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Education Bookcast

Education Bookcast is a podcast in which we talk about one education-related book or article per episode.
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Now displaying: February, 2017
Feb 19, 2017

I've received a lot of messages from listeners (as well as from an author!) in the past few days. Several of these messages are things that I would like to share, and there are two in particular that I would like to talk about since I imagine there may be many listeners who have the same questions.

Firstly, I talk about my interactions with the folks at Reacting to the Past, and in particular with Mark Carnes, who emailed me within a day of the release of the episode about his book (Minds on Fire).

I then talk about homeschooling, as I had a request from a listener for information on this topic, as she is considering homeschooling her children. Although I plan to cover homeschooling and unschooling in some detail on the podcast, I do not have plans to do this for some time as there are other topics to cover, and so I thought it would be good to have a quick summary for those who are bursting to hear about it.

Finally, I talk about social media, and in particular its use at university. A listener contacted me requesting that I advise him on this, and so I thought it would be helpful to more people if I discussed it on the podcast.

Please keep in mind that any opinions shared in this episode are my own, and that this is an unusually opinion-heavy episode of the podcast. I am usually quite insistent on proper evidence, but here I am relaxing that requirement to be able to talk about things more freely in terms of my feelings or conjectures on certain topics, rather than hard facts that I know to be true.

Enjoy the episode.

Feb 19, 2017

The words "theory" and "fun" in such close proximity may make you suspicious. Or, they may make you curious. "Fun" is one of those ideas that is so natural and intuitive, and yet for that very reason is so hard to pin down.

Raph Koster has a somewhat peculiar view of what fun is: "Fun is just another word for learning." As the head of Sony Online Entertainment, I'm inclined to believe him. If fun is learning, how do we ensure everyone in education gets more of it - and the right kind?

This book is a meditation on certain central themes in the theory of games and play, and provokes us to think about why games aren't used more in education. (Correction: I try to provoke you to think this, based on some concepts taken from the text.) The problem seems not to be whether games teach, as they always do. They problem is that they aren't teaching the right things.

We go in with questions. We come out with an understanding of the central problem of game design for education. Not a bad way to spend an hour.

Enjoy the episode.

Feb 17, 2017

In recent episodes, we have been discussing games and play, and their relevance to education, as well as to an improved understanding of human psychology. In this episode, I approach some central questions of the field: What is a game? What is a toy? What is play? What is fun?

It is by their very naturalness that play, fun, and games are hard to define. We can sense what they are, and that's exactly what makes them hard to put them into words. Jesse Schell surveys the literature and puts together the ideas and definitions of many thinkers to come up with his own favourite definitions.

Jesse Schell's book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses is a thick, exhaustive tome on a complex subject. There's no way I could do his book justice in a single episode - it would need to be a quadruple-bill at least. But I wanted to introduce my audience to his book, and what better way to do it than through the fundamental questions of the field?

Enjoy the episode.

Feb 17, 2017

This is a continuation of the episode on Minds on Fire by Mark Carnes. The main idea of this part of the episode is the effects that Reacting to the Past, and role-play in general, have on the "self", i.e. the psychological construct of our selves.

Enjoy the episode.

Feb 16, 2017

Last episode, we looked at the various ways in which games can both improve our theoretical understanding of human psychology and of learning, and also at how they can be used practically to improve people's lives. In this episode, I want to discuss a particular practical application of games, and that is in so-called Reacting to the Past.

Reacting to the Past is a type of live role-playing game where each participant plays a character from a particular historical time and place. For example, the setting may be the French revolution, and players would take the roles of King Louis XVI, Lafayette, Robespierre, and others. Each player's (secret) objective is in line with what those personages wanted to happen historically - for example, Louis XVI's aim is to crush the revolution and preserve the monarchy, whereas Robespierre aims to overthrow the monarchy, institute universal male suffrage, and end slavery in French colonies.

On every conceivable measure, Reacting to the Past games have been shown scientifically to be superior to traditional classes. The effects are so numerous as to be hard to list. Students come out of Reacting to the Past games with:

  • improved public speaking;
  • greater resilience in the face of failure;
  • improved leadership and team-working skills;
  • greater acceptance of the role of fortune and randomness in life;
  • a stronger (actual) social network, and friends for life;
  • greater capacity for empathy;
  • a more positive attitude to their studies;
  • increased self-esteem, even while their narcissism reduces; and
  • much deeper and more solid knowledge of history than those taking part in traditional classes on the same material.

It's remarkable!

In the episode, I go through the way that the classes are run and the benefits that they bring, and I compare them to the ordinary student experience. I also share the ideas behind *why* this pedagogical approach seems to work so well. I hope you can join me in enthusiasm for this teaching method.

Enjoy the episode.

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