Another dot in the blogosphere?

Inconsistent messaging

Posted on: May 13, 2022

My rant yesterday was about how the legacy system of physical business cards prevented access to a shared space for remote working. Today I explore another legacy issue — paper-based bank statements — and link such inertia to assessment. 

Every utility, insurance, and banking statement I receive is electronic except for one. The exception is Maybank Singapore.

I receive a monthly statement of the joint account I maintain with my son. We started that account when we returned to Singapore from the USA about 16 years ago. For most of that time, practically all my transactions and records were electronic. 

Several months ago, a paper Maybank statement appeared in my mailbox. Not only did I not ask for this, they kept on coming. Those same statements come with an extra page of service advertisements, tips, and advice. One tip was to “Go green! Switch to eStatements”.

The tip also stated that I could use the mobile banking app to apply for “eStatements”, so I tried. However, the app told me that my accounts (I only have one) “are not eligible for eStatement”. So why tell me to switch?

I would like the switch so that I do not get unnecessary paper in my mailbox. This is not just a “green” thing to do. Being responsible with all our resources is not a fad; it is our duty as stewards of our planet.

I provided feedback via the app because that is what I can do for now. If I need to brave a queue at a local bank branch, I will do that.

My complaint is that the legacy system of paper-based statements is enabled and entrenched by people who do not know or care about a broader mission. They might be aware of a corporate effort to “go green”, but they might not know why and how.

I am quite certain that this is a worker mindset issue because the same bank issued me a bank card with my surname as my first name and the wrong first name. Someone messed up with the database.

What does this have to do with schooling and education? People and assessment. Curriculum planners and teachers know that they need to evaluate learning more progressively. However, they remain anchored to legacy systems because it is the safe thing to do.

Take, for example, what a batch of future special needs teachers told me almost a year ago. Some of their courses were examinable and they were required to use Zoom to monitor their test-taking when all of us were learning/working from home.

The assessment did not change to suit the times. The circumstances should have dictated that since we could not meet in person, policies and procedures should change. However, one or more decision makers chose not to operate outside the box, so they forced a communication/learning tool (Zoom) to be a monitoring/proctoring one.  

On one hand, I am thankful they did not have access to cruel online proctoring tools. On the other, I am disappointed that they resorted to repurposing Zoom to do what it cannot and should not, i.e., monitor behaviour. All this stems from the inability to think and operate outside the traditional proctored examination.

As current and future practitioners, teachers should be able to work on projects, interview other teachers or school leaders, collect and analyse data, write proposals for grants, suggest curricular changes, design lessons, etc. 

None of those require Zoom-based proctoring. All of these are relevant to a teacher. None of them take the form of a traditional examination. All of them model possibilities to these teachers.

The bank statement and forced proctoring illustrate inconsistent messaging. There are the ideals of going green and progressive education. But there is the louder and opposite message of doing things the old and ineffective way.

Even worse, the user and teacher might learn to hate the technology that enabled legacy behaviour, i.e., the banking app did not allow the switch to e-statements and the Zoom-based exam was more unpleasant than a normal one.

My reflection reminds me about why change agents need to keep working. When change happens, it sometimes feels like taking three steps forward and then two steps back. At least there is progress. But what can also happen is three steps forward and four steps back — a regression. We need to keep pushing forward.

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