conceptual frontloading and mindsets

Posted on June 3, 2015


I talked to a fellow who wondered about making online textbooks more accessible to folks with learning disabilities.   This inspired me to see what kinds of things were happening and it seems that yes, some etexts are including study aids.   I forced myself to stop — no changing majors in the middle of the semester 🙂
My email to him about it included:
“I thought of the Java class I took that I recognized as LD friendly because the teacher did a bunch of ‘conceptual frontloading,’ which is to say he figured out the misconceptions people fell into and then constructed the “object” concept for us *first* and then gave us the little programming parts.   Weeks later we got to where I realized “oh, this is where we’d all be making mistakes if we didn’t have the big picture of how this worked!”

His response to my email included that: “The amount of content a typical college student needs to process makes front loading unfeasible. Moreover, copyright restrictions can also make it impossible even if one were to muster resources to make it happen.”

Well, except that this *was* a “typical” course with all the stuff a “typical college student” needs to process.   What’s not even between the lines is the assumption that I am saying “dumb it down.”    No, I’m saying “water it up”  per – Edwin Ellis’ most excellent article about making sure *everybody* gets the big ideas. They can be abstract and … “typical college” even.  Computer science major transfer courses, even. Abstract, challenging — but taught so that diverse learners can comprehend it.   In this case, it would be one of those “students spent less time and scored better” approaches that learning management systems are always bragging about, and it’s the stuff that makes linear thinkers like me have geekasms from the cognitive resonances.

Now, if only he’d record his lectures so I could show you what I mean 😉 We saw a *cool* gadget called a SWIVL that you can park your video-recording device in, and put a lanyard on you, and it will swivel around and follow you.  Granted, you can’t go *fast,* but … it’s nifty.