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Posts Tagged ‘different

Even a comedic game show like Taskmaster (YouTube channel) offers a reminder to educators.

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The segment above featured the champions from previous series competing for the Taskmaster’s points. They had to figure out the combination code to reveal what was inside a locked case.

Each contestant used a different strategy. They relied on a shortcut, manual work, brain work, guess work, and physical violence. All arrived at the right answer.

What is the reminder for educators?

Much of teaching focuses narrowly on the safe or right answers. Teachers get there with methods established by collective experience. There is nothing wrong with that unless you realise this also prevents the exploration of other strategies.

The exploration of such alternative strategies can seem chaotic. They are often out of a teacher’s hands and are the work of students. But does it really matter if students find different means to the same end?

I am all for the scaffolding the learning of knowledge and skills with pedagogically sound and time-tested strategies. There is a reason why we call them academic disciplines.

But there is a reason why we call on people to think outside the box. For educators, this is the classroom box that does not take into account the wider world or the input of learners. If we do not learn to operate outside this box, we become unreasonable and disconnected taskmasters instead of facilitators of learning.

The latest Pessimists Archive podcast episode might seem like a departure from the usual fare.

The usual message is how we do not study recent history when encountering new technologies. We then make the same mistakes from the past.

This episode started with a photo of two different-looking men sharing an earphone set.

When contacted and interviewed, the two guys did not think anything unusual about their pairing because they had a shared passion. To the outside observer, they were as different as night and day.

Therein lies the underlying theme: We tend to see what we have already seen. We look for how we are different, which might then lead to unease or conflict.

I have had the privilege of having conversations with educators from different parts of the world. Even though I do not meet as many of them now, one thing has stayed with me from those interactions. We are more alike than we are different.

Remote teaching is not the same as online learning or distance learning.

Remote teaching is what many teachers had to resort to doing due to COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines. Those in the more connected world resorted to video conferencing to try to recreate what worked in classrooms.

Teachers complained that such teaching was inferior to teaching face-to-face. They probably do not realise that online teaching is not the same as online learning.

A J Juliani explained the differences as did Hodges et al at EduCause. Lisa Lane reflected on why comparisons are not legitimate and cited a review of literature by Alison Witherspoon on the efficacy of online learning.

I borrow ideas from Lane and elaborate on why complaints about online or remote teaching are misplaced. Classroom teaching is like being a train driver while online facilitation is like piloting a plane.

Moving a few hundred people on a train and a plane are similar in that both have passengers, fuel, refreshments, rules, and destinations. In educational terms, these could be equivalent to the learners, professional development, resources, standards, and outcomes respectively.

Both typically have set paths (instructional strategies), but a train travels in two dimensions while a plane operates in three dimensions. The latter is more complex. While content and pedagogical boundaries are clearer in a classroom, they can be more open online. Consider how learners have greater access to other resources online (Google, YouTube, WhatApp) than in a more regulated classroom. This makes teaching content more challenging online.

Online learners also need operate asynchronously and not see each other as much (or even at all). Navigating this lack of social presence is like flying a plane blind. An online facilitator has to learn how to create social presence or hyper develop other senses to compensate.

Juliani reflected on how much design effort goes into online learning modules. I can relate. Classroom performance might look like 10% preparation and 90% teaching. Online work is often the other way around — 90% preparation and 10% facilitation.

Teaching online is not the same as online learning. As much as teachers might have learnt from making mistakes during remote teaching, they do not have preparation to be online designers and facilitators. They might transfer some ideas and practices as classroom teachers into online environments, but that is like blindly pushing train engineers into plane cockpits and telling them to fly.

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There is so much that we know and do not know about sleep. The sleep expert in the video above outlined what he knew to five learners at different levels of understanding.

As much as I like to say that “teaching is not learning” (i.e., teaching does not guarantee learning), I also recognise that teaching is a function of learning. Clear explanations are helpful, but only if the teacher can quickly evaluate what a learner is capable of understanding in a short time.

Some might point out that the expert only seemed to ask his learners what they understood after their chats. They might not have noticed how he asked questions and chatted with each person before engaging in dialogues.

Evaluations of learners should come first, not the delivery of information devoid of context or need. Think about that. Sleep on that.

Just as soon as the harried assessment phase of the semester of one institution was over, I had to contend with the administrative and preparatory work with another institution.

So occupied was I that I left this little gem languishing as a draft in my Notes app — the “evils” of the telegraph.

The tweet, newspaper clipping, and podcast comes courtesy of the Pessimists Archive.

In the 1800s, the telegraph was a new technology and along with it came fear, mistrust, and disinformation. Back then, people wondered about:

  • Speed vs truth
  • Ease vs security
  • Convenience vs privacy

Today, people wonder the same about social media. The more things change, the more they remain the same. This happens because we do not learn from critical analyses of history.

I am in the eighth month of a year-long free trial offered by the telco TPG. (Note: This entry was neither sanctioned nor sponsored by TPG.)

In my first reflection, I was disappointed by the lack of signal in below ground areas, i.e., some MRT stations and mall basement levels. My TPG SIM phone would indicate “no signal” while my StarHub SIM phone worked fine.

Last month a study conducted by mobile analytics firm, OpenSignal, revealed that TPG Telecom had slower speeds and poorer signals than Singtel, StarHub, and M1.

The telco responded. This month I discovered that TPG’s reach had improved. I frequent a basement level grocery store about once a week and was able to get a usable signal there.

My reflection is not about what an organisation might do in the face of competition or how they should respond to bad news. It is about rolling out change.

One principle of change is:

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell

TPG made waves when it first announced that it would provide free two-year plans for seniors and then also offered a year-long free trial to all others. The first move does social good; the second helps capture a user base. The moves are examples of doing better by being different.

However, mobile calls are still only available on voice over LTE (VoLTE) enabled devices. This limits voice calls to some phones by Huawei, Oppo, and Samsung.

According to TPG’s general manager, Apple has “refused to add the telco’s settings to its carrier settings.” This excludes upwards of 40% of the mobile phone users. Doing things differently does not mean this results in doing things better.

We might find many other examples of this change principle in action if we bother to look. But will we bother to learn? Or will we needlessly make the same mistakes?

I do not know why I started thinking about how the same English words are pronounced differently.

Depending on where you are from, you have your own pronunciation of tomato (to-mah-to or to-may-to) or algae (al-gay or al-jee). The first might be a regional phenomenon and the second might be linked to knowledge of the word’s Latin roots.

But I also think that the differences in pronunciation might also highlight usage in different domains. Take heterogenous, for instance. A chemist might emphasise the latter part of the word (heteroJEEnous mixture); a pedagogue might emphasise the earlier part (heteROHgenous groupings).

I bring up that last example because I just recalled a workshop participant who insisted that I had pronounced that word wrong when I was illustrating how a facilitator might group students.

I was aware of the different pronunciations, but he was not. I was more open to choice and context, but he was not. I found out at the end of the semester that I was willing to change, but he was not.

So different strokes for different folks, I guess?

Today I tie together an edtech staple, SAMR, and Seth Godin’s recent blog post, Better and Different.

SAMR is a model that has been useful for educators to think about what they are doing when teaching with technology — substituting, augmenting, modifying, or redefining.

The model is not perfect (no model is) and it has its fair share of critics and brickbats. A simple Google search will reveal what they are.

However, this does not mean that SAMR is not important or useful. The model might somewhat arbitrarily define SA as possibly enhancing teaching with technology while MR might push this to transforming teaching.

It might help to step outside the walled garden that is the classroom to see why MR and transformation are critical elements of the SAMR model. Godin made this point plainly:

There’s still plenty of room for digital innovations to impact our world. But they won’t simply be a replacement for what we have now. They only earn widespread engagement when they’re much better than the status quo they replace.

And the only way they can be better is when they’re different.

Or to put the same thing a different way:

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell (Former CEO of Pfizer)

I am thankful that LNY reunion dinners take place once a year. Let me qualify that statement: I am thankful they take place ONLY once a year.

I could elaborate on some things not to like about them, e.g., the unsolicited advice, the borderline (or outright) insulting comments, inane conversations that go nowhere, etc. I am sure some people can relate, so I will not say more.

But here is something that only a minority might identify with — thanks to food allergies and being left-handed, I cannot enjoy the food.

When I was younger, I recall battling servers who would move my chopsticks back to the right side after I placed them on the left. I also battled elbows with the right-hander seated to my left as we ate.

I still battle right-handers seated to my left, but servers are not as passive-aggressive today. They are look at me in a funny way… like I was a three-legged puppy, for instance.

Now all this is assuming that I get to eat because I get ill if I consume molluscs or crustaceans. Every year I get reminded how I am such a “poor thing”. Every year I forget to eat my dinner before dinner so that I am not starving after a four-hour meal.

I am reminded at this time of year that I am different. I do not mind being different except that others sometimes have a problem with that. It is as if I chose not to be right-handed and deliberately became allergic to some food.

These yearly reminders are unpleasant because they are put on display. These reminders of being different are not for celebration and not to be celebrated.

But I am happy to be different, as everyone should be. That is what makes each of us special and what provides some value to the rest.

I am happy to provide alternative or even unpopular points of view in the broad field of educational technology. I know that my perspective is valuable and I can back up what I say.

I hit from left field and I am allergic to the ignorant, the inane, and the inertia.

I am recreating some of my favourite image quotes I created some time ago. This time I use Pablo by Buffer and indicate attribution and CC license.

Doing things differently does not always mean doing things better. But doing things better always means doing things differently. -- Hank McKinnell

This quote addresses at least two things: 1) Change for its own sake, and 2) what it means to be truly innovative.

Doing things differently — like using an “interactive” white board to lecture — does not make things better. This is change for its own sake or because of the heavy financial investment in white elephant technology.

To innovate is to do things better. Some say innovations can be either iterative (doing the same things differently) or disruptive (doing different things). The second half of the quote reminds us that when leveraging on technology, better is accompanied by different. Separate the two and you are not likely to innovate.

Note: I am on vacation with my family. However, I am keeping up my blog-reflection-a-day habit by scheduling a thought a day. I hope this shows that reflections do not have to be arduous to provoke thought or seed learning.

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