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Posts Tagged ‘thinking

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.


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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?

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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.


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