2009/05/18

Pedagogical Technology Center


Here is my answer to Luis von Ahn's question of the day on his blog:
Question of the Day If you had $100 million, how would you use it to improve a university? I'd like a solution with maximal impact.
Depends of what you start with (the level of the university before using the grant), and what kind of impact you want (increased popularity, increased enrollment, increased scientific output?) and whether you aim for the short or long term. I would use it to fund my favorite project: create a center similar to the Entertainment Technology Center (http://www.etc.cmu.edu/), only for pedagogy, with project oriented courses for undergraduate students, where they have to collaborate in order to develop pedagogical material of their choice (paintings, comic books for the art students, video animations, video games for the CS students, etcetera) for courses they took in the previous year, and to submit each project to a competition where the students having to learn the related material vote the material they prefer.
  • The students designing the pedagogical material will
    1. relearn material they saw before, understanding it enough to explain it;
    2. practice media production (painting/drawing/animating for art students, programming/animating for CS students, telling History through a story for History students, describing/summarizing the Geography of a full country or continent through a virtual world for Geography students);
    3. produce usefull content (as opposed to the Reversi game I was asked to program in undergrad, which was very frustrating as there were already many instances available)
  • The students judging the pedagogical material will
    1. see the material they have to learn in a different light. Same content, different support, helps to motivate learners.
    2. will have to ponder the differences between projects and explain why they prefer one to the other, making them think about what is taught.
    3. will get new material each year.
Beside the impact obtained by forming better students (more motivated to learn, and more creative), a selected of the best material, put online, will contribute to a growing database of pedagogical material which can be used all through the world, maximizing the impact of the school you created in the long term. While you are at it, hire me to help fund this new school, that would be the right time in my carreer, and CMU would be the right place to do it.
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