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Posts Tagged ‘reaction

Local social media lit up last week after a performer from Henry Park Primary School showed the middle finger on national TV.

The aftermath was no different. As expected, the boy was given a talking to and he was remorseful.

The Twitter reaction thread was easy enough to analyse. For simplicity, the reactions fell into three main camps: Tweets that lauded the boy as a “national hero”, people who blamed anyone or anything other than the child, and all other reactions, e.g., leave the child alone.

These are the types of responses that give Twitter and other social media platforms a bad name. This is a pity given how educators worldwide have embraced Twitter as a medium for connecting and unPD.

Such blasé and negative responses were common even before Trump’s tweets became the new normal. Why?

There is the usually cited reason of facelessness. Online there is no one to literally look in the eye and subsequently face judgement. This encourages the mild to become be bold, and the already bold to troll.

There is a brutal honesty to such tweets because social niceties are sacrificed in favour of raw reaction. What people might not realise is that being on social media requires even more social awareness and skills in a faceless environment.

If conversations like these were conducted in-person, we might label them moronic. Our faces and reactions serve as mirrors so that discussants can gauge their own behaviour. Perhaps, somewhat ironically, the lack of physical presence holds up a mirror bigger and clearer about our lack of social nous.

I had a delayed reaction to Sir Ken Robinson’s keynote last Friday’s at the BETT 2015 conference. It was sparked by something I read when I returned home.


Video source

SKR shared this video of technology being used to enable the physically disabled to create art. It was a wonderful example of combining technology-enabled creativity which was a theme of SKR’s keynote.

But I wonder about an unintended message that this example sends: That technology is used for the extreme or the exceptional instead of the everyday. The fact that SKR wondered how “social” social media was underlined that point.

We do not need both those messages to be broadcast. They are already prominent and do not add much value or change to education.

simulated_lessons_cropped

My reflection was prompted by a notification from my son’s school about their e-learning portal (excerpt above). One of the lines in the letter was “The e-learning portal has been enhanced with commercially produced simulated lessons and worksheets…” [emphasis mine].

The language is telling. The lessons are simulated. Does that imply that they are not as real or as good? Why was there a need to reassure parents that real lessons happened in classrooms?

The letter also mentioned the two purposes of e-learning: 1) promoting independent learning, and 2) emergency learning (“should there by a national crisis resulting in school closure, pupils will have access to online assignments”).

How are students learning independently if they have to wait for teachers to tell them to do online homework? Are they not already learning independently by watching YouTube videos whether their teachers and parents are aware or not?

Why is the “e” in e-learning still associated with emergency or extra?

I will tell you why. Very few people challenge the conventions that in integration of educational technology must be special. Not many thought leaders take advantage of the stages they are put on to push those buttons hard.

This is not a slight on SKR’s talk. I enjoyed it immensely. But he pushes the let-our-children-create-and-be-creative agenda. He was not the person to illustrate how to do this with technology transparently.

The technology does not have to be on a grand scale like the one in the video. It does not have to simulate lessons. It is already in the hands of learners even as they walk around with heads bowed while doing the Blackberry prayer.

Most people cannot look beyond the surface and creatively take advantage of the wonderfully ordinary. I would like to show them how.

I am privvy to news digests provided by a group in MOE. I really appreciate the work that this group does because they trawl the papers, listen to radio boradcasts, and watch TV to bring summaries on education issue to us.

I really like having summaries from papers I do not read or do not understand because they are in a different language. They provide me with other world views and fodder for reactions.

Here are two digests and my reactions.

Scolded by teacher for tearing her books, student rebuts that it is none of the teacher’s business (Huang Jian Ye, SM, 2/5, p4)

Follow-up report to a letter by Chen Wei Jun, a secondary school CL teacher, who wrote to the ZB Forum on 2/5 commenting that her students had bad manners and bad attitude during the weekly CL reading period in her school. Chen had shared that she noticed that some students tore out pages from their Chinese books for the reading sessions instead of bringing the entire book.

Report carried comments by Minister that this incident showed that it was important to teach character development and values. Minister said that teachers could use this incident for classroom discussion with their students. He added that while some students would burn their books after the examinations, other students would generously donate their books to help others.

Report carried comments by a counsellor that nowadays students were influenced by the Western way of thinking and valued an individual’s rights. Some students felt that they had every right to vandalise or tear their own books as it was their individual right.

Report also carried comments by teachers that the student had gone too far. One teacher said that a lot of students came from rich families so they did not know how to treasure their books. Another teacher felt that he would counsel the student and inform the parents, adding that teachers needed to have a lot of patience in educating their students.

Reaction 1: Was is so Western about valuing one’s individual rights?

Reaction 2: It may be true that those students do not know how to take care of their books. But it is also true that students carry lots of books to school and that books can be heavy. They are just trying to lighten the load. That is why a few schools have begun slate or tablet initiatives to provide e-books or references as alternatives. Countries like Korea and Thailand are set to do the same.

Error existed in History textbook for seven years: parents surprised that 700 teachers did not discover it (Lin Wen Chuan and Gao Jian Kang, WB, 2/5, p8)

Follow-up report on the Secondary One History textbook – The Living Past: History of Ancient India, China and Southeast Asia (2nd Edition) – erroneously referring to “feudal lords” in the Shang and Zhou dynasties as ‘shi’ noted that academics and parents were surprised that the error in the history textbook had gone unnoticed for seven years, and that 700 history teachers from over 200 schools here did not discover it. Report also noted that some parents were concerned that there might be more errors left undiscovered.

Report carried comments from a literature and history scholar who said that the error was an indication of a decline in Singaporeans’ knowledge of Chinese culture, and the lack of a questioning spirit among educators.

Report added that the history textbook was not used in all schools here. Intergrated Programme schools could choose not to use the history textbook, and some schools could choose to use history textbooks compiled by their own teachers. Thus, they were not affected by the erroneous history textbook. Report carried comments by an NIE staff member that when training history teachers, they focused on teaching methods for history without using any specific history textbooks.

Report also clarified that the History textbook was a Secondary One textbook.

Reaction 1: This is news? Textbooks are bound to have errors, perhaps fewer than newspapers have errors, but errors nonetheless.

Reaction 2: What is an error now might not be an error later. Or what was correct then is an error now, e.g., calling Pluto a planet.

Reaction 3: Imagine if the textbook was online and like Wikipedia. If it was, the error would have been detected much earlier.

On 24 May, ST reported that our new Education Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, visited Queenstown Primary School. I was tickled by the bit at the end of the report (shown below).

The next day, the same paper published Have views on education? Tell new minister. I am glad that our new Minister for Education is getting information first and from various sources.

I wonder if he reads the blogs and tweets of local teachers. That might be too much to ask as that is a lot of work. An underling might be tasked to do this but the ensuing editorial will redefine or strip meaning from the messages. After all, brutal honesty and politics mix like water and oil.

In any case, getting feedback is not the same as listening. I think the primary school child’s “Why so fast?” speaks volumes, but you might have to read in between the lines.

One sentence might be: How much can you learn about us in 15 minutes? Or if you have observed as many classroom sessions as I have, the question might be: Is 15 minutes all you can bear? (And how do you think we feel?)

Yet another thing to note is the fact that the child was bold enough to ask the question in the first place. I don’t think that it was a simple case of “kids will say the darndest things”.

Kids are like that now because they are more aware. They are influenced by more educated parents and/or the media that they consume. The demands on them are higher and their own expectations of what their schools and parents should provide them are higher too.

So, why so fast? Slow down and listen to the most important stakeholders of all: Our children.

Sometimes they are able to articulate issues we need to focus on. Sometimes the issues are implied in their actions or lack of them. Then we need to speed up and keep up with what they say and do.


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