the thinker

Image courtesy of Joe DeSousa

It’s been a while since I last blogged and it isn’t for lack of desire. There are a number of things that I have been reflecting on and considering writing about, but none of them have really developed into a full blown post as of yet. Actually, they are a bit muddled in my mind really, floating about, bashing into one another, but nothing coming from it as of yet. I felt I just needed to get in front of the keyboard an start typing, hoping that something will spark and lead to a post. This is the result. So, if you are looking for a coherent, well-structured, focused post, you might as well walk away now since this is probably going to be a bit messy.

Here are are some of the things that I have been thinking about in no particular order of importance or with any logic whatsoever:

  1. What is with the obsession with badges in education? I am barely grasping the concept of gamification vs. game-based learning (BTW, my autocorrect hates the term gamification and consistently changes it to gasification – I wonder if there is a correlation somewhere). To me, it is simply a modern version of the ‘gold star’. To me, it feels like we are producing a competitiveness within the classroom that simply shouldn’t be there. Also, doesn’t this just reinforce extrinsic motivation instead of fostering intrinsic motivation? I don’t teach young children, so I should really let others with more expertise in this area take the reins on this, but something doesn’t feel right to me. It reeks of behaviourism and a very teacher-driven system. When it comes to badges for adults, I really don’t get it. It feels like a ‘look a me!’ type of thing. I would prefer to let me actions speak louder than my badges. Again, this is just me pondering. I am open to hearing what others have to say about this.
  2. I have been reading a lot lately about being more critically minded in the classroom, especially when it comes to cultural differences and situations. It has caused me to think a great deal about what I choose to teach (that should tell you something right there) and how I can best help my students take control of the situations in their lives. For many, their lives are in a state of flux or they feel that their hands are tied and unable to make meaningful changes in regards to their current state of living. The first question I am starting to ask myself when preparing for class is, “How is this going to help my students to change their own world?” Even my choice of technology is being affected by this mentality. What happens if my students don’t have access to the tools needed to change their lives? How can I help improve that for them? What can they learn from being in this classroom that will help them get a job, deal with the inequality they are facing as newcomers to Canada, and overcome the other problems they are facing on a daily basis? It is quite a bit to take in for me at the moment and this will need some time (possibly the rest of my career) to develop into something that really makes a difference.
  3. This debate about “Demand High” and other forms of methodology / approaches to language education seems to be a bit of a tempest in a teapot. It feels like the basis of this is a desire to motivate teachers to become the best teacher they can be for their students. Yes, I have certainly met some of those teachers who teach for the paycheque or the chance to travel the world (neither of those are bad unless they are the sole reason for teaching), but a new approach is certainly NOT going to change that. In other words, I feel like we are preaching to the choir here. Those who want to change, will change even without the rhetoric of a ‘new’ and ‘better’ way of thinking, and those who don’t will simply shut them out. I would rather have someone who has limited training, but is willing to listen than someone who has tons of experience but doesn’t give a flying fig about the students.
  4. I started my online professional journey on Twitter just over three years ago and it has been such a roller coaster of a ride along the way. I have had my highs and lows and my posts have reflected that as well. What is amazing, is what I have learned along the way and the people that have made that happen. It probably shouldn’t surprise me, but it still does for some reason, but a majority of that learning has come from the people who most people don’t even know. It isn’t the bigwigs or edu-celebrities who have impacted my life (to be honest, I have learned some thing from them, but unfortunately mostly negative), but it is the people in the trenches, slogging it out day after day that have touched me the most. They are real, approachable, and often times, the most honest when interacting with me. Their feedback, both positive and not-so-positive, is what I take to heart. They see me for who I am and are STILL willing to be part of my online social life (since my real social life is rather lacking). We discuss things, share a laugh or two, and share our struggles and triumphs along the way. It would be dangerous of me to list all of those who have been a part of it since I would miss someone and then feel terrible for doing that, but if you are reading this, you are likely one of those since those who have zillions of followers don’t usually visit here . . . at all. So, thank you. I owe you a beverage or two.
  5. I struggle with my online presence from time to time. I am torn between the need to keep yourself visible for present and future employment, but I hate making it all about me. I fear that others will see what I am doing as self-promotion (ie. ego) and be turned off. If you were to ask me what I really want to do with my online interactions, it would be help people and to learn from them. If you ever feel like I am ever going down the road of “look at me!”, you have the right to pull me over and give me a ticket for stupidity (do they have a badge for that?). At times, I have worked so hard to have people take me seriously, that I start becoming irrelevant. I don’t want that. Ever. Please, don’t give up on me whenever you feel I am heading that direction. I am open to hearing what you have to say.
  6. I have been debating for a long time now about what to do about my future in this career. I absolutely love teaching. Love it. I don’t ever want to leave the classroom, but I feel that to get any stability for the long term, you need to step out of the classroom and head into the admin office. To be honest, that scares me. It isn’t that I don’t think I could do the job, I think my experience in business and teaching lends itself quite nicely to that, but I feel like I would be giving up one of the things I have found in this life that I truly enjoy doing. This goes together with the other thought about doing more education (ie. a doctorate). What happens if I head that direction and I end up hating it? I think I would enjoy the research aspect of it, but my day-to-day life of being at the grassroots level inspires me and I don’t want to lose that. *sigh*

Well, that is all for now. There is plenty more from where that came from, but I feel like I have probably done enough damage for one day. Feel free to comment, or not.

15 thoughts on “Pondering

  1. Glad to see a new blog post from you! I honestly enjoy reading your thoughts and it helps me learn too and moves my thinking in different directions.

    One thing I wanted to comment on here, as a teacher of young learners, is your mention of fostering intrinsic motivation. I am no expert on gamification or game-based learning. I know that my kids like competing and get upset when a game ends in a tie. Anyway, I think intrinsic motivation is a moot point when you’re dealing with kids, especially in an EFL environment. In my context, all of them are there because their parents are paying for these classes and their parents value this part of their English education. *Some of the kids value it, too, and they work hard. *Some of the youngest kids really just want you to love them but don’t give a thought about English outside of the need to communicate with this new adult in their lives, and they work hard. But many of the kids would be outside playing soccer or inside playing League of Legends if they had the choice and don’t really see what use English will ever be in their lives. And since the education system is aimed at the KSAT and TOEIC and none of their role models use English, intrinsic motivation to learn, practice, and use English for communication is pretty low.

    God I sound awfully cynical. I hope I see it differently in a few years.

    1. Thank you, Anne! Your kind and thoughtful comments are always appreciated.

      You make some really valid points about IM. There are so many stakeholders here, pushing for things beyond your control. It must be so frustrating at times. My worry I guess is that we are adding to that through the use of rewards and badges. Of course, this is said by someone from the outside looking in and I am in no position to make those kinds of judgements. I guess I just need more input.

      Thank you once again for taking time to help me out. You definitely fit in my fourth point listed above. You are a gem! 🙂

  2. #6 – I struggled with that too. You’re right though: it’s often the key to stability. Having said that, I know from experience that when you combine it with a foot still in the classroom, it benefits everyone involved. There is room for argument for this model and I’m proof that it can be successful within academic settings. Love of teaching is what has kept me from going admin full-time.

    #4 – Let’s get that beer.

    1. You are a good example of what can be done to balance teaching and admin. I hope it is working out for you. I think, in the end, that is where I will be (admin + teaching, not TO), but time will tell.

      And yes, we will definitely have to get together at TESOL. You are most undoubtably part of #4. 🙂

  3. Hi Nathan, nice post. The thing about badges, as I understand them, is an ability to show & verify to a potential employer some skills obtained and a lot of effort put forth. In a sense, they’re like degrees of diplomas except on a smaller granular scale.

    Re #5 – Online presence is best done with constant revision, so struggling maybe shows that you’re doing it right. I also think that long-term consistency and devotion will tends to wipe out any of the self-promoting reactions of people. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Glen. Yes, I would see this as a good use for badges, but it appears to be out of control. There are badges for participating in Twitter chats, blogging, and almost anything else. It diminishes it to the lowest common denominator and I think potential employers will see right through it.

      But, that is enough of me being a Negative Nathan. 🙂

      Thank you for your comment on the struggle. I appreciate it.

      1. I don’t see it as negativity at all – educators need to be critical about such things. If we can’t be critical without fear of being negative it results in a very uncomfortable situation.

        I’m probably not as experienced on the ‘front lines’ as you, so if this this is how badges are being used (for Twitter chats, for example…geeze) it’s no wonder this is something you ponder. I know those who advocate for badges often comment with something like “badges are only as valid as their issuer”, which makes sense to me.

  4. Hi Nathan,
    I am new to this whole, incredible new online universe of #ELTchat and friends and I just wanted to thank you for this honest post. I am very new to this world (my CELTA isn’t until April in Berlin) but I’m finding myself so obsessed and fascinated that I’m already questioning my long term plan which I thought I was set on (which involves working in ELT publishing once I’ve got some more ELT experience). I’m so intrigued to see how much I enjoy the course, but I look forward to exploring your blog more 🙂

    1. Wow, thank you! And welcome to this “Incredible new online universe”! 🙂

      To be totally honest, I don’t think you will ever stop questioning, and that is good! I want to work with people who stop themselves (and me!) to ask questions. I look forward to hearing how the CELTA goes and to keeping in touch throughout your journey.

      Best of luck in April!

      1. Thanks Nathan – I have only just seen this as I continue to try to get my head around the various notifications etc. of WordPress! But I can’t wait for the CELTA fun to begin, and will try to blog about it as a little study break 🙂

  5. Hi Nathan,
    I enjoyed reading your ponderings 1 through 6 and glad you shared, even if you thought the post was messy or in a jumble 🙂 Until our next coffee and chat, it was a nice substitute in the meantime 🙂

  6. Hi Nathan,
    As always, it’s a pleasure to read your thoughts, and they’re nowhee near as jumbled as you might think. Instead, they reflect the general see of thoughts that we all have going through our heads at any one time. I’m grateful that you’re part of my #4 and that I was able to meet you in December. Constantly revising your social media presence keeps you sane I believe – if you don’t, you get complacent. And as we discussed, we need a good work-life balance too! And as for you running the risk of becoming a “look at me” kind of person…unlikely 🙂 But we’ll try to pull you back if it happens.
    Keep writing, keep thinking, keep asking questions, and follow your heart wherever it leads you.

    1. Thanks very much, Sandy! It was great to meet you in person and to have a chance to just chat a bit. I appreciate you in my #4 group and I know I am not alone in that. There are many others who learn from you and your presence online.

      Until we meet again, stay safe and have fun!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s