Motivation beyond Maslow

If we want our student’s to be come lifelong learners, then they need to enjoy learning. Yet the reality is that there are many students who are anything but motivated learners.  For these students, the only good part about school is that it’s a place to meet their friends. The lessons – the education part of school – is endured.   How likely is it that these students will become lifelong learners? Read more

Over 20 of the best online fraction teaching resources

Attack fraction frustration with this hand-picked selection of the best  fraction resources on the web.   They have all passed the selection criteria of providing easily and clearly understandable accurate explanations of fraction operations, and/or providing effective practice opportunities.   The list includes interactive sites for visualizing fractions, and  games and worksheets.

Most of the games in this list do not involve timed activities, as time induced stress often often reduces performance  resulting in a frustrating and discouraging experience.  Game activities which do rely on timed activities should only be attempted by students who are already confident of their number skills. Read more

Video Games and Learning

An interesting article at Virtual Learning Worlds discusses the design of educational games, with a cute video that discusses “tangental learning”.

According to the video, tangental learning is what you learn by being exposed to topics in a context you are already engaged in, rather than learning by being directly taught. It can work by exposing people to topics they didn’t know they were interested in, so they may then independently seek further information. In short, people will self-educate if they already find the topic interesting and engaging. The trick is to add to the depth of the player’s experience, without making them feel like they’re being held down and blugeoning them with knowledge.

The video is worth watching not only for its content, but also as a study in presenting a potentially dry topic in an interesting way.

Another day…another -ism: Connectivism

Another day…another ism …this time it’s connectivism – a fancy name for the type of learning that can occur with through internet research.. In essence, students now have access to more than enough resources to educate themselves, and are more likely to be engage in that learning when they can take charge of their own learning.

Find that freeware application

There’s heaps of freeware out there. Often it is open-source and still being actively developed and improved, supported with active user forums. All you need to do is find it.

Gizmo’s Freeware Reviews groups software into useful categories. It then has reviews on particular categories comparing the main programs in each category, attempts to recommend the best program in that category with information about why a particular program was considered to be the best. Although these are only opinion and you may not always agree with them, they let you quickly cut to the chase. You can search for a particular topic  – anything from pdf to video editing – and quickly find suggestions. An excellent site.

alternativeTo is a community site that does what the name suggests – find similar but alternative programs to a known programOffice . Simply type in the name of a program you know does the job you want to do – eg Word , and it searches and finds alternative programs, ranked by user ratings. The search includes commercial and freeware programs. It even lists alternatives to itself. It can be a little confusing at first as the default links are always to alternative programs – it you want more information on a particular suggested program, then click on the “Information” menu item in the menu bar immediately above the list of suggested alternatives. It doesn’t

Open Source Software Directory aims to list the best and most promising open source software available on the internet. A nicely organised site.

Learning styles- think visual

It’s common knowledge by now that we all have different learning styles. Some of us are visual learners, some auditory, some kinaesthetic and so on. What’s not so commonly known is that cognitive scientists and neuroscientists seem to unanimously agree that the multiple intelligence learning style theory doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Apparently research consistently shows that the learning effect of matching learning styles to presentation methods is insignificant. Even people who consider themselves to be auditory learners recall information that is presented visually than information that they hear. For optimum learning, a combination of hearing and listening works best of all.

The old maxim of a picture being worth a thousand words rings true for two reasons – it’s not just that we are better at processing visual information, but our ability to recall visual information is over five times better than our ability to recall textual and auditory information. Not only do we recall visual information better, but we are able to recall it for longer. A combination of visual and auditory information is even better than either used in isolation. No wonder blackboards were such a big hit when they were first introduced to the classroom – it was a big improvement on just talk.

Cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham covers the topic in depth in the article Do Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners Need Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Instruction   He also has a somewhat dry but logical presentation on the same topic (for the visual/auditory learners).


Brenda Keogh and Stuart Taylor at Manchester University found that  teaching science  by using cartoons  was a very effective method of engaging students.(pdf article).  The cartoons presenting a scenario and cartoon characters with varying viewpoints about the scenario, encouraging students to examine the validity of each viewpoint. They found that students found the system engaging,  made it was easy to provide differentiated learning, and it was also easy for teachers to assess the understanding of the students.

Great but not all of us can come up with suitable cartoons. Dan Meyer’s suggestion is to always have a camera with you, so that you can take photos whenever you see something that might have teaching value in the classroom. He finds that it makes it easier to develop lessons that students can relate to.  Check his 3 minute video on why he finds it so effective.

dy/av : 002 : the next-gen lecturer from Dan Meyer on Vimeo.

I highly recommend Daniel Willingham’s book, Why Don’t students like School.  Donna Bills has neatly summarized nine principles found in this 9 chapter book .   More in depth articles about learning are at Daniel Willingham’s website.