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The short answer: Get the person to explain and defend the basics.

The long answer is a short story.

I had dinner with a group of people some weeks back and one person decided to bring up bitcoin and blockchain. In one breath, the person said he could not explain bitcoin, but advised everyone to not invest in it. In another, he confidently claimed that blockchain was the future and to pursue that.

My question was: How can a person laud blockchain but not know that bitcoin is based on it? How can you not be able to explain something but tell others to take your word not to invest in it?

I did not actually ask the question because I recognise bait. That person’s statements were a barefaced attempt to be challenged so that he could spout more ignorant rhetoric.


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If you need a good explanation on blockchain, watch the YouTube video above. An expert explains the concept at five different levels.

A charlatan can neither explain basic concepts nor defend it with current information and research.

The same approach should also be applied to vendors claiming to provide schools and educational institutions with edtech panaceas. Can they explain what their product is based on using first principles? Can they do this with different stakeholders? What research have they conducted or do they cite?

The end of my long answer is the same of the short answer: Get the person to explain and defend the basics.

I wrote the title of today’s reflection in the spirit of Jack Neo’s “Money No Enough” movies.

There seemed to be a theme of sorts in my RSS feeds and tweet streams of late. It was about media literacy.

I highlighted a Crash Course series on media literacy a few weeks ago. The first episode is now out on YouTube.


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Another recent resource is The Promises, Challenges, and Futures of Media Literacy by Data & Society.

Despite these (and other) resources on media literacy, I remained unconvinced on the local efforts to nurture media literate learners. I could not articulate exactly why until two resources distilled some wisdoms.

The first is the fact that media literacy programmes seem to focus on “fake news”. A shiny object might be a catalyst, but it does not make the entire system.

Superficially, such a focus tends to deal with sociopolitical information and misinformation. While important, doing this might not shine enough light on misinformation in the realms of schooling and education.

Diving deeper, the focus on fake news, even if it includes misinformation in educational resources, is an emphasis on the negative. Media literacy is also about what is positive online, e.g., active and meaningful collaboration, individual or collective expression, and open and generous sharing.

What follows is a resource that promotes critical thinking about media literacy.


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danah boyd (yes, her name is spelt that way in lowercase letters) is an expert in this field. boyd admitted she had no concrete answer for an effective of media literacy programme. She did, however, suggest why current ones were not effective: People like to follow their gut more than they like to follow their mind. This statement cuts through ivory tower, top-down designs of standalone “media literacy” units in schools because it emphasises how value systems dictate behaviour.

Media literacy programmes are “no enough” if they focus on skills (e.g, how to create a livestream) or even social norms and expectations (e.g., do not say online what you would not say to someone in front of you). They need to be more broadly defined to include attitudes and belief systems. This is what makes media literacy so challenging.

Media literacy cannot be taught like an academic subject. It is not bound by a course or classroom walls. It is about participating over multiple platforms and a myriad of channels in each platform. The learning is in the actual doing, not in the practical theorising.

To leave a better planet for our kids, we need to leave better kids for our planet.

Singapore’s efforts in media literacy by schools seems to be one of protecting the learner-consumer instead of empowering the learner-producer.

Efforts to teach students how to check facts and sources that they consume are “no enough”. As students create, they also need to understand a big word — epistemology. They need to question the nature of knowledge, how it is constructed, and how their belief systems shape what gets constructed. In doing this, they need to learn to be better people.

The article and the video have helped me distill what I think is lacking in our media literacy efforts. The same kids were are trying to nurture as wise consumers will eventually need to be savvy producers of content. If we do not want them to be producers of fake news or other questionable content, we need to focus on empowering them to produce based on sound belief systems.

Some might say that the YouTube video below is a good example of combining science and art.


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I agree. I would also add that such a combination creates perspective. This could mean helping us see what we could not before or seeing something unexpected as a result of the combination.

What we see projected as a shadow is another subtle message — there is one entity with severals sides, each of which is only apparent when we make the effort to change the perspective.

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


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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.

No, the video below of Trump supporting the idea that teachers be armed with handguns is not a joke. I mean it is, but it isn’t.


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The idea seems to be that some teachers should be trained to fire weapons when — not if — there is another school shooting. Apparently this is both a reactionary measure (teachers are already on the premises) and a preventative one (a would-be shooter would think twice about entering a saloon with armed cowboys).

So are the premises that 1) teachers are the type of people to be the first line of offensive defence, and 2) crazy or enraged people stop to consider the consequences of their actions?

It is hard to watch the entire video because it is hard to believe that this is even a suggestion. There was a terrible shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last week and the suggestion is that they need more guns, not less.

I am not weighing in on the guns-in-the-US debate. I do not live there and I do not really have a say. But I am an educator, and what I do is not limited to borders.

I ask questions instead of providing answers I do not have:

  • What might pre and in-service courses for these teachers look like?
  • How might the recruitment and retention of teachers change?
  • What if an armed teacher misuses his or her gun?
  • What if the teacher hits an innocent?
  • Am I in a screwed-up Matrix?

Crash Course is one of the many YouTube channels I subscribe to. It has great content that is pitched at the layperson, but professional enough for use in most classrooms.


Video source

I am looking forward to their next series on “Media Literacy”.

From the announcement video above, I gather that it is not pitched at educators. It is not even designed and presented by an educator in the traditional sense of the word.

But I will be watching all twelve episodes and I am sure I will get an education. I hope to learn something new, to have some good ideas reinforced, and some bad ones challenged.

 
Here is another example of why propagators of “learning styles” do schooling and education a disservice.

An NBC correspondent highlighted a quote from a WaPo article:

For some context, here is an excerpt from the article

Trump has opted to rely on an oral briefing of select intelligence issues in the Oval Office rather than getting the full written document delivered to review separately each day, according to three people familiar with his briefings. 

Reading the traditionally dense intelligence book is not Trump’s preferred “style of learning,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Say what you want about “learning styles”. If you are a teacher and what you say is not informed by research, then you dig you and your students into a hole. These “learning styles” become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you do not like reading words, here are lots of pictures instead. If you cannot listen attentively to someone, go outside and do something that somehow teaches you the same thing.

“Learning styles” can become an excuse to label yourself or someone else so that you or they do not have to try to learn something else some other way.

Do you and your students a favour and educate yourself on the fallacies of “learning styles”. Read this tweet storm — a response to an uncritical and irresponsible vendor — for a start.

You do not even need to read the research. Just question your conscience and logic — is it right and helpful for any learners to grow up with a limited set of tools and skills?


Video source

The video above highlights how “learning styles”:

  • have no research evidence that show that they improve learning
  • waste the time and effort of teachers who try to cater to different styles
  • label and limit people into believing they learn only or best in certain ways

Admit your bias, take the first difficult step of learning what research tells us, and unlearn “learning styles”. Your first step is any of the resources I have shared in Diigo, the articles mentioned in the tweetstorm, or the TED talk embedded above. Read, watch, or listen; choose your learning preference, but do not call it a learning style.

Learning is often difficult. If it was easy, it probably is not learning. Giving in to your uninformed bias that kids have “learning styles” may be easier, but that does not make it right.


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