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Posts Tagged ‘teaching

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.

When the stone dropped in the once placid waters of teaching, its ripples started spreading. One result of enforced mergers of some mainstream Singapore schools was how some teachers had to look for teaching opportunities elsewhere.
 

 
This is a classic case of a problem defined largely through an administrative lens, being patched by an administrative solution, only to create another problem.

The original problem was falling enrolments due to falling birthrates. Logically, fewer children means smaller intakes mean fewer classes. Administratively, this also means too many teachers.

The administrative solution was to maintain established teacher:student ratios above all else. Never mind other possibilities like centralised efforts, team teaching, or more boutique efforts.

This created the previously non-existent problem of teacher surplus. As a result other schools now have to take in teachers who have no where else to go.
 

 
The silver lining in this dark cloud has been that teachers who interact in tight circles within their own schools now are forced to fraternise with teachers elsewhere.

Interactions take the form of phone calls, job interviews, job initiation, mentoring and guidance, and daily interaction. Unlike the induction of beginning teachers, these interactions are with intermediates or veterans.

Staff at all levels — school leaders, middle managers, on-the-ground teachers — can more clearly see the differences in school culture and teacher quality when new old teachers join their ranks.

This is like going on a vacation and experiencing a new culture for the first time. Unlike a vacation, they cannot return home to what they are used to. They have to live with the consequence of administrative decision-making.

In Singapore’s foodie culture, a crowd or queue is a sign of good eat. Following the crowd might be a good chance to take.
 

 
I read the article embedded in this tweet and was reminded why it is not always wise to do what everyone else is doing.

Microsoft’s Skype found out the hard way that following the social app crowd is not a good thing. Instead of leveraging on its strengths or developing something new, it tried mimicking Snapchat. Some users responded by giving Skype paltry ratings at app stores.

I suggest three takeaways that apply to educational technology integration, instructional design, and app development.

Do different
Going with the flow takes less effort than swimming against the current, so this might make sense in the development of curricula, course elements, and applications. However, this might be like doing the same thing as everyone else or doing the same thing differently.

Are you just delivering content and attempting to engage instead of designing to challenge and empower users? Doing the latter is more difficult, but this might be more worthwhile in the long run.

Sense accurately
According to the article, Skype Corporate VP Amritansh Raghav said that the new features of Skype were requested by users. Whether you are head of ICT or lead designer, you cannot listen only to your noisiest stakeholders because they might be a vocal minority.

You may chose to make data-informed decisions, but you need to know how accurate your sensing tools are and if the data are biased.

Needs, not wants
In 1989, Steve Jobs famously declared that the user is fickle [source].

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.

Jobs relied more on his intuition than market research. Since most of us are not like Jobs, what can we do?

I say we give the user — or in education, the learner — what they need, not what they want. Being learner-centred does not mean pandering to their desires. It means being focused on their needs and future, not our hangups and past.

One more thing…
The author of the article did not like the garish colour scheme of new Skype. There is an easy solution: Opt for the dark, monotone one in settings.

Education is not synonymous with schooling, no matter what you may have been told or what you perpetuate without question.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is more about self-actualisation.

Schooling is about enculturation. Education is about self-actualisation.

Those are compact and loaded sentences. I unpack them simply this way: Schooling is about preparing you for what society expects you to be; education is about preparing yourself for who you need or wish to be.

Schools function to school and educate, and arguably do more schooling than education in the early years. As a student gets older, he or she seeks an education. That is why universities are often referred to as institutes of higher education instead of really-big-and-expensive-schools. A working adult who learns on and with the job might opt for continuing education. This might take the form of a higher degree, credentials, skills upgrades, or enrichment.

The problem is that both the student and teacher might be so used to schooling that they do not know (or they forget) what it means to educate. That is why we have schools in universities (e.g., School of Education) and training (e.g., content delivery for compliance).

There might be circumstances where schooling an adult is necessary (e.g., standardisation exercises are not philosophical discussions) but for the most part education is the better path. That is why we have andragogy which is borne of pedagogy.

Andragogy differs from pedagogy by one main element — learner experience. However, I do not know any good educator of kids or adults who does not take the experience and perspectives of their learner into account. When they do this effectively, they rise above schooling and teaching. They educate.


Video source

There are lots of takeaways from this video. One is this factoid: From 5000 BCE to 2007, the estimated amount of information stored by the human race was 300 exabytes; in 2013, that data had grown four times to 1,200 exabytes.

The information explosion is a key reason why we cannot focus on just teaching and testing for content.

You might argue that what students learn in school is a limited set and that some curricula are reduced to accommodate shorter terms and more tests. If you do, you are missing the point.
 

 
The focus on content does not necessarily require learners to deal with the growing mountain of information. Students resort to learning GIGO — garbage in, garbage out — resulting in short-term learning.

What the learners of today and tomorrow need to know and do is how to process such information. This means knowing how to seek, collect, analyse, and evaluate information and then collating, curating, creating, and critiquing so that it makes sense.

These skills are not new, but they are even more important now that we are in the midst of an information explosion. To deny this or teach otherwise is to be blind and irresponsible.

Yesterday I spotted this sign near where I stay.

A warning sign & a cry for help #english #grammar

A post shared by Dr Ashley Tan (@drashleytan) on

In proper English, the sign might read: “Danger – spoilt seat. Please don’t sit.”

Despite the broken English, most of us still get the message. Why?

We are probably mentally flexible enough to bend the rules to understand what the sign intended. Just as likely, the warning tape was a visual cue and physical barrier.

The bottom line is that you get the message in spite of the poor English. Something else helps send and enforce that message.

This reminds me of lecturers who insist that students can learn deeply from didactic teaching. The students learn not because of a lecture, but in spite of it.

In higher education, students learn more outside the lecture. They visit the library to research, read quietly, and edit their notes. They form study groups, meet with faculty or tutors, and might even pay for remedial tuition. They Google for information and search YouTube for videos.

I get anecdotal confirmation of this every semester when I conduct classes for university students.

You might think of this as the 80:20 “rule” of learning. The actual proportion is not important nor is it that precise. The point is that deeper and more meaningful learning is often a result of what students do, not what the lecturers do.

In the working or corporate world, there is the 70:20:10 rule. The learning opportunities are hands-on work, learning from others, and formal professional development. Again the ratios are not absolute or fixed, and the point is that learning socially and on the run are key.

The fact is that much more effort to learn is spent outside the classroom or training venue than inside of it. This is because the other contexts are more fitting, opportune, or otherwise meaningful for learning.

Our students do not necessarily learn because we teach. They learn in spite of what we do. This is a humbling thought and we need to focus on where, when, how, and why they learn, not just what they learn or who they learn it from.

 
Have you ever wondered why some of the meat that we eat is not called what it was when it was alive?

Fish is fish, chicken is chicken, and duck is duck. However, cow is beef, pig is pork, and sheep is lamb or mutton.

I wondered why but it was never important enough to find out. That is, until YouTube suggested I watch this video.


Video source

Now I want to know why everything is named what it is. The makers of this video series and YouTube are there to tell me why the Earth’s continents have their names and why kiwi is a fruit, bird, and nationality.

This approach might be called serendipitous or incidental learning. Better still, accidental learning. A teacher does not have any teaching objectives (old school) or even learning outcomes (newer school). There is no plan or test.

The information about meat names is not particularly useful, but it is not useless either. There are more important lessons for teachers and learners.

For teachers, it is designing lessons that are fun or intriguing. These leverage on emotion and curiosity.

For learners, the lesson is about learning for its own sake. It is not about memorising facts but about enjoying them as well as the process of learning. It is constant, low pressure, and on demand.


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