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Posts Tagged ‘podcast

I started listening to the Obsessed With… podcasts from BBC Sounds when they started following up with Line of Duty episodes. Why? I like gaining insights into the thought processes behind television products.

I listened to an old episode in the series which focused on Killing Eve. In the interview of Fiona Shaw, the hosts and guest reflected on why people disliked lockdown during the current pandemic.

They avoided superficial answers, i.e., how we are social animals. We can still socialise albeit differently, and we know we will eventually come out of lockdown.

Instead, they concluded that lockdown forced people to spend time with themselves. The question that each person had to ask themselves was: Do you like what you see?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Can you face yourself without the distraction of work or taking care of someone else? What do you see in that mirror? Are you happy with or disturbed by that reflection?

I know why I liked the quiet that came with our lockdown last year. I had been preparing for it since 2014 when I left full-time work to be an independent consultant. That move forced me to examine my priorities and to look both in the mirror and the crystal ball. I took comfort in what I saw then and what I see now.

The latest Build for Tomorrow podcast episode focused on the problem of participation trophies. These are the prizes that kids in the USA get even if they do not win in sports or games.

Podcast host, Jason Feifer, got to the issue quickly. One problem was not that they were given. It was the perception that such trophies are a recent phenomenon and something that contributed to the detriment of character.

By now, any regular listener of the podcast would know where the rest of the episode was heading. Participation trophies are not unique to the present and they do not lead to spineless or weak-willed adults.

Of particular interest to educators might be two interpretations from research about the impact of extrinsic rewards on intrinsic motivation. Starting around the 32min 30sec mark, researcher Dan Gould summarised how such extrinsic motivations depress intrinsic ones.

However, there was also other research that revealed that kids were less motivated by external rewards (particularly if they were not meaningful) from age 13 onwards. So these incentives might be good for conditioning behaviours of younger children, but they are futile thereafter.

Both strengthen my long-held stance on badges, particularly for adult learners. In an attempt to “gamify” learner, some instructional designers and teachers might design challenge-based tasks and assessments. But if these are primarily extrinsic and not meaningful to the learner, they are setting both themselves and their students up for failure.

I enjoyed the latest podcast episode of Build For Tomorrow (formerly Pessimists Archive). Its host, Jason Feifer, cited how some alcohol laws in the USA changed as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns.

TLDL (too long, didn’t listen)? The USA has strange state laws, like convenience stores only allowed to sell unchilled beer in Indiana, to deter consumption in transit. Such laws have been accepted as the norm and people do not question them.

But when the laws change, like how cocktails can now be ordered to-go to keep restaurants and bars operating during COVID-19 lockdowns, people wonder why the old laws even existed.

The lessons I drew from the episode were not new:

  1. You should take advantage of a negative to create positives. To promote e-learning, for example, you could cite the need for emergency learning during a disaster. These open the doors for nascent technologies and pedagogies.
  2. To elicit change, you could aim for small and decisive victories. These are not only more palatable to all, they boost the morale of change agents and might pave the way for more changes.

This way the “impossible” can become “it’s possible”.

When some people say how things were better in the “good old days”, have you ever wondered when those days were?

Well, Jason Feifer of the Build For Tomorrow (previously known as Pessimists Archive) podcast tried to figure that one out.

At around the 47-minute mark of his first podcast of 2021, he summarised how one generation romanticised the “good old days”. Those in the USA today might look back fondly on the 50s, those in the 50s preferred the 20s… and his research and interviews went all the way back to the early history.

This was made plain at the 44-minute mark. Feifer described how the ancient Mesopotamians, the first to write and record history in 3500 BCE, looked back to a time when humankind learnt to cultivate crops, create laws, and apply mathematics. They moaned that “since that time, nothing further has been discovered”.

The bottomline: We tend to look back at the past with fondness and desire even when the present has so much good to offer. Why do we do this? Feifer offered three reasons:

  1. Achievements of the past were evidence that we can do better.
  2. We attempt to reclaim the pride, processes, and/or products that were lost particularly to oppression by another party.
  3. Records of history that highlight “golden ages” were often driven by nostalgic narratives.

These cloud our perception. I think of it this way:

Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

So what is a rational person to do to clear our collective vision? Feifer suggested not aggressively telling people they are wrong — they will simply dig in. His alternative was to provide a more compelling narrative for the here and now.

That seems to his overall goal with the name change of his podcast. It is also a good principle for me to follow when trying to convince people about the good that technology can do in schooling and education.

The latest Pessimists Archive podcast episode might seem like a departure from the usual fare.

The usual message is how we do not study recent history when encountering new technologies. We then make the same mistakes from the past.

This episode started with a photo of two different-looking men sharing an earphone set.

When contacted and interviewed, the two guys did not think anything unusual about their pairing because they had a shared passion. To the outside observer, they were as different as night and day.

Therein lies the underlying theme: We tend to see what we have already seen. We look for how we are different, which might then lead to unease or conflict.

I have had the privilege of having conversations with educators from different parts of the world. Even though I do not meet as many of them now, one thing has stayed with me from those interactions. We are more alike than we are different.

Are you wondering what life might be like in a modern country after one or more waves of our current pandemic? The latest podcast episode from Pessimists Archive offered some insights.

It is not a stretch that working from home and home-based schooling can become more feasible options. This is only if we follow the patterns of previous pandemics, i.e., we go with the flow of disruption, develop or improve supporting technologies, and craft enabling policies.

The entire podcast is worth a listen for the details. It was a bit of a departure from its usual fare of focusing on how we irrationally fear technology-enabled change. But it stayed true to its recurring message of why we need to move forward.

On a side note, I wonder how many people are preparing for the possibility of a long-term stay of the pandemic. By people I am referring to the lay folk, not strategists or governors. By long-term I am referring to possible cyclic returns and not one protracted wave.

If we do have cyclic returns that perhaps last about a third of each year for two to three years, what adjustments are we planning to make?

I look forward to every podcast episode of Pessimists Archive, rare and irregular as it is. I wish the latest episode came out before my course finale.

The latest podcast started with a “heroic” dog and ended with the war between natural ice and artificial refrigeration. Yes, the episodes are weird but connected like that. But they all share a common theme.

Take this quote from the 23min 47sec mark:

When people face new technologies… they end up wanting… a simple heuristic to cut through complexity and allow them to make decisions that would otherwise be ambiguous or overwhelming.

Technology represents change and some people react with fear. To manage that change and fear, these people seek simple heuristics e.g., tell me what to do, what is a formula I can follow, how might I dumb it down and essentially do the same thing.

But such short-term thinking does us no good. Shortcuts avoid the critical and creative thinking that is necessary for problem-solving and embracing nuance. Given that my course was about new educational technologies, the quote and the thinking behind it would have made a timely and wise course conclusion.

Ah, well. This is something else to add to the 30-plus reminders I already have in my Notes app…

The Pessimists Archive podcasts are few and far between. But when they are released, they are a joy to listen to.

The latest one focused on faces. As in the unwarranted fears of how technologies might affect your visage, e.g., smartphone face, tech neck.

The narrator revisited history to uncover what bicycle face and radio face had in common: The use of those then new technologies supposedly caused people’s faces to get wrinkled or stuck in unpleasant ways.

When the rotary telephone gained popularity, it was phone face that caused worry. But phone face was not about the neck crick or longer jowls caused by cradling the phone. It was about not knowing exactly who was calling.

All this was not just about fear-mongering incumbents putting down their competition. In the case of wrinkly faces, cosmetic companies claimed to have remedies for the affected faces.

Whatever the reason for the putdowns, generating fear of the new was the goal. The narrator had a response at around the 34-minute mark of the podcast:

New, uncontrollable things don’t wholesale replace old, controllable things. Instead new technologies integrate into an existing and ever-growing ecosystem. They create more options and therefore even more control.

Technology laggards need to be made aware of this. Technology evangelists could focus on such a message instead. Even if the laggards do not adopt the newer technologies, they might step out of the way for others to try. We all need to face our fears by replacing unquestioned ignorance with critically negotiated knowledge.

What could be cuter than a teddy bear? Not much.

Yet there was an anti-teddy bear movement. The most recent Pessimists Archive podcast provides all the details.

In hindsight, such a fear seems unreasonable and even impossible. But back then, it was fuelled by irrational fear and the need to maintain the status quo.

There is still much fear of educational technologies current, cutting edge, and future. The fears are based on the same unwillingness to see possibilities, mitigate risks, and embrace change.

So while edtech evangelists might feel the burden to be unbearable now, this too shall pass. I say we grin and bear with it.

Just as soon as the harried assessment phase of the semester of one institution was over, I had to contend with the administrative and preparatory work with another institution.

So occupied was I that I left this little gem languishing as a draft in my Notes app — the “evils” of the telegraph.

The tweet, newspaper clipping, and podcast comes courtesy of the Pessimists Archive.

In the 1800s, the telegraph was a new technology and along with it came fear, mistrust, and disinformation. Back then, people wondered about:

  • Speed vs truth
  • Ease vs security
  • Convenience vs privacy

Today, people wonder the same about social media. The more things change, the more they remain the same. This happens because we do not learn from critical analyses of history.


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