31 July, 2006

'The Seduction of Learning' by Sam Grumont (I & E Cluster Co-ordinator)

Hi chess aficionados,
I wandered into an interesting site which talks about the arousal the competing in the game can give to the brain - cognitive arousal is the buzz word to give you some afflatus:

'Is Sudoku seductive? Is chess sexy? Is crafting code a turn-on? To our brains, absolutely. But while most of us don't use the word "seductive" in non-sexual contexts, good game designers do. They know what turns your brain on, and they're not afraid to use it. They're experts at the art of "cognitive arousal", and if we're trying to design better experiences for our users, we should be too.

I'm not talking about using sex to arouse your brain. I'm talking about the kind of "experiential pleasure" that comes from solving a puzzle, overcoming a challenge, exploring new territory, becoming swept up in a narrative, interacting with others in a social framework, and discovering something new about yourself. I'm talking about things that engage the brain in a way that Gregory Bateson describes in The Ecology of Mind, discussing games:

"... they are important emotions that we feel and go through and enjoy and find in some mysterious ways to enlarge our spirit."'

Want more then try

22 July, 2006

The GENDER Puzzle.

Chess and gender always gets a heated response.
For those who don’t know chess has, historically, been dominated by males. And the obvious question is WHY?
A GOOGLE Search on the topic will return 2,600,000 responses- some which I’ve included below.
Without getting embroiled in gender warfare, I’ve noticed some interesting observations- completely untested- in my own classes.
Last year, I had a predominately male yr9 maths methods class (16males, 4 females) where the boys would BEG to have chess games/tournaments during class time. They would salivate and engage in battlemode of the highest order.
Of the 4 girls, one was a good player, one had never played, and two were indifferent. When they played together (chose not to play with the boys!) they had a co-operative approach, naturally sharing strategies and working much less competitively.
One girl wasn’t the slightest bit interested in playing and continued with maths ‘from the book’. I asked her why girls seemed less interested in playing chess.
And, her response was a classic!
She shrugged her shoulders: “Girls have got better things to do with their time.”
This is interesting when we compare attitudes with my yr7 class: boys and girls seem equally keen to play chess. There doesn’t seem any obvious gender difference and these are the comments we are hearing from primary school sessions.
The implications, and questions from this are interesting.-
1) what happens, hormonally with the onset of puberty, that effects interest in chess, and perhaps other areas of maths development?
2) if chess has the benefits we think, it must be important to introduce it as early as possible.
3) are girls being disadvantaged if they haven’t been introduced to chess pre-pubescant?
4) is there any correlation between girls who complete VCE Maths, and those who have been exposed to chess.
There are many aspects to this fascinating topic. If you have any anecdotes, theories, or ideas, please let us know about them in our comments section.
Before you find the right answers, you need to ask the right questions.

05 July, 2006

Meeting the tutors(2): Guiding Guildford with Ron Moore

(Ron Moore with students at Guildford Primary School)

My name is Ron Moore. I’m engaged as a tutor in the ‘Chess in Schools’ Program. It is my privilege to introduce this most fascinating of games to students.
I first started playing chess when I was at primary school and have been hooked ever since.
My experience in learning to play better chess was a long process. I ‘pushed wood’ for a long time, suffered many thrashings and only gradually became aware of the strategies, subtleties and complexities of the game.
As I began to play a better game I came to enjoy chess even more.
Fellow workers and family recognize me as someone who is very process orientated. Is this an outcome of my chess playing? Possibly! There are probably a number of skills that every player derives from playing chess.
The purpose of the ‘Chess in Schools’ is to develop cognitive skills, but I believe, in teaching school children to play a purposeful game of chess, much more can be learned.
And we should never forget that chess is great fun and can be enjoyed at any number of levels by both novices and experienced players.