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Posts Tagged ‘why

I watched both these videos yesterday.

Video source

Video source

The first is timely given that one of my upcoming courses focuses on inclusive education. The second is generically useful given the context of masking up in the era of COVID-19.

As different as they videos might seem, they share a common purpose. Both provide answers to the WHY questions.

We might know what impairment conditions are and how to properly wear a mask. But we also need to know why people with impairments feel excluded and more precisely why we wear masks.

Teachers and educators love to use YouTube videos because they help with explaining the who, what, where, when, and how. We should not forget that they might also provide insight on why.

Something I heard on a podcast reminded me of a design principle I am using for online learning.

In the podcast, one person told a story of how her mother found a tool to create word searche puzzles for that person’s grandmother. This was an attempt to stem the mental deterioration of the grandmother.

To make activity more meaningful, the mother used the names of relatives so that the grandmother would not forget them. The grandmother appreciated the effort, but she also remarked, “Who the hell are all these people?”

I laughed. I also reflexively thought about how this was similar to pedagogical design — there is a gap between the intent and the outcome.

How so? The design of online resources is often about the content, activities, and time spent on both. They are about the what, how, and when of learning. Some learners will just do what they are told. Others will not.

My learners are teachers and educators. Sometimes these are the toughest learners because they are comparing their own teaching and learning experiences with an online one I design for them. I have decided to include short design rationales with each activity. I am telling them why I have designed something that way and why they need to perform that task.

I hope that making design rationales clear helps my learners connect better with the processes and products of learning. I am revealing my state of mind so that they are less likely to ask, “Why the heck am I doing this?”

One of the post-lockdown rules we have in Singapore is that groups of people should be no larger than five [1] [2].

So why did I spot a group of eight at an eatery over the weekend? My guess is that one group of four scored one table and the other group of four got another table right beside the first table.

People look for loopholes and take advantage of them. They know what the rules are, but they do not care why the rules exist. The rule-of-five is meant to reduce the number of people interacting physically while providing a sense of normalcy.

If you are taught to listen and comply, you hear the number. If you are not taught to think and care, you do know know why that number exists nor do you behave responsibly.

My reflection is not so much about how wilfully ignorant we can sometimes be. It is about how we condition that mindset by the way we teach.

If we rely on the pedagogy of answers, we tend to provide the facts and figures. But if we learn to use the pedagogy of questions, we model for our learners and we teach them to ask important questions. The most important of which is why.

What exactly does 1,320km of cycling paths mean? How does that compare with what we have as roads?

This photo was the second image accompanying this tweet from the LTA.

While I look forward to people depending less on cars and more pedal power, I wonder what exactly 1,320km of cycling paths means.

How does that compare with what we have as roads? What does that mean to commuters who might actually want to cycle? How connected and convenient will these paths be?

If cyclists, pedestrians, and other non-car commuters still have to contend with a car-dominant mentality, all the cycling paths in the world will not make a difference.

Numbers are easy to tout. They tend to be the first thing that administrators, policymakers, and leaders start with. But impressive as the numbers might be, we need to ask what those numbers mean.

By the same token, reporting that MOE lent 12,500 devices to students for home-based learning describes an effort. It was an important effort, but that does not answer or address the issue of WHY the conditions made that effort necessary.

As with most things, the important question is not about how much or how many. It is about finding out why.

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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.


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