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Posts Tagged ‘learning

If you read this tweet or attend this session, you should have an open but critical mind. For example, what exactly does “bringing authentic contexts” mean?

Does it mean watching videos? Are the videos supposed to provide a window to the real world? For me, authentic watching of videos happens when people travel on the train or potato on a couch.

Or might the authenticity actually extend to learners creating videos by collaborating and critiquing?

I like watching videos where experts either explain difficult concepts to learners of different ages or just to kids. The video below is one of the latter.

Video source

Explaining to an adult how to create bioluminescent plants from firefly DNA is challenging, much less kids. The two content experts from MIT were not quite comfortable teaching kids and their attempts illuminate some concepts about how students learn and what an effective teacher looks like.

When one content expert tried simplifying the concept of transferring bioluminescence, she ran into some trouble.

Expert: “…we just ask them to give us some chemicals”.
One child: “Do you tell them?”

Expert: “We just borrow the light from the fireflies…”
Another child: “Do you mean like real borrow or do you just keep it?”

The expert was visibly stunned by the kids’ questions and their teacher intervened with timely and appropriate answers.

An effective teacher is not just knowledgeable in content, she should also be a child and learning expert. As information mushrooms and knowledge needs to be constantly negotiated and updated, being the latter type of expert is critical.

The other expert got the kids to participate in a hands-on activity where they simulated bioluminescence by mixing chemicals in small vials. Instead of hearing about bioluminescence, they tried and saw for themselves.

This is not about appealing to different “learning styles” — which is a myth anyway — but to teach and reinforce with multiple methods and modes. That said, kids generally learn best by what stems from natural curiosity, i.e., experiencing and asking.

The teacher as a child and learning expert asked a critical question at the end of the experiment: “What do you think this could help solve?” She did not provide answers to her learners, but got them to generate answers that required them to think actively about what they just experienced.

I enjoyed this critique of a journalist’s article on “personalised learning”.

If you read the critique and think that it sounded mean, you should also note that the blog is called Curmudgucation — a fusion of curmudgeon and education.

That said, the critique was not an empty or angry rant. I agree with Curmudgucation’s main critique: Journalists need to go beyond interviewing people and blindly putting a positive spin on edtech claims. Most edtech providers already do selective “research” and tout the effectiveness of their wares. We do not need journalists to amplify when they can help scrutinise.

Edtech is my field — I have a Masters and Ph.D. in it — and it is a mine field. The part of field that the journalist tip-toed though was how technology helps personalise learning.

I have processed articles that try to unpack what personalised learning means or looks like [my curated readings in Diigo]. At one end of the spectrum are reports that come across as panaceas for schooling and educational ills. At the opposite end, personalised learning is a dirty word because it is linked to data-driven methods gone wrong.

Thought leaders have proposed alternatives “personalisation of learning” or suggest what personalised learning is NOT. These do not clarify already muddy waters.

The clearest view of “personalised learning” is that the process is actually about personalised teaching. For example, collecting copious data on every learner to (theoretically) provide them with just-in-time instruction and assessment is not the same as learning.

Learning is not about what we do TO the learner; it is about what the learner DOES. It is about the evidence of each person’s change in knowledge, attitudes, and/or skills. The driving factors in learning that is truly personal revolve around learner agency and self-directedness.

In short, you can try to tailor instruction or coaching, but if the child does not internalise or own the process, there is no personalised learning.

If the learner does not internalise or own the process, there is no personalised learning.

I'm at Level 40 and currently walking Metagross for candy.

Recently I reflected on reaching Level 40 in Pokémon Go (PoGo). But I did not address all the reasons why I keep running even though I have reached a “finish” line.

My short answer: I keep playing to keep learning.

As the game os location-based, this requires me to occasionally visit new places. As I do, I meet new people and gain new perspectives.

If those new places and people are overseas when I hunt for regional Pokémon, that is the ultimate bonus! Case in point: This was a virtual souvenir from The Netherlands.

Mr Mime from Amsterdam.

Despite the doubling of tweet length, this one (archived version) needs more context.

The sharing session might focus on WHAT the context is and HOW the supposed system auto-magically does this.

But I wonder if it will explore the WHY of doing this. Answering this question explores the ethics of incorporating such technology. This might include what data is collected and how algorithms run to make summary decisions.

Let us not forget where others have gone or are going before, i.e., how Facebook and Google are under the microscope for not being more careful with student data.

This article reported that “around 80 percent of instructors around the world teaching or training others in flipped learning are three to five years behind current best practices”.

If their estimate is close, then that is an alarming statistic because teachers are not staying current with research-informed practices.

That said, I am just as alarmed with the use of “best practices”. What is best or good in one context is not in another. Here are my other objections to the blind adoption of this corporate term.

I am also worried that an article that claims numbers and standards of practice does not link properly to evidence. For example, at the time of my reflection, there was a sentence: “The standards were developed by a team of international academics from the U.S., Spain, Turkey and Taiwan”. The link leads to a non-existent page about the experts.

Strangely enough, the article took a twist about halfway through. It quoted Robert Talbert, a mathematics professor and author of a book on flipping:

Talbert noted, however, that the FLGI’s Global Standards Project is primarily about setting standards for flipped learning training, and not for flipped learning itself.

First, I was concerned that the group thought it could train adult learners.

Second, if you asked the question “Are You Flipping the Wrong Way?” (the title of the article), then why were the standards not for the implementation of flipped learning per se?

While my reflection might come across as an argument about semantics, it is not. Words hold meaning and their meanings stem from the beliefs and mindsets of the people who speak and write them. If they cannot get terms right, who are they to tell others that their practices are right or wrong?

All that said, there is value in the latter half of the article. If the premise had been better stated as teachers were not keeping up with research-informed practices, then the article did a good job of illustrating wasteful practices like investing in redundant LMS and providing every student with thumb drives.

It also had this to say about the emphasis on pre-class work:

“Using video for preclass work is still by far the most common approach, but more instructors are using some interactive activity instead,” said Talbert. Some instructors are reverting to assigning students a text to read with structured questions before class, he said. “Making a video is very time-consuming, and it’s not clear if video provides benefits to students commensurate with the cost of making those videos.”

Emphasis has also shifted in recent years from what happens before class to what happens in class, said Talbert. “In the early days, instructors tended to put a great deal of emphasis on students’ preclass work and then do nothing particularly special for class meetings. Now there’s a much broader understanding that the in-class activity needs to be designed first.”

Ultimately, the problem is not that teachers are not researchers and do not have the bandwidth for reading research:

“There are lots of common pitfalls, and it’s likely that in almost two decades somebody has tried what you’re thinking of and failed,” said Bowen. But finding out what hasn’t worked can be difficult, because positive results are more likely to get published than negative ones. Access to journal articles is also expensive, he noted.

The issue is that journals tend to favour positive results and are walled-gardens with premium access. The academic publishing system is flipping wrong. Teachers need to rely more on connected communities of practice, not just on central “training” bodies or pay-for-access journals.

Hot on the heels of Apple’s recent education event came this tweet from @AppleEDU:

Here was a critical response:

I agree. The equation of fun = engaging = learning is flawed.

Something that is fun might be engaging, but does not mean that the right gears are in play.

For example, a teacher might introduce a mobile or online game to teach a math skill or language concept. A student might play the game — typically a quiz in disguise — to get a high score, but learn little, if anything at all.

This happens when the teacher focuses on the game or content instead of factoring in the learner’s prior knowledge and cognitive schema. Doing the latter activates the right gears in the learner before they start a meaningful learning journey.

Something engaging still does not guarantee learning. When a teacher tries to engage learners with iPads or Chromebooks, this is an external hook or lure. The stimulus comes from without.

Empowerment comes largely from within. It might start with an engaging hook, but the teacher must also provide learner choice and agency. A teacher teaches; only a learner learns.

Entire school districts might commit to Apple’s new offering. They might also opt for the technical training it offers for teachers. But all these are pointless if there is no socio-technical professional development (PD), i.e., one that focuses on both pedagogy and technology. Such PD is about activating schema and empowering learners with technology. It is not about putting one above the other, i.e., pedagogy over technology, or technology over pedagogy.

Video source

Here is some free PD: The video above and the one embedded in the AppleEDU tweet hint at what empowered students look like. They learn by doing and they create.

However, neither video shows the teacher’s role in all this. Neither video shows what the gaps are, how wide they are, or how to bridge those gaps. This is PD that school administrators and policymakers need to plan and pay for. This is PD that teachers must demand. This is PD that people who live in the nexus of pedagogy and technology — people like me — can provide.

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