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Posts Tagged ‘why

I went down a rabbit hole recently and chanced upon this visualisation of Singapore’s 2020 budget. Its creator shared how s/he did it in this Reddit thread.

Singapore Government's Projected Revenue and Expenditure 2020 (In Millions of SGD)

The original source of all the numbers is at this government site and the details are in this official PDF.

Singapore Government's Projected Revenue and Expenditure 2020

I reflect on this not from a political or economic point of view. My primary lens is always that of an educator. The details are important, but so is the overall picture. The lists and tables are for details, the perspective is in the image, e.g., how much goes where.

As basic as this might sound, we need to choose the right information, medium, and tool for a purpose. The purpose (or the WHY) comes first; the WHAT and the HOW came after. But all too often people do it the other way around regardless of context. I am guilty of doing that sometimes, so I remind myself to return to first principles.

The headlines highlighted in this tweet are why we need:

  • science and experts.
  • to be information and media literate.
  • to follow entities outside our bubbles.

Forbes and NASA have experts that are good at what they do. Both provided commentary on a shared observation. Only one was actually informative — NASA.

If we were information and media literate — collectively digitally literate — we would be skeptical of Forbes’ report and know how to investigate the issue. We would then find NASA’s version of the event and we would be able to evaluate what we find.

Operating outside our bubbles allows us to see what others see. Operate in the Forbes or entertainment bubble and we see only mystery or ignorance. Operate in the scientific bubble and we see more factual information.

That said, I follow You Had One Job on Twitter because it is funny. It is also provocative in that it helps me make critical connections. So while being digitally literate and sourcing expertise are important, it helps to first operate outside one’s bubble.

Despite the doubling of tweet length, this one (archived version) needs more context.

The sharing session might focus on WHAT the context is and HOW the supposed system auto-magically does this.

But I wonder if it will explore the WHY of doing this. Answering this question explores the ethics of incorporating such technology. This might include what data is collected and how algorithms run to make summary decisions.

Let us not forget where others have gone or are going before, i.e., how Facebook and Google are under the microscope for not being more careful with student data.

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.

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