Another dot in the blogosphere?

It’s a trap!

Posted on: April 15, 2014

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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.

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