Another dot in the blogosphere?

Ordinarily I would not share a video like the one below. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just not something I would share as a functional extrovert.


Video source

But when I linked three things I experienced from as far back as my undergraduate days to an event just last week, the purpose of sharing such a video became clear.

When I first stepped into university, I had a conversation with what some might call a flamboyant professor. Our chat strayed and he described himself as functional extrovert. That phrase was about playing a role as the context needed and has stuck with me since.

A few years ago, I detected a movement of sorts among some teachers who seemed to be resisting workshops and school initiatives that were cooperative or collaborative in nature. One of the leading concerns was whether the trend of teachers needing to work together — whether within the school walls or wide outside of them — was detrimental to “introverted” teachers. Some of these teachers were probably resistant or stubborn; a few had genuine concerns.

Last week I met with a group of educators to discuss revisions to criteria we used for evaluating novice instructors and facilitators. One category of criteria bugged me because it was worded in a manner that valued frontal teaching. The frontal criteria are important at times for lectures and public speaking, but our processes focused on facilitation which required more connective competencies. The criteria seemed to punish those that were not charismatic or lacked the gift of the gab.

The line linking these three events was an implicit assumption on what it means to be an introvert. That assumption is accompanied by others like whether introversion was inferior, if this placed introverts at a disadvantage, and if an introvert’s traits are not rewarded or recognised in good teaching.

A more fundamental question is: What is introversion? That is where the video comes in. It answers this question by highlighting five myths about being introverted. Introverts:

  1. Can make good leaders
  2. Are not necessarily smarter than extroverts
  3. Do not always want to be alone
  4. Do not hate people
  5. Are not necessarily shy

When I was in Denmark a few years ago, my host asked me what I learnt from travelling overseas. I gave my standard reply: For the important things, we are more alike than different.

This is a particularly important lesson in today because of the social climate and our membership as world citizens. So I was pleased to find this video from a Danish broadcaster.


Video source

The video starts with people being put in boxes. We then discover that people move out of those categories into new ones based on different contexts we put them in and the questions we ask of them.

While it is human to take cognitive shortcuts by categorisation, it is far more important to question and challenge those categories. I would wager that by asking more questions and issuing more challenges to ourselves, we learn more about others. Then we might discover that we struggle with the same issues because we have the same differences.

When this principle is applied in schooling and education, we might question if single curricula and standard assessments are logical for different learners.

I appreciate a good read from any source. It does not take much for such a read to help me see applications in education.

One such read was an investigative piece by the Washington Post (WaPo) broke a story that resulted in the resignation of a character in US politics.

The WaPo reinforces the important role the press plays in the current US political climate. It does not govern and it does not make laws, and it cannot uphold or police those laws. But the press can dive into research and report what it finds.

A good paper is not cynical, but critical. Its reporters and editors are not unprofessional, but hold themselves to high standards of journalistic integrity.
 

 
The same could be said about educators who are critical of schooling practices that are only rooted in the past, ignorant of today, and blind to the future.

The passions of these agents should not be based on unfounded bias, but on experience, rigorous research, and reflective practice. Like a watchdog, they are a check and measure because they monitor and they alert when they sense danger.

These critics are not whiners or complainers. They are a dissenting voice that does not deny that some things are good. However, they recognise that things could be better and they are willing to point those out.

Last month I pondered on how I could use a YouTube video on Trump’s tweets to teach discourse analysis.

Earlier this week I chanced upon a video that might be used to illustrate how to report discourse analysis.


Video source

By relying on the expertise of a debate master, the creators of this video outlined how Kellyanne Conway deals with questions that get thrown her way and how she frustrates journalists.

Her strategies were to:

  1. Deflect by repeating keywords and going off on a tangent.
  2. Take advantage of the politeness of interviewers and their need to move on to other questions.
  3. Pass the buck when she did not have answers.
  4. Fabricate information.

These strategies were a result of basic analysis: Listening and watching videos of Conway, noting patterns, chunking patterns, and verifying patterns. That is a simplified version of a how-to of video content analysis.

What is valuable in this video is how the evidence was presented. The pattern was textbook: Present each main strategy, illustrate it once, illustrate it again, and explain it concisely to remove doubt.

As much as I would rather not have videos of Trump or Conway as fodder for learning these skills, they are a reminder that good things can emerge from bad if we know how to look. The content itself is emotionally charged and this can be leveraged on to create memorable lessons and to show novices how to be objective when it matters.

Do some descendants of our former colonial masters think that Singapore is part of China? That was the impression I got when I read this article.

A video recording crew travelled all the way here from the British isles only to discover that their footage looked like it could have been shot at home. So they decided to get a post-production house to digitally alter signs in English to Chinese.

I could also point out that the article was edited after my screen capture (compare my tweet with the article) without adding a footnote about this change, but that is not the purpose of my reflection.

My reflection is about how perceptions drive reality. If people believe something outdated and inaccurate but do not check against reality or newer information, they will continue to shape their realities to fit their beliefs.

More disconcertingly, if people want to perpetuate their mistaken beliefs, they will do so, even if presented with more current and conflicting information.

To be clear, Singapore is not in China, we have a Chinese majority but our lingua franca is English, and some of us might speak and write better English than “native” users.

My design manta has always been this: Mindsets shape expectations, expectations dictate behaviour. If we do not change mindsets, beliefs, and attitudes), we cannot hope to change actions, environments, or cultures.

I cannot change your behaviour if I do not first help you change your mind.

This is why I try to address mindsets when I have short term engagements like seminars or workshops. I try to attack the tip of the brain; the change makers I influence have to deal with the long tail of expectations and behaviours.

 
Every semester I provide formative feedback on written work submitted by graduate students. Before I do this, the students submit their assignments to Turnitin via an institutional LMS to determine the extent to which their work matches other work in the database.

Every semester I get at least one email from a concerned student worrying about the matching score. The worry is good in that the plagiarism talks they attend have an impact. However, the worry is bad because they misunderstand what plagiarism is and how tools like Turnitin work.

Turnitin runs on formulae and algorithms. It has a huge database of references and previously submitted work. Any new student work is compared against this content. The extent to which the new content matches with the existing work is a percentage that I call the matching score.

Some students seem to think that the matching score is the same as plagiarism. This is not necessarily the case.

If a student uses a template provided by curriculum committee or tutor, the headers and helping text will match. If another student correctly and ethically cites common quotations and lists reference, these will match with other existing work. All these means that the matching scores go up, but this does not mean the students have plagiarised.

In 2009, I provided examples on how the scores alone are not valid or reliable indications of plagiarism. A low score could hide plagiarism while a high score could actually come from the work of conscientious student with lots of correctly cited references.

Both the students and I have the benefit of not just the quantative matching scores, but also the qualitative highlights of matching texts. The latter should allay fears of plagiarism or highlight what is potential plagiarism. The student can take remedial action and I can determine if a score actually indicates plagiarism.

The problem with the system is the human element. Grading teams, administrators, librarians, advisers, and supervisors often arbitrarily set ranges of matching scores to mean no plagiarism, possible plagiarism, or definite plagiarism. The numbers are an easy shortcut because they take out human decision-making. The reports with highlighted text require reading and evaluation and thus mean a bit more work.

Both faculty and students need to be unschooled in focusing on numbers and playing only the numbers game. Life is not just about what can be quantified. Neither is the quality of a student’s assignment and their mindset on attribution.

YouTube relies on algorithms to guess what videos you might be interested in and make recommendations.

While it is machine intelligent, it does not yet have human intuit, nuance, and idiosyncrasies.

All I need to do is search for or watch a YouTube video I do not look for regularly and it will appear in my “Recommended” list. For example, if I search for online timers for my workshop sites, YouTube will recommend other timers.


Video source

If I watch a clip of a talk show host that I normally do not follow, YouTube seems to think I have a new interest and will pepper my list with random clips of that person.

This happens so often that I have taken to visiting my YouTube history immediately after I watch anything out of the ordinary and deleting that item. If I do not, my carefully curated recommendations get contaminated.

Some might argue that the algorithms help me discover more and new content. I disagree. I can find that on my own as I rely on the recommendations of a loose, wide, and diverse social network to do this.

YouTube’s algorithms cannot yet distinguish between a one-time search or viewing and a regular pattern. It cannot determine context, intent, or purpose.

Until it does, I prefer to manage my timeline and recommendations and I will show others how to do the same. This is just one of the things from a long list of digital literacies and fluencies that all of us need to do in the age of YouTube.

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