Bitesize chunks, History in a day, and more. In this episode, Andy, Robin and Adam take on trending topic: Micro Learning. What is this all about? Is information better learnt in small chunks? Plus, is this just a similar strategy to the already-in-practice spiral approach?
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Hi, I'm Andy Psarianos.
Hi, I'm Robin Potter.
Hi, I'm Adam Gifford.
This is the School of School Podcast.
Welcome to the School of School Podcast.
So welcome back to another episode of the School of School Podcast, and I am here with our usual suspects, Adam Gifford. Hi, Adam.
Robin, how are you?
I am well, thank you. And Andy?
How are you, Andy Psarianos? He's here.
With guitar in the background. Hello, hello.
Yes, yes. I can play a little bit.
I'm glad to hear.
If we have a real low patch in this episode, Andy, you grab that guitar in a hurry. Get straight on it.
Oh my goodness. Okay. I can tell we're off to a good start. Everyone's in a good mood, and I thought, you know what? I want to talk about something that maybe we're not all that familiar with. I was reading an article the other day talking about trends in education, and one of the trends caught my eye is, it's micro learning. And I don't know exactly what that is, but from my understanding, from the article, is that there is now evidence to support that micro learning helps students retain information better. And the whole premise is that lessons are going to be broken up into smaller lessons, like bite-sized chunks, and then repeated over time to help new concepts and skills sink in better for the long term. I think it's been the way of teaching to have longer lessons and maybe more in-depth lessons, but then not necessarily go back again and again. So micro learning, have you heard anything about it?
I'm not familiar with the research at all, so I don't really know what it's about, but if I try to read between the lines, I guess what we're saying is, riffing off what you just said, we're not going to do long lessons, we're going to do short lessons, we're going do things in small chunks, and then we're going to come back to them over and over again. To me, that doesn't sound all that different from what we're already doing. So I guess, and this idea that the research supports it, okay, again, without really seeing the research and stuff, it's hard to have an opinion on it.
But I suppose the essence of what's being talked about here is something that we've seen before. Part of it is spiralling. So the idea that you're not just going to teach something and then it's never going to come up again, because that's a bad idea. We know that. You need to revisit things. But hopefully every time you revisit it, you revisit it at a slightly higher level so you're not just doing the same content over and over again. So that's not a new idea, that's been around for a long time. And the idea also that you want to deal with small chunks and you don't want to deal with big chunks, you don't want to teach concepts, you don't try to teach too much in one lesson, I think is what we're trying to say here. What do you think of these two ideas, Adam?
Well, the thing is, I reckon the reason why it's a story, the reason why someone's put pen to paper is because historically, I think we had a model of teaching that was very much the expert at the front of the classroom. And I reckon it was probably about year five of my teaching where I realised it was my ego that was actually getting in the way of good teaching. And what I mean by that is you can have a really compliant class, and then they're nodding at the right time and smiling at the right time, and away you go sharing all this information. But they've stopped listening about the three-minute mark, so you've got these windows that you operate in. And I think this is true for most of us, I think this is true for most things that happen, is that there's a window of being really, really focused on something.
But to maintain a really high level of focus for long periods of time, that's quite rare, unless you get into something fully. In order to do that over multiple lessons, multiple times, and so I think that's where the story is, because perhaps, if I think back to how I was taught, it was very much, for a lot of my teachers, about, "I'm the expert, you sit there and listen, and then copy what I do. Once I've said it all, you just do it." And we all sat there and some teachers become mortal fear. But to anyone looking on it would've been, this is imparting fantastic knowledge and education. And I think that's what I imagine it is, is that perhaps it contradicts the picture of a teacher that we may have had when we were growing up. That's what I suspect. Obviously it's good research too, so if it's a good thing to do, we have to do it. But I think that's the difference between the two, I guess.
I was just thinking, on that note, I think it's also, you talked about what we've known from the past, but also what we know of people now, and students in particular, that they have such short attention spans, as do we all, that having these bite-sized learning chunks is necessary, I think, and it is definitely better for learning, I would think, for most students. But in particular, because they have such short attention spans, you have to emphasise the point you want to bring across in a very... You can't stand at the front and lecture for 30 minutes and think that they're listening.
Do people have shorter attention spans now than they did, or has that just always been the case and maybe we're just more aware of it now? I don't know. It's that old sort of, there's lots of games based on this idea, but you can say a shopping list, or you give people seven items to remember and chances are they won't remember seven. I don't know what that magic number is. And then now some people talk about things like cognitive load theory, like, "Oh, you have to structure your lessons this way," or, "It's important to remember your multiplication facts so that you don't use up too much of your processing power trying to work out what six times seven is when you're dealing with a higher level question." They all kind of say the same thing. People's attention span or cognitive load or whatever you want to call it, it's always been short. It's just that you can develop tricks and you can develop strategies to get around that. But the essence is, the important thing I think to understand is, if you give people too much to remember all in one go, or to process all in one go, they're not going to succeed. So you've got to be really selective about how much you throw at people, is what we're saying.
Yeah. I think the other thing too is that you just want to go. If you've ever been somewhere where someone's talking and they're saying, I don't know, they're teaching you how to make something, or they're talking about what you're about to do, you're on a holiday and they're describing something, and you're just thinking, "Mate, just wrap it up, I just want to have a go at it." And I suspect that's the same for all of us. Any part of the learning process is the doing part, it has to be. So I think by breaking that up and allowing people to do, instead of sitting there. And again, I'm thinking of classrooms where it's just a controlled compliance, where you're sitting there. I think that inherent aspect of learning which is, "Give me a go. Just stop now and give me a go." I think that just feeds into it.
And actually, I'd suggest that the more interested you are, the greater the desire to have a go, especially if you've just learned something, and whether that's misconstrued as attention or something else, I'm not sure. But I think that, for me anyway, and I think for most of us, it's the doing part as well. It's facilitating the doing and make sure that that proportionality of, "I'll tell you a bit of something, then go and have a look for yourself, and then I'll bring it back and shape it a little bit more, then go and have another look for yourself and see if that changes your lens." And I think probably most of the things that we learn, the best learning that we've done probably fits somewhere loosely around there, I would've thought.
So Robin, what captivated you about this? What drew you to this?
Well, I didn't understand what it was, and it said it was trending. And I thought, I haven't even heard of this before, so I'm missing the trend altogether, which is why I wanted to bring it up today. Because I thought, well, maybe you two had some insider information that I do not. And then just like you, Andy, I thought of spiralling, and I thought, well, how does it differ from spiralling? And I don't know if it's more that it's about focusing on these small bits of information again and again that don't necessarily build on each other? I'm not sure.
We do that already, so good teaching always considers... So if you prepare a lesson, it needs to be contextualised to the previous lesson. It needs to contextualised to the next lesson. That's important. If it doesn't do that, then there's no continuity in the learning. But you have to choose, which bit are you going to learn today? What's the significant thing for today?
I also think it's a discipline. I'm just going to jump in here. I think it's a discipline to be able to do that with whatever you are doing is allowing that time, allowing that give and take, and bringing things back and dropping things in at the moment that, you're trying to think about some new learning. I think that that's something that, again, is important when you're learning anything, not just in the classroom, but I think learning anything, is bringing things back to... And also realising what key information you might want to bring back that might be poignant to the lesson you're on, what you're about to do.
I think we need to look at this. I need to look at this in more detail, personally. Headlines can be misleading, and what does bite-sized really mean? What are we talking about? Are we talking about your lesson should be five minutes, and then you're going to go off and do something entirely different? Or are we talking about we're only going to address a certain amount of content in that lesson? When we're saying bite-sized chunks, like we're saying, we're going to cover all of the Second World War in one lesson, that's obviously clearly not going to work very well. Or we're just going to talk about one very small element about it, but maybe still talk about it for half an hour or 45 minutes. It can be a bit misleading. How do we interpret that bite-sized chunks? What does that really mean?
Well, you'd be able to bite it off in one go. So the whole World War, you wouldn't get through that very well.
Yeah, well, clearly that's not a bite-sized chunk, but does it mean that your lesson's going to be five minutes, or does it mean that you're going to only talk about one small thing for a long period of time? We need to find out more about this.
We do. Investigations.
Apparently, it's not that big of a trend.
So okay then, one question. Only in the literature I read, apparently. But okay, one final question then. So, Adam.
Yeah, go on.
You're going to teach a classroom of year three students, and it's not on the World war, it's just on addition. So how do you break that down into some micro lesson?
Me, you, me, you, me, you. What's the sign? Over to you. What did you talk to about? Over to you. Da, da, da, da, da. Over to you. What have we learned? Where can we use it? Where can you see it in the classroom? Over to you. Talk to your friends. What are the questions that are coming up? Over to you. Something like that.
It'll be some sort of mashup between a bit of give and take, I would've thought.
I like it. You're good on the spot. Must be why you were a teacher.
Yeah, something like that.
Thank you for joining us on the School for School Podcast.