Latest update from The Netherlands

On Friday I went to a couple of the morning sessions at ICLS.

It seemed odd to me that there was a lot of experimental or quantitative designs being presented. Or small comparison studies using quantitative measures to compare the two cases, I guess I mean. For example, one was comparing the use of computer mediated tools versus non-digital tools in a set of classrooms, studied using test scores as measures of success. Does that seem right to you? Not entirely to me.

(more on ICLS and photos of Utrecht/Amsterdam after the jump)

It’s a good first step, but I feel there’s so much more stuff going on in classrooms. What about long-term transfer? What about fostering a community of learners in a classroom so that they are more able to tackle future problems? And this is just stuff outside of the design of the experiment.

Confounding the experiment itself, what about the quality of the teacher in each classroom, the composition and dynamics of each classroom, etc. etc. Also, there was no description of the actual practice students engaged in with the different media tools. Are they more engaged, collaborative, talkative, on task, frustrated, etc. with the different tools? I mean, the findings don’t tell us anything about the actual goings-on in the classrooms and therefore fail to tell us what’s successful practice.

I was talking with Veronique after one session that included a presentation about distributed knowledge and collaboration. The presenter showed us research on the effect of using a tutorial and/or manual with a designed game-like activity that tested the successful sharing of knowledge. Findings generally showed that tutorials helped while manuals didn’t. But we question how useful this was on saying anything about distributed knowledge sharing in real-world contexts. In our research, the idea of sharing all info, which was possible in this game, is not possible with our participants, nor is it necessary for them to do what they do. For me, raiders in WoW don’t need to know what every other raider knows; they just have to be coordinated and trusting. For Vero, musicians also don’t need to know exactly what their band members know. I wonder if it is a difference between distributed knowledge, where knowledge is what is being measured, and distributed performance or activity, where people’s goal is doing stuff collaboratively rather than learning content knowledge.

In the late afternoon, I went back to the hotel to take nap. Then got up to meet Giovanna. We took about 30 min to find each other (there are so many churches in Utrecht with plazas right next to them). Then we met up with Therese, Alex, and Sheldon and had dinner at a great Greek place right next to The Dom, a huge-ass clock tower that rings for like 5 minutes every half hour or so and like 2 minutes every quarter hour (and makes it impossible to fall asleep from the hotel I was staying in).

While out we passed by some cool looking shops in Utrecht, right along the canal. Two or three comic book stores and two gaming stores. All closed.

The next day I met up with Giovanna and Sheldon and we went back to those shops, had brunch, and then to Amsterdam together.

We first went to my hotel, the Hotel Piet Hein, named after a privateer who captured a huge motherload of Spanish silver. The hotel is quite nice but damn, the wireless service isn’t working at the moment (writing this from a lobby laptop)! Then we walked around a bit.

Giovanna and I had been here twice already, so we basically walked around with Sheldon, checking out the main plaza, a novelty condom store called the Condomerie, the Bloemenmarkt, the Red Light District, and a Games Workshop store with some awesome minis on display!

One of the women pulled me aside and wouldn’t let go of my T-shirt. She promised a blowjob that would make me remember Amsterdam forever for just 50 euro. I decided I could remember Amsterdam just fine on my own. 🙂

We ended up eating dinner at a cafe near the lift bridges. After dinner they went back to Utrecht and I went to my hotel to sleep. Ah sleep.

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