Tag Archives: skill

Get Children to Improve Rather than to Prove

Yesterday’s Campus Seminar* in Helsinki had a delightful set of speakers, ranging from priests to photographers, from hockey coaches to celebrity vloggers. And everything in between.

The afternoon was kicked off with a great presentation by Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson on how we should give feedback to students and what the feedback should be about. The bottom line:

This is an excellent piece of advice yet we act against it every day. I know I do, at least. When my 7 year old daughter perfects a cartwheel I say that she is the best gymnast. Or when she reads a text chapter fine I tell her that she is so good in reading. What I should say, instead, is that she had practiced well, done nice progress from last time, spent her efforts wisely, etc.

Whenever possible, we should concentrate on the process and actions rather than on person’s characteristics. On a related note, we should also focus on improving skills at the expense of proving them. Improving is more about the process, proving about the end result. As Heidi puts it, instead of being good, try to get better.

This brings me to one of my favorite topics, testing. High stakes standardized tests are typically organized solely for checking whether the students have learned the things they were supposed to learn. Whether they can prove that they have learned them.

I am not against testing, not at all. I just prefer the Finnish way of embedding tests in everyday teaching and learning activities rather than having them as monsters looming somewhere at the end of the semester.

When tests are conducted often and as a natural part of lessons, they are actually more about improving than proving. By the way, I was happy to notice this morning that MasteryConnect had just closed a serious funding round. Let’s hope they can bring more ad hoc and less high stakes testing also to the US.

This blog entry was only about the first 15 minutes of yesterday’s event. The whole thing lasted for four hours, so there was a lot more going on. The organizers have to do their absolute best to top this lineup in Warsaw in November!

* My employer Sanoma Pro was a sponsor in this event.

 

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Four Essential Skills for the Future

For the reader in a hurry: We should teach search, literacy, netiquette, and publishing on the web, and do it in this order. For the rest, read on…

all_skills

At a conference I recently attended a keynote speaker asked the +1000 participant audience a question: which is more relevant a skill in the future, googling or math? First to raise their hands were the ones who thought googling is more important. I belonged in the second group, a minority.

If I were asked the same question now, after I’ve had time to reflect, I wouldn’t raise my hand at all. Or alternatively for both. You see, it is comparing apples and oranges.

This discussion is related to the observation that we have massive amounts of information and computation power at our fingertips. Therefore trying to memorize factoids or teach mental calculation isn’t necessarily the most relevant education. (I think it never was, but that’s not the point here.)

Search is, I think, a very essential skill of today and the future. Google’s algorithm is doing an excellent job in retrieving the information we need, nowadays often even in the right context. However, we still have to know how to do search right. What are the most suitable keywords, how to combine them, what to exclude, etc. This calls for logical/ mathematical thinking. In a way you need math to do advanced search.

After searching, the results have to be evaluated. Literacy is the second must-have skill. What to trust, who to trust? Can the person who created the web resource you are now looking at expected to be a) knowledgeable enough and b) acting benevolently?

Web users should act like “mini journalists”, trying to check whether the resource they are acting upon is trustworthy. The usual tricks apply: what is the track record of the resource creator and are there any other resources transmitting the same message?

Web is a bidirectional medium. After finding a resource, you often interact with it or with other people around it. This is what social media is all about. Someone shares a piece of content and then others discuss or otherwise enrich it.

So, now you are already interacting. This calls for the third skill: not making an ass of yourself. This is netiquette. You should act nicely, encourage rather than discourage others, not post offending content, etc.

This can create a virtuous circle: the more encouraging and positive content you post, the more you can expect the same from others. You shouldn’t present yourself as a suck-up or too cheesy, mind. Keep it real and honest.

The next step after discussing around existing web resources: create the web yourself. In the lack of a better word (help, anyone?), I call it publishing. It has to do with diverse set of activities like programming, design, and blogging.

Now you find the content you need, are able to evaluate its trustworthiness, say something smart about it, and even create content yourself. You’re good to go!