Another dot in the blogosphere?

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It is not that I take pleasure in pointing out how the local press likes to make the worst of online trends, habits, or phenomena. It is that they do it with such regularity and without a balanced view that I have to point these things out.

A recent STonline headline reads Click. Scan. Search. Scroll: Deep reading is hit as our brain adapts to online scanning and skimming. The headlines points less to the fact that we might be adapting and more to deep reading (a newspaper perhaps?) taking a hit.

I do not know anyone who reads a newspaper from the first page to the last. I wonder how many people read an article deeply as a writer or editor might want.

Skimming is also something newspapers are designed to promote. The long columns and single line paragraphs are not accidents!

The sad thing is that our press has wide local reach and a fair share of conservative readers. These are the same readers who, whether they read deeply or skim, are not aware of alternative points of view. Alternatives published elsewhere at other papers like The internet isn’t harming our love of ‘deep reading’, it’s cultivating it.

These days we have no excuse for not being better informed. Not when the information is so readily available. It is human bias that holds us back, not the the technology.

These days we also have no excuse for ensuring our children are better educated when information is so readily available. In this case it is also fear, indifference, or inertia that holds us back.

Mobile Worker by mikecogh, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  mikecogh 

The move to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work or school is not new. I have reflected on BYOD before.

Whatever the issues it addresses or creates, there is another good reason for it. Armed with devices, workers and learners Bring Your Own Connections (BYOC).

It is a first world problem to be carrying more than one mobile device at any one time. With modern work and play, this is practically a necessity.

It is also a first world problem that the workplace or school might not be able to provide enough bandwidth for you or it might block the resources you need. That is why you bring your own connection: To get work done or to access the learning resources you need.

When Internet access to Google Docs or to my blog slows down at work, I switch over the LTE connection on my iPhone or iPad mini. This happens every work day.

If a work filter blocks a conference site because it thinks it is something illegal, I BYOC.

If a port is blocked so that I cannot use an Apple TV, a Chromecast, or Air Server, I BYOC.

If I am running a workshop and either I or my participants lack Internet access, I provide it because I BYOC.

When my wife attended an iBooks workshop at her school, neither the default SSOE (school standard operating environment) or the SWN (segregated wireless network) provided the access or bandwidth to download iBooks Author. So by sharing her 4G connection, she used up 829MB of her 2GB monthly quota that day to get the job done.

Almost two years ago, a few CeL staff and I were at a conference that was supposed to provide wifi for our demonstration stall. The signal was so weak and intermittent that I had to resort to using my 3G dongle and a mini router.

This is bandwidth and access that I am providing and paying for because someone else cannot meet the demand. This is not for my entertainment or unofficial purposes.

At CeL’s next department meeting, I might purchase a MiFi device and a colleague and I might show the rest how to create our own ad hoc hotspot for work, workshops, or any other circumstances when BYOC is needed.

Some people might say that I am being foolish by providing and paying for what someone else should be doing. But I focus on getting the job done and done well. Doing this does not burn a hole in my pocket. The returns on my reputation and quality of my work are well worth the investment.

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Admiral Ackbar’s famous line from Return the Jedi was “It’s a trap!” when he realized what the rebel forces had walked into.

I wonder how many teachers who attend edu-conferences realize that they sometimes ensnare themselves in mental traps.

One trap is thinking that the examples they see are representative of change or the euphoria they feel immediately after is the same as learning. They are not.

The showcasing of projects is not necessarily representative of the rest of the system. Who in their right mind would want to showcase something mundane? Often it is only the best and the least representative that make it to the stage.

Evidence of learning is a change in mindset that reveals itself in longer term action. It is not a fleeting feeling that can dissipate as easily and suddenly as it was formed.

This trap is obvious when you know the signs: Things look immediate and easy.

Another potential trap is wanting to see a conference topic trend in Twitter.

A trending topic is a measure of quantity, that is, many, frequent, and sudden tweets carrying a particular #hashtag (see Twitter’s FAQ). Such tweets do not guarantee quality even though there are chances that with quantity some quality emerges.

However, the quality and worth of these tweets, typically a result of an event backchannel, can only be gauged with a post hoc content analysis. An overall research question might be: What was the quality of the tweets? Specific questions to answer might include:

  • To what extent were people just shouting out in a large room?
  • To what extent were people agreeing or amplifying by retweeting?
  • What proportion of the tweets were initiating conversations, providing feedback, or reflecting critically?
  • How were participants extending such actions?

Even when critical questions and rigorous methods are applied, the results and interpretation are subject to scrutiny. So feelings, anecdotes, and perceptions should be subject to even greater scrutiny.

The mental traps I mentioned are insidious. The victims do not realize that they are trapped because they feel cocooned by the feel good factor.

People attend conferences for different reasons, e.g., to feed egos, to present, to be more aware, to learn, to network. I think people should attend to open up their minds. Such minds come with filters: Open enough to let the good stuff in, but not so open that a lot of rubbish falls in. Such minds are mindful of traps.

I found this photo on Twitter taken by @garystager.

I do not have to guess that he took the photo here in Singapore because the Twitter geo tag tells me it was taken in the eastern part of our main island.

Signs like these are very common at fast food joints and upmarket coffee shops because students frequent these spots and deny customers seating by spending long hours there.

Locals do not bat any eyelid because such signs are the norm. It takes outsiders to find them unusual or funny. When they do this, they hold up a mirror with which we should examine ourselves.

Why is it not just socially acceptable but even expected that kids study in places meant for relaxation, entertainment, or a quick meal? You might even spot mothers or tuition teachers drilling and grilling their charges at fast food restaurants.

This is almost unique to Singapore. I suspect it happens (or will happen) elsewhere. Where? Any place that has high PISA scores.

So here is a tongue-in-cheek proposition for OECD. Why not investigate the relationship between studying at places like Pizza Hut and performance in PISA tests?

Policymakers worldwide might not be aware or care for the effect that the tuition industry might have on Singapore’s PISA test scores. But McDonald’s is everywhere. It might be an untapped solution to cure test score ills.

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This video might provide useful information to marketers or serve as an impetus to use videos in advertising. But I see a message for those of us in education.

There is at least one thing better than the power of video to show you something. It is the power to create your own videos to teach, to learn, and to learn by teaching.

I love this Teens React video by the Fine Bros.

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I must remember to add it to my list of reflective resources for participants of my game-based learning workshops.

They might ponder on questions like:

  • What is the effect of failure in this game?
  • Why to the teens persist?
  • When and why do they stop?
  • How is the teaching and learning different from what happens in a traditional classroom?
  • How do you transfer these game-based principles to teaching (and even if you do not play games)?

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