Another dot in the blogosphere?

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The boys in the video were honest. Kudos to them and their upbringing. But it might be hard to tell if their actions were internally-driven or due to the security camera. I wager the latter given how the older child tried to shutter the store as he left.

I like this distinction between honesty and integrity: Honesty is what you do when someone else is watching; integrity is what you do when no one is.

There is a reason why we call an attribute academic integrity instead of honesty. This trait is obvious only in the privacy of your dorm room or faculty office as you write an essay or draft a research grant.

Universities seem to address cases of academic cheating with reactive measures like PowerPoint slides and quizzes housed in institutional LMS. These check an administrative box, but are not necessarily long term measures.

Why is this the case? Students and faculty take these measures as inconvenient hurdles to clear instead of lifelong skills and attitudes to internalise.

I recall one student a while ago who took one of my Masters courses. He did not do well and was given the opportunity to resubmit the same final assignment the next time my course ran.

His work was riddled with plagiarised text and he was told by administrators to retake the academic integrity module. The value of academic integrity was not internalised before and I still do not know if he learnt anything after. I could not see revised work (if there was any) nor did I have the opportunity to counsel him.

So how might academic integrity be nurtured?

One way is supervisors and instructors who model behaviours when co-writing/editing papers or sharing learning material.

Another way is projecting with students the impact of poor academic integrity. These include, but are not limited to, a lack of trust of academics, not giving credit where it it due, and an erosion of academic culture.

Honesty is easy to see and measure. Integrity is less so but more important because it is about self-regulation.

There is a stock phrase for the slow progress of any change: Taking three steps forward, two steps back. But wonder what it would be like if we did not take steps back.

The Edutopia article above does a disservice to education by signposting how to maintain the status quo or even reverse progress of edtech integration. To justify this, the author cited the harm of screen time and the benefits of taking notes by hand. 

I am not saying that excessive use of a device late into the night is good, nor am I saying we should only take notes with more recent technologies. I would point out that the pen vs device question gets answers that fall on either side depending on the task. 

If you need to take a quick note, draw a diagram, or mindmap, then a pen (actual or electronic) might be both more efficient and effective. But if you needed to submit a legible essay, record an interview, or document phenomena, then a keyboard, microphone, and camera are better options for these forms of writing.

We should also point out the elephant in the debate room. The ultimate form of assessment — paper-based tests — favours handwriting over other forms of writing. In such a room, students cannot cooperate with one another, fact-check their work online, or express themselves beyond basic text and drawing.

Ultimately, the strategy of note-taking also matters more than the tool of note-taking (see video and sources here). In reviewing the video, I summarised:

It does not matter if you prefer to take notes by handwriting or by typing. It is how you attempt to quickly process what you see and hear before you record it. It is about your ability to analyse and summarise.

Rising above, I find articles that try to justify handwriting tiresome and passé. They live in the past in order to divide and conquer. They encourage the large camp of teachers who are wary of technology and thus maintain the status quo. They discourage the other group of teachers that leverages on technology by making them feel like they are doing something wrong.

What is wrong is wearing rose-tinted lenses of nostalgia and taking the short term view. If we are preparing our learners for the present and future, they need to use the tools of today and tomorrow. These tools include pencils and devices. 

We need a better debate. We cannot keep arguing that students should hand-write because exams are on paper. This might help students with a grade, but it avoids the responsibility of preparing them beyond the walls of the classroom. The use of all writing tools should not just be strategic and contextual, they should also be shaped by more progressive and authentic forms of assessment. What such assessment looks like and how to implement it are far more interesting and valuable topics of discussion.

This tweet time-travelled over a century to report someone predicted that high-speed racing would affect the brain and cause insanity.

Back in the present, there a parallel: How time on social media, gaming, or screens will cause anti-social behaviour, violence, or some other evil.

The similarity of the two is that they are a) attempts at fear mongering, and b) based on no rigorous evidence. 

Our technologies evolve and change rapidly. Our incapacity to reimagine or change is almost constant. Thank goodness some of us change just enough to move forward.

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Why do people freak out at driverless cars? One reason is that they think humans are better drivers than robots powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

As Veritasium host, Derek Muller, pointed out in the video below the data and statistics do not support this perception. People are more likely to cause car-related accidents.

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The fear of technology combined with the over-confidence in human ability is also not new. Muller related a story of how people used to freak out when elevator (lift) operators were phased out. Some did not want to get into a box not controlled by a fellow human. This was also mentioned in an old Pessimists Archive podcast.

We think nothing of operating a lift ourselves now. In fact, it would be very strange to have someone else do this for you as their job.

If we get over our hangups, we might just see driverless vehicles as the norm. If we are not convinced, we might watch the part of the video where Muller described how planes can practically fly themselves.

From the high level of AI required for driverless vehicles to basic edtech, the common barrier of effective and common use is us. Our role should not be to fear monger based on unfounded information. It should be to contribute care, ethics, and nuance — all things we are still better at than AI.

If you wanted a definition of “masterful”, a quick search on online dictionaries would provide a sample.

Being masterful can be quite difficult to tie down if you consider the breadth of skills and work. When a simple definition won’t do, some resort to the you-know-it-when-you-see-it approach.

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I think most people would say that the artist’s work above is masterful. If you are not an artist, you cannot say exactly why, but you know the work is masterful by what you can see. That said, a masterful person does not have to be a skilled artist or a glamorous performer.

Over 20 years ago, I interacted with a sales representative in a outdoor gear store in New Zealand. I wanted to buy a good pair of hiking shoes. Just by looking at my feet and gait, he estimated my shoe size and said that I had broad and flat feet. He was right on all counts.

After asking me what kind of activity I would be using the shoes for, he brought me a few pairs to try. I soon found out that he provided a choice as a formality because he knew what the best pair was. Impressed with his mastery, I bought that pair.

The hiking shoes lasted a long time even though I put them environments ranging from the forests of Malaysia to the mountains of Tasmania. Each time I put them on, I appreciated the wisdom of that salesperson.

My shoes accompanied me to the USA when I pursued a Masters in the desert of Arizona. Unfortunately, they did not last long enough to accompany me to my Ph.D. in the freezer of Indiana. They finally gave way in the desert heat and I had to tape them up to keep them together long enough to complete a hike.

I owned a few other pairs of hiking shoes after that, but they were not as good as my NZ pair. I did not have the benefit of the masterful shoe guy.

My reflection is not about a masterful artist who shares their craft on YouTube or a humble sale representative.  As usual, my mind wanders to the mastery that educators have that no one sees because very few a) see the work they do, b) listen to what they have to say about teaching and learning, and c) include evaluations of their work along those terms.

It would have been foolish and unfair to judge the shoe sale representative on his administrative compliance or sales pitches but ignore his deep knowledge and ability to connect with a customer. We would see the logic of a thorough and holistic evaluation. And yet we ignore this logic for our educators.

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It was from the video report above that I learnt that some police in the USA blast music from their phones if they do not want public recordings of their actions to go viral. 

How does this work? Algorithms of online platforms detect the music and automatically take the videos down for copyright infringement. This means that possible misbehaviours by police remain hidden. The police that use this strategy have effectively weaponised music. 

My takeaway is not about social or legal justice in the USA. For me, this is an example of a negotiated affordance of a technology. The music was designed to entertain, but it has been fashioned as a defensive weapon. 

Likewise in edtech, there are tools that were not designed specifically for education but were co-opted. Examples include Microsoft Office (for office productivity, duh) and Zoom (for remote work meetings). 

It is important to understand the difference between designed and negotiated affordances.  Using a tool as it was meant to be used is normally better than using it as unintended for another purpose or context. 

For example, keeping corporate secrets while documenting processes and products might explain why the Office suite was initially installed on each worker’s computer and collaboration was difficult. 

Elsewhere, however, more open collaboration was critical, and so sharing, co-creating, critiquing, and editing were desired by design. Cloud-based tools like Google Docs were designed with those features first instead of afterthoughts. 

You can use a single MS spreadsheet to co-plan an cross-border budget and you can use a Google document to share sensitive information between people. You can do that because the negotiated uses of the tools have become design afterthoughts. But you might not be using the tools optimally. 

Zoom is still a tool for corporate meetings. Despite its rise to prominence in the COVID age and the changes it has undergone, it is still not designed for schooling and education. It is designed more for transmission than for cooperation and collaboration. It is for the boardroom, not the classroom, but we have co-opted it and negotiated its use by limited our pedagogy.

Some tools are more secure and transmissive while others are more open and collaborative. Being able to to evaluate their affordances helps you determine what a tool is designed for and what you can negotiate its use for. 

Anyone aiming to be assessment literate needs to unpack the principle represented above. 

Here is my deconstruction. Not everything that can be assessed is worthwhile. Not everything that is worthwhile can be assessed. The overlap of what is assessable and worthwhile is small — this should be our focus.

One of my educational mantras is to focus on processes of learning, not just supposed products of learning. The processes are often more revealing and more important than the products alone.

Another way of looking at this call is to not just show what but also to show how. The Instagram video above illustrates this principle in a few seconds.

First we watch a videographer swinging a cameraphone to take two clips. Then we see what the combined clips looks like. The how (process) preceded the what (product). I can think of at least two takeaways:

  1. Some might point out that such transparency allows copycats to make their own versions. I do not see this as a problem as long as they also learn to credit their sources. It local laws are not in place, then learn how to use Creative Commons to label and attribute.
  2. Perhaps the idea to create such a video was original, or maybe the videographer learnt it elsewhere. The more important issue is that the process behind the product is more visible. If the point of a learning experience is to learn a new skill, it must be clearly and generously modelled first.

Such a culture and habit of sharing openly and freely does not necessarily make the sharer poorer. It builds the sharer’s reputation and we are all richer from the process.

River Valley High School here in Singapore hit a very low point yesterday. Social media was abuzz with the terrible death of a 13-year-old at the hands of a 16-year-old schoolmate. Out current Education Minister made this statement.

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Despite the control of information, at least one newspaper synthesised a timeline in this article.

It was a tragic day for many of us to learn that something like this could happen in a Singapore school. But now is not the time for judgement or speculation — we simply to not have enough information.

There is already a preliminary set of answers to questions like where, when, what, and how. Most of us will want to know why the older student decided to kill a schoolmate at random. We need to let people who are good at their jobs help us answer those questions. We are not in any position to offer answers as outsiders.

But we know that there is more than one victim of this tragedy. There are the parents and siblings of both students; their friends, classmates, and teachers; concerned alumni; and likely more. They are in shock and grief, so this is where those around them can help. 

We should not be sources of speculation, judgement, or other forms of trouble. But we can be a source of comfort. We need not have anything substantial to say. We simply need to offer an ear or a shoulder.

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If you have an edtech background, you might watch Hank Green’s video and arrive at the conclusion that we should not be technologically deterministic with social media.

This means not blaming a platform like Twitter for all ills that we see there. Twitter alone is not responsible for hate, racism, or disinformation that you might find there. Twitter as a company is responsible for algorithms and policies that might enable such content to bloom there, but that is only half the story. If we only read that half and blame Twitter, we are technologically deterministic.

The other half of the story is us. We use Twitter to communicate and share. Twitter can not only amplify what we say, it also reveals who we are. If some among us are racist, the amplified messages might be about hate. We make Twitter what it is by shaping it around ourselves. If we understand that, we are not technologically deterministic. We take responsibility; we do not simply shift it.

With a non-deterministic mindset, Green suggested that we use Twitter for good. If there is too much noise, we can choose to ignore the din and create more signal instead. If there is too much hate, we can show care. Just think of Twitter this way: It is fertile soil, but we hold the seeds or seedlings. We reap what we sow.

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