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Posts Tagged ‘critical

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?

I get that this image tweet is an opposite play on apathy (app-athy, haha!), but does it make sense?

What does “Empathy is the app” mean? Something like this?

I realise that there is a movement to promote apps. I have also met many people whose knee-jerk reaction to any issue, even complex social ones, is an app.

Have people reflected critically on what apps are, how we use apps, and what apps cannot and cannot do?

What kind of app is empathy supposed to be: Gaming, social media, productivity, utility, augmented, fantasy, etc.?

How do we use such an app? Do we activate it only when we need it and follow a checklist? Do we close it when we do not need it? Or is the app intelligent enough to know when to pop up and remind us to be empathetic?
 

 
Do we have a home screen full of other apps like being professional, critical, creative, or considerate? Can values and behaviours be codified as apps? Can these “apps” be externalised and disowned?

Are they available in different app stores? Is there quality control? Do they come with regular updates?

Is the empathy app free, freemium, ad-supported, or paid? If the app store is not empathetic to app creators and changes policies, will the app change to meet the circumstances?

I really do not know what “Empathy is the app” means. Perhaps my human OS need upgrades and my home screen needs more apps. Perhaps the empathy app creators need to make a “multiple interpretations” or “Empathy for Dummies” app.

Footnote: Here is something for the app-oriented to do before or after you read this. I recommend you first install the sense of humour app, interpreting double meanings app, common sense app, and listening app. If your OS cannot run all the apps simultaneously in the background, you are screwed.

If I had to guess, most neutrals reading my tweets and blog entries might think I am being negative or even alarmist.

I am neither. I am just providing critical responses to uncritical reports, uninformed newspaper journalists, snake oil vendors, etc.

Why do this? I have two views. One is this.
 

Broken bridge 1 by novellino09, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  novellino09 

 
I have travelled ahead and I see that the bridge is out. It is my responsibility to tell you not to take that route. I will use strong words and I might even try to block you. But it is up to you whether to continue on that path.

My other view is this.

Empire State Pigeon by ZeroOne, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  ZeroOne 

 

On certain matters, I have a bird’s eye view. This means I can see the bigger or different picture, and I can make out details even from a distance.

If I can help you see something you cannot, why would you not want me to point it out? If I can see that the bridge is out, do I not have a duty to inform?

So go ahead, dull your senses, and call me negative or alarmist. Just know this: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. Words do not matter; actions do.


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