Please visit Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation by Athreya and Mouza at Springer.com

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chapter 2: Part 4A. Reply to Comments and other topics

I was about to post Chapter 5; instead, I decided to thank Linda for her comments (December 22, 2008) and add some new material relating to my previous posts.
First, here is my response to the comments by Linda. Those points are well-taken. My focus is on the negative aspects of the media. May be, I went too far. The obvious position has to be somewhere in between. There are strengths and weaknesses in any new technology. We need to use them wisely and maximize their utility. Come to think of it, I cannot be communicating with so many people but for this new technology. I did list the positive aspects of the media in my first posting; but did not dwell on them. Actually, some newer and positive aspects of learning through video games are currently being investigated.
The magazine SCIENCE has devoted an entire issue to Education and Technology (Science: 2nd January 2009). There are two articles relevant to the points Linda made. The first is on “Technology and Informal Education: What is taught, What is learned” by Patricia Greenfield. She summarizes studies that show how TV, video games and the Internet “are producing learners with a new profile of cognitive skills”. It appears that children growing up with the “interactive media”, have greater visual-spatial skills. However, they are weaker in higher cognitive skills such as abstract vocabulary, reflection, inductive problem solving, and imagination. She concludes that “the developing human mind still needs a balanced diet” and that each technology’s specific strengths should be used to develop a complete profile of cognitive skills.
Although the content of the video games is of concern to parents and mental health professionals and the time spent playing these games has health consequences, it is also true that these games are obviously interesting to children. Techniques used in these games such as “multimodal principle”, incremental delivery of information, “ multiple route principle” and learner control/autonomy keep these children engaged. Why not use them and develop “educational” games? This is the topic of an article by Merrilea Mayo on “Video games: A route to large scale STEM education”. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. She lists such “games” in algebra, geography and cell biology using the teaching principles imbedded in video games. These games have also been evaluated and show that they fare better than lectures in learning outcome. Indeed, there is an entire book on this subject by James Paul Gee reviewed in this issue of the Science.
Now I go another topic. In my introduction, I said that my intention is to make you think. I also said that you need to reflect on what you read and hear and then accept them or reject them. Here is what I found from Buddha’s teachings as referred to by S.Radhakrishnan and C.A.Moore in their book ( A Source Book in Indian Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1957. page 346). “As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing, so are you to accept my words after examining them and not merely out of regards for me”.
There is a passage on “words” in Briharanyaka Upanishad (chapter 1; section5; sutra 3). I do not fully comprehend the meaning. But it says that perception is not possible without the mind and then says:”And whatever sound is there is indeed speech. Because it (the sound, I guess the word) underlies the revelation of objects, but it is not itself subject to revelation”. At the least, this refers to the relation between an object, and its cognition through the medium of words and speech.

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