Give A Fish or Teach Fishing

Four Things Lecture Is Good For conveys a simple, but always being overlooked, principle: instructors should teach students thinking in lectures, rather than cover materials. It has been recognized that modern education changed from “teaching-centered” to “learning-centered”. This means that the primary purpose of any forms of teaching, including lecture, is to improve the ability of the learner. The role of instructor in learning becomes minimum and learner is the center of learning. In a lecture, Robert Talbert thinks, to model thought process, to share cognitive structure, to give contexts, and to tell story are the four missions of the lecturer. As far as I am concerned, all these four missions are to teach students how to think. Just like the old proverb, to teach students how to think will benefit them for a long time.

However, how to teach students how to think is an interesting topic. When all efforts of an teacher is to tell student the steps of thinking in an abstract way, to draw knowledge maps, or to make categories of cognitive units, this information itself becomes “materials”. In these times, examples including facts and general knowledge are important. I do agree with that telling stories is a good approach to fulfill the purpose of teaching students how to think, but video games seem to go too far. James Paul Gee’s arguments have some reasonable points. For me, it is okay to use video games as a sort of metaphor, video games themselves are not transcendence or extension of reality but escape or distortion of reality. We should by no means learn any thing from or through video games. Moreover, Gee’s arguments are very easy to be misunderstood. In my opinion, the best expression of ideas in the reading articles in this week is still “learning through action, and reflection”.

4 thoughts on “Give A Fish or Teach Fishing”

  1. Hi Yangliang, I agree with most of your comments, but I am kinda skeptical whether the video games are the forms of escaping and distortion of reality. I do agree with you that, virtual reality is a “different” form of reality. Yet, my question is, is it really too different?

    While working with people having video games addictions according to the diagnostic criteria, one thing that always fascinated with me was somehow, at the end, the very same problems they were experiencing in their non-virtual lives were re-appearing in the context of video-games. The ones who were failing to collaborate with others were also failing to collaborate in video games, or the ones who are having difficulties in making strategic planning, were also failing on those tasks.

    In that sense, video games were providing a vast amount of information where the “needs” of these people are. That is, playing Warcraft, Starcraft or Second Life says a lot about the skills and needs of the persons.

    Also, I had a chance to know many people who improved their skills by the means of using videogames. Many people beating their social phobia up by the means of playing Second Life, for instance; or many people meeting with people having similar interests and perspectives similar to them in the virtual reality settings.

    In this regard, I feel like as the world outside the videogames, the virtual reality has its own advantages and disadvantages. And these does not necessarily make virtual reality more or less real. For Berkeley and the subjective idealists for instance, we are just our minds, and what we think of shapes our reality.

    Yet, by keeping all these metaphysical stuff aside, and talking from a pragmatic perspective, we can assess the needs of the students and by the means of recognizing and minimizing the disadvantages and maximizing the advantages, we can integrate the video games reality to our understanding and practice.

  2. I like your ideas here about teaching students how to think, but I wonder if it is too late to do this by the time they get to us as undergraduate students. There is research that shows it’s much easier to learn a foreign language by starting at a young age, and I think the same would have to be said for teaching students how to think. Most students are already set in their ways by the time they reach college in terms of how they learn, study, and work, and, while there is a learning curve, it might be too late to try to completely reinvent the wheel.

  3. Hi, Yang, thank you for sharing, I like your discussion about “learner-centered” teaching method. Throughout all my education years, I have taken many course that the students’ obligation is only to listen and take notes. I really doubt that how much the students have learned in the end. However, I have a question about “recognizing and minimizing the disadvantages and maximizing the advantages”, how do we recognize the disadvantages and how can we minimize it? What strategies should we take?

  4. I agree with you- I am not really sold on the Idea of using video games to teach. Its a one way but may not be the best way to teach depending on certain classes.

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