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Posts Tagged ‘critical

Breaking news: Nutella causes cancer. That is what this video will have you believe.

Video source

I am guessing that the video maker, SourceFed, was not interested in the facts, just the views, because it did not do its homework.

This Gizmodo contributor did and showed how the science and math do not add up.

What are some take home point points?

Get the facts right. The study did not mention Nutella specifically. You are not in any likely danger unless you consume jars of Nutella every day (and if you do, you have a bigger problem than by-products of palm oil).

What are some educational applications?

You cannot just take creative license — like creating the YouTube video or linking a study on palm oil with Nutella — without combining and balancing it with critical thinking.

To teachers who say they cannot find enough material to nurture both in their students, I point out that these examples are all around us. Serve them up along with a reasonable dose of Nutella spread on toast.

Two recent newspaper articles [1] [2] kept referring to one study that claimed that tuition did not have an impact on Singapore’s high PISA score. I question this research.

Today I reflect on how the articles might be focusing on a wrong question asked the wrong way: Does tuition impact Singapore’s PISA score?

It is a wrong question because it begs an oversimplistic “Yes” or “No” answer when the answer is likely “Depends”. There will be circumstances when tuition helps and when it does not.

Tuition is not a single entity. The are the sustained forms of remedial, enrichment, some combination of the two, or other forms. There are short interventions that focus on just-in-time test exam strategies. There are broad shot forms that deal with one or more academic subjects and there are formulaic forms that focus on specific subtopics and strategies.

Add to that messy practice the fact that a phenomenon like learning to take tests is complex and will have many contributing factors, e.g., school environment, home environment, learner traits, teacher traits, etc.

Wanting to know the impact of tuition, not just on PISA scores, but also on schooling and education in Singapore’s contexts are questions worth asking. A better way to ask one question might be: “How does tuition impact X (where X is the phenomenon)?”

This core question bracketed by: “What forms of tuition are there in Singapore?” and “What other factors influence the impact of this form of tuition?”

Methods-wise, the study would not just play the numbers game. Narratives flesh out and make the case for numbers or even explain what might seem counterintuitive.

We live in a post-truth world. You cannot believe everything you read online. You cannot take what you read offline or in newspapers at face value either.

One of my approaches in life and in education is that it is better to be cruel to be kind.

I would rather be candid and even blunt if you need to be told you are wrong. I would rather not pad a punch if you deserve it.

I reserve such directness for contexts when a bridge is clearly out and only I can sound a warning. Most other times I can gradually and gently get to the issue.

However, I know that my role is often that of the critical mirror during discussions. If people talk nice or skirt the issue, I will be frank and direct if I sense that if the hearer is not listening.

For example, I have been approached by two corporations with grand designs on educational technology. In one instance I was asked to say something nice about a delivery platform. In another, I was asked to give feedback on a product release.

In the first case, I was said I was not a mouthpiece for the company. Furthermore, in my previous capacity of researcher, I had found evidence contrary to the claims of the company. The company had not dug deep enough and I offered to provide a more balanced view.

The second case is pending and will remain in limbo as long as the company thinks I will offer my time and effort for free. If I offered it, my review would one that combines experience with a distillation of reflective practice and critical research. You would not ask an accountant or a dentist to do professional work for free. I do not work for free either.

In both cases, I hold up a critical mirror to the companies so that they might reflect on their current practices and attitudes towards potential partners. A hard look reveals things they might not like to see, but that is something I offer for free because we all benefit from reflection.

I have written previously about how games like Pokémon Go might be used to teach attitudes and thinking skills instead of content.

The game does not lend itself directly to curricula or standards, so some teachers tend to use the game peripherally. Students do not get to actually play the game during a lesson and teachers use the social phenomenon to bring in Pokémon as examples or quiz items. Teachers say this motivates learners and it might, but this is superficial use of the game. Students soon tire of this method like they would with a drill-and-practice math “game”.

Teachers might also use the misconceptions introduced in the game to teach correct concepts and model critical thinking. For example, Pokémon can be “evolved” in the game. The actual equivalent process in real life is metamorphosis. The “evolution” sold in the game is similar to a layperson’s misunderstanding of evolution, e.g., ape to man, when the process is actually a transformation, e.g., caterpillar to butterfly.

If a teacher focuses on content, then the misconception of evolution could be illustrated by the transformation of a Magikarp (fish) to a Gyrados (a dragon-like creature). A better example of metamorphosis could be represented by the transformation of Weedle (larva) to Kakuna (pupa) to Beedrill (adult form).

Such content is limited by the design elements of the game. However, the opportunities to model and teach thinking skills are rich. My reflection is an example of critiquing superficial use of the game for teaching that focuses on content.

The YouTube videos below provide more examples of critical thinking.

Video source

The video above deconstructs weak aspects of the game and suggests improvements. For example, the narrator points out that the gamified elements of the badges and stars do not do anything beyond providing milestones. This does not add value to game-play because the gamer cannot actually benefit from collecting better badges and more stars. If the game company, Niantic, addressed this critique, gamers might enjoy richer game-play and be inclined to stay longer.

Video source

The same narrator projected that other game developers might be tempted to create more location-aware and augmented reality games. He also suggested that future games include safety elements.

He critiqued Pokémon Go for not incorporating in-game features to prevent accidents. While people should be on the lookout for obstacles or dangers in real life, a good game draws the user in. No amount of warnings like “Be aware of your surroundings” are going to change what an outsider sees as distracted behaviour. So the narrator suggested in-game affordances like the ability to socially crowdsource dangerous spots.

The videos are examples of critical thinking using the game-play as content. They are analyses of game elements and phenomena, evaluation of game-play, and the creation of new content.

The videos can be used as models of critical thinking and examples of how teachers might get learners to create content that showcases their ability to think critically and creatively.

Video source

Neil deGrasse Tyson had a great perspective on when we might make use of critical and imaginative thinking.

This video clip is an example of finding lessons and distilling wisdoms from everyday life.

Video source

Too long, didn’t watch? Here are the five tips outlined in the video to promote critical thinking.

  1. Formulate your question
  2. Gather your information
  3. Apply the information and ask critical questions
  4. Consider the implications
  5. Explore other points of view

Our daily rags sometimes do us a disservice by publishing articles like this.

A headline that reads “Eating too much fish while pregnant raises child obesity risk” is not only inaccurate, it is also irresponsible. The researchers highlighted that there was no direct link and said that making such a hypothesis was “speculative”. The study did not prove causation; it only suggested correlation.

The headline is what grabs eyeballs. It is clickbait based on fear or worry.

If not scientifically or research literate, the layperson typically does not distinguish between correlation with causation. Perhaps we need a SkillsFuture course on this because it is a valuable lesson in lifelong learning.

If not, then we might ponder the observation of one of the readers: The Japanese consume a lot of fish, and presumably that includes pregnant women, but they have a relatively low obesity rate. So what gives?

Rising above irresponsible reporting, I wonder if literacy in schools includes the sort of critical thinking that 1) distinguishes between correlation and causation, and 2) encourages questions with counter examples and data.

Is such literacy relegated to “cyberwellness” programmes or is it integrated in the context of actual content?

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