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Posts Tagged ‘mindset

This tweeted article used basic mathematics to let us know that turning off the lights does not save us that much money.

How little might we save in Averageville, USA? About nine US cents a day or US$31 a year assuming ten lights were on continuously for eight hours a day.

That does not sound like much quantitatively, but the narrative misses out on the cost of being blasé about consuming energy. These days every cent matters, every point of use matters, and most importantly, mindset matters.

Every cent and dollar spent doing nothing useful is money wasted. Every pointless use of energy is a waste of time, effort, and resources. Every wasteful effort is indicative of self-centred thinking (what is this to me?) instead of systemic thinking (how do things connect?).

Leaving on lights might not cost much financially, but such action might indicate that the lights are not on in your head. That is a costly matter indeed.

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I listened gleefully to Conan O’Brien interviewing his latest guest, Mike Schur, on the Conan Needs A Friend podcast. Schur is, among many things, the creator of one of my favourite comedy series, A Good Place.

Schur is also a philosophically principled man. During the podcast, he shared two things that I relate to.

The first is that mindset matters because it shapes action. Schur’s story was about how he only tipped at a coffee place when the barista saw him do it. He wondered if people prefer to do good only when they might be acknowledged. 

He reasoned that this was not the right mindset because doing good was doing good whether or not someone else is watching. I can relate because I like doing the invisible work because it builds integrity.

Schur’s second point address how many people seem to operate in binary terms (either-or, with me or against me). He stressed the importance of being able to hold two (sometimes opposing) ideas in one’s head. 

His point seemed to be about how we try to reduce complex ideas or phenomena into simple concepts and then take a side. Such reductionist thinking has no room for nuance or appreciation for history, context, and complexity.

If we combine the two, we might adopt a mindset accepting of questions, uncertainty, and complexity without sounding high and mighty about it. Doing this does not mean that we do not provide answers or work together on solutions. It could mean that we do not reduce ourselves to single and short-term decisions. It could mean quietly and consistently adding to the pool of knowledge for the good of everyone.

I hesitate to make my correction given the spirit in which the feedback was provided. But I trust that the person who gave it will see the spirit I am responding with.

“Artefact” is British English; “artifact” is US English. Artefact is not misspelt (or misspelled).

My reaction to the feedback is this: “Artefact” is British English; “artifact” is US English. Artefact is not misspelt (or misspelled).

One teachable moment is that we need to nurture learners who adopt a world view mindset. This could be as simple as realising that the same words might be spelt differently in other parts of the world.

Another is knowing when to go online to look things up. Spelling is a good example of factual rigour given how official online dictionaries are checked and revised carefully.

Complex phenomena, on the other hand, should not be fed by a single “source” like Facebook. Instead, we need the mindset and skills of deep searching, critical consumption, and methodical processing of complexities like vaccine effectiveness and climate change.

Reality is not just black or white even if you are taught this to be the case. It is not even continuum of shades of grey (or gray, if you are in the USA). Reality is multicoloured and sometimes beyond the visible spectrum. We need to teach our learners that reality and help them grow the mindset to deal with it.

While the tweet above might be tongue-in-cheek, it sends more than one signal.

The intended message might be that playing cooperative games by mashing a single desktop keyboard was more fun than having your own mobile device.

The messages the tweet misses are that the players with their own mobile devices are a) also cooperating, b) can potentially cooperate in larger numbers, and c) can do so anywhere there is a reliable Internet connection.

Nostalgia does not just colour our memories, it can sometimes blind action. If anyone looks back so fondly in the past and remains rooted there, I would not rely on them to work on problems today or build towards the future.

For me, this is a reminder that it is not enough to evaluate people based on their knowledge or skills. It is just as important to gauge their mindsets.

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The central figure in the video above, Maxx, has dyslexia. According to the interview and video description he was “five weeks away from his final examinations when he experienced memory loss”.

He did not do well in the high-stakes exams and made his way into what many here would consider the lower rung of education. But you would be fooled into believing that given how articulate and confident is was.

I am confident he learnt not from schooling, but despite it. Schooling and the social pressures here typically emphasise academic excellence. Little, if anything, is said about character and mindsets. Why? Exams do not measure such things.

It should not take a learner who has dyslexia and memory loss to tell us that non-academic  processes and outcomes like perseverance are more important all the time.

Maxx also highlighted how his dyslexia did not hold him back. He considered that to be an essential part of him. He reminded me that we need to focus on enabling behaviours instead of disabling with labels.

That reminder is timely given how I will soon be facilitating modules on ICT for SPED. The next two videos give be pause for thought.

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The Lost Voice Guy has cerebral palsy which left him unable to speak. So he uses a speech synthesiser to talk. 

In his closing joke for the Britain’s Got Talent judges, he questioned the use of the “special” label, i.e., special needs, special school. I had a good laugh and it got me thinking about how use ridiculous labels.

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Francesca Martinez also has cerebral palsy and described herself as “wobbly” in this TEDx talk. In the comedy routine above, she said: “Who wants a normal life? I want an amazing life!”

The shift in SPED to focus on abilities instead of disabilities has started, but like most things in schooling and education, is moving at a glacial pace. We might learn from Maxx, the Lost Voice Guy, and Francesca how to break expectations. 

I do not expect to change everyone’s mind when I facilitate my modules. But I do expect to push and pull a few educators forward in the right direction. 

I enjoyed the video embedded in this tweet about how academics write.

But I had a different application of the video. Mine about how it applies to folks who arrange for professional development for their staff.

I have observed that such events are often standalone, i.e., they do not serve a longer term purpose or are not linked to an overall theme. Some organisers are just happy to check off an item from a to-do list.

Seminar on new policy, check. Workshop on new skill, check. But do these sessions result in learning and changed behaviours? If not, the interventions are like the person pulling the sheep out of the rut. But the sheep has not learnt anything and jumps back into the rut.

There is nothing inherently wrong with arranging on-going development for your workers. It is the responsible thing to do. But it is irresponsible to not also address mindsets that affect behaviours. 

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This was the second time I have heard about a study that seems to support the use of single-use plastic bags. The first was this news article on similar research.

I say “seems” because, as host Hank Green pointed out, the answers are complicated. If we take a more holistic or systemic view of what different types of bags take away as resources and contribute as pollutants, single-use bags might actually play a better numbers game.

Green pointed out that one consideration that was missing from the study was the impact of these bags as pollutants to nature. One need only recall marine animals ingesting plastic bags and the bags breaking down as micro plastics which then make their way up the food chain. This factor is difficult to quantify.

I say there is another missing and even more difficult factor to measure. It is how the continued use of single-use plastic bags perpetuates the use-and-throw mentality. Users do know or care where the bags come from or where they end up. If we do not reduce our dependence on single-use plastic bags, we do not nurture a change in mindset because nothing seems wrong about it.

As usual, I see a parallel about mindsets in teacher and faculty professional development. Administrators and trainers alike still focus on content and skills of workshops or courses. They should. But they also need to address mindset change. No amount of new policies, expectations, or content is going to change behaviours if people do not first believe these are necessary.

Like trying to measure the impact of mindset on single-use plastic bags, addressing the mindsets of educators is difficult. But relegating or ignoring is not going to make the problem of harmful behaviours go away.

One of the post-lockdown rules we have in Singapore is that groups of people should be no larger than five [1] [2].

So why did I spot a group of eight at an eatery over the weekend? My guess is that one group of four scored one table and the other group of four got another table right beside the first table.

People look for loopholes and take advantage of them. They know what the rules are, but they do not care why the rules exist. The rule-of-five is meant to reduce the number of people interacting physically while providing a sense of normalcy.

If you are taught to listen and comply, you hear the number. If you are not taught to think and care, you do know know why that number exists nor do you behave responsibly.

My reflection is not so much about how wilfully ignorant we can sometimes be. It is about how we condition that mindset by the way we teach.

If we rely on the pedagogy of answers, we tend to provide the facts and figures. But if we learn to use the pedagogy of questions, we model for our learners and we teach them to ask important questions. The most important of which is why.

I tried to schedule a tweet yesterday with Buffer but could not.

TweetDeck would not load and going directly to Twitter did not help either. So I searched for sites that monitored up-time.

One said everything was fine.

Another reported local access issues.

Obviously the latter was more accurate because it matched what I was experiencing.

Interestingly the same could be said about cultural bubbles or individual mindsets. When something changes, we might look for information that reaffirms what we already believe or think we know. This is confirmation bias.

Broader and more critical thinking requires the examination of more and contradictory sources, and evaluating their worth. This might be called skeptical bias.

Thankfully the Twitter outage did not last long. But it provided me a timely reminder to check and double check.

If you visit this John Hopkins University visualisation of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) cases, you might discover how Singapore seems to be disproportionately affected.

Instead of focusing on the misinformation, disinformation, or panic buying of groceries, my mind turns to how this affects teaching and learning.

Most schools and education institutions reacting to the spread of the novel corona virus here share the same state — an unpreparedness to embrace online and e-learning. This is despite having a wealth of online resources that serve as a proxy for content delivery.

I anticipate that if teacher, administrator, and policymaker mindsets do not change, we will not be prepared for the next virus (or equivalent). Online platforms and content do not matter if they are used peripherally or only in emergencies.

We might take a leaf out of the YouTube book (irony intended) to learn how to be better prepared.

YouTube is an everyday phenomenon. Students need not be told to refer to it or search it. They do so on their own. They need it and want it. If that online resource was cut off, they would revolt.

Compare this with curated, designed, and aligned resources in content management systems. They are prescribed like medicine — used only when someone else thinks it is necessary as well as sparingly or strategically.

The current mindset of schooling still relies on an expert and teaching model. We need this because schools have a role to play in enculturating our children, i.e., transmitting information, values, and skills. But it is largely answer-driven.

The forward-looking mindset shifts towards learning. This means starting with complexity, not textbook answers and oversimplifications. The means recognising that learners, no matter how young, can and should continue learning by first asking questions and then learning how to find answers.

I dare say that if we manage to rely on a learner and learning-driven model, we will collectively create that paradigm shift that experts like to talk about. We will learn on demand, not just teach on supply. We will learn virally.


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