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Posts Tagged ‘peeves

What is the point of getting older without also getting a bit grumpier? That might be the leading question for this aging edtech consultant.

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Today I add to my lists [1] [2] [3] of popular but uncritical buzzwords or phrases.

Addiction: Specifically to any and all technology, e.g., games, social media, YouTube. The “addiction” used loosely by popular media and the layperson is different what a clinical psychologist might have in mind. 

An actual addiction needs to be medically diagnosed as chronic, compulsive, and harmful, and be treatable. This is in contrast to the flippant lay use, e.g., addicted to TikTok, followed by a laugh and/or a shrug of the shoulders. Casual and frequent use does not necessarily equate to addiction.

Addiction is sometimes followed by the next two phrases.

Digital detox: As if technology is inherently poisonous, some folks think that it is cool or fashionable to go retreats where they have no mobile or wifi signal and gadgets are banned.

Somehow the very same devices they rely on for work or to maintain quality of life need to be avoided. They shift the blame on the technology and conveniently ignore personal responsibility and self-management when using such tools.

Instead of a digital detox, what these folk might need is a mindset reset.

Screen time: Oh, this old egg. I do my best to crack it with every batch of teachers and educators I meet, but most seem brainwashed with this yolk of an issue.

There still is a focus among early childhood educators and parents about the quantity of screen time instead of the quality of the same. Why deny kids the responsible use of tools they will grow up with?

These adults have no shame in denying screens to their kids while not modelling responsible behaviours themselves. They also forget how modern and information-based workers need screen time to communicate, cooperate, and create. 

I do not mind being a buzzkill for buzzwords that mislead or obscure. It is a hobby of Curmudgeon Man!

Photo by Katya Wolf on
Photo by Pixabay on

New year, new level of curmudgeon. 

In 2018, I shared some buzz words in education that rang hollow [1] [2]. Today I add three more — unprecedented, engaging, and training — to that list. (Yes, I had engagement in my first 2018 list, but my emphasis this year is different.)

Unprecedented: Overused during the pandemic, it does not examine history and is an excuse to do shoddy work. Lock downs, misinformation, disinformation, and anti-vaxxers occurred a little over 100 years ago during the flu pandemic of 1918 [3] [4]. 

When schools and education institutes roll out half-hearted online “learning” or emergency remote teaching, it makes me wonder why they were not preparing prior to the pandemic. Oh yes, they ignored history and their e-champions.

Engaging: An administrative and edtech darling of a word because it says nothing of worth. A vendor might show off a whizz-bang feature to an administrator who then wants faculty to use in class because it is engaging.

It is important to get the attention of students because this is one of the first steps to learning. But the bigger issue is sustaining that sort of attention. You cannot and should not merely engage. 

Why? First, there are natural ebbs and flows in a lesson or learning. Second, the only one engaged is the teacher because she is doing all the work. Third, educators have different ways of engaging — storytelling, demonstrating, leading — that vendors may not replicate.

Training: A word that threatens to replace professional development, preparation, continuous education, etc. Training is better suited in military or industrial contexts where standardised procedures are important, e.g., noise discipline, quality control. It is less appropriate in teacher education (unless you want clones).

You can train a dog to do tricks or poo in an enemy’s lawn. You can also train people, e.g., toilet training, CPR steps. But not every context requires training. Training people when they need to be nurtured is just wasting time, money, and effort, it also risks demoralising them.

The words we use matter because they have meaning. That, in turn, shapes action. If we use the wrong words, we risk doing the wrong thing.

I am in the middle of a particularly intensive fortnight of providing feedback on written assignments of future faculty. It does not help that this period coincides with the Lunar New Year period — a few assignments have not been submitted and I must work over the break so that the feedback is available this week.

But my gripe is not the fact that the LNY is a distraction or that others around me are celebrating while I work. I am keep getting reminded of three things that worry me about the writing ability of some learners at this level of higher education.

1. Not writing in paragraphs
I still get students who write in one big block of text.

Not only is the visual presentation uninviting to read, it indicates that the writers are not organised, take no care in writing, or have no concern for the reader.

This is my Number One worry because the course I facilitate is about learner-centred pedagogy. My constant refrain is “focus on the learner and learning, not just the teacher and teaching”. To do this, my students (future faculty) need to develop empathy for their own students.

Before they submit their assignments, I tell them to transfer this principle when they write. One piece of advice is not writing the way they speak, i.e., being concise instead of recreating verbal diarrhoea. Another is to write for the reader, i.e., realising that a reader is not in the same head space as the writer.

2. Lazy mistakes
No writing is perfect because people make mistakes. However, some mistakes can be avoided if writers proofread their work several times. If they do, they might detect basic errors like repeated words, e.g., “is is” or “to to”.

A form of laziness that results in mistakes is the refusal to learn grammar. For example, in lesson plan assignments I often come across writers who insist on using “feedbacks” as a noun instead of “feedback”.

If I offer you one or more instances of advice, both are feedback. The singular piece is feedback, the plural piece is also feedback and not feedbacks. It is like sheep: One sheep, two sheep, three sheep. No “sheeps”.

Sheep by jrigol, on Flickr
Sheep” (CC BY 2.0) by jrigol

3. Odd turns of phrases
Writers at this level often try to be high-sounding, but they come across as bad users of a thesaurus.

Some examples:



I share these examples not to make fun of my learners. I do not share their names and I blur the parts of their writing that are not relevant. I share to illustrate the problem.

The problem is also not just in their use of such odd turns of phrases; it is that their evaluators or even their supervisors turn a blind eye.

I would like to focus on the ideas presented in the assignments. To do that, those submitting assignments need to learn to chunk information logically in paragraphs, stop making lazy grammatical mistakes, and strive to write simply and directly. If they do, they communicate more clearly and then together we can focus on improving their ideas.

In the meantime, I provide mini lessons on the basics of writing by commenting in the assignments. I do this even though doing that it not officially my job. I have no problem being labelled a fussy fuddy-duddy if this means that I am a watchdog for academic quality and values.

I remember Ask Jeeves like I remember Lycos and Hotbot. These were search engines before Google.

I remember curation before the likes of fire-and-forget services like These tweet “curations” are Ask Peeves for me because they piss me off.

Last month I tweeted an article about providing effective formative feedback.

The title of the article included the word “cartography” because the writer likened feedback to knowing 1) where you are, 2) where you need to be, and 3) how to get there.

However, individuals and bots who did not bother to actually read the article auto “curated” it into papers about geography, way finding, navigation, and the like. Even my attempt to hashtag the tweet with #feedback did little to stem the tide.

I dread to think of “experts” and trainers showing teachers how to set up such fire-and-forget services in the name of curation. It is not curation if you 1) have not read the article, 2) are not telling a coherent story, and 3) are not doing any of the heavy lifting.

If you like fire-and-forget strategies, you are taking a shortcut. You might get views and followers initially. But when they see that you lack effort and substance when you fire, they will forget.

I have been using my Toshiba Chromebook 2 for almost two months. This model is not available in Singapore and I took it off my Amazon wishlist after a year of waiting and reading reviews.

Video source

These were my initial reflections on using it in my first week:

Since then, the Chromebook has accompanied me to a few minor consulting gigs. I use it practically every day that I go to my office, i.e., a library or a coffee joint.

After using it for several weeks, I have a few pet peeves and made some discoveries.

I use 1Password remember and use my passwords. Unfortunately, the makers of 1Password do not plan on making a ChromeOS app.

My workaround was to let the Chrome browser manage some passwords. While this synced the passwords with browsers on my other devices, I still prefer a password management system that is not cloud-dependent.

All-in-One Messenger
I am a macOS and iOS user, so I use the Messages app for texting. I like being able to receive and send Messages on a desktop or laptop while I am working on one instead of reaching for my iPhone.

I am aware that if I used an Android phone, I could use Pushbullet to redirect SMS, but I do not.

I use a Chrome app, All-in-One Messenger, to keep tabs on texts I might receive in WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts. Unfortunately, Messages is not among them.

The peeves are not deal-breakers, but neither are the workarounds complete solutions.

Chromebooks require compromises, but not necessarily in performance. I appreciate how long the Toshiba’s battery lasts, how good its 1080P screen is, and how it does not lag. The compromises are in utility and that is partly a function of human behaviour. Adapt!

Disclosure: I have not been asked to write about or promote the products mentioned here. I am not paid in any way except with the knowledge that leaving this digital artefact might help someone later on.

One of the best things about Google Photos is how I can upload a photo to the cloud on one device and see it on another device that is connected to my Google account.

I have been using Google Photos since its launch and this was my previous reflection on it.

The editing tools are quite good. The auto-categorization by time and the image search tools are convenient. But try to manually arrange the sequence of photos so that you can tell your own story and you are stuck.

This is where the web version of Google’s Picasa shines. On a desktop or laptop computer, I can drag and drop single or multiple photos around in organize mode.

But the manually rearranged photos only works for me. When I sequence photos to tell a story, I get something like this:

But when I share the photo album with someone else, they see this:

They are the same photos, but in the wrong order. Google Photos favours chronological order. However, that is not the only way to tell a story. That is not the only way that makes sense.

I hope that Google Photos provides this granularity of control to users like me. We are not lazy or stupid. We want technology to help us create. We also want it to not get in the way.

I prefer using Edmodo and Google Sites to current learning management systems because the former are free, open, and flexible.

I like how Edmodo was (and still is) built on the premise that people learn by being able to socialize. When there is not enough time in class, you can continue online outside class. Better still, blend the experiences to take advantage of both worlds.

I use Edmodo every semester for at least one course, MLS125, an inservice teacher elective on managing ICT-mediated change.

The problem I face in Edmodo is that my “students” are teachers.

I choose not to require my participants to set up separate student accounts because I want them to hit the ground running as teachers. But I still cannot award these teachers badges like teachers can for their Edmodo students.

Teachers can get up to ten badges from Edmodo, but that is not within my control. I cannot model the gamified experience without compromising by requiring student accounts.

Why not require teachers to use student accounts then? First, having more than one account is confusing or inconvenient. Second, LMS typically give learners a student-only perspective and they adopt a more passive stance as a result. I want my participants to be clear on what they need to do and to take ownership of teaching and learning.


Second peeve: My profile says that I have less than ten students in my courses over the last few years. That is true based on Edmodo’s definition of students. But I have introduced hundreds of pre and inservice teachers to Edmodo by getting them to sign up for it and use it in my courses and workshops.

The third peeve is that I cannot schedule posts more precisely. I am thankful that I can even schedule posts as this feature was not available before. But I would like the fine-grained scheduling (to the minute) of TweetDeck for Twitter instead of the coarse scheduling (by the hour) in Edmodo.

Fourth peeve: I would also like some richer editing. I am not asking for much. Paragraphing would help!

When I type a reply like this:

Two thoughts to tickle the neurons and create cognitive dissonance.

By the end of MLS125, I hope that most of you realize why you should not perpetuate “digital natives” and “technology is just a tool”.

For some clues, you might search my blog on how my own understanding of digital natives has changed. We can also discuss them in this space or in person. The benefit of this space is more permanency and space for reflection.

As for the other concept, I share a quote (attributed to Marshall McLuhan): “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”.

It appears like this:

Two thoughts to tickle the neurons and create cognitive dissonance.By the end of MLS125, I hope that most of you realize why you should not perpetuate “digital natives” and “technology is just a tool”.For some clues, you might search my blog on how my own understanding of digital natives has changed. We can also discuss them in this space or in person. The benefit of this space is more permanency and space for reflection.As for the other concept, I share a quote (attributed to Marshall McLuhan): “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us”.

See the difference?

The former is my attempt to model good online discourse with white space. Edmodo prevents this. In the previous version of Edmodo, I could insert two or three returns for really spaced out paragraphs, but now I cannot seem to do that. I can create distinct paragraphs in initial postings, but not in replies.

My complaints may seem small, but I think that individually and collectively they are important. If we shape a tool that does not reward, acknowledge, or organize as it could, then it shapes behaviour.

Could I compromise? I could, but I will not because that would mean a lowering of expectations and standards. That is not what an educator does.


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