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Posts Tagged ‘learning

This is my fifth image quote update for the week:

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

My original image quotable quote was:

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

This is one of those image quotes that 1) speaks for itself, and 2) had a great CC image from Flickr (thankfully, still available online).

This is my fourth image quote update for the week:

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. -- Lord Alexander.

My original image quotable quote was:

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. -- Lord Alexander.

All this is to say that we should pursue answers by seeking meaningful and powerful questions first. While this might seem intuitive, we sometimes forget to do this in schooling — answers are provided before questions are asked; artificial solutions are given before authentic problems are identified.

This MindShift article was one of the better written critiques on “personalised” learning.

Most current vendor offerings and institutional implementations of “personalised learning” tend to focus on individual pacing. These tools and platforms might allow learners to go at their own pace and explore a walled garden.

If I had to summarise the critiques from the article of such “personalisation”, I would say that:

  • those implementations might forget that learning is also cooperative and collaborative
  • the tools and platforms are based on biased algorithms that do not learn and adjust
  • self-pacing with outdated material is still learning outdated material

The bottomline? Pacing as personalisation is only good for low-level procedural learning. It is the low-hanging fruit, and since it is easier to reach, it is sold and implemented.

At the higher and opposite end of the spectrum of personalised learning is individualisation. Will Richardson and Stephen Downes might call it “personal learning.”

At the minimum, personal learning involves the learner and helping them to set goals and then to follow up on them. It necessitates the provision of choice and agency. Both these stem from empowerment.



If you think that this seems like a tall order and is drastically different from a conventional school, then you are right. But while doing this is more difficult, it is not impossible. The article also described examples of personal learning in action as well as research revealing its effectiveness and ineffectiveness.


Video source

The video above described the “five-hour rule” — setting aside an hour a day to read, write, set goals, and learn. It also listed and briefly describe what some famously successful people so to learn deliberately.

It went on to elaborate on what such learning might look like:

  • Planning for specific outcomes
  • Practising deliberately and getting feedback
  • Reflecting deeply on such practice
  • Actively setting aside time and effort to do these things
  • Dealing with small problems as they arise instead of waiting for them to grow
  • Tinkering with ideas

When I used to lead a department of about 20 lovely folks, I recall requiring them to do most these things. When I left, most left me notes that they learnt a lot. Not from me; they taught themselves because they became more deliberate learners.

One might take a simple observation (like the one tweeted below) and turn it into a teaching moment.

At first glance, you might see nothing wrong with the set up and leave it at that.

As the Twitter personality points out human foibles like laziness or oversight, you might look for something wrong. So a second look might reveal how the rolled up screen cannot be lowered past the projector.

Even so, anyone who has used a short-throw projector knows that 1) it is typically used with a wall-mounted whiteboard (like the one in the same photo), and 2) the projection on the board is often interactive. The second point means that the presenter can tap or write on the board — this requires a stationary surface, not a dangling one.

Still, someone whose job was to install the projector could have also removed the old screen. But even that is not nuanced enough. Why replace one type of projector with another?

Administrators and policymakers have bought into the sales pitches of vendors who say that such interactive projections are the next big thing. They are not. They leave the teacher squarely at the front of the classroom, with little involvement of the learners.

To teach is the learn twice.

If the adage that “To teach is to learn twice” is true, then we understand why teachers become content experts. They are constantly unpacking and repacking content for others.

How about the learners? Would they not benefit from teaching one another more often than not?

If teachers have just one critical job (for the record, they have many), it is to ensure that students learn effectively and meaningfully. Presentations on screen do not ensure learning; performance using the new knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes do.

Learning is not a spectator sport. --Chickering and Ehrmann

Anyone who still thinks that the VAK (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) typology is valid should watch the video below.


Video source

A few people were blindfolded and had to guess who other people were and what they looked like just from the sound of their voices.

Proponents of any “learning style” inventory paint themselves into a corner because we are all visual learners (unless we are visually-impaired, of course). We are also auditory, kinaethetic, and other learners.

We are not predisposed to learning a certain way. Each of us might have learning preferences, but we also adapt to contexts. For example, there are times when only the written word or audio recordings is available. At other times, physical activities need to be performed and not just watched or listened to.

Extreme proponents of “learning styles” argue that teachers should provide what learners prefer. Not only is this impractical, doing that spoon-feeds instead of challenges students to learn new skills, e.g., active listening, improvising.

I say we stop supporting the charade is learning styles. It is time to remove that mask and to see the messiness of learning.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

The end of every semester gives me time to reflect. Even though I am no longer a full time faculty member, I do this because I am still an educator of future educators.

Most times I take notes — literally in macOS Notes — of what to do differently the next semester. This semester a conversation with one future faculty member reminded me to stay the course.

A graduate student I had just evaluated on student-centred pedagogy stayed back and asked me why I insisted that higher order thinking be challenged to and attempted by groups of learners.

The simple answer was the same as what that student recalled from workshop sessions — getting students to work with one another was more engaging. I did not give that answer because I know that empowerment is more effective than engagement.

I provided a broader answer. I replied that getting students to think deeply was important individually, particularly in a university context. However, we also have a civic responsibility to prepare students for the work place.

These are the same work places that have to deal with ill-structured problems. Often workers operate in teams or groups to find or devise solutions.

Universities have to play catch-up with the work place. Faculty who claim to prepare students for the work place need to operate accordingly. That is why higher order thinking, like peer teaching and cooperative learning, are critical.

To teach is the learn twice.

I helped that learner connect dots that he did not realise went that broad and that deep. I realise that I do not do this often enough. This reflection is a reminder for me to not just take these teachable moments, but also to make them.


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