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Posts Tagged ‘context

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Yellow + blue = green thumbs #tiongbahru

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Today I reflect on a photo I took during a short jaunt to the Tiong Bahru area.

I spotted this eye-catching exterior near a bakery and took a few snapshots. The closeup provides less detail, but more focus. The wider shot provides more context, but it is busier.

The same could be said about implementing change or learning something new. Diving deep provides focus, but we might ignore other important details. However, trying to take everything in might leave you paralysed on what to start with.

The trick is to skilfully and strategically use both. How and when to do this takes experience honed by failed attempts and reflective practice.

Like many things, written and spoken language evolves. The video below highlights a few changing standards and “standards” in written language.

Video source

The thing it hints at is context. We speak and write differently in different contexts. What some students are not taught (or not taught sufficiently) is when and how to switch.

If students are not taught to identify contexts first, they might see the different rules and standards as a burden. They might opt to use the form of language they are most comfortable with regardless of context.

Like it or not, this is a failure of teaching and learning.

Context matters.

So does spelling.

To determine what matters, you have to be observant. To change what matters, you have to care enough to do something about it.

Video source

In the video, John Green shared the general rules on using the prepositions on, in, and at.

This was useful to me partly because I was just asked that question last week during my research writing consultation. Now I have an answer for the next session.

The video was also useful in a broader sense. With just about every rule comes exceptions, and grammar is no exception.

I would challenge anyone attempting to standardise “pedagogy” or “learning” in schooling and education. When implemented, they will find exceptions to the model answer, ideal formula, or prescribed standard.

So are standards or definitions pointless then? No, they are baselines from which variations sprout. We just need to be critical enough to recognise what is valuable or erroneous, helpful or harmful, and relevant or not, depending on the context.

If you know what the Maori haka is and you know how unoriginal Singaporeans can be, did the video in the tweet make you cringe?

Some might say the performance by Keppel Corp was a cultural appropriation of the haka. I call it a cultural misappropriation because it ignored context.

The haka is a war dance performed by the Maori. The modern version was popularised by the All Blacks, the New Zealand rugby team.

Video source

Some might applaud the Keppel group for their effort and time. It surely took that and a healthy dose of daring to record and share their performance.

Others might say the attempt was laughable or embarrassing. The performance, utterances, and location were so out-of-place as to create cringe in over-supply.

Was their effort creative? If copying someone else’s template but using your own content is creative, then Melania Trump delivered an original speech two years ago.

Video source

Video source

The speech was analysed and parodied then. The Keppel haka is an unintended parody. It is also a poorly conceived cultural insult.

As with most things, I link this to schooling and education.

Sometimes the attempts to transplant ideas from a conference talk or a school visit to one’s own environment fall flat. This happens because the cultural and contextual factors elsewhere are complex and not transparent to the visitor. This is why we cannot replicate Finland’s education system and why others cannot replicate ours.

We would not expect a frequent diner of restaurants to be able to run a restaurant. We might not expect people unfamiliar with Maori culture to devise their own haka. We cannot expect a visitor to believe and do what a resident does.

Cultural and context matter. Both take a considerable amount of time to establish. If someone is offering you a quick fix, then they are likely selling you snake oil by ignoring both.

If your plan is for one year plant rice. If your plan is for ten years plant trees. If your plan is for one hundred years educate children. -- Confucius

Image quote I created in 2015.

I am sitting at a cafe and reflecting on the aftermath of another Pokémon Go Community Day (PGCD) and my fifth exclusive raid (Ex Raid) of Mewtwo. The two happened to coincide.

I managed to catch six shiny Mareep and created this “family”portrait to remember the event.

Shiny Mareep family from Pokémon Go Community Day (15 Apr 2018).

I relied on my previous experiences of wandering around in a park versus positioning myself strategically at a mall. Doing the latter taught me that the concentration of Poké stops at the mall was more efficient and comfortable.

Concentration of Poké stops at Jurong Point Mall.

The PGCD event lasted three hours (11.00am-2.00pm locally) and my Ex Raid invitation started soon after (2.00-2.45pm).

Despite the raid being my fifth one this year, I still felt some butterflies. This is because I take the responsibility to coordinate the efforts of small teams and to help others catch Mewtwo. The social pressure to do both creates the Butterfrees.

Five Mewtwos and counting...

There always seems to be something different to experience at each Ex Raid even though I see familiar faces. This is where I reflect on the importance of context and expertise.

The context changed when a mother and daughter asked me to help them with a challenge. It was not for Mewtwo but for Mew instead.

There is a new feature in PoGo called Special Research. This is a series of increasingly difficult challenges that culminates in the invitation to catch the elusive Mew. The hurdle that the mother and daughter could not clear was to each make a successful curved excellent throw.

Making successful curved excellent throws is not easy and that is why it is one of the last few tasks. The challenge was made even more difficult when the daughter had only three Poké balls left in her inventory. Her mother’s inventory was not much better.

I caught a Pokémon with a curved excellent throw with the very last ball in the daughter’s inventory. It took a while before I could do the same on her mother’s phone.

The change in context was not catching different Pokémon; it was the different phones. There are different screen textures, video responsiveness, and screen sizes.

My experience was developed on my phone. Applying exactly the same expert strategies to different contexts did not work immediately. I eventually had to use a right-hand method on one phone and a left-hand strategy on the other.

My experience using other phones was limited. I had to learn the context-of-use quickly and modify my expertise as the context demanded.

Reflecting on this experience, I realise that I transferred a work-related strategy to a play-related one. When consulted, I am relied upon for my expertise and because of my experience. However, I make clear to my potential collaborators that I need to learn their contexts first. It is the logical and responsible thing to do.

Playing Pokémon Go makes me discover new places. The things I find are not always gems, but they often provoke thought. Take this mural for instance.

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Right message, wrong context #mural #hdb #heartland

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The message in text form, while dated, was about taking personal responsibility for the environment. Hence the recommendations to set air-conditioners to no lower than 25 degrees Celsius, to use fans, or energy-saving lightbulbs.

However, there are at least two problems with the mural.

  1. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) are not as efficient as LEDs. CFLs also contain mercury, which makes their disposal problematic.
  2. The characters in the mural are using the air-conditioner, fan, and light outdoors.

Giving the mural creator(s) the benefit of creative license, the message was probably that we enact the foreground message for the sake of the background environment.

However, doing that gives the mural creator(s) too much credit. Creative thought needs to be balanced with critical analysis — it does not make sense use those tools outdoors.

You can share exactly the same message of change in different contexts. It will make sense and be welcome in some, but not in others. Far better to find out as much as possible about the context first than to deliver a consistent but blind or outdated message.

At the risk of sounding obvious, I will say that vacuums suck.

I am not referring to the cleaning devices that we call vacuum cleaners. I am talking about a lack of background information or context.

It is not wise to work in such a vacuum, much less implement long-reaching, long-term policy. This is why we have the adage: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Planning should take into account context and background.

I am particular about finding out the context and background of the people and agencies I work with. Sometimes the people that first approach me wonder why I persist with finding these things out.

From their perspective, they already understand their context, but they might make the mistake of assuming that I also do. Alternatively, they might presume that I can provide so much generic advice and strategies that a few will stick.

This is like firing a shotgun in the dark in the hope that a few pellets hit the target. For me, this is not only a waste of time and effort, it is also dangerous. Someone might get injured in the process.

I prefer to know what the context and background of any endeavour are so that I can focus our collective efforts on meaningful effort and change. Surely that does not suck.

Only the disconnected and disinterested will not know what is happening in US politics now.

Only the uninspired will not be able to design lessons based on what the Trump administration seems to spew every day.

Video source

This video was of Trump railing on what he considered to be “fake news” media.

The clip (27s to 1min 57s mark) of Trump’s claim and its rebuttal by MSNBC is a lesson on the importance of context. Specifically, how NOT to cite a quote selectively and out context.

The same could be said when teaching. Any content should not be taught without context. If it is, the content is not meaningful. Any strategy should not be employed without context. If it is, this would be like walking around blind and rudderless.

Bonus lesson: When trying to make a point, there is no need to make it about your birthday.

My earliest recollection of an article that mentioned “the age of context” was this 2015 piece describing the music service, Spotify.

If Web 1.0 was the age of expert-created content and Web 2.0 was and still is the age of user-generated content, then Web 3.0 is the age of context.

These ages are not discrete periods. They overlap and all three are present in our lives today. If you are interested in a medical condition, you might get information from an official health service, Wikipedia, and an RSS feed or an IFTTT applet.

Web 3.0 is sometimes called the semantic web because meaning is made in context. Applied in learning, it is context that defines content that learners need. However, instead of requiring learners to seek it, the content finds its way to learners in their situations.

For example, a pharmacist filling in new forms in the office gets information from a performance support system that is different from the strategies s/he needs while promoting a new drug to doctors in a hospital.

A student might work on a community project in different contexts: School, a neighbourhood library, at home, and the venue of the project. A project management system (uh, PMS?) driven by Web 3.0 would provide different scaffolds and information to guide and suit the context.

For example, that student might need help on interviewing and recording while meeting someone at the community project venue. When the context changes to group work in school, the information and scaffolding might be about planning and conflict resolution.

How might students and teachers change in the age of context?

Learners will adopt and adapt quickly. They will also shape the technology as it shapes them.

However, some teachers will likely go kicking and screaming into the future because they already do that now.

  • Allow phones in class? No!
  • Or optimise phone use in class? How?
  • Operate outside a walled garden? It’s not safe!
  • Share openly? Why should I?

For teaching to change in the age of context, teachers must figuratively make the classroom walls transparent. Content should be learnt not for an assignment’s or curriculum’s sake, but for usefulness in context. They need to recognise that context is not limited to exams or the school environment.

One way for teachers to think outside the schooling context is to learn what happens in other jobs. They do not have to abandon their careers to do this. They need only remind themselves that they should be lead learners first and be driven by curiosity to find out what their non-teacher family members and friends do.

Another way teachers can think outside the box while operating inside one is to link what they already see and do in their lives outside of their classrooms. How do they leverage on social media? Why do they pursue hobbies or passions? What do they use to keep learning after they get their teaching qualifications?

These are things they can transfer from one context to the other. It is called the age of context after all.

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