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Posts Tagged ‘learning


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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:

SET 1

  • 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?

SET 2

  • 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?

 
I was appalled when I read this article, For-Profit Coalition Seeks to Bolster the Flipped-Classroom Approach.

First it defined the flipped classroom like this:

A flipped classroom describes a wide range of educational methods, like just-in-time teaching, peer instruction, and the use of clickers.

It did not distinguish between the flipped classroom and flipped learning. JIT teaching and peer instruction can happen in both, but the former is critical in the flipped classroom and the latter is a key enabler of flipped learning.

How in the world did the “use of clickers” even get mentioned? My guess is the university context of lectures and trying to justify clickers as “interactive” or “participatory”. Clickers are neither and their novelty wears off quickly.

The only things flipping when I read the article were my finger and my stomach. All it had to do to flip my life switch off was to suggest LMS, interactive white boards, and smart rooms as means to flipping.

All these and clickers do little to change pedagogy. I have written for years how these constrain pedagogy or maintain outdated methods instead of encouraging progression.

The article also mentioned how the Flipped Learning Global Initiative would be charging a $5,000 annual fee for groups be identified as partners. Why do this? Errol St. Clair Smith, the director of this group said:

…the initiative’s leaders believe there is a $500-million market for products related to course flipping. They include training, software and hardware, and other services. They expect demand to grow to about $2.4 billion by 2020.

So that is what the effort is about: Taking advantage of a financial opportunity. Never mind that university faculty do not really change how they teach. Just sell them clickers. Lots of clickers.

Yesterday I responded to a query about how flipping drives discovery and student-directed learning.

Today I answer a question about how students might not discover the “right” content by discovering or Googling. I have a few responses.

The first is doing away with the notion that students “get it” only when a teacher delivers content. This is merely an illusion because there is no indication or confirmation that learning has happened.

My second response is that one way to be more certain about student learning is to get students to create content and to teach it. These processes help both students and teachers to see evidence of learning.

My third reply is that teaching wrong content happens anyway, not just in the flipped classroom or when you facilitate flipped learning. Both the student and teacher can be guilty of this. However, when the learning is visible the teacher can jump in and intervene.

Three dimensions of flipped learning.

This is why I include content creation and peer teaching in my model of flipped learning.

Peer teaching is something that instructors can do with strategies like think-pair-share, any variant of the jigsaw method, and class presentations. Content creation might be viewed as a prerequisite for this form of teaching. Without artefacts students have nothing to show during the tell.

However, content creation does not always have to be on the teacher scale or standard. The content that students create can also be externalisations or manifestations of what is in their minds. These can take the form of short reflections, practiced problems, recorded conversations, summary documents, etc.

My fourth response is to agree that simply copying and pasting Google search results may not be valuable learning. Most teachers tend to focus on content from an expert’s point of view. This is how they judge if content is good or not, and right or wrong. However, this is not how a learner processes information because s/he does not have structure.

The structure is put in place by thinking processes. So instead of just focusing on content (what artefacts students find and use), the teacher should also model processes of learning. For example:

  • How do I look for information?
  • How do I verify information or evaluate it?
  • How do I incorporate it into my own work?

This response is not unique to flipping. But a focus on process over product is particularly important in flipped learning because one desired outcome is students who are more independent learners.


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