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Posts Tagged ‘learning

Don't say

Earlier this week I mentioned to two people that I think that “lifelong learning” is often misused.

What some people mean by that phrase is actually continuous training (which is linked to compliance) and skills upgrading (which is linked to productivity). Both of these are more like schooling.

If we are honest about it, we do not learn very much from school. Try to remember what you learnt in school or what you really use now that you picked up from school. Not much.

You learnt much more outside of the confines of school or school-like environments. If we are to truly learn over a lifetime, it is to self-actualise and to educate ourselves. It is not to be schooled.

School did not teach me to state and share the CC photo with which I created this image quote. I learnt about CC after graduate school and taught myself to do this.

When I hear teachers talk about “connected learning” I ask for examples. If they have any, their stories sometimes tell me they do not understand and practice connected learning.

One story might read like this. As a teacher, I collect the best work of my students and share it via photos at a class website, Instagram account, or Pinterest board.

Another story goes like this. I ask for contacts somewhere else in the world to Skype with. After a fair bit of “Can you hear me? Can you see us?”, we have a “cultural exchange”. Sometimes this is a wonderful showcase; most times we do this once or twice a year.

Still another story, and an increasingly common one at that, is “Yes, I’m on Twitter!” and “I tweet around events!”.

None of these are good examples of connected learning in my books.

A teacher who shares student work is being more open and that is good. But openness is not the same as being connected. You have to be open enough first to want to connect, but that does not ensure connectedness.

If that same teacher does not encourage or even prevents her students from sharing their work on their own, then that teacher has not enabled connected learning. That teacher might have opened selective student work to others, but she has not opened channels for communication and collaboration.

Such channels should be open any time, every time, and all the time. Using Skype periodically gives teachers control over such “connections”, but that does not allow learners to legitimately and authentically connect with each other.

Teachers who mistakenly think that once in a blue moon Skyping is connected learning should ask themselves: Is the show of connection more important than the natural curiosity and social interaction kids have?

Putting on a show is, sadly, becoming more common in the edu-Twitterverse. I meet people who are Twitter zombies in that they come alive only when it suits them intermittently instead of giving to others continuously.

We should all question what connected learning means because there rarely is a shared understanding or practice. In 2014, I highlighted four aspects of connectedness (infrastructure, social, content, wider world). Some aspects might be obvious, some not. But they help question the assumptions we make about “being connected”.


The flipped classroom swaps WHAT happens WHERE. Flipped learning changes WHO does WHAT.

After I help participants define the flipped classroom and flipped learning, I summarise by saying this: The flipped classroom swaps WHAT happens WHERE. Flipped learning changes WHO does WHAT.

That is not to say that the two concepts and practices do not overlap. I also try to illustrate how they do.

Three dimensions of flipping.

Nevertheless, I still advise teachers to flip so that students create content and peer teach. These are among the best ways to learn and based on sound pedagogical principles.

Both creating content and teaching are forms of visible thinking and visible learning.

Creating content externalises mental schema so that a teacher can diagnose and remediate misconceptions.

Teaching requires learners to process and reprocess content. It takes advantage of the proximity that learners have with one another in terms of their experiences, language, and examples. It brings order to the messiness of learning and provides an audience for learners to practice on.

It has been a flipping good start to 2016. Tomorrow I conduct my fourth flipped learning event at a partner institute.

I revisited some of my previous resources, and never content to rest on my laurels, decided to update some of them with newer references and tighter reasoning.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

I plan on using several quotes to provoke thought and create some dissonance. This quote is my favourite of the bunch and I am glad that someone generously shared a near perfect photo of neat and messy clothes.

I am fond of saying it the other way around: Learning is messy; teaching is neat. I swapped the positions of the phrases to suit the photo.

I will share this saying to make a point. One reason why teaching does not lead to learning is because the teacher does not understand or tolerate the messiness of learning.

Teachers are likely to have achieved some order from the chaos in order to gain expertise. They try to maintain this order because everything in schooling is about neatly arranged curricula, tests, and grades.

Most teachers rely on strategies that they have been taught, e.g., deliver, practice, homework, test. If teachers reflect critically on how they know content so well, they might realise that they learnt and mastered content by teaching it.

To teach something well is to first deeply relate to it. This is the initial level of complex processing. Most teachers cycle through these processes with their students when they teach. They might not realise that to teach that content to someone else requires another level of even more complex reprocessing. That is what leads to mastery because it is one form of authentic use of the content.

This is one reason why I maintain that teaching to learn is one of the three dimensions of flipped learning. A flipped classroom might take learners through the first cycle of learning; it does not necessarily challenge them with the second cycle. So I challenge teachers to reflect critically on this and to change their mindsets on what constitutes effective design and instruction.

This article tried to distinguish between individualisation and personalisation of learning.

It cited Couros and Zhao separately that individualisation was giving a learner different means to the same end while personalisation was letting a learner choose a different end.

I say you can call it personalisation or individualisation because the immediate semantics do not provide immediate clues to such nuanced differences. Just make sure others know whether you are providing learners a choice of different journey or/and destination.

I love conducting workshops for organisations that embrace change and take steps to move forward. Sometimes, however, it feels like hit-and-runs as I pollinate one flower after another.

Other times I am invited to return a few times to repollinate. This might happen because I inform participants and any leaders that might be present that change efforts are multi-pronged. While there are key leverage points (like staff professional development), systemic change requires systemic effort.

At least one group took my advice to get their leaders and administrators in on the flipped learning movement. The rationale for doing this was simple: How could they support what they could not relate to?

Last Friday, I conducted a workshop that was specially arranged for leaders, managers, and administrators of the organisation. There were educators and dual-role folks, of course, but it was a rose by a different name.

Working with such a group can be challenging especially if members do not have a strong educational background. But I was pleasantly surprised by how much they took away from the session (see screen capture below of some of their takeaways).

My workshop was designed to provide flipped classroom and flipped learning experiences, deconstruct the experiences, and rise above to catch important concepts that bubbled to the surface. The leaders did not miss several important messages on change afforded by flipping:

  • Experience the change; do not just hear about it
  • Provide support or do not get in the way
  • Shape policies in terms of appraisal, student evaluation of teaching, workload, reward mechanisms
  • Build community, do not just make policy

While it is wonderful to see a few organisations take the lead, it is just as terrifying to see how many more moonwalk. They make forward motion but actually walk backward. This was cool and impressive for Michael Jackson; it is not for educational institutes.

Video source

To keep my own morale up, I will avoid the latter group like Venus Fly Traps. Here is to more flipping good flowers!

Reunion dinners during the Lunar New Year are ripe for conversations that are inane and mundane.

Two people at my table started talking about how my son inherited my flat feet. As if to go one up, my wife worried that she might have passed her thalassaemia to him.

Forget the inane and mundane, we were downright depressing!

At that point, my now ancient Biology background kicked into gear. I almost shared how some scientists have postulated that blood-related conditions like thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia might be evolutionary survival strategies.

These states are not life-threatening to people under non-extreme circumstances. They also happen to provide unfavourable conditions for agents of disease. For example, sickle cell tends to be endemically high in populations in malarial hotspots because the condition affords some resistance to malaria.

I almost shared it. I decided not to because very few appreciate unsolicited information.

Then I asked myself: When does a teaching moment become a learning one?

A teachable moment is one that good teachers recognise and grab intuitively. But just because a teacher senses a moment does not mean the learner shares the same head space.

What makes a teachable moment a learning one?

Not attention, the over-cited engagement, or even juicy information nuggets. These are what the teacher thinks is important and tries to create.

Questions matter. Not questions from the teacher, but questions from the learner. Questions that come right before the teachable moment and questions that follow. These show that the learner is vested in the problem or process.

Need an example? I think that @genrwong’s recent reflection on the butterfly effect is an excellent one. It illustrates perfectly how the context and questions come first and that the teachable moment is a response to these elements.

More teachers need to take advantage or create such teachable moments. They remind us what the best forms of teaching take: A question-based pedagogy, not an answer-based one.

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