nice 10 second recovery system (by keeping system files in a read-only partition using UnionFS) and battery-life optimizations. The philosophy is, instead of locking down the machine, make it easy to recover from any mistakes (even the teacher can recover a netbook without needing tech support).
Karl Fisch blogged about how he implemented a variation on Jim’s program.
By the way, if you are in the market for school netbooks, or suffering from iPad envy, you might check out the $500 Eee PC T101MT touchscreen netbook, described in this liliputing post. It’s been reported to work perfectly fine with the latest version of Ubuntu (10.04, Lucid Lynx, due out later this April). Students can draw notes and pictures on the device (with a stylus), plus it has USB ports and a webcam, unlike the iPad.