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Posts Tagged ‘knowledge

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


Video source

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?

My cat by Anguskirk, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Anguskirk 

 
I was a very unhappy broadband customer for the last six days. But I did NOT do something I would normally do and that saved me some embarrassment.

When my Internet connection became intermittent earlier this week, I opted not to call the customer help line. Previous experience reminded me how long that would take and how much longer the response would be after being handed from one party after another.

Instead, I tweeted my information to the ISPs customer care. They said they would get back to me by phone but I did not hear from them. That bought me time to investigate.

When the intermittent connection finally became no connection, I was ready to go on a calling rampage. But something stopped me.

All the usual remedy actions (recycling the power to the boxes in proper time and sequence) did not seem to work. My Internet connection kept dropping, but my home phone (connected to the same box) worked fine.

I disconnected the router and reconnected directly to a desktop. After a few restarts, I had a stable connection to that desktop. I realized that the router was in its death throes.

If I had called the customer care folks and screamed down the line, I would have ended up with egg on my face. Sure, they did not respond as promised. Sure, 99 out of a 100 times this has happened before the fault lay in a factor or incident at their end. This one time my router had failed.

The moral of the story: Take the time, observe closely, get information, connect the dots, solve your own problem.

I have been inundated with administrative work since returning from leave.

4 by mag3737, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  mag3737 

 
When I paused for breath, I realized that there were at least four patterns of work.

  1. Doing the same things the same (old) way. This type of work is getting hard to find if you deal with knowledge work.
  2. Doing different things the same way. This either a response to meaningless change or resisting change.
  3. Doing the same things differently. This could be a sign of innovation or a lack of communication.
  4. Doing different things differently. If you add constant sense-making, communicating, and cooperating or collaborating, then that is knowledge work.

On a seemingly unrelated note, here is my second Monday CeL-Ed video. I shot it while I was on leave. It is a fifth pattern of work. It is not distinct from play.


Video source

Some might argue that I am doing the same thing (interviewing) a bit differently or a different thing (working) differently (while at play). That is why it is a pattern of its own.

By the way, the videos so far have been shot with webcams on my iMac (the first video) or on my Macbook Air (this video). They were trimmed in QuickTime with the minimum of editing.

 
Here is my take on the oft-quoted saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”

This is a phrase favoured by politicians and teachers who want to control the flow of information. My guess they say this in order to feel that they are in charge.

If people knew as much as they did, there would be wide-spread panic (in the case of politicians) or their jobs would be redundant (in the case of teachers).

Maybe there is case for not knowing everything all of the time.

But not knowing enough in a timely manner is hazardous to our health. Little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

With the record-breaking haze levels hitting Singapore last week, I found out as much as I could about things like PSI and PM2.5.

There are still lots of apps, particularly in the Android store, that report only the PSI levels when the PM2.5 levels are actually more important.

What this means is that the general public is lulled into a false sense of security if PSI drops but PM2.5 remains high.

I am not just talking about the uninformed. I am referring to the misinformed.

Our authorities publish both the PSI and PM2.5 levels. But PSI seems prioritized (for news reports and executive decisions) and people are not told exactly what to do with PM2.5 readings.

Our press has not been particularly informative about PM2.5 but there is a slew of information online in the form of research (Google it critically!), standards from the World Health Organization, and other air pollution reporting agencies.

What is dangerous is not knowing enough. Equally dangerous is having little information that is inaccurate and acting on it. So I am still educating myself on these hazey concepts.

Nowadays what is our excuse for living with little knowledge? What is our excuse for preventing learners from knowing and knowing enough?

Harold Jarche wrote about pulling informal learning over pushing for training.

He started by listing eight demand-side knowledge management principles by Nick Milton:

  1. People don’t pay attention to knowledge until they actually need it.
  2. People value knowledge that they request more highly than knowledge that is unsolicited.
  3. People won’t use knowledge, unless they trust its provenance.
  4. Knowledge has to be reviewed in the user’s own context before it can be received.
  5. One of the biggest barriers to accepting new knowledge is old knowledge.
  6. Knowledge has to be adapted before it can be adopted.
  7. Knowledge will be more effective the more personal it is.
  8. They won’t really know it until they do it.

But there is a difference between information and knowledge. Knowledge is information that is meaningful and internalized by the learner. Information is what people externalize and hoard, share, or other otherwise use.

So I might modify the principles slightly as follows:

  1. People don’t pay attention to information until they actually need it.
  2. People value information that they request more highly than information that is unsolicited.
  3. People won’t use information, unless they trust its provenance.
  4. Information has to be reviewed in the user’s own context before it can be received.
  5. One of the biggest barriers to accepting new information is old knowledge.
  6. Information and knowledge have to be adapted before it can be adopted.
  7. Knowledge will be more effective the more personal it is.
  8. They won’t really know it until they teach it or do it.

But otherwise, I agree with the overall principle of “Training is Push. Informal learning is mostly Pull” because in the latter the learners take more control and ownership of their learning.

The era of front loading and just-in-case “learning” is setting. Already rising is networked and just-in-time learning. Organizations that do not recognize this yet will have to play catch up.

In an entry on Aug 4, I highlighted some issues that my preservice teachers mentioned in one way or other in their blogs. The two that I would like to comment on are:

  • Does using technology actually improve learning outcomes?
  • If the assessment systems (currently mostly paper and pen-based) do not change, can using ICT in innovative ways make a difference?

I do not know if MOE has conducted a system-side study on learning outcomes as a result of technology use and integration. But countries like the USA have studied the impact of technology country-wide and we can learn from their experiences. Here are two ERIC documents, both from 1999:

The first study concluded that the use of educational technologies resulted in “positive gains in achievement on researcher constructed tests, standardized tests, and national tests.”  The second study highlighted that “educational technology has been shown to stimulate more interactive teaching, effective grouping of students, and cooperative learning.”

But each study came with warnings and caveats. The first suggested that technology “is less effective or ineffective when the learning objectives are unclear and the focus of technology is diffuse.” The other study mentioned that while technology was a catalyst for changing the learning environment, it required “teachers who are well-prepared to function in more open, flexible, student-centered environment.”

A Straits Times interview with a university don painted a more negative picture, albeit with what seemed to be anectodal data or a personal point of view. The headline read “Why tech has failed education“. Reading the article carefully, it should become obvious that it is not technology that failed education, but people who misunderstood, misused, or mismanged it who did. (The headline is not accurate, but it draws people in to read the article!)

In short, technology can contribute positively to learning outcomes like test scores and the quality of certain desired forms of interaction. However, the studies suggest that these can happen only when teachers put their pedagogical prejudices behind and integrate technology in focused ways. In addition, measures of success must not be based solely on test results.

That said, I’d add that the assessment system needs to change for technology integration to have an impact. Why? Largely because we teach to the test. Our educational system is still based largely on an industrial model: Mass, standardised instruction followed by traditional tests that serve as quality control. If technology allows people to socially construct knowledge, then assessment (more properly, evaluation) should measure the value and impact of such forms of learning. Offhand I can think of peer appraisal as one form of formative evaluation. I know of at least one educator and researcher found a way to marry traditional grading with social evaluation. For more information, read this AFP article.

I have no doubt that our national assessment system will change to stay relevant. Gradual changes have already started, and I think that NIE can take the lead. Assessment here in NIE could be more progressive and meaningful if preservice teachers maintained e-portfolios instead of taking tests and writing disparate papers or doing projects that do not relate to other courses. After all, NIE is in the business of preparing PRACTITIONERS, not educational theorists. Such teachers need to show evidence that they have met standards, not in the traditional, industrial way, but in a more humanistic and meaningful way!


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