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Revision as of 14:12, 17 December 2012 by Balatro (Talk | contribs) (Environment)

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This 'discussion page' is currently used to hold notes for the development of this website (however it can still be used for discussion)

Learning to think for ones-self.

What is being explained must be made relevant to the person consuming it.

  • Some things can be learned theoretically (e.g. most subjects currently taught in schools). These can be done by the open-content online learning described.
  • Other subjects require practical learning: cooking, dance or anything physical. Skill-acquisition is different from theoretical learning and cannot be taught online.
  • Other things, like meditation, require repeated experience, but are not exactly skills - they are 'drills'

Hands-on learning

Getting students to devise and undertake projects like designing and creating a new invention, social entrepreneurship. Teaches actual life skills of organization and getting-shit-done.

This actually enables the sort of cross-fertilization discussed above, because it is when you have to do something practical, some project, and you have to draw on all your resources, that you see the benefits of diverse knowledge.

Studio Schools - - have teenagers do real-world projects for NGOs and businesses

Augmented reality

Augmented reality and virtual reality will be applied to education in the future. We already have virtual reality simulators to train pilots etc. Imagine learning something like cooking using a computer that can tell what you are doing at a given moment and displays information and advice relevant to the situation.

Video of augmented reality being used to visualize chemistry. Chemistry is more open to this approach than most subjects.



'Biophilia' I think there are studies linking the presence of natural elements (potted plants etc.) to learning. Find references.

Marian Cleeves Diamond's studies on neural 'enrichment' from a stimulating environment might be relevant here [1]

Nutrition: This page is as important to education as any. 100s of studies link sugar, HFCS etc. to cognitive impairment and behavioural problems.

Sound < This gentleman has a very unique perspective on things. He's given four TED talks on how sound affects humans physiologically, emotionally etc. This is highly relevant to education. The take-home points of his message are:

  • Minimize noise with sound insulation. Noise (i.e. anything other than the teaching message) creates cognitive load, distraction and stress. Problem: Some collaborative learning environments might be noisy.
  • Keep reverberation time 11px-Wikipedia_logo.jpg time low (0.4 seconds or below) to make sound clearer and less echoey. This means using materials with high absorption coefficients in classrooms.
  • Visual and auditory focus should face the same direction. The message they deliver should be congruent and synchronous. (This is not actually a problem in classrooms, where the teacher stands and talks at the front.)
  • Sometimes have just silence. Sometimes have birdsong, water sounds, wind sounds, and music. Schools should have good sound systems playing calming ambient sound and music at the right times. Julian Treasure says sounds at 12 cycles per minute are particularly restful.

'The Essex Study'


Overillumination is well-proven to cause stress. Stress is well-proven to cause poor learning.

page 7 cites a finding that those classes with the most daylight advanced 20% more in a year of math and 26% more in a year of reading.

'Focal glow' to direct attention.

The spectrum of ambient light has physiological and behavioral effects that are relevant to learning. This study replaced fluorescent lights with full-spectrum lights: "A dramatic improvement in behavior was demonstrated in hyperactive children."

Air quality

Indoor plants would improve air quality, decrease VOCs and increase oxygen concentration. See page 2 - 'Linking IAQ [indoor air quality] to Student Performance'

Cognitive skills

It is more flexible to teach cognitive skills - which can then be applied to anyhting - than to teach static subjects.

  • Critical thinking (video introduction: [2])
  • Mnemonics
  • Social skills
  • Visualization skills
  • Concentration
  • General Semantics. This stops people getting hoodwinked both by illogical theories in and by the irrational thought-loops that create depression, anxiety, compulsion etc. — literally "science and sanity"
  • Jaeggi-Bushkuehl 'dual n-back training'. Study shows that it increases 'fluid intelligence' in a general way (not merely task-specific). Play online here.

Applying neuroscience to education

Educators would do well to have a better idea of what is actually happening inside the brains of their students. We often diagnose 'learning difficulties' based on vague behavioral traits (e.g. "short attention span"), when we can get a much more accurate picture of what is happening based on brain scans and psychometrics. [3]

  • The Arrowsmith School is a step in the right direction; applying neuroscience to understand and remedy weaknesses in cognition, with a program that is tailored to the individual student.

Holistic/ systematic/ comprehensive thinking

Subjects should be linked together rather than artificially partitioned.

>> Aldous Huxley's utopian vision in Island featured a school that teaches a subject called 'Bridge-building', which is the study of how all the other subjects fit into each other. Bucky's ideas of comprehensive thinking and synergy are similar.

"Learn something about everything and everything about something"

It's actually astonishing how many great minds have come back to this point: that it is bad to separate areas of human knowledge. Education must create polymaths.

Aldous Huxley quipped that the only reason we divide human knowledge into separate subjects is to make life easier on college administrators. (I think it was Huxley, at least - can't find the quote now.)
Gregory Bateson says it very charmingly here.

It is more than fashionable, it is inculcated by our great universities, who believe there is such a thing as psychology which is different from sociology and such a thing as anthropology which is different from both and such a thing as esthetics or art criticism which is different... and that the world is made of separable items of knowledge in which, if you were a student, you could be examined... and the first point I want to get over to you is that the world is not like that AT ALL."

Steve Jobs too has said it here. He mentions that taking a course in calligraphy turned out to be useful in creating the first personal computers. And that is the key point: even the most wildly different fields of knowledge cross-fertilize in ways you would never suspect until you've tried it. Every one of us has experienced this cross-fertilization in our own life, but the education system actively opposed

Advantages of multimedia / augmented reality over books / talk&chalk

The old way:

  • Textbooks - mostly plain text, some pictures, diagrams and charts
  • Lectures
  • Question and answer
  • Studies show that students don't actually read textbooks and when they do, they don't remember what they've read. [4]
  • "Standard" textbooks are used without question; the ones that get used are necessarily the best way of explaining

The new way:

  • Video
  • Virtual reality
  • Mind-maps (find studies on the effects of these on memorizing)
  • All of these integrated together in a sort of hypertextbook
  • By testing students after they study particular materials, software can analyze which materials are most effective. Evidence-based best practices can be shared globally

Features of lesson software

Programs like Moodle and Connexions have some of these features, but no one program has them all.

  • Wiki-like editable content
  • Multimedia, including text, images, videos, music, audio, interactive elements like charts, 3D elements, others
  • Modular curriculum. Each module has a learning outcome. Some modules are prerequisites for others; you can't learn multiplication until you've learned addition.
  • Students each have an account. This keeps track of modules they've done.
  • Quizzes to certify modules have been mastered. Like Kumon, you must reach a certain level before passing (but unlike traditional education, there is no pressure to do so by a particular date).
  • Dynamic testing to figure out which lesson is the most effective at teaching. A central computer looks at who has watched which lesson, compares them to exam results, and finds which lessons produce best results. Easily done.
  • Dynamic difficulty balancing - questions get harder if you're doing very well, easier if you're doing very badly
  • Voice recognition (for language learning, like Rosetta Stone)
  • Spaced repetition based on research into the 'forgetting curve' - repeat a fact just before they forget it. Anki is open-source software that does this adaptively.
  • Comments on modules. If a module is too dry, could be tagged with 'requires the attention of an animator'. This would help improve the lessons.