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Posts Tagged ‘how

What exactly does 1,320km of cycling paths mean? How does that compare with what we have as roads?

This photo was the second image accompanying this tweet from the LTA.

While I look forward to people depending less on cars and more pedal power, I wonder what exactly 1,320km of cycling paths means.

How does that compare with what we have as roads? What does that mean to commuters who might actually want to cycle? How connected and convenient will these paths be?

If cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-car commuters still have to contend with a car-dominant mentality, all the cycling paths in the world will not make a difference.

Numbers are easy to tout. They tend to be the first thing that administrators, policymakers, and leaders start with. But impressive as the numbers might be, we need to ask what those numbers mean.

By the same token, reporting that MOE lent 12,500 devices to students for home-based learning describes an effort. It was an important effort, but that does not answer or address the issue of WHY the conditions made that effort necessary.

As with most things, the important question is not about how much or how many. It is about finding out why.

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I am physically and mentally drained as I approach the end of academic semesters with my partner institutions.
 

 
I facilitated the last class online yesterday right after an intensive feedback and grading week. I normally have two weeks to grade a major assignment, but its deadline was extended by a week so I had to squeeze the same amount of work into less time.

Just how difficult was this to do? To do this particular assessment justice, I have developed a three-phase approach.

  • Phase 1: Get an overview by skimming all submitted papers without grading anything. I do this with classes of 10 or fewer students because the assessments are complex (Masters or Ph.D. level). I also do this so that I am not harsh with the first script and lenient with the last one.
  • Phase 2: Providing formative feedback and grading, both with a detailed rubric. The rubric helps me remain objective as I award marks. I do not believe in over-praising or relying on praise for feedback. I would rather be direct with my feedback on what my students need to do to improve. But I make it a point to acknowledge effort and provide encouragement where it is warranted.
  • Phase 3: I walk away from the graded scripts and return to them one more time to check on my feedback and score totals. I find that the time away helps me overcome blindspots and catch mistakes I might have made in Phase 2.

Phases 2 and 3 total up to four hours per script. That works out to about half a work day per script, so I schedule two papers a day. When things get intense — like last week when I had less allocated time — I worked in three papers a day.

This is intense work. It requires intense concentration and objectivity. So I try not to grade and provide feedback at home because there are too many distractions and comforts there. A side benefit of this habit is my knowledge of several libraries and cafes where I can work in relative peace.

Would I change anything? I wish I could make people in shared spaces speak in hushed tones, but I cannot do that. I try to change unhelpful mindsets and practices my students might have as a result of uncorrected habits. I build this into our sessions immediately after I return their scripts. But, no, I would not change what I think is a rigorous grading process.


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This video snippet from the BBC painted a positive picture of the possible effects of mobile use by babies or toddlers. It was a better clip than the CNA video last year [1] [2] not because it was tech-positive, but because it was less biased.

The CNA video last year asked the question “Can e-learning make you dumb?” and sought to back up its answers with what its writers had already decided instead of what they could investigate.

The BBC video was not as negative, even when the narrator seemed to sneak in negative associations with mobile device use like “young children sat down using technologies won’t be as good at coordinating their bodies”. It was simply repeating a commonly held concern by lay folk.

The takeaways from the video should not be that the small sample of kids was representative of a larger group nor that kids who used technology were no worse with gross motor skills and better at fine motor skills.

If we learn anything at all from these videos it should not be the opinions on the effects of e-learning or mobile devices. It should be that we need to read, listen, watch, or otherwise process all sources of information with critical filters.

One coarse but vital filter is identifying bias. The CNA video asked questions and rushed to answer them with unbalanced certainty. The BBC video, while seemingly positive, asked questions and left room for even the child expert to express doubt.

One video tried to tell you WHAT to think; the other video could teach you HOW to think.

Despite the doubling of tweet length, this one (archived version) needs more context.

The sharing session might focus on WHAT the context is and HOW the supposed system auto-magically does this.

But I wonder if it will explore the WHY of doing this. Answering this question explores the ethics of incorporating such technology. This might include what data is collected and how algorithms run to make summary decisions.

Let us not forget where others have gone or are going before, i.e., how Facebook and Google are under the microscope for not being more careful with student data.

This video-maker asked an important question: WHAT will you learn in 2017?


Video source

While he focused on nice-to-have skills, the same questions could be asked of any current day worker who needs to keep learning to stay relevant.

An equally important question is: HOW will you learn?

There are so many opportunities, many of them at very low cost or free. Those who have learnt to search wisely and curate judiciously leverage on YouTube and social media channels.

There is no need to wait for a professional development unit or a training department to get a curriculum approved or a content module developed. The end result of the wait may be a slick product, but the process is too slow to be relevant.

I will continue to use blogs, RSS, and Twitter to learn every day. How will you learn in 2017? Will you talk about learning in the 21st century? Or will you actually learn like it is already the early 21st century?


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This video perfectly encapsulates the adage that it is often not WHAT you say but HOW you say it that can make the difference.

In this case, less text and more enjoyable video.

I followed @sjunkins when the graphics embedded in his tweets caught my eye.

This was a recent one that educators should process critically.

Someone else on Twitter called it an infographic. It is not.

Does it have information? Yes. Does it have graphic elements that illustrate the information beyond text form, more richly, or intuitively? No. Far too many people perpetuate the wrong idea of an infographic.

The list includes some things a 21st century teacher should do. I appreciate that this is a challenge to teachers to see how connected, relevant, or current they are. But many of the items are technical skills.

These lead a teacher who might be interested in doing these things to wonder HOW to do these things. I think that it is more important to first know WHY.

I have noticed some leaders in education saying that the time is past asking why technology important. It is more important to know how. This might be true in contexts where asking why is a delay tactic among the stubborn or the undecided.

But not revisiting or emphasizing why is a mistake. I do not mean just reiterating that times have changed or that we must prepare our children for their future instead of our past.

These are all good reasons, but there should be specific reasons for wanting teachers to tweet, Instagram, lip dub, ad nauseum.

So I present an alternative list of 21 things educators might do and I suggest a reason for each.

  1. Don’t just use ICT, integrate it. If the ICT is not integrated, it is dispensible. If it is not needed, why incorporate it?
  2. Crowdsource an idea or co-author a collaboratively created lesson resource. Many hands make light work and you stand to gain ideas you would never have generated alone.
  3. Don’t just talk learner-centred, walk learner-centred. Do not tell me; show me what you can do.
  4. Make real and lasting online connections with other educators. They are your broader support system, your cheering team, and your sounding boards.
  5. Follow someone new or different on a PLN like Twitter. Get new perspectives, grow your network, help yourself by helping others.
  6. Provide a meaningful community service. Apply what you do in the real world instead of the contrived one that is often the classroom.
  7. Get inspired, be inspiring: Lead a PLN discussion, share at an unconference. One of the best ways to learn is to get out of your comfort zone. If you care, you must share.
  8. Model critical and creative thinking. More things are caught than they are taught.
  9. Overcome divides. Stop making excuses; start creating opportunities. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
  10. Talk less, facilitate more. Talking and teaching does not guarantee listening and learning. Get learners involved and become the meddler in the middle.
  11. Challenge your teaching philosophy. Question your assumptions. Focus on the learner and learning, not just on the teacher and teaching. It is your core and it becomes obvious to those around you.
  12. Update your e-portfolio. Focus on the processes behind the products. Curate and create as a model of a lifelong, lifewide learner.
  13. Critically reflect on your own practice. Stepping outside yourself might be the single most important attribute of an educator.
  14. Unlearn a bad habit or a bias. Deconstruct your behaviour or belief system and see what lies in the middle or at the foundation. Question if that is what you want to drive you or what you want to build on.
  15. Relearn a lost value. Reconstruct an ideal you had when you first started teaching. It can help you make that quantum leap you are looking for.
  16. Experiment with the science and hone your art of pedagogy. Think different, do different, and know why. You will not know until you try.
  17. Fail forward. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Do not let your first step be your last. Keep moving forward.
  18. Lead change. Do not expect someone else to show you the way. Find your own path and others may follow.
  19. Learn. Learn. Learn. An educator should be a learner first. It is the best way to understand what other learners struggle with.
  20. Play. Leverage on instinctive ways we learn. That way the learning and teaching are natural extensions of what we do.
  21. Strive to be an educator of people, not a teacher of content. If you forget WHO you are trying to change and WHY, there is no point telling them WHAT or HOW.

Thanks to a retweet by @engrg1, I read this excerpt from a book. But I was a bit concerned when I read it.

I do not have the full context of the chapter, but I think that the paragraph stands alone well.

I fully agree with the last sentence (the bits underlined at the end). It is a call to do with what you have instead of making excuses. Find the time! Raise the money! Create buy-in and ownership! Make the effort!

But I wonder about the long term wisdom of just focusing on the HOWs of change and not the WHYs of it. I am not referring to the resistive WHYs. I am referring to the WHYs that provide a mission and drive things forward.

Those WHYs fuel the HOWs of finding the time, raising the money, creating buy-in and ownership, and making the effort.


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