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Posts Tagged ‘nuance

Substituting nuance for novelty is what experts do, and that is why they are never bored. -- Angela Duckworth
The first thing that comes to mind on what I started reflecting on this year is the importance of nuance.

Nuance is going beyond simplistic arguments and time-honoured but unquestioned practices. Nuance is making the effort to climb above the obvious and low-hanging fruit. Nuance is rejecting easy answers and embracing difficult questions.

If I had to distill something memorable and funny that illustrates nuance, it would be this bit by Finnish comedian, Ismo.

Video source

The video is not for the faint-of-heart. If you watch it, you might appreciate the subtleties in the use of the word “ass”. You might then appreciate the skill it takes to weave this nuance in language into a funny story and then tell it with panache.

Something similar could be said about educators who combine the findings of rigorous research and reflective practice to design and implement courses. Instead of merely doing what they were taught, they focus on what it means to learn. They take into account the nuance of context instead of just focusing on content.

When I read this tweet, I thought: Here we go again — fear mongering.

When I read the article (TODAY borrowed from the NYT again), it was more a more uncertain set of answers to the question. The answers were not new to anyone following the debate, and more importantly, following the research.

The link between insert-latest-condition-to-fear (e.g., cortical thinning) directly and insert-latest-evil-to-fear (e.g., screen time) was inconclusive.

If there is a tweet that sums up the nuance is a whisper, it might be this one:

One might take a simple observation (like the one tweeted below) and turn it into a teaching moment.

At first glance, you might see nothing wrong with the set up and leave it at that.

As the Twitter personality points out human foibles like laziness or oversight, you might look for something wrong. So a second look might reveal how the rolled up screen cannot be lowered past the projector.

Even so, anyone who has used a short-throw projector knows that 1) it is typically used with a wall-mounted whiteboard (like the one in the same photo), and 2) the projection on the board is often interactive. The second point means that the presenter can tap or write on the board — this requires a stationary surface, not a dangling one.

Still, someone whose job was to install the projector could have also removed the old screen. But even that is not nuanced enough. Why replace one type of projector with another?

Administrators and policymakers have bought into the sales pitches of vendors who say that such interactive projections are the next big thing. They are not. They leave the teacher squarely at the front of the classroom, with little involvement of the learners.

To teach is the learn twice.

If the adage that “To teach is to learn twice” is true, then we understand why teachers become content experts. They are constantly unpacking and repacking content for others.

How about the learners? Would they not benefit from teaching one another more often than not?

If teachers have just one critical job (for the record, they have many), it is to ensure that students learn effectively and meaningfully. Presentations on screen do not ensure learning; performance using the new knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes do.

Learning is not a spectator sport. --Chickering and Ehrmann

Most semesters I comment on examples of awkward or otherwise poor examples of essay writing.

This semester I do not share examples of writing faux pas. Instead I share a photo I took to illustrate nuance.

The photo is a screenshot of a Pokémon Go stop that someone labelled “hook up point”.

If you are an old school local, you might understand that this place is for hanging bird cages in a community space.

However, “hook up” has a broader use. When one refers to people hooking up, they are, um, managing the birds and the bees. A hook up point would then have a bad reputation.

My message to essay and paper writers is simple: Do not write for yourself, write for your reader. If you do the former, you are satisfied with what your words mean to you. If you do on the latter, you focus on communicating with readers by embracing the nuance of meaning and taking their points of view.

If you are going to play the numbers game, do it right. Embrace details and nuance.

Video source

An absolute person understands and operates by absolutes. A nuanced person looks for subtlety and context.

If both play the numbers game, the first person is going to look like an absolute fool. The second is going to look reasonable and logical.

If I was conducting a workshop on pedagogical change, I might start it by showing the video embedded in the tweet above.

Participants would invariably offer different answers to my question: What does this video have anything to do with pedagogical change?

I might then guide them to the importance of not making hasty decisions due to a lack of perspective.

It takes effort to get a new perspective. Sometimes the effort is quick and easy while other times it takes a marathon. It is easier if one is able to balance a systemic view and necessary nuance.

This is where having an outsider’s or learner’s perspective is crucial. When you are too close to a problem you often cannot see it perched right on your nose.

Whether it is at a talk or a workshop, there will always be participants who seek to pack as much as they can in as little time as possible so that they apply it as quickly as possible.

There is nothing wrong with that unless they miss the point of the session. I am not talking about the content, but about nuance.

Life is not black and white; there is some grey nuance to it. -- Pilou Asbaek

You can ask the same question to ten different experts in a field and you are likely to get ten different answers. This will make the people I described above impatient and unhappy because they want bite-sized concepts.

Nuance recognises that there are different aspects of the same thing. This is rooted in the complexity of an idea or practice.

Nuance is also about different perspectives of the same thing. This acknowledges the subjectivity of a concept or behaviour when applied in different contexts.

Substituting nuance for novelty is what experts do, and that is why they are never bored. -- Angela Duckworth

It is important to simplify or conceptualise because that is how our brains operate. But it is equally important to not be simplistic.

There is another saying — the devil is in the details. Solving a problem or implementing change is not easy. The difficulty, complexity, and subjectivity of such processes should be embraced instead of feared. It is nuance that makes the journey worthwhile.

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