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Here is an example of a dichotomy that could fool you into thinking that you are changing for the better.

On one hand, the tweet has a point. It is a warning to teachers who might do “the cool thing” with technology and cite “engagement” without thinking about its pedagogy, applying research, or citing educational psychology.

The kids “do” with technology, but do they learn anything worthwhile?

On the other hand, the thinking behind the tweet might artificially separate two (and actually more) complex and intertwined practices. A passion for technology does not have to be separate from a passion for learning.
 

 
Some liken passion to a fire, so let’s use fire as an analogy. A normal fire needs three components — fuel, oxygen, and heat source. Separate one from the rest and the fire stops.

Learning is like a fire, but with many more components. Remove the core ingredients and it also stops. Technology is one such element, be it lines drawn with a stick in the sand, letters on paper, or videos on screen.

We know what keeps a fire burning. How, when, or why people learn is more complicated. It cannot be reduced to dichotomous thinking in a tweet.

Some labels hinder more than they help. The tweet below highlights “millennials”.

I add to my list of pet peeve words or phrases in schooling to highlight other harmful or misleading labels: Digital natives, learning styles, and enhancing with technology.

Here is a critical question and a critique in the space of 280 characters.

Policymakers, administrators, and some teachers like to tout the so-called 21st century competencies. So what if we cooperate, collaborate, or communicate, particularly in superficial or inauthentic ways?

So what if all that sharing is feel-good and does no good?

Are we prepared to ask the critical and difficult questions that reveal how uncertain our answers are? Only then can we move forward instead of resting on our laurels. Only then can adults model and lead by example.

I did not realise that it was Father’s Day yesterday. I returned home from an errand and found some chocolate and this hastily-made card on my table.

Sweet! Not just the chocolates, but the message in the card. Given what I know about how my son makes cards at the last minute, I appreciate the sentiment with a golden berry and ultra ball.

I also appreciate the “dad” joke on Father’s Day. It’s like a bow that adds some flourish to a present.

Returning to the Seven Terraces in Georgetown, Penang, was like revisiting a friend’s home. A very rich friend’s very large home.

Like my first visit 2.5 years ago, I never got to meet this friend, but I met many of his staff. They were warm, professional, and polite. In both stays, my family and I got extensions at no extra cost thanks to late flights and accommodating front desk folk.

There were also some not-so-subtle changes to the decor. One was this art piece that featured an elephant-giraffe.

This was not there in November 2015. I took this photo of my wife and son in the same spot then.

Like any good art, the piece sparked thought. For me, it was how easy it is to take sides — either extreme with clear views or somewhere in between with a jumbled ones.

While some might point out that only the extremes offer defined views, I prefer to focus on changing one’s perspective by walking back and forth. Doing that takes effort.

The effort was minimal in the case of the art piece. It might not be so easy when trying to see something from someone else’s vantage point. But making the effort is important in both cases.

Today I tie together an edtech staple, SAMR, and Seth Godin’s recent blog post, Better and Different.

SAMR is a model that has been useful for educators to think about what they are doing when teaching with technology — substituting, augmenting, modifying, or redefining.

The model is not perfect (no model is) and it has its fair share of critics and brickbats. A simple Google search will reveal what they are.

However, this does not mean that SAMR is not important or useful. The model might somewhat arbitrarily define SA as possibly enhancing teaching with technology while MR might push this to transforming teaching.

It might help to step outside the walled garden that is the classroom to see why MR and transformation are critical elements of the SAMR model. Godin made this point plainly:

There’s still plenty of room for digital innovations to impact our world. But they won’t simply be a replacement for what we have now. They only earn widespread engagement when they’re much better than the status quo they replace.

And the only way they can be better is when they’re different.

Or to put the same thing a different way:

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell (Former CEO of Pfizer)

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to play Pokémon Go (PoGo) in yet another country. This time I was in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

I realised that I could repeat much of my reflection on playing PoGo in Amsterdam last year. The similarities were the slow pace and gentle culture of play.

The best Torkoal I caught in Georgetown, Penang.

One obvious difference this time around was the regional exclusive, Torkoal, that was available here. I only encountered five or six of them, possibly because I travelled while the in-game Water Festival was on.

Wailmer breaching off Penang.

The event saw an increased spawning of water type Pokémon everywhere at the expense of all other types. This was an AR photo that I took of a Wailmer off the waters between mainland Malaysia and the island portion of Penang.

I can already hear someone point out that the more kiasu and frantic style of play in Singapore makes us sharp. But as we gain that, we also lose some things — fair and honourable play, courtesy, a live-and-let-live attitude.

Some might say that our speed, efficiency, and even brutality of play are hard skills honed by playing in a hard environment. But we are what we eat, we become who we are. The longer term soft skills that stem from an even temperament, looking at the long term, and working well with others are far more valuable.

I see a loose parallel between the way we play PoGo here and the hard, grade-based academic environment that is the Singapore schooling system. Ultimately, grades do not matter as much as influence, character, and impact. Currently, the policy and political rhetoric point towards developing students with the latter traits. Are we willing and able to change our style of play?


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