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Posts Tagged ‘personal

There are very few things that bring me to Facebook (FB). One of those things is Pokémon Go (PoGo).

There is a local FB group where PoGo gamers share their thoughts and conquests. The group is one of several resources I visit to learn how to play the game better.

I found that group to be a microcosm of the larger gaming world. In practically any online discussion of games, you might find:

  • Sharing: Of new articles, opinions, photos, videos, and other artefacts of the game.
  • The asking of questions: People who need help ask the community for tips, advice, and solutions to problems.
  • The answering of questions: People respond to those questions and some replies are more helpful than others. In the case of Pokémon Go, a few curate lists and markup maps of spawn nests.
  • The asking of questions without reading first: There will always be some who do not bother to find out the history of the group or to scroll down and read what was shared in the feed moments earlier.
  • Curt answers: Someone will invariably tell off those that do not do their legwork or homework.
  • Negativity: Examples might include some form of complaining, trolling, or insulting.
  • Self-policing: If there is a moderator, he or she might have stern words with offenders or ban them from the group. Moderators of groups in FB and Google+ might also leave the group to police itself.

Such a microcosm is self-supporting and self-sustaining. Membership is loose, but roles might eventually develop among those that stay.

For me, this is a perfect example of personal learning, not the artificial effort to personalise or tailor “learning” that vendors push.

The current offerings and rhetoric on “personalised learning” are often more about differentiated instruction than about learning. This is a closed and expensive affair that is tied to LMS, learner analytics, and anything else that can be packaged to make money. Pedagogy is removed as much as possible in favour of automatic and rudimentary algorithms.

In the PoGo group, the platform open and free, and the participants self-organise around a common passion. They teach and learn from one another as co-learners. Involvement is personal as is the learning. While this approach does not suit every context and circumstance, it can account for a sizeable portion. So why turn to personalised learning solutions when personal learning can happen more organically?

After standing on the sidelines for a bit, I decided to replace my old iPhone with a new iPhone 7.

I made the order via online chat because that was one way to get on the 0%-interest installment plan. The other option was to call a service line.

I chose the lesser of two evils. I was also at a public library at the time, so I could not talk.

I summed up the experience in these two tweets.

I bought every major piece of Apple hardware I own (and have owned) online. The online chat process was very inefficient by comparison.

With my user information already in Apple’s databases, ordering a new phone online without an installment plan would have taken about a minute or two. To get on the special scheme, I had to wait for a representative to attend to me and type information that Apple already had into the chat boxes. The chat log told me this took almost 17 minutes.

Screenshot of partial chat log.

A voice-based call would probably have taken longer with wait time and the need to verbally deliver and verify information.

I also had to wait for a follow-up call from a bank representative and I was informed that it would take up to two business days for this to happen. Thankfully that call happened within the hour.

I know that Apple is more than capable of providing an efficient online shopping experience. The inefficiency and dissatisfaction stem from the bank’s need to do things old school.

For whatever reason, the bank decided that it was better to include humans in the purchasing chain and forced unnecessary social interaction. Anyone who has experienced online shopping and e-commerce knows that what the bank required could have been automated. It felt like a step backwards in time.
 

 
As most things go, I thought about how this was like the state of most teaching.

Teaching has not gone as far as letting the learner choose the way Apple online lets customers choose: They decide what they want, and when or how they get it.

Like the banking link, there is forced social interaction that is unnecessary and inefficient. This is like focusing on social interaction for the purpose of delivering and verifying information. This goes at the pace of the teacher and in the way that makes sense to the teacher. What the learner feels or needs is almost irrelevant.

If there is any social interaction in teaching — be it in person or online — it should be to facilitate important processes like feedback, mentoring, or coaching. That is, anything that contributes to the personal learning by the learner. An empowered learner who decides what, when, and how.

Apple wants to push its iPads, Macbooks, and apps into classrooms. But it offers those of us in schooling and education an accidental but more important lesson in edtech: Let the technology do what it is good at, let people do what they are good at. Do not get in the way of either unless one enables the other to do and be better.

ECG is an acronym for electrocardiogram. I had an ECG earlier this week, but it was not about my heart. I volunteered to share some thoughts at a school’s Education and Career Guidance event.

As with other events which are designed so that I give, I received much in return. Here are a few of my takeaways from the event.

Many thanks to this group for giving me the permission to share this photo.

The students were prepared with some guiding questions, but we found much of this scaffold unnecessary. When we made meaningful connections, questions and answers flowed naturally.

For me this reinforced the importance of being personable and personal as an educator.

Being personable is being approachable, having a smile that comes from deep within, and above all sounding human instead of high-and-mighty. Being personal is sharing meaningful events or stories. This sort of sharing is sincere and connects with heart and mind.

For example, when I introduced myself I mentioned that I was married to one of the teachers in the school. That naturally piqued interest and generated a Q&A game.

I also noticed all members of one group were armed with smartphones. So instead of answering the “What do you do?” and “Why do you do it?” questions the standard way, I asked the students to Google me. It was my way of showing them that:

  1. they should use the tools they already have,
  2. they could teach themselves, and
  3. it was important to be Googleable in a good way.

All three are important in modern work. If that is not career advice and guidance, I do not know what is.

I took the opportunity to ask different groups of students what they thought about the state of technology use in school compared to their personal lives, what games they played, and what social media tools they preferred. I will focus on their social media habits since that was the topic I discussed with all of them.

Almost without exception, the students seemed to favour Instagram. Some were on Twitter, and if they were, they preferred to keep private accounts. YouTube was also popular, but it is not really a social media platform if the behaviour is largely consumptive. Only a few had heard of or used more current tools like Snapchat, Meercat, or Periscope.

The serendipity ship sailed by because a tweep shared this the next day:

Her students were slightly older, but they had a similar evolutionary social media profile.

Take one or two accounts and you have anecdotes; collect more anecdotes in a disciplined way and you have data. Groups like comScore, TheNextWeb, and MindShift provide similar anecdotes and data about how teenagers use social media.

The more important question is whether teachers know and care enough that their students are on such platforms. If they do, the next question is whether teachers use appropriate strategies (read: non-LMS, non-traditional).

Students and teachers have different expectations of social media. For example, teachers seem to forget how they use social media in their own lives and resort to push strategies instead of pull.

Push strategies include making announcements, giving instructions, requiring online discussions of a certain quantity by a certain time, etc. These are pushed towards students and rely on an external locus of control (the teacher).

Pull strategies, on the other hand, originate from the students, a shared event, a common interest, or some other internal locus of control. No one has to tell them to take a photo (like the one above) and share it on Instagram, to talk about Amos Yee or Taylor Swift on Twitter, or to discuss homework on Facebook.

I let some of the students know that one of the things I do now is try to show teachers how to unlearn old habits and pick up new value systems for teaching. The secret sauce is this: Teachers have to use social media in their own lives and transfer what is good and useful to class. It is social first, not content first.

One student asked me if I could come back to her school and tell her teachers how to do that. I would love to. I can, but will the school leadership or staff developer even bother?

Ask any well-read person to predict the future of education and they might a) say they have no answer, b) suggest some rough ideas, or c) warn of impending doom. If they do this, they are looking toward the future aimlessly, wishfully, or fearfully.

An alternative strategy is to look forward by focusing on what you can do now.


Video source

In his TED talk, Joi Ito, head of the MIT Media Lab, suggested we be “now-ists” by:

  • Not asking for permission first
  • Relying on the power of pull (finding what/who you need when you need it)
  • Learning constantly and rapidly
  • Knowing which direction (not necessarily which destination) to head for

What does this have to do with predicting the future of education? Not much. But it has everything to do with shaping it.

Changing education is sometimes about moving when you are not quite sure or ready. It is less about having a concrete or traditionally laid-out plan. It is more about having a direction or vision.

For example, visions or directions in assessment might include “not paper”, not just high stakes examinations, or personal portfolios linked to identity. No one, especially vendors, can say they are ready to roll out systemic changes like these.

Instead of large ocean liners of change, change agents are already smaller, agile boats heading in the same general direction. They also learn to operate their boats differently from large ships.

Progressive change agents learn to leverage on these properties:

  1. Personal relevance
  2. Emotional ties, and
  3. Common causes.

Consider the example of the teacher who started the #iwishmyteacherknew trend. Concerned for her students, she asked them to share something she might not know about them.

The answers were very revealing and moving. They ranged from kids not having pencils at home to do homework, coming from broken families, and not having friends to play with.

The responses locally, in the traditional broadcast media, and on social media were disproportionate to the initial effort. Classmates of a girl who had no friends at the playground rallied around her saying “we’ve got your back”. News sites and broadcast media spread the word [example]. The hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew trended on Twitter and is still active with examples from all over the world.

One teacher’s effort went viral because of personal relevance, emotional ties, and a common cause. But viruses come and go. This effort persists because other caring teachers can relate to it (personal relevance), are moved by it (emotional), and share the same vision (common cause).

The same could be said for Ito’s mission to measure the nuclear fallout in 2011 in Japan because of his concern for his family. He reached out online and found like-minded folk and collaborators.

Ito did not wait for a system to be invented. The #iwishmyteacherknew teacher did not ask for permission to collect data on her students. They did not wait for a better future to come; they made it happen.

If you want to spark and sustain a worthwhile future in education, your effort must connect: It must be personal, emotional, and a shared vision.

I am in a unique position to be able to critique teachers and educators in their efforts to use or integrate technology.

Before I left the mainstream school system as a teacher 17 years ago, one of my primary roles was conducting professional development on ICT for my colleagues.

While I was a teacher, I worked part time at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Singapore, as a teacher educator. After I got my Ph.D., I returned to NIE as a full time professor and lecturer. I have been a teacher educator for a decade.

My parents were teachers. I am married to a teacher. Many of my friends are teachers or school principals. Most of my ex-students are teachers. My nature and nurture is teaching and educating.

I have seen and dealt with schooling and education issues on the ground and in the air. I have been both construction worker and architect in that respect.

What do I know from examining the schooling system from different perspectives? The barriers to change in adopting current technology and progressive pedagogy are rooted in negative mindsets.

No amount of professional development (PD) makes a dent in change efforts if the impact is not personal first. If the PD does not connect individually and emotionally with each teacher, s/he is unlikely to make that connection with teaching and learning.

For example, one educator I know became a Facebook convert after realizing how he could get fresh news in his feed the day before instead of reading old news the next day in STonline or on dead trees.

Others became mobile converts after being able to see their grandchildren over FaceTime or Skype despite being separated by oceans.

What holds teachers back? They lack one or more of these traits.

My tweet was a result of an exasperating month working with teachers from various schools.

Some of the frustration stemmed from the poor administrative and communication skills of teaching and support staff. But once I had overcome those barriers, the socially and culturally-embedded ones were hard to stomach.

If teachers are not reflective, the emotional or personal technology connection is unlikely to spill over into their classrooms. They will not think to themselves: “If this works so well for me, how might I do this for others?” and “If I am not sure how to, how do I find out?”

A great educator is one who is innately reflective or is one that learns the value of reflection. Such an educator is self-aware and seeks continuous improvement. Such a person learns the differences between schooling and education, and realizes the need to learn and change constantly. Such an educator realizes how technology enables, not merely enhances, better teaching, better learning, and effective change.
 

 
If teachers do not have empathy for their learners, they do not think and feel for them. They do not see the importance of technology in their current lives much less their future ones.

An empathic educator can see through the eyes of their learners as they game or watch YouTube videos. They feel and celebrate the highs. They can relate to the selfie or SnapChat obsession. They know why their learners might avoid Facebook or grudgingly use Blackboard. Such an educator not only relates but is also able to capitalize on these behaviours and expectations.

An empathic teacher will care for his or her students. An empathic and reflective educator will care so much that he or she will be willing to learn and change for the betterment of learners.

 

Quotation: ”Empathy is the key” by Ken Whytock, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  Ken Whytock 

 
If teachers do not have a good sense of humour, they do not learn how to laugh at themselves or deal with failure. They would rather play it safe and not integrate technology.

An educator with a good sense of humour will see how ridiculous hanging on to outdated practices are and learn to laugh at themselves. Maintain “white elephants” in school, what a sight! Force feed “elephants” to kids a spoonful at a time and under a clock, how ludicrous!

A baby learning to walk and falling on its bottom is a funny sight. Educators stumbling with technology is painfully funny. Educators who learn to laugh at themselves because they recognize this growing pain. Laughter gives them skin thick enough to take the falls and yet thin enough to get help from their students and thoughtful others.
 

 
Sometimes I fantasize about starting or sustaining my own education system. When I do, I start with educators and I imagine selecting and evaluating them on just those three traits. Their empathy for learners would give them focus; they empathy for each other would create collegiality. Their innate ability to reflect would drive them to learn and improve all the time. As they take risks and fall forward, their sense of humour would help them ride out the tough times.

Ah, fantasy.

Yellow´s my T-shirt by Nukamari, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Nukamari 

 
Differentiated instruction (DI) is what a teacher attempts to do to students; personal learning is what a student does to help himself or herself.

DI is like how clothing stores offer t-shirts in sizes like small, medium, or large. Teachers who attempt DI and t-shirt stores attempts to provide something that suits almost everyone, but cannot fit everyone just right each time.

Despite this, teachers who attempt to DI because they recognize individual talents and differences are better than those who give in to peddling one-size-fits-all.

That said, educators realize they cannot customize for everyone. So what do they do?

Personal learning is like the learner finding and making clothes to their own size and preferences. Educators show their learners how to do this. They show them how to find, analyze, and evaluate information. They model problem finding and problem solving. They emphasize learning how to learn.

I rarely share personal aspects of my life in this blog because I use this platform only to reveal thoughts I have about schooling, education, technology, and change.

 
However, my health has been poor over the last twelve days and I am opting to share some limited information about my condition.

I was first diagnosed with a kidney stone last Tuesday. I had thought the pain travelling and then going away was a sign that I had passed the kidney stone naturally.

The pain had gone away, but an ultrasound scan this Friday with a urologist revealed that I might not be out of the woods yet. A CT scan tomorrow should shed more light on the situation.

Then I started feeling a terrible pain in the middle toe of my left foot on Friday. I have not been able to walk unassisted and even then I hobble along.

While the foot is far away from the kidneys, I suspect that I have gout which is a buildup of uric acid crystals in joints. That is the link.

Like many things in life, the links between seemingly unrelated things are not usually obvious. But if you look for them, you will find them.


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