Thursday, January 28, 2016

Optical Illusion

Today was a bit of a tough one. A real great opportunity for professional learning, sharing, and connecting hit a bit of a snag. It was to be a great night, one that I think would have really done much for the learning community. The decision behind it was due to 'optics'.

When I think of 'Optics' I often think of Economics. I know weird right? Tangent? But hang in here for a second. In economics we often look to indicators to judge economic performance. We look to GDP, unemployment, inflation, as well as several other indicators. What we often don't do however, is look behind these. For those who may be unaware, the big three (GDP, unemployment, and inflation) are not exactly perfect; and have flaws in using them to judge performance. However, we often look to these indicators because 'optically' they can be quickly used to make things 'look good'.

In education, I think this happens as well. Standardized test scores, gradebook printouts, media stories, etc. only tell part of the story - typically the 'optically positive one'. However, we need to look past 'optics' and really think critically. Sometimes positive optics are negative; and something which may seem negative, is actually quite positive.

  • A school with high EQAO scores BUT all classrooms have desks with rows in them?
  • A learning environment touted as tech savvy BUT has huge photocopy numbers?
  • A gradebook printout for a student which averages 90% BUT all entries are tests and quizzes?
  • A professional development day for staff BUT all staff are working individually?

These are just some things that require questioning. When we see things we often make assumptions because they look good. Sometimes we think things look bad, when in fact they look good. We need to dig deeper, and not just go with our gut. Otherwise we may casually disregard underwear, because optically it just doesn't look good.

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