Confessions of a Social Media Hermit

These days you would find Walden on my bedside table as I reacquaint myself with Henry David Thoreau’s thoughts on the joys of solitude. As I read this, I try to remember the last time I’d spent anytime by myself. In the age of technology and the rich tapestry of social media, I wonder if anyone remembers the last time they were truly alone with only their thoughts to occupy their minds, no iPhone or iPad or computers to distract them.

I’ve always characterised social media – especially popular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter – as frivolous time-wasters and manifestations of first-world banality and ennui. They are platforms on which to post pictures of your beloved fur-kid and selfies, the means of production by which we reassure ourselves of our likeability factor and cult status on Twitter, and broadcast the minutiae of our lives to our whole digital world.

Certainly, they are often seen as counter to productivity and tools of procrastination. There is more than just a grain of truth to this perception. After all, it is quite unhelpful to have the ping of a Facebook notification when you’re just about to set out to start a task and meet the deadline as it most conveniently provides us with an excuse for distraction. And unless you are an academic in the field of communication analysing memes emojis as nuggets of cultural currency, it is probably less than productive to spend countless hours deciphering this brave new world of hieroglyphics 2.0 . (Surely, I’m not the only one who finds emojis disconcerting, or am I?)

However, as with all tools, the utility of social media is determined by the manner in which it is used and the user him/herself. Contrary to my earlier prejudices recounted above, tools such as Facebook and Twitter (to some extent) can be invaluable sources of information provided that one has developed information literacy skills to be able to winnow crap from legitimate and factual information.

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(Image Retrieved from  http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/427561-on-the-internet-nobody-knows-youre-a-dog)

As I think about all these social media platforms, I can’t help but notice that they have a common thread: commenting, tagging, (re)tweeting, liking, sharing, etc. are the actions that are commonly involved. One word sums it all:  participation. (Recently, I’ve even observed that Linkedin has adapted the format of Facebook.).

Admittedly, I’ve been somewhat of a social media misfit. (I think I’ve waxed about my general unease in regard to social media interaction in a previous blog for another class, be it blogging, tweeting, perusing on Pinterest or Instagram – I have neither of those two, by the way; and Twitter is a pass as well since I find it hard to think and write in just 140 characters. You should probably check my Facebook posts as I’ve been told once or twice that FB may not be the avenue for me as my posts usually resemble a novel.)

twitter-meme

(Image Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/lotissm/social-media-memes/)

 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a social media snob. For the most part, I love it. I love that it allows me to interact with friends from across the globe. I love the Facebook conversations I have with my high school friends. I love the fact that Facebook allows us to re-establish that closeness. I love the fact that I get to catch up on their lives from their social media presence.I love the exchange of ideas and information that ensues from any one of us posting  a link to an article or commenting on a page (Yes, I admit that once or twice  – well, more often than not, I should say – we’ve crashed on other people’s posts and pages and made a conversation of our own oblivious to everyone else around us.) So yes, I love my small social media presence on the web.

Sometimes, though, as much as I like it, social media has a tendency to depress me. I know, because I know my own tweets and blog posts and status updates, that the image presented in these public forums is only a slice of the real. Though I attempt to portray as authentically as possible the real me here on the world wide web the reality is such that you see only a portion of me and my life, a portion I control. It easy to forget this, however, when I’m reading others’ glowing, peppy, happy-happy updates. Sometimes my life, my faith, seems drab in comparison. Sometimes I am drab in comparison. Sometimes I am envious. Sometimes I am depressed. Sometimes I want to indulge my hermit tendencies and delete any and all social accounts.

I am not, by nature, a very social person. In fact, I am much more shy and insecure than most people realize. Because I am in personality reserved, the social part of social media can be overwhelming. I marvel at those who can tweet about any and everything, and tweet with such wit to boot! Amazing!

Despite my unease, I do not anticipate a complete retreat from all things social media related. I imagine I will continue much as I have done, with an intermittent and occasional presence. As wary as I am of social media, I realise that one thing holds true more than ever – learning is now participatory.

As educators, we should be constantly evaluating our teaching methods by asking ourselves what constitutes effective learning in the changing environment of our students and their futures. We can turn our backs on social media and digital technologies, but the fact that ICT is now a very big part in education stays. Our refusal to adapt and integrate technology in our pedagogies would just turn us into dinosaurs. We have the opportunity to think about innovative approaches to learning and teaching especially when our students’ learning can extend beyond the textbook and classroom.

How motivated we are, as educators, to find new and innovative approaches to teaching will depend on a range of factors – one of which is whether we realise and appreciate the potential of digital technologies for relational learning, for example, when we see opportunities in our daily lives for the connective potential of social media.  When we understand the value of social networks in our own lives, we will be able to translate this potential into the educational environment.

We should not let our personal preferences dictate our professional practice because we are educating students for their future, and it is a future that is very much anchored on technology and social networks. So we owe it to our students to be open to this new culture where ICT and technological literacy is king so that we can equip them better for the participatory culture of social networks.

References:

Tan, S.C., Divaharan, S., Tan, L., and Mun, C.H. (2011). Self-directed learning with ICT: Theory, practice and assessment. Singapore: Ministry of Education. Available at http://ictconnection.moe.edu.sg/ictconnection/slot/u200/mp3/monographs/self-directed%20learning%20with%20ict.pdf

UNESCO Bangkok (__). Participatory Learning (Module 4). In UNESCO Bangkok, Handbook non-formal adult education facilitators. Bangkok: UNESCO.

 

 

The Drop-Out Doc

I had always wanted to be a doctor; it was just something I vividly recall saying each time someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I grew up reading medical encyclopedias and enjoyed finding out about various diseases I couldn’t even pronounce. Upon completing elementary school, I was unceremoniously shipped to a science high school about 20 km. away from our home.

I was always one of the brightest girls in my class and though going to a science high school presented me with several opportunities for adjustments at first, I managed to stay afloat. I was fortunate enough to have made a group of friends who had unique areas of specialization. Together, we managed to cover all our major subjects. We were given voluminous homework  everyday, and the fact that we were doing 12 hours a day in school with only an hour lunch break and two fifteen minute breaks in between did not help at all. In time, we found a way to adapt by doing teach-back sessions so we could save ourselves some time going through all the required readings in each subject. There were a few hiccups along the way, but ultimately we reached our goal to finish high school and even did so with flying colors.

I already had nagging doubts about going to pre-med but somehow I managed to secure admission into a very elite program that only admitted the top 50 applicants.   I could not believe my eyes or ears and I worked hard, so hard to make sure I could do it.  My grades were all very good at least until my sophomore year.  But then the longer I stayed in the program and as the coursework grew tougher , I found myself sitting in the library poring over literature books when I was meant to be digesting human physiology and clinical anatomy.

I knew there was a problem, but I refused to acknowledge it. I got myself some audio books and joined study groups, but even those failed to make any marked improvement in my exam scores.

At first I found comfort in the company of my upperclassmen who had also failed the same courses. There were scores of them, and we had hoped that somehow, someday, in some inexplicable way, we’d get through it. There were occasional victories; but most would give up the dream of completing the program.

I, however, felt trapped. I knew I had choices, but I refused to look them in the eye because doing so meant facing the reality that I never was going to be a doctor and admitting to myself that I have failed. (Failure was never really an option, and even until now, I still struggle with admitting defeat at times.)

Truth be told, the decision was never really made by me to leave. That fateful day is still a haze until now. I remember going to school to sit for exams; my next memory was several weeks after that as I was being being driven to see a shrink who diagnosed me with PTSD. After all that work, I had nothing to show but a leave of absence that eventually led to me giving up my dream.

Over the past few years, I’ve had two of my cousins travail the exact same path yet finding more success than I ever did. One has just earned herself a license to practise Physical Therapy in the US. The other is currently doing internship at a hospital and has her eyes set on continuing to medicine. Even these days when I walk on the sidewalk and I am walking in one direction and I see  medical students walking by in the opposite direction passing me by in their white coats, I stop and I turn around and I look at them walking away. I see my dream that I had walking away from me.  I am so happy for them and I am so sad for myself that I did not find a way to make my dream. Up until last year, I couldn’t bring myself to look at the Facebook posts of old friends and classmates from another life who were one of the few who made it through that horrifying ordeal I went through in pre-med. It was like being reminded of the life I never had, the dream that slipped from my reach when life decided to slap me in the face by showing me that I wasn’t as intelligent as I thought I was.

As I went through the readings in module 5, I started asking myself whether my dropping out of the program could be regarded as adaptation or integration.

Imagine this. You’re sitting on a plane after a two-month holiday. You’re one of these savvy travelers so you find yourself sitting in this aisle seat and getting in there because you’re part of that Group 1/Group A (the first people to board the plane) that everybody wants to be in. So you find your seat and get settled and say, “There’s a couple of extra seats next to me. I am hoping that the person that sits next to me/or the couple that sits next to me are at least interesting, or hopefully they’re just asleep the entire time.” And in that case you can just sleep because you just had the most amazing time being on holiday, and all you want to do is savour the moment and get that nice long rest flying along the Pacific.

But then you lock eyes on that young couple with the baby. You tell yourself, “I hope that’s not…I hope not…Nope…No, it can’t be…They’re not coming right next to me.” But that gut feeling inside of you just says, “You’ve struck your luck today.” You try to deny it and loom away.

And then you get that magical tap on your shoulder. “Excuse me. We’re in there.”

And to yourself, you say, “Man! Really? Alright! I got it. I’m good.”

We empathise with this family because maybe they themselves had a great holiday or maybe not. You never know. You never try to assume anything.

But you do hope that at least one thing occurs this entire time… you hope that that baby does not start wailing at any moment. But then as nature intends it, and as the universe is always on your side…guess what? The baby is crying the entire time right from the take-off.

So you tell yourself, “I can handle it. I am going to centre myself.” My cup is either empty or full, however which way you want to call it. You sit down and out your earphones on.

But everyone around you doesn’t feel the same way. They’re moving. They’re looking out back and forth saying, “Oh man! That guy/ gal is so unlucky. He/she is really going to get it all tonight.”

This is how I understand adaptation. It is making terms with your environment and surroundings and finding ways to work with that reality. Looking back, my bullheadedness back then in staying in the pre-med program despite the continuous let-downs was an adaptation to my circumstances. Depending on the way you look at it, you can either see it as a good thing or a bad thing. It was a good thing because I showed (or at least tried to show) that I was not a quitter. I had perseverance. I did try to help myself. I just managed to hit that jackpot because all those attempts failed.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve fully integrated with that reality. From the outside, it would certainly seem that way. From dropping out of pre-med, I took a sabbatical for two terms before transferring to UP Diliman under the Creative Writing program. I had to leave because I had hit the MRR (maximum residency rule). My application for extension had been denied twice. I was only starting to build my life back and regain the confidence I had lost when the rug had to be pulled from under my feet yet again. I vowed never to enroll again. It was UP or nothing. That was supposed to be my chance for vindication, but I was denied that. I have long since found my calling and my place in life.Fate decided to throw me some crumbs as the first company I had joined was generous enough to invest in workplace learning, training and certifications which has allowed me to make a small name for myself in my small niche. I have an established career and a stable job. But I’ve always felt like a phony because that diploma has evaded me like an indifferent coffee cup. This journey of mine at UPOU, I am hoping, is my shot at changing that reality, a shot at self-forgiveness.

I think it’s slowly coming full circle as I slowly come to terms with several realizations. I am not entirely letting myself off the hook. I had my lapses when I was taking pre-med. Maybe if I had paid attention…if only I had not been daydreaming as I read Byron, Nabokov and Plath in the library and instead went to the morgue to study the cadaver. There were a thousand what if’s. But in these past few terms as I read about learning theories and teaching methods, I realised that since I had only been really exposed to the banking model of teaching where the teacher issues communiques (instead of communicating) and I was expected to passively receive memorize and repeat. I must adjust to it or fail. This led me to adapt to a fragmented view of reality that I was not intelligent and that I was a failure.

Freire’s Education for Critical Consciousness had opened my eyes to the repressive nature of holding on to those thoughts and allowing one’s self to be defined by traditional views of intelligence.

Much has been said about the millennials and how they are the strawberry generation with a sense of self-entitlement. But it is what it it, and that is the reality of it. As educators , we can either whine our way until the cow comes home or use the elements of this generation to further the educational system and create an innovative pedagogy that will help students gain  relevant skill for optimum functioning in the 21st century.

References:

Freire, P. (1973). Society in transition. In P. Freire’s Education for critical consciousness, pp. 3-20. NY: The Seabury Press.

Mezirow, J. (2000). Learning to think like an adult: Core concepts of transformation theory. In J. Mezirow et. al. Learning as Transformation: Critical perspectives on a theory in progress, Chapter 1, pp. 3-33. CA: Jossey-Bass. Available at http://abl-uni-goettingen.de/Material/Mezirow2000.Learning_to_Think_like_an_Adult.pdf

 

 

 

 

The Truly Beautiful Mind

The clearest sign that I was under pressure came with my dropping out of the pre-med program after five years. I caught a bad turn and failed yet a couple more subjects (Therapeutic Exercise in the program, my nth as a junior. I’d failed Applied Anatomy and Kinesiology three times in the past three years, and I was as disheartened as a solitary, disconsolate clump of cattails. I was 21 years old, and graduation was nowhere in plain sight. I’d wanted to be a doctor since I was a child, but it seemed that dream was getting farther and farther from my reach.

Prior to my junior year at uni, I’d always considered myself intelligent. My test scores and my grades showed it, and my parents and relatives affirmed it. I wasn’t receiving straight A’s, but my grades were good enough for me to be exempted from taking the final exams. But my junior year made me re-think that shaky assumption as I thought that perhaps I had been riding wave after wave of good fortune and cosmic favor until that elbow grease and luck had eventually run out. It was devastating. Being stripped of that smart tag was like losing an identity and realizing everything you’d believed had been a lie.

We live in a culture that celebrates intelligence. High IQ, intrinsic, didn’t-study-but-aced-the-exam kind of intelligence. Society has hard-wired us to measure intelligence as we do our own weight and height. Even amongst the youngest of pupils, excellent marks are interpreted as a sign of high intelligence (and less than stellar grades are proofs of stupidity).

Over the years, I’ve realized that intelligence comes in all forms and sizes. People have widely varying skill sets, talents and come from different education backgrounds (formal or otherwise). If I were placed with a room full of physicists, I’d feel like the biggest dunce and failure in the room. Put me in a room full of writers, however, and I’d feel right at home. Let me illustrate that with a personal anecdote: I currently work in an IT company. All day, I am surrounded by IT professionals, computer/electronic engineers and computer programmers.  One day, I had to switch network domains (albeit a very simple task, but not for the likes of the technologically-challenged like me) and sought the help of one of my colleagues whom incidentally I was having a meeting with at that time. She was patiently walking me through the process of switching network domains as she was discussing some items in the agenda. At one point, I had to stop her mid-sentence to say, “I appreciate your multi-tasking, but I honestly can’t keep up because I am unable to multi-task when I am faced with a technical difficulty. I need all my wits about just following your instructions as you walk me through this.” Given that experience, it’s almost too easy to undervalue myself in that environment, but the readings on Successful Intelligence reiterated this: intelligence does not always present itself in the form of a prowess in a particular field. Rather, it is multifaceted and complex, which means that it applies to many more people than one might initially think.

Academic achievements only reflect a portion of one’s intelligence. Above all, the way one performs in school or university reflects mostly the efforts one was willing to invest for school and whether one implements these efforts effectively or wasted his/her time. The marks one achieves in school most likely shows one’s efforts and the time he/she invested to prepare himself/herself for the test, but not one’s level of intelligence. Looking back, I can’t beat myself up in the head for my failing marks in pre-med. I could attribute it to the assessments because the tests only measured memory recall, but that would only be half the truth. Truth be told, the field itself called for that type of intelligence; sadly my intelligence and passion lie elsewhere.

Intelligence is a comprehensive term for the ability of a human being to express himself verbally, finding solutions for severe problems, gaining knowledge and applying this effectively, getting an overview about complex facts and a lot more things like their perceptivity. It is a fact that the intelligence differs from person to person as well as everyone’s brainpower is pronounced to hundreds of different kinds of abilities like analytical and spatial thinking up to creativeness and linguistic abilities.

The levels of intelligence can’t get evaluated precisely, like our weight or the size of our bodies. Tests can be used to show us our approximate level of intelligence, but due to the fact that those tests concentrate on specific areas (math, spatial thinking, etc.) they aren’t able to provide us an overview of all our abilities.

Unfortunately we try to classify our own intellect far too quickly by getting influenced from extraneous factors such as grades and academic performance. All through my formative years and well into my high school days, I worked hard to maintain my GPAs in order to keep myself in the honor roll and in the hopes of obtaining those most-coveted medals. The terms “genius” and “achiever” have such positive connotations, while the term “try hard” is almost invariably used as an insult. OK, somebody puts a lot of effort into something they care about? Oooh, what else you got?

If there’s one thing that I am taking out of the Theory of Successful Intelligence, it’s that the brain can be trained like a muscle. This “muscle” is present from the moment of our birth, but it’s up to us whether we train, strengthen and expand this muscle to exploit its full benefits or if we decide not to use it at all. The level of our intelligence also depends on factors like the social environment we grow up, early childhood education, educational level of our parents, schools visited and the whole effort we invested to train and promote our intelligence.

Every person can achieve anything he/she puts his mind to with specific training, industriousness, diligence, interest and investment of time. Success is not limited to one’s level of intelligence. But one’s effort in terms of hard work and aspiration will have to be even greater the less you used to train your brain in the past. Perhaps with determination and more perseverance, I could have realised my dreams of becoming a doctor, but ultimately, it all boiled down to my subconscious not wanting to. I already had one foot out the door, and no superhuman effort and measure of countless sleepless nights could have made up for it.

The first definition of successful intelligence recognises that stupidity and dullness does not exist. As Forrest Gump once said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” It doesn’t matter how intelligent you think you are or are supposed to be, if you consistently do dumb things, then that is being dumb. One’s behaviour may make one look ill-conceived or stupid but this doesn’t mean that he/she don’t have any kind of intellectual potential. People may be less talented, less skilled and less knowledgeable than others about different kind of topics but that doesn’t make one stupid.

I’m not a sports fanatic. I tried to be enthused with the likes of Magic Johnson, Stephen Curry, Reggie White or Tom Brady. But honestly, all these sports bore me to tears. I couldn’t even bear to follow the constant updates on my FB feed during NBA season. Call it mind conditioning or what have you, but athletic abilities were not exactly celebrated in the environment where I grew up.  When I was a trainer, I belonged to a team consisting of 7 members, most of whom were girls and a gay guy. At that time, we were already starting to make our marks in the field and were well on our way to carving our niche and specialisations. Then from out of the blue, our manager hires a new male trainer who was green in the ears and had to no training background and experience whatsoever. He’d only been in the industry one year and was fresh off university before that. On the outside, it was obvious to anyone that he was not of the same calibre as everyone else. He was sat right next to me and we lived in the same area, so we started spending a lot of time together. He was a huge fan of basketball and devoured Marvel/DC comics. We had nothing in common. During our drives home, he’d tell me about the latest trades, the names of all current team members, managers, coaches and the hall of fame for his team. And this was not limited to the team he was supporting; he also knows the names of dozens of other players from other teams.  He may not have been ‘traditionally’ intelligent as the rest of the team but he can’t be dismissed as being unintelligent. Those are a lot of facts that he’d managed to commit to memory, without having to learn them. Surely, a stupid or unintelligent person would not have been able to memorise that amount of data.

Every person simply just forms different interests and values that influence the development of their intelligence and the fact in what kind of areas of our lives we accumulate knowledge, whether it is in sports, TV series or even better in the educational and vocational environments. One of the differences between a successful person and others is that they don’t concentrate on absorbing knowledge about unnecessary facts like the content of various TV shows, but instead have focused on knowledge they can really adapt to be successful. A successfully intelligent person is a master in combining knowledge from different sources and issues and shows interest in a particular high amount of subjects. They are aware of and have accepted their strengths and weaknesses and are able to work through and despite their weaknesses for them to achieve their goals in life.

Often certain people are said to be stupid, but in fact, it’s only the disinterest and inability of these particular “stupid-persons” to gain knowledge about subjects that appear boring to them and to which they are facing difficulties to form positive feelings with. This could be the unloved subject math or history as well as a boring job, summarizing: all kinds of areas and subjects that people don’t really want to deal with, have no positive feelings about and where they are not showing the willingness to acquire profound knowledge about. I am reminded of Richard Branson who was perceived stupid in school by virtue of his dyslexia, which was undiagnosed at that time, yet later turned out to be a billionaire entrepreneur. I remember one interview of his where he says that he owes his success and fortune not to his innate intelligence and abilities, but to the fact that he’s able to leverage on the abilities of others in his company to compensate for his weaknesses.

On an individual level, society’s glorification of intelligence fosters a certain arrogance that often develops into complacency and a mindset of entitlement that results from repeatedly being regarded for one’s intelligence.  Being intelligent goes beyond being omnipotent. Successfully Intelligent people are smart enough o know what they don’t know. Being successfully intelligent is not about being an island unto your own. Steve Jobs may be the genius behind Apple’s success, but he surrounded himself with the most talented people he could find.

Lastly, successful intelligence is about being resourceful. Intelligence is an evolutionary advantage, as they say. We didn’t evolve an enormous neocortex for no reason. Our ancestors survived because they learned to adapt and be creative in the ways they make use of their surroundings in order to achieve results. As I was reading about practical intelligence, the dog whisperer, Cesar Millan, came to mind. I am not quite sure about his scholastic or academic abilities. I’ve been a big fan of his ever since I got my own dog, and I’ve always been amazed at how he’s been able to make a name for himself from working with different types of dogs and helping dog owners with pooch problems. From the countless seasons and episodes of the Dog Whisperer that I’ve watched, I gathered that he acquired these skills not from any kind of formal training or education. It came from being engaged in the trade on the account of the environment and community he grew up in. Coming to America, he decided to use that skill to help him earn a living. Growing up, I never would have thought of Cesar’s skills as a type of intelligence because it doesn’t fall neatly in any of the boxes, but he’s used that unique gift to turn himself from a poor immigrant with barely $10 in his pocket to celebrity of rock-star status whose skills are sought after all around the globe.

As children, society ingrains in us the belief that our success as adults is dependent on our academic performance. This experience can shape how we perceive learning, success and opportunities as adults. Differences of class, culture, personality, learning patterns, life experiences affect learning not only among adolescents, child learners and adults. The stipulations of successful intelligence challenges the ethnocentrism of the assumption of adult learning as a generic process synonymous with learning undertaken in university or continuing education classes afforded to middle-class adults. Failure to attend formal education owing to socioeconomic or cultural barriers does not disqualify one from being able to realise one’s goals. The great American dream is not exclusive to straight A students and geniuses. The great American dream is open to everyone regardless of race, educational background, and academic abilities. The only difference is how one plans to achieve the dream of a white picket fence and a golden retriever. That is the sign of a truly beautiful mind.

 

References:

Sternberg, R. (2005). Succesorsful intelligence. Interamerican Journal of Psychology – 2005, Vol. 39, Num. 2 pp. 189-202. Available at http://www.psicorip.org/Resumos/PerP/RIP/RIP036a0/RIP03921.pdf

 

 

A Tale of Two Classrooms

Imagine this: four desks pushed together in the middle of a room, and two desks together on each side of the room, angled at a slant toward the front of the room creating two walkways to the back of the room and four  walkways side to side between the rows. There’s a lectern in front along with either a wall-mounted or a rolling whiteboard. That was a typical classroom back when I was growing up.

Fast forward to a couple of decades, my classroom as an OU student is where I choose to be or happen to be at any given moment, and lectures are accessible with a click of a finger. I can choose to sleep on it and come back to it on my own volition without notice. Technology has indeed come a long way. Resources have become accessible, getting answers to questions can be answered with 95% accuracy by Google, movies and presentations can be created with a touch of our fingertips, and practically anything and everything under the sun can be self-taught at whichever pace the learner feels comfortable with.

With all these advancements in technology, there’s always been a nagging fear that my own profession might go obsolete in a number of years. A number of times, the existence of my very team has been threatened by virtual language labs that promise a fresh and engaging twist even to the most boring parts of a language classroom.

This module has shown me that my role will always be indispensable as long as I know how to adjust my teaching style based on the student’s learning stage. All this time, I thought I’d gone through all the hoops and flexed my way through learning different approaches and teaching methods. When I was working as a trainer, my manager then had always ingrained in me that my role should be that of a facilitator. The approaches she bestowed upon us to learn by heart was anchored on lesser teacher-talk time and a significantly greater student-talk time. Much to my consternation, she pulled me away from the authoritarian, teacher-banker method I was used to. It wasn’t easy, but I slowly got used to it, and eventually found myself loving it because it required less energy expenditure for me in the classroom.

A couple of years ago, I accepted a new post with an even bigger role, and I found myself delegating service desk training to apprentice trainers. Changes in management and budget cuts likewise brought about changes in the profile of the trainers we hired. Almost immediately, I realised there was a mismatch in what I perceived then was ‘learner-readiness’ to my management/teaching style. This led to disastrous results as my escalations due to their lack of critical thinking and overall dependence on canned modules created resentment in them towards me.

I mistakenly thought stepping onto a new role meant forgetting my trainer instincts and focusing on managing them. But this module has opened my eyes to new take-aways.

I am still a trainer, first and foremost. It doesn’t matter that I manage a team of coaches and trainers instead of a class of agents, and that my class consists of managers. I need to meet them where they are. If that means going back to the basics and drilling them on the foundation, so be it. I still need to know my team not only as a group but as individuals. I need to know what’s the best approach when coaching them. Are they the type of people who wants to be recognised so they will perform? Or are they the types of individuals who need constant challenge so they can reach their full potential? Since I am now working with trainers, leads and managers, I need to find out what motivates them on a personal and professional level. Are they after rewards? Almost overnight, I needed to learn performance management so I can plot their career map for them and help them reach their goal.  Lastly and most importantly, I need to help them reach the stage of involvement.  Learning and retention will be at its best when there is involvement from the learner themselves.

Prior to this module, I’d always thought dependence as a learner was a disadvantage and should be frowned upon and not encouraged. As i started working on our lego-like submission for this unit, I realised that some situations do merit dependence in learners because they don’t know any better or they’re complete novices in the field. Being an adult learner does not exempt one from being a dependent learner. I was reminded of this when I was flicking through channels one day and landed on a re-run of the now-defunct TV show ‘Selfie’. A modern take on the classic film, My Fair Lady, it is a story of a self-involved 20-something year old who enlists the help of a marketing expert to revamp her image in the real world.  One scene particularly stood out to me because Henry, the man whom the lady protagonist, Eliza, approached to help her re-brand herself, was teaching her good manners by responding appropriately when she is greeted. It  was laughable and ironic, but completely called for, I soon mused because such things escape her. Thus, the constant drills and the reprimands.

When I was still training new hires, I would often check my class’s profile. I look at their age group, their previous work experience, and their educational attainment. .As I conduct language assessments, I likewise found myself zeroing in on those exact same things on a candidate’s CV. It is not to demean those who are not at par with the others but to create a benchmark reference of their  strengths, weaknesses, attitude, learning style and language skills. After all, based on my experience, each generation have their own sets of skills, strengths and weaknesses. Some turn out to be unique exceptions, but most are smack on. It helped me plan ahead and strategise how I will deliver and facilitate the lessons. I always thought that it was my responsibility to share and make them learn so they can be the best version of themselves I wanted them to be. Although learning is a two-way street, some situations call for learners to be passive and absorb information. A student driver cannot just go off on his own on a highway in an effort to learn how to drive. Otherwise, it would have catastrophic results. My role is to help meet learners where they are and mold them to be self-directed learners, hope for positive transfer. Although negative transfer would always rear its ugly head, I can be confident in the knowledge that their road to self-directed learning will guide them towards achieving mastery of their craft and working around the effects of negative transfer.

References:

Grow, G. (1991). Teaching learners to be self-directed. Adult Education Quarterly, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp. 125-149. Available at http://alec2.tamu.edu/grad_courses/611/modules/module2/lesson2/grow01.pdf

Perkins, D.N. and Salomon, G. (1992). Transfer of learning. International Encyclopedia of Education, Second Edition. Oxford, England: Pergamon Press. Retrived from http://learnweb.harvard.edu/alps/thinking/docs/traencyn.htm

University of California, Berkely (n.d.). Anthropology: Situated learning in communities of practice. Available at http://gsi.berkeley.edu/teachingguide/theories/anthro-practice.html

 

The Stability of Intelligence

In a digital age—that puts a premium on facts, figures, and data—crystallized intelligence has become disproportionately valued over fluid intelligence. This creates a backlash from overemphasizing grades and standardized testing wherein students gain crystallized intelligence at the expense of fluid intelligence.

What is crystallized and fluid intelligence anyway?

Crystallized intelligence is the ability to utilize information, skills, knowledge, and experience in a way that could be measured on a standardized test. Crystallized intelligence represents your lifetime of cerebral knowledge, as reflected through your vocabulary, general explicit knowledge and Trivial Pursuit types of declarative memory of people, places, things…

Students who develop crystallized intelligence often ace standardized tests, become merit scholars and earn the respect and admiration of their peers, teachers and parents (much to the dismay of their lesser-performing classmates and siblings).

Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, is the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. Fluid intelligence involves the ability to identify patterns and relationships that underpin novel problems and to extrapolate these findings using logic. this type of intelligence cannot be measured by a standardized test. It could manifest in good hand-eye coordination, motor skills and street smarts. These are students who probably did terribly in standardized tests, preferred playing outside, listening to music or just hanging out with friends. parents and teachers would often get frustrated with them for not ‘flexing’ their cerebral muscle and not using their cerebrum .

To a degree, that is probably right, since scientists do acknowledge atrophy which is brought about my disuse.

When I was growing up, my parents and teachers emphasized only one kind of intelligence — the kind that can be measured in periodic tests and are quantified by a grade. That pattern went on all the way until I entered college and found myself taking pre-med where I had to cram my head full of crystallized facts, go on sleepless nights to memorize and take a test which would measure how well I could regurgitate the information I’d crammed in my head in the past few nights. At that point, I started to get disillusioned and longed to go back to my first love, writing. After careful deliberation, I finally mustered the nerve to transfer to the the Creative Writing program where I got the chance to  flex my creative muscles writing poetry and other genres of literature, daydream, engage in physical activity and get a good night’s sleep.

I realised that knowing is not enough. I was still getting crystallized information from learning principles but, more than anything, it taught to to filter that crystallized information through my own unique lens  of experience and connect the dots in new and original ways. it developed my fluid intelligence which is linked to creativity and innovation. Looking back, I realise that the ideal is to engage in a healthy balance of cognitive and physical abilities.

As I am writing this, I am watching American Ninja Warriors where athletes, rock climbers, parkour enthusiasts, gym and fitness rats or anyone with a taste for adventure, young and old alike battle it out in mind-boggling, heart-stopping physical obstacles for a chance to bag the title of the first ever American Ninja Warrior. In this show, I’ve seen young men fall behind their older counterparts in terms of performance. I’ve witnessed 60-year olds complete an obstacle and the younger ones lag behind and fall on the water all on the account of experience in training for the Ninja Warrior and coming back to compete year after year. It’s muscle memory over youth and vigor. Although occasionally, a contender would come and surprise everyone by rising to the ranks, most completers are experienced Ninja Warrior competitors.

Although this is not a illustration of cognitive abilities, I believe we can derive the same conclusion about aging vis-a-vis cognitive abilities in this show. Memory loss or decline may as well be overstimated in older adults, perhaps due to stereotype about aging; but

  1. the pragmatics of intelligence continue to grow
  2. abilities to do daily living functions may suffer with age, but one’s wisdom and ability to solve interpersonal and emotionally-charged problems get better with age
  3. older people benefit from lifelong learning activities to keep themselves mentally alert