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Posts Tagged ‘pedagogy

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Donald Clark blogged about pedAIgogy (a portmanteau of pedagogy and AI). He started by outlining the Big Bangs in teaching and learning.

  • The printing press amplified the written word on paper.
  • The second Big Bang was the explosion of multimedia carried by the Internet.
  • Following quickly was Internet searches that enabled autodidactism and true self-directed learning.
  • Social media were the fourth Bang that allowed people to connect quickly with experts and like-minded others.

This led to his thesis that we are now observing the fifth Big Bang. In describing generative AI, Clark said:

We are now in a world of human teachers, human learners but also technology that teaches and technology that learns. We can learn using it, and from it. We can also teach using it and it can also teach us.

That was his prelude to pedAIgogy. What is it? Unlike current and past pedagogy, Clark argued that pedAIgogy is “demand driven, not supply-driven”.

For example, university courses and staff development are typically prepared well in advance and students and workers have little or no say in their design, implementation, timing, duration, etc.

The advent of generative AI could mean that resources and tutoring can be activated when they are most needed. This could mean a more dynamic education as a learner and timely performance support as a worker.

I hesitate to make technology predictions, but it is hard to ignore the signposting from ChatGPT and other generative AI. Clark argued that we can now co-create with AI by having dialogues with them. We no longer have to tolerate “over-engineered, PPT-led, abstract courses”.

This is an exciting time if you are a progressive technophile. It is probably worrying or even terrifying if you are an uninformed policymaker. The fact is neither group can be sure what is coming because we do not.

But we can revisit lessons that edtech history has tried to teach us. We shape our tools and they shape us. We actively work towards the good that technology can do it by mitigating negativity and celebrating successes.

This is my favourite description of serendipity:

Serendipity is digging for worms, but finding gold instead.

While doing my daily worm digging, i.e., trawling edu-Twitter and processing my RSS feed, I chanced upon two nuggets on empathetic pedagogy.

The first was a reflection from George Couros about what he had just read about empathy. His takeaway from the book he was reading:

Empathy should not be about understanding voice but should often lead to a co-created action forward.

Empathy is not just a feeling or thought process like sympathy. It is embodied in action. So I reason that teachers who practice it should adopt a pedagogy of empathy.

The second resource was from Martin Weller who was actually writing about the pedagogy of crisis. I found his examples to be more specific about WHAT to design with more empathy. He listed “more flexible assessment, adaptable study patterns, access to support”.

If all goes to plan, I will conduct a workshop that introduces the pedagogy of empathy to a group of progressive school teachers next month. One focus area will be the HOW of such pedagogy.

The workshop is actually about e-pedagogy. I do not see why the e should not be about empathy. If we are to rely on edtech to communicate, connect, and co-create, I say these be driven by empathy for our learners and learning.

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Thanks to a blog entry by Martin Weller, I learnt that teaching during the pandemic might be called crisis pedagogy. Apparently much of this pedagogy is a variation of chalk and talk — I call it Zoom in your room.

But I digress from excellent points Weller made about pedagogy during crisis. Among them were:

  • A pedagogy of care, e.g., “more flexible assessment, adaptable study patterns, access to support”
  • Resilient course design, e.g., rethinking the need for face-to-face and proctored exams
  • Professional development of educators (from one-trick ponies to multitalented maestros)
  • Agile governance and administration, i.e., not having to wait a semester or two when the needed change is now

I weigh in on the last and first points.

The mountain of governance and administration is so immovable that it is hard to even image change. One merely has to look at gains made during the pandemic only to be lost in administrative mire.

For example, consider how a university department might resort to fully online modules stuffed with twice the number of students. Instead of returning to normal-sized classes post-pandemic, administrators keep the class sizes big and overload the fewer faculty they retained.

As for the pedagogy of care (PoC) — a brilliant phrase I must say — I might have an opportunity to share my own brand at a workshop next month. I call it the pedagogy of empathy, PoE.

I consider the PoE a larger concept than the the PoC because care elements result from processes of empathy.

But I worry about the brevity of the workshop. The duration is a factor of cost, which is a factor of administration. The PoE should be a semester-long course for depth, practice, and reflection. Squeezing a short session is a primer at best.

I love how dedicated pedagogues share openly and generously their thoughts on educating learners. Two of them from Lehman College, CUNY, wrote about their experiences with a HyFlex (hybrid flexible?) intervention. They defined HyFlex as:

…a philosophy that prizes maximum adaptability for students as its central ethos, and a mode of course delivery that allows students to choose from week to week… how they want to engage with a course, whether in person, synchronous, or fully remote.

After reading their article, I agreed with one premise (“access to learning is not the same as engaging in learning”) but not the other (“flexibility needs to be felt in real time”). 

I focus on their flawed premise. They elaborated that: 

…enabling technologies like Zoom, limit flexibility in educational activities, however, and are best suited to allowing the professor to fairly directly deliver information to two sets of students.

I disagree, but with caution because I have questions that their article did not provide insights into.  For example:

  • What group-based affordances (like Zoom breakout groups) did they use, if any?
  • Did they ask their students to find workarounds, and if so, what did they incorporate?
  • What asynchronous strategies, if any, did they leverage on?

That said, I can relate on their dedication and frustration when they shared that:

Even for the rather “tech savvy” teachers we consider ourselves to be, the level of agility to foster participation among separate groups of students, manage complex technological and technical concerns, and attend to the ideas and learning objectives we had for each session…


Eventually our IT colleagues threw up their hands, explaining that our pedagogy could not be accommodated, that our teaching techniques were “intense,” “unique,” and “a bit much.”

But I wonder if they focused on how difficult it is to teach and facilitate in a hybrid environment instead on how to optimise learning for each groups. Trying to address two groups simultaneously when each has different overall context and needs is like trying to satisfy air-breathing and underwater-dwelling humanoids at the same time. You can try, but you drown in your own sweat.

The authors of the piece revealed that they gave up and gave in:

After a few months of HyFlex teaching, we gave up. We allowed our voice alone to bridge the in-person and virtual spaces and settled for mass, convenient content delivery (lectures illustrated by slides) over meaningful interaction.

It is not like they resorted to lecturing and did not care for their students. They revealed that they:

…have each incorporated a few modifications drawn from HyFlex, such as making videos of class available to students who have to be absent and removing the requirement that students justify an absence. We did not want our students to feel so compelled to attend class that they would see it as incompatible with their caregiving commitments or that they would come to school while sick. We are trying to build our own model of flexibility, accountability, and caring pedagogical spaces in our classrooms.

But they seem to have not embraced forms of asynchronous learning that are self-paced, (semi-)independent, and reflective. Instead they were trying to force fit synchronous and in-class methods to contexts more suited for asynchronous and remote learning.

Still, they have a core priority that all of us should share:

Our value added to the educational experience is not, and probably never was, what we know, but rather our excitement about how we know it, and our invitation to our students to join us in a journey of shared inquiry.

Yes, this is the focus on PROCESSES of learning, not just PRODUCTS of learning. It is not just WHAT I know but HOW I came to know it. One good way to feed this focus is to model mentoring and apprenticeship. This is not easy or quick in-person or remote, but it can be done. 

If there is any hybridising, it could be about optimising both modes separately. That is, not trying to do both at the same time and instead leveraging on each strategically. This could mean requiring, say, 4 out of 10 sessions to be in-person or synchronous online while the rest are asynchronous and remote. This helps establish clear expectations for each type of session (e.g., mentoring or peer teaching) and removes confusing practices when trying to juggle both simultaneously.

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It has been a while since I have been able to get some work done at my local library. According to Twitter, I bookmarked this article on 6 July.

The authors wrote a clickbait-y article titled Black Mirror Pedagogy: Dystopian Stories for Technoskeptical Imaginations. They described their work as “the development of two educational activities that use dystopian fiction as a device for helping students develop technoskeptical imaginations”.

Why did they do this? Their literature review outlined how technology creators might tout intrusive and data hungry applications in the name of personalisation. They also mentioned how policy-making is slow to react and that the average layperson and student do not take the time to “research collateral effects”.

At that point of the article, I stopped to reflect on a few terms. The authors described technology creators as techno-utopian, i.e., seeing and selling only the positive aspects of new technologies. In my opinion, this is an extreme form of techno-optimism.

At the opposite end of the scale is techno-pessimism, and its extreme, techno-dystopianism. The latter is what Netflix’s anthology, Black Mirror, was about — how technology is always bad and turns against its human creators. 

I consider myself a practitioner of techno-realism. I see the original intentions of technology creators, particularly those in the edtech sphere. But I also recognise that there are unintended consequences. 

For example, Edmond is shutting down. But it has a treasure trove of data on teachers and students that could be misused. Edmond was already hacked in 2017 and the account data of 77 million users were sold on the dark web.

So I was supportive of the six questions that three of the four authors had previously generated to “investigate and interrogate technologies with students”:

  • Was this technology designed ethically and is it used ethically?
  • Are laws that apply to our use of this technology just?
  • Does this technology afford or constrain democracy and justice for all people and groups?
  • Are the ways the developers profit from this technology ethical?
  • What are unintended and unobvious problems to which this technology might contribute?
  • In what ways does this technology afford and constrain learning opportunities about technologies?

I agree with their analysis that such questions, while probing, would not always deep and critical thinking. Hence their Black Mirror muse.

Their MadLibs and fill-in-the-blank activities were interesting and worth the read here. But I wondered if:

  • The techno-dystopianism of Black Mirror sensationalises instead of normalises. That is, the show is about entertainment; it does not transfer easily to education because it drags in the absurd.
  • The activities might promote uncritical cynicism instead of pragmatic skepticism. There is a thin but important line between the two — cynicism shuts all doors and strengthens bias; skepticism keeps windows open and widens perspectives.
  • The activities lead to the internalisation of the six questions above and to the transfer of such a scaffold to daily life. The authors began with the story of a student who was closely monitored by a seemingly benevolent guardian. Could the students not analyse and question what they themselves were experiencing?

In short, I liked how creative the authors were on leveraging on a component of popular culture. But I wonder if they depend on it too much and not enough on the personal experiences of their students. I suppose that the effectiveness of these activities is not gauged on paper but in its skilful implementation in class. All that said, I am thankful that those educators shared their ideas freely and openly so that all of us benefit by critiquing, adopting, and adapting.

I like videos that show us what goes on behind-the-scenes. I appreciate the processes that contribute to a product.

Video source

It was from the video embedded above that I discovered some of inner workings of a local IKEA store.

Seven minutes into the video, I also found out from Keith Oo, Deputy General Manager of IKEA Tampines, that more the 50% of Singaporean customers want our products assembled for them. This did not compare favourably with the Aussies — about 30% of them did not DIY.

If the anecdotes from interviewees are any indication, our excuse is not that we are too busy to DIY. We have learnt not to help ourselves. We have a condition called learnt helplessness.

This is taught in various ways, among them an over-reliance on hired help (when you should clean up after yourself) or a dependence on delivery (when you can pick things up yourself). These are lessons are offered by adults and kids catch these lessons on the fly. Perhaps we might call this the pedagogy of helplessness.

When I reflected on how we might work towards a better essay, I also discovered the work of Mike Sharples.

His informative and enlightened tweet thread on AI and essay writing is an excellent read. About halfway in the thread, he mentioned how teachers could use the AI that helped students “write” to evaluate those same essays. So he suggested this (part 7):

He also suggested three approaches to embrace AI-enabled essay writing which I paraphrase below:

  1. Hook and critique: Students use AI to start essays, but students continue the essays by improving the content and writing.
  2. Take turns with AI: Students take turns with AI to write an essay, e.g., student and AI write alternate paragraphs. 
  3. Rise above: Facilitate discussions with students about the ethics and limits of relying on AI.

One example of the third point was what Sharples point out in an early tweet (part 3): 

The AI generated the wrong reference by using plausible information in its database. It still took human effort and judgement to see it through.

Then Sharples left a challenge for all teachers and educators (part 11): 

We cannot simply throw our collective hands in the air and give up. We need to take the AI bull by the horns and learn to ride it or corral it. His three approaches above provide some riding tips. His last tweet challenges us to design and implement better assessment.

For me, his challenge is like telling teachers now to not set Googleable questions. While students need to show that they can remember and understand, they can search for these answers. What matters more is their ability to analyse, evaluate, cooperate, and create. The challenge now is the same one in future: What assignments and assessments are we designing that really help our students to learn?

If we keep trying to answer that question, we do not better Google or outwit AI. Instead we battle our own bias and ignorance, and keep us on the path of timeless learning.

This tweeted article was about a new programme in Singapore’s main teacher education institute, Artificial Intelligence @ NIE (AI@NIE). 

With my curiosity piqued, I looked for the official press release from NIE. Unfortunately, I found even less information there. My mind flashed to my reflection on EEAAO (Everything Everywhere All At Once) and considered how the communiqué seemed like nothing, nowhere, and none at once.

The press release was nine paragraphs long and the first six were policy statements and goals. The seventh was about a conference. 

There was little by way of examples, but that probably was not the purpose of sharing the news. Suffice to say that the outlook of the programme was forward-looking (paragraph 6):

AI@NIE… forges interdisciplinary partnerships in education that create collaborative online and offline spaces for researchers to share ideas that could translate into future practices.

The STonline article added:

By 2026, topics about artificial intelligence in education will be offered for trainee teachers at all levels, including undergraduates, post-graduate and in-service teachers…

How about everything and everywhere that is AI now and that will shape the AI future?

Thankfully, the journalist noted current AI tools like text-to-speech and speech evaluation for Chinese language and, in two years, an automated marking system for English assignments.

But that did not satisfy my curiosity. The first tool set was not widespread while the second has been talked about but not implemented.

I also wondered if there were efforts in educational AI in current areas like search and curation. There is a lot of information “out there”, but for it to become knowledge “in here” teachers and students need some understanding of how search algorithms work and evolve. When teachers and students find relevant resources, they need to know how to efficiently and effectively curate them for storage, retrieval, and use. 

Another critical but missing reporting element was teacher mindsets. There is no point teaching them topics about AI in 2026 if the mindsets that shape their behaviours are stuck in 1996. To the credit of NIE, its press release stated: 

This initiative by the NIE prepares Singapore educators to lead and exemplify the use of AI in pedagogies effectively and ethically and curate relevant education courses for Singapore Educators and promote innovative mindsets and practices.

This was all of paragraph 4, and it was a long and confusing sentence. With some word smithing, I might suggest that the AI initiative aims to:

a) prepare Singapore teachers to leverage on AI effectively and ethically,

b) curate timely resources* on AI for teaching and learning, and 

c) shape mindsets and practices that are both innovative and responsible   

Yes, the paragraph is a tad longer and now in point form. But it is also clearer.

*The press release stated courses while I suggest resources. If the institute is curating entire courses, other universities, agencies, and companies might be worried. Then again, they might smell an opportunity.

Rising above, my reflection might have started with being curious about a new AI in pedagogy programme. But it concluded with being clearer in messaging. I remain curious about the first and critical about the second.

Martin Weller followed up on his previous piece on group work as a form of good online learning with a new one on asynchronicity

He suggested four advantages of designing for asynchronous learning:

  1. Increased student flexibility
  2. Greater student control
  3. More time to interact
  4. Increased curriculum flexibility

I would wager that any instructional designer or educator working primarily in the online space would have been able to offer the same points.

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However, only someone like Weller, with his decades of experience in Open University, might call lazy those who do not bother to advance pedagogy with the changing landscape.

The advent of reliable video streaming has meant people have become lazy and just shifted existing practice online.

Weller was commenting on the fact that teachers often try to replicate what they already know and do instead learning what works better in the online space. 

For me, this is like being forced to live in a water-flooded world and insisting on driving your car instead of learning how to swim, paddle, or operate a boat. Why not go with the flow and change behaviours so that they are more suitable? 

Changing pedagogy takes effort because it focuses more on what the students might do and less on what a teacher might say. We call this intentional learning design. Weller has offered ideas on how to redesign group work and to leverage on asychronicity.

The last year has seen the rise of Zoom for teaching and learning. It has also seen proponents of faceless Zoom.

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Faceless Zoom is allowing students to not have their cameras on. A teacher might do this is to respect the privacy of his/her students. 

Zoom captures what happens in the students’ backgrounds. Since some students might not have conducive learning environments outside the classroom, what happens in the background could become distracting to everyone. These backgrounds also provide insights on the students’ socioeconomic statuses and these can heighten divides.

One way to mitigate this issue is for students to use artificial backgrounds or to blur their backgrounds in Zoom. However, these backgrounds interfere with movements or demonstrations on camera. Video algorithms attempt to hide anything that is not a relatively still head and shoulder, so anything that you or your students hold up will get blurred or hidden.

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This is another reason for faceless Zoom. Stanford reported four factors that could contribute to Zoom fatigue (my summary). One possible contributing factor was seeing so many faces so much of the time. The same article went into why this might be psychologically and physiologically tiring.

But I counter with this: If you are only conducting classes online where faces are optional, you might be doing it wrong. 

When are faces optional? When you do not really need them, e.g., teacher-centred and non-interrupted lectures. What is wrong with such lectures? See the image quote below.

The danger of lectures is that they create the illusion of teaching for teachers, and the illusion of learning for learners.

Zoom need not and should not be faceless. As educators, we should create the need and desire to see and work with others. 

This goes beyond the technological mitigation of replacing real backgrounds with digital ones. Such a strategy is quick and convenient — some old-school folks might call this technical savvy — but it does not address the desire to remain faceless.

Students can remain faceless in a large Zoom class or lecture. They have no incentive to show their faces because they are talked to but not listened to. They are not asked for comments, questions, or feedback. If they are, such interventions are so sporadic as to not require constant face time.

Lectures are not just teacher-centric because they focus on the one-way flow of information. They can be teacher-centric in Zoom if the teacher insists on seeing student faces just to get affirmation, e.g., nodding heads.

But even the best lecturer will subject students to Zoom fatigue of a different sort — one lecture after another. You might as well rely on a playlist YouTube videos instead. Then students can watch asynchronously at least.

We can avoid lectures and faceless Zoom with pedagogical redesign. I do not mean lesson designs that require students to show presence. This is administrative attendance taking or gamified being-there. I am about lessons that are designed for being present.

What circumstances require students to be present? Lessons that value their queries and inputs. Classes that are dominated by cooperation or collaboration. Sessions that are driven by problem-seeking, problem-solving, peer teaching, and meaningful project work.

The easiest thing to do is identifying sessions where these approaches can lead lesson design. The most difficult is changing teacher mindsets towards taking that first easy step.


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