Posts Tagged ‘teaching’
I could probably watch this TED Talk of Rita Pierson and find a different inspiration each time.
I liked the part where she mentioned twice in succession that, despite less than ideal circumstances, teachers teach anyway.
She could have meant teaching anyway (whatever the circumstances), any way (whatever worked), or both. We need teachers that do both.
A few months ago I met with someone who was a student in a graduate class I facilitated several years ago.
After we exchanged pleasantries, he mentioned how he remembered me and my course. He said what impacted him was the fact that I documented the course with photos.
I thought this was somewhat ironic given that the course I facilitated was for Masters and Ph.D. students who were writing dissertation proposals. The course was about a form of writing, but what stuck in his mind were photographs.
On one hand, it could have been a sneaky way for him to say that he did not learn much from me or the course.
On the other, this was a poignant reminder to me that our learners pick up more than just what we are trying to teach. There are our values, mannerisms, the actions we model, the effort that we put in, etc.
Our learners watch and listen to us, talk amongst themselves, and learn the unexpected.
We must watch and listen to ourselves, talk to ourselves by reflecting, and learn what to do and not to do if we are to remain relevant and effective.
I enjoyed reading this article in The Atlantic by Mimi Ito. Here is what I think is the meat of the matter:
In our research, we found that parents more often than not have a negative view of the role of the Internet in learning, but young people almost always have a positive one.
When we interview young people, they will talk about how the Internet makes it easy for them to look around and surf for information in low risk and unstructured ways. Some kids immerse themselves in online tutorials, forums, and expert communities where they dive deep into topics and areas of interest, whether it is fandom, creative writing, making online videos, or gaming communities. They also, of course, talk about spending time hanging out with their peers, but this too is a lifeline that is sorely lacking in many of today’s teen’s schedules.
It is about getting a kid’s perspective and seeing how their behaviours and preferences ARE relevant to them and for the world that they shape.
I also like another phrase in the article:
It’s not just professors who have something to share, but everyone who has knowledge and skills.
This speaks not just of a mind shift that is required among those who teach, but also among those who learn. To teachers, know that you are not the only ones who can teach. To learners, you are expected to share and teach.
If we get a critical mass of such a mind shift, then we will see a paradigm shift in education. It will no longer be only expert-driven-and-delivered, but also socially negotiated and generated.
Some things in this video probably got lost in the Portuguese-to-English translation. There also seemed to be three smaller stories in this TEDx talk. But the messages were clear.
First, I was mildly surprised to learn when people stop watching or paying attention to online videos (4min 15 mark). According to the study that Gustavo Reis cited:
- 11% of viewers have stopped watching just 10 seconds into an online video
- a third of viewers leave the video 30 seconds in
- half the viewers will not stay beyond the first minute of the video (no matter how long the video is)
- only 9% will watch a 5-minute video
I wish I had a link to that study!
Second, I like how the speaker likened blind Googling to “infinite search, zero knowledge”. If learners cannot make connections between the information they find and what what they know (or need to know), they have learnt nothing.
Third, I agree that, above all else, teaching is about being generous. Generous with your time, your effort, and what you know. Roughly in that order.
Teaching is not about transmitting packets of knowledge. After all, if learners cannot make connections between those packets, they learn nothing.
No, teaching is about putting in the effort and investing the time to help learners make connections between people, values, concepts, and skills.
My guess is that if you opt to share generously via videos, you should make the first 10 seconds riveting and the video no longer than a minute long!
One of the biggest opportunities in online learning spaces lies with YouTube videos.
Not PowerPoint-based, talking head, traditional lecture videos. That is combining an old strategy with a new video platform.
It not even only about using movie clips or broadcast news snippets to generate discussion. This strategy, while still valid and potentially powerful, is already established.
The new videos are shorter in duration, higher on entertainment value, are more interactive (giving the viewer choice or requiring their input), and provide for shared and immediate context.
The strategies that enable their use include designing short and inter-related tasks, providing user choice, creating context, and promoting opportunities for content creation, analysis, and reflection.
I was looking for a suitable image to include in my briefing for a special course I am conducting over two weeks.
In setting expectations, I wanted my audience of trainers to expect to learn by teaching. I used my favourite CC image search tool and found this:
It is a long-exposure photograph of a flashlight writing. The photographer captured both the original “Teach” from the torch and the reflection “Learn” in the puddle.
One might appreciate the technical creativity of the photo.
I focus on interpreting the photo. The best way to learn is to teach. It may not be obvious, but if you reflect on this, you will realize this to be true!
According to one researcher’s book, they:
- Leave no learner behind
- Are reflexive
- Set high goals
by Ms. Tina
Walking about in a mall, I saw a promotion to Pay Less, Taste More. Our Ministry of Education advocates Teach Less, Learn More.
After reading these three articles and reflections, I think we could and should Grade Less, Learn More.
- You Should Probably Just Grade Less
- Instead of Standardized Tests, Why Not Build the World Wide Web?
- My own archived blog entry Question The Model
The first piece by Bud the Teacher started the ball rolling . In his own words:
For starters, I think teachers, in general, grade too many things. So one way to streamline would be to “grade” less. And that doesn’t mean that teachers shouldn’t ask students to write, and write often. But we don’t need to grade everything that comes to us. In fact, we should grade very little of it.
In the context of writing, Bud went on to say that teachers have built up the wrong expectations that they are their students’ only audience and that they alone evaluate what that writing is worth.
He argued that technology should not be the means of streamlining grading when the problem lay with the assumptions, design, and expectations of grading.
Put another way, the questions he might have asked could include: Why are students writing for just one person? Why not leverage on authentic and public writing spheres? Why not approach the task as a fellow reader and learner in order to critique instead of just grade?
Cathy Davidson wrote the second article and she was as thought-provoking as always.
She started by describing seven reasons why standardized testing, while great for grading, are not that great for evaluating learning. So she suggested a key alternative: Get learners to create by learning how to code.
I do not think that all learners need to code, but I do think that all learners need to be given the freedom and opportunity to express themselves and to create. Only then are they putting theory into practice. Only then are they making mistakes. Only then are they really trying.
As a result of reading these and other articles, I had to ask myself if I had reflected on these issues before. I had in the third piece.
Two years ago, I had concluded that modernizing a problem (e.g., creating grading software) was not the solution. We might create more intelligent systems, but the problem of testing irrelevant skills in irrelevant ways would still remain.
No, the solution lies in questioning the established but problematic model. It starts with accepting that grading more sometimes leads to learning less.
Grading takes time and students do not get timely feedback. Students do not pick up as much content or as many skills as teachers wish. Teachers do all they can to keep up with the grading load and do not have the bandwidth to learn new strategies.
A solution might lie in figuring out how to grade less so that everyone learns more. By grading less I do not mean asking for lazier teachers. We need teachers who question, learn, and act on what they realize is better for their learners.
Teachers could grade less by redesigning tests and focusing on key things that need grading. They could leverage on their learners’ need to communicate, create, and critique. Teachers could model these life skills and teach their students to peer assess in authentic environments.
As they do this, I bet they would learn more about what their learners are capable of and what new value they as teachers bring to the table.
One of my pet peeves is how some folks assume that when they are teaching that their audience is learning.
Teaching and learning are separate phenomena. One can teach but the others may not learn. One can learn without someone else teaching something.
So even though I get where the video above is coming from, I fear that there is still some confusion between teaching and learning.
If you listen carefully and think critically you might realize that the structured “explicit learning” is refers to forms of structured instruction.
The other problem I have with such a framework is the assumption that the type of learning is hierarchical, i.e., in order to apply, one must have structured instruction first. This might be true if you are training workers who are in a production line for pharmaceutical or iPad production.
But this is not necessarily true if you are learning to ride a bike, getting used to a new video game, or solving a complex problem.
Finally, it is not clear to me why this hierarchy applies to online learning. The framework seems to mirror what happens offline. Furthermore, online learning is an opportunity to break out of norms and restrictions. Why limit ourselves to what happens offline?
Last week, TODAYonline claimed this exclusive with our Minister for Education in an article titled “A call to relearn how we teach our children“. The same article was published by TODAY’s parent body Channel News Asia.
I have no problem with the principle or even the rhetoric of putting the child first. Education Minister Mr Heng Swee Keat said:
Fundamentally whatever we do, we must rest on one clear focus – what is best for our students. We have to just keep doing that and getting it right.
But the way this was reported indicated what the press thinks parents still buy into.
Predictably, the article started with what parents would want to read, i.e., parents attending workshops conducted by schools to show them current math teaching strategies so that they know how to help their children with homework.
Read carefully and you realize that 1) it is the parents who are learning new math teaching strategies, and 2) the goal is still teaching to the test.
If you follow the original line of rhetoric, you could highlight how the reforms in math instruction are meant to activate broader thinking skills. These in turn help the child prepare for a less predictable future.
The larger issue is the need for change. We cannot teach the way we were taught because the circumstances have changed. What Alvin Toffler said holds true in this mathematical context:
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
A few readers reacted to the news article:
- Parental involvement in schools must go beyond studies
- MOE has role in ‘arms race’
- A parent, a teacher or both?
The first response was written by someone who mostly “gets it”. Parents need to change their expectations of what and how their kids learn. Furthermore, in the larger scheme of things what matters more is “the social, emotional and moral growth of our children”.
However, not all parents or readers are ready to unlearn, much less relearn.
The second response was a tirade against MOE and tuition centres. The gist of the argument seemed to be that MOE set unrealistic standards and that tuition centres bridged the gap that schools and parents could not. The writer argued for a return to fundamentals instead.
The third response echoed the previous sentiment, but in a different way. Absolving herself of being responsible for academic development, the parent wrote:
I do not want to “learn new ways to teach (my) children”. What my grandparents taught us is still the right track. I am my children’s teacher, but only to raise them to be good people and citizens.
Both wrote about going back to basics. One parent focused on academic fundamentals (the three R’s?) while the other focused on fundamental values.
I support the need for fundamentals, but we need to build on them.
The reality today is that kids are growing up in a world that is changing faster than when their parents were kids. Parents must continually unlearn what they know and relearn what is new and relevant. This applies to both information and values.
The cynic in me might point out that if those same parents grew up not just learning (or memorizing) in school, they might be more open to unlearning and relearning.
We need to learn and teach light. By this I mean being less heavy on content dumps and not hanging on to emotional burdens like old is gold. We need to learn all the time and teach our charges how to do the same.