Now this is entertaining. Kids born in the 2000s were asked to use a relic of the 20th century, a rotary phone. I can still remember my six-digit home phone number…
Listen to their comments, giggle at their puzzled looks, and watch them struggle. Throw in a cassette tape while you are at it.
For entertainment value, this is priceless. As a lesson for the kids on recent technological history, it might have been an eye-opener.
But here is a question for teachers: Are you still in rotary phone mode when we already have smartphones today?
I have often wondered what the intranet sites of various organizations look like.
Practically any organization worth its salt takes its public face seriously and will try to present the best front possible with its website. After all, everyone and anyone can visit and judge it.
But intranets are a different matter. Things do not need to look pretty and form does not need to meet function. Unfortunately, I think that this is often the case.
The reason for this is simple: If most people outside your house cannot see your laundry, then you can hang it up how ever you wish. Who really cares if the insides of your drawers (not the pants but the furniture) are cluttered if all people see is the wooden veneer?
But I would like to know how much the workers care or how much pride they take in the internal presentation of their work. Is good enough just good enough?
Or do you choose to be the best that you can become even when no one bothers?
I often cringe when I hear “21st century competency” or “21cc” used in conversations about change.
We are a little over a decade into the 21st century and there are almost 90 years left in this century. Can we claim we know what students really need to know as workers 20 years from now? Most of us cannot predict what will happen in 20 months and some of us cannot see beyond our own nose.
The so-called 21ccs are mentioned in the context of change. Changing schooling. Changing teacher mindsets.
Practically every generation notices change, is cautious about change, or calls for change. Sometimes we do not look back enough to realize that these observations about change are constant. Every evolution of technology or mass media simultaneously drives change and creates resistance to it.
So when anyone says that we must change because of the demands of the 21st century, we should not take them at their word blindly. Those who call for such change sometimes focus only on rhetoric.
For example, why is collaboration a 21cc? Did people not have to collaborate in other centuries?
Surely they did and that is not what some people mean when they cite collaboration as a 21cc. They might actually mean the technology-mediated or enabled collaboration that can take place now as compared to back then. Whereas communication, compromise, and collaboration might have been almost exclusively face-to-face back then, that is not the case now.
We have technologies like video conferencing that simulate FTF meetings. But we also have wikis, work logs, social media platforms, and shared documents, presentations, and spreadsheets that provide asynchronous collaboration as well. In the future we might collaborate with resources as fronted by artificial but supremely intelligent agents.
This sort of collaboration involves dealing with inordinate amounts of data and working with others on larger scales.
While these might remove the human face in collaboration, they still allow the connection of minds. In fact, the absence of physical appearance, skin colour, different accents, and other trappings of FTF meetings might reduce bias or allow for simultaneous and multiple conversations.
This is real and is already happening now. It will only get more extensive but easier in the future. This is the type of human collaboration we need to prepare our kids for and not the classroom sort.
But some people spout rhetoric about 21ccs like armchair prophets. I have found that it remains rhetorical instead of becoming transformative practice for at least two reasons.
The words of wisdom or warning are spoken by those who say but cannot actually do. They are not deep participants of the sorts of things they observe or attempt to describe. They can only imagine.
Another reason for the 21cc rhetoric is lip service. The words are empty. Papers are pushed and policy is set, but it is a game with many empires or observers and not enough players.
Some rhetoric is necessary to perhaps get buy-in and create ownership. Then people actually get on with the act of change. Such rhetoric initiates and enables. But other words remain words or even create barriers to change. We should be wise enough to tell the difference.
This article, Why Content Is Still King, cites Bills Gates in 1996 declaring that content is still king.
The content as defined in 1996 was oriented towards what television broadcasters, traditional news and magazine companies, and other publishers produced.
Gates did refer to user-generated content, but not in the sense that we have today.
One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create. In a sense, the Internet is the multimedia equivalent of the photocopier. It allows material to be duplicated at low cost, no matter the size of the audience.
This is duplication or replication, not creation or curation.
The type of content described in 1996 was the type that gets thoroughly edited, vetted, and polished before it goes on display. It takes a long time to create. It is typically not openly shared, or if it is, only for a princely sum.
It is the type of content that makes traditional publishers of books and journals salivate. It is the type of content that make publishers who have moved to electronic platforms want to regulate or control, e.g., prevent Google from indexing and caching their content.
I am not saying that content is not important. After all, if there is no content, what is there to consume? If there is nothing to consume, then there will be no consumers.
I am saying that our understanding and acceptance of what content is has started to change. That change is due to the fact that our consumers are now also curators and creators of content.
Our traditional view of content monarchy is being dethroned in a democracy represented by citizens like YouTube and Wikipedia.
There are very few monarchies left in the world. We have moved on to other forms of government. To describe content as KING in that sense is irrelevant. There are other rulers or governors that work together.
To also describe the 20th century type of CONTENT as king is also losing relevance. There already is entertaining, enriching, and educational content produced by the people and for the people without the traditional vetting process. Quality and acceptance also bypasses the so-called expert layer in favour of the popular vote.
Traditionally created or curated content is no longer king. Connecting with openly and socially generated content and their curators/creators is.
That is the shift that we must leverage on in education if we are to stay relevant. To not do so is to serve a king that is aging and losing his grip on reality.
I am stubborn about certain things. One is insisting that people change course should I sense trouble.
I do not see why some people would rather react to change instead of prepare for it. Perhaps they cannot see it coming.
Like a broken bridge, all the signs are there. But they coast along without a care thinking they can deal with it later.
By the time they do this, it is too late because their momentum carries them off the bridge. If they manage to stop, they cease on their journey forward.
No, I would rather read the signs and change my path if necessary.
What would you do if you found out that someone could activate your webcam and record what you were doing without your knowledge?
I present a simple solution to counter this potential problem in my last episode of Happy New Gear.
I like that Google is offering a new open source based tool called Oppia.
But I wish that introductory videos like the one above were recorded in higher resolution so that you can actually see what is happening on screen. Even when maxxed out at 480p the tiny text appears like Minecraft pixels.
I also wish that people would not give simple (and even silly) examples like “What is 2+2?” I understand that you are trying to reach the masses, but the masses are not that stupid. If a tool is designed to bring powerful changes, then showcase it immediately and efficiently.
This reminds me of how many teachers teach. Assuming the learner is incapable, they simplify and chunk. This leads to spoon-feeding and this in turn leads to a reliance on being spoon-fed.
It is also a reminder to me to tell the CeL folks not to demonstrate like that. By this I mean using names like “Test” and putting in random entries like “lprbpwrbvakbv” to questions or text fields. It does not take you that much longer to input a more meaningful response.
We owe it to our learners and our audiences to take their concerns and perspectives into account when designing for them or demonstrating to them.