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Posts Tagged ‘sign

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.

Sign: Slow -- Look out for pedestrian crossing.

I shared this photo in a recent tweet.

Written as is, this sign reminds drivers to look out for a traffic light, overhead bridge, or zebra crossing. Why was there a need to warn people about pedestrian crossings? Were the lights shooting lasers, the bridge about to collapse, or actual zebras crossing the road?

The intended message was for drivers to watch for pedestrians. The message could have been “Look out for pedestrians crossing” or more simply “Look out for pedestrians”.

Common to both alternatives was the missing “s” in pedestrian in the original sign. The missing “s” changed the intended “people walking across/near your vehicle” to “what people use to cross a road”.

If the person who designed the sign learnt to write copy, he or she would realise that “crossing” was not necessary. If people are moving by a road and not in a vehicle, they are pedestrians.

Reminding drivers to “Look out for pedestrians” suffices. There is no need to qualify that they are crossing. What else would they do where that sign is? Flying, running, gyrating, or in my case, photographing?

I am not even going to try to explain what a “slow look out” is.

Call me a Grammar Nazi, but this matters. The small things matter because they add up. Ignoring these small things means we do not care. Not caring opens the door to a lack of pride or professionalism.

Today I reflect on three seemingly disparate topics. However, all have a theme of not compromising on standards. They are standards of English, decency, and learning.

I spotted this sign at a Fairprice grocery store. It urged patrons to think of the environment.

You cannot use less plastic bags, but you can use less plastic the way you can use less water. The water and plastic are uncountable. Plastic bags are countable so you should use fewer of them.

Actually you should try not to use any plastic bags by carrying your own recyclable bags. If you do that, the sign reads another way: Do you part for the environment. Useless plastic bags!

If standards of basic rules of English have not slipped, we would see fewer of such signs (countable property) and I would be less of an old fart (uncountable property).

Speaking of which, a fellow old fart (OF) responded to a Facebook troll who had terribly warped priorities when commenting on the kids who lost their lives during the Sabah earthquake.

The troll focused on the fact that the deceased could not take their Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE) later this year. When OF called the troll to task, the latter became indignant.

OF discovered that the troll was a student in a local school, and while not all kids act this way, OF wondered in subsequent comments how the standards of human decency seemed to have slipped.

I baulk at the fact that some teachers wait for official Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) materials to be prepared and distributed instead of using everyday examples like these. They are far more timely, relevant, and impactful.

To reiterate what I mentioned yesterday about bad advice for teachers, how are adults to realize what kids are writing and thinking if they do not follow them on social media? You need to be on the ground to see what is good and bad about it.

Parents and teachers should not be reacting in a way so that there is less social media use because that is unrealistic. When someone cannot write or speak well, you do not tell them to write or speak less; you tell them to practice more (after you coach them and provide feedback).
 

 
The third use-less/useless example comes from this Wired article about the change in Twitter leadership.

The author contrasted Twitter’s previously “unruly, algorithm-free platform” with Facebook’s. This was not a negative statement about Twitter because stalwarts value the power of human curation and serendipity.

However, those new to Twitter might view the platform as useless and choose to use less and less of it until they stop altogether. They do not stay long enough to discover its value.

The slipping standard here is learning to persist. I can see why school systems like the ones in the USA are including “grit” in their missions or using the term in policy documents.
 

 
But is grit the central issue?

What if the adults do not have a complete picture and are creating policies and curricula that are as flawed as the “use less” sign?

What if they should actually be spending more time on social media not just to monitor their kids and students but also to connect with other adults so that they learn the medium and the message deeply?

One key answer to these questions is about the ability of adults to keep on learning. We should not be holding kids and students to one standard (it is your job to study what I tell you) and holding ourselves to another (I have stopped learning or I have learnt enough).

Do this and you put yourself on the slippery slope of sliding standards. When standards slip, they are not always as obvious as badly-composed signs or insensitively-written Facebook postings. The refusal to learn can be insidious and lead to a lack of positive role models for kids and students to emulate.


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