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Posts Tagged ‘myths

One of the disadvantages of not reacting immediately is that something online might go offline. In this case it was a tweet of a slide from a self-proclaimed expert.

The slide was a rehash of the so-called learning pyramid. I hate how much it has been misrepresented that I refuse to show an example of it now.

But I only have to describe what has become common knowledge among new teachers and trainers — we supposedly only learn 5 or 10% from lectures, 10% from reading, 20% from audio-visual, and all that jazz. This is a bastardisation of Dale’s original Cone of Experience.

Dale's (1946) original Cone of Experience.

A few years ago, I shared how the learning pyramid with percentages has been debunked. But here is the short version.

  • Edgar Dale suggested in 1946 that media had effects on imparting information, and suggested a hierarchy of media effects.
  • This hierarchy was dubbed Dale’s Cone of Experience.
  • Dale did not suggest percentages to his theoretical model.
  • The hierarchy was about media effects, not retention or learning.

Despite this, Dale’s Cone was misused. Michael Molenda, someone I studied under, suggested that someone named Paul John Phillips, an instructor working at a military training methods branch, might have added retention rates without any backing from research. An early form of the learning pyramid was first published in 1967 by D. G. Treichler, again without any evidence.

It is easy to challenge the learning pyramid without mentioning the lack of research. Just ask the seller of snake oil how the percentages are in exact percentages of fives or tens. For example, how does a lecture ensure 5% of retention or learning? Why 5%? How was this measured? Why not deliver just that 5%?

Some things bear repeating. No, not the mythical percentages in the learning pyramid, but the fact that it was spread as a lie.

Here are two videos that bust myths.

The first one is about falsehoods that people believe about or practice on animals.

Video source

The second video is about human animals called “millennials”.

Video source

Both videos do a great job of presenting concise information about evidence against myths. These might go a long way in convincing believers and practitioners of such myths that they have been thinking and doing the wrong things.

Now we need are entertaining and comprehensive videos that bust the myths of engaging learners, learning styles, merely enhancing learning with technology, digital natives, etc. Those myths are often based on pseudoscience or unquestioned tradition.

…is sometimes one that pretends to be special, but is actually ordinary. This does little harm beyond a bruised ego when all find out just how ordinary.

An attempt to label or typify entire generations of people is just wrong. Case in point, the table embedded in this tweet:

On one hand, you can understand the human tendency to simplify and categorise. On the other, you can see exceptions to every category and rule.

The creators of the table need to read and reflect on Todd Rose’s The End of Average (my reflection on the book). They should also not perpetuate fallacies like digital natives to teachers and non-teachers alike.

Ordinarily I would not share a video like the one below. There is nothing wrong with it. It is just not something I would share as a functional extrovert.

Video source

But when I linked three things I experienced from as far back as my undergraduate days to an event just last week, the purpose of sharing such a video became clear.

When I first stepped into university, I had a conversation with what some might call a flamboyant professor. Our chat strayed and he described himself as functional extrovert. That phrase was about playing a role as the context needed and has stuck with me since.

A few years ago, I detected a movement of sorts among some teachers who seemed to be resisting workshops and school initiatives that were cooperative or collaborative in nature. One of the leading concerns was whether the trend of teachers needing to work together — whether within the school walls or wide outside of them — was detrimental to “introverted” teachers. Some of these teachers were probably resistant or stubborn; a few had genuine concerns.

Last week I met with a group of educators to discuss revisions to criteria we used for evaluating novice instructors and facilitators. One category of criteria bugged me because it was worded in a manner that valued frontal teaching. The frontal criteria are important at times for lectures and public speaking, but our processes focused on facilitation which required more connective competencies. The criteria seemed to punish those that were not charismatic or lacked the gift of the gab.

The line linking these three events was an implicit assumption on what it means to be an introvert. That assumption is accompanied by others like whether introversion was inferior, if this placed introverts at a disadvantage, and if an introvert’s traits are not rewarded or recognised in good teaching.

A more fundamental question is: What is introversion? That is where the video comes in. It answers this question by highlighting five myths about being introverted. Introverts:

  1. Can make good leaders
  2. Are not necessarily smarter than extroverts
  3. Do not always want to be alone
  4. Do not hate people
  5. Are not necessarily shy

Probably one of the most well-known movie memes is Jack Nicholson’s character shouting “”You can’t handle the truth!” in A Few Good Men.

Video source

Today I reflect on something “truthier” than the truth.

One of the most talked about news bites yesterday and the day before was how Singapore’s public servants will have limited Internet access in government offices in a year’s time.

The news spilled from our shores thanks to the same Internet pipes that will run dry in those offices. CNET reported this:

“There is no right or wrong approach around banning the internet,” says Tony Jarvis, Check Point Software Technologies’ chief strategist for threat prevention APAC, Middle East & Africa. “At first glance, the decision to ban internet access might seem extreme. However, it is important to note that this decision will have been made after careful review.”

He says that the removal of internet access will bring “the benefit of reducing exposure to many threats” at the cost of productivity and organisational efficacy.

There was a fallout among those who will be affected by this policy. Here are examples from a TODAY report:

Calling the move regressive, civil and public servants TODAY spoke to said cutting off Internet access in such a manner was also disruptive.

“It’s like saying ‘your house could get burgled, but don’t spend money upgrading security features like cameras or locks; just move out’,” said one civil servant, who did not want to be named.

Another civil servant who also wanted to remain anonymous said: “I feel like there are relatively simpler solutions but they just decided to use the nuclear option.”

A public servant said that without Internet access on personal work computers, it would be unfair to expect public servants to have to pay for their own mobile data to carry out the work.

A spokesman for the local agency responsible for move responded that the policy “should not be seen as a move backwards”.

I wonder if he would have back-peddled if he could feel the collective disbelief of workers, public servants or not, sweep his way.

The agency prepared a poster that highlighted five myths and five corresponding truths about the move.

I wonder if the agency can handle the “truthier” truths I offer in response to each of their “truths”.

  1. Any agency-provided device will be crippled. That is why the rest of the world has moved on to BYOD. Even if you BYOD, agencies can stifle or block wireless signals. Sometimes they need not do anything; the poor reception is security enough.
  2. SharePoint is an alternative? Is the phrase “enterprise tools” now synonymous with poor design and usability?
  3. Is there a condescending tone to “separating Internet surfing”? As in, disconnected activity is work while your surfing is not serious or important. Modern and connected workers need to “surf” in order to work. Do not take my word for it. Conduct studies and measure it.
  4. Are their email servers are going to be able to distinguish classified and unclassified messages? If so, good for them. Are there no other ways to copy, transport, or manipulate classified messages? If so, they must ban BYOD outright.
  5. There had better not be a drop in e-services and citizen engagement. Otherwise the people will complain and their feedback will go nowhere because the public servants cannot surf the Internet.

In short, the effort looks like one of reducing connectivity, providing options with poor usability, siloing work tasks instead of integrating them, letting policy dominate logic, and travelling back in time. How is limiting Internet access to workers not a move backwards in policy and practice?

All this is not to say that we should ignore computer security. However, there could have been more measured responses.

If you detect a cockroach nest in your otherwise spotless house, you do not chase everyone out, prevent people from bringing food home, or dictate that food only be eaten in an outhouse. You take more reasonable and everyday actions like bagging and promptly disposing of rubbish, storing food properly, and showing others in the household know how to do these things.

The smart thing to do is also the more difficult thing. Before embarking on a multi-pronged strategy, the agency could have asked for stakeholder inputs. Treat people like children and they will behave like them. Treat people like adults who care about their work and you will increase your options.

Among those options will be ideas with strong ownership because they come from the ground up. This is almost always better than poorly understood policies from the top down. That is the truth. Can you handle it?

7 by andymag, on Flickr
7” (CC BY 2.0) by  andymag 

This Learning Solutions article tried to separate folly from fact about online instructional videos. In doing so, it might have offered a Viddler-sponsored bias and a few myths of its own.

I offer a simple blow-by-blow following each of the article’s main chunks.
Myth #1: Everything worth learning can (and should) be reduced to bite-sized, two-minute videos.

Reflection 1: Some things should not or cannot be on videos; optimal video duration.

Some things that cannot be on videos might include sensitive issues (what these are depends on context), sensitive people (e.g., those that need protection), and intrinsic knowledge of staff. Such issues are a matter of policy, mindset, timing, and much more. A push for videos is not going to budge these issues.

While the article made a good point that short videos are not effective in themselves, it ignores research from providers like edX that have suggested the optimal length of videos for motivated learners.
Myth #2: Video should be free; YouTube is all I need.

Reflection 2: YouTube could be all you need especially if are smart about it.

You would expect Viddler to declare “YouTube was designed as a social medium and a publishing and advertising platform, with a focus on generating ad revenue for Google. That’s not a bad thing, but using it for training is problematic.”

People conveniently forget that the ads and monetisation came later. The fact now is ads and your usage data are the price to pay for “free”. Once you get over that and realise that the learner who has grown up with YouTube takes no issue with that, you focus on more important things.

Might privacy be one such issue? From the article: “With effort, you can make your videos private, but the default state is public. Anyone can see and download your training videos—even your competitors.”

The article conveniently left out one important word: With LITTLE effort, you can make your videos private. It is a setting you see when you upload or record a video on YouTube.

As for “anyone can see and download your training videos”, see my reply to #5.
Myth #3: Video is expensive; our company is too small to use video for training.

Reflection 3: Video is expensive. And it is not.

Video for any organisation, big or small, is relatively easy and low cost today especially if you already have cameras, lights, microphones, computers, and a dedicated team. Simply go back in time by five-year bounds and compare the costs of manpower, equipment, and professional development.

The real cost is time and effort. If an organisation decides to jump on the online video or MOOC wagon, there will be a sudden need for many videos. This then leads to a sudden need for equipment, professional development, and/or new hires.

This problem is repeated time and again because very few organisations share their practices. If they do, other organisations do not take the advice until the issue becomes real.

Side note: What organisations typically do to deal with the huge demand for new instructional videos is to use templates, e.g., talking head formats. These are simple, self-recorded, and require minimal post-processing. These are also the most boring and ineffective because they layer old pedagogy over new technology.
Myth #4: Video files are too big for company intranets.

Reflection 4: Yes, that is why there is YouTube.

Enough said.
Myth #5: Online video is not secure.

Reflection 5: Anything online is not secure. If you think about it, anything offline is not that secure either.

If you are stupid enough to share a trade secret on YouTube or any open sharing platform, then you deserve what is coming to you.

Learn how to secure your videos if that is important to you. That said, if security is your primary concern, why are you thinking about videos? Go back to your cave instead.
Myth #6: People don’t pay attention to training videos.

Reflection 6: People do not pay attention to what is not meaningful or interesting.

The article hits the mark on a painfully true issue. The tips they offer focus on interactivity and they are all good.

I can only recommend two more: Make videos meaningful and provide them just-in-time.
Myth #7: Online video is not as effective as face-to-face training.

Reflection 7: My immediate response was: This old argument?

My delayed response was: This old argument?

The medium of teaching and learning is not the issue. The context is.

A key question to answer is: What circumstances or affordances favour one medium or the other or both? The point is to provide a meaningful and powerful learning experience, not reinforce an outdated mindset or blindly follow policy.

Closing thoughts
You can rely on technology to instruct the same way or to educate differently. The best integrations online video challenge the status quo. Instead on focusing on the instructor and delivery, there should be a focus on the learner and interaction. Doing the former might be more efficient; doing the latter is more effective.

Video source

Ben Ambridge debunked ten myths in psychology, at least four of which have plagued schooling and education for the longest time. These are:

  • Learning styles
  • Left and right-handedness of brains
  • We use only 10% of our brains
  • The Mozart effect of music

This 15-minute TED talk is worth every minute of dissonance or resonance it might create.


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