19 August 2010

Ethical Design & Practical Learning

Sergio Palleroni
Today I learned about Sergio Palleroni while watching the PBS video, "Green for All", part of the e2:Design series of documentaries. The documentary shows how Palleroni teaches his students architectural skill by immersing them in the real world problem of building housing for poor and dis-advantaged populations. He and his team of students go into communities and provide solutions and guidance for building economically and ecologically sound housing. In the documentary he notes that not many Schools of Architecture have this type of program, and it is often not enough to learn simply via a traditional textbook. He champions the "design/build" process, believing it gives his students the ability to better deal with real world problem solving- as well as providing service to communities. I think this approach to teaching and learning is both ethical and practical.

As I watched the program, I saw distinct parallels to how the IDD program at UGA is implemented. We students are learning to use technology in order to help people learn better. One series of classes focuses on the theory of learning, design, and technology. The other series of classes focuses on learning the related tools in order to bring theory and practical implementation together. As the second semester of the program begins, we are being directed to seek out organizations in need of web based learning solutions. We can either chose from a provided lists of clients, or we can seek out our own clients. Ultimately, we will all be providing service to the community, while at the same time learning our tool set. Certainly this is a far superior approach to learning educational design than, say, reading an instructional manual. We all call it "The Studio Approach" to learning. It is only through work with clients with real problems that we can learn to "think on our feet" and learn to dynamically and intelligently solve the inevitable hurdles that pop up in design- and life. It is progressive ideas like this that fuel my passion for work in UGA Learning, Design, and Technology program.

Ralph Waldo Emerson put it well: "It is one of the beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

02 August 2010

Eureka! The Memory Molecule

Ball-and-stick model of the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) molecule.
An article in the scientific journal, Neuron, reports that a chemical in the human brain that helps brain cells store memories and aids transfer of knowledge.

The molecule, Aminobutyric acid, also known as GABA, is for sale as a supplement.

Since the study is new and many of the test were conducted on rats, not humans-  I wouldn't advise anyone to begin taking this supplement, but instead to carefully watch developments in the area. Who knows, a "learning pill" may be on the horizon.

A technical achievement of this study is the use of nanotechnology techniques allowing scientists to observe brain interactions at the 10 nanometer scale. In the past, scientist have only been able to observe on the tissue level, whereas this study broke ground as it observed interactions in the molecular level.

As educators and instructional designers, we are constantly challenged to balance learning theory and technology to most effectively address learning problems and needs. I expect advancements in technology will need those of us to decide how to best utilize new breakthroughs, and also feel that as the field of nanotechnology matures, the newly discovered knowledge will impact society on a "revolutionary" level.

To research and follow this development begin with these links:

gamma-Aminobutyric acid on Wikipedia

Article from American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Link to abstract of article in the scientific journal, Neuron.


An Educational Game: The Curfew

Following in the footsteps of their BAFTA-winning Bow Street Runner game, Littleloud has developed their second online game for Channel 4 Education. The Curfew is a miniature Canterbury Tales set in a day-after-tomorrow Security State where non-citizens are under curfew at night. The Curfew centres around four characters fate pushes together on a night that will change their lives and, perhaps, even Britain itself.

Tackling themes of privacy, identity, politics, liberty and citizenship, The Curfew builds upon the real curfews that exist today in over a thousand towns and cities in Britain, where persons under the age of 16 found out after 9pm can be sent home by police. To play the The Curfew click here. (Launches end of July)

Taken from Channel 4 Education press release.