Thursday, December 6, 2012

Test your web searching skills

Connected information
[Picture source:]

The internet offers vast amounts of information. The challenge is to find desired information quickly.

These two fun online applications will test your abilities to locate information fast:

"A google a day": Using the google search engine, how quickly do find the answer to question to a given question?

"The Wiki Game": This game asks you to locate information within Wikipedia. The answer can only be found by clicking through related information within Wikipedia pages. The fewer jumps the better.

Want to improve your search skills? Click on the infograph below for helpful Google search tips. [See original infograph here]

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The future of digital [Slideshow]

This extensive slideshow presents an interesting overview of the history, present, and future of digital spaces. [Click on "Slide Deck" below]

Friday, November 30, 2012

Knowledge Integration Maps (KIM)

Knowledge Integration Map (KIM)
Knowledge Integration Map (KIM) is a discipline-specific form of concept map. Concept maps are a form of node-link diagram for organizing and representing connections between ideas as a semantic network. KIMs consist of concepts and labeled arrows. Different from traditional concept maps, KIMs divide the drawing area into discipline-specific areas, for example in biology into genotype/phenotype. 

Knowledge Integration Maps (KIMs) have been developed at the University of California, Berkeley by Beat A. Schwendimann in the research group of Marcia Linn.

You can learn more about Knowledge Integration Maps in this Wikipedia article.

More about the research on Knowledge Integration Maps in my dissertation (available for free here).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Causes for the persistent denial of evolution

Why are many people resistant to accept the theory of evolution despite the overwhelming evidence? The blog post below from NothingInBiology discusses three studies that explore why some people reject science over religious views.

Read more here:

Unfortunately, the article doesn't have any concrete suggestions how to better promote scientific understanding and acceptance among religious people.

Building "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer"

Neil Stephenson's book "The Diamond Age" presents a fascinating piece of educational technology called "A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" (See diagram below).

The primer is an interactive book that can answer a learner's questions (spoken in natural language), teach through allegories that incorporate elements of the learner's environment, and presents contextual just-in-time information.

The primer includes sensors that monitor the learner's actions and provide feedback. The learner is in a cognitive apprenticeship with the book: The primer models a certain skill (through allegorical fairy tale characters) which the learner then imitates in real life.

The primer follows a learning progression with increasingly more complex tasks. The educational goals of the primer are humanist: To support the learner to become a strong and independently thinking person.

A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer Diagram [Click to Enlarge]
Currently, educational technology has early examples of adaptive tutoring systems. However, an artificial (pseudo-) intelligence that can mentor a learner in real-life complex problems is still far away.

For example, the IBM Watson computer can understand natural spoken language and give simple answers. Educational toy company LeapFrog developed the LeapPad - a tablet computer for children that resembles the "Young Lady's Illustrated Primer" - except for the goal of subversive critical thinking.

Another example, the teaching software for the One-Laptop-Per-Child (OLPC) wis directly inspired by the "Young Lady's Illustrated Primer". It is even named "Nell" (after the main protagonist in the novel). posted an example of how children in a remote Ethiopian village use Nell. Nell uses an evolving, personalized narrative to help kids learn to learn without beating them over the head with standardized lessons and traditional teaching methods:
Miles from the nearest school, a young Ethiopian girl named Rahel turns on her new tablet computer. The solar powered machine speaks to her: "Hello! Would you like to hear a story?"
She nods and listens to a story about a princess. Later, when the girl has learned a little more, she will tell the machine that the princess is named "Rahel" like she is and that she likes to wear blue--but for now the green book draws pictures of the unnamed Princess for her and asks her to trace shapes on the screen. "R is for Run. Can you trace the R?" As she traces the R, it comes to life and gallops across the screen. "Run starts with R. Roger the R runs across the Red Rug. Roger has a dog named Rover." Rover barks: "Ruff! Ruff!" The Princess asks, "Can you find something Red?" and Rahel uses the camera to photograph a berry on a nearby bush. "Good work! I see a little red here. Can you find something big and red?"
As Rahel grows, the book asks her to trace not just letters, but whole words. The book's responses are written on the screen as it speaks them, and eventually she doesn't need to leave the sound on all the time. Soon Rahel can write complete sentences in her special book, and sometimes the Princess will respond to them. New stories teach her about music (she unlocks a dungeon door by playing certain tunes) and programming with blocks (Princess Rahel helps a not very-bright turtle to draw different shapes).
Rahel writes her own stories about the Princess, which she shares with her friends. The book tells her that she is very good at music, and her lessons begin to encourage her to invent silly songs about what she's learning. An older Rahel learns that the block language she used to talk with the turtle is also used to write all the software running inside her special book. Rahel uses the blocks to write a new sort of rhythm game. Her younger brother has just received his own green book, and Rahel writes him a story which uses her rhythm game to help him learn to count.

The video by CGP Grey outlines a vision for a individualized learning tool called "Digital Aristotle":

Monday, November 26, 2012

Envisioning the future of learning

Ericsson released a new video that highlights descriptions of the future of learning by educational thinkers and enterpreneurs. The video critiques the current industrial-age conveyor-belt model of schooling and standardized  testing. Innovations discussed in the video focus on technology-enhanced, adaptive, and mobile learning approaches.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Why education research should matter to educational practice

Geek Manifesto (by Mark Henderson)
Science journalist Mark Henderson's book "The Geek Manifesto - Why science matters" illustrates the importance of science for all aspects of society.

Chapter 7 refers to the connection between science and education. Here is a quick summary of the main points:
-Currently, schools do not pay enough attention to findings from science (e.g. brain research, cognitive science, or education research). Additionally, schools don't apply scientific methods themselves by systematically implementing promising changes in quasi-experimental setups.
Some positive examples:
-brain research suggested that teenagers brains (different from younger children or adults) work better later in the morning [Most schools still operate on the industrial-age model that treats early rising as a virtue]. A UK school who pushed the first lessons for teenagers back by an hour documented great improvement in attendance and test performance (The principal also noted that other factors might have contributed to these improvements).
-Research suggests that the ability for delayed reward and self-control (findings from the famous marshmallow experiments) are major predictors of success in life (along with IQ and socio-economic background). Role-playing exercises, martial arts, or yoga could help students learn accept delayed gratification.
-Research suggests that boys and girls learn differently, especially around puberty. Education could use these findings to create different tasks for boys and girls.

Henderson suggests that education research, similar to medical research, should implement exhaustive randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Currently, school reforms are often policy-driven (or driven by for-profit companies who are pushing their educational products) instead of evidence-driven. School reforms could use RCTs by gradually rolling out new initiatives in randomly chosen schools. Only after results from these first schools show positive effects will an initiative be implemented system-wide. Later adopters can serve as a control group for study.
In the medical profession, many doctors are also researchers. As practitioner-researchers they are in the best position to evaluate new methods or suggest new ideas based on their experience. It is not necessary that all teachers become action researchers, but that they are familiar with research methodologies, interested in participating in studies, and receptive to using findings of research in their practice. Teachers should be expected to keep up with recent developments and discuss them with their peers. Schools could set up "journal clubs" in which current scientific findings relevant to education can be discussed. Teachers need accessible academic literature to keep them informed of current findings.

School science often focuses on the product of science ("facts") but not on how these findings came to be (the process of science). Understanding the nature of science should become an central focus of the science curriculum to foster students' approaching problems in a scientific way, appreciate scientific findings in the media and being able to critically evaluate them (e.g. "correlation does not equal causation"). As Carl Sagan said in Demon-Haunted World: "If we teach only the findings and products of science - no matter how useful and inspiring they may be - without communicating its critical method, how can the average person possibly distinguish science from pseudoscience?". Science education should give students the mental tools to distinguish science (e.g. theory of evolution) from non-scientific views (e.g. intelligente design and creationism). Learning about philosophy of science requires teachers who have strong disciplinary knowledge and received appropriate training in philosophy of science.
Learning science requires time. K-12 education should extend the amount of time students learn about science. Additionally, students need early career advice to see the relevance of science for future jobs. School science should have strong connections to current scientific research, e.g. through field trips to laboratories, inviting scientists as guest speakers, connect to scientists as mentors for science projects, participate in citizen science projects.

Imagining the ideal teacher

What would the characteristics of an "ideal" teacher be? As it is the nature of "ideals", they don't exist, but they can serve as inspirations and guidelines.

I imagine the ideal teacher to be involved in three different domains (see diagram above):
-Educator: Naturally, the first domain of a teacher is education.The ideal teacher has the knowledge and skills to create an inspiring and safe environment that facilitates learning. The ideal teacher knows and cares about the backgrounds of learners. Classroom and organizational management skills allow the ideal teacher to create a well structured learning environment in which student behaviour leads to positive and negative consequences. The ideal teacher has a clear understanding of educational goals and the curriculum.
-Practitioner: A master in an apprenticeship situation is a practitioner of his/her field. For example a master carpenter, master musician, or master athlete is an active member in a community of practitioners and can demonstrate desirable skills in practice. Teachers on the other hand often do not practice their own fields. The ideal teacher would practice his/her field, for example a history teacher would conduct historical research and publish on it, a language teacher would publish novels or poems, a science teacher would be involved in current scientific research projects, etc. The ideal teacher would use his/her mastery knowledge and skills to guide students towards increasing expertise and demonstrate the practical use of knowledge in a profession. Students can respect a person who is able to put theory into practice and demonstrate mastery in his/her field.
-Researcher: Currently, there is only a limited exchange between educational research and educational practice. Teachers have unique insights and understanding of current learning environments. The ideal teacher would act as an action researcher conducting research on how to improve the learning environment for his/her students and participate in larger educational research projects. The ideal teacher would be actively involved in the educational research community be publishing in journals and  presenting at conferences.

Even an ideal teacher would not be able to be an educator, practitioner, and researcher without institutional support  Teachers need adequate time, salaries, and financial support. The medical professions can serve as model for such teacher-practitioner-researchers. Medical doctors are expected and required to stay up-to-date with current research in their fields. Many doctors conduct research and are active members in research communities. Similarly, teachers should be given the opportunity to be researchers and practitioners, and such outstanding efforts should be adequately recognized. The ideal teacher is an artisan and a professional who skillfully designs learning environments. Overly restrictive top-down settings (such as standardized tests and standarized curricula) are a hindrance to the professional freedom of teachers.

To get ideal teachers, the whole system requires reform: Only highly qualified students would be selected into a teacher-training program. The teacher training program is comprehensive and prepares pre-service teachers to act as researchers and educators. Job conditions for in-service teachers are comparable to medical doctors. Junior in-service teacher receive systematic mentoring by more senior teachers and are part of supportive teacher communities (both offline and online). Schools recognize teachers' achievements as educators, researchers, and practitioners. Schools give teachers the time and support needed to succeed in all three areas.

"Ideal" teacher as described above already exist, but they are much too few in numbers. The goal is to change conditions to get more teachers to approximate the ideal teacher.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Job searching strategies for science education researchers

Below are the slides of a short presentation I gave at the Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education (IISME) on the topic of how science education researchers can find jobs after graduation.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Understanding where new genes come from

New mutation in DNA
[Image source:]
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, und Uppsala University observed for the first time how new genes emerge.

In their model, a mutated copy of an existing gene first gains a weak function next to its primary function. If conditions change, the secondary function might become increasingly more important.

The researchers tested their model in the bacterium Salmonella and observed changes for over 3.000 generations.

The new model aims to explain how new functional genes emerge (given that cells have mechanisms in place to constantly remove mutations).

Read more here: Evolution of new genes captured

Imagining the classroom of 2030

How will the classroom (or learning in general) of 2030 look like? This pannel discussion (comprised mostly of online-learning entrepreneurs) discusses some emerging trends.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crowdsourcing book publishing

UK-based company Unbound is a crowdfunding company for book publishing. Similar to kickstarter, authors pitch their book ideas directly to you. If you back a project before it reaches its funding target, you get your name printed in the back of every copy and immediate behind-the-scenes access to the author’s shed. If any project fails to hit its funding target, you get refunded in full.

Open access academic publishing

The traditional academic publishing process is flawed. Tax-money funded research is published in journals that are only available through very expensive subscriptions. The public gets charged twice (for the research and access to the publications). Research should be made more accessible so  it can be used for decision-making and further research.

You can learn about open access academic publishing at Open Access Week:

You can get open access to scientific publications here:

The video below, illustrated by Jorge Cham from PhD Comics, discusses some of the main elements of the open access debate:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Scientific evidence for food supplements

David McCandless from created this "balloon race" diagram to indicate the strength (or lack thereof) of the effects of food supplements. The higher up the bubble, the stronger the evidence - but only for the condition listed inside the bubble.
Scientific evidence for food supplements [Click to enlarge]
Try out the interactive version of the graph here:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Staying up-to-date with STEM research

[Image source:]

Here are some informative resources to help you stay up-to-date with what is going on in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education:

  • STEMConnector has a daily brief of really good stuff about STEM. It is also a great resource for connecting with other STEM initiatives throughout the US:
  • Take a look at the resources available at Northwestern University's Office of STEM Education Partnerships. (OSEP):
  • The US-based STEM education coalition works to support STEM programs for teachers and students at the U. S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies that offer STEM related programs:
  • The UK-based STEMNET project aims to create opportunities to inspire young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM):
  • LinkedIn Group: STEM Educators & Researchers

[Please let me know in the comments about other good STEM education research resources.]

Friday, October 5, 2012

The future of learning is mobile

Amit Garg and Abhijit Kadle from Upside Learning reflected on four key technology areas that will impact learning in the future:

  • Big data, huge quantities of user generated content and sophisticated curation.
  • Ubiquitous and pervasive computing.
  • Social (human) and Machine networks.
  • The Semantic Web and Intelligent Agents.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Deconstructing Disney Princesses

by Beat A Schwendimann

Even the Disney Coorporation realized that their pretty-damsel-in-distress-waiting-for-a-prince model of princesses became less and less appealing to current young girls. The latest Disney movie, Tangled, tries to update the image of the princess by making her a stronger self-confident character.
Image from Disney movie "Tangled"
Disney princesses used to be (and maybe still are) role models for many young girls. However, the classic Disney princess presents an outdated stereotypical role model from the past (compare the two pictures below).

This youtube video discusses the gender stereotypes in Disney movies.

Among current girls, princesses and the romanticized ideal they represent — revolving around finding the man of your dreams — have a limited shelf life. With the advent of "tween" TV, the tiara-wearing ideal of femininity has been supplanted by new adolescent role models such as the Disney Channel's Selena Gomez and Nickelodeon's Miranda Cosgrove. "By the time they're 5 or 6, they're not interested in being princesses," said Dafna Lemish, chairwoman of the radio and TV department at Southern Illinois University and an expert in the role of media in children's lives. "They're interested in being hot, in being cool. Clearly, they see this is what society values." (Read full article in the L.A. Times on how Disney is closing the book on classic fairytale characters).

In Fallen Princesses, artist Dina Goldstein took a modern look at the life of a Disney princess by placing her in an environment that accentuates her conflict. The "Happily ever after" is replaced with a more realistic outcome and adresses current issues:

How about the life of a real princess? The life of a real princess does not seem to be much of a fairytale. This article by the Daily Beast: Kate's Royal Prison  describes the life that expects Kate Middleton as the wife of Prince William. Besides having no more private life or being able to say anything original, she is expected to be picture perfect for the rest of her life, every single minute will be monitored and discussed at large in the press. Each of her actions will constantly be compared to those of Queen Elisabeth and Princess Diana. I don't think many young girl would want to become a princess if they would know what it actually entails.

At least Disney princesses can have some fun (Prince Charming optional):

Or Disney princesses can be hipsters:
Click here to see the collection of hipster Disney princesses.

Honestly titled Disney movies might look like this:
Hamlet - With Animals
See more honest Disney movie titles here.

Disney animators found a cheap way to create new princess characters: They just clone existing ones:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fujitsu is building a robot that can beat comprehensive university entrance exams

Todai Robot logo
After IBM's Watson computer sucessfully beat human competitors at "Jeoparday", Japanese researchers from Fujitsu are now working on a robot that can pass the comprensive entrance exam of Tokyo University (Todai). The full test involves language, science (physics, chemistry, biology, and geology), history, geography, English (plus some German, French, and Korean), civics (ethics, politics, and economics), and of mathematics. As a first step, the Fujitsu team focuses on solving the mathematical part of the test. This requires the Todai robot to translate natural language problem sets into mathematical formula (See picture below). The team hopes to succeed by 2016 and then extend to passing the full exam by 2024.

Todai robot's procedure to solve math problems

Microsoft is working on a holodeck for your living room

Microsoft Holodeck Room
[Image: Microsoft/USPTO]
Microsoft filed an US patent in early 2011 for an 'immersive display experience'. It consists of a standard video game system with a connected 'environmental display' capable of projecting a panoramic image that 'appears to surround the user.' Star Trek holodeck, finally!


A geographical map of physics from 1939

This map from 1939 depicts physics as a geographical map with different areas (e.g. astronomy, electricity, heat, magnetism, etc.) and scientists as towns (e.g. Galileo, Newton, Leibniz, etc.).

Map of Physics [Click to enlarge]

Friday, September 7, 2012

Interactive periodic table of elements with QR codes

Yinging Lu from Walls 360 developed an interactive periodic table of the elements by adding QR codes (linking to Wikipedia) to each element. Students can use their smartphones to quickly access more information about each element.

The periodic table of elements can be downloaded for free or ordered as a poster for pay:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Envisioning Educational Technology of the Future

Educational Technology of the Future [Click to Enlarge]

Michell Zappa and colleagues at created a mindmap to visualize how educational technology might develop over the next 30+ years (See above).
In the visual there are three distinct domains/learning spaces: Classroom, Studio, and Virtual.
Within these domains are 6 sub-domains that represent both areas of growth and characteristics of how learning might change when fused with emerging technologies.
1. Digitized Classrooms: Rather than considering IT a standalone tool or skill, digitization tends to disperse throughout every facet of the classroom.
Examples: tablets, electronic screens, interactive whiteboards, data projectors, 
2. Tangible Computing: Embedding computation to the physical via intelligent objects, the internet of things, and connectivity with a profound impact on learning mechanisms.
Examples: reactive materials, reactive furniture, 3D printers, digitally intermediated field trips
3. Gamification: Billed as an evolution in grading mechanisms, gamification brings instant feedback to acquired knowledge through achievements and points systems.
Examples: student developed apps, educational games, educational programming tools, achievement badges, self-paced learning
4. Virtual/Physical Studios: Bridging the online–offline gap, these future technologies offer a potential future where embodiment is secondary to information access.
Examples: eyewear/HUDs, retinal screens, holography, neuroinfomatics, immersive virtual reality
5. Disintermediation: Undoing the traditional teacher-student model, these technologies offer a scenario where AI handles personalization while teachers focus on teaching
Examples: telepresence, algo-generated lessons, mobile learning platforms, task-assignment algorithms, S2S teaching platforms, assessment algorithms, student-designed learning mechanics
6. Opening of Information: Dissemination of information outside the physical silos of schools and classrooms, offering feedback and assessment to students anywhere.
[The text above is a reprint from:]

Friday, August 3, 2012

Two forms of procrastination

Productive Procrastination
Procrastination refers to the act of replacing low-pleasure high-priority actions with more pleasurable tasks of lower priority (Source).

I distinguish between two forms of procrastination:

1) Unproductive procrastination: This means wasting your time, e.g. randomly surfing the web, watching random youtube clips, browsing through your Facebook feed, etc.

2) Productive procrastination (Definition): You keep yourself busy without accomplishing your high-priority task, e.g. watching TED talks, reading blogs related to your area, writing blog entries, cleaning your office/apartment, doing laundry, etc. 

You feel guilty and un-accomplished after either form of procrastination. A suggestion for improvement is to set aside certain dedicated times to do cleaning/laundry or blogging and stay focused on your high-priority tasks otherwise.

Green ideas how to improve our cities

Top 10 Ways to Make Cities Greener
Source: Best Sociology Programs

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Difference between science, art, and design

Art and Science
(Picture source:

Science, art, engineering, and design are all human activities that share some elements but are also distinguishable from one another.

-Boundary pushing

The basic difference between science, art and engineering/design lies in the goals of the activities.

-Science: Concrete (physical world) ----> Abstract (theories)
-A scientist sees an object or phenomenon and asks "How does it work?" -> Theory (to explain natural phenomenon)
-The sciences are manifestations of our attempt to express or share our understanding, our experience, to influence the universe external to ourselves. It doesn't rely on us as individuals. It's the universe, as experienced by everyone.

-Art: Abstract (personal ideas/feelings) ----> Concrete (manifestations)
-An artist sees an object or phenomenon and asks "How can I use this to express my ideas/feelings?"
-The arts manifest our desire, our attempt to share or influence others through experiences that are peculiar to us as individuals. Let me say it again another way: science provides an understanding of a universal experience, and arts provides a universal understanding of a personal experience. The "essential function" of art is to "intensify one's perception of reality."
Art, on the other hand, is its own end. Art isn't utilitarian. Art is as much about the product as it is about the process behind it. Art is judged for its beauty and insightful revelations. Art wants to be interpreted (sending different messages to everyone).

-A designer sees an object or phenomenon and asks "How can I use this to solve a given problem (of a human need)?"
-The differences between art and design lie not so much in how they look as in what they do: They have different purposes, they are made differently, they are judged by different criteria, and they have different audiences. Design is utilitarian in a way that art is not. Design is the how of a thing: how to order the parts, how to serve the client's interests, how to convey the information. The focus is on the usability of the product, with the design process in the background. Design is judged for its usefulness. Design aims to send the same message (e.g. use) to everyone (Design wants to be understood).

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

How to get the most out of attending research conferences

Research conference presentation

How to get the most out of attending research conferences

-Look at the program: Search for key players names or keywords.
-Contact people to meet for lunch or dinner
-Look at attractions of the conference location

-Have your business cards ready (e.g. in the back of your name badge holder).
-Observe examples of good and bad presentation strategies.
-Take notes of cutting edge research findings and methods (that you might use for your own work)
-Network and socialise: meet new people, meet old friends, connect other people, talk to mentors.
-Identify hot topics (for possible future research/ grant proposals).
-Extend your horizon by attending talks from areas other than your own research.
-Take breaks. Going to events non-stop is exhausting. Go see some sights of the location.

-Send follow-up emails to people you talked to.
-Go through your notes and extract valuable information.
-Share interesting notes with the community, e.g. blog.
-Read interesting papers presented at the conference.

Additional tips on successfully navigating conferences can be found here:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A review of 20 years of research in the Learning Sciences

Janet Kolodner
Below are my notes from the keynote talk given at the 10th bi-annual international conference of the Learning Sciences by Janet Kolodner, one of the founders of the field of Learning Sciences.

The Learning Sciences started in the late 1980s with the foundation of the "Journal of the Learning Sciences" (JLS). The Learning Sciences (LS) are a multi-disciplinary field that aims to develop models of learning in real-world situations. LS combines constructs and methods from a variety of fields, such as cognitive science, computer science, educational psychology, anthropology, science education research, and linguistics. Findings from the Learning Sciences appeal to multiple audiences and aim to have an impact on education.

Basic observations:
-In the 21st century, everyone needs to continue learning to fully participate in the workforce and citizenry (because available tools are changing fast).
-Education may be the way to close the equity gap.
-Schools (in the dominant industrial-model as we know them) can't do it all.

After 20 years of Learning Sciences research, what do we know about learning?
1) Learning deeply (as a process of mental model building) requires sustained and long-term effort and requires a lot of help (facilitation, scaffolding): Helping learners build mental models.
a) From a cognitive perspective, learning is a process of iteratively constructing, revising, and connecting concepts (mental models, ideas, etc.): Factual knowledge and procedural knowledge.
-Becoming fluid at reasoning skills is an iterative process of composing and debugging sequences of procedural knowledge ("How-to") [Schank & Abelson; Anderson; Newell, Rosenbloom & Laird]
b) We can only learn on the edges of what we already know (Zone of proximal development) [Vygotsky]
-We realise a need for learning if we can't do something we want to do, something turns out differently than expected, or something happens that we can't explain [Schank & Abelson; Anderson]
c) Revising one's mental models requires a great deal of reflection and interpretation [Bransford; Collins; Schank]
-Framing first, details later [Collins]
-Repeated deliberate practice: Help learners to repeatedly experience the result of their decisions and interpret and reflect on those results to debug their reasoning.
-Promote asking questions and wonder to identify holes in one's mental models.
-Tell only when learners are ready (A time for telling); Give learners a role in telling their peers.
-Give learners learning goals that are relevant to them to put in the mental energy to revise mental models.
-Help learners to connect ideas (mental models) by helping them recognise and revisit prior ideas [Linn]

2) Promoting and sustaining active engagement is key to learning: Intrinsic motivation
a) Personal and epistemological connections promote engagement [Papert; Resnick]
-Learners connect when they can connect to prior knowledge.
-Learners connect when they are interested, e.g. by using authentic real-world settings such as real audiences.
b) "Communities of Practice" [Lave, Wenger]
-Encouraging community (affinity groups, interest groups, communities of practice) encourages engagement.
-Community can be created in formal and informal learning environments by creating activities that promote shared values and ways of doing [Kolodner]
-Community engagement gives learners opportunities to imagine what they might be.
c) "Thick authenticity" for maintaining integrity [Schaffer and Resnick]
-Solving authentic problems relevant to the world learners live in by having available the same kinds of tools and resources professionals would have
-Big questions or challenges promote personal connection [Krajcik; Edelson; Reiser; Kolodner]
-Assessment should be authentic, embedded and meaningful to learners.
d) Turning over agency to learners allows learners to decide for themselves to participate [Holland]\
-Knowledge building with a community results in collective cognitive responsibility, mental model building and knowledge integration [Scardamalia; Bereiter; Linn].
e) Provide scaffolds that promote success (including productive failure) and self-assessment

3) The one-size-fits-all approach does not work, as everyone's interests and Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) are different (This also applies to teachers as learners).

A vision for learning environments of the future:
-Less emphasis on "lessons" and more emphasis on "challenges": Lessons are about doing something, challenges are about achieving something.
-Lectures will be for purposes identified by learners. Lectures will be often short, interactive, and impromptu. Lectures should be recorded to allow revisiting.
-Reading will be for purposes identified by learners to answer questions they have raised.
-Classrooms will be places where students and teachers address challenges together. Solving design challenges provide rich learning opportunities. Challenges can be of local relevance. Challenges can be done in groups (both within class and external).
-Learning will be purposeful: Skills and practices for living a life; for stewarding a planet; for health and well-being; for someday joining a workforce; for actively participating in civic life.
-Assessment will be purposeful: Assessment not only for accountability (e.g. current standardized assessments) but for the purpose of scaffolding and promoting self-monitoring.
-Learning technologies will be integrated in purposeful ways, e.g. models (show hidden mechanisms); simulations (allow to understand what happens when); communications to connect with communities, resources, and experts; videos; visual interfaces to access and analyse data; sharing data with real audiences; embedded assessments. Needed: Technologies should not be stand-alone but integrated across disciplines, grades and time (learning trajectories); used for learning and assessment; used by teachers and students; used in and out of school. Learning often happens during the interaction between community members while using technology - make that part of the design.

Some good examples:
-Students learn about chemistry through the challenge of improving the air quality in their community.
-Students learn about the process of science by improving cooking recipes.

How can Learning Sciences research gain more influence?
1) Practice what we preach! e.g. in teacher education courses, curriculum design
2) Building on each others' work to focus on integration: Work on coordinated projects. Integrate findings.
3) Shift towards implementing research in the community: Work with interpreters and integrators (who take the best of our ideas and products and hold them into integrated platforms and packages). Not every researcher has to take research to practice, but all should be willing to make their findings and products available.
4) In order to successfully implement technology in the classroom, teachers need to know how to use it.
5) We need to evaluate under what circumstances technology and instructional strategies are effective: First, identify why and under what circumstances technology works effectively in small trials (understand affordances and challenges); second, large controlled random trials; third, implement your innovative product (scale up, but not before rigorous testing). To make implementations successful, they need appropriate teacher professional development.
6) Work on what's important: Start by identifying challenges of national or international importance.
7) Learning science research should draw from at least three different literatures (cross- and inter-disciplinary), otherwise your work is not important enough.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Visualizing Western Philosophy

Simon Raper used Wikipedia and gephi to generate a graph the shows which philosopher influenced one another. Building on social network analysis, the graph can be used to identify most influencial philosophers (not surprisingly, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche).

The original blog post also describes the procedure how the graph was generated:

Network of Western Philosophers (Click here to enlarge)
[Created by Simon Raper]
People interested in a dynamic visualization of Western Philosophy (with a focus on education) might be interested in this Webbrain (Click on a term to read the notes below or type a search term in the box):

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Advanced google search tips

Introduction to Genetics Video

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Weird science toy: Kangaroo Egg

Kangaroo Egg
An example of a highly confusing "science toy" (found in the gift store of the otherwise recommendable Australian Reptile Park): The "Kangaroo Egg"! 

Children are  instructed to put the kangaroo egg into a glass of water to watch a "pet kangaroo" hatch within 48h. Ironically, the emerging kangaroo carries a joey (baby kangaroo) in its pouch. How confusing is that! There is no explanatory text on the box that would clarify that kangaroos are marsupials that do not lay eggs.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Concept maps as knowledge integration tools for evolution education [Talk]

I presented a study from my dissertation (open access here) at the CoCo seminar at the University of Sydney. My talk focused on the implementation and iterative development of concept maps as collaborative tools to support the integration of concepts of evolution.

I used TheBrain as a presentation tool in combination with a SmartBoard. The Adobe Connect recording of my talk is available here. My TheBrain mindmap is available online here or see embedded dynamic map below (Click on the nodes to explore).


Monday, June 4, 2012

Amazing giraffe necked insect from Madagaskar

The male giraffe weevil (Trachelophorus giraffa) has an unusually extended neck (used for combat).

Find more stunning pictures and information about the giraffe weevil here: The Remarkable Giraffe Weevil of Madagascar ~ The Ark In Space:

'via Blog this'

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The dark side of augmented reality

Augmented Reality (Source:
Augmented reality, for example by wearing google googles, adds a digital layer to your surroundings. You can see superimposed information about buildings, people, shopping, directions, news, etc.

This New Scientist article (see below) discusses the possible dark sides of augmented reality: Digital graffiti, cyber-bullying, digital political demonstrations, or cyber-stalking.

Law makers need to catch up to regulate the use of augmented reality information - and hopefully find a sensible balance between giving users creative freedom and protecting them.

Augmented reality offers a new layer of intrigue - opinion - 25 May 2012 - New Scientist:

'via Blog this'

Identifying factors for longevity

Longevity (Source:
A 2012 Scientific American article (see link below) reported that certain genes, more precisely SNPs, occur more frequently in people who live over a 100 years than in a random population sample.

However, twin studies suggest that genetics only account for approximately 20-30% of an individual's chance of surviving to age 85.

Research by the Blue Zones research project suggests that environmental factors such as diet and a supportive community are important to live a long life.

Live Long and Proper: Genetic Factors Associated with Increased Longevity Identified: Scientific American:

'via Blog this'

Friday, May 25, 2012

Online free reading speed test

This quick and free online reading speed test extrapolates how quickly you could finish a book or how many eBooks you could read on a full battery load.

USA fails to make progress in STEM education

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education
The recent annual "Condition of Education" report stated that there has been a marked increase over the last two decades in the percent of high school graduates who had taken calculus, from 7 percent in 1990 to 16 percent in 2009. 

However, there is a sharp drop in the number of students interested in pursuing science and mathematics once they completed their requirements.

Despite many costly education reforms (such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Race to the Top"), current high school students perform the same on a national math and reading assessment than they did in the early 1970s.

Read more here:

From knowledge hierarchies to networks

Manuel Lima is a Senior UX Design Lead at Microsoft Bing and founder of

In his RSA talk, Lima discusses a epistemological paradigm shift from hierarchical tree structures (what philosopher Deleuse calls "arborescent") where branches are separate from each other to networks (what Deleuse calls "rhizomatic") where everything can be connected to everything with no top or bottom.