Friday, August 31, 2012

(12) Week 4 Friday flicks: Communicating powerfully

Friday flicks: Inspiring learning and communicating research

This week's Friday flicks are fascinating examples of alternative approaches to two of the key roles that many of us play: communicating our research and teaching our students.

1) Making data sing

Hans Rosling is Professor of Global Health at the medical university the Karolinksa Institute in Sweden.
Hans is a passionate advocate for dispelling myths about the 'developing world' by:
1. making UN data publically available
2. communicating this data in ways that help people understand it

Hans has developed the GapMinder tool to animate data (see excellent 4 minute demo video here ).

This TED talk by Hans uses GapMinder to explore and illustrate very clearly the relationship between religion and population growth (it may surprise you).

You can download the Gapminder Desktop tool for free here.  If you encounter problems during the initial download of  Adobe Air, install Adobe Air first from this site.

2) Experiential and active learning

Continuing the theme of scientific reasoning - let's consider the extent to which our approaches to teaching are evidence based. One of the things we know from the developing field of cognitive science (and the coaching and training literature as well) is that transmission of information leads to significantly less learning than when we design learning approaches informed by cognitive science - these include practice, feedback, recall, peer instruction, surfacing and building on existing knowledge structures, self evaluation and reflection (see for example, this study reported in Science by Deslauriers, Schelew, Wieman, 2011;  and Prince, 2004).

Examples of evidence-based approaches to learning that are already being used in SENS include Team Based Learning, students active in prac classes and the use of clickers in lectures. How could we increasingly use the most effective and engaging learning methods?

This TED talk by John Hunter describes an approach to providing students with the time and experiences they need to understand and develop the skills to solve complex problems. While the students are younger than ours, the principles may be relevant.

Some questions - you may have others
Could we cede more of the control of the learning to our students?

Is there the opportunity for us to focus our efforts more on designing the conditions that allow learning to occur and new forms of understanding emerge, rather than delivering information?

Can we use this kind of scenario-based learning or game structure to engage students? make the learning visible? apply the concepts to real world problems? Build team work, negotiation, collaboration and reflection skills?

So, feel free to post your thoughts on either video in the Comments area below. Don't forget you will need to create an account with OpenID to post a comment.

1 comment:

  1. Love Hans Rosling's talk. Such an engaging presenter...throws you for a loop with how big his personality is, but I think that's exactly what draws people in as well.

    In response to the questions posed, I think that it is critical that the learning environments change, to reflect that the challenge is now about being able to curate relevant information and then apply it to a problem. Information on just about any topic is readily available via the internet, but the real skill is in being able to determine the quality of the information, and its relevance to the issue at hand.

    I think challenging students with scenario-based learning is essential, particularly in the tail end of 2nd year and definitely in 3rd/4th year. However, it always seems quite a steep learning curve for these students to transition from a "one question, one answer" style of teaching/learning.

    I've thought for a long time that we need to better set up our students earlier on in their education, so that addressing a problem that could have multiple solutions is not so hairy for them at 20/21 years of age! For that purpose, game-based learning seems a useful tool because the "game" environment and rules can serve to constrain the enormity/complexity of the task. In addition, the "entry point" for young students might be more appealing, as many would feel comfortable with solving problems that arise in the "fun" (low stakes?) context of a game.

    Would be curious to hear if any SENS teaching staff have utilised game-based learning in their units?