Category Archives: Twitch Speed

Power of Distraction

A recent piece (US Unplugged) in the Times Higher collects quotes and stories from a number of institutions and individual tutors now discouraging the use of laptops in lectures and social networking on campus.

Some good quotes from Clifford Nass:

“It seemed as though they could actually do two things at once. What do these kids know that I don’t? It drove me crazy. That’s what inspired my research.”

But he found that “they’re not amazing. They can’t really do it.” His research shows that the students’ memories were disorganised; they fixated on irrelevant data, could not follow specific directions that required paying attention and wrote poorly.

… “We’ve reached a period where attention is no longer valued. There’s been a cultural change where we’ve forgotten about the idea of paying attention,” he says. “And people have started to resent that.”

I haven’t banned laptops from my own lectures – indeed, only small numbers of students bring laptops to lectures at UWS, so it hasn’t really been a major issue. In some classes I’ve given out laptops – but that has been to allow students to do practical work at set points in a class (its hard to teach programming in a lecture). I have this year used mobile phone based response/poll systems in class and that did work well – using the technology to concentrate attention on the task, without allowing it to become a distraction seems to be key.

Sherry Turkle makes a very worthwhile point:

But what professors are learning to say is: ‘You know what? In this class we’re here to be with each other. We’re here to be a community. Let’s make the most of it.’

There are of course two sides to this – lecturers need to do their part to engage students and to try to promote learning – and students need to learn how best to help themselves and understand the negative impacts of partial attention.

(See some of the other posts here on multi-tasking for links to other studies)

Digital Natives vs. the Net Generation

Blended Learning 2007 (Part 2)

And now, belatedly, time to write up my reflections from Blended Learning all those weeks ago… knowing I’ve got a paper and a half to write today as well.

The subtitle of the conference was ‘Supporting the Net Generation Learner’, which I’ll admit did leave me a little worried that the general message I would hear would be a simple re-iteration of all the usual Digital Natives tropes and clichés. Instead, through the different talks, presentations and lunch and break-time discussions the message was quite different. The Net Generation needs our help.

In this post I’ll try and set out some of the differences between the concepts of ‘Digital Natives’ and ‘Net Generation’, and why they matter.

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Blended Learning 2007 (part 1)

Last week I attended the Blended Learning conference at the University of Hertfordshire. Since then I’ve been missing and AFK (visiting family), and then a bit under the weather. So here is the much belated part 1 of the post conference thoughts and reflections… just an overview of the day itself.

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Learn to bake – the MMO way!

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) has a large report out from a recent study of gamers of all ages, and parents of younger gamers. Obtainable here.

As per usual, its really too long for me to read through it all at the moment (this is the first post I’ve managed in a fortnight!), but I did see a couple of amusing quotes. In fact there are a ton of them, but the following is from the very small section on ‘Skills and Education’ (pages 49-51):

Younger players quite often argue, not always very convincingly, that they learn useful things from games.

“You do get a lot of knowledge from it, because, like on Moonscape, it tells you how to do things, how to fish, in real life, how to make certain things. It tells you how to make steel, and cakes and how to mine. You wouldn’t want to go mining for clay or anything, but it tells you how to make stuff.”
PD11 M 14-15 C2DE intermediate Leeds

(I think that the game the boy is referring to is Runescape – where steel is made by getting a lump of iron and two lumps of coal and putting them in a furnace together by mouse click. And level 30 smithing skill, of course.) The report goes on to say this about games and skills:

However, references to skill development, and to educational value, often seem a little desperate; in the interview situation some players want to make the case but often seem not to really believe it themselves. They play games for diversion and enjoyment and not at all with the idea of learning things or getting better at anything other than the game itself. It is worth noting however that non-gamers, notably parents, are often deterred from playing because they lack the necessary skills. …discovering that your level of skill is hopelessly inferior to that of your offspring certainly discourages many parents.

It’s not a scaremongering report, certainly the UK games press hasn’t become defensive about its contents, but does include sections on the concerns of gamers and parents. Well worth a scan at any rate.

Enraged and Engaged redux

I can’t believe I missed this debate on Prenky’s “Engage me or Enrage me” till now. Here on Dennis Fermoyle’s blog and here on Chris Lehmann’s. Both are good reads. Found these via another page of discussion here on Scott McLeod’s blog, which I think I might re-visit later…

One interesting thing, reading the comments especially, is the degree to which people interpret Prensky’s writings in different ways. This is I guess something that has come up here before – is Prensky merely describing how students have changed (and how accurate is his description?) or is he celebrating it?

Anyway, the discussions include a number interesting anecdotal examples and stories, so worth reading through.

Twitch Speed, part last

With heavy heart, I return to my analysis of the Twitch Speed paper, and begun here and continued here. Originally I thought I’d enjoy this bit, but as I’ve got more involved in the literature, I’ve realised – with help of some of you out there – that I’d much rather just move on. I’ll make this my last post on the seminal paper, and to boot I’ll throw in some comments on “Don’t Bother Me Mom – I’m Learning”. Then I’ll return that book to my colleague. And then I’ll finally move on.

The sections I’ll look at this time are Parallel vs. Linear Processing and Random Access vs. Linear Thinking. At first it seems obvious – parallel processing has to be better than linear: being able to deal with multiple strands at once. And old fashioned liner thinking! Who could possibly want that!

I think Prensky made a clever choice of terms here, so I’m going to change the labels for a start. So question: What do you call linear processing combined with linear thinking?

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Twitch Speed, part 2 (for real)

Now onto the second part (for real this time) of my look at the ’98 ‘Twitch Speed’ article by Marc Prensky. This time I’m looking at the Payoff vs. Patience section (page 5).

One way in which I may misread Prensky is the degree to which he is describing the differences (as he sees them) between “natives” and “immigrants”, versus celebrating them. I usually read his stuff as mainly the latter – and I think this is his take, that the changes are almost uniformly for the better. Am I misreading Prensky? I don’t think so, but I’d be happy to hear otherwise. But onto the review…

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Twitch Speed, part 2

In the previous post, I indicated that I think there are serious problems with the original ‘Twitch Speed’ article. While I certainly do think this, I’ll pause a second and give Prensky some praise: He has done a lot to popularize and raise awareness of the (potentially – my caveat) good side of games.

Now I’ve said that, I can get back to the crit…

I’m in two minds whether to go for the throat on this article, or whether to continue to slowly dissect it – piece by piece.

I’ve opted for the latter for now. ‘Payoff vs. Patience’ is next. See how many unfounded assertions and logical leaps you can find there. Its late now, so I’ll try and get this done tomorrow. Night night.