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Posts Tagged ‘content

I like watching videos where experts either explain difficult concepts to learners of different ages or just to kids. The video below is one of the latter.


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Explaining to an adult how to create bioluminescent plants from firefly DNA is challenging, much less kids. The two content experts from MIT were not quite comfortable teaching kids and their attempts illuminate some concepts about how students learn and what an effective teacher looks like.

When one content expert tried simplifying the concept of transferring bioluminescence, she ran into some trouble.

Expert: “…we just ask them to give us some chemicals”.
One child: “Do you tell them?”

Expert: “We just borrow the light from the fireflies…”
Another child: “Do you mean like real borrow or do you just keep it?”

The expert was visibly stunned by the kids’ questions and their teacher intervened with timely and appropriate answers.

An effective teacher is not just knowledgeable in content, she should also be a child and learning expert. As information mushrooms and knowledge needs to be constantly negotiated and updated, being the latter type of expert is critical.

The other expert got the kids to participate in a hands-on activity where they simulated bioluminescence by mixing chemicals in small vials. Instead of hearing about bioluminescence, they tried and saw for themselves.

This is not about appealing to different “learning styles” — which is a myth anyway — but to teach and reinforce with multiple methods and modes. That said, kids generally learn best by what stems from natural curiosity, i.e., experiencing and asking.

The teacher as a child and learning expert asked a critical question at the end of the experiment: “What do you think this could help solve?” She did not provide answers to her learners, but got them to generate answers that required them to think actively about what they just experienced.


Video source

There are lots of takeaways from this video. One is this factoid: From 5000 BCE to 2007, the estimated amount of information stored by the human race was 300 exabytes; in 2013, that data had grown four times to 1,200 exabytes.

The information explosion is a key reason why we cannot focus on just teaching and testing for content.

You might argue that what students learn in school is a limited set and that some curricula are reduced to accommodate shorter terms and more tests. If you do, you are missing the point.
 

 
The focus on content does not necessarily require learners to deal with the growing mountain of information. Students resort to learning GIGO — garbage in, garbage out — resulting in short-term learning.

What the learners of today and tomorrow need to know and do is how to process such information. This means knowing how to seek, collect, analyse, and evaluate information and then collating, curating, creating, and critiquing so that it makes sense.

These skills are not new, but they are even more important now that we are in the midst of an information explosion. To deny this or teach otherwise is to be blind and irresponsible.

 
… is another man’s poison.

That was the saying that came to mind when I read this student’s feedback on teaching.

A reporting officer or an administrator might view this feedback on teaching negatively.

A teacher who focuses on content as a means of nurturing thoughtful learners might view this positively.

I am not describing a false dichotomy. I am summarising reality.

I never thought I would ever type this: There are valuable lessons in Trump’s tweets.

I am not referring to learning how NOT to be inflammatory. I am thinking about how his tweets are good for discourse analysis. I am doing this thanks to this insightful video by Nerdwriter1.


Video source

The video creator did a great job of chunking Trump’s tweets by type and nuance in numbers, and analysing their design and impact.

I might use this video as a resource if I get a chance to work with a group of teachers who need to learn how to do discourse analysis for the purpose of narrative-style reporting and research writing.

If I do, this will show how one might learn from something negative.

A little over a year ago, I reflected on the three dimensions of educational technology: IT, ICT, and IDM. These evolutionary dimensions focused largely on technology affordances.
 

 
This year, I reflect on another three dimensions, this time from the social and pedagogical perspectives.

In the era of IT, teachers and media folks used technology to create content. We leverage on technology to do that to this day. This might be why Bill Gates declared “content is king” when predicting the ascent of the Web in the 90s.

While content is important and will not lose relevance, how policy makers, school leaders, teachers still treat it with reverence is passé. We can comfortably declare that we now live in an information-rich world. We need to question if any content we create is new or if it adds any value (to the next dimension, context).

However, schools now still largely process and reprocess old content. Teachers are evaluated on their ability to recreate such content, get students to practice it, and test how much content students retain temporarily.

What matters more is context. It shapes why we need content and it makes learning meaningful. Context also provides an authentic platform for practice and application. If teachers and lessons are labelled as not being relevant, it is because they are poor or lacking in context.

These contexts provide learners with opportunities to connect with knowledgeable others in order to create new content, context, and connections.

The technologies that kids embrace today, e.g., video games and social media, are not just places for learning content. Teachers who think inside their content box and try to create cool lessons are only partially reaching their students.

Video games and social media are also the platforms that provide context and connectedness.

One example: The content behind the skill of being able to make a prediction is learnt in-game as well as practiced and negotiated in that context.

Another example: Fans learn Korean by watching K-pop on YouTube or English as a Second Language learners watch English game play videos; YouTube as a platform is an authentic context for learning, conversing, and connecting.

Technology becomes educational not just when teachers create content with it, but especially when learners can do the same while in context and in connection with each other. To do any less is to provide a disservice to our learners and not do our job as educators.

Later today I will conduct a presentation on educational crowdsourcing.

The praxis of educational crowdsourcing: Learner as content creator and learner as teacher

I was invited by a university to contribute to a seminar where one of the themes was to push the practice of collaboration.

I have opted to focus on how faculty might do this by positioning students as content creators and teachers. It is one of my teaching philosophies that students learn best when they take these roles.

During my presentation, I back up this stance by citing the theory and/or research behind such practice. I also share my own experiences doing these when I was a university academic.

Update: My Google Slides are at http://bit.ly/iits-praxis.

I upgraded my mobile devices to iOS9 the moment the update was available yesterday primarily because I wanted to test the content blocking features.
 

 
I read Techcrunch’s review of three main blockers, 1Blocker, Blockr, and Crystal.

When I tried to download all three last night, only Crystal was available. The other two displayed “Not available in your country’s store” messages. Thankfully both were available this morning.

I tested all three on STonline (@STcom) pages which are littered with the awful ads. They are so bad that they distract from reading and encourage accidental tapping.

Crystal is free to try at the moment. It did not seem to remove the ads because the pages looked intact before and after I applied this blocker.

1Blocker is free and offers in-app purchases that enable more features. I discovered that 1Blocker was heavy-handed. On applying just the ad blocking feature, entire pages in STonline would not appear. I had to load pages without blocking to read anything, but when I did this, the ads would appear.

The best content blocker was Blockr. It is also the only one of the three that does not allow you to try before you buy. It is US$0.99 (S$1.28) at the moment and worth the small amount of money. It not only blocks inline ads that interrupt reading (see my tweet above), it also blocked all the other annoying ads at the bottom of the page.

While it is very early days yet in the battle for blockers, this was a reminder that you get what you pay for.


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