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  • JOSEPH JAY WILLIAMS: So I just want to mention, my background

  • is in cognitive science.

  • So I'm really interested in doing experiments in terms of

  • understanding how people learn.

  • And to get a sense of the way that fits in with the research

  • landscape, because there's a ton of research on learning

  • and many insights.

  • I guess the best concept is thinking in terms of

  • qualitative analyses.

  • So these rich investigations that you see from a

  • sociological perspective.

  • Education schools that will take a student and really take

  • a very close look at what they're learning.

  • Explore how they're understanding of algebra and

  • all the difference misconceptions they can have.

  • Then there's also things that are much more like randomized

  • control trials.

  • So policy workwear.

  • You might take a bunch of students in the school and

  • give them a treatment where they

  • undergo a training program.

  • And then you can see if that actually has an effect

  • compared to control group.

  • And that's a very large scale.

  • There's longitudinal studies, which, again, are very long

  • time scale.

  • Collecting measures, like people's grades or students'

  • outcomes as they progress through traditional education.

  • And of course there's working computer science and

  • Educational Data Mining, where you take very large data sets

  • in terms of observations, then try and induce what's going on

  • with learners.

  • As is terms of the way cognitive science fits in with

  • this, I think it's in between something like a randomized

  • control trial, longitudinal study and some light

  • qualitative analysis.

  • Because most of the experiments we do on a short

  • time scale.

  • And it really involves precisely controlling what

  • someone's learning in a particular situation and

  • trying out different forms of instruction and then assessing

  • how learning is occurring after that.

  • And you might think that from such micro experiments you

  • can't learn much.

  • But that's actually the expertise

  • in cognitive science.

  • And I think it's ready insightful.

  • It's obviously using a lot of insights.

  • But I think it's ready well suited for online education,

  • where often you want to ask questions that intermediate

  • between again, quality of assessment of what's going on,

  • and running a full-out randomized control trial where

  • you give people two different versions of the course.

  • There are questions about how you should frame instruction,

  • what kind of video you should show someone, and the kind of

  • strategies you should teach them.

  • So it just lets you know where it sits in there.

  • And what's also nice about cognitive science as an

  • approach is it's pretty interdisciplinary.

  • In a sense, you've got psychology, which is heavily

  • focused on experiments.

  • Philosophy, in terms of really trying to do good conception

  • analysis of what problem you're facing and classifying

  • different kinds of learning.

  • Linguistics, anthropology, as I mentioned, neuroscience, and

  • of course, AI.

  • And what's also nice, I think, is that it's also a bit easier

  • for people in cognitive science perhaps to talk with

  • the kind of researchers at Google who are interested

  • often in things like modeling and machine learning.

  • So to give you a bit of a preview of [INAUDIBLE]

  • cover.

  • So I'm going to talk about two ways you

  • could think about learning.

  • One that I think gives us a lot of rich insights into how

  • to improve education.

  • And I'm going to talk about very quickly three finds in

  • cognitive science that I find have been

  • particularly powerful.

  • It's thinking about what can you do before someone starts

  • learning in terms of framing their learning as

  • an answer to a problem?

  • What can you do during learning in terms of

  • requesting explanations from the learner?

  • And then what can you do after learning?

  • A new and interesting finding here is that you can actually

  • use assessments as instructional tools.

  • Having people take a test can actually be more powerful for

  • learning than having them study material again.

  • And then having looked at some of what we know about how to

  • promote learning of a concept or some set of knowledge, it's

  • worth asking, well, what knowledge can we teach someone

  • that's actually going to have the biggest impact

  • practically?

  • And that's why I think thinking about this idea of

  • what do people learn that's going to help them learn more?

  • So it's not just on this concept but across a range of

  • situations.

  • And then I'll talk about how you can change people's

  • beliefs and have a massive effect on their motivation.

  • You can teach people strategies for learning that

  • then have trickle down effects on all the content they may

  • come across.

  • And then finally, I'm going to talk about online search,

  • which is something I really started to think about

  • seriously recently since looking [INAUDIBLE]

  • of a power searching course.

  • And I actually think this is a really fascinating topic

  • that's right at the junction of things that are really

  • important to industry and the business world, and also

  • really important to education.

  • And I think that's actually a great place to focus, because

  • it allows you to get the benefits of private innovation

  • as well as academic work.

  • And also it means that you can use insights across areas.

  • When you're teaching a business person about search,

  • you're also learning something about how you could help a

  • child to be more inventive in the way they discover

  • information on the internet.

  • How is my speed in terms of talking?

  • Because with an accent, it probably sounds

  • like twice as fast.

  • And I speak twice as fast, so you're hitting a lot of powers

  • being raised there.

  • OK.

  • And one thing I'll cover at the end is I put on the

  • website just a list of resources that I found really

  • useful in terms of knowing what the literature is that

  • has shown really impressive effects on learning.

  • When you go in Google Scholar, I mean literally there are

  • thousands of papers there.

  • And I think that can be daunting.

  • And it's just easy to start with your

  • problem and work on that.

  • But there's always tons of really

  • interesting relevant work.

  • And so I tried to put aside some of the resources that I

  • found most useful.

  • So I have hyperlinks to some of the papers there and brief

  • explanations of what they're about.

  • And also information about other things that I'll talk

  • about at the end.

  • So in terms of learning, I think one kind of challenge,

  • even after studying learning for all my adult life, I still

  • think that there's this kind of intuition or this intuitive

  • theory that I have about learning that holds me back,

  • or misleads me when I'm making instructional decisions.

  • I think it's something that's sort of common

  • across many of us.

  • In the Cambridge Handbook of Learning and Sciences they

  • refer to this idea that when you learn something, you're

  • just dropping it into a bucket.

  • Learning is transferred from the teacher to the student.

  • So let's think about some content.

  • For example, learning from a video, like from a power

  • searching online video, a Khan Academy video.

  • Or reading text, which is how we absorb most of our

  • information.

  • Or you could think about learning from an exercise.

  • So a student solving a math problem, or someone attempting

  • to process a financial statement or do some budgeting

  • or solving a problem of managing

  • relationships with coworkers.

  • Anytime you can see those icons I need to represent, you

  • can stick your personal content in there.

  • So if you have a favorite example of learning or one

  • that's particularly relevant to your everyday experience or

  • your job, just feel free to insert that every time that

  • flashes out.

  • But I'll try to illustrate it with examples.

  • Because again there's good evidence that that's an

  • important thing to do for learning.

  • So I think there's this intuition that what learning

  • is about is just adding information.

  • So it's almost as if we have this model where

  • the mind is a bucket.

  • And so what does it mean to learn?

  • Well it means to take information and drop it in

  • that bucket.

  • Whether it's videos, text, solving stuff, just put it in.

  • And later on you can come back and get it.

  • But actually I think a much better way of thinking about

  • learning is that it's like taking a piece of information,

  • integrating it into the internet, and assuming it had

  • a web page.

  • So that galaxy is the internet.

  • And you can guess what those big giant planets are.

  • So how might you think about this analogy shedding more

  • light on learning?

  • Well under this kind of view, when you're adding content to

  • the internet, first of all, you have to

  • think about three stages.

  • Well what do you do before the content arrives?

  • Or what do you do in linking it to what's already known?

  • So it's really important now.

  • You're not just dropping in a bucket.

  • You're actually linking it to web pages that already exist

  • by citing them.

  • You're putting on a particular domain.

  • And so I think this is very analogous to the challenge we

  • face as learners of how do you get information to link up to

  • what people already know?

  • And in what kind of knowledge are you linking

  • new concepts to?

  • And I think that some things are obvious

  • when we look at it.

  • But it's definitely not at the forefront, I think, of a lot

  • of instructional decisions.

  • Also if we think now even of processes people engage in

  • while they're learning.

  • Everyone on the internet, time is limited, they're not going

  • to read your whole page.

  • If you're lucky they will even read the first few lines.

  • So we have to ask questions like, how do you structure the

  • information on a web page so that the really core

  • concepts jump out?

  • What are the key principles?

  • Or depending on the person, is the web page structured so

  • they can get to the information they need?

  • And so this is analogous to when we're processing

  • something like a video or a bunch of text, it's actually

  • just flat out impossible to remember all that information.

  • So what are the cognitive operations you're engaging in

  • that pick out some information as being more

  • important than others?

  • Some relationships or some principles or some details of

  • whatever content you're learning.

  • And then finally, what's the last part of getting a web

  • page off of the internet?

  • Again, I think you guys all have a better advantage in

  • answering these audience type [INAUDIBLE] questions.

  • But it's actually being able to find it.

  • And this is probably the most underlooked part of what

  • learning involves.

  • Because anytime you learn something, it's only going to

  • be learning if it influences your mind in a way that, at

  • some point in the future, you're going to act

  • differently because of it.

  • So you have to retrieve that information somewhere.

  • So for example, the final stage of learning is it's got

  • to be set up in a way that it's got the right cues or the

  • right connections that when someone goes looking for that

  • information, they're actually going to find it.

  • For example I might be really interested in things about

  • mathematics from a video.

  • And you could say that I know it.

  • But when I am actually faced with a situation where I have

  • to solve or differentiate something, am I actually going

  • to remember that fact at that moment?

  • Or am I going to remember something else I learned about

  • differentiation, or something else about functions?

  • And so really a key challenge in learning is the instruction

  • has to actually ensure that people are putting information

  • in the right way that they can access it later.

  • And actually a key part of that is going to be that after

  • instruction takes place, it's actually really important to

  • give people practice in testing them, and sort of

  • accessing that information.

  • What could be called retrieval of practice.