I take workshops seriously. I have a reputation for making people actually work towards their learning during workshops.
I find it helps to project a timer to keep people on task and to maintain the pace of workshops. It is a visual reminder of a social expectation.
Timers come in many forms: The ones in smartphones, an assortment of online timers, setting a Google timer (e.g., Google “timer for 5 minutes” if you need a 5-minute timer), and even YouTube videos.
YouTube videos of timers are the easiest to embed in web pages and that is what I have started using in a series of workshops I am facilitating this semester.
The only disadvantage I have experienced is that YouTube keeps track of the videos I watch and recommends other timer videos for me. They make for very boring videos to watch at home!
Here is an example of a workshop page in Google Sites. I provide all the resources in plain and sequential view for my learners: Instructions, resources (e.g., links to websites, embedded videos), a timer, and a task to complete.
This not only creates an advance organizer, it also provides a scaffold for me to remember what to do!
According to STonline, this is an example of transformative schooling in Singapore’s Infocomm Media 2025 masterplan.
Imagine a future where each student goes home with a different set of questions for their homework, which are customised to address areas that an individual is weak in. That future could be at our doorstep over the next few years.
Using data analytics technology, teachers can easily sift through their students’ strengths and weaknesses, and assign homework based on areas they need more practice in.
This technology will also be able to generate customised worksheets and practice papers for students, such as generating more problems which students are weak at to practice on, or coming up with more challenging questions in topics they are breezing through.
It is a description of the holy grail of individualized instruction. To some, this might be transformative as we leverage on big data and more advanced analytics.
But just how transformative is the example? It certainly takes a load off teachers and leverages on what technologies can do better than people. However, it is still using words like homework, practice, and worksheets.
What would be transformative is thinking and acting outside that box. It is building on what has already started differently today instead of the all too familiar past.
For example, learners already watch YouTube videos that fuel their passions and actively pursue skills they want to develop. YouTube already has algorithms that suggest what other related videos to watch (like the way library systems might recommend books to you and Amazon recommends what you buy).
What would be transformative is a system that is learner-centric and predicts what each person wants and needs, be it curriculum-based or passion-based. But chasing curricula is going for the relatively low-hanging fruit; enabling the identification and pursuit of one’s passions is more worthwhile.
Now one might argue that ten years is not a long time to develop systems that help us climb higher up that tree. I disagree. With YouTube, we are already at the start of passion-based pursuits.
Building elaborate curriculum engines will tend to focus on content and providing it when the learner needs it. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not enough. Doing this will not necessarily create context for authentic use and help learners make meaningful connections. However, focusing on what drives learners and learning creates context and connection, and is even fueled by these two elements.
Consider Singapore’s refocus on vocational or skills-based education. Now think about how many instructional videos there are on YouTube, e.g., baking cakes, putting on makeup, playing musical instruments, building your own X, hacking your own Y, fixing your own Z, etc. The desire to learn these skills is driven by the learner. The content is sought out as a result of context and connection, not the other way around.
If we are going to use the word “transform”, then we should be using it properly. Transforming is not just doing more of the same and better. It is doing something different and more worthwhile. In education, transformational edtech should enable passion-based learning, not just more curriculum-based learning.
I had the opportunity to share this quote during workshops I conducted over the last two weeks. It emphasizes the importance on focusing on the learner and learning, not the teacher and teaching.
That is not to say that the teacher is not important. Teachers are, but not in the traditional delivery-oriented way. There is so much information on the Internet and in the minds and experiences of our learners. Teachers need to learn how to create that smart room and to create group smarts.
As is my new habit, I used Haiku Deck to create the image quote. I took the precaution of searching for an image in ImageCodr first. When I found it, I shared the URL with Haiku Deck. This allowed me to attribute the photo properly.
This is a video that warns of the supposed dangers of social media. It has the wrong title. Instead of the danger of social media, this was about child or sexual predators.
The YouTuber did a great service by alerting parents of the dangers of inadequate parenting, the trials of growing up, or gaps in schooling. All these and more could have contributed to the 12 to 14 year-old girls agreeing to meet a strange male who was not who he claimed to be online.
But he did a disservice by perpetuating the message that the problem was social media. Child or sexual predators have and will use any tools they can, so social media is not what causes the problem. Social media does not stop the problem either.
The medium does not write the message just like a car cannot make you a considerate driver or a murderous one.
Such messages are borne of ignorance and fear. It is not too late to be informed and to be brave. Let us not blame the tools when stupid, irresponsible, or depraved people wield them.
This is my reflection on the second seminar I conducted on flipping, 3 Mistakes, 3 Dimensions, 3 Wisdoms of Flipped Learning, almost two weeks ago.
I tweeted a few snapshots of the event.
I always wish that I could step out of myself and take more photos and videos of the sessions. Reflections like these might be a way stepping out of myself.
I have also toyed with the idea of using Periscope.tv to ‘live’ stream my sessions. However, I do not think this is fair to the organizations that pay for my services. I might try to wriggle it in should I have a free session that I can share more openly.
This second seminar left me with a greater-than-usual buzz. I could feel the energy before, during, and after the event.
It helped that the event was attended by folks who had an interest and some experience in flipping their classrooms or attempting to flip learning. There were a few who were nominated to attend, but that is par for course.
It makes a big difference when people want to be there or have a stake in the topic. I have been part of events where I cannot change the organizer’s plan of making people sit through a session they have little idea of or desire for.
After my session was over, I decided to decompress at a coffee place on campus. I spent about an hour responding to the queries and comments on the online platforms I used. I also used a new strategy of collating responses in an online community space in my bid to encourage on-going conversations.
While I was doing this, two faculty members who attended my talk asked if they could discuss some ideas and concerns with me. We covered quite a bit of ground and they were appreciative of the insights I provided.
But I was more thankful that they bothered to take time off their schedules to pursue what was important to them. It indicated that the topic mattered.
So this is what I have been reflecting on for a while: It is not enough to focus on content. It must be shared or experienced in context. Manage these two elements well and you might create a connection with your audience.