Eliminating Assumptions

I’d like to share a link to an 80-minute long video titled Eliminating Assumptions, from one of my favorite E-Casters: Sean “Day[9]” Plott (think John Madden, but for nerds).

http://blip.tv/day9tv/day-9-daily-400-p1-special-episode-eliminating-assumptions-5888689 (split into 4 parts)

A modicum of knowledge about Starcraft 2 can be useful when watching this, but is definitely not required.  I’m going to focus on a few key points from the lecture (and throw timestamps of the relevant section in parenthesis) and how I believe they can relate to EDUC 222 and learning in general.

1. Knowing Secrets -> Skill Process -> Understanding (Part 2, 0:00-9:30)

The “standard method of teaching” in higher education is for a teacher to say (and this is paraphrased from the video), “I am going to have an exam on the Cherokee Indians,” and students will then answer a series of questions about the Cherokee Indians based on material presented throughout previous lectures.  However, Day[9] makes the argument that it is not the memorization of facts that leads to skill, but rather the process of learning, understanding, and building on a knowledge base that leads to true understanding.  This idea was reinforced for me when Prof. Fishman stated that rote memorization, while effective for standardized tests would actually turn students off from learning.  This has massive implications for how things are taught.

The best example I can think of is teaching students multiplication: I have (not very) fond memories of filling out hundreds of pages of worksheets full of multiplication problems in a Kumon class; to this day millions of young students are forced to learn their times tables, from 1×1 to 10×10.  This method can be contrasted to the “take existing knowledge of addition, build upon it (2 + 2 + 2 = 6 = 2 * 3), and expand understanding of mathematics, which I believe is far more engaging and I would argue is more effective than rote memorization.

2. Broad Variety of Knowledge -> Skill Depth > Breadth (Part 2, 9:30-19:30)

Through some pretty insightful analysis of a single game of Marvel vs Capcom 2, Day[9] shows how being extremely well practiced in a few specialized skills trumps being generally good at many.  In his words, “A Player who is excellent at one strategy, is an excellent player.  A player who is decent at 100 strategies, is [only] a decent player.”  While this statement may not hold true if you want to become a world champion at Jeopardy, I believe it has strong life implications and is a key in shaping the course of your learning.

I was taught by a mentor that a key to success in life is to pick a few things and become very good at them.  Obtaining mastery over a few skills will lead to you becoming unique and a respected expert.  For example, if your passion is to learn everything there is to know about Cryptography, and you also choose to practice and master the art of public speaking and presentation, then you are now the world’s foremost speaker on Cryptography.  I believe this has already been applied to higher education in that people specialize into specific fields, and within those fields can specialize further.

3. If it aint broke, don’t fix it You can probably improve what currently works (Part 3, 0:00-9:25)

The problem with many things in schooling and education is that they are not considered problems.  The mindset of “this system works, so why change it” will instantly shut your mind off from innovating and thinking of potential improvements.  One example of a “working system” is grading in college classes.  It is an accepted norm that during your standard college course, you will have “x assignments worth y points”, and your grade will be determined by points earned / all points possible.  I am intrigued by how Prof. Fishman is attempting to improve this system by removing the “all points possible” aspect.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. elton1
    Jan 19, 2012 @ 17:54:33

    Playing Starcraft competitively is something else really. Like sports in real life, one can learn a lot from professionals who also play. I think the way that Day[9] breaks it is down is really amazing. A lot of different skills can be learned using this kind of “observe”, “reobserve” and “reanalyze” kind of thoughts.

    Reply

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