[Technology 843] The magic of technology for learning is outside the classroom

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David Rosen djrosen at comcast.net
Sun Feb 11 09:47:50 EST 2007

Marianne, Steve, and others

There is a magical, compelling learning technology which is almost
never used in the classroom, neither in K-12 or adult education. It
is widely used at home, however, and in "computer cafes" around the
world , mostly by male "digital natives" under 30. It is not usually
designed to teach anything that instructors would recognize as basic
skills or academic content, yet it incorporates some principles of
learning that at least one author has argued at length, are far
superior to what is found in most classrooms. It is capable of
teaching content -- any content -- in ways that are more engaging
than most classrooms.

I am referring to well-designed video games, and to the book, _What
Video Games Have to teach Us About Learning and Literacy_ by James
Paul Gee. According to Gee, good video game designers carefully
create games so that players learn (and improve) strategies in
context, as they go, so that (using Lev Vygotsky's concept) each new
scenario presents the first-person, active learner-players with
challenges that are just outside their "zone of proximal
development" providing difficult challenges, but within reach, and
hence highly motivating. Gee also argues that many of these games
focus on problem solving strategies and attitudes, sometimes those
that are useful in the workplace such as getting information from
context, getting and sharing information with co-workers, taking
calculated risks, and working as a team.

There is at least one (free) computer simulation that incorporates
some of these good game design principles and that also has basic
skills (reading,writing and numeracy) content, The Office, by Mike
Hillinger. See the simulation at:


and a description of it at:


I have three questions for those on this list:

1. Would you (anyone on this list) be interested in having a
discussion of James Paul Gee's book, _What Video Games Have to teach
Us About Learning and Literacy_ , on the Technology discussion list?
2. Do you know of any other engaging, well-designed video games for
adults or older youth that have adult literacy education skills and
knowledge (including adult secondary education and ESOL) as content?
3. Do you use computer simulations or video games for learning
purposes in your classroom or learning lab? If so, which ones, and
how do you use them?

David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net

On Feb 7, 2007, at 1:29 PM, Mariann Fedele wrote:

> Hello Steve and all,


> Steve, you wrote, "staff and students now we seem to ask too much of

> technology, expect it to be like magic."


> I think this comment is important to consider when thinking about how

> technology relates to the teaching and learning process and

> integrating

> it in a purposeful way. To begin grappling with that question a useful

> reference source is the report by the National Research Council titled

> "How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School" (1999). Of

> course, there have been many advances in the technology we use

> since the

> time it was published, but many of the core findings I believe still

> hold true.

> What do others on the list think? How can these recommendations

> inform

> our practice? Following is an excerpt from the concluding chapter.




> Tools of Technology


> Technology has become an important instrument in education.

> Computer-based technologies hold great promise both for increasing

> access to knowledge and as a means of promoting learning. The public

> imagination has been captured by the capacity of information

> technologies to centralize and organize large bodies of knowledge;

> people are excited by the prospect of information networks, such as

> the

> Internet, for linking students around the globe into communities of

> learners.


> There are five ways that technology can be used to help meet the

> challenges of establishing effective learning environments:


> 1. Bringing real-world problems into classrooms through the use of

> videos, demonstrations, simulations, and Internet connections to

> concrete data and working scientists.

> 2. Providing "scaffolding" support to augment what learners can do and

> reason about on their path to understanding. Scaffolding allows

> learners

> to participate in complex cognitive performances, such as scientific

> visualization and model-based learning, that is more difficult or

> impossible without technical support.


> 3. Increasing opportunities for learners to receive feedback from

> software tutors, teachers, and peers; to engage in reflection on their

> own learning processes; and to receive guidance toward progressive

> revisions that improve their learning and reasoning.


> 4. Building local and global communities of teachers, administrators,

> students, parents, and other interested learners.


> 5. Expanding opportunities for teachers' learning.


> An important function of some of the new technologies is their

> use

> as tools of representation. Representational thinking is central to

> in-depth understanding and problem representation is one of the skills

> that distinguish subject experts from novices. Many of the tools also

> have the potential to provide multiple contexts and opportunities for

> learning and transfer, for both student-learners and teacher-learners.

> Technologies can be used as learning and problem-solving tools to

> promote both independent learning and collaborative networks of

> learners

> and practitioners.


> The use of new technologies in classrooms, or the use of any

> learning aid for that matter, is never solely a technical matter. The

> new electronic technologies, like any other educational resource, are

> used in a social environment and are, therefore, mediated by the

> dialogues that students have with each other and the teacher.


> Educational software needs to be developed and implemented with a

> full understanding of the principles of learning and developmental

> psychology. Many new issues arise when one considers how to educate

> teachers to use new technologies effectively: What do they need to

> know

> about learning processes? What do they need to know about the

> technologies? What kinds of training are most effective for helping

> teachers use high-quality instructional programs? Understanding the

> issues that affect teachers who will be using new technologies is just

> as pressing as questions of the learning potential and developmental

> appropriateness of the technologies for children.


> If you want to read the whole chapter it can found at:

> http://books.nap.edu/html/howpeople1/ch10.html



> Mariann Fedele

> Associate Director,

> NYC Regional Adult Education Network

> Literacy Assistance Center

> Moderator,

> NIFL Technology and Literacy Discussion List

> 32 Broadway 10th Floor

> New York, New York 10004

> 212-803-3325

> mariannf at lacnyc.org

> www.lacnyc.org



> -----Original Message-----

> From: technology-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:technology-bounces at nifl.gov]

> On Behalf Of Steve Quann

> Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2007 5:41 PM

> To: The Technology and Literacy Discussion List

> Subject: [Technology 833] Re: Changing reading levels of text

> questions


> Hi Patti,

> Haven't used this, but I came upon it last week:

> http://www.usingenglish.com/resources/text-statistics.php


> Sounds like you already know much of this, but here is a site that

> might help with the creating/editing.


> http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthliteracy/materials.html


> I am finding that even though there are some things that just amaze me

> staff and students now we seem to ask too much of technology expect it

> to be like magic. Others?


> Good luck,

> Steve



>>>> "Patti White" <prwhite at MadisonCounty.NET> 2/6/2007 4:21 PM >>>

> I received the following request and I'm stumped. Here's the request:

> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

> --

> --------


> Do you know of a computer program that takes text and offers

> suggestions for dropping the reading level.. As in maybe 10th grade to

> 5th grade...Is there software that does that other than just using the

> Flesch-Kincaid Readability stats and doing it by hand???


> Next question..When you are adapting text for folks with literacy

> issues....you know how you drop the reading level down and augment

> with

> pictures...Is there a term that is used for that ..something like

> .modified text with pictures or something like that...????


> ----------------------------------------------------------------------

> --

> --------


> The only thing I can find that might help is the Auto Summarize

> feature

> in Microsoft Word, but it's not really appropriate. Does anyone

> know of

> some software that will drop the reading level of text? And is

> there a

> term for that process?


> Thanks for whatever help anyone can give,

> Patti White


> Patti White, M.Ed.

> Disabilities Project Manager

> Arkansas Adult Learning Resource Center

> prwhite at madisoncounty.net

> http://aalrc.org/resources/ld/index.aspx

> 800.569.3539 ph/fax/tty

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David J. Rosen
djrosen at comcast.net