Assembly Initiated

Alan Kay’s Powerful Ideas Need Love Too! works to bring to light the lack of connection between knowledge and understanding.  This is best shown through the following text.

To those that didn’t understand the seasons, I asked if they knew what season it was in South America and Australia when it is summer in North America. They all knew it was winter. To those that didn’t understand the phases of the moon, I asked if they had ever seen the moon and the sun in the sky at the same time. They all had. Slowly, and only in a few, I watched them struggle to realize that having opposite seasons in the different hemispheres could not possibly be compatible with their “closer to the sun for summer” theory, and that the sun and the moon in the sky together could not possibly be compatible with their “Earth blocks the suns rays” theory of the phases.

Kay was shocked at the number of Harvard and UCLA graduates who could not explain scientific concepts taught as early as 7th grade.  What really got to Kay, though, was that all of them demonstrated the basic latent knowledge required to answer the question, there was just a major disconnect between the conceptual knowledge and the application.

The Role of Interest in Learning and Development, edited by Krapp, Hidi, and Renninger first attempts to draw attention to interest itself. The history of interest, the “interest in interest”, and the different types of interest.  The book then goes on to relate interest to learning. The book states that interest is commonly used as an independent variable, causing an effect on the dependent variable, learning of some kind.  These studies can be used directly in the classroom to inspire learning in currently dispassionate children.

Emily Rush hoped through her research to improve the motivation of gifted students in the classroom. Her research was documented in Motivation of Academically Gifted Students in which she categorized motivated students as those who “find value in their school experience”. Rush analyzes many articles for her own research in order to gain a well balanced argument. One article discussed the downsides of giftedness including the mocking and exile by their peers and the lack of interest in the classroom due to the basic level of the concepts taught.  I would like to see these attitudes changed by inspiring interest and motivation in all children, not just the gifted ones.

 Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net, edited by Steve Jones, uses the University of Tulsa’s inquiry class as an example of the potential there is to be teaching towards this not-so-new medium.  We can not treat internet research like we do book research because it is not book research.  We have to reevaluate the most important and effective methods of research and teach to that, not to tradition.   One contributor also suggests that the internet is a self-governed and regulating body, which is an interesting concept to relate to Wikipedia.

Wai Mei Yeung-Fang admits in Does Technology Hinder or Enhance Learning and Teaching? that different schools of thought in regards to education will have different opinions on this topic. Fang believes though that it is possible to align any school of thought with technology, so long as the two are purposefully aligned.  She states that the fault and error lies with those who have no school of thought prior to delving into the depths of technology. She seems to believe that once all of the vague elements are removed, the internet and technology would be a valuable tool.

Kay and Goldberg introduce the Dynabook as a “problem solving tool” used to create a “metamedium” in Personal Dynamic Media. Their goals sound just as lofty as mine, to create a multimedia tablet for children.  The idea, if implemented correctly, would give children a hands on experience with math, science, music, art, architecture and more, all at their fingertips.  Instead kids are just launching angry birds at little pigs.

In Computer Lib/Dream Machines, Nelson goes so far as to compare knowledge to a little culthood, a protected treasure accessible only to the select priesthood.  I love his writing and even the concept is interesting, however it goes directly against what I am preaching. So I would like to either disprove this analogy, or break it down until it is no longer true.

Lastly, Licklider’s Man-Computer Symbiosis discusses the unique problem-solving relationship to be formed between man and computer.  I would like to harness this relationship and turn it into a widely beneficial one by demonstrating Wikipedia Wars and the fun of research


LOTR: Gimli and the Gang

Not sure exactly what this is supposed to look like in the end except for an “aerial shot”…but by my axe goddammit I’ll get it done!

I think I can group my sources into three overarching categories. Or I’m gonna try to.

1. Those that discuss learning and knowledge, the flaws in systems today, and methods on fixing it.

This includes Alan Kay’s Powerful Ideas Need Love Too! in which he laments over Harvard graduates who couldn’t apply knowledge that they clearly had stored in their brains to answer a (somewhat) simple question. Along with Does Technology Hinder or Enhance Learning and Teaching? which attempts to answer that very question! And Doing Internet Research: Critical Issues and Methods for Examining the Net which discusses a University of Tulsa based class that tries to get students to analyze the “why” of research.  All of these sources take a critical look at knowledge and how to get more of it.

2. An analysis of learners, how they learn, and why they learn.

This group only includes two sources. The Role of Interest in Learning and Development, which attempts to define interest and how it impacts one’s ability and desire to learn. I’ve paired this with The Motivation of Academically Gifted Students which is also a study of learning through interest and motivation. Together I think they work to analyze what needs to be targeted in order to better understand how a child learns and why.

3. Technology’s role in learning and knowledge

This group includes my three dreamers and their discussions on technology, where it is going, and what it will lead to.  Frankly, I’ve written so many nuggets and linked to them so many times so I’ll be brief now.  They all relate less to my specific topic but are all great examples of those who are inspired by what they are interested by and continue to explore that interest. Which is exactly what excites me so I will use them as role models.


Portable Engelbart

“In such a future working relationship between human problem-solver and computer ‘clerk,’ the capability of the computer for executing mathematical processes would be used whenever it was needed. However, the computer has many other capabilities for manipulating and displaying information that can be of significant benefit to the human in nonmathematical processes of planning, organizing, studying, etc. Every person who does his thinking with symbolized concepts (whether in the form of the English language, pictographs, formal logic, or mathematics) should be able to benefit significantly.”

Summary: Defines the roles of both the human and the computer, but the computer may be able to play more of a role than the originally anticipated glorified calculator.

“First any possibility for improving the effective utilization of the intellectual power of society’s problem solvers warrants the most serious consideration. This is because man’s problem-solving capability represents possibly the most important resource possessed by a society.”

Summary: Hard to rephrase what it just said, that last sentence basically says it all. Because our capabilities as problem solvers have basically gotten us where we are from the cavemen, it is one of our biggest and most valuable assets.

This last quote relates to my interest in intrinsic learning, as we can only better ourselves as problem solvers if we maintain an interest in the problems and the solutions.