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Posts Tagged ‘learning

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.

I shared this cryptic tweet during the last #edsg fortnightly chat.

We had been focusing on the possible “game”-based changes to the Primary mathematics syllabus in Singapore.

I use “game” because what a teacher might understand as a game is not necessarily what students experience as gamers. A drill-and-practice “game” might be a welcome addition to the teacher toolbox, but it is not necessarily a game as the child understands it.

Hence, Godin’s blog entry was timely, specifically this part:

That’s why it’s so important to understand the worldview and biases of the person you seek to influence, to connect with, to delight. And why the semiotics and stories we produce matter so much more than we imagine.

Another dimension of differing world views is the focus of the activity. To a teacher, it is MATH game; to kids, it is a math GAME. For an adult, the game is for learning a math principle; for a child, the game is for racking up points, being the fastest, or topping the charts.

The students are likely to enjoy game initially because of the novelty effect. They might even participate over a longer term because of the extrinsic rewards provided by gamification tools (which are not game-based learning).

Neither a reliance on novelty and extrinsic drive are desirable because a teacher might be forced to take part in the race to hyper stimulate and entertain.

If a teacher does not get forced into the “engage them” race, it is because students soon realise that drill-and-practice is not really a game and they reject this practice.

Adults rarely get into the child’s headspace when trying to plan activities that are supposed to be good for kids. So here are three guiding and core questions (as contextualised in game-based learning):

  1. What does the child think (is a game/about gaming)?
  2. How do they think (as they game)?
  3. What can I design based on sound educational psychology principles and rigorous research?

For the good of kids, we need to focus on what is good for kids. We start with a focus on kids, not curricula, syllabi, assessments, or policy. To be learner-centred, you have to be kid-centred first.

I am often asked what the differences are between the flipped classroom and flipped learning. I have mentioned a few important distinctions in my presentations and reflections. Now I share one more.

The design of the flipped classroom is likely to be place-based. Conversations tend to start with “Outside the classroom, I would like students to…” while “Inside the classroom, they should…”. There is nothing wrong with this provided the activities outside and inside the classroom are strategic, well-designed, and meaningful.

The problem with this approach might be that teachers do not really change the way they teach. For example, they could still only be delivering content outside the classroom and not building upon it inside. This approach might also limit what students do: They do only as the teacher dictates.

Flipped learning is about transferring the responsibility and ownership of learning to students. It is about motivating students to create content, to teach themselves, and to teach others. It is nurturing more independent and self-directed learners.

The creating of content and teaching is not limited to the outside or inside of the classroom. It happens in both because there are no silos of activities but a continuum of effort. Flipped learning is a realisation of the anytime-anywhere promise of technology.

Flipped learning goes against the grain of time tables, fixed curricula, academic grouping of students, and other artificial constructs of schooling. It leverages on the natural inclinations of learners when these constructs are not put in front of them. That might be why it is so much easier to flip the classroom than to flip the learning.

The best way to learn is to make something, not take it.

Much of teacher professional development in pedagogy still focuses on showing teachers how to do various things that their students can take away. For example, think about the how-tos on better slides, more thorough rubrics, and more “engaging” activities. These put the control and learning in the hands and minds of teachers.

Teachers already know that the best way to learn is to teach. This is how they become content and skills experts. As they do this, they forget what it is like to be a learner and to struggle with learning.

Teachers need to relearn how people learn. For example:

They also need to learn how take advantage of the fact that their students are already reading, writing, and creating in platforms like social media. For example:

I have written previously about why it is important to flip who the content creator and teacher are. Briefly, the reasons include:

  • Activating mental schema
  • Visualising thinking
  • Processing and reprocessing content
  • Creating cognitive dissonance
  • The audience effect
  • The proximity effect
  • Providing direct, purposeful experiences

All these (and more) contribute to what teacher educators call active learning processes. Teachers know this latently, but often resort to formulaic teacher talk because that is how they were taught and it seems efficient.

Such didactic thinking is losing currency in a world where you can learn in a click or a tap. Learners will not stand (or sit) for it. Why should they when can learn it online at their own time or at a tuition centre on paid time?

What teachers might fail to realise is that passive consumption is a result of spoon-feeding. It takes little or no effort on the part of the students and they become dependent on it. They become so dependent that teachers often tell me this is sometimes the biggest barrier to change, even bigger than high-stakes exams, fixed curricula, or unsupportive school culture.

So what is a teacher to do? Stop. Stop simply giving so that students take. Make them make. Teach them to think, share, critique, and reflect.

You cannot take a difference. You can only make a difference.

I sold some items recently with the help of a mobile tool and it reminded me of the importance of do-it-yourself (DIY) education.

I went on a technology device purge of late, not because I suddenly went mad, but because I had too many items.

In my household, I had a distinctly first world problem of having a device to person ratio of 4 or 5 to 1. When several devices I had lent to people were returned to me recently, that ratio went up.

Apple iPad 2.

The devices were the ones that my borrowers decided not to buy. So I sold three Apple laptops, one Android slate, a wifi device, and an Apple TV. I still have an iPad, a multimedia box, and a spare, brand new router that are advertised in my Carousell space. (Full disclosure: This is not an advertisement for Carousell. I am not paid to write this for them.)

Some of the money I recouped has gone into replacing my wife’s Macbook Air. That way I do not introduce another device to our family.

At first I thought I would trade-in the old laptops in order to pay a lower price for a newer one at an Apple reseller, Nubox. It seemed convenient, but I soon found out that they were crooks who offered very little for the items.

I revisited Carousell, a mobile and online platform for buying and selling items, despite the hassle it can generate.

My Carousell space.

I have to take my own photos, write my own advertisements, and deal with in influx of questions, comments, and even the occasional attack. I then have to arrange to meet buyers and sell the items. I also have to deal with people who can get nasty or stupid along the way.

However, I sold the laptops for more than twice what Nubox offered. People know value when they see it. A company is only out to help itself. (By the way, the sales staff at Nubox were ruder and more unpleasant than the people I have negotiated with online.)

Texting Congress 1 by afagen, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  afagen 

As I view practically everything through an educator’s lens, I likened my experience to someone who had to decide whether to learn by someone else’s rules or by defining their own.

When schooled, you do not have to think about outcomes, curriculum, resources, support, or assessment. All that is taken care of by an institution as long as you pay them to do it. Such a process is more efficient and convenient, but you have to ask yourself if it is effective and worth the cost.

More independent and self-directed learners, on the other hand, have the Carousell-equivalent of making arrangements for their own learning. But I would wager that they would learn more than just content. They would shape context and walk away with more skills than they bargained for.

The reality is that we learn from a mixture of both extremes. However, we tend to rely on organised schooling a lot more than DIY learning. Even as adults, it is easier to let someone else decide what we learn. Conventional teacher “professional development” is a good example.

If we want to distance ourselves from one-size-fits-all approaches, then we must first experience what self-organised, DIY learning is like. Then only can we show our learners how to do the same.

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