Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Future (as I see it)

I've taught a class in Media Production for a number of years now, and before that, I played with video production for many years. I learned to edit video in the late 80's and early 90's, when linear video editing was all that existed. For those that don't know, here's how it worked:
1. Cue a tape to your first segment of video you intend to use.
2. Cue a second tape (in another VCR) to the beginning.
3. Dub video from tape #1 to tape #2.
4. Remove tape #1 from the VCR
5. Insert a new tape, and cue it to the segment you want to use next.
6. Repeat steps 3-5, forever.

If you made a mistake, you had to back up and re-do a bunch of work.
If you changed your mind about a sequence, you pretty much had to start over.
It was awful.
Slow. Inflexible.

And in a lot of ways, it was a lot like how we teach school.
We start a course at point A, and slowly progress to point B over a period of time. Everybody goes at the same speed, at the same time.

In the mid-late 90's, video changed forever. Once video was easy to shoot digitally, editing it morphed via computer. Instead of linear, it became what it is today: non-linear. Here's how it works now, just for contrast:
1. Load footage into a computer.
2. Cut footage into clips you like.
3. Click and drag those clips into an order you like.

That's it. If you change your mind about order, you just move things around again. It's natural feeling.
Fast. Clean.

And I think this is where education needs to go. We need to start crafting courses so that they are, for lack of better terminology, worlds. Students could explore in nearly any direction, satisfying curiosity and whim.

There was an article that (kind of) dealt with this on BoingBoing just the other day. They focused on the use of Massive Multiplayer Online Roll Playing Games (MMORPG). That might be the next step past what I'm talking about- I think that we need to seriously consider the future of education being time/location independent, and a MMORPG structure allows for that, but so do other things.

If we're making students ready for the world, to be responsible citizens, it seems strange that we teach them in a world where we all move lock-step. That's a parade, and from what I've seen of it, the world moves more like a race. I'm not saying the cut throat competitiveness of the world at large is the right thing for education, but neither is this everybody-at-the-same-time trap we've fallen into.

There's money to be made here, I think, for someone motivated enough to create a MMORG that's compelling and rich that's based specifically around education. And I'm not talking about k-12 here- it would need to be more focused- say, 8-12. But even here I don't like labeling this with grades, because I think the idea of years/grades is flawed too.
But another post for that.



  1. Interesting. How do you appeal to the perfectionists that want to earn 100 on everything down to the slacker that also wants to receive an A but just wants to know the absolute minimum necessary?

  2. I wrote a game for my students where they had to compare events in world history and guess which one came earlier. 2 points if you got it right, -1 if you got it wrong, to keep students from choosing randomly. Some students plowed right throw the 100 score and kept going. I think the highest at the moment is a 402. Of course you have to think about whether to allow a score greater than 100, but the students that have scored higher than 100 are A students anyway.

  3. I think it's less about scores and specific goals, and more about generating the sort of enthusiasm you've described. More organic in nature, I guess. Slackers can slack, but ideally the game would have enough scope that even they could find something interesting to work on.
    And as far as grade grubbers looking for a 100- Actually, as far as grades at all, look for an upcoming post regarding all that sillyness.