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Posts Tagged ‘interview

I watched Sound of Metal which starred Riz Ahmed as a musician who was losing his hearing. The movie was a record of his journey from discovering his condition to seeking a “cure” to living in a commune for the hearing impaired.

The movie was as moving as it was unnerving, largely because the audio simulated what the protagonist was going through.

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In his interview with Stephen Colbert, Ahmed revealed what he learnt while preparing for his role. I was struck by his takeaway:

… deafness isn’t a disability, it’s a culture. It’s a way of being in the world… Deaf people aren’t hearing impaired, we’re impaired because we don’t speak sign language.

Sign language is such a rich form of expression. I actually feel that the deaf community taught me the true meaning of listening.

I wonder how many educators who have students with special needs focus on the latters’ disabilities instead of their abilities. Are we not disabled if we do not first watch and listen?

Preamble: I am adding this important note after writing and scheduling my reflection. I just found out that the creator of the video below, Raynard Heah, passed away recently after a battle with cancer. He was also the interviewer and narrator in the video. I knew Raynard for only a short period, but I valued his passion to share what he learnt with his colleagues. The teaching service has lost a valued son.

This was odd — my blog stats alerted me about an entry from 2013 was receiving an unusual number of hits.

That entry was my reflection about a video interview when I was the head of a centre for e-learning.

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I could not remember what happened during the interview, so I watched the video again. After cringing at my droning voice and frumpy appearance, I was surprised at how relevant the questions and answers were today.

The three main questions were:

  1. What is e-learning?
  2. What are some common mistakes teachers make when implementing e-learning?
  3. How might teachers get a good start on e-learning?

The short version of my answers were:

  1. Here is what e-learning is not: Simply completing tasks for a checklist; trying to replicate classroom teaching.
  2. Mistakes: Focusing too much on the “e” and not enough on the “learning”; trying to transfer face-to-face strategies wholesale and uncritically to an online environment; assuming that being technologically savvy is the same as being digitally wise.
  3. Starting with e-learning: Plan simple but different; design for learner empowerment and ownership; leverage on what students are already doing or using.

The teachers and I elaborate on examples of each idea above.

In 2013, I concluded with this thought:

On hindsight, there is one other non-example I should have given about e-learning. The “e” in e-learning should not be thought of as emergency or extra.

That mindset relegates the activities to something you pull out of a hat when the school has to close due to something like SARS or reduces it to an afterthought.

That mindset makes the design of e-learning hurried, its implementation curried (too hot to handle), and its evaluation buried!

When we collectively get of the COVID-19 curve, will we have learnt anything and changed our expectations and behaviours? I reflect on this question tomorrow.

With an educated guess I can say that quite a few preservice teachers want to be teachers because they wish to make a difference. But I wonder how informed their collective decision is.

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This interview of preschool teachers is brutally honest about what might go wrong day to day. Such a reality check is important because it removes the rosy tint from the glasses of preservice teachers.

The video also reveals the humour and passion that keeps the preschool teachers going. This provides a balance to uncomfortable realities.

I recall how we would invite teachers to speak to preservice teachers once every blue moon. Failing that we would rely on ex-teachers who became professors (like I was back then) to incorporate their experiences into lessons.

But take a few years out of teaching daily in mainstream classrooms and you lose touch and relevance. That is why constant conversations and meaningful interviews with actual teachers are key to nurturing preservice and beginning teachers. They provide realistic expectations about what it means to teach and how to behave as a teacher.

See the world as it is… and defy it. -- Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

I got the quote above from this interview.

Taken out of context, the words of Satya Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, might sound like a call for chaos.

Change might resonate or disrupt. But it rarely starts with getting permission first. It often starts with defiance to norms that feel wrong or could be elevated.

Technology is the toolset that wields that power. The title and the last sentence were what I took away from watching the video below.

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Neil deGrasse Tyson has a way of using plain speak to explain science. In emphasising the importance of scientific literacy, he told a story about Christopher Columbus and opined the outcome of a theoretical alien visit.

He told a story of how Columbus fooled native Americans with his knowledge of a lunar eclipse. He also explained why intelligent life in the form of aliens, not just movie versions, would beat us flat if it came to that.

Knowledge becomes power when you have something that someone else does not. However, that power is empty until the knowledge is embodied in technology as a form of delivery.

If that principle holds true, then why are some teachers still withholding technology from (or using older technologies with) their students? Might they be trying to cling on to power as misguided practice?

Every now and then I get interviewed in person or online. Sometimes it is for a publication, sometimes it is for a project of some sort.

Here was a brief exchange via email and courtesy of @jaelchng of Halogen, SG, a few days ago.

Do you think educational technology is leveraged enough for learning in Singapore?

Classroom by xcode, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  xcode 

In the informal learning space, yes, because it is a natural extension of what people do. Examples include using YouTube videos to learn dance moves or to pick up a new language, or Googling to get timely information.

There is still much room to grow into in the formal learning space, i.e., classrooms. While classrooms here have taken steps in the right direction, the average neighborhood school is not quite in the 21st century. You could replay what you and I experienced in our classrooms in today’s environments and they would not look out of place.

There is still too much reliance on teacher talk and the teacher as the fountain of information. There is still too much disconnected paper, single-audience homework, and non-authentic busy work.

Educational technology alone will not solve classroom ills, but it will enable changes by pushing boundaries in the classroom like it has everywhere else.

Do you think Singapore classrooms can be designed in more creative ways?

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls by courosa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  courosa 

Certainly. The rank and file system is still designed with industrial discipline in mind. Even when desks and chairs are moved about for group work, the social environment is still old school.

There are many examples of creative physical layouts and one simply has to Google for examples. However, there are at least two innocuous but very important ways to redesign the classroom.

The first is to make the walls transparent by going and sharing online. This opens the classroom to the world and invites stakeholders in. Not everything is safe or desirable, but there are important lessons in those as well.

The second is redefining the classroom beyond the physical space in school. Learning does not just happen in that building. More often than not it happens outside of it. The home, the social hangout, the museum, and the eco-park are all classrooms.

Why is leveraging educational technology for learning important?

It enables learning that was not possible a generation ago. Instant transliterations, synchronous and asynchronous sharing and critiquing between cultures, testing ideas in virtual and real social spaces, learners quickly creating content to share and add to the pool of knowledge, and so much more.

It is the responsible thing to do. To quote Dewey: If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow. When leveraged powerfully and meaningfully, educational technology enables tomorrow’s learning of knowledge, skills, and values today.

I like to tell people this about learners: You cannot teach them unless you reach them. Communication and creation technologies are where our learners are already at and most ready to learn. Educators need to go there instead of dragging them kicking and screaming into the Old School.


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Today I share a longer than usual interview with Kevin of CoursePad.

Kevin’s other mobile solutions have been used at conferences and by corporations and tuition centres. He would break into schools if they were less risk averse (about the 4min 30sec mark).

If you missed the other interviews of folks I call edupreneurs, here are the links:

WHAT they have to say about their products or services is not nearly as important as WHY they do what they do. Three out of four of the folks I interviewed cited family.

Later this week I hope to share my own short story of what drives me.

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I am a fan of both Wheeler and Mitra. It was a treat to watch them both in one video where Wheeler interviewed Mitra.

I doubt that Mitra said anything very new. But I like how he answered Wheeler’s questions on a criticism of Mitra’s work (starts at 5min 20sec mark).

The criticism was that Mitra seemed to imply that teachers were not necessary. He clarified that his stance was based on the type or availability of teachers:

  • Good teachers could leverage on the Internet as a powerful learning tool
  • If there were poor teachers, learners could use technology to compensate
  • Where there are no teachers, technology is a viable alternative

The big question Wheeler posed to Mitra at the end was: What is the future of education?

Mitra provided two versions of what I think are the same answer. I like the second version better. He suggested that we might need to question the need for schooling as we know now.

He likened current schooling to humans still possessing finger and toenails. Our nails served a purpose in the past. They are a vestige of our evolution but serve no clear purpose now (women and some men might argue they are decorative).

I think that it was his way of saying that we hang on to the practices and products of the past simply because they are there. We do not seem to question them as much as we should.

I am glad that folks like Wheeler and Mitra are like nails being pulled across chalkboards. They draw attention to the fact that both the nails and the boards are losing relevance.

A talented Singapore teacher and ICT mentor, Raynard Heah aka @teacheah, has created videos on e-learning for teachers in his school.

I was privileged to be part of his latest installment.

In the video below, Raynard asked three of his colleagues and me three questions:

  1. What is e-learning?
  2. What are some common mistakes teachers make when implementing e-learning?
  3. How might teachers get a good start on e-learning?

Video source

That said, I do not like watching myself on video. But I can learn by looking for what not to do next time.

Like how I should keep my hands from flapping around so much. Maybe I can attach lead weights to my arms and hide them under my sleeves.

Or how I could have been more animated. (Feeling tired right before the shoot was no excuse as I could have given myself a shot of caffeine or something.)

If I am passionate about something, it should be more obvious. I gave honest answers to the questions but they might have sounded tired.

On hindsight, there is one other non-example I should have given about e-learning. The “e” in e-learning should not be thought of as emergency or extra.

That mindset relegates the activities to something you pull out of a hat when the school has to close due to something like SARS or reduces it to an afterthought.

That mindset makes the design of e-learning hurried, its implementation curried (too hot to handle), and its evaluation buried!

I was interviewed at MobiLearnAsia. I was not able to watch the telecast as I was picking my son up from school at the time.

I heard that the video bite was over briefly. Mercifully brief!

Prior to the interview, the event organizer told me I might be asked questions about mobile learning trends, the acceptance of mobile learning, the measures required for greater acceptance, and game changers for mobile learning.

While the interviewer and I chatted about many things, only a sliver made it to air. But it was an opportunity to think about answers to those questions. Here are some thoughts I put in Evernote.

What are some mobile trends?

  • Technology focus: Even smaller mobile devices, probably wearable
  • Policy focus: BYOD might dominate; more opportunities for informal learning
  • Practice focus: disruption to teaching in place, emphasis on learning in spaces and at your own pace
  • We are at the exploratory phase now; more evidence gathering will happen soon
How do you foresee acceptance of mobile learning technologies in emerging markets like Southeast Asia or developed markets like Singapore?
  • As long as uninformed or uninspired leaders are in charge, there will be little change
  • Mobile trends are always slower in the schooling than in other sectors because we feel neither the push nor the pull
Acceptance will be based on
  • Where the learners are at: Social and gaming modes, but not necessarily in formal learning mode
  • Going to where learners are: What dominant platform (type of device and social media space)?
  • How inspired the leaders are
  • Demand from the ground
  • How culturally immersed in mobile learning they all are
What modifications are needed to adapt such methods?
  • Overcoming policies based on ignorance and/or fear
  • Allow ownership/BYOD; allow kids to use devices in class; model responsible use
  • Immersion with mobile for informal and professional use
  • Proof from preliminary studies or inspired leaps of faith
  • Using new tools in new and effective ways
  • Mainstream classroom use of mobile devices instead of special events, lessons, or journeys
What would be a game changer for mobile learning?

Click to see all the nominees!

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