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Posts Tagged ‘critical

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I love the comedic stylings of Joe Lycett and Lucy Beaumont. So if I was a classroom teacher, I might use this video as a hook for teaching and modelling critical thinking.

The video was about how Beaumont tried to offset her carbon expenditure (travel overseas) with credits (local actions). She wanted to be carbon neutral so that she could enjoy a guilt-free hen-do (a bachelorette party) for a friend.

The video was an opportunity to not just entertain, but to also inform its audiences on being responsible with our shared and natural resources. That said, edutainment errs on the side of a good laugh and low-hanging fruit. It is up to an educator to help learners dig deeper.

I might start by asking my learners to find out how ineffective tree-planting is, much less the six plants that Beaumont bought. We might factor in the unseen vehicle she had to arrange to transport everything she bought.

Beaumont brought in a consultant who told her that the asparagus she had in her fridge was flown in at great environmental cost from Peru. My learners and I would analyse this issue by identifying and calculating the costs in detail.

We might ponder on statements I would make, like: 

  • One person’s effort to stop buying Peruvian asparagus does not count for much.
  • Beaumont’s overall strategy of consumerism was counterproductive.
  • If you are going to change behaviours, do not rely on half measures.

In the process of uncovering answers, we would deconstruct thought processes and reconstruct principles of critical thinking.

If I had any agenda, it would be to end the lesson on the fact that “carbon neutrality” is often an excuse to keep practicing bad behaviours and “balancing” them with good ones. 

We are not the fictional character, Dexter, who kills people by night and solves crimes by day. That TV show was entertaining to watch, but no one in their right minds would condone such behaviour. And yet so many see nothing wrong with carbon neutrality.

Recently, five Singapore doctors cautioned against inoculating younger males with mRNA-based vaccines because of a small chance of myocarditis, i.e., heart inflammation [source].

Their view was informed more by “heart inflammation” than by “small chance”. How small? According to this CNA article, there were 1,226 cases of myocarditis out of almost 400 million vaccine doses in the USA. This works out to a 0.0003% chance of getting myocarditis.

The same article reported that Singapore reported 6 cases out of about 5 million doses. This is an almost one in a million chance. You might be more likely to win a lottery than to get myocarditis.

The doctors also cited a USA report of the “death of a 13-year-old boy after being vaccinated with the second dose of an mRNA vaccine”. However, an expert committee here countered that by stating that “the news report cited by the doctors did not state death from heart failure as alleged”.

The small group of doctors might be well-meaning, but they have chosen to write a fear-based headline, speculated a causal link between vaccine and death, and ignored the statistical part of the narrative.

The group of five doctors overlaps with the 12 doctors who wrote an earlier letter, which like the latest one, was roundly debunked by the expert committee. Eleven of the 12 doctors who wrote that letter retracted what they said [CNA] [Today].

What damage both letters caused is difficult to determine. We might get some inference by measuring vaccine hesitancy and queues outside private clinics that offer non-mRNA-based vaccines, i.e., Sinovac in our case [source].

We have vaccines as a class of weapons against the current pandemic. We are less well-equipped with the infodemic. We need to learn to read, think, and act beyond a headline. If we do not, infected minds will lead to infected bodies.

This press piece began with this question.

Why is the question not: Why are some people less productive than others when working at work? It is not as if working outside of home automatically makes work better for everyone.

A similar and equally uncritical question could be asked of schooling and education: Why is home-based learning so difficult? We should instead pivot to the question about the difficulties of learning in the classroom.

One direct answer for avoiding the pivot is that refocusing on work and school highlights what we fail to do well and somehow keep ignoring. For example, it is easier to ignore how administrative needs at work or school might be placed higher than working or learning needs.

Another simple answer is that the home is not made for work or school. Often it is a place to get away from both, i.e., to rest, pursue an interest, spend time with family, etc. We can make adjustments to home just like a scuba diver dons a suit and air tank, but such adjustments are temporary. 

So, no, the tweeted question is not a good one. It is an attempt at clickbait. It is not an attempt to actually challenge or develop creative and critical thinking. 

A question that might actually create some dissonance might be: What can we learn from the online pivot at work/school and apply to the workplace/classroom when we return?

Martin Weller recently critiqued how we tend to do the same thing differently:

We decry the tendency to simply replicate lectures online, but then do the same with meetings. We call for educators to use technology to its advantage to realise new pedagogies, and then recreate face to face conferences in Zoom. We stress the need to rethink your teaching approach to ensure learners are not adversely affected and then conduct line management via Teams.

In short, we think almost exclusively inside the work/school box even when circumstances (pandemic) throw us firmly outside it.

Now that we have enforced experiments with telecommuting and remote teaching/learning, why not use these experiences to address the weaknesses of the office and classroom?


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I enjoy these comedic videos on two levels. The first is as a person who enjoys smart comedy. The second is as an educator with a background in science.

The purpose of comedy is to make people laugh. If comedians fail to do this consistently, they are just commentators or pundits. The problem with some of these comedic comments is that they are based on ignorance and the perpetuating of such ignorance.

For example, take the comparison of the 95% likelihood that humans are responsible for climate change to the 99% effectiveness of a condom. A comedian remarked that he should be wary about having protected sex 100 times. His implication and intended comedic comment was that there was an assured one time that the condom would fail. This is not what 99% effectiveness means. It means that a condom is effective 99% each time it used.

There are other remarks about rising sea levels and mirrors in space that could be deconstructed and reconstructed with a scientific eye while still appreciating the humour of the exchanges.

My worry is that the audiences have not heard the scientific information previously and the comedy is their source of news. This is not the fault of the show because it is not their role — it is for entertainment, not education.

Ideally educators might use such videos as a relatable way to start lessons about scientific misconceptions. These are invaluable lessons to nurture critical and curious thinkers. Part of such thinking is investigating. When I watched this video yesterday, I looked for the source of the 95% statistic. It was from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its reports are available online.

The next investigative issue was when this video was first aired. A commenter indicated that it was from Season 12 and episode 11 of Mock the Week and first aired on 3 October 2013. One other person’s reply to that comment: “I wish they would post this themselves so I don’t have to look up the episode list”. This information makes it easier to find the actual report.

YouTube comments about the show's episode date.

The show’s YouTube channel does not operate like SciShow, so it does not list its resources to back up what it says. Its audiences then take what panellists say at face value, and if such a practice happens often enough, the information becomes fact and the practice becomes acceptable.

If we are to raise the baseline of scientifically literate people, educators need to realise that this is no laughing matter. They could take the laughing matter (funny videos) to turn ignorance into information into knowledge into mindsets.

I do not see the point of saying one form of thinking is better than another. Nor do I see the point of comparing the types of thinking with different lenses.

I do see the point of using different tools and strategies for different purposes or of combining what you have to get a better picture. This is like how we need both creative and critical thinking together instead of just one or the other apart.

Anyone not living under a rock will know that the current cultural entertainment phenomena are Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones.

Any educator worth their salt could take advantage of them. Videos that analyze their content are not only seeds, hooks, and drivers of content, they might also be used to teach nuance and critical thinking.


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The video above is one such example. It provides a low entry barrier, a shared experience, and cognitive dissonance among the learners.

An educator might leverage on such a video by highlighting how it models nuanced and critical thinking. By facilitating discussion and reflection the same educator can teach her students to do the same.

During a visitation this lunar new year, a family member played a video of a gathering on an almost 30-year-old video tape.

Through the video “snow”, we watched a snippet of Singapore in 1991. Folks gathered around the TV screen to question their fashion and hairstyle choices, and to gossip about relatives who had since passed away.

Since the video featured the apartment we were in, some marvelled at how little had changed by comparing what was on screen with what was around us.
 

 
Only one part of the video caught my attention. While the adults in the video chatted in the living room, a girl busied herself by playing video games on an old console.

Back in the room, my son was sitting in the same place as the girl in the video. In between watching the video time capsule, he played video games on his iPhone. So much time had passed, but so little had changed.

I was not thinking about kids being kids. I was thinking about how quick adults are to judge kids as they explore and learn on their own. I was also wondering how oblivious adults are to the change process (or the lack of, in this case).

For me, the visitation video was a reminder that things might seem to change superficially. But if we dig deeper, things actually remain the same. The way to tell if anything has changed at all it to examine the history of a behaviour or practice.


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This video snippet from the BBC painted a positive picture of the possible effects of mobile use by babies or toddlers. It was a better clip than the CNA video last year [1] [2] not because it was tech-positive, but because it was less biased.

The CNA video last year asked the question “Can e-learning make you dumb?” and sought to back up its answers with what its writers had already decided instead of what they could investigate.

The BBC video was not as negative, even when the narrator seemed to sneak in negative associations with mobile device use like “young children sat down using technologies won’t be as good at coordinating their bodies”. It was simply repeating a commonly held concern by lay folk.

The takeaways from the video should not be that the small sample of kids was representative of a larger group nor that kids who used technology were no worse with gross motor skills and better at fine motor skills.

If we learn anything at all from these videos it should not be the opinions on the effects of e-learning or mobile devices. It should be that we need to read, listen, watch, or otherwise process all sources of information with critical filters.

One coarse but vital filter is identifying bias. The CNA video asked questions and rushed to answer them with unbalanced certainty. The BBC video, while seemingly positive, asked questions and left room for even the child expert to express doubt.

One video tried to tell you WHAT to think; the other video could teach you HOW to think.


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The video above on the best Microsoft flops reminded me of a principle that applies both in implementing innovation and managing change.

It does not matter so much if you have a better idea. It matters more if you share or do it at the right time and in the right place.

By the way, don’t feel too bad for Microsoft. It is neither micro nor soft.


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You can read the title as a cheer or a sigh.


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Yesterday I heard a promoter at mall sell disinformation. This reminded me of the claim a student teacher made years ago.

The mall charlatan proclaimed the benefits of oxygenated water and a product that would allow you to put extra oxygen in tap water.

Only aquatic organisms would benefit from an infusion of oxygen in the water. Then again only up to a point because too much oxygen is harmful whether it is in water or air. That aside, humans are terrestrial animals and we do not gain from extra-oxygenated water except perhaps for ticklish bubbles.

If we were somehow able to absorb more oxygen from water like the way we do from our red blood cells, we would oxidise chemicals in our bodies. One physically overt effect of this is premature aging, which was something contrary to the promoter’s product.

The harm of buying into this non-scientifically-based sell hurts your pocket and helps perpetuate scientific ignorance. This is bad, but not as bad as what might happen in a classroom.

A few years ago, I reflected on a student teacher who told her students that it was important to drink water because it contained oxygen. Our bodies do not electrolyse water. If we did, we would produce two highly flammable and explosive gases (hydrogen and oxygen) in our bodies.

I pointed this out to the student teacher and urged her to rectify this at the next lesson. Misteaching science initiates or perpetuates falsehoods. Disinformation takes root and becomes unfounded knowledge. If left unchecked, this condition might develop into disdain for scientific literacy and critical thinking.

We should be nurturing kids who are scientifically literate and cheering, “Yeah, Science!” But if we do not correct bad teaching or ignorant sales pitches, we leave kids who think that ignorance is bliss.


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