Another dot in the blogosphere?

Picture a difficult student or an indifferent teacher. What is worse coming from both is not “I have done my part” or “I do not know”; it is “I do not care”.

“I have done my part” and “I do not know” often stem from ignorance. This can be remedied with teaching, modelling, mentoring, coaching, practice, and monitoring.

“I do not care” comes from a place of willful ignorance. Learners might be made aware of a harmful mindset or behaviour, but they choose not to change.

It is easy enough to school the “I have done my part” and “I do not know” learner. But the “I do not care” individuals need a sustained and long-term education.

This sort of education is not always pleasant. It requires the unlearning of old and bad habits and the learning of new ones.

I like to think of the process as smashing glassware, melting the shards, and shaping the sludge into something new. The process is hot, sweaty, and requires much experience and skill.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. Just remember that it is tough on the dog and the trainer.


I have been facilitating a series of workshops for future faculty for several semesters. I also provide feedback on written assignments and conduct performative evaluations.

This academic semester is the first to worry me because of a few cases of plagiarism.

But first, some background.

Like some universities, the one I work with relies on Turnitin to pre-process assignments. Turnitin is embedded in the institutional learning management system (LMS) and provides summary scores of the assignments based on how much they match the ones already in the Turnitin database.

Plagiarism is a huge sin in academia. It is passing someone else’s work off as your own. If severe, it can get a faculty member fired or a student expelled.

Plagiarism is a human intent to cheat. It is an attitude or belief system that manifests in behaviours. Algorithms can try to make sense of patterns that result from those behaviours, but they cannot judge if a person has plagiarised.

So I do not take the matching scores at face value. As I have explained before, a high score might not be evidence of plagiarism while a relatively low score might hide it.

This semester I detected a few cases of plagiarism in assignments of every group of adult learners I processed. I used to get a clear case or two once every blue moon. The incidences this semester made it feel like there was an epidemic.

Thankfully there was no epidemic of dishonesty. But one case is one too many because the adult learners I educate today are tomorrow’s lecturers and professors.

So I provide a warning and follow the procedure of arranging for counselling by a central office.

The common response to “Why did you do this?” is often “I did not know”. I do not buy that since there are briefings about plagiarism and its consequences as well as an academic culture that avoids it.

“I did not know” might be an authentic answer. It might also be a convenient excuse. Both stem from not attending the briefings, or being new or blind to the culture. If this is the case, there is a more serious problem than skipping briefings or experiencing the world blind and deaf. It is being immune to change and living by another phrase: “I do not care”.

More on this phrase tomorrow.

A reply like “I’ve done my part” sounds innocuous, right?

This is was what an adult learner said to me when I asked him why he was not contributing to his group’s discussion.

I was surprised, angry, and disappointed, roughly in that order. He had not “done his part” despite sharing his views because he did not listen to his peers, offer responses, or raise questions.

He did the bare minimum and expected the rest to carry the weight of the discussion.

Anyone who has done group work or projects for school or work knows at least someone like that. People with bad attitudes is why group work and projects have a bad name.

I did not let “I’ve done my part” get away with it. I gently but firmly reminded him of his other responsibilities to the group.

He was not done. But he might be in a different way. I do not forget a face and I will remember his name. I take my role as watchdog as seriously as I do educator.

As a teacher educator, I was aggressive in making sure that student teachers who had bad attitudes did not go on to affect and infect children in schooling.

As an educator of future faculty, I will not claim “I’ve done my part”. I still have lots to do.

By the time you read this, I might be done with four intense sessions of performative evaluations of adult learners over the last two days.

Long story short: My learners need to provide evidence that they can facilitate student-centric lessons in a university context. This is as challenging to do as it is to evaluate.

To complicate evaluative matters, I have two batches of learners. I will need to grade the final written assignments of the second cohort as I evaluate the performative skills of the first.


This got me thinking about how much grading can be like the Rotten Tomatoes (RT) rating system for movies. If you are not familiar with RT, the video below provides a concise description and criticism of its flaws.

Video source

People might refer to a movie’s RT score as representation of its performance and then decide whether to watch it or not. While a single number is quick and convenient, it may not be valid or reliable.

The same could be said about essay grading and performative evaluations. As much as we use guidelines, standards, or rubrics, subjectivity is still an important factor.

I have reflected before on why and how I embrace subjectivity. This is particularly important when we need to find a balance between maintaining standards and treating each learner as an individual.

I am heavily influenced by Todd Rose’s work, The End of Average. We need to learn to recognise the contexts where using an average is meaningless. If we insist on grading strictly on a curve or using an unrealistic standard, we do more harm than good.

This harm affects our learners because we do not treat them as individuals and start where they are. The harm taints the teaching profession because we practice blindly. The harm persists when we act without question.

Does it take a rotten tomato hitting us in the face before we change?

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This CNET article claimed that Apple Face ID might practically replace Touch ID for verification. This is no surprise given how Face ID is effectively a 3D mapping and recognition system.

Even neutrals have suggested that it could have applications beyond the iPhone. Offhand I can think of how Face ID might be expanded to banking services and venue access.

As smart these moves could be, their potential and effectiveness is stymied by dumb people.

I am not referring to people who refuse to adopt such technology or who do not have access. These people might have legitimate reasons for saying no. For example, they might have valid security concerns or financial limitations.

I am thinking about people who have bought in to the idea, but do not implement them properly. Here are two examples, both of which involve point-of-sale payment.

I find Apple Pay to be fast and convenient where it is available. However, I have been to one fast food joint where the reader was at crotch level. This is fine with Touch ID — I could reach down with my thumb on my iPhone. However, assuming that scanning, authorisation, and payment must occur in quick sequence, I would have to bow or kneel to have my face read with Face ID.

At a popular coffee place, the reader was located near shoulder level on a countertop. The counter itself prioritised the display and sale of knick-knacks so you had to reach awkwardly high and over to pay electronically with Touch ID.

To make matters worse, the reader faced the ceiling instead being angled towards the customer. How might it read my face?

Both these two establishments could avoid placing readers at odd spaces and angles. They should provide better experiences by taking customer perspectives and use.

As I often do, I link these everyday experiences to teaching and learning with technology.

These odd implementations of cashless payments are like clumsy edtech use. Teachers and administrators might have bought in to the use of a particular technology, a suite of tools, or an entire system. All these are typically led by one or more vendors.

However, all parties often forget the learner and do not know how to design from the learning point of view. This sounds like such a fundamental principle, but it is one of the most ignored or poorly understood.

My almost 30 years of being an educator have helped me distill this principle down to this: Teaching is neat. Learning is messy. 


Experts forget what it it like to be a novice. Sellers forget what it is like to be buyers. Worse still, both might argue that it is not important to take the perspective of those they serve.

We may have aspirations to be a so-called Smart Nation. But this push is meaningless if we have willfully dumb people.

Some people choose to focus on the positive. Others dwell on the negative. I choose to be realistic.

That is why I tweeted this in response to another tweet.

The original tweet was not wrong, but it was not balanced. It lacked the other half of the story.

Technology amplifies what we can already already do or it enables us to do what we could not do before.

This means that a teacher can reach out to her learners beyond the time and space constraints of her classroom, e.g., online coaching.

But this could also mean that she teaches the same old and irrelevant way with different tools, e.g., from death by PowerPoint to massacre with Google Slides.

All this is not to say that technology plays a passive or follower role to pedagogy. I have explained before why technology integration is not like a pedagogical horse pulling a technological cart; it is more like a car. Educational technology should be seen and practised as an integrated whole.

As current and new technology enables new possibilities — for example, for students to create and share content — so should pedagogy change to move beyond consumption and control.

Most people might see how technology amplifies a teacher’s mindset and practice. The same people might not acknowledge that technology can enable new behaviours. Perhaps we should spend more time and effort amplifying the latter message instead.

This TED talk is like a trojan horse, but a good kind.


It started with the unwarranted fears of “screen time” but was really about authentic game-based learning.

The speaker, Sara Dewitt, outlined how games were or could be:

  • A form of embodied learning
  • A possible replacement for standardised testing
  • An opportunity for adults to co-learning with children

These aspects of gaming might be new to some. I hope they become standard fare in education because that is one of the places the mobile road is taking us.

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