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Posts Tagged ‘education

I watched Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Finance Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, deliver the Fortitude Budget in Parliament yesterday. It was the fourth budget speech for the Singapore government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I also monitored my Twitter stream for takeaways by the major english language newspapers. None of them mentioned the schooling and education related headlines from DPM’s speech.

With regard to home-based learning (HBL), DPM announced a greater role for artificial intelligence (AI) and learning sciences. As there were scant details, I presume that AI will play a role in learning analytics while researchers in the learning sciences will be consulted on e-pedagogy.

DPM also announced an “accelerated timeline” for all secondary school students to receive digital devices. This was initially announced in March and the device could take the form of a tablet, laptop, or Chromebook. The goal then was for all secondary 1 students to own a device by 2024 and all secondary school students to have one by 2028.

There was no firm timeline in the budget speech for both announcements. We do not yet know what an accelerated timeline means for the ownership of devices, nor do we know how long the changes to HBL will take.

All the changes are urgent and important. They are needed immediately and over the long haul. While these changes might not be as tweet-worthy to the newspapers, I aim to read and summarise what I learn in the weeks to come.

Every now and then I say, “Ah, serendipity!” because I discover something that is relevant to my learning and teaching.

A resource that was delivered to me almost a month ago was the preview list of journal articles from the British Journal of Educational Technology.

I like BJET because it has thematic releases. The March series focuses on technology for inclusive and special needs education.

The content is wide-ranging and might be slightly beyond the reach of one group of leaners I meet every year. However, I find these two articles to be particularly relevant:

The rest of the articles are listed here.

I had a conversation with some students after class yesterday. These were graduate students who are learning to be instructors and facilitators.

After I made a point about just-in-time instruction, one students shared this quote from the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street:

The Wolf of Wall Street: Sell me this pen!

He got my point. Given a problem first, a learner then seeks information and solutions. A facilitator of learning then provides scaffolds and information just-in-time and based-on-need. This contrasts with much of current teaching, which is solutions first and just-in-case.

But there is also a slow and subtle change in university education. It is about focusing on the need to learn something instead of the need to teach it. This is about first creating the need to buy instead relying only on selling strategies.

An educator needs to both, of course. But we might do far too much selling and force-feeding instead of creating conditions for curiosity and hunger.

One of the artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives slated for Singapore schooling is “adaptive learning systems”. I take issue with calling them that.

One one hand, I understand why they are simple learning systems — they monitor what each student does and offer resources based on need or performance.

On the other hand, this is actually a content delivery system. The “learning” moniker is marketing speak. Vendors know that they are not going to get their feet in the front door if they do not use more progressive terms while mostly maintaining the status quo.

You can tie a bow on it, paint it gold, and call it an alternative-looking shovel. I call a spade a spade.

It is easy to play the blame game. For example, some might attribute the lack of deep writing to what seems like shallow sharing on social media. Case in point, this tweet.

The first part of the tweet that houses this assumption is itself not nuanced. Many things contribute to the inability to write more deeply, meaningfully, or reflectively. “Impatient” writing could be due to the maturity of the writer, the time they have left to write, the relevance of the task, etc.

The educator was open enough to acknowledge the feedback from her students — the low-hanging fruit sort of writing was a product of the low-hanging fruit sort of testing. If tests value and reward short-term thinking and convenient answers instead of more nuanced thought, then why do we blame students for thinking that way?

We are buffeted and conditioned by our environments. We adapt to those conditions and adopt mindsets and behaviours that help us survive or thrive. Then we bring those mindsets and behaviours to other environments and see what works.

If students learn superficial writing from superficial media, then might they learn about nuanced writing by being exposed to more thoughtfully-crafted social media postings? Maybe. Nuanced writing takes time, discipline, and effort. Pursuing and nurturing such value systems is, in part, what education is for.

I was schooled. I became educated.

The learning of any subject might seem like a goal and an end unto itself. This might be true when the learner is a novice and being schooled. But as learners mature, they might realise that it is more important to learn-to-be (a writer), not just to learn-about (writing). They become more educated when they realise that it is far more important to learn HOW to think that to be taught WHAT to think.

We are all special, but some of us are more special than others. This might be an educator’s take on the famous line from Animal Farm.

To that end, educators should design resources for all our learners, not just those who seem “normal”.

I was glad to chance upon this tweet and wish it was available several weeks ago when I was facilitating modules on ICT for inclusion. But next year’s batch will benefit from this find.

The Twitter discussion was just as fruitful because it revealed the original source of the posters. There are three more posters — for screen readers, users with motor conditions, and learners with hearing impairments — in the complete set.

Best of all, the posters are covered by a Creative Commons license, CC-BY-NC-SA. Good on them!

I read Lisa Lane’s lament The internet’s not for learning?

After reflecting on an Economist article on how people use the Internet, she reflected:

People everywhere do the same thing: use the internet mostly for “timepass” – passing the time by communicating with friends and family, playing games, and watching videos. I’m not saying these things don’t cause learning. They do. But the purpose is entertainment and emotional satisfaction, not becoming an educated citizen.

It just serves to remind me how truly wide the gulf is between those who value education for its long-term benefits, and those who just want to pass the time. Are the people who get satisfaction from intellectual challenges rare? If so, will the smartphones make them even more rare?

She concluded that there was still so much more trivial consumption than meaningful self-education.

About a week ago, I might have expressed myself with the same resignation. But between then and now, I have been listening to podcasts that have tweaked my outlook.

Who is to say that a general utility must have a specific use? Who can insist that cars only be used when optimally occupied and configured so as to transport only the best to school or work? There is still much aimless, irresponsible, and even dangerous car use.

Who says that the Internet must be harnessed for self-improvement? Well, not many, really. But more are likely to hope that it be used to make lives better.

Like Lane, I do not object to that ideal. Like Lane, I recognise that self-education and improvement does happen, but not nearly as much as educators might want. So I remind myself of my role by seeking answers to two questions:

  1. Who is to say that a general tool must grow to have this specific use?
  2. What can I do to promote specific uses (like education) of this general tool?

In a few months time, I have the privilege of resurrecting a short course on inclusive education with ICT.

As I always have my radar on, my feeds produced two resources I might be able to use.

The first is a news article that might reinforce a more progressive view on special needs and inclusive education. But it is locked behind a paywall and all my learners might not have this newspaper subscription.

Video source

The second is a YouTube video that might not have an obvious link to my course. What does a 16-year-old environmental activist and Nobel prize nominee have to do with inclusive education?

After watching the video I found out that Greta Thunberg has Asperger Syndrome. Hers is an example of how everyday technology (e.g., social media) enables identity and passion.

The availability of the video over the news article also illustrates the reach and accessibility of some learning resources over others. Some providers shoot themselves in the foot and disable themselves.

When I read the tweet below, my mind wandered to a difference between schooling and education.

A primary function of schooling is the enculturation of children so that they fit in the societal box. Education is the collective effort of actualisation to fit the individual.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is about self-actualisation.

We need both, but there is an imbalance.

Schooling is arguably the easier of the two to plan and implement, so that gets emphasised. Education is left largely to time, life, and circumstance. Unfortunately, each person’s lot in life is unequal and inequitable.

Schooling and education overlap, but they are not synonymous. If we realise the differences, we might work towards actually improving education instead of merely reinventing schooling.

Much of schooling is still about expecting one process and a model answer. Just like the question above.

It does not forgive alternatives even though they might be based on reality. Just like the answer to the question above.

Schooling is about making students provide the correct answers. Education is about developing learners who can generate more than one answer.

This is not about creating a false dichotomy because we need both. The problem is not recognising when we need each and how much of it is needed.

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