Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘anniversary

I almost forgot. Almost.

Just over six years ago, I left full time employment to operate as an independent consultant. I did this for reasons immediate and emergent. I shared most of the reasons and my journey over the last six years on this blog. But I have not fully shared the reasons that became important over time.

One reason that was minor at the beginning but became important over time was my physical health. I was hospitalised barely a month after leaving full time work. My recovery taught me that if I did not have my health, I could not have anything else.

Another reason I left full time work was mental health. I used to live for work — I was practically addicted to it. Now I work to live — I make what I need to pay the bills and provide for my family. I do not make as much as I used to, but I have learnt to be prudent. It does not take much to be happy.

This year has been challenging thanks to the coronavirus, but the way I work has helped me prepare. Remote work is the default, online collaboration is the norm, video conferencing is natural.

I anticipate that next year is going to be more challenging than this one. There is a very slow falling domino effect in education consultancy that not many can see or care to see. But I look forward to making it Year Seven in 2021.

Tomorrow marks my fifth year as an independent education and technology consultant. During that time I have reflected on being a consultant. I have this generic list and this specific entry at the end of year three.

I could have copied and pasted everything from that third anniversary reflection here because I think and feel the same way today. But what good would that do? Instead I look outwardly this year and reflect on five truths I have rediscovered.

Organisations repeat the mistakes that others have already committed even while they call themselves learning entities, e.g., putting old wine in new wineskins. I constantly remind my partners to let learning needs drive technology implementations, instead of administration, policy, legacy frameworks, etc.

They do not seem to learn effectively from others. This is despite (and perhaps because of) enforced learning journeys. Such chats and visits might provide inspiring ideas on HOW but ignore WHY, WHEN, and WHERE (these describe context). I harp on the importance of context over content and will continue to do so.

Admininistration comes first. There is the necessary “evil” of proposing ideas, responding to RFPs, vetting expertise, etc. But there is also playing purely by the numbers game.

I am not referring only to getting the lowest quote (you get what you pay for) but also the practice of spending left over money so as to get it again the next financial year. The “educational” or “training” engagements procured this way seem like afterthoughts instead of well-planned trajectories.

Efficiency trumps effectiveness. This mindset spreads quickly and deeply in most organisations. It starts with administrative and policymaking groups and ends with educators and learners. Examples of efficient but ineffective implementations might include large class sizes, tight deadlines and semesters, and sorting on a curve.

Inertia. The unwillingness to change is uneven in organisations — some groups learn and move fast, others make snails look like speed demons. I offer to provide perspectives that I have gained from working with different organisations, but I recognise that relevant ideas are not received the same way. For example, policymakers might like an idea while an infrastructure or IT group might not. The first group sees opportunity over a hill while the latter groups see a climb to avoid.

These truths hurt because they are real. They reveal mindsets and shape behaviours. They also drive me to be a better consultant.

My wife and I celebrated an anniversary recently.

We have been together for 30 years — we have been married for the last 17 years and we were a couple 13 years prior. And yet it does not feel that long.

We had lived apart in different countries and together in a different country. We are both educators, but our student and work lives were barely in sync for much of that time.

I do not think I could be the person I am now nor do what I can do now without her. Here is to more anniversaries!

I started this blog, Another Dot in the Blogosphere, in July 2008. This means that this is its 10th anniversary. Whee!

A year later, I reflected on why I edublog. Back then I recalled how I started blogging non-academically in 2004 to chart my son’s life.

I also used a Seth Godin interview to outline the value of edublogging. The points then are still relevant today. Some values of edublogging are:

  • practising metacognition (thinking deeply about what you say)
  • developing disciplined personal expression
  • being part of an ongoing conversation (whether you or others are even aware that one exists)
  • changing the way you look at things

Back then, I concluded:

I blog because I am. I blog because of who I am becoming and who I want to be. I blog because it reminds me that I am always learning.

That is still true today. I reflect as a habit. I write because I want to and even when I do not. You could say that I have a fixed mindset about growth.

When I reflect every day on this blog, I focus on my professional interests. Today, I share a personal one.

Two years ago, I blogged this: A personal note: 13+13=26.

I shared how on this day in 2015, my wife and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. We got married after 13 previous years as a couple.

Last year was significant in that we were a married couple longer than we were an unmarried one: 13+14=27.

This year we marked our 15th anniversary by hunting down a gemstone for a new ring. The 15th year is celebrated with a blue stone.

It took visits to several stores, and as we are wont to do, we visited the less conventional  ones for a unique look.

We eventually decided on a helical ring. It houses a stone that reminds us of the Millennium Falcon. It has personality that is both beautiful and quirky.

It is easy to look at an anniversary as a number. It is certainly easy to label the ring with a wallet-lightening number. The ring represents more than just our years together. The ring is a key that unlocks our life stories.

Here’s to more years and stories!

It does not feel like 15 years since terrorists flew jets into the twin towers in Manhattan.

Video source

I was studying and working in the USA then. Even though I was near the opposite side of the continent, the fear was no different and the changes far-reaching and sweeping.

I can remember vividly where I was and what I was doing. I was in my rented studio apartment getting ready for class. My tiny TV was on and the footage played like a nightmare you could not escape from.

My computer inbox bleeped and I was informed that all classes were cancelled and that everyone should stay at home until further notice. I cycled to campus anyway and when I got there I felt like I was the last person on earth.

I can recall the social and racial kickbacks that happened in the weeks that followed. Fellow graduate students told me their accounts of being harassed and bullied. I told them how someone tried to kill me by running me off the road. All this was because we looked different.

I remember a Sikh store owner who was killed because his assailant could not distinguish him from a Muslim. I also recall a student who made a false report about being attacked because of his race. He did this to get attention.

At ground zero, World Trade Center, New York, in 2006.

Before leaving the USA for home, my wife and I made it a point to visit ground zero. It was five years after the attack and the site was still mostly a very large hole in the ground.

Video source

My son was too young to understand the gravity of that visit. But the photo and videos like these will be an important reminder for us to follow a moment of silence with meaningful conversation about this terrible moment in history.

Never forget. Do not leave important things unsaid.

Most people celebrate happy annual events like birthdays or marriages, but not sad ones like the departure of a loved one.

I left NIE at exactly two years ago today. I removed the labels of Head of the Centre for e-Learning, lecturer, and professor.

Before leaving, I made this goodbye video (Be happy, OK?) with the help of my motley crew.

Video source

Watching the video brought a stupid grin to my face as I recalled working with a fine group of individuals.

Then again, as an independent education consultant, I smile every day now. I get to choose what work I do, which meetings to attend, and who I work with.

I might be pushing 50, but I am just two-years-old as far as renewed growth is concerned. This is because I stepped out of my comfort zone and am happier and wiser for it.


Posted on: May 21, 2016

There is nothing remarkable about the number 27. However, today “27” is significant to me because it marks the number of years my wife and I have been together.

Last year I told our story with my reflection 13+13=26. Today we mark a milestone: We have been married longer (14 years) than we were a couple before that (13 years).

I actually met my wife a little over 30 years ago. We only started dating when I was in the military. As I explained last year, our journeys to different parts of the world and in personal lives kept us both apart and together.

This year also marks our tenth year back in Singapore. We have been very fortunate to have lived elsewhere, to travel regularly, and to be able to adopt different perspectives.

In reaching these milestones, I wondered what perspective I might share. Several weeks ago I found this quote from a parody Twitter account of comedian Will Ferrell:

Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet to see who they really are.

When my wife and I first met, all we had was slow computers and barely there Internet. There was no Google, Facebook, YouTube, or Netflix. We had to actually talk to each other and look each other in the face. Horrors!

This is not a trip down nostalgia lane. Thirty years ago was the Internet Dark Ages. Trying to get any information or learning on your own happened at dialup modem speed, if at all. Horrors!

As I observe how kids learn today, I notice how they still have more access to today’s Internet at home than they have at school. No doubt that there are 1:1 and BYOD schools. But there are many more 30-year-old (or older) Internet access schools today. This is not because schools are not wired up and wireless. Instead policies and practices remain rooted in the past.

This is not to say that our schooling has not changed over a generation. Our assessment system is continuously poked and prodded, our curricula revised, and our pedagogy more student-centred.

But our children’s classroom of today is instantly recognisable to an adult. Most parents and teachers cannot see a school without legacy practices like homework, curricula, objectives, tests, etc. Their mindsets and practice are still powered by “computers with slow Internet”. All this while they cradle blazingly fast and hyperconnected computers in their hands.

Being with my wife for 27 years seems to have gone by like a blink of an eye. Observing the schooling system here struggle with change from my vantage point of teacher and teacher educator is like watching frozen molasses move.

Every day I ask myself how I might shape conditions to switch the speed of those circumstances. I want my happy years to feel like years; I do what I can to make the schooling system to be “broadband” or “smartphone” for the sake of all our kids.

I do not often share personal information in my professional blog. Here is one exception.

Today is my wedding anniversary. My wife and I have been married for 13 years.

This year is special because we have been happily married for as long as we dated prior to getting married. Yes, we dated for 13 years before we tied the knot.

On 21st May 26 years ago, we decided to become more than just good friends. Then on 21st May 13 years ago, we decided to get married. Yeah, sappier than a maple tree and a hallmark of Hallmark cards.

Some might be astonished or even baulk at my revelation. But dating for so long was not difficult because we took it one day at a time.

Before we got married, we were separated by circumstances, oceans, and the general pursuit of life. Sometimes we were not in the same country. Often we were not in the same stage of life (one studying, one working). But we used whatever technology was available to stay connected.

Our friends got married and had children before us. I dreaded attending weddings then because I was invariably asked: When is your turn?

But when it came time to make a big leap, we decided to take two. The year I signed the scholarship document to pursue a Ph.D. overseas was also the year I signed our wedding license.

We have learnt so much together and my only regret might be not getting married earlier.

Our son was born overseas and that started my blogging journey. I blogged his life and still do. I blogged my dissertation process. I blogged random thoughts. I blogged because this was before YouTube and Facebook were born.

After two years as a university professor, I started this blog which is now almost seven years-old. I still treat it as a daily journal even though it has expanded to serve other purposes.

The content of this blog has been shaped by what I sense around me. It is influenced heavily by what I experience through the senses of my son (a student in school) and my wife (a teacher).

Thirteen is just a number, but I am a lucky man. Some men might jokingly refer to their wives as their better halves. In my case, my wife is my whole and I am the better person for it. I would not be able to do what I do now if not for her.

And it is for her (and my son) that I wish to make my world a better place. I just hope that it does not take another 13 years to do this.

WordPress informed me that I have been on their platform for six years this week.

How does one mark this anniversary? With a blog day cake? I will mark it with nothing more than this blog entry.

I have actually been blogging for almost a decade. I started when my son was still in utero and continued to document his early years. His blog has moved from one host to another and is currently also in WordPress. That was where I gradually built up the habit of blogging every day in an attempt to view the world from my son’s eyes. (Now my son co-authors or authors short entries every week or so.)

But that was not enough. I wanted to reflect on my own work life and way of thinking. So I added another dot in the blogosphere.

To mark this milestone, I remind myself why I created this blog. Years ago, I wrote this in the tagline setting:

I am an edu-explorer. I promise to walk on the edge of reason and let you know what I see. I use this blog to think out loud. If this promotes informal sharing and learning on technology integration issues, thank serendipity!

Sometimes it is amazing how many people drop by. Here is a recent stat WordPress sent me:

But in the About Me page, I remind myself why I started reflecting on this dot:

I do not blog for views. I blog my views. I do this to learn and to shape my thoughts on educational technologies and technology-mediated pedagogies.

All that I have mentioned so far is not remarkable. Lots of people can do the same.

But not many can say they make themselves reflect and write every day whether they want to or not. It is a discipline that works itself into other areas of life. Perhaps for that reason alone, I blog.

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