WHO SHOULD CHUNK
Anybody who wants to educate. This requires carefully examining the manner in which students will experience new content. If you were looking for loftier words with intricate meanings you won’t get it here. No words wasted.
If you were to look at all the news that surrounds MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) you’d see an industry struggling to take advantage of the internet. We’ve seen this before, but this time it’s fascinating... it involves everybody from you to your kids and you barely even know it yet. The radio industry painfully tried to position itself against the Internet throughout the 90s rather than embrace it. They paid dearly on the dial and continue to because of failing to see the ‘other’ right answer. Chunking.
The issue at hand is not MOOCs per se, but more the manner in which they approach Online Education. Far too often, they’re calling ‘Streaming Lectures’ Online Education. Take that same experience ‘as if’ you were in the classroom and stream it online. Did that work for you? Sitting in a lecture for 50 minutes, write some notes, circle back next week with a brief review is all you need to learn right? Wrong.
Online Education is far different than the radio industry when it comes to the ‘customer’. In radio, it’s a consumer. With Education your customer is the student. MOOCs are treating customers like consumers. Bad MOOCs.
HOMESCHOOLERS ARE CHUNKERS
Education has been using the same model - schedule the whole day, section it into hours, section hours into classes, fill an hour with a class, repeat - for far too long. Alternate models of Education, such as Homeschooling, continue to turn out a smarter individual even when actual ‘learning time’ is vastly reduced from the Public School model. Great teachers are shackled by this model, get frustrated, and discover Homeschool.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) commissioned a study drawing data for the 2007-2008 school year from multiple standardized testing services. Once again, the national average percentile scores were higher in all subject areas by at least 34 percentile points, and as high as 39 percentile points. Factors such as parental college degrees, how much parents spent on education, level of state regulation, and sex of the students made little difference in the range of scores in all areas among the homeschooled children.
Homeschoolers, whether they know it or not, practice the art of “Chunking” education. Educational Chunking, is the savvy of taking a large piece of information and breaking it down to palatable portions for the student. That 45-minute lecture? Not today. Not anymore.
WHY WE CHUNK
We chunk because we have to. I could point at nearly anybody, anywhere, with their face firmly planted in the screen of their mobile device. If I then said, “Now, on average how long do each of them stay focused on one thing while interacting with that screen?” How long does a person stay with one item on the screen? 8 SECONDS!
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, research from January of 2014 says the average attention span is 8 seconds. In Bull Riding that makes you money. In education that causes ulcers. Unless, that is, you realize what you thought was once fancy is rooted in scientific fact: Our short attention spans are getting shorter. The average attention span of a goldfish (from the same study) is 9 seconds. A goldfish has a better attention span than you do. This is why we chunk.
Chunking is no new idea either. George A. Miller’s famous 1956 paper, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus Or Minus Two: Some Limits on our Capacity for Processing Information”, basically stating that breaking a big item into several smaller items within a group increases retention. Chunking is used in motor learning, memory training systems, Expertise and Skilled Memory Effects, Short Term Memory, and Long-Term Memory structures.