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Posts Tagged ‘questions

The tweet that linked to this article on “coding” enrichment asked the wrong question: Should parents be adding coding classes to their children’s already-packed schedules?

The better questions that any well-informed educator and parent might ask are:

  • After investigating: How is this “coding”?
  • How is this different from other enrichment sold here?
  • Does enrichment mean “good to have” but not “must have”?
  • Does this “coding” focus on the more important “computational thinking”?
  • Can computational thinking be taught and learnt in other ways? What are these ways?
  • Why is “coding” still a separate domain instead of integrated into interdisciplinary learning?
  • How is this preparing a child for future if the designs are based on backward models and not sustained?

Have you processed the critical discourse on “coding”? For example:

If you do not see the point of the questions or critical discourse, I have something you need to buy.
 

Yesterday I responded to a query about how flipping drives discovery and student-directed learning.

Today I answer a question about how students might not discover the “right” content by discovering or Googling. I have a few responses.

The first is doing away with the notion that students “get it” only when a teacher delivers content. This is merely an illusion because there is no indication or confirmation that learning has happened.

My second response is that one way to be more certain about student learning is to get students to create content and to teach it. These processes help both students and teachers to see evidence of learning.

My third reply is that teaching wrong content happens anyway, not just in the flipped classroom or when you facilitate flipped learning. Both the student and teacher can be guilty of this. However, when the learning is visible the teacher can jump in and intervene.

Three dimensions of flipped learning.

This is why I include content creation and peer teaching in my model of flipped learning.

Peer teaching is something that instructors can do with strategies like think-pair-share, any variant of the jigsaw method, and class presentations. Content creation might be viewed as a prerequisite for this form of teaching. Without artefacts students have nothing to show during the tell.

However, content creation does not always have to be on the teacher scale or standard. The content that students create can also be externalisations or manifestations of what is in their minds. These can take the form of short reflections, practiced problems, recorded conversations, summary documents, etc.

My fourth response is to agree that simply copying and pasting Google search results may not be valuable learning. Most teachers tend to focus on content from an expert’s point of view. This is how they judge if content is good or not, and right or wrong. However, this is not how a learner processes information because s/he does not have structure.

The structure is put in place by thinking processes. So instead of just focusing on content (what artefacts students find and use), the teacher should also model processes of learning. For example:

  • How do I look for information?
  • How do I verify information or evaluate it?
  • How do I incorporate it into my own work?

This response is not unique to flipping. But a focus on process over product is particularly important in flipped learning because one desired outcome is students who are more independent learners.

Yesterday I reflected on my long-running integration of Padlet in my courses and workshops. I intend to share screenshots of two sets of takeaways and questions from participants at the end of a workshop on flipped learning. I address one concern today and another tomorrow.

Flipped learning takeaway and question.

One concern was whether students uncover content in the way the teacher intended.

I am glad that the participant used the word “uncover” because that was something we practised during the workshop. Uncovering is based on discovery and not on the traditional notions of a fixed curriculum, recipe-like strategies, and narrow outcomes.

This does not mean that the process is haphazard. In the past, I have described the implementation as creating serendipity.

One way to design the learning experience is to envision a large plot of land in which you have buried opportunities for learners to unearth. They not only dig up treasures (content-based learning about), they also figure out how to problem seek and problem solve (skills-based learning to be).
 

 
My reply to the query is that a strategy like flipping is a means of transferring the ownership of learning to the students. While the teacher is concerned with curriculum, schemes of work, worksheets, and other standard practices, these are not always congruent with the overall design and ultimate goal of flipping.

To put it simply, the standard terms, practices, and tools that a teacher is comfortable with are not necessarily what learners understand and need. The teacher may be armed with a spoon to feed; the students need shovels and other more varied and complex tools.

The teacher may be prepared to deliver; the students need to discover. It is inevitable that the scope of what the teacher expects will be much narrower than what the students discover.

Returning to my analogy of the plot of land with buried treasure, what if students discover relevant and useful nuggets elsewhere? What if they go beyond just digging (e.g., clicking on links in web quests) to surveying with drones and satellites (e.g., Googling, YouTubing) or communicating with previous treasure hunters (e.g., tweeting content experts, consulting Facebook contacts)?

One concern that teachers might have is what if students unearth the “wrong” things? I address that concern tomorrow.

 
This STonline article featured kids who were getting tuition years in advance of what they might be ready for. To be more precise, their parents were arranging enrichment tuition for their children to stay ahead whether their kids were ready or not.

I will not rant about the state of enrichment classes here as I have written about this sometimes ugly form of tuition before. I focus on one element of the article: The sample of three questions asked of students seeking Direct School Admission.

Three sample DSA questions.

Are these the best questions we can muster for DSA students? DSA is meant to not just focus on academic aptitude but also on values, attitudes, and character traits as well. Instead of waiting for interviews, portfolios, and observations, why not ask questions that matter?

I offer three questions of my own.

Question 1: You are a school prefect. You spot one student bullying another student outside of school. You realise that the bully is your best friend and the victim is a classmate. What do you do? Why?

Question 2: You were given $50 in cash as a birthday present from your grandparents. You decide to donate some, save some, and spend some. How much will you allocate for each purpose? Why?

Question 3: More and more of your classmates seem to be getting enrichment tuition. Consider Scenario A or Scenario B.

Scenario A: Your parents want you to have tuition every day after school. What will you say to your parents? Why?

Scenario B: You do not want to have tuition. How do you justify this decision to your parents?

The STonline article offered model answers to its questions. There are no fixed answers for mine. Instead, the focus is on values-based reasoning, critical and creative thinking, the clarity of communication, and a host of other skills.

Can you offer reasonable solutions to my questions? Can your children?

I had mixed thoughts when I read this TODAY article on makerspaces in Singapore schools.

I was glad that kids could get the opportunity to learn by designing, tinkering, failing, and persisting.
 

 
I was also reminded of articles that provided cautionary notes about such initiatives. Juliani wrote about how You Don’t Need A Makerspace to Be a Maker. Scherer advocated that Every Classroom Should Be a Maker Space.

I weighed in with a simple tweet that needs some elaboration.

The school computer laboratories were not available to all, they were costly to maintain, and some special rooms became white elephants with infrequent use.

Might school-based “makerspaces” with expensive 3D printers and sensitive tools become the new computer lab?

Specifically, are such places:

  • Limited or open access?
  • Peripheral or central to making and learning?
  • Special or ordinary?

Can meaningful and powerful learning happen only here, and if so, why does this not happen in more classrooms?

Should the message that this sort of learning only happens in such places be transmitted by accident or even worse on purpose?

Are such spaces good-to-have or must-haves? Are they good for showing off to visitors or do they actually make difference to teachers and students?

Must a makerspace only be a physical one that learners do not own?

I am Ashley and this is my blog. It is one of the spaces that I take ownership of online in order to make myself and others learn.

Good grades may help you look smart. Good questions help you get smart.

This is not one of my better image quotes. It has been sitting in a Google Slide deck for a while. But the words are more important than the image.

I got the quote partly off a tweet from my Twitter stream a while ago. Unfortunately, I did not take note of the URL.

But I did keep track of the original CC-licensed image.
 

 
Reunion dinners during the Lunar New Year are ripe for conversations that are inane and mundane.

Two people at my table started talking about how my son inherited my flat feet. As if to go one up, my wife worried that she might have passed her thalassaemia to him.

Forget the inane and mundane, we were downright depressing!

At that point, my now ancient Biology background kicked into gear. I almost shared how some scientists have postulated that blood-related conditions like thalassaemia and sickle cell anaemia might be evolutionary survival strategies.

These states are not life-threatening to people under non-extreme circumstances. They also happen to provide unfavourable conditions for agents of disease. For example, sickle cell tends to be endemically high in populations in malarial hotspots because the condition affords some resistance to malaria.

I almost shared it. I decided not to because very few appreciate unsolicited information.

Then I asked myself: When does a teaching moment become a learning one?

A teachable moment is one that good teachers recognise and grab intuitively. But just because a teacher senses a moment does not mean the learner shares the same head space.

What makes a teachable moment a learning one?

Not attention, the over-cited engagement, or even juicy information nuggets. These are what the teacher thinks is important and tries to create.

Questions matter. Not questions from the teacher, but questions from the learner. Questions that come right before the teachable moment and questions that follow. These show that the learner is vested in the problem or process.
 

 
Need an example? I think that @genrwong’s recent reflection on the butterfly effect is an excellent one. It illustrates perfectly how the context and questions come first and that the teachable moment is a response to these elements.

More teachers need to take advantage or create such teachable moments. They remind us what the best forms of teaching take: A question-based pedagogy, not an answer-based one.


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