Using Your Best Judgment

We’ve often talked about choosing the right tool to use for the right setting educationally, and now we’ve got some research to back it up. Recently, Laila Weir at Edutopia wrote about the results of a study done by the Metiri Group, and commissioned by Cisco Systems. The study was aimed at understanding how and when using technology in regards to learning works best. A lot of what came out of the survey is common sense, but some it struck me as I read it because I’ve been wrestling with this in my practice lately.


Weir writes about how the Metiri Group debunks the “Cone of Experience” theory, whereby:

each of us learns 10 percent of what we read, 20 percent of what we
hear, 30 percent of what we see, 50 percent of what we hear and see, 70
percent of what we say or write, and 90 percent of what we say as we do
a thing.

The skinny behind the research here is that when teaching basic skills, like asking students to learn and memorize the chemical symbols on the Periodic Chart, the use of technology and multi-modal teaching does not raise student scores as much as a lesson that isn’t interactive (21 percentage points v. 9 percentage points). However,when more complex skills or concepts are being taught, there is a noticeable uptick in student achievement scores (32 percentile points for multi-modal learning v. 20 percentile points for non multi-modal).

During our sessions with our teachers participating in our tablet program a few weeks back, the topic of multi-tasking came up quite frequently.  Some of them had said that while having the use of portable technology made them more productive, they always felt more compelled to work on something.  That impulse often came in the middle of other aspects of their lives that didn’t include the processes involved in creative work.  One teacher stated that they couldn’t get anything done because it always seemed they had way too much going on at once.  Another teacher chimed in with a quote from an article about the fallacy of multi-tasking.  As it turns out, the Cisco study also reaches the same conclusion about multi-tasking:

“New scientific studies reveal the losses in efficiency in . . . multitasking,” the Cisco report says. “Researchers find that thinking processes happen serially, resulting in delays caused by switching from one task to another. The delays become more pronounced as the complexity of the task increases.”

I can’t speak for others, but unless I have clearly defined parameters to work and think in that center on a singular idea, I can’t accomplish much.  So, for me, I’ve always been one to shy away from multi-tasking.  And when teaching complex processes, it makes logical sense to teach them serially, at least to me.  It also follows from the study that when you present students with information in a clear, concise manner that flows logically they have a better chance at coming to grips with it.

But, perhaps the part of the article that will be most useful in my practice, is this:

if you never recognize or actually think about that audio input, you’re unlikely to remember it later. Translate that same concept to students simply letting the words of a lecture or a textbook wash over them, and the benefits of engaging a “working memory,” a deeper kind of thinking, are obvious.

Allowing for student reflection time about the lecture, and allowing for them to access various parts of their memories to create connections between this new information and the knowledge they already have has positive affects on learning.  This may seem elementary to some, but it still makes me shudder a bit at all of the workshops I have given this year and last in which I presented a whole slew of information to people, and due to time constraints, moved right into something else without giving them time to digest.

What I’d like to be doing is to build reflection directly into the classes and workshops I teach.  How do you do that successfully?

Image Credit: “Reflection,” by Guacamole Goalie on Flickr


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