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Topic: platforms for educational software
Replies: 15   Last Post: Jun 26, 2013 6:17 PM

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Registered: 12/6/04
Re: platforms for educational software
Posted: Jun 25, 2013 11:58 AM
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Posted: Jun 21, 2013 7:48 PM by Michael Mossey:

> I think my niche is going to be helping students
> whose thinking style is not adaptive to math, .. i.e.
> students who struggle or have learning "disorders"
> although I don't like the word "disorder."

> >From reviewing the free math games and apps on the
> web, it looks like everything is aimed at students
> who have a secure facility up to some level, and the
> app takes them to the next level. But what of
> students who don't feel secure in anything? Perhaps I
> can find an underserved niche.
> Mike

By the way, Mike, you can mostly ignore any garbage you read about "learning styles". I don't know why the educational community glommed onto that one so tightly. Probably once again an oversimplification of a rather complex topic, which seems to happen quite frequently in educational circles. Really, does it make any sense? A student has difficulty with a certain modality, so let's just ignore that pesky little problem? Lou's baseball analogy was a good one - if there is a weakness, do more with it not less.

More importantly, "learning styles" are not that compartmentalized; none of us can be characterized so completely one way or another, nor do we learn best along a single mental track; we learn best when different areas of our brain are lit up and working together. "Neurons that fire together wire together" as neuroscientists say. So instead of learning styles, think multisensory, all modalities at once as much as possible, with the student actively engaged herself, not just watching and listening. That way, you can tap into her strengths while working on the weaknesses, and form those all-important connections between different areas of the brain. More and more research shows the benefits of multisensory teaching for learning and perhaps especially for remembering what is learned.

Thinking multisensorally, computer software is limiting. Even interactive programs are not as engaging of all of the senses (or conversely too engaging of some modalities, becoming perceptually overwhelming). Think of how babies explore their new world through touch and taste. Even as adults, if we see something new and interesting, are we as satisfied if we can only explore it visually or do we want to reach out and touch it or hold it in our hands? We are sensory beings living in and evolving from a 3-D world, so our brains learn best in that 3-D world.

(Note that writing with pencil and paper [or better yet with various mediums] is in itself a multisensory experience, engaging vision and auditory and language centers of the brain, as well as the motor cortex and somatosensory cortex. And, we hope, the frontal lobes and prefrontal cortex as the student thinks and reasons and organizes information. The physical act of writing is one of the most complex tasks we ask of our brain.)

I don't mean to be a damper, but I have not yet found any software or programs that satisfy my students' needs as learners. The programs move too fast or too slow, are either too simplistic and boring or too overwhelming of my students' perceptual abilities, are too passive or too interactive (again overwhelming perceptual abilities or too distracting), too focused on particular skills or too all-encompassing, and never adaptable enough. I have to be able to turn on a dime when working with a student, addressing foreseen or unforeseen obstacles as they happen, and adjusting the speed of delivery of information to meet their needs in the moment.

Most learning differences occur as a result of impaired perceptual processing, with each student's impairment somewhat unique, so writing software to address the needs of LD students will be a challenge. I applaud and very much appreciate your goals but I think you will be more successful if you take some time to delve deeply into learning about LDs and the impact on learning and processing, and if you work with many different students, maybe exploring how your students interact with the many computer programs and visual aids that are already out there, so that you can see the pitfalls (such as the one you already noted - currently available games tend to assume a certain level of facility).


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