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Posts Tagged ‘invisible

One underrated power of being a father is invisibility, i.e., doing the unseen work.

My invisible power is paying the utility bills, assorted fees, insurance premiums, and groceries. I clean the floors, windows, and fans when no one is home so no one gets in the way.

But this also means no one sees me do these things. I am invisible until I stop doing them. Then my lack of action becomes obvious and no good comes of it.

There is also much invisible educator work, e.g., lesson planning, keeping up with research, and preparing resources. This work is often invisible to an administrator or a client and remains unappreciated. But if we stop doing these things, this also becomes obvious and bad things happen.

Do the invisible work. No one (or very few) will thank you or pay you for it. It is the price to pay whether you are a parent or an educator.

The recent mass experiments on “home-based learning” might have provided parents with a small taste of what teachers have to deal with every day and on a larger scale. But this is not as the same as having insights on their preparatory work.

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It is not often that people see what teachers and educators do to prepare for classes. So this video of a teacher psyching himself up might enlighten some stakeholders.

According to the video, the teacher did pushups before class and forced himself smile before he entered a classroom. This ritual was made transparent only by video capture and interview.

Less visible but critically more important rituals might include the preparation of lesson materials, rehearsals of such lessons, and the feedback on assignments. These are mundane and no amount of video wizardry and interview savvy will make these look interesting. But real educators know that interesting is not the same as important. We focus on the latter.

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Tom Scott took a nerdy look back at one of his favourite shows. Long story short: He appreciated the effort that the people behind the opening titles put in despite how easy it was to ignore them.

The same might be said for instructional design (ID). It is visible only to those who bother to look and know how to critique it. ID is under-appreciated because it is invisible, but that does not mean that it is easy or unnecessary.

When I offered to redevelop two ICT-related modules for online facilitation and learning, I knew I had to boil the effort down to numbers. That is, how long would that take and how much would this cost.

I knew I had a few months to do this, so the runway was not the issue. The time it would take to revise and redesign the modules was. I also knew that administrators would not react positively to an accurate cost in terms of time, effort, and money, so I provided a low estimate.

How low? Forty development hours. This is equivalent to about 10 half-days of work if you imagine someone working in an office. Why is this low? I only considered the “visible” work, hence my reference to office work.

What does visible work look like? Imagine getting your home renovated. If you have a limited imagination, you only see what is obvious, e.g., people hacking walls or installing fixtures. The equivalent for online modules is the construction of resources.

I prepare primary, secondary, and tertiary resources.

My primary resource is a website that I create. It is typically a Google Site that houses all the rooms (pages), and furniture and fixings (the secondary and tertiary resources).

The secondary resources are items like videos, documents, PDFs, slides, spreadsheets, forms, and shared spaces for brainstorming, reflection, and other cooperative activities. I create these too.

Tertiary resources are items that others have created that I curate. These could be images, videos, slides, posters, or PDFs that I attribute and integrate with the primary resource.

I have already exceeded the 40 hours of creating these resources. I still have a few more to create and add, and I will need to revise them based on feedback and relevance over time.

What my estimate ignores is what administrators have trouble seeing and justifying as costs. This invisible workload includes, but is not limited to:

  • Researching: Reading, watching, and listening to current resources on the topic. These might include research articles, professional blogs, YouTube videos, and podcasts.
  • Writing: As I consume, I reflect on the relevance of these resources and I write down ideas for their use. I add to my Notes app the URLs, selections or screenshots from the resources, and possible activities they might enable.
  • Organising: All the ideas are a jumble that might not link or flow. They need to be coordinated for learning and instruction. They need to be corralled into reasonable chunks of time. They need to be aligned to outcomes, activities, and assessment.
  • Evaluating: Some resources are more useful or relevant than others. Some that are not useful now might be powerful later. As a result, their inclusion into modules needs to be prioritised based on a combination of professional judgement and deep reflection.
  • Iterating and revising: Everything I described above might be considered part of planning. Any plan is only as good as its implementation. As I only have one chance to implement each new module, I have to trial them by running them through in my head and with empathy for my learners. As I discover weakness or obstacles, I redesign and reconstruct. This is the iterative process.

If a course happens just once a year (and many do in higher education), I might discover a wonderful resource a day after my course ends. I consume it, take note of it, write down ideas for it, and revisit it weeks or months before the course resumes. This is what any educator or facilitator who is passionate about teaching does. But this, too, is workload that is not visible to an administrator.

If I was a full-time salaried employee, I would not have to deconstruct the work as all the tasks would be givens. But part-timers or adjuncts bring skills and practices that organisations lack. We need to show our value or else be taken for granted.

I share this not to shame administrators. I do so to provide insights they might not have. There is only shame if they choose to minimise or ignore such work.

Video source

Drop the skepticism that this is a public relations exercise by Coke.

Put on the lenses that let you see that some of us do care and find small ways to show we care. Sometimes these actions are obvious, sometimes they are not.

Watching the video reminds me of one of Coca Cola’s (old?) slogans: Have a Coke and a smile. The Singapore Kindness Movement and Coke put smiles on the faces of our invisible workers. The video put a smile on mine.

Thank you, Coke. Thank you, people who got behind this effort by the Singapore Kindness Movement.

Thank you, invisible workers, for the roof over my head, the floor beneath my feet, and the walls around me that allow me to call my house a home.

A serendipitous viewing of this video…

Video source

… led me to this website about Invisible Instruments.

Tim Soo is the creator of the video and the person behind this initiative. He provides examples his invisible musical instruments and explains why he does this in the video.

The instruments may be invisible, but the creativity, energy and passion are clear to see!


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