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Posts Tagged ‘expertise

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I have mixed thoughts about “expertise”. 

Expertise can be hard to define because it is subjective and contextual. The easy answer about expertise is that you know it when you see it. Well, maybe.

Let’s assume that expertise develops along an arbitrary continuum of novice, intermediate, and expert.

A novice in any field is inexperienced and is probably hoping to collect clear answers to problems in her/his field. 

An intermediate is in the fuzzy middle of development and has accumulated experience and might be confident that s/he has answers to those problems. Some intermediates might view themselves as experts in their fields.

True experts do not let their experiences get in the way. They also realise that there are often multiple and/or fuzzy answers to complex problems. These experts might ask more questions than they provide answers.

I am not a novice in my field of technology-mediated pedagogies. I have been guilty of being an over-confident intermediate. I am now a humble expert — I value not knowing everything because that makes me want to learn.


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I love this occasional Wired series that features experts sharing what they do and how they do it. This episode was a yo-yo trick expert who demonstrated and broke down his skills from simple to complex.

I do not seek any of the yo-yo expert skills, but I can appreciate the processes of refinement, repetitive practice, and reflection.

It is a pity that, say, an online educator’s skills and practice are not as glamorous or easy to capture. Other educators, be they experienced or not, would surely appreciate gaining insights into what they do and how they do it. Thankfully we have an old school social medium that captures some of this. It is called the blogosphere.

I enjoy Wired’s series on expert critiques of movie “reality”. The most recent video was about a fighter pilot’s perspective on how movies depicted aerial dogfights and dodging missiles.


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I know that the entertainment industry provides escape from reality, but it should not define it. That should seem obvious — emphasis on should –but that is the reality nowadays. Given how some folk cannot distinguish entertainment from education, the experts’ comments provide a healthy dose of reality.

What is the parallel with academia and education?

News reports of research do not always capture the rigours of study and the limitations of research processes. Vendors who claim to have one-stop shops ignore the context and complexity of learning and classrooms.

One group of people seem to only want easy answers to complex issues. They are not patient with nuance and details offered by a second group — people who have invested time and effort in honing their craft and developing their theorems. The first group of people would rather be entertained than educated.

I bookmarked this tweet last month because it was amusing.

I reflect on it weeks later because there is a teachable moment. There are at least two ways to look deeper into the short video.

  1. Sometimes when you take risks, you get rewarded.
  2. Sometimes when you make mistakes, you get lucky.

Chances are that the second was the more likely scenario. The rider was fortunate to walk away without a broken neck.

On the other hand, the rider might have been so practiced as to plan for and then execute the movement. But like I reflected on previously, such expertise takes talent, experience, and effort. The good make their own luck.

The YouTuber who goes by the name Brett Domino is probably one of the most underrated talents.

He and his partner, Steven Peavis, form the Brett Domino Trio band, and they might be best known for their How to Make a Hit Pop Song video.

I appreciate Domino’s latest effort — to attempt a song that consists only of words with three letters.


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For me, this is a reminder that it takes talent, experience, and effort to make things seem simple.

Anyone who has nurtured expertise has probably developed concepts of practice or shortcuts that work. Anyone else probably cannot appreciate how much work such distillation entails.

The expert probably does not know how he or she does it too. That is, unless they challenge themselves to simplify over and over again like Brett Domino.


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This is a quote I pulled from Hank Green’s video above.

Here’s the thing about having strong opinions and no expertise: You always get to pretend that you’re right.

In the past I have avoided being called an expert in e-learning. I recall being introduced an an event as one and I took the opportunity to say that 1) I am still learning by craft, and 2) you might consider me an expert only if I have made the most mistakes and learnt from them.


But Green’s quote reminds me why some experts need to remind people what value they offer. Experts will get some things right and other things wrong. But in both cases, they will likely have a disciplined method of arriving at the right conclusion or correcting the error. A non-expert is likely to only have opinion built on nothing or based on stubbornness.

How many experts in e-learning and online learning were consulted before modern school systems resorted to emergency remote teaching? Not many or any. That might be understandable given how urgent the moves were made.

But how many of the same experts will be consulted for future school and IHL closures? If the answer is the same, then that is unforgivable given how we will likely have the time and space to design and implement change.

I enjoy the Wired series of YouTube videos where experts critique examples of their work as represented on TV or the movies.


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The video above featured a robotics expert who shared his thoughts on how tinsel town represented robots and other forms of artificial intelligence.

This and other episodes in the series make me wonder: Might expertise tend to lend itself to skepticism? By the same token, might cynicism be a function of ignorance?

The most stubborn people I know tend to be novices who cling on to basic ideas or old assumptions. They might ask questions, but they do not seek answers that might contradict what they already know. This reinforces ignorance.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the most respectable experts are humble and admit that the more they know, they less they are certain. They remain open to processing new information. If they are experts at all it is not their content knowledge but their strategies of thinking.

I am sitting at a cafe and reflecting on the aftermath of another Pokémon Go Community Day (PGCD) and my fifth exclusive raid (Ex Raid) of Mewtwo. The two happened to coincide.

I managed to catch six shiny Mareep and created this “family”portrait to remember the event.

Shiny Mareep family from Pokémon Go Community Day (15 Apr 2018).

I relied on my previous experiences of wandering around in a park versus positioning myself strategically at a mall. Doing the latter taught me that the concentration of Poké stops at the mall was more efficient and comfortable.

Concentration of Poké stops at Jurong Point Mall.

The PGCD event lasted three hours (11.00am-2.00pm locally) and my Ex Raid invitation started soon after (2.00-2.45pm).

Despite the raid being my fifth one this year, I still felt some butterflies. This is because I take the responsibility to coordinate the efforts of small teams and to help others catch Mewtwo. The social pressure to do both creates the Butterfrees.

Five Mewtwos and counting...

There always seems to be something different to experience at each Ex Raid even though I see familiar faces. This is where I reflect on the importance of context and expertise.

The context changed when a mother and daughter asked me to help them with a challenge. It was not for Mewtwo but for Mew instead.

There is a new feature in PoGo called Special Research. This is a series of increasingly difficult challenges that culminates in the invitation to catch the elusive Mew. The hurdle that the mother and daughter could not clear was to each make a successful curved excellent throw.

Making successful curved excellent throws is not easy and that is why it is one of the last few tasks. The challenge was made even more difficult when the daughter had only three Poké balls left in her inventory. Her mother’s inventory was not much better.

I caught a Pokémon with a curved excellent throw with the very last ball in the daughter’s inventory. It took a while before I could do the same on her mother’s phone.

The change in context was not catching different Pokémon; it was the different phones. There are different screen textures, video responsiveness, and screen sizes.

My experience was developed on my phone. Applying exactly the same expert strategies to different contexts did not work immediately. I eventually had to use a right-hand method on one phone and a left-hand strategy on the other.

My experience using other phones was limited. I had to learn the context-of-use quickly and modify my expertise as the context demanded.

Reflecting on this experience, I realise that I transferred a work-related strategy to a play-related one. When consulted, I am relied upon for my expertise and because of my experience. However, I make clear to my potential collaborators that I need to learn their contexts first. It is the logical and responsible thing to do.

Ask just five different people to define “expertise” and you are likely to get five different answers.

If you asked me, I would say that a practised expert is one who has made the most mistakes, learnt from them, and is able to share wisdoms from learning from mistakes.

After I watched this YouTube video, I have another perspective on what it means to be an expert.


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One thing that Andrew Huang is known for is making music with normally non-musical objects.

In recreating the song from the movie Moana he had to see both the broad piece and devil in the details. He was able to deconstruct the important constituent parts of the whole while not losing sight of the latter. This might seem obvious when one appreciates the final product.

However, one only needs to imagine how difficult the task is by taking the perspective of the designer and creator of the overall piece. Huang makes the work look easy when it is not.

So my other perspective on expertise is this: It is the ability to zoom in and out at details and the overall picture so that one can deal with both.


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