Another dot in the blogosphere?

If you seek to indoctrinate, provide the answers. If you seek to educate, provide questions.

I have been wondering out loud about designing and conducting workshops on the pedagogy of questions.

I revisited my plan after reading this piece by George Couros, Starting With the Questions to Develop Curiosity and Better Solutions.

However, these workshops remain a pipe dream because I have not met people open enough to try this approach.

Recently I took the opportunity to share my ideas with a contact. It went as it usually does — after a pleasant conversation, the ideas were gently rejected.

But I refuse to develop an immunity to people who either dismiss what they do not understand or not bother to find out more. I have the cure they need the most: It is called the pedagogy of questions.

Mention the company name, Sunseap, to folks here and most will probably give you a blank look.

I do not blame them because I had not heard of them until I read a news article in April this year and learnt that they provided solar-generated electricity.

When I found out that the energy market was to open up and that my home was in one of the trial areas, I made up my mind which company to sign up with.

The problem with this discreet company is how low-key it seems to be. It did not market itself aggressively at the malls in the trial areas. It did not even have its own customer relations and billing department. It relied on StarHub, a local telco, instead.

Recently I received a registered letter from StarHub that informed me that Sunseap was taking over those processes because the latter needed to be its own and fully operational entity in the liberalised energy market.

As acknowledgement and compensation, I was given SGD50 worth of shopping vouchers and promised an automatic SGD50 rebate on my next bill. The latter is effectively a month’s bill. I am thankful for both.

But here is the rub: I found out that Sunseap does not have extensive payment options.

I like to establish recurring credit card payments on all my bills. This way I do not need to remember to pay the bills on time and I earn points on my credit card. According to an email exchange with Sunseap:

Currently, we only accept payment via PayNow or PayLah. However, we will be increasing more payment options in the months to come, including a recurring credit card payment. When this is rolled out, we would inform you via email.

To their credit, the response was relatively quick — four hours from my initial query — and polite and well-structured. I hope that the recurring credit card payments roll out sooner than later.

Sunseap has a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. Both provide informative but dry postings — high on media, low on social.

Side note: I find Sunseap’s logo disconcerting (see its Facebook or Twitter page). It reminds me of the Japanese flag during World War II. I wonder how much thought went into its design.
 

 
I am keeping my fingers crossed that I have backed a player that will play the long game and do the greater good.

Disclosure: I was not approached by Sunseap nor was I paid to write about their services. The energy company seems to be the only solar energy company here at the moment and I think people should consider the planet and not just their pockets.

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I watched this two-part video report how mandarin is taught now. It featured a journalist who revisited a classroom and immersed herself in the student experience.


Video source


Video source

The intended message seemed to be that the methods were more progressive now compared to, say, the time of the kids’ parents. Given the examples and strategies, you might agree.

But I wonder about how the narrative was crafted.

Was three days enough to gauge how the teaching of mandarin had changed? Pragmatically speaking, a journalist is not a researcher and it is tough to get permission and time to record the classroom. That said, three days was not representative compared to three months or three terms.

The class comprised a group of a Secondary 2 Higher Chinese students. These were the minority of students and they enjoyed a smaller class size. How was the class representative of the larger population of students?

That said, the teaching of mandarin, like most other content areas, has changed with the incorporation of various technologies and curricular interventions. Perhaps both were too difficult to show.

I am not referring to the journalist’s toting an iPad. It could have been her own and it did not feature prominently. White boards dominated and this could indicate more a change of medium (from blackboards) and of methods (peer instruction).

An example of a curricular change is the different levels of mandarin in Primary school — foundation, standard, and higher — for students with different abilities. Instead of one size curriculum fits all, it was three sizes fits all.

Perhaps even more insidious is how the type of teachers of mandarin has changed. They are younger, more open to different strategies, and effectively bilingual. If mindset and cultural circumstance have any influence, the way these teachers practice their craft is different from their teachers.

The changes on how content is taught is more nuanced than two videos can reveal. Perhaps a focus on the type of teacher might have been a better narrative.

After I took this snapshot, I thought: Change does not mean the past goes away.

The past often fades into the background. It comes back into focus when someone notices it or waxes nostalgia.

The past is not irrelevant. It might serve as a backdrop or foundation for what we do or believe in.

But the past should not dominate or dictate. A backdrop without actors is not a play; a foundation without infrastructure above is not a building.

In edtech, the history of technology in schooling and education provides many warnings. One is that the tools change while the techniques do not. This means that the tools are not used optimally.

If the medium changes without the method, we see only the veneer of change. To see what change really looks like, we need to dig into mindset. This takes immersion, not a drive-by visit.

If you seek to indoctrinate, provide the answers. If you seek to educate, provide questions.

From this Edutopia article comes these statements:

It’s said that at the age of 5 children ask 120 questions a day, at age 6 they ask 60 questions a day—and at 40 adults ask only four questions a day. Embrace a beginner’s mind and ask questions.

Staying true to the need to query, I have the questions:

Who said what was said?

Assuming the numbers to be true, how does the number of questions indicate the type and quality of questions, if at all?

Is asking four critically important questions less important than asking 120 superficial ones? Why or why not?

If you operate in training in the corporate, governmental, or NGO worlds, then 80:20 or 70:20:10 makes sense to you.

To the rest of the world, particularly those in schooling and higher education, those ratios and what they stand for make about as much sense as the tweet above.

The issue is not so much the proportion of, say, sales and active customers, it is how the numbers came to be. When you discover that this “principle” has been applied to management, marketing, sales, and even life, you have to ask: What research helped establish these ratios?


If you dive into that rabbit hole, you might realise how shallow it is. It is a pothole that does not go anywhere. I would rather pave over that hole.

I did something similar in the past by pointing out how wrong the numbers were in Dale’s cone of experience. This critical resource describes how Dale did not put any numbers to his model and the numbers were made up.

It is tempting to try to make complex phenomena like “how people learn” simple. The mistake is trying to boil this down to numbers and formulae.

Technology is the toolset that wields that power. The title and the last sentence were what I took away from watching the video below.


Video source

Neil deGrasse Tyson has a way of using plain speak to explain science. In emphasising the importance of scientific literacy, he told a story about Christopher Columbus and opined the outcome of a theoretical alien visit.

He told a story of how Columbus fooled native Americans with his knowledge of a lunar eclipse. He also explained why intelligent life in the form of aliens, not just movie versions, would beat us flat if it came to that.

Knowledge becomes power when you have something that someone else does not. However, that power is empty until the knowledge is embodied in technology as a form of delivery.

If that principle holds true, then why are some teachers still withholding technology from (or using older technologies with) their students? Might they be trying to cling on to power as misguided practice?

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