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Posts Tagged ‘awareness

This week I read two seemingly unconnected articles, one about US politics and the other about cultural literacy. I link them both and connect them to questions about schooling.

The first was a Wired article that contrasted the plans of Clinton and Trump as they drummed up support for their campaigns.

…you can learn a lot juxtaposing the optics of the campaign speeches Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave last week on the future of the economy. While Clinton spoke from the center of a tech hub in Denver, surrounded by millennials tapping away on MacBooks, Trump addressed a crowd inside a scrap metal factory in a Pennsylvania steel town, standing before a wall of crushed aluminum cans.

Before either candidate spoke, they’d cast two opposing visions. In Clinton’s, the economy hinges on investing in technology and the industries of tomorrow. In Trump’s, it depends upon reviving the industries of yesterday. Both aspire to create jobs. But one has a chance of achieving that goal, because history shows that industries survive the future only by embracing it.

Two potential country (and world) leaders outlined plans, one designed with the now and future in mind, and the other based on the nostalgic but increasingly irrelevant past.

The second article was also US-centric. It was a cutting analysis of how an older generation might accuse a younger generation of not having enough cultural capital.

However, using #‎BeckyWithTheBadGrades as an example, the author reasoned that the opposite was also true. Adults are just as ignorant of the culture of their children. A case in point:

By the same token, teachers are sometimes unable to connect with their students’ world views.

By some distorted reasoning, we expect the next generation to embrace the past — and they should cherish the good bits — but we do not acknowledge their now in order to help them shape their future. The author described schooling like this:

We might think of schooling as teaching the prior generation's knowledge so that youth are prepared to communicate on an equal footing with those they are about to join in the economic and civic spheres. -- Robert Pondiscio

Is our schooling entrenched in the past? Is it led by leaders looking in the wrong direction?

More importantly, if we see the disconnects, what do we strive to learn and what do we do to address these gaps?

Nowadays if you have cause, you can raise awareness and funds with a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, an app, etc.

The normal approach is to create a website and feature a short video to rally troops to your cause. For example, Worse Than Bad seeks to raise awareness of the social and environmental impact of the petrochemical industry led by Shell on the Niger delta.


Video source

In a less conventional approach, here is a spoof ad for a spoof app to raise awareness of the same.


Video source

Frankly, I wish there was such an app. I would include it in the game-based learning workshops I conduct!

I also think that fighting for causes is another element of social media education. Kids should learn how to do this with the tools already at their disposal. More importantly, this approach promotes a broader world view and a rethink of how to teach content and impart values.

Consider this parent’s (and former teacher’s) lament on the impact of the strictly textbook approach to things like creative writing.

In writing, we are told what to write, what title to give it, what words to use and avoid, to discard the unbelievable and play safe.

We are given picture compositions about a day at the beach, a bad fall, an incident on a bus – hardly fodder for interesting discussion.

My spouse, a college teacher, laments the lack of disciplined training in clear, logical thinking and the lack of ideas, persuasive argument and communication skills in his pre-university students. I wonder where we went wrong, when all this started.

When children are in primary school, why are they not asked for solutions to train disruptions, how to get women to have more babies, how to stop people from smoking? These are just as relatable, if not more fascinating, topics for discussion.

Consider how project work for our junior college students is an examinable subject. (Like much of schooling, both creative writing and project work have become overly structured and a burden instead of a joy or a valuable life skill.)

In looking for information on Singapore’s version of project work, I stumbled upon an open letter written in 2011 by a group of teachers to the Minister for Education. Here is a choice quote:

the students we teach are only 17 years old and have limited experience in dealing with real-world issues or contacting stakeholders who are relevant to their research needs.

As project work are formal exams, the teachers had this to say about destroying records of project work:

the instruction to destroy WRs (written reports) confounds us most.

Sir, we hear the government taking many steps to call on Singaporeans to put forth good ideas for society. This happens on a regular basis. However, PW teachers here are stunned and saddened that SEAB, in the name of assessment, can forgo thousands of painstakingly-written and well-research WRs each year and instruct schools to send them to the furnace/shredder.

On the impact of this and other project work policies as well as implementation foibles:

What saddens us ultimately is that these finer processes of groupwork and team dynamics will always be forgotten or parked aside in favour of easily measurable targets like grades and distinctions. Some of us have had the humble privilege of receiving personal notes from students who feel the same way.

To many perhaps, PW has become a ‘touch and go’ subject, a necessary pain they undertake in order to qualify for local universities only. We believe alot [sic] more can and should be done to change this sad perception. Many of us feel that the spirit which gave birth to this subject remains noble and excellent (and ought to be defended). However the current regulations have unfortunately, killed much of its original spirit and intent

I envision learners being required to identify, select, and tackle real world problems from an early age. These real world contexts could be platforms for teaching creative writing (advertise your cause), critical writing (defend your cause), project planning and management, and values education.

With the help of social media, all this happens in the presence of real audiences whose members can be more critical and helpful than a small group of teachers and examiners.

The cynics might say that hundreds or thousand of ‘Likes’ is not going to change the situation in the Niger delta, and by extension, the same could be said about any student causes in social media.

But they forget the awareness and funds such efforts can raise. They forget how tweets have reported news as it breaks, saved lives after catastrophes, and how much more connected the world is today. It is important to leverage on the way the modern world already operates today instead of relying a method designed for the industrial age.

Just as I would not be able to live with the social and environmental conditions in the Niger delta, I will not live with a system that claims to educate but merely schools.

I know that I am not alone with this sentiment. Some of us write in the press. Some of us write open letters in online platforms. Some of us meet via Twitter on Tuesdays 8-9pm, Singapore time (plug for #edsg!). Some of us take action where we can in our area of schooling or education so that we do not just live with it. We live it and change it.


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