From Serendip

A program for students of education at Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, University of Pennsylvania
(Supported by an AT&T Learning Network Teaching and Technology Grant)

The Web as a Source of Educational Experiences

During the first spring semester session, various uses of the web as an educational adjunct were discussed. In addition to being a source of information, the we web's capability of providing interactive "experiences" was discussed and illustrated. Students were encouraged to themselves explore other illustrations and to give their thoughts about how suitable and useful such experiences were in various educational contexts.

Following are the students comments, as they originally appeared in the course forum area:

Name: Paul Grobstein
Subject: for session 2
Date: Fri Feb 11 10:35:16 EST 2000
Enjoyed working together with you in our first session, hope you all got useful things out of it as well. I've moved the first set of comments in our forum to a new location, so we have a fresh page here to work with. I trust you found one or more of the Serendip "experiences" interesting to think about, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about them as a way to encourage more interaction/exploration/construction in education.
Name: Howard
Date:Thu Feb 10 18:38:26 EST 2000
I just finished looking through the links to "The Magic Sierpinski Triangle," "Can You See What You Don't See?," and "Tricks of the Eyes, Wisdom of the Brain." These were all phenomenal, and I especially enjoyed "Can You See What You Don't See" because it was easiest to follow and I felt it lead me to pose new questions and desire to learn more. Additionally, I was drawn into changing my parameters numerous times to see how much slight changes had on my results.

Unfortunately, I was slightly confused by the other two links. I found the directions to be initially unclear, and I wonder what students (grade/age level) these were made to teach. The actual experiments themselves were much fun and interactive. Having them online allows individuals the opportunity to alter various parameters and see the new results. Additionally, students may reproduce experiments and try to draw conclusions from their data. I greatly enjoyed how the links introduced topics, gave clear explanations, and then the experiments solidified their point(s) while leading students to ask more questions. The links listed on these sites may allow students the chance to continue their exploration indefinitely and allows them to follow a 'choose-your-own-adventure' course for learning. They may study those questions and areas which spark their interest.

Name: Mindy Steinberg
Subject: Prisoner's Dilemma
Date: Wed Feb 16 09:03:41 EST 2000
I just finished visiting the Prisoner's Dilemma webpage and was amazed to find how connected the idea was to something I had already done with my classes. We are working on a unit on World War I, and started that unit off by doing a simulation game. The students were separated into seven different imaginary countries, given a map and their military power, and told that a state of war already existed between two of the countries. The students were told that wars are decided on point value only, and each country was assessed a total point value.

What was most interesting was that if none of the other countries had gotten involved, than the two countries at war (who had equal point values) would have had a stalemate and the war would have been over. Instead, each country took a side, and their little imaginary world erupted in war. Prisoner's Dilemma, it seems, would serve to help teach the same lesson. If you chose to continue cooperating, neither side will lose points and the two sides will remain tied. It is only when one side gets greedy and decides to cheat in order to obtain more points that both sides start to lose.

I think that this is an interesting and important lesson for children to learn, although I think the site could have been just a tad bit more exciting. If the student choses to cooperate, then the game is very boring. Other than that, though, the students can learn that sometimes cooperation is the best strategy, even though it might mean that they can never win.

Name: Esther Kang
Subject: Experiencing games
Date: Sun Feb 20 19:04:06 EST 2000
Well, I was able to "experience" the two links, Seeing More Than Your Eye Does and Prisoner's Dilemma. I actually really liked the first "experience." I liked it because it was simple, but to the point. As I went down some of the other examplse, I felt it was too word heavy. In thinking how something like this would go over with my very rambunctious 5th and 6th graders, I knew it wouldn't really work. They would be bored with the explanations of rules and reasons in words. If there was a more visual way or simpler way these things could be done without so much writing, I think students, and even I, would be more engaged and feel like it was more of an interaction. I felt like a very passive reader for the most part, escpet for when I was actually trying out the games. I know my students, and I know that they would never take the time to read everything. They probably would just skim over it and just experiment. That's why I had to agree with Mindy's comment that it was kind of boring. I wanted more stimulation. I know there are many games that students use in their computer lab times at my school. At times, I wonder whether they just play these games for the fun of it and not for learning. How much of this can happen?
Name: Anne
Subject: Experience
Date: Sun Feb 20 21:49:51 EST 2000
I just finished Voyage to Serendip and I found it quite interesting especially the mixture of both logical thinking and random movement. As someone who is a very logical thinker, I enjoyed the earlier levels because they were so organized and predictable. However, I did have some trouble with the harder ones when they became more random. I chose to stick with the more repetitive choices hoping that eventually I would pick the right answer.

I have mixed feelings about how this would play out with young children. I am placed in a second grade classroom and I see varying levels of logical thinking and similar strengths. As one who believes firmly in multiple intelligences, I am skeptical as to whether or not a child would be able to pick up on the logical pattern and if they could actually learn the skill from the exercise. The reason why I feel this way is that each week, the class is given a problem of the week, more or less a logic problem (frequently math), to solve by Thursday when it is reviewed. When I come in Thursday morning, the same children are struggling with the exerice, even if they were given an easier one. I feel that I am left with more questions then before. Will these exercises only reinforce skills that students already have or will they actually teach them to the students? Can these skills be learned or to they have to be taught in a more structured manner? What about children whose strengths lie elsewhere? How self directed should these exercises be? I guess on some levels I am frustrated because I see these experiences somewhat limited, especially for younger children.

Name: Susan Jo
Subject: interaction
Date: Wed Feb 16 18:27:57 EST 2000
I just visited the "Seeing more than your eye does" and was very intrigued. I saw the limitations of my eyes and was surprised how the eye just "ignores" the blind spot, kind of like pretending it's not there. This all reminded me of the blind spot while driving, yet this is interesting b/c the screen is so close to you... I also visited the "voyage to serendip" and had some fun figuring out patterns, but i am not sure what the point was. I guess it's all about the pattern thing, but towards the end with the harder levels,wasn't it all just random movement/new patterns each time the game was started? i wasn't sure what i learned from it. What i did like about these games were that they are all interactive and engaging. I'd like to find more things like this but related to what i'm teaching:)
Name: Nicki L. Pollock
Subject: Prisoner's Dilemma
Date: Mon Feb 21 12:39:51 EST 2000

I tried out the game "Prisoner's Dilemma". It seemd like a great way to get students thinking about complicated concepts (math in particular it seemed), but the activity would need to be well-thought-out and geared towards the needs of the students.

This activity might be suitable in a high school classroom if the students were used to having complicated, "thinking" problems posed to them. Otherwise, I think it would be overwhelming for them to have to explore so deeply- they wouldn't know where to start (I even had a hard time). I think there's potential to make an excellent inquiry project out of it (and similar activities), but I think the students would need to be prefaced with something more mild- they would need to gradually build up skills and confidence. This seems like an activity that would come near the year's end when students have acquired more complex thinking skills that would help them make this activity worthwhile.

So, other things I would do in addition to this activity would be "prep" activities that would gradually allowed students to think and analyze more on their own. Perhaps having guiding questions set up in order to help students structure their thoughts.... I don't know- it would depend on the class and where they were "skill-wise". Are they comfortable thinking through things and trying to figure problems out themselves? If not, they may panic and the degree to which different students would need guidance may differ. This activity would work well as a group project I think. Especially if it were possible to arrange students according to the ways in which they think they learn... there would then be multiple perspectives and different approaches to the entire activity. That, in itself, would be a learning experience.

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