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Posts Tagged ‘humour

Yesterday I shared some simple and general things I learnt from my visit to Amsterdam. Today I share what I learnt about the people I met and even those I did not meet in person.

The Dutch seem to possess a dry wit. I know this from the way street artists and window dressers expressed themselves.

In the windows and walls of #amsterdam #jordaan #funny #creative

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

In the windows and walls of #amsterdam #jordaan #funny #creative

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

The people I dealt with — from the public transport ticket agent to the sandwich lady to the SIM card guy — were very direct. Their mindset could be represented by this sign I saw at a knick-knack shop: Be nice, or go away.

Sign: Be nice, or go away!

I was nice, so I did not go away. But in being nice, I used phrases that did not work. For example, I revisited a sandwich shop that I chanced upon and discovered that the friendly old man was replaced by a seemingly uptight lady.

As I was there at opening time, I asked, “Are you open for businesses?” The lady replied, “Well, the door is open.”

Me: I mean… Are you ready to serve?

She: Let me wash my hands.

Me: (Waiting silently, looking at all corners of the store)

She: (At the sink area) You can order. I am not facing you, but I can hear you.

I made conversation about meeting the old man who told me that they were going to sell piccante, a spicy meat. I ordered two piccante sandwiches and my wife wanted two small slabs to bring home.

While the sandwiches heated up, the lady cut a few slices of piccante for us to nibble on.

I wager that these are the best dang bacon or sausage sandwiches in #amsterdam #jordaan

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I not only learnt where the best sandwiches in Amsterdam were, I also learnt how to be more direct with the Dutch.

The Dutch in the service industry were also prompt. Very much so.

I only exchanged emails with the host of my apartment. He said that he only had a landline, but I suspect that my emails to him were rerouted through an app on his phone or computer. Our email exchanges quick that they felt more like being on WhatsApp.

Montage of some screenshots of a display at the #vangoghmuseum #amsterdam

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I also emailed the Van Gogh Museum because I wanted to get tickets in advance. I had an I Amsterdam card that allowed me to get into the museum for free. However I noticed that:

  • There was an online time slot booking system
  • People queued to get tickets in one line
  • The same people queued again in another line to get in
  • Some people used their phones to skip the first line

I wanted to know if I could get a mobile-based ticket by choosing time slot online with my I Amsterdam card. I emailed the museum and got a reply. The bad news was that I had to queue twice. The good news was that the reply arrived within an hour.

Some folks here take pride in being efficient or productive. I challenge that notion with the museum example. I also provide evidence of how slovenly we can be by comparison.

Upon returning to Singapore, I learnt that my telco had disabled access to my account information. This was true for the mobile app and the web-based portal.

StarHub app access denied.

I emailed my telco three days ago and have not received a reply. Not even an acknowledgement.

In learning about others, we learn about ourselves. When we look in that mirror, do we like what we see? Do we do something positive about it?

If there is any doubt lingering from my critique of the STonline weather tweeter, let me remove it — I am not a fan because the tweeted content barely passes for humour.

But I am a fan of a recently released YouTube video by a Singapore entity.


Video source

The video was a bit late in coming and borrowed heavily from the original from the Netherlands.


Video source

Several other entities from countries in Europe chimed in with their own videos as did individuals and organisations from countries outside the continent. Here is a playlist of some of the better ones.

The German video provided some insights that the others did not. The initial grassroots effort was coordinated between a few European TV teams.


Video source

The starter pack have a website, everysecondcounts.eu to encourage other European countries to join in. (Update: The site now includes other continents.)

The humour of these videos and the website URL is at another level.

Each video often relies on the same formula (a narrator with a Trump-like voice), the same sweeping vista opening and strategic snapshots to drive points home quickly, and the closing remark “America First, [Name of Country] Second”.

Despite the formula, each country makes the introductory video their own. They make reference that are unique to their country, might take potshots at other countries, and troll Trump slyly or overtly.

The companion website URL alone is clever. It is a reference to timely responses (every bit of time matters) and getting involved (every country that might be “second” should stand up and be counted). It is activism that uses humour to make valid and powerful points.

Humour is a weapon. In the minds and hands of the skilled, it is powerful because it disarms before stabbing at the heart of the matter. If wielded by the less able, it hurts the message and the messenger.

As I age, I can feel curmudgeonly cells coat the fibre of my being. So I was not surprised when I did not think highly of some weather-related tweets of STonline.

Am I becoming an old fart? No. I am one. But I am old enough to think young and season it with some wisdom.

Someone at the news agency probably thought that it would be harmless to let an intern take the helm of weather-related tweets. After all, this was not a breaking headline, serious news, or an editorial opinion. Since weather here is so meh, why not spice things up?

In the grand scheme of things, there was no foul and no harm. There were probably no feelings hurt and no political, religious, or other sensitive lines crossed.

But the weather tweet reports were still part of a larger whole — a serious newspaper. If the paper wanted to take itself less seriously, it should remember that it has a comics section and a humour column. Or at least I am assuming so because I do not actually read a paper newspaper anymore.

Might the newspaper be so out of touch that it did not learn the painful lesson from the @MOEsg attempts at entertaining by asking infantile riddles in 2013? Here is a selection I Storified.

Being funny is not easy.

It is an art.

It is contextual.

It is subjective.

It is a serious business.

The same could be said about those who teach. It might look easy if you think that teaching is standing in front of a classroom and just talking. Some folks do not talk; they still read off scripts.

It is one thing to teach, it is another to educate (what are some differences?). Like humour, educating is also an art.

Educators work with contexts, not just content.

Educators leverage on subjectivity instead of pretending there is only objectivity.

Education is a serious business. Many may be called to teach, but few can educate. Anyone who thinks or tells you otherwise does not understand what it means to be an educator.

Warning: Do not read beyond this sentence if you do not possess this third educator trait.

Have you ever wondered something like this out loud?

If so, we have the perfect platform for you. Introducing: Cave minus 10.0.
 

Secret Cave by heyyu, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  heyyu 

 
For confidential topics, retreat to our Cave. It is wireless (no wires or power), signalless (no smartphones), and connectionless (no Internet, no social media, no YouTube, etc.).

There is no writing on any medium (not even the walls), no storage or archiving (you already have baggage), and no surface for reflection (you already know best because you have class).

Why use our Cave? Simple. Anything online is never completely confidential. It can be video-recorded, screen-captured, or otherwise copied and shared.
 

SS helmet by gwilmore, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  gwilmore 

 
We also offer a special brainwashing head gear, Cognitive Helmet (patent pending), that helps people forget the little they remember or learn. If they remember something, they can take it out of the Cave and share it elsewhere (like they did with the Math Olympiad question on Cheryl’s birthday).

Note: Helmet does not help remove bias that your cave people will already have. It has been proven to permit only assimilative thinking and resist cognitive dissonance and accommodative thinking.

The combination of Cave and Cognitive Helmet provide a virtual learning experience. You will think you are teaching and your people will think they are learning. Virtually speaking, of course.

For optimum experience, we encourage your people to bring their own devices. Devices like ear plugs and blinder-equipped glasses. If you think isolating yourself from the rest of the world is good, removing yourself even while in the presence of others is even better. Teach and learn in isolation or even in a vacuum; it is neat, peaceful, and clean.
 

 
If you subscribe now, we offer a free* wall of fire (Fire Wall, patent pending) to keep intruders, the curious, and the non-entitled, non-payers out.

*Fuel for fire is limited and subject to supply demand the depth of your budget.

We can be part of this world, but not of it. We ignore calls to break down classroom walls or make them transparent. Why should we let people see what really goes on in there? We refuse external inputs because we have all the experts we need. What do those charlatans know to do anyway? Parody sales pitches?

Screw so called 21st century fluff and fake modern beliefs like connectivism, climate change, evolution, or “the earth is round”. We do not just wish for the Age of Enlightenment or Renaissance men (sorry, women), we create the conditions for it. How do you put a price on that?

We do! It will cost you a lot of money for the few that will use it. But you know that it is worth it because it costs so much! How many other people can say they own a white elephant?
 

The World in a Bubble (September 2012) by skippyjon, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  skippyjon 

 
Too long, didn’t read? Create your own bubble of confidential content delivery with Confidential Cave -10.0, Cognitive Helmet (patent pending), and Fire Wall (also patent pending). It will not burst. We promise (fingers crossed).

Contact our sales staff today by smoke signal, carrier pigeon, or telegraph (we are trying this new technology but we expect it not to last).

If you prefer, you can visit us in our underground office located at Ostrich Neck Lane. If you hit Frog-in-Well Industries, you have gone too deep. We are shallower than that.

This message was paid for by Van Doores, Pte. Ltd. and supported by Al M. Esse & Associates and Dead Tree Inc.

Har-har!

You don’t have to be an academic to appreciate the protest-in-jest!

[image source, used under CC licence]

No, I do not mean administering humour. I mean breaking down humour into its components and administrating it. Don’t know what I am talking about?

Over the weekend I tweeted Microsoft’s Education Competencies on humour (or humor for those in the US) [PDF copy, summary table below]. I thought it was a joke then and I think that it is oh-so ridiculous now. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch weighs in on the matter and I thought I’d fire a salvo as well.

[partial screen capture of source]

Like Arrington, I thought that it was ridiculous for MS to try to “chunkify” humour into discrete blocks for attainment. Even if, by some remote possibility, that the MS article is a joke, it shows how old school training or teaching operates: Go from simple to complex and scaffold along the way. There is nothing wrong with that approach until you use it all the time and rely on it as a crutch.

I also thought that the tabulated approach was typical of how administrators think. Not every human trait is clear or simple or fits nicely into cells. Some traits are more like Venn diagrams. Many our limited scope of illustration.

So how do we teach such things? I say we don’t, not in the traditional sense anyway. Like learning a new language, I say we let learners experience the complexity and richness of it all from the beginning. It is about apprenticeship and learning in context. It is about learning from reality and community.

Yes, we do learn a language in chunks, e.g., vocabulary. But traditional teaching relies on rote memorization; more progressive pedagogy relies on immediate use and practice in context. The difference is what makes learning meaningful.

As for administrators trying to simplify things, I say let the stakeholders tell riches stories. Keep portfolios and show evidence of change and growth. Let more than one person be the judge by getting all stakeholders involved. For example, an educator could be appraised by a principal, colleagues, students and parents throughout a school year. It is not difficult to do this with social media and it relieves one judge of a heavy and unfair burden.


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