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Posts Tagged ‘reflection

This semester I had to resort to something I might have done as a classroom teacher 21 years ago. I had to manage expectations with a warning prior to a cooperative learning activity.

Some context: I model and teach assorted pedagogical strategies to future faculty. One of these strategies is a variant of the jigsaw method. This is a cooperative learning activity that replaces a long and boring lecture on even more pedagogical strategies and theories.
 

 
I have done this for many semesters, but I something changed last year. During the jigsaw, a few individuals would resort to selfish behaviours. I vividly recall three individuals at separate sessions: One shopped online, another used social media to chat with people outside class, and another played a mobile game.

An outsider might baulk at the actions of these three. They are Ph.D. students who are privileged to attend a well-respected university. Most students at this level are also sponsored for their studies, so this raises the privilege ante further.

I confronted these individuals to let them know they had responsibilities to their group — in a jigsaw cooperation, they were individually accountable and yet dependent on one another.

I realised I was reacting to this instead of preventing it. So this semester I set expectations like I used to as a classroom teacher. I told my learners that I would give them a verbal warning if they engaged in selfish behaviour, and if they persisted, I would ask them to leave the class.

No one crossed that line this semester even though a few were tempted. But I do not think that it was the threat of being confronted that led to positive behaviours. I also emphasised the rationales managing one’s self for the good of a group. The social pressure to conform and cooperate did the rest.

 
In Singapore, we have a saying: No money, no talk. This means that if someone approached you to work for free, you were entitled to not entertain them.

Now if only that was true. Some people work pro bono out of choice or are tricked into working for free. If they do the latter, they were out-negotiated by someone else. So I advise saying no to work-for-free unless you want to become a permanent volunteer.

Some things should not be negotiable. One of those things is personal well-being. I say: No health, no work, no money (the exceptions might be being paid to be a convincing corpse or patient in hospital).

Another thing I do NOT negotiate with is a lack of empathy or basic courtesy. Over the last few years of being a consultant in the fields of education and educational technology, I have met my share socially inept people.

Here are some clear signs of poor negotiators or representatives. They are:

  • rude and/or slow to respond
  • quick to speak and slow to listen
  • full of themselves or like to name drop
  • likely to make promises that they do not keep
  • self-proclaimed experts instead of relying on reputation

I say: No manners, no talk.

Two days ago, I used my first Pokémon Go (PoGo) exclusive raid experience to illustrate how social leadership emerged from a crowd.

Today I illustrate how members of a crowd chose to respond to investigative analysis. In doing so, I link a game-related phenomenon to a social one in the teaching fraternity.

Nicholas Oyzon AKA Trainer Tips is a PoGo expert, an inspiring YouTuber, and an unofficial ambassador of the game franchise. He released a video detailing the efforts of people trying to unlock Niantic’s secret recipe for Ex Raid gyms.
 

Video source

Here is my TLDR take on the video: A few individuals used crowdsourced data, investigative analysis, and the scientific method to suggest Niantic’s algorithms for exclusive gyms.

You would think that any PoGo player still yearning for a chance to battle and catch Mewtwo would be thankful for such data analysis and timely information. However, if the Singapore PoGo Facebook group is an indicator of lay reaction here, the response was flat or negative.

A member posted a link to Oyzon’s YouTube video.

These were the types of responses when I last made the screenshot. I have labelled them A, B, and C.

A qualitative researcher might suggest that the low number of responses could indicate the low interest to helpful information. This suggestion would carry more weight if the researcher also reported the numbers of responses to complaints, polls, show offs, etc. — these regularly garner hundreds of comments.

If we think of the Facebook group as a microcosm of how some local social media-connected players think, then they fall into a few categories.

  • A: Ignorant. “Catch no ball” is a local colloquialism for “could not understand” or “over my head”. Either the video content was too complex or people in this group were unable/unwilling to process it.
  • B: Atheoretical. Unlike category A, those in B practice without theory. They operate by “what works” and care little for “why it works”.
  • C: Stubborn or wilfully ignorant. This group may or may not possess theories, and in both cases refuse to learn something new and useful.

People belonging to Group A and B might still be open to learning something new and helpful. People in Group C are unlikely to be open enough to learn.

There are certainly other groups of people, especially when this categorisation is applied to adult learners. I have met them all — these are teachers both preservice and inservice, lecturers, trainers, and professors. What is both frightening is the number that fall into Category C.

You might assume that teachers and educators should be most aware of the theories of learning and teaching practices that enable them. You would be wrong. What is worse is that while Category C is small, this group discourages those around them and holds back entire systems from improving pedagogically.

This is why I do what I do. I battle the lack of pedagogical theory in the hope of defeating ignorance. I fight the war of wilful ignorance in the hope of defeating apathy. It is relatively easy to win battles, but the war rages on.

Like the privileged few who get to play Pokémon Go (PoGo) while overseas, I found out how different the experience was compared to playing in Singapore.

Mr Mime from Amsterdam.

I am not referring to catching the regional exclusive Pokémon (like Mr Mime in Europe). I am talking about the culture of play.

Playing PoGo was much less stressful there than here. The gyms had half or almost fully fainted Pokémon, so they were easy to take down.

There were practically no spoofers to contend with. There were also relatively few PoGo actual players around, so there was practically no competition for placing Pokémon in gyms.

Pokémon in gyms.

Once I placed the Pokémon in gyms, they were easy to defend and I received my daily allotment of 50 coins. In fact, I was worried how long they would stay there and if they would return before I flew home.

Playing PoGo in Singapore, on the other hand, is a battle. Neighbourhood aunties and uncles are territorial about “their” gyms, spoofing and shaving are the norm, and general play is frantic.

I only missed one thing about playing in Singapore. Raids for legendary Pokémon are easy here because players of all ages flock to those gyms. I could have looked for social media channels in Amsterdam to coordinate raids, but I was already preoccupied with coordinating site visits. The game took a back seat to PoGo.

Even playing a mobile game in different countries reveals their overall psyches — laissez faire there, kiasu here.

I am on vacation with my family. However, I am keeping up my blog-reflection-a-day habit by scheduling a thought a day. I hope this shows that reflections do not have to be arduous to provoke thought or seed learning.

I am recreating some of my favourite image quotes I created some time ago. This time I use Pablo by Buffer and indicate attribution and CC license.

We do not learn from experiences. We learn from reflecting on experiences. -- John Dewey.

Dewey did not mean that experiences do not lead to any learning. Instead he probably meant that we often get caught up in the processes or the moment or the excitement, and forget to ask ourselves what the takeaways are.

Slowing down and rising above the blooming, buzzing mess is what leads to meaningful and deep learning.

Here is a tweeted headline that could have been relevant ten years ago.

The Yellow Pages were irrelevant even then. It seems to have taken a newspaper a decade to realise or admit it.

It sometimes takes teachers in schools just as long, if not longer, to realise and admit that some of their practices are losing relevance.

The aptly named Yellow Pages can also mean that the medium is showing their age. The problem with irrelevant practices is that the signs are not as obvious. It takes critical reflection to spot the yellowing edges of bad habits and pages of unquestioned tradition.

I LOL’d when I saw this tweet. It was a moment of truth and connection. Ask adults around you and you might get similar anecdotes of this shared experience.

But however humorous, the observation is superficial. It is probably what drove people like Prensky to create the concept of the digital native, i.e., kids born with technology are savvy with it because they are wired differently.

What proponents of the digital native narrative ignore is that we are first wired to play and explore. Our instinct is to learn.

If the available technology was a stick and mud, a child as a curious learning machine would use it. Some mud and even the stick might end up in their face or mouth.

Today the technology might be the computer or phone. A child is the same curious learning machine and the computers or phones stick as well. That child is no more a digital native than the previous one was an analogue native.

I often tell adult participants of my seminars or workshops that they are sometimes more native with some technologies than their students and children.

Take the use of Facebook for instance. Most adults and parents my age started using Facebook before they had kids or before their kids started using it. The adults are more aware of the usage, nuances, and changes in Facebook than younger learners. They might also be wiser about what to share and what not to. The adults are the digital natives in that context.

That is one of the key weaknesses in the false dichotomy that is the digital native-immigrant divide. It does not take into account context of use. A better but less well known theory is the digital visitor and resident continuum by David White.

Whether it takes a comic or some critical reflection, I hope more people read about how the concept of digital natives does more harm than good. After all, we learn not when we reinforce something we already believe in; we learn when we experience dissonance as we play and explore.


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