KurzweilAI.net Accelerating Intelligence News

Pic of the Week: Dubai Cruise

Pic of the Week: Dubai  Cruise
Cruising past Atlantis, Dubai October 09

How the machine is changing us

Music Vid of the Week: "Swollen" By Bent

Listen to Songs, Digital Stories and Gavin's Film Music

America 3000 Trailer

"It is 900 years after the Great Nuke and the roles of women have changed dramatically, much to the displeasure of men and mutants."

Bubba Ho-Tep Trailer

The Hidden Cost of War

globalhumour video - MAD TV: The iRack

"Night Flight" by GlobalMantra

Monday, June 09, 2008

What's special about my research? OR how I learned to love Stimulated Recall.

What is Stimulated Recall?

A few years ago I was lucky enough to do some professional development with Dr John Edwards of Edwards Exploration. John Edwards is an Australian from Brisbane and has worked with Edward DeBono, particularly in the area of thinking and learning. During his sessions he disccussed how he used a method called "stimulated recall" when studying in-class thinking.

How it worked was that students were video taped during a science lesson about the jaw of a prehistoric horse. There were two video cameras, one pointing at the student, and another pointed at the teacher. After the lesson was over, the two video feeds were put through a video mixer and the student was able to see him/herself as well as the teacher during the lesson. The student had the ability to stop and start the playback, and said what he or she was thinking during specific parts of the lesson. This dialogue was transcribed and analysed.

What they discovered was what we suspected all along. Students thinking during a lesson was all over the place. One example was a girl, who, as soon a she heard the word "horse" was then off in her mind riding her horse and jumping fences. She took in very little of the lesson at all. I loved the expression a "sea of blah", which was how the teacher's talking through the lesson was described. Certain words were a trigger for the thinking which would then go off on a tangent.

Here is a snippet from Dr John Edwards:

"The way we get this data is by using a technique called stimulated recall (Marland: 1984, O'Brien: 1993). A video camera placed at the back of the room follows the teacher wherever the teacher goes. A second camera at the front of the room is focused on the children we are studying, and a microphone is placed so that the talk of both students and teacher is recorded. The two images are put through a video mixer so that both appear on the same screen. At the end of the lesson we make rapid copies of that split screen tape and use it to interview individual children about what they were thinking during the lesson.

So I interview one child while fellow researchers separately interview others. The child presses play on the tape and says what they were thinking. For example, the teacher says something and the child presses pause and says "When he said that I was thinking this and that and the other". They then restart the tape until they pause it again: "see there, when I was reaching down into my bag - I was getting so and so out of my bag and thinking ...." or "There I am talking to my neighbour, she said this to me and I said this to her, and I was thinking this and then that" and on it goes...you get a stream of consciousness recall of their thinking in the lesson. These interviews are recorded and transcribed. It is very rich illuminative data.
Let me take you for a gentle stroll through the minds of some children in a grade eleven Biology classroom in North Queensland (Edwards and Marland: 1982).

Yvonne says: "There's just bits and pieces of it that do sink in but most of it just kind of doesn't register. I do usually get the important bits, 'cause you just learn to kind of half listen and half not listen, just in case he does ask you a question, and you just learn to do it, 'cause there's always his voice there."

Isn't that delightful, - "There's always his voice there."

It is like a security blanket. What I call the sea of blah.
The teacher stands at the front of the room and blahs all over the place - blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The sea of blah fills the room and the students bob up and down in this sea. Every now and again they go under and take a gulp then bob up again for air, and then down again. The gulps are somewhat random. So students spend their days gulping from the sea of blah.

What do they ingest from the sea of blah? Well here is one example from this classroom. The teacher is teaching a Biology lesson about the jawbone of an ancient horse. He says: "Today we are going to study the jaw bone of an ancient horse." Yvonne is a horse enthusiast and she “goes off” jumping hurdles on her horse, on a mental tangent, she's gone.

In the post-lesson interview she cannot remember the teacher's words and instead describes to me the feelings she gets as she goes over the hurdles, during her mental tangent in the lesson. The teacher then says: "The Latin name for this horse is...." and one of the other students is a Latin enthusiast, so off he goes thinking about all the Latin words he knows. All the while the teacher continues to teach Biology - Yvonne is mentally jumping hurdles on her horse and Oscar is thinking about Latin words. What we found was a bewildering array of attention patterns.

When a teacher says "I've got them with me", I would suggest the teacher needs to think again - you never have them all with you! Just as I do not have all of you with me constantly today.

From every delivered lecture using the sea of blah technique each listener takes home a different story.
The reason is that when you come back from your mental tangent, all that I have been saying has gone. You can't press rewind and then play it back. All the words have gone.

This is where books and computers have a great advantage over us as information givers. The best analogy I can give you is to imagine you are reading your favourite novel, you go off on a mental tangent, when you come back half of the page has just vanished. Imagine the frustration. That is what sea of blah learning is like for the listeners. Yet teacher talk is the major mode of instruction still in schools (see, for example, Goodlad: 1984) and universities across the world, even though we all know better.

If you must use sea of blah techniques I recommend that every 7 to 10 minutes you stop and give the students what I call a one-minute perception check. One minute where you stop and let the students think about what you have been saying. They can wake if they have been sleeping or dreaming, check understanding with their neighbour, reflect for themselves, or just take a break from intensive information processing, whatever.

The point is, they will take the breaks whether you offer them or not. So why not use them to everyone's advantage? Students can have the technique explained to them, and then learn to use it powerfully in teacher-centred lessons. It is also great for teachers as it helps them to plan and monitor the flow of their lessons. Allowing students time for mental processing encourages a new technique I am trying to introduce into Australian classrooms: it is called learning.".

How could I utilise this method of research?

When I was grappling with my research - studying the socio-cultural learning while taking six year 9 students in to an internet cafe and playing "Rappelz" - a Massive Multiplayer Online Game. I was trying to document their socio-cultural interaction both in the room, and from within the game -quite complex and daunting! I had an epiphany that I could use what John Edwards had told us about all those years ago.

So I set up a video camera in the room and taped their conversations while they were playing. I also used desktop screen capture software to capture each player's screen while they were playing.

Of course this was a multi-player game, so often I was getting the interactions of players working together within the game. I then interviewed the players watching themselves play the game. They talked about what they were thinking while they were playing. I then transcribed these interviews and analysed them looking for evidence of James Gee's 36 learning principles.

What video games have to teach us about Learning and Literacy - James Paul Gee

My problem was remembering and understanding the principles when trying to make connections between the complex behaviors in the game. At one point in my research, when faced with the enormity of the job I had set myself, a friend suggested colour coding the principles and attaching colour coded digital "stickies" to the dialogue in the transcripts - this was my breakthrough. I made each of these in a word document as colored text boxes, which I was then able to copy and paste into the transcripts.

I was able to analyse sections of dialogue, scan the coloured digital "stickes" of the learning priciples and attach them with a click and drag. Then I began a quantitative exercise. I counted the ocuurence of the "stickies' and looked for patterns.

Some fascinating evidence came out - briefly, here are some examples:

The learning in video games is active and critical - students are constantly doing and then reflecting on their actions.

Students are constantly probing in a video game - that is doing, thinking and strategising.
Probing is where they are exploring the game, and trying out different hypotheses, their consequential actions are then based on the outcome of that experiment.

Semiotics - or how symbols have meaning - Game playing is complex and layered, students are constantly making connections between symbols, objects, text, behaviours, actions and reactions.

Learning can be random - the nature of the game environment means students can follow hunches, change their mind, reject common pathways and find their own way, take multiple ruoutes to get to the same place -they get to do things their way.

The learning in games is constantly challenging, yet never too hard to achieve.

The learning is ongoing with new skills to be mastered at each level, with tasks neither being too easy or too hard.

They are rewarded for achievement and encouraged to practice and to make mistakes, without severe consequences.

Often the rewards are amplified - so they seem to get more out than what they put in.

And yes there are gender differences in how boys and girls play!
  • Boys are often more competitive and pragmatic - they are goal driven - often good at "getting there first", by learning the fastest way to a place or the most efficient way to gain points, health and power.
  • Girls tend to play "together", they enjoy moving through in a group or in pairs and exploring the environments, yes especially their inventory and wardrobe!
  • Girls will explore their environment and often discover quirky or interesting ways to do things, often "out-smarting" the boys.
  • Boys will often "win" at all costs, but will often not have as much fun exploring on the way.
  • Boys will often appreciate the way the girls play and quickly take on what the girls have discovered.
  • Girls and Boys enhance each others methods and make great teams.
One example - The boys could not understand why the girls were beating the pants off them in a quest. The girls were moving over the terrain much more quickly. It turned out that one of the girls had discovered how to go into her inventory and "remove" her clothes.

The focus of the boys was building up armour and weapons, but of course this made them heavier and slower - the girls had discovered that they could temporarily "take off" their armour and run faster. Once the group worked out what they had done, this method spread througout the group and they all started doing it - like monkeys washing the potatoes!

It is difficult to find stuff on "Stimulated Recall" on the net - here are some links I found.

Stimulated Recall Methodology in Second Language Research
Action research through stimulated recall
The Stimulated Recall Technique A Qualitative Evaluation of an In-Service Workshop

No one that I can find is using Stimulated Recall in digital ethnography. Perhaps the work of Mike Wesch comes into this arena. I would be interested if anyone else has heard of this being used as a research tool, as I would like to build on this methodology - perhaps for my Masters in Computer Games in Education!

This is a movie by Mike Wesch: The Machine is Us/ing Us:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Here I am graduating with my Bachelor of Teaching and Learning from Canterbury University on the 7th December 2007 in Rotorua.

I passed my Graduate Diploma of ICT in Education, which was credited to my degree.

I am now taking up my exciting new position at Onslow College.

I will be an eLearning facilitator, with a brief to establish creative projects with staff and students. My e-mail is likely to be gavin.mclean@onslow.school.nz

Home is now in Belmont in Lower Hutt. We have rented out our lovely villa in Napier and are now up in the hills of Belmont with the Tuis and Moreporks.

Keep an eye out as I will be posting some of my projects!

Monday, October 01, 2007

James Paul Gee's 36 Learning Principles at work in Computer Games

James Paul Gee has compared the learning and literacy in video games to the learning and literacy in both effective and non-effective classrooms. "What video games have to teach us about Learning and Literacy" is about the possibility that video games are the forerunners of instructional tools that will determine how we learn in the future.

The 36 Learning Principles in “good” video games.

This is a list of learning principles that are built into good video games. The first five principles are very basic ones, since quite a number of other principles that are implicated in the earlier discussion are discussed in greater detail in the later principles.

The order of the principles is not important. All the principles are equally important, or nearly so. Some of the principles overlap and, in actuality, reflect different aspects of much the same general theme. Furthermore, these principles are not claims about all and any video games played in any old fashion.

Rather, they are claims about the potential of good video games played in environments that encourage overt reflection. (While good video games do indeed encourage overt reflection, this feature can be greatly enhanced by the presence of others, both players and viewers.)

Each principle is stated in a way that is intended to be equally relevant to learning in video games and learning in content areas in classrooms.

  1. Active, Critical Learning principle

All aspects of the learning environment (including the ways in which the semiotic domain is designed and presented) are set up to encourage active and critical, not passive, learning.

  1. Design Principle

Learning about and coming to appreciate design and design principles is core to the learning experience.

  1. Semiotic Principle

Learning about and coming to appreciate interrelations within and across multiple sign systems (images, words, actions, symbols, artifacts, etc) as a complex system is core to the learning experience.

  1. Semiotic Domains Principle

Learning involves mastering, at some level, semiotic domains, and being able to participate, at some level, in the affinity group or groups connected to them.

  1. Metalevel Thinking about Semiotic Domains Principle

Learning involves active and critical thinking about the relationship of the semiotic domain being learned to other semiotic domains.

  1. “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle

Learners can take risks in a space where real-world consequences are lowered.

  1. Committed Learning Principle

Learners participate in an extended engagement (lots of effort and practice) as extensions of their real-world identities in relation to a virtual identity to which they feel some commitment and a virtual world that they find compelling.

  1. Identity Principle

Learning involves taking on and playing with identities in such a way that the learner has real choices (in developing the virtual identity) and ample opportunity to meditate on the relationship between new identities and old ones. There is a tripartite play of identities as learners relate, and reflect on, their multiple real-world identities, a virtual identity, and a projective identity.

  1. Self Knowledge Principle

The virtual world is constructed in such a way that learners learn not only about the domain but about themselves and their current potential capacities.

  1. Amplification of Input Principle

For little input, learners get a lot of output.

  1. Achievement Principle

For learners of all levels there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customised to each learner’s level, effort and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements.

  1. Practice Principle

Learners get lots and lots of practice in a context where the practice is not boring (i.e. in a virtual world that is compelling to learners on their own terms and where the learners experience ongoing success). They spend lots of time on task.

  1. Ongoing Learning Principle

The distinction between learner and master is vague, since learners, thanks to the operation of the “regime of competence” principle listed next, must, at higher and higher levels, undo their routinised mastery to adapt to new or changed conditions. There are cycles of new learning, automisation, undoing automisation, and new re-organised automisation.

  1. “Regime of Competence” Principle.

The learner gets ample opportunity to operate within, but at the outer edge of, his or her resources, so that at those points things are felt as challenging but not “undoable”.

  1. Probing Principle

Learning is a cycle of probing the world (doing something); reflecting in and on this action and, on this basis, forming a hypothesis; reprobing the world to test this hypothesis; and then accepting or rethinking the hypothesis.

  1. Multiple Routes Principle

There are multiple ways to make progress or move ahead. This allows learners to make choices, rely on their own strengths and styles of learning and problem solving, while also exploring alternative styles.

  1. Situated Meaning Principle

The meanings of signs (words, actions, objects, artefacts, symbols, texts etc) are situated in embodied experience. Meanings are not general or decontextualised. Whatever generality meanings come to have is discovered bottom up via embodied experiences.

  1. Text principle

Texts are not understood purely verbally (i.e. only in terms of the definitions of the words in the text and their text-internal relationships to each other) but are understood in terms of embodied experiences. Learners move back and forth between texts and embodied experiences. More purely verbal understanding (reading texts apart from embodied action) comes only when learners have had enough embodied experience in the domain and ample experiences with similar texts.

  1. Intertextual Principle

The learner understands texts as a family (“genre”) of related texts and understands any one such text in relation to others in the family, but only after having achieved embodied understandings of some texts. Understanding a group of texts as a family (genre) of texts is a large part of what helps the learner make sense of such texts.

  1. Multimodal Principle

Meaning and knowledge are built up through various modalities (images, texts, symbols, interactions, abstract design, sound, etc), not just words.

  1. “Material Intelligence” Principle

Thinking, problem solving and knowledge are “stored” in material objects and the environment. This frees the learners to engage their minds with other things while combining the results of their own thinking with the knowledge stored in material objects and the environment to achieve yet more powerful effects.

  1. Intuitive Knowledge Principle

Intuitive or tacit knowledge built up in repeated practice and experience, often in association with an affinity group, counts a great deal and is honored. Not just verbal and conscious knowledge is rewarded.

  1. Subset Principle

Learning even at its start takes place in a (simplified) subset of the real domain.

  1. Incremental Principal

Learning situations are ordered in the early stages so that earlier cases lead to generalisations that are fruitful for later cases. When learners face more complex cases later, the learning space (the number and type of guesses the learner can make) is constrained by the sorts of fruitful patterns or generalisation the learner has found earlier.

  1. Concentrated Sample Principle

The learner sees, especially early on, many more instances of fundamental signs and actions than would be the case in a less controlled sample. Fundamental signs and actions are concentrated in the early stages so that learners get to practice them often and learn them well.

  1. Bottom-up Basic Skills Principle

Basic skills are not learned in isolation or out of context, rather, what counts as a basic skill is discovered bottom up by engaging in more and more of the game/domain or game/domains like it. Basic skills are genre elements of a given type of game/domain.

  1. Explicit Information On-Demand and Just-in-Tine Principle

The learner is given explicit information both on-demand and just-in-time, when the learner needs it or just at the point where the information can best be understood and used in practice.

  1. Discovery Principle

Overt telling is kept to a well-thought-out minimum, allowing ample opportunity for the learner to experiment and make discoveries.

  1. Transfer Principle

Learners are given ample opportunity to practice, and support for, transferring what they have learned earlier to later problems, including problems that require adapting and transforming that earlier learning.

  1. Cultural Models about the World Principle

Learning is set up in such a way that learners come to think consciously and reflectively about some of their cultural models regarding the world, without denigrations of their identities, abilities or social affiliations, and juxtapose them to new models that may conflict with or otherwise relate to them in various ways.

  1. Cultural Models about Learning Principle

Learning is set up in such a way that learners come to think consciously and reflectively about their cultural models of learning and themselves as learners, without denigration of their identities, abilities, or social affiliations, and juxtapose them to new models of learning and themselves as learners.

  1. Cultural Models about Semiotic Domains Principle

Learning is set up in such a way that learners come to think consciously and reflectively about their cultural models about a particular semiotic domain they are learning, without denigration of their identities, abilities, or social affiliations, and juxtapose them to new models about this domain.

  1. Distributed Principle

Meaning/knowledge is distributed across the learner, objects, tools, symbols, technologies, and the environment.

  1. Dispersed Principle

Meaning/knowledge is dispersed in the sense that the learner shares it with others outside the domain/game, some of whom the learner may rarely or never see face to face.

35. Affinity Group Principle

Learners constitute an “affinity group”, that is, a group that is bonded primarily through shared endeavors, goals, and practices and not shared race, gender, nation, ethnicity or culture.

36. The insider Principle

The learner is an “insider”, “teacher”, and “producer” (not just a “consumer”) able to customise the learning experience and domain/game from the beginning and throughout the experience.

My challenge is to now analyse the data gathered during my study and see if I can find evidence of the existence of these 36 Learning Principles.

How Creativity is being strangled by the Law - Lawrence Lessig

This is Lawrence Lessig's TED presentation, On "How creativity is being strangled by the law." Lawrence Lessig is Professor of Law at Stanford law school and founder of the Creative Commons Movement. See Lessig.org

Information revolution - Automaton Overture by GlobalMantra

This music is a piece from the multimedia show "Automaton". I composed the music, for which I won the Chapman Tripp Sound Designer of the Year Award. I made this video for fun, I hope you like it.
Find more videos like this on Classroom 2.0

Gavin's Remix on Remix!

This is my version of what Larry Lessig had to say about copyright and the internet, as well ideas about Remix Culture and the theories of Eisenstein. Acknowledgements to Mike Jones, Don Tapscott, Lev Manovich & Larry Lessig.

Shift Happens - Gavin's Remix

This video is actually my remix video made from a slideshow on slideshare.net originally created by Karl Fisch, acknowledgement goes to "Elephant (Dub Mix)" brilliant music by Spiral System from Zen Connection 4, see http://www.zenconnection.com.au/ Since he showed this presentation to a group of students in 2006, this has been viewed in various forms by over 5 million people.

Ray Kurzweil on "I've got a Secret" 1963

Ray Kurzweil appeared on this TV show as a very young man in 1963. His secret was that the piano piece he played had been composed by his computer. Even in 1963, he was 30 years ahead of his time! He went on to invent the first digital synthesizer with Stevie Wonder in the early 1980's.

Animation and the Eye - Winner Victoria State Science Talent Search Video 2003 Australia