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Posts Tagged ‘lesson

I dislike noise that prevents me from concentrating and thinking. Given that I do a fair amount of my work on the move in public transport or in cafes, I face a lot of noise.

Even libraries are not immune from interference because the quiet space makes even page flips, periodic sniffling, or inconsiderate talking seem loud.

So I invested in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, the Bose QuietComfort 25, almost two years ago.

Video source

This pair of headphones is expensive, but I did not realise that I would have to pay an additional SGD49 so far each year to maintain them. This is not some insurance or other fee. This is the cost of replacement Bose ear cups.

The ear cups do not seem to be made for Singapore’s humidity. The photo shows what one of my old pairs looks like. I have not made them look worse. The photo shows the literal wear and tear from just putting the headphones on and off repeatedly.

Wear and tear of a pair of Bose QC25 ear cups.

I suppose that the company assumed that someone who bought the headphones would only wear them in a plane or in an air-conditioned office.

I already have two pairs of ear cups that have similar damage and my current third pair has just started showing the typical signs of wear and tear.

My receipts remind me that in October 2015 and May 2016, I visited a brick-and-mortar store in town to get replacements. This year I wised up. I read an article about Alibaba’s 11/11 online specials and searched Lazada’s offerings (Alibaba bought Lazada earlier in 2016).

I found the same ear cups from Lazada for a lot less. At the time of my purchase, I paid SGD8.60 for a replacement pair. My wallet felt relief from the savings and I felt stupid for paying so much in the past.

As is my habit, I wondered if there was a lesson for those of us in schooling and education.

I learnt my lesson. But can the same be said of schools or universities that keep buying and maintaining hardware and software that they underutilise or not use at all? I am thinking about “special” rooms or labs, “interactive” white boards, LMS which are neither about learning nor managing, and more.

In my case, I found something I needed for less by responding to timely information. But schools and other educational institutions spend so much more on the unnecessary. They listen uncritically to vendors and companies that do not process educational research or speak with authority.

So they spend foolishly like I used to. I have learnt my lesson. Have they?

[Full disclosure: I have not been paid by Bose or Lazada to mention them.]

I was writing in Evernote recently when I copied information from email into a note. I had done this many times before, but this time I was copying into the web version of Evernote because the free version limited the app to two devices.

For reasons unknown to me, the formatted text removed everything in my notes except for the first two lines. Evernote synced this across all my devices and I lost several weeks of writing.

A while ago I could have retrieved my notes on some other device. I could have also visited the history of the note and rolled back to an earlier state.

But not in the current version of Evernote. I had to pay to access my notes offline or to go back in note time.

It was pay or redo a lot of work. I could not possibly remember everything I wrote — that is why I took notes — so I resorted to paying for a year’s premium subscription.

I could not even pay a bit less for the mid-tier plan (the plus plan) because it did not offer the note history tool.

I felt like victim of ransomware — malware that prevents you from accessing your files or data until you pay up for a key to unlock it.

The premium plan was USD57.98 a year. Fortunately, I remembered an email message in June offering a 50% discount. The deadline had elapsed, but I found that the offer was still valid. So while I paid less, I still paid up.

It was a painful reminder to use more reliable tools. I will be moving some active writing elsewhere and will probably use Evernote for archiving in future.

Evernote’s logo is an elephant because the pachyderms never forget. I am not forgetting this warning and lesson.

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Amira Willighagen has an amazing talent for singing opera. What might be even more amazing is her claim that she taught herself how to do this by watching YouTube videos.

The video above was recorded when she was 11-years-old. Before that, she won Holland’s Got Talent in 2013. [performance] [result]

Video source

When she was nine, she was already an accomplished performer on stage in front of 10,000 people. How did she learn that?

There might be some things she could learn from videos by mimicking and practising. There are others that videos alone cannot nurture. However, there is something that drives both. Amira put it plainly:

The important thing to sing opera is that you like it, because if you don’t like it, then it’s not fun.

The same could be said with learning any other skill or content.

Fun does not mean easy. Singing opera well alone, during a contest, or in front of 10,000 people is not easy. Like many worthwhile things in life, it is difficult. But difficult does not have to mean miserable.

Learning can and should be fun. Kids might be engaged with fun, but they should be empowered with finding solutions to difficult yet meaningful fun. Amira’s effort is an extreme example of the latter.

Can teachers learn to have and design fun? Or is this too difficult? Would they like a video series on how to do this?

Side note: If there is suspicion that Amira is actually a really youthful 47-year-old soprano, watch the video to the end where she shares her thoughts about chocolate cake and ends her singing with a priceless facial expression.

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?

One of my son’s favourite Pokémons is Lickitung. So when one hatched from a Pokémon Go egg, I decided to make an animated GIF of it (it needs to move for you to get the full effect).

Lickitung animated GIF.

But how did I create the GIF given that the Pokémon Go app does not have an export function?

There are many options and this is what I did. First, display and capture the animation, then convert the animation to a GIF.

To display and capture, I mirrored my iPhone with AirServer on my Mac. I used AirServer to capture a few seconds of the movement as a MOV file.

To convert the MOV to a GIF I Googled “mov to gif” and found several online tools. I tried five tools and settled on because it did not ask for email information, request to link to Dropbox or Google Drive, or change browser settings. It also had powerful image editing features like cropping, splitting, and overlaying.

The lesson is not about Lickitung, as cute and as disturbing as this Pokémon might be. This is also not about promoting the tools I used. The lessons are:

  • Learning by doing
  • Learning just-in-time
  • Using tools that respect your privacy
  • Openly sharing what you learn
  • Using a memorable hook

Making decisions informed by fact rather than feeling is a good thing. However, some people misinterpret what is means to make data-informed decisions.

A retired and naturalised Singaporean footballer released his biography recently. The press picked up his criticism of the Football Association of Singapore.

Duric reportedly said:

Unfortunately, too many people involved in running Singapore football don’t understand football anywhere near as well as they understand spreadsheets.

The ex-footballer accused decision makers of bean-counting and not being in touch with the sport. The regulating agency gave a template response that we have come to expect.

Regulating and controlling bodies make decisions in schooling and education too. With the stakes so high, they often rely on hard data. But they are not immune from bean-counting disease.

Making informed decisions is not just about getting good data. People make up the numbers in budgets, attendance, and votes. It is easy to hide behind the numbers and to manipulate outcomes in spreadsheets. It is a lot harder to meet the people, listen to them, and do what is best for them.

What is best for teachers and students can run counter to what is in a spreadsheet. A bean counter will insist the spreadsheet is right. A change maker will grind those beans and have coffee with the people that matter. 

Netflix dropped a happy bomb at the start of 2016. Almost the whole world can now enjoy the golden age of online-streamed television.

Apparently the response in hyperconnected Singapore has been mixed. This should come as no surprise as segments of the press, bloggers, and online forums have long provided how-tos on accessing Netflix US via VPN services*.

People go for the US offering because some shows are not available here. This article provides a comparison.

What are some reminders or lessons from this for school leaders and teachers who are integrating technology?

Technology is rarely the rate determining step. Instead it is what pushes, pulls, and leads. Technology creates possibilities, but not opportunities, because it is held back by policies, regulations, or rights.

With Netflix, each country will have different policies on viewer age ratings, adhere to varying censorship regulations, and have separate access rights to television programming. VPN services provide an access workaround*.

Likewise the context of each school, classroom, or learning environment is different from the one next door. All are drawn to the promises and potential of technology, but only a few individuals within each system will keep pace with the technology and resist being held back by policies, regulations, or rights.

These people find workarounds when there are no clear paths. They forge ahead to problem-seek and problem-solve. These are the rebels, the creatives, and the innovators.

Sadly, most systems ignore and even punish this group of people instead of supporting and rewarding them. This is not entirely the systems fault. Teachers tend to be nurturers who do not wish to promote themselves or what they do. If they do not stand out and share, others cannot be faulted for not recognising them.

So if you are a leader, look beyond the surface for innovation and create conditions for hidden talent to show itself. If you are a teacher, show off not for yourself but for the good of your students and your profession.

Above all, do not let the status quo hold you back. Change happens on the backs of those willing to push forward.

*Update: We will wait and see what develops as Netflix tries to block VPNs.

Netflix has transformed from bit player to a major one. It has challenged the practices of what is means to broadcast. It will now be challenged.

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