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April 26, 2012

Video: my Skillshare Penny Conference talk

I gave a talk last week with a fascinating roster of speakers at Skillshare’s first Penny Conference, to an audience of enthusiastic independent learners. Everyone in the crowd considered themselves an independent learner, and more than half of them had dropped out of school at some point in their lives.

All the speakers gave fascinating presentations, and it was exciting to hear some of the themes I’ve been finding from my interviews turning up in other people’s research as well. Tony Wagner, who works on restructuring K-12 education to promote innovation, noted the same things my interviewees reported about what’s wrong with school: a lack of autonomy and control over their learning, being taught vs. active learning, the paucity of really engaging teachers, and having no room to fail. Among many other questions, I asked my interviewees how they figured out where to start, what path to follow, and where to get help. Zach Sims, founder of Code Academy, cited these questions as the dilemmas his site tries to solve for people who want to learn programming.

Aaron Dignan, CEO of Undercurrent, reframed the idea of gamification in an educational setting for me. I’ve been talking a lot with educators about taking the inherent gamification out of traditional education: grades, honors, achievements. These cater to extrinsic motivation, while intrinsic motivation is a much stronger driver of learning that people find satisfying and worthwhile. His talk revolved around the part of games that involves collaboration, narrative, and quests, which give learning a context, purpose, and interdisciplinary approach. I love having my mind changed, thank you Aaron!

And thanks to Skillshare for inviting me to speak!

May 4, 2011

Video: Me reading from Follow Me Down

Here’s video of a reading I gave from Follow Me Down at the Center for Fiction in New York in April.