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Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy

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.

 
At around this time last year, I reflected on how I integrate Padlet into my classes, modules, or workshops. I summarise my Padlet strategies in a Padlet note below.

Padlet strategies.

The academic semester at one university I work with has resumed and I met my first classes last week.

As I reset each Padlet for reuse with a new group, I was reminded of how I used the same tool in five different ways in the very first session:

  1. As an icebreaker (self-introductions)
  2. For data collection (perceptions on learning)
  3. For Shared notes/Open note-taking (guided video-viewing)
  4. To enable think-pair-share (combining personal experience with concepts in readings)
  5. As an exit ticket (reflecting on takeaways)

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. There may be just one pudding base, but it is up to the person preparing the pudding to make things different, appealing, and healthy.

I am recreating some of my favourite image quotes I created some time ago. This time I use Pablo by Buffer and indicate attribution and CC license.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow. -- John Dewey

Dewey’s quote has been my mantra. As a teacher educator, I am acutely aware that teachers tend to teach the way they are taught.

If I do not model alternative and progressive ways to not just teach but also educate, they are not as likely to do differently for the good of our learners.

Note: I am on vacation with my family. However, I am keeping up my blog-reflection-a-day habit by scheduling a thought a day. I hope this shows that reflections do not have to be arduous to provoke thought or seed learning.

Some people choose to focus on the positive. Others dwell on the negative. I choose to be realistic.

That is why I tweeted this in response to another tweet.

The original tweet was not wrong, but it was not balanced. It lacked the other half of the story.

Technology amplifies what we can already already do or it enables us to do what we could not do before.

This means that a teacher can reach out to her learners beyond the time and space constraints of her classroom, e.g., online coaching.

But this could also mean that she teaches the same old and irrelevant way with different tools, e.g., from death by PowerPoint to massacre with Google Slides.

All this is not to say that technology plays a passive or follower role to pedagogy. I have explained before why technology integration is not like a pedagogical horse pulling a technological cart; it is more like a car. Educational technology should be seen and practised as an integrated whole.

As current and new technology enables new possibilities — for example, for students to create and share content — so should pedagogy change to move beyond consumption and control.

Most people might see how technology amplifies a teacher’s mindset and practice. The same people might not acknowledge that technology can enable new behaviours. Perhaps we should spend more time and effort amplifying the latter message instead.

TPACK+ model
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, © 2012 by tpack.org

If you asked me what the most important things to take away from the TPACK+ model of technology integration are, I would suggest:

  1. Planning for technology integration is only effective if you concurrently consider the nature of the content, pedagogical strategies, and technological affordances. This is the “sweet spot” of the TPACK+ model.
  2. An even more vital consideration is the context. This might not be obvious in the model because it is labelled at the bottom. However, it surrounds the entire model. Context should dictate decisions about technology integration.

I take context very seriously and model this for my courses and workshops. I do this by first finding out as much as I can about my learners.

For a course that just ended two nights ago, I had to make changes to adapt to participants who were collectively different from those that took the same course just five months prior.

Why? This batch learners was youthful. Seventy-one percent (71%) were teachers while the rest were leaders or managers. The same proportion had less than one year (9.7%) or no (61.3%) official teaching experience.

Five months ago, the proportion was about even between the newbies and the more experienced educators. The batch before that was almost the polar opposite: Almost two-thirds were experienced teachers while the rest were fresh faces.

If I did not conduct a survey, I could have simply gauged their experience and ICT readiness by their preferred technology. Given the choice to bring a device, my most recent class had a total of only two or three laptops. Everyone else was clutching an Android or iOS device. The earlier batches were laptop dominant and I had to cater for power strips all over the room.

The shifts were visually and qualitatively obvious to me. The shifts were clearer with quantitative data. But both forms of sensing were pointless if I did not adapt to the changes in context.

While there are many contextual elements — for example, physical environment, time of day, overall energy of learners, social cohesiveness — the technology context was a key consideration if I was to provide similar content and leverage on powerful pedagogical strategies.

To those ends, I used the new Google Sites as it seamlessly adjusted to screens on large or small devices. I embedded tools and resources that were mobile-friendly.

The access and consumption was flawless. However, creating on mobile is still an issue. For example, mind mapping tools like Coggle and even Google Docs still do not work evenly across different mobile browsers. Some of my participants could view, but not edit. Fortunately, they were grouped with others who could. Therein lay another benefit of group work.

This is the bottomline: It important to sense shifts in the ground; it is just as important to adapt to changes. Just as there are differences between individuals, one group of learners is different from the next. I reflect more so I need to react less.

LEGO: Chill-axing at home.

Building with LEGO can be both creatively constrictive and constructive.

If you limit yourself to the manual, you follow the prescribed recipe to recreate exactly what is on the box and what everyone else has. If you do not, you might create a mess or something truly your own or both.

Many kids start with free form building, and when they get older, end up following the manual to get identical copies. The parallel to schooling could not be more obvious.

My son has just about grown out of LEGO. He still tinkers with it, but not as religiously as he used to. We recently put piles of dusty bricks away in storage and not a tear was shed.

Yesterday I asked my son if he could help me with some adult LEGO. We had purchased two IKEA storage units and I wanted to cut down the assembly time.

Our near simultaneous build reminded me of something I might now call IKEA pedagogy.

IKEA assembly iconography.

I am not referring to the iconographic or visuals-only instructions in IKEA manuals. These are very much like LEGO manuals. There is little room for error and there is no latitude for free-building unless you are doing an IKEA hack.

No, I am referring to the pedagogy of a lead learner.

As I was assembling something new, I remained just one step ahead of my son. This meant that if I made a mistake, I had the option of warning him or letting him make the same mistake.

While I tried to remain ahead by virtue of my greater experience and strength, there was also a chance that my son could have overtaken me.

The pedagogy of being a lead learner is one of teaching while learning yourself, but the learning always comes first. Both lead learner and students learn by trying, making mistakes, getting immediate feedback, and remediating.

The mindset of a lead learner is one of humility. One or more learners might be better or faster at some things. A lead learner needs to balance free exploration and providing close guidance.

Being a lead learner is harder than being a conventional teacher because the learner and learning come first, not the curriculum and tests. However, with enough practice and building of trust, students learn to think and do for themselves. There is no LEGO or IKEA manual for this, but the results are greatly satisfying.

We assembled two sturdy storage units in the same amount of time it would have taken to make just one. My son gained some confidence and contributed to a household effort. I also have the confidence that I can rely on him in the next build. Maybe he should be the lead learner in future.

I was taught a lot as an undergraduate majoring in biology. Not all of it was true.
 

 
One thing that a lecturer taught me was this factoid: Human DNA is almost 99% identical to chimpanzee. That has stuck with me because it was so jarring.

The lesson then was that it took just 1% of evolutionary tweaking and protein-making difference to have a human. Back then I just took an expert’s word for it.

Today I have YouTube condensing the work and critique of several experts. The video below was built from five published references.


Video source

The main takeaway from the video is that the absolute number (99%) is misleading. The number was derived under conditions like ignoring portions of genomes and arbitrary rules so that the number is neither valid nor reliable. Change the rules and the number changes.

The larger issue is how students today might still be taught: From old textbooks, with outdated pedagogy, and without access to more than one source of information.

The biggest sin of any teacher is focusing just on content. This means the delivery of information and the testing by regurgitation of it.

Content is (or it should be) a means to an end. The end is not to reproduce that content in a test because information can be challenged and knowledge can change. Content should be a way to teach thinking.

The teaching of content today should not just be learning-about. It should focus on learning-to-be. In the chimpanzee and human DNA example, it is not just learning about the 99% factoid. It is about asking critical questions about it and knowing how to find valid and reliable answers to those questions.

Rising above, the teaching of a juicy factoid like human DNA is 99% chimpanzee stems from the pedagogy of answers and the attempt to engage students with interesting nuggets. The critique of such a factoid starts with the pedagogy of questions and continues with the empowerment of students to think and act critically.


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