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Posts Tagged ‘think

There is so much to learn from the gem of a person who is Jane Goodall.

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There are many gems in this short video. One that stood out for me was her flipping of the adage to “think globally but act locally”.

The wisdom of the original saying might be to think systemically when solving more immediate problems. Goodall’s stance, however, was to think locally and act globally.

To think locally is to consider one’s context (e.g., the effect of climate change here at the equator instead of in the arctic) but to take action that leads to a broader good (i.e., reversing the effects of runaway climate change).

Applied to an educator, this might be a call to learn how to be a better practitioner in one’s context and to share those lessons openly and widely. Thousands already do that on edublogs and Twitter.

We think locally and act globally. We should model these processes for our learners and teach them how to do the same.

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This video snippet from the BBC painted a positive picture of the possible effects of mobile use by babies or toddlers. It was a better clip than the CNA video last year [1] [2] not because it was tech-positive, but because it was less biased.

The CNA video last year asked the question “Can e-learning make you dumb?” and sought to back up its answers with what its writers had already decided instead of what they could investigate.

The BBC video was not as negative, even when the narrator seemed to sneak in negative associations with mobile device use like “young children sat down using technologies won’t be as good at coordinating their bodies”. It was simply repeating a commonly held concern by lay folk.

The takeaways from the video should not be that the small sample of kids was representative of a larger group nor that kids who used technology were no worse with gross motor skills and better at fine motor skills.

If we learn anything at all from these videos it should not be the opinions on the effects of e-learning or mobile devices. It should be that we need to read, listen, watch, or otherwise process all sources of information with critical filters.

One coarse but vital filter is identifying bias. The CNA video asked questions and rushed to answer them with unbalanced certainty. The BBC video, while seemingly positive, asked questions and left room for even the child expert to express doubt.

One video tried to tell you WHAT to think; the other video could teach you HOW to think.

Learning is not a spectator sport.

The old school stance was mostly learning about content. Such content retention and understanding was and still is quite efficiently measured with tests.

The current mood of schooling seems to be shifting to learning to think. This recognises how information is more readily available and fluid, so much so that the student and worker needs to learn how to process such breadth and uncertainty.

The school of yesterday and today might have paid lip service on learning to be. It is not enough for students to learn and think critically about science, history, or architecture. They need to learn how to be scientists, historians, or architects.

The reality is that we need all three: Learning about, learning to think about, and learning to be. The reality is also that it is easier to determine the outcomes of learning about, even if that learning is superficial or temporary.

It is much more difficult and probably illogical to test for contextual thinking and acting. Perhaps the school of tomorrow might focus on learning to be and finding ways to better evaluate embodiment of learning.

One of the infrequent YouTube series that I enjoy is by Evan Hadfield, son of Chris Hadfield of ISS fame. The series is called Rare Earth and this was one of Evan’s efforts.

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Most of the videos end with these words of wisdom: Don’t let anyone think for you; most people can barely think for themselves. I decided to make an image quote of it because it is a timeless critique of our times.

Don't let anyone think for you most people can barely think for themselves. -- Evan Hadfield


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In this video Noam Chomsky explains the problems with assessment: The way they are misused, misaligned, and misappropriate.

It is no surprise then that a Secret Teacher wrote the following article in The Guardian about how tests seemed to be dumbing down her students.

The teacher bemoans:

My students are bright, engaged and well-behaved, but there is something missing: they cannot think.

The Secret Teacher goes on to blame a focus on exams and I agree with the teacher for the most part. But tests are not the only thing to blame for students who do not know how to think independently.

Teachers who spoon feed, stifle thought, or fail to stay relevant are just as culpable.

For instance, the teacher said:

Last week I caught another of my A-grade students using his phone in the lesson. As a starter exercise, I told them to think of as many advantages as they could of being on the UN security council. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m googling the list of advantages,” came his wary reply. I was flabbergasted. I tried to explain that there is no list of advantages, but that I wanted his own views.

I am confident that the Secret Teacher is also a Good Teacher. But she also sounds like a traditional one in that she is averse to searching for Googleable answers. Perhaps she did not know how to take advantage of a now natural behaviour to show her students how to think, act, and write critically after Googling.

Most people would eventually realize that the most important factor in a schooling or educational system is the quality of its teachers. Those that join the profession are self-selecting by choice and pre-selected by institutes of teacher education.

But only the exceptional step up to deal with the problems with assessment or learn how to skilfully promote critical and creative thinking in a conservative system. The rest need professional development and the mindset of lead learners to do this.

I reviewed the tweets that I had collected as “favourites” over the last few years and found this:

Damned if you do or damned if you don’t? Which are you guilty of?

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If you are honest (and funny) about Facebook lookback videos, what would you say?

Perhaps something like the video above. But not as funny.

Or a lot more tragic. Like the video below.

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It does not take much to create opportunities for some critical thinking.

It might help to bring in a context shared by all your learners. It might also help to use a funny video.

Not all will identify with the father’s loss of his son. Not all with appreciate the humour. But most, if not all, will react to the emotion.

If we want our learners to think, we must get them to feel first.

I have started facilitating the ICT course for another semester.

This semester is a little different. I have four classes instead of the usual three. Two of the classes start a week before the other two. Ah, the joys of the timetabling and the complexity of the administrative machine!

Many things contribute to my passion for the course. I was just reminded of something a former teacher trainee said to me after one consultation (I wrote it on a Post-It and stuck it on my white board). She said:

I have never thought so hard and so much in all my years of education!

The reason she said this was because I would almost never provide THE answer. I’d get my trainees to think and come up with answers themselves.

I recall being simultaneously alarmed and amused when I heard that. I was alarmed because I wondered what our education system was doing to the fertile minds of our youth. Drawing all the nutrients and laying it to waste?

I was amused, well, because of the way she said it. And the feedback was very honest and quite unique.

I also felt happy that I had helped awaken a sleeping giant. My only hope is that the giant is still walking in the school system. Ah, hope springs eternal!


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