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Posts Tagged ‘learning

I ask participants of my seminars and workshops to complete quick exit tickets before they leave in order to find out what they are taking away from the sessions.
 

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If I do not ask participants what they learnt, they might not ask themselves that question and therefore walk away empty from the session.

I like providing open platforms and asking simple open-ended questions instead of using overly protected spaces and rating scales.

The open platforms make learning visible and shared. This allows each person to see what others have learnt and puts some positive pressure on them to illustrate their own takeaways clearly and concisely.

Open-ended questions like “What did you learn?” instead of “What did you learn about A? How about B? Now how about C?” remove constraints from replies. If patterns start to emerge from open responses, I know that I have hit some nails on the head.

For example, here were four representative exit tickets from the seminar I conducted yesterday on flipped learning. (Click on each screencapture in the tweet to see it in entirety.)

I include only four partly because that the maximum number of images I can attach to a tweet and partly because that is all I need.

My main objective was to help teachers realize there was a difference between a flipped classroom and flipped learning. Most of the audience members who completed their exit tickets did. A bonus finding was the openness of a few to want to try something new.

How about outliers or the unexpected? I share some thoughts on those tomorrow.

This month I am conducting two seminars on flipped learning. One is with a major edtech vendor and the other is for an institute of higher learning.

Here are some insights into my preparation for the first one.

The seminar runs today, but the official paperwork was only confirmed a week before. I do not normally take such tight deadlines, but having done a quick run on a different topic with another group before, I decided to challenge myself.

I am familiar with the content, but I do not believe in blindly copying and pasting. I fine tune every slide deck and activity to the expectations and context of each new event. So my modus operandi is to meet with the organizers in person and then poll the participants with Google Forms. Collectively their inputs help me determine what to focus on.

My go-to tools are Google Slides (presentation), TodaysMeet (backchannel), QR apps (for quick access to resources), and Padlet (exit ticket: reflection and feedback).

But since I had just a week to collate and create content as well as prepare the platforms, I opted to use a slide template by SlidesCarnival. I had previously used one of the free templates for a presentation on social media-based PLNs. (Full disclosure: SlidesCarnival does not sponsor me.)

I chose the Oberon template because it is simple and clean. Its backgrounds are bold colours and serve as visual shifts for different segments and concepts. For example, here is one of my main WHAT slides.

It differs in background colour of my self introduction, content-oriented, and thank-you slides.

The use of colour as a visual cue to trigger cognitive processes is something I understood as a teacher and it was reinforced when I did a Masters in instructional design over 15 years ago. This was something I used to teach informally to student teachers in Singapore and formally to college students in the US who took my course on web design. It is something I apply to this day.

I find that a little thought goes a long way in making a presentation effective. Audience members might not be able to articulate why they “got it” more easily, but I do and that is very satisfying.

This video of a toddler enjoying rainfall went viral.


Video source

What is so captivating about a child experiencing rain for the first time and enjoying every minute of it? The obvious answers might include our sharing the joy she experienced or mourning the loss of our child-like wonder.

For me the video is a warning about unbridled schooling. We lose that ability to learn for the sake of enjoyment largely because of the demands of schooling.


Video source

Note how the little girl was upset when she was taken away from the rain and how she ran back to it (1min 10s to 1min 35s mark, highlighted above). How often do you see normal kids running towards school-sanctioned homework?

Yes, all of us must grow up. But who is to say that we cannot retain the ability to learn by doing, to enjoy learning, and to find reward in the experience itself? These are values and processes to aspire to and perpetuate.

I am not interested in hearing the barriers that stand in the way. I am fully aware of them.

I am more interested in knowing how we might not put these barriers up in the first place or how we might break existing barriers down.


Video source

I loved watching this video of a few mothers trying Minecraft for the first time.

It is one thing to read opinion pieces of the game, particularly in the context of education, and another to experience it for yourself. Then once you try it out, it is one thing to have a taste and it is another to immerse yourself and keep at it.

Despite the short exposure to the game, I like how one mother told her child to move aside so that she could do something in the game. That is a step closer to immersion. Csíkszentmihályi would refer to this immersion as flow. We might refer to it as being in the zone.

This is experiential learning and learning-by-doing at its best. These are natural extensions of who were are and that is one reason why games like Minecraft are so successful.
 

 
I have said it before and I will say it again: If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them. If you want to teach the learner, you must first be the learner.

This is not just about gaming. It is one thing to observe a child playing; it is another to be the child playing. It is about taking the child’s perspective and having an educator’s empathy.

If you do not do something new like playing Minecraft, you will not know why it appeals so widely or how to leverage on it. The first step is the hardest. Take it and do.

BTW, I played Minecraft (mobile and PC versions) with my son and created several videos of what we learnt together.

Educators who have flipped their classrooms or moved on to actually flip learning invariably have advice for those new to the journey. I share just three of many I have learnt by practising what I preach.
 

 
My first piece of advice is to make it as ordinary possible. If you attempt the extraordinary or if you need similarly special conditions in the future, the initial effort not sustainable.

I am not saying keep the bar low. I am saying you should not overthink or complicate designs, plans, or resources.

For example, refrain from designing home-based learning that requires a vendor’s proprietary platform. Instead, you could look at mobile strategies, tools, or platforms because these tend to be more accessible and intuitive.

You should also avoid relying on a long weekend, an e-learning day set aside by the school, or an academically off-peak period. If you need such special circumstances or so much time, you are not likely to try it again.

My second nugget is plan for success, but learn from failure. Even if you take my first piece of advice and keep it simple, you should not expect everything to work.

Simple does not mean doing the same thing in a different context. It means taking a risk to do one or more things differently. You will make mistakes and these are the most valuable lessons for a teacher.

For example, you might have designed in desktop mode, but tried implementing in mobile device mode. There will invariably be mismatches in expectations and results. Go full mobile the next time around.

My third pointer is to focus on the learner and learning, not on curriculum or teaching. The latter should be the means to getting at the former.

Teacher-related aspects of flipping could mean preparing resources and scaffolds. These are good and necessary most of the time, but these are not the most important aspect of flipping.

To flip learning is to nurture a more independent learner. This means preparing the learner to work with online resources and manage social interactions. Teachers should model how to read, watch, pick out, respond, and reflect (amongst a host of other important skills).

For example, it is not enough to tell students to just watch a video. You might show them the difference between an annotated YouTube video on a desktop (annotations present) and a smartphone (annotations absent). Depending on the desired outcomes, it may be necessary to show them how to identify key segments, where to take notes, and how to respond.

If you take a step back from the advice, you might notice they apply in other technology-mediated learning contexts as well. They should because my practices are not isolated efforts. They blend one into another and form a continuum of strategies. If you are clever about it, yours should too.

Today I critique an important message embedded in a tweet. The text is excellent, but the visual representation is not. This sends an intended mixed message.

Teachers can certainly learn five principles of instruction by unlearning what they were taught.

  1. Students do not always need information or instructions before learning by trying
  2. Failing is a means to an end in this form of learning
  3. Knowledge is better socially generated and negotiated than delivered or directed
  4. Students learn best when they (not the teacher) are actively creating and teaching
  5. Information does not always have to be broken down into simpler parts; authentic problems are complex

I would wager that most teachers would struggle with relating to and then implementing one or more of these principles.

Even though the ideas are progressive, they were presented with a poor choice of fonts and graphics. The font is from an old school video game and the background is an old joystick. These might evoke nostalgia or connect with adult teacher who used to game, but games no longer look like that and rarely use such controls.

The visual is a disconnect with current gamers on mobile, PC, or consoles.

 
My critique is not with the ideas. I agree with them and have even elaborated on them by providing my own explanations of the five items. But visuals are powerful and can often reveal the underlying mindset of the person who created the artefact.

My message is that if teachers want to implement game-based learning or use principles from games, they should play current games and seek to understand the learner first. Then they might understand learning processes. Then only can they start to teach in a way that is congruent to gaming.

Today I reflect on three seemingly disparate topics. However, all have a theme of not compromising on standards. They are standards of English, decency, and learning.

I spotted this sign at a Fairprice grocery store. It urged patrons to think of the environment.

You cannot use less plastic bags, but you can use less plastic the way you can use less water. The water and plastic are uncountable. Plastic bags are countable so you should use fewer of them.

Actually you should try not to use any plastic bags by carrying your own recyclable bags. If you do that, the sign reads another way: Do you part for the environment. Useless plastic bags!

If standards of basic rules of English have not slipped, we would see fewer of such signs (countable property) and I would be less of an old fart (uncountable property).

Speaking of which, a fellow old fart (OF) responded to a Facebook troll who had terribly warped priorities when commenting on the kids who lost their lives during the Sabah earthquake.

The troll focused on the fact that the deceased could not take their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) later this year. When OF called the troll to task, the latter became indignant.

OF discovered that the troll was a student in a local school, and while not all kids act this way, OF wondered in subsequent comments how the standards of human decency seemed to have slipped.

I baulk at the fact that some teachers wait for official Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) materials to be prepared and distributed instead of using everyday examples like these. They are far more timely, relevant, and impactful.

To reiterate what I mentioned yesterday about bad advice for teachers, how are adults to realize what kids are writing and thinking if they do not follow them on social media? You need to be on the ground to see what is good and bad about it.

Parents and teachers should not be reacting in a way so that there is less social media use because that is unrealistic. When someone cannot write or speak well, you do not tell them to write or speak less; you tell them to practice more (after you coach them and provide feedback).
 

 
The third use-less/useless example comes from this Wired article about the change in Twitter leadership.

The author contrasted Twitter’s previously “unruly, algorithm-free platform” with Facebook’s. This was not a negative statement about Twitter because stalwarts value the power of human curation and serendipity.

However, those new to Twitter might view the platform as useless and choose to use less and less of it until they stop altogether. They do not stay long enough to discover its value.

The slipping standard here is learning to persist. I can see why school systems like the ones in the USA are including “grit” in their missions or using them policy documents.
 

 
But is grit the central issue?

What if the adults do not have a complete picture and are creating policies and curricula that are as flawed as the “use less” sign?

What if they should actually be spending more time on social media not just to monitor their kids and students but also to connect with other adults so that they learn the medium and the message deeply?

One key answer to these questions is about the ability of adults to keep on learning. We should not be holding kids and students to one standard (it is your job to study what I tell you) and holding ourselves to another (I have stopped learning or I have learnt enough).

Do this and you put yourself on the slippery slope of sliding standards. When standards slip, they are not always as obvious as badly-composed signs or insensitively-written Facebook postings. The refusal to learn can be insidious and lead to a lack of positive role models for kids and students to emulate.


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