Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘teacher

I found this selection of perspectives from teachers who used edtech in their classrooms interesting.

Not eye-opening because these were pretty well-informed and critical views of teachers who had been around the block and who seemed to care for their learners.

They were interesting because of the deep insights and persistent misconceptions. An example of the former:

…one thing about technology that can’t be said enough is that it is NOT neutral. I so often hear “it’s just a tool” arguments, but it is more than that–especially digital technologies. These have embedded in them the views, values, and (often) misconceptions of the developers. If a school adopts a platform or LMS, it is also bringing on board those things…

An example of the latter:

It would be interesting to have two classrooms of the same subject at the same grade level, one high tech, one old-school and feed those students into the same classroom the next year. Ask that next year teacher if there is a measurable difference between the groups.

Such a design might have been common two or three decades ago, but it is unethical to do this nowadays. Technology “treatments” are not like SARS-CoV-2 vaccine placebos vs treatments.

The vaccines are tested because they are the one big factor that is supposed to make a difference. Edtech is not the one big thing that is supposed to raise test scores (that teacher mentioned AP test results in an earlier part of his quote). There are many co-factors that influence test scores so they become confounding variables in a treatment vs control design.

The first example was from a teacher who seemed to have a more systemic view of how things work. We need more teachers who learn and apply that perspective. These teachers will be less frustrated when they fail with edtech and more appreciative when they succeed.

This tweet provoked me to think and here is my response: You can own processes like learning.

I am an autodidact. Every day I consume content from my RSS feeds, Twitter stream, podcast episodes, and YouTube subscription. Then I reflect on them so that something rises to the surface.

That is my learning process. I take it, make it, guard it, and practice it daily. I take ownership of that process while respecting that others may have similar or different ways of learning.

I also take ownership of my workshop facilitation processes, so much so that I took one opportunity years ago to create a quick video of one example.

Video source

For me, ownership is about taking responsibility, not about taking possession. I take responsibility for supporting my family; there is nothing tangible to possess about that.

Likewise I take responsibility for educating myself (I own the processes I described above), but I do not possess that learning. The overall process is not transactional; it is transformative.

Ownership is evidenced by shows of agency and empowerment, be it for students or teachers. The article linked in the tweet below provides some how-tos of promoting agency and empowerment.

Ownership of learning by learners is not a frivolous fad. It is a foundation upon which to nurture resilient and independent learners.

Teachers in Singapore tend to be, um, reticent about sharing their thoughts about emergency remote teaching during our COVID-19 lock down.

Thankfully, we have folks elsewhere who share openly and humorously.

Here is a teacher’s perspective of video conferencing with students.

Video source

Here is another about being pushed too hard and so fast.

Video source

This is yet another but from the parents point of view (jump ahead to the relevant segment).

Video source

While all are scripted performances, they capture the spirit of what most of us are experiencing. They balance the honesty with the humour.

Video source

I get it. Teachers should get more recognition for what they do, particularly in the USA. I say this as a former teacher, a current educator, and someone surrounded by other teachers and educators.

But should they be elevated to the heights of professional athletes in the US? In this parody of Sports Center (hence the US spelling), Key and Peele illustrate tongue firmly in cheek what this might look like.

I get that, too. I smiled, I laughed, ha-ha.

But that does nothing to draw attention to the daily and systemic issues that teachers face, nor does it recommend action other than to exaggerate. So funny, not funny.

I try not to roll my eyes whenever I read this repeated claim:

Another hot topic raised at the forum was whether MOE would consider reducing class sizes from 40 to 25 students to allow teachers to give more attention to their charges.

However, Mr Ong pointed out that the 1:40 teacher-student ratio in a classroom is actually 1:15 for primary schools in terms of the overall numbers of teachers and students in a school, with the ratio reduced for secondary school (1:12 or 1:13) and junior colleges (1:11).

This latest iteration was reported in this news article.

One public response to this claim was Class size in schools: For teachers, the real work is not just a ratio.

Take a straw poll among mainstream school teachers with classes and very few will report they have classes of those sizes. (I am excluding special needs teachers, counsellors, teaching adjuncts, etc.)

Do the ratios account for every education officer, even the ones on extended leave or pursuing professional development? Do they include every possible teaching intervention, i.e., from individual coaching to mass lectures? If so, it is possible to get such ratios on a spreadsheet.

Personally, I have seen class size rise instead of fall. I teach at university level and this semester my classes swelled to between 32 and 36 per session when they were hovering around 20 previously.

University policies are not directly under the direct purview of the MOE. Each school or department within the university decides on class sizes using the resources it has. I know of one group that has tutorial classes that average about 50 students while others run studios with students you can count on one hand.

But that is my point — the adaptive variability is not obvious in a spreadsheet. When you take averages of such variability, you get simplified ratios that remove all nuance.

I concur with the tweet above.

Many cannot take critique and criticism. Teachers seem to have thinner skin perhaps because they equate being nurturing with always having something positive to say.

I am not against being positive. I am against providing feedback masked by so much fluff that critical messaging gets lost.

Like most things in life, we ought to strive for balance. Right now it is tipped too far on “plaudits and platitudes” and we need a critical shift. This is not a call to be nasty; it is a call to be honest with ourselves.

The tweet below reminded me of how I used to introduce myself after I stopped being a teacher and became an educator.

At most teacher and educator events, we are often asked to introduce ourselves by sharing what we call ourselves, where we work, and what we teach.

I often start normally with my name and then say that I work nowhere in particular. If that does not confuse people, I add that I do not teach any subject in particular; I say that I teach people.

I state that last point in all seriousness, but it often draws laughter, some of it nervous and some of it knowing. The few that chortle knowingly are educators whose mantra is the tweet.

When someone teaches with a passion, it is obvious. The passion expresses itself in different ways, some more exuberant than others.

Video source

The video above is not a recording of a lecture or tutorial of a university professor of inorganic chemistry. She was demonstrating reactions on a talk show.

Her reactions to her own experiments were obvious: She was excited and joyous. It was as if the experiences were new, like a learner’s first time. This puts her in good stead to connect with her learners because she empathises with them.

Her teaching is also infectious. If you are enthusiastic and excited about what you are teaching, that is half the battle won. After all, some things are not just taught, they are also caught.

If the results of this study are valid, then new teachers are not as prepared as they should be if they depend on teacher education textbooks.

This presupposes that the six research-based instructional strategies are themselves valid and rigorous. But since we have to start somewhere, those fundamental six are as good as any.

The chart seems to be a modification or revision of a 2016 report and presentation by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). The fundamental six (in the screen captures below) were from a guide in 2007.

So the fundamental and research-based instructional strategies are not new. However, the researchers found that in their sample of 48 teacher preparation textbooks:

  • none accurately described all six fundamentals
  • the fundamentals were inadequately addressed

What then do textbooks offer teachers about helping students learn?

According to the study, the emphasis seemed to be “posing probing questions” or “elaboration” (41%). However, there did not seem to be any emphasis on helping students retain what they heard or did.

The study then went on to illustrate how teacher preparation courses paralleled textbook content, and in doing so, were also inadequate.

Do stakeholders have reason to worry?

Yes, if teacher preparation is the only time when teachers learn the fundamentals.

No, not when there is learning on-the-job (OTJ) and continuous professional development (PD). In some places, there might also be teacher recertification.

Yes, if the OTJ and PD are not updated and relevant.

No, if the teachers participate in informal PD (I call it unPD) and get the latest and greatest from edu-Twitter, education blogs and newsletters, etc.

Yes, if that behaviour is not the norm or firmly entrenched as an expectation of professional practice.

Video source

Teachers in the USA get a whole week for appreciation. Maybe teachers there would appreciate Singapore teachers’ salaries.

It is just one Teacher’s Day here in Singapore (this year it is on August 31st). That same month, teachers here must pay for parking in their schools — horrors!

Sorry, teachers. See video.

Click to see all the nominees!

QR code

Get a mobile QR code app to figure out what this means!

My tweets


Usage policy

%d bloggers like this: