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I am currently watching a National Geographic documentary series, One Strange Rock. It is narrated by the actor Will Smith and helmed by filmmaker and writer Darren Aronofsky.


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I have watched two episodes so far, Gasp and Storm, and they have left me breathless.

The series combines non-linear storytelling and beautiful cinematography to illustrate why life exists on Earth.

Good things can happen when Hollywood types and astronauts collide, just like what happened to our planet when asteroids and another planet hit it. Under the right Goldilocks circumstances, when the conditions are just right, we got planet Earth and this excellent documentary series.

This teacher’s generous sharing is a good example of an open classroom practice.

It is also an example of Cuban’s description of practitioners often being experience or practice rich but theory poor.

The teacher shared some excellent ideas on how to go “gradeless”:

  • Poll students to see where they are at
  • Empathise with the mindsets of students
  • Stick with policies and model practices of going gradeless
  • Get buy-in and support from school leaders and peers
  • Communicate clearly with students and their parents

However, there are areas where experience, practice, and experimentation are not enough.

What the teacher describes are “gradeless” is actually a type of formative feedback; the former is somewhat intimidating while the latter is more mainstream. It is important to lower or remove barriers when trying something new. That principle is fundamental in managing change.

The teacher also had poll responses that puzzled me. For example, what is the difference between “learning biology and also getting a good grade” and “both learning and getting a good grade”? Is the latter about learning in general? If so, how is that option relevant?

Options in a poll or quiz should not be ambiguous or overlap conceptually. This is fundamental to poll and quiz design if you are not to confuse students and if you want to get a clear idea of where the learners are at.

No teacher or teaching is perfect. We need to take the roses and rotten tomatoes thrown in our direction in equal measure.

This is a quick follow-up to shower thoughts 1.

One reason we might have deep or profound thoughts while showering is because our minds make connections when we are relaxed. This is why sleep is more important in the run up to exams than cramming.

A shower thought is also an example I sometimes bring up in workshops where we practice station-based learning. The design for such sessions is that there are different tasks at each station, all of which help learners attempt and achieve learning outcomes.

I emphasise to participants that when station-based learning is repeated and becomes a culture of practice, students learn to associate different parts of a room — the different stations — with different tasks, e.g., consuming content, making connections, considering contrasts, reflecting.

The shower story starts with a question: Have you ever had a good idea while showering only to forget it once you towel dry and get dressed? Most participants say yes.

Then I ask them what they do or need to do to get the idea back. Some reply that they need to take the shower again. The idea comes back when they do.
 

 
I call this learning-in-place. We associate certain concepts, ideas, and issues with cues that are visual, aural, tactile, odorous, etc. It is as if a thought bubble remained where we once stood, and we have to return to where it was to get it back.

That is why students associated different concepts or types of learning with different stations. That is also why I need to step back into the shower to recapture my thoughts. It is either that or I am just getting old.

 
The tweeted “shower thought” below led me to a few questions:

Was the tweet a statement about how “outside” children created tools that encouraged “inside” children?

Or was the statement more about how we create change whether we intend to or not?

Or better still, how about the fact that some of us are always playing and inventing?

Yesterday I hit Level 40 in Pokémon Go (Pogo). This is a significant milestone because there are only 40 levels in this game.

My Level 40 profile as viewed in a raid gym.

To reach this level, I had to accrue 20 million experience points (XP) by grabbing them wherever and whenever I could in the game.

Even though this is a difficult task, others have reached this level before me. Some use bots to harvest or unsanctioned tools to spoof their location. These “players” are so common that I can often be at a remote gym and be the only person in sight.

Thankfully there are people who play the game legitimately. I have met local “uncles” and “aunties” who met this milestone long before me. (Who am I kidding? I am an uncle myself!)

Younger folks might argue that the older folk have more spare time on their hands. And that they do. I played strategically in terms of time and how to maximise XP gains, but it still took me 20 months to reach Level 40.

For some, this milestone is the finish line — game over. However, it is not the end of the game for me. I am relying on a mix of extrinsic and intrinsic factors to keep playing the game.

Niantic, the parent company of Pogo, releases legendary Pokémon in raid battles roughly once a month. There are also monthly Community Days that promise the chance of catching shiny variants of Pokémon. The company also has a few more generations of Pokémon to release in the game.

I no longer need to grind for XP in the game. However, I will continue to look for the best of every type of Pokémon in terms of their IVs. I will also keep levelling up the Pokémon that have relevance in the meta game [examples] because they help in gym battles.

I also do not have some of the regional Pokémon. This is one more incentive to travel.

My game play reflects my learning philosophy. There are goals that someone else might define for me, and if I share these goals, I pursue them. But I do not stop there because that is a short-term learning strategy. I take ownership of the what, how, and why I learn.

Niantic owns Pokémon Go, but I own the way I play the game. Likewise, someone other entity might own the rights to a learning resource, but I own the learning process.

I was a graduate student when I first found out about the disproportionate amount of time it took to prepare e-learning resources.

The ratio of development time (input) to learning time (output) varies. A fairly recent and oft quoted study by Chapman cited 127 developmental hours for every hour of e-learning (127:1). This ratio was for Level 2 e-learning developed relatively quickly from templates.

According to Chapman, the research data originated from 3,947 instructional designers (or people with similar roles) representing 249 companies.

The ratio might sound impressive because the numbers are a result of the efforts of corporate teams responsible for organisational e-learning. Such ratios are also rules-of-thumb sought by freelancers to provide estimates for potential clients.

I do not recall the number being so high when I was graduate student. However, back then the technologies did not include the more social, augmented, and virtual ones we have now.

That said, I do not know of any responsive learning organisation that can afford to invest 127 preparatory hours for an hour of standards-based training or e-learning. A freelance instructional designer (ID) would have to work thinner, lighter, and faster to compete for and retain clients.
 

 
ID work is a small part of my consulting work as I have to factor in many other considerations, e.g., institutional policies, social contexts, group dynamics.

I have kept track of my preparatory time in my latest consulting effort. Without revealing details covered by a non-disclosure agreement, I can say that the effort focuses on a small group of educators who need guidance in a form of communication.

The situation is dynamic as I have to respond to volatile schedules. I often have little time for preparatory work. For example, I gave myself a week to prepare a just-in-time segment for participants. I took 30 hours over six days to prepare for a 3-hour blended session. This is a 10:1 ratio.

So is my effort (10:1) less than worthy of a corporate one (127:1)? Based only on numbers, it is. Based on quality — my knowledge of context; the blending of content, pedagogy, and media; the attention to detail — I would argue not.

This CNET article is one of many that tries to provide help to those who want to control the data that Facebook has on you.

Its advice is restricted to changing settings on 1) who can tag you, and 2) how you should review posts before they appear in your timeline.
 

 
But there is much more you can do. For example, you should also check app permissions and audit privacy settings.

Facebook app permissions.

Facebook privacy settings.

The most important thing you can do is not a Facebook setting. It is a mindset and practice — you should reduce postings or refrain from posting.


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