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Posts Tagged ‘why

Lego family visits Shakespeare's Globe.

I cannot remember HOW a family holiday in 2015 came to mind, but I know WHY.

We were in a departmental store when a burley security guard tapped me on the shoulder and told me to carry my backpack in front. I asked him why and he told me to just do it.

I could guess why. Pickpockets preyed on tourists and the store did not want to deal with the victims. Having my backpack in front could prevent such crime.

The security guard focused on WHAT to do, but not on WHY.

Even though explaining why takes more time, there are benefits to doing this:

  1. People realise that the store has their interest in mind.
  2. They understand the reason for the action.
  3. The same people are more likely to apply the practice on their own and apply them in other contexts.

For similar reasons, I like to focus on the WHY of the HOW/WHAT of pedagogy. This way teachers and educators:

  1. Realise that the practice is for the good of learners.
  2. Understand the rationale for the change.
  3. Are more likely to adopt and adapt the practice in their own contexts.
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To listen.

To reflect.

To crystallise my thoughts.

To test the waters.

To keep going.

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This it the third part of my reflections on being an independent consultant.

Yesterday I shared a few standard and unconventional HOWs of networking. Today I focus on WHY.

Networking by jairoagua, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jairoagua 

It is tempting to view networking as a just-in-case activity. You never know how a business card or a good introduction might end up being work for a client. So the first and obvious WHY of networking is for yourself.

However, I have observed such networking behaviour to come across as desperate, overly aggressive, and if I read the body language right, off-putting to the listener. There is a principled difference when a person initiates self-promotion and when a person is invited to say more.

This is like someone teaching a class that everyone has to attend but has no idea why. Here the teacher does most of the talking and the students sit back. The alternative is learning that is driven by need or desire. The signs of this are conversations that start with questions that are important to the learner and a better balance of who does the talking.

I accidentally discovered this when attending conferences, speaking at events, or facilitating workshops. After a shared experience — someone else’s talk, my seminar, or my workshop — someone invariably approaches me with questions.

My goal is to help with a question or issue, not cultivate a client. I leave it to that person to decide if they need my paid services after we chat. The returns on efforts like these are not high, but I can walk away with a clear conscience.

Another less obvious reason for networking is to help someone else already in my network. If you listen hard enough, people will share opportunities that might be suitable for someone else. I like to put these people in touch with other people I know. It is my way of creating serendipity. A more calculative person might think of this as scoring karma points, but I do not keep score because that is tiresome.

So why network? Simply because 1) it is a natural extension of events like conferences and workshops, 2) you create serendipity by trying to help others, and 3) in doing so, you help yourself.

Audrey Watters rarely fails to provoke thought, even among thought leaders.

I tweeted what I thought was her central question and argument in her quest to convince her audience that they should rethink why they want to use or integrate technology in education.

In her article, Watters asked and answered questions that people in the field of educational technology should be dealing with first. Instead of asking WHY first (and thus questioning their fundamental assumptions), most people jump into WHAT and HOW.

For example:

  • We have a new consignment of devices for a 1:1 programme. What shall we do with them? How do we deploy the devices? How do we control their use?
  • We need a learning management system (LMS). What is it going to cost? How do we transfer what we already have to the LMS? How do we control its use?

Policymakers, administrators, and even teachers forget to let the WHY questions run their course. Why do we want a 1:1 programme? Why do we think we need an LMS?

Suppose they come up with some answers. Now they should ask another round of questions. Why do we believe that? Why do we think that is true? Why does that help (or hinder)?

Even though this line of questioning is necessary, it is often ideal because the decision to buy and use technology is already made. What gets communicated and enforced is WHAT and HOW. For example, this is the platform you will use and this is how much of the curriculum must be online. What is not communicated is WHY.

The quota for how much of the curriculum must be online is common among institutes here because very few share how ineffective this practice is. Even if they do, people that hear the advice do not listen. They will set quotas because that is the obvious and easiest thing to do.

Administrators and policymakers often drive change, not from the classroom but from the boardroom. In god-mode, they make decisions on outcomes that are visible to them. That is why we STILL have policies in place like: In the first year, 10% of syllabi or curricula must be technology-based or online. In the second year, 20%… and so on.

I have noticed that policies worded like this tend to stop at 30%. Then after three or fewer years, the efforts die due to 1) a change in leadership, 2) a lack of sustainability, or 3) another change effort or policy.

This numbers game is easy to play on paper. Different departments or schools can document this whether they actually do it or not. Then if asked to show evidence of “change”, it is easy to showcase an exemplary 1% that is not representative of the rest of the 29%. It is also easy to say that “our” technology use is different from “their” technology use.

It is also a source of pride to be able to document and publicize such change. We have interactive classrooms. We have mobile devices. We have MOOCs. But we will not mention how just three of our 1000 teaching faculty actually run the MOOCs. Nor will we admit how the 997 instructors still think that interaction means tapping on an interactive white board and dissuading learners from actively using their own devices.

It is these 997 instructors that we need to reach. To do that, we must ask and answer WHY and WHY again.

I followed @sjunkins when the graphics embedded in his tweets caught my eye.

This was a recent one that educators should process critically.

Someone else on Twitter called it an infographic. It is not.

Does it have information? Yes. Does it have graphic elements that illustrate the information beyond text form, more richly, or intuitively? No. Far too many people perpetuate the wrong idea of an infographic.

The list includes some things a 21st century teacher should do. I appreciate that this is a challenge to teachers to see how connected, relevant, or current they are. But many of the items are technical skills.

These lead a teacher who might be interested in doing these things to wonder HOW to do these things. I think that it is more important to first know WHY.

I have noticed some leaders in education saying that the time is past asking why technology important. It is more important to know how. This might be true in contexts where asking why is a delay tactic among the stubborn or the undecided.

But not revisiting or emphasizing why is a mistake. I do not mean just reiterating that times have changed or that we must prepare our children for their future instead of our past.

These are all good reasons, but there should be specific reasons for wanting teachers to tweet, Instagram, lip dub, ad nauseum.

So I present an alternative list of 21 things educators might do and I suggest a reason for each.

  1. Don’t just use ICT, integrate it. If the ICT is not integrated, it is dispensible. If it is not needed, why incorporate it?
  2. Crowdsource an idea or co-author a collaboratively created lesson resource. Many hands make light work and you stand to gain ideas you would never have generated alone.
  3. Don’t just talk learner-centred, walk learner-centred. Do not tell me; show me what you can do.
  4. Make real and lasting online connections with other educators. They are your broader support system, your cheering team, and your sounding boards.
  5. Follow someone new or different on a PLN like Twitter. Get new perspectives, grow your network, help yourself by helping others.
  6. Provide a meaningful community service. Apply what you do in the real world instead of the contrived one that is often the classroom.
  7. Get inspired, be inspiring: Lead a PLN discussion, share at an unconference. One of the best ways to learn is to get out of your comfort zone. If you care, you must share.
  8. Model critical and creative thinking. More things are caught than they are taught.
  9. Overcome divides. Stop making excuses; start creating opportunities. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
  10. Talk less, facilitate more. Talking and teaching does not guarantee listening and learning. Get learners involved and become the meddler in the middle.
  11. Challenge your teaching philosophy. Question your assumptions. Focus on the learner and learning, not just on the teacher and teaching. It is your core and it becomes obvious to those around you.
  12. Update your e-portfolio. Focus on the processes behind the products. Curate and create as a model of a lifelong, lifewide learner.
  13. Critically reflect on your own practice. Stepping outside yourself might be the single most important attribute of an educator.
  14. Unlearn a bad habit or a bias. Deconstruct your behaviour or belief system and see what lies in the middle or at the foundation. Question if that is what you want to drive you or what you want to build on.
  15. Relearn a lost value. Reconstruct an ideal you had when you first started teaching. It can help you make that quantum leap you are looking for.
  16. Experiment with the science and hone your art of pedagogy. Think different, do different, and know why. You will not know until you try.
  17. Fail forward. FAIL = First Attempt In Learning. Do not let your first step be your last. Keep moving forward.
  18. Lead change. Do not expect someone else to show you the way. Find your own path and others may follow.
  19. Learn. Learn. Learn. An educator should be a learner first. It is the best way to understand what other learners struggle with.
  20. Play. Leverage on instinctive ways we learn. That way the learning and teaching are natural extensions of what we do.
  21. Strive to be an educator of people, not a teacher of content. If you forget WHO you are trying to change and WHY, there is no point telling them WHAT or HOW.

Thanks to a retweet by @engrg1, I read this excerpt from a book. But I was a bit concerned when I read it.

I do not have the full context of the chapter, but I think that the paragraph stands alone well.

I fully agree with the last sentence (the bits underlined at the end). It is a call to do with what you have instead of making excuses. Find the time! Raise the money! Create buy-in and ownership! Make the effort!

But I wonder about the long term wisdom of just focusing on the HOWs of change and not the WHYs of it. I am not referring to the resistive WHYs. I am referring to the WHYs that provide a mission and drive things forward.

Those WHYs fuel the HOWs of finding the time, raising the money, creating buy-in and ownership, and making the effort.

Sometimes I wonder if the conversations that my wife and I have over dinner and YouTube videos have any impact on my son.

Yes, we watch YouTube videos and not television programmes over dinner. We talk about them and we unconsciously model communication and thinking skills for our son. This was not obvious to me until a recent father-son chat.

Every weekday I ask my son about his school day and his homework. Practically every day the answers are the same: Meh, boring, and arrgh!

Except one day. My son asked me why he had to perform science experiments to answer questions they already knew the answers to.

How many teachers or research scientists ask themselves this question? It was a particularly good question because it critiqued the purpose of doing experiments and the strategy for teaching science.

The standard response to this question might revolve around learning or practising the scientific method. But the core issue is really about whether the focus is developing a discipline or being driven by curious discovery.

Any good teacher would want his/her students to have both. That said, I would wager that most teachers would err on the side of content delivery and disciplined thinking. But what if the teaching of science as a discipline takes out the joy of discovery?

This is one reason why we have the dichotomy of formal learning in school and informal learning elsewhere. There are rules, methods, and objectives in school, but they typically suck the life out of learning.

Outside of school the learning is looser and practically undisciplined in the sense that it does not start or end with subject silos, specific instructional objectives, or time-tested strategies.

The latter sort of learning is like how a child catches values, listening skills, and thinking skills at a daily setting like dinner conversation.

We need both formal and informal channels, of course. But I would err on the side of the informal if they are going to help my son develop the mindset he needs for his future.

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