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Posts Tagged ‘good

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.


Video source

I love this video of congressman John Lewis sharing his thoughts on what it meant to get into “good trouble”. This is the sort of trouble that sparks change.

According to Lewis, good trouble was necessary because got in the way of the status quo and prevented it from continuing as it did before.

Lewis did this during the Civil Rights movement in the US, and he and other congressmen staged a sit-in in US Congress about guns in a response to a spate of shootings.

My wife and I had the privilege of meeting him when I was doing a project in the USA in 2003. One of the few records I have is photos I took during the meeting and book signing.

Meeting John Lewis.

You might not have heard of Lewis even if you are in the US. Lewis has found a way to reach a new generation — graphic novels. That is what the latter half of the video is about. How do you reach a group that might not relate to the message. According to Lewis: Be plain, be clear, and be real.

Not everyone gets to meet a leader and living icon of such a significant moment in history. They do not have to. They need only live and pass on the message of getting into good forms of trouble. That is an plain, clear, and real as anyone can do.

It started with a tweet from @hsiao_yun.

I weighed in with this:

Why did we tweet? The original photo was supposed to feature Singapore, but the two men in the foreground were wearing cold weather gear.

Then @RoughGuides tweeted:

I have interacted with many individuals and organizations on Twitter. At least, I have tried. More often than not they do not reply. If they do, they drop canned messages, are ill-equipped, or forget to be social.

@RoughGuides’ tweet had the components of a well-crafted response to critical inputs. Here is a sentence-by-sentence deconstruction.

  • Acknowledgement: Hi there, well spotted on the photo.
  • Admission: This was our mistake!
  • Action: We’re looking into changing it now.
  • Appreciation: Thanks for nudging us!

It changed the main photo of the online resource shortly after tweeting. If only more Twitter entities acted like this.

Being on social media is not about bearing down in silence or ignoring sincere comments or questions. Far too many people and organizations using Twitter do this (@TwitterSG included!). I am ashamed to note that I know teachers and educators who do this too.

Learning on Twitter is about engaging others whether you are right or wrong*. It is about having honest and open conversations. It is about giving back. If we do these consistently, we would learn what it is really like to be social in social media. We would learn something about ourselves and want to be better.

*Addendum: The exception might be responding to trolls.


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