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Does the lack of accuracy outweigh the benefits of truly understanding the information?

After listening to this Ted talk, I found a lot of his ideas to be really creative. The ability to teach through stories and images is a powerful tool and can help many students learn idea and concepts that they, at one point in time, could not understand. The problem that I see with this concept of learning is that if students can only learn and comprehend from this special technique, then what will happen in the future for these students when other ways of comprehension become to difficult because of the dependency on this particular technique.

This technique seems to be very dependent on how the teachers relay the information. For teachers however, as the grade level of the student increase, more information and ideas have to be incorporated into their daily plans, leaving it almost impossible for the teachers to teach everything in on sitting. Because of this, text book reading assignments and hours of research must be done out of school in order to be prepared for the next day. College education is another level up from high school and the amount of knowledge that needs to be crammed into the heads of students seems to be to much. This is why college seems to be such a dramatic change for many students like myself. How can this idea be incorporated in a way that can help students understand without harming their ability to learn and understand by themselves so they can be ready for the college environment.

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  • Mar 13 2013: I don't think this technique will turn out to be the only technique in which students learn. Every student has their own background, own way of learning. This process is wonderful for certain types of learners, but we can't ignore those that don't learn as well this way.
  • Mar 8 2013: I had a little economics course at Texas A&M borrowed from Purdue that showed how to make simple macroeconomics models. One thing that has become popular is to compare the economics models to physics, or rather the desire to make them more like physics. There are many comments available from Taleb to one of the economics Nobels. The social sciences are very different than the physical sciences. A related idea is what do you need for science? Taleb in edge.com seems to suggest something differently than Umberto Eco in his book on Semiotics. Of course there are reasons I may not understand what they are saying. I would question you in that Is the model good enough for your purposes? Naom Chomsky did drop generative grammar, but the problem seems in my reading was that it was becoming nonelegant. P.A.M. Dirac had a famous quote that was similiar. Generative grammar was good enough to develop NLP.
  • Mar 7 2013: In my opinion, the short answer is "absolutely."

    But here's a longer answer. You mention the phrase "truly understanding the information," as if what DeWitt is advocating is somehow the opposite of true understanding--false understanding? But what is true understanding? DeWitt was talking about viral replication in the video, and there are probably only five or six people in the entire world who "truly" understand viral replication, and by that I mean there are only five or six people in the world (who are likely professors at major research universities like MIT and Caltech) who know every single tiny detail of how viruses work. This is what George Lockwood was getting at I think with his comment about models. For even those very knowledgeable professors, every single day the researchers in their labs discover new information about viruses, so in order to continue to "truly" understand the information, every single day they have to check in on the new discoveries from the day before.

    The point is that we can't possibly expect every 13 year-old who's learning about viruses to understand everything that the MIT professor knows about. That's a fair thing to say, right? That it's OK to say that a 13 year-old "truly" understands viruses without making them memorize 100 books worth of content and spend 25 years in a research lab?

    So doctors deal with viruses all the time. But they probably know only a fraction of the information about viruses the MIT expert professor knows, and they focus on what's important--how viruses spread between people and how to treat people who are sick with viruses. Nurses know even less. Students who are studying to start med school know less than the doctors and nurses.

    The point is, at each level there is an appropriate amount you need to know to "truly understand" a topic. For 13 year-olds, that's very elementary. For a doctor, it's more. For a Caltech researcher, that's a ton. And everywhere in between.
    • Mar 7 2013: Hey Alex, thank you for the reply. Similarly to what I said to George, I am using this for part of my english project.

      The question that I want to raised is at what age should this type of modeling stop and do you truly expect teachers to change their way of teaching so it is more practical? To clarify, let me explain what I mean. I agree that at young ages the from elementary to middle school, the material that is learned is elementary. It basically scratches the surface of every subject; math, english, science, and history. Because of the rudimentary concepts, teaches can and should follow Dewitts model of learning through stories, but what about the older kids? What about when the times to learn get harder. The material gets more complicated and concise on specific subjects and things become less understandable? He emphasized how stories should be used to teach with things that are over complicated. How can his model be used to help these students when they are at the tipping point of choosing their career and college for what they want to be? With the amount of knowledge the students need to learn, how can a teacher be able to create a story simple enough to fit the needs of all the students and by learning in this manner, do you think that younger students will become dependent on this technique for learning and not be able to solve questions by themselves?
  • Mar 7 2013: Not to be trite, but are models ever completely perfect? We can never truly talk about reality. We can only talk about how we perceive reality and our models of reality. He has offered a good approach to understanding models and modelling the real world.
    • Mar 7 2013: First of all George, thank you for relying back. I am doing this for a project for college at Pennstate and need about three to four replies or responses, so this is helpful.

      What you say makes sense. I agree that models and examples, such as the example he gave, did give a clear understanding to what he was trying to prove and his approach to understanding models, but if we can never truly talk about reality with any model, then what is the point? I understand many things such as changing the government or suddenly asking to solve the pollution problem around the world and creating sustainability are models that are brought up to be opinionated and talked about, since direct actions and plans are unrealistic. However, I believed that this model or idea that he urged other teachers and educational institutions to do seemed much more possible and realistic. That is why I asked the previous questions. Do you ever believe that models can be truly talked about and directly applied to reality then?