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Posts Tagged ‘learning

Here is a lesson on video-based learning as applied outside the schooling bubble.

Watch this video of a 12-year-old girl who taught herself dubstep dancing by watching YouTube videos.

Video source

Administrators, instructional designers, and teachers might be seduced by the sentiment that the girl expressed: “It benefits you by rewinding, pausing… you can watch it over and over again, but in a classroom you can’t do that.” This is also what a vendor might say.

The self-taught dancer went on to say that the Internet was her generation’s way of learning things.

I do not deny those two points, but if we focus only on the technical affordances of YouTube videos and what seems to be a generational difference, we focus on the wrong things.

A video simply being on YouTube does not drive the learning. It is the learner that does this. In the words of the girl in the video:

If you’re on the Internet, you can really learn and teach yourself… You can do anything if you really have a passion for it.

What YouTube has done is made self-directed and truly independent learning possible. What the learner must do is desire to learn, search, watch, curate, practice, critique, and create. All are desirable outcomes, are they not?

After standing on the sidelines for a bit, I decided to replace my old iPhone with a new iPhone 7.

I made the order via online chat because that was one way to get on the 0%-interest installment plan. The other option was to call a service line.

I chose the lesser of two evils. I was also at a public library at the time, so I could not talk.

I summed up the experience in these two tweets.

I bought every major piece of Apple hardware I own (and have owned) online. The online chat process was very inefficient by comparison.

With my user information already in Apple’s databases, ordering a new phone online without an installment plan would have taken about a minute or two. To get on the special scheme, I had to wait for a representative to attend to me and type information that Apple already had into the chat boxes. The chat log told me this took almost 17 minutes.

Screenshot of partial chat log.

A voice-based call would probably have taken longer with wait time and the need to verbally deliver and verify information.

I also had to wait for a follow-up call from a bank representative and I was informed that it would take up to two business days for this to happen. Thankfully that call happened within the hour.

I know that Apple is more than capable of providing an efficient online shopping experience. The inefficiency and dissatisfaction stem from the bank’s need to do things old school.

For whatever reason, the bank decided that it was better to include humans in the purchasing chain and forced unnecessary social interaction. Anyone who has experienced online shopping and e-commerce knows that what the bank required could have been automated. It felt like a step backwards in time.

As most things go, I thought about how this was like the state of most teaching.

Teaching has not gone as far as letting the learner choose the way Apple online lets customers choose: They decide what they want, and when or how they get it.

Like the banking link, there is forced social interaction that is unnecessary and inefficient. This is like focusing on social interaction for the purpose of delivering and verifying information. This goes at the pace of the teacher and in the way that makes sense to the teacher. What the learner feels or needs is almost irrelevant.

If there is any social interaction in teaching — be it in person or online — it should be to facilitate important processes like feedback, mentoring, or coaching. That is, anything that contributes to the personal learning by the learner. An empowered learner who decides what, when, and how.

Apple wants to push its iPads, Macbooks, and apps into classrooms. But it offers those of us in schooling and education an accidental but more important lesson in edtech: Let the technology do what it is good at, let people do what they are good at. Do not get in the way of either unless one enables the other to do and be better.

Video source

This video outlines four aspects of student-centred learning. I like what it has to say and how it says it, but it is nowhere complete nor without its flaws. So I ask some questions and fill in a few blanks.

I restate the main points of the video about student-centred learning and then share my perspective.

Learning is personalised. This is a misnomer. It is an attempt to make individual learning more meaningful by the efforts of the teacher, LMS administrator, instructional designer, i.e., anyone other than the learner. This is not wrong, of course, but these people are not the learner.

How about the learning being being personal instead? For a distinction between personalised and personal learning, read these curated resources.

Learning is competency-based. Is the focus just on content? How about thinking skills and values? One might be able to gauge sets of thinking skills as competencies, but how about values?

Learning happens anytime, anywhere. It can, it should, especially if you live in a modern and mobile-connected world. Now consider this: If so much can and already happens outside the classroom, why is the classroom still the standard for “learning”?

How do I know that the classroom is still the reference point? It is the use of “student-centred” instead of “learner-centred”. This is not just about semantics. This is about mindsets put into practice.

Students take ownership. Most definitely, yes! But only if students are first empowered, and given choice, time, and space. This more likely happens outside the classroom bubble than in it.

Sometimes I think I no longer need to repeat some messages because they sound old. But I am constantly reminded that I cannot be complacent.

The messages are diverse. They range from “Singapore does NOT cane you for chewing gum” to “gamification is not the same as game-based learning” or “flipping the classroom is not the same as flipping the learning”.

The cane comment surface just a few days ago. Strangely enough, it stemmed from a tongue-in-cheek remark on Singapore’s Schooling being Number One (the swimmer and our PISA results).

Someone else wanted to know if caning had anything to do with our results.

My reply, tongue firmly in cheek, was this:

We had a short conversation thereafter:

This reminded me of my stay in the US over 15 years ago when I had to remind people that Singapore was not in China and that we did not cane people for chewing gum.

While the conversation was not about caning and gum, I had to inform someone on Twitter that we do not cane boys as easily as we would flick a switch.

In the teaching and learning front, the runaway trains are gamification and the flipped classroom. Both vendors and ill-informed individuals push these without first knowing or caring about their histories, research, or critical practice.

I laud their enthusiasm, but when it is misguided, I make my stand: Gamification is not game-based learning and it is not enough to just flip the classroom.

Sometimes I wonder if harping on these messages makes me the squeaky wheel or the proverbial voice in the desert. Then I remember this Jon Stewart quote: If you smell something, say something.

As a watchdog, I have to be vigilant. As an educator, I remind myself that the old messages are new to someone else.

Recently I read a negative news article about Pokémon Go and thought about how this was like much of schooling.

Pokémon Go has not even been in Singapore for a week and already segments of the press have jumped on the negativity train. For example, TODAYonline proclaimed, Pokemon GO player chances upon dead body in Woodlands. However, by its own account, other people had already discovered the body. The opening paragraph read:

A Pokémon Go player found more than virtual critters on Sunday morning (Aug 7) when he chanced upon a crowd that had discovered a dead body off Woodlands Waterfront Jetty.

The gamer took photos of the grisly sight and posted them on Facebook.

“Facebooker posts photos of dead body” is not sufficient clickbait, nor was anything else that anyone else might have been doing. But Pokémon Go had launched here and was so popular that the paper had to ride on its coattails.

Pokémon Go is also misappropriated in schools. It is misrepresented and it is misused.

I know of a Singapore school principal who assumed that someone had paid for her school to be a Pokémon stop. She asked her staff who did it and if the stop could be removed. Those in the know tried to tell her that is not how stops work (you cannot add a stop unless you control Google Maps, but you might be able to remove it [1] [2]).

That account was not as bad as the one I tweeted earlier. In this other case, a school superintendent in the USA did not fact check and “emailed the entire district leadership team, warning them about the game because six teenagers already had been killed by wandering into traffic while playing the game.” This turned out to be a hoax.

This is history repeating itself.

People used to wait centuries or decades for paradigm shifts. For example, people had to be read to from rare, hand-written texts owned by elites before they learnt to read and practically owned their own libraries. We used to rely exclusively on fixed-time broadcast TV; now we have on-demand and online video. The changes and possibilities seem to happen every year, month, or week now.

Whatever the timespan of change, the repeating pattern is this: Something new and exciting to a typically younger generation is poorly understood and considered harmful by an older set.

The most common strategy against the perceived threat of the shiny and the mysterious is negativity. Anything negative will do. It can be shot, flung, or printed, as long as people notice and remain ignorant. This is why we have not seen the last of misrepresentations of Pokémon Go.

Early adopters will bravely try the new. Unfortunately for some, their creativity is not balanced with criticality; enthusiasm and pedagogy are not balanced with reality and research.

There will always be some teachers who wish to incorporate the game for the wrong reasons. To seem cool, to only take advantage of what is current, to use the “well, the kids are on it” excuse. These are not good enough.

To get to deeper WHYs of incorporating Pokémon Go, here are just a few critical questions:


  • What does the game offer that you cannot?
  • How do kids behave when they play and what do they expect?
  • What can you do after processing the answers to the questions above?


  • How do you prefer to teach?
  • What is game-based learning and what does research say is effective game-based learning?
  • How must your teaching change to enable learning that is game-based, not merely game-enhanced?

If a teacher does not have well-founded answers to these questions, then I predict that these will happen:

  • The fun gets taken out of the game in favour of curriculum or objectives.
  • The game gets tacked onto boring activities to try to make them fun.
  • The teacher creates a bad example of game-based learning.
  • Students and teachers swear off “game”-based learning.

I do not mean to dissuade teachers from trying to incorporate Pokémon Go or its ideas into their classroom. I mean to say that they do not do so blindly.

To not be blind is to open your eyes to read, open your hands to try, open your mind to new ideas, and open your heart to being a kid again.

How to see possibilities: Open your eyes to read. Open your hands to try. Open your mind to new ideas. Open your heart to being a kid again.

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

Over the weekend, I read an article in The Atlantic about educational escape rooms.

The central idea of these is that students must uncover content-based clues to unlock a box in order to resolve a situation. I learnt that these in turn were based on recreational escape rooms designed by the Japanese in 2007.

The article was intriguing in itself, but I liked even more a quote from a paper that it linked to.

Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write reflectively about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.

The paper was by Chickering and Ehrmann* in 1996. This was a message from 20 years ago and is still relevant now. So much of what we still do with “educational” technology is about answering instead about questioning, consuming instead of creating, and rushing instead of reflecting.

Each and every learner should not just be engaged with technology. Trying to engage is a function of teaching. Learners need to be empowered to participate because learning is not done from the sidelines. Learners must be involved, take ownership, and be intrinsically motivated.

*Chickering, Arthur and Stephen C. Ehrmann (1996), “Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever,” AAHE Bulletin, October, pp.  3-6.

This week I read two seemingly unconnected articles, one about US politics and the other about cultural literacy. I link them both and connect them to questions about schooling.

The first was a Wired article that contrasted the plans of Clinton and Trump as they drummed up support for their campaigns.

…you can learn a lot juxtaposing the optics of the campaign speeches Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave last week on the future of the economy. While Clinton spoke from the center of a tech hub in Denver, surrounded by millennials tapping away on MacBooks, Trump addressed a crowd inside a scrap metal factory in a Pennsylvania steel town, standing before a wall of crushed aluminum cans.

Before either candidate spoke, they’d cast two opposing visions. In Clinton’s, the economy hinges on investing in technology and the industries of tomorrow. In Trump’s, it depends upon reviving the industries of yesterday. Both aspire to create jobs. But one has a chance of achieving that goal, because history shows that industries survive the future only by embracing it.

Two potential country (and world) leaders outlined plans, one designed with the now and future in mind, and the other based on the nostalgic but increasingly irrelevant past.

The second article was also US-centric. It was a cutting analysis of how an older generation might accuse a younger generation of not having enough cultural capital.

However, using #‎BeckyWithTheBadGrades as an example, the author reasoned that the opposite was also true. Adults are just as ignorant of the culture of their children. A case in point:

By the same token, teachers are sometimes unable to connect with their students’ world views.

By some distorted reasoning, we expect the next generation to embrace the past — and they should cherish the good bits — but we do not acknowledge their now in order to help them shape their future. The author described schooling like this:

We might think of schooling as teaching the prior generation's knowledge so that youth are prepared to communicate on an equal footing with those they are about to join in the economic and civic spheres. -- Robert Pondiscio

Is our schooling entrenched in the past? Is it led by leaders looking in the wrong direction?

More importantly, if we see the disconnects, what do we strive to learn and what do we do to address these gaps?

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