Learning How to Learn

We need to explore fresh instructional approaches, based in the NBIC sciences, to help us learn how to learn. Such educational tools as interactive multimedia, graphical simulations, and game-like virtual reality will enhance learning not merely from kindergarten through graduate school but also throughout the entire life course in school, in corporations, and at home. The results of past efforts have often been disappointing, because they failed to draw upon a sufficiently broad and deep scientific base. For example, instructional software typically lacked a firm grounding in the findings of cognitive science about how people actually think and learn (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking 1999).

In the future, everyone will need to learn new skills and fundamental knowledge throughout life, often in fields connected to mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. Thus we will need new kinds of curricula, such as interactive virtual reality simulations run over the Internet that will allow a student anywhere to experience the metabolic processes that take place within a living cell, as if seeing them from a nanoscale perspective. New, dynamic ways to represent mathematical logic could be developed based on a correct understanding of how the human mind processes concepts like quantity and implication, allowing more people to learn mathematics more quickly, thoroughly, and insightfully. The social interaction resulting from multiuser video games can be harnessed as a strong learning motivator, if they are designed for the user's demographic and cultural background and can infuse the learning with mystery, action, and drama. The goal would be to revolutionize science, mathematics, and engineering education through experiences that are emotionally exciting, substantively realistic, and based on accurate cognitive science knowledge about how and why people learn.

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