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Posts Tagged ‘cognitive dissonance

Here is one reality bite: People will prefer to be entertained than to be educated because the latter takes openness and effort. So even if you can be educated while being entertained, some folk will spurn the opportunity to learn something new.

Spotify source

Take this podcast episode from Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend as an example. I chuckled with every joke. But I also groaned when the hosts preferred to stick with schtick and fiction instead of learning from an expert.

The expert was a fan of the podcast who also happened to be a robotics expert. He showcased his robot named CUTIE, enjoyed the banter, and contributed to the laughter. But when he tried to point out misconceptions about robots, his hosts repeated Hollywood tropes, e.g., robots would kill all humans.

I recall fighting a similar battle when I offered a Masters level course on advanced technologies in education. Some participants were misled by movies and television so much that reality bytes on artificial intelligence and robotics seemed like lies to them.

I acknowledge that the podcast is about entertaining listeners with nonsense. It is not an educational podcast about science or technology, so it has a right to focus on being funny. 

But it also illustrates what a non-informed entity does, i.e., frame another’s expertise or knowledge through its own biased lens. While this gets the laughs, it also perpetuates stereotypes and ignorance.

Learning starts with being uncomfortable about your current state. It continues with the willingness to change. Learning becomes more likely if there is effort to make that change. In educational psychology, we might refer to these processes as cognitive dissonance and internalisation. 

One difference between teaching children and teaching adults is that the latter group has more experiences. These can sometimes hold adults back. None of those adults will learn anything if they are not challenged about something they believe or think they already know.

Pedagogically speaking, we might refer to this strategy as creating cognitive dissonance. This battle for headspace can start with an educator providing an external stimulus to learn. But the rest of the battle is internal. Students can reject something new, fit it into existing thought structures or schema (assimilation), or change those schema (accommodation).

Students learn when they assimilate or accommodate new information. The reality bite: Their experiences can make them reject it.

Here is some cognitive dissonance about a fashionable green effort.

Video source 

What could be wrong with replanting trees after we take them away? Very little if we do it correctly and for the right reasons.

The BBC videos above and below provide nuanced thoughts on why greening efforts like replanting trees is not always a good idea.

Video source

The second video reviews some reasons why replanting trees is not always a good idea:

  • It can take two or three decades before trees are effective carbon sinks
  • About a quarter of the trees planted die before they serve that purpose
  • Planting the wrong trees might do more harm that good (e.g., non-native trees; monocultures that supplant diversity)
  • Individuals and companies look good when they claim to plant trees to offset carbon emissions, and this gives them an excuse to keep polluting
  • It feels good to put in the effort to plant trees, but we could be putting our energies into more effective strategies 

This is not to say that we should not be planting more trees. But it is greenwashing if this is done incorrectly or for the wrong reasons. 

I remove my old biology glasses and put on my educator lens now. There are many edtech vendors and central planning units that push initiatives that look good on the surface. But dig to their roots and you might find the wrong reasons and questionable methods.

I am thinking of people that misrepresent game-based learning by focusing only on the behaviouristic mechanisms of gamification; flipping the classroom instead of flipping the learning; confusing structured online lessons with self-directed and independent learning.

I have a metric for detecting BS: If it looks easy, it is likely to be lazy. Anything worth doing takes much effort and time. If something claims to be quick and painless, it is unlikely to address mindsets before changing behaviours. I only ask that people rethink the easy options and put their efforts into what it worthwhile instead.


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