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Posts Tagged ‘make

The two tweets I embed below are related.

My son spotted this fake LEGO set at a store last month. Buyers know it is fake, but because it looks like the real thing and is cheaper, they might purchase it anyway.

My second tweet was a brief statement about how some vendors have jumped on the bandwagon of Skills Future courses.

Relying on strategies of old, they dangled lucky draws and gifts, and made claims like being “free” or “paid for by the government”. The incentive to learn lifewide and lifelong seemed to focus on the extrinsic of rewards, cheap, or free.

How are the two examples related? Faking it is not the same as making it.

There is a quality to authentic LEGO that copiers find hard to replicate. One is something that LEGO calls clutch power. The look and feel might also not look and feel right.

By the newspaper report alone, some of the companies offering courses did not seem to focus on the relevance and quality of their Skills Future courses. They opted instead on marketing speak and gimmicks.

In both cases, the truth behind the facade might be revealed with a few key questions:

  • What is the reputation of the brand?
  • Where is the evidence of quality or timeliness?
  • How credible is the evidence of their work?

In the case of those that offer (or pretend) to teach:

  • What are their pedagogical models?
  • What rigorous research are their approaches based on?
  • How current are their offerings and approaches?
  • How transparent are their processes?

If these questions seem to require expertise outside your comfort zone or domain of knowledge, then simply listen to how they sell their ideas, ask probing questions, and listen some more.

Do they sound like they have done their homework and legwork? Was their homework something they heard at a conference or a single blog post from an expert far away? Do they seek to clarify or confuse? Do they sound like marketers or educators?

No single agency should be accountable to those that sell. We are all watchdogs now.

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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.

When Bloomberg posted an article titled Singapore wants kids to skip university: Good luck with that, it was click bait.

How could you not want to find out what Singapore was up to and wonder if such a socio-economic experiment could work?

It has worked elsewhere (i.e., Germany), so the question is not why (we have gone past that thanks to forecasting) and have moved on to how (albeit a bit late).

Bloomberg cited Pasi Sahlberg, who was in Singapore recently for a leadership conference.

“There is a clear international trend in the developed world to make vocational education a true choice for more young people,” said Pasi Sahlberg, a visiting professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The larger trend among developed countries is a glut in degree holders (too many graduates, not enough jobs) and/or poor fit (universities were not providing what industries needed).

If the USA is any indication, thought leaders are fond of pointing out that we might see the first generation of kids that will not be as well-employed or as financially well off as their parents.

The question is not “Can the non-degree strategy work?” but “How can we make it work?”.

Some changes to the system have already taken root.

Right here in Singapore, I learnt over closed conversations what initially seemed to be a surprising statistic. A top school here revealed that about 60% of its graduating cohort was entering polytechnics by choice instead of by circumstance.

Skills Future was launched this year as was an earn-and-learn programme. The civil service will provide equal opportunities for non-degree and degree holders alike [example].

We are not going to abandon the pursuit of degrees, but the charm offensive of promoting vocational and non-degree jobs has gone beyond rhetoric to implementation.

So far these designs and implementations are the domain of systems designers like politicians and economists. What can parents and teachers do?

Most parents are unlikely to let up on wanting degrees for their kids regardless of whether their offspring need degrees. Parental concern is what they are familiar with: A degree commands a higher starting salary. The thing to realize is that a degree no longer guarantees a job, much less a career.

The other thing to realize is that parental concerns are not their childrens’ concerns. Not immature children, but adults who grow up with more opportunities than their parents and look forward to finding themselves, social enterprise, or doing good for larger causes. And finding realistic answers to the question “Is money really that important?”

The expectations and pressures of the employee today and tomorrow are different from those of yesterday.

Teachers need to take heed and learn to operate outside their bubbles. There are no more single-trajectory careers and no more iron rice bowls.

Curricula are less important than nurturing flexible, adaptable thinkers. Assessment that ultimately leads to a strong degree printed on fancy paper is less important than a portfolio of experiences.

I shared these two images I created with #eduality recently as messages to teachers.

Teachers are in a unique position to shape the mindset of the next generation. But teachers sometimes view the world through the distorted lens that is their classroom bubble.

Teachers cannot afford to teach the way they were taught. If they persist, they do their students a disservice and they sabotage the plans of a nation needing to go forward.

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