Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘old

Sometimes I think I no longer need to repeat some messages because they sound old. But I am constantly reminded that I cannot be complacent.

The messages are diverse. They range from “Singapore does NOT cane you for chewing gum” to “gamification is not the same as game-based learning” or “flipping the classroom is not the same as flipping the learning”.

The cane comment surface just a few days ago. Strangely enough, it stemmed from a tongue-in-cheek remark on Singapore’s Schooling being Number One (the swimmer and our PISA results).

Someone else wanted to know if caning had anything to do with our results.

My reply, tongue firmly in cheek, was this:

We had a short conversation thereafter:

This reminded me of my stay in the US over 15 years ago when I had to remind people that Singapore was not in China and that we did not cane people for chewing gum.

While the conversation was not about caning and gum, I had to inform someone on Twitter that we do not cane boys as easily as we would flick a switch.

In the teaching and learning front, the runaway trains are gamification and the flipped classroom. Both vendors and ill-informed individuals push these without first knowing or caring about their histories, research, or critical practice.

I laud their enthusiasm, but when it is misguided, I make my stand: Gamification is not game-based learning and it is not enough to just flip the classroom.
 

 
Sometimes I wonder if harping on these messages makes me the squeaky wheel or the proverbial voice in the desert. Then I remember this Jon Stewart quote: If you smell something, say something.

As a watchdog, I have to be vigilant. As an educator, I remind myself that the old messages are new to someone else.

There will always be rhetoric about the good old days and the good old ways. While the vessels of that rhetoric might mean well, they sometimes reinforce the position of those who oppose change.

So instead of saying that some good values are “old”, I say we call them “timeless” instead.

 Saying only

This is not a semantic game, but a strategy for change.

One element of systemic change is articulation. This means using powerful words and stories, and yes, rhetoric too. This could mean reassuring people that worthwhile values are not abandoned while simultaneously not leaving people in their comfort zone.

Timeless values and practices like “do unto others as you would them do to you” endure. They persist because they are socially adopted and adapted by people. There is no logic to resisting them.

There is no logic to labelling them old either. They are here now and as current as ever. They are timeless and we should value them as such.

No, this is not about the Frozen theme song.

The hardest part of learning something new is not embracing new ideas, but letting go of old ones. -- Todd Rose

I found this simple but elegant quote by wading into my Twitter stream yesterday.

I am tempted to incorporate it as a final slide for my keynote this morning. It sends a parting message not to overload ourselves when managing change: If you take, you must also let go. It is also a reminder that past habits often get in the way.

Here are the sources for my image quote. I Googled the tweet and found the original by author Todd Rose.

I used my favourite Creative Commons image search engine, ImageCodr, to look for “letting go” and found the image below. I imported and edited it in Google Slides.
 

This photo should make you think.

But instead of seeing just the similarities between a classroom then and now, I also see a key difference.

The modern classroom should look empty because kids can learn on their mobile devices and with YouTube.

The problem is we still rely on 100-year-old strategies and bring them back into the classroom of old.

A few weeks ago my family and I were on a crowded train when a man fainted. The train was so packed I could not make my way to him, but I was near enough to hear a woman shout, “Put oil on him!”

She was referring to a small bottle of pungent, medicated oil that aunties used to carry with them. Apparently they still do.
 

See already also headache by mr brown, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  mr brown 

 
Such oils claim to sooth a wide range of maladies. Here is an example of the claims of one brand. Even modern medicine does not come close. Naysayers will quickly think of snake oil or the placebo effect.

This incident reminded me of a similar incident I experienced about 20 years ago. The train was emptier and a woman collapsed. I did basic CPR, but not before someone had already put medicated oil on her temples.

The oil did not revive the woman, but it was so strong-smelling it could have knocked me out. If that happened, people might have had to visit a temple to pay their respects. The last I saw of the woman was when she was in the care of train station staff.

What is the point of the story? Everything changes, and yet it does not.

There is no evidence that medicated oil works, but some people still rely on what their elders said and did. If no one tells them otherwise, they will continue doing these things no matter how ineffective (and possibly dangerous) they are.

From an educator’s standpoint, medicated oil strategies might include technology-free instruction; technology to motivate or enhance instead of to enable; chasing the technology tail; or merely using technology instead of integrating it.

First we have to choose to be informed or not. Once informed, we have a choice to change or not. We have no choice in being ignorant for that is our default state. But we have a choice of whether or not to be stupid in the face of evidence.

You are biased and I am biased. If you choose not to admit that, then you are stubborn and biased.

We are biased because we learn things that help us survive. Things like talking or acting a certain way. We are biased even when we learn to balance a bike a certain way.


Video source

This amusing and informative video illustrates just that. If you ride a bike that turns right when you try to turn left, you cannot ride it even if you already know how to ride a normal bike well.

The creator of the video declared: Once you have a rigid way of thinking… you cannot change that even if you want to.

Most people can relate to this if they think about value systems or mindsets. Change agents learn this lesson the hard way and very quickly when trying to implement change.

But an anecdote with multiple demonstrations, no matter how intriguing, is not necessarily representative.

The man and his son illustrated that it was possible to unlearn something deeply embedded. He learnt to ride the “backwards bike” in eight weeks; his son did it in two weeks.

He then made a statement about neuroplasticity that reeks of Prensky-speak that should be ignored in this context. Neuroplasticity is a physiological process that refers to how the brain can change throughout life.

While it might be true that a young brain learns faster than an old one, we also retain the capacity to unlearn and relearn throughout life. It is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. It just takes time and effort.

One thing the video did not explore is mindset. This is not a function of brain physiology but of many other things like work culture, social environment, individual drive, risk-taking capacity, etc. We will change only when we

  • are aware there is a different way of doing things (e.g., just-in-time and just-for-me learning via Twitter)
  • realize that there is a problem with the status quo (e.g., meaningless mandatory workshops), and
  • think we have the capacity to change (e.g., mentors to guide).

If you want to teach an actual old dog new tricks, it will require practice and rewards. The process is Pavlovian.

If you want to change people, you must not only persist and incentivize. You must also address their mindsets.

A tweeted question to #edsg prompted this reflection.

This question has been asked since Facebook appeared on our collective radars. Such a question is not unusual because adventurous educators always seem to ask it of any new technology.

I recall tackling this question with preservice teachers almost nine years ago. Back then the responses included 1) leveraging on the popularity of Facebook, 2) wanting to keep one’s different lives separate, and 3) maintaining different profiles for different purposes.

Quite a bit has changed since then and some things have not.

What has not is that most people do not like having multiple accounts because it takes effort. Just try asking a group of learners to create another account on a platform they are already in or a new one on a platform they are not familiar with. A few might react like you are demanding their first born child.

What has changed is the popularity of Facebook among the younger set. Facebook is where their parents and even their grandparents hang out, so it is less cool. Facebook is not yet a teen or young adult wasteland. A quick Google search on Facebook usage statistics will reveal that (examples [1] [2] [3]) . But there have been migrations to Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.

Another thing that might have changed is the need to “separate lives”. Teachers might assume that their students have the same mindset or concerns as they do, but learner notions of privacy could be different. That is not the same as saying that kids are not concerned about privacy. They are and about different aspects of privacy.

But back to the question.

The tweeted question is a reflection of dated thinking. Such thinking is based on at least two wobbly foundations: 1) false dichotomies, and 2) limited learning opportunities.

Dichotomies (two-way categorizations) occur because of the human need to classify complex phenomena. Male or female. Good or bad. Married or not. Your side or my side. But giving in to this need to simplify ignores the grey nuances that are more representative of life and learning.

A problem with categorical thinking is that people feel that they must separate where they live, love, or learn. We might be conditioned to think this way because schools put academic subjects in separate silos, students in separate classes, and lessons that happen at one pace and place.

Whether a teacher, school leader, or policy maker thinks Facebook is GOOD or NOT for e-learning is not important. That is an attempt at categorizing the platform as suitable or not.

What is important is how students and teachers have already started using it as a learning tool or not. For example, students might use Facebook as an informal communication platform for homework help. Teachers might use it for persona-based lessons (e.g., Fakebook). Edmodo created the Facebook equivalent in education to leverage on social learning.

Learning does not just happen in the classroom or when the teacher says start. It can happen at any time and in any place as long as the learner has access and a question that needs answering.

Asking if Facebook (or any other tool for that matter) is suitable for teaching and learning is too late and the wrong question to ask. It has already been used by learners and educators who do not ask for permission, and in ways that might not be expected of the creators of the tool.


http://edublogawards.com/files/2012/11/finalistlifetime-1lds82x.png
http://edublogawards.com/2010awards/best-elearning-corporate-education-edublog-2010/

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code


Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets

Archives

Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: