Another dot in the blogosphere?

A tale of two TVs

Posted on: November 27, 2017

I hardly watch any local broadcast TV. I have TV sets at home, but they are used to project videos from online sources like YouTube, Netflix, and others.

What I do is probably not that usual now. Some consumers might not even need TVs because they rely on the smaller screens of their phones, slates, and laptops.

But I had to take some action recently to revisit broadcast TV. Why?

The news earlier this year was that that free-to-air (FTA) TV via analogue broadcasting would cease at the end of 2017. TV signals would digitally broadcasted over the air and cable thereafter. One in four consumers has yet to jump on board the digital bandwagon, so the authorities moved the deadline to the end of 2018.

I am in the not-on-board set because I have alternatives. My elderly parents are not on the digital TV wagon because they do not know what to do or how to do it.

So I took advantage of SITEX 2017 to buy a new digital-ready TV and external antenna for my parents. I experienced different approaches by two sales representatives and this reminded me of how some teachers approach learners.

I told both sales representatives that I wanted to buy a TV for my elderly parents. I thought that should have established some expectations, but I was wrong.

The first salesperson kept recommending bigger TVs, and when I rejected them, moved on to sets with more features. For example, he highlighted a “smart” TV (Internet-capable) even though my parents do not have an Internet connection at home and cannot use that feature set.

The second was much quicker on the uptake. He tried to figure out what I needed and asked more focused questions or provided more precise answers. For example:

  • he asked me which floor my parents lived on as that would determine the type of antenna to buy
  • when I asked where the service centre was, he could not remember so he looked up the information on his phone and showed it to me
  • when he realised the boxed set did not include a warranty card, he provided me with a digital version

So I bought the new TV from the second sales representative. This was despite the fact that I was able to bargain the price down with the first person while the second was adamant about his prices. The second guy knew his stuff, knew what else to do when he lacked information, and most importantly, put the customer first.

Do you see what this might have to do with schooling and education?

Some teachers are like the first sales representative. They know their content, but do not meet the needs of their learners. They might teach in ways that students do not want or need.

Better teachers are like the second sales representative. They also know their content, but they observe and listen to their learners more closely first. They do this to meet the learners where they are, and to suit their needs and contexts.

All students need to process new information and overcome challenges just like all TV-watching consumers here need a digital-ready TV. However, they can be taught differently.

The first group of learners are led blindly by their teachers and are unlikely to take ownership of their learning. The students must buy in only to what the teacher sells.

The second group has to define problems and suggest solutions. The teacher is there to learn first about his/her students before helping students take even greater ownership of their learning. Such a teacher offers choices and leaves informed decision-making to the learners.

As analogies go, this one is not perfect. Learning is much more complex than buying a new TV. Teaching is more difficult than selling a TV. However, both sets of experiences can and should be led by similar principles: Putting the student and customer first.

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