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Posts Tagged ‘fear

What could be cuter than a teddy bear? Not much.
 

 
Yet there was an anti-teddy bear movement. The most recent Pessimists Archive podcast provides all the details.

In hindsight, such a fear seems unreasonable and even impossible. But back then, it was fuelled by irrational fear and the need to maintain the status quo.

There is still much fear of educational technologies current, cutting edge, and future. The fears are based on the same unwillingness to see possibilities, mitigate risks, and embrace change.

So while edtech evangelists might feel the burden to be unbearable now, this too shall pass. I say we grin and bear with it.

A few days ago, I had more questions than answers on the latest round of PISA results.

In reference to Singapore dropping to number 2 in the overall ranking, I wondered: How about being number 10 in academics? How about striving for measures that actually mean something? How about not playing the game of rankings and comparison?

I found some indirect answers from narratives of our students’ fear of failure. We are still number 1 in that respect — 78% of our students saw failure negatively impacting their futures compared to 54% of OECD member country average.

The same article hinted at why we needed to “become less allergic to failure” but did not say how. If we collectively work on how, we might answer all three of my questions. A drop in academic rankings would not matter if we focus on curing our crippling national condition.

I also chanced upon an unexpected source of answers from a researcher in Australia.

She reasoned how PISA is not a predictive tool, so we should not have knee jerk reactions (like crafting policy) to PISA results.

She also reminded me that the tests are simply that. Even though the PISA questions have evolved, they remain a very specific set of knowledge and skills. We need to ask ourselves if we want excellent test-takers or wise risk-takers.

I love the Pessimist Archive podcast. I hate that there are so few episodes. But I appreciate how much work it takes to create each one.

I have not been listening to the podcasts in the order they were made because I jumped on whatever interested me first. A standout phrase in episode 1 from host Jason Feifer was this: The best antidote to fear of the new is looking back at fear of the old.

So I made an image quote of it.

The best antidote to fear of the new is looking back at fear of the old. -- Jason Feifer

We cannot claim to be teachers or educators unless we have been, and continue to be, students first. What seems like new problems the students experience or bring into the classroom often has old roots.

We can deal with the symptoms or we can tackle the causes. The key to understanding our new fears is having a mind open enough to learn from history.

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The press peddles this because it is easier to focus on dangers and fear.

Such clickbait might work in terms of getting attention. But it does not necessarily work to accurately and factually inform, to educate, and to change minds.

This does not mean there are no dangers or that we ignore what is negative. It does mean that we also highlight what is useful and positive as well as how to mitigate what is not.

Technologies push and pull us forward, often to places with new possibilities, no rules, and unseen consequences. We can paint such movement as dangerous — demonic as the graphic in the tweet illustrates — or try to provide more balance.

According to these archived newspaper clips, there were people who feared for their young as the latter were drawn to reading off paper and books.

Do you see a pattern with respect to the worries about screen time now? If not, consider how people have always feared emerging technologies through the ages.

Fear of the New.

Note: I shared the graphic above in 2015 and it was originally created by Kevin C. Pyle and Scott Cunningham in their book Bad For You. The image was shared here in 2013.

History repeats itself. Sometimes it has to because we do not learn. Sometimes it does so because we do not change.

Ignoring one another with papers and phones.

When I read this tweet, I thought: Here we go again — fear mongering.

When I read the article (TODAY borrowed from the NYT again), it was more a more uncertain set of answers to the question. The answers were not new to anyone following the debate, and more importantly, following the research.

The link between insert-latest-condition-to-fear (e.g., cortical thinning) directly and insert-latest-evil-to-fear (e.g., screen time) was inconclusive.

If there is a tweet that sums up the nuance is a whisper, it might be this one:

Youth Day fell on a Sunday. This made Monday a school holiday, the roads less congested at peak travel, and everywhere else youthfully crowded.
 

 
TODAYonline featured Youth Day wishes by our Prime Minister to not be afraid of making mistakes. This is a good message, but one that is difficult to live up to.

Why?

Unlike our evolution-selected fears of snakes and spiders, the fear of making mistakes and failing is learnt.

The most natural way we learn as higher mammals is play. When you unpack play, it has elements of hypothesising or risk-taking, deciding on choice of action, taking action, getting immediate feedback, and dealing with consequence.

Making mistakes is essential to play. Whether joyous in victory or abject in failure, the event is linked to emotions and these cement the lesson in memory. Play might be the quickest and most effective way to learn.

However, the adult human animal devalues play. Play a word association game with “video games” and most adults will say “waste of time” and “fun and games” as if games have no value or are not serious work. The adult learns to fear play as childish, a process to outgrow, or something to not mention if one is to be taken seriously.

This adult way of thinking is taught or caught. Consider a few examples.

A child picks up an insect and a care-giver shrieks and tells the child to let go. There is little or no explanation why and the child learns that discovering, exploring, and making mistakes is dangerous.

Another child travels with a parent in public transport and her parent tells her to avoid certain races of people because of the way they behave, look, or smell. There is no option to find out for herself whether those things are true, but why would she question someone she trusts? The child learns not to question or critique.

Yet another child goes to school and learns processes of enculturation. Some of these processes are good because he learns to socialise. Other processes are bad because they create over-reliance. With the latter, the child learns to not try and to wait for someone else to take action instead.

These lessons entrench themselves in our social norms. Action contrary to social norms is rarely rewarded and is often punished instead. But there will always be a few who will persist and try.

The article concluded with this:

In a more humourous vein, Lionel Chick urged Mr Lee against jumping: “I’m afraid you might sprain your ankle (because you’re) so old already … Do take care.”

That earned the following rebuttal from Mandy Lim Beitler: “That’s the mentality that makes people old long before their time. Thankfully, our PM has a young heart.”

A call to not be afraid to make mistakes is a call to trust our instincts, to take calculated risks, and to try.

Who are you, Lionel (the cowardly lion) or Mandy (who manned up and disagreed)? Will you only talk the talk or also walk that talk by encouraging and even rewarding mistakes?


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