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Posts Tagged ‘good

The video above is a good example of how to use technology. It is about clearing a clogged drain grating with a rake, but the principles apply to contexts like schooling and education.

The humble rake is a form of technology — it is a tool that helps us do work more efficiently and/or effectively. It would be possible to do the same without the rake, but the task would have been slower and more difficult.

What rake technology principles apply elsewhere? The rake helped clear the clog effectively and prevented a flood. Technology use is good when it solves problems and benefits as many people as possible.

The raker also illustrated behaviours of good technology use. He did not clear the clog on his first try — he had to start blind because he was not sure were the drain grating was. But he persisted and eventually cleared the clog. Good technology use is persistent.

His initial success of finding the grate switched from moving debris around to removing it so that it would not reclog the drain. On other words, he leveraged on early victories and reflexively learnt from them to use the technology even more effectively.

When some people say they are afraid of technology or do not use it, I say that they are kidding themselves. We use technology all the time be it basic or advanced. The principles of good use apply to forms and are easy to transfer if we just try.

Video source

Hank Green might have ended 2022 with this rant, but I begin 2023 with it.

What seems like a trivial rant on why a cup cover for hot tea has 110°C on it (with different “1” symbols) led to Green’s discovery that it used to indicate 120°C. What we still do not know is exactly why this warning was in place given how water boils at 100°C. That was what the rant was actually about.

I am with Green on this. You have got to bring an issue up for discussion instead of simply ignoring it. Closing your eyes does not make an issue go away. Opening your mouth to some equally open ears and minds is the start of making a difference.

Larry Cuban’s reflection started as a critique of “remote learning” in the age of COVID-19. He preferred to call the process “remote teaching” instead. He ended his thoughts with the importance of distinguishing good teaching and successful teaching.

Another way to distinguish between “good” and “successful” is when a 8th grade teacher teaches the theory of evolution consistent with the age of the child and best practices of science teaching (the “good” part) and then has her students complete three written paragraphs filled with relevant details and present-day examples that demonstrate their understanding of the theory of evolution (the “successful” part). These teaching acts are not the same nor does one necessarily lead to the other.

This dichotomy is important because it distinguishes the act of teaching from the evidence of learning. You can be a good teacher but not a successful one if students do not provide evidence of learning.

Unfortunately, most administrators do not share the same view. They would rather measure good teaching with end-of-course evaluations or test results. Neither fully measure successful teaching or evidence of learning. End-of-course evaluations are about many other confounding variables (see tweet above) and tests are often about test-taking ability.

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.

It has often been said that technology is just a tool. It is not.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan

I do not have argument with “tool”; I take issue with “just”. Tools are not always neutral because they are designed with intent and function. These are part of the affordances of any technology.

What the layperson might not understand is that while some affordances are designed for and expected, others are negotiated or emergent.

Video source

So when Google released its video on Searches in 2018, it chose to focus on the good and not the bad. This does not mean that it and its users did not do any evil.

We live in an era when we seem to have the unprecedented ability to generate and spread both misinformation and disinformation. Our technologies may have enhanced and enabled these, but we are responsible.

A gun may be designed to fire a projectile, but it is a person who choses a target, takes aim, and fires. Or not.

Likewise, Google Search extends our reach for information far beyond our fingertips and borders. But we can choose to reinforce our walls or burst our bubbles. Which we choose to do also depends on Google’s algorithms.

Google Search is a tool, but not just. The demean the description with “just” is to assumes that our searches are pure queries. They are not. We should not ignore that searches can be biased by algorithms and our mindsets.

An oldie but goodie that emerged thanks to my PLN.

While this article was written ten years ago and in the context of scientific research, it offers this broadly applicable gem:

… we don’t do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid – that is, if we don’t feel stupid it means we’re not really trying… Science involves confronting our `absolute stupidity’. That kind of stupidity is an existential fact, inherent in our efforts to push our way into the unknown.

The “stupidity” is not borne of stubborn ignorance. It stems from being unafraid of not knowing but wanting to know more. It is not about being given answers and more about learning to ask good questions.

No stupid people beyond this point
Image source

Note: I normally use ImageCodr to search for and attribute CC-licensed images. The tool seems to not be working properly so I resorted to using other sources of CC images.

In my line of work, I meet a fair share of new people I have to help or negotiate terms with. I have to gauge the sincerity of a new contact quickly so that my subsequent effort is worth the trouble.

While there are many ways to evaluate the intent of strangers, I have learnt that there are three Ps that are hallmarks of good communication: Promptness, politeness, and professionalism.

Promptness is how quick and regularly the other person replies. By this I do not mean an endless stream of disjointed WhatsApp messages. That would show a lack of organisation or coherence.

Promptness involves timely replies. These acknowledge that the other person is waiting for an answer and that you do not wish to keep them waiting unnecessarily.

A sure sign of a lack of promptness is when you need to send a message that starts with “I have not heard from you since…”. By then it is too late.

Politeness is embracing basic human decency. It is starting with a greeting, saying please and thank you, and wishing people well before signing off.

Politeness is not simply providing filler in a message. It recognises that modern messaging is rife with misunderstanding and negative interpretation in part because of the need to be prompt.

Professionalism is a catch-all, x-factor quality. It is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It could be in the tone of the message, be it friendly, authoritative, or organised.

Professionalism is showing that you mean business. It is anticipating what your contact will say or ask and providing responses in advance.

How do you attain these hallmarks of good communication? From practice and learning quickly from mistakes. The mistakes do not have to be your own and you certainly do not want to repeat mistakes by practice. It is ultimately about learning by being observant, reflective, and having empathy for the other party.

More and more modern workers do not need to point out that they are “good with computers”.

For that matter, they also need to be good with the tiny but ubiquitous and powerful computers in their pockets — mobile phones.

“Good” does not just mean “able to use” or “competent”. Good means savvy, fluent, and adaptable. This is a growing expectation.

Given the importance of being “good with computers”, are teachers at this state and able to model and teach kids how to be better with computers?

Three is a significant number for me today. It marks my third year as an independent education consultant since leaving my “cushy” role as a university don.

Three years ago, I shared why I was leaving. This year I use the movie title, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, to shed light on the past, present, and future of what I do, though not necessarily in that order.

The Good of being an independent consultant is being able to unpack what I do and only work with who I choose.

As a professor and head of a department, I was pulled many ways (teaching, service, research) and had to take care of teams of people. Now I can focus on what is important , e.g., conducting workshops. Now I need not lose sleep over extended family members who had little idea how much work and love went into taking care of them. I feel no guilt in taking better care of myself even three years down the road.

Oh, and just not attending long, dreary, and unproductive meetings puts a skip in my step. Now I choose who I meet with in order to encourage or be encouraged.

The Bad, if I can call it that, is needing to do EVERYTHING myself. I am my own promoter, administrative assistant, accountant, paralegal, designer, developer, facilitator, speaker, ad nauseum.

The work itself is fun and fulfilling. The administration and bureaucracy is stifling. Sadly, many of the administrative people that I meet who should know what to do range from incompetent to ignorant.

This sounds cruel and insulting, but I do not mean it that way. Mine is a valid critique because it is the job of these folk to enable learning while not doing anything illegal or unethical.

The big Bad is that administration is inherently conservative, often unnecessarily so. It serves its own purpose instead of the people it is supposed to serve. But I take each opportunity to gently educate these administrators.

The Ugly is something I have kept to myself for three years. I left my former work place even though I loved the work and colleagues with progressive mindsets. As an appointment holder, I could not bear with the politics that stood in the way of change.

I had an appointment letter that outlined my role for a number of years. I was also given a new contract offer. Before I signed the contract letter, I was told that my appointment letter was not going to be honoured.

That moment pushed my decision making past the tipping point. I followed the advice and example of ex-colleagues before me and opted not to sign on the dotted line.

I have had no regrets. I choose to ignore The Ugly. I embrace The Bad in order to work for The Good of teachers as learners.

Every day I try to live up to a mentor’s motto: Do the least harm. Except now I have tweaked it to: Do the most good.

Do the least harm. Do the most good.

When most people speak of “blended learning”, they might actually be thinking about blended instruction. (Here are some considerations of blending that focuses on learning.)

There are many ways to blend instruction. Some might involve the modes (off and online), the content (seamless multidisciplinary content), and the pedagogy (direct instruction with x-based learning).

Most would justify blending based on the best possible outcomes. For example, in the case of blended modes, being face-to-face affords immediacy in social learning while still being able to leverage on timely resources online.

Not many might point out the worst of blending, particularly blended instruction. For example, someone might blend boring didactic teaching with YouTube recordings of irrelevant content.

Blending the teaching or learning processes does not necessarily lead to better outcomes. The contextual design of blending is critical. Online strategies and tools might not work as well in a low bandwidth environment, language might be a barrier in one context, and pedagogical expectations might be different in another. Here are examples of each.

When I lead talks, I find out how comfortable my participants are with going online with their phones. Depending on the country, venue, and people, I might resort to low bandwidth texting-like activities and think-pair-share instead of challenging them to watch and recommend YouTube videos.

I have conducted a variety of workshops for equally varied groups. When English is not the common language, I rely on activities and succinct pitstops to get the messages through. When I am with a group more familiar with training instead of teaching, I need not worry about much pedagogical baggage from my learners.

Bloggers, Pinterest boards, and tweets might declare blended learning to be engaging. They might be referring to blended teaching instead. Such an experience is not automatically engaging, and if blending is left only with the one who is teaching, is certainly not empowering.


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