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Posts Tagged ‘caught

I read with interest this CNA article, Students taught to verify authenticity of online information.

One of our two education ministers responded to a timely question in parliament. The MP asked if “there were any programmes to teach students how to tell what’s fake news”.

Like any brief news article, there is information (which needs to be verified) and gaps (that need to be filled).

The MP who asked the question might be happy to get answers to two questions:

  • Is this form of information literacy taught? (Yes)
  • How it is taught? (by integration into subjects like English, History, Social Studies, and Character and Citizenship Education).

However, teaching something does not guarantee that it has been learnt. The urgency of the message might be apparent to the messenger, but it might not be meaningful to the receiver.

So there are at least two other questions that remain unanswered:

  • What is the evidence that such information literacy has been learnt?
  • How are students continuing to learn this given that “fake news” is a moving target?

In other words, what are we doing to move beyond basic competency to fluency?

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

I take my role of edtech watchdog seriously. I am not just a pedagogue; I am a peda-dog!

 
Sometimes I wonder if I am being too harsh with my critiques of the state of teaching and teachers in Singapore. After all, according to a 2013 study we had the most well-paid (see point 3) and one of the most well-respected teaching forces in the world. But these do not mean that all our teachers are educators.

My parents were teachers. I was a teacher. I am married to a teacher. Most of our friends and acquaintances are teachers. Should I bark at and even bite my own kind?

Every now and then I am reminded why I need to do this. Sometimes the reminders come from the seminars and workshops I conduct. Sometimes they are dialogues I have with teachers. Sometimes they are stories from sources I trust.

This is a story about my son who is sitting for his PSLE this year.

My son is bright and should not have problems with this high-stakes examination. However, we were not content to subject him to the mindless rat race, so we looked for a good fit via DSA. We concerned ourselves with getting him into a school that would bring back and nurture the joy of learning.

Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time.

We made a family decision to try the new literary arts programme at SOTA [information from SOTA] [news article]. It was taking in about 25 students for the academic year 2017.

We had to ask my son’s form teacher for help to get some school records for the DSA application in May. We were thankful for his teacher’s help. However, I was surprised to hear what happened in my son’s class shortly after we made the request.

The teacher declared that in all her years of teaching none of her students got into their Secondary schools via DSA. It seemed like a source of pride that she was able to prepare her students for PSLE so that they could rely on scores alone.

Now there is nothing wrong with that especially if you have the perspective of most parents here. But we are not “most parents” and I would have been fine if things were left at that remark.

Tomorrow's educational progress cannot be determined by yesterday's successful performance.

I was troubled by two additional comments from the teacher:

  • If you do not get the marks for PSLE, you can try for DSA.
  • What talents do you have that they want?

Those comments were sorely misplaced.

First, the DSA is not inferior to the PSLE. My son had to prepare an e-portfolio, sit for tests, participate in interviews (focus groups and individual), and take part in performance assessments over the span of a month. He also has to do well enough in the PSLE to keep his place in his next school.

Second, kids are more talented than we give them credit for. Their talents are often quieted and schooled out of them. If we watch, listen, and talk to kids, their passions and talents become clear. Such talents can grow and evolve to help them find their niche in life.

Creativity cannot be taught as a skill, but it can be killed -- Yong Zhao.

My son thinks that he was the only one in his class to apply for DSA. This made the comments even more cutting. Was there any need to throw shade at the DSA and kids with talents not accounted for by the PSLE?

This is like parents (still) saying that playing video games has absolutely no value. Those parents need to expand their scope of who they watch on YouTube, e.g., TheDiamondMinecart, Sky Does Minecraft, Stampy, Paul Soares Jr., PewDiePie, Markiplier, CaptainSparklez.

Values are more CAUGHT than they are TAUGHT.

When it emerged that my son had taken the DSA route, some of his classmates gave him unsolicited feedback like, “SOTA is a shit school!” They could not understand why he even considered that option.

Kids are honest and open portals to the values of adults. I have said before that values are more caught than they are taught [1] [2] [3]. The words and actions of parents and teachers shape the thoughts and behaviours of kids. It is frightening to see what prevails.

I started this reflection by wondering if I was in denial about how teachers mindsets have changed. I have shared one anecdote of a classroom teacher possibly in denial about alternative paths to learning and success.

Are you really thinking or are you merely rearranging your biases?

We are still thankful for the efforts of our son’s teachers because they invariably leave a mark. They might focus on delivering lessons in class, but sometimes they accidentally offer lessons in life.

DSA SOTA confirmation of offer.

This Teachers’ Day we will thank my son’s teachers — the ones that are still around because quite a few have left the school. We will also share some good news: We just found out that our son has been accepted into the literary arts programme in SOTA.

If my son’s teachers see themselves as learners first, they might also reflect on the lessons in this story.

I think the press tried to litter their pages with click bait in the form of the “new” cleaning programme in Singapore schools.

The programme is not entirely new. It is just more official and part of the Character and Citizenship Education programme according to MOE’s press release.

There was no major kickback by adults on why kids should sweep floors and pick up after themselves. The lack of a reaction is a good thing this way.

It is not if, like me, you think the programme has not gone far enough.

The cleaning of toilets is outside the limits according to this news article. I am not the only one to wonder why this is the case.

I know of kids who refuse to use the school toilets because they are disgusting. My son is one of them and he paints a vivid picture of what they are like at his school. You can almost smell the pong from the descriptions.

I hope the aunties and uncles who clean them get biohazard pay. If not, they should be given hazmat suits.
 

 
The cleaning of classrooms and shared areas is easy. It is also very public. The cleaning of toilets is more personal and private.

This is like the difference between honesty and integrity. Someone once described honesty as something you display in public while integrity is something you had in private.

I look at it this way. If you are not honest, you cheat others; if you lack integrity, you cheat yourself.

Someone might say this is a semantic game, but I take the terms seriously. Do we want kids to learn that you can behave one way in front of others and another way when no one is looking?

Kids pick up these lessons more quickly than we give them credit. Take for example how most schools have tray return policies. These are monitored and enforced, so kids do this in school. But after school they have a meal at a fast food joint and leave the trays and litter at the table and walk away.

There are things kids do when someone is watching and making sure. The motivation to do good is extrinsic because they will be punished if they do not toe the line or they might be rewarded if they do. However, when someone is not watching, they learn that they can ignore the task. There is no intrinsic motivation to do the right thing simply because it is right.

Can we call it an education when only half a value system is taught and caught?

We have all received email or snail mail notifications claiming to contain “gentle reminders“. They might also request that you “revert back” to someone, possibly as a response to the gentle reminder.

I do not take kindly to messages telling me to “kindly” do something. Just say please.

Then there’s “cum”. Its ambiguous use makes for much sniggering. For example:

Hat tips to @hsiao_yun and @genrwong for contributing some of the ideas and links.

What all these awkward phrases share is that no one actually taught an office administrator or poster maker to write like that. Someone started using the phrases, the words seemed official or high-sounding, and uncritical readers became uncritical users.

They did not need to be taught such phrases. They caught them like a cold. Sneeze, snort, pass it on.

I have reflected on things are that more caught than taught. I am referring to how people learn by observing, mirroring, and picking up behaviours of others.

One need only marvel or be surprised at what kids say or do. How often have you heard or said, “I did not teach them that! Who or where did they learn that from?”

If you are a teacher, the answer is: They learnt it from you. There was no curriculum, lesson plan, objectives or outcomes, practice, assessment, etc. But the kids learnt it anyway. And these unintended lessons stick like superglue.


Video source

The video above is a good example of what I am referring to. But this sort of learning is not reserved for kids.

The lessons here are:

  1. Recognise that learning does not just happen in the classroom. More often than not, it starts, continues, and ends outside of it.
  2. We should be mindful of not just what we say, but also how we model desired outcomes.
  3. It is important to be reflective and critical. If something bugs you, do not brush it off. It might be your common sense screaming to be heard.


Video source

This video of orchestral members consuming chilli peppers mid-way through a performance will probably elicit a range of responses.

Amusement. Agony. Admiration. An assortment.

The video reminded me of the #asiaED slow chat this week about building resilience. The effort of every member of the orchestra personified this trait: Going on in the face of personal troubles for a shared process and product.

Can such a trait be taught? For sure and about as much as creativity, leadership, courage, honesty, and a host of other desirable but rarely evaluated outcomes of schooling.

If these outcomes not measured traditionally, why even try to teach them traditionally?

Basic instructional design informs us that there must be alignment between objectives and assessment. The instruction that typically happens in between must also be aligned to the other two components.

That said, a traditional lesson with content delivery, examples, practice, and assessment does not necessarily work for the behaviours, skills, and values that manifest in something like resilience.

Teachers and mentors must model such behaviours, skills, and values instead. Learners and apprentices learn by observing, following, and practising in context. These desirable outcomes are not taught, they are caught.


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