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Posts Tagged ‘pedagogical

Today I link a pop-culture phenomenon and the importance of nuanced expertise.

Like many other Netflix subscribers, I enjoyed Squid Game. But I was surprised to learn that it was ten years in the making and almost did not happen.

I also appreciated the critique of the show’s english subtitles. Some references just got lost in translation. As a result, those of us that were not fluent in Korean lost social and emotional context.

Video source

The video above featured several examples by a Korean language professor.

For example, I loved the analysis of the use of “hyung” or a social elder brother. The subtitles simply indicated that the character of Ali called his friend’s name. However, the audio clearly indicated that he was also using this term of close kinship. Knowing the meaning of hyung made Ali’s betrayal and death even more impactful.

It took a language professor to explain this nuance. A subtle cannot realistically capture such a cultural reference and so much was lost in translation. But we have the benefit of an expert’s analysis if we seek it out.

I see a parallel in pedagogical design. I might use a strategy like cooperation within heterogeneous groups. An outside observer might simplistically “subtitle” this as a collaborative activity. They could not be more wrong.

My strategy does not go as far as collaboration; it is realistically levelled at brief and task-based cooperation. The student groupings comprise of intentionally different learner skills or abilities. There is more thought and skill in my design than meets the eye.

The designs of my lessons are no where near complexity of Squid Game. But they might be just as subtle. You only have to ask, unpack, and learn.

Call me a pedantic semantic, but “America“ does not belong to the USA nor should the names be used interchangeably.

I reflected on this at least twice [1] [2] in the past. I only had the benefit of inputs from the people I interacted with when I lived in the US. Now I also have this informative and funny video.

Video source

The Map Men took a jaunty walk down history to explain why politicians in the US did their best to obtain a map that first labelled the Americas “America”. The US conveniently overlooked how the label of “America” was on what is now Brazil.

Sidetrack: If the US needs a name more apt, I would borrow one from the list provided by the Map Men — The Land of the Rising Gun.

Now “America” is practically synonymous with the USA. This ignores the fact that there are so many other countries in “America”.

A linguist might ask: If common use has redefined a word, why fight against it? Mine is not a linguistic or semantic argument. It is a philosophical and practical one.

For example, assessment is not the same as evaluation; gamification is not the same as game-based learning; the flipped classroom is not the same as flipping learning processes. I leave my previous reflections to define these terms and phrases for me.

The words we use can create shared meaning or sow confusion. I would rather do the former as part of my philosophy of teaching. We then act on what we understand and believe, i.e., there are practical consequences.

For example, a poorly informed instructional designer might develop a learning package that “gamifies” learning with a multiple choice quiz that rewards students with extrinsic rewards if they complete this assessment outside of class.

If this designer does this for an edtech company that sells the package as game-based flipped learning, they are selling lies. These lies become more common and acceptable if they are not challenged.

I might seem pedantic about semantics on the surface. But dig deeper and you will discover that my objections have pedagogical roots.

Something I heard on a podcast reminded me of a design principle I am using for online learning.

In the podcast, one person told a story of how her mother found a tool to create word searche puzzles for that person’s grandmother. This was an attempt to stem the mental deterioration of the grandmother.

To make activity more meaningful, the mother used the names of relatives so that the grandmother would not forget them. The grandmother appreciated the effort, but she also remarked, “Who the hell are all these people?”

I laughed. I also reflexively thought about how this was similar to pedagogical design — there is a gap between the intent and the outcome.

How so? The design of online resources is often about the content, activities, and time spent on both. They are about the what, how, and when of learning. Some learners will just do what they are told. Others will not.

My learners are teachers and educators. Sometimes these are the toughest learners because they are comparing their own teaching and learning experiences with an online one I design for them. I have decided to include short design rationales with each activity. I am telling them why I have designed something that way and why they need to perform that task.

I hope that making design rationales clear helps my learners connect better with the processes and products of learning. I am revealing my state of mind so that they are less likely to ask, “Why the heck am I doing this?”

You might look at the obvious design and implementation flaw in the tweet below and wonder how this happens.

These are commonplace judging from the number of photos and websites that feature such flaws. They are easy to spot with a critical eye.

The flaws are obvious as is the physical harm users might experience as a result of such designs. However, some designs are easily overlooked.

One such less obvious design happens in “new” classrooms. These are helmed by agencies and vendors that claim they design for learning. They call these places hubs of learning or classrooms that are smart.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who had to test a new classroom. Some background: This campus had issues with pillars blocking views and platforms facing the wrong way.

Having experienced so many design flaws myself, I asked him what the problems were with the new room. Off the top of his head he mentioned that there weren’t enough writing surfaces. He also described a pillar with an odd configuration of displays. If I find this design faux pas, I will photograph it and update this page.

The people in charge were unhappy with the design flaws. This invariably led to delays in using the classrooms (time cost), modifications to correct the errors (effort cost), and budget negotiations (financial cost).

One reason why these errors persist is that these classrooms are designed without consulting progressive-minded policymakers and reflective educators. Most modern universities also have learning or pedagogy centres who can advise on these design. But these agencies are as easily overlooked as writing surfaces.

I suspect that many designs are based on photos of visits to cool-looking venues and administrators choose an item from A, another from B, and so on. All at the lowest possible price, of course. When this happens, the designers know WHAT to do and HOW to do this, but not WHY.

The WHY of the design of a classroom is not just about aesthetics or comfort. It is about pedagogy and learning. Including a person or a small team that has expertise in such design is not cheap, but it prevents bad pedagogical design of a learning environment.

It just takes sense/cents to save a dollar.

A university website claims that bookending lectures is innovative learning. It is neither innovative nor does it focus on learning.

The first bookend is providing an advance organiser and the other bookend is summarising. In between is a series of lecturing and activities that I call pedagogical ping-pong.

Pedagogical ping-pong is an iterative process: Deliver-practice-repeat. In layperson’s lingo, it is often “I tell you first, then you give it back to me”. This is often repeated cycles of just-in-case delivery followed by practice or testing.

What is wrong with this design? The presenting of information first is providing a solution before a problem is obvious. It reflects an expert’s deconstruction of a problem and the retelling of a solution. This makes no sense and does not reflect the logical or authentic problems in the wider world.

Pedagogical ping-pong encourages short-term use of recently provided information. For example, you provide a formula and you get students to practice using it. They will seem to understand and even apply it because of recency, not long-term learning.

An alternative approach is to put the problem first. This presents an issue in all its complexity by dealing with a puzzle or phenomenon first. Where lectures are a must, the design of the lesson could start with a wider world issue as captured in a video, followed by questions to clarify and scaffold, and then by providing just-in-time information.

The alternative approach makes visible expert and novice thinking behind problem-solving. It focuses not just on content but also on thinking processes. Taking this approach requires a shift in mindset: Content is not an end in itself; it is a means of teaching learners to master new thinking skills, change attitudes, and/or adopt different values.

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