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Posts Tagged ‘tree

Author John Green is a consummate storyteller. In the YouTube video below, he tells the real life story of the Broccoli Tree.


Video source

Spoiler ahead.

The shared beauty of the tree now only lives in calendars and an Instagram account. The tree had to be cut down when vandals sawed into it and the whole tree had to be destroyed in the name of public safety.

Green’s words on this loss were poignant:

To share something is to risk losing it, especially in a world where sharing occurs at tremendous scale… If we hoard and hide what we love, we can still lose it, only then we are alone in the loss.

You can’t unsaw a tree, but you can’t unsee one either. The Broccoli Tree is gone, but its beauty survives.

This inspires me to keep sharing even though I do not create anything as beautiful or as profound as the Broccoli Tree. On a smaller scale, I know my work reaches and teaches others.

It must have been a slow news day for a newspaper to report that a diseased Angsana tree will be cut down tomorrow.

I am all for preservation if it makes sense, but not if it is based on unreasonable nostalgia.

Here is what should makes sense: The Angsana

  • was introduced to Singapore more than 40 years ago
  • is a non-native species
  • has branches that are prone to breaking off

The tree in question is outside a school that moved to its premises in 2010. The school co-opted the tree as a feature in its city campus.

However, the tree now has a hollow and diseased trunk. The authorities tried incorporating safety cables, but potential danger the tree presents is not worth the risk. This us why it will be cut down.

To its credit, the school took the opportunity to organise an event yesterday for students to commemorate the tree before it becomes a stump.

Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

Taking a step back, it should be obvious that logic overruled nostalgia in the case of the Angsana.

If teachers in any school take a step back, might they let nostalgia rule over logic, research, or change? I am talking about the nostalgia that overlooks the harm and romanticises the good; everything new is bad while all things old are good.

Saying that a thing or a practice “was always just there” or “always done that way” is not good reason enough to keep it. The rats and roaches hiding in your school walls were always there and they were normally ignored.

Now I am not referring to the traditional practices that might still be relevant or even powerful. I am referring to the pesky practices that you cannot see or do not question because they are insidious. Things like extrinsic rewards, mindless homework, subject silos, the test above all else, the irrational fear of technology, etc.

If those cease to be relevant, are ineffective, or are otherwise harmful, why keep them in the name of nostalgia?

In the context of educational leadership, do you agree that “Culture is like a tree. It takes years to grow, yet it can be chopped down in minutes”?

I see the point, but I have also observed something different.

The tweet presupposes that culture is good. There can also be withholding, “always done this way”, or otherwise negative culture. Such a tree-shaped culture needs to be cut down because we do not need a tree standing in the way progressive change.

Changes in leadership are sometimes carried out to prevent group think and inertia. However, the entrenched school culture not only persists, it can sometimes shape the new leader.

Some gurus advise that leaders not mould organisations to be like them. But if these leaders are adept to change and forward-thinking, isn’t the point to reshape or even cut down the tree?

I read the local newspapers about revamps of our preschool education, parents hothousing their kids, and revisions to English curriculum. All I see is curriculum this and curriculum that.

They are barking up the wrong tree.

Today, it is less about content and more about thinking. It is less about what you know and more about how you know and who you know to get it from.

Once you know, you must do. I do not mean knowing facts and doing exams. You cannot simply consume; you must contribute and create.


Video source

After watching this video, I learnt that knowledge in the past was viewed and organized in a tree-like manner. Information and knowledge now is more like rhizomes, networks, or webs.

It might be tempting to conclude that generalists or modern Renaissance folks should fare better than specialists. Far more important is the mindset of being able to learn from, or to make connections with, seemingly disparate concepts.

For me, this is another difference between teachers and educators. Teachers are told that they must be good in their content areas. They must tend to their trees.

Educators, on the other hand, know that this is not good enough. They must network and develop like rhizomes or be a node in an intelligent and ever shifting collective.

We have started sharing with NIE academic groups the use of decision tree videos.

The method is simple. Instead of creating one long and linear YouTube video, video segments are hyperlinked to each other.

Paul Lincoln, a colleague from the Visual Performing Arts group, got his student teachers to experiment with this form of digital storytelling.


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Here are some other ideas for decision tree videos:

  • interactive, chunkified lectures
  • illustrated multiple choice questions
  • scenario and case-based learning

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