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Posts Tagged ‘ban

 
What was your response to the headline More than 270 F&B outlets to stop providing plastic straws by Jul 1?

Mine was yeah and meh. I was glad to see some action to reduce our reliance on single-use plastics, but I wished we could collectively do more.

How much more? Last year I reflected on how Kenya joined a list of countries that banned plastic bags. Earlier this month news broke on how the state of Penang in Malaysia was doing the same.

In the meantime, I still have to tell curry puff and confectionary aunties that just one bag will do. I do not need every item cocooned in its own plastic blanket and put into yet another bag like a plastic version of Inception.

I also use a tengkat to takeaway food at stores I frequent and reusable bags to tote groceries. Sadly, I am among the few instead of the many.

I realise that the straw ban here might just be the start of a larger movement. I hope so. It had better not be the last straw…


Video source

Kenya banned plastic bags. They are not the only country to do this; they are just the most recent.

How did they do this?

It is hard to answer this question because the video shows a result and not the mediating processes. One might guess that political will and courageous activism were high on the list of change processes. And yet the video only hints at such processes.

Therein lies a lesson for those who go on “learning journeys” or “site visits”. You see the obvious products like policy documents and classroom layouts. You might even see model classes in action.

But these products do not always reveal the culture and processes of change. Learning about those important but insidious elements requires immersion or constant sensing, not snapshots or quick visits.

I am not saying that the visits are not worthwhile. I am saying that they are incomplete. If we do not take the effort to learn more about a system and how it changes, we kid ourselves into thinking we can do the same.

Recently I mused:

While lectures are still the norm in institutes of higher learning (IHLs), there are occasional rumbles that challenge this practice.

The first series of seismic activity occurred several years ago with the rise of MOOCs (remember those?) and at the height (and hype) of the flipped classroom. While this idea largely only changed the nature of the lecture and homework, it asked questions of mass lectures.

I also know of at least one IHL leader who considered repurposing lecture halls. I do not know how far he got with that idea.

Elsewhere, however, lectures are not just mainstay, some faculty have taken to banning laptops in lecture halls. Such news seems to be cyclical — it goes away and revisits with the regularity of the cuckoo in a clock.

Much like the cuckoo repeating its call, the reasons for banning laptops are the same, e.g., they are a distraction, handwriting is somehow better for retention, faculty just do not like the view.

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

The problem is not that students might get “distracted” as they take notes on laptop. Neither is doing so is somehow less effective than handwriting. (If you cite research on both, just be sure that is was not a foregone conclusion in search of data.)

The problem is that the students’ professors prefer to teach they way they were taught. They rely on lectures. They do not know any other way, or if they do, do not wish to change.

They bottom line is that lectures are efficient for transmission. However, this does mean that they are effective for learning. While older learners need to be more independent, be willing to struggle with content, and follow up on lectures, they do not deserve to be held back by someone else’s inability to learn.

Values are more CAUGHT than they are TAUGHT.

As modern educators, we need to be model learners first — fiercely independent, willing to struggle with something new, and following up with new strategies. We are not just fountains of knowledge because we have books and the Internet for that. We pass on and nurture values.

Dismissing student use of laptops as distracting or being inferior note-taking tools is to not value change and to not empathise with the learning process.

Over the last two days, I have been reflecting on my son’s journeys during his school’s week-long end of term programme and his vacation homework.

He and his school mates enjoyed a week of adventure in the form of rope course challenges, a farm visit, and preparing simple meals. Other events like geo-caching or boat racing either did not happen or were cancelled due to the weather.

Depending on the activity, the rule was either no phones or its use was not encouraged. I thought this was a shame because it was a lost learning opportunity.

If you think like most adults, you might argue that you want students to live in and enjoy the moments. Who would not? But if you think only like that, then you are missing the opportunity to teach them how to manage themselves.

Teachers need to reconsider the balance between being in the moment and capturing meaningful moments. A phone ban is tilted all the way to the left; ill-disciplined use to the right.

Phones today are the equivalent of notebooks and pencils. They are an important way, perhaps the only way, for students to first capture what is happening and what they are experiencing, and then to think about it.

We do not learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on experiences. -- John Dewey.

When students are in the moment, they are not necessarily thinking about the experience, considering what they are learning, making connections with prior knowledge, and so on. Furthermore, if they are not given the opportunity to record their thoughts and feelings, there is little, if anything, to reflect on.

There is another lost opportunity if students cannot take notes. They are not able to share their experiences with another set of important people in their lives — their parents.

Thankfully kids who could not participate could capture one particular moment on the last day of son’s series of experiences. The original photos were a bit blurry, but I created a simple montage with the mobile app, Layout [iOS] [Android], anyway.

Ropes course.

My wife and I enjoyed seeing our son have fun. Thanks to these and other photos, we could share in his experiences and discuss what challenges he faced and how he felt. We could observe his growth and shape his learning.

My son and his friends take photos and videos all the time and they do not realise that they are doing the equivalent of “taking notes”. They also share and comment on these artefacts in WhatsApp shortly after. The immediacy is important because moments are fleeting. But with WhatsApp they have both the evidence and their thoughts recorded for as long as they want.

Banning or discouraging phones (and any other technology for that matter) is a net loss for capturing moments and reflecting on them. They are the modern equivalent of taking notes and referring to them later. We would not prevent students from taking paper notes then, so why prevent them from taking moderns notes now?

I tweeted this yesterday. The link led to an interesting article about how one school principal got the teachers in his school to rethink homework.

The principal based his initiative on research on homework and its effectiveness. I have collected my own resources in Diigo on the issues and research on homework.

Ask most teachers or school leaders if they would also ban homework from their classrooms and schools and they might reply that the principal’s actions were brave. They fear the backlash from parents or higher authorities.

Although important, the driving factor was not bravery. It was one of logic because it was based on good research and critical practice.

It was about questioning previously unquestioned standards and practices. This in turn was about doing what was best for learners and learning.

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Recently I wondered out loud what phrases progressive educators should actively work towards removing from collective thought. So far a few respondents and I have thought of:

  • Digital natives
  • Learning styles
  • Smart classrooms
  • Inauthentic testing
  • Gamification
  • Vendor products prefixed with “21st century…”

The list can only get longer. What is already there will take a lot of work to correct or remove.

I shake my head in disbelief sometimes when I think about how inflexible some schools or teachers can be.

I know of some schools who have more liberal mobile device policies. As part of a consulting gig, I visited a primary school whose policy was to allow all students, even the youngest ones, to bring smartphones to school as long as the devices were kept in lockers.

Other schools have Amish-like policies on smartphones. I am very familiar with one that disallows cassettes, CD players, walkmans, VCDs, and pagers amongst other devices (see portion of handbook below).

handbook_rule

Even the Amish might remark that they do not use these devices not because they are against them but because they might have to rob a museum to get them!

The first type of school is more progressive in that it recognizes the modern demands of their stakeholders. Both parents are likely to be working and their child might have to find their own way home on arranged or public transport. Phones are critical for such daily updates.

That same school does not yet allow the use of the phones for lessons. However, they will have will not have to fight the battles of resistance among teachers, low buy-in among parents, or early “exploratory” use among students when the time comes for them to make that decision.

The second school will have a tougher time pulling itself out of the educational dark ages.

A rigid, backward, or disconnected policy also has a way of affecting the mindset of teachers. It can breed group think, inflexibility, and a fear of risk-taking.

My wife reminded me of something we experienced in the middle of the year. My son had answered a comprehension question on a passage about Elizabeth Choy being tortured during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore [1][2].

The correct answer to a question was that she was given “electric shocks”. My son did not get the full marks because he answered that she had been “electrocuted”. His teacher did not give him the full marks because he did not write down exactly what was in the passage.

This incensed my wife, an English teacher, who discussed it with my son’s teacher. My wife also asked her colleagues in school for their comments. Everyone except my son’s teacher agreed that getting an electric shock was the same as being electrocuted.

To be fair, there could have been more to the argument. Perhaps there was some comprehension skill that was tested that my son did not perform.

But perhaps the equivalent of copying and pasting was more important than interpretation and exercising vocabulary. Perhaps schooling was more important than education.

And perhaps these are examples of how teachers and schools risk losing relevance. The rest of the world sees the point of change and moves on, but teachers and schools do not.


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