Saturday, 27 November 2004

"Practice Makes Perfect" - WRONG!

I cannot even agree with the title, not to mention about the idea in this piece. (I won't mention the source.)

My daughter's swimming coach puts it very well: "Practice makes your stroke permanent. If you practise bad technique, you just become a more efficient bad swimmer with the bad stroke. It is even more difficult to unlearn the bad strokes."

The value of simulation (computer-based) is the opportunity for the player/learner to explore different alternate paths through the environment. "Going through the same path *every time* in a simulation" does NOT provide any more learning opportunity. The multiple paths offered by the simulator and the infinite patience the computer has are the key reasons why simulation can be of value to the learner. Again, if the model behind the simulation is bad, the learner is only exposed to a wrong model. It is no good too.

The value of internships is to model a master, learn good techniques and be "scaffolded" when solving NEW problems. I had been a bank teller trainee. The first few days, I learnt a lot of things: how to count money, how to recognize counterfeit money and so on. After about a month, I kept on counting money (faster), but I learnt nothing new. A good internship should involve shadowing a master and modeling how the master tackles different problems. Again, practice does not make perfect, practice makes the skill you are practising permanent or more efficient. (Efficiency is important, but this is not the point of discussion.)

The author did mention that the current main use of technology is for assessment which he thought was wrong. I am not going to argue whether today's state of affair in the use of technology in teaching and learning is primarily focussed on assessment. I do agree that if the assessment is purely based on technology-based techniques, there are lots of faults and problems. By the way, why we need assessment any more? The corollary to author's conclusion is, unfortunately, unacceptable to me too. I don't see why face-to-face encounters will be used more for assessment. Put aside the argument whether we should continue to assess learner performance, I don't think face to face assessment is feasible, both logistically and economically - unless it is continuous assessment which is performed during the learning process. But if the learning is done via technology, how can we arrange face to face encounters ...


Rob said...

I couldn't agree with you more and, whether I articulated my ideas clearly or not in my podcast, my intent was not far away from what you are saying.

I use the phrase practice makes perfect" as general idiom, not as a definitive statement on simulated learning. What you discuss in your post is actually step two of what I am talking about -- the persistence in education to learn about something rather than learn how to actually do something with what is being learned.

Also, feel free to trash me publicly if you think I have erred. I do not mind have my mistaked pointed out by many :-).

Albert Ip said...

Hi Rob,

I have used a very provocative title for the post - challenging the wisdom of tradition idiom in this new information age learning environment.

I don't mean to "trash" anyone, but hope that an open dialogue will improve our mutual understanding of the issue at hand. The beauty of blogging is the fast turn-around of comments.

Sorry I missed your step two. Let's agree that we should focus on that part and investigate the new opportunities offered by the use of today's technology.