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Day 29/10/2015

Games, Metacognition, Big Data, and Education – An Introduction

Hello, world! My name is Alison, and I am one of two new members joining the rethinkED team this year. I hail from a background of research, cognition, ed tech, and data science – I am currently a Ph.D student at Columbia University, Teachers College in Cognitive Studies in Education, and a M.S. student in Learning Analytics (Educational Data Mining) – and I’m very excited to share my perspectives on how we can re-imagine learning both in and out of the classroom. I hail from a sleepy farm town nestled in the western valley of the Watchung mountains in central New Jersey, where I emigrated to at age five with a twin sister and older brother from Hong Kong. I graduated from Rutgers University with a triple B.A. in Psychology, Philosophy, and Communications (Go Knights!), and worked in tech startups and educational companies before following my heart straight to TC.

 

I’m especially interested in the intersections of big data, technology, games, and the classroom. The “big idea” questions that drive me include:

–       What are some more effective ways we can use technological interventions to convey ideas (concepts, abstract systems and structures, complex interactions) more powerfully and interactively?

–       What kind of fruitful cognition occurs in play, exploration, and invention that can be co-opted for learning?

–       How can we use the latest advancements in collecting, analyzing, and representing data to empower both teachers and learners?

–       What are the needs in the classroom that teachers feel like are not being met by Ed. Tech, and how do we design tech to meet these needs more thoughtfully?

–       How can we re-frame what kinds of skills and competencies are necessary to succeed in today’s global economy, and how do we teach or facilitate these skills in the classroom?

 

Of course, this is only a part of a list that continues to grow every day! But, to complete a dissertation means to drill down on the specifics of one very robust idea, investigate it, and add just the tiniest addition of insight to the world previously unknown – I love this explanation of a Ph.D, so wonderfully depicted by a guy named Matt Might: http://matt.might.net/articles/phd-school-in-pictures/

 

My calling is in investigating the metacognitive (“thinking about thinking”) responses to failure that occur in educational games, and how such cognitive processes are 1) related to formal learning later on, and 2) transferrable to learning contexts outside of the game.  An illustration: imagine yourself as a 10-year-old, playing a particularly difficult level of Mario. You fail the level, which then sets off a flurry of emotional and cognitive responses – oh crap! How did that happen? What did I do wrong? Do I actually know what went wrong? How do I fix it? What do I have to avoid next time? These metacognitive judgments – the appraisal of states of knowing, locating sources of cognitive dissonance, identifying gaps in knowledge, and employing strategies to adjust or reconcile this – are precisely the kinds of cognitive behaviors we want kids to engage deeply in when learning! The big questions are, then, do these kinds of behaviors in an educational game actually improve learning later on, and whether developing these kinds of skills in a game setting will transfer into more traditional learning contexts later on.

 

It is a privilege to be joining a pool of educators, big idea people, and all-around smarty pants here at Riverdale to address some of these issues that are so pressing in today’s education landscape. We’ve been lucky to have already observed a design challenge with Riverdale’s 9th graders, attended a talk on finding the balance between passions and pragmatism (keep an eye out for that post, coming up!), and collaborated on a design jam on how to re-think high school with some of RCS’s top educators. I look forward to hearing from the rest of the Riverdale community, and discussing (and likely debating!) some of the latest topics in education and technology with my cohort Jenna, Elsa, and Melissa here at rethinkED!

 

Talk to you all soon!

Alison

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