As adults and professionals, we often take over-analysis to dizzying heights. That’s why I take any opportunity available to talk to children and youth about all manner of topics, and particularly ones that they aren’t often recognized as experts of, but most definitely are. Like social media.
Not to mention his co-presenter Katya‘s almost identical tips from her Prezi:
Why do we have to be all…
When we could be more…
CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Jenn Durfey
If you want to have success and, most of all, fun on social media, start listening to the kids. They say it simpler, and based, in many cases, on far more expertise. Have fun, be unique, and don’t be jealous. What more do you need to remember than that?
I really felt old today. As I had a moment to reflect with my daily cup of Imperialiste Noir (I’d highly recommend), I reminisced about the times when it wasn’t so easy to bring your technology into a meeting, workshop, or conference. I started thinking about the time, for instance, that I co-presented with my friend Stephen Louca and our students on this new, crazy thing called ubiquitous school wifi and handheld technologies. That was where a very belligerent group of colleagues confronted me angrily, suggesting that a multi-device, tech rich learning environment was akin to the Nether. I also thought about the days when it was absurd to assume that a significant percentage of participants would bring their own laptop, let alone tablet or smart phone, to a learning session. I recalled how all of this would have seemed so crazy or hopeful (depending on your own bias) for someone contemplating it even in, say, 2004.
Perhaps I’m being presumptuous, or even ignoring my own privilege. I work and travel in adult learning environments where technology is omnipresent in all forms: smart phones and watches, tablets, and laptops. Seeing multiple devices has reached unspoken acceptance, and it feels like it happened overnight. Where one used to ask permission to use a device in a meeting or session, we now assume positive intentions, and, in fact, may regard it as inequitable to ask people to put their device(s) away. This leads me to an important question.
So, now that the personal technology pendulum has swung so suddenly in the direction of normalization and acceptability, when do we actually put them away? Ever? In an adult learning model, do we leave it to each learner to decide what’s best for them? Or, since we’re no longer having to advocate so strongly for personal tech, now that it’s not about swimming against a strong tide, can we now go deeper and explore when it’s best to put them away, and when we can leave it open for folks to use at their discretion?
I have no strong position in one direction or another, and can assure you that I’m not asking these questions disingenuously. I’m genuinely curious about what all of you think of this topic, and am hoping for honest responses. Here are some things I think we should think about when we think about the place of personal technology in our meetings and adult learning environments:
Do we need everyone to be 100% present, figuratively speaking?
How complex are the problems that need to be solved?
Is the internet needed for the work?
Will the physical presence of devices get in the way of certain moments in the thinking or learning?
Will we get the best out of participants with the devices out, or more with them put away?
It’s no longer cool to ask adults to put their devices away. Thus, I guess I’m wondering when, and if, there is a time to be uncool. I would love your thoughts on this.
I’m against [empathy]. I’m arguing that empathy is a poor moral guide. [I know this is] like saying you hate kittens or you’re in favour of Ann Coulter. It just sounds really weird. But, I would make a distinction between empathy and compassion, where empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and feeling their pain. I think empathy can do good in the short term, but it tends to distort things. It’s racist and parochial. It’s a lot easier to feel empathy for someone who looks like me or is adorable, than someone who scares me and lives far away and doesn’t look like me. Empathy is innumerate. It tends to focus us on the plight of individuals and not groups. It’s because of empathy that our society cares more about a little girl stuck in a well than on global warming, because I empathize with the girl and her family. Global warming’s some abstract thing. Ya, it might kill billions of people, but show me one. And, if you can’t, empathy has no moral pull.
Compassion [on the other hand] is valuing people, it’s valuing human life, in a distant sort of way. In every possible way, I think compassion trumps empathy, even at the local level. It’s not just contemporary doctors, but it’s actually Buddhist theologians that have long pointed out that feeling empathy for suffering people will exhaust you, and will burn you out, and make you useless. While a more distanced compassion, where you value them and you care about them, but you don’t feel their pain, is actually better to be a good person. So I’m a big champion of compassion and I’m very down on empathy.
I’m still intellectually navigating what Bloom is trying to tell us, and even whether or not I agree with him, but his assertions sure have me thinking about the work we do in education around social justice and equity. The idea that empathy breaks down because it puts us in an ironically egocentric stance where we place value on people based on the extent to which we relate to them is a provocative warning to me.
If you have time, I highly recommend listening to the entire interview in order to grapple with Bloom’s ideas in context. What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Bloom – is compassion preferable to empathy to foster equity?
Last week, I spent a couple of hours watching the above playlist from Jo Boaler’s fantastic online course “How to Learn Math”. In it, she speaks much about the foundational importance of Growth Mindset for becoming a mathematician. It’s the latest of many other articles, videos, and books I’ve been sampling due to their importance in my current work as a curriculum consultant in my board.
I’m a big fan of Jo Boaler’s ideas. I love the way she blends research and theory about learning dispositions with practical tools and strategies for implementing them. I also find her delivery exudes authenticity and wisdom, which is important to me. I was astonished that I was able to maintain engagement to watch all the videos considering most of them consisted of one person speaking directly into a camera.
CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Corey Seeman
And more like this:
CC licensed photo shared by Flickr user Louise Docker
I’ll use myself as an example.
When it comes to my work as a pedagogue and leader, I feel a strong growth mindset has driven almost all of the countless intrinsic rewards I’ve attained in my still progressing professional life. I’ve rarely met a pedagogical problem I didn’t ecstatically pursue the solution for. As a father, too, I always look at myself as a work in progress, wanting to learn more, reflect perpetually, and do it in partnership with my beloved wife. But, who knows, perhaps even I will experience my own times of stagnation or regression, where I have difficulty moving my own proverbial needle.
On the other hand, there’s swimming. I have this thing about swimming. I’m really bad at it, and my family constantly berates me for my hypocrisy in refusing to take simple steps to improve.
There’s also my own father. He and I don’t have the greatest relationship on earth. Our lines of communication have always been like a drive home on Toronto’s 401 on the worst snow storm of the year. I’ll admit that I need to approach our relationship with more resilience and grit.
I have not researched my stuff. Carol Dweck, Jo Boaler, great people like that have. I love their ideas, but now I want to go deeper. I want to swim in the deep, murky waters of nuance when it comes to growth mindset. Maybe I need some lessons.
In this modern world, and perhaps since the beginning of industrialization, one may see many reasons to be a “bad” parent. When you live in the sprawling suburbs like my family does, however, you see these reasons everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I love ol’ Richmond Hill, Ontario. Diversity, generally healthy approaches to live, safety, amenities, access to everything – I can’t complain really.
But the conformity. My goodness, the unspoken, pervasive, unrelenting conformity. Here is my first in a series called Reasons to be a “Bad” Parent.
Reason #1: When the majority of people who attend your local public school live only a maximum of a kilometre away and no one walks to get to and from there.
Again, please don’t misinterpret: I know there are many reasons you may drive your child to or from school. This is a complex, modern web we’ve tangled ourselves up in. No judging here, I have no problem with it.
I do take umbrage, however: when my family makes a concerted effort to teach our 3yo daughter to ride her two wheeler and happily ride it 450 metres to and from school every day; when all her kindergarten classmates drop their jaws, wondering, “How on earth can she do that?”; when we have figured out a way for us to build natural, purposeful, physical movement into our family’s busy schedule; and when…
The number of times we have been asked by our suburban counterparts if we “really think it’s a good idea” in patronizing tones, implying that walking/riding to school WITH our child is some kind of abhorrent act of living on the edge is too many to count.
If being a “bad” parent means that, just call me Michael Jackson himself.
Do you have someone in your life who loves you enough to let you know when you’re being disingenuous, or, as my Anglophile friends would say, talking a load of bollocks? I’m one of the lucky ones with a wife who knows exactly when I’m using highfalutin words that have lost, or never had, meaning.
Innovation is becoming one of those words in education, I feel. We use it too much. Somewhere along the line we all decided it was the coolest noun one could drop into pedagogical conversation, all without examining whether we were converging on its definition.
I’ve just completed reading Steven Johnson’s (you know, the Where Good Ideas Come From guy) insightful How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World. It’s a fun read full of little Malcolm Gladwellian anecdotes and connections. Innovation, Johnson says, is a process that is discussed in far too simplistic a manner. He urges us to consider how innovation actually happens as opposed to how we imagine it occurs based on popular myth. Here are three myths discussed by Johnson which I feel are particularly prescient to educational at the moment.
Even when we pay lip service to the idea that innovation is certainly not a domain exclusive to the technology sector, we still seem unable to divorce our minds from the idea that it is the Apple’s and Google’s of the world who own innovation. Johnson compels us to think about massive innovations that get virtually no recognition, such as Dr. John Leal’s turn of the century innovation of putting the correct proportions of what was then considered a terrible poison, chlorine, in public drinking water. Leal experienced resistance and shame far exceeding the kind we romanticize in the innovators of digital tools, yet he hardly ended up rich and famous for his monumental innovation. When was the last time you heard the word innovative used to describe, say, an educator who creates a new system for making classroom more inclusive places, or a pedagogue who creates a program to build self-efficacy in math learning? By allowing educational technology to figuratively patent the concept, we not only misrepresent the meaning of the process, but marginalize many in education who engage in, and create, real innovations.
2. Innovation Occurs Mostly in the Private Sector
This is just plain wrong, according to Johnson’s research. If you took away all the public money from the various, ongoing projects designed to innovate and solve massive human problems, he says, there would be hardly any innovation at all. Many of us who work in public school systems often get frustrated with the bureaucracy, red tape, and what seems to be a slow rate of change. Sometimes, we assume that this is a problem of public funding or unions, that competition in the market is what provokes and creates solutions. We wonder if, on the other side of the fence, the private sector is unencumbered and free to innovate to their hearts’ content. The data on great creations does not support this idea, says Johnson.
3. Innovations Result in Desired, Intended Outcomes
The Hummingbird Effect is one of the more enticing terms used by Johnson. He coined it referring to the amazing evolutionary jump that species made when they learned to copy the flight patterns of insects in order to gain more nectar from flowers, thereby completely transforming the anatomy of birds. The Hummingbird Effect, thus, is a way to name innovations that result in outcomes which were completely unexpected. For example, Johnson explains how Dr. Leal’s innovation with chlorine led to the social act of swimming in pools, sparking a whole new industry with its own innovations in women’s swimwear fashion.
This concept is the one that is making me reflect the hardest as an educator. I’m wondering what the unintended rewards and consequences are of various educational innovations we introduce into systems and schools. For instance, does the scaling of a tool meant to enhance and support collaboration unexpectedly result in a hierarchical transmission of knowledge, or vice versa? Will a new method of pedagogical documentation become a path to triangulation or evaluation? Reading How We Got to Now made me realize that intended navigations don’t always result in the expected destinations. While we may believe that the coordinates on our metaphorical GPS will take us to our new friend’s house, sometimes we end up in the marsh or the amusement park.
Why? Because there are many reasons why your child might need a cell phone, and because there are a plethora of reasons why the child down the road, in the next town, or across the border might not need one.
We live in 2014. The cell phone is something most of our children first got their hands on when they couldn’t even speak an intelligible word. They are the definition of ubiquity and utility. Are they frequently a nuisance, especially in the hands of children? Undoubtedly. Do most parents purchase one for their kids with an acquiescence bordering on a type of surrender? No question.
Still, please try and leave the judging hat in the closet when you try to comprehend how a 9-year-old has ended up with a super computer in his pocket which costs astronomically more than any toy you ever dreamed of asking for on your Santa list as a kid. There are so many questions that all parents have to consider in this process, not the least of which include:
How often am I expecting my child to be alone?
Does my child travel to and from school on their own?
Do they have a developmental delay or learning disability for which a phone would greatly help?
Does my child exhibit an exceptional passion and precociousness with technology, design, or coding for which a smartphone would help continued growth in?
Has a family member purchased a phone for them without asking you first?
One of the most beautiful things about this whole parenting thing is the autonomy you have been granted to exercise sound judgement. What works for your family works for your family. Stay informed, read stuff, think critically, communicate clearly, but, at the end of the day, it’s your family’s decision.
Related: 3 Things Parents Are Missing About Cell Phones
Lately my eldest, Miss. 11.5, has been getting increasingly monosyllabic. “Ya”, “No”, “k”, “Huh?”, etc. She’s as reliable, independent, and wonderful as ever, but I’m not getting as much of the “oh man, will you just get to the point after all your rambling” stuff that preceded impending adolescence. Perhaps it’s because her two younger siblings are gladly taking on that role. Generally, I’m ok with the fact that she’s moving on from telling her parents everything that’s on her mind.
Maybe it’s time for her to have a break from me. I know I can be a bit preachy at times, so I don’t blame her for regarding my questions as threats. Goodness, compared to the way I treated my own parents, she has to be the least teenagery child of all time.
Pre-adolescence is a strange time to be a parent because I find it’s when the decisions and approaches of the parents in your circle of friends and family start to diverge. Up until now, everyone generally went by fairly standardized approaches based on developmental milestones, while differences seem to revolve mostly around bedtimes or to what extent one was going to fight about broccoli going down their child’s esophagus.
But now we have the possibility of cell phones (aka super pocket computers able to connect with anyone anywhere), midnight sleepovers, risqué Halloween costumes. You start to hear more of: “OMG WHAT are they allowing their daughter to do?!?!” “I would never let my daughter do that” and “Over my dead body”. We start to focus much more on the no examples in our mind, where the 0-10 years were indicative of far more yes examples, as in “Yes, please, I wish my child would learn to do that already.”
Growing up, I didn’t have many limitations put on me. My parents were nurturing but fairly permissive, and I thus had a lot of freedom to mess up and figure things out on my own. This was mostly due to the fact that my parents were always just trying to get by, struggling as the ones for whom the American Dream was seemingly always out of reach. Many people tell me that some of my strengths as an adult include my ability to learn and adapt to new contexts and situations, and I trace much of it back to my relatively dysfunctional upbringing.
As a teen I engaged in plenty of risk-taking behaviours that, in some cases, are the kind which show up in a conservative parent’s worst nightmares. I experienced great joy, failure, and learned valuable lessons from every single one of them. As I got older, I learned how to channel my desire for the new and unknown into positive, professional and personal avenues. I reflect on it very much as a natural evolution, and I look at many of those experiences as abstract, inanimate teachers from my past. I also notice that my middle-aged peers who did not tray very far in their teens and twenties often reach a stage of ‘what if’ disillusionment about aspects of their past, whereas my wife and I generally are confident we know what happens if.
So now we are the fortunate parents of three remarkable and healthy young chicks, all of them learning to fly. Both of us are well established and successful in our careers. We’ve got a mortgage, credit cards, and a mini van. I find myself thinking about odd things such as, “Would my neighbour like the shade of brown I want to paint my garage door with?” It’s all very boring and significantly ticky-tacky.
I start thinking about how messy and experimental I want my kids to get in adolescence. I believe people are made through adversity, but is it possible to contrive it? I had moments as a teen which I would call miserable without fear of being over-dramatic. Those experiences helped mould who I am. Do I let my own kids be miserable? Is that even possible?
Perhaps parenting has forever been this way, a constant state of irresolution, a perpetual cognitive dissonance. I wonder if, in fact, like a beautiful math or physics problem, this is the beauty of parenting. I know that risk taking and experimentation made the strong, confident, growth-oriented adult that looks back at me in the mirror each day. To what extent will I intervene if and when my own kids want to stray?
This post can also be read on my Medium parenting blog Daddygogy.
There may not be a site in the world that generates as much web traffic as YouTube. We all know that it’s commonplace to see youth as consumers of the content, but how much do we know about our young people who are the creators and leaders of it? On Friday, November 7 at the Bring it Together 2014 Conference (#bit14), you will have the opportunity to meet two of my former students who have autonomously garnered large global followings by creating unique video content. Hear their stories, discover how they are generating (in some cases) significant incomes, ask them questions, and learn how to start your own YouTube channel from two of the savviest young leaders around.
The interview below is with Katya, a former student of mine who is a dynamic, creative individual with leadership skills that belie her youth. Currently a secondary student in Ontario, she has an amazingly supportive family behind her. I learn as much about teaching and learning whenever I get a chance to talk to Katya and her art teacher mother Natasha, as I would with anyone. Let’s start off with one of her channel’s videos.
Mr. Lee: Hi Katya! I’m so excited about the our presentation at the Bring it Together 2014 conference on November 7th. I think people have so much to learn from your filmmaking ability and social media savvy. I wanted to ask you a few questions in anticipation of your talk at #bit14. My first question is: how did your love of making videos begin?
Katya: It’s quite simple actually, I was bored and decided to experiment with my webcam. I was also really into watching YouTubers and wanted to try it out for myself.
Mr. Lee: Why did you decide to start a YouTube channel?
Katya: I decided to start my channel because it was new, unique and something that could occupy me in my free time, and of course it was fun.
Mr. Lee: Describe your channel. Who or what is it for?
Katya: When I started my channel I was a typical beauty guru, but that’s changed now that I have matured a bit more and I grew out of that stage. I really love making montage clips of places I go or things that are happening in my life. My channel is ultimately an outlet to publicize my passions. I don’t feel as thoughIi have enough of a subscriber fan base to be making videos solely for my viewers.
Mr. Lee: What benefits has your channel brought you?
Katya: My channel has brought me some business opportunities such as companies wanting to partner with me which is pretty cool and it’s also a great topic of discussion.
Mr. Lee: What, if any, challenges or problems have you run into?
Katya: I had a really slow process gaining subscribers and still do, and it’s very hard right now to make videos because I am always encountering problems with my computer and my editing system.
Mr. Lee: What are some myths that people believe, or things people don’t understand, about running a YouTube channel?
Katya: A myth that people believe is that running a YouTube channel is easy because it’s not. Making videos takes up a lot of my time and effort and it’s very hard to keep up. You definitely have to be dedicated to have a YouTube channel.
Mr. Lee: What advice would you give to others that want to start a channel?
Katya: If you feel that this is a passion of yours and you want to have a successful channel, then it’s a good idea to invest in a good editing software such as iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or Adobe Premiere and in a good camera. I would also suggest making videos that you want to watch because if you don’t enjoy watching your videos then most likely others won’t either.
Mr. Lee: Thanks so much, Katya, for sharing your insights about being a creator on YouTube. I hope you have a great school year, and I’m looking forward to seeing you speak on November 7th at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre.
Katya: Thank you for this opportunity and I’m very excited to see you as well at the conference.
I believe we learn so much about innovation from talking and listening to people like Katya. If you want to have such an experience, come to our #bit14 session on Friday, November 7 at 10am. Click here to see the Lanyrd site, and click below to add it to your calendar:
Have you ever voted in your municipal elections? Neither have I (good for you if you have), but this year I plan to. I guess I’m growing up or something.
Here is the candidate list for my municipality, Richmond Hill:
Apart from being an overwhelmingly long list, you may have also noticed that the names on it very much reflect the ever-growing multiculturalism that my region is fortunate to possess. In fact, I was attracted to the municipal democratic process primarily for this reason. I do, however, have to admit something.
When I read the names, I could feel all of my own biases and prejudices bubbling to the surface. I started thinking things like:
I was kicking myself. After all I’ve read, after all the experiences I’ve had witnessing, regretting, and feeling prejudice first hand, after all the work I have done to combat these biases, how could I make assumptions based on a list of names? How could I bestow characteristics, political dispositions, and philosophical stances onto a pdf file? Is there no hope? Are we biologically predestined for this mindset?
I refuse to believe that our biases of any kind are fixed. After all, if we had to develop these simplistic views on people, however unconsciously, doesn’t that mean we can do the reverse? Here’s one little cognitive task I gave myself, inspired by research I’d read about from the University of Virginia.
I looked at every name and thought of every possible incarnation of that name my imagination could conceive of. I told myself not to think of the person with any label, whether liberal, conservative, suit, hippie, privileged, radical, etc. I realized I could only read about their campaign promises and stances on issues with the utmost objectivity if I consciously admitted to, problematized, and then argued against my own predeterminations.
I still don’t know if my vote will truly represent my beliefs for making my town a better place, but I do know that I won’t go into the process of informing myself with blind adherence to my biases. We all have work to do with individual and systemic inequities caused by prejudice; it’s going to be a lot easier to tackle if we are willing to talk about them instead of pretending like they don’t exist.