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Posts Tagged ‘thinking

Anyone not living under a rock will know that the current cultural entertainment phenomena are Avengers: Endgame and Game of Thrones.

Any educator worth their salt could take advantage of them. Videos that analyze their content are not only seeds, hooks, and drivers of content, they might also be used to teach nuance and critical thinking.


Video source

The video above is one such example. It provides a low entry barrier, a shared experience, and cognitive dissonance among the learners.

An educator might leverage on such a video by highlighting how it models nuanced and critical thinking. By facilitating discussion and reflection the same educator can teach her students to do the same.

 
This article cited a shocking statistic:

In one study, a test based on NASA’s recruiting process for engineers and rocket scientists was used to measure creativity and innovative thinking in small children. At age five, 98 percent of the kids had genius-level imaginative abilities. But at age ten, only 30 percent of the children fell into that category. Want to guess how many adults maintain their creative thinking skills after making it through our educational system? Just 2 percent.

So what might a parent or teacher do to encourage independent and creative thinking? They might take the advice of Esther Wojcicki, a teacher and the mother of Susan Wojcicki (the CEO of YouTube), Janet Wojcicki (a Fulbright winner), and Anne Wojcicki, cofounder of 23andMe.

  • Unshackle from standard curriculum, connect to the daily world: Get students to start “paying attention, taking an interest in the world around them, and forming their own opinions”.
  • Address the why: Remind them to ask why they are learning something. Tell them why.
  • Encourage questions and model seeking answers: Co-learn with kids, but show them search and evaluation strategies.

This tweet and news article reminded me about preconceived notions we might have about robots.

What might be unclear in the tweet was that the girl in question felt overloaded with homework that required her to write the same thing repeatedly.

Relying on rote writing and subjecting people to unnecessary repetition is robotic. There is necessary repetition, e.g., in sports or emergency procedures, that builds what some call “muscle memory”.

Writing characters and essays over and over again is pointless if they are not going to be used meaningfully. But some still insist on doing this because they know no other way.

The girl thought outside the box to get a box-like robot that could write for her. The news article described the robot as being able to simulate different human writing, so she might have got away with it.

We should let some types of robots do what they do best (e.g., fast, accurate, and tireless repetition) and allow humans to do what we currently do better (e.g., imagine, opine, and reflect). We need to be unshackled from unnecessary low-level tasks so that we can focus on more worthwhile efforts.

This idea does not apply to all circumstances, just like rote tasks do not help in every eventuality.

One of my pet peeves is how some people confuse correlation with causation. Sometimes I cannot blame them because they were taught to think that way.


Video source

The SciShow video above highlights one common example. As a former biology student (and teacher), I was taught (and taught others) wrongly that aching muscles are due to lactic acid buildup.

Not only is the buildup due to lactate — a base that accepts protons — aches are only correlated to the buildup. The lactate might build up, but it does not seem to cause the aches; the actual cause is not yet known for sure.

This video is not just useful for highlighting how scientific facts change, but also how scientific thinking takes place. It is the latter that creates content and changes it. It is the thinking that needs to be modelled and taught, not just the content.


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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.

You can read the title as a cheer or a sigh.


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Yesterday I heard a promoter at mall sell disinformation. This reminded me of the claim a student teacher made years ago.

The mall charlatan proclaimed the benefits of oxygenated water and a product that would allow you to put extra oxygen in tap water.

Only aquatic organisms would benefit from an infusion of oxygen in the water. Then again only up to a point because too much oxygen is harmful whether it is in water or air. That aside, humans are terrestrial animals and we do not gain from extra-oxygenated water except perhaps for ticklish bubbles.

If we were somehow able to absorb more oxygen from water like the way we do from our red blood cells, we would oxidise chemicals in our bodies. One physically overt effect of this is premature aging, which was something contrary to the promoter’s product.

The harm of buying into this non-scientifically-based sell hurts your pocket and helps perpetuate scientific ignorance. This is bad, but not as bad as what might happen in a classroom.

A few years ago, I reflected on a student teacher who told her students that it was important to drink water because it contained oxygen. Our bodies do not electrolyse water. If we did, we would produce two highly flammable and explosive gases (hydrogen and oxygen) in our bodies.

I pointed this out to the student teacher and urged her to rectify this at the next lesson. Misteaching science initiates or perpetuates falsehoods. Disinformation takes root and becomes unfounded knowledge. If left unchecked, this condition might develop into disdain for scientific literacy and critical thinking.

We should be nurturing kids who are scientifically literate and cheering, “Yeah, Science!” But if we do not correct bad teaching or ignorant sales pitches, we leave kids who think that ignorance is bliss.

Can you teach a student to think critically?

Video source

The video above has a persuasive answer: Not really, no. But you can model it and hope that it gets reflected to you once the learner catches on.

This is a reminder that some things (like values) are insidiously caught and not overly taught.

Values are more CAUGHT than they are TAUGHT.


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