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Posts Tagged ‘passion

It took a while, but now I might have some answers to the questions I raised when I reflected on passion points.

A newspaper summarised a study by declaring that spotting passions too early may limit students. I could not read the article because the newspaper put it behind a recently created premium paywall.

I just discovered another article citing the same study by researchers from Stanford and Yale-NUS college in Singapore. However, it is by Quartz, whose own research and writing I have questioned.

Taking the Quartz report of the research at face value, I wonder if the writers and/or researchers are creating a false dichotomy about one’s passion.

the directive to “find your passion” suggests a passive process. Telling people to develop their passion, however, suggests an active one that depends on us—and allows that it can be challenging to pursue.

The article states that “a growth mindset, rather than a fixed sense that there’s one interest you should pursue single-mindedly, improves the chances of finding your passion”. It seems to conflate a fixed mindset with finding passion and growth mindset with developing passion.

Are passions only just innate and not developed (nature, not nurture), or purely a product of development and not intrinsic (nurture, not nature)?

Predictably, the article cited Dweck, the author of the 2007 book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success, to strengthen the false equivalency of growth mindset and developing passion.

I call this a false equivalency because in a 2016 Atlantic interview, Dweck stated:

Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in an area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.

If we are chimeras of mindsets, then passions are borne and bred in a mixture of ways.

  • As with my previous reflection, I have more questions than answers:
  • Are we entitled to have only one passion? Can our passions not change?
  • Why assume that pursuing one’s passion leads to narrow development and skills?
  • Conversely, how valid is it to suggest that a growth mindset and generalist education will lead to broader thinking and skillsets?

Our children are built differently from one another (nature) and respond differently to upbringing, schooling, and education (collectively, nurture). Some kids seem to “have a clue” and are razor-focused, others seem perpetually lost in space, while the rest lie in a huge continuum between.

Just how helpful is it to suggest that passion is a false dichotomy?

I hit the premium paywall when I tried to read this article. This is a newspaper learning from how academic journals operate: Create a walled garden within a walled garden.

Walled garden within a paywall.

I cannot read and critique the article, but I can make observations and ask questions.

How early is too early to spot or nurture student passion?

Does the stance imply that one should keep ignoring passion or put it off till later? How much later?

Are you assuming that talent, passion, or drive emerge later, or that they can be developed only at certain stages?

Might you be assuming that following a passion results in an over narrow field? What modern work, particularly the type that school does not prepare you for, does not require broad thinking, skills, and the constant need to learn?

Are we going to use this research as an excuse to keep schooling instead of actually educating?

I share some observations via image quotes I created over the last few years:

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. -- Mark Twain.

Education is what remains when one has forgotten what one has learned in school. -- Marvin Minsky

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is about self-actualisation.


Video source

As I watched this YouTube video about a maker-cosplayer building his own K-2S0 “costume”, I wondered about what “maker spaces” represent in schools.

Are these places good-to-haves or must-haves? Are they PR showcases or actual tinkering spaces? Are activities driven partly by curriculum, or largely by passion?

What are the honest answers to these questions? What are the hard truths and blatant lies we have to face up to about maker spaces?

In my opinion, maker spaces should be built on just one foundation: Learner passion. This allows any learning environment to be a “maker space”, even a conventional and seemingly resource-poor one. Learners make and make do in these circumstances and in any subject.

I am not just making this up. Reflect on what is important about maker spaces and you might arrive at a similar conclusion. 

It is not coffee, even though I appreciate a good cup of Joe. My body seems to make the equivalent of its own caffeine.

The question was posed to me by a recruiter from a large, well-known company.

It is flattering that I am still approached to join universities or corporations in a full time capacity. It is also very tempting given the uncertainties of consultancy or freelancing. After all, why would I want to stay in a dinghy if I can board an ocean liner?

I have met fellow “sailors” who have been “ocean bound” for longer than I have. I still admire their bravery. I also value the time and space that consulting creates for me to do what I want and when I want.

Someone else I know phrased the question differently. What would you do for a dollar? Or what what would you in place of your consulting services? Both questions point to what drives me.

At the moment I describe myself in Twitter like this: I’m a child in an adult’s body wanting to show other adults how to educate with technology.

I want to keep doing this because I know many adults, be they teachers, instructors, or trainers, have forgotten what it is like to be a learner. They might teach, but their learners do not learn.

They might also teach in a way that is disconnected from the way today’s learner prefers to learn — with and from technology.

I retain that child-like ability to think and act like a learner. I am also an experienced teacher educator. As I can read both sets of minds, I have learnt to build technology-mediated bridges between the two.

That is what drives me because I know that is the difference I make. I am paid more than a dollar to do that and I would give up my consulting services if I could do more of that with a powerful partner.

But what gets them up in the morning? What would they do for a dollar?

According to STonline, this is an example of transformative schooling in Singapore’s Infocomm Media 2025 masterplan.

Imagine a future where each student goes home with a different set of questions for their homework, which are customised to address areas that an individual is weak in. That future could be at our doorstep over the next few years.

Using data analytics technology, teachers can easily sift through their students’ strengths and weaknesses, and assign homework based on areas they need more practice in.

This technology will also be able to generate customised worksheets and practice papers for students, such as generating more problems which students are weak at to practice on, or coming up with more challenging questions in topics they are breezing through.

It is a description of the holy grail of individualized instruction. To some, this might be transformative as we leverage on big data and more advanced analytics.

But just how transformative is the example? It certainly takes a load off teachers and leverages on what technologies can do better than people. However, it is still using words like homework, practice, and worksheets.

What would be transformative is thinking and acting outside that box. It is building on what has already started differently today instead of the all too familiar past.

For example, learners already watch YouTube videos that fuel their passions and actively pursue skills they want to develop. YouTube already has algorithms that suggest what other related videos to watch (like the way library systems might recommend books to you and Amazon recommends what you buy).

tall pine by mamaloco, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  mamaloco 

What would be transformative is a system that is learner-centric and predicts what each person wants and needs, be it curriculum-based or passion-based. But chasing curricula is going for the relatively low-hanging fruit; enabling the identification and pursuit of one’s passions is more worthwhile.

Now one might argue that ten years is not a long time to develop systems that help us climb higher up that tree. I disagree. With YouTube, we are already at the start of passion-based pursuits.

Building elaborate curriculum engines will tend to focus on content and providing it when the learner needs it. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not enough. Doing this will not necessarily create context for authentic use and help learners make meaningful connections. However, focusing on what drives learners and learning creates context and connection, and is even fueled by these two elements.

Consider Singapore’s refocus on vocational or skills-based education. Now think about how many instructional videos there are on YouTube, e.g., baking cakes, putting on makeup, playing musical instruments, building your own X, hacking your own Y, fixing your own Z, etc. The desire to learn these skills is driven by the learner. The content is sought out as a result of context and connection, not the other way around.

If we are going to use the word “transform”, then we should be using it properly. Transforming is not just doing more of the same and better. It is doing something different and more worthwhile. In education, transformational edtech should enable passion-based learning, not just more curriculum-based learning.

Video source

I subscribe to MysteryGuitarMan’s YouTube channel and I love his latest video.

He tells a story on how he moved from Brazil to Boston, learnt English, went to medical school, opted to follow his passion for making videos, lived a dirt poor life, and is finally enjoying the fruits of his labour.

His is a great example of following your passion, being persistent, and learning from failure.

Some people are driven by status and money. Some are driven by corporate missions.

But when the extrinsic motivations run out or are stripped away, what is left?

I think the difference between the mediocre and those who are good at what they do is the drive that stems from passion. But that too can waver.

One way to remain passionate about what you do is to ask why.

“Why” keeps you fresh, centred, and open to change. “Why” gets you in trouble too. But asking “why” is worth the trouble.

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