Take an Active Role in Your Education: Play Games

The worst thing about education today is that it is a gift.  Teachers provide and students receive (usually in a lecture format).  Students rarely take an active role in their education and, if they do, it is a small role.  By active role, I don’t necessarily mean “initiative.”  What I mean is, “action.”  Homework, doing a problem in class, or debating in a class discussion are a few examples of what I mean by “active role.”

From my own experience, I have found that I must take a very active role when I am trying to process information.  Merely listening to a lecture is usually not enough.  If it isn’t stylized as a discussion or if there isn’t a problem to be solved, most of the information escapes me before the end of class.  Upon further reflection, it became clear that the best way for me to remember classroom content is to process the information and the best way for me to process  information is to have a reason to.  For example, in discussion based classes, an argument is constantly being formed.  As the teacher talks, I analyze why the teacher’s statements make sense (or don’t) and then prepare an argument for my analysis on the presented topic. By vocalizing out loud, I hear my words and can confirm (and occasionally deny) the sense and completeness of my own sentences.  In classes where there are problems to solve, a similar thing happens, I obtain information from the teacher, attempt to apply it on paper and, as the teacher goes through it, I confirm or deny my thoughts and hypothesis about the information I just received.  However, sometimes when teachers use practice problems in class, they give step by step instructions and I passively copy it down. (I would like to note, however, that traditional lectures are enough to receive an A in the course, and/or write decent papers on the topic.  The problem I am stating is, though I receive information, I am not learning much from it.  I cannot apply it, but I think it would definitely be useful for trivia night).

This may be because I am a lazy student and its my fault for not paying strict enough attention to the material coming out of the teacher’s mouth.  However, I think it has more to do with the fact that I am trying to listen so hard or taking notes so ferociously that I don’t have any time or brain space to understand the information.  In my attempts to gather all of the information presented in class, I accidentally lose it all.

However, by making information processing (which I will define as making sense of ideas through problem solving) a priority and giving information gathering a more passive role, learning will be much more natural.

This problem solving/information processing aspect is what makes games so engagingly addicting compared to school work and lecture.  Any good game is intellectually stimulating and challenging, which is one of the main reasons why it is so fun (to those who call video games brainless, read this article).  In games, there is always a reason to think.  In lecture, the primary goal is to hear and focusing on hearing, which often makes me think more about hearing and how it works, or how incredible it is that humans developed such complex and useful language skills.  Even in the most interesting lectures, I occasionally get distracted.  In games, the level of focus is extreme.

Although I would say that I am more of a gaming enthusiast than others (for me personally, I am including videogames, card games, boardgames and puzzle games), I don’t think my addiction to them is an odd phenomenon.  I think many demonstrate  symptoms for this addiction and those that don’t haven’t exposed themselves to the germ enough.

Try this: MinecraftEDU

Underwhelmed during lecture

I begin this post as I sit in class. The course appears to require that I go to class. There is no textbook that I could follow on my own. There was a syllabus given, but it is not quite detailed enough to allow me to teach myself all the material. I could teach myself entirely based upon the homework, but there is no guarantee that the homework would require all the testable skills. I could come, occasionally look up and jot down a note, and otherwise do other work. However, such a system causes a large drop in productivity over simply not going to class and working on my own.

As it stands, I have several options which I do not like. I believe this is an unavoidable side-effect of the use of tests which you can only take once. Were this a more realistic situation, I would have a chance to go back and learn any skills that I had overlooked after teaching myself. However, with a timed test where you cannot use any outside resources, there is only a single chance. If I overlook some topic, I will likely get a question wrong bring my grade down by as much as several letters. Should school be structured in such a sink or swim method? Do we wish to test who can follow the rules, or who understands the material? The second option seems to me to be a better goal, but the first appears to be the one that schools follow.  This is the first time I have been to this class in a week and a half. I am underwhelmed. The professor remains on review of a topic which I understand. Although I do often need the review, this time I do not and do not get much out of my hour here. The threat of material unexpectedly appearing on a test still holds me there. Is this what we want the system to promote: attending for the sake of a test instead of attending for the sake of understanding?

For now, this is a problem for which I do not see a solution. Any suggestions?