Another dot in the blogosphere?

Tortoise are relics that have somehow endured despite being slow and seemingly unsuited to the broader ecosystem.

Tortoise by montuschi, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  montuschi 

They persist because environments like the Galapagos and zoos provide conditions where they are protected or otherwise not threatened.

The educational arena has players like schools and universities that are like tortoises. What conditions help them survive?

  • The results of schools and universities are not immediately obvious
  • Such results are measured largely by high-stakes but narrow-band tests
  • The teaching profession tends to attract the risk-averse

These conditions contribute to inertia that is hard to overcome.

While it is easy to justify the preservation of tortoises as part of of our biological heritage, old school practices that keep us mired in the past are puzzling.

Every time we prevent access to mobile learning, do not question a lecture, or say “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, we retreat into our collective shell. We create the conditions for such behaviours to persist. We do this despite the fact that we know better than to keep doing this.

Do great minds think alike or do fools seldom differ?

Whenever someone pats a small group on its collective back with “Great minds think alike!”, I point out that fools seldom differ.

I am not being a wet blanket. I am merely pointing out there is more than one way to look at things.

I am also pointing out the original photo shared under Creative Commons that I used to make this image quote.

Video source

This entertaining and informative video explains why we might or might not want to block online advertisements.

I think we should, but only because this will push advertisers to raise their game and to do things more ethically.

This is similar to why I try to block outdated teaching practices. I want to push teachers to raise their game and to teach so that kids learn to think better.

Thanksgiving falls on the last Thursday of November every year in the USA. The rest of the world might know it exists only because of the spread of Black Friday and Cyber Monday for online deals.

I marked my last Thanksgiving just over 10 years ago when I was still living there thanks to the generosity of a host family.

I will not forget the food, the kinship, and the poring over of newspaper ads for good deals. I will definitely not forget standing in line the next day in the freezing cold.

Video source

Kid President reminds us of other things to be thankful for. We do not need Thanksgiving to remember these things or to thank someone for providing them. We might need to be reminded that being thankful is not a commercial holiday, but a basic human nicety.

This entry is part of my series of reflections on being an independent consultant. The previous parts were:

Today I share thoughts on a very obvious question and a less obvious issue.

Payment by GotCredit, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  GotCredit 

The elephant in the room of any negotiation is getting paid what you are worth. How much do you charge? How do you convince others that you are worth that amount?

If you have been gainfully employed elsewhere before, you might start with your previous monthly salary as a baseline. It is a matter of mathematics to work out a daily or hourly rate. However, it is also important to take into account everything that you need to do and how infrequently you might work.

As I mentioned earlier, you might have to be your own “publicist, letter writer, content negotiator, Gebiz administrator, instructional designer, content creator, self-trainer, speech writer, event facilitator, social networker, programme evaluator, financial officer, and debt collector”. These are paid jobs too. Citing a rate for only the core work is not enough.

Being a consultant can also mean having lean spells in between work. These do not mean you are unproductive, but it does mean that you need to ride these out.

If the people you are negotiating with are not aware of these issues, you should have an open and logical conversation so they do not baulk at your fees. You should also listen to their concerns as they may have caps on what they can pay you.

If there is an elephant in the room, there is also a less obvious mouse.

Something I learnt early in my move to be an independent consultant was to look after my health. In full-time work, you can take medical leave and still draw a salary. If you fall ill as a consultant and are not available, you not only foot your own medical bills, you also do not get paid.

I took ill and was hospitalised right after I left gainful employment. I had an overseas engagement that I could not fulfil and this was not only damaging to my pocket but also to my reputation. The incident was a very valuable lesson that if I did not have my health, I could not have anything else.

This entry is the last in my second series of reflections on what I have learnt as a consultant. If I discover more that are worth sharing, I will add to the series in future.

I am continuing my short series on what I have learnt so far about being an independent consultant. The previous parts were:

Today I explore two important and related concepts: Taking and making opportunities, and building your own brand.

Clear Channel: Where brands meet people by tsevis, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  tsevis 

I build my own brand by sharing regularly and openly. The two platforms I rely on primarily are this blog and Twitter. My blog houses my reflections and resources, and Twitter amplifies them.

Sharing openly might seem counterintuitive. The obvious response is to not share that much. However, it will be obvious to others if I hold back. I am not concerned that I might be sharing so much that I am no longer needed or that I share enough so that others can replicate what I do.

I do not think in terms of the content. The content that I create or curate is unlikely to be unique. What is far more important is the connections that I can make that few others can. My ability to convince others of what I know or believe in is just as important. That is my value as a consultant. I do not merely dispense information; I seek to distill wisdom.

That value is part of my branding and it is what creates opportunities. As I put myself openly online, I am easily found there. While some of my engagements come from good, old-fashioned networking, my newer ones stem from a newer breed of workers Googling for information. I do not just take old opportunities, I make new ones with new strategies.

Not all the opportunities that come my way are good ones. I continue to learn by trial and error to say no to opportunities that I do not believe in. For example, I am sometimes asked to validate the efforts of vendors who have no pedagogical legs to stand on. They want to borrow mine, but I will not sell out. If I did this, I would lose the integrity of my brand.

My branding leads to opportunities that open up thanks to people who seek me out because of what they already believe in or wish to know more about. I keep the opportunities pure and that adds to my branding.

The question that remains is: How do I get someone to pay for my brand of work? I share some thoughts on that tomorrow.

Recently I read Death by a thousand likes: How Facebook and Twitter are killing the open web. The article highlighted the tension between publishers of content and platforms that collect or curate content.

The platforms and publishers need each other, but the article paints a picture illustrating more threat than opportunity. The publishers worry that platforms take content without attribution or payment. The platforms worry about publishers putting up walls and start co-opting publishers and feeds.

In the realm of education, this problem has been felt most in content management systems (CMS). One reason why very few people know about CMS is because the threats became real and opportunities slipped by.

The providers of CMS thought they could control both publishing and platforms by creating content in-house and providing access via proprietary platforms. However, the rest of the world moved on to open and freely available content on platforms like YouTube and publishers like, well, anyone. CMS providers failed to reinvent themselves by taking advantage of a more open system.

Educators need to be aware of this tension and two more Ps: Pedagogy and people (I refrain from using “pupils” because our kids are people, not just studying machines).

Old school pedagogy that relies on published books is no longer enough. Content is now less stable, easily goes out of date, and publishers cannot keep up. Information is readily available online and changes every minute of every day, and students need to learn how to deal with this newer standard.

The pedagogy of content delivery is insufficient. Teaching that creates contexts and provides opportunities for problem-seeking and problem-solving are more important. This sort of teaching is more difficult because it is more just-in-time and just-for-me instead of just-in-case. It is focused more on the people that matter, the learners.

Teacher preparation programmes struggle to keep up with this change and they send new, semi-adventurous teachers to a very conservative system. The recruits are assimilated to the system, their energy diluted, and very little change results, if any.

Video source

One way to break out of this pattern is for teachers to unlearn old behaviours and learn new ones. This group of parents and teachers offered these tips in the video above:

  • admit that what you do is losing relevance
  • adopt an open mind
  • learn to use new tools
  • learn from your kids and students
  • dialogue with them

These are what any good educator would do to be a learner first. They do not have to take selfies; they need to take a good, hard look at themselves.

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