Nonlinear New student

In his slides about “The New Student” and the new media having influenced them, Stephen Downes illustrates how inappropriate current ways of learning are for them,

  • content-based, linear; objects “placed in a sequence”, “neatly packaged courses”, or “use of multimedia … stringing it together, like a narrative”, instead of
  • multithreaded; objects “placed in an environment”, “arranging them, like (a painting, an orchestra, a sand castle, …)”.

And he makes uncommonly clear how limited the role of text-based, linguistic “mode of thought” is (from slide #24, “6. The Language of Thought”, “7. The Grammar of Learning”):

  • “Words are abstractions, pale reflections of a much deeper experience (hence, eg., tacit knowledge…)”, and
  • “this capacity [of language] is now being merged with non-linguistic modes of thought”

The new students perceive text-based, visual, and multithreaded multimedia “as a single entity” (“monomedia”), and they need an “Integrated Environment” including “Multi-threaded stream of discourse”.

(I do not yet fully understand this multithreaded “single entity”, and how -if at all- it is compatible with the frequently observed habit of maximizing their windows.)

In another paper quoted on his “new student” site, he abstracts a talk by J. P. Gee about another competitor of language and reading: video games, and I was surprised how much we can learn from them about how to leverage students’ innate curiosity and win their motivation.

  • They empower the learner with adaptive experience rather than pre-packaged content (via co-design and manipulation),
  • they meet people’s preference to “to operate … at the outer edge of their regime of accomplishment”, using levels, fishtanks, sandboxes, and information on demand to avoid reading the manual in advance.

Addiction occurs more often with passive consumption of content, like TV, than with gamers approaching games strategically. (Perhaps also the amount of random / unpredictable cognitive stimulation as opposed to interactively co-designed impact matters?)

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