Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘John Green

Video source

Ah, John Green — a source of introspection and dissonance.

As he went on a walk in the woods, John told a story about his Make-A-Wish friend, Esther. As they crossed a bridge with a grated floor, Esther noticed how John was fearful.

Esther assured John that they were almost across the bridge and that John could take over the pushing of her wheelchair if he needed something to hang on to.

The story was about having empathy for someone else. I apply this in education as someone who is learning to live and feel for my students. I think that this is the single most important trait of an educator. If I cannot first reach them, I cannot teach them.

If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them.

John Green and co have just released part 1 of their Crash Course series on navigating digital information.

Video source

If I had to sum up the takeaway from the video, it would be this: Just because it looks like a news article does not make it one. Appearances like layout, graphics, and slickness matter, but these should not distract from the quality and accuracy of the content. To determine those latter qualities, we need to investigate the sources of the article.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

However, Green mentioned a study by the Stanford History Education Group which highlighted how historians and university students focused on the superficial instead of digging deep.

Speaking of digging deep, I could find the Stanford group online, but not the documentation about the study from the Crash Course video page. Might Crash Course consider providing a link to such evidence and not just its main sponsors/collaborators?

Video source

In the video, John Green shared the general rules on using the prepositions on, in, and at.

This was useful to me partly because I was just asked that question last week during my research writing consultation. Now I have an answer for the next session.

The video was also useful in a broader sense. With just about every rule comes exceptions, and grammar is no exception.

I would challenge anyone attempting to standardise “pedagogy” or “learning” in schooling and education. When implemented, they will find exceptions to the model answer, ideal formula, or prescribed standard.

So are standards or definitions pointless then? No, they are baselines from which variations sprout. We just need to be critical enough to recognise what is valuable or erroneous, helpful or harmful, and relevant or not, depending on the context.

In the YouTube video below, John Green told a story about two former Liverpool goalkeepers.

Video source

Ever the masterful storyteller, Green highlighted how one goalkeeper took some advice, applied an unconventional strategy of another goalkeeper, and helped his team win the Champions League. He did this despite establishing his own method after honing his craft over countless practice sessions and matches.

One might argue that the goalkeeper could have stuck with his old habits and he might still have won his team the match. Perhaps, but likely not. The odds are stacked against goalkeepers in penalty shootouts. You see more goals scored than goals saved at the highest levels of football.

Something similar could be said about teachers and teaching. Their practice is also honed over a long time and often their habits are based on how they were previously taught. It is uncomfortably difficult to operate outside this box.

The thing is that teachers will not know if a new and uncomfortable method will work until they are brave enough to risk a difference.

Author John Green is a consummate storyteller. In the YouTube video below, he tells the real life story of the Broccoli Tree.

Video source

Spoiler ahead.

The shared beauty of the tree now only lives in calendars and an Instagram account. The tree had to be cut down when vandals sawed into it and the whole tree had to be destroyed in the name of public safety.

Green’s words on this loss were poignant:

To share something is to risk losing it, especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale… If we hoard and hide what we love, we can still lose it, only then we are alone in the loss.

You can’t unsaw a tree, but you can’t unsee one either. The Broccoli Tree is gone, but its beauty survives.

This inspires me to keep sharing even though I do not create anything as beautiful or as profound as the Broccoli Tree. On a smaller scale, I know my work reaches and teaches others.

Video source

Takaharu Tezuka is the architect who designed what TED calls the “world’s cutest kindergarten”. It was designed in 2007, but only took the world by YouTube and TED storm recently.

The kindergarten was not designed to be safe, soft, and spongy. Quite the contrary. Tezuka mentioned several times in his talk how kids learnt from falling down, getting scrapes, and bumping their heads. As for water play, he said:

… you should know that you are waterproof. You never melt in rain. So, children are supposed to be outside. So that is how we should treat them.

The kindergarten was also intentionally designed to be open and round. Why?

There is no boundary between inside and outside… there is no boundary between classrooms… When you put many children in a quiet box, some of them get really nervous. But in this kindergarten, there is no reason they get nervous. Because there is no boundary.

… if the boy in the corner doesn’t want to stay in the room, we let him go. He will come back eventually, because it’s a circle… they leave and come back.

Tezuka noticed kids liked running around and doing so freely. He noted how kids learnt best by doing and experiencing. So he designed a school around such behaviours.

Perhaps Tezuka’s point is this: There is much to be learnt about how to teach kids by watching and learning from them. It is less about curriculum and instruction, and more about how they think and act.

Video source

I do not know anyone who hates John Green. If they do, they probably are not worth knowing.

Green is an author, YouTuber, and amongst many other things, TED speaker.

After sharing his passion for maps, Green described himself as a student:

I was a really terrible student when I was a kid. My GPA was consistently in the low 2s. 

And I think the reason that I was such a terrible student is that I felt like education was just a series of hurdles that had been erected before me, and I had to jump over in order to achieve adulthood. And I didn’t really want to jump over these hurdles, because they seemed completely arbitrary, so I often wouldn’t, and then people would threaten me, you know, they’d threaten me with this “going on [my] permanent record,” or “You’ll never get a good job.” 

I didn’t want a good job! As far as I could tell at eleven or twelve years old, like, people with good jobs woke up very early in the morning, and the men who had good jobs, one of the first things they did was tie a strangulation item of clothing around their necks. They literally put nooses on themselves, and then they went off to their jobs, whatever they were. That’s not a recipe for a happy life.

He sounded like a student that most adults would write off early in life as a future also-ran or has-been. So how did he become so successful? Here are some choice quotes from his talk:

  • I became a learner because I found myself in a community of learners.
  • A lot of the learning that I did in high school wasn’t about what happened inside the classroom, it was about what happened outside of the classroom.
  • It wasn’t a formal, organized learning process.
  • The most interesting communities of learners that are growing up on the Internet right now are on YouTube.
  • I know that YouTube comments have a very bad reputation in the world of the Internet, but in fact, if you go on comments for these channels, what you’ll find is people engaging the subject matter, asking difficult, complicated questions that are about the subject matter, and then other people answering those questions.
  • As an adult, re-finding these communities has re-introduced me to a community of learners, and has encouraged me to continue to be a learner even in my adulthood.
  • I’m here to tell you that these places exist, they still exist. They exist in corners of the Internet, where old men fear to tread.

Green reminds us that learning does not happen only in the classroom. In fact, it mostly happens outside of it. One of the most powerful learning communities and informal classrooms is YouTube.

Both Tezuka and Green made references to being outside. The benefit of being there means you do not have a teacher’s blind spots. Sometimes those blind spots land squarely on what teachers need to focus on: The learner and the processes of learning.

But these are the very places teachers need to go to recover their sight. Are they reacting, as Green put it, like old men and women fearing to tread?


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: