Marc Prensky

Probably the biggest reason that tell-test is failing to do the job it used to is that the world of the learner has changed so dramatically. As a result, learners no longer see themselves as receptacles to be filled up with content, but as creators and doers. And that these changes have happened so quickly is a primary reason education and training hasn’t changed to keep up. Even in normal times education is slow to change. But now there is the phenomenon in which kids have totally outpaced their parents and elders in the new ways of the world.
Learners have access to and experience with so much before they ever hit a training or education classroom that they are rarely “empty vessels” (or tabulae rasae) when they get there. In business it is extremely rare to find an audience that knows absolutely nothing about the subject matter at hand. Everyone knows something about it – we just don’t know who knows what. So by “telling” everything we wind up boring all the people most of the time.

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  1. shinichi says:

    Digital Game-Based Learning

    by Marc Prensky

    http://marcprensky.com/digital-game-based-learning/

    Chapter 3
    Why Education and Training Have Not Changed

    http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Ch3-Digital%20Game-Based%20Learning.pdf

    A brief history of learning and technology

    Our modern mass education, according to Neil Postman, the distinguished NYU communications professor, author, and social commentator, began essentially as a product of the printing press, and was designed to bring everyone to a basic level of literacy. School was developed, he argues, primarily to teach people to read books. The mass distribution of the book, says Luyen Chou, gave you the ability to standardize education on a very wide basis. “Within 200 years of the invention of the printing press in the West,” he points out, “we had all the trappings of the modern educational system – division of learners into age groups, division of knowledge into disciplines, and, especially, textbooks.” But more was involved than just literacy. School, Postman says, is intended to equip us not only to read, but to think along the lines of books — linear, reasoned thinking. Book-based learning favors logical exposition and presentation. And while at its best logical exposition can be riveting and compelling, relatively few of our teachers are capable of making it so on the fly. So over time much of “teaching” has been reduced to preprepared lecturing, and learning has turned into merely “reading or listening.” Hence the telling part, which stems principally, I think, from school’s desire to be logical.

    Then came the industrial revolution and industrial competition, which led to both further standardization of the school system (“a machine to turn out workers” says Seth Godin, in Permission Marketing) and particularly to the need for testing to put people in the correct jobs quickly. Standardized testing, actually grew out of military needs in World War I. Hence, the testing part, which is even more recent.

    Thus tell-test education is in reality a “tradition” that is less than three hundred years old. Now that may be longer than anybody’s living experience, but it’s a very short time in the history of man’s education, learning and training.

    Tell-test actually worked pretty well through the late 19th and early and mid 20th century, and wasn’t changed much by other new technologies that came along such as the telephone, radio and television. One argument to explain this is that these were really less transformational technologies than language, literacy or the printing press. But another reason that these technologies didn’t have much influence on education, according to Luyen Chou, was that the education system made a really concerted effort to keep them out. “I wonder,” he says, “if there had been a telephone on every students’ desk for educational purposes, how much it would have changed things.”

    Perhaps the literacy-oriented, industrially standardized tell-test system could have gone on longer, but once again a major technological change intervened.

    That change, as we all know, is computers, interactivity, and their associated technologies — the great technological revolution of the late 20th century and beyond. And compared with the others, it was a massive one. Bran Ferrin, Head of Research and Development at Disney, calls multimedia computing “the most important technical innovation since the invention of language. It makes the printing press look small.”

    Seemingly gradually to those living through it but extremely quickly compared to the past, a number of extremely important changes happened:

    Written language began to be less dominant (Ferrin goes so far as to predict that reading and writing will eventually disappear, after having been a three or four hundred year “fad”).

    Linear organization was supplemented with a random-access (hypertext) organization.

    Passive media, such as books and TV, were supplemented with active ones, such as interactive games and the Internet.

    Speed in general increased — to what I call “twitch speed,” — leaving far less time and opportunity for reflection.

    Probably the biggest reason that tell-test is failing to do the job it used to is that the world of the learner has changed so dramatically. As a result, learners no longer see themselves as receptacles to be filled up with content, but as creators and doers. And that these changes have happened so quickly is a primary reason education and training hasn’t changed to keep up. Even in normal times education is slow to change. But now there is the phenomenon in which kids have totally outpaced their parents and elders in the new ways of the world.

    Learners have access to and experience with so much before they ever hit a training or education classroom that they are rarely “empty vessels” (or tabulae rasae) when they get there. In business it is extremely rare to find an audience that knows absolutely nothing about the subject matter at hand. Everyone knows something about it – we just don’t know who knows what. So by “telling” everything we wind up boring all the people most of the time. Even online, the supposed advantage of technology-based learning — go at your own pace, skip what you already know —often is more of a slogan than a reality. And while people may choose to listen in their cars to commercially produced “great lectures” about art, literature or music (or even business) in order to learn more about such subjects, I’ve yet to meet anyone who wanted to hear a tape — audio or video — of any organization’s internal business training class; it’s almost always worse than being there. There was at one time a company that specialized in reducing the length of corporate tapes so they could be listened to more easily. They were typically able to get an hour’s lecture or speech down to 10 or even 5 minutes of real content.

    That’s the kind of improvement we need to be working towards. In terms of learning methods, we are all desperately in need of new approaches to replace tell-test. We have to stop telling, because almost nobody’s listening. Who is working to invent these new methodologies that speak to this highly technological generation? Precious few, but some are, and certainly the creators of one of these new approaches — Digital GameBased Learning — are among them. But even among the people trying to invent new ways there is no consensus, and in fact a lot of internecine criticism, to a large extent because people have very different ideas about how people actually learn.

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