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Posts Tagged ‘learning

Yes, learning as social, not learning is social. There are times when each person learns alone and some believe that is when they learn best.

However, we probably learn better in social contexts. These are opportunities to get new information, negotiate it, internalise it as new knowledge or reshape schema, and make that learning visible.

Learning as a social endeavour is not new. Educational philosophers, researchers, and thought leaders have left an on-going legacy of social constructivism, social constructionism, and connectivism.

Connectivism is particularly relevant in the Internet-connected age. Knowledge does not just reside in the nodes (individuals) but also in the links (social connections). You are more knowledgeable if you have more connections, not more content. 

Learning as social is often described and applied in pedagogy (e.g., group work) and andragogy (e.g., exploring shared experiences) of young and adult learners respectively. How about much older learners?

I loved this MSN article on Singapore’s senior citizen Pokémon players.

These are the uncles and aunties who seem to have taken over the PoGo playground and gyms after impatient kids abandoned them.

I have met and interacted with my fair share of PoGo aunties and uncles. They are generally a gentle breed and fond of mentoring newbies — their peers or juniors — and offering unsolicited advice to strangers.

I recall an incident at a level 4 raid in which other players and I gathered at a heartland venue that coincidentally looked the circular PoGo gym. I was not successful with my raid and an uncle across from me offered a strategy after the fact. I had not heard this strategy before. But the next day, that same strategy was mentioned an expert on YouTube.

Old age and treachery will always overcome youthfulness and skill.

Now some might say that the uncle’s strategy was a result of this adage: Old age and treachery will always overcome youthfulness and skill. This might assume some individual sneakiness. It was not and is not.

The uncle was with his posse and they were chatting like any group of players do. They were learning as social. That is how they learnt best and shared what they knew. They learnt so fast that even a YouTuber had not shared that idea.

The strategy was shared socially and spread by word of mouth and type of social media. Do not underestimate learning as social.

I discovered an unexpected source of ideas for flipped learning. It is a video of a teacher trolling his students after he banned them from flipping bottles.

Video source

At first glance, the teacher might come across as the embodiment of “do as I say, but not as I do”. After all, he did not want his students flipping bottles and did so himself.

Viewed through the lens of YouTube entertainment, the teacher was not only a master troll, he was also aware of memes and what connected with his learners. Even the groan-worthy references were gems.

Viewed through the lens of education, the video was a good example of practice, creative endeavour, and content creation.

The practice of bottle flipping required not just elbow grease, but also experimentation to determine the right amount of water. I have no doubt that there was much failure footage left out of the final video.

The teacher kept flipping bottles just like teachers might try flipping their classrooms. However, routine with both gets old quickly. Since the flipped classroom is still largely reliant on the teacher as driver, the teacher must design and lead interesting journeys. The teacher provided creative variations and levelled up the difficulty of bottle flipping. The same could be said about flipping classrooms.

The most important idea is that of having the agency to create content. This is one principle that distinguishes the flipped classroom from flipping learning. Learners must be empowered to create content so that they make their thinking visible, are teaching their peers, and acting on the feedback they receive. Only then does the flipped classroom transform to one that embraces flipped learning.

Bonus: This viral video also illustrated one strategy for creating videos for flipped learning. Every learner should show only what is critical. They do not need to create epic movies. They should be creating trailers that leave their peers wanting more.

Yesterday I spotted this sign near where I stay.

A warning sign & a cry for help #english #grammar

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

In proper English, the sign might read: “Danger – spoilt seat. Please don’t sit.”

Despite the broken English, most of us still get the message. Why?

We are probably mentally flexible enough to bend the rules to understand what the sign intended. Just as likely, the warning tape was a visual cue and physical barrier.

The bottom line is that you get the message in spite of the poor English. Something else helps send and enforce that message.

This reminds me of lecturers who insist that students can learn deeply from didactic teaching. The students learn not because of a lecture, but in spite of it.

In higher education, students learn more outside the lecture. They visit the library to research, read quietly, and edit their notes. They form study groups, meet with faculty or tutors, and might even pay for remedial tuition. They Google for information and search YouTube for videos.

I get anecdotal confirmation of this every semester when I conduct classes for university students.

You might think of this as the 80:20 “rule” of learning. The actual proportion is not important nor is it that precise. The point is that deeper and more meaningful learning is often a result of what students do, not what the lecturers do.

In the working or corporate world, there is the 70:20:10 rule. The learning opportunities are hands-on work, learning from others, and formal professional development. Again the ratios are not absolute or fixed, and the point is that learning socially and on the run are key.

The fact is that much more effort to learn is spent outside the classroom or training venue than inside of it. This is because the other contexts are more fitting, opportune, or otherwise meaningful for learning.

Our students do not necessarily learn because we teach. They learn in spite of what we do. This is a humbling thought and we need to focus on where, when, how, and why they learn, not just what they learn or who they learn it from.

Routine. It is repeated, expected, and scheduled, so it feels safe. Just take as examples your typical commute to school or work, and once you are there, the mostly routine nature of schooling and work.

But therein lies the insidious harm of routine. Your brain switches off as you operate in autopilot. This is fine if you are a robot and your circumstances do not change. But you are a learning creature and learning is about responding to change.

Jedidiah Jenkins recognised this decided to make an extreme move. He quit his job and cycled from Oregon, USA, to the southern tip of South America.

Video source

From the blurb in the YouTube page and from the video:

When you’re a kid, everything is astonishing. Everything is new, and so your brain is awake and turned on … Once your brain establishes a routine, it stops … the alertness goes away

Once you’re an adult, that’s a choice… it’s about getting out of routine.

Routine is comforting, but too much of it is bad. It dulls your senses and it kills your joy for life.

Routine could also be the enemy of lifelong learning. It is the border wall that separates you from discovering and uncovering. It is the safe space that stops you from taking risks and embracing change.

But we do not have to do something as drastic as Jenkins. The key strategy to create discomfort or dissonance. We learn when we are pushed off balance and attempt to right ourselves or to go with the flow.

One way to learn like this is to read, watch, or listen to something everyday that challenges you. That is my routine: A routine of change.

I have read about the pushback against “personalised learning”, particularly in the USA, for a while. The latest is this article, Teachers’ Union Faces Backlash Over Publication on Personalized Learning.

It might seem strange that attempts to help learners are met with resistance from the people at the frontline of helping them. The rhetoric, and perhaps the possible reality, is that computers and corporatised solutions threaten the jobs of teachers.

The actual reality might be that there are other factors that reduce teaching positions, e.g., shrinking budgets, poor test scores, political mandates.

Singapore’s reality was and is our low birthrate. As a former faculty of Singapore’s only teacher preparation institute, I saw the demand for teachers plateau and now see it in gentle decline.

When I started educating teachers 20 years ago, I would hear preservice teachers occasionally remark during our ICT classes how computers were going to replace them. That did not happen then and ICT is not the cause now.

We have yet to “personalise” learning in the mainstream Singapore classroom as much as edtech vendors might like. We do not have computerised standardised testing like many schools in the USA.

Our personal and personalisable technology is stealthily hidden in students’ bags, locked away in carts, or white-elephanted in labs. ICT is still like good-to-have bottled water and not must-have tap water.

Our edtech vendors are thankfully not as aggressive or creative as enrichment tuition agencies. The latter offer a different sort of personalisation: Exchange money, drilling, and sweat for better grades, never mind if you actually learn anything.

So in the USA and Singapore, we have depersonalised personal learning. It is corporatised and mechanical ICT in the USA; it is the avoidance of meaningful ICT and being test smart here.

Have you ever wondered why some of the meat that we eat is not called what it was when it was alive?

Fish is fish, chicken is chicken, and duck is duck. However, cow is beef, pig is pork, and sheep is lamb or mutton.

I wondered why but it was never important enough to find out. That is, until YouTube suggested I watch this video.

Video source

Now I want to know why everything is named what it is. The makers of this video series and YouTube are there to tell me why the Earth’s continents have their names and why kiwi is a fruit, bird, and nationality.

This approach might be called serendipitous or incidental learning. Better still, accidental learning. A teacher does not have any teaching objectives (old school) or even learning outcomes (newer school). There is no plan or test.

The information about meat names is not particularly useful, but it is not useless either. There are more important lessons for teachers and learners.

For teachers, it is designing lessons that are fun or intriguing. These leverage on emotion and curiosity.

For learners, the lesson is about learning for its own sake. It is not about memorising facts but about enjoying them as well as the process of learning. It is constant, low pressure, and on demand.

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You are never too old to learn from the past, and to invent and inspire the future.

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You are never to old to learn from what is current and to create based on what you have now.

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