Another dot in the blogosphere?

Making that connection

Posted on: September 6, 2016

This reflection is about making connections.

Someone made a connection between the different attention the Singapore public pays to Zika and dengue. I made a connection between that observation and teaching.

A concerned reader wondered why Zika is getting the attention dengue did not. The public seems more concerned about the Zika outbreak here and the authorities seem to be putting more visible effort in the form of fogging and public education. The press highlights the rising number of cases every day as well as the shortage of anti-mosquito sprays and patches at pharmacies.

To emphasise his point, the reader cited the 11,000 dengue cases compared to the 200+ Zika cases so far this year. There have been dengue-related deaths, but no Zika-connected ones so far.

He did not mention the possibility of microencephaly in babies borne of infected mothers, the relative newness or “unknown-ness” of Zika, and its rapid spread.

But the fear factor was not his issue. Instead it was this:

communication experts could find out why the public is suddenly more concerned with Zika than dengue. Such a study could uncover triggers that sensitise Singaporeans to an outbreak of one disease versus another.

The relevant authorities could use the right triggers in future communications to manage outbreaks such as dengue or even tuberculosis.

In other words, good communication is about first figuring out what connects with the people you are trying to reach. The same could be said about effective teaching.

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

I was reminded of this after I met with a conference organiser yesterday. As we discussed details of my keynote address on gamification and game-based learning, I realised that there were deeper issues that needed to be addressed.

It was as if the topics were a way to create a discussion to possibly dig into the key issues, i.e., a lack of empowerment for change and poor course content ownership by associate instructors. Selling game-based learning and gamification might only address symptoms — for example, low student engagement or no pedagogical innovation — instead of dealing with the underlying problems.

The conversation with the conference organiser helped me uncover this and my challenge will be to reach conference participants where they are at, not where I think they need to be. I have to start with what matters to them, not just what I think is important to say.

How often do teachers prepare for teaching like this? Do they consider where their learners are at and what they need? Or do they consult a scheme of work and curriculum plan? If they need to do both, which is more important?

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