I had a wonderful opportunity this afternoon to participate in another “education salon” with my friends Sarah, Spencer, Ashish, and Will (in Absentia). Every couple of weeks we get together to discuss our shared passion of improving education. We have been focusing on sharing compelling research, noteworthy schools, and our own notions of what school should be about.

This week we discussed the question of “What everyone should know by the time they graduate high school”. I took a stab at detailing a list of skills which I think everyone should have by the time they graduate. The list deliberately excludes all the interesting content like History, Art, Science, Math and Literature and just focuses on the underlying capabilities I think everyone should have.

Skill-building Skills
Students will be adept at manipulating themselves

  • Identify successful habits which increase your productivity
  • Learn effective strategies to memorize information
  • Become competent at following your own rules
  • Refine your intuition through analysis of personal failure
  • Develop consistent motivation by setting achievable goals

Expository Skills.

  • Read and write confidently in essay and story form
  • Film and record audio to make compelling arguments
  • Use Acting/Drama to understand human motivation
  • Use drawing and programming to “speak in pictures”

Logical Skills

  • Know when you have made a strong argument
  • Detect and identify your assumptions
  • Use logic to reason about the unknown
  • Recognize logical fallacies easily
  • Wield words exactly when necessary

Social Skills

  • Learn how your ego affects your own actions towards others
  • Understand group dynamics and how it affects emotions and reason
  • Learn successful methods of collaboration
  • Learn to be persuasive one-on-one and in a group
  • Learn effective strategies to manage other people’s time effectively
  • Develop an appreciation and tolerance of other people’s ideas

Healthy Living Skills

  • Have sufficient knowledge of physiology, nutrition, and chemistry to make informed choices about diet and exercise
  • Understand how to cook a variety of foods and meals
  • Develop a practice of regular exercise

One immediate problem with this list is that it does not specify at all how to teach the skills. This was intentional insofar as I am still developing my ideas on that. What do you all think?

This is the first in a series of short posts about potential topics for research. Thanks to my advisor for suggesting this.

Facebook game(s) for learning math.
I am thinking of a visually interesting math practice game, with lots of activities that illuminate everything from basic arithmetic to geometry to algebra, but crucially, also add a social component. Anecdotally, from research I did last year to develop an arithmetic practice game, kids really like to compete with each other even about math and they can also learn from each other while playing (did I really need to do research to figure that out?) But Facebook offers lots of ways to make even solo games more social. Two of these are, high score lists amongst friends, and posting achievements to a user’s wall (for those wondering, Achievements are in-game awards or messages such as “William Ion put another 65 minutes into mastering fractions today.”) Some argue that achievements may be harmful to games, but isn’t the whole idea of facebook a big game of achievements? And if you’re a kid like William “Billion” Ion who is struggling with say, adding fractions, perhaps an uncle, or your grandmother will offer to play with you in a two-player mode. Parallel to all these features on the front end, we can also collect data about the users play to make improvements. For example, given two possible modules to teach fractions, which is bringing more users back for repeat plays? Which is leading to more improvement in actual learning? Can we recommend games to people based on their similarity to other players who have followed similar learning trajectories?

So I think Facebook is a really interesting place to start looking at social learning games. Are there any out there already?

I am so excited to finally have my own blog and to have found such a lovely theme. The idea for the name of the blog, “Subject to Change”, stems from my short attention span and the need to explore.

Why a blog? Two reasons I can think of.

First, I like to write and I need to write to make my oral conversation more concise and eloquent. Why waste words in oral conversation merely because I am struggling to find the right words? Better to hone my skills in recalling the right words in a written form where I am only wasting my own time to find “le mot juste” so that I sound more direct and laconic in person and don’t waste your time.

Second, I am a doctoral candidate in Computer Science at NYU and as such, am being trained as a scientist and a researcher, and scientists need to write to share their ideas with peers who can change their minds. Though this is often done in a peer-reviewed journal, many of the problems that I am interested in are more vernacular and immediate and I can’t think of a freer pulpit than a blog. But that is subject to change.