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NASAGA '06 conference, day 2 of 4

Posted by wwake on October 14, 2006 at 12:16 AM PDT

NASAGA conference


Keynote: From Flint to Fireworks, by Dave Chalk

Dave Chalk described his own learning disabilities, and yet he became Air Canada's youngest pilot.

"Passion comes from pain." "Adults today believe they can't learn." "Today, apprenticeship is far too costly" but simulation is a cost-effective substitute. People complain about rote learning, but we're willing to do it in games.

He spent a lot of time talking about mirror neurons, a recently detected type. These neurons imitate, learn, and predict. We have the saying, "Monkey see, monkey do." And in fact, monkeys are the only other species known to have these neurons. They fire when we have empathy.

The key thing is: these neurons don't differentiate between looking at something and doing something! "These neurons are almost as important as the discovery of DNA." Training can be done using them if it corresponds to what people want to learn.

"Consciousness may be as simple as a yes/no switch telling you whether to actually do something." Autistic children appear to have mirror neurons that don't fire properly. Mirror neurons explain contagious laughter and contagious yawns, and why TV and multimedia are so compelling. "Ten years of watching can make you an expert."

"Control the mirror neurons' input, and you absolutely control the learning." Sony just got a patent on the ability to beam images and sounds into the neurons, to avoid the need for "learning".


Keynote: Theater of Games, by Bernie DeKoven.

(Some of this overlapped the workshop discussion, but I'll pull out a few other points.)

  • Games are theater - e.g., sports, childrens' games.
  • We have deeply played games - ones we've played many times. For example, in HIDE AND SEEK we learn what it means to hide too well, and we carry that into adulthood.

Games, especially national games, correspond to the national character. Compare FOOTBALL (confrontation) vs. SOCCER (dance and avoidance), much like CHESS (armies clashing) vs. GO (guerilla warfare).

"THe only difference between a kids' game and a simulation game is how much you have to debrief. We deny the power of the game when we focus on what was in the debriefing."


Session: Extinguish Boring Presentations, by Ken Bellemare.

We did the straw through potato trick, to talk about what you assume you can and can't do. Ken described Thiagi's 6-step debriefing model, mentioned the "What / So What? / Now What?" debriefing model, and pointed us to Roger Greenaway's site for more.

The Attention Time Cycle:

  • 3-10 seconds - fight or flight response
  • 6-8 minutes - attention span level
  • 20 minutes - focus time (if it's interesting)
  • 90 minutes - as long as you can tolerate sitting at one stretch

The natural cycle is for attention to start high, dip in the middle, and come back high at the close. By using "hot spice" every 6-8 minutes, you can help keep attention focused the whole time.

Hot spice can be done through space (movement, voice control, ...), props, unusual things (such as flash paper), audience involvement. Ken likes a question Thiagi uses, "What's a question a confused person might ask at this point?"

We discussed stages: unconscious incompetence, conscious incompetence, conscious competence, and unconscious competence, using the approach of trying to sign our name identically, twice with our strong hand and twice with our weak hand.

Ken warned us of an easy habit - "autobiographical listening," where we try to take over somebody else's narrative as a story about ourselves.

At the end, we got to try a piece of flash paper for ourselves, which was very neat.


Session: Interactive Experiential Games to Teach Systems Thinking, by Ron Roberts

The linear/sequential approach has A->B->C, inputs/throughput/output. If there's a problem, the cost rises exponentially.

A feedback approach has Input->Throughput->Output->Compare to Future Desired State -> Feedback -> Input.

To demonstrate systems thinking, we played a peg-based game that had us try to create patterns according to numbers and colors. As you might expect, there was a bit of "kicker" in scoring and in thinking about it. (I won't give any spoilers.)


Session: Edutainment Strategies for Blended Learning, by Curt LaLonde.

There are three elements -

  • Entertainment - motivation strategies
  • Instructional strategies
  • Blended solutions (mix live and electronic)

For entertainment, we can consider the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Production values and consequences address the latter; relevance etc. affect the former.

He described Bloom's model of the levels of learning:

  • Evaluation - appraise, evaluate
  • Synthesis - arrange, collect
  • Analysis - categorize, compare
  • Application - demonstrate, dramatize
  • Understaning - classify, explain
  • Knowledge - list, memorize

In one approach ("sequential"), it's easier to address the lower levels with self-paced instruction; live teaching may better address the upper levels.

The "Host/Container" model looks at the host (class, live, online) and the elements (video, quiz, chat). The host may be synchronous or asynchronous; the elements may be synchronous, asynchronous, or both. (For example, you might have asynchronous elements inside a synchronous session: "please try this on your own for 5 minutes.")

As an exercise, we picked a system to discuss in small groups. The discussion was very helpful, and left me with some ideas for things I could do in my own teaching.