Another dot in the blogosphere?

It is Mother’s Day. This is a day set aside for children to thank their mothers at least once a year. Many express their love, so card, flower, and gift companies profit richly from sentiment.


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I like this video because it focuses on time and effort spent together. The mother is also authentic and funny without trying to be.

People who follow the main presenter, Inga, might marvel at how young her mother still looks. This is not due to the steam from the bao. People might know the saying that “black don’t crack”, but they might not have heard that “Asian don’t raisin”.

Happy Mother’s Day 2019!

Gmail has been rolling out scheduled sends and replies.

I have relied on the Gmail add-on, Boomerang, for years to do this. The add-on would change my Gmail layout and interfere with rollover effects, but I liked the convenience of scheduling email.

Now the feature is baked into Gmail as a standard feature on both desktop and mobile, all without the janky Boomerang effects.

While some might point out the giant swallowing effect that Gmail will have on Boomerang, I reflect on how this plays out in larger systems.

Change agents do not always see their efforts pay off in the short term or even in their lifetimes. Their cumulative efforts work like water eroding and shaping rock over time.

Some teachers crave videos that do ALL the teaching for them. I can understand that as a human response to unburdening oneself.


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But here is another strategy: Leveraging on videos that spark discussion. With enough creativity and critical thinking, an educator can weave just about anything — the Marvel comic universe, for example — into any subject. Here are just two examples on physics and philosophy.

 
This article cited a shocking statistic:

In one study, a test based on NASA’s recruiting process for engineers and rocket scientists was used to measure creativity and innovative thinking in small children. At age five, 98 percent of the kids had genius-level imaginative abilities. But at age ten, only 30 percent of the children fell into that category. Want to guess how many adults maintain their creative thinking skills after making it through our educational system? Just 2 percent.

So what might a parent or teacher do to encourage independent and creative thinking? They might take the advice of Esther Wojcicki, a teacher and the mother of Susan Wojcicki (the CEO of YouTube), Janet Wojcicki (a Fulbright winner), and Anne Wojcicki, cofounder of 23andMe.

  • Unshackle from standard curriculum, connect to the daily world: Get students to start “paying attention, taking an interest in the world around them, and forming their own opinions”.
  • Address the why: Remind them to ask why they are learning something. Tell them why.
  • Encourage questions and model seeking answers: Co-learn with kids, but show them search and evaluation strategies.

Jakob Nielsen found that it takes only five users to detect more than half of previously uncovered user interface problems. By reiterating this process over a usability testing cycle, one might roll out a fairly polished user interface.

I have found a similar principle when figuring out the culture of an organisation. I need only interact with a few people from different parts of its hierarchy to get a good feel of the place.

While my observations and experiences are anecdotal, this does not make them less true. But here is a caveat should anyone else decide to try this method: The new people you meet should not all be from the PR or HR group. Duh.

The Simpson’s Paradox has nothing to do with the popular and long-running cartoon. It has everything to do with how a single dataset can result in contradictory conclusions.


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The video above explains this paradox with examples and initially uses medicinal interventions to illustrate.

This paradox also applies in schooling and education. So just because a university or an edtech vendor claims that a classroom intervention or a tool is effective does not make it so, even if it can provide the research.

What is crucial is access to the data and understanding how it might be interpreted. Rarely is such research shared openly, so stakeholders cannot make informed decisions. So what might a stakeholder do?

Consider the context, i.e., the circumstances in which the studies were conducted and the situations in which the interventions and tools are to be applied. These will provide a healthy dose of skepticism and spark critical thinking.

This critique of how people think about the effectiveness of edtech might push some folks to think more deeply about technology implementations in schools and universities.

It first suggested that most people assume that edtech and teaching practices independently impact learning outcomes. The article said this was wrong.

It then suggested that we should consider how edtech primarily influences teacher practices which then influence learning outcomes. While it did not discount the direct impact of edtech on learning outcomes should students learn independently of teachers, it relegated the importance of this route.

I would agree totally if it were not the fact that teacher practices do not necessarily change with technology use. This analysis of 41 teachers and the sample narrative illustrate this point.

I argue that the paradigm needs to shift to one where edtech directly impacts learning when it is in the hands of learners. Why? If teachers and teaching are like chemical reactions, they are the rate determining steps. However, they change too slowly to be noticed or to keep up with the times.

The edtech paradigm needs to match current reality. So what does that look like? Something like this.

Universities then and now.

Universities of old used to be centres of knowledge and learning. There was a nett outflow from these centres to the wider world.

While most universities might still see themselves operating this way in terms of research, much of their teaching is influenced by what is happening on the outside. They no longer are the only or primary lead in determining learning outcomes. You need only see the importance of portfolios, internships, vocational work, on-the-job training, and work-based qualifications to see how this is true.

Returning to edtech implementation, the indirect impact of edtech on learners via teachers is like relying on the university to learn about the wider world of work. The indirect approach relies on teachers to first see themselves also as learners and to change how they teach. If teachers do this, they learn to educate and can be very effective. However, this takes more time than the direct route of students learning how to be more independent with the edtech tools they already have.

Now this does not mean that teachers should not use edtech. It does mean teachers need to learn to be lead learners first. If they do this, they might combine wisdom from their adult experiences with the new found affordances of edtech to co-learn with their students. They become part of the wider world to wield influence not only on their students but also their schools.

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