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Posts Tagged ‘change

Tortoise are relics that have somehow endured despite being slow and seemingly unsuited to the broader ecosystem.

Tortoise by montuschi, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  montuschi 

They persist because environments like the Galapagos and zoos provide conditions where they are protected or otherwise not threatened.

The educational arena has players like schools and universities that are like tortoises. What conditions help them survive?

  • The results of schools and universities are not immediately obvious
  • Such results are measured largely by high-stakes but narrow-band tests
  • The teaching profession tends to attract the risk-averse

These conditions contribute to inertia that is hard to overcome.

While it is easy to justify the preservation of tortoises as part of of our biological heritage, old school practices that keep us mired in the past are puzzling.

Every time we prevent access to mobile learning, do not question a lecture, or say “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, we retreat into our collective shell. We create the conditions for such behaviours to persist. We do this despite the fact that we know better than to keep doing this.

Change happens and often we appreciate to what extent only in hindsight.

For example, the photo above features a high density floppy disk that could hold just 1.2MB of data. The same photo, taken in 2007, also shows a microSD card that holds 2GB of data. Today microSD cards that hold 64 or 128GB of data are commonplace.

In 1956, a 5MB drive was the size of a piano. Now we can hold a 4TB pocket drive in the palm of our hand. In the not too distant future, we might use DNA to store data.

Change matters and it is difficult to see possibilities because we are creatures of limited vision.

Giving credit where it is due also matters. Here is the original CC-licensed photo with which I made this image quote.

I have been thinking about this question of late. Has technology really changed the way we learn?

You will get different answers depending on who you ask. The answers stem not only from different experiences and content perspectives, but also from various levels of scrutiny.

At the moment, I offer at least four levels to tackle this question and I provide some preliminary and relatively superficial answers. The levels are:

  • Neural
  • Psychological
  • Social
  • Socio-technical

At the neural level, we learn when brain cells make new connections at the dendrite level. I doubt that position has changed because we cannot really see it happening in real time yet, but it is the established thinking on how we learn at the cellular level.

I am not aware of any studies on how technology affects learning at this level. There are people who are worried (and even paranoid) about how wireless frequencies might affect the human body, but there does not seem to be anything conclusive.

In the area of cognitive psychology and physiology, we have theories like cognitive development, schema, and neuroplasticity. Most educators should be familiar with Piaget’s cognitive development theory for children. Schema (Anderson; Ausubel) deals with how we map and categorize to create meaning for ourselves. These theories are staple to any introductory educational psychology course.

The field of neuroplasticity stems largely from studies of how people function after brain damage. Even studies on learning disabilities have shed light on how we learn. These fields are still shedding light on human learning, but I am not aware of any that focus on the longer term impact of technology.

Ever since the rise of social constructivism, researchers and practitioners seemed to have paid more attention to how we learn socially. This makes sense because this is a level we can most relate to: We talk, we listen, we interact. This has spawned strategies like cooperative learning, collaborative learning, and team-based learning. All these strategies can be enabled and mediated by technology.

Last week, Polivka nicely encapsulated Social Learning Theory. It hints at how media technologies might augment social interaction, but at its core it seems to remain we talk, we listen, and we interact in order to learn.

The most interesting field of study might be how we learn socio-technically. This emerging field recognizes that we become part of the technology and vice versa. Some people fear and judge this. Even the great Sir Ken Robinson wondered how kids could be socializing when they were looking at their phones. I noted this at the Bett conference in the UK in January this year.

Perhaps we are changing the way we learn if we embrace ourselves as socio-technical creatures. Whereas we used to rely on one or just a few sources, now we can rely on the collective intelligence of many.

Where once learning was only text-based or through the medium of air, we can now benefit from digital videos that are more entertaining, informative, time-lapsed, or sped up.

We need not be afraid to Google the dumbest or most profound questions. We can potentially connect with content experts and find global causes.

I am still not sure if learning itself has changed in a socio-technical animal. But the learning opportunities have and those might shape who we learn from, and why, where, when, and how we learn.

In this reflection, I draw a lesson from a Netflix strategy and apply it to blended and e-learning.

This Gizmodo interview of Netflix’s Chief Product Officer revealed that the reason why the company does not plan on offering an option to download videos for offline viewing is the paradox of choice.

Simply put, Netflix rationalized that when people are offered too many choices, they do not know what to do.

In this case, they are not referring to the variety of television shows and movies you can stream to watch because you rely on your preferences and Netflix’s algorithms.

Instead, Netflix seems to make the argument that it wants to make the answer of watch now (with a reliable Internet connection) or watch later (without an Internet connection) simple. It takes away the latter option so people have only one choice and change their behaviours based on that choice. That is why we now have binge watching.

There is still an element of choice in binge watching in that a consumer decides how much to watch over a given time instead of being held to traditional weekly television programming for example.

Wide variety of food by markb120, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  markb120 

How does this apply to providing choice when flipping a classroom, differentiating learning, or preparing e-resources?

No, it is not about creating binge learning opportunities.

It is the idea that more is not always better. Not only is creating more choices and resources more work for the teacher or media creator, it might also paralyze learners who do not know what to start with.

A teacher might offer just one resource, an article that is entirely text-based. This unlikely to reach all learners — not because of learning styles but because the text is boring and the format is irrelevant — so the teacher decides to create one or more videos. Now should the teacher also create audio-only resources, braille resources, and other alternatives? Can the teacher rely on just the videos?

There is a point of diminishing returns in terms of preparing a wide variety of resources, particularly under the misguided practice of applying learning styles.

Instead of focusing on choice and content, a teacher or instructional designer might start first with learning outcome(s) and context of use. The latter two are fundamental principles upon which a myriad of considerations should be factored in for teaching that leads to learning.

The problem of content and choice keeps resurfacing when because those in the instructional line forget:

  • to ask why a concept is important
  • that teaching does not always lead to learning
  • that lessons should lead to better thinking not better grades

So here is a choice you can make. You can continue to do things the same way because that does not rock the boat and it seems efficient. The paradox is that you will be constantly buffeted by change and you will struggle to keep things the same.

Alternatively, you can embrace the initial difficulty with change. Like jumping off a platform, the first step is the hardest. Then you hang on and start to enjoy the ride.

Glass Floor - Observation Deck of the Sh by _chrisUK, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  _chrisUK 

The Today paper had a good long read on how Singapore might deal with the transboundary haze that we experience every year.

For almost 20 years, we have been able to add one more season — hazy — to our standard rainy and more rainy. But as much time and effort as has been put in, the haze returns every year between July and September. This year it has extended into October and threatened to affect the PSLE.

So what can we do collectively to stop the haze? If politics and policies do not seem to have much of an effect, the Today article highlighted ground-up efforts like boycotts, public education, and suing haze-linked companies.

These newer efforts need time to be tested, particularly in conjunction with existing strategies. They might be more effective because they hit the companies and individuals where it hurts.

The ground-up efforts focus on creating awareness among consumers here that what we buy keeps haze-linked companies in business. At least two of the newer efforts also seek to take legal action by suing companies and individuals responsible for contributing to the haze. All these hit where it hurts most: The wallet.

This reminds me of a funny line from a movie I watched a long time ago. Once you have got them by the balls, the heart and head will follow (see quote by Harry Rosenfeld).

As I look at everything through an education lens, I still wonder if there is a crotch shot in schooling and education. If being nice and nurturing does not change the hearts and minds of those collectively in this arena, where is the crotch?

I am away for a short period. I am posting some things I drafted in Evernote but had not shared yet.

Video source

I was in awe of this community when I watched this video of their plans to improve road safety by leveraging on the voices of children.

It will be an interesting social experiment to see how effective kids’ voices are at prompting drivers to slow down where kids are present.

According to one of its stakeholders, the move is supposed to have “visceral, physical, cognitive, behavioural effects” on adults because we are programmed to care for children.

If this is true, I wonder if any educational and social intervention should not have these four as the minimum outcomes: Visceral, physical, cognitive, behavioural effects. If we do not have the passion for a change or if something does not shake us to our core, why even bother?

Video source

This is a video that warns of the supposed dangers of social media. It has the wrong title. Instead of the danger of social media, this was about child or sexual predators.

The YouTuber did a great service by alerting parents of the dangers of inadequate parenting, the trials of growing up, or gaps in schooling. All these and more could have contributed to the 12 to 14 year-old girls agreeing to meet a strange male who was not who he claimed to be online.

But he did a disservice by perpetuating the message that the problem was social media. Child or sexual predators have and will use any tools they can, so social media is not what causes the problem. Social media does not stop the problem either.

The medium does not write the message just like a car cannot make you a considerate driver or a murderous one.

Such messages are borne of ignorance and fear. It is not too late to be informed and to be brave. Let us not blame the tools when stupid, irresponsible, or depraved people wield them.

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