Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘birthday

I write this in advance because I will have to deal with the social media-based wishes on my birthday.

As I grow a year older, I have not prematurely become a curmudgeon. I just think people are focusing on the wrong thing.

Yes, being born and healthy is beating heavy odds. Adding years to your life is another betting game stacked against you. Perhaps that is why people wish you “Happy Birthday (You Made It Somehow)!”

But it is what you do with each day of your life that really matters. Is your take to give ratio heavy on the former or the latter?

So as much as I appreciate the well-wishes of family and friends, this is what I think about birthdays: Celebrating being born should pale in comparison to marking what you do after being born.

I also think that the parody account @VeryLonelyLuke, based on the fictional old Luke Skywalker, had a poignant thought while in exile.

All this is tongue firmly in cheek, of course. But some might not realise it.

Maybe they will next year. On their birthday. And only if they give more than they take.

Addendum: I was called the Yoda of #edsg last evening. That is not quite a compliment. So I conclude with this tweet.

Last week Sugata Mitra suggested this at a leadership conference in Singapore:

This is not new to thought leaders and those that follow them.

For example, in 2012 I tweeted a link on the Danish experiment on allowing Internet use during exams. Here are some other links I have been collecting in Diigo.

While there are many good reasons for allowing the use of the Internet for tests and exams, there is common approach among thought and action leaders. If Google can help answer questions, then we should also (only?) test 1) learners’ ability to search, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize, and 2) the unGoogleable.

I illustrate with two recent examples.

A Singapore Math question went viral locally and has gained traction elsewhere. It claims to be about logic and there is apparently more than one solution [1] [2].

I question the logic of such questions, but that is not what this reflection is about. The fact of the matter is that the solutions, the rationales, and their critiques can all be found online.

You do not need to know how to get the answer traditionally. You need only know how to search online for information and people, and decide which return is best. If that is not a 21st century competency, I do not know what is.

Next example. Last week, my wife, an English teacher, received a message containing an English problem supposedly pitched at the Primary 1 level.

It went something like this:

I am a word of five letters and people eat me. If you remove the first letter I become a form of energy. Remove the first two and I am needed to live. Scramble the last three and you can drink me. What word am I?

There are many other variations of this. There are also several reactions that kids and parents can have.

One is panic, as the messenger did. After he calmed down, he reached out to a teacher (my wife) but not his child’s teacher because the latter caused the panic in the first place.

Another reaction was to learn the “logic” of the artificial problem and use either thought finesse or brute force to crack it open.

As much as I might enjoy a puzzle, I do not appreciate fake ones, particularly ones given late at night and not meaningful to me. My reaction was to Google it.

I had barely typed “I am a word of…” and Google’s suggested search phrases appeared. And links. And answers. And variations. And discussions galore!

Is there a need to test? Certainly.

Is there a need to test what we can Google? I think not.

What does a test for the unGoogleable look like? It is difficult to say for sure, but it is NOT a just test.

As challenging as good tests are to create, they are relatively easy to grade because answers fit into as few categories as possible. Preferably two categories: Right and wrong. If you take into consideration different perspectives, answers, or talents, then tests become inadequate.

A look at what happens in online social spaces gives clues as to what assessing the unGoogleable might look like. There are discussion forums where the best answers float to the top by popular vote. There are blogs with explanations and reflections on such problems.

Expand this natural “testing” island to a broader universe and the possibilities are endless. Twitter debates, Facebook critiques, YouTube video challenges, Instagram or Pinterest collections, Vine impressions.

All these and more are already part of digital databases that capture our identities. The Googles of the world use it for research, marketing, and advertising. I say we tame, manage, and organize these data in an online portfolio to showcase what we learn. Then we might stumble on ways to assess the unGoogleable.

I am a year older today.

It was one of the few birthdays I marked without loved ones beside me. I am away in London to deliver a short talk at Bett 2015 tomorrow.

Before I left, my wife bought me a pair of Bose QC25 noise-cancelling headphones as an early birthday present. It was so early that I received it at Christmas last year!



The headphones have already helped me immensely.

They shut noise out so that I could think while I was out and about. They dampened the sound of a funeral downstairs while I was drafting this entry in advance of my trip.

They neutralized the ambient sounds on my flight to London so that I could create a cocoon of comfort.

The silence gave me pause for thought. Did I have to shut the sounds of the analogue world so that I could create content for the digital one? Was I favouring one world for the other?

Perhaps. When I need laser-like focus, I do what I can to provide an environment in which to concentrate. But when I meet people in person, I provide that same focus too, sans headphones.

I am planning to meet and will have already met folks here in the UK. The appointments were made because I have a social media presence and because they know me from what I create online. So there is no false dichotomy of digital versus analogue; one process leads to the other.

Birthday by @dino, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  @dino 

Each year I seem to get more birthday greetings via Twitter, Whatsapp, SMS, and email than via a card. I am not complaining.

Some might bemoan that this lacks a face-to-face or personal touch. I disagree.

Is a card that much more personal if it is handwritten? For me what matters is the effort behind the effort. Just as one might receive a cookie-cutter email wish, one might also receive an impersonal card. Is one human connecting with another in a meaningful way or is the interaction for its own sake?

Cards can be very nice if a lot of thought and effort are put into it and if you get them from people who care about you. But think of the hidden costs of creating, transporting, and eventually destroying that paper.

There are hidden costs to tweets, email, other electronic messages, of course. But I would wager they are lower in the short and long run.

Expectations are also shifting. We are connected to a lot more people and lead busier lives than a lifetime ago (heck, maybe even just five years ago). It is also a lot easier to respond to a Facebook or e-calendar reminder that it is someone else’s birthday.

Finally, what is more important? The medium the message is on or the message therein?

The problem is that the method and message are often tied to the medium. For example, teachers perceive that more effort goes into preparing physical worksheets or seeing their students write in exercise books. The elbow grease stains more deeply. Or so it seems.

It might be less obvious how much more effort goes into maintaining a blog or creating a YouTube video. Modern tools also make some complex tasks like collecting, editing, and presenting seem effortless.

But that is all it is: A false comparison and perception. There can be so much more work (and more complex work) in digital authoring and curation than meets the eye. But tools like Google Docs, wikis, behind-the-scenes videos, and the like reveal the processes behind the products.

The process of learning is so much richer if we embrace social media tools and leverage on them as forms of creation, tinkering, expression, etc. I think that it is irresponsible if all teachers not to do this.

That is why it is my birthday wish every year that more teachers think outside themselves, connect with their students, and learn how to change their media, messages, and methods.

WordPress informed me that I have been on their platform for six years this week.

How does one mark this anniversary? With a blog day cake? I will mark it with nothing more than this blog entry.

I have actually been blogging for almost a decade. I started when my son was still in utero and continued to document his early years. His blog has moved from one host to another and is currently also in WordPress. That was where I gradually built up the habit of blogging every day in an attempt to view the world from my son’s eyes. (Now my son co-authors or authors short entries every week or so.)

But that was not enough. I wanted to reflect on my own work life and way of thinking. So I added another dot in the blogosphere.

To mark this milestone, I remind myself why I created this blog. Years ago, I wrote this in the tagline setting:

I am an edu-explorer. I promise to walk on the edge of reason and let you know what I see. I use this blog to think out loud. If this promotes informal sharing and learning on technology integration issues, thank serendipity!

Sometimes it is amazing how many people drop by. Here is a recent stat WordPress sent me:

But in the About Me page, I remind myself why I started reflecting on this dot:

I do not blog for views. I blog my views. I do this to learn and to shape my thoughts on educational technologies and technology-mediated pedagogies.

All that I have mentioned so far is not remarkable. Lots of people can do the same.

But not many can say they make themselves reflect and write every day whether they want to or not. It is a discipline that works itself into other areas of life. Perhaps for that reason alone, I blog.

Maybe I will start a habit of looking back at what I post on 22 January every year. Why that date? It is my birthday.

I reflected on birthday-related issues in 2010 and 2012. In 2011, I laughed at a tweet. In 2009, I had not developed the habit of blogging a little every day.

Why blog at all? It is fun. I can think out “loud”. It is often cathartic. It is a discipline. I can look back and see if I have changed or not.

So my birthday resolution is that I keep blogging as long as I have questions and if I can keep asking questions.


It is my birthday today. Bless serendipity, I came across this quote:

You can't start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one.

This is practically my mantra. I am all for looking back and reflecting. But I you can only go forward by moving forward, one mistake at a time. Onward, ho!

It’s my birthday today but I am not the sentimental sort. I don’t celebrate it because I think every day should be as special as I can make it.

But I do think about what I want the rest of my life to be like. So the photo below got me thinking.

Veteran using a mobile phoneI liked how the war veteran in the middle was checking out his mobile phone while his peers peered on. Not only would I like to live to a ripe old age, I would also like to embrace new, relevant and powerful technologies that come my way. That way I won’t be like the old guy at the back dying from boredom.

I’d like to still be learning and living to the fullest. I wish that for myself and any like-minded folk!


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