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Posts Tagged ‘perspective

It is easy to play the blame game. For example, some might attribute the lack of deep writing to what seems like shallow sharing on social media. Case in point, this tweet.

The first part of the tweet that houses this assumption is itself not nuanced. Many things contribute to the inability to write more deeply, meaningfully, or reflectively. “Impatient” writing could be due to the maturity of the writer, the time they have left to write, the relevance of the task, etc.

The educator was open enough to acknowledge the feedback from her students — the low-hanging fruit sort of writing was a product of the low-hanging fruit sort of testing. If tests value and reward short-term thinking and convenient answers instead of more nuanced thought, then why do we blame students for thinking that way?

We are buffeted and conditioned by our environments. We adapt to those conditions and adopt mindsets and behaviours that help us survive or thrive. Then we bring those mindsets and behaviours to other environments and see what works.

If students learn superficial writing from superficial media, then might they learn about nuanced writing by being exposed to more thoughtfully-crafted social media postings? Maybe. Nuanced writing takes time, discipline, and effort. Pursuing and nurturing such value systems is, in part, what education is for.

I was schooled. I became educated.

The learning of any subject might seem like a goal and an end unto itself. This might be true when the learner is a novice and being schooled. But as learners mature, they might realise that it is more important to learn-to-be (a writer), not just to learn-about (writing). They become more educated when they realise that it is far more important to learn HOW to think that to be taught WHAT to think.

One of the podcast channels I have recently subscribed is No Such Thing As A Fish. It is helmed by the fact-finding team behind the QI television series.

I have been binging the series in reverse order and recently listed to episode 244 No Such Thing As A Fishman (iTunes) (Spotify).

Stephen Fry made a guest appearance and shared his thoughts on how warped our thinking can sometimes be. He described how we do not seem to take offence to violence but vilify basic body functions.

Around the seven-minute mark, he mentioned how we think nothing of phrases like “Traffic was murder!” but might consider “It was shitting bad traffic!” as rude.

The juxtaposition was ridiculous, I LOL’d anyway, and I got his point. It was a matter of questioning one’s perspective.

If we are to nurture more empathetic learners, we should not just deluge them with the experiences and cultures of “others”. We also need to help them explore and question their own biases and standards. If we cannot look past ourselves, how are we to gain insights into others?

In this week’s episode of Crash Course’s video on information and digital literacies, host John Green focused on the authority and perspective of sources.

Video source

The authority of an author or a source might be determined by finding out about its:

  • Professional background
  • Processes used to create information
  • Systems in place to catch and correct mistakes

Authoritative sources do not guarantee that their information is correct all the time. When they make mistakes, they admit and correct them openly.

The perspective of an author or a source needs to be gleaned from its orientation, opinions, or analyses. Perspective colours choice of words and the direction of influence.

Most semesters I comment on examples of awkward or otherwise poor examples of essay writing.

This semester I do not share examples of writing faux pas. Instead I share a photo I took to illustrate nuance.

The photo is a screenshot of a Pokémon Go stop that someone labelled “hook up point”.

If you are an old school local, you might understand that this place is for hanging bird cages in a community space.

However, “hook up” has a broader use. When one refers to people hooking up, they are, um, managing the birds and the bees. A hook up point would then have a bad reputation.

My message to essay and paper writers is simple: Do not write for yourself, write for your reader. If you do the former, you are satisfied with what your words mean to you. If you do on the latter, you focus on communicating with readers by embracing the nuance of meaning and taking their points of view.

If I was conducting a workshop on pedagogical change, I might start it by showing the video embedded in the tweet above.

Participants would invariably offer different answers to my question: What does this video have anything to do with pedagogical change?

I might then guide them to the importance of not making hasty decisions due to a lack of perspective.

It takes effort to get a new perspective. Sometimes the effort is quick and easy while other times it takes a marathon. It is easier if one is able to balance a systemic view and necessary nuance.

This is where having an outsider’s or learner’s perspective is crucial. When you are too close to a problem you often cannot see it perched right on your nose.

Some might say that the YouTube video below is a good example of combining science and art.

Video source

I agree. I would also add that such a combination creates perspective. This could mean helping us see what we could not before or seeing something unexpected as a result of the combination.

What we see projected as a shadow is another subtle message — there is one entity with severals sides, each of which is only apparent when we make the effort to change the perspective.

This tweet is a good reminder on the dangers of not taking someone else’s perspective.

If you followed the instructions exactly, one side of the staircase would be crowded with people running into each other.

One might imagine an unimaginative administrator trying to prevent staircase fatalities by first walking to the base of one. The administrator then looks up and sees two imaginary lanes, left and right, and constructs the instructions based on that perspective.

However, the users of staircases only share that perspective half the time, i.e., when they are walking up. The other half of the time, they are walking down.

If the administrator took a staircase user’s perspective, the instruction might simply be “Keep to your right on the staircase”. This would work for people walking up or down.

I make this seemingly trivial point because it is not trivial at all. In the broader scheme of things, taking the perspective of people we work for, with, and serve are important.

In the context of teaching, it is critical that teachers as content experts see the difficulties of learning that content from the perspective of novice learners. If they do not, they might teach in ways that make as much sense as the staircase sign.

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