Tag Archives: Knowledge

Smorgasbord Posts From Your Archives – What You Don’t Know by Norah Colvin

I have the very great honour of being featured among the lovely Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives series on Sally’s Cronin‘s blog. Sally has graciously shared one of my earlier posts What you don’t know.
Thank you, Sally, I am delighted to be featured on your blog.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

We begin a series of posts by educator Norah Colvin who shares her thoughts on our approach to learning as individuals… we have all heard the expressions that ‘ignorance is bliss’ ‘What you don’t know won’t hurt you’ but shouldn’t we be the judge of that. The desire to learn and keep learning whatever age you are, is a gift that is not offered to everyone. Are we making the most of that gift?

What You Don’t Know by Norah Colvin

 One of my favourite quotes is that of Manuel in the BBC television series Fawlty Towers: “I know nothing.” I love quoting this but, just like Manuel, I too am learning. And what a wonderful gift it is to be able to learn.

Recently I read a post  This time it’s Personal by Tony Burkinshaw on his blog.

He explained unconscious incompetence in the following way: “

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The Power of Reading

The love of reading is gift

A constant thread running through posts on my blog is the importance of reading to and with young children every day. I have often said that passing on a love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. The ability to read for information and for enjoyment is empowering. It allows one to take charge of one’s learning and one’s recreational pursuits.

While my focus is specifically on early childhood, I am interested in education at all levels. I was pleased therefore to recently see a post about the importance of reading for older students. In his post The Power of Reading, Trevor Pilgrim discusses the “correlation between extensive critical reading and higher academic achievement” through the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of abstract concepts. He makes a link between reading of fiction and the development of emotional intelligence. He goes on to list the important role of reading in the academic lives of students.
If you ever questioned why it is important for children to read, here are some of the answers:

eduflow

He that loves reading has everything within his reach.”  – William Godwin.

If anyone were to ask me what is the most effective learning tool available to students, my answer would be frequent reading.  I can speak of this from personal and professional experience.  Students can read traditional books or they can read online.  In fact, online reading is growing by leaps and bounds these days.

Educational experts agree that there is a strong correlation between extensive critical reading and higher academic achievement.  Eclectic and targeted reading both lead to significant acquisition of knowledge.  Habitual readers develop their reading comprehension skills and derive greater meaning from the text.  They get better at doing this with practice and at the same time they develop their higher order thinking and learning skills along with their understanding of abstract concepts.  All of this helps to create a much better student in…

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Ignorance is bliss … Learning to be explicit

My Dad used to say that what I didn’t know wouldn’t do me any harm. He was not impressed when a brother wrote in my autograph book when I was in my early teens that what I didn’t know wouldn’t do me much good either!

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I’m torn between the two. I have come to realise that the more I know, the more there is to learn.

the more I know the more there is to learn

This learning journey never ceases. Each step is just one further into the unknown. I seem to know less now, or need to know more now, than I ever have before. How can that be?

There are those around me who are content with who they are, with where they are, with what they are doing, and wake up to each day wanting no more than it brings. I strive to achieve that contentment, and practice the joy of being in the present moment, believing strongly in its rewards. But at the same time I strive to do more, to learn more, to achieve more. The doing and learning is joy in the present moment, for me. It is both exhilarating and disheartening to realise that the learning journey stretches so far ahead.

Learning about learning

I have spent almost my entire life thinking and learning about learning and education, particularly literacy education and the education of young children. Though the journey has been long, my knowledge is narrow and small, and of absolutely no use in a trivia quiz, unless the question happens to be about a nursery rhyme, and then don’t ask me too much about its “real” or original meaning.

When I set upon my journey to create a website of teaching resources that I had made, I thought it was an easy thing. I had many resources already made. I just needed to get some illustrations done and put them on a website. What could be simpler than that?

Simple?

Every step I take drives me deeper into complexity, into the unknown. Unravelling the complexity demands that I be explicit, that I see and describe each minute step.

Being explicit

I always considered the ability to be explicit, to see and understand each step, essential to effective teaching in an early childhood classroom. If one was unable to see the exact spot where a child was going wrong, where a misunderstanding had been formed, or a misconception learned, or the potential for its occurrence, it was difficult to either prevent or repair it. I considered that ability to be one of my strengths as a teacher.

Over the past few years when I have been giving art briefs to illustrators, my need to be explicit was stretched anew. I had to describe in precise detail exactly what I wanted. It was no use saying I wanted a castle on a hill and expect that the artist would be able to fill in all the details I could see in my mind. I had to explicitly describe it in detail:  did it need a moat or a drawbridge, was the drawbridge to be up or down, were there turrets or flags, and if there were flags, what colour and design they would have, how many windows, how many people, and what were they doing and how were they dressed …

© Norah Colvin Artwork by Kari Rocher Jones

© Norah Colvin Artwork by Kari Rocher Jones

Then it was time to start thinking more specifically about what I required of the website … More complexity to unravel!

Oh for a journey across the seas rather than deeper into complexity!

It is said that it is darkest before the dawn. How much darker will it get?

A recent comment by Sarah Brentyn of Lemon Shark alerted me to the fact that although I have mentioned my website in previous posts, I had not made it clear that the purpose of the website is to make my resources available through subscription i.e. to sell my resources. While some will be available without subscription, many will be available only by paid subscription. I have received a quote for establishing the website, which I am considering. I have previously referred to it being my jetski. I think I was fairly explicit about my requirements in discussions with the designer.

However, I want some of my resources to be interactive, not downloadable, used only on the website by paid subscribers. It appears that creating the types of interactivity I have in mind will be more problematic, but they are what I consider will be my point of difference. I have had to learn to explain, very explicitly, the types of interactions I require. I even made videos demonstrating the interactions in the hope of achieving greater clarity.

However, it was while being explicit about these steps that I realised I had omitted something from my website brief that will be necessary for the interactions to be used effectively, if they can be made at all.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

And so I go in my merry dance – up the ladders and down the snakes, hoping to fall into a pool of clarity rather than a puddle of complexity.

Thank you for allowing me to express my muddle through writing in an attempt to make sense of it all.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback and suggestions. Please share your thoughts.

 

I can do this – one step at a time!

Confidence, the willingness to have a go and to get up and try again after an unsuccessful attempt, is crucial to learning.

Attached to real confidence, as opposed to false bravado, are certain types of knowledge:

  • of the desired outcome
  • of possible steps to achieving the outcome
  • of what is needed to achieve the outcome
  • of where and how to find the knowledge or support necessary to achieve the outcome

and an openness to possibilities.

Knowing what one doesn’t know is just as important as knowing what one does!

Caroline Lodge expressed a similar view on her blog just this week, confessing that she didn’t know how to go about revising her novel, but that she did know what to do about not knowing: she enrolled in an online editing course. She attributed the view of intelligence as “knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do to the educationalist Guy Claxton.

I wasn’t aware of Claxton but he sounded like my sort of educationalist so I decided to investigate further.

 

A Google search brought up this result:

Claxton - Google

Hmm – seems like, according to Claxton, that definition of intelligence is first attributed to Jean Piaget. I’d better read his article: Learning to learn: a key goal in a 21st century curriculum.

I didn’t have to read far into the article before I knew that Caroline had sent me in the direction of another great educator (thanks Caroline).

In the introduction Claxton says,

“The well-rehearsed economic argument says that knowledge is changing so fast that we cannot give young people what they will need to know, because we do not know what it will be. Instead we should be helping them to develop supple and nimble minds, so that they will be able to learn whatever they need to. If we can achieve that, we will have a world-class workforce comprising people who are innovative and resourceful. The personal argument reaches the same conclusion.”

I have expressed similar views previously on this blog, including here, here and here.

A little further into the article Claxton introduces a new (to me) term: illearnerate. He described students not thinking of themselves as effective real-life learners. He says,

“They think that school has not only failed to give them what they need, it has actually compounded the problem.”

The term is new, but the thinking is not!

He goes on to say that,

“More fundamental even than the concern with literacy and numeracy is the need to protect and develop young people’s learnacy.”

What great terms, illearnerate and learnacy, I have added to my vocabulary today!

The steps I am taking are definitely enhancing my learning. I think I am learnerate.

However, I digress. I was looking for the attribution to Piaget and, a little further into the article, there it was:

Claxton - Piaget

I looked further online for confirmation of the quote and found this on goodreads:

Good Reads - Piaget

I think there is a subtle difference in the interpretation given by Claxton and would say that intelligence is not so much defined by, but incorporatesknowing what to do when you don’t know what to do”.

A few weeks ago I used images in my post Bring a plate that prompted Geoff Le Pard to ask,

“How do you do the images? Adding the captions?”

I said that I used PowerPoint and would post some instructions if he thought it could be useful. He said that it would be, and Anne Goodwin agreed.

For some time I had been wanting to create an instructional video using a capture of what I was doing onscreen. However it hadn’t reached the top of my to-do list. This seemed the perfect opportunity to put it there and do the learning required.

In response to Geoff’s request I made this video demonstrating how to insert pictures and text in PowerPoint, then group and save them as one image.

For my first attempt I was fairly pleased with the result, though I fear the video may be a bit long at 10 minutes. Maybe I should have started with a simpler image – one picture and one text box may have been enough for the demonstration to be effective. I’d be pleased to know what you think.

After I had finished the video it occurred to me that I may not have addressed Geoff’s question at all, that the combination of image and caption that Geoff was referring to may have been the image of the whole PowerPoint slide, like this one:

Rice salad 2

If so, then my first video would be of no use to Geoff.

There is a saying attributed to George Bernard Shaw:

“Those who can do, and those who can’t teach.”

I both agree and disagree with the statement for different reasons. Teaching is an incredibly important profession and not everyone can do it. Looking beyond the profession to simply teaching someone a skill is also something that not everyone can do. Sometimes I think that the one most capable of teaching a skill is the one who struggled to learn it; not the one who was able to do it effortlessly and almost by intuition.

The ability to teach requires knowledge of each step or each component and how they work together. This knowledge helps the teacher understand where a learner is confused or what the learner needs to know.

So just as teachers in classrooms provide resources and strategies to cater for a range of needs and abilities, I have produced a second video demonstrating how to make an image of a PowerPoint slide. This shorter (five minute) video explains how to create images using three different methods: Snagit, Snipping Tool, and printscreen function. I hope I have explained the steps for each clearly.

Important update: Do not do this at home. Do not follow the procedures in this video.

Since viewing this post and videos my daughter Bec has told me of a much easier way to create an image of a PowerPoint slide, or of every slide in a presentation. Maybe you know of it too.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Click on the slide you wish to make an image of, or any slide if you wish to make images of all slides in the presentation
  2. Go to file, save as
  3. Choose Save as type: PNG
  4. Click Save – you will be asked which slides you wish to export: all or just this one
  5. Selecting all saves every slide as a separate image to a new folder with the file name you choose; selecting just this one saves only the slide selected.

How easy is that? Thanks Bec. 🙂 And I don’t mind that I found out after making the video. I wanted to learn how to do that anyway, and now I have learned something else as well. Great steps in learning. I’m learnerate!

The discussion of steps to learning tied in very nicely with the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about steps, stairs or a staircase.

This is my response:

If only

She collapsed, exhausted. Stairs led up and stairs led down; some steep, some wide, some narrow, most dark. Her head spun and vision blurred. Which way now? Which way had she come? Had she been going up and down these stairs forever?  Going around in circles?  They all now looked the same. She didn’t even know if she’d been in this place before.

“I’m trapped,” she thought. “Stuck here forever.”

She closed her eyes, surrendering to despair.

Outside birds heralded the rising sun. She was lost, oblivious of its promise.

If only she had recognised the door.

 

Thank you

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post, including the videos and flash fiction.

What you don’t know . . .

One of my favourite quotes is that of Manuel in the BBC television series Fawlty Towers: “I know nothing.” I love quoting this but, just like Manuel, I too am learning. And what a wonderful gift it is to be able to learn.

Recently I read a post This time it’s personal by Tony Burkinshaw on his blog.

He explained unconscious incompetence in the following way: “A total ignorance of just how much you don’t yet know for the simple reason that you don’t yet know enough to recognise that you don’t yet know what you don’t yet know.”

This got me thinking about knowledge and learning and about some of the subtle ways in which our attitude to knowledge and learning is manipulated.

When I was a teenager, my brother wrote for me in my autograph book: “What you don’t know won’t do you any good either.”

My father was not impressed and stated quite emphatically, “What you don’t know won’t do you any harm.

I think he subscribed to the same philosophy as many of my teachers: “Ignorance is bliss.”

I mentioned in my article To school or not to school, a belief that the natural curiosity and eagerness to learn I’d had as a young child had been somewhat diminished during childhood by the attitudes of others around me. That’s not to say that they didn’t want me to do well in school, for they did, and always encouraged me and supported me to do my best; but it was my best at what the teachers told me to do and what the teachers told me to learn.

Ready for school - year 2

Ready for school – year 2

Knowledge is power; and one of the easiest ways to suppress and maintain power over others is to keep them ignorant.

While I am certain that my own willingness to be manipulated and need for acceptance also contributed, an encouragement of curiosity and active inquiry would have had the opposite and more positive effect. I am sure there are others who may not have bent so willingly under pressure and whose natural love of learning flourished despite it or even in response to it. But I know there are many more who bent and failed to rebound and are now trapped by their “unconscious incompetence” in an unassailable comfort zone; not knowing what they don’t know, for “Ignorance is bliss”.

I am one of the lucky ones for, while I know a lot about some things, I know that there are things that I don’t know, and lots of them! Rather than make me a conscious incompetent, it makes me a willing learner, and passionate about ensuring the flames of curiosity and love of learning are maintained in others.

Throughout their childhoods, I encouraged my children to question everything, including me, for I wanted them to arrive at their own understandings and did not want their thinking to be restricted the way mine had been.

For many of you, a love of learning and an ability to acquire knowledge may have been a constant throughout your life. I ask then, that you do not dismiss those who don’t have the advantage of your information and your education. Many do not know what they do not know and they can’t even begin to imagine the questions they could start asking to ignite their learning. If they have had their natural curiosity suppressed and their wills broken, been convinced that submission and conformity were the way to being “good”, and willingly entered the cage and threw away the key; instead of judgment, derision and laughter, what they need is to be shown the open doorway … shown what they don’t know so they too, can start asking questions and filling in the gaps in their knowledge to regain power over their own lives.

The saying “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” is very true.

How many times have you heard someone bemoan, “I wish I knew then what I know now”?

What can you do to encourage a love of learning or pique someone’s interest today?

How has your attitude to learning been influenced by the attitudes of others?