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Posts Tagged ‘teaching

If you had to deliver a COVID-19 message to the masses so that they move in the right direction, how might you do it?

If you were a minister in government, you would take a formal tone and craft something that newspapers would like to publish. For example, keeping kids at home instead of school might be met with: [source]

This is part of our psychological unity – students, teachers, parents all being part of it – and we all rise to the call as one united people in tackling this crisis

If you were a humour-based group with a presence on Twitter, you might leverage on an informal tone and embed a video featuring an angry comic. For example: [source]

The strategies could not contrast more, but they are about the same principle: If we stand together by being physically apart, we have a good chance of beating the coronavirus.

But the second method is more direct and relatable. The fact that is it laced with humour and marinated in Singlish is a bonus.

For me, the second method is like peer teaching. After a high-sounding introduction by a teacher, a concept should be retaught by students in pairs or small groups. This allows them to test their understanding, identify gaps, and learn it twice.

To teach is the learn twice. Whitman, N.A. & Fife, J.D. (1988). Peer Teaching: To Teach Is To Learn Twice. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 4.

As students try to teach one another, they realise how much they know and how much they do not. They will use language and examples that are familiar to them. They are more likely to internalise something new.

Peer teaching does not ensure learning though. Students might not identify gaps or they might perpetuate misconceptions. The point of peer teaching is to get students to process information immediately, directly, and in a relatable way so that the processes of learning are visible.

Many resources and opinion pieces emerged since schools and education institutes urgently went online in response to COVID-19. But I think this one is the most important.

Edubloggers, teachers, and other experts have shared tips, ideas, and strategies for home-based learning. That is good for the immediate need even though this also creates a lot of noise. However, relatively few rise above and look at the bigger picture, e.g., how is urgent home-based learning different from e-learning or distance education?

Facilitating online learning is not the same as face-to-face instruction. Certainly there are overlaps, but facilitating online learning is much more difficult. There are entire programmes of study that are dedicated in part or in whole to learn how to begin doing this. So the rush to “convert” face-to-face and classroom-based teaching to online and home-based learning is bound to suffer in quality.

The article I highlighted described how emergency remote learning compromises on learning:

“These hurried moves online by so many institutions at once could seal the perception of online learning as a weak option, when in truth nobody making the transition to online teaching under these circumstances will truly be designing to take full advantage of the affordances and possibilities of the online format.”

Why might the quality of courses, instruction, and learning suffer?

Typical planning, preparation, and development time for a fully online university course is six to nine months before the course is delivered. Faculty are usually more comfortable teaching online by the second or third iteration of their online courses.

In his reflection of the same article, A J Juliani said that he was still making errors despite years of experience facilitating online learning. What of teachers forced to do something they have not been prepared to do?

We can rationalise the need to rush teachers towards emergency remote teaching. By the same token, we should also recognise the effects it might have on teachers, e.g., increased stress, lowered morale, poorer impressions of e-learning, all because of the forced circumstance of emergency remote teaching.

So how might we respond logically and prudently when we have time to catch our collective breaths? I say we agree to compromise:

The need to “just get it online” is in direct contradiction to the time and effort normally dedicated to developing a quality course. Online courses created in this way should not be mistaken for long-term solutions but accepted as a temporary solution to an immediate problem.

I anticipate that the collective breath will be accompanied by a sigh of relief and the return to the previous normal. We need that compromise to explain why the temporary solution to an urgent problem did not provide valuable lessons on how to operate outside the timetable, classroom, and curricula.

Call me humourless, but I agree with the sentiment below.

I can see why the “joke” works — it is the juxtaposition of bad grammar with what a teacher stands for. At the root of the insult is the oft cited: Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.

Just because lay folk have been in classrooms in their childhoods does not make them knowledgeable about what it is like to be on the opposite site of the desk. I challenge any non-teacher who thinks that teaching is easy to teach and facilitate for an extended period.

Teaching is a science and an art. As a science, its elements can be theorised, studied, experimented on, and tested. It is a social science that combines assorted fields of study like psychology, philosophy, cognition, planning, management, and evaluation. As an art, it needs to be practiced, modelled, and changed based on reflection, feedback, and empathy for learners.

Are there bad teachers? Of course there are. No job or profession has a perfect population. But teaching tends to attract individuals who are nurturing and passionate about learners and learning. Where is the pithy mug quote for that?

Maybe it is age catching up on me, but I still feel drained from facilitating a four-hour class yesterday.

Maybe I am more used to three-hour modules or workshops. That seems to be the norm and I have forgotten what is it like to play in overtime.

Maybe I should factor in travel time. Depending on where the class is, it takes an hour to an hour-and-a-half each way on public transport. Surely that hustle and bustle has an impact.

Maybe it is because I make it a point to arrive at least an hour before class to rearrange the physical environment of the classroom, check the lighting, and test all audio-video systems.

Maybe it is simply the accumulation of preparatory work and the sheer energy of facilitating over just didactic teaching that consumes my energy.

Maybe I should not overthink it — I am just getting old.

I had a conversation with some students after class yesterday. These were graduate students who are learning to be instructors and facilitators.

After I made a point about just-in-time instruction, one students shared this quote from the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street:

The Wolf of Wall Street: Sell me this pen!

He got my point. Given a problem first, a learner then seeks information and solutions. A facilitator of learning then provides scaffolds and information just-in-time and based-on-need. This contrasts with much of current teaching, which is solutions first and just-in-case.

But there is also a slow and subtle change in university education. It is about focusing on the need to learn something instead of the need to teach it. This is about first creating the need to buy instead relying only on selling strategies.

An educator needs to both, of course. But we might do far too much selling and force-feeding instead of creating conditions for curiosity and hunger.

As good as Mashable might be for creating awareness on different aspects of life, I question the wisdom of relying on it for “apps to help you learn something new”.

I am not saying that the ten apps it suggested are not effective. Apps for learning are a dime as dozen, so it might help to get a recommendation on which one to use. However, I question the specificity of this ask.

The apps need to have a very specific focus, e.g., a particular language, playing the guitar, financial investments. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the learner has a clear desire and need to use it.

Such apps take a long time to develop and need constant updating. When educators first learn about mobile apps, they tend to approach them from content fields: Is there an app for ABC? How might we develop an app for XYZ? They do not realise the amount of time, effort, talent, and money it takes to get one such app off the ground, much less maintaining it.

For educators who do not code or have their own startups, I suggest switching from this narrow and content-specific view to a broader one. Look at what generic apps like YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter might offer. These involve content curation and creation by them and/or their students. They also require blended approaches of using these apps with existing environments, methods, and resources. This is a lower entry barrier to app-enabled or app-assisted learning.

You can learn how to teach (or how not to) from critical observation and reflection. Take this basic lesson for instance: Simply repeating the same thing is not teaching and does not guarantee learning.

Late last year I collected my iMac from a repair store. To make sure that it was working, the customer service representative (CSR) plugged it in with a generic power cable. My iMac did something it had never done before — its fan blew so hard and loudly as if to take flight.

Worried about my Mac, I asked the CSR why it was doing that. She replied that the generic cable was responsible. I asked why the cable could cause the fan to blow so hard and she repeated the answer.

I was on tender hooks while my Mac howled to complete its start up. After shutting it down, I asked for a proper cable instead. This time it started up like it normally would — quietly. Again I asked why the fan blew so hard with the previous cable and the CSR repeated her answer.

Her reply was not helpful because she did not actually answer my question or ease my worry. I also did not learn why that cable could make a normally quiet Mac so noisy.

I need to remind myself that some novice instructors think that simply repeating the same answers or actions is teaching. It is not if it does not result in meaningful learning. These instructors are likely just repeating what they have seen or experienced, so it is important to make them aware of this and to model alternative strategies.

On reflection, the CSR might have been responding superficially because my question was superficial. A more precise question might have been: Why did a generic cable cause the computer fan to blow so hard while the branded cable did not? Again the strategy applies. Create awareness of the need for better questions and model how to ask them.

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