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Posts Tagged ‘coronavirus

I sigh not with relief but with disappointment. Why? I see bad history repeating itself.

When schools or universities do not change their efforts to provide better learning experiences in the COVID-19 era, I sigh because I know we can do better. And I mean better experiences with online learning, not just equivalent-to-classroom experiences.

I am talking about redesigned and better facilitated experiences for students that go beyond engagement to empowerment. See the second column of the tweet below for what these might look like.

These better experiences work face-to-face or online, but are particularly important online given this is a prime opportunity for individualisation, more flexible timelines, and independent work.

How do I know that we can do better? We are supposed to have been preparing with sanctioned e-learning days in schools and institutes of higher learning (IHLs). We have had years to prepare by tinkering, making mistakes, and emerging stronger.

Instead it took a worldwide disaster to slam the brakes on most processes. Then when told to go, most schools and IHLs struggled to restart. When they did, they did the equivalent of abandoning their cars, donning spacesuits, and piloting cardboard rockets.

That is my way of saying that most resorted to emergency remote teaching, mislabelled that as online learning, and wished only to return to old ways of doing things.

Why? There are many factors, but this reluctance to change ultimately boils down to a lack of leadership and unimaginative administration. If leaders see no other way, they will propose journeys that take old paths. Administrative bodies gladly reinforce these ruts because fixed pathways are easy.

The problem with that mindset is the practice that results. Educators are not challenged to facilitate learning, and students are not nurtured to learning more independently, reflectively, and contextually.

I sigh because I saw all this when I was within the system and now again when I am outside it. But I do not sigh as long or as deep because I do see almost imperceptible changes. These are like plants that somehow find footholds on buildings.

COVID-19 is creating conditions e-learning. Initially this looks like emergency learning. With good planning and management, this might become everyone, everytime, and everywhere learning.

To get there, I would ask the same questions I used to ask: What are we doing differently? Why is this difference better? How do we know this is better? How do we sustain our efforts?

Now I sigh sadly because I know there will be leaders and administrators who will not choose to ask such questions. I hope to sigh with relief because a few enlightened ones realise they need to gain a foothold in a landscape reshaped by the coronavirus.

Today I reflect on how the reporting of some news is similar to the application of research in schooling and education. Both have questionable practices.

A person I follow on Twitter shared and later deleted this CNN article on how some people were supposedly organising and attending coronavirus parties in the USA. Attendees reportedly put money in a pot and the first to get infected got the prize.

Then a Wired writer countered that report by arguing how even reputable media outlets did not check on original sources of information. Bottomline: The coronavirus parties were not as common as the news implied.

To substantiate rumours that such parties actually happen, investigators need to ask critical questions. At the minimum, they need to ask:

  • Do such coronavirus parties actually happen?
  • If they do or do not, how do we know for sure?
  • Just how widespread are these events if they do happen?

The problem is that it is difficult to get the data to answer the questions. So people rely on guesses, hearsay, or conjecture. In the case of coronavirus parties, the reports could have started with public officials who made statements to the press without clear evidence. The press did not dig deeper, took the word of officials as fact, and propagated unsubstantiated information.

What does this have to do with schooling and education? Lots. There is so much “knowledge” about how teachers should teach and how students purportedly learn based on the uncritical sharing and perpetuating of bad information.

I have lamented on some of these pseudo-science and barely psychology theories before, but here is a short list.

  1. Digital natives
  2. Learning styles
  3. Bloom’s Taxonomy (as prescription)
  4. The Myers-Briggs type indicator (psychological types)

The first assumes that students are somehow able to use current technology, but this does not mean they can do so well or wisely [1].

The second assumes that addressing supposed styles will optimise learning when more recent research counters such thinking [2].

Using BT as a prescriptive tool instead of a descriptive tool leads teachers to assume that delivering information to generate knowledge is always first and foundational. However, learning does not have to follow a strict sequence [3].

The MBTI was created by two individuals who had no psychology background and the inventory has been roundly critiqued [4]. However, it is sold as the basis of career guidance programmes in some schools.

The fallacy of coronavirus parties is easier to spot because the public eye casts a bright light. But the theories and practices of teaching are the domain of a smaller group that does not necessarily understand or conduct educational research. This means that pseudo-science goes unchecked.

If the theory seems believable at face value and is attractive because it is easy to understand, it might be snake oil. Such theories lack nuance and ignore scrutiny.

Coronavirus parties, if they happen, might infect bodies. Theories based on pseudo-science infect the mind. It is far easier to cure the body than to rid the mind of misplaced principles.

I cannot remember the last time I used Google Hangouts (GH). But it must have been a few years when it was new and I had remote interviews and consults.

Actually, I do not have to remember. As it is linked to Gmail, I looked at the chat feature and noticed video calls listed in 2016.

The rise of the novel coronavirus (now officially named COVID-19) had me digging deep into my free tools toolbox. I think GH blinked when it saw the light.

But in all seriousness, GH is simple and I intend to conduct a roughly three-hour make-up class for students affected by the leave-of-absence they served as a precaution.

I hope that the simplicity of GH means that we overcome the technical hurdle so quickly that it recedes into the background. That way we can focus on the pedagogy and learning, the content and the social interaction, the deconstruction and reconstruction.


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