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Posts Tagged ‘thinking

Can you teach a student to think critically?

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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.

Here is an example of a dichotomy that could fool you into thinking that you are changing for the better.

On one hand, the tweet has a point. It is a warning to teachers who might do “the cool thing” with technology and cite “engagement” without thinking about its pedagogy, applying research, or citing educational psychology.

The kids “do” with technology, but do they learn anything worthwhile?

On the other hand, the thinking behind the tweet might artificially separate two (and actually more) complex and intertwined practices. A passion for technology does not have to be separate from a passion for learning.
 

 
Some liken passion to a fire, so let’s use fire as an analogy. A normal fire needs three components — fuel, oxygen, and heat source. Separate one from the rest and the fire stops.

Learning is like a fire, but with many more components. Remove the core ingredients and it also stops. Technology is one such element, be it lines drawn with a stick in the sand, letters on paper, or videos on screen.

We know what keeps a fire burning. How, when, or why people learn is more complicated. It cannot be reduced to dichotomous thinking in a tweet.

I have experimented with the novelty of renting a travel router from Changi Recommends before, so I agree with the sentiment below:

If you only do what that business entity recommends (and charges you for), you:

  • Do not do your homework
  • Pay both for the convenience and your complacency
  • Learn not to operate critically or independently

Come to think of it, the same could be said if you rely only on the word of official textbooks and spokespeople.

This reflection begins with a Pokémon Go gaming strategy and ends with a principle of game-based learning that often escapes teachers.

After I am done with a Level 5 (the highest) raid boss battle, I occasionally hear someone complain how few premier balls they received to catch the boss.

I suspect that these people persist with stubborn habits instead of learning how to do something different and better. Such behaviour is a good example of wilful ignorance.

Players want to receive as many premier balls as possible to increase their chances of catching the raid boss. At a recent raid, I heard someone complain how she only had six premiere balls. I received thirteen, so how did she get so few?

Maximising the number of premier balls after a boss battle.

Six balls are all but guaranteed because up to 20 people battle one boss and defeat it (A). There is nothing strategic about this.

To get more balls, one has to think and operate strategically. If you raid only at gyms controlled by your own team (Instinct, Mystic, or Valor), you assure yourself of two more balls (B).

Others from your team tend to gravitate to such gyms and you are more likely form a majority. This leads to a higher contribution (C) and you might be rewarded with more balls.

The final strategy should you choose to battle at a non-team gym or one where you are a minority is to maximise your damage to the boss. You must manually choose your six Pokémon to take advantage of the weakness of a boss. Do this and you might be rewarded with more balls (D).

The lesson here is not so much about playing Pokémon Go more effectively. It is about game-based learning using games (like Pokémon Go) that are not designed to teach content. Pokémon Go is not designed for lessons on strategic thinking, but it can be used to model and teach it. You just need to think creatively and critically, and transfer what is relevant from the game to your curriculum.

If there has been a theme for my last few reflections including this one, it has been this: Refuse to be confused.

Refuse to be confused.

Recently I read an article whose author claimed that edtech was trapped in the basement of Bloom’s Taxonomy (BT). I agree the author’s conclusion, but not how he got there.

To understand what the author means, you need a visual representation of BT. The taxonomy is traditionally represented as a triangle with the learner’s ability to recall as the base.
 

 
The author’s argument was that edtech companies were not adding much value to schooling and education because they were addressing only this lowest order of thinking.

For critics of edtech companies, the author’s statement makes sense:

The current wave of education technology has been fraught with pedagogically unsound replications of the worst aspects of teaching and learning. Rather than build new opportunities for students to move beyond the most basic building blocks of knowledge, much of Silicon Valley has been content to recreate education’s problematic status quo inside the four corners of a Chromebook, and then have the gall to call that innovation.

I would agree fully except that BT should not be viewed or used procedurally from base to tip. I have rationalised why before.

TLDR? Authentic learning does not happen this way. There is no textbook Q&A or fixed procedure in life and in problem-solving. Authentic learning happens organically and the learner is often confronted with ill-structured and complex problems.

If school is supposed to prepare students for work and the rest of their lives, they should be taught in a natural and compatible manner, not in an artificial and over-structured fashion.

Bloom's Revised Taxonomy in the form of a Verb Wheel.

This is why I helped to develop the Bloom’s Verb Wheel. There is no implied base or start point for learning outcomes. A learner can start by needing to create (e.g., a YouTube video) but concurrently need to learn specific skills and content to enable that creation.

So I disagree that there is a need for teachers or edtech companies to climb up a hierarchy of cognitive outcomes. If they do, they constrain themselves to an artificial structure that does not necessarily help natural processes of learning.

I do, however, agree with the author’s suggestion that edtech companies could create better tech or less tech solutions:

Better tech entails leveraging cutting edge research in areas like machine learning to provide students with targeted feedback that scaffolds their learning experiences as they move up the pyramid. Less tech entails building technology that knows how to get out of the way and allow for more meaningful interactions to take place in the classroom. Today’s education technologists are exploring both approaches.

There is no need to use traditional BT as the reference point. It is better technology that enables natural learning or technology that emphasises social forms of learning. The triangle representation of BT holds us back; I say we roll with the BT Verb Wheel instead.

The London Underground system will get 4G coverage by 2019. Yay?

The writer’s reaction summarised in the tweet above was one of dismay. Mine was simply welcome to 2012.

I visited the UK twice two years ago and can relate to the wireless-less experience. I discovered during my second visit that some stations deep underground had wifi so I enjoyed intermittent access.

The article’s writer seems to be predicting some sort of social pandemonium brought about by people yammering loudly and incessantly.

Will it happen? Yes, but not likely to the extent and frequency he projects. Our own train system gets a few loud mouths who have no volume control or social awareness. But really, how many people actually talk that often on their phones?

The writer might get actual anecdotes and data from other systems that have 4G access about loud mouth frequency. He might also find out how such access actually helps commuters.

Being able to communicate by voice, video, text, or emoji provides a crucial channel for alerts and in emergencies. 4G access also activates many eyes in a human monitoring system of nefarious activities.

Writers might like making predictions based solely on opinion and limited experience. They could do better with critical data and lived experiences.

Now if only more readers learnt to tell the difference between these writers…

 
My son visited an organic farm with his classmates at the end of the school term. The trip was organised by his school as part of a week-long programme.

According to my son, the owner-farmer claimed that organic farming was superior to all other farming methods, e.g., those that involved genetically modified organisms (GMOs), hydroponics, aeroponics, vertical farming, etc.

I asked if the accompanying teachers conducted a discussion or debriefing after the visit, but there was none.

Organic farming has its advantages, e.g., no pesticides, but it is not superior in all contexts.
 

 
For example, mankind has long genetically modified plants for higher yields, better taste, greater resistance, etc. We used to rely primarily on crossing varieties; now we can do it directly with genes. The result is the same and this has helped us feed the world with less land, water, and other resources.

Hydro and aeroponics rely little or not at all on pesticides. They also do not require soil management and crops can be farmed vertically or horizontally in stacks.
 

 
Vertical farms also take less space than traditional farms and can be housed in urban areas. This means that the crops are closer to the consumer and reduce or remove the need to transport crops over large distances.

Organic farming is great because it returns farmers to their roots while possibly marrying them with modern techniques. However, the claim that it is the best method does not take other options and contexts into account.

From an educator’s perspective, it is irresponsible to feed young and impressionable minds with biased information without providing some balance.

I am not saying that what the owner said is totally wrong. As someone with a stake in organic farming, she had every right to be proud of her efforts. But she had no right to present her opinions without rebuttal or balance.

According to my son, science teachers did not accompany that group of students. While other teachers were present, their roles should not just be to chaperone. If the mindset of teachers is to focus on group management, then this was a lost opportunity to model and teach critical thinking.

In fact, any teacher could have sparked a reflection and discussion. He or she would not have to provide all the answers. The rise above could have started with questions like:

  • What do you know about farming?
  • What do you think about what you heard today?
  • If you had one important question for the farmer, what might it be? Why would you ask that question?
  • If I said that I did not agree with everything the farmer said, what might some of my disagreements be? Why?

I reiterate: The farm visit was a lost opportunity to teach important critical thinking skills and to practice important pedagogical strategies outside the conventional curriculum. If schools are to venture out into the “real world”, then they should think and operate like they would in order to survive there.

Note: This is not an attempt to bash teachers even if it looks that way. It is my way of being a vigilant educator.
 
The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something. -- Jon Stewart.


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