Give me the cheat codes

I didn’t grow up playing a lot of video games, and still now I don’t play many.  But on school mornings if we got up and ready in time, my brother, my neighbor, and I used to play Mario Kart on the old SEGA.  I can remember learning how to play the game, learning how to maneuver the courses, collect coins, and ruin my brothers chances of winning with a well placed banana peel.  However, then I remember when we all learned there was cheat codes for the game.  I was thrilled to have an extra advantage and didn’t have to put in the work and time learning how to get weapons to use, I could just smash in the cheat code and get everything I wanted.

It seems to me that our education system is just shoving the “cheat codes” to the students without allowing them to learn how to maneuver the course.  As talked about in Micheal Wesch’s Anti-Teaching article, we are teaching but students aren’t learning.  They merely want to know what they need to do to win the grade game, not what they need to do to grow in the subject they being taught.

I really like the idea of using Buckminster Fuller’s Spaceship Earth idea as a motivation tool to demonstrate how important it is for the students to learn, not just regurgitate information on a test.  Hopefully showing students how important their role is in our future will inspire them to go collect information and not just wait for it to be spoon fed to them.

The only potential problem I see with this method of teaching is in STEM field introduction classes where the material does not lend itself to anti-teaching methods.  The motivational tool of Spaceship Earth may, but not altering the teaching role to a “manager” as described in this article.  Maybe the manager role can be used on occasion, but the majority of classroom time would still need to be spent as a stand and deliver model in order to get through the material needed to help them succeed and solve the problems on our Spaceship Earth.

So cheat codes should no longer be given out and students should have to learn how to learn on their own, but for STEM fields we need to give them the basic tools they need to solve more complex problems on their own.  What do you all think?

Category(s): GEDI

12 Responses to Give me the cheat codes

  1. I love the analogy you used and focused on throughout this post! I too loved (and still love) Mario Kart, and, while I never used or learned much about cheat codes, I remembered hating the idea of them. In education, I also am not a fan of students who don’t put in the effort yet expect to earn the highest grade possible. It drives me insane when I hear stories of academic dishonesty or people taking short cuts to a good grade. I think as graduate students we all have a passion for the fields in which we are studying and working, and that passion drives us to the point where we wouldn’t even want cheat codes if they were available; we want the knowledge! (But, at the same time, we also do want the good grades.) I like your points here, and I certainly do agree that we need to give students the basic tools to succeed and encourage them to use them to the best of their abilities.

    • Ditto on loving Mario Karts Smilie: :) and I agree with both of you on “cheat codes” / short cuts to education or anything does not always end well. I believe that yes it could be a possibility only when one feels that the basics are mastered and because that has happened students are in a better position to be creative to realize if shorts cuts create efficiency or is it just to progress through the content.

    • That’s a good point about being grad students, we kind of inherently thirst for knowledge in the fields we have chosen. Fortunately, the world has people that are passionate about different things and that drives their thirst. Unfortunately that means everyone isn’t going to be passionate about our field of study and we get to try to convince them that it is worth paying attention to and learning more about.

  2. You bring up a good point about introductory classes being an issue with the Spaceship Earth idea. However, the real problem is not the fact that it is introductory material, but the size of the typical introductory course. If we can have smaller intro classes (under 40) we could do some really interesting things even at the fundamental level. Is this realistic at Virginia Tech, I am not so sure, but something to keep in mind especially at smaller schools.

    • So I actually meant that the Spaceship Earth concept may work in an introductory class as a motivational tool and to put things in prospective. I would imagine laying out the big picture for them and then saying something like, “this is the first step to you all solving these complex problems.”

      However, I think the material being covered in say a calculus course may be hard to get through without stand and deliver methods. Some other techniques may be sprinkled in to make the course more interesting, but I would imagine that it would be tough to not lecture the majority of the time.

  3. On the one hand, I wonder if it is impossible to avoid this cheat code mentality as long as we have test-centric teaching models. It’s hard to imagine a STEM approach which can avoid this mentality altogether. Maybe the idea of acting as a “manager” of a STEM class is a more realistic idea in a flipped classroom. The traditional lecturer role can be fulfilled outside of the classroom while the manager role can dictate practicing problem solving and contextual learning in the classroom.

  4. This is a complex issue which will take some trial and error to resolve. The loss of motivation resulting in cheating or mindless questions has some fault resulting from a failure of ensuring material has been properly taught. While I never cheated on exams, in some courses I would ask “What is going to be on the test?”. This stems from deep rooted fear of not being able to remember blindly the information I was required to know. For the professors, the issue of teaching and monitoring outside research is tough, and unfortunately this can result in mindless force fed facts without content to deliver them. BUT, a few professors I had the pleasure of knowing, would put a profound amount of time into office hours and lectures, and it was in these courses I never asked those mindless questions, and ultimately it was these courses where I learned the most. Perhaps the problems has something to do with lack of time to devote to preparing lectures, resulting from more devotion to ensure large amounts of money are being brought into the school in the form of research.

  5. I’m tired of people asking for short cuts. When mentoring students they consistently want the “short”, “easy” way to do things. Some sometimes you have to be like, “You’re in grad school bro, things aren’t short and easy all of the time.” What’s worse is instead of trying to practice a new skill (like coding) they would rather copy and paste lines of data manually into a spreadsheet. Quick and easy doesn’t come right away – it takes practice.
    Show them a problem – given them the steps to solve it – then turn ’em loose to practice.

  6. I’m with you on this idea of certain topics probably having to be taught in a “stand and deliver” model. I think it is crucial to adapt teaching styles to promote engaging learning, but I’m getting the impression that in the future there will be a mixture of both the “older” style of teaching with the “newer” style of teaching. Being a manager of sorts in the classroom will definitely work on occasion, but every class period? I’m not sure. I hear people say we have all the information in the world accessible to us at our fingertips (via the internet) so teachers need to be more creative to capture each student’s attention. And while being a creative teacher to promote self-thinking is a must, I think we absolutely need facilitators who are sorting out what is right from wrong (which there is a lot of on the internet)! Also, on a sort of different, but relevant topic, the internet is not as wide open as we think it is. Open-access is not the norm at the moment, which means students are not able to just teach themselves every bit of information they need to succeed in their future careers. They (we) need teachers today as much as we ever did in the past. In what exact capacity I’m sure we’ll talk about more as time goes on.

    P.S. Mario Kart was on Nintendo!!

  7. But who is asking for the cheat codes? The administrators who are trying to divide budgets by zero and demand standardized tests that encourage cheat codes, or the students that are a product of that culture? STEM is an interesting challenge. I think that there is room for creativity in delivery and innovation in teaching STEM. At some point though, students progress beyond survey courses and will need more than a mile wide and inch deep understanding. If we work on an interdisciplinary system of connected discovery, we may be able address part of the significance issue. I don’t know how we can restructure education enough to change the “mechanistic” and “product” views of it, but until we do product delivery will remain the focus of education.

    Rafic El-Helou says:

    I agree with you. There are some majors where the teacher is expected to deliver information. I am actually in engineering and this is something that has to happen. However, the delivery mode of the teacher should be engaging and linked to real life examples. The examples should include how the basics that are learned in class could be used to solve real life complex problems. This will make students think critically, passionate about the topic, and make them believe that they actually can make a difference.

  8. Great analogy! I think some of this mentality comes from primary grades where teachers are mostly providing students with answers and students are mostly given multiple choice test instead of being pushed to use their noodle with critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity. I concur the delivery of instruction should be thought provoking, questioned, active, and collaborative, so that when assessments are given, students are able to better answer questions from their own thought process and not selecting a choice as well as strengthen the retainment of that information and retrieval.

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