I’ll just leave these here.
In disputes upon moral or scientific points, ever let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.
Arthur Martine (As quoted by Maria Popova of Brain Pickings)
It is incredibly difficult to change minds. Even the strongest arguments, with the best supporting evidence, will seldom cause any kind of crack, let alone foundational mind-shift. Opinions and world views tend to set over time, and they become more resistant to being chiseled away at.
The reason our minds become so solidly set mostly has to do with cognitive biases like confirmation bias, loss aversion, the bandwagon effect and the just-world phenomenon. I don't want to go into these in great detail here, as fascinating as they are, so in short: cognitive biases essentially work because we treat ideas and information like we do physical possessions. That is, once we 'own' them, we protect them, assign them a higher value than they would ordinarily have, and, of course, we see them as markers of our social, cultural and economic place in the world.
Whatever the format, whatever the genre, every day, digital games engage millions of people from a multitude of backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and lifestyles. And yes, there are a few evils associated with gaming, but these are mostly related to the nastiness that anonymity seems to breed in some (especially younger) players, as well as the health problems related to being too sedentary in front of a screen, munching snacks and imbibing carbonated drinks. But we are fairly certain that there is no causal link between what people do inside games and what they do in real life.
That said, there are a number of social, emotional and especially cognitive benefits associated with gaming. And on a philosophical level, the experience of gaming can teach us a few important lessons about real life:
What is it to be liberal? My definition runs as follows:
Liberalism is a world view that espouses the values of freedom, democracy and equality. Encoded into the term as a political system are the notions of social welfare, secularism and choice.
A liberal worldview would thus be one which emphasizes the value of personal choice – so long as no-one else is hurt as a result of those choices. Translated into a system of government, liberalism focusses on this same freedom to choose, as well as endeavoring to uplift the living standards of all people (especially the destitute) so that they have the option to choose their lifestyles more freely. A liberal society is thus one which embraces individuality, change and the welfare of the many.
A conservative world view is not the opposite of liberalism but a perversion of it. Co-opting the language of liberalism, conservatives will still say they value freedom of choice, but in reality, these choices are placed within such narrow bounds, as to make them statutory. Thus, even though conservatives will argue that they should have the freedom to choose how they live their lives, those choices are essentially confined to what the group believes is traditionally morally acceptable. As a political philosophy, this constrained worldview is put forward as the model of correct behavior, to which all citizens are to subscribe. A conservative society will privilege the rights of the few, be averse to change and multiple perspectives, and advocate a parochial view of the world.
Now let's look at education:
Original image: Wikimedia
So, the release of the Oculus Rift is getting us tech geeks all excited. And Microsoft is working towards making the Hololens a viable prospect. HTC is also ready with a cool-looking system, and I'm sure many others will be following and refining their systems in the next few years. I am convinced that virtual reality headsets and peripherals are going to be a really big thing in the next 5 years. Already, the gaming industry is frenetically building immersive virtual reality experiences. (Amongst them quite a few horror titles – Um… nope. And nope again!) And, as we usually do, tech-minded teachers are thinking about how we can use virtual reality to enhance our lessons.
Here's what I would like for virtual reality in education:
I'm not one who believes that watching TV makes our kids violent. But I do think it can be dangerous by irrevocably warping their thinking. Here is why I think television is REALLY hurting our kids:
Dysfunctional schools are not necessarily under-resourced schools. In fact, many struggling schools do amazing things with minimal resources. And many affluent schools simply cannot seem to get it right, despite having the best of everything.
(That said, severely under-supported and under-funded schools are a different matter altogether. To all intents and purposes, it is physically impossible for a school to function adequately if it receives practically no funding, while servicing a socio-economically disadvantaged community. What follows is not aimed at these schools.)
Dysfunctional schools can be found across the spectrum. And, perhaps controversially, much of what makes them dysfunctional is either poor policy choices or sheer inertia. They are marked by…
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Originally posted on Redhill Teachers' Idea Board:
By Angie Mullins Teaching music in a classroom setting can be very challenging. Students who have played a musical instrument for many years (and completed practical and theory exams) are placed in the…
A wonderful post about slowing things down at schools…
Some of my boarding school colleagues have a frenzied start to the day. Overseeing morning roll call in a fog of morning breath, checking that all the boys are present and correct, making sure they…
(Click on the link below to read the full post…)
Read the full post: Psychopathic schools
Bloom’s Taxonomy Thinking Questions:
A wonderful post by a very dynamic teacher!
(By Barbara Williamson) * TECHIE OF THE WEEK! *
Fortunately I have always been able to learn a couple of tricks using computers relatively quickly… as long as it involves working with programmes that I find useful! I love things that make my life easier, especially if teaching becomes more effective at the same time. I certainly don’t enjoy time wasted by using something just for the sake of using it. Although I tried flip my teaching a few years ago when I first was introduced to the idea, most of the Grade 9 guinea pigs I used were not happy with being taken out of their comfort zones, and so I decided not to exert all my energy on something that freaked them out too much. Now they are bigger, and I decided to give it another try in this, their Grade 12 year. Fortuitously, what with our being…
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(In response to David Didau's recent post titled: Just give me one good reason to use a tablet in the classroom)
Without any scene-setting to wade through, here is the one good reason for using tablets in your class:
Tablets are agency machines: They enable students to co-create knowledge, to research independently, and to demonstrate personalized mastery. They enable teachers to spend their time coaching individual students, and honing application skills rather than being the gatekeepers and disseminators of knowledge. Tablets have the potential to revolutionize education because they democratize the acquisition of knowledge and skills, giving students real agency in their own learning.
The kids in the lead picture are connecting with the wider world. And tablets enable kids around the world to connect to the collective knowledge of humankind. How dare we not allow them entry to the wonders of what's out there, in a safe and responsible way? And how dare we not allow them to become confident, independent participators in, and contributors to this world of ideas?
Of course, tablets are also useful in engaging students by making learning fun, hands-ons and relevant. They also encourage the on-going, self-driven acquisition of knowledge. But this is not the real purpose of tablets. Nor is it to simply replace paper-based activities with digital equivalents.
Also, devices do not have to be tablets, although tablets tend to be the most convenient option for most grades and classes.
Let me be clear: schools that issue tablets (or require parents to purchase them), without the requisite intensive pedagogical training of teachers, and the sincere, school-wide reorientation of methodologies, are simply wasting time and money.
Here's a little more about how tablets are being used in South Africa to revolutionize education.
And here is a short clip about a young man I have the pleasure of teaching this year:
“Words used carelessly, as if they did not matter in any serious way, often allowed otherwise well-guarded truths to seep through.”
― Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul
So I've been thinking about words lately. Specifically the edtech lexicon. And I think it's time we made a few well placed changes. Here are my suggestions:
Once upon a telling, a score of young adventurers set sail on adventure across the wide seas. They had a wise ol' captain and an ultimate destination, but they would each take turns to steer the good ship Learning by their own stars and towards their own discoveries. Most often, the captain's role was simply to ensure that the ship moved forward and avoided any danger. And to find destinations he knew they would love to explore.
They would stop at many strange and interesting places, whereupon the adventurers would go their own way, in groups or alone, to explore and make their own discoveries. And upon their return, they would regale the captain and their fellow travelers with stories of what they'd found out. Some would fail in their tasks, but they would still learn and they would try again at the next destination.
Yes, there were many challenges at sea, but they had the determination and courage to face them and conquer them.
Even the frightening first Sea Dragon of Failure was conquered once they figured out that to beat it, they simply had to reimagine it. They scooped Failure up and kept it as a pet. And it never bothered them again.
But then things changed. A dark squall appeared, the waves grew and the wind howled. The twin storms named Syllabus and Exam were upon them. They hunkered down and watched and readied themselves to weather the storm – armed only with the magic of Superficial Learning and a smelly coat of Rigor.
After the storm had passed, things were different. They skies remained grey and the sun remained hidden. They no longer had the desire to steer the ship, they were less enthusiastic to make their own discoveries, and they left it to the captain to steer the ship the rest of the way. They had only the end port of Grades on their mind.
And when they saw the mysterious beast called The Curiosity, they steered the good ship Learning directly at it, and killed it, never even bothering to look astern to see what it was. They tried to avoid the other sea dragons, but they were not always successful, and they did lose some of their crew to the nasty beasts.
And the 'ol captain was powerless to get them back to their former spirits.
Instead of scouting for new lands and new adventures, the crew, now many years older, sat below deck, infected with the scurvy of homework.
What had started out as such a wonderful journey of adventure ended in sullen silence, boredom and a general feeling of resentment. They disembarked vowing never to take the journey again. And as they watched, a new crew bounced aboard, bright-eyed and energetic, shouting enthusiastically while exploring the ship, all ready for their years long journey. To where? They knew not, nor did they care.
And the 'ol captain, pipe in mouth, bent over his charts, trying for all he was worth to plot a course to steer clear of storms and dragons. And if you listened closely you would hear him mumble something over and over to himself. And here's what he was saying:
“Next time, it will be better. I have to make it better.”
(Excerpted from my farewell letter to the staff of Crawford College Lonehill at the end of 2015.)
I love the subject I teach. (Actually, I just love teaching.) But teaching Geography is especially nifty, mostly because of how it teaches kids (and teachers) to think on different scales. When geographers look at a map, or a settlement, or weather patterns, or anything else, we have to zoom in to analyze the details, but we also need to zoom back out to identify trends, connections and patterns.
I think that teachers can become habituated to being zoomed in. We have due dates for marks and for comments, guidelines for getting sections of the syllabus done, deadlines for setting tests and assessments and moderation and so on.
We also do most our work in chunks of less than an hour and keep a very narrow focus to ensure that our students are engaged. We work on short, focused, nose-to-the-task timescales of periods, days and weeks. It gets so bad that when we look up at a child we've taught for a few years, it can be a real shock when it suddenly dawns on us how much they've actually changed in those years. And how quickly those years have gone by.
The problem with being so intensely focused is that sometimes it becomes difficult to uncross our eyes, to zoom back out, and to appreciate the bigger picture. And when things don't happen on our timescale, we become impatient, frustrated and sometimes even pessimistic. And there never seems to be enough time to learn new things, to reinvigorate our professional skills and to experiment with new ways of doing things.
But when we are able to take the time to see things on a wider time scale, and to see the patterns and trends which have emerged over a few years, a very different picture emerges.
I know there are daily irritations. I know there are things that perhaps don't work as well as they should. And the schools of today are not the same places they were a few years ago. They are never going to be. Times have changed. They have a habit of doing that.
But if we take the time to zoom out a little, to see how far we've come, and to look at the exciting things that are ahead, we can find the inspiration and the time to renew our passion for what we do, we can reinvent ourselves and what we do in the classroom, and focus again on what really matters.
It isn't a matter of time, it's a matter of perspective.
This is a personal post. One of those cathartic things. Skip it if you're not into that kind of thing.
So everyone's still thinking about how 2016 is going to be different and pondering all the new things that are going to come their way.
And I'm sitting here thinking about all the things I'll never do again.
And now it strikes me how many of the things on this list are a result of being privileged enough to have travelled, to have the latest gadgets and to have Internet access. Of course, I am also relieved that I will not be doing some of these things again, and some of these things just happen when you get older, I guess. But a lot of it still makes me quite sad.
Things I'll Never Do Again
What are the things you'll never do again?
In a recent post discussing a favorite quote, I wrote that…
[Young] minds are more like a rainforest: teeming with life and growth, filled with verdant mysteries, potential discoveries and unique richness, and we need to take care that we don't kill off more than we allow to flourish.
This in opposition to the view that their minds are like gardens “which need to be carefully planted and trimmed and tended and formed (and ruthlessly weeded)”.
In this post, I would like to extend the rainforest metaphor a little more.
Why Kids' Minds Are Like Rainforests
(With thanks to the vivacious Melani van der Merwe.)
* Like Malcolm Gladwell, I have had my thinking entirely shifted by this book. More in a future post.
This is the link to last year's predictions.
I've cast the bones for 2016, and the ancestors have spoken.
And here's how you too can learn to tell the future. (Spoiler alert: You can't really, all you do is look at what has already happened, what's happening now, and what always seems to happen. And, of course, you need to keep it vague.)
And before you protest that I am being flippant about some potentially serious and tragic events, might I remind you that most of these things are already happening right now? And they've been happening for many years. Perhaps the real tragedy is that we aren't doing anything about them. And that we're still surprised when they happen. And that we have the kind of credulity that allows us to think that people can tell the future.
South Africa has a major problem with supplying its citizens with enough power. It also has a problem in supplying a good education to its young people.
Here are a few things both of these problems have in common:
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