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Posts Tagged ‘lines

I have learnt not to place too much hope in hopeful headlines. Headlines like Universities, polytechnics, ITEs reviewing curriculum for a ‘new way’ of teaching, learning: Lawrence Wong.

I will say this first: Journalists parse what they read and/or hear from sources (in this case, the new Education Minister, Mr Lawrence Wong) and in doing so simplify in an attempt to connect to the reader. However, this not always a wise move because nuance can get lost.

I react to the article paragraph by paragraph.

Consider a claim in the first paragraph that the authorities will “rethink how education can be better delivered”. A person’s education is not something you can package and pay for like a Grab Food order. It is certainly not something that can be delivered.

To be educated is to be challenged with meaningful problems, subject to failure, and be empowered to find solutions. It is not just about consuming new content or having new experiences from textbooks, courseware, or professors. The latter are somewhat packable and therefore deliverable, but the former are not.

Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary
The article also uses the terms interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary interchangeably. A byline uses interdisciplinary while a quote from the minister uses multidisciplinary. They are not the same thing.

Most current degrees require students to take many subjects to get a diploma. Their courses are multidisciplinary. But their implementation is unlikely to be interdisciplinary, i.e., integration of subjects that is a result of combined planning, implementation, and assessment from faculty in different silos.

Then there is the uncritical use of “disrupt”: “…the closure of schools during the circuit breaker in April and May to restrict activities and curb the spread of Covid-19 may have disrupted learning”. University teaching might have been interrupted, stopped, or shaken, but learning continues regardless.

Teaching is not learning. Teaching does not guarantee learning even though the latter is desired. Learning happens regardless of official or recognised teaching figures. You need only look back a few months to recall what and how people learnt while in lockdown.

Analytics, automation, AI
Here is a claim that worries me more than it gives me hope:

The Ministry of Education (MOE) now has a “renewed interest” in the role of technology in education, he said.

“And it goes beyond just putting some content online and having remote learning. There is a lot of potential, for example, in using data analytics and artificial intelligence to allow for automated grading.

Yes, there is a much potential… for misuse! One need only read about and learn from the IB and GCSE/GCE fiascos to see what I mean.

What also worries me is the oft cited “automated grading”. This seems to be a focus on efficiency instead of effectiveness. It is not wrong to be as efficient as possible since timely feedback to students on their performance is key to learning. But such quick grading is currently formulaic and simplistic (e.g., answers to multiple-choice questions). This is no where near the complexity of evaluating essays, projects, portfolios, or performances.

Blended learning
I did not find anything new about blended learning in the article. The article tried to make it sound new: “It also requires teachers and instructors to come alongside and be trained in this new way of teaching”.

Blended teaching and learning are not new. They are also not just about combining what happens face-to-face with online activities. Blending has far more dimensions than the mode of instruction and learning. Content, teaching strategies, resource, assessment, and other elements can be blended.

Screen time and addiction
Then there was the usual but unjustified reference to “excessive screen time, digital addiction”. The critiques against the uncritical use of screen time and addiction are numerous and elaborate, but here is a condensed version: 1) The quantity of screen time is not the issue, the quality of the activity is more important, and 2) Addiction is a very specific psychological condition and should not be bandied about to fear monger.

The private sector
The minister mentioned that the private sector could provide industry-relevant contexts and checks. I agree.

He also said that they could be training providers. University faculty can and should learn from industrial partners. But not all trainers are pedagogues. They might not have the background, experience, and research literacy to teach or offer advice on teaching in university contexts.

For goodness sake
The minister’s concluding remarks included this:

…learning can be for good. We also want to learn to be better human beings, to be better husbands and wives, to be better fathers and mothers to our children…

I say we focus primarily on that. It is the most noble, important, and complex to do. The rest are red lines we might not need to cross. But education for the sake of goodness needs to be underlined in red several times.

Video source

The video above provides insights into what graphs about COVID-19 tell us and what they do not. It is a lesson on critical analysis.

One takeaway from the video might be this: The numbers do not lie, but people do. You can use numbers to tell the story you want. So it is important for all of us to learn to read in between the lines.

Consider another aspect of COVID-19 — the search for a therapy. The latest drug to emerge with potential for treating patients is remdesivir.

Remdesivir is an experimental anti-viral drug manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Gilead. The drug interferes with the replication of corona viruses by mimicking an RNA nucleotide (a building block for the virus).

Remdesivir was initially used on a compassionate case basis. So what is there to read in between the lines? The first line is an initial study and the second is another study.

Remdesivir did not provide statistically significant therapy in the first study. The sample size of patients was also too low, but it hinted that those who were treated earlier seemed to benefit.

The second study was larger and claimed that “… more than 1,000 patients showed those given remdesivir improved after an average of 11 days, compared with an average of 15 days for those not given the treatment”.

So we have found a cure, have we not? Remdesivir is not our trump card yet. We have several unknowns:

It might highly depend on when and at what stage of the infection patients receive the drug. We can say it is currently not clear who is benefitting from remdesivir. Is it helping patients who would have recovered anyway, recover quicker? Is remdesivir more beneficial for younger compared [with] older patients? At what stage of the infection does treatment yield the best outcomes?

A layperson needs to read these in between the lines.

  • The two studies cannot be compared because they do not have the same designs.
  • When the drug is administered might be important in speeding up recovery (earlier is better)
  • The confounding variables are not accounted for, i.e., people may recover for reasons other than the treatment.
  • The drug might help people recover faster but it does not prevent people from dying.

A brutal way of thinking about the last point is that the people who recover will do so faster with the help of remdesivir; the ones who will die will do so even if they receive the drug.

So a graph can show or it can hide. It does so at the will and whim of those who illustrate with numbers. Scientific studies are typically written not to hide, but they can be hard to understand in terms of language and interpretation of results. This is why we need basic science literacy — so we can read in between the lines of a graph or a paragraph.

When does a game stop being a movie and vice versa? That was the question that many gamers and observers asked when the The Last Of Us was released.

That question remains unanswered with the trailer for The Last Of Us 2.

Video source

Teens from the Fine Bros series reacted to the trailer and were suitably impressed and were raring to play the next iteration.

Video source

What is the big deal? You will need to watch this 20-part teens react to gaming series.

Video playlist

I watched this series play out all of last year and was taken by the storyline and the gamers’ reactions.

Again, when does a game stop being a movie and vice versa? Not just in the design of the game, but also in that of the trailer?

This is a good blurring of the lines because the audience members become participants and can interact by making choices. This seems like a natural extension enabled by technology.

I wonder how comfortable people would be if the same happened with gaming and education. I am not referring to the oft misunderstood “gamification” of teaching. I am thinking about the evolution of actual game-based learning. This should also be anatural extension of what we do as enabled by technology.


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