Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘false

I liked George Couros’ distinction between school and learning. I would label the headers schooling and education, but that is just me.

I would also take pains to explain why this is a false dichotomy because each side has their values and we need both.

For example, an education focuses on generating meaningful questions, but it also requires the critical collecting, analysing, and evaluating of answers. Such question asking might lead to the challenging of norms, but schooling serves an important social function of enculturating. This means learning when to be compliant.
 

 
The dichotomy is not wrong. It is just not nuanced at face value. This is like how I say that a coin does not just have two sides. There is a side that goes all around and gives it depth. Exploring that side makes it real.

The local TODAY paper co-opted a NYT article titled Don’t kid yourself: Online lectures are here to stay. It was written by an economist from Cornell. He had this to say:

Quote from NYT article.

His point was that all things being equal (including the cost of both options), most students would probably choose the first option.

He also went on to state that “the average instructor reading from yellowed notes” is more common and dominant. Citing his own book, he argued that the player with the foot first in the door had the advantage.

But I would argue that he presented a false dichotomy. There is not just a choice of different content delivery packages, i.e., by shiny or old-fashioned lectures.

Progressive educators are realising that they cannot rely only on remote instruction. They are creating more choices like cooperative learning, peer teaching, portfolio-based learning, and project-based learning. These are not the work of “Pixar-class animators” and “award-winning documentary film makers”. They are pedagogues whose practice and research is teaching and learning.

So let us not kid ourselves and declare that online lectures are here to stay. They might be mainstay now, but if the disruptions of COVID-19 shut downs have taught us anything, it is that bit players (like Zoom) can become major ones. I hope that bit pedagogues with progressive strategies provide some healthy competition.

Listening to TED talks will do nothing to develop or sharpen the skills listed in the tweet. Actually trying and practising those skills in authentic contexts might.

Easy answers and taglines are rarely solutions. At best, they are lazy. At worst, they mislead.

TEDxSingapore brain trust (2014).

I say this an a member of the TEDxSingapore brain trust since 2014. As a representative from the education sector, I hope they trust my brain on this.

Today I combine a quick reflection on a video I just watched and a book that I am reading.


Video source

If you want to know what a dead fish, an MRI machine, and statistics have in common, watch the video above.

The salmon experiment was a red herring. If you focus on the living results coming from dead fish in an MRI machine, you miss the point of the video: Research needs to be based on good design, not led by a foregone conclusion.

That should seem like a given, but the fact that the point needed to be proven and made is evidence that people and scientists need constant reminders.

Here is another reminder and it comes from page 109 of Charles Wheelan’s book, Naked Statistics.

Our ability to analyse data has grown far more sophisticated than our thinking about what to do with the results. — Charles Wheelan

This quote was from Wheelan’s chapter about starting with good data. He was trying to make the point that no amount of elaborate or sophisticated analysis was going to make bad data any better.

For example, we might need a representative sample but select a biased one instead. There is no analysis process that is going to improve a bad sample. That data and the research is tainted from the start.

So the next time someone declares “Research says…” we know better than to take what follows at face value.

A blogger with a political agenda might take the opportunity to highlight this video and wonder if elements of such an expression might fall under the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA).


Video source

But I use it to highlight how it is easier to set up false dichotomies if we assume our learners or audiences are stupid.

The video began with this question: How willing are we to give up civil liberties for security/safety?

The video is worth a watch even if the interviewees might not be representative of our population. After all, there was just one journalist, four Chinese-by-descent university students (all with Christian names), and one gay local comedian. Despite this, all answered the question differently.

The takeaway at the end of the video was that the question presented a false dichotomy. We do not always have to trade civil liberty (e.g., free speech) for something else (e.g., orderly behaviour) — the two can co-exist and even create conditions for the other.

It is much easier to state this balance than to do it. But this is where and how the conversation should start: Multiple perspectives, informed nuance, and logical compromise. If we are not modelling and teaching these to our students, then what are we doing?

Steve Wheeler illustrated his view on the difference between personalised and personal learning:

Personal learning, I explained, is walking across the road and doing an ad hoc tour of the buildings and artefacts to see what I could learn about the history and culture of Jerónimos. Hiring a personal guide who knows a lot more about the history and culture of the place, and touring it with him/her would be personalised learning.

Others have also contrasted the two (e.g., Will Richardson and George Couros) because they wished to push back on the type of “personalised” learning solutions from various vendors.

I, too, am skeptical of standardised approaches to truly personalised learning. But I also wonder about the false dichotomy that the debate creates.

What if someone (like a content provider or instructor) customises lessons for you? You did not initiate this, so it is neither personal nor personalised.

What if you curate your own YouTube videos, podcasts, and readings? The content is someone else’s like the guide in the story, but you made the effort to search, evaluate, and consume.

Educators seem to focus on — and have an intrinsic understanding of — personal or personalisation of learning. They often do this when they coach or tutor individual students.

But vendors claim they can personalise en masse, and this should be welcomed with a healthy dose of skepticism instead of open wallets.

Sometimes there are pearls of wisdom shared by other educators that are so succinct that I need not elaborate.

Here is one example from Alfie Kohn about the false dichotomy of progressive educators vs traditionalist teachers.





It took a while, but now I might have some answers to the questions I raised when I reflected on passion points.

A newspaper summarised a study by declaring that spotting passions too early may limit students. I could not read the article because the newspaper put it behind a recently created premium paywall.

I just discovered another article citing the same study by researchers from Stanford and Yale-NUS college in Singapore. However, it is by Quartz, whose own research and writing I have questioned.

Taking the Quartz report of the research at face value, I wonder if the writers and/or researchers are creating a false dichotomy about one’s passion.

the directive to “find your passion” suggests a passive process. Telling people to develop their passion, however, suggests an active one that depends on us—and allows that it can be challenging to pursue.

The article states that “a growth mindset, rather than a fixed sense that there’s one interest you should pursue single-mindedly, improves the chances of finding your passion”. It seems to conflate a fixed mindset with finding passion and growth mindset with developing passion.

Are passions only just innate and not developed (nature, not nurture), or purely a product of development and not intrinsic (nurture, not nature)?

Predictably, the article cited Dweck, the author of the 2007 book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success, to strengthen the false equivalency of growth mindset and developing passion.

I call this a false equivalency because in a 2016 Atlantic interview, Dweck stated:

Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.

If we are chimeras of mindsets, then passions are borne and bred in a mixture of ways.

  • As with my previous reflection, I have more questions than answers:
  • Are we entitled to have only one passion? Can our passions not change?
  • Why assume that pursuing one’s passion leads to narrow development and skills?
  • Conversely, how valid is it to suggest that a growth mindset and generalist education will lead to broader thinking and skillsets?

Our children are built differently from one another (nature) and respond differently to upbringing, schooling, and education (collectively, nurture). Some kids seem to “have a clue” and are razor-focused, others seem perpetually lost in space, while the rest lie in a huge continuum between.

Just how helpful is it to suggest that passion is a false dichotomy?
 

In conversations I participated in #asiaED last week, I detected some confusion about “formal” and “informal” learning.

If I talk and write about “formal learning” or “informal learning”, I am not thinking about different thought processes. Learning is learning; it is neither formal nor informal. Instead I am thinking about formal or informal contexts for learning. These might include places, spaces, and circumstances.

Places might include the school (typically but not always formal) or the home (typically but not always informal).

Spaces might include a classroom in school (where a teacher instructs formally) or a bathroom in school (where kids share information informally). An online space like Edmodo can be used formally (e.g., teacher sets a curriculum-defined task for students) or informally (e.g., kids talk about hobbies, ask for homework help).

Places and spaces do not define formality or informality.

If Person A (teacher or student) shows Person B (another teacher or student) how to troubleshoot a technical problem while in school but not during class or professional development time, is that formal or informal? If a parent arranges home-based remedial tuition using school textbooks and worksheets, is that formal or informal?

It is the circumstances that might define formality or informality. The place and space alone do not. Learning can happen in any context. Learning is learning; it is neither formal nor informal.

Teachers might equate formal contexts with formal learning. Teachers might also like to think that formal teaching leads to learning, but there is no guarantee of this because such teaching is not always meaningful, just-in-time, or just-for-learners.

Learning does not need a formal invitation to learn, a defined set of objectives, clearly delivered content, or even well constructed tests.

Learning happens when the learner is ready. Learners are most ready when there is a need to learn or when there is cognitive dissonance. This then affects motivation and curiosity.

Simply consider how people learn from YouTube when they are driven to learn a new dance move to show off, to play the guitar to impress someone, to try a new recipe to improve their repertoire, or to try a new gaming strategy to outwit an opponent.

A skillful and caring teacher can create this same drive in class. A group of boys exchanging tips in a school bathroom on how to bring and hide cigarettes creates the same conditions.

When I shared the tweet above in response to a question about designing “modern learning environments”, I was not being flippant. I was trying to send a message.

Focusing only on classrooms or schools so that they become “modern learning environments” is misguided practice. It might not recognize that learning happens everywhere and anywhere.

Students can and do learn while they are on public transport, waiting in a queue, or seated on a “throne” at home. They typically do this with a smartphone in their hands.

Google knows how important mobile access and resources are so much so that it is changing search returns to favour mobile-enabled sites. Do schools recognize the importance of mobile access and contexts? Or are schools still concerned about the physical classroom instead of enabling learning with mobile devices?

School authorities and vendors can do all they can to make schools and classrooms safe for learning and to simulate “informal” spaces, and they should for the good of learners and learning. But they should not do this under the guise of the false dichotomy of formal or informal learning.

I would rather time and resources be spent helping teachers reconnect with what learning is like and how learning takes place than creating “special rooms” for teaching. Learning is learning; it is neither formal nor informal.


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: