I challenge you to prove learning styles are real!

I’ve often referred to learning styles as one of the great unicorns in education. If you believe they are real, I challenge you to prove it! We currently have no evidence they exist and we have plenty of learning theories, with tons of evidence, showing how we learn. Those theories are contrary to learning styles. So if you don’t believe what I am telling you, what the research shows, please prove me wrong! I dare you! In fact, this site, worklearning.com will actually pay you $5,000 if you can prove they are real! So let me tell you how to do it if you are inclined to prove me wrong!

How to prove learning styles are real:

  • 1. Select a learning style test. There are 100s so you need to pick one. Each defines learning styles differently (just the start of the nonsense that is learning styles)
  • 2. Show validity and reliability evidence for the test (i describe in the video below how to do this)
  • 3. Give the test to participants and divide them into 2 groups (ie visual vs kinesthetic)
  • 4. Have at least 35 people in each group
  • 5. Develop content for each group. For one group, use only their learning style. For example, for the visual group develop only visual content. Then for the kinesthetic group use both visual and verbal content.
  • 6. Test participants on high (problem solving) and low (factual) content and compare results. You must prove that learning style made a difference. So you would need the visual group to perform best.

What do you think the results will be?

If you believe in learning styles and choose to ignore all research: You would believe that the Kinesthetic group should do terrible. They learn best with hands on activities. The visual group will do better because they are getting visual content.

If you believe is 1000s of research studies we currently have, all data, all evidence: The kinesthetic group will outperform the visual group on factual and problem solving knowledge. Why? Because we know that people learn better from visual and audio vs just visual. Learning style, learning preference, etc. has no bearing on this. You can say you are a visual learner, hands on learner, etc all you want but it doesn’t matter. You will perform well when you have well designed instruction regardless of what you think your learning style is.

And if you think the content was unfair since the kinesthetic group had visual + audio narration, just give both groups the same visual content and guess what, they will both perform the same. The visual group would NOT outperform the other group. Learning styles do NOT matter because they aren’t real. We have countless studies showing this phenomenon.

Here is a video that walks you through this:

 

Long story short – My son accidentally spent $450 on phone apps

Yes it happened. My 6 yr old spent $450 on apps by mistake. Well not really by mistake, he just didn’t know he was actually buying them. Considering I teach people how to protect themselves and their children while online, this was quite embarrassing.

How it happened: My wife went to buy an app for him and accidentally turned off parental controls (this is what we think happened).

What he did: He bought several apps as well as in game add ons, like fake money, that could be used for in game purchases. There were several $100 charges for in game cash.

How I found out: Google emailed me thanking me for my purchase and then paypal contacted me telling me there was unusual activity

How did I solve the problem:

1. I checked the tablet and turned parental controls back on (they were off)

2. I contacted google who refunded all of the money within minutes

What did we do to my son: We used this as a learning experience for all of them (I have 3 kids). He was 6 so didn’t quite get what he was doing. My 8 yr old would of known full well what he was doing. So we spent some time going through all of the rules (though we have done this many times)

Here is a video where I explain the whole situation in more detail:

Is Fortnite appropriate for kids?

My son, 8 yrs old, is begging to play this game (fortnite). Apparently he is the only kid in his class that is not allowed to play it, which is ironic considering I am probably the only parent in the class that plays it! Having said that, he will finally be allowed this Oct when he turns 9. I believe he is finally ready. But no way is my 6 yr old allowed. He is not ready. He is not mature enough.

My biggest suggestion to parents – please monitor each game your child wants to play. Here is my 5 point plan for monitoring a specific game:

  1. Ask your child if its appropriate
  2. Google the game and check out some reviews
  3. Look at the game website and/or app store to read the description
  4. Check out the game rating
  5. Play the game yourself

Honestly, I can do all of this in 20-30 minutes. Yes it takes up my time but its well worth it. I have to block about 20% of games that my son asks to play. I enjoy games so I don’t mind learning about them. Plus I can talk to him about the game and see what it is about it that interests him. Check out the following video where I discuss Fortnite and how it is/is not appropriate for kids:

Students are back…and many are undecided

The students are back. UNCW admitted 2100 freshmen – Wow that’s a lot. It’s a very exciting time for these students. I don’t usually teach undergraduates and when I do they are juniors/seniors so I never get to see when they are still figuring things out. But for those that new to college and not sure what you want to do my advice is this…

Take a bunch of classes in different subjects to see what you want to do

Figure out which type of jobs each major leads to

Figure out what kind of salaries each major leads to

Figure out what students in the majors are actually doing when they graduate

Talk to faculty about your future goals and steps to get there

Then ask yourself what would you enjoy doing for the rest of your life. Keep in mind that you aren’t getting your dream job out of college (well maybe you will buy many will not) and figure out the path to get there. Meet with faculty and take advantage of what the college has to offer. Too many students pick a major they might not like just because they think it might lead to a good career. A good career comes out of passion and hard work. So choose wisely…you can only change careers so many times…sometimes you can’t.

How to evaluate a professor’s teaching

This is a very good question. I recently wrote a blog post on how professors are evaluated based on students reactions to the course (as in do they like you are not). Unfortunately when doing an evaluation, this is least important compared to other criteria (not that its not important just that in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t tell you much). In that post I discussed how you properly evaluate a course by doing the following:

Step 1 – Student reactions. Did students like the training, process, course, instructor? This is the lowest and least important level. It doesn’t tell us if the course, instructor, or training was effective at all. This is the only thing student evaluations measure. Thus faculty are critiqued on whether students liked them or not. Not whether they actually taught anything at all.

Step 2 – Learning. Did the students learn what was taught? This is pretty important. If they learned the content then the course was effective. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 3 – Transfer. Are students able to apply what was learned to their jobs? This is very important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Step 4 – ROI (return on investment). Was the training worth it? What were the benefits of the training? This is extremely important. This is not measured on student evaluations.

Personally, I only look at step’s 3 and 4 when evaluating myself. They are difficult to obtain but I periodically check on my graduates and they tell me what was useful, what they got from my courses, and they thank me for courses or information that they may have not appreciated at the time but then did when they started their careers. This is the exact feedback we all need to hear. All of my courses and materials are geared towards a career in instructional technology and design – so they are all practical and project based. I teach the students how to work, handle/respond to situations and clients, and how to excel in their careers. So I hope that my students give me that type of feedback but you never know until you ask and unfortunately we are not asking. So when doing a professor evaluation we should be looking at those important factors, not just popularity. I should note that my reaction/popularity scores are always good. I just feel that they do not tell me anything.

Having said that, when I fill out my annual performance charts I usually only have step 1 from above, provided by the school along with some quotes from alumni who lead me to believe step 3 and 4 were met. However, I do not think those quotes are really examined as part of my teaching because they are qualitative and not everyone will take them seriously. So I write this to call on faculty to start demanding that we examine whether learning took place, if the students are using it, and was the class worth it. Otherwise why are we teaching it (the topic or course)? Maybe there is justification (as in its an intro course that is needed to get to the more advanced topics and thats fine). But it’s something we need to consider. The teacher with the highest step 1 may not teach the students anything and this is a problem. As a result I am personally going to start doing a few things…

1. Do a pre and post test of content in my courses. This will evaluate student learning and will be objective (true/false or mult choice) and will measure low and high level knowledge. This will measure course objectives. This will tell me if students learned or not as I can compare the scores.

2. Send out annual or biannual surveys to my alumni asking them for input into how my courses and program is impacting them. What information are they using? What didn’t they get from courses that they needed?

I believe this information should be required of all faculty but since it’s not I will start collecting it and providing it for myself for my peace of mind. Hopefully I can start a trend here into better accountability for my own teaching and that of others.

Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Conference at UNCW

I encourage everyone to check out the Academically Intellectually Gifted (AIG) Conference at UNCW 4.17.2015. The focus is on technology being utilized to support learning. There are several really great presenters that I am excited to watch. I will also be doing a presentation on trends in gaming and gamification in K-16 classrooms. Space is limited so please book soon. Here is the link to the website – http://uncw.edu/ed/aig/conferences.html

Gaming in the classroom

I was recently interviewed on gaming in the classroom by WHQR radio. It was about a teacher implementing classcraft in their classroom. You can read the full interview here

Here is the transcript:

In a Wilmington classroom, students transform into some surprising characters—healers, mages, and warriors. WHQR’s Isabelle Shepherd reports that a virtual game is preparing fourth grade math students at Alderman Elementary School for the realworld.

Toth: “Alright, let’s take a seat real quick because we have a busy day.”

Students: “Yay! Yay! I like busy.”

Classcraft is a role-playing game, designed to be used as a classroom management tool. By working game mechanics into an educational setting, the virtual program has real world consequences and rewards for students.

Brian Toth, the math instructor at Alderman, recently implemented the game in his classroom.  He’s currently the only teacher using it at the school.  Toth becomes the Game Master in Classcraft.  When his students answer hard questions and do well on homework assignments, he can grant them experience points, which kids can use to cast spells.  These spells are rewards for the students, providing various perks, such as going to lunch early, using their notes on a test, or protecting their teammate from damage caused by bad behavior. Damage hits can lead to consequences like silent recess.

According to Toth, Classcraft takes up minimal time—about three minutes at the beginning of class and one or two minutes at the end when he totals up the students’ points.  The day’s lesson begins with a random event.  Toth says this engages the students immediately:

“They sit there, they cross their fingers, because some of the random events are positive, some of them are negative where people can lose health points or people can lose experience points. So, they never know; it’s just a random event.  They look forward to that at the beginning of the day. Right after that, they get to use their spells that they can get from leveling up. So they all raise their hands and I’ll go one by one, and they can use a spell, whatever spell they have. So they’re looking forward to that.”

Toth: “We are going to, uh, do our Classcraft stuff first. So we’re going to do our random event of the day. Alright, ready? 3, 2, 1… Human Shield: A random player takes all the damage for the class but gains 300 experience points.”

Students: “What? Yay! That’s a good one. That’s a good one.”

The random event does more than help focus students. It teaches them a life lesson. That’s according to Dr. Raymond Pastore, a UNCW professor who researches computer-based tools and gaming in education:

“Well, it teaches them that things aren’t always going to be equal, that there are random things that are going to happen. And that’s no different than real life. And that’s what happens when you’re playing a game. Sometimes things are going to happen that are out of your control, that are unlucky, and what it teaches you is, “How do I deal with this? How am I going to come back from this?”

Patrick Harrison, the technology assistant at Alderman, has a tattoo of an autobot from Transformers on his arm. He says he’s seen this life lesson about bouncing back play out in the classroom:

“There’s one student that is a perennial complainer that got silent recess as his random event.  It spun up, that’s what he got.  Even him, as a kid that will complain if you look at him funny, he just sat and was there for recess, and didn’t complain, didn’t get upset, just did it.  Later, he said, ‘That’s part of the game.  That’s how it works.’”

Individual rewards and consequences are just one component of Classcraft.  In order to succeed in the game, the whole team has to work together.  Instructional technology professor Pastore says Classcraft promotes cooperation, which is valuable in a corporate context:

“If you go into any corporate, large company, any Fortune 100 company and you ask them how important teamwork is, it’s going to be at the top of the list, way at the top of the list because playing politics, learning how to deal with people, learning how to pick up the slack for people is huge. Learning how to communicate with all kinds of people is a huge skill that, I don’t want to say it’s not taught, but it’s only taught through teamwork and experience.”

But students will inevitably move on to classes without Classcraft.  Will they still be motivated to succeed without the game?  Harrison says it’s like any other strategy teachers use; they just have to hope that some of the lessons stick:

“That’s your hope with anything that you’re teaching. Any teacher has got their methods and their ideas and their things that they’re going through, that they’re pushing. And all that we can do is hope that some of it will sink in.”

Instructional Design Hourly Rates

Many students (and former students) ask what they should be charging clients when they do contract work (and I have to figure this out when I am working on a proposal). Hourly rates in instructional design can vary widely (and they should). Rates should vary by task and client. First lets start with some of the  numbers then lets get into more specific reasons to choose an hourly rate.

First, the average instructional design salary is around $78,000 a year in the US. So if we were to calculate an hourly rate based on that it would be $36 and hour (which is 78k a year) but we would add 30% for benefits and retirement, which means that the average instructional design hourly rate should be around $47 an hour. However, given that contract work is not guaranteed and sometimes part time, this rate should be around $50-$60 an hour.

Now there are some other statistics. eLearning.net reports that instructional designers typically charge anywhere from $20-$90 an hour. And this will vary based on task, quality, and speed. They report that most of the foreign companies charging $20-$30 an hour purposely take longer on tasks and do not provide the quality that someone charging $50 and hour would do. Additionally given the role instructional designers play, outsourcing to a foreign country has not worked well for many that have tried it due to the language and time barriers – its very tough for a subject matter expert at your company to have meetings with someone who has a 12 hr time difference and doesn’t know how to put american culture into the training.

Finally, and most importantly elearn Magazine has created this image which shows some numbers by task. Keep in mind this is from 2007 but it does show how different tasks and clients should demand different rates.

So here is a list I have comprised based on stats and my own experience. These should vary based on the task at hand, the quality expected, experience of the contractor, location, and client:

1. Business strategy, proposals, needs analysis, needs assessment – $100-$250 an hour

2. Simple Design (articulate, captivate, PPT) – $60-$100 an hour

3. Advanced Design (simulations and games) – $75-$150 an hour

4. Development with Articulate, Captivate, or other authoring tools -$35-$70 an hour

5. Development that includes programming, Flash, HTML5 – $60-$125 an hour

6. Implementation – $50 an hour

7. Evaluation – $75-$250 an hour