Paws for thought: what cats can teach us about learning
5th December 2013
‘Every child is born curious. Nurture their curiosity and they will learn.' So said the headteacher of a leading public school when he was asked what schools should do to engage students who simply didn’t want to be there. I was watching him talk on a panel about what impact technology is having and will have on the education system. He went to on to say that these days, cleverly using technology is at the heart of nurturing children’s curiosity.
Technology asks many questions of the existing education landscape. With children used to computer games and social media sites that put them at the centre of their own worlds, and used to progressing at their own pace, in a few years will we still see classrooms of students being taught the same topics at the same time? Will libraries still commonly exist? Will anyone even be writing on paper?
If you are a regular on the BBC news site, you may have seen an article last week asking whether cats could help people learn new languages. Cat Academy was born out of the idea that using funny and cute pictures of cats as memory aids, along with repeated testing, makes for an effective learning tool. We think it’s wonderful, and coincidentally Ed Cooke its co-founder and 2004 Grand Master of Memory, happens to work directly below Frog Towers, so I decided to pick his brains on how technology can be used in positive manner to help educate.
Ed says: ‘Learning is often seen as oppressive. We are often intimidated by it and see it as something forced upon us. The trick is to get people to learn without realising their doing it. Using silly and fun pictures of cats can hardly be deemed oppressive and so people are much more willing to engage with it. In the end, finding the right context for study is as important as what you are studying.’
Hear hear. This reminds me of Unifrog. While our tool is about making intelligent choices, rather than teaching people Spanish, Unifrog very much subscribes to the idea that making something ‘fun’ helps people to successfully navigate an education process. We pull together more than 20 data points on more than 40,000 undergraduate courses – in an excel this would look like hell – but we’ve worked hard to make the Unifrog experience intuitive and fun. The idea is to help students choose the best five universities for them – a very serious decision – without them even realising they are doing it.
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