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Posts Tagged ‘talk

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People who do not live under a rock know who Malala Yousafzai is, what she does, and why she was the joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize last year.

Not many have heard from her father. He is an extraordinary educator who has a lesson and reminder for educators and parents alike:

People ask me, what special is in my mentorship which has made Malala so bold and so courageous and so vocal and poised? I tell them, don’t ask me what I did. Ask me what I did not do. I did not clip her wings, and that’s all.

Today I deliver my talk at Bett 2015 on righting the wrongs of flipping. Not all the wrongs because there are way too many.

I focus on just three and these are the themes I shared on Twitter before I left Singapore.

    The tweets were a shorter version of what I need to say in less than 15 minutes after a more than 15-hour flight.

  • There is no point in flipping if teachers do not change their mindsets and practices.
  • It is not fair or logical to push kids into a curricular race they are not prepared for or do not need to run AND insist that they sacrifice their own time to keep running in.
  • Requiring learners to consume videos outside of class might just be changing the nature of homework instead of asking if homework is necessary and well-designed in the first place.

If I was allocated more time, we could explore how some teachers make the mistake of equating flipping only with video-based instruction, not focusing on better classroom interactions, or not actually changing anything by not requiring learners to create and teach.

This TED talk goes beyond this juicy question.

The speaker, Carol Dweck, described a school where students were not given a fail grade if they did not not exhibit mastery. Instead, they were graded “not yet”.

This could lead to a deprogramming of wanting results, products, or grades now, and lead to a focus on resilience, effort, and self-motivation.

Dweck recommended a few strategies for promoting “yet” and dissuading “now”:

  • Praise processes, not products or innate traits
  • Reward effort, strategy, and progress
  • Show paths for learner progress
  • Talk to learners about growth mindsets

In this 2013 TED talk, this teacher shared three ways to initiate meaningful learning and to stop pseudo teaching.

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Number one: Let curiosity drive learning. Not curricular demands, not technology, not even flipping.

Number two: Embrace the messy processes of learning.

Number three: Practice intense reflection.

Those were the Cliff notes. Watch the video to fill in the blanks. More importantly, listen to his stories that explain why he believes in these three ways.

A headline or title like ‘Chalk and talk’ teaching might be the best way after all is designed to do a few things.

It attracts views.

It draws the conservative nay-sayers and entrenches them.

It ignores how the measures of learning and effectiveness often favour chalk and talk.

For some, the narrative is seductive because it sounds reasonable and even balanced towards the end (if you even read to that point).

But for me, the article sounds like fingernails slowly being drawn across a blackboard. One should never get used to that sound nor should one ignore it because it becomes common.

Such an article ignores developments in educational research and practice that reveal the inferiority of chalk and talk. They pull us back into the cocoon from which we have emerged and are supposed to develop away from.

Such an article places teaching above learning and the teacher above the learner. Even if an educator is not research literate, I wonder how s/he can look groups of students everyday in the face, see the obvious boredom or worry, and not want to do something about it.

Do something about it. At the very least, stop nodding in agreement with articles that support chalk and talk. Change. Step out of your comfort zone and into the learning zone.

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This is a rant.

Educational vendors and leaders may know how to talk, but they often struggle to walk a plan or policy down the road.

Over the last few months, I have met several people who fall in these categories. They hear about “educational innovation” and “disruption” and talk about MOOCs, whole school approaches, or other flavourful processes and products.

Their knowledge of such changes in the educational landscape tends to be superficial. They use buzzwords and that is all they remain in terms of implementation because they do not connect cognitively and emotionally with teachers or educators.

If the implementation does no harm to teachers and learners, I would be fine with it. But when they bring in experts and “experts” at high financial cost, with low contextual awareness, and zero follow up, I object.

I liken such moves to hit-and-run road accidents. The difference is that implementations like conferences, seminars, and workshops are purposeful.

I wonder why some schooling outfits will throw money at someone overseas to buy acronyms like AfL, DI, DT, LS, TfU, and UbD when there is perfectly good (or even better) self help or local expertise. WTF?

The problem used to be that vendors did not speak the language of schools and educational institutions. Now they do some basic research, latch on to buzzwords, and target policymakers and administrators.

The policymakers and administrators may or may not have been teachers before. Those that were teachers may not have been good ones or they actually prefer not to teach. They are not averse to building ivory towers and learn to play the policy and administration game well.

Plans built on poor pedagogical foundations and a lack of ownership are very expensive. They waste money, time, and effort. They demoralize and disillusion. They create change apathy in the long run.

This might sound harsh. But informed and reflective leaders, middle managers, and teachers will probably nod their heads in agreement.

I would rather they remove their heads from the clouds and learn to shake their heads at people who do not bother about context or pedagogy.


edX CEO Anant Agarwal shared a statistic at the beginning of his TED talk. About 155,000 people took an edX course offered by MIT. This number was larger than the entire alumni of MIT in its 150 year history.

But MOOC reach was not what Agarwal wanted to highlight. Instead, he described how experiments in MOOCs were informing university faculty on:

  • Going where the learner is at (online, mobile)
  • Designing blended and flipped lessons
  • Promoting active learning by designing interactive and self-paced lessons
  • Providing instant feedback
  • Leveraging on social learning
  • Getting students to learn by encouraging them to teach

In other words, relevant and progressive pedagogy.

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This is a model TED Talk.

Let me rephrase. This is a TED Talk where a runway model, Cameron Russell, shares what it is like to be a model.

It is an honest look about what must surely be a first world problem.

I am certain that while she will get some plaudits, she will also face some backlash. People who speak about or speak against their professions sometimes get vilified.

The thing I admire about the sharing is how open it is. The cultural expectation is that you say what you need to say and you deal with what results.

Elsewhere you keep things to yourself or share within very closed contexts. The former only leads to frustration and the latter often leads you to group-think.

If individuals and organizations are to learn and grow, they must be more open. Open to change, open to risk, open to feedback you would rather not hear.

Then again, you might just appear to be open. Looks can be deceiving. Only the consistency of your actions will show if you have an open mindset or not.


Sir Ken Robinson’s most recent TED Talk was one of those talks that you could watch ten times and get ten different takeaways each time.

When I watched it the first time, I liked SKR’s analogy that teaching is like dieting.

The student in the video below had a less articulate (but more honest) critique about teaching not leading to learning.

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His peers would probably agree that he “schooled” his teacher about the importance of meaningful learning over prepackaged, delivery-oriented teaching.

Whether teachers like it or not, we need more students who think like him. If we teach better, then they may not act like him.


I could probably watch this TED Talk of Rita Pierson and find a different inspiration each time.

I liked the part where she mentioned twice in succession that, despite less than ideal circumstances, teachers teach anyway.

She could have meant teaching anyway (whatever the circumstances), any way (whatever worked), or both. We need teachers that do both.


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